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Showing posts from November, 2011

Civilians: the only ones ‘accountable’

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said the government faces no threat from any scandal and those targeting the government will be disappointed. He was confident that the next general elections will take place in 2013 as per schedule. All this is all very well, but when Mr Gilani said that the military and civilian leadership are on the same page on national issues, it begs the question: how so? How is the military on the same page as the civilian government? If it means that the government is on the military’s page, then that is more accurate because whenever it comes to the military’s sins of omission and commission, their leadership is let off the hook. Remember the Abbottabad raid or the Mehran base attack? Who in the military was made accountable? No one. When the military’s morale was at its weakest after the May 2 raid, it was a golden opportunity for the civilian leadership to take back what rightly belongs to the democratic government under our constitution: decision-making po…

Memogate: storm in a teacup?

A memo, allegedly written at the behest of President Asif Zardari and approved by Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, Mr Husain Haqqani, has seemingly riled up the country’s military establishment. The memo was delivered to the then American military chief, Admiral Mike Mullen, through a Pakistani-American businessman, Mansoor Ijaz. According to Mr Ijaz, the Pakistani government feared a military coup after the Abbottabad raid earlier this year in May. The memo asks for American help in stopping the Pakistan Army from staging a coup. In return, the civilians ‘promised’ to eliminate terrorism from Pakistani soil, among other things.

Mr Haqqani has categorically denied his involvement in this issue. Mr Ijaz, known for his anti-ISI and anti-Pak army views, apparently met ISI chief General Shuja Pasha and handed him some kind of ‘evidence’ corroborating his side of the story. An investigation will now take place in Pakistan to ascertain the facts. Mr Haqqani has returned t…

Baloch blood on our hands

Finally the Federal Ministry of Human Rights has woken up to the woes of the people of Balochistan and taken notice of the rising number of deaths in the province. The human rights ministry has decided to form a task force that will probe human rights violations in Pakistan’s largest province. A report was earlier compiled by the interior ministry’s Crisis Management Cell (CMC). According to this report, Rs 900 million has been spent by deploying 17 regular units and paramilitary troops to put an end to rising violence in Balochistan. This is astonishing considering that the money is being spent on the same forces that the Baloch people hold responsible for their miseries. A military operation is going on in the province and the ‘kill and dump’ policy being pursued by the military and its intelligence agencies is no secret. Various NGOs and human rights organisations, both local and international, have documented this in their reports. The human rights ministry’s task force needs to t…

Civil-military relations: cul de sac?

Memogate: one word that is being repeated again and again throughout Pakistan. It seems that most people have already reached their own conclusions and are baying for blood. Treason, they shout. When asked, what about evidence and a fair trial? They are least bothered about the nitty-gritty. They believe in ‘swift (in)justice’. Sensibility is something missing from our usual discourse. Thus, Mian Nawaz Sharif’s suggestion that a high level committee comprising civil society members, senior judges and members of the national and provincial assemblies should investigate the Memogate issue should be welcomed. It is the appropriate thing to do. Pointing fingers at someone until facts are ascertained about the veracity of the memo through a transparent investigation would be jumping the gun. The government should take the Opposition on board and conduct an impartial investigation. Ambassador Husain Haqqani is on his way back to Pakistan and is willing to fully cooperate with the investigat…

Dirty tricks brigade at it again

It looks as if this whole ‘Memogate’ issue, as it is being called despite being a dubious drama, has taken the Pakistani media by storm. Why so much attention is being given to a shady character like Mansoor Ijaz is beyond comprehension. A man whose credibility in the international arena is murky to say the least, is being believed over Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, who has served our country in the most difficult of times. Ambassador Haqqani has denied that he has anything to do with the memo. Admiral (retd) Mike Mullen first denied any knowledge about the memo but later confirmed he had received it. But according to Mr Mullen’s spokesman, “...neither the contents of the memo nor the proof of its existence altered or affected in any way the manner in which Adm. Mullen conducted himself in his relationship with General Kayani and the Pakistani government. He did not find it at all credible and took no note of it then or later. Therefore, he addressed it with no one.” Mr Mullen’s ad…

No more military ‘adventurism’

Chief Justice (CJ) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry made some very important points regarding the armed forces and unconstitutional moves while talking to a delegation of the National Defence University (NDU). “Any action of the armed forces taken without a direction by the federal government will be unconstitutional, illegal, void ab initio and consequently of no legal effect,” said CJ Chaudhry. He said that any unconstitutional step taken by the military comes into the ambit of sedition, and Article 6 would be used against violations of the constitution and the law. Referring to Article 244 of the constitution, the CJ said, “This is a conscious effort by the framers of the constitution to restrict the role of the armed forces to defending the borders of the country and to safeguard the constitution from any adventurism.” Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Mian Nawaz Sharif also made a similar point on Saturday. Mian sahib said that his party would not tolerate any unconstitutional…

Time to be a genuine friend

Eight South Asian nations signed the Addu Declaration at the end of the 17th SAARC Summit held in the Maldives. The declaration reaffirmed SAARC’s commitment to peace, confidence building, liberty, dignity, democracy, mutual respect, good governance and protection of human rights. It is hoped that all eight member countries of SAARC commit themselves to the Addu Declaration in letter and spirit. The discussions on the sidelines of the summit between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Gilani hogged the limelight. There were some very positive outcomes of that meeting. “I am optimistic that India-Pakistan relations are subject to accidents and therefore we both recognise that if there is another incident like the Mumbai terror attack, that would be a big setback to the process of normalisation and that is fully understood by PM Gilani,” said Prime Minister Singh. He also said that after a long time he feels that the Pakistani armed forces are on board, which indicat…

Mr Khan and ideological ambiguity

October 30th was a day of reckoning for Pakistani politics, or so said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) supporters. But was it? Consider.

The day marked the ‘arrival’ of PTI chief Imran Khan, ironically 15 years after his political party was formed. PTI’s Lahore jalsa (rally) was a huge success, with more than a hundred thousand people in attendance at Minar-e-Pakistan. The ruling party in Punjab, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), could not match these numbers at its rally a couple of days before PTI’s jalsa. In fact, there were hardly 30,000 people, at the most, at PML-N’s rally on October 28. Thus it was a big achievement for PTI to stage a mammoth rally in Lahore, the Sharif brothers’ stronghold. The PML-N is now surely concerned about the next general elections given Mr Khan’s appeal with the electorate. However, to call Mr Khan a ‘game changer’ is not just an exaggeration but also an oversimplification. Lahore is no more the heart of Punjab, much less Pakistan. To bank …

Killings in Balochistan continue

When people all over Pakistan will be celebrating Eid-ul-Azha, the people of Balochistan will be mourning their loved ones. The responsibility for this lies with the Pakistan military, its intelligence agencies and the Frontier Corps (FC). The entire nation should be ashamed of the brutalities unleashed by the military against its own people in Balochistan. Javed Naseer Rind, a young journalist, was abducted in September and his tortured, bullet-riddled body was found the other day in the province. More than a dozen Baloch, including women, were killed last week in less than 24 hours during a military campaign in Balochistan; the same week when the FC was placed under the provincial government of Balochistan. The fifth military operation of our history is underway against the people of Balochistan but it seems that the rest of Pakistan remains oblivious to it. The apathy of the government and the nation is something that has further alienated the Baloch from the Pakistani state. Thus …

Lessons for Eid

Eid-ul-Azha is a day when Muslims all over the world honour the Abrahamic tradition of sacrifice for the love of the Almighty. There are many lessons to be learnt from this day. Instead, in Pakistan (and many other Muslim countries), most of these lessons are thrown out of the window and only rituals are being followed in the name of religion. Sacrificing an animal is not the only thing that should be associated with Eid-ul-Azha. Cleanliness is also part of Islam and Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) stressed upon this aspect of religion in a hadith: “Cleanliness is half of faith.” But on Eid-ul-Azha, what we see all over the country is blood and offal. Even in relatively affluent areas where people have space to slaughter animals within their houses, most residents do not care about keeping their surroundings clean and instead throw out animal remains. In crowded mohallas, due to shortage of space, slaughtering is mostly done on the roads. The sight of bloodied roads filled with filth and gore…

Restoring cricket’s lost glory

All eyes in the cricketing world were on the Southwark Crown Court on Thursday, November 3. Justice Cooke was going to hand down sentences in the spot-fixing case to former Pakistan cricket captain Salman Butt, two bowlers – Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir – and bookie Mazhar Majeed for their role in the conspiracy to bowl deliberate no-balls last year in a Test match against England at Lord’s. “The gravamen of the offences committed by all four of you is the corruption in which you engaged in a pastime, the very name of which used to be associated with fair dealing on the sporting field,” remarked Justice Cooke. Butt was sentenced to jail for 30 months, Asif for 12 months and Amir for six months. Majeed got 32 months in prison. Does the punishment fit the crime, particularly in the case of Mazhar Majeed? As far as the cricketers are concerned, in addition to a ban by the International Cricket Council (ICC) and a life of ignominy, this should be enough punishment. But it was quite dis…