DWS from Sunday 20th April to Saturday 26th April 2014‏

DAWN

WIRE SERVICE

DWS, Sunday 20th April to Saturday 26th April 2014

The DAWN Wire Service(DWS) is a free weekly news-service from Pakistan’s largest English language newspaper, the daily DAWN. DWS offers news, analysis and features of particular interest to the Pakistani Community on the Internet. DWS is sent by e-mail every Saturday.

What’s Inside?

National News | Editorial | Columns & Articles

For suggestions and comments:

Email: webmaster@dawn.com
Website: http://dawn.com
Fax: +92(21) 35693995

Please send all Editorial submissions and Letters to the Editor to:

letters

National News

Musharraf arrives in Karachi

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

KARACHI: Former ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf arrived in Karachi on Saturday amid tight security.

KARACHI: Former ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf arrived in Karachi on Saturday amid tight security.

Officials said the security measures taken this time were tighter than those put in place when he made a disappointing homecoming last year on the same venue.

It was his first air travel since the treason trial started against him.

Sources said officials of the bomb disposal squad sea­rched the area around the airport before his arrival at around 9:15pm. Mobile phone jammers were put in place and no one, including media, was allowed to enter the area.

Police commandos had been deputed atop buildings around Terminal-1 while its vicinity overflowed with security vans and officials.

Senior officials of the Sindh Rangers kept visiting the place as well.

It is believed that the former president would receive treatment at Karachi’s PNS Shifa. Sources in his party said security concerns forced him to move from Islamabad for medical treatment. He was said to be feeling better to be able to travel by air.

Local leaders of his All Pakistan Muslim League said Mr Musharraf was permitted to travel anywhere in the country. However, he could not travel abroad as his name is still on the exit control list.

Soon after his plane landed in Karachi, Mr Musharraf boarded a large bullet-proof vehicle and joined a convoy that whisked him away somewhere his party leaders and security officials did not divulge.

The sources said he might be staying at a relative’s house in a posh neighbourhood of the city, which had been heavily cordoned by security personnel.

Three militants killed in Panjgur

The Newspaper’s Staff Correspondent

QUETTA: Three militants were killed in a gunbattle with security forces in Tusp area of Panjgur on Saturday, official sources said.

QUETTA: Three militants were killed in a gunbattle with security forces in Tusp area of Panjgur on Saturday, official sources said.

Some vehicles of Frontier Corps were on patrol in Tusp area on the outskirts of Panjgur town when militants attacked them. The security forces started chasing them.

A spokesman for Frontier Corps said the attackers reached their hideouts and opened fire. “In a heavy exchange of fire from both sides three of the attackers died,” the FC spokesman said.

Punjab govt accused of being soft on militants

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: Although the law-enforcement agencies in Lahore busted a sectarian group this week, it is still not clear if this indicates a change of strategy on the part of Punjab government, which until now has turned a blind eye to militant activity in the province despite worrying reports and assessments.

ISLAMABAD: Although the law-enforcement agencies in Lahore busted a sectarian group this week, it is still not clear if this indicates a change of strategy on the part of Punjab government, which until now has turned a blind eye to militant activity in the province despite worrying reports and assessments.

Senior officials point out that the Punjab government has been “sleeping over” regular reports being sent to them by intelligence agencies about the increasing presence of sleeper cells of proscribed militant organisations.

More than one intelligence official involved in the preparation of these reports told Dawn that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif were aware of the militant threat present in Punjab, but they were not taking strict measures to counter them.

The threat has now become so serious that on April 12, the chief minister held an emergency meeting at Lahore airport soon after returning from China.

The meeting was held primarily due to the threatening calls received by a Lahore-based businessman. He had been asked to cough up money and in order to prove that the threats were real, cracker bombs had been set off at his home and office.

Pervez Malik, an MNA from the PML-N, was present at the meeting. “Since I am in touch with the Lahore-based business community, I was specially invited to attend the meeting. It is a serious matter.”

However, Mr Malik disagreed with the perception that the Punjab government had been soft on the operatives of banned organisations carrying out militant activities in the province.

“The very fact that the chief minister held a special meeting within minutes of returning to Pakistan shows the seriousness of the provincial government.”

He told Dawn that callers were using different telephone Sims from locations across Pak-Afghan border. Elaborating, he said that those who had threatened the businessman had gathered information about his office and home and other details, which showed that they had operatives working on the ground in Lahore.

However, Mr Malik added that the threatening phone calls had been traced to Afghanistan; this, the parliamentarian pointed out, showed the reach of the terrorist networks.

Lahore has also been witness to a number of sectarian attacks, which it was revealed on Friday were carried out by the group that was busted.

The attacks on television anchor Raza Rumi and writer Asghar Nadeem Syed are cases in point.

When asked about the allegations that the PML-N was more concerned about the development and security of Lahore city which was why it was unwilling to take on the militants in Punjab, Mr Malik insisted that the chief minister was paying special attention to the southern parts of the province.

“One can regularly see him visiting these areas.”

Mr Malik added that “unfortunately, militancy has spread all over the country, but the PML-N has to be given credit as Punjab has remained comparatively safe from terrorism.”

Mr Malik’s claims notwithstanding, the intelligence agencies take a less rosy view of what the Punjab government is doing.

According to the intelligence officials, the provincial government only reacts to terrorist attacks after they happen in what can be called an ad hoc manner; it has no long-term counter-terrorism strategy.

Specific incidents are investigated, its culprits are traced but this can be called a reactive policy at best. “Whenever there is a meeting on security, the chief minister and other officials of his government acknowledge that sleeper cells of armed militants are now entrenched in Lahore and the rest of the province. However, this discussion does not lead to a consensus on taking concrete steps,” remarked an official of a federal intelligence agency.

He pointed out that South Punjab was already home to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-i-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Taiba. But of late their presence in central and northern Punjab towns has also been noticed and the information conveyed to the provincial government.

“The most worrisome part is their ability to carry out armed operations in the upper part of the province.”

In response to a query, a senior official of the federal government told Dawn that the interior ministry was concentrating on the Karachi operation and talks with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP); it was not pursuing the militants’ presence in Punjab.

Under the new internal security policy, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s ministry has been given the central role of gathering intelligence and following up on reports and recommendations.

ISPR calls for urgent probe

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: The military’s public affairs wing — Inter Services Public Relations — on Saturday condemned the attack on TV anchor Hamid Mir and called for an urgent probe into the incident, which is being blamed on the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). The ISPR spokesman said an “independent inquiry” was needed for ascertaining facts.

ISLAMABAD: The military’s public affairs wing — Inter Services Public Relations — on Saturday condemned the attack on TV anchor Hamid Mir and called for an urgent probe into the incident, which is being blamed on the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). The ISPR spokesman said an “independent inquiry” was needed for ascertaining facts.

“Raising allegations against ISI or its head without any basis is highly regrettable and misleading,” said Maj Gen Asim Bajwa, the ISPR chief.

Soon after the attack, Mir’s colleagues, friends and relatives started pointing fingers at ISI chief Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam for being behind the attack. Some even called for Gen Islam’s removal.

Anchor Hamid Mir injured in attack

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

KARACHI: Senior journalist and a prominent anchor of GeoNews, Hamid Mir, was critically wounded in an armed attack on his car near Karachi airport minutes after he landed here from Islamabad on Saturday.

KARACHI: Senior journalist and a prominent anchor of GeoNews, Hamid Mir, was critically wounded in an armed attack on his car near Karachi airport minutes after he landed here from Islamabad on Saturday.

Doctors at the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) performed surgery for two-and-a-half hours to save the life of 48-year-old Mir, who was hit by ‘at least’ three bullets – two in the abdomen – by ‘lone attacker’ when his car slowed down to take a turn to emerge on Sharea Faisal near the Wireless Gate bus stop.

The news channel quoted a source in the hospital as saying late in the night that Hamid Mir was still in a serious condition, but out of danger.

“It was between 5:30 and 6pm when Mr Mir was attacked under the bridge passing over Sharea Faisal near airport,” said SSP East Pir Mohammad Shah. “The attacker standing close to the road was waiting for the car to come closer and fired around nine shots from a 9mm pistol targeting Mr Mir who was sitting on the back seat of the car. His private guard was on front seat with the driver.”

Quoting witnesses, he said the armed man, who was clad in Shalwar Kameez, then ran away with one of his accomplices on a motorbike. The driver of the wounded journalist then accelerated the car to reach AKUH within 15 minutes. Mr Mir was rushed to the operation theatre, he added.

According to GeoNews, two motorcyclists and a car were involved in the attack.

The channel came up with a strong reaction against the deadly attack on the host of its flagship talk show, ‘Capital Talk,’ blaming directly the ISI chief for the assault.

“Hamid Mir was well aware that who could be behind this attack,” said the Geo News’ headline while quoting the wounded journalist’s brother – Amir Mir – who is also associated with the same media group.

“He had already made aware his organisation and family that the ISI chief has made a plot to assassinate him. A few elements in the ISI are against Hamid Mir due to his viewpoint about Pervez Musharraf and the Balochistan crisis. Hamid Mir has also recorded a video message on the same lines defining who could be behind this attack. He has been under threat since General Shuja Pasha was the ISI chief.”

Meanwhile, the incident attracted strong condemnation from media fraternity and other segments of the society. The All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) called it a ‘cowardly attempt’ on the life of senior journalist.

“The APNS noted with concern that the media houses and media persons have been continuous target of attacks by state and non-state elements who intend to curb the freedom of expression. The federal as well as provincial governments have failed to provide security and protection to the fourth pillar of the state,” said the APNS statement.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) demanded an independent judicial inquiry into the incident. It described the allegations by Mr Mir as very serious and source of concern.

“It’s very serious (allegations),” said Zohra Yusuf of the HRCP. “There should be an independent and judicial inquiry commission but that should not end like the one established to probe into killing of journalist Saleem Shahzad. This time the attempt went unsuccessful so there is a need to inquire about the details and people behind the attack before they plan another one.”

Meeting with TTP committee cancelled

Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD: Mystery surrounded the last-minute cancellation of a meeting between Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Taliban negotiators on Saturday.

ISLAMABAD: Mystery surrounded the last-minute cancellation of a meeting between Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Taliban negotiators on Saturday.

The interior ministry had announced the previous day that a meeting with the Taliban negotiation committee had been convened. But the meeting did not take place for some inexplicable reason.

Professor Ibrahim, a member of the Taliban committee, said he had not been informed of a meeting scheduled for Saturday. Asked if there was any misunderstanding, he said that he was not in a position to offer any comment.

An official of the ministry told Dawn that according to his information no meeting was scheduled for Saturday. But he had no answer when asked why an official announcement was made about Saturday’s meeting after the minister met Taliban committee’s head Maulana Samiul Haq two days ago. “There might have been some misunderstanding,” was Prof Ibrahim’s brief comment.

But, he added, it would be inappropriate to jump to the conclusion that the Taliban committee had refused to meet the minister or the government committee or that the peace process had hit a dead end.

He said that during Thursday’s meeting, Samiul Haq had expressed the hope about finding a peaceful solution through dialogue.

All eyes were on Saturday’s proposed meeting, which was expected to be a joint session of the committees representing the government and the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) because the Taliban committee has never separately met the minister since its formation.

The meeting was being dubbed as crucial as it was going to be the first after the TTP refused to extend its ceasefire, but announced that the door for dialogue was open. Chaudhry Nisar had said on Thursday that the talks would become meaningless in the absence of ceasefire.

Officials wonder what made the TTP to end the ceasefire, particularly after the release of 19 non-combatant Taliban and the government decision in principle to free around a dozen more. “We were expecting them to reciprocate by starting release of civilians in their custody but their refusal to extend ceasefire, in response to a goodwill gesture, is surprising,” an official said.

He said it had been made clear by the government that negotiations would be held under the framework of the Constitution and that talks and terrorism could not go together. “The government is serious about taking the peace process forward and has practically shown it. Now it’s the turn of the other side to respond in the same way,” he said.

Gang of sectarian killers busted

Faisal Ali Ghumman

LAHORE: The Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) claimed on Friday to have busted a gang linked to the outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and involved in targeted killings.

LAHORE: The Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) claimed on Friday to have busted a gang linked to the outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and involved in targeted killings.

Police said the CIA arrested six members of the gang and seized weapons and ammunition from them.

They said the gang was involved in the killings of advocates Shakir Ali Rizvi and Arshad Ali Shah, Dr Syed Ali Haider and his son Syed Murtaza Ali Haider, Khurram Raza Qadri of the Sunni Tehreek, Allama Nasir Abbas, Syed Ali Hussain Qazilbash and Syed Mubashir Hussain Naqvi.

The gang also allegedly killed Maulana Shamsur Rehman Muavia, the president of Punjab chapter of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, and attacked well-known playwright Asghar Nadeem Syed, journalist and television anchor Raza Rumi and advocate Masood Abid Naqvi, they said.

Police said all the attacks were carried out on the “instigation” of the Malik Ishaq group of the LeJ. Malik Ishaq is currently imprisoned in a Punjab jail.

Capital City Police Officer Chaudhry Shafique Ahmad told a news conference that the suspects carried out 18 attacks since May 2012 and killed 16 people, including religious leaders, lawyers, doctors and other professionals. Four people survived attacks by them.

He said the suspects also kidnapped a trader, Sohaib Ahmad, but released him after receiving Rs20 million in ransom.

He said the leader of the gang, Abdul Rauf Gujjar of Hanif Park, Badami Bagh, launched his criminal career with the help of Malik Ishaq and Haroon Bhatti of the LeJ and later became the chief of the criminal network.

Mr Ahmad said that Abdul Rauf was an active member of the LeJ and acted as hitman during the attacks. He said that Abdul Rauf was keen to develop contacts with the leaders of the banned organisation and held a meeting with Malik Ishaq and Haroon Bhatti for the purpose.

Rauf again met Malik Ishaq, this time at the Madressah Farooq Azam, Shahdara, and joined the latter’s group, said the police officer. Haroon Bhatti, who had been jailed in connection with terrorist activities, persuaded Abdul Rauf to carry out sectarian attacks.

Maulana Muavia was killed by Abdul Rauf allegedly at the instigation of Bhatti who had lost his office to the former in an election. Abdul Rauf offered Friday prayers led by Muavia shortly before the Maulana’s assassination on the Ring Road.

Mr Ahmad said the five other suspects were Sabir Shah, Sheikh Farhan, Shafaqat Farooqi alias Muavia, Mohammad Hashim and Suleman Pathan.

He said a member of the gang, Ikram Ali Sabir, who was involved in four attacks, was arrested in a narcotics case earlier and the information provided by him led to the arrest of the six suspects on Friday. Sabir is a student of Madressah Jamia Azhar, Badami Bagh.

Meanwhile, a police investigator said a traffic warden taken into custody from the Naulakha area a few weeks ago was also associated with the network. The arrested suspects planned to attack two senior police officers in Lahore.

He claimed that Abdul Rauf, who owned 625 acres of land in Kasur and other districts, had been brainwashed by Bhatti. He said Haroon Bhatti, one of the main members of the Malik Ishaq group, was now at large.

Govt, army coping with challenges together: PM

Saleem Shahid

QUETTA: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said that political and military leaderships are working together to make Pakistan a developed, safe and peaceful country and meet the challenges confronting the country.

QUETTA: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said that political and military leaderships are working together to make Pakistan a developed, safe and peaceful country and meet the challenges confronting the country.

Talking to newsmen after attending a briefing in Gwadar on the pace of work on development projects in Balochistan on Thursday, he said: “We will work jointly to overcome the challenges being faced by the country.”

The prime minister, accompanied by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal, was in the city of Gwadar on a day-long visit.

The Chief of the Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif, and Commander Southern Command Lt General Nasir Khan Janjua and senior officials accorded them a warm welcome at the PNS Akram base.

The prime minister told newsmen that the government planned to develop Gwadar as a ‘free port’ like Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong and the planning commission had been assigned the task of acquiring the services of international consultants.

“The government has a broad-based plan under which Gwadar city will have modern amenities, a new international airport and a developed port,” he said.

Mr Sharif said his government would ensure protection of foreigners, especially Chinese professionals working on different projects in Gwadar. A quick response special force would be set up for foreigners’ security.

He said civil and military leaderships would work jointly to resolve the issues faced by the country.

Civil and military leaderships, he said, were on the same page and striving to make Pakistan a developed peaceful country and steer it out of the crisis it faced.

He said the law and order situation in Balochistan, development process and Pak-China economic corridor and several other issues were discussed at a meeting held on Thursday.

“We discussed the plan to connect the Chinese city of Kashghar to Gwadar through rail and road links.”

He said the federal government would build a network of roads in Balochistan and the Frontier Works Organisation would take up the project.

The FWO would not look for earning profit from development projects in Balochistan, its sole aim would be to put the province on track of development, progress and prosperity, he said.

Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, Senior Minister Sanaullah Zehri, Mohammad Khan Shahwani and former chief minister Mohammad Saleh Bhootani were present on the occasion.

Behram Khan Baloch adds from Gwadar: Mr Sharif praised Chief Minister Dr Malik for introducing economic reforms and taking measures for improving the law and order situation.

He said the federal government had allocated Rs162 billion for the Pak-China economic corridor.

The prime minister was informed that a plan had been devised for different projects in Gwadar, including a 300-bed hospital, a system for potable water supply, a vocational training centre, 19km Express Highway, an international airport and expansion of the port.

Mr Sharif also lauded the role being played by the army, Frontier Corps, police and Levies Force in improving the law and order situation in Balochistan.

He asked Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to release Rs106bn for developing the deepwater port. He also directed the authorities concerned to protect the rights of local people while employing workforce at the port.

He said Gwadar will bring about great economic changes.

Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch thanked the prime minister for cooperation extended by the centre to the provincial government.

Provincial ministers Hamid Khan Achakzai and Abdul Rahim Ziaratwal, Adviser to the CM on Finance Mir Khalid Langov, M. Akbar Askani, Ms. Yameen Lehri, Handari Baloch and former speaker of the Balochistan Assembly Jamal Shah were present on the occasion.

Suicide bomber kills police officer in Karachi

From the Newspaper

KARACHI: A police officer known for his anti-terrorism campaign, and three other people were killed in a suicide attack in the old Sabzi Mandi area on Thursday.

KARACHI: A police officer known for his anti-terrorism campaign, and three other people were killed in a suicide attack in the old Sabzi Mandi area on Thursday.

Sub-Inspector Shafiq Tanoli was sitting at a tailoring shop when a young man approached him and after a brief conversation blew himself up.

The sub-inspector, his uncle Mohammad Daud, friend Jalal Ahmed and tailor Aijaz Hyder were killed in the explosion and two police guards of the SI and a passerby were wounded.

Mr Tanoli had survived seven attempts on his life in the past and his brother, Naveed Tanoli, was shot dead in 2011 the same day when the officer had arrested an alleged killer of GeoNews reporter Wali Khan Babar.

The outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) indirectly claimed responsibility for the attack on Mr Tanoli, saying the SI had killed several TTP activists in ‘fake’ encounters.

APNS president calls for restraint

From the Newspaper

Hameed Haroon, the President of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), has expressed concern that the freedom of press envisioned in Article 19 of the Constitution of Pakistan is now facing the gravest threat it has encountered in the past decade, and if press freedoms are allowed to deteriorate further, an irreversible damage will be inflicted on Pakistan’s democracy and the constitutionally stipulated freedoms associated with it. He has emphasised that apart from the dangers of targeting the lives of journalists by extremist elements in the country, a dangerous drift towards anarchy has reared its ugly head in the past week where unbridled behaviour on the part of certain sections of the security establishment and the media, coupled with confused signals emanating from government, have resulted in damaging the freedom of expression and the freedom of press enshrined in the Constitution.

Hameed Haroon, the President of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS), has expressed concern that the freedom of press envisioned in Article 19 of the Constitution of Pakistan is now facing the gravest threat it has encountered in the past decade, and if press freedoms are allowed to deteriorate further, an irreversible damage will be inflicted on Pakistan’s democracy and the constitutionally stipulated freedoms associated with it. He has emphasised that apart from the dangers of targeting the lives of journalists by extremist elements in the country, a dangerous drift towards anarchy has reared its ugly head in the past week where unbridled behaviour on the part of certain sections of the security establishment and the media, coupled with confused signals emanating from government, have resulted in damaging the freedom of expression and the freedom of press enshrined in the Constitution.

“The signs on the horizon are clear. The fundamental problem appears to be that every one of the principal players involved in this crisis is responsible for a saddening deterioration of public affairs. The apparent undue haste with which the Independent Media Corporation and the Independent Newspaper Corporation, the twin media firms controlling the Geo-Jang group, pointed an accusatory finger at the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) as being complicit in what can only be described as a murderous attack upon television anchor and columnist Hamid Mir, is only one part of the problem. The promptness with which the ISI through its Deputy Director General responded with a complaint through the Defence Ministry to Pemra to seek revocation of the broadcasting licences and the declarations of the GEO-Jang group, has clearly demonstrated that the institution of the armed forces has acted in haste and has not critically examined the validity of their positions nor of subsequent actions that have stemmed from a misconceived interpretation of press laws.

“At first the government appeared to be dealing wisely with the new threat to press freedoms posed by the murderous attacks on Raza Rumi in Lahore and Hamid Mir in Karachi. The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mian Nawaz Sharif, speedily acted to form a judicial commission to investigate the attempt on Mir’s life at the highest level. One would have thought with an appropriate high-level commission of enquiry, composed of the superior judiciary, any investigation of the incident of the attempt on Hamid Mir’s life appeared to be in capable hands. However, within a day of the Prime Minister’s announcement, the ISI through the Defence Ministry called for the revocation of the licences and declarations of the GEO-Jang group, with Pemra officials making suitably supportive statements. Thus despite a wise move by the Prime Minister to constitute a commission immediately, the guilt of the offending party had been prejudged, well in advance of the verdict.

“Clearly the need of the hour is to immediately force a cooling down of tempers in all sections of the state and security apparatus as well as, critically, within the media itself. If we are to speak of ensuring the ‘preservation of the sovereignty, security and integrity of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan’ then the imperative is for all contending parties to exercise restraint.

“Additionally, the damage in this potentially explosive powder-keg needs to be contained. The judicial Commission of Enquiry should begin work immediately and avail of the services of Hamid Mir, among others, to reach a satisfactory conclusion as to which persons were responsible for engineering this attempt. Only when the findings are made public can it be determined whether the management and journalists of the newspaper (who have both been alleged as complicit in a slander campaign according to the ISI complaint to the Defence Ministry), were justified in levelling their early allegations. Nor would it be just to proceed with any retaliatory actions against this media group, awaiting the results of the high-level judicial enquiry that has been instituted. Such a travesty of justice is not becoming for any credible democracy.

“I appeal on behalf of the APNS, to Gen Raheel Sharif, the Chief of Army Staff, to rein in the knee-jerk retaliatory measures that have been initiated by various segments of the armed forces. This will lessen any public misperceptions with respect to what the security establishment sees as its principled stand in the matter. It is grossly unfair that Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam or any other member of the security establishment be presumed guilty unless the substance of such guilt can be irrefutably proved in a commission of enquiry. If he is found innocent, the media group found guilty of publishing and broadcasting such allegations against him must render an unqualified apology as per the valid international norms that govern such situations.

“In the meantime I also appeal to all sections of the media to exercise credible restraint and desist from publishing or broadcasting any statement which might be considered prima facie as defamatory or slanderous either against the ISI chief or against the media group. Concurrently it is imperative for the Prime Minister and the Federal Minister for Information to immediately commence a formal dialogue with all the major national bodies — the APNS, the CPNE, the PBA and the PFUJ — to attempt to provide a meaningful framework in which journalists can tell the truth and be protected from life-threats while doing so. This alone will ensure the ordered functioning of a nascent democracy and encourage the government to clamp down with unbridled severity on the spiralling incidents of violence against the media.”

35 suspected militants, eight civilians killed in air strikes

Ibrahim Shinwari

LANDI KOTAL: Thirty-five suspected militants and eight non-combatants of the same family were killed when Air Force planes shelled militant hideouts in different localities of Khyber Agency on Thursday.

LANDI KOTAL: Thirty-five suspected militants and eight non-combatants of the same family were killed when Air Force planes shelled militant hideouts in different localities of Khyber Agency on Thursday.

Officials claimed that the militants killed in the attack were involved in the Islamabad Sabzi Mandi blast and a recent attack on policemen in Peshawar. Fourteen militants were injured and 11 hideouts said to be of the Tariq Afridi group were destroyed in Sra Vela, Ouche Wany, Dwa Thoe and Thor Darra areas of Tirah valley. 

These were the first air strikes since the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan ended its ceasefire on April 10. 

The planes also bombed suspected militant hideouts in Meeri Khel Lalma area of Akkakhel in Bara.

Sources alleged that one of the shells hit the house of a shepherd, Said Hakim, killing his two sons, five daughters and a daughter-in-law. They were identified as Aamil Khan, Kamil Khan (sons), Shenaz Bibi, Hayana Bibi, Arifa Bibi, Sitara Bibi, Nadia Bibi (daughters) and Naseeba (daughter-in-law).

The sources said that Said Hakim belonged to the Malikdin Khel tribe and had migrated to Meeri Khel Lalma from Orakzai Agency after its administration had some months ago asked the families from Bara to leave the area. 

Security forces also carried out a search in some localities of Akkakhel after the air strikes. They claimed to have rounded up at least 15 suspects who were later taken to an unspecified place for interrogation.

Foreign militants seeking ‘safe passage’

Hasan Abdullah

MIRAMSHAH: As the government team prepares for another meeting with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), many of the foreign militants based in and around North Waziristan feel they are facing an uncertain future and are not only seeking assurances from their hosts but are also weighing options for moving out to others places, like Afghanistan and Syria, to continue their ‘jihad’.

MIRAMSHAH: As the government team prepares for another meeting with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), many of the foreign militants based in and around North Waziristan feel they are facing an uncertain future and are not only seeking assurances from their hosts but are also weighing options for moving out to others places, like Afghanistan and Syria, to continue their ‘jihad’.

This emerged during a series of interviews conducted by this corespondent with scores of foreign militants, mainly around North Waziristan, on getting exclusive access to various groups and to some of the most wanted fugitives in the country.

“Most of us do not think that the talks would succeed. But if there is give and take from both sides then we fear the government would try to isolate us. Our hosts did take us into confidence before the talks started, but we feel the government would put them in a tight spot and their options may be limited,” said Azzaam, a senior member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).

But some of the foreign militants also see the developments as an opportunity.

“Jihad is not restricted to a single land. We have the flexibility to move around. At the moment most brothers realise that one of the noblest jihadi fronts is Syria,” said Sheikh Abdul Salam, a Saudi national based here.

“Iran is one of the belligerents in the blessed land of Syria and it is right next to Pakistan,” he said, while arguing about the “importance” of dragging Iran into a direct confrontation with Pakistan.

Another Arab fighter in Mir Ali Bazaar said he was interested in moving to Syria, but added that he had been unable to make arrangements to shift along with his large family.

“My mother’s condition makes it difficult for me to pursue the difficult land route. Perhaps as part of the talks, if the government of Pakistan provides us with a safe passage then a number of people in a situation similar to mine could fly out,” he said.

At the same time, a member of the TTP shura claimed that a large number of foreign fighters had already left. “I can tell you that 8,000 mujahideen, mostly Arabs, Chechens and Uzbeks, have shifted to Syria,” he said.

When cross-questioned about the big figure, he asserted that he was speaking with knowledge and authority. He pointed out that almost all of them had taken the land route while sneaking through Iran where a number of them have been arrested.

It’s difficult to verify this figure, and it is not clear how many more foreign militants are still holed up in North Waziristan and other parts of the tribal territory.

When asked about the issue of foreign fighters, TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid was reluctant to talk on the subject. “We are holding talks with the government with all sincerity and we hope for a positive outcome that is in the interest of Islam and Pakistan,” he said.

While Afghanistan would seem as the more convenient place to shift, many of the foreign fighters have their sight on Syria. “There are many sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) about the virtues of Syria, so naturally many of the mujahideen look that way,” said Khalid Saif al-Muhajir, TTP’s head of media.

But the Saudi national, Sheikh Abdul Salam, points out another aspect. “It is not about which land is easy for us to relocate to. You have to look at it strategically. The next big fight across many Muslim lands would be between us and the Rawafidh,” he said, using a pejorative term to describe Shias.

In the meantime, for those foreign fighters choosing to stay in Pakistan, there is help on offer from another front – the staunchly sectarian Lashkar-i-i-Jhangvi. “All these people have left their lands for jihad. We cannot betray them. If the government tries to make things difficult for these mujahideen then they will find us standing by them,” said a member of the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi who features on the list of most wanted militants in Pakistan.

Four policemen killed in Nasirabad

Ali Jan Mangi

DERA MURAD JAMALI: At least four policemen were killed in a rocket-and-gun attack on a police vehicle in Chattar area of Nasirabad district on Thursday.

DERA MURAD JAMALI: At least four policemen were killed in a rocket-and-gun attack on a police vehicle in Chattar area of Nasirabad district on Thursday.

Sources said that police personnel were patrolling the Chattar road area when their vehicle came under attack. Four policemen were killed.

Those killed were identified as ASI Kareem Bakhsh Bhangar, Hawaldar Rawat Domki and Constables Sadora Khan Pahore and Abdul Wahid Bakhsh Parkani.

Police and FC personnel rushed to the place and took bodies to hospital.

“The police mobile was destsroyed,” officials said.

Three personnel, including a deputy superintendent of police, were injured in gun attack in the area two days ago.

Security forces have cordoned off the entire area and launched a search operation to arrest the attackers.

Pakistan joins the 3G club

Jamal Shahid

ISLAMABAD: The four cellular service providers bidding on licences for next generation mobile technology emerged the winners of Wednesday’s bidding war, with Mobilink, Telenor and Ufone picking up licences for 3G services while Zong being the only bidder to acquire a licence for both 3G and 4G services.

ISLAMABAD: The four cellular service providers bidding on licences for next generation mobile technology emerged the winners of Wednesday’s bidding war, with Mobilink, Telenor and Ufone picking up licences for 3G services while Zong being the only bidder to acquire a licence for both 3G and 4G services.

Mobilink and Zong bid for the ‘superior’ 10MHz band, while Telenor and Ufone preferred to bid on the cheaper 5MHz band. Although Mobilink, having acquired the 10MHz band, qualified for a 4G licence too, they opted not to go all the way.

This means one 4G licence is still up for grabs. Minister of State for Information Technology Anusha Rehman said that the licence would soon go under the hammer again.

Bidding began at 10am and continued until a little after 7pm at the Marriott Hotel. Bidders competed in eight rounds of 45 minutes each. A total of four 3G licences were auctioned and both Telenor and Ufone got the ‘shorter end’ of the spectrum.

“It was a strategic decision. We want to provide internet services for all our customers but at low costs. The 5MHz frequency is all that is required at the moment,” said Telenor Pakistan Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Muhammad Aslam Hayat.

According to a Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) spokesperson, cellular companies with weaker frequencies would have to install more booster towers in their coverage areas, depending on how many cities they wanted to cover.

A taste of things to come

Visitors to the auction got a taste of next-generation mobile speeds at the stalls of various cellular vendors. Telecom reps showed off the astonishing speeds boasted by 3G services and demonstrated the power of high speed internet services on compatible mobile handsets.

Cellular companies will have to offer a minimum download speed of 256 kilobytes per second (kbps) under the stipulations of the 3G licence, which is four to eight times faster than current download speeds of 30-100 kbps that are currently on offer.

PTA Chairman Dr Ismail Shah said: “Meeting the budgetary targets is just one small aspect of this sale. We are looking at bigger benefits such as the creation of nearly 900,000 jobs and the development of newer, faster applications that will contribute to the improvement of educational, health and financial standards.”

The YouTube question

Following the demonstration of the speeds of mobile internet, one of the first questions thrown at the officials was regarding the unblocking of video sharing website, YouTube.

“The IT ministry is following the Supreme Court’s orders and wants to block all objectionable content on the website before unblocking it for the public. We are working on a way forward and will have a final answer by mid-May,” IT minister Anusha Rehman said.

Pemra forms committee to investigate charges against Geo TV

Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) formed on Wednesday a three-member committee to investigate charges levelled by the defence ministry against Geo TV for what it called “maligning the premier spy agency of the country and harming the national interest” in its coverage of the attack on senior journalist Hamid Mir, a Pemra official told Dawn.

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) formed on Wednesday a three-member committee to investigate charges levelled by the defence ministry against Geo TV for what it called “maligning the premier spy agency of the country and harming the national interest” in its coverage of the attack on senior journalist Hamid Mir, a Pemra official told Dawn.

The authority also issued notices to the TV channel’s administration in Karachi asking its chief executive officer and other senior staff members to appear before the committee by May 6.

The committee, consisting of Syed Ismail Shah, Pervez Rathore and Israr Abbasi, will review the application against Geo and apprise the Pemra board of the facts of the case.

The official said the charges against Geo TV were ‘quite serious’ and the channel would be given the opportunity to fully explain its position.

On Tuesday, the defence ministry had moved Pemra to take action against Geo TV for levelling allegations against Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and accusing its chief Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam of being involved in the attack on Mir in Karachi.

The complaint had been initiated following approval from Defence Minister Khawaja Asif under sections 33 and 36 of the Pemra Ordinance 2002 to take legal action against the channel’s management for attempting to frame the ISI and its chief for Saturday’s attack.

Legality

However, legal experts believe that Pemra is not in a position to adjudicate on such an application as the office of Pemra chairman has been vacant since the dismissal of Chaudhry Rashid. The authority consists of the chairman and 12 members and in the absence of the chairman, Pemra cannot legally take major decisions, including the suspension and cancellation of licences of private TV channels.

In the absence of a chairman, the authority’s affairs are being managed by a three-member committee. But the validity of this committee has already been challenged in the Islamabad High Court.

Section 6 of the Pemra Ordinance reads: “The authority shall consist of a chairman and 12 members to be appointed by the president.”

“The committee was constituted in an unlawful manner and in sheer breach of Section 13 of the Pemra Ordinance,” lawyer Arfat Ahmed, who is a specialist in matters relating to Pemra, told Dawn.

He said the formation of the committee was in conflict with the judgment of the Supreme Court in the Dr Abdul Jabbar case.

PM orders reshuffle in bureaucracy

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: While the news media remained focused on the defence ministry’s application to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) for cancellation of Geo TV channel’s licence, it was business as usual at the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday where Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif spent a busy day.

ISLAMABAD: While the news media remained focused on the defence ministry’s application to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) for cancellation of Geo TV channel’s licence, it was business as usual at the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday where Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif spent a busy day.

The prime minister ordered reshuffle in the federal bureaucracy besides holding two lengthy back-to-back meetings on the state of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and the most important one on the schedule of loadshedding over the next four months.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Nadeem Hassan Asif has been appointed secretary of the establishment division. Before that Mr Asif was working as principal secretary to the president, a comparatively unimportant assignment within the federal bureaucracy.

