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Showing posts from February, 2011

Balochistan: waiting for justice

Balochistan High Court Bar Association President Hadi Shakeel’s petition in the Supreme Court (SC) under Article 184(3) of the constitution, making the federal government and nine others respondents, has yielded some results. The apex court has directed the Attorney General of Pakistan, Maulvi Anwarul Haq, to meet Prime Minister Gilani and apprise him of the security situation in Balochistan and the concerns of the Baloch people. It is indeed a welcome step that the apex court has taken renewed notice of the kidnappings and targeted killings in Balochistan. The SC also directed an ISI official to ask the director general (DG) of the ISI to take up this issue with the prime minister. The Balochistan chief secretary, inspector general of police, DG Military Intelligence (MI), inspector general Frontier Constabulary and DG Levies have also been summoned by the SC. By directing the prime minister and DG ISI to discuss the issue and summoning other high-ups, the apex court has signalled th…

Pity the nation…

Two mutilated bodies of Baloch political workers – Mehboob Wadela of the Baloch National Movement (BNM) and Rehman Arif of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP) – were found in Gwadar district on Wednesday. Mr Wadela went missing in April 2010 from Karachi while Mr Arif was abducted four months ago. On the one hand the number of disappeared Baloch keeps increasing with every passing day while on the other hand the bullet-riddled bodies of the ‘missing’ Baloch people keep appearing in every nook and corner of Balochistan. In its recent report on Balochistan, Amnesty International (AI) called on the government to “immediately provide accountability for the alarming number of killings and abductions in Balochistan attributed to government forces in recent months”. According to the information compiled by AI, “In the last four months, at least 90 Baloch activists, teachers, journalists and lawyers have disappeared or been murdered, many in ‘kill and dump’ operations…Their bullet-ridden bodies…

Let the games begin

The Cricket World Cup 2011 starts today. Held every four years, the cricket world cup is the most watched cricket tournament in the world. This year, the world cup is going to be co-hosted by Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka. Unfortunately due to the terrorist threat, no match can take place in Pakistan even though it was also supposed to co-host. No international matches have been held in Pakistan after the terrorist attack on the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009. This is a great loss for a cricket-loving country that wears its infatuation on its sleeve. Unless and until terrorism is eradicated from our soil, Pakistani fans will have to reconcile to the reality of watching international matches on their television screens only.

The opening ceremony of the Cricket World Cup 2011 took place in Dhaka on Thursday. It was a grand event and captured the cricket mania quite magnificently. The Captains of 14 cricket nations contesting this tournament made quite an entrance on cycle-ri…

Moving, slowly, haltingly, towards justice

Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was gunned down in Islamabad by Malik Mumtaz Qadri on January 4, 2011 in broad daylight. Qadri, who was part of Mr Taseer’s security detail, confessed that he had indeed killed the late governor. On Monday, an anti-terrorism court charged Qadri with terrorism and murder. Qadri was asked by the judge whether he intentionally killed Mr Taseer to which he said that he acted “in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Quran and Sunnah because he [Mr Taseer] had committed blasphemy”, thus his action was justified. The next hearing of the case is on February 26. It was decided that the court would now continue hearing of this case on a weekly basis.

Finally we seem to be moving towards justice for Mr Taseer. This case is quite sensitive. Lawyers were unwilling to take up Mr Taseer’s case in view of the right-wing forces’ support for his assassin Mumtaz Qadri. The prosecutor had initially pulled out when the government did not provide adequate security. Fort…

Pak-US relations in a fix

Pakistan is in a fix. And all because of a man whose diplomatic status is a mystery that has not been solved yet. The Raymond Davis case has landed both Pakistan and the US in the soup. Not only have the Americans postponed an important trilateral meeting that was supposed to take place in Washington between officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US this month, they have also adopted a threatening posture vis-à-vis Pakistan. Foreign Office (FO) spokesman Abdul Basit said that the “trilateral talks will be rescheduled in due course of time. It is important the trilateral process continues. We hope whenever held, (the talks) will yield maximum results for peace and stability.” US State Department spokesman PJ Crowley also said the meeting will be rescheduled soon. This is obviously a pressure tactic by the US government, which is trying its best to get Davis free at any cost. On the other hand, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdaus Ashiq Awan said that the g…

Change in Egypt

The situation in Egypt post-Mubarak is very fluid. The Egyptian military has dissolved parliament and suspended the Egyptian constitution. This is a partial concession in the face of street power. The military has decided to stay in power for another six months or until the next elections take place. Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik will remain the caretaker premier. Mr Shafik seems to be a trusted civilian of the army. It is not yet clear whether Mr Shafik is acceptable to the protestors too, but Egyptian opposition figure, Ayman Nour, said that the military’s statement is a “victory for the revolution”. If the elections take place as planned in September and a civilian government comes to power, the immediate demands of the Egyptian people would be met. Goodwill for the military is still there but if the interim period continues for more than six months, the Egyptians might lose patience with the military just like they did eventually with Mubarak.

