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Showing posts from September, 2011

Fragile contradictory relationship

Many analysts and journalists resort to marriage clichés when describing Pakistan’s relationship with the US. It is time to put such clichés to rest; Pak-US relationship is not a marriage. It is a transactional relationship between a superpower and a third world country due to its geostrategic position. We are both trapped in this relationship – the US in Afghanistan and Pakistan due to its policies vis-à-vis Afghanistan. Pakistan’s relations with the Taliban are not a secret but ever since the outgoing chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, linked the Haqqani network to Pakistan’s premier spy agency, the ISI, emotions in Pakistan have been rising gradually. “The Haqqani network, for one, acts as a veritable arm of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency,” said Admiral Mullen.

The hype surrounding Admiral Mullen’s statement led the Pakistani media, especially the electronic media, into a jingoistic overdrive. Apart from some notable exceptions in the ele…

A passionate plea for Palestine

Friday was a historic day when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas informed the UN General Assembly (UNGA) that he had formally submitted an application “for the admission of Palestine on the basis of the June 4, 1967 borders, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, as a full member of the United Nations”. Mr Abbas called upon the UN and the world to vote in favour of Palestine’s full membership and to recognise the state of Palestine. “Will it [the world] allow Israel to continue its occupation, the only occupation in the world? Will it allow Israel to remain a state above the law and accountability? I come before you today…to say, after 63 years of suffering of the ongoing Nakba: enough,” said Abbas. In response to the Palestinian leader’s speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the UN “the theatre of the absurd” where “year after year Israel is singled out for condemnation more often than all the nations of the world combined”. Mr Netanyahu said the critics of Israe…

LeJ unleashed, again

There is no safety for the Shias in Pakistan. Three Hazara Shias were killed yesterday when they were on their way to Quetta. According to reports, they were asked to get off their passenger van, lined up and shot dead. The modus operandi is the same as in the case of the Shia pilgrims who were shot dead a few days ago in Mastung by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). The Punjab government has placed LeJ’s leader, who was released from jail this July after 14 years, under temporary house arrest. Rahim Yar Khan’s police chief, Sohail Chattha, said that Ishaq’s behaviour endangered “sectarian harmony and caused a sudden rise in sectarian temperature in the country”. It is not yet clear what purpose would be served by putting Ishaq under temporary detention for a few days. Men like Malik Ishaq should be put behind bars for life instead of being released due to ‘lack of evidence’. They are a threat to society. Unfortunately, our legal system has no answer in the face of lacunae in our laws. Peop…

Shia massacre

A group of Shia pilgrims on their way to Iran in a bus were ambushed in Mastung, Balochistan, by armed men. The militants told them to get out of the vehicle, lined them up and opened fire on them after checking their identity cards. Twenty-six pilgrims were killed while eight others were injured. Most of them belonged to the Hazara Shia community in Balochistan. Three others were killed in an ambulance when they were taking the injured to hospital. Banned terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), an offshoot of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), claimed responsibility for the attack. Last month, 12 people lost their lives while more than a dozen others were injured after a suicide attack at a Shia congregation offering Eid prayers in Quetta. On the second day of Eid, seven more Shias lost their lives at the hands of armed gunmen who opened fire on a minibus on its way to Parachinar in Kurram Agency.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) condemned the Shia massacre and urged …

To recognise or not to recognise…

The Libyan Embassy in Pakistan raised the rebel flag of the National Transitional Council (NTC) last month after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s government. In August, Pakistan’s Foreign Office (FO) was noncommittal in this regard. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tehmina Janjua said, “We are monitoring the situation in Libya very closely…We believe that at this point in time, the situation is in a flux. So we continue to monitor it and in doing so we are guided by respect for the principles of sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of all states.” Almost a month after the rebel flag was raised by the Libyan Embassy, Pakistan has not recognised the NTC government. This has apparently irked the new Libyan government, which has now threatened not to revalidate Pakistani diplomats’ visas if we do not recognise the rebel-led government. Pakistan is not the only country not to have recognised the NTC government so far. Many other countries are keeping an eye on the situat…

Coming down hard on Pakistan

John O Brennan, US President Barack Obama’s chief counter-terrorism advisor, has given a clear-cut warning to Pakistan. “The United States does not view our authority to use military force against al Qaeda as being restricted solely to ‘hot’ battlefields like Afghanistan. We reserve the right to take unilateral action,” said Mr Brennan. US Ambassador Cameron Munter’s statement on the Haqqani network’s links to Pakistan's government was also quite strong. He said, “The attack that took place in Kabul a few days ago was the work of the Haqqani network. And the facts, that we have said in the past [are] that there are problems, there is evidence linking the Haqqani network to the Pakistan government. This is something that must stop.” US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen has also conveyed his “deep concerns” about the Haqqani network’s activities and has “restated his strong desire to see the Pakistani military take action against them and their safe havens in North Wazirista…

Another funeral, another attack

A suicide bomber blew himself up at a funeral in Lower Dir on Thursday, leading to the death of 40 people and wounding more than 60 others. One funeral, one suicide bomber – the result: another 40 funerals. Welcome to the world of the Taliban. They have no respect for innocent lives. They would stoop so low as to kill children just to settle a score with their ‘enemies’. Just this week the Taliban claimed responsibility for attacking a school van; four children were brutally murdered in that attack. The Taliban do not have hearts; to call them human beings would be a crime. Yet we see that our military establishment continues to differentiate between the Afghan Taliban and the local Taliban, dubbing the former ‘good’ and the latter ‘bad’ Taliban. Our Guderians consider the Afghan Taliban to be Pakistan’s ‘strategic assets’. These same strategic assets have killed thousands of innocent people across the border in Afghanistan. They have also given refuge to the local Taliban, both in Pa…

Religious freedom in Pakistan

US Department of State’s July-December, 2010 International Religious Freedom Report has documented “major developments with respect to religious freedom in 198 countries and territories”. The report placed China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan as “countries of particular concern” regarding religious freedom while 10 other countries, including Pakistan, were cited for failing to sufficiently protect religious rights. The report has raised important points regarding our country. On Pakistan, it says: “The government did not reform a blasphemy law that had been used to prosecute those who belong to religious minorities, and in some cases Muslims who promote tolerance. The government also used provisions of the penal code to prevent Ahmedis from practicing their religion. Members of other Islamic sects, Christians, Sikhs, and Hindus also reported governmental and societal discrimination...The government of Pakistan rarely prosecuted perpetrators of…

Back to square one

Sunday marked the tenth anniversary of the dastardly terrorist attacks on American soil, which resulted in the death of almost 3,000 people. US President Barack Obama and former president George W Bush went to the site of the September 11 attacks and paid tribute to the victims. A terrorist attack in any part of the world must be condemned unequivocally. The world stood by the Americans in their hour of grief. They all agreed that the perpetrators of these heinous attacks must be punished but there was a difference of opinion even then on how the US should go about it. That 9/11 changed the world is common knowledge. What remains to be seen is whether the measures used to avenge 9/11 were appropriate or not.

With hindsight we can say that the US invasion of Afghanistan following Mullah Omar’s refusal to hand over al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was akin to killing a fly with a sledgehammer. The fly got away from Tora Bora, only to be found almost 10 years later in Abbottabad. But the v…

Altaf bhai’s stellar performance

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain addressed a press conference from London via Skype on Friday. Mr Hussain’s press conference lasted for almost three hours, after which there was a question and answer session. It would not be wrong to call it a stellar performance by the MQM supremo. From flying kisses to singing and dancing, Altaf Hussain kept his audience ‘entertained’. Mr Hussain claimed he would make some earth-shattering revelations, as he was not sure if he would be alive to address another press conference. In the end, he failed to reveal anything. What Mr Hussain provided as ‘proof’ of some international conspiracy to break up Pakistan was nothing but a hackneyed map that has been doing the rounds on the internet for several years now apart from some articles, analyses and books by western writers. The only thing that was clear by the end of Mr Hussain’s press conference was that it was an attempt to refurbish his so-called patriotic credentials in the light o…

Karachi horror and its implications

Apparently at a cabinet meeting when Interior Minister Rehman Malik shared evidence of what was going on in Karachi, which included pictures of torture cells and the statements of the victims, those present at the meeting were horrified. According to one participant, “One could not believe his eyes that this is happening in the city of lights…it appeared as if we were watching the trailer of a horror movie.” If our cabinet members were horrified just by looking at the audio-visuals of the horror that is going on in Karachi, it does not take much imagination to judge what the people of Karachi – who are living the horror every single day – must be going through. If this is not going to wake up our ruling elite, then nothing will. It seems that something has finally woken them up to an extent. Law enforcement agencies have conducted operations in Al-Rahim Apartment, Pehalwan Goth, Yousuf Plaza, FB Area, Baldia Town, Saeedabad, Rangar Mohalla, Banaras, Sohrab Goth and New Karachi. The op…

Democracy in the dock

It seems that Pakistani politicians have a profound love for theatrics. Zulfiqar Mirza’s explosive press conference on August 28 made headlines but the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) responded to Dr Mirza’s hard-hitting allegations with restraint, which was quite a departure from the MQM’s usual method of rebuttal. MQM leader Faisal Sabzwari responded to Dr Mirza’s press conference on August 30. That was not the end of it. On Tuesday night, MQM leader Mustafa Kamal held another press conference and appeared on a private television channel later to deny all allegations levelled at the MQM by Dr Mirza. “The negative and biased thinking and acts of accusing the MQM and Quaid-i-Tehreek Altaf Hussain of indulging in anti-Pakistan activities should be stopped forthwith in the interest of the country and its people,” said Mr Kamal. He was of the opinion that Dr Mirza’s views were not part of the Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP’s) official policy, something the PPP has also said in its defence…

Interesting ‘disclosure’