Prior to his posting with the president, Mr Asif also served for a short stint of around six months at the prized position of Chairman of the Capital Development Authority (CDA). But he couldn’t pull along well with members of the CDA board. Mr Asif has replaced Mr Shahid Rashid in the establishment division, who will now serve as the secretary of statistics division, not a sought-after assignment.

Another important posting was of new secretary of industries, Raja Hassan Abbass. The government is working on plans for privatisation of the Pakistan Steel Mills, which falls under the administrative control of the ministry of industries. Ms Rukhsana Saleem will be the new secretary of climate change, a position earlier held by Mr Abbass.

In his letter to the interior minister, Mr Raja had argued that since the staff of the passport and immigration office had served on positions in foreign missions to deal with issuance of machine readable passports, the assignment couldn’t be handed over to the Foreign Office.

Chaudhry Nisar, according to the sources, had taken exception to his objection. Mr Raja has replaced Younas Dhaga, who will now work as the secretary of housing and works, a position which has been vacant for quite some time.

Way paved for another round of talks with TTP shura

Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD: The committees representing the government and the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan decided on Wednesday to form a sub-committee to address complaints from the two sides.

ISLAMABAD: The committees representing the government and the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan decided on Wednesday to form a sub-committee to address complaints from the two sides.

The sub-committee will comprise representatives of the federal and provincial governments and ‘other stakeholders’ and members of the two peace committees.

This was announced by the head of the TTP committee, Maulana Samiul Haq, while talking to reporters after a meeting of the two committees with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan at the Punjab House here.

He said his committee would meet members of the TTP shura in three days to decide the venue and time for the next round of direct talks. He said exchange of non-combatant prisoners would be discussed at the talks and hoped that the issue would be resolved amicably.

Maulana Sami said his committee would ask the TTP shura to extend ceasefire and avoid any action which could affect the peace process. Despite Taliban’s announcement about not extending the ceasefire, he said, the meeting expressed satisfaction that no major incident had taken place.

He said the civilian and military leaderships were on the same page as far as the peace process was concerned, but did not elaborate.

Another member of the Taliban committee Professor Muhammad Ibrahim said he was optimistic that the peace process would reach its logical conclusion. The next round of direct talks would take place in seven days, he added.

Asked if release of some non-combatants from both the sides was possible at this stage, he said all issues would come under discussion during direct talks.

He confirmed that complaints of both sides were discussed at the meeting with the interior minister.

Professor Ibrahim missed some part of the huddle and joined it after attending a meeting of Central Shura of Jamaat-i-Islami.

According to an official, the government side said at the meeting that dialogue would be meaningless in the absence of ceasefire and hoped that the Taliban would extend it before the direct talks.

He said the government was committed to the peace process and had taken a number of confidence-building measures. The government wants the TTP to extend the ceasefire and release non-combatants, including government employees and foreigners.

The official said a list of non-combatant prisoners in TTP custody would be formally handed over during the direct talks.

He said the government also expected the Taliban to help identify people involved in recent incidents of terrorism, including bomb blasts in Peshawar and Charsadda.

Before the start of the meeting, the interior minister called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and discussed with him issues concerning the peace process.

Earlier, he addressed a group of 53 participants of the 100th national management course. “People must realise that we are in a state of war and every citizen has to contribute towards attaining a peaceful Pakistan,” he said.

There are no quick fixes to the problem. The government has taken a number of steps to meet the challenge and results of the efforts will be visible in months and years to come.

Chaudhry Nisar said the internal security policy had been designed keeping in view the multi-faceted challenges facing the country. The policy aims at providing an organisational mechanism to improve coordination among federal and provincial intelligence and security agencies.

Under the policy, a highly trained and well-equipped rapid response force will be set up at federal and provincial levels to foil any extreme situation or threat to security anywhere in the country.

Licence auction fetches $1.12bn

Mubarak Zeb Khan

ISLAMABAD: The auction of 3G and 4G licences has made Pakistan nearly $1.12 billion or Rs111 billion richer, putting it very close to the expected $1.2 billion target the government had set for itself in the budget for FY2013-14.

ISLAMABAD: The auction of 3G and 4G licences has made Pakistan nearly $1.12 billion or Rs111 billion richer, putting it very close to the expected $1.2 billion target the government had set for itself in the budget for FY2013-14.

The government had expected to make Rs120 billion and was counting on revenue from the telecom auction to balance the budget, instead of focusing on revenue generation through widening the tax net.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar managed to ensure inflows of foreign exchange through the auction of next-generation mobile technology to keep the budget deficit at its projected target of 6.3 per cent for the year 2013-14.

The government is set to receive half of the proceeds from this auction as an upfront payment of nearly $556 million, which is expected to be deposited in the national kitty by next month. The remaining amount will be recovered in five equal instalments in five years with interest rate of three per cent LIBOR plus.

Following the auction, Mr Dar said the final bidding price was in line with initial estimates and far higher than those projected by previous governments.

Next door neighbour Afghanistan, despite having a weaker economy and a similarly fragile security situation, has been 3G-equipped since 2012. The technology is prevalent in nearly 150 countries worldwide.

As per the break-up announced by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the auction of four 3G licences — two in the 10MHz category and two in the 5MHz category — fetched $902.82 million. Zong’s acquisition of a 4G licence added another $210 million.

A PTA official told Dawn that Zong offered $306.920 million, the highest bid, for 10 MHz 3G and a 4G licence.

Following the bidding, Mr Dar said at a press conference that one 4G licence was still up for grabs and would be auctioned later. He stressed that future auctions would also be held in a transparent manner.

Govt inaction against militants criticised

Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD: Friend and foe alike flayed the government in the Senate on Tuesday for not taking any action against militants, despite continued attacks on security personnel.

ISLAMABAD: Friend and foe alike flayed the government in the Senate on Tuesday for not taking any action against militants, despite continued attacks on security personnel.

Senator Raza Rabbani of the Pakistan People’s Party lashed out at the government’s reported response to recent attacks on police in Charsadda and Peshawar. He said a government representative had claimed that no official action could be taken since no-one had taken responsibility for the attacks.

“The government is looking for a black cat in a dark room,” Mr Rabbani said on the Senate floor, adding that the government did not appear to be serious in the national security policy that it had announced in February amid great fanfare.

Talking to Dawn after the session, Mr Rabbani maintained that, “This shows incompetence on the part of the government that they have to wait for claims from non-state actors rather than being able to investigate the facts themselves”.

Speaking during Zero Hour – a session of the house where senators are at liberty to discuss points of interest irrespective of the day’s agenda – Afrasiab Khattak of the Awami National Party said, “On one hand, there is a ‘dialogue circus’ and on the other hand, our security personnel are being targeted”.

“What kind of talks are these where militants have a free hand to attack law enforcers,” Mr Khattak asked, reminding the government of its promise to take action against militants if they carried out any further attacks on Pakistani soil.

Mohammad Hamza, a senior member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N, joined the opposition in questioning the government’s logic of continuing talks with the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) despite there being no let-up in attacks on police personnel.

The PML-N senator also expressed concerns over the government’s failure to recover the kidnapped sons of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and slain Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, despite knowing where they were being held in the country’s tribal areas.

ANP’s Haji Adeel said it wasn’t just security personnel who were being killed. “My party’s leaders and workers were also being killed and kidnapped in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” he said.

Opposition members then staged a walkout to express solidarity with the ANP.

Pakistan Muslim League-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain urged the government to come to the defence of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) following the spate of allegations levelled against it over the attack on senior journalist Hamid Mir. He said the ISI was not a military institution and fell under civilian control.

Earlier, during question hour, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told the house that the government did not plan to abandon the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. Responding to a question raised by former finance minister Saleem Mandviwalla, he said that Pakistan was unable to undertake construction due to international sanctions on Iran.

“There is no proposal to abandon the project. The commercial agreement has a defined procedure for different eventualities, including negotiations between parties, arbitration, penalties, termination, Force Majeure, etc,” he added.

Later, the Senate unanimously passed the Surveying and Mapping Bill 2014 to provide for the constitution and regulation of the Survey of Pakistan. The bill, moved by Minister for Science and Technology Zahid Hamid, had already been passed by the National Assembly on March 31.

Training launch of ballistic missile

APP

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan has successfully carried out training launch of a surface-to-surface ballistic missile, Hatf III (Ghaznavi), which can carry nuclear and conventional warheads over a distance of up to 290km.

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan has successfully carried out training launch of a surface-to-surface ballistic missile, Hatf III (Ghaznavi), which can carry nuclear and conventional warheads over a distance of up to 290km.

The launch was witnessed by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Rashad Mahmood, Strategic Plans Division Director-General Lt Gen Zubair Mahmood Hayat, Commander of the Army Strategic Forces Command Lt Gen Obaidullah Khan, National Engineering and Scientific Commission Chairman M. Irfan Burney and other military officials and scientists, said a press release by the Inter-Services Public Relations.

Speaking to troops on the occasion, Gen Mahmood praised the personnel for attaining excellence in operating the advanced weapons system. He expressed satisfaction over the training goals achieved during the exercise and hoped that the personnel entrusted with the task of deterring aggression would continue to maintain high standards of professionalism.—APP

Ministry wants TV channel’s licence cancelled

Baqir Sajjad Syed

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Defence sought on Tuesday revocation of the licence of a private news channel and prosecution of its editorial and management teams under regulatory laws for electronic media for allegedly bringing premier spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence into disrepute and harming national interest.

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Defence sought on Tuesday revocation of the licence of a private news channel and prosecution of its editorial and management teams under regulatory laws for electronic media for allegedly bringing premier spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence into disrepute and harming national interest.

The demands were made in a defence ministry’s four-page complaint to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), which said that the coverage and commentary on attack on TV anchor Hamid Mir last Saturday was not the only cause of grievance, but Independent Media Corporation that runs Geo TV had a history of “false, malicious and irresponsible” reporting.

Head of army’s public relations division – ISPR – Maj Gen Asim Bajwa had over the weekend said that there should be no doubt that legal action would be taken on the “baseless allegations levelled against ISI”.

Pemra, the complaint said, is called upon to take measures on the regulatory side to “i) immediately suspend the licence and after examining the facts, cancel the licence of Independent Media Corporation (Pvt) Ltd granted under Section 20 of the Pemra Ordinance 2002; ii) commence prosecution of the editorial team and management of the Geo under Sections 33 and 36 of Pemra Ordinance read with all enabling provisions and the Pemra rules as amended from time to time.”

The call for cancellation of the licence is based on Rule 15 of Pemra Rules; paras c, g and j of code of conduct, Section 20 (a) of Pemra Ordinance and Section 27 (a) of Pemra Ordinance.

The rules pertain to preserving the “sovereignty, security and integrity” of the country during transmission by any TV channel that has been awarded licence.

The complaint was sent to Pemra late in the evening after intense deliberations over the matter at the defence ministry. A source revealed that the civilian leadership of the ministry resisted registration of the complaint to the hilt, but the military side prevailed.

Information Minister Pervez Rashid, later speaking on Geo TV, stayed short of endorsing the charges framed by the defence ministry and said that since one of the departments had reservations, the ministry was left with no other option but to forward the complaint to Pemra.

When pressed for his comments on the charges, Mr Rashid said the government “would not enter into blame game” till the allegations were investigated.

However, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar took a stronger line on the matter and in a statement issued to media described the “slanderous campaign against state institutions” as unprecedented in the world.

Geo TV’s Islamabad Bureau Chief Rana Jawad said the allegations were levelled by Hamid Mir’s brother and the discussions in subsequent programmes were the personal opinion of the participants of the programmes, which had nothing to do with the media group’s official policy.

He also called for involving other channels, who played up the allegations, in the hearing of the complaint by Pemra.

Two senior members of Geo management were also contacted, but they did not respond to the phone calls and text messages.

Earlier in the day, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif visited the ISI headquarters.

Although the official statement about the visit did not refer to the ongoing controversy, the meeting between the COAS and the ISI chief took place against the backdrop of allegations levelled against the agency.

“On arrival at Headquarters, Lieutenant General Zahirul Islam, DG ISI, received COAS,” an ISPR statement on Gen Sharif’s visit said.

“COAS appreciated the role of ISI towards national security and lauded the contributions and sacrifices of its officers and men towards strengthening the defence of the motherland,” it added.

Iftikhar A. Khan adds: In his statement, the interior minister condemned what he called one-sided and negative propaganda against the country’s premier intelligence agency.

He said the attack on Hamid Mir was a gruesome incident not only for his family and organisation but also for the entire media community and the nation and deserved to be condemned in the strongest possible term.

But the way a national institution (ISI) was being attacked in the context of the incident without any evidence was something alarming.

Chaudhry Nisar said it was unprecedented in any part of the world to make important defence institutions target of criticism and allegations. The negative propaganda unleashed by some circles is resonated all over the world by the country’s enemies.

He said that at a time when the officers and personnel of defence institutions were laying down their lives for security of the country everyday, such one-sided and negative propaganda was not only a matter of concern but also condemnable. Such allegations have no justification when the government has already constituted a three-judge commission to investigate the attack on the journalist.

Constable dies, 40 hurt in blast

Faiz Muhammad

CHARSADDA: A policeman died and 14 personnel and 26 civilians suffered injuries in a bomb attack on a police van in Charsadda Bazaar on Tuesday morning.

CHARSADDA: A policeman died and 14 personnel and 26 civilians suffered injuries in a bomb attack on a police van in Charsadda Bazaar on Tuesday morning.

The District Police Officer Charsadda, Shafiullah Khan, confirmed the bomb attack and the casualties.

The vehicle was carrying 14 personnel from police lines to Charsadda Jail. When it was near the Farooq Azam Chowk on Nowshera Road, a bomb fixed on a motorcycle was detonated by remote control.

The injured were taken to the DHQ Hospital Charsadda where a seriously injured constable, Nasir Khan, succumbed to his injuries during treatment. The injured included shopkeepers and passersby.

The DPO and the DC of Charsadda went to the blast site to supervise rescue work. A large number of local residents and leaders and workers of political parties also took part in the rescue operation. Health authorities declared an emergency at the hospital.

According to bomb disposal unit personnel, the explosive device weighed about 4kg. They said the motorcycle used in the attack had no number plate. An FIR was registered against unnamed saboteurs.

Traders and shopkeepers closed the bazaar after the blast and announced three days of mourning.

At a meeting they condemned the attack and called for adequate security.

Funeral prayer of constable Nasir Khan was held at the police lines.

SC rains on Ludhianvi’s victory parade

Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court cut short on Tuesday Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi’s victory celebrations as it suspended an election tribunal’s decision notifying him as the successful National Assembly candidate from NA-89 Jhang.

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court cut short on Tuesday Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi’s victory celebrations as it suspended an election tribunal’s decision notifying him as the successful National Assembly candidate from NA-89 Jhang.

The chief of the proscribed Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) had challenged the eligibility of Sheikh Mohammad Akram, who had won the seat in the 2013 general elections, before an election tribunal. The tribunal found against Akram on April 9 and on April 18, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) declared Ludhianvi, the candidate with the second highest number of votes, successful without going for re-polling.

On Tuesday, after a preliminary hearing, a three-judge bench headed by Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali suspended both the April 9 judgment of the election tribunal and the subsequent ECP notification. “We are inclined to issue notices to the respondents for a date to be fixed by the office within four weeks,” the bench observed.

The court gave the interim order on a petition filed by Sheikh Muhammad Akram, who had won the seat on a PML-N ticket. He contested the polls because his son Sheikh Waqas Akram – who was originally supposed to vie for the National Assembly seat — was beset by legal challenges from his opponents.

In his complaint before the tribunal, Ludhianvi alleged that Sheikh Akram had been involved in electoral rigging and other illegal practices.

Appearing before the apex court on Tuesday, Akram’s counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan argued that the tribunal had disqualified his client on two grounds: firstly that the CNIC number of the individuals who seconded Sheikh Akram’s nomination was incorrect; and, secondly that he had failed to disclose in his nomination papers an FIR that was filed against him.

Both these grounds, the counsel argued, were based on a misreading of the record and the relevant legal provisions, adding that there had been no violation of election rules to justify the tribunal’s decision to unseat Sheikh Muhammad Akram.

The NA-89 Jhang constituency has long been a hotbed of sectarian strife. Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) founder Haq Nawaz Jhangvi won the seat in the 1998 general elections.

In 2002, Maulana Azam Tariq of the SSP successfully ran for election while he was incarcerated, beating Sheikh Waqas and Dr Tahirul Qadri in the polls.

Following Tariq’s assassination in 2003, Sheikh Waqas Akram took the seat in the ensuing by-elections, beating the slain SSP chief’s brother Maulana Alam Tariq.

In the 2008 general elections, Ludhianvi campaigned as an independent against Sheikh Waqas Akram, who contested on a PML-Q ticket. Sheikh Waqas won the election with 51,976 votes while Ludhianvi came in second with 45,216 votes.

MQM joins Sindh govt

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

KARACHI: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement joined the Sindh government on Tuesday after two of its members took oath as provincial ministers while three members joined the cabinet as advisers.

KARACHI: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement joined the Sindh government on Tuesday after two of its members took oath as provincial ministers while three members joined the cabinet as advisers.

Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad administered the oath to the new ministers, Dr Sagheer Ahmed and Rauf Siddiqi, at a ceremony at the Governor’s House in the evening. Faisal Sabzwari, Adil Siddiqi and Abdul Haseeb have been appointed advisers to the chief minister.

Two new power units completed at Guddu

APP

GUDDU: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Monday that long hours of loadshedding which people had been facing for 10 years had also seriously undermined the country’s progress in all areas.

GUDDU: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Monday that long hours of loadshedding which people had been facing for 10 years had also seriously undermined the country’s progress in all areas.

Addressing a gathering here after inaugurating two units of 243MW each at the Guddu thermal power plant, he said the government was trying to enhance efficiency of the existing power plants, expedite work on ongoing projects and set up new plants under the public-private partnership to overcome the energy crisis. He expressed the hope that with sustained efforts the problem of loadshedding would soon be over.

He said a third unit would be operational in May which would increase the current capacity of the Guddu power plant from 1,655MW to 2,402MW. He said the three units were part of the combined cycle plant and would add another 747MW to the national grid.

He said early completion of the project, seven months ahead of schedule, had saved Rs58.6 billion which was almost equal to the amount spent on the project.

The prime minister regretted that slow pace of work on projects in the past had hampered progress but hoped that measures being taken by the government would bring about a positive change. A number of power projects are under way and efforts are being made to add 21,000MW to the national grid over the next eight years.

He prised China’s Harbin Electric International Company for completing the Guddu project ahead of deadline. Pakistan and China are jointly working on several power projects and the latter promised investment of billions of dollars in the power sector.

Mr Sharif also praised the water and power ministry, GENCO Holding Company and Central Power Generation Company of for fast-tracking the project.

He said he and Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah would soon inaugurate work on Lahore-Karachi motorway.

He said his government had cleared Rs500 billion of circular debt and given incentives to independent power producers.

He said 6,600MW would be generated at the Gadani Power Park with the assistance of local and foreign investors. A coal-fired plant of 1,320MW is being set up in Jamshoro with the help of the Asian Development Bank and feasibility report is under way for similar plants in Lakhra, Port Qasim and Thar.

He said work on 1,410 MW extension-IV and 1,320 MW extension-V at Tarbela and 4,500 MW at Diamer-Bhasha dams had been initiated. The private sector is investing in power projects at Soki Kinari, Karot and Kohala.

The prime minister announced three months bonus for workers of GPCC and GPCL.

The event was also attended by Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, Water and Power Minister Khawaja Asif and Minister of State for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali.—APP

CJ rejects police report in immolation case

Wajih Ahmad Sheikh

LAHORE: Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani rejected on Monday a police report on a case relating to self-immolation by a girl in Muzaffargarh and directed the Multan district and sessions judge to hold an inquiry into the case.

LAHORE: Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani rejected on Monday a police report on a case relating to self-immolation by a girl in Muzaffargarh and directed the Multan district and sessions judge to hold an inquiry into the case.

The report, submitted by Additional Inspector General of Punjab Khaliq Dad Malik and the Muzaffargarh district police officer, said Amina had not been raped.

She fabricated a story to settle scores with her family’s rivals, it alleged.

The case was taken up by a three-judge bench at the Lahore registry of the Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Jillani expressed displeasure over the report and wondered how a girl could set herself on fire only to settle scores with opponents.

Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, a member of the bench, said police usually declared culprits innocent in such cases.

He said police could have stated in the report that no girl named Amina had ever existed and no such incident taken place.

During the hearing, Justice Jillani offered condolences to Nizam Bibi, mother of Amina, in Seraiki language and assured her that the suspects would not escape the law.

When the woman expressed distrust in the Muzaffargarh sessions judge, the chief justice entrusted the inquiry to the Multan district and sessions judge.

The court disposed of the suo motu notice and directed the sessions judge to submit a report in six weeks.

The girl had set herself ablaze outside a police station in Muzaffargarh’s Bait Mir Hazar area in protest against a police report which helped her alleged rapist obtain bail.

She died in a hospital in Multan the following day.

Senators call upon ISI to cooperate with probe

Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD: Senators called upon the country’s top intelligence agency on Monday to clear its name in cases of attacks on journalists and the matter of enforced disappearances.

ISLAMABAD: Senators called upon the country’s top intelligence agency on Monday to clear its name in cases of attacks on journalists and the matter of enforced disappearances.

The role of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was brought up in the house as members discussed Saturday’s attack on senior journalist Hamid Mir in Karachi and allegations levelled by his family against the head of the agency, Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam.

Deputy Chairman Sabir Baloch suspended the day’s routine agenda to allow for a debate on the issue.

Senators, mostly from the opposition benches, deplored the “ISI-bashing” that had ensued in sections of the media following the attack on Mr Mir.

They urged the ISI to avail itself of this opportunity and present itself before a newly-announced judicial commission to facilitate investigations and prove that it was not behind the unfortunate incidents.

Leader of Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan said that though he had personally been critical of the ISI’s interference in the country’s political history, he believed no one should “jump to (any) accusations against an institution”.

“The ISI has a chequered history. It has fathered and mothered the jihad in Afghanistan. Its involvement was proven in the Asghar Khan case (manipulation of elections), Operation Midnight Jackal and the ill-planned Jalalabad operation of 1989,” he said.

“I was interior minister at the time of Operation Midnight Jackal and I personally took the ISI head on.” But, he said, care should be taken not to malign the entire institution before the judicial commission had a chance to probe the matter.

“The ISI should take (these allegations) as a challenge and extend its assistance in the investigations,” MQM’s Nasreen Jalil said.

She said the ISI must also act to clear its name in the matter of missing persons.

ANP’s Haji Adeel alleged that in the past the ISI had “trained terrorists to send to Afghanistan and Kashmir”.

Farhatullah Babar of the PPP said the judicial commission should investigate the allegations levelled by Mr Mir’s family. “This is an opportunity for the ISI to prove wrong all the allegations levelled against it.”

The MQM’s Tahir Mashhadi termed the attack on Mr Mir a failure of the Sindh government, intelligence agencies and police.

Hafiz Hammadullah of the JUI-F said the attack had taken place at a time when security was already on high alert as retired Gen Pervez Musharraf was also scheduled to arrive in the city merely hours later.

Mushahid Hussain of the PML-Q said that since the ISI was an institution of the state, it should not be left ‘defenceless’.

“ISI and army-bashing must be stopped. Since ISI is part of the state’s defence infrastructure, it is the duty of the government to come to its defence,” he suggested.

The house adopted a unanimous resolution expressing “deep concern over the series of attacks on journalists” and urging the government to take steps to protect them.

At the beginning of the session, reporters covering Senate proceedings walked out from the Press Gallery to protest the attack.

However, they returned after both treasury and opposition leaders promised to form a Senate committee which would look into a possible legislation for the safety and protection of the rights of journalists.

Conspicuous by their non-participation in the debate were senators of the ruling PML-N. Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq deplored the attack, but did not speak on the allegations levelled against the ISI.

He also announced the names of five members who, he suggested, would constitute the house committee.

But due to reservations from other senators it was decided that the committee would be formed after consultations with all stakeholders and would consist of representatives of all major parties.

PM reviews progress in Karachi operation

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

KARACHI: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif presided over on Monday a meeting on law and order and the ongoing operation against terrorists in Karachi.

KARACHI: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif presided over on Monday a meeting on law and order and the ongoing operation against terrorists in Karachi.

According to a brief statement issued after the meeting, the prime minister was briefed on the situation by Additional Inspector General Shahid Hayat Khan and Sindh Rangers Director General Maj Gen Rizwan Akhtar.

But sources said the meeting mainly focused on progress in investigation into the attack on senior journalist and GeoNews anchorperson Hamid Mir.

“The prime minister asked the city police chief to expedite the investigation,” said a source citing a brief interaction between the prime minister and the city police chief.

“He [Nawaz Sharif] called it a test case for Karachi police. Shahid Hayat was confident that the attackers would be arrested and planners exposed,” the source said.

Talking to reporters at the Aga Khan University Hospital where he enquired the health of the journalist, the prime minister said the targeted operation in Karachi was yielding “positive results” and reiterated the government’s resolve to restore peace in the country.

Answering a question, he said that sometimes talks with the Taliban hit snags but “some progress” had been made. “We want to resolve all issues through dialogue.”

Accompanied by Sindh Governor Ishartul Ibad, Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and federal ministers, the prime minister said an independent judicial commission had been set up to investigate the attack on Hamid Mir and its report would be made public.

All aspects would be assessed and a “thorough investigation” carried out in the case, he added.

Meanwhile, police investigators conducted a re-enactment of the crime scene from the airport to the place of attack. They also assessed the possible routes of escape used by the attackers.

Meanwhile, journalists’ bodies and civil society organisations continued their protests outside the Karachi Press Club on Monday against the attack.

The condition of Hamid Mir continued to improve. A brief statement issued by the AKUH said the patient had been shifted to a private room and he was conscious.

Six die in Peshawar attack on police

Zulfiqar Ali

PESHAWAR: Five policemen and a civilian were killed in an attack in Badhaber area on the outskirts of Peshawar on Monday night.

PESHAWAR: Five policemen and a civilian were killed in an attack in Badhaber area on the outskirts of Peshawar on Monday night.

Gunmen fired at a police van at Zangli checkpost on Kohat-Peshawar road, leaving two policemen injured.

When more policemen arrived there, gunmen attacked them too, killing five policemen, including a sub-inspector, and a passer-by.

Bullets also hit an ambulance, leaving two people injured.

The area where the incident took place is adjacent to the volatile Khyber tribal agency.

Gwadar to be functional in five years: Fatemi

Maleeha Hamid Siddiqui

KARACHI: The Nawaz Sharif government envisages not only a motorway from Gwadar to Karachi, but also an airport, a hospital, a university and a technical institute, with the objective of turning Gwadar into a fully functional city within five years, said special assistant to the prime minister Tariq Fatemi at a session on Pakistan’s Foreign Policy Objectives, organised by the Karachi Council on Foreign Relations on Monday evening.

KARACHI: The Nawaz Sharif government envisages not only a motorway from Gwadar to Karachi, but also an airport, a hospital, a university and a technical institute, with the objective of turning Gwadar into a fully functional city within five years, said special assistant to the prime minister Tariq Fatemi at a session on Pakistan’s Foreign Policy Objectives, organised by the Karachi Council on Foreign Relations on Monday evening.

He added that two power plants in Gwadar would start functioning next month.

In his keynote address, Mr Fatemi addressed a number of critical foreign policy issues ranging from enhancing relations with China to supporting Afghanistan’s new government and to ensuring cordial relations with India.

Highlighting his government’s policy of economic diplomacy, he said: “Nawaz Sharif believes that Pakistan has to move away from traditional forms of diplomacy. It must become a tool for the economic wellbeing of its people. That is why within hours of taking oath of office, he issued directions to our missions abroad that their goals need to be reoriented towards commercial interests. All his foreign travels have had robust economic objectives.”

He said since Pakistan was located at crossroads of South Asia, the Gulf and the Middle East, it needed to take full advantage of its geographical position. He cited the example of relations with China to emphasise his point. “In the past eight to nine months, I have visited China four times. The visits have been geared in areas in which China can aid and assist us. We are planning a Pakistan-China economic corridor, which is a massive project involving billions of dollars.”

He, however, tempered the ambitious plans with caution saying that its materialisation would take several years, adding “but the size and scale of the project should not deter us. In fact we should double our efforts.”

He also outlined other upcoming projects with China including 16 power projects of which 10 are planned for Gadani and six for Punjab.

Regarding India, Mr Fatemi said: “The prime minister is convinced that it is advantageous for both countries to have cordial relations. We are monitoring the events next door and irrespective of which coalition comes to power, we will reach out to them with sincerity.”

Later during the question and answer session, Dr Farooq Sattar of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement asked Mr Fatemi about relations with India, particularly easing of the visa process, opening of consulates in Mumbai and Karachi and increased use of trade routes particularly Munabao-Khokhrapar. “We are prepared to take any initiative and that includes visa facilitation and trade expansion,” he said, adding that it was now up to the Indian leadership to enhance these relations as the political leadership here was supportive of engaging with India.

With respect to Afghanistan, he said President Hamid Karzai and Prime Minister Sharif have had four meetings so far and consequently there were far better relations between Kabul and Islamabad. “We do not wish to interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. We have no favourites; it is for the people of Afghanistan to elect whoever they want as their president. Whoever comes to power we will reach out to him and will work on better economic relations and border management.”

Mr Fatemi said: “Pakistan has had a long and chequered history with the United States. Some people say that it is a transactional relationship while others assess it to be a relation of extremes saying that either we are the most allied of allies or the most sanctioned ally.”

He said he was present in the rose garden when the Mujahideen were feted as freedom fighters and was also there in September 1990 when all assistance to Pakistan was ended on suspicions of having nuclear interest. “The current status between the two countries is that we are now involved in a strategic dialogue process where we understand each other’s compulsions but with dignity and honour.”

Despite his busy schedule, a point made repeatedly by moderator of the session Dr Huma Baqai, Mr Fatemi took questions from the audience, some being quite hostile. He diplomatically answered the questions acknowledging the Foreign Office’s weaknesses.

Grenade attack at PML-N leader’s house

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

KHUZDAR: The house of district president of PML-N was attacked with a grenade on Monday night, police said.

KHUZDAR: The house of district president of PML-N was attacked with a grenade on Monday night, police said.

Gunmen on a motorcycle hurled the hand-grenade at the residence of Agha Shakeel and escaped. The grenade landed in the backyard where it exploded, smashing windowpanes and damaging the boundary wall.

No one was injured.

It was the second grenade attack at the residence of Agha Shakeel who is a close relative of Senior Minister and PML-N’s provincial president Sardar Sanaullah Zehri. A woman was injured in that attack.

42 die as coach rams into trailer

Waseem Shamsi

SUKKUR: Forty-two people were killed and 27 others injured when a passenger coach rammed into a trailer on the National Highway in Sangi area near Pano Akil on Sunday.

SUKKUR: Forty-two people were killed and 27 others injured when a passenger coach rammed into a trailer on the National Highway in Sangi area near Pano Akil on Sunday.

Seven women and nine children were among the dead. The driver and seven passengers died on the spot.

The coach was going to Karachi from Dera Ghazi Khan and most of the passengers were from Dera Ghazi Khan, Multan, Kot Addu and adjoining areas.

The coach was trying to overtake the trailer when it veered out of control and smashed into the trailer, an official said.

Motorway police personnel and local people rushed to the site of the accident and started rescue work. They took the injured to Pano Akil Taluka Hospital but doctors were not there because of early morning hours. This caused the death of several people who had suffered critical injuries.

Later, Motorway police and Rangers personnel took a number of the injured to Rohri Taluka Hospital and the Sukkur Civil Hospital.

The deceased included Fida Hussain, Arsalan, Kamran, Rana Rashid, Mohammad Shahid, Ghulam Murtaza, Fahad Ali, Sajid Hussain, Arbaz Khan, Sohail Anwar, Iqra, Zul Qarnain, Mehmood, Shahid Hussain, Tayyaba, Bakhtiawar, Kausar Abid, Abid Ali, Ali Raza, Umar Farooq Lodhi, Maryam Lodhi, Hashim, Sufyan, Rehana Anjum and Farhana Bibi.

Six of them were from one family.

Twenty-three injured admitted to the civil hospital included Uzair, 7, Horeen, 6, Abdul Hadi, 7, Tabinda, Mohammad Ismail, Waseem, Mohammad Yameen, Busree, Mehboob, Shahzad, Masood, Abdul Majeed, Mohammad Amjad, Abdul Shakoor and Hafeez-Ur-Rehman. Eight teenagers and children could not be identified till late in the evening.

Doctors said that two or three of the injured were in critical condition and others were stable. They said that most of the injured might undergo orthopaedic surgery on Monday.

The coach was destroyed in the accident. The trailer was impounded and its driver was arrested by the Sangi police.

AFP adds: Several passengers were trapped inside the coach that was left badly mangled after the high-speed crash. Excavators were used to pull the trailer from the bus, as rescuers struggled to pull out the stranded passengers.

Mohammad Faisal, a police official, said: “Most of the passengers were trapped between their seats. We rescued them by cutting the coach body with metal cutters.”

Later in the day, the bodies of 28 deceased were shifted to their native towns but those of 14 victims were lying in the Pano Akil hospital and Combined Military Hospital, Pano Akil.

Compensation Meanwhile, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah has announced compensation of Rs100,000 for the family of each deceased and Rs25,000 for each injured.

He said that a trauma centre would be set up in Sukkur at a cost of Rs4 billion, more doctors would be appointed in the civil hospital and it would get more funds for procuring medicines.

He inquired after the health of the injured and said that the provincial government would bear the expenses of their treatment.

He said that action would be taken against the doctors who failed to perform their duty. The chief minister said that about 400 doctors had been sacked for being absent from hospitals where they had been posted.

He asked the deputy commissioner of Sukkur to submit a report about the accident.

Tariq Saeed Birmani adds from Dera Ghazi Khan: The bodies of people belonging to different areas of Dera Ghazi Khan division were brought by Edhi ambulances.

Jampur was the saddest town in the region as it received 11 bodies. Other towns which received bodies included Rajanpur, Muzaffargarh and Mohammadpur.

Bus falls into ditch In another incident, a bus plunged into a ditch near Rohri while overtaking another vehicle.

Two passengers — Ayaz Ahmed and Dhani Bux, 7 — died and 25 others were injured. They were taken to Rohri Taluka Hospital and Sukkur Civil Hospital. Four of the injured are said to be in critical condition.

The bus was going to Rahim Yar Khan from Sukkur.he driver escaped and the bus was impounded by police.

No case pertaining to any of the two accidents was registered till late Sunday evening.

Judicial commission to investigate attack on Hamid Mir

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: Reacting swiftly to the attack on senior journalist Hamid Mir, the federal government decided on Sunday to form a judicial commission to investigate the matter.

