DWS, Sunday 15th June to Saturday 21st June 2014

DAWN

WIRE SERVICE

DWS, Sunday 15th June to Saturday 21st June 2014

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National News

Proposed anti-terrorism law in limbo

Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD: The controversial Protection of Pakistan Bill is still in limbo as the PPP is now angry over the government’s move to approach the JUI-F on the proposed anti-terrorism law after reaching an agreement with opposition parties.

ISLAMABAD: The controversial Protection of Pakistan Bill is still in limbo as the PPP is now angry over the government’s move to approach the JUI-F on the proposed anti-terrorism law after reaching an agreement with opposition parties.

The PPP’s leaders are reported to have decided not to support the bill if the government includes in the agreed draft any amendment proposed by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F.

Zahid Hamid, the Minister for Science and Technology, handed over to a JUI-F team, headed by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, on Thursday the agreed draft of the bill, which includes at least 12 amendments proposed by the opposition.

The JUI-F, which opposed the bill in the National Assembly despite being a coalition partner of the ruling PML-N, told the minister that it would give a reply after getting the draft vetted by its legal team.

PPP’s Parliamentary Leader in Senate Raza Rabbani, who had been a part of the negotiations between the government and the opposition over the bill, expressed his surprise over the government’s decision to hand over the draft to the JUI-F after reaching an understanding with six opposition parties. “It is not only the PPP’s draft. It is the draft on which the ANP, PML-Q, BNP-A and even the MQM and the PTI have an agreement,” he said, adding: “If the government wants to make the settled issue hostage to just one party, then we are also not bound by the amendments suggested by that one party.”

“The whole issue will have to be reopened,” he said.

He said the JUI-F was a coalition partner and the government should have approached the opposition parties after consulting its allies on the issue.

JUI-F spokesman Jan Achakzai said a team of lawyers was expected to review the draft on Monday.

In reply to a question, he said: “The opposition parties are justified in expressing their reservations. It was the job of the government to take all the parties on board on the bill through a committee.”

It showed that the government was not handling the matters seriously, he said.

He said the JUI-F felt no urgency in getting the bill adopted by parliament because the law had already completed even its extended life.

Zahid Hamid, who has been functioning as a de facto law minister, expressed the hope that the bill would soon be passed by parliament with consensus.

When his attention was drawn towards Senator Rabbani’s reservations, he said they were based on an “assumption” that the JUI-F would suggest some major changes. He was of the view that the JUI-F would also agree on the draft and might suggest only some minor amendments.

The minister said the government had invited all the parties to discuss the draft, but Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri of the JUI-F had failed to turn up in the meeting.

Interestingly, the bill is pending before the Senate Committee on Interior which is headed by Talha Mehmood of the JUI-F.

The Protection of Pakistan Ordinance (PPO) completed its extended life earlier this month after the government’s failure to get it through the Senate to make it an act of parliament within the constitutional time limit.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2014

Rs404bn Khyber Pakhtunkhwa budget unveiled

Zulfiqar Ali

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government unveiled on Saturday its budget for the next financial year with an outlay of Rs404.8 billion, with a whopping 71 per cent of the total expenditure taken away by salary and pension of its employees.

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government unveiled on Saturday its budget for the next financial year with an outlay of Rs404.8 billion, with a whopping 71 per cent of the total expenditure taken away by salary and pension of its employees.

Presenting the budget in the provincial assembly, Finance Minister Sirajul Haq claimed that it was a deficit-free budget and the government had not levied any new taxes.

According to the document, the operational budget for maintaining the existing service delivery network was declining in real terms, while the salary and pension liabilities were rising “at an alarming rate”.

“The estimated budget for pay and pension makes up about 71pc of the total current expenditure for 2014-15, increase in salaries and pension at such a rate leaves little room for the provincial expenditures to set aside adequate funds for operation, maintenance and development sector.”

The general revenue receipts were estimated to be Rs404.8bn, inclusive of Rs227.121bn through federal tax assignment, share for the war on terror Rs27.29bn, straight transfers Rs29.26bn, GST on service (provincial) Rs12bn, provincial own receipts Rs13.93bn, net hydel profit generation Rs12bn, and hydel profit arrears Rs32. 27bn, total general capital receipts of Rs250 million coupled with total development receipts of Rs47.35bn.

The annual expenditures include a huge sum of Rs73.28bn for the general public service, Rs35.42bn for public order and safety affairs, Rs19.34bn for economic affairs, Rs20.98bn for heath (excluding health education) and Rs87.63bn for education affairs and services (including health education) besides cost of environmental protection, social protection. It also includes ADP (provincial) of Rs98.37bn, foreign projects assistance of Rs39.75bn and ADP (districts) to the tune of Rs1.67bn.

The government has increased stamp duty, which ultimately affects the prices of lands.

The taxing of professional educational institutions like medical colleges, engineering and law colleges will make education expensive.

An increase in tax on immoveable commercial property is certain to affect the purchasing power of low-income classes.

The projected allocation for elementary and secondary education is Rs73.68bn _ the biggest slice followed by Rs25.23bn for health.

A sum of Rs28.53bn has been earmarked for police, of which Rs24.15bn is meant for salaries.

DEVELOPMENT PROGRA­MME: The outlay of the Annual Development Programme is Rs139.8bn, which includes Rs39.75bn for foreign-funded projects.

The size of the provincial development programme is Rs100bn, which shows an increase of 20.5pc over the current year’s programme.

There are a total of 1,215 development schemes, including 540 new projects. The remaining 711 are ongoing projects.

The finance minister said the completion of ongoing schemes would reduce throw-forward liabilities.

But interestingly, the government could not utilise Rs118bn out of current ADP because of lack of a proper mechanism, including hiring of consultants.

The minister also presented a supplementary budget of Rs16.36bn, out of which the police got Rs5.87bn. The opposition protested over the supplementary budget and tore up copies of the budget speech.

Earlier, journalists staged a walkout over non-availability of the budget speech and other related documents.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2014

Shahbaz protests he was ‘out of the loop’

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif must have raised many an eyebrow even in the ruling PML-N on Thursday when he protested that he was out of the loop about the operation two days ago around the Minhajul Quran secretariat until TV channels started reporting on the clashes between police and workers of the Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT).

ISLAMABAD: Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif must have raised many an eyebrow even in the ruling PML-N on Thursday when he protested that he was out of the loop about the operation two days ago around the Minhajul Quran secretariat until TV channels started reporting on the clashes between police and workers of the Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT).

The chief minister had come to the capital to give his version of Tuesday’s bloodshed in Lahore in a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office.

According to a government official privy to the deliberations, Mr Shahbaz said he first learned about the disturbance near the Minhajul Quran secretariat in Model Town at 8:30am. “He (Shahbaz) immediately ordered police to disengage,” the official said, recounting the proceedings.

“Soon after directing the police to disengage, I went to attend the oath-taking ceremony of the Chief Justice of Lahore High Court. During the ceremony I was informed that the situation was worsening. I again passed a message to police to back off.

“However, unfortunately police failed to implement my orders on time,” the official quoted the chief minister as telling a rapt audience, which included his elder brother, the prime minister.

According to Shahbaz Sharif, Punjab police made two cardinal mistakes: one, no prior permission was sought from him; and two, automatic weapons were taken to the scene when there was no such need.

It was quite embarrassing for the younger Sharif, who over the years had earned a reputation of being a good administrator, to accept that such an important operation was planned, decided and carried out without his knowledge.

“I will not spare anybody found involved in this situation which resulted in the loss of innocent lives people,” Mr Shahbaz promised to his elder brother.

However, he told the sitting that according to initial reports, guards at the Minhajul Quran secretariat were the first to open fire. Since their target was the police, the contingent fired back in panic, he contended.

When a question was raised as to how come he could trust the same police for further investigation which landed him in such an embarrassing predicament, CM Sharif replied: “To address this concern, I am conducting parallel inquiries. This will ensure that the guilty do not go scot-free.”

After carefully listening to his brother, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif asked him to use all resources at his disposal for a speedy inquiry into the tragic standoff. “Forget about the political fallout of the inquiry. Your first task is to fix criminal responsibility in the case as soon as possible,” Mr Sharif was quoted as telling the CM.

The prime Minister, according a PML-N source, was furious over Tuesday’s clash in Lahore as it had virtually taken the sheen off the government’s decision to launch a military operation in North Waziristan.

DISPLACEMENT: During the meeting, the federal minister for states and frontier regions, Lt Gen (retired) Abdul Qadir Baloch, gave a presentation about the government’s efforts to ease the plight of internally displaced persons streaming out of North Waziristan.

The sitting was also attended by Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Information Minister Senator Parvaiz Rashid, Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal, and Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq. Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan did not turn up because, according to PML-N sources, he was in Lahore for a medical check-up.

FAZL MEETS NAWAZ: Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the JUI-F chief, called on the prime minister on Thursday to discuss the displacement spawned by the North Waziristan operation.

The Maulana asked Mr Sharif to give the people four days instead of three to move out of the conflict zone.

Nawaz Sharif assured the JUI-F chief that the government would do everything in its powers for welfare of the IDPs.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2014

Balochistan to boost spending on security, job creation

Saleem Shahid

QUETTA: Balochistan’s Rs215.7 billion budget for the next financial year proposes to significantly boost spending for improving security situation in the province, building social and economic infrastructure and creating new jobs in the province.

QUETTA: Balochistan’s Rs215.7 billion budget for the next financial year proposes to significantly boost spending for improving security situation in the province, building social and economic infrastructure and creating new jobs in the province.

Other fiscal and development choices that the Abdul Malik Baloch government has spelt out in its second budget include enforcement of financial discipline, increase in the tax revenue, development of coastal and mineral wealth, reduction in corruption, focus on coal- and solar-based power generation and facilitation of private investment through public-private partnership.

The budget carrying a hefty deficit of Rs15.6bn plans to invest Rs50.7bn, or almost a quarter of the total outlay, in development. The development spending also includes foreign project assistance of Rs2.7bn.

The 8.5 million people of the province that constitutes 43 per cent of the country’s land mass aren’t destined to live in poverty and backwardness, thundered Mir Khalid Langov, the adviser to the chief minister on finance, at the outset of his budget speech as he blamed financial constraints as a major obstacle in the way of development of the province’s economy. “The financial problems facing Balochistan cannot be resolved without federal help.”

The new budget’s total outlay is 17pc heftier than the outgoing year’s Rs198.3bn. The annual development plan (ADP) is also higher by 16pc. It has announced several financial and other benefits for the provincial government employees, including 10pc ad hoc raise in salaries and pensions. The government hopes to create about 4,000 new jobs as around 9pc of population is estimated to be unemployed.

The minimum wages have been fixed at Rs10,000 a month and its violation will be treated as a cognisable offence.

The provincial government has already formed the Public Procurement Authority to plug leakages in public funds and proposes to establish Board of Investment and Special Economic Zone Authority to create industrial estates for attracting private investors, and Balochistan Revenue Authority for collecting provincial sales tax on services from the next financial year.

The government, which is facing insurgency in parts of the province and growing incidents of kidnappings for ransom and target and sectarian killings, has increased allocation for maintenance of law and order by 27pc. The money will be spent to equip police and Levies forces with modern equipment, improve intelligence through the establishment of CID to counter terrorism and other crimes and better capacity of anti-terrorism force, etc.

The development focus has been shifted to improving infrastructure for education, health, power, water, women development and roads, and substantial raise in allocations for these sectors in the next year’s development and non-development spending has been suggested.

Development of agriculture, rural areas, fisheries, livestock, irrigation and mining and reduction in poverty through interventions like the Rural Poultry Self-Support Programme are also among top priorities of the government to boost the production sector to woo private investment and create jobs.

The adviser claimed that the coalition government led by Dr Baloch had brought about a visible change in the provincial economy despite problems and impediments during the last one year. “We have introduced reforms in different areas of the provincial economy and made concerted efforts to escalate growth, cut incidence of poverty, reduce non-development expenditure, create fiscal space for development, improve public service delivery in education and health sectors, and create jobs,” Mr Langov said.

He said Balochistan was passing through a transition which he hoped would usher in a new era for its people. “Our budget is based on our dream of achieving a self-reliant, developed and prosperous Balochistan,” he said.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2014

Injured Muttahida MNA dies

Asif Chaudhry

LAHORE: Muttahida Qaumi Movement MNA Tahira Asif who was critically injured in a gun attack here on Wednesday died at Jinnah Hospital late on Thursday night.

LAHORE: Muttahida Qaumi Movement MNA Tahira Asif who was critically injured in a gun attack here on Wednesday died at Jinnah Hospital late on Thursday night.

Head of Anaesthesia department and incharge of Intensive Care Unit Prof Dr Noman Ahmad confirmed her death.

Police have registered a case against two unidentified ‘target killers’, but there has been no progress in investigation.

A senior doctor disclosed that Ms Tahira had received four bullets — one pierced into urinary bladder and made a big hole and three hit lower parts of her body.

An initial police inquiry had reported two bullet injuries.

Dr Noman Ahmad told Dawn that the massive loss of blood created complications. Twenty litres of blood was transfused.

According to him, a team of senior doctors of various disciplines, including professor of surgery Dr Haroon Javed, gynaecologist Prof Dr Asifa Bajwa, vascular surgeon Dr Mohammad Zahid, conducted complicated procedure.

Dr Noman said eight-hour long surgery performed immediately after Ms Tahira was brought to the hospital.

“We tried to repair the urinary bladder but with little relief to the patient,” he said. But massive bleeding continued.

About the major cause of massive and uncontrolled bleeding, he said several major vessels had ruptured and senior surgeons tried to repair them.

Meanwhile, an FIR has been registered under Section 324/34 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act on the complaint of Ms Tahira’s daughter Anahtiya Asif.

According to the FIR, Ms Tahira left her Wafaqi Colony residence for Islamabad when two men on a motorcycle intercepted her car near Karim Block and attacked her. They fired a volley of bullets.

Iqbal Town Division Investigation SP Tariq Mehmood told Dawn that police were investigating the case from different angles. The record traced by police on Thursday showed that Ms Tahira had lodged two cases against some persons after a minor row while one case was registered against her. He said police were examining the record to know the nature of the row and seriousness of the issue.

He said the data of Ms Tahira’s cellphone record was being analysed to know the nature of recent calls she had received.

But the SP added police had not found any clue which could lead them to the attackers.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2014

Colombia in sight of last 16

From the Newspaper

BRASILIA: A superb performance by playmaker James Rodriguez who scored one goal and created the other inspired Colombia to a 2-1 win over Ivory Coast in their World Cup Group C match on Thursday and to the brink of the last 16.

BRASILIA: A superb performance by playmaker James Rodriguez who scored one goal and created the other inspired Colombia to a 2-1 win over Ivory Coast in their World Cup Group C match on Thursday and to the brink of the last 16.

Rodriguez, scoring his second of the tournament, and substitute Juan Fernando Quintero, with his first international goal, struck in the second half while Gervinho replied with a superb individual goal, his second of the finals, for the African side.

Colombia, making their first appearance at the finals since 1998, will qualify for the second round if the match between Japan and Greece ends in a draw or if the Greeks beat the Blue Samurai.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2014

Eight Uzbeks among 23 suspected terrorists killed in NWA

Pazir Gul

MIRAMSHAH: Fifteen suspected terrorists were killed when army’s cobra helicopters bombed and shelled Zartatangi mountain heights, east of Miramshah, on Wednesday night, says a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on Thursday.

MIRAMSHAH: Fifteen suspected terrorists were killed when army’s cobra helicopters bombed and shelled Zartatangi mountain heights, east of Miramshah, on Wednesday night, says a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on Thursday.

It said the attack was launched after terrorists were spotted in the area which is reputed to be one of their main communication centres.

In a separate action troops killed eight Uzbeks when they were planting explosive devices on the Miramshah-Mirali road.

According to ISPR, troops have cordoned off all areas in North Waziristan to foil attempts by terrorists to flee the tribal agency.

Evacuation of people from Miramshah and Ghulam Khan started on Thursday.

The statement said checkposts had been set up at various points where displaced people were being provided administrative support, food items and medicines by security forces.

The number of registration points at the Saidgai checkpost has been increased to 20 — 10 each for men and women — for the speedy and organised evacuation.

A camp for displaced people has already been set up in Bannu.

The number of registered displaced families has reached 7,031 comprising over 100,000 people.

An official said only eight families had registered themselves at the Bakakhel camp.

The administration relaxed curfew for three days on Wednesday for evacuation of stranded people.

Officials told our correspondent in Parachinar that some families from North Waziristan had entered Kurram Agency via Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadur announced on Thursday to launch a ‘defensive war’ from Friday.

His spokesman Ahamdullah Ahmadi told Dawn on phone from an unspecified place that the Shura North Waziristan Agency had never been part of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

He said the purpose of the ‘defensive war’ was to avoid losses.

He said the Shura had not allowed the TTP to use the soil of North Waziristan for its activities.

Our Correspondent from Karak adds: Hundreds of displaced families have arrived in different areas of Karak district.

District health officer Dr Daraz Khattak told reporters that two polio-infected children were among the IDPs from North Waziristan.

He said the health department had made elaborate arrangements to protect local children from polio virus.

The department has informed the provincial health department that one polio case was detected in the district in September, 1999.

The officer informed Dawn that the health department had set up vaccination camps at all entry points to administer polio drops to children coming with displaced families.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2014

Raheel, Butt review Zarb-i-Azb

APP

ISLAMABAD: Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif called on Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt on Thursday.

ISLAMABAD: Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif called on Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt on Thursday.

According to the Inter-Services Public Relations, progress of the ongoing Operation Zarb-i-Azb was reviewed during the meeting at the Air Headquarters.

The two also discussed matters of mutual interest.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2014

30,000 flee as curfew eased in some areas

From the Newspaper

BANNU: Around 30,000 people fled the military offensive against militants in North Waziristan on Wednesday after the authorities eased a curfew in parts of the region to let civilians leave in a sign that the campaign was likely to intensify.

BANNU: Around 30,000 people fled the military offensive against militants in North Waziristan on Wednesday after the authorities eased a curfew in parts of the region to let civilians leave in a sign that the campaign was likely to intensify.

The military has deployed troops, tanks and jets in the region for the crackdown on Taliban and other militants.

Tens of thousands of people had already fled the operation, which the military says has killed more than 200 militants, and a fresh exodus is under way.

“Some 30,000 people have arrived in Bannu from Mirali town of North Waziristan since this morning,” Arshad Khan, Director General of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas Disaster Management Authority, said.

He said 92,000 people had fled the region since the military began air strikes.

Most have gone to the adjoining Bannu district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Registration points and camps have been set up to deal with the influx of people.

A security official said the curfew had been lifted to let people flee before a more concerted ground operation.

“Miramshah and Mirali have already been cordoned off. Ground troops will move in after civilians move to safe places,” he said. “First, ground troops will enter major towns and then move towards the suburban areas,” after strengthening their positions, he said. “We will then go to the villages and mountains,” he added, saying the operation would continue until every militant had been eliminated.

Some residents who had fled the area spoke of civilian casualties from aerial bombing before the offensive officially began on Sunday.

Azizur Rehman, a 42-year-old schoolteacher who fled Mirali riding on the bonnet of a truck, said: “They start the day with artillery shelling early in the morning. Helicopters come for shelling during the day and jets strike at around 2-2.30 in the night.”

Many streamed into Bannu carrying their possessions — quilts, buckets, mats, water coolers, even livestock and pets.

As they entered Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the people were issued ration packs containing biscuits, tea, sugar and milk.

Thousands of people have also fled across the border into the Gorbaz district of Afghanistan’s Khost province.—AFP

Our Correspondents in Miramshah and Bannu add: As mass departure of tribal people begun after the curfew was relaxed for three days, hapless people were seen heading in all directions, including towards Lakki Marwat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, to flee their native areas.

The two camps set up for the displaced people in Bannu district and the adjoining Frontier Region were empty as they preferred to arrange accommodation on their own or put up with host families.

Chief Minister Pervez Khattak said at a press conference in Peshawar that over 70,000 displaced people had been registered while more were pouring out of North Waziristan.

“We expect more internally displaced persons in the next two days,” he said, adding that the provincial government was ready to assist destitute people at this critical moment.

Thousands of families were on their way to Afghanistan.

The Khost governor’s spokesman Mubariz Zadran told Dawn by phone that 3,000 families had been registered by Wednesday.

“There are reports that thousands of people have crossed into Khost after Pakistani authorities lifted curfew in North Waziristan. These people are without food and other basic needs,” he said.

The spokesman said the Afghan government was trying to help the refugees while the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, had also dispatched relief items for 500 families.

Meanwhile, about 300 people who had gone to Khost from North Waziristan came back to Pakistan via Kurram Agency. The Frontier Corps personnel took them to Bannu.

Sources said the people of Mirali and Razmak sub-divisions would be evacuated in the first phase via Esha and Khajori checkpoints and stranded people of Miramshah and Ghulam Khan would be transported to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the second phase.

An official said the doctors and other staff in the agency headquarters hospital in Miramshah had been asked to leave.

Syed Ahmad of Mirali told Dawn in Bannu that thousands of families were waiting for transport and people had been seen travelling on foot after the five-day curfew was lifted.

Transporters demanded hefty fares from the uprooted families which were desperate to get to safe places. People reaching Bannu said as they had run out of food and other commodities, they had no option but to leave the area. Otherwise starvation was certain, they added.

Another man, who had come from Mirali, called for evacuation of the large number of besieged people.

“People took up the journey on foot to save their lives after relaxation in curfew. The situation back home was hard,” he said.

People who had left behind their belongings after the sudden military action were facing acute problems.

Rents for houses in Bannu have soared amid the crisis.

A jirga of tribal elders in Tank expressed concern over the safety of some Mehsud tribesmen who had gone to North Waziristan for work.

The area was now under the army’s control and the tribesmen had been besieged there, the jirga presided over by the North Waziristan political agent was informed.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2014

Latest: Around 30,000 soldiers involved in operation – over 200 insurgents killed.

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Muttahida MNA hurt in Lahore gun attack

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

LAHORE: Tahira Asif, an MNA of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, was seriously injured in a gun attack here on Wednesday.

LAHORE: Tahira Asif, an MNA of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, was seriously injured in a gun attack here on Wednesday.

She was in a car, along with by her 25-year-old daughter and a handicapped servant, when she was shot at near Iqbal Town’s Moon Market, police said.

Police initially suspected that the MNA had been attacked by two robbers. Her family declined to say anything about the motive of the attack.

Iqbal Town SP (Operations) Dr Farrukh Raza said Ms Tahira of Wafaqi Colony, Johar Town, was going towards Karim Block when she stopped apparently to buy some fruit from a vendor.

As she opened the door of the car, two men on a motorcycle who had covered their faces with a piece of cloth approached her and tried to rob her.

Quoting a couple of witnesses, including the MNA’s servant, the SP said the suspects first snatched a gold necklace from her, but fired at her when she tried to resist them.

Ms Tahira, who had been hit by a bullet in lower torso and left thigh, was taken to Sheikh Zayed Hospital in a critical condition.

The police officer said at least 35 pints of blood was transfused during surgery till 5:30pm, but her condition was said to be critical. She was shifted to the ICU. Quoting Ms Tahira’s husband Mohammad Asif, he said the MNA was scheduled to go to Islamabad.

The family avoided talking to journalists and said they would speak at an appropriate time.

An investigator, however, said police were examining different aspects of the incident with focus on robbery. He said police had received reports that Ms Tahira had developed a dispute related to property with some people.

He said police were yet to receive an application from the victim’s family for registration of a case, but two teams – one led by the Iqbal Town SP (Investigation) and the other by the Crimes Investigation Agency SP, had started working on the case.

The investigator said Ms Tahira’s husband was avoiding speaking to police investigators about the motive of the attack or the identity of the attackers.

Members of the MQM Raabita Committee, PPP’s Manzoor Wattoo and legislators of other parties visited the hospital to inquire after the health condition of the lawmaker.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2014

Holders Spain eliminated

AP

CHILE threw out defending champions Spain from the World Cup with a clinical display on Wednesday that took them into the knock-out stages.

CHILE threw out defending champions Spain from the World Cup with a clinical display on Wednesday that took them into the knock-out stages.

Score: Chile 2 Spain 0.

In an earlier match, the Netherlands virtually assured themselves of a place in the knockout rounds after fending off a belligerent Australia 3-2 to follow up on its opening 5-1 rout of defending champion Spain.

Memphis Depay scored a late clincher in the 68th minute, seconds after Tim Cahill missed a chance to put Australia ahead. Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie, who each scored twice against Spain, added to their tournament tallies before and after Australia’s goals.—AP

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2014

COAS, Afghan envoy discuss border security

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: Afghan Ambassador Janan Mosazai called on Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif at GHQ on Wednesday and discussed with him issues of mutual interest relating to the recently launched military operation, Zarb-i-Azb, in North Waziristan.

ISLAMABAD: Afghan Ambassador Janan Mosazai called on Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif at GHQ on Wednesday and discussed with him issues of mutual interest relating to the recently launched military operation, Zarb-i-Azb, in North Waziristan.

According to Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of the armed forces, the two sides discussed the issue of taking additional security measures along the Pak-Afghan border after the beginning of the operation in an area close to the border.

Pakistan has already beefed up security along the border to prevent militants crossing into Afghanistan.

ISPR spokesman said the Afghan National Army and Border Police had been requested to seal the border on their side to help eliminate terrorists trying to cross the border.

They have also been requested to take measures to eliminate Taliban and their sanctuaries in Kunar, Nuristan and other areas of Afghanistan.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2014

Drone attack leaves 4 dead

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

MIRAMSHAH: At least four people were killed when drones fired missiles into a compound in Darga Mandi area of North Waziristan on Wednesday.

MIRAMSHAH: At least four people were killed when drones fired missiles into a compound in Darga Mandi area of North Waziristan on Wednesday.

According to some people in Miramshah, the regional headquarters, the drones fired six missiles early in the morning. “We heard six blasts when we were offering the morning prayers,” a resident told Dawn by phone.

A security official said the missiles hit a house near a seminary operated by the Haqqani group, about 2km north of Miramshah. “The missiles hit the compound and a vehicle parked inside,” he said.

“Four people were killed in the strike. We don’t know if they were fighters of the Haqqani network,” the official said.

“But they do not appear to be militant leaders. There aren’t too many of them left here,” he said, referring to a number of activists killed in drone strikes over the past years. “What is left of the Haqqani network now is its leader Siraj Haqqani and the son of another leader killed in a drone strike.”

There was no independent confirmation of the number or identities of those killed.

Some local people said the attack had claimed six lives.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2014

PAT workers died of bullet injuries: medical reports

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

LAHORE: A tense calm prevailed at Minhajul Quran offices in Model Town on Wednesday as representatives of various parties and other people arrived there to express grief and demonstrate solidarity with leaders of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) whose several activists had been killed on Tuesday in clashes with police over removal of barriers from around the place.

LAHORE: A tense calm prevailed at Minhajul Quran offices in Model Town on Wednesday as representatives of various parties and other people arrived there to express grief and demonstrate solidarity with leaders of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) whose several activists had been killed on Tuesday in clashes with police over removal of barriers from around the place.

Initial post-mortem reports confirmed that the deaths had been caused by bullet wounds.

There were reports that another two activists of the party succumbed to bullet injuries they had suffered during the police raid.

Meanwhile, police registered a case against PAT activists, including Husain Mohyyuddin, son of PAT’s chief Tahirul Qadri, but did not take them into custody. Of the 53 arrested on Tuesday, 38 were presented before a court which released 11 women and two elderly people, ordered medical examination of nine and remanded 16 in judicial custody.

Protest rallies against the incident were held in various towns of Punjab but no demonstration was held in Lahore.

The opposition in the Punjab Assembly walked out of the session in protest against the incident, boycotting the budget debate.

The Punjab cabinet held a special meeting to discuss the incident and decided to send a delegation comprising five ministers to the Minhaj offices for sympathising with the PAT leaders but the latter reportedly refused to receive it and said: “We cannot welcome representatives of the killers.”

Addressing a press conference from Canada through video link, Dr Qadri again rejected the judicial commission formed on the request of the Punjab government.

“No-one from our side will appear before the commission set up to cover up the tragedy. I also request the Lahore High Court judges not to become part of the commission as tens of millions of rupees are being offered to people for testifying against us,” he alleged.

He also rejected the compensation the chief minister had announced for the heirs of the deceased.

“Those responsible for the ‘mass killings’ have got a case registered against us as well as formed a commission to give us justice!”

Dr Qadri alleged that attempts were being made to tamper with the hospital record to prove that the casualties had been caused by firing by PAT activists and not police.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan also visited the Minhaj offices. Talking to reporters, he demanded immediate resignation of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and arrest of Law Minister Rana Sanaullah for what he said killing innocent people.

He said that police had violated a high court decision about the barriers that had been erected by a police officer some years ago.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2014

Eight killed in raid on Qadri’s Lahore HQ

Amjad Mahmood

LAHORE: Eight people, two women among them, were killed and over 100 injured when police clashed with activists of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) over removal of barriers from near Dr Tahirul Qadri’s Minhajul Quran headquarters in Model Town here on Tuesday.

LAHORE: Eight people, two women among them, were killed and over 100 injured when police clashed with activists of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) over removal of barriers from near Dr Tahirul Qadri’s Minhajul Quran headquarters in Model Town here on Tuesday.

Fifty-three activists of the party were arrested.

At least 81 of the injured were taken to the Jinnah Hospital where 10 of them were said to be in critical condition.

The clashes erupted when police, arriving at the place before dawn, tried to remove barriers from the roads leading to the offices of Minhajul Quran.

Police said they were there to reinforce the city government’s anti-encroachment squad, a claim questioned not only by Dr Qadri’s party, but also others.

The standoff that became more and more violent with time continued for almost 11 hours and the area turned into a virtual battlefield. Intervention from the top leadership of the province and the show of remorse by the chief minister and senior police officials were saved for much later in the day.

Police used batons and tear gas to disperse the protesters and also opened fire. But, it is not clear who had ordered policemen to use force.

Witnesses said police intruded into the Minhaj offices, adjacent to student hostels and the residence of Dr Qadri. They accused police of firing direct shots at protesters, resulting in serious injuries to a large number of people.

Many of the wounded brought to hospital had received bullets in their thighs and legs. There were chaotic scenes at the hospital where an emergency was declared to cope with the large number of injured people.

There was some confusion about the death toll. But at a press conference, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif confirmed eight deaths and injuries to 93.

Initially there were reports about the death of a policeman but these were not confirmed by senior officials.

The chief minister announced a judicial inquiry into the incident and offered to resign if the probe found him responsible for the tragedy.

The gory incident was widely condemned. The PAT gave a call for countrywide protests on Wednesday with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement endorsing the call and announcing that it will observe a day of mourning.

PML-Q leader Pervaiz Elahi came up with a strong condemnation of the Punjab government, comparing Shahbaz Sharif with Narendra Modi, in a reference to the communal bloodbath in the Indian state of Gujarat in 2002.

Dr Qadri says the road barriers, the bone of contention leading to the gory incident, were erected four years ago after court’s permission and that the issue could have been resolved through talks.

Police say that activists of the party pelted the anti-encroachment squad with stones and also “resorted to firing”. “Police observed restraint and held talks with the security team of the PAT secretariat for removal of the barriers but to no avail,” claims Capital City Police Officer Chaudhry Shafiq.

“After failure of talks, PAT activists again opened fire and hurled petrol bombs at law-enforcers. Police had to react in self-defence,” he said.

He denied that police had targeted the protesters and said that his men had fired shots in the air. He added that only an investigation could reveal that firing from which side had caused the casualties.

Sadaf, a witness and a relative of the two deceased women — Tanzeela and Shazia– said they were protesting outside the residence of Dr Qadri when they were hit by bullets fired by policemen.

Junaid, who has received bullet injuries, told Dawn at the hospital that policemen entered the hostel and started firing at the demonstrators who were trying to prevent them from entering the house of Dr Qadri.

The official version had several contradictions. Most officials said the raid was aimed at removing the barricades from outside the Minhajul Quran premises. But Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said in the Punjab Assembly that police had conducted the operation on intelligence reports that weapons had been stored in the offices.

He said there were reports that people were being invited there to take oath on the Holy Quran that they would participate in an anti-government movement soon to be launched by the PAT.

He claimed that the Minhaj administration had deployed private militia to man the barriers, turning the locality into a no-go area. The police claimed to have recovered two Kalashnikovs, three pistols and 33 empty shells.

An angry Dr Tahirul Qadri blamed the PML-N government for the tragedy and alleged that his party was “being penalised” for supporting operation launched by the army in North Waziristan.

PAT leaders said they intended to nominate Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif in the FIR to be lodged with police.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2014

Belgium beat Algeria

AP

BELO HORIZONTE: B­e­lgium opened their World Cup campaign with a 2-1 comeback win over Algeria on Tuesday, relying on second-half goals from two substitutes after a tense start in Group H.

BELO HORIZONTE: B­e­lgium opened their World Cup campaign with a 2-1 comeback win over Algeria on Tuesday, relying on second-half goals from two substitutes after a tense start in Group H.

Algeria opened the scoring with a penalty in the 25th minute and the surprising lead stood for 45 minutes until Marouane Fellaini’s strong glancing header, with his back to goal, from a Kevin De Bruyne cross.

Dries Mertens right-foot strike beat Algeria’s goalkeeper in the 80th after Eden Hazard saw him free on the right and set him up for the decider. Mertens, who went on at the start of the second half, sent his shot high in the net outside of Rais Mbolhi’s reach.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2014

COAS cancels Colombo visit

Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Raheel Sharif has postponed his official visit to Sri Lanka in view of ongoing military operation Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan.

ISLAMABAD: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Raheel Sharif has postponed his official visit to Sri Lanka in view of ongoing military operation Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan.

“Due to on-going operation Zarb-i-Azb, the COAS has postponed his scheduled visit to Sri Lanka,” the Inter-Services Public Relations spokesman said.

According to him, Gen Sharif was to leave the country on Tuesday on a four-day visit to Sri Lanka. He was to meet senior civil and military leaders of Sri Lanka.

No new date of his visit has been announced.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2014

Evacuation of civilians a major challenge for govt

Pazir Gul

MIRAMSHAH: As military planes continued to attack suspected militant hideouts in North Waziristan on Tuesday, evacuation of thousands of civilians from affected areas has become a major challenge for the government.

MIRAMSHAH: As military planes continued to attack suspected militant hideouts in North Waziristan on Tuesday, evacuation of thousands of civilians from affected areas has become a major challenge for the government.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement that planes destroyed six terrorist hideouts, including a training camp and a factory of explosive devices around Hasokhel, near Mirali.

It claimed that 25 foreign and local terrorists were killed in the strikes. But the claim could not be verified from independent sources. Local people said that some women and children were among those killed.

The statement said that Operation Zarb-i-Azb was progressing as planned and cordons around hideouts, including in Mirali and Miramshah, had been further tightened.

It said that three terrorists were killed when they tried to flee from an area in Miramshah. One soldier was injured in an exchange of fire. Air surveillance of operational area by the military’s own surveillance assets continued.

The ISPR said that innocent civilians were safely evacuated after detailed verification and completion of necessary logistics and administrative arrangements for internally displaced persons (IDPs) by the political administration and the Disaster Management Agency. Security of IDP camps was being ensured by troops.

Meanwhile, a curfew clamped in the volatile area on Friday has crippled life with stranded people waiting for early evacuation.

The political administration relaxed the curfew for two hours in Miramshah town on Tuesday and residents thronged shops to buy essential goods.

Officials said the curfew might be lifted on Wednesday to allow trapped civilians to move out to adjacent districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

An official of the political administration in Frontier Region Bannu said that IDPs were not coming to the relief camp in the Bakakhel area. He said that over 60,000 IDPs had been registered so far.

“Lifting the curfew will not serve the purpose unless the government arranged transport for stranded people,” said Haq Nawaz of Miramshah. He said thousands of people had crossed the border into Afghanistan.

Reports said that there were serious shortages of basic commodities and people were running short of food.

“Militants have already vacated Miramshah, Mirali and adjoining villages and, therefore, air strikes and artillery shelling would kill only civilians,” said Qamar Gul, a resident of Mirali.

A handout issued in Peshawar said that the district administration would make school buildings of the Elementary & Secondary Education Department in Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Tank, Karak and Hangu districts available for accommodating IDPs from areas affected by the military operation.

It said headmasters of the schools concerned, along with watchmen and other required staff, would be on duty. School furniture and other belongings would be properly recorded and kept in safe custody.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2014

Finance minister gives both big and small concessions

Raja Asghar

ISLAMABAD: After suffering opposition brickbats for a week, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar agreed in the National Assembly on Tuesday to give some both major and minor concessions in the new budget, including a Rs14 billion subsidy on phosphate fertilisers to be shared equally by the federal and provincial governments.

ISLAMABAD: After suffering opposition brickbats for a week, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar agreed in the National Assembly on Tuesday to give some both major and minor concessions in the new budget, including a Rs14 billion subsidy on phosphate fertilisers to be shared equally by the federal and provincial governments.

Announcing the changes while winding up a general debate on the national budget for 2014-15, he also assured the house that the Nawaz Sharif government would provide all resources needed to carry out the newly launched anti-terrorist military operation in North Waziristan and take care of people to be displaced by the campaign.

He said needs of the forces could be met through supplementary demands for grants and said an amount of Rs500 million had been sanctioned earlier in the day to help internally displaced persons from North Waziristan.

Devoting most of a long speech to rebut opposition charges of the budget he unveiled on June 3 as being anti-poor and pro-rich – which he called “full of hope and expectations” – the minister also told the house that the finance ministry had fully or partially accepted 57 of the 133 non-binding recommendations made by the Senate, while decisions on 49 others would be taken after a “due process” of required consultation with other departments concerned and provincial governments.

But he did not specify the accepted recommendations, which were approved by the Senate on Monday evening.

Mr Dar spoke in a relatively calm house hours after the opposition staged the angriest token walkout to protest against a deadly police operation by the Punjab police outside the Lahore home of the famous Canada-based religious scholar in the morning to remove alleged encroachments.

He directed most of his ire, while contesting opposition criticism, at Naveed Qamar, a former finance minister in the previous PPP-led coalition government, for his questioning of the present government’s claims of achievements.

Mr Dar said the fertiliser subsidy would mean a reduction of “Rs400 per bag of phosphate fertiliser and potash”, which he hoped would help increase agricultural production.

Another important concession he announced was a revision of the budget proposal to allow increase of a Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC) to up to Rs300 from Rs100 per MMBTU – opposed by some opposition members from gas-producing Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhawa provinces with demands that its collection should go to provinces – with a new schedule reducing the rate for power sector back to Rs100, for industries to Rs150 and to zero for cement.

Other changes are: Sales tax on the import of tractors, which was proposed to be increased to 16 per cent, to remain at its previous rate of 10pc.

An incentives package to promote industry in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) to remain effective for five years until June 30, 2019.

A package allowing duty-free import of machinery for fruit processing in Gilgit-Baltistan, Balochistan and Malakand division of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa to be applicable to every kind of industry in Fata.

Uniform income tax rate of 4pc for fist class international air tickets – for both filers of return and non-compliant – instead of 3pc and 6pc, respectively.

Sales tax on the import of edible oil seeds reduced to 16pc from a proposed 17pc.

Incoming international calls by overseas Pakistanis exempted from a levy imposed under the International Clearing House policy in force since October 2012 in a move to eliminate grey traffic.

Opposition leader Khursheed Ahmed Shah was unimpressed and urged the finance minister to increase salaries of government employees by 20pc from the proposed 10pc.

But former house speaker Fehmida Mirza of the PPP, who, in what appeared to be the most eloquent speech of the debate, said neither everything was good nor everything bad in the budget, and called for fixing right priorities taking into account ground realities such as the prevailing poverty and declaring an “education emergency”.

Earlier, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman sought, in a long speech, to justify his government-allied party’s decision not to support the military operation in North Waziristan and pleaded for a return to dialogue.

He complained to the government for not consulting his party in the matter, though he said the decision to launch the operation had actually been taken by the army.

Amir Haider Khan Hoti, a former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister of the opposition Awami National Party, also complained that political leadership had not been taken into confidence, but he said “we support and own this effort”.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2014

Pakistan will no longer be terrorist haven: PM

Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD: Taking the nation into confidence through parliament over the government’s decision to launch a military action in North Waziristan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declared on Monday that the operation would continue till the achievement of the “ultimate objective”.

ISLAMABAD: Taking the nation into confidence through parliament over the government’s decision to launch a military action in North Waziristan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declared on Monday that the operation would continue till the achievement of the “ultimate objective”.

Amid desk-thumping even from the opposition members, he expressed a resolve that the country would no more be a safe haven for terrorists.

“Let me make it clear that this country will no more be allowed to become a sanctuary for the terrorists at any cost,” the prime minister said in a policy statement. He first read it out in the National Assembly and then in the Senate.

“As you know that a decisive action has been launched to purge the country of terrorism. Keeping in view all the sensitivities of a military action, a directive has been issued to start the operation that began yesterday,” Mr Sharif said.

“The operation against terrorism, named Zarb-i-Azb, Insha Allah, will continue till the achievement of its ultimate objective,” he declared.

“Yesterday, there could be two opinions about the operation and the talks, but now this chapter should be closed,” he said, asking the nation to support the armed forces in a fight for the country’s integrity.

“The whole nation, all segments of society, media and political parties should now be on the back of the government and the armed forces,” he said.

In an apparent reference to reports in some political and media circles that the army and the government might not be on the same page over the military action, the prime minister claimed that the decision to launch the operation had been made after an understanding between the army and the government.

“I make it clear that during the negotiation process, the political and military leadership continued consultations and all the decisions had been made with complete harmony and mutual reconciliation.”

He said the decision to launch the operation had also been made with “complete harmony and mutual consultation, following unabated terror incidents, particularly after the attack on Karachi airport”.

Mr Sharif recalled that he had announced on the floor of the National Assembly on Jan 29 that the government had decided to start negotiations with the militants to give peace a chance and a committee was constituted for holding talks with them.

At that time, he said that he had called for an end to terror activities with a belief that “terrorism and peace cannot go together”.

“The nation is a witness to the fact that our sincerity and good intentions were not reciprocated.”

The prime minister regretted that the negotiations spread over four and a half months could not make progress towards peace. “The world knows that on one hand, we were negotiating with these groups and on the other, our installations were being targeted through bombs,” he said.

“On one hand, we were busy in pleading peace and on the other, our children, women and youths were being killed. On one side, we were peacefully talking to them while on the other, a game of fire and blood was being played from Islamabad courts to the Karachi airport,” Mr Sharif regretted.

He said Pakistan had paid “a heavy price” for terrorism. This war, he said, had been going on for the past 12 years against “our armed forces, security agencies and law-enforcement agencies”. He said the country’s economy had suffered a loss of $103 billion.

“Our places of worship, educational institutions, airports, military installations, markets and even our houses have become unsafe,” he said, adding that it was a matter of grief that the country’s playgrounds were pining for foreign players and snow-clad peaks were missing climbers. Moreover, people in cities and towns were living under a shadow of terror and even other countries had issued travel advisories.

“We have decided to make Pakistan a land of peace. I believe that this operation will herald a new era of peace and stability where we will be able to realise our dreams of progress and prosperity,” he said.

Nawaz Sharif urged Ulema to tell people that extremism and terrorism negated Islamic teachings of tolerance and forbearance.

The prime minister said special centres had been set up for those who wanted to opt for the path of peace. “The state of Pakistan will provide all opportunities to those who renounce terrorism and adhere to the country’s laws and the constitution to lead their life as peaceful citizens,” he said.

Special centres had also been set up for people affected by the operation and Federal Minister retired Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch had been given the responsibility to supervise the operation.

Mr Sharif expressed the hope that the minister would get the support of the Khyber Pakhtunkhawa government as well.

He said KP Governor Mahtab Ahmed Khan had also been directed to ensure well-being of the affected people.

He appealed to tribal people to play a role in the operation, saying that the time had come to rid their region of savagery and destruction.

Seeking cooperation from all political parties for his government as well as the armed forces, the prime minister expressed the hope that the operation would lead the country to peace and stability.

Mr Sharif said the country’s political leadership had always played a positive role on important national issues. “I hope that they will again do the same during this important phase of national history”.

NAVAL HEADQUARTERS: Earlier in the day, the prime minister visited the Naval Headquarters, where he was briefed by the Deputy Chief of Naval Staff (Operations) on “operational preparedness of Pakistan Navy”.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and senior officers of Pakistan Navy attended the briefing.

On arrival at the headquarters, Mr Sharif was received by Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Mohammad Asif Sandila and was presented a guard of honour.

Nawaz Sharif said the naval forces were fully prepared to guard maritime frontiers and interests. He reposed complete trust and confidence in the professional capabilities of the Pakistan Navy.

“The government will provide full support for development plans of Pakistan Navy to ensure that it remains a balanced and effective force capable of meeting future challenges.”

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2014

Mueller-fired Germany humble Portugal

Reuters

SALVADOR: Thomas Mu­e­­­­­ller’s hat-trick inspired Germany to a ruthless 4-0 mauling of 10-man Portugal in their opening World Cup Group G match on Monday and underlined their credentials as serious title conte­­nders. Billed as a clash of European heavyweights, the Germans ignored the sizzling Salvador heat to deliver a sizzling attacking display that ensured the game was over as a contest by half-time.

SALVADOR: Thomas Mu­e­­­­­ller’s hat-trick inspired Germany to a ruthless 4-0 mauling of 10-man Portugal in their opening World Cup Group G match on Monday and underlined their credentials as serious title conte­­nders. Billed as a clash of European heavyweights, the Germans ignored the sizzling Salvador heat to deliver a sizzling attacking display that ensured the game was over as a contest by half-time.

Portugal could not cope with their opponents’ pace and movement and were 3-0 down by the interval as Mueller, marking his 50th international, scored either side of a thumping Mats Hummels header.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2014

Military planes pound hideouts in Shawal

Pazir Gul

MIRAMSHAH: Military planes pounded suspected militant hideouts in the mountainous Shawal region on Monday morning but security officials said a major ground offensive was yet to begin because more troops were being rushed to North Waziristan.

MIRAMSHAH: Military planes pounded suspected militant hideouts in the mountainous Shawal region on Monday morning but security officials said a major ground offensive was yet to begin because more troops were being rushed to North Waziristan.

According to an official, the jets struck two abandoned primary schools that had been occupied by foreign and local militants in Manra and Gurbaz areas of Shawal near the Afghan border.

Military officials claimed that Uzbek militants were among those killed.

There was no independent confirmation of the claim as the region has been under strict curfew since Saturday morning.

Thousands of people have fled the region for the adjoining Bannu district and also crossed the border into Afghanistan.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Sardar Mehtab Ahmad Khan announced that a brief reprieve would be allowed to people in North Waziristan on Tuesday to enable them to leave the region.

He criticised the Afghan government for encouraging tribesmen to take refuge in the neighbouring country.

An official in Islamabad said a camp had been set up in Bakkakhel for people displaced from North Waziristan, with a capacity to provide shelter for 5,000 families.

“About 61,000 people have so far left North Waziristan and registered themselves with the authorities,” Tariq Hayat Khan, an official at the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions, told Dawn.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has approved an initial allocation of Rs500 million for the displaced people.

“Afghanistan should not encourage our people to cross over. This is inappropriate,” the governor said at a news conference in Peshawar.

“This will have serious repercussions for the region. Pakistan does not want to interfere in Afghanistan’s domestic problems,” he said, and expressed the hope that the neighbouring country too would not encourage the displaced tribal people to cross the border.

But a security official said that the curfew would be lifted and people allowed to evacuate only when all necessary security arrangements had been made. The military put the militants’ death toll since the beginning of the operation at 184, including 34 killed in bombing and crossfire on Monday.

The military said it had lost eight soldiers — six of them in a roadside blast near Ghulam Khan on the border with Afghanistan.

Two soldiers were killed in an encounter in Mirali with militants who were trying to force their way through a military barrier, an official said.

More troops were rushed to Miramshah ahead of a full ground operation, a security official said. “A lot of troops have gone in by now,” he said. “Blockade positions and occupation of dominating heights have been almost completed.”

The ground assault would come after completion of evacuation, the official said.

“No operation in civilian areas has been started,” a military statement said.

“Troops have cordoned off all terrorist bases, including the towns of Mirali and Miramshah.”

Residents in Miramshah said troops had set up posts on hilltops and fired intermittently to warn against possible violations of the curfew. “We are all waiting for the government to announce a break in the curfew for us to leave. What happens next, we don’t know,” a local man said.

Except for the roadside bombing and a small encounter, there was no indication of any major showdown between militants and the troops. “There is no major activity,” an intelligence official said, requesting anonymity.

Most of the militants, he said, had slipped deeper into the mountains. “Whether our troops would chase them into the mountains is the question. It’s not going to be easy. This is where most of the action is likely to take place and this is the area that is seeing the brunt of air power,” the official said.

Meanwhile, spokesman for the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan Shahidullah Shahid warned foreign investors on Monday to leave the country within a month.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2014

JI asks militants to shun terrorism

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

LAHORE: Being seen as an indirect support of Zarb-i-Azb military operation in North Waziristan, the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) has called upon militants active in the tribal belt and elsewhere in the country to shun their terrorist activities and instead join the national mainstream.

LAHORE: Being seen as an indirect support of Zarb-i-Azb military operation in North Waziristan, the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) has called upon militants active in the tribal belt and elsewhere in the country to shun their terrorist activities and instead join the national mainstream.

“I appeal to militants hailing from tribal areas and other parts of the country to give up the way of getting their demands met at gunpoint and instead use the people’s force for joining the mainstream,” JI emir Sirajul Haq said after a consultative meeting of the party on the army operation here on Monday.

“It’s also need of the hour that they (the militants) play their role in protecting lives instead of confronting the state,” he emphasised.

Syed Munawwar Hasan, former emir of the JI, became controversial after he declared militants being killed in clashes with security forces as martyrs.

Rejecting the use of force, violence and war both by the state and non-state actors as against wisdom and prudence, Mr Haq said that the Nawaz government should have taken the national leadership and parliament into confidence before going for such a big decision (of army operation).

He called for keeping the talks option open despite the operation and seeking help and cooperation from tribal elders, who had been safeguarding interests of Pakistan since decades.

He said military operations in tribal areas were going on since 2004, but the situation there was becoming more complicated with the passage of time.

Recalling the unanimous mandate the political leadership of the country had given to the government in September last year for holding talks with militants, the JI leaders accused the government of not showing sincerity from the outset and that its stance had been like “one step forward and two steps back”.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2014

‘Terrorists will be rooted out’

Dawn Report

ISLAMABAD / PESHAWAR: The basic objective of Operation Zarb-i-Azb was to root out terrorists, eliminate their sanctuaries in North Waziristan and rid the country of the menace of terrorism, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif said on Monday.

ISLAMABAD / PESHAWAR: The basic objective of Operation Zarb-i-Azb was to root out terrorists, eliminate their sanctuaries in North Waziristan and rid the country of the menace of terrorism, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif said on Monday.

Speaking at the National Defence University (NDU) a day after the military formally launched an operation in the tribal areas, the army chief talked at length about the country’s internal and external security with special reference to the ongoing military operation.

The COAS also visited Corps Headquarters in Peshawar, where he was given a detailed briefing on the progress of the operation.

He directed all authorities concerned to take extra care in managing those who were displaced by the operation, in coordination with the relevant civilian agencies.

The COAS hoped that with the support of the nation, and particularly the proud tribesmen of Fata, Operation Zarb-i-Azb would be successful.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2014

All-out military operation launched in North Waziristan

Ismail Khan

PESHAWAR: Pakistan Army said on Sunday it had launched a comprehensive operation against local and foreign militants in North Waziristan, sealing it off and requesting the Afghan National Army to plug possible escape routes across the border.

PESHAWAR: Pakistan Army said on Sunday it had launched a comprehensive operation against local and foreign militants in North Waziristan, sealing it off and requesting the Afghan National Army to plug possible escape routes across the border.

“On the directions of the government, the Armed Forces of Pakistan have launched a comprehensive operation against foreign and local terrorists who are hiding in sanctuaries in North Waziristan. The operation has been named Zarb-e-Azb”, head of the Inter-Services Public Relations, Maj. Gen. Asim Bajwa, said in a statement. Azb was the name of the sword of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).

The dramatic announcement came after an overnight assault by Pakistani F-16s on suspected militant hideouts in Daigan and Boya, located 25 km to the west of North Waziristan’s regional headquarters of Miramshah. The air assault that began past midnight left more than 150 people dead, local residents said.

The military which had earlier claimed to have killed more than 50 militants, most of them militants from the central Asian republic of Uzbekistan, later upped the figure to 150. Among them, it said, was Abu Abdur Rehman Almani, an expert on improvised explosive devices, associated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

There was no independent confirmation of the number of casualties or the identities of those killed. The ISPR statement said that North Waziristan had been isolated from other tribal regions, including South Waziristan and Kurram to block the movement of militants within and outside the tribal region.

It also said that troops had been moved to cordon off terrorists’ bases in Miramshah and Mirali, while announcements would be made to provide for an orderly evacuation of local people for which the political administration and Fata Disaster Management Authority had taken appropriate logistic and administrative measures for registration and their settlement in camps.

Inside the tribal region, however, there was little indication of any troops movement after an overnight bombings and artillery shelling in Mirali. In Miramshah, some troops were seen leaving the fort but they returned immediately afterwards.

In Mirali, some troops left their fort to establish a post on a hilltop in Hassokhel. A roadside bomb wounded three soldiers which prompted immediate artillery shelling. The troops, however, managed to set up a post as helicopter gunships hovered above to provide air cover.

The announcement regarding the launch of the military operation came as a surprise to the tribesmen in North Waziristan, who were expecting a tribal jirga which had managed to get 15 days from the military authorities to expel foreign militants from the restive region. The 15-day deadline was to expire on June 21.

It was not clear why the military had agreed to grant 15 days to the tribal jirga to mediate expulsion of foreign militants, but officials said the audacious attack on Jinnah International Airport brought forward the date of the military operation. “The whole process was speeded up. The attack on the airport tilted the balance,” the official said.

Maulvi Gul Ramzan, a key member of the jirga, said the military was no longer willing to honour their commitment and said the people were now free to leave Waziristan. Residents say thousands of people are desperately waiting to leave but have been caught in a helpless situation owing to the curfew that was put in place on Saturday morning.

Insiders said that additional forces had been brought in to further augment one division of the Pakistan Army in North Waziristan but it took the military quite some time to convince a somewhat sceptic Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that it would be able to cope with the possible blowback from North Waziristan operation.

“The prime minister had made up his mind but he had asked the military if our security forces, civil as well as armed forces, could deal with the fallout from North Waziristan,” one insider who attended the last two crucial meetings told Dawn. “He wanted to be assured that we can cope with the blowback and we had good intelligence on the ground to finish the job,” the insider said.

It was only after Army Chief General Raheel Sharif assured him that arrangements had been made to deal with any eventuality, did the prime minister agree to give the go-ahead to the operation in the last week’s meeting, the insider said.

Also, the prime minister wanted to know if there was good enough intelligence on the ground to make the operation a success. He also wanted to know the duration of the operation, coming so close to the holy month of Ramazan later this month, amid sweltering heat. The military, the insider said, projected the operation to last three weeks but some officials now say that it might extend to the middle of Ramazan and even beyond it. “The duration of the operation is determined by several factors, it would be premature to predict its closure in a specific timeframe,” a security official said.

Insiders said the military machine would start rolling under the overall command of the Commander, 11th Corps, Lt. Gen. Khalid Rabbani, as soon as arrangements were made to evacuate the local population. Except for the roadside bombing in Mirali, there was no reaction and no resistance in Miramshah and Mirali. “Not a single bullet was fired,” a security official said.

Some security officials however, say much would depend on how militant commander, Hafiz Gul Bahadar reacts in his stronghold of Miramshah. Gul Bahadar has close association with the Haqqani network. He announced revocation of the 2007 peace agreement with the government last week, accusing it of killing innocent people and ordering people to emigrate to Afghanistan by June 10.

He relented soon afterwards when the tribal jirga led by the grandson of Faqir of Api met him and requested him to extend the deadline. Some officials said that efforts were being made to persuade Gul Bahadar to team up with the tribal jirga and form a tribal lashkar to expel foreign militants with full cooperation of the foreign forces from Mirali and Miramshah.

Since the May 21 bombings, sources say, most of the foreign militants and those associated with the anti-government TTP factions, have moved out of Mirali and Miramshah and relocated to the mountainous Shawal, Alwara Manday, Ghulam Khan and Ghariom. “What is left in Miramshah is a residue of some foreign lunatics who still want to fight it out and die,” a security official said. “There are not many targets left to bomb in those areas. So, essentially what we may see in the days to come is cordon and search to clear areas in Mirali and Miramshah. If Gul Bahadar behaves and stays neutral, that would make the job of our forces easier to chase foreign militants in the border region, otherwise, if he chooses to fight, the operation would become all the more difficult and protracted,” the official said.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2014

Seven killed in clash between militant groups

Pazir Gul

• Restive tribal region sealed off, Afghan army asked to plug escape routes across border

• Restive tribal region sealed off, Afghan army asked to plug escape routes across border

• Uzbeks among over 150 killed in overnight assault by F-16s

• Announcements to be made for evacuation of local people

• Roadside bomb blast injures 3 troops, prompts artillery shelling

MIRAMSHAH: Seven people were killed in clashes that erupted on Sunday between two rival militants’ groups in the Shawal area of North Waziristan.

Sources said that the clashes took place between supporters of Commander Said Khan alias Sajna who recently disassociated from the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and Commander Sheheryar Mehsud.

The volatile tribal region is under curfew since Saturday. Witnesses said that security forces opened fire at civilians in Miramshah for violating the curfew. One person was killed and another suffered injuries.

Meanwhile, thousands of people have fled the region over the past few days amid reports about the impending army operation. A senior official in Islamabad told Dawn that 59,000 people had so far left the tribal region for neighbouring districts.

Afghan officials say more than 6,000 people have taken refuge in south-western Khost province, bordering Pakistan.

A security official said that officers in Civil Colony in Miramshah had been asked to evacuate their families.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2014

Switzerland surprise Ecuador

AP

BRASILIA: A goal deep in stoppage-time by Haris Sef­e­r­ovic gave Switzerland a dramatic 2-1 victory over Ecua­dor in their Group E opener at the World Cup on Sunday.

BRASILIA: A goal deep in stoppage-time by Haris Sef­e­r­ovic gave Switzerland a dramatic 2-1 victory over Ecua­dor in their Group E opener at the World Cup on Sunday.

A low-quality match loo­k­ed destined to end in a draw until substitute Seferovic fired home the winner from close range in the last of three minutes of injury time.

Ecuador barely had time to restart before the final whistle was blown.

It was the fifth time in nine matches so far at this World Cup that a team had come from behind to win.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2014

PM to brief NA on military action

Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD: The commencement of a military operation against militants in North Waziristan on Sunday was welcomed by most major political parties and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to take parliament into confidence over the operation on Monday.

ISLAMABAD: The commencement of a military operation against militants in North Waziristan on Sunday was welcomed by most major political parties and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to take parliament into confidence over the operation on Monday.

According to sources in the PM Office, Mr Sharif will be attending Monday’s session at the National Assembly, where he is expected to make a policy statement over Operation Zarb-i-Azb.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), however, announced that it would convene a core committee meeting to decide whether to support the military operation or not. PTI chief Imran Khan has said in the past that an operation in North Waziristan is ill-advised and that the government should take action only against those groups who are unwilling to negotiate.

Meanwhile, the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) emerged as the only party that opposed the operation outright, expressing fears that only innocent people and not terrorists will bear the brunt of the violence.

In a handout issued on Sunday afternoon, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) formally announced that a military operation, codenamed Zarb-i-Azb, had been initiated in the North Waziristan agency.

According to an ISPR official, Zarb-i-Azb refers to the strike of a sword said to have been wielded by the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in the Battle of Uhad.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif then appeared on TV channels to confirm the start of the operation and vowed that “the operation will continue till the elimination of last terrorist”.

The defence minister said the operation was launched following the collapse of talks between the government and the Tehreek-i-Taliban. “These terrorists have challenged the writ of the state, rejected its Constitution and are killing innocent people and security personnel,” he said.

Mr Asif said the government had taken the decision to launch the operation after a cost-benefit analysis of the aftermath of the operation, adding that the government had also come up with a plan to cope with those who will be displaced by the military action.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Information Minister Pervez Rashid appealed to the nation to stand behind the government and the armed forces in this war against terrorism.

He said the government had gone for dialogue first, but they continued to kill innocent people despite their overtures to peace. “But now they will either surrender or face defeat,” he said.

Irfan Siddiqui, one the PM’s advisers who was also involved with the dialogue process, told Dawn that the government had done everything in its power to negotiate a peaceful settlement, but there was no reciprocation from the other side.

PTI spokesperson Shireen Mazari was reluctant to give a policy statement on the operation. “The prime minister should have taken the political leadership into confidence about the operation and the PTI’s core committee is meeting on Monday to give a detailed response in the wake of new developments,” she told Dawn.

PTI governs the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KP) which borders the tribal areas and it is believed that the PTI’s support is the key in order to ensure the operation’s success.

The Leader Opposition in the National Assembly, Syed Khursheed Shah of the PPP, welcomed the decision to launch an operation but also demanded that the PM come to parliament and take the political leadership into confidence.

PPP leader and Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon said provincial governments now have to take preventive measures to cope with a terrorist backlash.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain fully endorsed the military offensive. In a statement issued from London, Mr Hussain offered to extend ‘unconditional cooperation’ to the armed forces and assured them that MQM workers were ready to fight alongside them.

JI emir Sirajul Haq, voicing his opposition to the operation, said the government was not sincere with talks from the outset. “The government should have consulted the country’s political leadership and the KP government before launching the operation,” he said.

He said that his party had mobilised its cadres and that its workers along with members of the Al-Khidmat Foundation would take care of those affected by the operation.

Another leader of JI Professor Ibrahim told Dawn that terrorists will manage to escape from North Waziristan while innocent people will be targeted in the operation.

Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl spokesperson Jan Achakzai said an operation in North Waziristan will not end terrorism in the country unless a clear policy against militancy was adopted.

“Unless a clear decision is taken on the strategic, ideological, political and foreign policy levels and those decisions are backed by concrete steps, we will see more of the same,” he added.

“Rather than focusing on a particular group of militants, the government must work to restore the writ of the state in very corner of the country,” he said.

Defence analyst Hassan Askari Rizvi said the army required the complete support of the nation, politicians and civil society in the operation. He said the army had about two weeks to meet its main objectives.

Retired Lt Gen Abdul Qayyum told Dawn that thousands of foreign nationals, including those of Uzbek origin, were said to be hiding in North Waziristan.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2014

Govt appeals order to let Musharraf go abroad

Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Saturday challenged a Sindh High Court order to remove former president retired General Pervez Musharraf’s name from the exit control list (ECL), fearing that if allowed to proceed abroad he may not return to stand trial for treason.

ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Saturday challenged a Sindh High Court order to remove former president retired General Pervez Musharraf’s name from the exit control list (ECL), fearing that if allowed to proceed abroad he may not return to stand trial for treason.

The appeal, filed two days after the high court’s order, has been fixed for hearing on Monday before a three-judge Supreme Court bench, consisting of Justices Mian Saqib Nisar, Asif Saeed Khosa and Ejaz Afzal Khan.

Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt is expected to request the apex court to suspend the June 12 verdict and issue directions to keep Mr Musharraf’s name on the ECL.

The former military ruler may also be restrained from going abroad without the permission of the Supreme Court, the appeal states.

On June 12, the same day when the high court announced its order, Mr Musharraf’s defence team applied to the Interior Ministry, seeking permission for him to travel abroad as soon as possible, in view of his mother’s deteriorating health.

But the government’s swift reaction was not received well in the Musharraf camp. Senior counsel Chaudhry Faisal Hussain regretted the decision to file the appeal, calling it “a political move”, allegedly made at the prime minister’s behest as “there was no legal ground available to the government”.

“The SHC has comprehensively dealt with all the questions raised in this appeal and the apex court is being needlessly tested by the government,” he said, adding that instead of taking decisions in accordance with the high court’s orders the government was passing the buck on to the apex court.

However, Advocate Hussain was hopeful that the Supreme Court would throw out the government’s appeal.

In its petition, the government maintained that though the right to travel abroad was a fundamental right, the federal government could place reasonable restrictions on Mr Musharraf’s movement in the public interest.

The appeal argues that since he stands accused, among other offences, of the grave crime of treason the government had rightfully placed his name on the ECL.

“He (Musharraf) has all the reasons not to come back to Pakistan once he leaves and his trial, which is at an advanced stage, would simply be brought to a standstill,” the appeal contended.

If Mr Musharraf is allowed to proceed abroad, he cannot be extradited. This is because Pakistan’s extradition treaty with the UAE does not cover ‘political crimes’.

The petition states that the former president stood accused in a number of other cases, such as the Nawab Akbar Bugti murder case and the Lal Masjid case, both of whom are currently sub judice before trial courts.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2014

Balochistan MPA shot dead by guard

Saleem Shahid

QUETTA: Handery Masih, a member of the Balochistan Assembly, was shot dead allegedly by his security guard here on Saturday.

QUETTA: Handery Masih, a member of the Balochistan Assembly, was shot dead allegedly by his security guard here on Saturday.

Mr Masih’s nephew was injured in the incident which took place in front of his residence in the Nawan Killi area, on the outskirts of the provincial capital.

“Handery Masih received one bullet in his neck and died after reaching the hospital of Frontier Corps near Nawan Killi,” Mir Jan Mohammad Buledi, the Balochistan government’s spokesman, told Dawn.

Mr Masih, who belonged to the National Party, was elected on a seat reserved for minorities.

Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch expressed sorrow over the murder of Mr Masih and ordered immediate arrest of his killer.

Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani told Dawn that the security guard, who allegedly killed Mr Masih, was working with the MPA for the past 14 years. The accused escaped after leaving his official weapon behind, he added.

The motive behind the murder was not immediately known. “We are investigating the incident and trying to know the reason for the killing of Mr Masih,” Capital City Police Officer Abdul Razzaq Cheema said.

He said initial investigation had revealed that the security guard, who was identified as Agha Ghulam Muhyuddin, had some personal dispute with Mr Masih’s nephew and they had exchanged some hot words outside the house of the MPA.

Mr Masih had returned to his residence after attending a meeting at the Chief Minister’s House just a few minutes before the incident.

His nephew, who was identified as Awais Masih, received five bullets. He was taken to FC Hospital.

A senior police officer said that the security guard, Agha Ghulam Muhyuddin, belonged to Balochistan Levies and was deputed by the Home and Tribal Affairs Department on the request of the slain legislator.

The spokesman for Balochistan government, Mir Jan Mohammad Buledi, told a press conference that the accused would be arrested soon. Police were investigating the incident and the motive behind the killing would be known shortly, he said.

He announced a three-day mourning for the murder.

He said both the slain MPA and the security guard belonged to Mastung.

The nephew of Mr Masih was also working as his security guard.

The late MPA was affiliated with the Baloch Students Organisation and became its provincial president during his student days. He had joined the National Party after completing his education.

Hundreds of Mr Masih’s supporters and party workers staged a demonstration in front of the FC Hospital. They brought the MPA’s body at Zarghoon Road and wanted to go to the Chief Minister House, but later dispersed peacefully.

The leaders of Christian community called for immediate arrest of the accused.

The body of Mr Masih was taken to Mastung, his native town some 55 km southeast of Quetta.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2014

Colombia beat Greece 3-0

AFP

BELO HORIZONTE: Col­ombia started its first World Cup campaign in 16 years in dazzling fashion, beating Greece 3-0 on Saturday.

BELO HORIZONTE: Col­ombia started its first World Cup campaign in 16 years in dazzling fashion, beating Greece 3-0 on Saturday.

Left back Armero opened the scoring in the fifth minute when his deflected shot rolled past Greek goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis.

Striker Teofilo Gutierrez poked in Colombia’s second goal from a deflected corner and James Rodriguez capped it off with a low shot in stoppage time.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2014

Jets bomb militant hideouts

Pazir Gul

MIRAMSHAH: Several suspected militants were killed in an offensive by PAF jets in the troubled North Waziristan tribal region in the small hours of Sunday, sources said.

MIRAMSHAH: Several suspected militants were killed in an offensive by PAF jets in the troubled North Waziristan tribal region in the small hours of Sunday, sources said.

They said that Uzbek and Mehsud militants were killed in the attack which also left an unspecified number of women and children dead.

The sources said that at least five militant hideouts and a number of houses had been destroyed in shelling in Degan area of Dattakhel.

News channels put the number of those killed at over 100, claiming that the mastermind of the attack on the Karachi airport had also been killed.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2014

Footprints: Waiting for Guru Ji’s Miracle

Hassan Belal Zaidi

You can see it in the distance long before you actually arrive; its distinctive shape nestled majestically among fields of green.

You can see it in the distance long before you actually arrive; its distinctive shape nestled majestically among fields of green.

One of the most sacred sites in Sikhism, Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur is revered by Sikhs and Muslims alike. Every year in September, and then again in November, hundreds of Sikh pilgrims from around the world come here to pay their respects.

The gurdwara lies on the road to Shakargarh, outside the town of Narowal. As the crow flies, it is just a few kilometres from the border with India.

It’s nearly four in the afternoon; the sun is making its descent and a cool breeze blows across the plain of Kartarpur. The green fields sway in the breeze as we make our way towards the abode of Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion.

An unexploded bomb that was supposedly dropped on the gurdwara in the 1965 war is mounted on a pedestal just outside the main entrance. A plaque next to the display proclaims it to be a ‘Miracle of Wahe Guru Ji’ (the Sikh word for the Supreme Being).

As we walk into the main courtyard, a man offers us a plastic cap; it is disrespectful to enter with your head uncovered. We wash our feet in the water reservoir and step onto hallowed ground.

There is a small group of sightseers: women and children from the nearby town, labourers from the next village and a few farmers from the adjoining fields.

Inside, we see a large group of men huddled around someone wearing a turban and sporting a backpack. This is Gulzar Singh, a ‘guest’ from Brisbane, Australia. He chats affably with local men in his pidgin Punjabi and offers sweets to children.

Gulzar was one of the hundreds of Sikh pilgrims who came to Pakistan for Jorr Mela, the recently-concluded celebrations to honour Guru Arjun Dev Ji, the fifth Sikh guru. Most pilgrims head to sites in Lahore, Nankana Sahib or Hassanabdal. Kartarpur is not on the pilgrim trail for this time of year. But Gulzar says he’s happy he came.

“This place is quite well-kept. It could use some TLC, but under the circumstances, this is very impressive.”

The circumstances he refers to date back to the time of partition. Kartarpur was originally a part of Gurdaspur, one of the controversial border towns that was said to have been awarded to Pakistan in the June 3 plan, but taken away by Cyril Radcliffe, the cartographer of partition.

This arbitrarily drawn line not only distanced hundreds of thousands of Sikhs from Baba Guru Nanak for many decades to come, it also split Darbar Sahib from Dera Baba Nanak, the shrine dedicated to the first Sikh guru. Both lie on either side of the River Ravi that runs through this area.

But barbed wire and fences cannot deter devotion. To cater to devotees, Indian authorities have constructed a Darshan Sathai, or look-out point, right on the border. From here, the faithful can pray, ask for absolution, seek penitence or guidance from Baba Nanak or peer at his elegant abode through binoculars.

Atypically for such a key religious site, the six men charged with the shrine’s upkeep are not practising Sikhs. Anil is a Christian youth from a nearby village. He and two others are charged with keeping the shrine spotless. The gardener is a Muslim, so is the man who cooks langar every day. Food is available to visitors round the clock, no matter who they are.

A quaint garden adjoins a small cottage just outside the entrance to the gurdwara. These are the quarters of the shrine’s keeper, Gobind Singh. His brother, Ramesh Singh Arora, recently made history by becoming the first Sikh member of the Punjab Assembly.

Over tea and biscuits, Gobind tells us he is happy with the support the government and the Auqaf department provide for the shrine’s upkeep. But when asked about the visa-free corridor, he shrugs and says: “That is a matter for the governments to decide.”

Gulzar, who has visited Sikh shrines in India before, is pleasantly surprised by this camaraderie. “There are no issues here; everyone eats together, prays together and laughs together. One can’t imagine doing this in India.”

I ask him if he has been to Dera Baba Nanak. “No,” he says longingly, “but if I could just walk there right now, I would.”

This is no idle boast. Sikhs on both sides of the border have been pressing for the creation of a visa-free corridor between the two shrines since 1998, which will allow pilgrims from India to walk to Baba Guru Nanak’s shrine.

On Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s recent visit to New Delhi, Sikh organisation Dal Khalsa called on both leaders to talk about the issue and work something out. But so far, the issue seems to be on the backburner for both sides.

“We want Kartarpur to become an international point. Opening up the border would put this place on the map. It would be a great boon for all Sikhs, not just those in India or Pakistan,” Gobind Singh says.

Gulzar, the pardesi, agrees. “Both India and Pakistan should work towards a common good. Tourism, foreign investment; these are things both countries desperately need. If by some miracle Darbar Sahib is opened up, peace between the two neighbours may yet be within reach.”

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2014

SC orders effective police action to protect minorities

Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: In what has been billed as a verdict that may stem the rising tide of intolerance and bigotry in the country, the Supreme Court ordered law enforcement agencies on Thursday to promptly register criminal cases against those guilty of desecrating minorities’ places of worship or violating any of their rights guaranteed under law.

ISLAMABAD: In what has been billed as a verdict that may stem the rising tide of intolerance and bigotry in the country, the Supreme Court ordered law enforcement agencies on Thursday to promptly register criminal cases against those guilty of desecrating minorities’ places of worship or violating any of their rights guaranteed under law.

Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani also ordered the federal government to ensure that hate speech on social media is discouraged and those who incite are brought to justice. The verdict came as the court wrapped up suo motu proceedings, initiated on an application filed by Nadeem Shaikh and Saleem Michael regarding the twin bombing of a Peshawar church that left 81 people dead.

In previous hearings, the court had also received complaints from Hindus asking for protection of their places of worship and took notice of issues such as the threats to the Kalash tribe and Ismailis in Chitral, forced conversions of Hindu girls, the registration of minorities’ marriages etc.

Authored by the chief justice himself, the 32-page judgment also highlighted the need to promote a culture of religious and social tolerance by developing the appropriate curriculum at the school and college level, as well as constituting a task force for developing religious tolerance and establishing a specially trained force charged with protecting minorities’ places of worship.

The verdict recalled that in its Declaration on the Rights of the Child, the United Nations had resolved that children should be protected from any form of discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief. “The child should be brought up in the spirit of understanding, tolerance and friendship among peoples, peace and universal brotherhood, respect for freedom of religion or belief of others and in full consciousness that his energy and talents should be devoted to the service of his fellow men”.

The verdict also calls for the constitution of a national council for minority rights, to be tasked with monitoring the actual situation of the rights and safeguards provided to minorities under law.

The judgment is unequivocal in its directions to the federal and provincial governments to ensure the enforcement of the policy regarding quota for minorities in all services.

Directions were also issued to the court office to open a separate file, to be placed before a three-judge bench, to ensure that this judgment was fully implemented in letter and spirit. That bench would be free to entertain complaints or petitions related to the violation of the fundamental rights of minorities in the country.

Referring to the desecration of minorities’ places of worship, the judgment stated that such incidents could be prevented if the authorities concerned had taken preventive measures at the appropriate time.

Law-enforcement agencies’ inaction was due to a lack of proper understanding of the relevant law, the judgment said. It mentioned an instance when the Additional Advocate General (AAG) Sindh told the court that the desecration of minorities’ places of worship did not qualify as blasphemy and not an offence under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). When presented with Section 295 of the PPC, the counsel had to concede that the desecration of places of worship, even of non-Muslims, was an offence under the law.

The judgment notes that Pakistan is a transitional democracy and like all other countries is faced with competing political and social challenges. However the defining feature of democratic governance is complete dedication and adherence in everyday life to the seminal principles of equity, justice and inclusion of all irrespective of their colour, creed, caste, sex or faith. The sustainability of democracy depends on how best these challenges are met.

The judgment also explains that the Supreme Court is mandated to protect and defend the Constitution, which embodies the fundamental rights of its citizens. Thus, in deciding cases entailing inter-faith conflict, the courts should keep in view the fact that there are certain elements in every faith who seek to interpret religion in myopic terms.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2014

Iraq calls for US air strikes as militants enter main refinery

Reuters

BAGHDAD: Iraq asked the United States for air support in countering rebels, the top US general said on Wednesday, after the militants seized major cities in a lightning advance that has routed the country’s army.

BAGHDAD: Iraq asked the United States for air support in countering rebels, the top US general said on Wednesday, after the militants seized major cities in a lightning advance that has routed the country’s army.

However, General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave no direct reply when asked at a Congressional hearing whether Washington would agree to the request.

Baghdad said it wanted US air strikes as the insurgents, led by fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS), battled their way into the biggest oil refinery in Iraq.

In the Saudi city of Jeddah, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Baghdad had asked for air strikes “to break the morale” of ISIS.

While Iraq’s ally, Iran, had so far not intervened to help the Baghdad government, “everything is possible”, he told reporters after a meeting of Arab foreign ministers.

Washington and other Western capitals are trying to save Iraq as a united country by leaning hard on Shia Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to reach out to Sunnis.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made the clearest declaration yet that his country was prepared to intervene to protect Iraq’s great shrines, visited by millions of pilgrims each year.

“Regarding the holy Shia shrines in Karbala, Najaf… and Samarra, we announce to the killers and terrorists that the great Iranian nation will not hesitate to protect holy shrines,” Rouhani said in an address to a crowd on live TV.

He said many people had signed up to go to Iraq to fight, although he also said Iraqis of all sects were prepared to defend themselves.

OIL REFINERY: The Baiji refinery is the ISIS fighters’ immediate goal, the biggest source of fuel for domestic consumption in Iraq, which would give them a grip on energy supply in the north where the population has complained of fuel shortages.

The refinery was shut on Tuesday and foreign workers flown out by helicopter.

“The militants have managed to break into the refinery. Now they are in control of the production units, administration building and four watch towers. This is 75 per cent of the refinery,” an official speaking from inside the refinery said.

The government denied the refinery had fallen. Counter-terrorism spokesman Sabah Nouri insisted forces were still in control and had killed 50 to 60 fighters and burned six or seven insurgent vehicles after being attacked from three directions.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2014

Afghan election in peril over Abdullah’s fraud claims

AFP

KABUL: Afghan presidential election candidate Abdullah Abdullah on Wednesday demanded a halt to vote-counting over fraud allegations, taking the country to the brink of a political crisis during its first democratic transfer of power.

KABUL: Afghan presidential election candidate Abdullah Abdullah on Wednesday demanded a halt to vote-counting over fraud allegations, taking the country to the brink of a political crisis during its first democratic transfer of power.

Mr Abdullah ramped up his complaints over alleged fraud in Saturday’s run-off election by accusing his opponent Ashraf Ghani, outgoing President Hamid Karzai and the Independent Election Commission (IEC) of all being involved.

A smooth election was seen as a key test of the 13-year international military and civilian effort to develop Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.

But Mr Abdullah’s statement on Wednesday fuelled a growing dispute that could trigger instability as US-led foreign combat troops withdraw by the end of the year.

“We suspend engagement with the (election) commission and we have asked our monitors to leave their offices,” Mr Abdullah said.

“We are asking for the counting process to be stopped immediately, if it does not, it will not have any legitimacy.”

He added that “everybody knows… that unfortunately the president of Afghanistan was not impartial” and that some ballot boxes were stuffed with votes the day before the second-round election.

The arguments erupted despite pleas from the United Nations and the United States for Mr Abdullah and Mr Ghani to give officials time to conduct the count and adjudicate on fraud complaints.

“Abdullah Abdullah suspending cooperation with the IEC came as a surprise,” said UN mission spokesman Ari Gaitanis.

“We regret this step, and at the same time we will keep working with both campaigns and the election commission.”

Mr Abdullah, a former resistance fighter and foreign minister, believes fraud denied him victory in the 2009 presidential race, and has often said that only ballot-rigging could stop him from winning this time. —AFP

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2014

Kenan Evren sentenced to life imprisonment for 1980 coup

Reuters

ANKARA: Former army chief Kenan Evren, 96, who came to symbolise the military’s dominance over Turkish political life, was sentenced to life in jail on Wednesday for leading a 1980 coup that resulted in widespread torture, arrests and deaths.

ANKARA: Former army chief Kenan Evren, 96, who came to symbolise the military’s dominance over Turkish political life, was sentenced to life in jail on Wednesday for leading a 1980 coup that resulted in widespread torture, arrests and deaths.

The sentencing of retired General Evren marked a strong symbolic moment in Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s taming of an army that had forced four governments from power in four decades. Hundreds of officers were jailed last year over an alleged plot to topple him.

Mr Evren, who also served as president after three years of military rule, never expressed regret for the coup. He said it saved Turkey from anarchy after thousands were killed in street fighting by militant left-wingers and rightists.

“Should we feed them in prison for years instead of hanging them?” he asked in a speech in 1984, defending the hanging of political activists after the army takeover.

Fifty people were executed, some 500,000 were arrested, and many disappeared in a country which, bordering the Soviet Union, was on the front line of the Cold War.

Too frail to attend court sessions, Mr Evren was sentenced to life in prison along with former air force chief Tahsin Sahinkaya, 89. Both were accused of setting the stage for an army intervention, then conducting the coup.

Some critics argued nationalist militants or US agencies engineered street clashes to justify army action on September 12, 1980, a charge echoed in a 2012 conspiracy trial dubbed ‘Sledgehammer’. Officers then were accused of plotting to bomb mosques and trigger a conflict with Greece to pave the way for a coup against Mr Erdogan, viewed warily by the military for his Islamist past.

However, a ruling by Turkey’s top court on Wednesday that the rights of 230 officers were violated in the case could open the way now for a retrial and a move to conciliation between prime minister and the generals, nicknamed ‘Pashas’ in a nod to Turkey’s Ottoman past.

Mr Evren and Mr Sahinkaya participated in the hearings via video links from military hospitals in Ankara and Istanbul. Media reports said the two former commanders would be stripped of their ranks as a result of the ruling.

Oral Calislar, a columnist for Radikal newspaper, was jailed for four years and spent another four as a fugitive after his arrest in 1980 for leading a legal left-wing party.

“This is the first time those who have staged a coup have been convicted. We had other coups, but those responsible continued to run the country with impunity,” he said.

The generals were long considered ultimate guarantors of the country’s secular constitution, a constant presence overshadowing political parties and leaders.

Their last successful intervention was in 1997 when they forced Turkey’s first Islamist-led government from office through a combination of political pressure and display of military power but without seizing power outright.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2014

Situation dire, US Congress told

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

WASHINGTON: The US defence secretary and the military chief told Congress on Wednesday that US air strikes in Iraq alone would not return peace to the country but did not rule out the option.

WASHINGTON: The US defence secretary and the military chief told Congress on Wednesday that US air strikes in Iraq alone would not return peace to the country but did not rule out the option.

“There has to be a reason for those airstrikes … where do you go with those? What does it do to move the effort down the road for a political solution?” said Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Gen Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Appropriations Committee that the United States has received a request from the Iraqi government to use its air power.

He acknowledged that it was in the US “national security interest” to counter the Al Qaeda-linked Iraqi militants “where we find them”.

Both he and Secretary Hagel also said that they were still working out details on possible US steps that could include airstrikes on ISIS militants advancing through northern Iraq.

“I share alarm about the future of Iraq, and we are developing a full range of options to help stabilise the region,” Gen Dempsey said but warned that launching air strikes was “not as easy as looking at an iPhone video of a convoy and then immediately striking it”.

Commenting on the Senate hearing, CNN concluded that “it looks like some kind of US intervention in Iraq is coming” while the Wall Street Journal noted that the Obama administration was also considering options other than air strikes.

The two officials appeared before the US Senate hours before a meeting between President Barack Obama and senior congressional leaders. The testimony and the meeting were both focused on the status of the US response to the crisis in Iraq.

Those invited to the White House include Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel, House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

At the Senate hearing, Secretary Hagel and Gen Dempsey told the lawmakers that US forces would need better intelligence before they launch the air strikes.

Both criticised the Iraqi government, led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, for what they called its failure to build a coalition that included leaders of the Sunni minority. This and not the decision to pull all US troops out of Iraq in 2011 was the main catalyst for the ISIS advances, they said.

Mr Hagel said that any US military action would have to buttress a political solution in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the US State Department urged Prime Minister Maliki to focus on dealing with his internal problems instead of putting the blame on other countries.

On Tuesday, Mr Maliki’s office released a statement accusing Saudi Arabia of appeasing terrorists and providing both material and moral support to them.

“The Saudi government must bear responsibility of the serious crimes committed by these groups,” the statement read.

On Wednesday, the Saudi government denied that the kingdom provides “either moral or financial support to the terrorists” and blamed the Iraqi government for “exclusionary policies [that] have fomented this current crisis”.

Asked to comment on Mr Maliki’s statement, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said the Iraqi government should avoid doing so.

“That’s the opposite of what the Iraqi people need right now, and we have continued to make the case to Prime Minister Maliki that taking steps to govern in a non-sectarian way” would be the right approach for dealing with this crisis, she said.

She urged the Iraqi government to be more inclusive and to focus on increasing support to the security forces. Mr Maliki’s statement “is obviously the opposite of what that is. It’s inaccurate and, frankly, offensive”, she said.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2014

World peace deteriorating after improvement: study

Reuters

WASHINGTON: World peace has deteriorated steadily over the last seven years, with wars, militant attacks and crime reversing six decades of gradual improvement, a global security report said on Wednesday.

WASHINGTON: World peace has deteriorated steadily over the last seven years, with wars, militant attacks and crime reversing six decades of gradual improvement, a global security report said on Wednesday.

Conflict in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan and Central African Republic in particular helped drag down the annual Global Peace Index, according to research by the Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).

In particular, rising numbers of people were killed in militant attacks across the Middle East, South Asia and Africa while murder rates rose in the emerging world’s growing urban centres. More people also became refugees by fleeing fighting.

Crime and conflict rates in more developed regions, particularly Europe, generally fell, said the report.

The deterioration appeared to be the most significant fall in 60 years, the IEP said. Estimates of what the index would have been prior to its launch in 2007 showed world peace improving more or less continuously since the end of World War Two.

“There seem to be a range of causes,” Steve Killelea, founder and executive chairman of the IEP, said. “You have the repercussions of the Arab Spring, the rise of terrorism particularly following the invasion of Iraq and the repercussions of the global financial crisis.”

The study examines 22 indicators across 162 countries, including military spending, homicide rates and deaths from conflict, civil disobedience and terrorism. —Reuters

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2014

Militants briefly hold parts of Baquba city, 60km from Baghdad

AFP

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s prime minister fired top security commanders on Tuesday in a major shake-up as fighting approached Baghdad in a militant onslaught that the UN warned risked breaking the country up.

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s prime minister fired top security commanders on Tuesday in a major shake-up as fighting approached Baghdad in a militant onslaught that the UN warned risked breaking the country up.

A relative calm in Baghdad — ostensibly as militants have focused on their northern assault — was shattered by a string of bombings that left 17 people dead, while the bodies of 18 soldiers and police were found near the city of Samarra, shot in the head and chest.

More than a week after militants launched their lightning assault, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki dismissed several senior security force officers, including the top commander for Nineveh province in the north, the first to fall in the offensive.

Maliki also ordered that one of the officers he fired face court-martial for desertion.

The dismissals came after soldiers and police fled en masse as insurgents swept into Nineveh’s capital Mosul, a city of two million people, abandoning their vehicles and uniforms.

And as officials trumpet a counter-offensive, doubts are growing that Iraq’s security forces can hold back the militant tide. After taking Mosul, militants captured a major chunk of mainly Sunni Arab territory stretching towards the capital.

The offensive has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and sent jitters through world oil markets as the militants have advanced ever nearer Baghdad leaving the Shia-led government in disarray.

Officials said on Tuesday that militants briefly held parts of the city of Baquba, just 60 kilometres from the capital.

They also took control of most of Tal Afar, a strategic Shia-majority town between Mosul and the border with Syria, where the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS) also has fighters engaged in that country’s three-year-old civil war.

The overnight attack on Baquba, which was pushed back by security forces but left 44 prisoners dead at a police station, marked the closest the fighting has come to the capital.

In Tal Afar, militants controlled most of the town but pockets of resistance re­mained.

Further south, security personnel abandoned the Iraqi side of a key crossing on the border with Syria, officers said.

Syrian rebels opposed to ISIS, who already controlled the other side of the Al Qaim crossing, were then able to seize the Iraqi side as well.

Elsewhere, a cameraman was killed and a correspondent wounded while covering the unrest, their television channel said.

The swift advance of the militants has sparked international alarm, with UN envoy to Baghdad Nickolay Mladenov warning that Iraq’s territorial integrity was at stake.

“Right now, it’s life-threatening for Iraq but it poses a serious danger to the region,” Mladenov said. “Iraq faces the biggest threat to its sovereignty and territorial integrity” in years.

The violence has stoked regional tensions, with Iraq accusing neighbouring Saudi Arabia of “siding with terrorism” and of being responsible for financing the militants. The comments came a day after the Sunni kingdom blamed “sectarian” policies by Iraq’s Shia-led government for triggering the unrest.

The prime minister of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region said it would be “almost impossible” for the country to return to how it was before the militant offensive, and called for Sunni Arabs to be granted an autonomous region of their own.

Senior Sunni and Shia political leaders, including Maliki and his rival parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, jointly issued a televised statement pledging continuous dialogue and promising to preserve the country’s unity.

Alarmed by collapse of the security forces in the face of the militant advance, foreign governments have begun pulling out diplomatic staff.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2014

UN assails mass executions

Masood Haider

UNITED NATIONS: “Cold-blooded” mass execution in Iraq in recent days by insurgent groups was condemned by the United Nations human rights chief on Tuesday and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged that the perpetrators of the crimes be brought to justice.

UNITED NATIONS: “Cold-blooded” mass execution in Iraq in recent days by insurgent groups was condemned by the United Nations human rights chief on Tuesday and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged that the perpetrators of the crimes be brought to justice.

Mr Ban also called upon Iraqi leaders to prevent sectarian reprisals.

Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that UN staff and other sources on the ground reported the executions of hundreds of Iraqis following last week’s capture of Mosul and other population centres by forces allied with the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS), including disarmed soldiers as well as religious leaders and other civilians.

“Based on corroborated reports from a number of sources, it appears that hundreds of non-combatant men were summarily executed over the past five days, including surrendered or captured soldiers, military conscripts, police and others associated with the government,” said Ms Pillay.

In a statement released on Monday night, Mr Ban’s spokesperson said the reports of mass summary executions “are deeply disturbing and underscore the urgency of bringing the perpetrators of such crimes to justice”.

He added: “The secretary-general warns against sectarian rhetoric that could further exacerbate the conflict and carry grave implications for the entire region. In this regard, he welcomes the important clarification statement on the need for Iraqi unity of His Eminence Sayed Ali Al-Sistani, who represents a deeply influential voice of wisdom and reason.”

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2014

‘Good days are coming’: Envoy hopeful of improved Pak-India ties

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Borrowing from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election slogan, Pakistan on Tuesday said ‘acche din aa rahe hain’, good days are coming.

NEW DELHI: Borrowing from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election slogan, Pakistan on Tuesday said ‘acche din aa rahe hain’, good days are coming.

Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit was of course referring to bilateral ties with India and not to any political promise by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Press Trust of India said Mr Basit expressed the hope that the process of granting non-discriminatory market access to the country would begin after the resumption of talks between the two sides.

“Let the bilateral engagement resume. Our two prime ministers have met and all the issues were discussed and we hope that things will be carried forward when the bilateral talks resume,” Mr Basit told reporters here.

He was replying to a question on granting of MFN or NDMA status to India.

While speaking at the curtain-raiser of ‘Aalishan Pakistan: 2nd Pakistan Life-Style Exhibition’, he said people of both the countries have given huge mandate to their respective leaders to create a better understanding between the two countries.

“I have no reason to doubt for a moment that acche din aa rahe hain (good days are approaching),” he said.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan High Commission reported a curtain-raiser ceremony, jointly presided over by S.M. Muneer, Chief Executive of Trade Development of Pakistan, the high commissioner and Sidharth Birla, president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry was held at FICCI headquarters on Tuesday.

Mr Muneer said that over 250 top companies from Pakistan would showcase their high-end products during the four-day event. Besides the exhibition, a delegation of high-profile Pakistan businessmen would be visiting India to explore trade opportunities in various sectors.

He was confident that the event would not only promote trade but also offer a chance for the people to feel and own the highest quality Pakistani products.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2014

Israel ramps up pressure on Hamas

Reuters

RAMALLAH: Israel decided on Tuesday to widen a crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank after troops detained more than 40 members of the Palestinian group in sweeps conducted in tandem with a search for three missing Jewish teenagers.

RAMALLAH: Israel decided on Tuesday to widen a crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank after troops detained more than 40 members of the Palestinian group in sweeps conducted in tandem with a search for three missing Jewish teenagers.

The Jewish state accuses Hamas of kidnapping the three youths after they left their religious school in a Jewish settlement in the occupied territory on Thursday.

While neither claiming nor denying responsibility, Hamas has commented that abductions were a justified response to the plight of thousands of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

The Israeli army has carried out house-to-house searches, round-ups of suspects and interrogations in Hebron, a Hamas stronghold, and then in other parts of the West Bank, in a mobilisation on a scale not seen in years.

“We are turning Hamas membership into a ticket to hell,” Naftali Bennett, a far-right member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet, told Israeli Army Radio on Tuesday.

The Palestinian Information Ministry accused Israel of inflicting collective punishment with its West Bank dragnet — a charge echoed by several international human rights groups.

“An entire population is being held hostage to the whims of the Israeli occupation,” the Palestinian ministry said.

Israel has said it does not know if Gil-Ad Shaer and US-Israeli national Naftali Fraenkel, both aged 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19, are alive or what their captors’ demands might be.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2014

Oslo imam injured in attack

AFP

OSLO: The imam of Oslo’s main mosque was recuperating in hospital on Tuesday after a masked assailant attacked him in the centre of the Norwegian capital, police said.

OSLO: The imam of Oslo’s main mosque was recuperating in hospital on Tuesday after a masked assailant attacked him in the centre of the Norwegian capital, police said.

Police said Nehma Ali Shah was attacked with a “sharp object” close to his home late on Monday.

“He has been seriously injured,” police spokesman Roar Hanssen said, adding that the imam was now in a stable condition in hospital.

Witnesses who spoke to police said there was a single attacker.

“It is far too early to say anything about the motive,” said Hanssen.

According to public broadcaster NRK, the assailant attacked the imam in a courtyard of the building where he lived as he returned home from the last prayer of the day at the Central Jamaat Ahle Sunnat mosque.

He received slash wounds to the hands and face, from an object believed to be an axe, added Norwegian daily Aftenposten.

Several Norwegian media outlets have reported on a power struggle within the mosque, which has a congregation of more than 5,000 members mainly of Pakistani origin. The victim has repeatedly condemned religious extremists and made a 2006 visit to the Oslo Synagogue after shots had been fired at the building.

However, he also attracted controversy last year when he claimed that Norwegian media were controlled by the Jews.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2014

More deadly riots flare in S. Lanka’s resort region

AFP

ALUTGAMA: More deadly violence flared in a Sri Lankan resort region where Buddhist hardliners set shops and homes alight for a second night running in defiance of a curfew, police and residents said on Tuesday.

ALUTGAMA: More deadly violence flared in a Sri Lankan resort region where Buddhist hardliners set shops and homes alight for a second night running in defiance of a curfew, police and residents said on Tuesday.

Amid mounting international concern at the unrest, residents of a town which has borne the brunt said an unarmed security guard was killed in an attack outside a Muslim-owned farm, raising the overall death toll to four.

“More than a dozen houses and shops have been burnt overnight,” a police source said from the mainly Muslim town of Alutgama, after another night of mob violence by followers of the extremist Buddhist Force.

Soldiers, armed with assault rifles and cricket stumps as batons, were seen patrolling the deserted streets of the southwestern beach resort on Tuesday.

“What is the point in all this heavy (military) presence when everything here is destroyed?” asked Muslim businessman Mohamed Rishan, 33, who lost three shops in the rioting. “They should have been here yesterday.”

Western embassies in Colombo advised their nationals holidaying in the area to stay indoors, while other foreigners were urged to avoid crowded areas and respect the curfew.

The attacks are the latest in a series of religious clashes to hit the island following unrest in January and last year, when Buddhist mobs attacked a mosque in the capital Colombo.

Muslims make up about 10 per cent of Sri Lanka’s 20 million population, but are accused by nationalists of having undue influence in the Buddhist-majority country.

In Welipanna, a suburb of Alutgama, residents said nine houses and 26 shops were destroyed overnight by a mob of 50 to 60 men armed with guns, petrol bombs and knives.

Local school principal A.R.M. Nahuman said residents had pleaded with authorities to provide more police protection, but to little avail.

“There were only three constables and they were quite helpless in the face of the big mob,” Nahuman said, as he walked down a row of burned-out shops.

Service station owner Abdul Kahar, 60, said the attackers fire-bombed his business as well as his home.

“We have lost everything. We lived here for 25 years, but never experienced anything like this before,” said Kahar as he stood among the charred remains of his home.

Chicken farm owner Hijasin Mustapha, 31, said attackers set fire to his warehouse after knifing an elderly unarmed security guard.

“They first stabbed our watcher and another worker and then set fire to the stores,” Mustapha said.

Although the unrest on Monday was not as widespread as the previous night, it came despite the announcement of a curfew.

Residents said several vehicles had also been set alight in Alutgama.

A curfew which was lifted for four hours to allow residents to stock up on supplies was re-imposed at noon and would continue indefinitely, police said.

The authorities say nearly 80 people have so far been seriously injured in clashes while many more have suffered minor injuries. Dozens of homes, shops and mosques have been partially or completely destroyed.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2014

UK says cyber-spies monitoring Facebook, Twitter and Google use

AP

LONDON: The UK’s electronic spy agency is legally allowed to track the online activities of millions of Britons who use US-based platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google, Britain’s top counter-terrorism official has said.

LONDON: The UK’s electronic spy agency is legally allowed to track the online activities of millions of Britons who use US-based platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google, Britain’s top counter-terrorism official has said.

In a witness statement made public on Tuesday, the office for Security and Counter-Terrorism chief Charles Farr said data sent on those services is classed as “external” rather than “internal” communications because the companies’ servers are based outside Britain.

Amnesty International said that it amounted to “industrial-scale intrusion”, but Farr said this did not amount to mass surveillance because the vast majority of messages intercepted in this way are not read.

The distinction between external and internal interactions is significant because Britain’s electronic intelligence agency, GCHQ, has broad powers to intercept communications outside the country, but needs a warrant and suspicion of wrongdoing to monitor domestic internet traffic.

A broad definition of what constitutes “external” communications expands the amount of data GCHQ can scoop up to include the daily activities of millions of British internet users.

In the first public explanation of the rules used by Britain’s cyber-spies, Farr said that emails sent between two people in Britain would usually be classed as internal even if they travelled by route outside the country. But Facebook and Twitter posts or searches on Google or YouTube that went to data centres outside the British Isles would fall under the external category.

Farr said data scooped up in this way “cannot be read, looked at or listened to” except in strictly limited circumstances. Rules exist to limit the way harvested data can be searched and how long it can be retained, but the full details of the regulations have never been made public.

“It is important to note the significant distinction between the act of interception itself, and a person actually reading, looking at or listening to intercepted material,” Farr wrote.

Britain’s Home Office confirmed the document was genuine. It was written in response to a legal action by civil liberties groups including Amnesty, Liberty, Privacy International and the American Civil Liberties Union, who are seeking to curb cyber-spying, and was published by the groups.

James Welch, legal director of Liberty, said Farr’s document revealed that Britain’s intelligence agencies “are operating in a legal and ethical vacuum”. “If there was any remaining doubt that our snooping laws need a radical overhaul there can be no longer,” he said.

Simon McKay, a criminal lawyer and author of a leading textbook on covert policing, said Farr’s statement provided a “lifting of the veil of secrecy” on spying. “The statement admits GCHQ are routinely intercepting communications from what are commonly known as social networking sites,” McKay said. “The suggestion that they do not monitor them is a little harder to swallow.”

Britain’s Home Office, which is responsible for security and counter-terrorism, said it could not comment on an ongoing legal challenge. The rights groups launched their legal action after leaks about cyber-snooping from former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

He revealed details of a programme called PRISM, which gives the NSA access to internet companies’ customer data, and a British operation, TEMPORA, that allows GCHQ to harvest data from undersea cables.

Farr would not confirm or deny the existence of TEMPORA or say whether GCHQ had received information from PRISM.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2014

Agency official kidnapped in Multan

The Newspaper’s Staff Correspondent

MULTAN: An official of an intelligence agency was kidnapped here on Monday morning.

MULTAN: An official of an intelligence agency was kidnapped here on Monday morning.

District Coordination Officer Zahid Saleem Gondal said Umer Mubeen Jilani, an inspector in ISI’s anti-terrorism wing, was kidnapped when he left his house in Garden Town for his office.

SSP Operations Saifullah Khattak said seven armed men kidnapped Mr Jilani at about 8:30am.

According to him, saying anything about the motive behind the kidnapping would be premature as police and other intelligence agencies had just started the investigation.

Mr Jilani is son of Zahid Husain Jilani who is a retired civil servant and has reportedly served as director general of the Cholistan Development Authority and director of Anti-Corruption.

Mr Jilani is a nephew of Chief Justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Husain Jilani.

According to eyewitnesses, two kidnappers were wearing black shirts similar to those worn by police. They said he put up resistance and also clashed with the kidnappers.

Law-enforcement agencies cordoned off the area and launched a search operation.

Pickets were established at the city’s exit and entry points.

No FIR of the incident was lodged till late evening.

This is the second reported case of kidnapping of an ISI official in over two weeks. A havaldar of the agency was kidnapped from Defence, Lahore, on May 31.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2014

Footprints: Trailing behind

Mina Sohail

AS we drive towards Shamsabad, a small village in Rawalpindi, my fellow passenger speaks to his friend over the phone in a language foreign to me. “It’s Wakhi,” beams Muqeem Baig. “This is what I speak in my hometown of Upper Hunza.”

AS we drive towards Shamsabad, a small village in Rawalpindi, my fellow passenger speaks to his friend over the phone in a language foreign to me. “It’s Wakhi,” beams Muqeem Baig. “This is what I speak in my hometown of Upper Hunza.”

A trainer of adventure sports, Baig has just returned from Hunza, where he went on a week-long trekking and camping expedition with 200 students from Lahore. He leads me to a wholesale shop surrounded by kiosks and hardware stores where his friends Hasil Shah and Wazir Aman await us. The shop is well-stocked with mountaineering essentials: ice axes, crampons, camping tents, climbing ropes and hiking poles lie next to each other, heaps of equipment. The three men, all ardent mountaineers, former and current, make space in the cramped room by removing metallic gear and an oversized pair of boots.

“Guess how much these snow boots are for?” asks Shah, owner of the wholesale shop. As I shrug, clueless, he says the pair is worth Rs150,000. “Pakistani tourists who come here would not even be willing to spend Rs200 on these as they are usually unaware of the value of equipment according to climatic needs,” he tells me. “When foreigners come here, they buy it readily, and in fact, educate us about the equipment.”

This is the peak season for mountaineering in Pakistan, but the number of foreigners coming here has decreased. Since June last year, when militants attacked a mountaineering base camp in Nanga Parbat, killing 10 climbers — all foreigners — and their local guide, the mountaineering industry has suffered a steep decline.

“Business was good last year but after the Nanga Parbat incident, foreigners stopped coming here,” Shah says. “My income has been reduced to 60 per cent in a year.” He adds that when tourists come, they don’t just purchase tents but also hiking shoes, backpacks and a lot of other equipment. Since the beginning of the year, he’s had only four or five foreign visitors.

Although Shah has no alternative plan in case the mountaineering industry suffers further decline, he finds stability in business by providing equipment to Rangers and the police to keep his earnings stable.

In 2013, Baig accompanied three different groups of foreigners. This year so far, only one group of three men from France, Italy and the UK have come to him. He is now focused on his damage-control plan, the domestic tourist. He has been visiting schools and colleges in different cities across the country, where he talks to students about the scenic sites of Fairy Meadows, Skardu and the Deosai plains, and the kind of food, physical strength and equipment which is essential for such adventures. He feels that if they knew more about what the country has to offer, more people would be drawn to outdoor excursions.

“Seeing the country’s situation, why would foreigners want to come here?” he asks. “My focus is now on domestic tourism because I see more business here.”

Baig says that in recent years, business from the corporate sector has been good too. Multinationals take staff for team-building expeditions in the north and at times choose exotic sites to hold conferences and seminars.

Sitting unobtrusively next to Baig, listening to his alternative plans of business in this industry, Wazir Aman, a former guide, says that he left the profession long before the Nanga Parbat attack took place. “After 9/11, when I saw the conditions, I realised that I wouldn’t make much income as a guide and started a food processing business.”

Other than selling dried fruit and organic food that he grows in Upper Hunza and brings to Rawalpindi and Islamabad, Aman provides packaged food essential for mountaineering jaunts. He leaves the room briefly and returns with sealed packs of Sea Buckthorn seeds that he claims have significant medicinal value, dried cherries and apricots, yak meat that he uses to make soup, and herbal mountaineering tea as “milk tea on heights is not recommended”.

Aman sees his interest in growing organic food as a way of staying connected with the tourism industry. “Being from Hunza, tourism is everything for us,” he says. “The north has been affected a lot now by terrorism. People have moved around, started new businesses, but in Hunza, tourism is all we have.”

Hopeful but cautious, Baig says he thinks that eventually things will get better but “till we have that gap, we need a plan”. He gushes with pride over the three highest mountain ranges of the Karakoram, the Hindu Kush, and the Himalayas and their meeting point, Pakistan. “We have so much beauty but terrorism has affected tourism,” he rues.

“You’ve poured salt on an open wound,” adds Aman. “We have our own Switzerland right here and people shouldn’t have to go anywhere else. Pakistan is heaven for us but we have made it hell. We’re hoping someday, someone will come and fix it.”

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2014

US backs efforts to enforce sovereignty

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: The US State Department said on Monday that it backed Pakistan’s efforts to extend its sovereignty and stability over the entire country.

WASHINGTON: The US State Department said on Monday that it backed Pakistan’s efforts to extend its sovereignty and stability over the entire country.