Senator Nawabzada Lashkari Raisani, a former PPP Balochistan president, has made an interesting disclosure. He has said that a prominent insurgent leader of Balochistan, who lives in self-imposed exile, had approached Mr Raisani and agreed to lay down arms. Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani has welcomed this ‘news’. The said insurgent leader is now said to be ready to join mainstream politics. Since Senator Raisani did not disclose the Baloch leader’s name, we cannot speculate about his identity or the veracity of this claim. If we were to concede that a Baloch leader has made such an offer, there are implications for the Baloch resistance movement. There may be a leader or a group under that leader who do not see much future for armed resistance in Balochistan and want to give it up in order to join mainstream politics and address their issues through parliamentary means. From the point of view of the resistance movement, this could be a setback and would weaken…

The curse of intolerance

A myriad curses afflict Pakistan. One of them is intolerance of views – religious and other. In this intolerant climate, the news of an innocent Ahmedi’s death at the hands of bigots points at the rot in our society. Naseem Ahmed was assassinated in Faisalabad late night on Saturday. For the past few months, the All Pakistan Students Khatam-e-Nabuwat Federation has been distributing pamphlets with the names and addresses of prominent Ahmedi businessmen, senior teachers and doctors residing in Faisalabad. These pamphlets openly give a call to kill members of the Ahmediyya community in the name of Islam and wrongfully accuse the Ahmedis of “conspiracies against Islam and Pakistan”. It is not the first time that such hate campaigns have been launched against the Ahmediyya community in Pakistan. Ever since the Ahmedis were declared non-Muslim by parliament back in 1974, they have been treated with utter contempt and nauseating hate by most of their fellow Pakistanis. What is even more dep…

Army’s ‘concern’ on Karachi

Major-General Athar Abbas, Director General (DG) Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), said that the Pakistan army felt concerned about the poor law and order situation in Karachi, just like all other people. Major-General Abbas said that it was the duty of the law enforcement agencies to conduct operations against all criminals and terrorists without discrimination as it “would help bring peace to Karachi”. According to the DG ISPR, the army was concerned over the death of innocent citizens in the metropolis and the poor law and order situation in Karachi had an impact on the whole country. So far the army had remained relatively quiet on the situation in Karachi, as it should have. Now, with Major-General Abbas’s comments, it seems that the army is once again trying to meddle in matters that are in the domain of the democratically elected government. Whether the public agrees with President Zardari’s reconciliation policy or not is a separate matter but the army’s ‘concern’ may so…

Israel-Turkey standoff

The UN report on the Turkish-led aid flotilla has run into controversy. It has been dubbed as a document sans consensus. Both the Israeli and Turkish members of the panel that authored the report distanced themselves from it as it said that Israeli commandos faced “organised and violent resistance from a group of passengers” while Israeli forces acted with “excessive and unreasonable force”. The UN report becomes meaningless once the two countries disassociated themselves from it. Turkey demanded that Israel apologise for killing innocent passengers, pay compensation and take steps regarding the blockade. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country would not apologise over the incident as it “has the full and basic right to defend itself”. In the wake of this confrontation, Turkey suspended military agreements with Israel and its foreign minister announced: “Turkey-Israel diplomatic relations have been reduced to a second secretary level. All personnel above the sec…

Sectarian warfare reignited

Two despicable terrorist attacks targeting the Shiites in Pakistan should ring alarm bells but it seems that the Pakistani state is oblivious to any such warnings. On Eid day, 11 people lost their lives while more than a dozen others were injured when a suicide bomber targeted a Shia congregation offering Eid prayers in Quetta. A day later, seven Shias were killed when gunmen opened fire on a minibus on its way to Parachinar in Kurram Agency. There are not enough words to condemn the attack on a mosque on Eid day and another attack on innocent travellers on the second day of Eid. Hazara Shias in Balochistan and Shias in Parachinar have been targeted continuously by sectarian groups over the years. The resurgence of sectarian groups is alarming. In the 1980s and 90s, sectarian killings became a norm in Pakistan because of General Ziaul Haq’s extremist policies. The military and its intelligence agencies aided and abetted sectarian groups like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakis…

Zulfi Mirza vs the MQM

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has disowned Zulfiqar Mirza’s allegations after a meeting was held at the Presidency. The PPP suspended Dr Mirza’s basic membership. On Tuesday, Dr Mirza announced that he was quitting politics and lashed out at the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) once again. This time he chose Hyderabad as the venue. On the other hand, the MQM challenged Dr Mirza to provide proof to substantiate his allegations against the party. MQM leader Faisal Sabzwari said, “It is a lie that the MQM’s enemies have been narrating since the party was created, which is nothing new.” Mr Sabzwari further added that Dr Mirza’s “drama was carried out to divert attention from the suo motu hearing of the Supreme Court (SC) on the Karachi situation” and alleged that Dr Mirza wanted to create rifts between the Pashtuns and the Muhajir community. The MQM asked its workers to remain calm. The SC has expressed its dissatisfaction over a report presented by Inspector General (IG) of Sindh Polic…