ISLAMABAD: Reacting swiftly to the attack on senior journalist Hamid Mir, the federal government decided on Sunday to form a judicial commission to investigate the matter.

After a meeting with close aides at his Lahore residence, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resolved to have the attempt on Mir’s life investigated at highest level.

The government also announced a reward of Rs10 million for anyone who came forward to provide information that could lead to the capture of the attackers.

An official statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said a formal request would be made to the Chief Justice of Pakistan to nominate a three-member judicial commission.

“The competent authority, under Section 3(1) and Section 5(1) of the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act 1956, has decided to appoint a commission of inquiry to ascertain (the) facts, identify culprits and affix responsibility for the incident of firing and injuring Hamid Mir on April 19 in Karachi, (consisting) of three honourable sitting judges of the Supreme Court, for report within 21 days,” says the draft of the letter the interior secretary has been asked to forward to the SC registrar.

In the letter, the apex court has been requested to nominate “three names of Supreme Court judges to constitute the commission, including one judge who will head the commission”.

The Ministry of Interior will provide secretarial support to the commission. The commission, says the letter, will be duly notified upon receipt of the names of member judges.

An additional registrar of the Supreme Court told Dawn that necessary action would be initiated when the government’s request was received on Monday.

In a video message recorded shortly before the attempt on his life, Mir had reportedly singled out certain Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) operatives and said that in case anything were to happen to him, they should be held responsible.

He is said to have shared the apprehensions with his employers and colleagues at the Jang Group as well as close friends and family members.

The last such commission was constituted by the PPP government in June 2011 to investigate the murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad.

Shahzad was abducted from Islamabad in May 2011 and his corpse was later discovered in Mandi Bahauddin. Before his death, Shahzad had confided to close friends fears regarding threats to his life from the ISI.

The five-member commission that investigated his death could only come to the conclusion that, “In all likelihood, the motive behind the incident was provided by the writings of Saleem. What is not so clear is the question of who had that motive and actually acted upon it.”

In one of his last stories, Shahzad had reported that Al Qaeda may have ‘infiltrated’ into the Pakistan Army.

The commission’s members included Federal Shariat Court Chief Justice Agha Rafiq Ahmed Khan, Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, inspectors general of Punjab and Islamabad and Pervaiz Shaukat, then president of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists.

IMF not satisfied with bill on ‘SBP autonomy’

Khaleeq Kiani

ISLAMABAD: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is said to have reservations over a government bill seeking greater autonomy for the State Bank.

ISLAMABAD: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is said to have reservations over a government bill seeking greater autonomy for the State Bank.

Informed sources told Dawn that the IMF was of the opinion that “The State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Act, 2014” introduced by the government in the National Assembly early this month was not sufficient to provide full autonomy to the central bank in line with international best practices.

The IMF is expected to formally take up the issue with Pakistan during the third quarterly review of the $6.78 billion bailout package under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) scheduled for April 30-May 9 in Dubai.

The two sides will finalise exact targets for fiscal adjustment in next year’s budget on the basis of economic development during the current fiscal year to reduce fiscal deficit to less than 4.5 per cent.

Chief of IMF mission in Pakistan Jeffrey Frank told Dawn that the government had provided the SBP amendment act to the IMF which “may have some reservations and may seek some revisions” once its experts on capital markets and monetary and legal side came up with their input.

Mr Franks, who is also adviser for the Middle East and Central Asia Department, said IMF’s monetary and capital market divisions were examining the new law because “enhanced SBP independence is a very important medium-term objective”.

Under the EFF programme, the government had committed to strengthening the autonomy of SBP through full operational independence in pursuit of price stability and enhanced governance structure, including strong internal controls.

In line with findings of the recent safeguard assessment mission of the IMF, amendments are required to empower the SBP as the sole owner and manager of foreign exchange reserves, remove government representatives from the bank’s board and eliminate provisions which empower the government to direct certain SBP activities. The IMF also wants strengthening of personal autonomy of board members and financial autonomy of the SBP.

The bill proposes a statutory committee on monetary policy comprising the SBP governor and 12 directors to allow the central bank to perform its functions in an independent manner. It also seeks clauses allowing the SBP to set up depositors’ protection fund as a subsidiary of the central bank.

A new section on regulatory powers has been introduced in the proposed act in order to provide the central bank explicit powers to issue directives, impose recovering penalties which is already being exercised by it under the Banking Companies Ordinance 1962 and provide legal certainty of being a lender of last resort in case of troubled banks.

In order to further the role of Islamic banking, the proposed law seeks to allow the central bank to hold property for the purpose of use of Shariah-compliant instruments.

Under the law, the role of the central bank has been strengthened by substituting the federal government’s approval wherever required with the SBP board’s approval.

Country cannot afford dictatorship: Khursheed

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

LAHORE: Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah has said the country cannot afford a dictatorship and that the judiciary will not endorse any ‘misadventure’.

LAHORE: Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah has said the country cannot afford a dictatorship and that the judiciary will not endorse any ‘misadventure’.

“The current situation in the country does not allow any dictatorship and the judiciary will also not endorse any misadventure,” Mr Shah said while talking to journalists at the airport here on Sunday.

Referring to strong reaction from the army on some speeches made recently in the parliament, the PPP leader said “minor mistakes” made by legislators should be tolerated and overlooked.

When asked whether the PPP supported the PML-N government or the army in the “tiff between the two”, Mr Shah said his party was “with the masses”.

Answering a question, he said that at a recent meeting with the prime minister, a PPP delegation led by former president Asif Ali Zardari advised him that the Protection of Pakistan Bill was not a good piece of legislation. “Mr Zardari told Mr [Nawaz] Sharif that the proposed law could even be used against the PML-N leaders.”

Mr Shah said the prime minister was also requested to take the opposition into confidence before moving the bill.

The PPP tabled 139 bills after consultation with the opposition during its five-year tenure and about 98 per cent of them were adopted with consensus.

“We asked the ruling party to adopt the same procedure and take inputs from opposition benches.”

He said he did not think that talks between the government and the Taliban could continue after the militants’ decision to end ceasefire.

Referring to retired Gen Pervez Musharraf’s presence in Karachi, Mr Shah said the former army chief was probably “being gradually whisked out of the country”. The general’s arrival in Karachi could be the “first step in that direction”.

He expressed fears that the Sindh government would be held responsible if the former military ruler did indeed go out of the country.

Mr Shah said that in a letter the Punjab chief minister had assured Bilawal Bhutto Zardari of “fool-proof security” during his stay in Lahore.

JI wants permanent TTP ceasefire

Aamir Yasin

RAWALPINDI: The Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) has called for the announcement of a permanent ceasefire by the Taliban and urged the government to make every effort to continue peace talks.

RAWALPINDI: The Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) has called for the announcement of a permanent ceasefire by the Taliban and urged the government to make every effort to continue peace talks.

“We want permanent ceasefire from Taliban and are in favour of continuation of the peace talks. The government should also respond positively. Logical arguments should be exchanged instead of bullets,” JI chief Sirajul Haq said while addressing a public meeting at Liaquat Bagh on Sunday.

He said the real problem facing the country was political and economic terrorism. “To get rid of the political and economic terrorism, there is a dire need to eliminate corruption and dictatorship,” he said.

The JI leader said merit was not enforced and the rich were getting protection, while the poor had been left at the mercy of thieves and dacoits.

He said a handful of people had ruled the country after serving the imperial forces during the British rule.

“The JI is struggling to enforce Islamic laws. It is an Islamic country and Shariah should be imposed. Some people are living in a fool’s paradise and want to make the country a secular state, but it will not be possible. The Muslims sacrificed their lives and property for an Islamic state, not for a secular state,” he said.

He admitted that the JI had failed to get support of people in the general elections but blamed the electoral system for it.

“The electoral process in the country is the main hurdle in getting the support of the maximum people. There is a need to bring drastic changes in the system,” he said.

“Political awareness is necessary to stop the way of dictatorships. We have to unite against the dictatorial mindset to strengthen the democracy. All the institutions of the state should work within the limits defined by the Constitution.”

“We will protect democracy and help the democratic forces if any unconstitutional action is taken against the government,” he said.

Mr Haq said the law should be equal for all — if retired Gen Pervez Musharraf was enjoying some benefits then a peon of a government department should also be provided the same facilities.

He said the country’s economic condition had worsened under dictatorships and state-run organisations had been privatised to benefit the cronies of the generals.

The gathering adopted resolutions calling for eliminating corruption, creating job opportunities and abolishing the general sales tax.

PM urges officers to uphold oath at all costs

Baqir Sajjad Syed

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has urged the newly enlisted army officers to abide by their oath of service — pledging to protect the Constitution — even when that’s hard to do.

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has urged the newly enlisted army officers to abide by their oath of service — pledging to protect the Constitution — even when that’s hard to do.

“The profession of arms that you are now beholden to demands by its very nature the unquestioned spirit of allegiance and sacrifice embodied in the oath you have all taken today,” he said in an address at the passing out parade of the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul, on Saturday.

The army officers’ oath calls for allegiance to Pakistan, upholding the Constitution and not getting involved in politics, in addition to serving the country in accordance with law.

Mr Sharif’s remarks assume special significance as they come against the backdrop of the trial of retired Gen Pervez Musharraf on charges of high treason for imposing an emergency on Nov 3, 2007, deposing the higher judiciary and suspending fundamental rights.

The prime minister’s participation in the passing out parade as a ‘parade reviewing dignitary’ was also important in the context that it marked the easing of recent strains in civil-military relations that started with the trial of Mr Musharraf and intensified due to statements by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and some other cabinet members.

The defence minister, in a statement a day earlier, reaffirmed his deep respect for the army and blamed media for promoting an incorrect impression of him being disrespectful to the institution.

Mr Sharif cautioned the new officers about the challenges that could test their character and asked them to adhere to the values they imbibe while at the premier training institute.

“Let these yardsticks endure and have a ring of permanence about them. Let them be your guide and mentor,” Mr Sharif said and added “during all such tests and temptations, do not forget that your nation reposes enormous trust in you. It trusts you and admires you”.

Assuring the officers of public support for their institution, he said, “don’t you ever forget, your nation will stand united behind you”.

The prime minister had words of admiration for Army Chief General Raheel Sharif, saying he was a role model for young officers because of his professionalism, patriotism, dedication and commitment to their motherland.

He called for modernisation of the army and pledged to resource the defence requirements.

Footprints: Conversion by choice or force

Saher Baloch

A SERENE atmosphere prevails inside the shrine of Khanqah-i-Aalia Qadria Bharchundi Sharif, Daharki. The madressah next to it reverberates with the rhythmic hum of students reciting the Quran. The shrine’s caretaker, Pir Abdul Khaliq, is not in, but his 29-year-old son, Abdul Malik, is present on Thursday.

A SERENE atmosphere prevails inside the shrine of Khanqah-i-Aalia Qadria Bharchundi Sharif, Daharki. The madressah next to it reverberates with the rhythmic hum of students reciting the Quran. The shrine’s caretaker, Pir Abdul Khaliq, is not in, but his 29-year-old son, Abdul Malik, is present on Thursday.

Wearing a cone-shaped head gear and a white flowing kurta, Abdul Malik appears oblivious to the uproar in the area a few days ago. Recently, the parents of a Hindu girl named Rani protested outside the Hyderabad Press Club demanding that their daughter — who they said was forcibly converted — be rescued from the Bharchundi Sharif shrine. Hailing from Jacobabad’s Kareemabad area, the girl belongs to the Bhaagri tribe, one of the poorest tribes in Sindh, say locals.

The scent of itar fills the room as Abdul Malik takes a seat across us in his well-furnished office inside the madressah.

A graduate in Islamic studies from the University of Damascus, he is learning the ropes of what he says “is my holy purpose to serve humanity”. Listening intently to the questions posed to him, he answers: “If someone wants to be converted, there’s not much we can do about it.”

(The madressah has converted 150 men and women in the past three years, says the person managing its administrative affairs. Rani is the first one to be converted this year.)

Adjusting his spectacles, Abdul Malik looks directly at me when asked why every Hindu girl decides to visit Bharchundi Sharif while thinking of converting to Islam. “Our job is to facilitate people. If they want to become a Muslim, we help them do that. However, we don’t take responsibility for who they decide to marry. The girl, especially in such cases, decides for herself.”

Rani was taken to the Sindh high court bench in Sukkur on Thursday morning as soon as her marriage certificate was made by her lawyer a day earlier. After coordinating for four hours, the three men — including her lawyer — accompanying Rani and her husband met us in a residential area in Pannu Aqil.

Rani Khatoon, as her name now reads on the marriage certificate, is said to be 19 years old. But she looks much younger as she sits quietly, holding one end of her dupatta tightly around her chin. The haq meher in her nikahnama is a mere Rs1,000.

Her eyes remain blank until one mentions her parents. That’s the only time her big brown eyes moisten. Otherwise, she gives monosyllabic replies when asked about her ‘love marriage’ to 22-year-old Mohammad Saroor. Sitting beside her, he’s asked by one of the men to close his buttons and appear “respectful”. Another quickly blames the weather.

Saroor says: “She used to sell clothes near our home in Jano Bhelo village while I’m a labourer and own a donkey. One day she told me she wants to marry me, and loves Islam, so we decided to marry.” When Rani was asked how while living in Jacobabad she knew she could take refuge at the shrine, she said a “friend informed her”, before once again lapsing into a state of blankness.

Whenever she’s asked about her decision to become a Muslim, she looks at the Bharchundi attendant, Abdul Wahid, who after every few minutes asks her to “khill” (smile).

When asked if she’s carrying her CNIC, she shakes her head in the negative. Her lawyer Mir Ali Mehboob interrupts, “An identity card is not needed in the high court when they know a couple wants to marry. Only a picture is needed which a court attendant matches with the picture we give them.”

A newspaper editor in Daharki says there are many cases of young girls marrying outside their community. “But this is more of a business, where everyone knows what’s happening but no one can report or speak about it openly.”

Dr Hari Lal, general secretary of the Upper Sindh Hindu Panchayat from Pannu Aqil, says, “Our courts have been hijacked. Until the system is shaken up nothing we do or say will matter. Why didn’t anyone inside the court demand to see her ID card or determine whether she is actually at an age to decide for herself? Even if a girl, as they tell us, decides to marry a Muslim of her own choice, why is she accompanied by armed men who keep an eye on each move of hers, as in the Rinkle Kumari case? If a party has to approach a court to solve matters, as in Rani’s case, why does the shrine goes to the higher courts every time? Why not a district and sessions court?”

Afghan policeman kills three Americans at hospital

AFP

KABUL: An Afghan policeman opened fire at a Kabul hospital run by a US charity on Thursday, killing three Americans, including a doctor, in the latest attack targeting foreign civilians in the city.

KABUL: An Afghan policeman opened fire at a Kabul hospital run by a US charity on Thursday, killing three Americans, including a doctor, in the latest attack targeting foreign civilians in the city.

The gunman was injured in the incident outside the CURE International hospital and detained by police, officials said, adding that the motive for the shooting was not immediately known.

“He opened fire as the foreign nationals were entering the hospital, tragically killing three and injuring one more,” Seddiq Sediqqi, spokesman for the interior ministry, said.

“Another policeman in the area shot the attacker, injuring him.”

Health Minister Soraya Dalil told reporters the victims were a US doctor who had worked for CURE for seven years and an American father and son visiting the hospital. She added that the attacker, who had been on duty guarding the hospital, was now being treated inside for his injuries.

“With great sadness we confirm that three Americans were killed in the attack on CURE Hospital,” the US embassy said on its Twitter account.

“No other information will be released at this time.” Kabul has been hit by a spate of attacks targeting foreign civilians this year, including a Lebanese restaurant where 21 people died, an attack on a luxury hotel and the daylight shooting of a Swedish radio journalist.

Last month Taliban militants attacked a Kabul guesthouse used by Roots of Peace, a US anti-landmine charity, killing two people including a girl.

And this month AP photographer Anja Niedringhaus was shot dead by a police commander in Khost in an attack which also left her Canadian colleague Kathy Gannon badly wounded.—AFP

Situation worsening for religious minorities: HRCP

Jamal Shahid

ISLAMABAD: In 2013, Pakistan became “a more and more dangerous country” for religious minorities, “grew increasingly intolerant of dissent” from journalists and struggled with strategies to tackle threats such as militant extremism and intolerance, according to a report on the ‘State of Human Rights in 2013’.

ISLAMABAD: In 2013, Pakistan became “a more and more dangerous country” for religious minorities, “grew increasingly intolerant of dissent” from journalists and struggled with strategies to tackle threats such as militant extremism and intolerance, according to a report on the ‘State of Human Rights in 2013’.

Launched by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Thursday, the report takes stock of Pakistan’s performance in the realms of legislation, justice, law-enforcement, the ensuring of fundamental rights and individual freedoms, as well as the status of vulnerable groups, such as women, children, religious minorities, the underprivileged and refugees, among others.

In the section on freedom of religion, the report notes that sectarian violence claimed a total of 687 lives in 2013. Seven Ahmadis were killed in pre-mediated attacks, Christian settlements and churches were targeted and a total of 39 people (including Christians, Hindus and Muslims) were charged with blasphemy in the entire year.

“Militancy has a major role to play in extremism. Now different sects have become increasingly intolerant towards each other,” said the Secretary General of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Mr I.A. Rehman, at the launch of the report.

The press grew increasingly unsafe last year and, as the report notes, 11 journalists were killed and scores more injured in the line of duty. In addition, those responsible for these heinous crimes remained at large.

The gruesome reality of terrorism in Pakistan and its terrible repercussions are also discussed throughout the report under different sections. Terrorists undermined the law and order situation, killing 694 people in 45 suicide bombings and kidnapping hundreds more; threatened citizens’ right to assembly with attacks on congregations and funerals; and challenged the fundamental freedom of association by hounding NGO and aid workers as well as targeting political workers in the run up to the general elections.

Spread over nearly 350 pages, the report paints a gruesome picture of the status of human rights and their abuses in the country. It recounts the killing of 200 Hazara Shias in Balochistan, the alleged extrajudicial killings of over 500 suspects at the hands of police and the discovery of 129 mutilated bodies of suspected missing persons, among hundreds of other examples. But, talking to the audience at Thursday’s launch event, Mr Rehman said he was more worried about the bigger picture.

“Over the years there has been no indication of a comprehensive plan of action or concrete approach to improve the state of human rights in the country,” he said.

This sentiment is echoed by the report, which notes with alarm how the strategy to deal with these serious crises – employed by both this government and the previous one – often amounted to “kicking the can down the road”.

The report sourced its data from surveys, fact-finding reports, official documents as well as clippings from 18 English and Urdu newspapers, in addition to input from HRCP field officers and private citizens across the country.

Former US test site sues N-armed countries

Reuters

WASHINGTON: The tiny Pacific republic of the Marshall Islands, scene of massive US nuclear tests in the 1950s, sued the United States and eight other nuclear-armed countries on Thursday, accusing them of failing in their obligation to negotiate nuclear disarmament.

WASHINGTON: The tiny Pacific republic of the Marshall Islands, scene of massive US nuclear tests in the 1950s, sued the United States and eight other nuclear-armed countries on Thursday, accusing them of failing in their obligation to negotiate nuclear disarmament.

The Pacific country accused all nine nuclear-armed states of “flagrant violation of international law” for failing to pursue the negotiations required by the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

It filed one suit specifically directed against the United States, in the Federal District Court in San Francisco, while others against all nine countries were lodged at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, capital of the Netherlands, a statement from an anti-nuclear group backing the suits said.

The action was supported by South African Nobel Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation said.

The Marshall Islands, a grouping of 31 atolls, was occupied by Allied forces in 1944 and placed under US administration in 1947. Between 1946 and 1958, the United States conducted repeated tests of hydrogen and atomic bombs on the islands.

One, on March 1, 1954, was the largest US nuclear test, code-named Bravo. It involved the detonation of a 15-megaton hydrogen bomb on Bikini Atoll, producing an intense fireball followed by a 20-mile-high mushroom cloud and widespread radioactive fallout. The Marshallese government says the blast was 1,000 times more powerful than that at Hiroshima.

The lawsuits state that Article VI of the NPT requires states to negotiate “in good faith” on nuclear disarmament.

The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation said the five original nuclear weapons states — The United States, Russia, Britain, France and China — were all parties to the NPT, while the others (Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea) were “bound by these nuclear disarmament provisions under customary international law”. A copy of the suit against the United States says that it is not aimed at seeking compensation from the United States for the testing in the Marshall Islands, which became an independent republic in 1986.

Under agreements between the United States and the Marshall Islands, a Nuclear Claims Tribunal was established to assess and award damages to victims of the nuclear tests. But it has never had the cash to compensate fully for the damage done.—Reuters

Govt suffers second defeat in two weeks

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: The government faced another defeat in the opposition-dominated Senate on Wednesday when the house rejected the controversial Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) Ordinance with a majority vote.

ISLAMABAD: The government faced another defeat in the opposition-dominated Senate on Wednesday when the house rejected the controversial Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) Ordinance with a majority vote.

This was the second defeat to the government in two weeks as it had earlier failed to block an opposition-sponsored amendment to the Senate rules binding the prime minister to attend a sitting of the house at least once in a week.

Through the PMDC Ordinance promulgated by President Mamnoon Hussain last month, the federal government had acquired the powers to run the affairs of the council through a seven-member committee.

The resolution to disapprove the ordinance had been moved by PPP senators Farhatullah Babar and Raza Rabbani who termed it a violation of the Constitution and against the spirit of provincial autonomy.

They were of the view that the structure and functions of the regulatory bodies could not be changed without the consent of the provinces through the Council of Common Interests.

Deputy Chairman Sabir Baloch put the resolution before the house for a voice vote.

During the question hour, the opposition rejected the figures provided by the interior ministry about sectarian attacks.

They also criticised the government for admitting that it did not have complete data about the madressahs receiving financial assistance from abroad.

Replying to a question of PPP’s Sughra Imam, Minister of State for Interior Balighur Rehman told the house that a total of 2,090 people had been killed in sectarian attacks in the country since 2008.

He said 104 people had been killed in Punjab, 252 in Sindh, 22 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 737 in Balochistan, 867 in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, 103 in Gilgit-Baltistan and five in Islamabad.

He said 73 people had been convicted in cases of sectarian attacks — 26 from Punjab, eight from Balochistan and 139 from Gilgit-Baltistan.

The ANP’s Haji Adeel said the figures appeared to be wrong because the minister had stated that only 22 people had been killed in sectarian attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa whereas he could give examples of various incidents in which more than this number of people had been killed in one instance.

The members expressed concern over no convictions having taken place in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and said very few people as compared to the number of attacks had been convicted in other parts of the country.

The minister said the information had been provided by the provincial governments. He said many cases were pending in courts and the government was taking several measures to expedite them.

Replying to another question by Senator Imam, the minister of state said some seminaries were receiving financial support from other Muslim countries and the remittances were received through banking channels. However, he presented a listed of only 15 madressahs which had received foreign financial support during one year.

Ms Imam said thousands of madressahs were functioning in the country but the minister had provided a list of only a few of them.

The minister again admitted that the government did not have complete details about the matter and said more information would be sought from the provinces.

The deputy chairman deferred both the questions for detailed replies.

According to the list, the seminaries which had received foreign funding through the banking sector were: Madressah Rehmania Tahafuzul Quran (from Qatar); Jamiatul Uloom Al Asria (Dubai); Jamiatul Uloom Al Islamiyah (Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates); Jamiat Ahle Hadith Balochistan (Bahrain); Darul Uloom Anwar Mustafa (UAE); Idara Minhajul Quran (UAE and Qatar); Jamiatul Manahil Al Khairia (Kuwait); Madina Masjid (UAE); Madressah Darul Uloom Baltistan (Kuwait); Masjid Gulzar Ghoi (Saudi Arabia); Jamiatul Islam Khushab (Qatar); Jamia Khairul Madaris (Hong Kong); Jamiat Al Huda Al Khairia Welfare Society (Qatar); Islam Trust (UAE) and Dawat-i-Islami (UAE).

Modi’s remarks encouraging: Pakistan envoy

AFP

NEW DELHI: Pakistan said on Wednesday it was “encouraged” by comments from India’s election frontrunner Narendra Modi who stressed cooperation with foreign governments if he was elected prime minister.

NEW DELHI: Pakistan said on Wednesday it was “encouraged” by comments from India’s election frontrunner Narendra Modi who stressed cooperation with foreign governments if he was elected prime minister.

Critics fear that if elected Mr Modi will adopt a tough foreign policy that could see relations deteriorate with Pakistan and China.

But Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit said he welcomed Mr Modi’s comments in a television interview that he would pursue the policies followed by former BJP premier Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

“I was very much encouraged. They were very positive. It gives us hope that if he is elected as prime minister we should expect more positive things,” Mr Basit told journalists in New Delhi.

Mr Vajpayee sought several times during his tenure to make permanent peace with Pakistan.

New Delhi broke off peace talks with Islamabad after the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which 166 people were killed by Pakistani gunmen.

Making a strong pitch for a resumption of the talks, Mr Basit said dialogue was the only way to resolve outstanding issues such as Kashmir.

Mr Basit said the Pakistani government wished to change the “narrative between the two countries into one of cooperation and trust.

The envoy also said that his government was “keenly looking forward to a government with which Pakistan (can engage) quickly, comprehensively and meaningfully… and move from conflicting relations”.

He added that “terrorism is a common enemy of both countries” and that those who believed Pakistan harboured terrorists “misunderstood the country”.

PLO, Hamas agree to form unity govt

Reuters

GAZA: President Mahmood Abbas’s Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Gaza-based group Hamas agreed on Wednesday to a unity pact, the two sides announced at a news conference.

GAZA: President Mahmood Abbas’s Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Gaza-based group Hamas agreed on Wednesday to a unity pact, the two sides announced at a news conference.

The move, coming after a long line of failed efforts to reconcile after seven years of internal bickering, envisions a unity government within five weeks and national elections six months later.

“This is the good news we tell our people: the era of division is over,” Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh said to loud applause at a press conference also attended by representatives of the PLO.

Israel said after the announcement that Abbas had chosen Hamas over peace, and cancelled a session of US-brokered talks with the Palestinians that had been scheduled for Wednesday night in Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement released by his office that Abbas “chose Hamas and not peace. Whoever chooses Hamas does not want peace.”

The talks, aimed at ending its decades-old conflict with the Palestinians and establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, are scheduled to end on April 29.

Palestinians have long hoped for a healing of the political rift between the PLO and Hamas, which won a Palestinian election in 2006 and seized control of the Gaza Strip from forces loyal to Western-backed Abbas in 2007. But reconciliation dreams have been dashed repeatedly in the past.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki told reporters in the West Bank the unity deal did not interfere with Abbas’s efforts to reach a peace deal with Israel.

“There is also an understanding with Hamas that the president has the mandate to negotiate with Israel on behalf of all the Palestinian people,” al-Malki said.

“When the president reaches an agreement with Israel…(there will be) a referendum where the Palestinian people will decide whether they support such an agreement or not,” he said. Minutes after the announcement, meanwhile, Israel launched an air strike on northern Gaza, wounding 12 people, including several small children, local medical officials said.

Kashmiri officials resign

AFP

SRINAGAR: At least 30 fearful local officials have resigned in India-held Kashmir after militants killed two of their colleagues and issued a warning against voting this week in general elections, residents said on Wednesday.

SRINAGAR: At least 30 fearful local officials have resigned in India-held Kashmir after militants killed two of their colleagues and issued a warning against voting this week in general elections, residents said on Wednesday.

Hand-written notices announcing the resignations were posted in Tral area of the southern Kashmir valley where militants shot dead two officials and another man on Monday night, residents said.

Notices also appeared in local newspapers, while imams read out other resignation letters of officials from panchayat or village councils at mosques in Tral town, residents and media reports said.

Fewer than 10,000 US troops to remain in Afghanistan after ’14

Reuters

WASHINGTON: The number of US troops in Afghanistan may drop well below 10,000 — the minimum demanded by the US military to train Afghan forces — as the longest war in American history winds down, Obama administration officials say.

WASHINGTON: The number of US troops in Afghanistan may drop well below 10,000 — the minimum demanded by the US military to train Afghan forces — as the longest war in American history winds down, Obama administration officials say.

Since Afghanistan’s general election on April 5, White House, State Department and Pentagon officials have resumed discussions on how many American troops should remain after the current US-led coalition ends its mission this year.

The decision to consider a small force, possibly less than 5,000 US troops, reflects a belief among White House officials that Afghan security forces have evolved into a robust enough force to contain a still-potent Taliban-led insurgency. The small US force that would remain could focus on counter-terrorism or training operations.

That belief, the officials say, is based partly on Afghanistan’s surprisingly smooth election, which has won international praise for its high turnout, estimated at 60 per cent of 12 million eligible votes, and the failure of Taliban militants to stage high-profile attacks that day.

The Obama administration has been looking at options for a possible residual US force for months.

“The discussion is very much alive,” said one US official. “They are looking for additional options under 10,000” troops.

There are now about 33,000 US troops in Afghanistan, down from 100,000 in 2011, when troop numbers peaked a decade into a conflict originally intended to deny Al Qaeda sanctuary in Afghanistan after the Sept 11, 2001, attacks.

With British and other foreign troops scheduled to depart in lock step with US soldiers, the size of any residual US force could add fuel to a debate in Washington over whether Taliban-led violence will intensify amid the vacuum left by Western forces, as some US military officials expect.

Military leaders, including American General Joe Dunford, who heads US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, has identified 10,000 soldiers as the minimum needed to help train and advise Afghan forces fighting the insurgency, arguing a smaller force would struggle to protect itself.

During a March visit to Washington, Gen Dunford told lawmakers that without foreign soldiers supporting them, Afghan forces would begin to deteriorate “fairly quickly” in 2015.

The Afghan air force, still several years away from being self-sufficient, would require even more assistance, he said.

A smaller US force could have other unintended consequences, possibly discouraging already sceptical lawmakers from fully funding US commitments to help fund Afghan forces.

At their current size, Afghan forces will cost at least $5 billion in 2015, a sum far beyond the reach of the Afghan government. The United States has been widely expected to be the largest outside funder for those forces.

The Taliban and other militants have been weakened by more than 12 years of Afghan and Nato assaults, but they still can obtain supplies and plan attacks from Afghanistan’s remote mountain regions and tribal areas of Pakistan.

Some analysts are wary of reducing the US presence to less than 10,000 troops.

“If the White House opts to keep a lower number of troops, it will put more pressure on the Afghan forces and run the risk of squandering their recent progress against the Taliban,” said Lisa Curtis, a former CIA analyst and State Department official now with the conservative Heritage Foundation, a think tank in Washington.—Reuters

Khushwant Singh comes home to rest

Zulqernain Tahir

HADALI (Khushab): A son returned to the soil on Tuesday after 99 years.

HADALI (Khushab): A son returned to the soil on Tuesday after 99 years.

A fistful of ashes of legendary writer Khushwant Singh were placed at his school in Hadali, 12km from Khushab city.

Noted Pakistani writer Fakir Syed Aijazuddin had brought the ashes from India to honour the great man’s desire to be “reunited with his roots”.

He placed the ashes in a wall niche at the Government Boys High School, Hadali, where Singh was enrolled as a child. The niche was then covered by a marble plaque which read: “This is where my roots are. I have nourished them with tears of nostalgia.”

In the excited crowd gathered for the ceremony were the headmaster and teachers of the school who had met Mr Singh on his visit to Hadali in 1987.

“A large number of Hadalians turned up in 1987 to welcome Khushwant Singh at his hometown. He addressed us and said ‘as you people go on pilgrimage to Makkah and Madina, coming back to Hadali at the time of Maghreb of my life is my Haj and my Umrah’,” Muhammad Farooq Rana, the headmaster of the school, recalled while talking to Dawn.

The headmaster told a group of students inquisitively looking at the plaque: “Mr Singh was a member of the alumni who rose to fame for his writings. He was also the promoter of peace between India and Pakistan.”

Born in 1915 in Hadali, Khushwant Singh, perhaps India’s most widely read and controversial writer, died on March 20.

Singh was witness to all major events in modern Indian history — from independence and partition to the emergency and Operation Blue Star — and had known many of the figures who shaped it.

It was reported after his death that “a fistful of his ashes had been saved by his family to be taken to Pakistan where an unnamed friend wanted to put them in the ground where he was born”.

After Singh’s death, his son was quoted as saying that condolence messages had kept coming from Pakistan. “I have got a lot of phone calls from people in Pakistan, many of whom I don’t know at all. They had come here and met my dad.

“So we kept some ashes. He will be coming to India and he will take those ashes back,” he said, without revealing the identity of Singh’s Pakistani friend.

That man has turned out to be Fakir Aijazuddin, well known for writings, mainly on history and culture.

“Mr Singh has as many admirers in Pakistan as he does in India. Perhaps this was another reason for his deep attachment to Pakistan and his origin,” Mr Aijazuddin told Dawn after the ceremony.

“When I met Khushwant Singh in Delhi on March 4 this year he expressed a wish to be buried in Hadali. His family agreed to make available a fistful of ashes which I then brought to Pakistan.

“While installing the marble plaque I felt Khushwant Singh’s invisible presence. It was almost as if he had crossed the border with me to be present at Hadali.”

Veteran journalist Burney passes away

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

KARACHI: Izharul Hasan Burney, a journalist with more than five decades of experience, died peacefully on Tuesday at his home after remaining in coma for about four months. He was 83.

KARACHI: Izharul Hasan Burney, a journalist with more than five decades of experience, died peacefully on Tuesday at his home after remaining in coma for about four months. He was 83.

He is survived by his wife, Mrs Khawar Burney, two sons and a daughter.

Known as I.H. Burney, he kept on working until he was physically fit to do so.

Mr Burney was born in Bulandshahr, a small town in Uttar Pradesh about 77km east of New Delhi, on June 24, 1931.

He passed matriculation examinations in his hometown and migrated to Karachi in 1947. He obtained higher education at the University of Karachi.

According to his family members, Mr Burney worked in various government and private organisations for brief periods, including Radio Pakistan, Karachi.

In May 1958, he joined Dawn; his association with the group was to last a lifetime.

He joined the daily as a staff reporter and was initially assigned the crime beat. But in time he was to work on almost all the beats.

Later on, he was given key positions on the desk, working for a fairly long period as the newspaper’s city editor.

He retired from Dawn in June 1991 but was hired as editor of the group’s evening newspaper, Star. He held the position for the next seven years.

In April 1998, he was hired as editorial consultant and remained associated with the group until he was wounded in an accident at home which proved to be fatal.

Mr Burney’s friends and peers described him as a caring gentleman, who was a hard taskmaster and committed professional.

He was a cricket and hockey buff and loved to play chess at the Karachi Press Club with a select group of friends.

He hated deserting and abandoning the people, and even the belongings, he liked. Long after the computer had invaded the newsroom, he had not removed the typewriter that sat on his office table for years. Similar was the case with the Volkswagen Beetle which he bought in 1967.

He was a founding member of the Karachi Press Club, which said in a statement that Mr Burney was among the journalists who fought long and hard for freedom of expression.

His funeral prayers will be offered at Masjid Alfalah, near Rangers Public School, Block A, North Nazimabad, at 9am on Wednesday (today).

Mother Earth Day: UN chief calls for changes in practices

Masood Haider

UNITED NATIONS: Marking the International Mother Earth Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed on Tuesday for worldwide changes in attitude and practice to curb the negative impact of human activity on the planet.

UNITED NATIONS: Marking the International Mother Earth Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed on Tuesday for worldwide changes in attitude and practice to curb the negative impact of human activity on the planet.

“From tropical deforestation to depleted ocean fisheries, from growing freshwater shortages to the rapid decline of biodiversity and increasingly polluted skies and seas in many parts of the world, we see the heavy hand of humankind,” the UN chief said.

As part of the organisation’s efforts to drive home the importance of respecting and protecting the planet towards ensuring ‘the future we want’, the general assembly convened an interactive dialogue on “Harmony with Nature” to commemorate the day.

Mr Ban said: “The air we breathe, the water we drink and the soil that grows our food are part of a delicate global ecosystem that is increasingly under pressure from human activities.”

As such, and with a growing population, everyone must recognise that consumption of the planet’s resources is unsustainable. “We need a global transformation of attitude and practice. It is especially urgent to address how we generate the energy that drives our progress,” said the secretary-general, emphasising that burning fossil fuels is the principal cause of climate change, which increasingly threatens prosperity and stability in all regions.

“That is why world leaders have pledged to reach a global legal climate agreement in 2015.

He said that action on climate change presents multiple opportunities to “reset our relationship” with Mother Earth and improve human wellbeing, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable. Sustainable energy for all can increase health, wealth and opportunity for billions of people, as can climate-smart agriculture, more efficient cities, and better managed and protected forests.

Kashmiri militants kill three, issue poll warning

Reuters

SRINAGAR: Militants killed two officials and another man in India-held Kashmir before issuing a warning to Kashmiris against voting this week in the mammoth elections, police and residents said on Tuesday.

SRINAGAR: Militants killed two officials and another man in India-held Kashmir before issuing a warning to Kashmiris against voting this week in the mammoth elections, police and residents said on Tuesday.

The militants targeted two village council heads in separate attacks late on Monday in Pulwama district south of Srinagar, a senior police officer said.

“Three people including two village heads were killed by local militants active in the area and the attack is aimed to keep the voters away from polling,” Inspector General of Police A.G. Mir said.

“The attackers belong to the local militant organisation Hizbul Mujahideen; they were two in number and we have identified them,” Mir said.

Police were hunting for the attackers, who entered the home of one village head and shot him dead in Tral area of Pulwama district. They killed another senior village official and his 24-year-old son about an hour later in the same area.

Separatists called for a boycott of the general election.—Reuters

Footprints: When Maata calls

Shazia Hasan

Colourful saris and other clothing dry on rocks as several devotees take a dip in the muddy river a couple of kilometres short of the temple. “It is clean for them,” smiles Ali Sher, the driver of one of the buses overloaded with Hindu pilgrims. “We started our bus journey from Tando Mohammad Khan. On the way we stopped at all the temples that fell on our way through Keenjhar, Karachi and the mud volcano a few kilometres away from here. This is like Haj for Hindus and stopping at the different temples along the way is like Umrah for them,” he says.

Colourful saris and other clothing dry on rocks as several devotees take a dip in the muddy river a couple of kilometres short of the temple. “It is clean for them,” smiles Ali Sher, the driver of one of the buses overloaded with Hindu pilgrims. “We started our bus journey from Tando Mohammad Khan. On the way we stopped at all the temples that fell on our way through Keenjhar, Karachi and the mud volcano a few kilometres away from here. This is like Haj for Hindus and stopping at the different temples along the way is like Umrah for them,” he says.

About the Islamic inscriptions on the buses, bus conductor Abdul Raheen says, “We have our writings here, they have their red and orange triangular flags. We don’t mind that. They don’t mind this.”

“All the pilgrims are requested to take full care of the sanctity of Maata Mandir. Please abstain from creating nuisance on the premises. Eating any kind of meat and fish is prohibited. Maata Mandir is open only for the purpose of paying homage to Maata. Don’t come here for picnicking. Please don’t litter, take special care to keep this place clean. Please cover your head when entering Maata Mandir,” reads an inscription on the yellow board next to the mustard and light blue gates left open at this time of year. There are four temples inside, the biggest of which is Nani Mandir.

Pilgrims come to the Sri Maata Hinglaj Mandir from all over Pakistan and abroad. On the first day of the Hinglaj Mela on Sunday, the rumour circulates that Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan may also visit this year. “I read in an Urdu newspaper that he is coming,” says a young boy, keeping an eye on the main gate.

“When we go to India and visit the famous temples there, we are asked whether we have visited Hinglaj Maata in Balochistan. Indian Hindus believe this to be a very sacred spot but sadly they can’t visit easily due to visa issues,” says Baby. When asked for her real name, the woman smiles: “My parents really named me Baby. I wouldn’t lie to you sitting at Maata’s feet here.”

Some people travelled here from Karachi on foot. “We began our journey seven days ago,” says Dhani Mohan from Lyari. “There were 22 people in our group including my sons, daughters, daughters-in-law and grandchildren.”

“Our group comprised 40 people. The young men among us carried our food rations on special carts they made from their bicycles,” says Rajki, another devotee who walked from Karachi’s Bhains Colony. “The more hardship we endure in coming to Maata, they more pleased she’ll be with us. And after reaching here we only feel peace. It refreshes us.”

“I have been coming here every year for several years and each time there is some positive change or the other,” says Mithun Kumar, facilitating pilgrims with pots of cool water. “Earlier, there wasn’t a cemented path leading to the various temples here. There wasn’t even a proper road. And now we also have rest houses and generators for the pilgrims.” He is paid by the Hinglaj Shewa Mandli. “And the committee receives proper funding from the government for looking after the holy spot,” he says.

Along the cemented path, women and children — most of whom are Muslim — sell red threads, worry beads, chunri, and bands with Hindu text inscribed with golden glitter. “The security people are far too strict. They won’t let us sell inside,” complains Zarina. “I also sell at Sehwan during the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar Urs. But security isn’t as tough there as it is here.”

“We have a place for the sellers there,” says Hawaldar Abdul Hameed, gesturing towards the long lines of makeshift shops on either side of the path leading to the entrance gate. “They are not allowed inside but what to do, they hide their stuff in clothes’ bundles and spread them out on display inside,” he explains. “Today is still the first day of the festival. We are bracing ourselves for the rush expected on the second and third days. There won’t even be standing room here, then. And in the crowd there will be people high on God knows what. We don’t allow them inside until they sober up,” he adds. “Every religion deserves respect. We won’t allow any nuisance here.”

Conduct of ferry crew tantamount to murder: South Korean leader

Reuters

JINDO: South Korean President Park Geun-hye said on Monday the actions of some crew of a ferry that sank with hundreds feared dead were tantamount to murder, as a four-year-old video transcript showed the captain promoting the safety of the same route.

JINDO: South Korean President Park Geun-hye said on Monday the actions of some crew of a ferry that sank with hundreds feared dead were tantamount to murder, as a four-year-old video transcript showed the captain promoting the safety of the same route.

Sixty-four people are known to have died and 238 are missing, presumed dead, in the sinking of the Sewol ferry last Wednesday. Most of the victims are high school children.

Captain Lee Joon-seok, 69, and two other crew members were arrested last week on negligence charges, with prosecutors announcing four further arrests — two first mates, one second mate and a chief engineer — on Monday.

Lee was also charged with undertaking an “excessive change of course without slowing down” while traversing a narrow channel.

Several crew members, including the captain, left the ferry as it was sinking, ahead of the passengers, witnesses have said.

Park said the crew’s desertion was tantamount to murder.

“Above all, the conduct of the captain and some crew members is unfathomable from the viewpoint of common sense, and it was like an act of murder that cannot and should not be tolerated,” she told aides.

Lee, the captain, said in a promotional video four years ago that the journey from the port city of Incheon to the holiday island of Jeju was safe — as long as passengers followed the instructions of the crew.

He also told a newspaper that he had been involved in a sea accident off Japan years before.

The irony of the video is the crew ordered the passengers to stay put in their cabins as the ferry sank. As is customary in hierarchical Korean society, the orders were not questioned.

However, many of those who escaped alive either did not hear or flouted the instructions and were rescued as they abandoned ship.

Of the 476 passengers and crew on board, 339 were children and teachers on a high school outing.

“Passengers who take our ship to and from Incheon and Jeju can enjoy a safe and pleasant trip and I believe it is safer than any other vehicle as long as they follow the instructions of our crew members,” Lee said in the 2010 promotional video, according to transcripts broadcast by regional cable station OBS. He was not referring to the Sewol, which came into service on that route in 2013.

The Jeju Today newspaper interviewed Lee in 2004 when he spoke of close shaves at sea including passing through a typhoon and a previous sinking off Japan.

“The first ship I took was a log carrier vessel and it capsized near Okinawa. A helicopter from Japan’s Self-Defence Force came and rescued me. Had it not been for their help, I wouldn’t be here now.” The newspaper did not give further details.

Parents of the children missing in the accident in what is likely to turn out to be one of South Korea’s worst maritime disasters sat exhausted from days of grie, waiting for the almost inevitable news that their loved ones had died. The have spent all their time since the accident in a gymnasium in the port city of Jindo.—Reuters

Senate committee asks govt to unblock YouTube

Kalbe Ali

ISLAMABAD: The Senate’s Functional Committee on Human Rights on Monday recommened that the government unblock the YouTube in Pakistan.

ISLAMABAD: The Senate’s Functional Committee on Human Rights on Monday recommened that the government unblock the YouTube in Pakistan.

A resolution, which was passed unanimously, said the ban be overturned as no such provision was in place in any other Muslim country.

Committee chairman Afrasiab Khattak of the Awami National Party, while reading the resolution, pointed out: “There is no ban on YouTube in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.”

Members of the human rights committee expressed concern over the long-running ban and maintained that YouTube could still be accessed through proxies and other means.

“The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority chairman has already told (us) that there is no advantage of the ban,” Khattak said. Committee members noted that Internet users could still access restricted videos, making the ban irrelevant. They also resolved to raise the issue on the floor of the Senate.

YouTube has been blocked since September 2012, when it refused to take down a film that was offensive to Muslims and had sparked protests around the world.

The committee was also told by the Sindh home secretary that the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance had been implemented in Sindh, angering some senators.

The MQM’s Nasreen Jalil said that more than 45 workers of her party had gone missing in recent days, while 20 had been killed ‘extra-judicially.’

Her statement was seconded by the PPP’s Farhatullah Babar, who said that following the implementation of the PPO, there had been increasing reports of extrajudicial killings in Karachi.

Committee members also condemned the attack on journalist Hamid Mir, calling it ‘an attack on freedom of expression’. The senators called on the government to take stringent action against those responsible. “The government should act to stem the rising tide of violence against journalists in the country,” PPP Senator Sehar Kamran said, adding that “media houses should also avoid levelling allegations against security agencies before an inquiry is conducted”.

The committee reacted sharply to reports of cannibalism in Bhakkar. “The government should either amend existing laws or introduce legislation against cannibalism,” the committee chairman said. The committee unanimously passed a resolution calling on the Punjab government to act swiftly against the two brothers accused of eating human flesh.

S. Sudan rebels carried out ethnic massacre: UN

AFP

JUBA: Rebel gunmen in South Sudan massacred “hundreds” of civilians because of their ethnicity when they captured a key oil town last week, the UN said on Monday, one of the worst reported atrocities in the war-torn nation.

JUBA: Rebel gunmen in South Sudan massacred “hundreds” of civilians because of their ethnicity when they captured a key oil town last week, the UN said on Monday, one of the worst reported atrocities in the war-torn nation.

In the main mosque alone, “more than 200 civilians were reportedly killed and over 400 wounded,” the UN mission in the country said.

Civilians including children were also massacred at a church, hospital and an abandoned UN World Food Programme (WFP) compound, it said.

Fighters said on the radio rival groups should be forced from the town of Bentiu, and urged men to rape women from the opposition ethnic group.

South Sudan’s army has been fighting rebels loyal to sacked vice-president Riek Machar, who launched a renewed offensive this month targeting key oil fields.

The conflict has taken on an ethnic dimension, pitting President Salva Kiir’s Dinka tribe against militia forces from Machar’s Nuer people.

UN human rights investigators said that after rebels wrested Bentiu from government forces in heavy battles last Tuesday, the gunmen spent two days hunting down those they believed opposed them.

Both South Sudanese and Sudanese – some from the war-torn Darfur region – were killed, the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said in a statement.

Toby Lanzer, the top UN aid official in the country, told RFI radio on Monday what he had witnessed was “beyond description”, describing “a never-ending stream of spots where people have been executed, very deliberately targeted.

“They (the rebels) searched a number of places where hundreds of South Sudanese and foreign civilians had taken refuge, and killed hundreds of the civilians after determining their ethnicity or nationality,” the UN said.

Some rebels took to the local radio to “broadcast hate messages declaring that certain ethnic groups should not stay in Bentiu, and even calling on men from one community to commit vengeful sexual violence against women from another community,” the statement added.

Rebel spokesman Lul Ruai Koang, in a statement released shortly after the capture of the town had praised the “gallant forces” of having completed “mopping and cleaning up operations in and around Bentiu”.

At the Kali-Ballee mosque, where hundreds had taken shelter, the rebels “separated individuals of certain nationalities and ethnic groups and escorted them to safety, while the others were killed,” the UN report said.

At the hospital, “several Nuer men, women and children were killed for hiding and declining to join other Nuers who had gone out to cheer” the rebels as they entered the town, the UN said.

Peacekeepers later rescued over 500 civilians, many of them wounded, from the hospital and other sites, as well as guarding “thousands” of civilians as they continue to stream towards the UN base, where over 25,000 people are now crammed in for shelter.

Similar killings were reported at the Catholic church and WFP compound.

UN aid worker Amanda Weyler described “nightmarish scenes” with “scores of bodies” still scattered on the streets after visiting Monday.

The capture of Bentiu came two days before gunmen stormed a UN compound in which at least 58 people were killed, with peacekeepers fighting back to protect over 5,000 civilians sheltering there who the attackers had wanted to kill.

The UN Security Council said that attack may “constitute a war crime”.

The surge in fighting in the four-month-long conflict comes amid warnings by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that more than one million people are at risk of famine in the war-torn country.

A ceasefire deal is in tatters, while peace talks in luxury hotels in Ethiopia have made little, if any progress.

Bentiu is the first major settlement to have been retaken in a renewed offensive by Machar’s forces, with the rebels saying on Monday that fighting continued in Unity state, boasting of further villages they had captured.

They could not be contacted for comment on the reports of massacres. The conflict in South Sudan, which only won independence from Sudan in 2011, has left thousands dead and forced around a million people to flee their homes.

The fighting has been marked by reports and allegations of atrocities by both sides, with ethnic massacres, child soldier recruitment and patients raped and murdered in hospitals by attacking forces.—AFP

Cameron criticised for saying Britain is Christian country

AFP

LONDON: Prime Minister David Cameron was accused on Monday of sowing sectarianism and division after his repeated assertions that Britain is still a “Christian country”, proving how problematic it remains to mix faith and British politics.

LONDON: Prime Minister David Cameron was accused on Monday of sowing sectarianism and division after his repeated assertions that Britain is still a “Christian country”, proving how problematic it remains to mix faith and British politics.

More than 50 public figures from the arts and sciences signed an open letter rejecting Mr Cameron’s characterisation of multi-cultural, multi-faith Britain and warning that such a claim “fosters alienation and division in our society”.

Their criticism came after Mr Cameron used an Easter message to urge Britons to be “more evangelical” about their religion and “more confident about our status as a Christian country”.

The Conservative leader has always been open about his Church of England faith but in the past has said his belief in God “goes in and out”, comparing it to an unreliable radio signal.

In recent weeks he has been increasingly outspoken, however, dispensing with the trend set by his predecessors for discreet Anglican faith that will not upset secular Britain.

“Some people feel that in this ever more secular age we shouldn’t talk about these things. I completely disagree,” Mr Cameron wrote last week in the Church Times, an Anglican newspaper.

“I believe we should be more confident about our status as a Christian country, more ambitious about expanding the role of faith-based organisations, and, frankly, more evangelical about a faith that compels us to get out there and make a difference to people’s lives.”

In an open letter organised by the British Humanist Association and published in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, critics disputed Mr Cameron’s claim that Britain is still a Christian country.

While the established Church of England runs state-funded schools and has Queen Elizabeth II as its Supreme Governor, the signatories noted many Britons do not identify themselves as Christian.

“Constantly to claim otherwise fosters alienation and division in our society,” said the letter, signed by writers Philip Pullman and Terry Pratchett and the Nobel Prize-winning scientists John Sulston and Harold Kroto.

They added that highlighting the social contribution of Christians above others “needlessly fuels enervating sectarian debates”.

The majority — 59.3 per cent — of people in England and Wales said they were Christian in the last census in 2011, but this is down from 71.7pc 10 years earlier.

The number of those reporting no religion was 25.1pc, up from 14.8pc in 2001 — among them Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, and opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband.

Mr Cameron’s new public evangelism may help build bridges with the Church, which opposed the introduction of gay marriage last year and whose members have criticised the impact of the government’s austerity measures.

But the criticism he has provoked is a reminder of how tricky the issue can be.

Former Labour prime minister Tony Blair was a devout Christian but his spokesman Alistair Campbell stopped him from answering questions about his faith, once declaring: “We don’t do God. “Blair converted to Catholicism after leaving office in 2007, but said he was reticent to discuss faith before then because “you always get into trouble talking about it”.

A spokeswoman for Mr Cameron said the prime minister had made clear as far back as December 2011 that he believed Britain was a Christian country, although he recognises the importance of different faith groups.

“He has said on many occasions that he is incredibly proud that Britain is home to many different faith communities, who do so much to make the UK a stronger country,” she said.

Anil Bhanot, managing director of the Hindu Council UK, told the BBC that he was “very comfortable” with Britain being described as a Christian country.—AFP

Drones kill 40 Al Qaeda suspects in Yemen

AFP

ADEN: Weekend drone strikes in Yemen killed more than 40 suspected Al Qaeda militants, including 30 on Sunday.

ADEN: Weekend drone strikes in Yemen killed more than 40 suspected Al Qaeda militants, including 30 on Sunday.

The United States is the only country that operates drones in Yemen, and President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi has defended their use despite criticism from rights groups who deplore civilian casualties.

On Sunday, US drones fired “several missiles” into a training camp run by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in the rugged Wadi Ghadina region in the southern province of Abyan, a tribal chief said.

“More than 30 members of Al Qaeda were killed and many others wounded,” near Al-Mahfad town, he said.

Abyan lies next to Shabwa province, another region of Yemen where Al Qaeda is entrenched.

Witnesses also said a US drone carried out the attack and that most of the wounded were evacuated by members of the extremist network.

A statement on the defence ministry’s website said the attack on Al Qaeda ‘training camps’ killed ‘several’ militants of various nationalities.

On Saturday, a drone strike in the central province of Baida killed 10 Al Qaeda suspects and three civilians, according to the official Saba news agency.

After that strike, Al Qaeda militants cordoned off the area and evacuated dead comrades, tribal sources said. They said all those killed were low-ranking militants from the region.

An official statement on Saba said the dead were “dangerous elements” who had been plotting to carry out “attacks on vital installations and on politicians and military personnel” in Baida.

The statement said the suspects were also responsible for the murder of Baida’s deputy governor on April 15.

The weekend attacks came less than a week after AQAP chief Nasser al-Wuhayshi pledged in a rare video appearance to fight Western “crusaders” everywhere.

“We will continue to raise the banner of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula and our war against the crusaders will continue everywhere in the world,” he said in the video posted online.

Al Qaeda usually uses the term ‘crusaders’ to refer to Western powers, especially the ones which have intervened militarily in Muslim countries, mainly the United States, Britain and France.

Abdullah widens lead in Afghan poll

AFP

KABUL: Former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah is well ahead of his main rival in Afghanistan’s presidential election, officials said on Sunday after half of the ballots were counted, though a run-off vote still looks likely next month.

KABUL: Former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah is well ahead of his main rival in Afghanistan’s presidential election, officials said on Sunday after half of the ballots were counted, though a run-off vote still looks likely next month.

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced that Abdullah was in the lead with 44.4 per cent followed by former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani with 33.2 per cent of the votes counted so far from the April 5 election.

If no candidate gains more than 50 per cent, a second-round election between the two leading names is tentatively scheduled for May 28.

Hundreds of serious fraud allegations are being investigated after the eight-candidate election to succeed Hamid Karzai, who has ruled Afghanistan since the Taliban regime was ousted in 2001.

“We knew and believed in ourselves that we would be leading other candidates by a huge margin,” Abdullah said after the partial results gave him an 11 percentage-point lead, adding that his campaign team had concerns about cheating.

“We have filed our complaints with the Election Complaints Commission,” he said. “We want to assure the people of Afghanistan we will defend and protect their votes.”

The 2009 election, when Karzai retained power, was marred by massive fraud in a chaotic process that shook confidence in the multinational efforts to develop Afghanistan and also started a sharp decline in relations with the US.

Ghani on Saturday also pointed to alleged fraud, in one sign that the final result could be disputed.

“There is still vagueness, and the point is that these votes are still changing,” he said after the latest batch of results. “Fraud is not allowed in law at all, and it is not acceptable.”

Ghani would be a serious contender in a head-to-head run-off as he is more favoured by the Pakhtun, the country’s largest ethnic group, than Abdullah, who gains much of his support from Tajiks.

With 3.45 million votes now counted, the overall turnout is set to be nearly seven million voters from an estimated electorate of 13.5 million — well above the 2009 turnout.

“The figures are partial, and the result is changeable,” Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani, the IEC chief, warned, adding that only votes that had cleared fraud tests had been counted.

Fight against Taliban

The eventual winner will have to lead the fight against a resilient Taliban insurgency as US-led combat troops leave Afghanistan this year, and must also strengthen an economy that is reliant on declining aid money.

A week ago, the first 10 per cent of the vote was announced with Abdullah collecting 41.9 per cent and Ghani on 37.6 per cent.

Both leading candidates have expressed confidence they will win the election in the first round, but they also vowed to fight on if a run-off is necessary.

Abdullah, who came second to Karzai in 2009, has signalled that he may be open to constitutional changes that could allow for a power-sharing deal before the run-off.

Ghani has also alluded to possible negotiations, but it is uncertain how any new system could accommodate the two rivals or how long it would take to implement.

Karzai, who is constitutionally barred from serving a third term, has dominated Afghanistan’s violent post-Taliban era and is set to play an influential role behind the scenes in the next administration.

Ukraine rebels call for Russian help after deadly gunfight

AFP

SLAVYANSK: Pro-Kremlin rebels in east Ukraine appealed on Sunday for help from Russian “peacekeepers” after a deadly gunfight killed at least two of their militants, shattering an Easter truce and sparking “outrage” in Moscow.

SLAVYANSK: Pro-Kremlin rebels in east Ukraine appealed on Sunday for help from Russian “peacekeepers” after a deadly gunfight killed at least two of their militants, shattering an Easter truce and sparking “outrage” in Moscow.

But the Western-backed authorities in Kiev claimed the violence was a set-up by Russia to create a pretext for it to send in troops.

The attack, near the flashpoint town of Slavyansk, undermined an accord worked out in Geneva between Russia, Ukraine and Western powers on Thursday under which “illegal armed groups” were to surrender their weapons.

The deal, aimed at easing what has become the worst crisis between Russia and the West since the Cold War, now appears to have stalled.

Russia has an estimated 40,000 troops massed on Ukraine’s border in what Nato says is a state of readiness to invade, while the United States, according to The Washington Post, is preparing to send ground troops to neighbouring Poland.

Vladimir, a masked 20-year-old pro-Russia rebel, said Sunday’s shootout erupted when four cars pulled up to a roadblock manned by the separatists in the early morning hours.

“We wanted to conduct a check, and then they opened fire on us with automatic weapons,” he said.

Three of the separatists were killed, he said.

A photographer saw two bodies laid out in a truck near the scene. The identity of the assailants, who escaped before the pro-Russia rebels could bring in reinforcements, was not known.

The leader of the separatists in Slavyansk, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, said he believed two attackers were also killed. He declared a midnight-to-6am curfew in Slavyansk, and appealed for Russian President Vladimir Putin to send in troops as “peacekeepers to defend the population against the fascists”.

Later, Ponomaryov said: “If you can’t send peacekeeping forces, send us weapons.”

Footprints: Fighting the good fight

Saher Baloch

Minutes after the convoy of Sindh High Court Chief Justice Maqbool Baqar was attacked on Burnes Road last year, the bomb site was surrounded by paramilitary forces and cameramen. In their bid to get the first-hand account, the police forgot to cordon the area off and most of the circumstantial evidence was lost. The next day, the forensic division of the Sindh police adjacent to the police headquarters in Garden received only a mobile handset that was apparently used in the attack.

Minutes after the convoy of Sindh High Court Chief Justice Maqbool Baqar was attacked on Burnes Road last year, the bomb site was surrounded by paramilitary forces and cameramen. In their bid to get the first-hand account, the police forgot to cordon the area off and most of the circumstantial evidence was lost. The next day, the forensic division of the Sindh police adjacent to the police headquarters in Garden received only a mobile handset that was apparently used in the attack.

In his well-furnished office, the head of the department, AIG Ashfaq Alam, says: “It’s all about having sensitivity towards the crime scene. Apart from newsmen, police officers are also known to destroy the evidence.”

The first thing one notices about the edifice is its bleached-out appearance. But inside, the corridors smell of fresh paint. The staff recently moved back to Garden after spending eight months in Lines Area. The sparse security inside the forensic division’s offices, which Alam says received “multiple threats within the past two years”, is surprising.

At present, he is busy digitising and modernising the entire forensic system, criticised in the past for its lack of management. Alam says the foremost thing the department needs is to be taken seriously.

A police officer sitting nearby mentions an incident where the department received a gun from a Station House Officer of a police station. One of the technicians carried out a ‘unique signature analysis’ on the weapon — only to find it was a toy.

Clarifying, Alam says: “Such incidents are taken care of with a harsh warning to the commanding officer.”

He speaks about the low conviction rate in the city (three per cent) and the continuing “penal culture where circumstantial evidence is not considered much”.

“The world over,” he says, “forensics is considered an integral part of investigation but we still rely on eyewitnesses who don’t show up for their own reasons.”

Built in 1983, the building was previously known as the Criminalistic Division and had a separate department for collecting forensic evidence. It was renamed forensic division in 2009, the idea being to merge chemical examination, DNA and pathology. The total number of staff at the department is 117, including the two sub-units in Hyderabad and Larkana.

The building is not specifically designed to be a forensic lab, says Alam while giving me a tour of the long but narrow corridors and small brightly-lit rooms. “We had to put in a lot of efforts to introduce the sort of software we wanted. The structure needs a serious uplift. Plus, there’s the threat of an attack. We need enough space to move around comfortably.”

Apart from the Sindh government, international donors such as the United States, Australia and Canada helped give the department a jumpstart.

It was former IG Mushtaq Shah who introduced a plan in February 2012 to upgrade the department. It has various modern technologies including software that can put together data of two million fingerprints, get the unique signature of a weapon, and collect deleted data from an email account, mobile phone or SIM card. But what it lacks is a database putting together criminal records such as mugshots and DNA samples.

The latter are still sent to Islamabad and Lahore which have well-equipped forensic departments, Alam says. “The chain of custody of the evidence is, however, compromised at times, which is aggravating.”

Another senior official requesting anonymity said even the recovery of a National Identity Card from a crime scene is not too helpful, as the police need the “family tree” of the criminal to investigate further leads. “For that we are in touch with Nadra. But it’s a tussle. It is a similar fight we had with cellular companies over giving us the authorisation to review phone records. We took them to court, let’s see what happens in this case,” he says.

With software for collecting fingerprints, the department is still waiting for a source code. Though the Memorandum of Understanding signed with the donor agency mentions it, the department is still waiting. Similarly, another MoU signed by the forensics department and a donor agency agreed upon providing a DNA-testing device but that hasn’t materialised either.

Meanwhile, Karachi police chief Shahid Hayat says that there’s still no sensitivity regarding what needs to be collected from a crime scene. “We are still waiting for the DNA lab to be put up by the end of this month. The tasks are many ahead of us and crime is not going to stop until we get these things done. But I see improvement. We waited this far, let’s see…” he says, trailing off.

SC urged to regulate use of suo motu powers

Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: An international judicial conference on Saturday called for discouraging a roving and supervisory role of superior courts in efforts to ensure compliance with laws dealing with fundamental rights.

ISLAMABAD: An international judicial conference on Saturday called for discouraging a roving and supervisory role of superior courts in efforts to ensure compliance with laws dealing with fundamental rights.

At its closing ceremony, Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani read out a set of recommendations formulated at the two-day conference which was attended by local as well as foreign delegates.

The conference urged the superior judiciary to exercise its jurisdiction in such a manner that the courts were not overburdened with civil and political claims.

A declaration adopted at the conference proposed that the Supreme Court should exercise its suo motu jurisdiction under a structured and regulated scheme and said the principle of trichotomy of powers enshrined in the Constitution should be respected so that the exercise of judicial powers neither hampers nor stunts policies of the executive.

The sanctity of people’s trust in the legislature must be kept in mind while seeking judicial review of legislative instruments.

The subordinate judiciary should also play a pivotal role in safeguarding the fundamental rights of citizens.

The declaration urged the judiciary to ensure access to speedy justice and abridge the lengthy legal procedures and hurdles faced by the litigants.

It called for designating a court of sessions as a human rights court for a particular district. It said that legal aid facilities should be provided to the marginalised sections of society.

The declaration recommended that social, cultural and economic rights be identified as inalienable rights, to help foster social justice. The legislature should identify structural issues resulting from social and economic disparities which created hurdles in the fulfilment of constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights.

The conference said the judiciary should remain conversant with human rights challenges being raised and addressed all over the world. The rights for protection of minorities must be effectively and meaningfully enforced.

The conference also called for an empirical study to examine the causes of maladministration in various jurisdictions of Pakistan’s judicial system. This study should focus on identifying the primary causes of delay; means of supplementing human resources and infrastructural capacity of courts; current public perception of fairness of the judicial process; sufficiency of the powers of the district judiciary for the purpose of providing proper/effective oversight of executive authorities as well as legislative, judicial and administrative measures which may be taken to provide greater access to justice.

Investors fearful of intervention: Dr Ishrat

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: Former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan Dr Ishrat Husain said on Saturday the fear of suo motu intervention by the Supreme Court or high courts in financial transactions and grant of stay by them during lengthy proceedings had contributed towards elevating the country’s risk profile.

ISLAMABAD: Former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan Dr Ishrat Husain said on Saturday the fear of suo motu intervention by the Supreme Court or high courts in financial transactions and grant of stay by them during lengthy proceedings had contributed towards elevating the country’s risk profile.

“Even if the investors and businesses cross all hurdles imposed by the federal or provincial and local governments, they are now faced with an additional constraint that adds to uncertainty and unpredictability of investing and doing business in Pakistan,” he said while reading a paper on ‘Judicial review of administrative actions’ at a session of the judicial conference presided over by Justice Nasirul Mulk.

Dr Husain, who headed the central bank from 1999 to 2005, deplored the practice of filing of frivolous petitions by parties not pleased with the outcome of executive decisions. A large number of frivolous petitions were filed every year which had dire consequences for the economy, he said.

Without naming the Reko Diq gold and copper exploration case, he said very few countries would scare away a potential $3 billion investment by world’s leading mining companies for exploring resources in a difficult area.

“And when the investor seeks international arbitration, we spend millions of dollars in the tribunals to defend our actions. Meanwhile, the mining operations are at a standstill and whatever little foreign exchange we earn through exports is not accruing at a time when we need it badly,” he remarked.

“We do not acknowledge that we don’t have the technical knowhow, financial resources and organisational ability in the public sector to run such a sophisticated operation but we take pride in making false and misplaced assertions,” he said.

Dr Husain also shed light on the liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, also the subject of a suo motu case, and said any country facing an acute shortage of energy, particularly gas, would take exceptional measures to find resources for overcoming the shortfall.

“But for the past four years we have had several tenders, biddings and awards which could not proceed further due to court interventions,” he said.

Dr Husain also referred to the famous case against the privatisation of the Pakistan Steel Mills and said not a single transaction of privatisation had been carried out after that decision. “We have incurred losses of Rs100bn or more in the Steel Mills but its production is hardly one-tenth of its installed capacity, although we have to import the products which the mills used to fabricate and spend valuable foreign exchange. We are also obligated to pay salaries and wages to the employees who are presently not rendering any productive service.

“The more pernicious fallout of this decision is the sense of fear among the civil servants and political leaders for putting out any public assets for sale or transfer to the private sector to avoid the wrath of the judiciary.”

Editorial News

Sectarian violence

Editorial

HOW many have died in sectarian violence in Pakistan since 2008? More than 2,000 was the answer Minister of State for Interior Balighur Rehman gave in the Senate on Wednesday. The bald number may be grim enough, but so are the details that Mr Rehman shared: from Fata to Islamabad and Balochistan to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, no part of the country has been spared sectarian violence. What the raw numbers do not tell though is the evolving pattern of the violence. What began as targeted killings of members of the Shia community (and, on a much lesser scale, reprisal attacks against virulently sectarian Sunni elements) has now escalated to indiscriminate attacks on markets, buses, religious sites and really any place where a gathering of a particular sect can be identified and targeted. It is a war on entire communities, even if it has not reached anywhere near the term ‘genocide’ that is unhappily bandied about without much regard for reality. What is real is the pervasive fear that has gripped certain communities and many parts of the country.

HOW many have died in sectarian violence in Pakistan since 2008? More than 2,000 was the answer Minister of State for Interior Balighur Rehman gave in the Senate on Wednesday. The bald number may be grim enough, but so are the details that Mr Rehman shared: from Fata to Islamabad and Balochistan to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, no part of the country has been spared sectarian violence. What the raw numbers do not tell though is the evolving pattern of the violence. What began as targeted killings of members of the Shia community (and, on a much lesser scale, reprisal attacks against virulently sectarian Sunni elements) has now escalated to indiscriminate attacks on markets, buses, religious sites and really any place where a gathering of a particular sect can be identified and targeted. It is a war on entire communities, even if it has not reached anywhere near the term ‘genocide’ that is unhappily bandied about without much regard for reality. What is real is the pervasive fear that has gripped certain communities and many parts of the country.

What happens next depends on how seriously the state takes the threat and how the communities themselves react. So far, other than in small pockets, there has been no communal violence, but tensions are rising because of the continuing proliferation of hate speech and paraphernalia. The question is really that of a tipping point and how far society is from it at the moment. Historically, despite all the allegations of a proxy Saudi-Iran war playing out inside Pakistan, sectarian violence has been sporadic and, usually, quickly contained. Part of that may have to do with demographics, as the sectarian equation is not overwhelmingly lopsided and sects are not confined to a few geographical zones, so there is much side-by-side existence. In fact, the communities do mingle and mix a great deal. Yet, this much is also clear: the historical pattern can be changed and tolerance can be eroded if elements bent on doing so are allowed to operate freely and the narrative of hate is not pushed back against.

So, what is the state doing about any of that? The interior ministry provided the province-wise breakdown of sectarian violence over the last six years, but how many of the murders have been investigated, how many of the killers identified and how many prosecutions secured? Surely, it is only a fraction, if that, of the violence that has been enumerated by the interior ministry. Meanwhile, the tentacles of fear continue to spread. In Karachi, the Majlis-i-Wahadat-i-Muslimeen have claimed several Shias have been killed in recent days, while the Ahl-i-Sunnat Wal Jamaat has alleged their members have also been killed. And Karachi is just one part of the national sectarian cauldron that is bubbling ominously. Does the state have any answers?

Gilgit-Baltistan alienation

Editorial

THE ongoing popular protests that have roiled Gilgit-Baltistan over the past 10 days are reflective of the growing sense of alienation the region’s people are beginning to feel. Thousands have taken to the streets in various towns of GB, with major sit-ins taking place in Gilgit and Skardu. The ostensible trigger for the protests was the recent withdrawal of the wheat subsidy, which has sent prices of the essential food item spiralling in the underdeveloped region. However, the demonstrations, organised under the banner of the Awami Action Committee, an umbrella group bringing together over 20 political, religious and nationalist parties, are about more than just the price of wheat. The protesters have issued a charter of nine demands, which range from reduction in the prices of other basic items to bringing down load-shedding. The demonstrations are also being seen as a manifestation of popular frustration with the regional government for alleged corruption, especially in the GB education department, where jobs were reportedly doled out through questionable means. It is also noteworthy that protests have cut across sectarian and sub-regional lines, as both the Shia and Sunni communities are participating and people from all districts in the region are marching for their demands.

THE ongoing popular protests that have roiled Gilgit-Baltistan over the past 10 days are reflective of the growing sense of alienation the region’s people are beginning to feel. Thousands have taken to the streets in various towns of GB, with major sit-ins taking place in Gilgit and Skardu. The ostensible trigger for the protests was the recent withdrawal of the wheat subsidy, which has sent prices of the essential food item spiralling in the underdeveloped region. However, the demonstrations, organised under the banner of the Awami Action Committee, an umbrella group bringing together over 20 political, religious and nationalist parties, are about more than just the price of wheat. The protesters have issued a charter of nine demands, which range from reduction in the prices of other basic items to bringing down load-shedding. The demonstrations are also being seen as a manifestation of popular frustration with the regional government for alleged corruption, especially in the GB education department, where jobs were reportedly doled out through questionable means. It is also noteworthy that protests have cut across sectarian and sub-regional lines, as both the Shia and Sunni communities are participating and people from all districts in the region are marching for their demands.

Though steps had been taken to give GB greater rights during the Musharraf regime and the last PPP government — especially increased autonomy for the region — the protests indicate that Islamabad still considers Gilgit-Baltistan a remote locale not at par with the rest of Pakistan. The major reason for the region remaining in limbo is its historical link to the Kashmir dispute. However, ensuring that the fundamental rights of the people are respected should not have to wait for the resolution of the Kashmir question. While giving the region an elected legislature was a major step forward, democratic goals will not be realised until the regional government is transparent, autonomous and responsive to the demands of the people. Both the GB government and Islamabad — which only awoke to the crisis several days after the protests started — must look into the protesters’ legitimate demands in the short term while in the long term, more must be done to ensure that the local people enjoy the same rights that others in Pakistan are supposed to.

Fatah-Hamas unity

Editorial

ISRAEL has overreacted to Palestinian unity moves. On Wednesday, shortly after Fatah and Hamas announced plans to form a unity government within five weeks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the move, decided to boycott peace talks scheduled for the day and said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had chosen “Hamas, and not peace”. What Mr Netanyahu forgets is that unity among Palestinians is the first, essential step towards having successful talks aimed at ending the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and creating an independent Palestinian state. Besides, as Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki said, there was an understanding between Hamas and Fatah that Mr Abbas had the mandate to negotiate with Israel on behalf of all Palestinians. The US-brokered talks between Israel and Palestine are scheduled to end next week, but the Likud government has found a pretext to walk out. Israel does not appear to have any plans of quitting the occupied territories, and has continued to establish new settlements and expand existing ones, with the Jewish population on the West Bank having reached half a million. Lately, there have been vague feelers from Israel aiming at doing away with the 1967 borders.

ISRAEL has overreacted to Palestinian unity moves. On Wednesday, shortly after Fatah and Hamas announced plans to form a unity government within five weeks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the move, decided to boycott peace talks scheduled for the day and said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had chosen “Hamas, and not peace”. What Mr Netanyahu forgets is that unity among Palestinians is the first, essential step towards having successful talks aimed at ending the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and creating an independent Palestinian state. Besides, as Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Maliki said, there was an understanding between Hamas and Fatah that Mr Abbas had the mandate to negotiate with Israel on behalf of all Palestinians. The US-brokered talks between Israel and Palestine are scheduled to end next week, but the Likud government has found a pretext to walk out. Israel does not appear to have any plans of quitting the occupied territories, and has continued to establish new settlements and expand existing ones, with the Jewish population on the West Bank having reached half a million. Lately, there have been vague feelers from Israel aiming at doing away with the 1967 borders.

The split between Fatah and Hamas following the 2006 elections hurt the Palestinian cause immensely. There have been attempts in the past, such as those by Hosni Mubarak, to unite the two factions, because the discord and violence had turned the West Bank and Gaza into two cantons with no status in international law. All eyes will now be on Hamas and Fatah to see how long the new arrangement will last. Unity between Fatah and Hamas is the prime condition for forging a united front for the liberation of Palestine from Israeli occupation. The two sides must pledge they will accept the results of the elections, scheduled within six months, whosoever wins.

ISI and media infighting

Editorial

IN the bizarre, whiplash-inducing fallout of the Hamid Mir shooting, an alarming new twist has occurred: the Ministry of Defence — really, the army/ISI leadership — has petitioned Pemra to cancel the TV licence of Geo News while also calling for action against the Jang group’s flagship newspapers under the defamation and press laws of the country. Cloaked in indignation, outrage and outright fury at the allegedly scurrilous coverage of the ISI, the army’s move — and the government’s acquiescence — is deeply troubling because it takes aim at the existence of an independent and free media. Certain basic issues need to be reiterated first. To begin with, Hamid Mir was shot in a targeted attack because of his work as a prominent journalist — and there seems to be little to no concern any longer about who may have been behind the attack and why. Next, the wildly emotional, over-the-top and accusatory coverage by Geo News after the attack on Mr Mir was clearly misguided and far from the best practices of a responsible media.

IN the bizarre, whiplash-inducing fallout of the Hamid Mir shooting, an alarming new twist has occurred: the Ministry of Defence — really, the army/ISI leadership — has petitioned Pemra to cancel the TV licence of Geo News while also calling for action against the Jang group’s flagship newspapers under the defamation and press laws of the country. Cloaked in indignation, outrage and outright fury at the allegedly scurrilous coverage of the ISI, the army’s move — and the government’s acquiescence — is deeply troubling because it takes aim at the existence of an independent and free media. Certain basic issues need to be reiterated first. To begin with, Hamid Mir was shot in a targeted attack because of his work as a prominent journalist — and there seems to be little to no concern any longer about who may have been behind the attack and why. Next, the wildly emotional, over-the-top and accusatory coverage by Geo News after the attack on Mr Mir was clearly misguided and far from the best practices of a responsible media.

MQM in government again

Editorial

THE MQM’s decision to join the Sindh government is not altogether surprising. The love-hate relationship that it enjoys with the PPP has seen the Muttahida joining and then exiting the provincial government several times in the past. Clearly, the PPP, which enjoys a comfortable majority in the provincial legislature, did not need the MQM seats when the latter party returned to the treasury benches on Tuesday. But former president Asif Zardari — for reasons not entirely clear — had reportedly worked hard to bring the MQM back into the fold. It should be recalled that during the PPP’s last government in Sindh, the MQM came and went a number of times. It left the treasury benches on a variety of pretexts. And in the days since last year’s general elections, relations between the two parties have been less than cordial. However, the nature of politics in Sindh is such that while the PPP has a commanding presence in the rural hinterland, the MQM holds sway in urban Sindh, especially in cities located in the lower part of the province. So, keeping the political realities of the province in mind, the formation of the coalition should be welcomed.

THE MQM’s decision to join the Sindh government is not altogether surprising. The love-hate relationship that it enjoys with the PPP has seen the Muttahida joining and then exiting the provincial government several times in the past. Clearly, the PPP, which enjoys a comfortable majority in the provincial legislature, did not need the MQM seats when the latter party returned to the treasury benches on Tuesday. But former president Asif Zardari — for reasons not entirely clear — had reportedly worked hard to bring the MQM back into the fold. It should be recalled that during the PPP’s last government in Sindh, the MQM came and went a number of times. It left the treasury benches on a variety of pretexts. And in the days since last year’s general elections, relations between the two parties have been less than cordial. However, the nature of politics in Sindh is such that while the PPP has a commanding presence in the rural hinterland, the MQM holds sway in urban Sindh, especially in cities located in the lower part of the province. So, keeping the political realities of the province in mind, the formation of the coalition should be welcomed.

Speaking after two MQM lawmakers took oath as ministers on Tuesday, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah commented that together both parties could serve the province better. We sincerely hope this is the outcome of this political development. As most indicators show, the province is lagging behind when it comes to development, while the law and order situation in both cities and the interior is deplorable. The PPP and MQM must put aside politicking and work towards addressing the issues that ail Sindh so that good governance can be delivered to its people. To enable this, the PPP must not use its numbers in the provincial assembly to browbeat the MQM and steamroll legislation. For its part, the Muttahida must not act like an opposition party while enjoying the fruits of power. If they make up their minds in earnest, Sindh’s two major political forces can work for the welfare of the whole province and alleviate poverty, crime and corruption, which are among the main impediments standing in the way of the province’s progress.

Men planning families

Editorial

That this awakening is spurred more by economic realities than concern for women’s health, though unfortunate, is not the point here. More benefit lies in seeing in this change an immense opportunity. The country has been running family planning initiatives and interventions for years, but the fact is that there is still insufficient societal knowledge about the subject. Most importantly, there are still sections of the population that do not have easy and affordable access to contraceptives. Given the higher mobility of men as well as the influence they wield in a patriarchal society, it is time to mobilise them in this regard through male-specific interventions. And if attitudes are changing in Punjab, there is no reason why they cannot be changed, with some effort, in other parts of the country too. At the heart of the matter, as the study pointed out, is the challenge of getting people to start translating intentions into practice. That popularising the use of family planning methods will benefit an already impoverished, populous country is obvious. A side benefit that will yield no less tangible results, though, is the leverage this change can have over empowering women in terms of their spousal relationships.

That this awakening is spurred more by economic realities than concern for women’s health, though unfortunate, is not the point here. More benefit lies in seeing in this change an immense opportunity. The country has been running family planning initiatives and interventions for years, but the fact is that there is still insufficient societal knowledge about the subject. Most importantly, there are still sections of the population that do not have easy and affordable access to contraceptives. Given the higher mobility of men as well as the influence they wield in a patriarchal society, it is time to mobilise them in this regard through male-specific interventions. And if attitudes are changing in Punjab, there is no reason why they cannot be changed, with some effort, in other parts of the country too. At the heart of the matter, as the study pointed out, is the challenge of getting people to start translating intentions into practice. That popularising the use of family planning methods will benefit an already impoverished, populous country is obvious. A side benefit that will yield no less tangible results, though, is the leverage this change can have over empowering women in terms of their spousal relationships.

Militant groups in Punjab

Editorial

THE Punjab government, in response to a report in this newspaper, has furnished statistics pertaining to the last six months to show its commitment to tracking down militants and pursuing sectarian groups and hate-mongers in the province. It has also said that 3,500 cases have been registered against those who have resorted to activities such as delivering incendiary speeches and spreading hate literature. The official statistics and an accompanying statement, however, fail to inform us of what action it has taken on the piles of intelligence reports at its disposal about the growth of ‘sleeper’ cells of weapons-trained militants. There has also been the issue of allegations of an unannounced alliance forged by the ruling PML-N with a sectarian group made up of members of a proscribed outfit, ostensibly to ensure peace in the province.

THE Punjab government, in response to a report in this newspaper, has furnished statistics pertaining to the last six months to show its commitment to tracking down militants and pursuing sectarian groups and hate-mongers in the province. It has also said that 3,500 cases have been registered against those who have resorted to activities such as delivering incendiary speeches and spreading hate literature. The official statistics and an accompanying statement, however, fail to inform us of what action it has taken on the piles of intelligence reports at its disposal about the growth of ‘sleeper’ cells of weapons-trained militants. There has also been the issue of allegations of an unannounced alliance forged by the ruling PML-N with a sectarian group made up of members of a proscribed outfit, ostensibly to ensure peace in the province.

True, there has been some positive activity in recent weeks. The provincial police have reportedly traced and arrested perpetrators involved in some high-profile attacks — but the government has yet to crack down on militants and sectarian organisations operating out of the province. For instance, no action has been taken to remove sectarian slogans scribbled on walls across the province, including major cities such as Lahore and Multan. Banned organisations collect funds with impunity and, in certain cases, act as final arbitrators in commercial and family disputes. Hate speeches are common and sectarian literature is distributed without fear of action. Other provinces may face the same situation, but that has to change, with Punjab showing equal resolve to deal with the problem as any other.

Punjab is the ‘birthplace’ of many sectarian and militant organisations. In the 1990s, it was at the centre of sectarian violence in the country. Violence has significantly declined in the province since the mid 2000s, but the militant organisations based in Punjab have grown both in size and operational capabilities and entrenched themselves deep in many parts. These organisations have cultivated close links with the banned Taliban in the tribal areas of Pakistan as well as in Afghanistan, and export cadres as well as violence to other parts of the country. In fact, some analysts argue, militancy in Punjab has elevated itself to an ideological phenomenon as violence has shifted to the conflict areas of the country. Or why would the strongest voices denouncing a military operation against the Taliban rise from here? The battle against militancy and sectarianism in Punjab cannot be won through half-hearted action. The government will have to increase its intelligence-gathering capacity and undertake a full-fledged operation to break up the underground networks of militant groups. More importantly, this fight will have to be fought on the ideological front as well.

Railways: debatable priorities

Editorial

IT appears the stage is being set for another wonder. Pakistan Railways has recently issued an advertisement flaunting a new rail link from Islamabad to Murree and Muzaffarabad. The Railways “intends to hire national/international consultants or consortium consultants” to undertake a “feasibility study for laying” this link. The project is at a nascent stage but at first glance it does suggest that some sort of a turnaround in the Railways is in the process — until, of course, the gaze is lowered from the high spectacle in the making. We are then confronted by the same sluggish routine that has held trains in the country hostage for so many years now. Maybe the government will dispute the impression. Maybe a few schedules being followed and a few engines and wagons up and running again will be presented as proof of recent improvements. This may be true to some extent, but to think that PR has actually moved on from fixing the old, sprawling system to a point where it is about to implement ambitious projects requires much more than imagination and grand desires. It requires stability and mobility which the department doesn’t have. True, at the moment the focus is only on whether or not such a project is feasible, but that too is indicative of the government’s priorities.

IT appears the stage is being set for another wonder. Pakistan Railways has recently issued an advertisement flaunting a new rail link from Islamabad to Murree and Muzaffarabad. The Railways “intends to hire national/international consultants or consortium consultants” to undertake a “feasibility study for laying” this link. The project is at a nascent stage but at first glance it does suggest that some sort of a turnaround in the Railways is in the process — until, of course, the gaze is lowered from the high spectacle in the making. We are then confronted by the same sluggish routine that has held trains in the country hostage for so many years now. Maybe the government will dispute the impression. Maybe a few schedules being followed and a few engines and wagons up and running again will be presented as proof of recent improvements. This may be true to some extent, but to think that PR has actually moved on from fixing the old, sprawling system to a point where it is about to implement ambitious projects requires much more than imagination and grand desires. It requires stability and mobility which the department doesn’t have. True, at the moment the focus is only on whether or not such a project is feasible, but that too is indicative of the government’s priorities.

The PML-N government almost specialises in finding new ways of coming up against a wall. Back in the mid-1990s, when the then PML-N government decided to have a motorway between Lahore and Islamabad, voices were raised and questions asked as to why the allocated funds could not be used to set the railways right countrywide. No doubt, it is a much-used route, but it is defined — as our some other landmarks on a smaller scale — by the principle of creating a grand model on top of grim realities which do not go away. The government may find the latest rail link feasible, and chances are it will be hailed by many, like the motorway of the dual-carriage road from Islamabad to Murree, as a ‘gift’ to the people from the Nawaz Sharif government. Sadly, that will not change one fact: a more basic effort to revive the Pakistan Railways remains on hold.

Surge in Karachi violence

Editorial

IN the midst of a spate of sectarian killings in Karachi and with tortured bodies turning up in and around the metropolis, it is strange that the prime minister should sound optimistic about the results of the law enforcement operation thus far. Nawaz Sharif, who chaired a meeting on law and order in the city on Monday, said the operation was yielding “positive results”. While crime in parts of Karachi, such as Lyari, may be down relatively speaking, the fact is the city is far from pacified and it is premature to dub the operation successful. Numerous incidents over the past few days point to the precariousness of the city’s law and order situation. The attempt on journalist Hamid Mir’s life on Saturday was perhaps the most high-profile act of violence in the city in recent weeks, but there have been other incidents. For example, killings have continued on a sectarian basis. In fact, on the day the prime minister was chairing the meeting in the Sindh capital an assistant professor of a government college was shot dead, while four bodies with bullet wounds were found near the city limits in Thatta district. In other incidents, professionals, traders and seminary students belonging to both the Shia and Sunni communities have been gunned down, while the bodies of two MQM activists, tortured and stuffed in gunny bags, were discovered on Friday. The Muttahida has termed the deaths “extrajudicial killings” of its workers and said its supporters are being picked up by security forces without following due process.

IN the midst of a spate of sectarian killings in Karachi and with tortured bodies turning up in and around the metropolis, it is strange that the prime minister should sound optimistic about the results of the law enforcement operation thus far. Nawaz Sharif, who chaired a meeting on law and order in the city on Monday, said the operation was yielding “positive results”. While crime in parts of Karachi, such as Lyari, may be down relatively speaking, the fact is the city is far from pacified and it is premature to dub the operation successful. Numerous incidents over the past few days point to the precariousness of the city’s law and order situation. The attempt on journalist Hamid Mir’s life on Saturday was perhaps the most high-profile act of violence in the city in recent weeks, but there have been other incidents. For example, killings have continued on a sectarian basis. In fact, on the day the prime minister was chairing the meeting in the Sindh capital an assistant professor of a government college was shot dead, while four bodies with bullet wounds were found near the city limits in Thatta district. In other incidents, professionals, traders and seminary students belonging to both the Shia and Sunni communities have been gunned down, while the bodies of two MQM activists, tortured and stuffed in gunny bags, were discovered on Friday. The Muttahida has termed the deaths “extrajudicial killings” of its workers and said its supporters are being picked up by security forces without following due process.

In light of the above, whoever has briefed Mr Sharif about the “positive” results of the operation is clearly misinformed. As far as controlling sectarian, political and ethnic killings goes, until the gangs of professional killers, including those with political links, are busted, the violence will continue. On the other hand, the high-handedness and extrajudicial methods of the security forces will only aggravate the situation. The state must ensure all action is within the ambit of the law.

Autonomy for State Bank

Editorial

THE IMF doesn’t seem happy with the quantum of independence the government plans to give the State Bank of Pakistan to meet one of several benchmarks of the Fund’s $6.7bn loan. The IMF mission chief in Pakistan has made it quite clear that the level of autonomy sought for the bank in the draft SBP (Amendment) Act, 2014 isn’t enough. This newspaper quoted him yesterday as saying that the IMF “may have some reservations and may seek some revisions” in the bill. The issue will be discussed at the third review of the Extended Fund Facility starting from April 30 in Dubai. The trend of giving central banks maximum legal, policy and operational independence has caught on in recent years. The purpose is to rule out political interference in their working that can, and often does, lead to cycles of economic boom and bust. Autonomous central banks are seen as crucial for the sustainable performance of the economy. Transparency in and the credibility of their policymaking process makes market expectations much more responsive to the signals sent out for price and exchange rate stability. The more operational and policy independence a central bank possesses, the more effectively it will regulate financial markets.

THE IMF doesn’t seem happy with the quantum of independence the government plans to give the State Bank of Pakistan to meet one of several benchmarks of the Fund’s $6.7bn loan. The IMF mission chief in Pakistan has made it quite clear that the level of autonomy sought for the bank in the draft SBP (Amendment) Act, 2014 isn’t enough. This newspaper quoted him yesterday as saying that the IMF “may have some reservations and may seek some revisions” in the bill. The issue will be discussed at the third review of the Extended Fund Facility starting from April 30 in Dubai. The trend of giving central banks maximum legal, policy and operational independence has caught on in recent years. The purpose is to rule out political interference in their working that can, and often does, lead to cycles of economic boom and bust. Autonomous central banks are seen as crucial for the sustainable performance of the economy. Transparency in and the credibility of their policymaking process makes market expectations much more responsive to the signals sent out for price and exchange rate stability. The more operational and policy independence a central bank possesses, the more effectively it will regulate financial markets.

Nevertheless, while a few governments are willing to part with their influence over the central bank, the present Pakistan government is certainly not one of them. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar is known for his aversion to the ‘creation of a state within the state’ entailing the surrender of powers that the government has over the SBP. For him, this would mean that, at least theoretically, the government would lose the power to influence the process of determining interest rates, to have an impact on the exchange rate and to favour or punish commercial banks and other financial institutions regulated by the SBP. Once the bank is free of such controls, for example, it may not be easy for Mr Dar to influence the exchange rate through public statements. Any change in the value of the rupee will be determined by the actions that the SBP deems fit to achieve this policy goal for long-term economic stability.

For the IMF, the SBP’s complete operational independence is an important medium-term objective for price stability and the effective governance of Pakistan’s financial markets. Islamabad has taken certain steps in the amendment bill to cut the government’s role in the SBP’s functioning. But the Fund’s reservations indicate that it will not settle for anything less than a completely autonomous SBP. Apart from the previous government’s reluctance to implement value added tax, its failure to increase the independence of the central bank was a major factor in the premature termination of the $11.3bn loan obtained in 2008. It is hoped that differences of opinion on this issue don’t lead us to the same position once again.

No housing for the poor

Editorial

AFTER several weeks of back and forth, for many residents of Islamabad it appears that the worst is about to happen. Last week, a high-level meeting was held by the Capital Development Authority and it was reportedly decided that action would finally be initiated against the city’s katchi abadis. The people living here had so far been spared the long arm of the law because police authorities and the local administration feared a strong backlash. But with the Islamabad High Court remarking on Thursday that these slums constituted the illegal occupation of land, and directing the CDA to clear them, renewed resolve seems to have been found. If the operation against the slums delivers what it promises, the government will get its land back and to the city will be restored that pristine quality which is held so dear by well-off residents. But thousands of people from the poorest sections of society will no longer have homes.

AFTER several weeks of back and forth, for many residents of Islamabad it appears that the worst is about to happen. Last week, a high-level meeting was held by the Capital Development Authority and it was reportedly decided that action would finally be initiated against the city’s katchi abadis. The people living here had so far been spared the long arm of the law because police authorities and the local administration feared a strong backlash. But with the Islamabad High Court remarking on Thursday that these slums constituted the illegal occupation of land, and directing the CDA to clear them, renewed resolve seems to have been found. If the operation against the slums delivers what it promises, the government will get its land back and to the city will be restored that pristine quality which is held so dear by well-off residents. But thousands of people from the poorest sections of society will no longer have homes.

It is true that such slums, not just in Islamabad but in cities across the country, are often unauthorised and encroach illegally on government land, amenity plots, etc. Through the lens of the law, therefore, the people who live in them are in the wrong. We cannot help but wonder, though, where the burden of responsibility rests when little to no effort is evident on the part of city planners to cater to the needs of low-income groups. Such groups have large populations in urban areas, and rural-to-urban migration is a fact of life in a country where finding the means to earn a livelihood is no easy task. It would be reasonable to expect that amid all the glittering towers of steel and chrome that city managers love to boast of, some attention would be paid to low-income housing zones for those who are the invisible cogs that keep the city wheels turning. Lacking that, people construct houses on whatever land they can find. City planners always wake up when the eyesores grow big enough, and react by either clearing the land or, if it is too densely populated, regularising it. But, it would seem, even basic planning is too much for the great and the good.

Houbara bustard butchery

Editorial

NEWS of the Gulf Arab royals taking over large swathes of territory in Pakistan to hunt the vulnerable houbara bustard is not new. Despite some local outcry over hunting of the endangered bird, moneyed foreigners, aided by officialdom, continue to indulge in the blood sport, with some individuals killing hundreds of houbaras per trip, making a mockery of conservation efforts. As a news item, based on a report by the Balochistan forest and wildlife department, pointed out in this paper, some months ago a Saudi prince hunted around 2,000 birds along with members of his entourage in Balochistan. The prince hunted 1,977 birds while those accompanying him hunted 123 birds during a 21-day expedition in January. While the ‘special permits’ issued by the federal government only allow the holder (and not those accompanying him) to hunt up to 100 houbara bustards in 10 days, simple arithmetic suggests that the bag limit was exceeded by a wide margin. Apparently, the hunters also ventured into protected areas. This is not an isolated incident. Similar violations are reported nearly every year involving both royalty and influential commoners from several Gulf sheikhdoms. Locals in areas where the houbara is hunted are more than eager to help the foreign visitors as they are amply rewarded in cash and kind for their efforts.

NEWS of the Gulf Arab royals taking over large swathes of territory in Pakistan to hunt the vulnerable houbara bustard is not new. Despite some local outcry over hunting of the endangered bird, moneyed foreigners, aided by officialdom, continue to indulge in the blood sport, with some individuals killing hundreds of houbaras per trip, making a mockery of conservation efforts. As a news item, based on a report by the Balochistan forest and wildlife department, pointed out in this paper, some months ago a Saudi prince hunted around 2,000 birds along with members of his entourage in Balochistan. The prince hunted 1,977 birds while those accompanying him hunted 123 birds during a 21-day expedition in January. While the ‘special permits’ issued by the federal government only allow the holder (and not those accompanying him) to hunt up to 100 houbara bustards in 10 days, simple arithmetic suggests that the bag limit was exceeded by a wide margin. Apparently, the hunters also ventured into protected areas. This is not an isolated incident. Similar violations are reported nearly every year involving both royalty and influential commoners from several Gulf sheikhdoms. Locals in areas where the houbara is hunted are more than eager to help the foreign visitors as they are amply rewarded in cash and kind for their efforts.

Yet the main responsibility for allowing the wanton, yearly massacre of the houbara bustard lies with the state, specifically the foreign ministry, as it issues the permits. The state might want to prove its hospitality to its foreign friends who want to hunt in Pakistan, but surely not at the price of violating local laws and international covenants designed to protect endangered wildlife. The issuance of permits by the centre despite devolution of the wildlife department has also been raised. It is indeed ironic that while some in the Gulf are working to protect the houbara bustard in their own countries, our government seems to care little when it comes to well-connected foreigners decimating the local bird population.

Scope of suo motu

Editorial

THE judicial conference held in Islamabad over the weekend ended with an important declaration read out by Supreme Court Chief Justice Tassaduq Jillani which, among other things, sought to define the scope of the superior judiciary’s suo motu powers. Suo motu, of course, has become a household term in Pakistan thanks largely to the Iftikhar Chaudhry era. So expansive had the court’s interpretation of fundamental rights become by the end of that era that suo motu powers were invoked to seemingly push the judiciary into whichever arena it liked — with little concern for the separation of powers and the proper scope of fundamental rights. The much-needed correction was always likely to only begin after Mr Chaudhry went home and that has in fact proved to be the case with Chief Justice Jillani far more circumspect in wielding his suo motu powers.

THE judicial conference held in Islamabad over the weekend ended with an important declaration read out by Supreme Court Chief Justice Tassaduq Jillani which, among other things, sought to define the scope of the superior judiciary’s suo motu powers. Suo motu, of course, has become a household term in Pakistan thanks largely to the Iftikhar Chaudhry era. So expansive had the court’s interpretation of fundamental rights become by the end of that era that suo motu powers were invoked to seemingly push the judiciary into whichever arena it liked — with little concern for the separation of powers and the proper scope of fundamental rights. The much-needed correction was always likely to only begin after Mr Chaudhry went home and that has in fact proved to be the case with Chief Justice Jillani far more circumspect in wielding his suo motu powers.

What though is the proper scope of suo motu powers to protect the fundamental rights of the citizenry? The easy cases, those that clearly merit exclusion, can and were summed up in the declaration: one, ensuring that the “exercise of judicial powers neither hampers nor stunts executive policies”; and two, keeping front and centre “the sanctity of the people’s trust in the legislature to legislate” when exercising judicial review. Legalese may not lend itself to easy understanding sometimes, but it is reasonably clear that issues such as ‘Memogate’ or the review of the superior judiciary appointment process that led to the 19th Amendment ought to be off limits. As the declaration rightly indicated, not every action or choice of the executive should be justiciable – how exactly were fundamental rights of Pakistanis at stake in a discredited memo sent to the US government, for example? — and the elected legislature’s right to legislate should only be examined, let alone overruled, in circumstances where legislation is obviously and unquestionably infringing on constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights. Under the latter formulation, judicial review of the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance would not only be sensible but also desirable, whereas questioning a constitutional amendment to lay out a fairly open and transparent process for the appointment of superior court judges would be neither sensible nor desirable.

Yet, in the day-to-day applicability of suo motu powers, it is perhaps the declaration that “the superior courts may not exercise a roving and supervisory role to ensure fundamental rights are complied with” that is the most important. The judicial conference got the actual problem right: it is the subordinate judiciary that needs to be strengthened, so that justice is delivered at the local level, rather than relying on the necessarily selective right of a high court or Supreme Court judge to intervene in, say, a rape case. While such interventions make the superior judiciary popular, they can in fact impede the systematic delivery of justice.

Another attack on the media

Editorial

THE murderous attack on Hamid Mir, one of Pakistan’s most recognisable faces in the TV news industry, may have been shocking, but is anyone truly surprised? The media is specifically under threat and the spate of attacks culminating with the one in Karachi on Saturday against Mr Mir may only be the beginning.

THE murderous attack on Hamid Mir, one of Pakistan’s most recognisable faces in the TV news industry, may have been shocking, but is anyone truly surprised? The media is specifically under threat and the spate of attacks culminating with the one in Karachi on Saturday against Mr Mir may only be the beginning.

Across the media, there is a growing fear that something truly dreadful and on a spectacular scale may be in the offing. And what is the government’s response? Verbal condemnations and an emergency meeting convened by the prime minister yesterday at which it was decided to form a judicial commission to investigate the attack. That, as the many commissions that have come before it are a testament to, is the government effectively saying there’s nothing it can do.

But there is much that the government can do. It could, for example, take a hard line with the group that directly, routinely and openly threatens the media: the outlawed TTP, the very group with which the government is negotiating.

At the very least, the TTP could be asked to take back its fatwa against sections of the media. The TTP could also, as part of the dialogue process, be asked to explicitly renounce violence against the media. Yet, a judicial commission whose report may never see the light of day if it ventures too close to uncomfortable facts is all the government has to offer.

There is also silence in another difficult area that became the focus in the immediate aftermath of the attack on Mr Mir: the role of Pakistan’s military-run intelligence agencies. While many of the accusations were emotional and bereft of hard information, there is a wider point to consider.

Instantaneous denials via the ISPR are never followed up with what should be the next step: finding the actual culprits. Who killed Saleem Shahzad, for example? All that is publicly known is who denied having anything to do with his death. Is it any surprise then that in moments of emotion, the same set of accusations is repeated? Unless such cases are investigated and the culprits brought to book, fingers will always be pointed at those whose duty it is, in fact, to provide protection to media personnel and other citizens.

Army security for polio teams

Editorial

THE numbers speak for themselves. Out of 47 total cases of polio so far recorded in Pakistan this year, North Waziristan accounts for 33, an unsurprising, if tragic, outcome of the ban imposed on vaccinations in the area by the TTP since 2012. Meanwhile, South Waziristan has recorded two cases, Khyber one and Bannu two indicating the spread of the virus in contiguous areas and beyond.

THE numbers speak for themselves. Out of 47 total cases of polio so far recorded in Pakistan this year, North Waziristan accounts for 33, an unsurprising, if tragic, outcome of the ban imposed on vaccinations in the area by the TTP since 2012. Meanwhile, South Waziristan has recorded two cases, Khyber one and Bannu two indicating the spread of the virus in contiguous areas and beyond.

Extraordinary situations call for extraordinary measures, and the looming threat of a polio epidemic in the country certainly qualifies as such a situation. It is against this backdrop that the army has offered to help the government in its efforts to eradicate polio by providing security to health workers while they conduct vaccination drives in the militancy-affected tribal areas of North and South Waziristan, and the Bara tehsil of Khyber, to try and prevent the disease from transmission further afield.

The consequences of failure could not be more dire: the WHO has already declared Peshawar the world’s largest reservoir of endemic polio with more than 90pc of current polio cases in the country genetically linked to strains in that city.

While it is unfortunate that the local administration through its civilian law-enforcement agencies has been unable to address the challenges to the polio eradication campaign in the tribal areas, the reality is that in that hostile terrain, the army alone has the logistical capability to undertake the task of providing security to the health workers in a coordinated manner.

Even in other parts of the country, where there is a proper administrative set-up, polio vaccination teams and police personnel providing them security have repeatedly come under attack, and a considerable number have lost their lives.

Any strategy that can achieve results must be employed. Pakistan is one of three polio-endemic countries in the world — the others being Afghanistan and Nigeria — and the only one where the disease is gathering steam rather than being on the decline. There is not a moment to lose.

More than money needed

Editorial

IF it weren’t for the history and the present context, it would have been a grand announcement. Balochistan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has pledged, will see investments on a large scale in the next few years, from the long-hyped new trading hub in Gwadar to investments in health, education, technical training and other infrastructure. If the PML-N sticks to its pledges, the impact on Balochistan would not be insignificant. By any measure, use any metric and the Baloch areas of Balochistan are at or near the bottom of national socio-economic rankings. Investments in health, education and infrastructure are truly needed. But does the PML-N’s latest plan hold the key to addressing Balochistan’s chronic problems? The answer, hardly unsurprisingly, would have to be no.

IF it weren’t for the history and the present context, it would have been a grand announcement. Balochistan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has pledged, will see investments on a large scale in the next few years, from the long-hyped new trading hub in Gwadar to investments in health, education, technical training and other infrastructure. If the PML-N sticks to its pledges, the impact on Balochistan would not be insignificant. By any measure, use any metric and the Baloch areas of Balochistan are at or near the bottom of national socio-economic rankings. Investments in health, education and infrastructure are truly needed. But does the PML-N’s latest plan hold the key to addressing Balochistan’s chronic problems? The answer, hardly unsurprisingly, would have to be no.

Without security there can be little development, progress or prosperity — and no amount of money thrown at Balochistan will change that. Over the last five years, owing to the 18th Amendment and the subsequent NFC award, Balochistan has been flush with cash. The amounts involved are staggering and stunning — and yet, five years on, nothing has changed in Balochistan. It is not just that the previous provincial government was non-representative, given that it was elected after moderate Baloch politicians boycotted the 2008 polls and so was only interested in looking after itself. Neither was it simply because the previous government selected unfit and unqualified bureaucrats to run the province. The truth is that Balochistan’s problem is about state policies towards it and, after that, about structural problems that no amount of money can cure without there first being meaningful and wide-ranging reforms of the relevant governance structures.

Take for example this notion of a brand new city in Gwadar that will be the pride and joy of the province. The Baloch militants and even non-violent provincialists see Gwadar as an attempt to dilute the Baloch presence in Balochistan — the theory being that a thriving new city will attract many from other ethnicities looking for economic opportunities. Meanwhile, nearly everything the state needs to build a new city — from manpower to administrators to skilled professionals — will have to be imported from elsewhere, at a time where, as underlined by two reports in this newspaper this week, non-Baloch are leaving rather than returning to the region. It may be possible to build an airport, and much of the seaport is already in place, but can Gwadar really be anything other than a high-security fortress or a ghost town in the circumstances? Sadly, the PML-N appears to be falling into the old trap of surrendering security policy and turning to economic plans as a viable alternative. What happened to all the promises the PML-N, and Nawaz Sharif in particular, made before the election? The original diagnosis is very different from the treatment the PML-N is now advocating.

Measuring poverty

Editorial

POLITICALLY, poverty has been a sensitive issue in Pakistan, as it has been in many other developing countries. It is no surprise that governments try to avoid counting the number of poor to protect themselves from such an exercise’s possible political fallout. When they do, they use methods that tend to mitigate the actual incidence of poverty rather than bring out a true picture about the level of deprivation experienced by the people. Therefore, when the government under Pervez Musharraf conducted a survey in the mid-2000s to show to the world that its economic policies had cut the number of poor, many global organisations like the World Bank immediately raised questions about the efficacy of the methodology used to arrive at that conclusion. The previous PPP-led government did not even bother to undertake such an exercise, fearing the figures would show a hefty increase in the numbers living below the poverty line owing to the economic slowdown.

POLITICALLY, poverty has been a sensitive issue in Pakistan, as it has been in many other developing countries. It is no surprise that governments try to avoid counting the number of poor to protect themselves from such an exercise’s possible political fallout. When they do, they use methods that tend to mitigate the actual incidence of poverty rather than bring out a true picture about the level of deprivation experienced by the people. Therefore, when the government under Pervez Musharraf conducted a survey in the mid-2000s to show to the world that its economic policies had cut the number of poor, many global organisations like the World Bank immediately raised questions about the efficacy of the methodology used to arrive at that conclusion. The previous PPP-led government did not even bother to undertake such an exercise, fearing the figures would show a hefty increase in the numbers living below the poverty line owing to the economic slowdown.

Regularly updated data on the poor are crucial to framing economic policies, allocating fiscal resources and undertaking initiatives to target poverty in an integrated and comprehensive manner. Now the Nawaz Sharif government has launched the Multi-dimensional Poverty Index, based on the globally recognised methodology and developed by the Oxford Poverty and the Human Development Initiative, for measuring the incidence of poverty. The index is being released by the UNDP’s human development reports since 2010. It is also being used by dozens of other countries and is said to have helped some such as Nepal lift a significant number of people out of poverty by ‘building a deprivation profile’. The MPI will calculate poverty on the basis of multidimensional deprivations — such as healthcare, education, water supply, income, etc — and highlight the real situation and intensity of the deprivation being suffered by the people at the national, provincial and district levels. This kind of data should give policymakers sufficient knowledge about the actual status of deprivation that is the lot of different regions and help them formulate policies and allocate funds according to the needs of the people. It is hoped that the MPI data will actually be used to pull millions out of the poverty trap and not just kept to fill official files.

Lure of the blue passport

Editorial

PASSPORT and visa issues continue to occupy our leaders. The latest evidence of this came on Friday when members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly passed a resolution demanding the passport of officialdom. The move was stamped by a rare show of camaraderie among the members, and divisions at home and in the house were forgotten in favour of shared, apparently cherished, international destinations. Members belonging to both the treasury and the opposition benches readily put their signatures to the demand sent to the federal government for the issuance of the coveted blue book. It was apt that a provincial lawmaker belonging to the JUI-F, a party whose chief has in the past had some of his own global journeys cut short over visa issues, read out the resolution. There have been other incidents indicating that the parties most prominent in KP have been particularly upset with these travel restrictions. The spirit which gave birth to the rare joint resolution contrasted with the logic behind these restrictions and reflected just how eager everyone in the house is to get around.

PASSPORT and visa issues continue to occupy our leaders. The latest evidence of this came on Friday when members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly passed a resolution demanding the passport of officialdom. The move was stamped by a rare show of camaraderie among the members, and divisions at home and in the house were forgotten in favour of shared, apparently cherished, international destinations. Members belonging to both the treasury and the opposition benches readily put their signatures to the demand sent to the federal government for the issuance of the coveted blue book. It was apt that a provincial lawmaker belonging to the JUI-F, a party whose chief has in the past had some of his own global journeys cut short over visa issues, read out the resolution. There have been other incidents indicating that the parties most prominent in KP have been particularly upset with these travel restrictions. The spirit which gave birth to the rare joint resolution contrasted with the logic behind these restrictions and reflected just how eager everyone in the house is to get around.

The official blue passport allows entry to some 70 countries around the world without the formality of a visa. According to the rules, provincial ministers are entitled to the blue passport, but provincial lawmakers are not. However, there is a tradition in the country where the government — or a particular minister with clout — has lavished the privilege on selected individuals. There was a blue passport scandal during Shaukat Aziz’s time as prime minister when retired bureaucrats and former ministers were declared entitled to carry it. Then, last year, it emerged that some 2,000 such passports had been illegally issued during the last PPP government, the assertion being that some of them had actually been sold. That should have been enough reason to frame tough rules about who does and does not deserve the privilege, freeing the KP lawmakers to take up some local issues of the people instead.

Columns and Articles

Misguided optimism

Faisal Bari

THE GDP growth rate for the last quarter was only about 3.2pc. It was reported to be 5pc for the first quarter of the fiscal year. The government, in its enthusiasm to share only good news, probably overstated the growth rate for the first quarter and had to adjust it in figures for the second quarter. Whatever the reason, the growth numbers are not really portraying any recovery trends.

THE GDP growth rate for the last quarter was only about 3.2pc. It was reported to be 5pc for the first quarter of the fiscal year. The government, in its enthusiasm to share only good news, probably overstated the growth rate for the first quarter and had to adjust it in figures for the second quarter. Whatever the reason, the growth numbers are not really portraying any recovery trends.

The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is struggling to ensure it is able to achieve its revised targets for revenue collection. It is likely that its efforts will fall short. More importantly, there’s been little effort to work on issues of either broadening the tax base and tax net or removing glaring exemptions/subsidies especially from the income tax system. Agriculturists and traders continue to be under-taxed.

But there have been celebrations for the appreciation of the rupee. Bringing the rupee rate to Rs96-97 to the dollar has been celebrated as an important milestone. What is the increasing value of the rupee supposed to show? Usually appreciation is underpinned by the strength of basic and important variables in the economy. This is why appreciation of a currency is taken to be a signal of the strength of the economy. In this case, the appreciation had nothing to do with the strength of the economy. ‘Gifts’ from ‘friends’ and borrowings from international markets seem to have given us the opportunity to allow the rupee to appreciate. How is this important, and why should this be taken as a sign of the economy’s strength?

Why is the government taking Rs96-97 as a target for the exchange rate? The specific level of the exchange rate is not a policy variable or even a variable of interest. We do want the exchange rate to be relatively stable but a peg, given we are in a flexible rate regime, is not important and definitely not desirable. Does the government really think that Rs96-97 is the equilibrium value of the exchange rate right now? If so, the exchange rate should have stabilised at that value without the need for borrowed and/or gifted inflows. Clearly this is not the case and it does not make sense for the government to try and defend such an exchange rate or to expend energy on maintaining it.

The macroeconomic debate in Pakistan seems to be in a strange place. The government raised $2 billion from international markets through issuing bonds. This is being celebrated. The narrative is that the subscription shows a successful return for Pakistan to international money markets. While this might be a successful ‘return’, why would success at borrowing be seen as either a sign of economic ‘recovery’ or as a success of the policies of the government in power? We are borrowing money from any and every source we can tap: multilaterals, international markets, ‘friends’ and more. This is boosting our foreign reserves and helping us keep the exchange rate stable. But how can borrowing be a sign of good economic policy or of economic recovery?

We just sold the 3G/4G spectrum rights for $ 1.1bn. These inflows will help keep the narrative of stability going for some time. The government has ambitious plans for selling off state entities too. If privatisation of these entities does go ahead as expected, they will also bring in cash. This will allow the government some space to keep the foreign account and exchange rate relatively stable for some time, and also give the government fiscal space. But even privatisation and selling off assets that belong to the people of Pakistan is not a remedy for economic recovery and will not address some of the basic problems the economy faces.

It is in the area of reforms needed at the micro level in the economy where the government is seen to be failing. What has been achieved on the tax reform front? Have the number of taxpayers increased substantially? Have distortions in the income tax and sales tax structures been removed? Has the government been able to remove all the SROs of the FBR or even get rid of the SRO culture within the FBR? Have agriculturists, traders, wholesalers, retailers etc been brought into the tax net? Are people more willing to pay taxes? Has the government been able to convince Pakistanis they need to pay their taxes?

On the trade front, has the government been able to remove some or any of the more glaring distortions we have been living with for decades? Is the auto sector any less protected? More generally, has the government had any success in dealing with problems associated with the property rights regime or contract enforcement? Has the cost of doing business come down? Has the investment climate for domestic investors improved in any way? The answer to these questions appears to be a resounding no. How then can we expect the stability story to continue and how can we take stability on the foreign exchange front to be a sign of economic recovery?

Stability through ‘gifts’ and borrowing is not a macroeconomic policy and nothing to celebrate. If problems — within the economy and at the micro level — that have been dogging us for decades are not addressed, any stability gained through borrowing or even privatisation proceeds will be short-lived.

The writer is senior adviser, Pakistan, at Open Society Foundations, associate professor of economics, LUMS, and a visiting fellow at IDEAS, Lahore.

Late call for unity

Asha’ar Rehman

JOURNALISM was simply endearing once upon a time. Watched from a close distance, the guerrilla journalist, equally interested in news and people’s and media’s rights, would always be around in those days and so would be protests and stories about the problems his tribe was faced with under the oppressive Zia regime. Then there would be a group which went under the generic title of ‘Jamaatias’, each camp having fought their battles against the other through the decades without any confusion.

JOURNALISM was simply endearing once upon a time. Watched from a close distance, the guerrilla journalist, equally interested in news and people’s and media’s rights, would always be around in those days and so would be protests and stories about the problems his tribe was faced with under the oppressive Zia regime. Then there would be a group which went under the generic title of ‘Jamaatias’, each camp having fought their battles against the other through the decades without any confusion.

It was routine for a story which was rejected by the local paper to appear in a BBC bulletin. Frequently the weekly magazine where the infamous leftists worked would come out with blank pages. Often, the staff there would replace the objectionable bits of information about Gen Zia with equally cutting and very relevant snippets from the life and works of Zia’s contemporary, dictator Augusto Pinochet of Chile. That would be sufficient to make the point and generate a certain kind of thrill among readers, especially the young, impressionable ones who saw a certain permanent order to life in all those happenings around them.

Occasionally early-morning guests in police uniform would come knocking. They would take away the ‘erring’ journalist, but would be gentlemanly enough to leave behind their contacts with the journalist’s family — in case help was needed in an emergency.

Out of jail the journalist would be driven around in a Volkswagen painted a shocking orange by the CID spies designated to follow him. That was one good opportunity to go around as the agencies’ man, less exciting as compared to the life of today’s agent-journalist but safer in the face of a despot as the adversary.

Of course, this is too rosy a picture; of course, there were times when it was not this easy a ride. There were intimidation and threats, and the labelling as traitors was killing at times. In reaction, there was anger and resolve, and the place still had space for a shriek and a cry. The line was clear and the support to a cause was not qualified as it is today. And once there was a cause, others joined in — trade unions mostly — without the grand term ‘civil society’ doing the rounds in those days.

Those days of peace in journalism, or an illusion of it recorded in the mind of a very interested outsider, were to fade when the newsroom transformed itself from being a place of envy to a place of work. Some idols went out of the window right away, others were whittled away with time. Only a few survived close persistent scrutiny of the sceptics, many existed only conditionally.

This fall of the idol was only one part of the problem, the cause of greater anguish was the lack of direction, generally. Some, however, were clearer about what they were doing than others, and did a better job than others of wrapping it up in the only presentable banner available: professionalism.

In contrast to the journalists one had viewed and held in high esteem as an outsider, in contrast to the causes they championed or appeared to be championing at various points, a certain emptiness now prevailed. This was a paradox since there was plenty to write home about and there were so many opportunities, yet the work that emerged was disparate, failing to turn into a sum which would then go searching for a grand joint objective.

It was a workplace where long enduring friendships could still be formed but the ‘right to association’ was seldom claimed and asserted. The advent of money in the profession somehow made professional organisations or trade unions even more unnecessary. The focus shifted from the trade union to the press club whose significance was sustained and which grew mainly due to the press clubs’ role as provider of plots of land to the journalists.

This was something which lay light on the conscience. It was, with some argument, considered a privilege by right, something which restored equality in the ranks of the journalists and gave them a common purpose. But the collective which had nurtured journalists’ movement back in the 1960s and the 1970s was missing.

To simplify, this was because of a change in the thinking of those who worked in the newspaper — the new-wave journalists who had the freedoms but who could not use these freedoms to build a journalists’ collective. It was also because of the absence of the old trade unions outside the profession which had strengthened the journalists’ unions in the past years.

There would still be occasional campaigns and protests, at the call of the management of some media group, with the journalists’ associations following rather than leading. That is how it has been for the last few decades and this is what gives a hollow ring to all these passionate demands today for a journalists’ collective.

There are so many breaches within — between workers who owe their allegiance to one or another news production house, between the privileged heroes and the ‘extras’ sitting in the newsroom who complain that the changed industry has yet to put the right price on their hidden labour.

The unity that is so desperately sought would not come without the introduction of some kind of equality among the members of the proposed union. That will require work in the hidden areas occupied by those who claim to be the ‘real’ behind-the-scenes journalists. n

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

Politics as parody

Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

THE epic struggle for democracy being waged by the media in Pakistan has now reached a critical crossroads. Or so we are told. After the attack on Hamid Mir, the rhetoric has become so shrill that it’s hard to make out truth from fiction. On both sides of the (apparent) divide the democratic imperative is being trumpeted amidst cries of anguish for our embattled motherland.

THE epic struggle for democracy being waged by the media in Pakistan has now reached a critical crossroads. Or so we are told. After the attack on Hamid Mir, the rhetoric has become so shrill that it’s hard to make out truth from fiction. On both sides of the (apparent) divide the democratic imperative is being trumpeted amidst cries of anguish for our embattled motherland.

It is a measure of just how influential the TV anchor has become in Pakistan that so much reaction followed the attack on the ‘Capital Talk’ host in Karachi last week. First, there was condemnation, and rightly so. Then the war of words began in earnest, with one side openly identifying the ISI chief as responsible for the attack and the other side taking issue with the deliberate slandering of our state guardians.

It is striking that the names and reputations of institutions and individuals that previously enjoyed sacred cow-like status here can now be dragged through the mud. Even a few years ago it was unthinkable that the ISI and its chief could be subject to such accusations. Regardless of whether or not greater care could or should be taken in such matters, surely all principled democrats would reason that this is a sign of progress?

Actually, we have experienced such ‘euphoric’ moments on many occasions since the TV media erupted into our daily lives a little over a decade ago. If many were excited by the impact of live television during the anti-Musharraf agitations, we have since become ‘breaking news’ junkies. It is widely believed that the media reports on anything and everything, with the competition between channels a major explanation for the no-holds barred approach. It is thus that a popular myth has been created that Pakistan is a much freer and democratic society with the emergence of the private TV media.

I think not. While there are positive consequences of media ‘freedom’, we overlook the alarming political ramifications. What a TV channel presents as an explosive conflict between defenders of freedom and status quo forces actually looks quite different when we move beyond surface causes and consequences.

One need only consider that corporate media houses have been party to power games numerous times in the past to understand that the present episode is likely no different. For its part, Pakistan’s establishment spends as much time manipulating popular discourse as actually effecting its will through concrete actions. I don’t want to suggest that either the media or the establishment, independently or in tandem, seamlessly produce intended outcomes whenever they so desire, but there’s little question that they never tire of trying.

Dissidents the world over, Chomsky arguably foremost amongst them, have written extensively about the manner in which the corporate media and ruling elites forge all manner of narratives to lend moral and political logic to state policy. Sometimes the train of thought being peddled can be profoundly counter-intuitive; so, for example, the majority of Americans believe there’s unbridled freedom of expression in their country in large part because the media and government endlessly claim that the US is a bastion of liberty. In fact, substantive dissent is not possible within the American political and intellectual mainstream.

With this in mind, I submit that the present ‘stand-off’ involving numerous media houses and state institutions is a classic case of fighting in the corridors of power and that the supposedly principled position being taken against ‘the agencies’ should instead be thought of as parody.

Indeed, there is something fashionable about knocking ‘the agencies’ these days, even while remaining true to some of the most fundamental precepts of the ‘national security’ agenda that the intelligence apparatus so diligently works to secure. A lot of change has taken place in this country, and one of the consequences is that it is not possible to completely insulate the rich and powerful from public scrutiny. But it would be naïve to assume that the establishment and media houses that have historically remained loyal to the state have not adapted their means and methods to the changing times.

Until such a time as ‘the agencies’ are actually brought to book, apparently principled sloganeering is likely to obfuscate as much as it illuminates. Indeed, we need to expose those who propagate politics as parody if we are to take the first steps towards building a genuinely anti-establishment politics.

In the first instance, should we not be asking why the attack on Hamid Mir is more condemnable than the many more attacks and everyday injustices faced by ordinary people who do not enjoy celebrity status here?

The writer teaches at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

Piety and cheating

Khalid Zaheer

WHILE mass murders continue to take place in the name of religion, a report of grave consequences has shaken the faith of many in the country.

WHILE mass murders continue to take place in the name of religion, a report of grave consequences has shaken the faith of many in the country.

Some time back, Dawn carried the report of a massive fraud carried out by a group of clerics and no less than 40 prayer leaders who allegedly misled several people, including widows and orphans, to invest in a supposedly Islamic banking system of modaraba. This seems to have driven home the paradoxical phenomenon that those who profess piety and preach religion are usually the ones to lie and cheat most often.

One of the reasons for why the so-called believers cheat and lie with impunity is that they believe that the rituals they perform (prayers, fasts, Haj, almsgiving, etc) would far outweigh the sins that they have committed. They could not be more wrong in this misconception.

The Quran says very clearly that God will take His decision based on the weightage given to the deeds which shall be based on the intentions and inclinations, and not on the apparent acts of the individual. It is thus not the physical act itself, but the purpose and quality of the deed that will tilt the result one way or the other for the doer.

If a religious act is undertaken by a person to outweigh the ill effect of some harm he has inflicted on a fellow human being, or to show off to another, it is unlikely to carry any value in the eyes of God.

Secondly, those who claim knowledge of religion also hope that they will be interceded for by the Prophet (PBUH) which, of course, will be accepted. Such an understanding of intercession has been denied thrice in Surah Baqarah. On the Day of Judgement, no soul shall

come to the rescue of another soul, no friendship will matter, no intercession will be accepted, nor any other form of external help be entertained (2:48; 2:123; 2:254).

There is, however, only one exception. There will be a group of people whose performance in this world may not be absolutely clear cut so as to allow them to be admitted to paradise, and in such cases, God will allow some outstanding individuals to intercede on their behalf. Such a situation is not one that is meant for people who have committed sins that God has forbidden clearly and openly, such as usurping the rights of widows and orphans.

Certainly it does not give any of us an opportunity to become complacent and begin to cheat and lie in the hope that someone will intercede for us in the hereafter.

A third prevalent reason for the widespread tendency to cheat among those claiming to be religious is the claim itself. They believe that because they are Muslims, they are unlikely to go to hell, whatever sins they commit, while others whom they believe to be kafir would be punished.

Unfortunately, this is the same thinking that was common among the Children of Israel, who believed that because they were the chosen people of God, no punishment would ever come to them, or even if it does, it would be for only a short period of time.

Man is weak and is also tempted by Satan, so he will commit wrong. But God, who is infinitely merciful, will forgive provided man truly repents and asks for forgiveness. In Islam, repentance means an immediate realisation of one’s mistakes, a seeking of forgiveness, a commitment to correcting oneself, and a strong effort never to make the same mistake again.

Another unfortunate justification for lying that some people have come up with is to claim that even some prophets have not told the truth (God forbid).

They cite the examples of Hazrat Ibrahim when he had broken all the idols and told the people to ask the idol he had left untouched, and of Hazrat Yusuf, when a cup was found in the bag of one of his brothers, instead of the suspected royal bowl.

These are stories that have been bandied about without an understanding of the Quran, merely to support the lies that people tell. While in the first case it was an effective way to make a stubborn group realise how foolish their approach was, the other case was of Yusuf getting unprecedented help from God to keep his brother. There was nothing immoral about either episode.

If people read the Quran with an open mind, listen carefully to other views, and be tolerant, without believing everything others say about religion, our society can perform far better morally.

The writer is a religious scholar.

kzuiuk

Relief for terror victims

I.A. Rehman

For quite sometime after the wave of terrorism hit Pakistan the state recognised only its security personnel’s entitlement to relief. Cash compensation was awarded to the families of those getting killed in the line of duty and in some cases educational stipends or jobs were promised to their children.

For quite sometime after the wave of terrorism hit Pakistan the state recognised only its security personnel’s entitlement to relief. Cash compensation was awarded to the families of those getting killed in the line of duty and in some cases educational stipends or jobs were promised to their children.

That the civilian victims of terrorist acts need guarantees of relief to a greater extent than the security personnel should not be in doubt. Those serving in the law-enforcement agencies are aware of the risks involved in their jobs. They are supposed to be trained to face the threats to their lives and they are provided with at least some (though arguably inadequate) protective gear.

On the other hand, the civilian victims of terrorism are nearly always caught unawares, while going about their peaceful business or just sleeping in their unguarded dwellings.

Civilian populations have also suffered heavy losses of property in terrorist acts or on being told to abandon their homes because the administration cannot protect them. The need to sustain the citizens’ faith in the state’s capacity to protect them is no less important than the demand for bolstering the state employees’ morale.

The Balochistan government deserves credit for taking the lead in accepting its responsibility “to provide for timely recognition and assistance for civilian victims of terrorist acts; recognise the right of civilian victims to receive state assistance for relief, healthcare and rehabilitation; arrange for adequate funds for such assistance; create an effective mechanism to track, investigate and analyse civilian harm in terrorist acts”.

It began by promulgating the Balochistan Civilian Victims of Terrorism (Relief and Rehabilitation) Ordinance last year and followed it up with a new act early this year.

The law offers a fairly broad definition of the “civilian victim”: “a person, not being a terrorist or a personnel of a law-enforcement agency on duty, who suffers harm to body or property due to any terrorist act and, in the event of death of the person, includes the spouse of victim or, in the absence of a spouse but in order of precedence, a child, mother, father, minor sibling or other legal heirs of the victim.”

The act recognises the civilian victims’ entitlement to relief in the form of a grant from the government. The key functionary in the scheme of relief and rehabilitation is the “notified officer”, who may be the principal administrative officer of a district or another officer so designated. The notified officer will ascertain a victim’s entitlement to relief and rehabilitation and the government will release the funds required. For this purpose the provincial government will create and maintain a special fund.

The scale of minimum relief is given in the schedule: Rs1 million for death; Rs500,000 for grievous injury (amputation or incapacitation of a limb); Rs100,000 for substantial injury (inability to work for more than two weeks); Rs500,000 for complete destruction of a dwelling unit or business establishment; Rs100,000 for partial destruction; and different scales of compensation for loss of cattle and damage to vehicles.

Unfortunately, despite having made legal provision for relief to victims of terrorism since last year, the Balochistan government has been lagging behind in terms of implementation. It is said the rules have not yet been enforced. While in some cases relief, in accordance with the size of grants mentioned in the schedule to the act, has been provided, decisions are believed to be taken by the government/officials on a discretionary, or ad hoc, basis.

This could make the whole scheme controversial. The government would, therefore, do well for itself and the victims of terrorism if it issued a detailed report about implementation of the law, especially the creation of a special fund, nomination of notified officers in all districts and the nature of claims received and satisfied so far.

As the first law on the subject, the Balochistan Act should be subject to revision in the light of practical experience. Better-endowed provincial governments than Balochistan’s, in terms of both human and material resources, should be able to draft more comprehensive laws, simplify relief and rehabilitation procedures and revise the scale of relief and rehabilitation facilities.

In any case, these other provinces will delay creating the necessary framework for the relief of civilian victims of terrorism at the cost of their credibility as responsible defenders of the people’s rights.

Learning curve

Khurram Husain

THERE is a feeling known to many who do any research work on Pakistan. It is a feeling that one is wasting one’s time researching the history of this country, or attempting to methodically arrive at an understanding of how things work in it. Instead of writing the history of this land, one often feels that it would be more appropriate to be writing its obituary.

THERE is a feeling known to many who do any research work on Pakistan. It is a feeling that one is wasting one’s time researching the history of this country, or attempting to methodically arrive at an understanding of how things work in it. Instead of writing the history of this land, one often feels that it would be more appropriate to be writing its obituary.

The feeling is usually stirred by events, and there is no shortage of them in our country. The ongoing spat between Geo and the military has raised the spectre of a clash of institutions just like the old days, and once again reminded us of the wafer-thin basis of stability on which everything rides.

It’s hard to be absorbed in researching events from 25 years ago in times such as these, but for better or for worse, that is my position. What does it really matter? Who cares why this or that particular decision was made back then, when the current moment presents such a spectacle?

Whenever the feeling hits, it’s useful to recall that we’ve been dealing with the politics of spectacle and institutional clashes for longer than anyone cares to remember. Somehow, something has ensured that we are all still here, so perhaps through it all — the noise and chaos of the moment — it’s worth our while after all to keep a focus on the larger picture.

Of course, while those words were being uttered, unbeknownst to the press, Brig Imtiaz was plying his craft in the shadows, buying votes in an attempt to build a bloc in parliament that could unseat the PPP government. The run-up to the vote of no-confidence that left the civilian government wounded was under way by the time that press conference was given.

The overlap is striking to view in hindsight, and in the turbo-charged spectacle of the time, it appears a lot of people missed it too. I find little to no comment at the time about the irony behind Beg’s presser superimposed upon the good brigadier’s actions.

There are so many examples of this sort of thing happening in our political system that it begins to feel almost routine. So many examples of deeds belying words in real time that it gets a little surreal, and not a little difficult to figure out what really is going on.

But through all the continuity, something is changing. The constant fighting amongst the institutions of state has brought on a policy paralysis that inhibits any strategic decision-making.

Today we can only attract investment by offering rentier terms. People I’m meeting here in D.C. who deal with those who invest in Pakistan say they are very impressed at the kinds of returns their money makes over there.

The very foundations of the state’s stability are eroding, sending us in search of geopolitical rents constantly, but the size of each successive bailout is growing.

The writer is a business journalist and 2013-2014 Pakistan Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Centre, Washington D.C.

khurram.husain@gmail.com

Twitter: @khurramhusain

Nuclear normalcy

Michael Krepon

NUCLEAR weapons raise many questions and provide few answers. Can Pakistan become a normal state possessing nuclear weapons? How can this aspirational goal be translated into reality? And what is the best way to codify ‘nuclear normal’?

NUCLEAR weapons raise many questions and provide few answers. Can Pakistan become a normal state possessing nuclear weapons? How can this aspirational goal be translated into reality? And what is the best way to codify ‘nuclear normal’?

The George W. Bush administration ran interference for India to join the nuclear club by promoting a civil-nuclear agreement which the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) approved. Is this route available to Pakistan, as well?

An important new book by Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London proposes a path to nuclear normalcy for Pakistan. The author is a careful, respected chronicler of proliferation, so his recommendations carry weight. He reasons that Pakistan’s gravest nuclear challenge is its competition with India, and that by signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and by stopping production of bomb-making fissile material, this competition will be tamed. In return for Pakistan’s help, the international community would treat nuclear-armed Pakistan as a ‘normal’ state.

This logic chain is sound, but it rests on questionable assumptions. These treaties could certainly change Pakistan’s outlier status, but many Pakistanis don’t think they advance national security. And how can Pakistan be considered ‘normal’ when the writ of the state shrinks while its stockpiles of weapons and fissile material grow?

Treaties would no doubt help defuse Pakistan’s nuclear competition with India if both countries were willing to sign up. But neither is ready to close the door permanently on nuclear testing, and because they aren’t sure how many nuclear weapons they need. The problem is circular: Treaties can help with security, but powerful domestic constituencies don’t feel secure enough to sign up.

New Delhi will compete harder in the years ahead, which raises the question of whether Pakistan’s decision-makers will, as well, or decide instead that they have enough nuclear firepower to protect against India. The biggest existential threat to Pakistan at present, as noted by civilian and military leaders, is violent extremist groups, not India. Nuclear weapons and fissile material are no help with internal security, and if protection of these crown jewels is not completely foolproof, they could be turned against civil and military authority.

The logic of Pakistan’s nuclear build-up is plain: it can’t compete with India on conventional military capabilities, but it can compensate by building nuclear weapons and their means of delivery. Over time, India will out-compete Pakistan here, as well. If Pakistan continues to compete, would it become safer? Not if internal security problems grow along with its nuclear arsenal.

Would an offer of nuclear normalcy help Pakistan decide? Would it shape Pakistan’s nuclear posture in stabilising ways? No offer of normalcy can succeed unless it addresses the underlying reasons for Pakistan’s nuclear build-up. Pakistan doesn’t compete with India in this domain to gain status, and acquiring the status of a ‘normal’ nuclear state won’t lessen requirements until Pakistan feels safe and secure.

Will being designated a ‘normal’ nuclear nation be enough to convince Rawalpindi that it already has enough nuclear weapons? Nuclear normalisation doesn’t seem possible unless and until relations with India are normal. This means that as long as India is perceived as an existential threat, and as long as powerful domestic constituencies see the necessity of competing with India, normality will elude Pakistan.

Fitzpatrick does not suggest a civil-nuclear deal to signify normalisation, like that offered to India. China has agreed to provide Pakistan with nuclear power plants at highly concessionary terms. No other country or nuclear power corporation will dispense with profit taking, so a civil-nuclear deal would not open up new investment opportunities and is not on the cards. Instead, the path to nuclear normalcy lies within Pakistan itself, by getting its house in order, by improving ties with its neighbours, and by finding non-nuclear ways to increase its sense of security.

The writer is the co-founder of the Stimson Centre.

Train to Pakistan: 2014

F.S. Aijazuddin

KHUSHWANT Singh’s final journey was by train, to Pakistan. He did not require documents to cross the border. Ashes do not need visas.

KHUSHWANT Singh’s final journey was by train, to Pakistan. He did not require documents to cross the border. Ashes do not need visas.

He was cremated in New Delhi on March 20. A portion of his ashes were interred under his favourite tree in the garden at Sujan Singh Park. Some will be taken to his home in hilly Kasauli. The rest were given to me by his daughter Mala for interment in Hadali (now District Khushab, Pakistan), where he was born 99 years ago.

There’s no direct train link anymore between New Delhi to Lahore. I caught the Shadabti Express to Amritsar. It is a six-hour journey, time enough to refresh my familiarity with Khushwant’s works.

These included his autobiography Truth, love and a little malice (written prematurely at the age of 87), his evocative translation of The Japji and the Rehras: the morning and evening prayers of the Sikhs (published last year), and Death at my doorstep — a cemetery crammed with obituaries he had written of people he had known but not always liked or admired.

He dismissed Lord Mountbatten as ‘Lord of Baloney’, back-handed Sanjay Gandhi as the ‘Young Dictator’, lauded his mentor Manzur Qadir as ‘The Role Model’, and described movingly Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s final days ‘From the Death Sentence to the Gallows’.

To travel from New Delhi to Lahore now, one has to go to Amritsar, catch the Samjhauta or Friendship Express, change trains again at the Wagah/Attari border, and complete the journey to Lahore in yet another train. The goodwill inherent in the train’s title evaporates even over the short 42 kilometre distance between Amritsar and Lahore.

There, he is still a household word in a community consisting entirely of Pakistani Muslims. Hadali, in Khushwant Singh’s days a ‘tiny hamlet with less than 300 families’, is now a congested compression of almost 50,000 souls. Its most prominent building appears to be its Government Boys’ School. Its spacious dusty grounds were overrun by 600 boys in identical uniforms with differing shades of dirt.

The main school hall is still, according to the bearded headmaster, as Khushwant left it as a young pupil in 1920. He visited it 60 years later. He remembered the high roof supported by sagging timbers, the chapel-shaped classrooms on either side and the rugged plaster. It was too much for him. He recalled afterwards: “Overcome by emotion, I broke down.”

Could there have been a better location for the marble memorial plaque I had brought with me? A niche was gouged out of the external wall of the school hall and the marble slab grouted in it. His grey ashes were merged and lost within the wet grey cement. The commemorative inscription read: “In memory of Sardar Khushwant Singh/ A Sikh, a scholar and a son of Hadali (Punjab).”

After the mason had applied the finishing touches, rounding the corners carefully, I read the opening lines from Khushwant Singh’s translation of the Japji: “There is one God. He is the Supreme Truth. He the Creator is without fear and without hate.” I ended with the Shloka or Epilogue, one line of which would have been requiem enough: “The toils have ended of those that have worshipped Thee.”

While I was reciting these verses, I knew Khushwant would not have objected. He was only an arm-chair agnostic. Which truly believing agnostic would have laboured as he did to translate the Sacred Writings of the Sikhs?

Which agnostic would have straddled the spiritual divide and translated with such understanding Allama Iqbal’s epic remonstrance Shikwa and God’s riposte Jawab-i-Shikwa?

Which self-respecting agnostic would have, in the final year of his long life of ostensible disbelief, translated the Japji and the Rehras with such feeling and sensitivity?

Khushwant Singh did not need to make peace with his Maker with such gestures of conciliation, no more than he needed to be a literary enfant terrible. Khushwant Singh was above that. He had outgrown his time, overwhelmed his contemporaries with his expansive humanity.

If there was anything he never outgrew it was his affection for Hadali. It was of this cradle, this crucible of his life that he wrote: “This is where my roots are. I have nourished them with tears of nostalgia.”

Those are the closing lines you can read on his memorial plaque at Hadali placed there on April 22. n

The writer is an author and art historian.

http://www.fsaijazuddin.pk

A state of anarchy

Zahid Hussain

THE deaths of innocent people in terrorist attacks are not mourned anymore. Growing fatalities are mere statistics. What matters is only the safety of the ruling elite; never mind even if it is achieved by giving in to the barbarians.

THE deaths of innocent people in terrorist attacks are not mourned anymore. Growing fatalities are mere statistics. What matters is only the safety of the ruling elite; never mind even if it is achieved by giving in to the barbarians.

Hours after the carnage of almost 30 poor labourers and vendors in Islamabad’s fruit market the government announced the release of more Taliban prisoners. They were all non-combatants, we are told. So why were they held in the first place? Why were they not produced before any court of law to prove their innocence? No answer. That, however, would not satisfy the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan leaders. Some 800 other prisoners must be released too as a show of sincerity by the government, they demanded. Refusing to further extend the truce, the TTP vows to resume attacks on the security forces.

But it has not shaken the resolve of our national leaders to pursue the elusive negotiated peace. A statement issued after last week’s meeting of the Cabinet Committee on National Security declared that peace be given yet another chance.

For sure it doesn’t matter if an army patrol is attacked in Peshawar, killing one soldier and injuring several others a day after the suspension of the ceasefire by the TTP. The fact is that the truce has never been fully complied with by the Taliban. But this government seems to have enormous patience to tolerate violence — no use of force come what may.

It has been several months now since the talks started, but there is nothing that can evoke even the slightest hope of them delivering peace. How many more chances is the government prepared to give to the militants while the erosion of its authority continues?

While the government still pins hopes on the talks making some headway, the TTP itself is broiled in bloody infighting that has killed dozens of militants. The fighting now seems to have stopped, but it has left the group more fragmented.

It is apparent that Mullah Fazlullah, now operating from across the border in Afghanistan, cannot keep the fractious group united. It was time for decisive action against the terror network. But the talks have provided Fazlullah and others a new lifeline. This despite the fact that he has been responsible for some of the deadliest attacks on Pakistan forces from across the border in Afghanistan. Why the government wants to keep a man perceived as the butcher of Swat alive is beyond comprehension.

It has been a win-win situation for the TTP as it engages in negotiations with the government. While the terrorist network has secured the release of many of its activists, it has not conceded even an inch on the ground. So what have the talks yielded so far that the government is so desperate to give them another chance?

It is clearly the TTP that is dictating the terms now. The biggest gain for the group is that it has now got the legitimacy to operate freely and propagate its violent narrative with impunity. The charade of talks has allowed the group to strengthen its lobby influencing mainstream politics. It is certainly a very dangerous situation for the country’s security.

What is most worrisome is that the government seems to now be losing control over the capital Islamabad too. The mushrooming growth of radical madressahs affiliated with illegally constructed mosques is virtually placing the city under siege.

Last week, the notorious cleric of Islamabad’s Red Mosque renamed an illegally occupied children library after the slain Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. After lying low for several years following his release from prison Maulana Abdul Aziz is once again at his vitriolic best, preaching the violent takeover of the state. But this brazen defiance of the law does not seem to worry a spineless administration.

The shrinking authority of the state has never been so palpable. The country has all the symptoms of a failing state with rising lawlessness and militant criminality. A weak and ineffective government has little practical control over much of its territory, including the nation’s capital.

It has lost the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force by embracing militant outfits challenging the very existence of this state. The events over the last few months bear testimony to the country’s rapid slide into anarchy and shameful abdication of the state of its responsibility to protect the lives of its people.

Tailpiece: Two leading journalists were shot at, one of them wounded, in broad daylight in the heart of Pakistan’s two biggest cities in the space of two weeks. But there is little hope of the culprits being brought to justice. The targeted attacks on Hamid Mir and Raza Rumi illustrate the deadly culture of intimidation and retribution used to silence critics.

Several journalists have been murdered in reprisal for their work over the past years. Hardly any case has been solved. This record of impunity has fostered an increasingly more violent climate for the press in the country. Not surprisingly, Pakistan today ranks among the world’s deadliest nations for the media.

These targeted attacks on journalists are, however, not isolated phenomena; they underscore widening ungoverned space conceded to non-state actors. The latest attacks involving high-profile media persons may have forced the government to take notice. But there seems to be no change in the government’s apathetic attitude in dealing with the rising militant violence.

The writer is an author and journalist.

zhussain100

Twitter: @hidhussain

Rape and restitution

Rafia Zakaria

THE attacks took place approximately a week ago. Two Indian soldiers, Sachin Gupta and Saurab Chopra, both in their late 20s, allegedly lured a 21-year-old girl to their hotel room in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. According to the police reports filed against them, they then raped the girl and filmed the attack on their mobile phones.

THE attacks took place approximately a week ago. Two Indian soldiers, Sachin Gupta and Saurab Chopra, both in their late 20s, allegedly lured a 21-year-old girl to their hotel room in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. According to the police reports filed against them, they then raped the girl and filmed the attack on their mobile phones.

The victim’s family filed police reports. What happened next is what makes the story strange. Instead of demanding that the perpetrators be tried and duly punished, the family offered to drop the charges if the officers in question married the girl and her younger sister.

The wedding took place a few days later in Bareilly and the charges against Sachin and Saurab were dropped. As far as the community was concerned, the matter seemed to have reached a satisfactory conclusion. The girl and the younger sister, who would bear the burden of the dishonour brought by rape, were thus seemingly absolved from the fate of being maligned for life. The rapists, who had violated a woman against her will, were stuck with supporting her and her sister for life.

The conclusion of the story is based on a cold calculation, one that sees rape as a crime of a male giving in to temptation, and that sees the female victim always complicit and at fault in having presented it. While the case in question took place in India, these perceptions dominate in many other parts of the world.

The Malaysian newspaper The Star also reported a case last week in which a man, Mohammad Hunain, had been charged with three sexual offences. Prior to his court hearing, Hunain had confessed to violating a physically disabled girl, aged 14 years and 10 months, on at least two different occasions in March. However, at the hearing, Hunain withdrew his guilty plea. In pleading for bail, Hunain offered to meet the parents of the young girl and to marry her. The Malaysian prosecutor, however, said that such a plea could amount to tampering with the case and urged the court to not allow bail. In support of his argument, he cited another Malaysian case in which a man who had raped a 13-year-old girl was sentenced to 12 years in prison and whipped twice, even though he had married his victim.

While the outcome in the Malaysian case is not yet clear, the premise behind it is. Punishing rapists means treating rape as a crime that violates the physical body of another person, causing emotional harm and bodily injury, which in turn necessitates that the punishment applied be proportional to the harm suffered once the accused is found guilty of the offence. In this sense, the criminal punishment is imposed because of the violation of law. Allowing the perpetrator to marry the victim not only denies this premise but punishes the survivor yet again by imposing a lifelong punishment that victimises her forever.

The cruelty of imagining marriage as restitution for rape was revealed in Morocco two years ago. In March, 2012, 16-year-old Amina Al Filali poisoned herself after being forced to marry her 23-year-old rapist. Her family and the judge had pushed the marriage through in order to avoid dishonour to the family. This January, the Moroccan parliament managed to pass an amendment to Section 475 of their penal code, which had allowed a rapist to escape punishment if he married his underage victim. Rights activists in Morocco had long decried the law because it treated women as objects and enabled further abuse by the same men who had already abused them.

In Pakistan, various religious scholars and quasi-legal institutions such as jirgas have repeatedly suggested marriage as a means to erase the criminal act of rape. So entrenched is this perception as a corrective to a ghastly criminal act that not only are marriages offered as a means of restitution but revenge rapes are threatened if such marriages do not take place.

The core belief that permits them is the same in every case — in India where it was recently accepted, in Malaysia where it has been considered and in Pakistan where it is quite acceptable: a woman is not a person but an object that can be damaged, traded, exchanged, and peddled, all for the larger, more important objectives of men. This reason, however, is unlikely to convince the majority of Pakistanis, used as they are to patriarchy and its unforgivingly male centric perspective.

For them, the argument against rape as a form of restitution is best poised on the harm it does to marriage, an institution they do pretend to care about. Indeed, if a rapist can be imagined as a husband, then the marital relationship is also reduced to a mere transactional one between husband and wife. There is no talk of love or compatibility, let alone genuine respect, sincerity, or commitment. Instead, agreeing that marriage can be restitution for rape means simply that the marital relationship is one primarily of legality and economics.

Hence imagined, it doesn’t matter if the husband is a rapist or the rapist is a husband, but simply that the transgressions of men are erased, marriage hence transformed from a relationship that sustains society into merely a cover for past sins.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

rafia.zakaria

Bard for our times

Mahir Ali

A COPY of William Shakespeare’s complete works was once smuggled into South Africa’s Robben Island prison, in the guise of a Hindu prayer book. It passed from hand to hand, with each prisoner marking the verses that meant most to them.

A COPY of William Shakespeare’s complete works was once smuggled into South Africa’s Robben Island prison, in the guise of a Hindu prayer book. It passed from hand to hand, with each prisoner marking the verses that meant most to them.

Nelson Mandela chose a passage from Julius Caesar: “Cowards die many times before their deaths/ The valiant never taste of death but once…”

Much more recently, under the auspices of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), that very play has been performed as an African tragedy, to widespread accolades. The play, as Shakespeare wrote it, building on details passed on by the historian Plutarch, revolves around the assassination of a burgeoning tyrant and the eventual comeuppance of his chief assassins.

The scenario has, give or take a few nuances, been commonplace through much of the 20th century, and by no means only in Africa.

It’s intriguing to imagine what sort of a tragic hero Shakespeare might have conjured up out of Mandela’s life story. Or, for that matter, from that of Abraham Lincoln — who had the added advantage of delivering speeches of almost Shakespearean quality.

It’s hardly a surprise, though, that Lincoln was a huge admirer of Shakespeare’s tragedies. And there’s a striking irony in the fact that just weeks before he assassinated, his assassin, alongside two of his brothers, was playing the title role in Julius Caesar.

It was Brutus, though, whom John Wilkes Booth channelled at the crucial moment, thereby sullying a character described as “a noble fool” — and perhaps the only of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes not to have a play named after him.

There are, inevitably, scores of other historical characters who would likely have fitted the criteria Shakespeare deemed essential for a fatally flawed leading character — he would surely have found plenty to go on in the case, for instance, of Napoleon, Lenin, JFK and plenty of others, not least Pakistan’s Bhuttos and India’s Nehrus and Gandhis. Jinnah, too, may have qualified as a tragic hero, but he was also an aspiring Shakespearean actor on the London stage — a redeeming quality, clearly.

Shakespeare was, not surprisingly, anglocentric in his histories, but his tragedies and some of his comedies ranged widely across the known world, from Italy to Egypt. A couple of years ago a member of Scotland’s parliament introduced a bill seeking to rescue King Macbeth’s reputation from the calumny of Shakespeare’s portrayal.

The playwright was notoriously cavalier with his facts when borrowing from history — on the other hand, however, would anyone outside modern academia been familiar with Macbeth but for Shakespeare’s portrayal of the Scottish king?

Shakespeare’s 450th birth anniversary falls today; two years hence, it will be his 400th death anniversary, followed just seven years later by the quadricentennial of the First Folio — the first time that the bulk of his literary output, including previously unpublished plays, was collated.

It remains unclear who edited the First Folio, whose versions of plays differed substantially on occasion from those previously published in the Quarto version while Shakespeare was very much alive. The controversy over whether Shakespeare indeed authored the plays that bear his name continues to play out, although not many scholars pay it much attention any longer. Ultimately, of course, it doesn’t much matter precisely who wrote the plays. The miracle lies in their longevity. And that ought not to be particularly surprising, given the extent to which they immortalised common human flaws as well as transcendent qualities.

Have the causes and consequences of jealousy ever been summarised better than in Othello? Has “vaulting ambition” ever been more cogently represented than in Macbeth? Have the depravities induced by the prospect of inheritance ever been more clearly illustrated than in King Lear? Have the trials of tyranny — and the challenges of democracy — ever been more formidably illustrated than in Julius Caesar? Has revenge ever been sweeter — or more painful — than in Hamlet?

Some 30 years ago I had the unusual pleasure of climbing up to the stage at Stratford-upon-Avon, not as an actor, but as an audience member seated in the wings for a performance of Macbeth — with Jonathan Pryce, if memory serves, in the key role.

It was an unforgettable experience, although Shakespeare also gives considerable pleasure as a purveyor of the written word. Theatres across the globe continue to give precedence to scripts by the greatest playwright of them all, and studios in countries across the globe regularly stage his plays, often in a manner that provides scope for indigenous interpretations.

It’s a comforting thought. “Somehow,” as Mandela put it, “Shakespeare always seems to have something to say to us.” Thankfully, this tendency is unlikely to be rendered obsolete in the foreseeable future.

mahir

Bridging the abyss

Zubeida Mustafa

DESCRIBING his experience of blindness, Prof John Hull of Birmingham University and author of On Sight and Insight, says that people see blindness as an attribute. Hull, who lost his vision more than 30 years ago, thinks differently. According to him, the blind have their world as the sighted have theirs. But those who can see exclude the blind from the world of the sighted. The two worlds do not meet. Hull has a strong yearning to “overcome the abyss which divides the blind from the sighted”.

DESCRIBING his experience of blindness, Prof John Hull of Birmingham University and author of On Sight and Insight, says that people see blindness as an attribute. Hull, who lost his vision more than 30 years ago, thinks differently. According to him, the blind have their world as the sighted have theirs. But those who can see exclude the blind from the world of the sighted. The two worlds do not meet. Hull has a strong yearning to “overcome the abyss which divides the blind from the sighted”.

This fact is something not everyone understands. Those who do are inclusive and work to bridge this gap. One such institution that is exemplary in this context is the Almaktoom Centre in Islamabad. Since 1982 this school has been enrolling children with visual disability to provide them education to enable them to become self-reliant adults.

Today Almaktoom has 300 students on its rolls. Since 1995 the school has been sending children for the matriculation examination of the Federal Board. A number of these girls and boys go on to study in college and graduate to take up jobs and become useful members of society. Talal Waheed, who studied at Almaktoom, later graduated from Namal College and is now working with Unicef in a project to care for elderly people. Another alumnus, Ammara Anwar, is attached with the Pakistan Federation Fighting Blindness and records audio books.

Almaktoom’s teaching staff of 30 has six members who are vision impaired. They do a wonderful job of guiding the children into an adult’s world that is not as protective as they have known.

My visit to Almaktoom was an inspiring experience. The credit for running the centre with such efficiency and compassion on a limited budget goes to Rubina Anjum, the principal who was awarded the Tamgha-i-Imtiaz for her services to special children. She has been with Almaktoom since 2001.

This is a public-sector organisation, yet Rubina Anjum has managed to keep at bay the apathy and inefficiency usually characterising government bodies. She takes pride in her school and the children coming from among the poorest of the poor. To supplement government funds she raises public donations to provide students free uniforms, books and outings. A Braille library organised by librarian Shah Mohammad Afzal keeps the children well supplied with reading material in Braille.

The importance of inclusiveness emphasised by Prof Hull is evident at Almaktoom in the art activities conducted there. Funkor, an art centre for children run by Fauzia Minallah, an artist with a compassionate heart, has supplied art material to the school. Fauzia, a staunch defender of inclusiveness, asks, “Why should a child who cannot see be denied the joy of self-expression through art?”

To answer the question she obtained tactile material and taught children with vision impairment to feel the shape of objects and then draw them by touching the impression of the lines they sketch on special paper. The Amai park that Fauzia and her friends developed in Almaktoom is also designed to provide a safe space for the special children to play around freely in, like any child with normal vision.

Rubina has included music in the school curricula to draw children with visual disability into the world of the sighted. Shahid Nadeem, who played an exquisite melody on the flute for me, is from Gilgit. Music is certainly something that connects the sightless and the sighted.

Another inclusive activity is blind cricket that is a part of the centre’s sports programme. Syed Sultan Shah, the president of the World Blind Cricket Council as well as the captain of the Pakistan blind cricket team, is the coach in Almaktoom. He explained the intricate mechanism and rules of blind cricket and it did me proud to learn from Sultan that Pakistan has so far played 13 international series and won 11.

Almaktoom and Funkor are the outstanding exceptions in a place where Zahid Abdullah has to title his book Disabled by Society. Being inclusive is not the same as being compassionate. One has to be compassionate to be inclusive. But one can also be compassionate without being inclusive.

Why do schools for sighted children — they don’t actually describe themselves as such — not admit children with visual disabilities to study with students with 20/20 vision? Why don’t many examination boards allow vision impaired children to appear for exams with an amanuensis to write for them? Why don’t human rights bodies champion with equal vigour the cause of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities which Pakistan has signed and ratified but never implemented?

Prof Hull has a point there when he says, “To gain our full humanity, the blind and the sighted need each other.”

www.zubeidamustafa.com

Counterterrorism: the legal angle

Ahmer Bilal Soofi

THE federal government took the initiative to counteract terrorism, yet this step was taken without the inclusion of a legal narrative. The Pakistan government is under the false impression that a position on counteracting terrorism is equal to having a narrative on counterterrorism. This narrative, in simple terms, is a comprehensive explanation of why the government has taken a particular position. The more detailed the narrative, the more defensible the position. The strength of the narrative is further bolstered by the addition of a sound legal argument.

THE federal government took the initiative to counteract terrorism, yet this step was taken without the inclusion of a legal narrative. The Pakistan government is under the false impression that a position on counteracting terrorism is equal to having a narrative on counterterrorism. This narrative, in simple terms, is a comprehensive explanation of why the government has taken a particular position. The more detailed the narrative, the more defensible the position. The strength of the narrative is further bolstered by the addition of a sound legal argument.

Thus far, government representatives have repeatedly affirmed the decision to fight against the proliferation of terrorism and the threat of terrorism, but this is less narrative-based decision-making and more political posturing. The nearest the government may have come to providing a viable narrative was in the creation of the national security policy. This opportunity, however, was underutilised through the use of boilerplate generalities in the published policy, doing little to reassure members of the intelligentsia that the government’s position is one of strength in counteracting terrorism.

Ideally, the cabinet should have issued a narrative regarding the policy for the constitutional enforcement of operations. This detailed document would convey the legal reasoning for why the federal government is politically motivated to combat terrorism. For instance, the policy could say the government and cabinet are bound to take all necessary measures to uphold the Constitution in all the state’s enumerated territories. The government would then have a duty to convince those engaged in terrorism to lay down their arms and enter the negotiation process.

In case it failed, those engaged in terrorism would stand in violation of Articles 5 and 256 of the Constitution by waging a war against the state. Pursuant to this policy then, the federal government would be compelled to commission its law-enforcement agencies, by law, to disarm and disable these elements and restore public order.

In the very same policy, where the federal — or provincial — government felt that the police did not possess the necessary capability, Article 245 of the Constitution could be invoked for the armed forces to act in aid of civil power in a specified area. The purpose of commissioning the armed forces would be to more effectively enforce the Constitution in both letter and spirit and use force to disarm or neutralise those who attempt unlawful resistance. The Supreme Court has reaffirmed that it is only under Article 245 that the armed forces are permitted to act.

The policy for the constitutional enforcement of operations would accordingly state that the federal government, upon notification under Article 245, is also competent to issue executive orders in the form of an operation manual on the use of force in an internal conflict. The manual would include the limits on the use of force, safeguards concerning the right to engage and caution with regard to the civilian population. The policy would preserve the right to issue these directions pursuant to the federal law or possibly incorporate these directions in the directive commissioning the armed forces under Article 245.

This policy would also state that Pakistan, as a responsible member of the international community, has a duty and, more importantly, a legal compulsion under international law, to counteract terrorism. If it does not act in accordance with these international legal requirements, Pakistan would be identified as a state that is non-compliant with its obligations as binding under the resolutions of Chapter 7 of the UN Security Council.

Additionally, the federal government’s policy should contain reasonable guidelines for the media detailing the responsibility associated with the coverage of law-enforcement actions. In this regard, the policy could reference a recent judgement authored by the chief justice of the Balochistan High Court on the media’s role, partly in relation to Section 11L of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.

Within the ambit of the counterterrorism law, this judgement has created an obligation for all professionals, including journalists, to report relevant information to law-enforcement agencies. The policy would also do well to include a statement regarding fair reporting on information shared by those perpetuating acts of terrorism, as opposed to glorifying their unjust cause.

If such a comprehensive policy statement were available, the government would be in a substantially better position to defend its counterterrorism agenda in the media and elsewhere. The cost of the lack of a narrative is self-evident and has resulted in political debacles such as the decidedly unfavourable response to the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance. The government is not in a strong legal position to explain, let alone defend the PPO because it is woefully unclear on the exact applications of this instrument and its rather divisive choice of language.

The absence of an identifiable policy also impairs the federal government’s ability to assist the judiciary, especially the Supreme Court, on the legal aspects of the constitutional enforcement of operations. The unfortunate result is that the courts are issuing judgements on an ad hoc basis without holistically developing the jurisprudence keeping in view both the legal environment of internal conflict and the federal government’s corresponding agenda.

It would be infinitely more helpful if the relevant ministries (ie the Ministry of Defence) in the government, along with their legal teams, prepared this type of policy, establishing a more useful framework to be understood by other national stakeholders, including parliament, the media and most of all, the people of Pakistan.

The writer was federal law minister in the previous caretaker set-up.

ahmersoofi

Asif Bhai’s remedies

Jawed Naqvi

ASIF Kidwai was a popular homeopath of Lucknow. But he was equally a raconteur, a wit, a political publicist, a journalist, a moderate, well-read Muslim activist, a flirt, a handsome man with a flowing thick black beard.

ASIF Kidwai was a popular homeopath of Lucknow. But he was equally a raconteur, a wit, a political publicist, a journalist, a moderate, well-read Muslim activist, a flirt, a handsome man with a flowing thick black beard.

His legs were paralysed by a bout of pneumonia confining him to a bed for life. The bed was stacked with books and a notepad. Asif Bhai, as we called him, smelled of mild attar, its bouquet varying with the season, and a fragrant paan, which he occasionally chewed. His archaic bathroom slippers under the bed puzzled me always. The lightly bamboo-curtained boudoir-cum-free-clinic regulated a stream of patients, poets, academics and sighing women. The language shifted from high browed Urdu to lilting Awadhi to Shavian English, in any order.

During the 1965 India-Pakistan war, police surrounded Asif Kidwai’s house amid dark rumours that usually accompany cordoning off of Muslim homes. Asif Bhai would routinely tune into Radio Pakistan for the ‘other side’ of the story and the state momentarily thought he was a spy. BBC Radio had not yet become a household name.

Asif Bhai once treated a young boy for childhood incontinence, a problem whereby the six year-old would wet his bed in sleep and stink up the room for those who shared it. The prescription included a sweet white powder to be taken twice a day for three days. A boiled goose egg at night, twice a week would be helpful. And yes, the last chore of the day: the patient should empty his bladder into a shining brass tumbler and slip it under the elder brother’s bed at night.

Thought the boy was healed, it was only some 20 years later that Asif Bhai gleefully revealed the magic in the cure. All he wanted, he declared with a chuckle, was that the boy should sleep with an empty bladder. The sweet powder and goose eggs were placebos. The brass tumbler was a decoy to lure the patient, to make it exciting and mysterious for his young spirit.

Simple solutions to complex issues formed an essential feature of Indian sagacity, but those days are gone. When a glass of Coke spilled on his sofa at a party, the newly returned Non-Resident Indian reached for his spanking new vacuum cleaner, which he had brought from the Gulf, and began to assemble it. By which time a lady guest had spread out an old newspaper to soak up the mess.

Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khana, Emperor Akbar’s remarkably learned noble, wrote a versified aphorism in Brajbhasha, one of many he is famous for:

“Rahiman dekh bade’in ko, laghu na deejiye daar

Jaha’n kaam aawai sui kaha’n kari talwar

(Often a tiny needle is all we need, not the sword

Your finely stitched robe makes the point my lord)

Consider two issues that have turned gangrenous all because Indian strategists leaned on the sword where a needle and thread would have worked nicely. Take, for example, the Kashmir dispute and the Maoist insurgency in Chhattisgarh. All we needed was a more democratic, more secular and more equitable India, and there would be no issue in either of the locations to warrant dire military solutions.

Anyone who has talked to Kashmiris over the last few decades would know that the source of everyone’s grief in the Valley was India’s fading secular democracy. Kashmiri separatism may have an entire history of aloofness from New Delhi to lean on, but the promise of unbiased and equitable democracy that India once showcased did trump the nascent sectarian urges.

What went wrong then was never hard to divine. First it was the tinkering with the constitutional guarantees, which New Delhi gave Kashmir. Then the rigging of elections to suit New Delhi’s whims and prejudices hugely riled the public in Valley.

In recent years Kashmir has been one of the issues between India and Pakistan when their talks are proceeding smoothly. Hiccups turn it into a flaming core dispute backed by a battery of precariously poised nuclear weapons.

The implicit assertion in this is that Indians would rather plan for a nuclear war than plug the leaks in their secular, equitable democracy, which was promised by the country’s still enviable constitution. Why anyone from Kashmir, no matter how seriously they despised Indian presence in Srinagar, would want to go to an ethnically riven Pakistan is perhaps too simple a question to pose since its logic eludes the big budget policymakers in New Delhi.

Similarly, the Maoist insurgency is rooted in the coveted virgin forests, land, water and mineral resources that India’s tribal people have preserved and worshipped from time immemorial. It follows that the Maoists who assumed the role of guarantors of tribal rights in the absence of the state’s resolve can be easily disarmed without recourse to an eventually unworkable military option.

All that the tribes-people have been asking New Delhi is to heed their one simple request: “Ease out the banya-contractor-politician nexus from the forests.” The nexus has been mercilessly plundering the resources presumably with New Delhi’s patronage while not sparing the tribal women from its snare. If the future doesn’t look too bright for Chhattisgarh it has to be explained by the rise of Narendra Modi as a fact of life, a nominee of the entrenched exploitative troika.

Asif Bhai and Rahim Khan-i-Khana are no more and the world they left behind looks comfortable with its penchant for witless solutions to problems that were not meant to be there.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

jawednaqvi

Unlikely role

Moeed Yusuf

THE attack on Hamid Mir in Karachi was the second on a prominent media personality within a month, after Raza Rumi was attacked in Lahore. Suspects have ranged from intelligence agencies to Islamist militants.

THE attack on Hamid Mir in Karachi was the second on a prominent media personality within a month, after Raza Rumi was attacked in Lahore. Suspects have ranged from intelligence agencies to Islamist militants.

If you study empirical cases of insurgency and counterinsurgency, you’ll inevitably find that a combination of the insurgents’/terrorists’ ability to control their public image and the state’s lack of credibility as a trusted protector of its citizens tend to be present in every case where states can’t tame insurgencies for protracted periods — in fact, where they tend to end up on the losing side.

The recent attacks highlight just how obviously this combination exists in the Pakistani case.

On the one hand, the Islamist militants have made their intent to go after the media very clear. If there was any doubt about their seriousness, the attack on Rumi, said to be carried out by Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, removed it. The conversation within the media circles seems to have switched abruptly since — from being about individual TV anchors, journalists, and owners under threat to the industry feeling the heat.

This is precisely what insurgents/terrorists lacking genuine support from the society they operate in need. The Pakistani Taliban and their affiliates — read the militant nexus — realise they stand for an ideology that cannot make them a truly popular anti-state force. Constant conflation of their real agenda of establishing an Islamic emirate in Pakistan with all sorts of alternatives — anti-Americanism, upholding Islam in the face of Western onslaught, wanting Sharia in Fata only, speedy justice, etc — is a necessary survival strategy for them.

As the number one source of information for Pakistanis today, media is the most important player in this regard. Were the media truly able to forge a consensus on presenting the dark side of the Taliban and its affiliates, expose their true face to a still deeply confused Pakistani society, present the state as the victim, and constantly reinforce that the overall situation is an existential threat to the people of Pakistan, it would very quickly suck the life out of the insurgency.

And thus attacks such as the one on Rumi: a message that anyone using a media platform to expose the militants’ conflations will be silenced.

Such episodes force others in Rumi’s position to lie low, consciously or sub-consciously tone down their pronouncements, turn their focus away from the Taliban to less controversial topics, or feel forced to give the Taliban a pass under duress. Those still unfazed by the Taliban’s message find themselves increasingly isolated and vulnerable.

The end result: the confused narrative about the Taliban continues.

The number one antidote to this type of vulnerability for the media in such contexts is the state’s commitment to defending them. Where the state apparatus is sensitive to the power of narratives as a key counterinsurgency tool and has the capacity to defend the narrators, the journalistic fraternity feels less pressured to pull back than where they are left to defend themselves.

No points for guessing which camp the Pakistani state belongs to. Considering the Pakistani state as a defender of the journalistic fraternity is nothing short of a laughable proposition now.

And it gets worse in a way that the whole model of counterinsurgency that is premised on the state being able to defeat non-state actors through astute policies and public support is upended.

I am pointing to the troubling prospect that in Pakistan’s case, this ultimate defender of the citizens may also be busy silencing narrators just like the insurgents.

The point most relevant here is not whether Mir’s allegations against the ISI (or Saleem Shahzad’s before him) are well-founded (of course, an impartial inquiry followed by logical next steps against perpetrators must be undertaken). It is that the state is so discredited that many already believe this to be true.

In fact, one can generalise this further to say that few, if any, Pakistanis trust the state to be serious about upholding its social contract with the people. The Pakistani state is seen as indifferent to the plight of its people at best and as an adversary at times when allegations such as Mir’s come to surface.

For the insurgents, this is nirvana. The society is unable to rid itself of the conflation about them. In addition, the state is truly discredited and allegations such as Mir’s make it even less likely that the citizenry will unequivocally back the state’s policies against the militants — or for that matter on anything.

If Pakistan is able to overcome the militant challenge despite this, it would be the first country to have done it. Miracles do happen — perhaps — but I wouldn’t bet on this one.

The writer is a foreign policy expert based in Washington D.C.

Blind spots

Mohammad Ali Babakhel

THE death of more than 40 people in a horrifying traffic accident near Sukkur on Sunday, right after a similar tragedy in Dera Ghazi Khan, speaks of the country’s poor road safety standards.

THE death of more than 40 people in a horrifying traffic accident near Sukkur on Sunday, right after a similar tragedy in Dera Ghazi Khan, speaks of the country’s poor road safety standards.

Pakistan has about 20 automobiles per 1,000 people. Even with such a low automobile population, though, accidents are frequent. Meanwhile, 90pc of passengers move via road networks, thus road safety needs special attention.

The Lahore High Court chief justice directed the Punjab government to constitute a Road Safety Commission, ordering that the government take action against unfit vehicles and underage drivers. This was a consequence of a citizen’s petition.

All the stakeholders in road safety must realise the gravity of the situation. Road safety pertains to human, mechanical and infrastructural aspects, and rectifying only one component may not yield the desired results.

Vehicular fitness is often overlooked. Standardisation and transparency in the functioning of motor vehicle examiners (MVEs) is lacking. It is imperative that all public service vehicles (PSVs) be physically examined. Dependence on manual examination can be reduced by using modern gadgets. This function can be outsourced to reputed automobile companies. Licensing, too, requires transparency, standardisation and the creation of linkages with Nadra. A National Licensing Regulatory Authority needs to be established.

The non-availability of emergency exits and excessive use of iron rods and T-irons in the fabrication of the bodies of buses impedes evacuation operations. The building of buses must be regulated with safety standards in view. Section 203 of Chapter-VI of the Motor Vehicle Rules, 1969, requires that PSVs should have fire extinguishers but most don’t.

After an accident, the role of the rescue team is of vital importance. Except for the Motorway Police and the Rescue 1122 service, provincial police units do not have hydraulic cutters, cranes, searchlights or ambulances. Then, the absence of trauma centres on highways makes the rescue work hard. Instant life-saving intervention provided within an hour of an accident saves lives. But usually, transportation to the nearest ordinary health facility takes more than one hour.

In Pakistan, the traffic police are the unattractive face of the police force. The introduction of the Motorway Police in 1997 was the right step. It is the only aspect of the Pakistan police service that earned credibility in the eyes of the UN and the Asian Development Bank. It has been rated as not only an efficient but also a corruption-free police organisation. The model was copied by the Islamabad traffic police and Punjab’s traffic wardens, but these organisations have yet to achieve the set ideals.

Adopting a zero-tolerance approach, the Motorway Police ensure equal application of the law. They have opted for soft policing rather than punitive policing. The body’s sole mission is not the collection of fines. Prior to enforcement, the community is educated about the laws.

It is hard to quantify the number of traffic fatalities exactly. Meanwhile, the majority of non-fatal accidents go unreported. According to the Bureau of Statistics, in 2010-11, in 4,280 accidents 5,271 persons were killed. According to the Edhi Centre in Karachi, 644 persons died in accidents in the city during 2013. Besides human losses, Pakistan’s motorists suffer monetary losses worth Rs100 million annually.

According to a global status report on road safety 2013, in Pakistan 41pc of victims of road accidents were pedestrians. Yet the safety of pedestrians remains a missing link. The construction of underpasses, overhead bridges, the illumination of roads and the installation of road furniture have to be the integral components of road safety plans.

Except on the motorways, highways and in Islamabad, in the rest of the country enforcement regarding seatbelts is nonexistent. Backseat passengers usually don’t wear seatbelts as a norm.

Overloaded trucks not only destroy the roads but are also safety hazards. In 90pc of cases, commercial vehicles carry more than the allowed standard axle-load. Two-axle trucks, which account for 70pc in the overall truck fleet, badly damage our roads.

Pakistan lacks driving training facilities, even though the National Highway Safety Ordinance, 2000 promotes the setting up of training schools. These are to be administered by the private sector under the regulatory role of the government.

The drafting and implementation of a national road safety plan is inevitable. A national road safety council with provincial councils and district committees should be notified to oversee the implementation of the plan. Road safety must also be made part of school curricula, too.

Then, to evaluate risky locations, a joint road safety audit should be carried out by the National Highways Authority, the Motorway Police and provincial highway authorities. Immediate preventive measures are required to identify black spots.

The writer is a deputy inspector general of the police.

alibabakhel

Judiciary and tolerance

Babar Sattar

Chief Justice Tassaduq Jillani implored recently that, “we have to protect the constitutional values of democracy, or religious tolerance, of human dignity and providing inexpensive and expeditious justice.”

Chief Justice Tassaduq Jillani implored recently that, “we have to protect the constitutional values of democracy, or religious tolerance, of human dignity and providing inexpensive and expeditious justice.”

Who can deny that our allegiance to these foundational values, upon which is founded our claim of being a civilised society, is faltering? While reforming society falls beyond the judiciary’s province, more power to CJ Jillani if making our court system an emblem of tolerance figures on top of his agenda for judicial reform.

The causes of our growing intolerance are many. But most relevant to the justice system are two. One, if there is lack of faith in the ability of the formal legal process to deliver justice — those subjected to injustice resort to self-help. And thus revenge and violence fill the space to be occupied by justice. Two, if there is no certainty of punishment and the justice system is no deterrent, those who believe in enforcing their views and beliefs through use of force are emboldened.

The manifestations of intolerance within our justice system include: composition of the judiciary; failure to evolve meaningful jurisprudence on the right to liberty; tolerance for intolerance manifested in court proceedings; self-righteousness or inability to distinguish between the law and personal morality; and failure to breath life into a moth-eaten justice system that offers no hope to ordinary Joes.

In a diverse society, faith in impartiality doesn’t grow because it is loudly proclaimed. The perception of impartiality is linked to the representative character of institutions. Other diverse societies have relied on affirmative action to ensure representation of minority and marginalised groups within administrative and judicial forms to buttress their legitimacy in the eyes of marginalised groups.

In the entire history of our Supreme Court we have had not more than a handful non-Muslim judges — Alvin Cornelius, Dorab Patel, Rustam Sidhwa and Rana Bhagwandas come to mind. Never has a woman served on the Supreme Court. More recently nominations of lawyers for the high court have been shot down because they are Ahmedi or even because they are suspected of enjoying the forbidden nectar. Shia judges serving even in the superior courts complain privately that they face faith-based prejudice.

Words alone might be insufficient to reassure minorities that our courts are impervious to the biases otherwise on full display within our society. And the responsibility for lack of representativeness of our superior judiciary rests with no one other than the judiciary itself. For our judiciary has aggressively guarded its turf to singlehandedly determine its composition, even by toying with the perilous idea of striking down the 18th Amendment.

Our courts have undoubtedly expanded the scope of fundamental rights over the years. We have seen evolution of citizens’ economic rights. We have seen the state’s arbitrary decisions struck down under Article 25 (right to equality). We have seen expansive interpretation of the right to life under Article 9, which holds that “no person shall be deprived of life or liberty save in accordance with law”. But what we haven’t seen is a meaningful interpretation or enforcement of the right to ‘liberty’ beyond its basic physical manifestation ie freedom from arbitrary arrest.

What is more problematic is the judiciary’s manifest tolerance for intolerance. Legal equality is fiction in a sense that it is meant to exist despite social and economic inequalities prevalent within the society. But if the function of courts is limited to endorsing and legitimising societal power relations instead of protecting the weak against them, are such courts chambers of justice or expediency?

Let’s turn to recent cases. Some zealot charged that a painting visible in a photo printed in a magazine published by the National College of Arts was blasphemous. The publication had to be discontinued as a means of resolving the dispute. Another zealot charged that a private school in Lahore teaching students the history of religions in a course entitled comparative religions was indulging in immorality. The school had to shelve the course to save its skin. The manner in which blasphemy suspects are convicted under mob pressure needs no repetition.

In 1996, Justice Arif Bhatti of the Lahore High Court was shot in his chambers after the release of an 11-year old charged with blasphemy. In 1998, the bishop of Faisalabad, Dr John Joseph, shot himself outside a courthouse, to protest the persecution of the Christians in the name of enforcing blasphemy laws. Pervez Ali Shah, the judge, who sentenced Mumtaz Qadri to death for killing Governor Salmaan Taseer, has been ‘exiled’ to Saudi Arabia to save his life.

We have also begun mixing law with personal morality. If unchecked this will oust legal certainty from the rule of law and replacing it with the whims of individual judges. Self-righteousness can take reason out of law and leave it at the mercy of the personal faith and moral preferences of adjudicators. Self-righteousness, if practised by someone in judicial robes doesn’t make it any less a manifestation of intolerance than that being practised by someone forcing his personal moral code on a fellow citizen by holding a gun to his head.

If courts can neither protect themselves nor citizens from social coercion and the lesson learnt (with the help of base survival instinct) is that it is better to appease the intolerant than to confront them, such courts might do more harm than good by hastening the transformation of a coercive social consensus into a conformist one.

The writer is a lawyer.

sattar@post.harvard.edu

Strains already

Ahmed Bilal Mehboob

The ISPR press release of April 7 demonstrated the communication gap between the political and military leadership. That the COAS had to convey the message through a public communication shows that either there are no effective channels of communication or the latter through those channels is unproductive.

The ISPR press release of April 7 demonstrated the communication gap between the political and military leadership. That the COAS had to convey the message through a public communication shows that either there are no effective channels of communication or the latter through those channels is unproductive.

The press release also officially confirms the ‘concerns’ among the military rank and file about ‘undue criticism’ directed at the ‘institution’. Civil-military relations here have never been smooth, but such early turbulence, before the completion of the first year of the political government in office, characterised by a public communiqué by a handpicked COAS of less than five months ago, shows rougher periods ahead unless both sides display maturity.

A number of factors may have contributed to the rising discontentment in military ranks. First the prime minister’s choice of defence minister. It was a mistake in the first place to not appoint a full-time minister with the prime minister himself keeping the portfolio — meaning that the political leadership was giving little attention to day-to-day defence affairs.

The prime minister should have appointed a knowledgeable and balanced individual as defence minister — someone such as Sartaj Aziz or Raja Zafarul Haq. But he appointed a defence minister only to escape from appearance in court. And if he was not aware of Khawaja Asif’s public outbursts against the military, it is a sad commentary on his selection process.

If, however, he appointed Khawaja Asif despite knowing his harsh views (which may be partly justifiable due to his reported ill-treatment under Musharraf), it is an even worse commentary on the prime minister’s political and governance acumen.

The defence minister and others were drawn into repeatedly making harsh remarks about Musharraf on the media when a case of high treason had already been instituted against him. The battle was to be fought in court, not on TV. Comments on Musharraf such as his ‘ridiculously puffed-up chest because of the bullet-proof jacket’ were in bad taste.

Besides these, three other reasons might have provoked the communiqué. First, reportedly the institution of a high treason case against a former COAS has not gone down well with the military rank and file. If true, the solution does not lie in scuttling the judicial process and impeding the course of law. If we are a civilised nation and believe in uniform application of the rule of law, it is critical that the liberties taken by Musharraf with the Constitution on Nov 3, 2007 come to a closure through fair legal proceedings.

If some individuals in the military do not understand the significance of the legal process, it is the duty of their leadership, and, to some extent, of the political leadership, to educate them on the requirements of the rule of law. If the law is not allowed to take its course, no citizen will have any faith left in it and it will be impossible to stand against such movements as the Taliban who call the legal and democratic system of the country a farce.

Why should the military, that prides itself on its discipline, stand in the way of the law’s course? Musharraf’s long stay at the army hospital, without apparent justification, has sent a wrong message about the military’s position in this case.

Second, the military may also have been perturbed at the registration of criminal cases against serving military personnel in the missing persons cases. This issue demands a dispassionate analysis. Human rights are important but a state faced with a fierce security crisis has to protect its sovereignty in the interest of citizens’ security.

In a country where the military is pitted against a savage group of terrorists who blow up citizens and behead military personnel; where the legal system is so faulty that it is nearly impossible to get a terrorist convicted; and where judges, witnesses and prosecution face serious threats while anti-terrorism laws remain ineffective, registering criminal cases against military personnel fighting a war is tantamount to demoralising the institution.

The government has taken a bold, necessary step by introducing the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance but it should enter into a dialogue with opposition parties for its bipartisan passage.

Third, aspects of the ongoing dialogue with the Taliban may also have strained relations. While the political leadership, with the mandate and responsibility to resolve the issue, should be afforded all cooperation to test the dialogue route, the military’s perspective should also be part of the process.

The PML-N government took a sensible step in constituting the Cabinet Committee on National Security — akin to the National Security Council.

The committee, apparently recently renamed the National Security Committee, is the right forum to discuss national security issues including divergence of views between the civilians and the military. Unfortunately this committee has met only thrice since its inception eight months ago. Britain, which faces far fewer security challenges, has its National Security Council meet every week under the chairmanship of the UK premier.

Strains in civil-military relations must be discussed and resolved at the institutional level and the NSC is the right forum. While one-on-one meetings between the prime minister and COAS are good photo ops, these are no substitute for formal meetings. Pakistan can’t afford a communication breakdown between its political and military leaderships at this critical juncture of its struggle for an honourable existence.

The writer is president of PILDAT, a Pakistani think tank.

Antisocial media

Zarrar Khuhro

“WE use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.” This was what an Egyptian said during the early, heady days of the Arab Spring. While it would be going too far to say that social media caused the Arab Spring, it did certainly facilitate it. In countries where information was strictly controlled by the state, the un-moderated and uncensored content and communication provided by social media was, and is, a game changer.

“WE use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.” This was what an Egyptian said during the early, heady days of the Arab Spring. While it would be going too far to say that social media caused the Arab Spring, it did certainly facilitate it. In countries where information was strictly controlled by the state, the un-moderated and uncensored content and communication provided by social media was, and is, a game changer.

This wasn’t the first time communications technology has led to regime change. In the late 1990s, Indonesian dictator Suharto was brought low in large part thanks to the quick and unmonitored communication that newly established email services allowed his political opponents. A process that may have taken longer and been much trickier was thus speeded up. The same could be said for the Arab Spring.

Earlier this month, AP published an exposé on how USAID, backed by the State Department, funded an effort to create a version of Twitter for Cuba, which was “aimed at undermining Cuba’s communist government”. This now defunct platform, ZunZeo, would operate through mobile phones and, according to documents obtained by AP, would start with non-political messaging and then later introduce political content.

There were even references to using the network to organise “smart mobs” at short notice to help create a ‘Cuban Spring’ or, as a USAID document put it, help “renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society”. Naturally, after the publication of the report there was a quick clarification from USAID, alleging inaccuracies in the AP report. Funnily enough, one of the corrections is that ZunZeo attracted 69,000, and not 40,000 users, as claimed by AP.

While USAID says there was nothing covert about it, a 2010 memo on the issue states: “There will be absolutely no mention of United States government involvement.” All told, it was probably less costly than the Bay of Pigs, and less ‘Dr Evil’ than the plan to poison Castro’s cigars.

There’s now a Senate committee probing the issue, with one senator calling it “dumb, dumb, dumb” and another pointing out that this “is not what USAID should be doing”. At this point I’d like to mutter something about carrying out covert operations under the cover of vaccination programmes, but let’s leave that for another column.

The idea of controlling communications and information is one that makes just about every state, deep or otherwise, salivate. That many are unable to do so mainly depends on a lack of capability, or out of fear of the kind of pressure their relatively vibrant societies, and independent judiciaries, will subject them to.

Pulling the plug entirely, like North Korea has done, is not viable, and the Chinese model — or literally creating one’s own social media systems — is unaffordable for most. The Chinese approach requires China-sized coffers, and not many countries have those.

Similarly, to take the high road, as America has done, and simply monitor all communications taking place just about everywhere in the world, also requires a comparable level of expertise and infrastructure that would be needed to construct a small Death Star. To wit, only the Empire can do it.

Thus most leaders with authoritarian leanings, and whose nations already have significant numbers of netizens, opt to build, if not China’s Great Firewall, then at least a few fences. That’s what we saw in Turkey when Erdogan, stung by the social media-augmented Gezi protests, dubbed Twitter “the worst menace to society”, temporarily banned it and also pushed through internet censorship laws.

But such fences are flimsy, easy to jump over or cut holes in and in the end serve only to annoy and frustrate. Thus, you find that there’s a new approach being used. One of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’. Thus we find the rise of the ‘sponsored’ netizen, the ones whose purpose is to direct, and sometimes confuse, the debate.

Take South Korea for example, the National Intelligence Service of which is accused of sending 22 million Tweets from 2,270 Twitter accounts, in order to influence the presidential elections in favour of the winning candidate and now President Park Geun-hye. You don’t have to look too hard to find similar, yet far more bumbling, examples here at home.

For anyone who advocates an open internet, writing about such issues is hard, but not as hard as the situation covert projects like the ‘Cuban Twitter’ create. Such events simply give those who would deny us our right to information, our right to communicate, more fodder for their regressive actions. So next time, dear US, stick to the poisoned cigars and avoid poisoning our legitimate cause. Thanks.

The writer is a member of staff.

zarrar.khuhro@gmail.com

Twitter: @ZarrarKhuhro

Instant ‘justice’

Tariq Khosa

LASHING out at the police seems a ploy adopted by the rulers to vent their frustration at the systemic failure for whom they themselves are mainly responsible. “Our police system has gone dysfunctional,” the Punjab chief minister told the media recently, while castigating the police for mishandling a rape case.

LASHING out at the police seems a ploy adopted by the rulers to vent their frustration at the systemic failure for whom they themselves are mainly responsible. “Our police system has gone dysfunctional,” the Punjab chief minister told the media recently, while castigating the police for mishandling a rape case.

Not satisfied with the arrest of three suspects, he warned the Punjab police inspector general and Sahiwal regional police officer of suspension if a fourth suspect — apprehended later —was not arrested within 48 hours. Four policemen were suspended. I can only sympathise with one of the most gentle police commanders of Punjab who was warned he could lose his rank.

In such cases, the police will go to any lengths for their boss to avoid the humiliation of suspension from service. And this includes the resort to detaining and torturing the kith and kin of a runaway suspect to pressure him to surrender.

There are a few time-tested methods of human rights violations which earn kudos from a police command subjected to the anger of politicians who want to shake the slovenly cop culture out of its slumber. These violations range from the milder though illegal practice of detaining the father, brothers or close male relatives of a fugitive, to physical torture.

Sometimes such measures include the detention of female relatives, with the police banking on ‘honour’ as an instrument of surrender. At times, disgustingly innovative methods of torture and detention are employed. Our police can unfortunately stoop to the lowest depths of depravity and a macho feudal mindset even justifies their brutal tactics in the quest for speedy ‘justice’.

As against the rape incident demonstrating police negligence and inefficiency, another case of prompt police response is worth looking at in the context of our governance culture. A school teacher who was suspected of kidnapping, raping and murdering an 11-year-old was killed recently by the Khanewal district police. That teacher, along with the principal of a school allegedly subjected a Class-V student to rape, after which the child was killed and buried.

When the parents reported their child was missing, the police, after interrogating the principal, went for the teacher, who with the help of a former elected official courted arrest and admitted his offence. This was undoubtedly a gruesome act.

The accused did not deserve mercy but his right to trial and due process could not be denied. However, police claimed that while being taken to Lahore for a DNA test, the culprit under custody attacked the policemen and tried to snatch their weapons and was killed during the fight. Thus was the child’s murder avenged by the men in uniform.

The bereaved family’s grief was somewhat mitigated. Police commanders reported the case of instant ‘justice’ to the top echelons. Chest-thumping, accolades and pats on the back followed. How dare a suspect in handcuffs attack the policemen and try to snatch their weapons! He had to be eliminated there and then rather than be allowed to face a court of law. Well done, Punjab police!

Is our police system dysfunctional? Is this the ideal way to maintain law and order? Ah, the nostalgia for the police under the Raj! The Punjab police of the British era were nasty and brutish but efficient and effective. Is that the police force we want? Why not reminisce about the Mughal era? The kotwal was effective. He was an important functionary of the king’s court.

The 21st-century policemen in Pakistan should also act like courtiers and carry out the rulers’ orders. They should forget that rule of law requires patience, professionalism, competence, autonomy and painstaking work to investigate cases, howsoever awful.

What is the need of an independent judiciary that wants due process and rule of law? State prosecutors and executive magistrates were better. Staged and fake police encounters were condoned and covered up. Arms could be twisted and political opponents silenced. Nuisances like the free media and human rights commissions were not there.

I agree when the Punjab chief minister laments that “police today have all the modern gadgets and fast mobility but they fail to detect and arrest criminals”. He is right in pointing out that police must know the spots that breed crime.

But while suspending an SHO, does he ask him about his tenure of posting? Which superman will detect the criminal breeding grounds if his average posting in a police station is for three months? SHOs and DSPs are moved at whim. How many SHOs and DSPs have been suspended for seeking political favours and violating the chain of command? These questions should be kept in mind if respect for the law is to take precedence over knee-jerk justice.

The writer is a retired police officer.

Madressah reform difficulty

Muhammad Amir Rana

MADRESSAH administration elites are sensitive to the idea of reform in their education system. No government here has intervened in practical terms in the affairs of madressahs — predominantly controlled and administered by the clergy. Still these elites eye any madressah-related statement by the government with suspicion.

MADRESSAH administration elites are sensitive to the idea of reform in their education system. No government here has intervened in practical terms in the affairs of madressahs — predominantly controlled and administered by the clergy. Still these elites eye any madressah-related statement by the government with suspicion.

The government itself is unclear about what to do about this sector of education, which evidence links to many security-related problems. In its recently announced internal security policy, the government developed a case about madressahs purely from a security perspective. The policy draft recommended the mainstreaming of this sector, leading to resentment among the madressah elites that saw it as the government’s attempt to ‘occupy’ or ‘nationalise’ the madressah sector.

Interestingly, while security- and terrorism-related issues are usually linked to madressahs of particular Islamic sects, whenever the government indicates it wants to reform madressahs, all educational boards administrating madressahs of different sects or streams, and religious organisations, set aside their differences to jointly resist such attempts.

The reason is clear. The madressah elites think whenever the government will intervene to reform madressahs the process will entail all madressah streams. The non-flexible attitude of the elites has a reason. They seek political, moral and economic support through this system to become stakeholders in the country’s power structure.

It has always been difficult for the government to find the starting point of intervention. The problem lies in its perception, priorities and ambiguities vis-à-vis policy formation. The government has to understand that reducing security threats and introducing educational reforms are two different tasks. The interior ministry, law-enforcement agencies and the National Counter Terrorism Authority can build an effective response to security issues related to the madressah sector but cannot reform the educational system.

The perception that security threats can be addressed while introducing madressah reforms is flawed. Especially when the government is not even clear as to what kind of educational reforms are needed. Mere introduction of formal education or a few subjects like English and computer science will not help remove security threats emanating from madressahs.

To address security issues linked to madressahs, the government and the relevant departments must adopt a non-discriminatory, zero-tolerance policy. If any madressah or school is involved in hate speech, indoctrination of violent ideologies, or providing hideouts to suspected terrorists and providing them with logistics, the law-enforcers should take action.

In many cases, madressah teachers and students have been involved in suspicious activities but the madressah administration had nothing to do with these. In these cases, the government has to take the madressah elites into confidence because the security threats emanating from madressahs cannot be mitigated without their cooperation

No doubt the madressah elites react and deny that their education institutes or students are involved in terrorism. In contrast, when law-enforcement agencies raid a college or university to apprehend a terrorism suspect, the administration does not create hurdles. The police have recently conducted such operations in some universities in Punjab and Karachi with the help of the university administration.

It would be relatively easier for the government to convince those at the helm at madressah education boards to extend their cooperation on security-related issues than to try to address the problem itself by reforming the whole sector. At the same time, the need for reforms remains. On the educational front, many madressahs realise the need to revise their curriculum, pedagogy and administrative systems. Many madressahs in major urban centres have already introduced many changes in their system to make it compatible not only with mainstream public but also private educational institutes.

A few religious parties and big madressahs have established what they call ‘modern Islamic schools’. These trends are considered by some as an attempt by religious elites to encroach on the mainstream education system. It is not certain if the government conceives of mainstreaming madressahs in a similar light.

Internal reform attempts in madressahs are not smooth and uniform, as many of these reforms are linked to the principal. Madressahs are like private enterprises and their principals have more freedom and authority. Even their respective educational boards cannot intervene. The educational boards are responsible only for holding examinations for affiliated madressahs.

If the government thinks it can encourage the madressah sector to bring about similar reforms, it has to take up a national level initiative. Obviously, this is not the interior ministry’s job. The religious affairs ministry is more interested in Haj-related affairs and it is not clear if it has the mandate for such engagement. After the 18th Amendment, education has become a provincial subject. But most provinces have not come up with legislation; those which have, have ignored madressahs.

As far as extremism is concerned, madressah elites say that the problem is not confined to their educational institutes. This is partially true as the thinking patterns of Pakistani youths irrespective of whether they’ve studied at madressahs or mainstream public and private institutions, have common tendencies. The views of those educated at madressahs and other educational institutes are almost the same. What makes madressah students more vulnerable to violent extremism are their sectarian views. The latter empathise not only with sectarian but also other terrorist groups working for multiple agendas.

It is a difficult task to address this critical issue, especially when the government has relatively less space to meddle as its options are almost nil.

The writer is a security analyst.

End of a crisis

Cyril Almeida

WELL, that was quick. The great crisis is over. Democracy is back on track. Constitution Avenue won’t be seeing tank tracks anytime soon. It’s back to awkward handshakes and reluctant smiles.

WELL, that was quick. The great crisis is over. Democracy is back on track. Constitution Avenue won’t be seeing tank tracks anytime soon. It’s back to awkward handshakes and reluctant smiles.

So, what the hell happened?

The same thing that’s happened before: wanting something isn’t the same thing as being able to get it.

But there’s also a step before that: why was everyone so sure they knew what the boys really wanted?

Nawaz in handcuffs, Musharraf on a plane out of Pakistan — the conspiracies were peddled with such unbridled glee that you had to wonder if the peddlers were making it all up.

There was even the bit where Raheel, annoyed by Nawaz dodging him for days, took a chopper to the PM’s house and GHQ only informed the PMO of the chief’s arrival once he was already in the air.

That, according to another bit, was what caused Nawaz to unleash Saad Rafique and Khwaja Asif.

Really? It sounded like an episode of a particularly bad soap.

But what had set off the boys in the first place?

Oh, that’s easy. Nawaz had promised Raheel that Musharraf would be allowed to leave the country once he was indicted. But then Nawaz reneged and the boys went on the warpath.

Uhuh. That sounded like one of those particularly bad propaganda movies the ISPR finances.

OK, but we know they were enraged, which means there must be a serious problem. So, what is it?

Musharraf? The manner of Musharraf’s trial? The TTP? Certain prisoners the TTP will ultimately want released? All of the above? None of the above?

Who knows, who cares. The boys were on the rampage and that’s all that mattered.

Wait, let’s rewind to just last November.

Hadn’t everyone parsed all the candidates’ records minutely and decided that Raheel had no chance? Because, well, doesn’t matter; he just had no chance.

Hang on, he was too docile and irrelevant to be picked just five months ago and got picked precisely because he was a careerist and would be beholden — then what the hell happened in the last five months?

Take your pick. Either way, it’s delicious. Raheel has to prove to the boys that he will always keep the boys’ interests first. Or there’s something in that chair that gives its occupant an itch.

Cue Raheel chucking out his benefactor, derailing the democratic project, putting Musharraf on a plane to somewhere and then — what?

Ah, look at that sly Asif, turning up just in time to goad the naïve Nawaz into reacting. Now, Nawaz will pull a Nawaz and will be sent packing, opening the door to a PPP comeback.

Wait, so the PPP can win an election now, a year after being wiped out? Oh, the boys can make anything happen.

OK, but no, the boys are going to kick out Nawaz to save Musharraf, only to let Asif — didn’t they like really, really hate him? — back in?

How does that work? Never mind. Let’s not interrupt the conspiracy train.

Fine, let’s work with that for a minute. They want him out. The boys want Nawaz out. Raheel wants Nawaz out.

It may even be Musharraf. Let’s just say it’s Musharraf.

How do we go from the boys wanting something to the boys getting that something? What’s the leverage here?

The chief goes to the PM and tells him a trial will cause too much trouble, so it’s best to drop it. The PM says he understands the concerns, but he sees things differently and believes that a trial should go ahead.

Then what?

Either immediately or some time later, Nawaz is chucked out.

To do what? To save Musharraf? To stop the dialogue?

Yes, to do that. Raheel either takes over directly or installs a front.

But what about the governments in the provinces? PPP in Sindh, PTI in KP, nationalists in Balochistan? Surely, they’d have to go too.

And what about the judges running around telling us that the door has been slammed shut on dictatorships? Well, a bunch of them would have to go too.

Fine, they go home too.

Now what? Your biggest problem is the narrative. How do you sell the ouster to the public?

The economy has stabilised, Punjab isn’t under attack, Karachi is stable-ish, there’s been no sell out on Kashmir, the Americans aren’t invading, dialogue with the TTP isn’t unpalatable, nothing is imploding or exploding — all you have to sell is your anger over Musharraf?

Try spinning that into the national interest.

OK, somehow you sell that too. Then what?

Then you have to run this damn place. And everything you do, someone will be unhappy and everything that goes wrong, everyone will blame you for.

Sure, but that’s the masochism of those who crave power.

Ah, so Raheel craves power; saving Musharraf is just the pretext to grab power. That actually simplifies everything.

Raheel wants power, but power comes at a cost — what’s the price he’s willing to pay? And what can he offer to the public to live with his power grab?

Bling growth for the urban middle classes mixed with pandering to religious conservatism? Hell, that’s what the guy you just kicked out was doing.

And that’s the problem with conspiracies: they eventually collide with reality. Reality is often a lot simpler than conspiracies allow for.

In reality, it’s possible for folk who don’t understand each other, don’t trust each other and don’t agree with each other to still work with each other.

Call it the new civ-mil.

The writer is a member of staff.

cyril.a

Twitter: @cyalm

The dissension within

Khadim Hussain

KHAN Said alias Sajna and Shehryar Mehsud, both from the Mehsud Taliban fighters, continue to engage in a bloodbath for turf and kitty. According to first-hand reports, dozens of fighters, mainly from the Shehryar group, died in the recent infighting which started in South Waziristan and expanded to North Waziristan.

KHAN Said alias Sajna and Shehryar Mehsud, both from the Mehsud Taliban fighters, continue to engage in a bloodbath for turf and kitty. According to first-hand reports, dozens of fighters, mainly from the Shehryar group, died in the recent infighting which started in South Waziristan and expanded to North Waziristan.

Though there’s a lull now, the acrimony continues. An application has been submitted by the Taliban Shura to TTP emir Mullah Fazlullah to decide who will hold the reins of Waziristan’s Mehsud fighters. Previously, infighting among various Taliban factions would be settled by the Haqqanis, who, this time appear to have distanced themselves.

What patterns will emerge from the tussle at a crucial time when it is apparent that the TTP leadership has gained the upper hand, has almost achieved political legitimacy and received enormous space in the media to put forward its agenda? What will be the impact on the ‘dialogue’ with the government?

The first pattern that appears from the present and previous infighting indicates the impact of the militant discourse on the very outfit that constructed and perpetuated it. A difference of opinion in the ‘Sharia’ paradigm is interpreted as enough to be labelled an enemy and deserving of elimination.

The militant discourse stresses absolutism. In this paradigm, there can be only a single ‘right’ and ‘true’ interpretation of reality. Hence, any person who differs with the perceived ‘right’ interpretation is dubbed a ‘munafiq’ or ‘spy’. This kind of mindset repudiates any meaningful and effective institutional structure and hinges on individual power. By extension, the outfits appear in need of a powerful ‘khalifa’ and not institutional decision-making.

The second pattern that emerges from past and present infighting establishes the correlation of power and extremist violence in Pakistan. Power in this case also entails huge resources that come with it. Due to the militants’ social control, the more ambitious among them have to establish control over the group to be the absolute emir. This seems natural and logical.

Another pattern pertains to the networking of the TTP, Haqqanis and Al Qaeda. Khan Said is reportedly closely linked with the Haqqanis, more than Shehryar or Fazlullah. On the other hand, Shehryar and Fazlullah network more with Al Qaeda and the Punjabi Taliban. The latter factor seems to originate from the clerics of Islamabad’s Lal Masjid. Fazlullah is known to have publicly claimed allegiance to the late Abdul Rashid of Lal Masjid.

Al Qaeda commanders are known to have close liaisons with the Fazlullah faction of TTP, the Punjabi Taliban, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and the Jamaatud Dawa. How comfortable Fazlullah, Khalid Haqqani, Omar Khorasani and Shehryar are with Al Qaeda, LJ and JuD, more than with the Haqqanis, can easily be surmised.

One can hypothesise if those commanders who are comfortable with the Fazlullah faction of the TTP gain control of it, then the hard-core Al Qaeda mission may dominate the TTP rank and file. In that case, which seems likely, the TTP would strengthen networking with the international jihadist network in terms of discourse and strategy.

The governments and security establishments of both Pakistan and Afghanistan might then expect only a tactical retreat by the TTP and its networking partners in the shape of a semblance of dialogue. The end of the ceasefire must be seen in this context. The network might in all probability see an increase in kidnappings for ransom, occupation of coal mines and forests and militants taking control of other natural resources to expand the resource base for a long war. Targeted killings are already focusing on opinion-makers, scholars and political workers

The militant network might strengthen its alliance with the timber mafia, drug traffickers and human traffickers in the near future to expand supply lines. The network might also increase targeted killing of their opponents. This all is probable if Fazlullah is to gain absolute control within the TTP rank and file.

The end of the ceasefire and Fazlullah’s control of the TTP might specifically see in Upper Waziristan, Lower Kurram, Orakzai, Upper Khyber, Mohmand, Bajaur and Malakand Division a resurgence of militant activities if sleeper cells in these areas are activated. It is likely that militant activities might increase in Kandahar, Helmand, Nimroz and Farah in southern Afghanistan and Kunar and Nuristan in eastern Afghanistan where the hard-core sleeper cells of the international jihadist network are regularly reported.

Keeping in view this scenario, both Pakistan and Afghanistan need to look into the details of their strategic moves. It is advisable for the governments and security establishments of both countries to find a way out of strategic conflicts between them.

The writer is a political analyst based in Peshawar.

khadimhussain565

Universities’ challenge

Soufia A Siddiqi

THE Punjab government is worried about higher education in the province. But why ask for a ‘Higher Education Commission’, parallel to the ‘Higher Education Department’ instead of initiating reforms?

THE Punjab government is worried about higher education in the province. But why ask for a ‘Higher Education Commission’, parallel to the ‘Higher Education Department’ instead of initiating reforms?

The confusion arises from an interchange of terms between the school and higher education levels. The Punjab Higher Education Department focuses on colleges, which, from an international perspective, are higher secondary schools and, technically, not part of higher education today. Intermediate-level colleges in Lahore should, thus, be administratively separated from the universities to which they are still attached, and classified as schools.

Several institutions argue they are known primarily by the reputation of their colleges; why surrender their history and prestige now? Such logic challenges the integrity and merit of universities seemingly building their names not through coursework or their response to social and economic circumstances, but by the marks students of matriculation bring to them.

Universities also depend on their attached colleges for a regular supply of students — not just the stars, but also those less gifted academically, who give up dreams of engineering or medical careers and return for a degree in the arts or some science. Is this what seats of higher learning are about — becoming second choices for MBBS and BS Engineering degrees, unable to attract diligent students from schools everywhere?

Provincial higher education bodies must concern themselves with such debates and understand that universities are insured against decay not by moral policing or backup enrolment, but by safeguarding the academic freedom of educators and research students, boosting new knowledge and discourse.

But at one of Lahores oldest and most prestigious colleges, now a university, poor management practices go unquestioned every day. Short-staffed and underfunded, departments feel compelled to burden instructors with classwork exceeding HEC-recommended hours or those allocated in competing universities.

Only a few departments have autonomy in decision-making; others are forced to rely on visiting faculty or research assistants to meet teaching gaps.

Hardworking instructors are too exhausted to tend to research papers without which a promotion slips further away. Competing for research grants and projects as a public university employee is hardly a concept. After years of struggling with nearly four lectures a day, most instructors are resigned to a life without conferences, journal submissions or the joy of discovery for which people in more advanced countries become academics. Their jaded attitudes are reflected in the classroom where students are often rebuked for petty reasons and the syllabus fails to hold their interest.

To raise funds, some departments have resorted to the globally undervalued two-year Master’s degree programmes to complement the two-year Bachelor’s degrees. In a world guided by the Bologna Declaration (which harmonised European and other international degrees), one can only consider this step a desperate act and a lamentable situation to be in for any university. (The old system continues to run at other universities parallel to MS/MPhil degrees, one of the HEC’s better decisions to help Pakistani graduates gain international footing).

If it is efficient, intelligent universities the Punjab wants, it can start with the hard task of administratively separating school and higher education. Intermediate education must be taught, assessed and regulated in clear distinction to the university components of institutions, but with a view to bridging the distance between school and university.

This entails curricular reform at the Intermediate level: a constructive revision of goals, texts, teacher training and the examination system all geared towards preparing students for critical thinking and theorising.

For universities, the government needs to encourage the administration to be comfortable with departmental autonomy within HEC standards. Flexibility in departmental decisions, such as modest increases in tuition fees, accompanied by state-supported income-contingent loan programmes, can help address financial grievances. University managements must be reminded to support professors and students rather than encourage resource manipulation, as is currently the case. Technology can help here by redistributing the excess authority of office administrators.

In the long run, an informed opinion on what universities need and want can best be sought from an advisory group comprising vice chancellors, established academics, budding research scholars and policymakers. Links with similar people in other provinces and outside Pakistan can enrich discussions, similar to the HEC’s exercises since its constitution.

Until Punjab willingly faces and addresses the difficult demands higher education makes of those who want to regulate it, the province cannot understand — or guide — the universities’ worldviews, student research output affected by these worldviews or the social change these institutes of learning can drive.

The writer is a doctoral candidate in education at the University of Oxford.

To subscribe or unsubscribe to this mailing list, please fill the form located at: http://www.dawn.com/subscription

DAWN Media Group, Haroon House, Karachi 74200, Pakistan

Copyright © 2014 Pakistan Herald Publications (Pvt.) Ltd.

Advertisements

About pkdramas
Pakistan is best

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: