Controlled democracy

"Pakistani democracy is like a vehicle that the prime minister may be steering but those driving it are invisible people sitting on the backseat. Such a vehicle is doomed to meet a terrible accident," said Farhatullah Babar at the Asma Jahangir Convention on Sunday. The former senator's words are not far from the truth.

Pakistan is facing one of its worst political crises at the moment. Last month, the elections for chairman senate showed how they were manipulated. The Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf cobbled together an alliance with some independent candidates to elect Sadiq Sanjrani as chairman senate in order to defeat the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. But this was not a natural alliance. As the senator, Hasil Bizenjo, pointed out during his speech after Sanjrani's victory, there are some forces in the country that are 'more supreme' than Parliament. While talking about these 'forces', Bizenjo kept patting his shoulder, a si…

A moral compass

Bravery, thy name is Asma Jahangir

As a Pakistani woman, this year's International Women's Day somehow felt incomplete because of the loss of one of our most iconic feminist figures, Asma Jahangir, who passed away in February due to cardiac arrest. She had only just turned 66. The news of her sudden death jolted each and every one of us. It was a personal loss not only because a lot of us knew her closely but also because she was an inspiration to millions of men and women around the world.

Asma Jahangir was a champion of human rights, an untiring campaigner for women's rights, a voice for minority rights, a democrat to the core, a brilliant lawyer and a crusader who did not bow down to pressure. There was no one like her, and there may never be another as brave and courageous as Asma ji. As Mohammad Taqi put it, she was our moral compass. If she took a position, it meant that we should do so too because she had always been on the right side of history. She was a class apa…

Indelible scars

Zainab. A seven-year-old little girl. A child. Raped. Tortured. Murdered. She was not the only one. There were more like her in the city of the Sufi poet, Baba Bulleh Shah, Kasur, where a serial killer and paedophile hunted several other young girls. He was finally nabbed and that too only because we saw the innocent face of Zainab splashed on our television screens, newspapers and on social media. Her face was everywhere. Haunting us. Taunting us. The Punjab Police and the Punjab government finally acted and arrested the sick psychopath responsible for her murder. There were many, including some of our politicians, who asked for a public hanging. These people seem to have no clue that a public hanging is another form of barbarity and while we should be asking for punishment, baying for blood is not the answer. This lynch mob mentality has to end.

There was anger - so much anger - and there was pain - a lot of pain. Anger at the perpetrator and pain for the dead young girl and her fam…

The price of denial

The year, 2017, turned out to be quite tumultuous in terms of political events in Pakistan. The new year did not start on an encouraging note either. Donald Trump's first tweet in 2018 was about Pakistan. He tweeted: "The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!"

One can say that this was not unexpected. In August 2017, President Trump had warned Pakistan. He had said: "We can no longer be silent about Pakistan's safe havens for terrorist organisations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond... Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists."

Trump's tweet about Pakistan, that too his firs…

A trap like no other

Pandering to extremism

Last month, the State of Pakistan perhaps made one of its biggest blunders when it surrendered to religious extremists. A lot has already been written in the media about the Faizabad dharna (sit-in) but as a Pakistani, one still cannot come to terms with the way it all unfolded.

The elections bill 2017 was framed by a joint parliamentary committee over a period of three years and more than a 100-odd meetings in order to reach a consensus. A slight amendment was made in an oath pertaining to the Khatam-e-Nabuwat (Finality of Prophethood) clause in the Elections Act 2017, which was agreed upon by the government and other political parties. Not many would have even noticed it had it not been for a senator who pointed it out and started a debate on a tricky and sensitive issue. The government mishandled the situation. Instead of explaining the minor change in a proper context, the government panicked. From the law minister to the interior minister, everyone from the…

The beginning of the end

Pakistan army negotiates deal with mullah brigade, undermines govt

It was the beginning of the end of the Pakistani state as we know it this weekend, as the mullah brigade and the Army joined hands to assert their power over the state.

If you want to see what ‘playing with fire’ literally means, just look at what’s been happening in Pakistan in the last three weeks. As for the last three days, what has happened is not just mind-boggling but has also left one feeling cold and nauseous – literally. Decades of terrorist attacks around us may have made one immune to violence but there are some incidents that just leave a mark on you permanently. The way the state of Pakistan capitulated before the mullah brigade on Monday is one such incident, which will also have long-term repercussions not just for the country but our society as a whole.

For the past three weeks, Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY) held the capital hostage as a result of its sit-in at the Faizabad inter-change that co…

Islamabad sit-in

Pakistan has no hope of a state that can enforce its writ

In a surrender like no other, the state of Pakistan has made one mistake after another and shown that the mullah brigade can get away with anything and everything

Anger. Despair. Disgust. Fear. Frustration. Shock. These are just some of the emotions one felt after the state of Pakistan literally bent over backwards to appease religious extremists as it made a deal with those who had laid siege to the capital. What started as a controversy surrounding the Elections Act 2017 due to an amendment to the oath turned out to be the undoing of the entire state of Pakistan.

A mob led by extremist cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi, leader of Tehreek-i-Labaik, staged a sit-in at Faizabad, Islamabad. For three weeks this mob sat there and hurled abuses at the politicians, judges, mediapersons, etc, and also ended up paralysing the lives of the people living in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The courts took notice of this and ordered the government to …

“No one is saying our last term, or any term, was perfect” — Bilawal Bhutto

It’s been 50 years since the Pakistan People’s Party was founded by your grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. In your opinion, what led to the rise of the PPP and what are the reasons for its decline and present showing in the assemblies?

BBZ: There were multiple factors that led to the rise of the PPP, the most important of them being our ability to articulate the core challenge of extreme economic injustice. The entire country’s wealth was concentrated in the hands of 22 families. The PPP spoke to this injustice, and brought redistribution and hope for a more egalitarian society. Hope is a very important intangible, and it is important to conquer fear and fragility which becomes the lot of the deprived and the voiceless. We give voice to that hope, but we embed that in credible, transformational politics.

It’s another thing that we don’t spend billions in public money advertising it.

We obviously don’t enjoy the same parliamentary presence today as we did, but the biggest reason for thi…

The price of freedom

Journalism is exciting; the constant news cycle gives one an adrenaline rush. For Pakistani journalists, there is always something to talk about, some new 'breaking news', as there is rarely a slow news day. This is what makes this profession so different. On the one hand, there is the excitement and, on the other, there is - danger. We all know that freedom of expression is a basic right, but we also know that it comes with a price. Those who had forgotten this simple 'rule' were given a 'reminder' last month.

Ahmad Noorani, a senior journalist with a local English daily, The News, was beaten up by unknown assailants in Islamabad. He received serious head injuries during the attack. Thankfully he has since recovered and is out of danger but the real danger still lurks in the shadows. Not just for Noorani but for all others who may have crossed some 'red lines' drawn by the powerful forces.

As Dawn noted in its editorial post-Noorani attack: "The s…