The Egyptian military is extremely pow…

Farewell Friday

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak finally resigned on Friday after delegating the responsibility of running the country to the Egyptian Armed Forces. Vice President Omar Suleiman made the announcement on the media. Mubarak’s decision comes a day after his speech for which people all over the world waited with bated breath on Thursday night. Rumours were rife before his televised address that Mubarak was going to step down. Before Mubarak’s address, US President Obama said, “We are following today’s events in Egypt very closely, and we will have more to say as this plays out. What is absolutely clear is that we are witnessing history unfold. It is a moment of transformation.” Apparently, CIA chief Leon Panetta had said there was “a strong likelihood that Mubarak may step down this evening”. Unfortunately, Hosni Mubarak surprised not just Obama and Panetta but the whole world when he refused to step down till a political transition takes place in September. It was ironic to see Mubarak t…

The true colour of bigotry

On January 30, thousands of people gathered in Lahore at a rally ostensibly arranged by the religious right, but which had the full support of centre-right political parties. The banned Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT)/Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) participated, as did the Sipaha-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), the Tehrik-e-Millat-e-Jafariya, the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) — as well as Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and various factions of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N, PML-Q, PML-Z). Their rallying call: a warning to the government and all those seeking any amendment or repeal of the notorious blasphemy laws.

In pre-partition India, the British introduced the blasphemy law into the Penal Code in 1860 in order to protect the religious sentiments of the minorities. But General Zia-ul-Haq’s Pakistan did the exact opposite, through Section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code: “Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by any imputat…

An absconding general

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has named former president, General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, an “absconding accused” in the Benazir Bhutto murder case. Former CPO Rawalpindi Saud Aziz’s statement led to this new development. A charge sheet was filed at an anti-terrorism court in this regard on Monday. As per Mr Aziz, General (retd) Musharraf gave the order to change (late) Ms Bhutto’s security incharge and after her assassination, the crime scene was hosed down on his orders. These are serious charges and given the fact that Mr Musharraf has not been cooperating in the ongoing investigation of Ms Bhutto’s assassination, the former dictator can be in some serious trouble. On the other hand, Musharraf’s spokesman accused the FIA of covering up the truth in an aim to divert attention from the government’s own “inefficiency and corruption”.

More than three years have passed since Ms Bhutto was assassinated in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007. Many investigations, both internal and e…

Territorial solidarity for Kashmir

For years now, people in Pakistan celebrate Kashmir Solidarity Day on February 5 in a bid to reflect their continuing commitment to the people of Kashmir. But if truth be told, it has become more of a ritual than anything effective. Every year, our leaders and people go through the usual motions without realising that they are not helping the Kashmir cause much with their rhetoric, not to mention that most of this ‘solidarity drive’ is confined by and large to Azad Kashmir, the northern areas and Punjab. The rest of Pakistan – Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – have little interest in this cause. The reason is that people in these parts of Pakistan are themselves fighting for their own rights. It was a bit disconcerting to see President Asif Ali Zardari asking India to give up the disputed territory of Kashmir. With due respect to the president, this is not realistic. Dialogue with India on Kashmir, among other issues, is the right thing to do, but to envisage India giving up…

Rising intolerance for the ‘tolerant’

Two people were killed and over two dozen injured in a bomb blast on Thursday night outside the Baba Haider Saeen shrine in Lahore. The explosion took place on the eve of the second day of the Urs of Baba Saeen. The number of casualties remained relatively low in comparison with other such attacks because of the low-intensity explosives used. However, the terrorists got their desired result: putting fear in the hearts of people who visit Sufi shrines.

Last year was the deadliest as far as attacks on Sufi shrines is concerned. The terrorists attacked the most famous shrines in Pakistan: Data Darbar in Lahore, Baba Farid Ganj Shakar’s shrine in Pakpattan, and Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s shrine in Karachi. The attacks on Data Darbar and Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s shrines took place on Thursdays just like the recent attack on Baba Haider Saeen’s shrine. Most people visit shrines on Thursday as it is considered a sacred day and langar (food) is distributed in shrines all over the country that day. Th…

Judicial discontent

The Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan has decided to proceed against sitting (but non-functioning) judges on contempt of court charges and summoned them to appear in court “in person or through their counsels to enter their plea on the charges framed against them” on February 21. The non-functioning judges are accused of taking oath under Musharraf’s (now annulled) Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) despite a restraining order by a seven-member SC bench after he imposed an emergency on November 3, 2007. The SC bench hearing the contempt case adjudged that the charges against Justice Zafar Iqbal Chaudhry and Justice Khurshid Anwar Bhindar do not stand “since they were not the judges of the Lahore High Court on November 3, 2007 or at any later point in time, thus they did not violate the November 3 order”. It is interesting to note that these judges are not being tried for taking an oath under the PCO as such but because they violated the order of the seven-member bench of the apex court…

Power to the people

Millions of Egyptians are protesting on the streets against the tyrannical Mubarak regime. Despite all this, President Hosni Mubarak is being his usual stubborn self – a trademark of all dictators who refuse to see the writing on the wall. What is heartening though is how the Egyptian army is handling the precarious situation. It has refused to ‘crush’ the protests and vowed not to use force against the people. In a statement released on January 31, the Egyptian army stressed that it is “aware of the legitimate demands of the honourable citizens” and that the “presence of the army in the streets is for your sake and to ensure your safety and wellbeing. The armed forces will not resort to use of force against our great people”. If the army is not willing to put down the uprising and lets it continue peacefully, surely it means that the people of Egypt have won.

The protests in Egypt were so far leaderless but now Nobel Laureate and former Director General of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBarade…