It has been a year since Shahbaz Bhatti passed away. No, strike that, he did not pass away; his life was brutally cut short when he was murdered. Everyone from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to the Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan have been suspected with his murder, either by the police officials, or by the home ministry, yet no decent progress has been made.
In a way, it all makes sense, since only certain kinds of angry groups of men, who bay for blood and destruction, seem to carry any weight around here. Bhatti was NOT that kind of a man. He believed in fighting for rights the democratic way and had planned to introduce legislation that would ban hate speech and hate literature against all. He was campaigning for official holidays for minorities’ religious festivals and wanted the blasphemy law to be repealed which turned out to be a crime worthy of death.
Bhatti’s death is not a lone incidence of brutal violence. Planned acts of aggression and cruelty against minorities — whether ethnic, religious, sectarian or communal — is becoming a norm in the ‘Land of the Pure’. Intolerance has reached such levels that people with names that revealed their sectarian or religious beliefs are afraid to use them when they feel unsafe. Slain journalist, Mukarram Khan Atif narrated one such incident, which depicted the extent of narrow-mindedness and fanaticism in the country. He and another reporter were travelling south from Mohmand Agency through Khyber Agency and one of them had to use a name that would make him pass off as a member of the majority sect.
The minority communities — no matter who they are and where they are living — are constantly under threat. We have cases of forced conversions of Hindu girls, mostly minors in Sindh who are forcefully abducted and married to Muslim men and then presented to the court as religious converts. According to a treasury member of the Sindh Assembly, around 20 to 25 forced conversions take place every month in the province.
Acts of mob violence against Ahmadis seem to be rising at an alarming rate. The situation is such that any Ahmadi family is at risk of being threatened with the blasphemy law. Their places of worship are gunned and/or ransacked and the law-enforcement community and the state does nothing and silently looks on.
The perpetrators of the Gojra incident, where a whole Christian colony was burnt down, still roam free and the Hazaras in Balochistan are regularly targeted for their sectarian and ethnic identity. Also, nothing is done to check the dissemination of hate literature, some of which can be found even in mainstream bookstores. Last week’s tragic shooting of passengers travelling on a bus to Gilgit on the Karakoram Highway, where people were asked to show their CNICs and then taken off and killed — all of them were Shia — shows that we have reached an even higher level of prejudice and bigotry.
It would not be wrong to say that intolerance rules our society and no one is safe here in this country other than the men who perpetuate bias, bigotry and hatred?
LAHORE: The district and sessions judge, who had handed down two death sentences to Mumtaz Qadri for killing Punjab governor Salman Taseer, has left for Saudi Arabia along with his family after receiving death threats from extremists.
“The death threats have forced Judge Pervez Ali Shah to leave the country along with his family for Saudi Arabia,” Advocate Saiful Malook, the special prosecutor in the Qadri case, told Dawn on Monday.
He said sensing the gravity of the situation the government had arranged the lodging of Mr Shah and members of his family abroad. “Although security was provided to the judge and his family members, the government on the reports of law-enforcement agencies opted for sending him abroad,” he said.
There were also unconfirmed reports that extremist elements in religious parties had fixed the head money for the judge. “There were such reports but there was a potential threat to the life of Mr Shah and his family members,” he said.
Mr Malook said he also had been receiving threats to his life and urged the government to arrange adequate security. “The government has deployed only two policemen for my security which is not adequate,” he said.
Judge Pervez Ali Shah had said in his verdict: “No-one can be given the licence to kill anyone in any condition, therefore, the killer cannot be pardoned as he has committed a heinous crime.”
Assassin Qadri, a constable in the Punjab Police Elite Force, tried to justify the murder by stating that he had killed Mr Taseer for supporting Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman who the slain governor had projected as having been wrongly convicted of blasphemy. Qadri, who was on duty to guard Taseer, gunned him down outside a restaurant in Islamabad on Jan 4 this year. ….
KCCC’s alleged involvement in killings: Jamaat calls for judicial inquiry
LAHORE, Aug 10: Jamaat-i-Islami chief Syed Munawar Hasan has expressed concern over the reported involvement of the Karachi Command and Control Centre (KCCC) in terrorist activities and called for a judicial inquiry into the matter.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, he alleged that custodians of peace and civil liberties had turned into murderers.
