The carefully constructed veneer of neutrality that the army leadership had constructed through much of the national political crisis instigated by Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri has been torn apart.
First, came the army’s statement on Sunday, the third in a series of statements in recent days on the political crisis, which quite astonishingly elevated the legitimacy and credibility of the demands of Imran Khan, Tahirul Qadri and their violent protesters above that of the choices and actions of an elected government dealing with a political crisis.
Consider the sequence of events so far. When the army first publicly waded into the political crisis, it counselled restraint on all sides — as though it was the government that fundamentally still had some questions hanging over its legitimacy simply because Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri alleged so.
Next, the army crept towards the Khan/Qadri camp by urging the government to facilitate negotiations — as though it was the government that was being unreasonable, and not Mr Khan and Mr Qadri.
Now, staggeringly, the army has ‘advised’ the government not to use force against violent protesters and essentially told it to make whatever concessions necessary to placate Mr Khan and Mr Qadri.
It is simply extraordinary that it is the PAT and PTI supporters who want to break into and occupy state buildings, but it is the government that has been rebuked.
It’s as if the army is unaware — rather, unwilling — to acknowledge the constitutional scheme of things: it is the government that is supposed to give orders to the army, not the other way around.
The government has already issued its order: invoking Article 245.
On Saturday, as violent thugs attacked parliament, it was surely the army’s duty to repel them.
But the soldiers stationed there did nothing and the army leadership the next day warned the government instead of the protesters — which largely explains why the protesters were able to continue their pitched battles with the police and attacked the PTV headquarters yesterday.
If that were not enough, yesterday also brought another thunderbolt: this time from within the PTI with party president Javed Hashmi indicating that Mr Khan is essentially doing what he has been asked and encouraged to do by the army leadership.
It took the ISPR a few hours to respond with the inevitable denial, but a mere denial is inadequate at this point. The functioning of the state stands paralysed because a few thousand protesters and their leaders have laid siege to state institutions.
Where is the army condemnation of that? Would the army allow even a handful of peaceful protesters to gather outside GHQ for a few hours?
The army is hardly being ‘neutral’. It is making a choice. And, it is disappointing that choice is doing little to strengthen the constitutional, democratic and legitimate scheme of things.
Read more » Dawn, September 2nd, 2014
ISLAMABAD- Senior Superintendent Police (SSP) operations Ismatullah Junejo, who took charge of police operations in Red Zone on Sunday was injured on the very first day of his assignment earlier today, reported a private news channel. Junejo, along with his five colleagues, was hit by sticks and stones by the protesters.
Read more » Pakistan Today
The ongoing violence prompted the top generals of the nuclear-armed state to hold an emergency meeting on Sunday, August 31. The army – which has directly ruled the nation for more than three decades collectively – voiced support for democracy, but also “expressed concern.”
Pakistani military – back in charge
But many people in the country think the army’s “concern” is part of the script that the generals have written themselves. Pro-democracy activists believe Khan and Qadri have the full backing of the army, which is wary of Sharif’s cordial moves towards the country’s regional arch-rival India. The PM and the army are also not on the same page over the Islamic Republic’s Afghanistan policy, nor on the future of Pervez Musharraf, former military chief and ex-president, who is currently detained.
The military, which has been in control of the country for most of its recent history, enjoyed limited power during the five years former President Asif Ali Zardari was in office. The generals fear that if Sharif remains in power, they may further loose grip on the country’s defense and foreign policy.
Read more » dw
Atta Ul Haq Qasmi on Azadi & Inqalab March
We know from history that the skill, wisdom and effort (and oodles of luck) needed to build and sustain a working democratic system (whatever you may think of the pros and cons of such a system is a separate and interesting discussion) in one of the ex-colonial countries is orders of magnitude greater than the skill needed to just run a functional government for a few years. Saddam, Gaddafi, Ayub Khan, they all ran functional regimes and even made their Universities conduct their examinations on time. But none had a system with adequate checks and balances or the mechanism to transfer power smoothly from one elite clique to another without having to shoot the other clique first.
It may be possible to repair the effects of poor governance by this or that democratic regime in a few years, but if the system as a whole is undermined and devalued, then it may never get working again, or may take decades to repair. Political authority (like money) is a shared (useful) illusion. Puncture the illusion and what is left is naked force (or, if enough of asabiya exists, a monarchy; whether called a monarchy or under some other name).
Given our history, it is a significant achievement that all parties participated in a reasonably (by our standards) fair election under reasonably (by our standards) neutral caretaker administrations and an actual transfer of power took place peacefully. All that progress can be (and is) being undermined by this sustained campaign against democracy and civilian politics (with TUQ playing a conscious and Imran Khan a characteristically semi-conscious role in the undermining). That the Sharifs are not the best rulers is hardly debatable, but that the system should be wound up on that account is a disastrous step beyond the punishment of the Sharifs for any specific crime or misdemeanor. They must be removed from within the system or else they must be tolerated for their term. There is no third choice.
We know very well from our history that the next step in the paknationalist (aka PMA) framework is a “technocratic government of all talents” and we also know that in short order that will prove worse than the poor Sharifs and will lack even the rickety checks and balances that limit the damage done by the Sharifs or any other democratically elected crook. Beyond that, we also know that the institutional biases of the Pakistani army in particular are utterly opposed to the rights of smaller nationalities and are determined to pursue suicidal and extremely disruptive policies with respect to relations with our neighbors and with the wider world. The Sharif brothers dalliances with ASWJ notwithstanding, it is the army that is most responsible for creating and sustaining various sectarian and islamofascist tendencies in the body politic. For all these (and other) reasons, this latest farcical soft coup is very bad news.
Finally, it is good to keep in mind that it is not all fun and games…there really IS a bottom. One fine day the whole shithouse could go up in flames (as East Pakistan did in 1971); and what follows could then cause significant discomfort even to those whose low opinion of the Sharifs or of bourgeois politics or of the current politicians, makes them look kindly upon any disruption to the system...
I would add that I have come around to agreeing with those who think that NONE of the major VISIBLE players really had a detailed plan or a script that has been faithfully followed during this farce. But that does not mean that there is no one with a coherent agenda. There are people with coherent agendas and they make hay while the sun shines on Imran Khan’s empty chairs. Just as the ASWJ terrorists are pursuing their agenda, the “Paknationalists” in the intelligence agencies are pursuing theirs. Sharifs (including Raheel Shareef) may have no plan and may be blundering in the dark, but some people have plans and most of them are dangerous…
Courtesy: Brown Pundits
The first, presumably written by the edit page staff of the paper, underlines the absurdity of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s demands placed before the Nawaz Sharif government. Last week, the protest march, led by Imran Khan had stormed Islamabad’s red zone, proceeded towards the country’s parliament with next to no resistance from the government.
While, it was read as a victory for the protesters demanding Nawaz Sharif resign immediately the events that followed revealed that Sharif had played well. Because in the course of the next few days, the events unfolded in a way to make Imran Khan look increasingly vacuous, while Sharif held fort, quietly. From threatening to storming Sharif’s house, Imran Khan came down to demanding a temporary resignation, where he asked Sharif to step aside for a month so that the judicial commission’s enquiry into the alleged rigging in the country’s polls concluded without government pressure.
Naturally, national and international media reacted with ridicule. Almost in the way India’s media reacted when AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal first organised a dharna against his city’s police force, then quit the government and then decided to run for the general elections this year by challenging Narendra Modi. Like Kejriwal’s recent political trajectory in India, Imran Khan’s gimmicky ‘protest’ has not been received well by the media in Pakistan and abroad.
Understandably, therefore, the editorial in Dawn punches several holes in PTI’s stand on the Nawaz Sharif government by observing, “Consider that the very elections that the PTI is disputing were held under a caretaker government. Clearly then, even within the PTI’s scheme of things, if the PML-N was allegedly able to rig an election when not in office, could it not affect the outcome of a judicial inquiry when the party has governments at both the centre and in the principally electorally disputed province of Punjab?”
Almost as a nod to Dawn’s stand, an editorial on another Pakistan daily Express Tribune describes Imran Khan’s situation as ‘Lose Lose’. Talking about Khan’s grand announcements, the writer Saroop Ijaz says about PTI’s stir, “Everybody wants it to stop, except maybe Mr Imran Khan. One can only speculate on how those who truly care for him will be pained to see all this happening to him. It is all heading towards ending with a whimper; any banging sound will only be made by heads.”
The second editorial in Dawn spells it out without mincing words: “What is the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s great revolutionary idea that will fix our broken homeland? Replacement of Nawaz Sharif with Imran Khan? Is the PTI fighting for a goal larger than the political aggrandisement of Imran Khan?”
Writer Babar Sattar observes, “If its sole purpose is to fix a perceived unproven wrong inflicted on the PTI voter in 2013, this movement by definition is a narrow partisan struggle not aimed at empowering ordinary citizens but a means to snatch power from the PML-N and hand it to the PTI.”
And it’s not just Pakistanis who seem to be discomfited by Imran Khan’s flashy political rhetoric and confusing political message. New York Times’ Declan Walsh observes in a piece on the protest that the mood at the protests is mostly carnival-esque. He writes, “On the streets, Mr. Khan’s movement has the boisterous feel of a midsummer music festival. Pop stars introduce his speeches, which are punctuated by songs during which his supporters, many of them women, burst into dance. A disc jockey known as DJ Butt is part of his entourage.”
It’s almost impossible to ignore the glaring similarities with the anti-corruption movement started by Anna Hazare, steeped in rousing youth support. Like that movement was almost a performed, with all its pop culture ramifications, Imran Khan’s ‘protest’ seems theatrical, almost an elaborate attempt to confer heroism on Imran Khan, anew.
It’s equally hard to ignore, how, like the anti-corruption movement that AAP’s grandiose anti-establishment politicking ran out of fizz. And the latter got branded as ‘anarchists’ – a brand they anyway decided to flaunt with impudence. However, the petulance had its effect on the voters, reflected in the shoddy performance of the party in the general elections.
Imran Khan, might, well be headed in the direction. The Wall Street Journal notes that despite all the sound and fury, despite Khan promising at least a million protesters, the officials numbers could be anything between just 20,000 and 50,000. Definitely not more than 60,000.
Like we had noted in our live blog in the past, Khan’s call to stop paying taxes and utility bills was met were severe criticism from the business communities and intellectuals of the country who pointed out that he is encouraging the citizens to serve a death blow to their own country’s economy.
Also, PTI’s voters in Peshawar were reportedly wary of Khan’s theatrics and said that none of the promises made to them have even been taken up by Khan in the past few months. The region continues to suffer from the same old ills.
Walsh notes in The New York Times article, “Mr. Khan’s call for supporters to stop paying taxes and utility bills met with widespread derision because few Pakistanis pay income taxes, and the country is already crippled with power shortages.” Much like Kejriwal’s call to Delhi to stop paying bills was met with a fair amount of concern.
If the alarm bells ringing about Khan manage to shake his voters up, this protest movement might be just his undoing.
Courtesy: First Post
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The government on Thursday approached both Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) after Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif advised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to give talks one more chance.
Prime minister and army chief met for the second time in three days against the backdrop of government’s lingering deadlock with PTI and PAT.
Insiders told The Express Tribune that Nawaz briefed the army chief about talks with Qadri and Imran.
According to sources, the premier told General Raheel that government had agreed to accept first two demands of PAT in return for Qadri calling off the sit-in outside the Parliament.
But an agreement could not be reached after Qadri refused to accept the government’s condition, sources said.
Sources further said the army chief advised the prime minister to give talks one more chance and after which the government decided to approach both PTI and PAT.
A senior government official claimed that the army chief conveyed a clear message to both Qadri and Imran to resolve the impasse through dialogue.
“It was agreed to take necessary measures for resumption of stalled process of negotiations for an expeditious resolution in the best national interest,” the spokesperson for the PM House added.
The crucial meeting was held hours after talks between government and Qadri broke down on Wednesday evening over the registration of First Information Report (FIR) of Model Town incident.
Following the meeting between the COAS and premier, the government agreed to accept Qadri’s demand of FIR.
The official while requesting anonymity also said the next 24 hours would be very crucial.
He also insisted that the army chief extended his support to the government in the face off of brewing political tensions.
However, army officials could not be reached for their reaction on the meeting between General Raheel and Nawaz Sharif.
Later, both PAT and PTI accepted army chief’s role as mediator and guarantor to end the crisis.
Courtesy: The Express Tribune
LONDON: Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain terming all demands of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri as ‘valid’, has said that it would be in the country’s interest if the government voluntarily stepped down to avoid any bloodshed, DawnNews reported.
Talking about the anti-government sit-ins being held in the federal capital city and a possible government reaction, Hussain said that the government should consider the safety of women and children, participating in the sit-ins.
He further cited that the ‘third force’ would have to intervene, if Tahirul Qardi did not step back voluntarily.
Read more » DAWN
After endless promotion of her role in Raja Natwarlal, Pakistani actor Humaima Malik appears to have struck gold in Bollywood.
According to the Deccan Chronicle, the Bol actor has signed up for three films by famous Bollywood director, Vidhu Vinod Chopra.
“I have signed a three-film contract with Vidhu Vinod Chopra. The first film is yet to begin but I have already been signed up,” Humaima confirmed. Humaima also denied rumours that UTV had gone back on their word and were not signing any films with her.
Read more » DAWN
Someone watching Pakistan from afar would really wonder if the state has not begun to resemble some of the countries in Africa. There is a deep power struggle amongst the ruling elite that totally ignores the fact that the country and its people cannot afford this kind of life style. Anarchy, in fact, has become Pakistan’s trademark. The battle for and obsession with power is to a degree that while challenging opponents leaders do not consider longer interest of the state and its people. Asking people not to pay taxes or sending money through official channels is not just about starving the government. It is about establishing a very bad habit that the country can ill-afford. What if Imran Khan makes the government tomorrow which does not meet an ideal standard that he seems to have set for his followers? This is not protest but a criminalisation of politics which is as bad as some of what he seems to object to.
We hear little about the negative impact of the current state of politics. People are actually losing opportunities and the economy is bleeding money faster than usual. The small and medium entrepreneurs that I talked to recently in various cities of Punjab complained about how business has almost dried up since the marches were announced. The reason people are not crying out loud and surviving is probably due to a parallel economy. The pro-government rallies are not likely to help improve conditions but increase the threat of a real conflict. Many believe that the clash between mobs is what might open doors for a hard coup.
Perhaps, the powers that be should take a plunge. It will be interesting to see what they then feel about a world they created themselves. The establishment and its many intellectual clients often refer to the Bangladesh model. What they often forget is that Dhaka’s political system or people’s choices did not change even with intervention. The challenges are far bigger than what some of the foreign qualified Chicago trained economists, commercial bankers or development gurus could manage to even understand. The US has some of the best universities but it has also produced experts that have often messed up with developing states rather than put things right. The question is can Pakistan afford such experimentation?
This is a not a moment for personal egos but for compromises which aim at benefiting the country and not just the individual. Instead of aiming at resignation of the prime minister it would help if Imran and Qadri could extract commitment for transparent institutional changes which will take this country a long way. If not then we have terribly lost our way into an endless abyss.
KARACHI: In an interview with a private TV channel on late Tuesday night, former president general (retd) Pervez Musharraf supported the demand for ‘change’ and stressed the United States must not interfere in Pakistan’s internal politics. His remarks come at a time when many have been speculating that the military is involved in the prevailing political crisis.
Read more » DAWN
KARACHI, SINDH: Well-known legal expert Asma Jehangir has said that those driving the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) leader Tahirul Qadri are hell bent on sending the Prime Minister home.
Talking to Geo News, She said it seems as if the law is of no value in the country as any individual can hurl any kind of allegations by pulling together a crowd of 10 people.
Reacting to the allegations levelled by the former additional secretary Election Commission of Pakistan, Asma Jehangir said she had opposed his appointment in the ECP.
She said had the former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry been involved in rigging, then Imran Khan could also have played a role in it. “All this is part of a conspiracy to dislodge the Prime Minister,” she maintained.
Asma Jehangir asked as to what it is that Imran Khan himself had done for the country. “If Imran Khan thinks that by resorting to such acts he can tie the knot, it is his mistake,” she added.
Read more » The News
Khan and Qadri both believed Musharraf would make them prime minister back in 2001. Khan acknowledged his mistake and has come a long way since: he is now a popular leader with a genuine political base. His position today is heartbreaking as standing alongside Qadri and delegitimising the ‘system’ without proposing an agenda for reform, Khan is deliberately or unwittingly entrenching the rhetoric about uncouth politicos, broken constitutional order, skies caving in and mighty saviours that is staple diet for our de facto system.
Many standing with the existing constitutional order and against the ‘revolutionaries’ are not inspired by love for Sharif. In a choice between the de jure system and the de facto system, they are standing with the former. But if the choice were between a status quo de jure system and a reformed de jure system, they would stand with the latter.
By Babar Sattar
Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you
Ye are many — they are few
Shelley is believed to have introduced the idea of nonviolent resistance in his poem The Mask of Anarchy, which celebrated the power of ordinary people to defeat violence with pacifism. Thoreau in his essay Civil Disobedience advocated listening to one’s conscience and rising up against injustice and slavery. Gandhi’s doctrine of Satyagraha, inspired in part by Shelley, aimed at freeing India from colonial shackles and seeking self-rule. Nelson Mandela suffered penalties of law to fight apartheid.
In transformational revolutions (eg French, American, Chinese, Iranian) the key idea has been to liberate the many from the oppression of the few. And civil rights movements (such as that of Martin Luther King) resonated with people when they sought equality and justice for those oppressed due to vile prejudice or tyranny of the majority. What is the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s great revolutionary idea that will fix our broken homeland? Replacement of Nawaz Sharif with Imran Khan? Is the PTI fighting for a goal larger than the political aggrandisement of Imran Khan?
If this movement ensures that the mandate to rule in our democracy must be beyond suspicion, it will benefit ordinary Pakistanis. But if its sole purpose is to fix a perceived unproven wrong inflicted on the PTI voter in 2013, this movement by definition is a narrow partisan struggle not aimed at empowering ordinary citizens but a means to snatch power from the PML-N and hand it to the PTI.
KARACHI: There has been a shift from one dominant institution to multiple institutions in Pakistan which has transformed into an urban country where provision of goods is now a privatised process. These thoughts were articulated on Wednesday by political economist Dr Akbar Zaidi invited by the Karachi University faculty of arts to deliver a lecture on “The Changing Nature of Pakistani State”.
Read more » DAWN
ISLAMABAD: Besieged Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been assured by military that there will be no coup, but in return he must “share space with the army”, according to a government source who was privy to recent talks between the two sides.
Last week, as tens of thousands of protesters advanced on the federal capital to demand his resignation, Sharif dispatched two emissaries to consult with the army chief.
He wanted to know if the military was quietly engineering the twin protest movements by cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan and activist cleric Tahirul Qadri, or if, perhaps, it was preparing to stage a coup.
According to a government insider with a first-hand account of the meeting, Sharif’s envoys returned with good news and bad: there will be no coup but if he wants his government to survive, from now on it will have to share space with the army.
The army’s media wing declined to comment.
Thousands of protesters marched to parliament on Tuesday, using a crane and bolt cutters to force their way past barricades of shipping containers, as riot police and paramilitaries watched on after being told not to intervene.
Military spokesman General Asim Bajwa tweeted a reminder to protesters to respect government institutions and called for a “meaningful dialogue” to resolve the crisis.
Even if, as seems likely, the Khan and Qadri protests eventually fizzle out due to a lack of overt support from the military, the prime minister will emerge weakened from political crisis.
Sharif may have to be subservient to the generals on issues he wanted to handle himself — from the fight against Taliban to relations with India and Pakistan’s role in neighbouring, post-Nato Afghanistan.
“The biggest loser will be Nawaz, cut down to size both by puny political rivals and the powerful army,” said a government minister who asked not to be named.
“From this moment on, he’ll always be looking over his shoulder.”
A year ago, few would have predicted that Sharif would be in such trouble: back then, he had just swept to power for a third time in a milestone poll that marked the first transition from one elected government to another.
But in the months that followed, Sharif — who had crossed swords with the army in the past — moved to enhance the clout of the civilian government in a country that has been ruled by the military for more than half of its history.
He irked the generals by putting former military head Pervez Musharraf, who had ended Sharif’s last stint as prime minister in a 1999 coup, on trial for treason.
Sharif is also said to have opposed a military offensive to crush Taliban insurgents and sought reconciliation with India.
Sources in Sharif’s government said that with civilian-military relations in such bad shape, Sharif suspected that the street protests to unseat him were being manipulated from behind the scenes by the army.
He also feared that if the agitations turned violent, the army would exploit the situation to seize power for itself.
Read more » DAWN
NEW DELHI – India on Monday called off foreign secretary-level bilateral talks with Pakistan which was slated to be held on August 25, Times of India newspaper reported on Monday.
The paper reported that the Indian government decided this after a meeting between Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit and senior Hurriyat Conference leader Shabbir Ahmad Shah in New Delhi. Earlier on Monday, the high commissioner met Kashmiri leader ahead of the proposed secretary-level talks between Pakistan and India.
Read more » Daily Times
Wagah: After spending 48 hours in Pakistan’s custody, a Border Security Force jawan returned home this evening. “I was treated well,” said 30-year-old Satyasheel Yadav, who was swept onto the Pakistan side of the border in Jammu after he fell into the River Chenab on Wednesday. (After Falling Into River, BSF Jawan is in Pakistan’s Custody)
“They made me comfortable. I was given food. I have no complaints. I am very happy I am going home,” he said in a brief statement, hours before he was released by Pakistani troops.
Mr Yadav walked back across the border at RS Pura in the Jammu region, dressed in his combat fatigues and flanked by his seniors.
“I am grateful to them (Pakistanis) for treating him well,” said DK Pathak, Director General of the BSF after the trooper returned. “I can’t answer why they took so long to hand him over. They did ask some questions, it isn’t uncommon,” he added
Read more » NDTV
By Ayaz Amir
Calling on the army to protect Islamabad, from dangers yet to be adequately defined, is no one-off affair. It is the latest addition to a pattern we have seen growing rather dramatically over the last three months: the army’s influence on the rise, its profile getting bigger, even as civilian authority recedes and comes close to a point of total collapse. This is a takeover in all but name.
As far as anyone can tell, no one has planned this outcome. It is the playing out of no strategic configuration. No one has ever accused General Headquarters (GHQ) of such subtlety before, and this is a subtle drama we are witnessing: almost a creeping coup, a coup by stealth, Pakistan’s first ‘soft’ coup. No “meray aziz humwutnon” – my dear countrymen, the familiar invocation heralding Pakistani coups – no seven-point national agenda a la Musharraf.
An assertion of army authority nonetheless but, and this is the crucial difference, propelled less by Bonapartist ambition than civilian dysfunctionality, a political government succumbing not to military plotting but the burden of its incompetence.
By Ayaz Amir
Pakistani democracy has done things to itself which it now finds impossible to get rid of. We can take it as an axiom of ‘modern’ civilisation that the state has no business to legislate about religion. It is not for the state to say who is an infidel, who a pagan or who a righteous Muslim. And please let us not take Saudi Arabia as a model. The Saudi kingdom is unique unto itself. We can take its money and say thanks but it is not a model that any other country, while remaining sane, should care to emulate.
The new Indian army chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag on the first day of holding office issued a stern warning to Pakistan referring to alleged beheading incidents of soldiers, stating that the said actions would get an “intense and immediate” response, a report published on the Times of India website said.
The alleged beheading of an Indian soldier, Lance Naik Hemraj, by Pakistani soldiers along the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch sector on January 8, 2013 came under highlight.
The newly appointed army chief upon receiving the guard of honour addressed reporters on the occasion and said that there would be timely reciprocation of such incidents.
General Dalbir was asked how the Indian side had given a ‘befitting reply’ to Pakistan over Hemraj’s alleged beheading as stated by former army chief General Bikram Singh.
Read more » DAWN
By Babar Mirza
Mujahid Barelvi remembers a forgotten hero of the Baloch struggle. Translated from the Urdu by Babar Mirza.
It is a great tragedy for this country in general and Balochistan in particular that Sher Muhammad Marri – who fought an armed struggle in the mountains during the 1950s and ‘60s and was imprisoned in different jails during the ‘70s – is hardly ever remembered in Baloch politics. Even most of the Baloch wouldn’t know where he is buried, for Sher Muhammad Marri was not a sardar or nawab whose politics and legacy had to be kept alive by his sons.
The day my lamenting eyes run out of tears
The eyes of the night of sorrow shall lose all light
My first meeting with Sher Muhammad Marri was entirely by accident. In Karachi, when Mir Bazan (the eldest son of Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bazinjo) heard that I was going to Lahore to participate in an inter-collegiate debate, he asked me to carry a message for BSO’s central leader Raziq Bugti who was then studying at the Animal Husbandry College. This was my first meeting with Raziq but he greeted me with such warmth as if we had known each other for years. He asked me to sit behind him on his bike and said, “You have reached here at a good time. I am going to Kot Lakhpat Jail to meet Sher Muhammad Mari,” adding, with a smile, “the same Sher Muhammad Marri nicknamed General Sherof by your Leader of the People to paint him as a Russian agent and keep him in jail for life.”
No wonder Bhutto Sahib called him General Sherof
Sitting in the reception area at Kot Lakhpat Jail, I was about to doze off when suddenly I heard a noise. Sher Muhammad Marri made an appearance that was much more impressive and imposing than I had heard. A stocky build with medium height, his long, golden-white-and-black hair was well-kept, his red-and-white face carrying a set of fiery eyes. No wonder Bhutto Sahib called him General Sherof. I for one did not have the courage to look him in the eye. Sher Muhammad Marri had a hurried chat with Raziq Bugti and left. Shortly after that, Sher Muhammad Marri was transferred to Hyderabad Jail. I used to exchange greetings with him in the visitors’ room on my trips to the jail to cover the Hyderabad Conspiracy case. But his authoritative outlook took away my courage to strike a conversation with him.
In 1978, after the Hyderabad Conspiracy case had been closed and the Baloch and Pakhtun leaders released, I went to Quetta as a journalist and had my first detailed interview with Sher Muhammad Marri. This interview proved how wrong my first impression of him was. In the Marri house, after Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri retired for the night, I felt that Sher Muhammad Marri had relaxed as well. He remembered our first meeting in the Kot Lakhpat Jail. He had also read my interview with Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bazinjo published that very week in the weekly Me’yaar. In contrast to his imposing personality, he had a very slow and soft voice. I had learnt from my Baloch friends that Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri and Sher Muhammad Marri were not only angry with Wali Khan but also with the moderate Baloch leader Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bazinjo. This estrangement became so bad in Hyderabad Jail that, upon their release, they left for Quetta in separate processions of their supporters. Balochistan would have looked very different today if the four pillars of Baloch nationalism during the ‘70s – Marri, Bugti, Mengal and Bazinjo – had put their differences aside. Faiz sahib penned a beautiful couplet about the myriad splits and divisions in secular and progressive movements during the ‘70s:
MIRPURKHAS, Pakistan — In a country roiled by violent strife, the southern province of Sindh, celebrated as the “land of Sufis,” has long prized its reputation as a Pakistani bastion of tolerance and diversity.
Glittering Sufi shrines dot the banks of the river Indus as it wends through the province. The faithful sing and dance at exuberant religious festivals. Hindu traders, members of a sizable minority, thrive in the major towns.
But as Islamist groups have expanded across Pakistan in tandem with the growing strength of the Taliban insurgency, so, too, are they making deep inroads into Sindh. Although banned by the state, such groups are systematically exploiting weaknesses in Pakistan’s education system and legal code as part of a campaign to persecute minorities and spread their radical brand of Sunni Islam.
A central factor in the expansion of such groups is a network of religious seminaries, often with funding from opaque sources, that provides them with a toehold in poor communities. “If there were three seminaries in a city before, now there are tens of seminaries in just one neighborhood,” said Asad Chandio, news editor of the Sindhi-language newspaper Awami Awaz.
In May, a threatening crowd in Mirpurkhas, a small city in central Sindh, surrounded four members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who had set up a stall near the railway station. The mob accused the four of blasphemy because they were selling books that contained images of God and Moses. The crowd’s leader was a member of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, a sectarian group that is ostensibly banned by the government, but that is now openly operating, and growing, across Sindh.
Fearing crowd violence, police officers led the four to a nearby police station where they were charged with blasphemy — potentially a capital offense. They were taken away in an armored vehicle, and are now in hiding as they await trial.
Locals said they were struggling to understand how, or why, the incident had taken place. “There are so many communities here, and we have all lived peacefully,” said Francis Khokhar, the lawyer for the four accused.
The Sunni supremacist ideology propagated by Pakistani sectarian groups is similar to the one that is proving so potent in the Middle East, where the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, is flourishing. In Pakistan, such groups do not pose a direct threat to the state yet. But their growth in Sindh is a sobering reminder that a future threat to Pakistani stability could stem from the provincial towns as much as the distant tribal belt, where the Pakistani military is trying to disrupt havens for the Taliban and other militants.
The provincial government in Sindh, concerned about what one government official called the “mushroom growth” of extremist seminaries, is trying to decide what to do.
ISLAMABAD: While briefing the National Assembly Standing Committee on Federal Education and Professional Training, this Monday, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) Chairperson Dr Mukhtar Ahmed said that although Pakistan may not have the best educational institutes in the world, the local educational institutions are continuously improving in rankings.
The commission, he said, has been constantly trying to improve the quality of education in the country.
Dr Ahmed said that there were two types of rankings of educational institutions. In the global rankings, National University of Science and Technology (Nust) has been ranked among the top 500 universities of the world.
In the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) university rankings for Asia, Pakistan is improving steadily.
Read more » DAWN
Karachi: … On Thursday, the prime minister announced that they would launch the Metro Bus Project in the city and will have Rs15 billion set aside for it. “We have decided to take over the green line project in the city,” he said. “The metro bus service will start on the same pattern as Lahore.”
Read more » The Express Tribune
New Delhi: India has become the last destination of Sindhi Hindu from Pakistan, where the state-sponsored seminaries have been victimizing them since last two decades. Over 2000 Hindus have recently refuge in the premises of Delhi in last couple of years; however rough estimates suggest their number during last ten years have crossed one hundred thousand.
Hailing from the secular province of Sindh in Pakistan, their ordeal is the evidence of systematic exodus and their ethnic cleaning by the military establishment supported seminaries and Mullahs. Land grab, forced conversions and marriages of Hindu girls have been heart wrecking ordeal.
Sindh, the second largest province in Pakistan, is the richest in the natural resources like gold, oil, coal and uranium. Analysts believe that the exodus of Sindhi Hindus is being systematically orchestrated by the Pakistan’s establishment, which is monopolized by ethnic Punjabis, and want to take hold of resource rich lands of Sindh as well as intent to alter its demography. The recent reports after Pakistan Army’s operation in Taliban and their associates in the tribal Pashtun area has also been indicating the influx of tribal refugee to Sindh.
“We were either targeted by the criminal gangs in Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur divisions of the province or harassed by the seminaries that house ethnic Punjabi or Pshrun Mullahs from Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa provinces,” told a few refugee during their protest demonstration in Delhi after fledging from Pakistan.
They have camped in the various places of Delhi and Rajasthan States of India, where they are mostly hosted either by the refugee supporting organizations or by the Hindu political outfits. One such camp in the northern Delhi is looked after by OM-SPBPJM Trust, led by A. K. Solanki. The refugees of Dravidian origin, Baghris called in Sindhi, practicing thousands years old traditions of Hinduism and have sustained as gypsies community in Sindh after the epic war between Arian and Dravidians in 1500 BC India.
On December 10 last years, over one hundred Sindhi refugees protested outside United Nations headquarters in Delhi and demanded international community’s intervention against Pakistani authorities for the crimes against humanity they have committed in Sindh province.
Sindh is the centre-stage of the provinces – federation conflict in Pakistan. On March 23 this year, Sindh rebelled as at least five million Sindhis took to the streets of Karachi and demanded the independence. Sindh is a home of 50 million Sindhi people and is believed to be the historical land, where massive and outrageous freedom movement has emerged during last decade. Hundreds of the Sindhi activists have been killed and more have been involuntarily disappeared by the intelligence agencies like ISI and the Military Intelligence.
When we were small, there was a month and it used to be called Ramzan. It was Ramzan on television, it was Ramzan in the newspaper with the sehr-o-iftar timings and while nobody had a cell phone or Facebook to wish anyone, it would have been Ramzan Mubarik nonetheless. Sometimes if one was being quite linguistically adventurous it would be Ramazan, but nobody seemed to mind.
And then, insidiously, The Arabs crept up on us. It wasn’t like the return of Muhammad Bin Qasim, but somehow Ramzan became Ramadan. Nobody knew exactly how it happened, but almost overnight our crisp z’uad sound became a lisping Arab burr, and we—a nation of language speakers with no apparent consonant pronunciation difficulties—were flung into the downward spiral of an affectation obsession. Now it was cool to sound Arab, and soon enough it began to be increasingly desirable to look it. Cue Al Huda, cue our streets being lined with gangly palm trees that do nothing, either in terms of beauty or shade, cue the availability of the most bling Islamic cover-up gear you’ll see this side of Dubai.
Still, as a nation we were still fairly open-minded about this, so we fasted year after year and didn’t really pay attention to the semantics of it. We were busy trying to live our lives and be regular Pakistanis, but The Arabs kept making inroads onto our cultural minds. One year ‘khuda-hafiz’, that old and comfortable way of saying goodbye and Godspeed, became ‘Allah hafiz’ with the dubious reason of having to specify which deity to whose protection one was recommending you. Because here in multi-religious, multi-cultural and secular Pakistan there was actual leeway where one would wonder who exactly Khuda is, and perhaps not want to be entrusted to a pagan god. Some people resisted, and continue to resist Allah hafiz and keep saying khuda-hafiz with the logic and hope that whatever His name, He will still protect and love them. Also if it was good enough for one’s grandfather and great-grandfather, it was just fine for them too.
A significant volume about the history of the Left movement in Pakistan
In 1956 A.B.A Haleem, then vice chancellor of Karachi University, declared Jamal Naqvi as an “undesirable element” depriving him of the chance to get a job in Karachi. At this stage, Mirza Abid Abbas, husband of Mrs Naqvi’s sister who had a private college in Hyderabad, Sindh, rescued him. Mirza Abid’s sons — Athar Abbas (Major General and former director ISPR), Mazhar Abbas, Zafar Abbas, Azhar Abbas (all journalists) and Anwar Abbas — were tutored and trained by Jamaluddin Naqvi.
Jamaluddin Naqvi (known as Jamal Naqvi) joined the Karachi-Sindh group of Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) in the mid 1950s, assumed all important posts in the party, and later ran his own faction of the party like a sole rider till late 1980s when he left the CPP on ideological grounds.
His autobiographical account has been published recently under the title Leaving the Left Behind, which is self-explanatory. If someone wants to know more, he can read the subtitle “An autobiographical tale of political disillusionment that took the life’s momentum away from the myopic politics of the Right and the Left to the enlightened concept of Right and Wrong”.
In a scenario where there is no archival record of the left, either in the form of official statements/documents or memoirs (Dada Amir Haider Khan’s biography being an exception), how can one evaluate our common progressive past politics? This is where the value of this book lies. Jamal has not made any disclosures or revelations in the book. Those who have met him during the last decade or so know this well. Like a bold and courageous political worker, he didn’t hide his change of heart.
When prominent Indian Bengali communist Mohit Sen penned his autobiographical account A Traveller and the Road: A Journey of an Indian Communist , he too faced outright condemnation from the CPI rank and file; yet his book is considered a pioneering effort in unfolding the myth of the Indian left.
Unfortunately, there is a narrow space for rethinking or revisiting the past politics and ideologies among the South Asian left which is said to be dogmatic. We love to live in a black and white world; there is no room for gray areas especially for those who want to move away from their previous ideological positions. When someone changes his position, we treat him as a zandiq (heretic). So Jamal is another zandiq among reds.
Ironically, Jamal gave his whole life and career to progressive thoughts and spent many years in prison but when he amended his thoughts, he was discarded. These memoirs are the only way to revisit the past and to analyse the history of the left movement in Pakistan.
Among many factors, the Pakistani state’s protracted apathy and inaction on the issue of security has provided non-state actors the spaces to grow and expand their influence. They used these spaces not only to propagate their ideologies and narratives but also to establish a ‘state within the state’ in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
Even as counteraction is now underway, the sudden rise of ISIS has threatened to make matters worse for us.
The militants are jubilant over the success of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), which has established a ‘caliphate’, or ‘Islamic state’ in parts of Syria and Iraq. This is not the first time militants have captured some territory and established their so-called Islamic writ.
Afghanistan, Pakistani tribal areas, Northern Mali and Somalia have experienced similar ventures by militants in the past, though on varying levels.
Rise of ISIS ≠ Fall of al Qaeda
Many experts see the decline of al Qaeda in the rise of ISIS, while analysing the recent developments happening in Iraq and Syria. That is a mistake.
A realistic review of militants’ strategies suggests that they first challenge the very foundation of the state by providing alternative socio-cultural and political narratives and then march onto its physical territory.
They may have differences over strategies, as ISIS and al Qaeda had, but ultimately they overcome their differences. Al Qaeda might feel stunned over the ‘victories’ of ISIS but now, instead of arguing with ISIS over strategies, will prefer to develop a consensus over a model of caliphate.
In some cases, militants develop alliances with nationalist groups.
That’s what happened in Northern Mali, where the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) had developed coordination with Islamist groups. But when they captured a territory, Islamist groups started imposing Shariah. The alliance was weakened due to ensuing infightings and eventually broke up after a military offensive was launched by the French forces.
A dangerous inspiration
Apart from group dynamics, inspiration plays an important role in militants’ efforts to replicate one success in other parts of the world.
The rise and success of ISIS could play a very dangerous, inspirational role in Pakistan, where more than 200 religious organisations are operating on the national and regional level.
These organisations pursue multiple agendas such as transformation of society according to their ideologies, the enforcement of Shariah law, establishment of Khilafah (caliphate) system, fulfilment of their sectarian objectives and achievement of Pakistan’s strategic and ideological objectives through militancy.
Such organisations could be influenced by the success of ISIS in various ways. A few would limit themselves to providing just moral support, but others might actively provide donations and financial assistance on ISIS’ call.
Common purpose: Establish the state of Khurasan
Still others — mainly religious extremist and militant organisations — could find inspiration in ISIS’ strategies and tactics.
This is possible since even groups operating in two different regions can find common ground in the Takfiri ideologies they believe in, and in the organisational links they share with each other.
The map released by ISIS shows countries for expansion marked in black across North Africa, into mainland Spain, across the Middle East and into Muslim countries of Central and South Asian region. It depicts exactly the states, which are or once remained under Muslim control.
According to this notion, the territory which has come under Muslim rule even once becomes a permanent part of Islamic caliphate. These territories, if later invaded by non-Muslims, will be considered as unjustly occupied territories and it will be obligatory for a Muslim to struggle to regain them.
Interestingly, the ISIS map shows both Afghanistan and Pakistan as part of the Islamic caliphate state’s Khurasan province. Al Qaeda and its affiliates believe that the movement for the establishment of the Islamic state of Khurasan will emerge from the region comprising of the Kunar and Nuristan provinces of Afghanistan and Malakand region of Pakistan.
They consider Khurasan as the base camp of international jihad, from where they will expand the Islamic state boundaries into other non-Muslim lands. Mullah Fazlullah of Swat was inspired by the notion and considered himself the founder of the Khurasan movement.
Many other groups and commanders in Pakistan and Afghanistan subscribe to the same idea, but only a few groups have dedicated themselves to the cause of establishment of the Islamic state of Khurasan.
The current TTP leadership — mainly Fazlullah and his deputy Qayum Haqqani, and Khalid Khurasani group in Mohmand and Bajaur agencies of Fata — are leading this movement, not only on the militant, but on the ideological front as well.
The concentration of al Qaeda and TTP hardliner groups in Kunar and Nuristan are of the same mind; they intend to use the territory as a base camp for the establishment of the state of Khurasan. Though they are not strong enough to trigger a massive militant campaign like the one going on in Iraq, they will remain a critical security irritant and keep inspiring radical minds in the region.
KARACHI: In a meeting with an American diplomat in July 2009, ANP leader Senator Afrasiab Khattak claimed that the Haqqani network, a militant group the US holds responsible for multiple attacks against coalition forces in Afghanistan, was being protected by the Pakistan military.
The report is one of a number of American diplomatic cables obtained by Dawn that reveal a deep mistrust among the leadership of the ANP, the party responsible for governance in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, about the military’s intentions regarding various militant groups in KP and FATA.
“Khattak described the Pakistani military as treating the Haqqanis ‘separately’ … from other militants,” reported Lynne Tracy, the Principal Officer at the US Consulate in Peshawar. “The Haqqani family, [Khattak] observed, has already moved out of North Waziristan.
Read more » DAWN