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Showing posts from October, 2011

Of change and alternatives

Sunday, October 30, saw two rallies in Pakistan’s two largest cities. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) held a huge rally in Karachi, which was dubbed ‘Democracy and Stability of Pakistan Rally’. That a party known for its opportunism and supporting military dictatorships came out on the street in support of democracy is ironic. The MQM, along with a delegation from the PPP, protested against Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s derogatory language against President Zardari at a PML-N rally in Lahore the other day. MQM chief Altaf Hussain addressed the rally from London and attacked the PML-N and the Sharif brothers. The language Shahbaz Sharif used against the president is condemnable, but expecting principled politics from the MQM that has quit the PPP’s coalition government on several occasions in the past three years can hardly be taken seriously.

Lahore also witnessed a rally on Sunday. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) rally was held at Minar-e-Pakistan, the symbolism of the…

Complacency at its worst

Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani said that the PPP-led government could not be toppled through rallies and creating hullabaloo. He said that elections would be held according to the prescribed schedule. “The PML-N wants to wind up democracy but the government will not let it derail it…The PPP is a symbol of the federation and its opponents are confined to only one portion of the country,” said Prime Minister Gilani. While democracy should not be derailed and the government should complete its tenure, it would not be wrong to remind the prime minister why there are so many rallies and agitations taking place all over Pakistan. Ever since the PPP came into power after the 2008 general elections, the woes of this nation have grown manifold. Granted that the government is not responsible for the global recession and its consequent impact on our country, but apart from a few notable achievements, this government has not delivered. Good governance is the essential ingredient missing f…

Justice for Nawab Bugti

Arrest warrants for former president, General Pervez Musharraf, and former prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, were issued on Friday in the Bugti murder case. Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti was killed in a military operation back in 2006. Shaukat Aziz denies his role in the murder and is of the view that Bugti died when his hideout in the mountains collapsed under fire from forces responding to attacks. If Nawab Bugti had died due to the cave collapsing, why was he buried in such haste? Bugti’s body was not handed over to his family. Under such circumstances, the Bugti family is entitled to answers and closure as well. It is almost impossible for a common man to get justice in Pakistan but even the Bugtis, a powerful family, had to run from pillar to post to get an FIR filed after the death of Nawab Akbar Bugti, a prominent man. Balochistan has suffered far more than any other province at the hands of our military.

Apart from Musharraf and Shaukat Aziz, the Bugti family have named former …

Afghanistan’s future

Pakistan’s position in the international arena has seen better days. Now our country is viewed as a pariah state responsible for sponsoring terrorism across the border. Despite the military establishment’s denials about not having any decisive influence over the Taliban and therefore a critical impact on Afghanistan’s future, Pakistan’s overt and covert support to the Afghan Taliban is no secret. In an interview, Major-General Athar Abbas, Director General (DG) of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), said that Pakistan has “not been informed and not been taken into confidence on a possible roadmap or a practicable shape of the [Afghan] reconciliation process so far”. He was also critical of the BBC documentary about Pakistan’s double game in the war on terror. “We consider that report highly biased, it is one-sided, it does not have the version of the side which is badly hit or affected by this report. Therefore…it is factually incorrect,” Major-General Abbas said. Nobody expec…

Positive development

Sunday afternoon’s chopper incident had some Indian observers on tenterhooks, waiting to hear the fate of the Indian military helicopter and its four crew members that strayed into Pakistani territory due to bad weather. Pakistan forced the Indian helicopter to land after it violated Pakistani airspace near Skardu. Pakistan promptly informed the Indian side of this incident. The crew was questioned, as is the standard operating procedure under such circumstances, for a few hours and was treated well. Military officials from both countries talked to each other and the issue was resolved amicably. The helicopter was refuelled by the Pakistan Army and flew back with the crew to India the same evening. “We are relieved that our officers and helicopter are back. We greatly appreciate the manner in which Pakistan has worked with us in resolving the matter,” said Indian external affairs ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash. The maturity with which both sides handled this sensitive issue is a po…

Beginning of a charm offensive

Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s recent interview with a local TV channel has been making headlines in the region. Talking about an attack on Pakistan by either the US or India, President Karzai said, “Anybody that attacks Pakistan, Afghanistan will stand with Pakistan. Afghanistan will be a brother of Pakistan. Afghanistan will never betray a brother.” When chairman Afghan Peace Council, Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, was assassinated, the Afghan intelligence pointed at Mullah Omar’s Quetta Shura as being responsible for the suicide attack. President Karzai then said that instead of talking to the Taliban directly any more, Afghanistan would talk to Pakistan, implying that our military establishment controls the Afghan Taliban. It seems that Mr Karzai’s recent interview is in a way trying to placate Pakistan’s military establishment. This is nothing short of a charm offensive where the Afghan president is trying to persuade Pakistan to soften its position vis-à-vis strategic depth in …

Bara operation

At least 1,000 families left their homes after a military operation against terrorists began in Bara, Khyber Agency. This will now add thousands of people to the burgeoning list of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Pakistan. Reports indicate that asking the people to vacate their homes was an afterthought by the military. In the past, we have seen that overwhelming firepower during a military offensive has made the militants leave the area instead of staying there and fighting the army. It is inherently naïve to think that every militant will be killed in such operations. Despite the fact that our military has been fighting all kinds of insurgencies over the decades, their doctrinal and technical understanding of guerrilla warfare leaves much to be desired. In the case of Swat, Orakzai, Bajaur, South Waziristan, most of the militants were ‘flushed out’ from the areas instead of being taken care of. When an area is ‘cleared’ of militants, the next step is to re-establish the writ …

IJT’s controversial convention

The Islami Jamiat-i-Talaba (IJT), student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), is notorious for using intimidation tactics to get what it wants. This was seen once again when the IJT held a three-day All Pakistan General Convention in Punjab University (PU) despite opposition from the PU administration, faculty and students. In order to make its presence felt, the IJT even disrupted traffic at various roads in Lahore, causing great discomfort to the citizens. The IJT was not remorseful at causing several-hour-long traffic jams in the city. In fact, this was done to prove to the public that the convention was attended by ‘huge crowds’. This is in line with the IJT’s past practices. Disruption, harassment, senseless violence are all a norm for the IJT.

The PU administration was intimidated by the IJT goons but when they complained to the Punjab government and the police, instead of coming to their assistance, the authorities ‘advised’ the PU administration to avoid a confrontation. Reports…

Speak, proclaim your decision

Religious groups in Pakistan had announced a strike against self-confessed murderer Mumtaz Qadri's death sentence last Friday (October 7). The same day, a group of masked men bearing batons and sticks entered the premises of the Municipal Corporation (MC) Girls Model High School, Rawalpindi.

These young Qadri supporters demanded that the school be shut down due to the strike. Reportedly, these men also attacked female faculty members and students for not wearing hijabs (headscarves). The bigots warned them to dress modestly, or else. The Women's Action Forum (WAF) condemned the attack and said that "such attempts by malicious and obscurantist elements to dissuade girls from seeking education point to a calculated move of denying women right to be educated".

The Taliban have blown up numerous girls' schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and the tribal areas over the years. The attack on a girls' school in Rawalpindi by Qadri's supporters also goes on to…

Balochistan and hollow promises

At the passing out parade of recruits for the Pakistan Army belonging to Balochistan, Prime Minister Gilani urged the Baloch insurgents to shun violence in order to bring peace to the restive province. “Those who do not want peace to prevail in the province would repent at the end as they are causing a huge loss to their own people,” warned the prime minister. Mr Gilani said that the induction of Baloch youth in the armed forces would strengthen the defence capabilities of the armed forces, ironically the same armed forces that are accused of spreading terror in the name of ‘national interest’ in Balochistan. More than 200 dead bodies of missing persons have been found in Balochistan during the last 14 months. This is a pattern that has increased in frequency as mutilated, bullet-riddled bodies of Baloch nationalists are found from different areas of the province every other day. Even if we accept Mr Gilani’s argument at face value that the prosperity of Balochistan is linked to non-v…

Winning a lost battle

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma -- which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary." A lot of people shared these words from Steve Jobs' Stanford commencement speech (June 2005) on Facebook and Twitter after the news of his death broke out yesterday.

These words reminded me of a man we lost nine months ago: Salmaan Taseer. On January 4, 2011, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was shot dead by one of his bodyguards. Mumtaz Qadri, the self-confessed murderer of Mr Taseer, did not just kill a man; he killed an ideology, he killed tolerance and reasonable debate in Pakistan. Taseer was known for being vocal on issues that many others dared not raise in p…

Taseer case verdict

An anti-terrorism court (ATC) sentenced slain Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer’s self-confessed murderer Mumtaz Qadri to death on two counts for murder and terrorism and fined him Rs 200,000. On January 4 this year, Mr Taseer was shot dead in broad daylight by Qadri, one of the Punjab governor’s bodyguards, while the rest of his security detail silently looked on and did not budge to stop this hideous murder from taking place. ATC’s Judge Syed Pervaiz Ali Shah dismissed Qadri’s defence in which he took the plea that he had killed Mr Taseer for his alleged ‘blasphemous’ statements. Judge Shah said there is no room for such defence under the law. Qadri’s counsel have announced that they will file an appeal against the verdict in the High Court in seven days. It remains to be seen what the outcome of such an appeal would be.

Meanwhile, Mumtaz Qadri’s supporters came out on the streets to protest against the verdict. While defending a cold-blooded murderer, his supporters went one step ahea…

Mixed signals and warnings

General Martin Dempsey has replaced Admiral Mike Mullen as the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In his farewell speech, Admiral Mullen said he continues “to believe that there is no solution in the region without Pakistan, and no stable future in the region without a partnership”. Admiral Mullen’s advice to General Dempsey was “to remember the importance of Pakistan to all of this; to try and do a better job than I [Mullen] did with that vexing, and yet vital, relationship”. Maybe Admiral Mullen was trying to take the sting out of his earlier statement linking the ISI to the Haqqani network by giving ‘friendly’ advice to his successor. With the change of command in the US military, there are mixed messages coming from the Obama administration. President Obama said US intelligence is not clear in terms of what exactly the relationship between the Haqqanis and the ISI is. A US official said that there will be no US boots on the ground in Pakistan. On the other hand, Hillary Cl…

APC: an exercise in futility

An All-Parties Conference (APC) was held on Thursday at Prime Minister Gilani’s call to discuss Pak-US relations in view of recent events. Admiral Mike Mullen’s statement against the ISI irked Pakistan to such an extent that it led to war hysteria in the media. Mr Mullen openly blamed the ISI for supporting the Haqqani network. Pragmatically, the White House did not endorse Mr Mullen’s statement, which helped restore Pak-US relations to some extent. There were hardly any expectations from the APC given that our politicians had already resorted to ‘tough’ statements and warnings to the US in case of an attack. It was as if the civilian leadership wanted to give a stamp of approval to the military’s strategy. The APC was attended by at least 56 political leaders and the army top brass, including army chief General Kayani. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Director General (DG) ISI, Lieutenant-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha briefed the APC participants. “There are other intelligence netw…