Quoting reports published in a section of the print media, the JI chief said the criminals involved in target killings and terrorist activities were allegedly getting assistance from the Command and Control Centre.
The reports said that activities of police, Rangers and other law-enforcement agencies were being watched through secret cameras and targets identified.
Mr Hasan said the KCCC had been set up during the tenure of Karachi Nazim Mustafa Kamal and thousands of workers of a particular party had been recruited to it.
He said it was a tragedy and a matter of concern that the rulers were themselves protecting the killers of innocent citizens only to stay in power and the assassins were not being arrested despite having been identified. Mr Hasan alleged that certain parties in the ruling coalition were involved in the bloodshed and target killings, adding that some ministers and senators were on payroll of foreign agencies.
LAHORE, July 6: The Jamaat e Islami chief, Syed Munawar Hasan, has said that the writ of the government in Karachi has been eroded because of the MQM’s terrorism. He was talking to the family members of JI member ( Rukn) Mubinul Haq, who lost his life at the hands of the MQM terrorists in Faisalabad colony, Karachi.
Syed Munawar Hasan said that the MQM’s inclusion in the government had emboldened the terrorists who were moving about freely and the law and order in the port city had been shattered. The residents of the mega city had become hostages in the hands of a few terrorists, he added.
Who could have imagined that a serving commander of the Pakistan Army in the Waziristan badlands would have consciously knocked the popular myth that American drone strikes in Fata are part of the problem and not part of the solution of terrorism? But that’s exactly what happened on March 8.
Maj Gen Ghayur Mehmud, GOC 7th Div North Waziristan, did not mince words in his printed brief ‘“Myths and Rumours about US Predator Strikes” handed out to journalists from his command post in the area. He made two main points: (1) A majority of those killed by drone strikes are “hardcore Taliban or Al Qaeda elements, especially foreigners,” while civilian casualties are “few”. (2) But by scaring local populations and compelling displacement through migration, drone attacks create social and political blowbacks for law enforcement agencies. Obviously, the first consequence is good and welcome as part of the national “solution” strategy and the second is problematic and should be minimised because it creates local “problems” of a tactical nature.
Gen Mehmud hasn’t been fired or reprimanded. This means he had the green signal from the GHQ to make his brief. His statement explains the consciously nurtured “duality” of official policy versus popular position on drone strikes and confirms the Wikileaks summary that both secret authorisation and popular criticism go hand in hand in Pakistan where both civilian and military leaders are on the same page.
To be sure, the tactical issues are not insignificant. The Pakistani military would dearly love to own some Predators or at least have a measure of command and control over them, so the demand is worth making publically all the time even though it routinely falls on deaf American ears – for obvious reasons, this devastating technology isn’t available to any state except Israel.
Similarly, the Pakistan military would like to have a critical advance say on the choice of drone targets so that “hardcore Al-Qaeda elements and foreigners” noted by Gen Ghayur are usefully targeted but some Pakistani “assets” among the Quetta Shura of Mullah Omer, Gulbudin Hekmatyar’s Hizbe Islami and Siraj Haqqani’s Taliban network are spared for long-term application in Afghanistan. Disagreement with the Americans over this particular issue compels military spokespersons to blow hot (in public) and cold (in front of the Americans) over all drone strikes.
Sometimes, when it gets uncomfortably hot under the collar, then General Ashfaq Kayani has to weigh in for public consumption – as he did recently when, the day after Raymond Davis was freed (courtesy ISI) amidst howls of protest from the media, a drone strike killed over 40 pro and anti-military tribesmen in a jirga for local conflict resolution in Fata.
Pakistan and America have some strategic interests in common, like eliminating Al-Qaeda from Waziristan. But there are disagreements about who is a “good” Taliban and who is not. This is not strange at all. The answer to this question will determine who will rule or share power in Afghanistan in the next five years and who will not. It will also have a bearing on Afghanistan’s strategic and tactical allies in the neighbourhood in the future – India or Pakistan. Therefore Pakistan’s military, which loves to hate India even as America is itching to embrace India, believes it cannot shrug away any openings or opportunities for leveraging its concerns and interests.
This perspective explains how the Raymond Davis case was handled (exploited) by the ISI and the import of DG-ISI’s recent dash to Washington for a meeting with the CIA chief. The ISI wants greater tactical input/output into CIA operations in Pakistan (to protect its strategic assets at home like the Lashkar-e-Tayba and the Haqqani network) even as it strategically allows the US to operate drones and run special agents freely from two bases in Pakistan where visas and landing rights are not an issue. Who knows how many Americans land or take off from these bases, how many carry weapons and what they do in their bulletproof SUVs when they cruise the length and breadth of Pakistan?
Under the circumstances, the DG-ISI’s “request” in Langley was about reposing “trust” in joint operations rather than any overt threat to deny existing facilities and rights. The US has responded with a drone strike in South Waziristan which is supposed to be strictly out of bounds. This signals its intention to remain focused on the Taliban and Al-Qaeda even as it “considers” Gen Pasha’s request for greater sensitivity to Pakistan’s needs and interests. No more, no less.
A recent editorial in The Wall Street Journal, a pro-US establishment paper, sums up the American position bluntly. It is titled: The Pakistan Ultimatum: choose whose side it is on. “Maybe the Obama Administration can inform its friends in Islamabad that, when it comes to this particular fight, the U.S. will continue to pursue its enemies wherever they may be, with or without Pakistan’s cooperation… Pakistan can choose to cooperate in that fight and reap the benefits of an American alliance. Or it can oppose the U.S. and reap the consequences, including the loss of military aid, special-ops and drone incursions into their frontier areas, and in particular a more robust U.S. military alliance with India… After 9/11 Pakistan had to choose whose side it was on. It’s time to present Pakistan with the same choice again.
So it’s time for Pakistan’s military leaders to make up their minds and deal with its consequences. They must be upfront with America – because it’s a greatly beneficial “friend” to have and a deadly “enemy” to make – and honest with Pakistanis – because they’re not stupid and can eventually see through duplicity, as they did in the Raymond Davis case.
The military cannot forever hunt with America and run with an anti-American Pakistani public they have helped to create. They cannot instruct the DG-ISPR in Islamabad to convey the impression of tough talking in Langley while asking the GOC 7 Division in Waziristan to give a realistic brief to the media about the critical benefits of drone strikes amidst all the “myths and rumours” of their negativity. This double-dealing confuses the public, annoys a strategic partner, and discredits the military all round when it is exposed.
More significantly, it makes it difficult for Pakistanis to swallow the hard realities and the harder decisions necessary to change them for the sake of the state’s survival and the nation’s growth.
The duality or contradiction in the military’s private and public position vis a vis its relationship with civilians in Pakistan and its relationship with America is a direct consequence of two inter-related factors: First, the military’s threat perception of India’s rising military capability, and second, its fear of losing control over India-centred national security policy to the civilians who are keen to start the process of building permanent peace in the region, thereby diluting the military’s pre-eminent role in Pakistan’s polity.
The military’s scheme of things requires a permanent state of relative hostility towards, and distrust of, India. That is why its national security doctrine is fashioned on the premise that it is India’s military capacity to harm Pakistan rather than its intentions to build a permanent peace that matter.
Of course, this is a perfect and unending rationalisation of its economic and political hold over Pakistan since India’s conventional weaponry is forecast to grow by leaps and bounds on the basis of a robust economy and nationalist unity. But Pakistan’s limping economy is groaning under the burden of the arms race engendered by this philosophy and its civilian polity is fracturing in the grab for diminishing resources. That is why its civilians are increasingly plucking up the courage to stare the army in the face for their political, provincial and economic rights.
The military’s policy of renting itself out to America for its own sake and also complaining about it at the same time for the sake of the Pakistani public is clearly bankrupt. Isn’t it time, therefore, to consider a different paradigm, one in which conflict resolution and peace with India deliver an economic dividend that can be reaped by all in an environment free from destabilising extremism and war in the neighbourhood? In pursuit of an untenable philosophy, what use are dubious non-state “assets” that can become extreme liabilities in an impending national meltdown?
Under the circumstances, General Kayani could do worse than go on the national hookup and defend the truth of the briefing given by his subordinate Maj Gen Ghuyur Mehmud. He will be surprised how quickly a majority of Pakhtuns in particular and Pakistanis in general will back him to the hilt and help change the national paradigm. This is more our war than it is America’s because we live and die here and not far away across two great oceans.
The writer is Jang Group/Geo adviser on political affairs.