Also on Monday, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Rashad Mahmood began a five-day official visit to the United States. He arrived in Washington on Saturday, a day before the government launched a major military offensive in North Waziristan to eliminate terrorist hideouts.

Gen Mahmood has come on the invitation of his US counterpart, Gen Martin Dempsey, and will visit several military bases in the country besides holding talks with key officials in Washington. At a regular news briefing at the State Department, spokesperson Jen Psaki emphasised that the operation launched in North Waziristan was “entirely Pakistan-led and executed”.

She repeated this point twice in the meeting, apparently to dispel an impression that the United States was, at any stage, involved in the planning or execution of this operation.

Ms Psaki hinted at continued US support for Pakistan’s efforts to combat terrorism when asked if National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz had conveyed his government’s decision to send troops into North Waziristan when he met US Secretary of State John Kerry in London earlier this week.

She referred to an official statement on this meeting, which quoted Secretary Kerry telling Mr Aziz that recent developments in South Asia had placed Pakistan in a “very, very key” position and had further increased the need for staying engaged with that country.

“This is a government of Pakistan’s operation and we have long supported Pakistan’s efforts to extend its sovereignty over the country,” she added.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2014

Britain bans forced marriage

AFP

LONDON: British legislation banning forced marriage came into effect on Monday, with those found guilty of the largely hidden practice facing up to seven years in prison.

LONDON: British legislation banning forced marriage came into effect on Monday, with those found guilty of the largely hidden practice facing up to seven years in prison.

The law applies not only within Britain but also makes it a criminal offence to force a British national into a marriage abroad, as many youngsters are flown out to weddings in their ancestral homelands, particularly in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

Nearly two-thirds of the cases dealt with by the government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) relate to Britain’s South Asian communities.

Campaigners welcomed the new laws as a “huge step forward”, while the government hopes they will protect potential victims.

A practice wrecking the lives of unknown thousands of British-born youths, forced marriage has been increasingly exposed in the last decade.

“Forced marriage is a tragedy for each and every victim, and its very nature means that many cases go unreported,” said Home Secretary Theresa May.

“I am proud to say that the UK is already a world leader in the fight to stamp out this harmful practice with the government’s FMU working hard to tackle this terrible practice in the UK and overseas.

“Today’s criminalisation is a further move by this government to ensure victims are protected by the law and that they have the confidence, safety and the freedom to choose. “Last year, the FMU dealt with some 1,300 cases — 18 per cent of them men.

Forty per cent of victims were aged 17 or under; three quarters were aged under 22.

Officials fear the number of victims coming forward is just the tip of the iceberg.

Meanwhile charities say few leaders with influence in their communities are prepared to take a stand, for fear of losing their support base.

The cases related to 74 different countries, although 43 per cent were linked to Pakistan, 11 per cent to India and 10 percent to Bangladesh.

Other countries with multiple cases included Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran and Tunisia.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2014

Militants’ advance spreads to northwest Iraq

Reuters

MOSUL: The insurgent offensive that has threatened to dismember Iraq spread to the northwest of the country on Sunday, when Sunni militants launched a dawn raid on a town close to the Syrian border, clashing with police and government forces.

MOSUL: The insurgent offensive that has threatened to dismember Iraq spread to the northwest of the country on Sunday, when Sunni militants launched a dawn raid on a town close to the Syrian border, clashing with police and government forces.

As the rapid advance south by the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS) towards Baghdad appeared to slow over the weekend, fierce fighting erupted in the town of Tal Afar, 60km west of Mosul near the Syrian border, security sources and a local official said.

ISIS fighters and other Sunni armed groups have stormed several towns on the road to Baghdad after seizing Mosul nearly a week ago — an offensive which only stalled as it approached the mainly Shia capital.

The advance alarmed both Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s supporters in Iran and officials in the United States, which helped bring him to power after its 2003 invasion that toppled Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein.

US President Barack Obama said on Friday he was reviewing military options, short of sending troops, to combat the insurgency, and Iran held out the prospect of working with its arch-enemy to help restore security in Iraq.

Maliki’s security forces and allied militias regained some territory on Saturday, easing part of the pressure on his Shia-led government, and officials said they were regaining the initiative. Maliki has vowed to rout the insurgents.

But Sunday’s fighting in Tal Afar, a majority Turkomen town which is home to both Shias and Sunnis, showed how volatile the deepening sectarian divisions have become.

Residents in Sunni districts accused Shia police and army forces of launching mortar fire at their neighbourhoods, prompting ISIS forces stationed outside the town to move in.

“The situation is disastrous in Tal Afar. There is crazy fighting and most families are trapped inside houses. They can’t leave town,” a local official said. “If the fighting continues, a mass killing among civilians could result.”

Government forces are using helicopter gunships against ISIS on the outskirts of Tal Afar, a member of Maliki’s security committee said.

Over Mosul, an Iraqi military jet came under anti-aircraft fire from ISIS fighters, witnesses said. It was not immediately clear whether it was preparing to attack ISIS positions or was carrying out reconnaissance.

In Baghdad on Sunday, a suicide attacker detonated explosives in a vest he was wearing, killing at least nine people and wounding 20 in a crowded street in the centre of the capital, police and medical sources said.

At least six people were killed, including three soldiers and three volunteers, when four mortars landed at a recruiting centre in Khlais, 50km north of Baghdad.

Volunteers were gathered by army to join fighting to regain control of the northern town of Udhaim from ISIS militants.

They were some of the thousands who responded to a call by the country’s most influential Shia cleric to take up arms and defend the country against the insurgents.

GoRY PICTUREs: A series of pictures distributed on a purported ISIS Twitter account appeared to show gunmen from the Islamist group shooting dozens of men, unarmed and lying prone on the ground.

Captions accompanying the pictures said they showed hundreds of army deserters who were captured as they tried to flee the fighting. They were shown being transported in the back of truck and led to an open field where they laid down in rows and shot by several masked gunmen.

In several pictures, the black Islamist ISIS flag can be seen.

Most of the captured men were wearing civilian clothes, although one picture showed two men in military camouflage trousers.

It was not immediately possible to verify the authenticity of the pictures.

Across the border, a Syrian government air raid hit near ISIS’s headquarters in the eastern city of Raqqa, activists said.

Raqqa, the first and only Syrian city to fall to insurgents since Syria’s conflict began more than three years ago, has been a major base for ISIS since it evicted rival rebels including Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate during infighting this year.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said warplanes targeted the governorate building, a large structure in the centre of town, as well as two other buildings, including a Sharia court.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2014

Indian minister says no talks amid ceasefire violations

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have felt encouraged by his recent meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, but New Delhi made it clear on Sunday that there could be no progress in bilateral talks if ceasefire violations on the Line of Control (LoC) are not stopped by Pakistan.

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have felt encouraged by his recent meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, but New Delhi made it clear on Sunday that there could be no progress in bilateral talks if ceasefire violations on the Line of Control (LoC) are not stopped by Pakistan.

Pakistan’s narrative on Indian allegations is usually quite the opposite and there is no reason to believe on this occasion that Islamabad accepts Indian accusations of any recent violations of the Vajpayee-era ceasefire. India discourages the idea of neutral observers to watch who if any one is in violation of the globally supported bilateral agreement to do nothing provocative on the LoC.

“For the situation to normalise I think it is extremely important that these kind of violations which are taking place at the LoC must stop. That in itself is a confidence building measure before any country can proceed further,” Defence Minister Arun Jaitley told reporters on the second day of his maiden visit to Jammu and Kashmir.

Press Trust of India quoted him as replying in the negative when asked if dialogue with Pakistan would go ahead if the ceasefire violations along LoC and infiltration in Jammu and Kashmir continued.

“Obviously not,” Mr Jaitley, who is on a two-day visit for reviewing security measures, said, adding that ceasefire violations must stop for further progress.

India has maintained that it has been its endeavour to establish peaceful and friendly relations with all neighbours, including Pakistan, PTI said.

It has reminded Pakistan that maintenance of peace and tranquility on the border is a “precondition” for having a normal relationship between the two countries.

PTI said the Sharif-Modi meeting on May 27 was seen as a positive development in Indo-Pak ties, which for last one year have witnessed aloofness due to the alleged incidents along the LoC, including widely announced beheading of an Indian soldier by Pakistan troops. The third round of comprehensive Indo-Pak dialogue process was stalled in January after the beheading incident.

Mr Jaitley said he has discussed the security situation in separate meetings with Governor N.N. Vohra and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2014

Restive Yemen hit by coup fears

AFP

SANAA: Yemeni troops were surrounding a mosque controlled by ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh on Sunday amid fears he is plotting a coup, days after the ex-strongman’s media outlets were silenced.

SANAA: Yemeni troops were surrounding a mosque controlled by ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh on Sunday amid fears he is plotting a coup, days after the ex-strongman’s media outlets were silenced.

Also on Sunday, an Al Qaeda suspect killed eight people in the south and fresh clashes erupted between security forces and Huthi rebels in the north, ending an 11-day truce mediated by the UN.

Yemen’s presidential guard, backed by armoured vehicles, has since late Saturday blocked access to the large Al-Saleh mosque in southern Sanaa, a correspondent reported.

Saleh ruled Yemen for 33 years before he was forced out in February 2012 and replaced by his long-time deputy Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi under a UN- and Gulf-sponsored deal.

A source close to the presidency said that weapons had been stored in the mosque and were being guarded by gunmen loyal to Saleh.

A tunnel connecting the site to the presidential palace had also been discovered. Hadi suspects his predecessor is “plotting a coup”, the source said.

Saleh, who has his own bodyguards, boosted security around his residence in the Hada district, also in south Sanaa. He still heads the influential General People’s Congress party which holds half of the government’s ministries and retains the loyalty of some elements in the military.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2014

Nepra rejects requests for recovery of Rs35bn from consumers

Khaleeq Kiani

ISLAMABAD: In an apparent snub to the government, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) has rejected requests by power distribution companies to recover more than Rs35 billion from consumers on account of additional system losses.

ISLAMABAD: In an apparent snub to the government, the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) has rejected requests by power distribution companies to recover more than Rs35 billion from consumers on account of additional system losses.

The decision has come on review petitions of Lahore, Quetta, Multan and Hyderabad electric supply companies (Lesco, Qesco, Mepco and Hesco) and sets aside a government decision to allow recovery of loans and the resultant mark-up from consumers along with the cost of higher system losses — both resulting from inefficiencies of the companies.

In its review petition, Hesco had demanded that consumers be charged for 23 per cent transmission and distribution (T&D) losses instead of 15pc permitted by Nepra. Lesco had requested Nepra to allow 13.2pc T&D losses in consumer tariff, instead of 9.8pc.

Likewise, Qesco had sought 18pc losses in power tariff, instead of 15pc allowed by Nepra while Mepco had demanded higher revenue on account of wheeling charges, distribution margin, increase in cost of Wapda pensioners and sales mix.

One per cent change in T&D losses works out to about Rs7bn if the current average consumer tariff is taken into account.

Except for Qesco which has been given 3pc additional cushion to accommodate law and order expenses in Balochistan, Nepra has rejected review petitions of the other distribution companies. As such, Qesco will now charge 18pc losses to consumers, instead of 15pc.

In the case of Lesco, the regulator found that it had erroneously been given a benefit of Rs5.7bn which was withdrawn in the review judgment.

In separate judgments, Nepra held that system losses should have been on a declining scale under a number of past determinations and standards set by it, but the distribution companies had failed to meet those targets.

Nepra said that it was guided not just by its own rules, jurisdiction and consumer interests but also by two recent decisions of the Supreme Court and the Lahore High Court which barred burdening of honest consumers for theft and inefficiencies of power companies.

Before finalising latest determinations, the regulator said it had also taken advantage of a system loss study conducted by the United States Agency for International Development on the request of the government.

On May 28, the economic coordination committee of the cabinet headed by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had decided to charge consumers the cost of about 3pc additional technical losses and interest on power sector loans through an average of Rs2.35 per unit impact in power tariff to meet reduced so-called subsidies on power losses as required by the International Monetary Fund.

“The ECC also considered and approved a summary of the Ministry of Water and Power for issuance of policy guidelines to Nepra to incorporate debt servicing on actual basis in revenue requirements of distribution companies which would be adjusted in tariff of Discos on annual basis,” the finance ministry had said.

Under that decision, about Rs147bn worth of additional loans and syndicated term finance certificates contracted over the past couple of years by the government or on its sovereign guarantee were also to be financed through the consumer tariff. The debt servicing cost on this account was estimated at about Rs10bn.

A previous dispensation of similar debt stock of about Rs306bn taken over by the federal government a few years ago was made part of the federal budget, but the government had given a commitment to the IMF to reduce power sector burden on budget and instead pass it on to consumers.

The ECC had also decided that average system losses be kept unchanged at 15.75pc as they were two years ago, instead of the 12.82pc as decided by Nepra for 2013-14.

The distribution companies now claim that their T&D losses, known as technical losses, stood at 17.55pc (average of all Discos) for 2013-14.

A Nepra official said the federal government did not have the powers under the Nepra Act to issue policy guidelines on tariff standards and other benchmarks that become part of the tariff at any stage.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2014

Footprints: Wages of fate

Reema Abbasi

Oblivious to the irony in the age-old term that means ‘statue’, they call each other ‘murats’. Buried between man and woman, transgenders lie on the edge of society but straddle different worlds.

Oblivious to the irony in the age-old term that means ‘statue’, they call each other ‘murats’. Buried between man and woman, transgenders lie on the edge of society but straddle different worlds.

Deep in Karachi’s oldest quarters, in one of the intricate edifices of the Raj, is a placid settlement of ancient hermaphrodites who are reclusive and shun the profane.

Haji Shehla greets us at the gateway of their building — she wears a white, collared shalwar kameez with a black and white kaffiyeh scarf and leads the way to a wiped down, airy and spacious apartment.

An elegant Haji Saeeda, the sixth heir to their revered ancient guru, Haji Qadri, sits in the centre beside a leaf green window. From Jhansi, her demeanour is not second to the warrior queen’s.

“We are not allowed to reveal ourselves to the masses. Everyone in this building has fixed homes where we are like family and they keep us afloat,” explains the 82-year-old as she chews paan with a silver spittoon by her feet.

Some six old gurus occupy this building, allocated to them 130 years ago. Years later, erstwhile Haji Qadri ensured it was waqf, to become a mosque when this vanishing breed dies out. The place is ‘Wasinda Deira’ for Sindh’s intersexuals.

They know their roots well and with their stately mannerisms, are determined to keep their history alive. “Haji Shehla is from Shahjahanpur and most of us are migrants. In the 16th century we were housekeepers, jesters or guards in Mughal households,” narrates Saeeda with astonishing poise. And just then, a disciple unveils a beautiful portrait where she is a dainty replica of Madame Nurjehan. We gush over her beauty; Saeeda’s eyes glisten with pride.

“We have all performed Haj and spend our time in prayer,” says Shehla. As for finding their way to this destination, she attributes it to a call of the soul.

But this unfamiliar territory is a well of contradictions. “Bindiya Rana is our champion but the third gender slot is useless. We are registered as males, live as women and believe that same sex preference is unnatural. If our NIC says transgender then we can’t do Haj or umrah or have bank accounts,” Shehla reasons as Farah performs a few graceful steps and hums an old classic.

Reminiscences about ceremonies of bringing a newborn into their fold make Saeeda’s smile curl. “Shukr hai ab hum jaise bachay kum hain. Ultrasound sub bataa deta hai.”

The sun begins to sink; they prepare Thursday niaz and diyas and we bow out.

In another sphere reside faces that belie this quaint shroud of dignity. Sapna, a known khawaja sara, shimmers in black and red at the turn into the taut lanes of her colony near Karachi’s Kala Pul. She sashays through pathways with grilled doors to a stairway that leads to an islet of furtive indiscretions and extraordinary brashness.

The real surprise here is the courtyard’s air of catharsis and freedom. Each one is a runaway from their past; a few seek escape from the normal.

Take slender Ibrahim, who, in red palazzos and a tight shirt, is a regular male child of 19 years to his family, but he comes here to be his inner self of a cross-dresser. He is not alone in his flight — newbie Alishba, 20, from Mansehra, has undergone sex change procedures and dolls up in this sanctuary to dance, tend to visitors and perform at private events before she wipes off her reality to return home by night as a delicate boy.

Rimmal is another renegade of convention. A Calcuttan by birth, her family moved to Pakistan seven years ago. Blonde, fair and lean, she can double as a Croatian girl but her voice breaking, despite a sex reassignment operation, is a giveaway.

As they laugh away tales of rejection over 7UP and cigarettes in Sapna’s kitschy room, Kiran Danish, the oldest inhabitant and Sapna’s mother, saunters in.

“I adopted Sapna from her guru in a lavish ceremony. It is like a wedding and the entire community joins in. There was henna, songs and merriment with biryani, qorma and zarda for hundreds of guests and we draped elaborate wraps on her and then she became my daughter,” recalls Kiran, a PR educator with Tahaffuz-i-Sehat for three years.

After wild gyrating to earthy Punjabi beats, they turn to life’s travesties. “We want a place to mourn and celebrate; to be able to take our dead to graves as our NICs say ‘male’; compartments in trains and buses and 2pc job quota in every department to live with honour,” says Kiran. In the end, the journeys of these two worlds will not know convergence. But, be it by design or default, all murats danced to tunes of surrender and acceptance.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2014

Law to restrain police during arrest proposed

Wajih Ahmad Sheikh

LAHORE: The Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan (LJCP) has recommended that the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) be amended in order to stop law-enforcement personnel from causing serious injury to or death of a person to be arrested unless there’s a threat to life of the officer making the arrest.

LAHORE: The Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan (LJCP) has recommended that the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) be amended in order to stop law-enforcement personnel from causing serious injury to or death of a person to be arrested unless there’s a threat to life of the officer making the arrest.

It has recommended that the CrPC be amended to make it compulsory for police to inform a person of the grounds for his/her arrest.

The LJCP made the recommendations at a meeting on Saturday in Lahore registry of the Supreme Court. The meeting was chaired by Chief Justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hussain Jillani.

The proposed amendment to section 46 of the CrPC 1898, with addition of new sub-section 4, says “the police officer or any other person making the arrest shall not use means which may cause death of or grievous bodily injury to the person being arrested unless there is reason to believe that the person to be arrested poses an imminent threat of causing death of or grievous bodily injury either to the police officer or any other person making the arrest”.

Another proposed amendment (section 54-A) says every person upon arrest by police officer shall be informed of the grounds for his/her arrest.

The commission also approved a proposal regarding addition of a new section (9-A) to the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance, 1961, and recommended that a parent who is unable to maintain himself shall be entitled to claim maintenance money from children.

It further proposed amendments to sections 91 and 92 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, and recommended that suits in respect of public nuisance and public charities might be brought by two or more persons “with the leave of the court in addition to being brought by the advocate general”. The LJCP also recommended that suits under Fatal Accident Act, 1855, shall be brought for the benefit of legal heirs of the deceased.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2014

Seven of a family die in accident

Malik Tahseen Raza

MUZAFFARGARH: Seven male members of an extended family died of electric shock in Turkish Colony on Saturday night.

MUZAFFARGARH: Seven male members of an extended family died of electric shock in Turkish Colony on Saturday night.

Sources said the men were busy in welding a gas pipeline when a live wire accidentally fell on it. The deceased were Azam, Javed, Ali, Yaseen, Shehzad, Adnan and Liaquat.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif ordered an inquiry into the incident.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2014

10 killed in arson attacks in Dhaka

AP

DHAKA: Arson attacks and clashes between local residents and Urdu-speaking people left 10 people dead here on Saturday, police said.

DHAKA: Arson attacks and clashes between local residents and Urdu-speaking people left 10 people dead here on Saturday, police said.

The clashes broke out early in the day at a shantytown in Dhaka where the Urdu-speaking people live. Later in the day, unidentified people set fire to homes in the shantytown, said police official Imtiaj Ahmed.

He said nine people died in the fires and one in the clashes. At least seven members of a family were burned to death after they were trapped in a fire, Ahmed said.

Many other people were injured in the clashes and fires, though police did not give a specific figure.

Ahmed said the clashes were over disputes about the illegal use of electricity and ruled out that they were part of any communal tension. He said two groups of Urdu-speaking people initially quarrelled over the use of firecrackers during Shab-i-Barat on Friday night, and the feud later spread, triggering the clashes.

Police were forced to fire rubber bullets and tear gas after the clashes broke out, Ahmed said.

Authorities have ordered an investigation into the incident, said Asaduzzaman Kamal, Bangladesh’s junior home minister.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2014

India links normalisation of relations to peace along LoC

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has told Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a letter that he was encouraged by a convergence of views in their recent dialogue, but political analysts were also closely watching Saturday’s visit of Defence Minister Arun Jaitley to Srinagar amid allegations of ceasefire violations by Pakistan.

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has told Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a letter that he was encouraged by a convergence of views in their recent dialogue, but political analysts were also closely watching Saturday’s visit of Defence Minister Arun Jaitley to Srinagar amid allegations of ceasefire violations by Pakistan.

According to reports here, Mr Modi wrote back to his Pakistani counterpart, saying that he looked forward to working closely with him in an atmosphere free of “confrontation and violence” to chart a new course in bilateral relations.

The letter was in response to an earlier one from Mr Sharif in which he said he was “much satisfied” with his meeting with Mr Modi on May 27.

Briefing reporters about Mr Modi’s response to Mr Sharif, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh was quoted as saying the “letter and sari diplomacy” helped India’s attempts to have cordial ties with neighbours.

She warned though that maintenance of peace along the LoC was one of the most important confidence-building measures between India and Pakistan and also a precondition for normalisation of ties.

Meanwhile, Mr Jaitley on Saturday began his two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir where he began a review of the security situation with the state government and senior military officials.

Accompanied by Army Chief General Bikram Singh, Mr Jaitley arrived on his maiden visit since assuming charge as defence minister last month and was to meet Governor N.N. Vohra and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

Asked about the alleged ceasefire violations by Pakistan, the defence minister was quoted as saying: “Our forces are capable of responding to it.”

Mr Jaitley was speaking to reporters at the Raj Bhawan, where he will be staying overnight.

Ahead of Mr Jaitley’s visit, Pakistan troops were accused of targeting Indian posts in Poonch sector on Friday with heavy weaponry like mortar shells.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2014

Editorial News

The exodus begins

Editorial

AS is regrettably usual in Pakistan, delays, confusion and obfuscation in government and administrative circles have left citizens facing an uncertain future. After months of back and forth over talking to the terrorists, it was the assault on Karachi airport that apparently proved the fulcrum and prompted the state to send military forces into North Waziristan. Was the fallout on civilians fully thought through? Operation Zarb-i-Azb has been under way for just a few days and already the director of the Fata Disaster Management Authority says that some 92,000 people have fled the region since the military started launching air strikes, mostly going to the adjoining Bannu district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. On Wednesday, in the wake of authorities easing the curfew in some parts of the region to let civilians leave — taken by some as an indication that the campaign is likely widen into a ground operation soon — an exodus of around 30,000 has occurred. More continue to pour out, carrying with them whatever they can. Apart from fleeing to the provinces, thousands of people have also gone across the border into Afghanistan’s Khost province where, according to Afghan authorities, they lack basic facilities including food.

AS is regrettably usual in Pakistan, delays, confusion and obfuscation in government and administrative circles have left citizens facing an uncertain future. After months of back and forth over talking to the terrorists, it was the assault on Karachi airport that apparently proved the fulcrum and prompted the state to send military forces into North Waziristan. Was the fallout on civilians fully thought through? Operation Zarb-i-Azb has been under way for just a few days and already the director of the Fata Disaster Management Authority says that some 92,000 people have fled the region since the military started launching air strikes, mostly going to the adjoining Bannu district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. On Wednesday, in the wake of authorities easing the curfew in some parts of the region to let civilians leave — taken by some as an indication that the campaign is likely widen into a ground operation soon — an exodus of around 30,000 has occurred. More continue to pour out, carrying with them whatever they can. Apart from fleeing to the provinces, thousands of people have also gone across the border into Afghanistan’s Khost province where, according to Afghan authorities, they lack basic facilities including food.

Some camps for these internally displaced people have been set up and reportedly registration points are also in evidence to deal with the influx of people. However, the camps remain largely empty; it seems that many families prefer to make their own arrangements. This, unfortunately, is understandable to an extent since the plight of the tens of thousands of people similarly displaced during earlier military operations and who ended up in camps is fresh in the region’s memory, even if it has been forgotten by the country at large. Overcrowded and underequipped, living conditions at these camps were far from satisfactory and led to the deaths of many. It took the state several years to sort out the problem of those displaced in earlier rounds; this time, the problem is likely to be far worse since the operation appears to be taking on bigger and more sustained dimensions.

In this regard, it is outrageous that the Sindh and Balochistan governments have sent out signals that they will not allow internally displaced persons to seek refuge here. Certainly, there are valid concerns: violence-hit Balochistan worries about militants slipping through amidst the flood of refugees, while Sindh is concerned about the further spread of polio — figures given a couple of days ago put the number of unvaccinated children poised to flee North Waziristan at about 300,000. But both matters can be resolved through an efficient registration and checkpoint system. It behoves the country and its provinces to square up for the challenge. Making citizens feel unwelcome is only going to exacerbate the alienation from the mainstream that many in the tribal areas already suffer.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2014

Karachi-Lahore road

Editorial

EFFICIENT highways, offering quick and hassle-free connectivity between cities and towns, are a key part of any nation’s infrastructure. Hence the report that the National Highway Authority on Wednesday gave the green signal for construction of the Karachi-Lahore Motorway should be welcomed. However, we must also point out that while the state, especially the ruling PML-N, has a penchant for announcing impressive-sounding mega projects, it can be quite slothful in following these up and ensuring they are up to the mark. The list of public-sector projects that have gone over budget or have missed their deadline in Pakistan is simply too long to replicate here. The proposed motorway is no local road project; it is a massive, nearly 1,200km-long undertaking that will require proper planning as well as seamless coordination between the centre and the Sindh and Punjab governments. Have the route and land acquisition details been finalised? If so, these should be shared with the public. The motorway must have sufficient infrastructure along its route to allow travellers to rest as it is a long journey from Karachi to Lahore by road. There is significant traffic, especially between south Punjab and Sindh, and once the project is complete it should improve connectivity between the south of the country and the northern region, though the railways must not be completely forsaken. Also, without compromising on quality, facilities along the route must be affordable and comfortable for the common traveller, or else the project may turn into a white elephant.

EFFICIENT highways, offering quick and hassle-free connectivity between cities and towns, are a key part of any nation’s infrastructure. Hence the report that the National Highway Authority on Wednesday gave the green signal for construction of the Karachi-Lahore Motorway should be welcomed. However, we must also point out that while the state, especially the ruling PML-N, has a penchant for announcing impressive-sounding mega projects, it can be quite slothful in following these up and ensuring they are up to the mark. The list of public-sector projects that have gone over budget or have missed their deadline in Pakistan is simply too long to replicate here. The proposed motorway is no local road project; it is a massive, nearly 1,200km-long undertaking that will require proper planning as well as seamless coordination between the centre and the Sindh and Punjab governments. Have the route and land acquisition details been finalised? If so, these should be shared with the public. The motorway must have sufficient infrastructure along its route to allow travellers to rest as it is a long journey from Karachi to Lahore by road. There is significant traffic, especially between south Punjab and Sindh, and once the project is complete it should improve connectivity between the south of the country and the northern region, though the railways must not be completely forsaken. Also, without compromising on quality, facilities along the route must be affordable and comfortable for the common traveller, or else the project may turn into a white elephant.

While this inter-provincial link is developed, national and provincial planners must also come up with proposals to improve Sindh’s road network. Both the roads managed by the federally run NHA and those controlled by the provincial government are in bad shape. Apart from patches of the Karachi-Hyderabad Superhighway and some main roads in Thar, most of the province’s road infrastructure, including the National and Indus highways, is in a shambles. Parts of many inter-district and local roads are simply not motorable. Although some roads were damaged in the 2010 and 2011 floods, reconstruction has been painfully slow. Maintenance of the road network is not up to the mark and, along with construction, is marred by corruption, with roads crumbling a few years after they have been built. For Sindh to reap the benefits of a motorway linking it to Punjab, both the federal and provincial administrations need to vastly improve its internal road network.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2014

Life sentence for Evren

Editorial

THE life sentence handed down to Kenan Evren on Wednesday confirms Turkish democracy’s triumph over authoritarianism after a long and bitter struggle that saw four military coups and the hanging of a prime minister. The former army chief and later president overthrew Suleyman Demirel’s democratically elected government in 1980 and then went on to rule for three years. During this time, half a million political workers were arrested and 50 people executed on terrorism-related charges. The army’s coup-making instinct stemmed from the Turkish army’s belief that it was the sole defender of Mustafa Kemal’s secular legacy and that it had every right to overthrow elected governments when it thought that the political regimes deviated from Ataturk’s policies. In 1960, it toppled the government led by elected prime minister Adnan Menderes whom they hanged. The last time it took over government was in 1997, when it used pressure and judicial manipulation to overthrow the government led by Necmettin Erbekan, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s mentor. Mr Erdogan has proceeded cautiously and chipped away at the military’s power gradually, three successive electoral triumphs giving him the moral and political strength to take on the army.

THE life sentence handed down to Kenan Evren on Wednesday confirms Turkish democracy’s triumph over authoritarianism after a long and bitter struggle that saw four military coups and the hanging of a prime minister. The former army chief and later president overthrew Suleyman Demirel’s democratically elected government in 1980 and then went on to rule for three years. During this time, half a million political workers were arrested and 50 people executed on terrorism-related charges. The army’s coup-making instinct stemmed from the Turkish army’s belief that it was the sole defender of Mustafa Kemal’s secular legacy and that it had every right to overthrow elected governments when it thought that the political regimes deviated from Ataturk’s policies. In 1960, it toppled the government led by elected prime minister Adnan Menderes whom they hanged. The last time it took over government was in 1997, when it used pressure and judicial manipulation to overthrow the government led by Necmettin Erbekan, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s mentor. Mr Erdogan has proceeded cautiously and chipped away at the military’s power gradually, three successive electoral triumphs giving him the moral and political strength to take on the army.

Clearly, Pakistan has still not reached the stage where a former military dictator can be tried without fear of democracy being derailed, even though no one knows better than Pakistanis the enormous harm that generals addicted to power can inflict on a country. The military has intervened directly in governance four times and one general hanged an elected prime minister and arrested, tortured and executed countless political dissidents. Like their Turkish counterparts, the generals here too made a mockery of the justice system, and found collaborators both in the judiciary, and among opposition politicians who have often enough been instigated by extra-constitutional forces to try and thwart the democratic process. The lesson for Pakistani politicians is that they must act responsibly, and exercise patience and wait for elections instead of destabilising the government of the day by threatening revolutions and ‘marches’.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2014

Preserving unity

Editorial

TUESDAY’s unfortunate clashes in Lahore and the MQM’s strike call, fortunately withdrawn, for Karachi are exactly the kind of incidents and reactions we do not need at a time when the armed forces have gone into action against terrorist sanctuaries in North Waziristan Agency. So far, the nation’s response to Operation Zarb-i-Azb has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, parties long opposed to the operation came quickly round to acknowledging the TTP negotiators’ obduracy during the failed talks and upheld the decision to finally crack down on those who have given the country only death and demolition. Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf dropped its opposition to the military option, saying his party would stand by the army. The change in the Jamaat-i-Islami’s policy was even more radical: it repudiated its past stance and asked the insurgents to shun terrorism and join the political process. Thus, ignoring the grumblings of some small parties, the country seems more or less united on how the terrorists should be dealt with.

TUESDAY’s unfortunate clashes in Lahore and the MQM’s strike call, fortunately withdrawn, for Karachi are exactly the kind of incidents and reactions we do not need at a time when the armed forces have gone into action against terrorist sanctuaries in North Waziristan Agency. So far, the nation’s response to Operation Zarb-i-Azb has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, parties long opposed to the operation came quickly round to acknowledging the TTP negotiators’ obduracy during the failed talks and upheld the decision to finally crack down on those who have given the country only death and demolition. Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf dropped its opposition to the military option, saying his party would stand by the army. The change in the Jamaat-i-Islami’s policy was even more radical: it repudiated its past stance and asked the insurgents to shun terrorism and join the political process. Thus, ignoring the grumblings of some small parties, the country seems more or less united on how the terrorists should be dealt with.

Unlike previous military operations — as those in Malakand and Bajaur — and the occasional punitive bombings, Operation Zarb-i-Azb has wider strategic aims and seeks to restore the state’s writ by wiping out the militants’ hub in North Waziristan. A possible backlash has been taken into consideration, with the high command deciding to deploy the army in Islamabad, Karachi and other cities. However, the very dimensions of the operation make exacting demands on the government, for the latter must keep the people informed of the progress of the war and let them know who exactly the enemy is. Will the operation take in its sweep terrorists of all hues — foreign militants, various TTP factions and the breakaway Sajna group — or will there still be a soft corner for the ‘good’ Taliban? So far, the nation has been given very little information about what is happening in the agency and how much ground has been covered by the troops. The danger is that an information gap could be exploited by the militants, and irresponsible sections of the media could lend credence to rumours by printing and broadcasting them.

It is also important that the unity now being demonstrated by the people is not allowed to erode because of short-sighted political goals or the temptation to upstage one political party or the other. True, in Pakistan some distance has yet to be covered before politicians realise that a united front will serve as a bulwark against any attempt to undermine a representative system. At the same time, the army too must realise that the support for the operation could prove short-lived, unless the clean-up operation is thorough. Given the existential threat that looms, the sooner our political and military leadership understand this, the greater our chances will be of prevailing over the forces of obscurantism.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2014

Polio debacle

Editorial

SINCE the World Health Organisation advised in early May that restrictions be placed on people travelling from countries that export the polio virus, notable amongst them Pakistan, most of the world has shown grace in allowing us time to clean up our act. There has been some activity on this count, with the government having imposed from June 1 a travel ban on people not able to produce a government-issued vaccination certificate and the setting up of vaccination booths at international airports, etc and — on paper, at least — a renewed resolve to overcome the myriad challenges that lie in the path of improving matters. Most recently, on Sunday, Islamabad hosted an international conference on polio eradication that was attended by about 50 clerics from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Nigeria. Also present were representatives of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy, Al Azhar University and King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah. According to the press release, Minister of State for National Health Services, Saira Afzal Tarar, had sought the guidance and aid of clerics in eradicating polio.

SINCE the World Health Organisation advised in early May that restrictions be placed on people travelling from countries that export the polio virus, notable amongst them Pakistan, most of the world has shown grace in allowing us time to clean up our act. There has been some activity on this count, with the government having imposed from June 1 a travel ban on people not able to produce a government-issued vaccination certificate and the setting up of vaccination booths at international airports, etc and — on paper, at least — a renewed resolve to overcome the myriad challenges that lie in the path of improving matters. Most recently, on Sunday, Islamabad hosted an international conference on polio eradication that was attended by about 50 clerics from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Nigeria. Also present were representatives of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy, Al Azhar University and King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah. According to the press release, Minister of State for National Health Services, Saira Afzal Tarar, had sought the guidance and aid of clerics in eradicating polio.

Given the situation, there is no doubt that the step must be appreciated. Other than plain misinformation or the lack of awareness, much of the resistance in parts of Pakistan to having the vaccine administered to children has been the result of the manner in which the anti-polio campaign has been made contestable on religious grounds by extremist elements. Nevertheless, there is great irony in Ms Tarar regretting that Pakistan remains one of the world’s only three polio-endemic countries (the others being Afghanistan and Nigeria). The fact is that even at this critical juncture, and notwithstanding efforts such as vaccination booths and conferences, nowhere in evidence is the urgency and tight coordination among governmental and administrative circles that the situation warrants. Polio cases are still being reported with distressing frequency; in fact, it was reported yesterday that a five-month-old from Datta Khel in the tribal areas is the latest to succumb, bringing the number of cases detected to 83 this year alone. Worryingly, the challenges are set to mount — and fast. With the military operation now under way in North Waziristan, estimates say that there will be 300,000 unvaccinated children among the flood of non-combatants that are set to flee the region. Has the government a real plan, one that goes beyond good intentions and promises? We have yet to see any.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2014

Pervasive thana culture

Editorial

IT is not for nothing that they call him Tiger. Those who didn’t know him until Tuesday have now seen that when he is in action, even the law enforcers can do little other than watch in apparent admiration. His workmanlike demolition of many vehicles during the ugly confrontation in Lahore is on record. Television footage shows a middle-aged man smashing cars as police look on in silence that has been interpreted as a sign of approval. There is more footage that actually shows some police officers in conversation with the angry man, who, news reports say is a PML-N worker. Rana Sanaullah, the Punjab law minister, disagrees with the identification, but even he, with his persuasive powers, has been unable to stem the bad coverage his party is getting in the media. A lot of people may be inclined to believe what the media is saying. People are all too aware of how the authority of a ruling party manifests itself in its workers’ influence over the local thana and its close relationship with local police officers. This is how the system works beneath this ceaseless chorus of declarations about making the police people-friendly. The police are friendly with the people. At least, they are always friendly and cooperative with the ‘right’ people.

IT is not for nothing that they call him Tiger. Those who didn’t know him until Tuesday have now seen that when he is in action, even the law enforcers can do little other than watch in apparent admiration. His workmanlike demolition of many vehicles during the ugly confrontation in Lahore is on record. Television footage shows a middle-aged man smashing cars as police look on in silence that has been interpreted as a sign of approval. There is more footage that actually shows some police officers in conversation with the angry man, who, news reports say is a PML-N worker. Rana Sanaullah, the Punjab law minister, disagrees with the identification, but even he, with his persuasive powers, has been unable to stem the bad coverage his party is getting in the media. A lot of people may be inclined to believe what the media is saying. People are all too aware of how the authority of a ruling party manifests itself in its workers’ influence over the local thana and its close relationship with local police officers. This is how the system works beneath this ceaseless chorus of declarations about making the police people-friendly. The police are friendly with the people. At least, they are always friendly and cooperative with the ‘right’ people.

There has been plenty of talk about reforming the police culture. There has been some change. Despite that, overall, the old image of police officials playing the obliging minions to whosoever is in power persists. It is a serious issue whether the suspect in this case belongs to the ruling party or not, but even if the seemingly difficult task of disconnecting him from the PML-N is somehow achieved, the question of the police extending him patronage will linger. At the very least, the incident betrays a loose control over the forces of those with the avowed motto of good governance — whereas good governance at the level of ordinary people cannot come without a thana that is truly independent.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2014

Clashes in Lahore

Editorial

IT ought to be inexplicable and inconceivable. But the inconceivable all too often does occur in Pakistan. And the reasons are all too explicable. Whatever the claims of the Punjab government and police, a basic set of facts is already perfectly clear and incontrovertible: the Punjab police used stunningly excessive force against the supporters of Tahirul Qadri in Lahore yesterday and every single one of the deaths and casualties that resulted from the police action was avoidable. So clear is so much of the evidence that while a judicial commission has been hastily created, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif surely has enough grounds for immediate suspensions and possibly even summary dismissals of the police officers involved. The point is so essential that it bears repetition: the police, a force designed and meant to protect all citizens equally, simply must not be allowed to get away with extreme violence against the very citizens it is meant to protect.

IT ought to be inexplicable and inconceivable. But the inconceivable all too often does occur in Pakistan. And the reasons are all too explicable. Whatever the claims of the Punjab government and police, a basic set of facts is already perfectly clear and incontrovertible: the Punjab police used stunningly excessive force against the supporters of Tahirul Qadri in Lahore yesterday and every single one of the deaths and casualties that resulted from the police action was avoidable. So clear is so much of the evidence that while a judicial commission has been hastily created, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif surely has enough grounds for immediate suspensions and possibly even summary dismissals of the police officers involved. The point is so essential that it bears repetition: the police, a force designed and meant to protect all citizens equally, simply must not be allowed to get away with extreme violence against the very citizens it is meant to protect.

If the violence was shocking, perhaps nearly as perplexing is the undefined threat the PML-N senses in Tahirul Qadri and his supporters. Mr Qadri and the Minhajul Quran/Pakistan Awami Tehreek network have tried to destabilise democracy before — in a much bigger way than anything that they have been able to muster this time so far. But the PPP-led government in Islamabad defused the pre-2013 election crisis Mr Qadri tried to engineer by simply waiting out the preacher and his supporters and allowing the limited support for his cause to be exposed. If only the Punjab government had followed that successful template. In Punjab, the PML-N’s political support, electoral base and parliamentary strength is so overwhelming that the party could easily have stood back and allowed a political nonentity with few legitimate or genuine hopes to do his worst. Somehow, though, the PML-N political ethos seems to involve using their crushing advantage to squash would-be rivals. That is as undemocratic at its core as it is illegal when the law-enforcement agencies of the province are used to further party goals.

Yet, astonishing, depressing and even sickening as the Punjab government’s approach may have been, neither are the PML-N’s opponents behaving in a dignified or appropriate manner. Spurred on partly by certain elements in the media that roared into action, sections of the political class have erupted seemingly less because of principled opposition to the violence in Lahore and more to try and see if they can hurt the PML-N politically. Gone is the talk of the national unity and consensus needed with the country in an undeclared state of war against militancy that just days — hours — earlier had been all everyone in the political class wanted to talk about. Since it was the PML-N that started this round of accusations and recriminations, it should be the PML-N that should close it quickly. Shahbaz Sharif should announce quick and appropriate punishments, judicial commission or not.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2014

Joint approach needed

Editorial

THERE is little doubt that militancy in the tribal belt is primarily Pakistan’s problem. It can further be argued that the state waited too long and let militancy fester before taking decisive action on Sunday. However, now that action is under way, it is essential that Pakistan coordinates with Afghanistan, which borders the conflict area, and the US, which still has a considerable military presence in Afghanistan, to ensure that the terrorists fleeing North Waziristan do not find sanctuary across the border. It is true that Pakistan and Afghanistan have had an uneasy history of hosting each other’s militants. For example, it was a mistake for the powers that be to have given refuge (or to have looked the other way) in this country to Afghan militants such as the Haqqani network, reviled by both Kabul and Washington. On the other hand, Pakistan had for long complained that Mullah Fazlullah, the fugitive head of the outlawed TTP, was operating out of the Afghan province of Kunar after fleeing this country following the 2007 military action. However, this can be an opportunity to reset ties and work for the common, regional goal of combating militancy and terrorism. Already, there are reports of thousands of people having fled to Afghanistan; apart from the refugees it is quite possible militants might have slipped across the border.

THERE is little doubt that militancy in the tribal belt is primarily Pakistan’s problem. It can further be argued that the state waited too long and let militancy fester before taking decisive action on Sunday. However, now that action is under way, it is essential that Pakistan coordinates with Afghanistan, which borders the conflict area, and the US, which still has a considerable military presence in Afghanistan, to ensure that the terrorists fleeing North Waziristan do not find sanctuary across the border. It is true that Pakistan and Afghanistan have had an uneasy history of hosting each other’s militants. For example, it was a mistake for the powers that be to have given refuge (or to have looked the other way) in this country to Afghan militants such as the Haqqani network, reviled by both Kabul and Washington. On the other hand, Pakistan had for long complained that Mullah Fazlullah, the fugitive head of the outlawed TTP, was operating out of the Afghan province of Kunar after fleeing this country following the 2007 military action. However, this can be an opportunity to reset ties and work for the common, regional goal of combating militancy and terrorism. Already, there are reports of thousands of people having fled to Afghanistan; apart from the refugees it is quite possible militants might have slipped across the border.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has called upon Afghan President Hamid Karzai to keep an eye on militants fleeing North Waziristan. Mr Sharif particularly asked the Afghan authorities to seal the border along the tribal belt. Furthermore, the top American military commander in Afghanistan has reportedly said the US has increased surveillance of the Pak-Afghan frontier, though he clarified that the US and Pakistani militaries were not coordinating in the military operation. The Afghan authorities need to heed the prime minister’s request while some form of coordination is needed among the Pakistani, Afghan and US armed forces to prevent militants from escaping. The Americans had long expressed their desire for Pakistan to take action in North Waziristan; now that action is being taken, Washington needs to work with Islamabad to ensure the militant threat is effectively neutralised. They can, for example, use their air power in Afghanistan to help track militants escaping Pakistani firepower. One thing is clear; if the terrorists are allowed safe havens inside Afghanistan, little will come out of the operation under way.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2014

Forced into marriage

Editorial

IT is hardly a secret that young people in the subcontinent, many of them underage, are regularly forced into marriages they might not desire. Indeed, so regressive is the mindset among some circles that the practice is not seen as impinging on an individual’s rights and freedoms. Regrettably, this abusive practice has spread to other countries, too, via the diasporas. In the UK, thousands of cases have been documented where young people, including minors, have been forced into marriage, some on British soil and others brought back to their families’ countries of origin to be coerced into matrimony. Thereafter, many are condemned to a life where they can suffer grave physical, sexual and other forms of abuse, and find it difficult to escape their circumstances. The UK has therefore taken a laudable step in criminalising the practice, with the legislation coming into effect across England and Wales on Monday. Most notably, the law applies not just within Britain but also criminalises a British citizen being forced into marriage abroad. For good reason have campaigners welcomed the laws as a “huge step forward”.

IT is hardly a secret that young people in the subcontinent, many of them underage, are regularly forced into marriages they might not desire. Indeed, so regressive is the mindset among some circles that the practice is not seen as impinging on an individual’s rights and freedoms. Regrettably, this abusive practice has spread to other countries, too, via the diasporas. In the UK, thousands of cases have been documented where young people, including minors, have been forced into marriage, some on British soil and others brought back to their families’ countries of origin to be coerced into matrimony. Thereafter, many are condemned to a life where they can suffer grave physical, sexual and other forms of abuse, and find it difficult to escape their circumstances. The UK has therefore taken a laudable step in criminalising the practice, with the legislation coming into effect across England and Wales on Monday. Most notably, the law applies not just within Britain but also criminalises a British citizen being forced into marriage abroad. For good reason have campaigners welcomed the laws as a “huge step forward”.

Of course, it is not just people from the subcontinent who mete out such treatment to members of their families. The UK’s Forced Marriage Unit dealt with some 1,300 cases last year alone. Some 18pc of the victims were male, and the cases related to people from 74 different countries. Shockingly, though, nearly two-thirds of the cases related to the UK’s South Asian community. A closer look at these numbers reveals an even more damning indictment: 10pc were linked to Bangladesh, 11pc to India, and a massive 43pc to Pakistan. If the scale of the problem is so large in the UK, we can only guess at what it might be here, where even laws criminalising underage marriage are flouted with impunity. How can this change? For Pakistan, it requires a fundamental shift in society’s patriarchal and tribal mindset. Sadly, there are next to no indications of this happening.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2014

A turning point

Editorial

TWO important speeches yesterday came perhaps a day later than they ideally should have, but the remarks of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and army chief Gen Raheel Sharif ought to be examined closely for what was said as well as what was left out. To begin with, there does seem to be some kind of minimal consensus at last between the civilian and military leadership on how to tackle the threat of militancy. As Prime Minister Sharif himself admitted in parliament, months of trying to secure peace through dialogue have come to naught while Pakistan continued to bleed and hurt because of militant violence. Similarly, the army chief reinforced earlier comments by the military’s public relations wing that the North Waziristan operation is a broad-based one and not limited in nature and scope against only a subset of militants. Taken together, the civilian and military leadership’s comments suggest a turning point in the fight against militancy — at least as far as state policy is concerned.

TWO important speeches yesterday came perhaps a day later than they ideally should have, but the remarks of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and army chief Gen Raheel Sharif ought to be examined closely for what was said as well as what was left out. To begin with, there does seem to be some kind of minimal consensus at last between the civilian and military leadership on how to tackle the threat of militancy. As Prime Minister Sharif himself admitted in parliament, months of trying to secure peace through dialogue have come to naught while Pakistan continued to bleed and hurt because of militant violence. Similarly, the army chief reinforced earlier comments by the military’s public relations wing that the North Waziristan operation is a broad-based one and not limited in nature and scope against only a subset of militants. Taken together, the civilian and military leadership’s comments suggest a turning point in the fight against militancy — at least as far as state policy is concerned.

Yet, as ever, the country’s leadership has been unnecessarily parsimonious in sharing real-time information and fleshing out rhetorical claims. For example, while the public should not realistically expect information on battlefield plans and actions, details on casualties, civilian and military, are a public right. Similarly, what of the hundreds of thousands of civilians believed to be in North Waziristan? Will they be left to fend for themselves or is there a plan to ease the suffering of the new IDPs? Even more fundamentally, perhaps details on who the militants are, the names and identities of the various groups in North Waziristan and an explicit statement that the named and identified groups are to be targeted would go a long way in putting to rest much of the speculation about whether the country’s security-policy architects have finally abandoned good/bad militant distinctions.

Ultimately though, a coherent policy against militancy comes down to two factors: the army-led security establishment abandoning policies of old and the country’s civilian leadership rallying the nation and political class together to hold firm against the militant threat, even if it means intense short-term blowback. For now, perhaps the state is showing the unity that the country has long needed to see. But will the political unity — even Imran Khan has accepted the operation in North Waziristan — hold firm in the weeks and months ahead when the natural ebb and flow of the fight against militancy causes second-guessing and doubts to be sown? As for the military, with one of the army’s long-standing allies, the Haqqani network, firmly ensconced in North Waziristan, will the operation really be the all-out assault or will deals be cut on the side that will leave North Waziristan festering for years, much like parts of South Waziristan has since the major ground operation there at the start of the decade?

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2014

Anti-terror law stalled

Editorial

IT seems the fate of the Protection of Pakistan Bill is uncertain after the government has sought the input of its ally, the JUI-F, on the controversial law, even though the opposition had agreed to an amended draft. The law completed its life as an ordinance earlier this month after it was blocked in the Senate from becoming an act. It is indeed puzzling why the PML-N-led government would want the JUI-F’s feedback after six opposition parties, led by the PPP, had agreed to support the legislation after 12 of their proposed amendments had been incorporated. A JUI-F spokesman said his party “felt no urgency” to get the bill adopted by parliament. Regardless of the politicking involved, the main issue is and will remain how the sweeping powers given to the state by the law will be used, especially when it comes to safeguarding human rights. For a number of reasons, the law in its earlier form had been dubbed draconian by many political parties as well as by civil society. Some of the criticism centred on the fact that the law would legalise enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings by the state. While the need to counter terrorism through legislation cannot be denied, care must be taken not to give the state authoritarian powers making it accountable to no one. The answer to countering terrorism is not to legalise unlawful methods for the state; it is to enforce the law across the board with respect for fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution as well as universal human rights. Nevertheless, in the current scenario, with a war-like situation existing in parts of the country, legal cover is needed in the battle against militancy to avoid any grey areas.

IT seems the fate of the Protection of Pakistan Bill is uncertain after the government has sought the input of its ally, the JUI-F, on the controversial law, even though the opposition had agreed to an amended draft. The law completed its life as an ordinance earlier this month after it was blocked in the Senate from becoming an act. It is indeed puzzling why the PML-N-led government would want the JUI-F’s feedback after six opposition parties, led by the PPP, had agreed to support the legislation after 12 of their proposed amendments had been incorporated. A JUI-F spokesman said his party “felt no urgency” to get the bill adopted by parliament. Regardless of the politicking involved, the main issue is and will remain how the sweeping powers given to the state by the law will be used, especially when it comes to safeguarding human rights. For a number of reasons, the law in its earlier form had been dubbed draconian by many political parties as well as by civil society. Some of the criticism centred on the fact that the law would legalise enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings by the state. While the need to counter terrorism through legislation cannot be denied, care must be taken not to give the state authoritarian powers making it accountable to no one. The answer to countering terrorism is not to legalise unlawful methods for the state; it is to enforce the law across the board with respect for fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution as well as universal human rights. Nevertheless, in the current scenario, with a war-like situation existing in parts of the country, legal cover is needed in the battle against militancy to avoid any grey areas.

The opposition parties, particularly the PPP, had proposed amendments such as reduction in the number of days a suspect can be held in remand, guidelines for search operations and judicial oversight. If these amendments have been incorporated by the state, there is no reason to delay the law further, especially if potential human rights violations in the law have been addressed. Yet beyond the content of the law, in order to eliminate militancy in an effective, lasting fashion, the state needs to improve the legal system, particularly the prosecution. Had these elements been in evidence, there would have been no need for a Protection of Pakistan law in the first place.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2014

KP budget

Editorial

EXPECTING a government to bring about a major change in the lives of citizens in the very short span of one year is unrealistic. Yet, one year is certainly enough time for a government to set a direction for itself and start implementing its policies to achieve its stated goals. This was what many had expected of the ruling coalition in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa when it presented its first budget last year. Today, there are many who are questioning the PTI-JI combine’s performance as they are aware that the provincial economy has been hit hard by growing militancy and terrorism. The coalition’s second budget for the financial year 2014-15 proposing a total outlay of Rs405bn helps us somewhat in understanding the government’s strategy to combat issues such as rising unemployment, illiteracy, the poor social and economic infrastructure, law and order, etc.

EXPECTING a government to bring about a major change in the lives of citizens in the very short span of one year is unrealistic. Yet, one year is certainly enough time for a government to set a direction for itself and start implementing its policies to achieve its stated goals. This was what many had expected of the ruling coalition in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa when it presented its first budget last year. Today, there are many who are questioning the PTI-JI combine’s performance as they are aware that the provincial economy has been hit hard by growing militancy and terrorism. The coalition’s second budget for the financial year 2014-15 proposing a total outlay of Rs405bn helps us somewhat in understanding the government’s strategy to combat issues such as rising unemployment, illiteracy, the poor social and economic infrastructure, law and order, etc.

Indeed, the provincial government has significantly increased its allocation for development by 21pc to Rs140bn, including foreign project assistance and development grants of Rs39bn. Its development choices rightly focus on improvement in the delivery of such public services as education, healthcare and drinking water, and building the economic infrastructure with a view to alleviating income and other deprivations. Still, few believe it will be able to utilise these funds entirely to meet its defined goals. The chunk of development funds for the outgoing year largely remains unutilised at the expense of the hapless citizens who are compelled to leave their homes and families in search of a job in other parts of the country, sometimes abroad. Increased funding for policing is yet to bring about a discernible change in the security environment. No effort has been made to raise the provincially generated income and reduce dependence on federal and foreign money. Militancy makes the province difficult to govern, but there is no running away from reality for the PTI, the leading partner in the coalition. The party must appear to be pursuing what it had promised at the time of the 2013 election.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2014

North Waziristan operation

Editorial

AT long last, the operation the country has needed against militants in North Waziristan Agency is under way. According to the ISPR, Operation Zarb-i-Azb has commenced and the goal is to “eliminate these terrorists regardless of hue and colour, along with their sanctuaries”. The military’s press release came yesterday after an intense round of bombing of targets in North Waziristan had been reported all day. Reportedly, the focus of the targets were Uzbek and some Uighur militants, though because of the cross-pollination and overlap between the local and foreign militant groups in the Agency, striking against foreigners would inevitably include taking out local militants, and civilians, too. Now, the press release has confirmed that the operation is designed to strike against both foreign and local militants. At this early moment, there must be hope that finally the government has accepted that dialogue with the outlawed TTP has run its course and that the army-led security establishment has abandoned its good Taliban/bad Taliban dualist policy, meaning that the country can begin to move along the long road towards normality and stability once again.

AT long last, the operation the country has needed against militants in North Waziristan Agency is under way. According to the ISPR, Operation Zarb-i-Azb has commenced and the goal is to “eliminate these terrorists regardless of hue and colour, along with their sanctuaries”. The military’s press release came yesterday after an intense round of bombing of targets in North Waziristan had been reported all day. Reportedly, the focus of the targets were Uzbek and some Uighur militants, though because of the cross-pollination and overlap between the local and foreign militant groups in the Agency, striking against foreigners would inevitably include taking out local militants, and civilians, too. Now, the press release has confirmed that the operation is designed to strike against both foreign and local militants. At this early moment, there must be hope that finally the government has accepted that dialogue with the outlawed TTP has run its course and that the army-led security establishment has abandoned its good Taliban/bad Taliban dualist policy, meaning that the country can begin to move along the long road towards normality and stability once again.

Perhaps this may be the time to examine recent history on the security front. While the army has over the years described most of its actions — full-scale and lesser operations — in grand terms, not all operations are necessarily the same. The present year had seen a number of so-called retaliatory actions whose efficacy was questionable at best and may in fact have compounded the problems that have to be contended with. North Waziristan in particular has been a problem for many years — and has only grown in size and complexity as the state has vacillated on what needs to be done there and how. Ultimately though, indecision only puts off the inevitable: there are militant groups inside Pakistan whose express purpose and meaning of existence is to violently overthrow the Pakistani state. Until they are dealt with — and military approaches alone cannot ensure victory — Pakistan will remain deeply insecure. If that realisation has at last dawned on the civilian and uniformed powers, then this is surely the time for the country to unite against a common enemy.

There is another, important aspect to the present operation: as the ISPR press release itself mentions, there will be need for “coordination with other state institutions and law enforcement agencies” to ensure that “these enemies of the state will be denied space anywhere across the country”. But saying something is needed is very different to ensuring it is implemented. Certainly, there have been enough meetings between the civilian and military principals in recent days to have chalked out plans for defending against the near-inevitable blowback in the big cities and against security targets. But meetings do not make for a workable plan that will involve energising all the levels down the chain of command to approach their job with an urgency and seriousness like never before. For that, surely, the political leadership needs to take centre stage. A speech to the nation by the prime minister, a clear set of objectives laid out before parliament by the prime minister, a series of visits to the frontline forces in the fight against militancy by the prime minister — all of that would go a long way in letting everyone know that this time the state means business. The country needs leadership, it deserves leadership — will the prime minister step up to provide it?

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2014

No lessons learnt

Editorial

IT is a relief that Pakistan has been spared the brunt of the tropical cyclone Nanauk as it moved along the Arabian Sea on a course that is likely to take it to the coast of Oman. As it is, some of the fallout of the unusually high tides it caused within our coastal borders have already extracted a toll. A few days ago, dozens of villages along the coastline of three tehsils of Thatta district were submerged. The villagers, mostly fisherfolk, are adept at handling the regular tidal onslaught that hits around this time of the year, but the volume of water in this instance was such that they had to evacuate to dry land. The Karachi and Badin sections of the coastline have also been affected.

IT is a relief that Pakistan has been spared the brunt of the tropical cyclone Nanauk as it moved along the Arabian Sea on a course that is likely to take it to the coast of Oman. As it is, some of the fallout of the unusually high tides it caused within our coastal borders have already extracted a toll. A few days ago, dozens of villages along the coastline of three tehsils of Thatta district were submerged. The villagers, mostly fisherfolk, are adept at handling the regular tidal onslaught that hits around this time of the year, but the volume of water in this instance was such that they had to evacuate to dry land. The Karachi and Badin sections of the coastline have also been affected.

We use the world ‘relief’ because Pakistan, whether it is the coastal areas or any other part of the country, remains shockingly ill-equipped to deal with natural disasters, even though for a string of years it had regularly faced flooding caused by rain and glacial melt on a large scale. Now, with the monsoons fast approaching, there ought to be in evidence moves to prepare for any deluge: canals should be desilted, waterways cleared, settlements along the banks of the main rivers made to move, and so on. A stitch in time, as the saying goes, saves nine. Instead, we see only the torpor that has become the hallmark of the state, which will swing ponderously into action only after the event. Thankfully, again, the meteorological department’s prediction this year is that the levels of rainfall are likely to be lower than usual. But even if that turns out to be correct, all that means is that the country will not have on its hands a full-scale rain-related emergency as was experienced in the past. Even if the rains are of lower intensity, there will be some settlements swept away, varied degrees of damage to infrastructure and a certain level of chaos. Havoc will prevail in Karachi, as it always does when it rains even a little bit. Is it too much to ask that the state take action while there’s still time? It cannot be that the country faces the same challenge, year after year, and walks away with no lessons learned.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2014

Letter diplomacy

Editorial

THE benefits of communicating through letters have been well documented through time. For starters, a letter is thought to carry a more considered view as compared to an oral exchange and, therefore, is of more profound value. And universally, if there is a breakdown in contact, there is always the courier to blame for non-delivery. The case of Pakistan and India is different, however. Here those who have led the negotiating teams on either side have played the familiar postmen, too possessive to let go of their baggage. The negotiators — politicians, dictators, the ever-present stiff bureaucrats et al — have been held responsible for their inability to convey the message of peace. Many routes have been tried to ensure that the right sentiment travels across, with little success, until now when the chief executives of the two countries have decided to return to the basic mode: to write to each other in person, over and above the rest. It was good to see Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif take the initiative. The reply from New Delhi has made it all the more worthwhile.

THE benefits of communicating through letters have been well documented through time. For starters, a letter is thought to carry a more considered view as compared to an oral exchange and, therefore, is of more profound value. And universally, if there is a breakdown in contact, there is always the courier to blame for non-delivery. The case of Pakistan and India is different, however. Here those who have led the negotiating teams on either side have played the familiar postmen, too possessive to let go of their baggage. The negotiators — politicians, dictators, the ever-present stiff bureaucrats et al — have been held responsible for their inability to convey the message of peace. Many routes have been tried to ensure that the right sentiment travels across, with little success, until now when the chief executives of the two countries have decided to return to the basic mode: to write to each other in person, over and above the rest. It was good to see Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif take the initiative. The reply from New Delhi has made it all the more worthwhile.

It is a promising re-start. In comparison to the attempted patch-ups by the exchange of letters in the past, the prime ministers of Pakistan and India are warming up to each other at good speed. The formality that marked the restrained note sent to Narendra Modi by Mr Sharif has been somewhat lifted as Mr Modi wrote back to his Pakistani counterpart. ‘Mr Prime Minister’ has been done away with for a good cause and the Indian leader’s reply is addressed to just ‘Mian Sahib’. This is some kind of a leap in the space of a couple of letters going to and fro considering the ‘enduring subcontinental tradition’ that requires two friends in the making to pace their relationship in a way that neither appears to move with undue haste. Some basics don’t change. The spirit has to last as the letters enter business territory and the heat generated by surrounding issues takes over personal warmth.

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2014

The growing danger in Iraq

Editorial

THE deteriorating situation in Iraq and the rapidity with which the Al Qaeda-like Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham militia has advanced pose a threat not only to the oil-rich Arab country but to the entire region. Evidently, the fall of Mosul did not goad the Baghdad government into action, thus giving Iraq’s top cleric Ayatollah Ali Sistani greater room to check the advance of the Sunni extremist ISIS. In the longer run, however, the Shia-dominated forces’ success in taking on the ISIS will create new problems for Iraq as it will challenge the writ of the government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The ISIS is so radical that even Al Qaeda, of which it is an offshoot, is wary of it. Its morale boosted by what happened at Mosul, where dozens were summarily executed and no less than 30,000 troops of the Iraqi army fled instead of doing their duty, the ISIS is planning larger operations and vying for more territory. Should it advance towards the Shia south, the situation could take a turn for the worse, leading to a larger and bloodier civil war and endangering the unity of the Iraqi state. How Baghdad hopes to stem the ISIS advance and raise the morale of its troops is unclear.

THE deteriorating situation in Iraq and the rapidity with which the Al Qaeda-like Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham militia has advanced pose a threat not only to the oil-rich Arab country but to the entire region. Evidently, the fall of Mosul did not goad the Baghdad government into action, thus giving Iraq’s top cleric Ayatollah Ali Sistani greater room to check the advance of the Sunni extremist ISIS. In the longer run, however, the Shia-dominated forces’ success in taking on the ISIS will create new problems for Iraq as it will challenge the writ of the government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The ISIS is so radical that even Al Qaeda, of which it is an offshoot, is wary of it. Its morale boosted by what happened at Mosul, where dozens were summarily executed and no less than 30,000 troops of the Iraqi army fled instead of doing their duty, the ISIS is planning larger operations and vying for more territory. Should it advance towards the Shia south, the situation could take a turn for the worse, leading to a larger and bloodier civil war and endangering the unity of the Iraqi state. How Baghdad hopes to stem the ISIS advance and raise the morale of its troops is unclear.

The Iraqi situation now warrants a throwback to 2003 when George Bush and Tony Blair chose to launch an invasion to secure a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction which was not there. The result was the end of an Iraqi regime — no doubt authoritarian — which had frustrated every attempt by Osama bin Laden to turn Iraq into his base. Since then, it is the Iraqi people who have suffered the most, with conservative estimates putting the number of dead during the occupation at 200,000. No wonder, sectarianism should have raised its head and inflicted further miseries on them. The ISIS represents that phenomenon.

The situation is no doubt grave, but there is still time to fight back. The ISIS is bound to lose steam and concentrate, instead, on consolidating its territorial gains. This should give time to Saudi Arabia and Iran, both of which regard the ISIS as a terrorist organisation, to get together and put their weight behind the beleaguered Maliki government. Such a joint approach by two of Iraq’s powerful neighbours could have a salutary effect not only on the battlefield that is Iraq but on the larger conflict zone in the Levant. That the Tehran government should now be led by a moderate like Hassan Rouhani opens up new possibilities for Iran and Saudi Arabia to come together to work for peace. Iraq’s balkanisation and its consequent impact on the region are too painful to visualise.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2014

New Punjab, old Punjab

Editorial

IN some ways, Punjab’s budget for 2014-15 is different from the previous Shahbaz Sharif budgets. It is for the first time that the provincial government has articulated its ‘growth vision’ based on a medium-term development framework. The budget, for example, promises to push the economic growth rate in the province from the present 4.8pc to 8pc, and help the private sector create four million new jobs by increasing its development investments through to June 2018 — the year of the next general election. The increased growth and creation of jobs are expected to ‘significantly cut rampant poverty’. The government has sought to tax owners of luxury houses and big cars, bring a few more services into the net and discourage unproductive investment in property. Another important area where the government is claiming focus is power generation. It has allocated a handsome amount for power generation. If all this signals a change, it is here that the difference between the past and future ends. The rest is how it has been in recent years.

IN some ways, Punjab’s budget for 2014-15 is different from the previous Shahbaz Sharif budgets. It is for the first time that the provincial government has articulated its ‘growth vision’ based on a medium-term development framework. The budget, for example, promises to push the economic growth rate in the province from the present 4.8pc to 8pc, and help the private sector create four million new jobs by increasing its development investments through to June 2018 — the year of the next general election. The increased growth and creation of jobs are expected to ‘significantly cut rampant poverty’. The government has sought to tax owners of luxury houses and big cars, bring a few more services into the net and discourage unproductive investment in property. Another important area where the government is claiming focus is power generation. It has allocated a handsome amount for power generation. If all this signals a change, it is here that the difference between the past and future ends. The rest is how it has been in recent years.

The budget doesn’t take it upon itself to explain the government’s road map to the promised economic growth and jobs. That would have been hazardous at a time when industry in the province is on the brink because of energy shortages, and productivity in the agriculture sector is declining. The additional taxation measures cannot go far in raising provincial tax revenues. The spending choices of the government remain skewed in favour of its ‘signature’ projects such as the distribution of free laptops among students, subsidised yellow cabs, the costly metro bus and train projects in major cities, establishment of select Daanish schools, etc. Little effort has been made to accommodate the opposite view on such projects. The government’s investment choices, it appears, continue to be dictated by its urge to counter the political threat to its hold on power in the province. It has allocated 36pc of development funds to poverty-stricken southern Punjab, but whether the whole amount will actually be spent in those parts of the province is the question. In the past, resources have been diverted from southern Punjab to pet projects elsewhere. Medium-term goals will remain elusive unless the government feels secure enough to implement its promises of regional parity.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2014

Greater effort needed

Editorial

SINDH’S budget for 2014-15 contains some positive measures that should help growth, as well as more realistic projections where development spending is concerned. However, grappling with an over Rs14bn deficit, the province clearly needs to make more of an effort to increase its own revenue collection. Considering the volatile security situation in much of the province, especially Karachi, the increase in the security allocation comes as no surprise. What remains to be seen is how well these funds are utilised to make the province more secure. Proposed spending on education is also up from last year; again the increased funding will only pay off when there is discernible improvement in the quality of education in public schools. The reduction of sales tax on services to 15pc has also been received positively, as it is likely to encourage growth. And while the Rs17bn reduction in the Annual Development Programme may be viewed negatively, instead of showing inflated figures which the state does not have the capacity to utilise, it is perhaps better to work with more realistic numbers and manage the funds more effectively. The Sindh government needs to improve its capacity to spend money productively as at present in many cases funds remain unutilised because of numerous factors, including bureaucratic lethargy. So the deficit of funds may not be Sindh’s biggest problem — management of public funds needs to improve significantly, as does accountability.

SINDH’S budget for 2014-15 contains some positive measures that should help growth, as well as more realistic projections where development spending is concerned. However, grappling with an over Rs14bn deficit, the province clearly needs to make more of an effort to increase its own revenue collection. Considering the volatile security situation in much of the province, especially Karachi, the increase in the security allocation comes as no surprise. What remains to be seen is how well these funds are utilised to make the province more secure. Proposed spending on education is also up from last year; again the increased funding will only pay off when there is discernible improvement in the quality of education in public schools. The reduction of sales tax on services to 15pc has also been received positively, as it is likely to encourage growth. And while the Rs17bn reduction in the Annual Development Programme may be viewed negatively, instead of showing inflated figures which the state does not have the capacity to utilise, it is perhaps better to work with more realistic numbers and manage the funds more effectively. The Sindh government needs to improve its capacity to spend money productively as at present in many cases funds remain unutilised because of numerous factors, including bureaucratic lethargy. So the deficit of funds may not be Sindh’s biggest problem — management of public funds needs to improve significantly, as does accountability.

Unfortunately, on some key areas Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah was quiet while unveiling the budget on Friday. One of these is agriculture tax. Can a provincial administration suffering from a shortfall of revenue afford not to tax such a key sector? While there may be merit in Shah Sahib’s call for sales tax on goods going to the province and increased fiscal decentralisation to reduce dependence on the centre, the fact is that Sindh needs to make a greater effort to tap other revenue sources and tighten the leaks in order to create a fiscally sound administration.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2014

Columns and Articles

Truth and trust

Faisal Bari

THE government recently claimed that the economy of the country grew by 4.1pc, in GDP terms over the last year. Within a day or so of the announcement came counter claims, from various sources, saying that the government had ‘fudged’ the figures and that the growth was actually much less and more likely to be in the 3.5pc range. The counter claims seem credible and the questions raised about growth rates across various sectors that the government had claimed seem fairly well grounded.

THE government recently claimed that the economy of the country grew by 4.1pc, in GDP terms over the last year. Within a day or so of the announcement came counter claims, from various sources, saying that the government had ‘fudged’ the figures and that the growth was actually much less and more likely to be in the 3.5pc range. The counter claims seem credible and the questions raised about growth rates across various sectors that the government had claimed seem fairly well grounded.

The government projected a certain deficit in the recently announced budget and within a day or two there were news reports that the government had under reported the projected deficit by a substantial amount.

Government figures on inflation are routinely questioned. The claims of the Federal Bureau of Revenue pertaining to tax collection have been regularly debated and shown to be flawed or fudged. Hardly anyone believes government figures and pronouncements on poverty or for that matter any other statistic given by the government, whose pronouncements are always taken with a pinch of salt.

The same extends to state announcements on how many ‘terrorists’ or ‘suspected militants’ have been killed or arrested, how many of the missing people are or are not in state custody, and what the reason is for a certain state action.

The truth becomes a casualty when individuals or particular interests try to manipulate reality to suit their short-term objectives at the expense of the reputation of institutions. Trust and reputation, gained with difficulty and over time, are lost even if a single breach occurs: it takes a long time to develop a reputation for being honest, it takes one lie to lose it.

Sadly, all governments of the past and the current one, have felt it necessary to lie to the people of the country on one occasion or the other. Now we are in a position where it is, often, difficult to distinguish truth from falsehood and the level of trust, in almost everything that the state and its various organs do or say, is extremely low.

The latest episode, the tragic incident in Model Town, Lahore, that is still unfolding, is a case in point. The police are claiming there was due provocation, the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) claims otherwise. Evidence, in the form of media footage, whether of police brutality or of PML-N goons leading the police, gives another story. The police have not given a shred of credible evidence to support their case, whereas there seems to be plenty of evidence to suggest the excessive use of force.

The political high-ups continue to support the police, feign ignorance or try to hide behind a judicial inquiry. But their culpability is not too hard to establish. Is there a deputy inspector general or an inspector general of police who could have ordered such an action on his own? If that is possible the political high-ups should be fired for incompetence and poor governance.

While the state is claiming provocation and a just response, media footage has showed up the collaboration of state organs with PML-N party goons, and clear episodes of the use of excessive force (merciless beatings of injured people, of people arrested and being taken to police vehicles, of old people and women). And while the political leaders have claimed ignorance and said that they will await the findings of a judicial probe, the police have already gone ahead and registered FIRs against PAT workers and have been shown to be putting pressure on various other state organs (doctors at Jinnah Hospital) to tamper with the evidence.

Whether evidence is tampered with or not, whether the judicial commission is able to do its work or not, the neutrality of the entire state has been compromised. People do not expect the truth to become the basis for subsequent actions. PML-N supporters will continue to think the police was right and there was provocation. PAT and groups in sympathy with them will feel they were ‘taught a lesson’ by design. And the neutral citizen, if there is such a beast, will feel at a loss as he believes the ‘truth’ will never come out and his trust in the state will continue to plummet.

Those who are playing the short-term game — and politicians and governments (as opposed to the state) do that regularly — do not understand the cost that institutions have to bear for their short-term manipulations of the ‘truth’ and ‘evidence’. They try to get away with their actions but in the process institutions can be damaged beyond repair. Sadly, though the PML-N has itself suffered the consequence of institutional degradation in the past, it has learnt no lessons.

Whether it is manipulation of macroeconomic data, appointments to top offices (State Bank of Pakistan is a case in point) or manipulation of evidence to protect politicians, it is the same story again and again. And with every repetition the level of distrust becomes higher.

There was a time when judicial commissions were taken seriously and were thought to be a big deal — whether or not they were able to implement anything, they were taken to be good revealers of the evidence at least. Today, there are few in the country who expect the truth to come out from any state organ, inclusive of the judiciary.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has issued a long statement on the Model Town incident. The gist of the statement seems to be a plea for a ‘fair’ investigation and for the findings of that investigation to be shared with the people at large. But given recent and past history, is that likely? Truth became a casualty long ago, and trust in state organs could hardly be lower. And given the government’s record so far a change is unlikely.

The writer is senior adviser, Pakistan, at Open Society Foundations, associate professor of economics, LUMS, and a visiting fellow at IDEAS, Lahore.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2014

The old barrier resurfaces

Asha’ar Rehman

THE relief is short-lived. Just when a PML-N government shows signs that it has learnt some valuable lessons from its long years in power, a PML-N government butts in at some place to spoil the impression. Scepticism is well and truly restored and a past defined by the PML-N brand of authoritarianism comes back to haunt — especially when the blatant blunder is acted out in a theatre close to home in Model Town, Lahore.

THE relief is short-lived. Just when a PML-N government shows signs that it has learnt some valuable lessons from its long years in power, a PML-N government butts in at some place to spoil the impression. Scepticism is well and truly restored and a past defined by the PML-N brand of authoritarianism comes back to haunt — especially when the blatant blunder is acted out in a theatre close to home in Model Town, Lahore.

A city clean-up squad taking up an assignment in the dark of the night — maybe shrugged off as some kind of an expansion on Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s tradition of starting off early. With some effort and a lot of feigning of ignorance and animated waving of principles, perhaps, the task of removing barriers outside someone as current and sensitive as Dr Tahirul Qadri can also be dismissed as routine.

This is it. This is as far as your imagination and your belief in good, sincere intentions can take you. What follows is too intimidating a barricade in official brutality to broach easy explanation and allow your trust in the maturity, in the statesmanship, in the good politics and good governance of the PML-N to stay unaffected.

Eight people killed in the heart of Lahore, at a time as happening as this, when an operation in North Waziristan had just been announced and, separately, various political groups, prominent among them Dr Qadri’s party, had given calls for anti-government protests.

The shooting took many hours to build up, yet there was no one to offer a word of caution to the clean-up team, which looked ever more determined to accomplish its task with each passing minute. The chief minister was within shouting distance.

The whole Punjab administration was a call away; yet lives were lost as if it was inevitable — as if it was collateral damage — in pursuance of a grand cause. We might just find out that collateral damage weighs far more heavily in Lahore in comparison to the stirs it does and doesn’t cause elsewhere.

The action in Model Town on Tuesday took ages to get ‘noticed’ officially in places which mattered. By the time a rather dazed chief minister faced the cameras to express his regrets his government was well and truly embroiled in the most awkward and most embarrassing moment of its current term.

This was a solemn, eyes-cast-downwards moment, but a typically undeterred Shahbaz still sought to get a positive out of the people by asking them to bear in mind all the good he had done for them. His head held high, he thought the occasion was fit for a leader of his reputation to compare himself with other, lesser rulers of Punjab.

If that was unavoidable in the case of someone as proud of his abilities and as convinced of his infallibility as Shahbaz Sharif, there was, unfortunately, no change in the political strategy of the PML-N aimed at containing Tahirul Qadri. Instead of relying on reason, the PML-N politicians providing the second and more vocal line of action to their leadership were as intense and as personal in their attacks on Qadri as they have been at any juncture in recent weeks.

They stuck to the shame-Qadri plan that they had been pursuing in days prior to the Model Town shooting. Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah has been the most active exponent of the vitriolic attacks on the PML-N opponents, and true to form he has been in the vanguard of the assault on the Pakistan Awami Tehreek leader.

In the wake of the police shooting, his tone remained unchanged, in aid of those who were eager to connect the Model Town raid and the subsequent killing to the anxiety caused in the ruling ranks by Dr Qadri’s vows of revolution.

The PML-N is forgetting its lessons fast. The attacks on the PAT leader were not dissimilar in their tone and tenor to the PML-N ‘resistance’ against Imran Khan in recent months, which have, if anything, benefited the latter.

The ‘wayward cricketer’ since then alternates with the ‘false pir’ in the unending statements from the likes of Rana Sanaullah who remain dangerously unaware of the merits of remaining silent and sober and composed in the face of a move by the other side, thus allowing their challengers sustenance that only overemotional, blundering opponents can provide.

Dr Qadri, like Imran Khan, is a challenge that merits much more than a few personal taunts and some desperate punches. He has demonstrated that he has people who are willing to stand by him through seasons, and dangerously, who are ready to fall for him. They are not likely to be coerced into inaction by the bullets fired on them. They are angrier now than before and the blame for that lies squarely on the PML-N government in Punjab that has exposed itself to greater trouble by pursuing a policy of bulldozing their opponents rather than engaging them in reasonable argument.

The government will try and place the responsibility of the occurrence on the police. The best the police have been able to do falls embarrassingly short of a good defence and the reports about an overzealous party worker extending the law enforcers a helping hand and a vicious stick makes matters worse.

The government has had its issues to deal with, but this is a very serious affair, with the media in hot pursuit. The chase was well and truly on a day after the incident as cameras keenly followed the movement of police officers connected to the case and anchors harshly tried their interrogating skills on PML-N politicians. It is unprecedented for the PML-N.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2014

The middle path

Amin Valliani

SOME beliefs are life-negating while others are life-embracing. Islam is unique in its message that a believer should show moderation in all walks of life. It does not allow a believer to ignore the requirements of worldly life, nor does it allow the disregard of spiritual life. Rather, it encourages a balance between the two.

SOME beliefs are life-negating while others are life-embracing. Islam is unique in its message that a believer should show moderation in all walks of life. It does not allow a believer to ignore the requirements of worldly life, nor does it allow the disregard of spiritual life. Rather, it encourages a balance between the two.

With the onset of modernisation in the West during the 16th century, hectic efforts were made to divorce religion from the daily life of the common people. Religion was reserved for special occasions like birth, marriage, death etc.

On the contrary, Islam considers religion an essential element in the life of a person, family, the community and nation. It aims at creating a balance between the material and spiritual aspects of life. Balance does not mean segregating the material aspect from the spiritual existence. Nor does it mean dividing existence into equal portions, devoting 12 hours to religious and 12 hours to worldly activities.

Here balance means fulfilment of obligations of different connections one has with society. In other words, an individual’s birth creates connections and relationships with different organs of society such as the family, relatives, the neighbourhood, community, country and humanity at large. These connections carry mutual rights and responsibilities, and one has to fulfil the same and maintain a balance.

Above all, one has to strengthen his spiritual connection with the Creator. This promotes peace and humanism in society, paving the way for development. It enjoins the believers to fulfil the Haquq Allah and Haquqal Ebad (rights of the Creator and rights of the servants [of God]).

The physical life of an individual is limited in time and space while the life of the soul is unlimited. The good deeds performed in the world build the society on earth and spiritual life in the hereafter. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) has said the world is a sowing field for the hereafter.

Building the material and spiritual life is like constructing a two-floor house. If a person builds a two-floor house, he selects proper space and designs and lays the foundation according to the number of floors he intends to build. The Quran also poses a similar question: “Is it then he, who laid the foundation of his building on piety to Allah and His good pleasure, better, or he who laid the foundation of his building on an undetermined brink of a precipice ready to crumble down…?” (9:109).

The life of the Prophet is a glorious example of maintaining balance between the material and spiritual aspects of life. He participated in all life-related activities such as earning livelihood, maintaining family; nourishing social relationships; and fulfilling his state responsibilities.

At the same time, he remained conscious of the spiritual side of his life. He kept night vigils, maintained regular prayers and fasts to keep strengthening his spiritual link with the Almighty. He felt Allah’s presence around him. This has been amply described in the Quran. Islam teaches believers to seek goodness in both worlds. The Quranic prayer (2:201) asks believers to pray … “…Our Lord! Give us in this world that is good and in the Hereafter that is good and save us from the torment of the fire.” This teaches us to seek goodness in both worlds.

The ultimate purpose of life is to have success, but this lies in moderation. Moderation implies avoiding two extreme positions and preferring a middle path. For example, while cooking food over a stove, the flame should not be heavily stoked so that it burns the food, nor should it be so lightly lit that the food is not cooked. Rather, it should be medium.

In the same way, Islam does not allow a believer to be a miser, nor does it allow extravagance in spending. It does not approve of being infatuated with material life, nor does it allow us to forsake the basic requirements of spiritual life. It advocates a balance between both. It does not like celibacy and overindulgence in carnal pleasures but encourages a happy and harmonious married life. Islam does not favour aggression against anyone, nor does it allow cowardly submission.

Thus in all life-related activities, one should be moderate, whether it is eating, sleeping, studying, exercising, and even working. Over intensification of any activity can lead to hot-headedness and is detrimental for individual health and that of society.

The Holy Quran says: “But seek, with that (wealth) which Allah has bestowed on you, the home of the hereafter and forget not your portion of legal enjoyment in this world. …” (28:77).

Our times are testing. We live in the distracting environment of busy cities, more and more obsessed with materialism. Spiritual pursuits become rare. This unbridled pursuit of material well-being, if unchecked, would fill our future with melancholy. Therefore, we should opt for a balanced approach.

The writer is an educationist with an interest in Islamic learning.

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Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2014

On state terrorism

Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

IT is among the many wonders of this land of the pure that charlatans renowned for their closeness to state institutions can spout rhetoric about the use of ‘state terrorism’ against innocents. So it was earlier this week when Tahirul Qadri — and his various spokesmen — reacted to the government’s use of force against his supporters.

IT is among the many wonders of this land of the pure that charlatans renowned for their closeness to state institutions can spout rhetoric about the use of ‘state terrorism’ against innocents. So it was earlier this week when Tahirul Qadri — and his various spokesmen — reacted to the government’s use of force against his supporters.

Qadri is not wrong in noting that such incidents can trigger a chain of events that shake up the entire political order; it is another matter that what he suggested was the start of his long-prophesied ‘revolution’ seems much more like a shift in the wrong direction for Pakistani democracy.

This is not to suggest that the Sharif brothers are proving to be adept defenders of our extremely weak democratic foundations. To the contrary, they are giving their detractors, and, more crucially, the establishment and its lackeys, every opportunity to not just snap at their heels, but potentially cut them off entirely.

The use of such excessive force in an upscale neighbourhood of Lahore defies logic. Indeed, one cannot help but wonder whether or not the whole incident was engineered precisely so that the already under pressure government is pushed further into a corner.

But this is just mere speculation; our fixation on the intrigue of Pakistani politics actually reinforces the power of the ‘agencies’, who thrive on our discussions about their ability to manipulate political processes at will.

Yet it is hard not to feel suspicious when Qadri decries state terrorism in one breath and in the next claims that the PML-N is targeting his organisation because it supports the armed forces in all of the latter’s noble causes.

Lest we forget, Allama Sahib profusely praised the army (and judiciary) during his last ‘revolution’ in Islamabad’s Blue Area when the PPP was in government. In other words, some things do not change (read: establishment touts blackmailing sitting governments) even if the characters and paraphernalia do.

Of course, Qadri has a mobilised mass of supporters which will now be chomping at the bit to give the PML-N some payback for the violence it meted out in Model Town. And with the sympathetic media coverage that the Allama Sahib is now guaranteed, there is a chance that the already thinning popularity of the government will take yet more of a beating.

It is telling, though, that this battle between Qadri/Imran Khan and the Sharifs remains largely limited to Punjab. In some ways it is a battle for control over Punjab, and this confirms that the establishment which was until not so long ago able to hold down Punjab without very much fuss is now struggling to forge a favourable balance of power.

Meanwhile jets pound North Waziristan, the security apparatus continues to target nationalists in Balochistan, and polarisation in Sindh shows no sign of abating. So while the ruling clique is fighting within itself for the right to rule Punjab, the rest of the country is marginalised as only peripheral regions can be.

In a related vein, it is necessary to think critically about the ‘consensus’ that has been developed in Punjab (along with major urban centres outside it) on the ‘decisive’ military operation in North Waziristan. Has anyone bothered to consult the people who live in the ‘terrorist haven’ being bombed? How is it possible to reconcile the labelling of the state’s peripheries ‘backward’ and ‘fundamentalist’ with the fact that in the Punjabi heartland the ideology of the state continues to remain virtually unchallenged?

This is the umpteenth time that the entire civilian population of a Pakhtun or Baloch region has been evicted from its home without any guarantee of when return will be possible. Those who die are automatically branded ‘terrorists’ and many of those who survive probably feel they would have been better off dead.

What will make this operation different? Will it be any less opaque than those that have preceded it? Is destroying every standing building in North Waziristan equivalent to destroying the ideological foundations of millenarianism, which is, after all, what really matters?

We are where we are because right-wing ideas and politics exercise monopoly control over the public realm. Progressive ideas and politics may not have been eliminated from the body politic but do not find space to breathe in a way that they can shape ‘public opinion’. Punjab in particular is increasingly barren inasmuch as the Sharifs, Imran Khan and flash-in-the-pan demagogues such as Tahirul Qadri compete for political control.

As operations, target killings, suicide bombs and enforced disappearances continue to rear their ugly head outside Punjab, progressives within must decide whether they will continue to play second fiddle to establishment-friendly populists or revive an anti-establishment politics that can unite them with people on the peripheries, where state terrorism rears its head, day in and day out.

The writer teaches at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2014

The enemy within

I.A. Rehman

HANDERY Masih, the Balochistan provincial assembly member who was shot dead last Saturday, and his assassin, Ghulam Mohiuddin, of the Balochistan Levies, roughly represent the forces that are locked in a deadly combat, and the outcome will define tomorrow’s Pakistan.

HANDERY Masih, the Balochistan provincial assembly member who was shot dead last Saturday, and his assassin, Ghulam Mohiuddin, of the Balochistan Levies, roughly represent the forces that are locked in a deadly combat, and the outcome will define tomorrow’s Pakistan.

Let us first identify the characters.

Handery Masih was a secular democrat and an activist. A Christian among Muslims he threw his lot with the Balochistan Student Organisation, whose secular, nationalist credentials are no secret, and rose to be its top leader.

His passion for the socio-economic development of his people, the Christian community in particular, guided him to Lahore to join a civil society organisation’s (South Asia Partnership) programme for training community-based groups’ leadership. Back home he joined the National Party, and not a denominational outfit, and did well enough to earn a seat in the provincial assembly.

Thus Handery joined the forces that are striving to realise the goal of a secular, democratic Pakistan, in which all citizens, regardless of belief or domicile, are not only guaranteed equal rights but are also ready to struggle for achieving them. For all those who are guided by reason and humankind’s history this is the only path to Pakistan’s becoming a modern, civilised and responsible state.

It is possible that those charged with investigating the murder, and we have little trust in their efficiency and freedom from communal/sectarian biases, will attribute the crime to a petty dispute and the peculiar working of the tribal mind. But it can be shown that in a highly intolerant society, such as the one Pakistan has become, belief is a significant factor in determining the course of a quarrel in which one of the parties belongs to a religious/sectarian minority.

The consciousness that the other fellow belongs to a disadvantaged group emboldens the offender to reject all legal and moral constraints on his behaviour. Religious intolerance legitimises murder to a greater extent than class or ethnic distinction. The possibility that Ghulam Mohiuddin, consciously or unconsciously, believed that his quarry deserved to be killed for being an infidel cannot be ruled out.

This calls for serious reflection on two aspects of the matter.

The first issue is communalisation of the Balochistan society. Till some years ago, Balochistan was universally respected for its tolerance of religious, ethnic and cultural divergences. The religious-political parties did have a slightly different agenda than democratic/nationalist parties but they won seats in elections largely on the strength of their educational enterprises. During the Ziaul Haq period they resorted to greater exploitation of religion for politics and started religio-political agitations, such as the one against the Zikris. However, now they openly back the militants’ challenge to the state.

More important than that, the large number of religious seminaries built with foreign money all over Balochistan, especially along the Makran coast, have greatly influenced the thinking of the young generation. They have replaced their faith in pluralism with exclusivist communalism. The result is that in Panjgur girls’ education has received a terrible setback. Intolerance of non-Muslim citizens has increased and there are reports that Balochistan’s youth are learning from Punjabi terrorist outfits’ use of violence for practices such as extortion, abduction and forced conversion.

This spread of religiosity in Balochistan bodes ill for the country. The attacks on the Hazara Shia in Quetta, on the pilgrims’ caravans (at least those who are too poor to accept the Interior Minister’s advice to travel by air), and the dwindling Hindu community might increase. Indeed the wave of religious bigotry in Balochistan presents the state with a greater threat than the nationalist upsurge. If Islamabad wants to save the federation it must find ways of reversing Balochistan’s drift towards intolerance.

The second issue is that of extremists’ infiltration into Pakistan’s society and institutions. Everybody knows that the terrorists have their pockets of support, that they call “assets”, all over the country, especially in large cities. Those who attacked the Karachi airport are reported to have spent two days in houses close to the target. They had local friends who helped them acquire Airport Security Force uniforms, shoes, food items, medicines etc. The terrorists have their sympathisers in the government, political parties, and bureaucracy, even in the judiciary and law-enforcement agencies.

The principal flaw in the government’s thinking is its treatment of the religious militants’ threat as merely a law and order issue. Little has been done to answer the militants’ strategy of misleading the people with their quasi-religious rhetoric. The theory of takfir under which the clergy can declare anyone an apostate or an infidel and thus liable to be slaughtered by any Muslim has not been analysed. The licence given to militants to kill non-Muslims must be revoked. It is also necessary to liberate the religious discourse from the monopoly of extremists. This may not be possible without the government leaders’ ability to expel the friends of terrorists from their hearts.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2014

Taxing language

Khurram Husain

FOR the record: Tahirul Qadri came on TV on Tuesday night and angrily declared that the cases the government is preparing against him are all lies and fabrications. The anchor of the show asked him about the tax evasion charges. “I have been paying taxes for years now,” he shouted and waved a document at the camera. “Look! Last year I paid more than Rs40,000 in taxes! And Rs10,000 of that was refunded to me, so I was in fact submitting more taxes than I needed to!”

FOR the record: Tahirul Qadri came on TV on Tuesday night and angrily declared that the cases the government is preparing against him are all lies and fabrications. The anchor of the show asked him about the tax evasion charges. “I have been paying taxes for years now,” he shouted and waved a document at the camera. “Look! Last year I paid more than Rs40,000 in taxes! And Rs10,000 of that was refunded to me, so I was in fact submitting more taxes than I needed to!”

I checked in the Federal Board of Revenue’s tax directory, and indeed one Muhammad Tahirul Qadri is there, having paid Rs45,300 in income tax last year. Running a few numbers on this, we get a declared taxable income of just over Rs70,000 per month.

The show on which he made the boast was aired from the Islamabad studio of a private TV channel. The good maulana was seated in Canada, and was live on air via satellite link. The show would have a team consisting of a couple of cameramen at least, probably two technicians in the programme control room (one for audio and another for switching between the various video feeds), a producer standing behind them who would’ve put the whole thing together, and a make-up artist who would have prepared the anchor for his on-air appearance.

In this entire team, the only person making Rs70,000 per month would be the producer, who probably commuted to work in a six- or seven-year-old car no more than 1300cc. Another time we can talk about the kinds of pay scales the media offers to people in key positions, and then places massive responsibility on their shoulders. But this time round just consider the contrast.

For all the pomp and show that Tahirul Qadri puts on every time he lands in Pakistan, it is puzzling in the extreme that he should be declaring an income equal to that of a middle-class lad in the same industry that provides him with the limelight he craves.

Now don’t get me wrong. The brutality shown by Lahore police should be condemned, and accountability should take place at the highest levels. Thus far the government has shied away from holding those from amongst their own lot accountable, but perhaps that can change in days to come if the issue refuses to go away.

But accountability must be a neutral and evenhanded principle to work. One of the reasons I’ve always resisted writing a piece vilifying tax evasion is precisely because doing so feeds into politicising the term. Create enough negative air around the term, and sooner or later everybody will start accusing their political opponents of tax evasion, and using it as a tool of persecution.

Consider, for instance, that Nawaz Sharif himself paid taxes of just over Rs2.6 million in the same year, less than those of a CEO in a mid-sized multinational. Then look at the list of the top 100 individual taxpayers of the country, broken down into two categories: salaried and non-salaried. The top salaried taxpayer in the country paid just under Rs190m and the 100th largest payer in the same category paid around Rs15m. For non-salaried individuals, eg business owners, the top taxpayer paid just under Rs750m, while the 100th largest payer came in at just under Rs30m.

Combine both lists and you have a range that runs from Rs15m to Rs750m, a pretty huge spread no doubt. But the interesting thing is how politicians are conspicuous by their absence on both lists, save for one or two who are not amongst the big names in any case.

Now how is this possible, given the lifestyles these people lead? On the surface this is a very well-known query, we all know our political class prefers to let others shoulder the burden of paying for the state’s expenses. But it opens a can of worms when one section of the political class wants to start using tax evasion as a tool with which to beat up another section. You let that sort of thing happen, and you’ll have a pretty huge mess on your hands but definitely not any tax reform.

This is a purely political mess that is being created, and it has roots other than the fiscal impropriety of a select few individuals. At its core, the government’s political problems grow out of its stubborn insistence to pursue the trial of Pervez Musharraf. I’m no fan of the former dictator’s regime, but I fail to see what good will be achieved by putting him on trial. Does anyone seriously believe that such an act will serve as discouragement for any future adventurer? Any attempt to drag taxes and other financial crimes into the picture will only perpetuate the subordination of economic policy to politically motivated objectives. This subordination has hobbled economic policymaking from the very start, and led to the fiscal erosion of the state’s fiscal foundation, as well as the growing informalisation of economic activity, two aspects of our economy that hang like a millstone around our necks today.

Tahirul Qadri has little more than nuisance value at this point in time. Heavy-handed attempts to stamp out his street following, and using economic vilification of his credibility does more harm than good to the government’s own stability. It would be better if they were able to find a more subtle way to deal with this problem. After all, the only thing that keeps the nuisance going is the limelight. Surely it can’t be that hard to find a way to steal it from him. There’s precious little he can do in the dark.

The writer is a business journalist based in Karachi.

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Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2014

Defaulting state

Tahir Basharat Cheema

THERE seems to be no respite from the country’s power crisis that has been ongoing for eight years now. Experts and the general public alike continue to discuss load-shedding and power sector receivables and payables. They believe the federal government is plagued with low recoveries which prevents it from fully paying the power generation companies, resulting in load-shedding.

THERE seems to be no respite from the country’s power crisis that has been ongoing for eight years now. Experts and the general public alike continue to discuss load-shedding and power sector receivables and payables. They believe the federal government is plagued with low recoveries which prevents it from fully paying the power generation companies, resulting in load-shedding.

Let’s work from the ground up: we know that the total power sector receivables (except those due to K-Electric) have reached an astounding Rs513 billion and the total amount it owes to other entities is above Rs300bn. Last year, the government retired power sector dues of Rs500bn. The payables are on account of non-payment to oil marketing companies, gas utility companies, generation companies, the Water and Power Development Authority and independent power projects.

The total amount the government and its agencies owe is Rs176.22bn to the power sector. If we add what the privatised K-Electric owes to the National Transmission and Des­patch Company (NTDC) the figure jumps to Rs211.42bn.

Before we attempt to understand why governments do not meet their payment obligations, it is important to note the amount each defaulting government owes.

The federal government, including the local bodies, the defence ministry and even the water and power ministry itself, owes Rs8.80bn to the distribution companies (DISCOs). The federal government along with the Azad Jammu and Kashmir government is also responsible for non-payment of bills by the AJK government, amounting to Rs37bn.

The four provinces, their line departments and other agencies have unpaid electricity bills totalling Rs87.256bn. Here, the government of Sindh leads the pack with a debt of nearly Rs55bn.

The federal government is further responsible for non-payment of roughly Rs32bn by Fata’s domestic consumers. This amount is the differential between the actual billing by the Tribal Areas Electric Supply Company and the budgeted payments by the federal government each year. This figure is bound to swell as the national budget for 2014-2015 only allows subsidies worth Rs8bn for Fata, even though the yearly billing is approximately Rs14bn. Next are the nearly Rs11bn worth of subsidies for tube wells in Balochistan.

K-Electric, on the other hand, simply links the payments due for the 650MW it receives from NTDC to the perceived and actual outstanding payments owed to it by the federal government and the government of Sindh and to the tariff differential subsidies to be released by the Sindh government.

Why is it that the federal and provincial governments do not pay their bills? One cause is the general apathy and non-serious attitude towards clearing payments. Furthermore, while unveiling the 2014-2015 budget, the Sindh government realised that the budgeting for electricity bills was inadequate.

Additionally, government consumers are not treated as regular customers by utility providers; they are not subjected to disconnection when they default on payment. This leads to complacency, and arrears are challenged by the government as being inflated and incorrect. The rule that objections against bills have to be raised before the stipulated payment date is not followed.

In order to deal with such issues, the office of the federal adjuster was set up under the General Financial Rules; unfortunately, this became dormant in the 2000s. In late 2009, the office was revived and given the mandate to resolve the Hyderabad Electric Supply Company’s (Hesco) outstanding amount owed by the Sindh government.

As per the law, the federal adjuster can deduct only reconciled provincial dues, but has the power to adjudicate as an arbitrator in case of a stalemate. At the verge of de­­ducting federal outlays to settle the Sindh government’s electricity bills, the latter secured a stay order from the Sindh High Court in mid-2010. Thereafter, even when a decision was made in favour of Hesco, the government of Sindh didn’t budge, in fact, it was able to arrange a write-off of bills worth more than Rs20bn in April 2013.

The most recent decision of the Council of Common Interests to deduct 25pc from the total electricity bills of the provinces in advance from the federal outlays is appreciable, but it does not solve the long-festering issue.

It is suggested that all governments and their entities should be required to fully budget for their power needs, cut down on the rampant unauthorised use of power, implement conservation and energy efficiency measures, empower DISCOs to treat government consumers as regular customers who are subject to disconnection on default and non-reconnection in case of continued default, and lastly introduce appropriate changes in the Electricity Act.

Additionally, it should be mandatory that billing complaints be lodged within the stipulated period. If these changes are not implemented the power sector will be unable to perform to its capacity and to ensure full recoveries from the private sector.

The writer is the president of the Institution of Electrical & Electronics Engineers Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2014

First and last loves

F.S. Aijazuddin

LOYALTY is a 19th-century construct. In the 20th century, it was replaced by discretion, and most recently by disclosure.

LOYALTY is a 19th-century construct. In the 20th century, it was replaced by discretion, and most recently by disclosure.

Politicians (more so their aides) can hardly wait for the ink to dry in their official inkwells before they scribble their memoirs and rush to the press. If television provides its audience with instant coverage of events, published memoirs serve as replays of contemporary history.

Most retirees rely upon their memory, some on official documents, others on letters to friends and family. A few — most notably Alistair Campbell (Tony Blair’s communications director) — have written their memoirs while still in office. He accumulated a cache of two million words. Later, he published a selection titled The Blair Years (2007), and then had enough left over to fill three more volumes — Prelude to Power 1994–1997 (2010), Power and the People 1997–1999 (2011), and Power and Responsibility 1999–2001 (2012).

By contrast, diplomats are expected to be reticent. They are trained to be their country’s watchdogs, observant and obedient. That collar drops off on retirement. Freed of that constriction, many unburden themselves, not always exactly as their governments expect. Two books by former US ambassadors have revealing titles:  Rogue Ambassador — An African Memoir by Smith Hempstone (Kenya, 1989–1993), and The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies That Put the White House on Trial and Betrayed My Wife’s CIA Identity: A Diplomat’s Memoir by J.C. Wilson IV, (ambassador to Gabon, 1992-1995).

Their British counterparts prefer the cloak to the dagger. Sir Alan Munro (British ambassador to Saudi Arabia, 1989-93), feeling that he had to exculpate his country’s conduct during the First Gulf War, gave his book the jingoistic title: Keep the Flag Flying: A Diplomatic Memoir (2013). His colleague Sir Christopher Meyer (British ambassador to the US, 1997-2003) gave his an American twist: DC Confidential (2005). That did not prevent it from attracting a thunderbolt from the then head of the Foreign Service Sir Michael Jay.

Writing to senior members of the Foreign Office, Jay cautioned: “Let me stress that we cannot serve ministers effectively unless they trust and confide in us, which they will only do if we respect that confidence, not just when we’re doing our jobs, but afterwards, too. If we don’t have ministers’ trust, they will not consult us, involve us or take our advice — and we will all lose, ministers, the [diplomatic] service, and the conduct of foreign policy, under no matter what administration.”

Of the 18 British ambassadors/high commissioners to Pakistan since 1947, only two have published their memoirs. Michael Jay’s admonition came too late for the first, and went unheeded by the second.

The first memoir — Pakistan Chronicle (1992) by Sir Morrice James (high commissioner, 1961-1966) — covers the period of the 1965 war with India. The most incendiary part of the book is a recollection of his meeting with a beleaguered president Ayub Khan as Pakistan’s Operation Gibraltar foundered ignominiously.

Addressing him “with complete frankness, discarding all diplomatic flannel”, Morrice James warned Ayub Khan that “if the Chinese would involve themselves there would be a risk of massive escalation. It might well involve the superpowers and lead to a nuclear confrontation with incalculable consequences for the peace of the world.” Scanning Ayub Khan’s “grim” face, James wondered whether he had perhaps gone too far.

In such situations, diplomats rely on Ben­jamin Franklin’s timeless advice that the attributes of a diplomat are “sleepless tact, unmovable calmness, and a patience that no folly, no provocation, no blunders may shake”.

No provocation, no blunders shake the second set of memoirs. Sir Nicholas Barrington (am­ba­ssador 1987-89, high commissioner 1989-94) has just published Envoy: A Diplomatic Journey (2014), which covers his 37-year career. Sir Nicholas saw (and remembered) the foibles of princes and the follies of politicians. At a pool party for Prince Andrew, Barrington held off his pursuers until he could change into his swimming trunks before being tossed into the water. His gallantry remained water-proof: “Not everyone has been thrown into a pool by a royal prince!”

His middle-class prudery though found the follies of politicians harder to forgive. He recounts a meal at the grand British embassy in Paris. “Afterwards class was revealed when the aristocrats, Home [foreign secretary] and Soames [ambassador] went into the garden to relieve themselves on the grass.”

Sir Nicholas’ pervasive ubiquity and immeasurable popularity during his postings in Pakistan led people to suspect that he might be an MI5 agent. Certainly the KGB thought so; even more so after he facilitated the defection of their official Kuzichkin.

Nicholas Barrington (despite the KGB’s sinister attentions) is now in his eighties. He and the late Morrice James shared an unusual bond. The love that they shared the longest, their first and their last love, in and after service, was Pakistan.

The writer is an author and art historian.

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Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2014

Reclaiming North Waziristan

Zahid Hussain

THIS will indeed be the most critical battle in Pakistan’s long war against militant insurgency. Ending its prolonged dithering, the government has finally ordered a full-scale military operation in North Waziristan rightly described as the centre of gravity of terrorism. Thousands of ground troops backed by air force jets have moved into action after the announcement of the offensive to reclaim control over the strategically placed territory.

THIS will indeed be the most critical battle in Pakistan’s long war against militant insurgency. Ending its prolonged dithering, the government has finally ordered a full-scale military operation in North Waziristan rightly described as the centre of gravity of terrorism. Thousands of ground troops backed by air force jets have moved into action after the announcement of the offensive to reclaim control over the strategically placed territory.

No doubt, the decision to eliminate the terrorist den was imminent after the collapse of peace talks with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, but the bloody siege of the international airport in Karachi last week proved to be the proverbial last straw. The Sharif government was left with no choice but to declare an all-out war against those responsible for the brazen assault on the state. The incident shook the country and the demand for action became ever louder.

There was certainly no other option but to face the challenge head on. A lot of time has already been wasted because of indecisiveness on the part of our national leadership. The endless talk about talks delivering peace had exposed the weakness of the state. Despite the decision, however, the prime minister still appears unwilling to take charge and has left it to the military to run the show.

While immensely critical, the latest campaign is much more complex than any other undertaken by the security forces so far in its decade-long war in this treacherous mountainous territory. Despite the fact that the military is now much more experienced in fighting insurgency and battle-hardened, this asymmetric war was never easy. One thing is certain — it is going to be a long haul.

This will not be the first time the Pakistan Army is carrying out an operation in North Waziristan. The earlier expedition, launched in 2004, ended in a peace deal with the tribal militants after two years of fierce fighting. The truce allowed the militants to not only regroup, but also strengthen their positions. It will be even more difficult to dislodge them now.

The biggest of the seven tribal agencies North Waziristan is a haven for a lethal mix of foreign and local militants presenting an existential threat to the country. Many of the terrorist attacks in other countries also have roots in the region. The number of foreign fighters in the territory is roughly estimated by the intelligence agencies to be around 8,000. More than half of them — some 4,800 — are reportedly Uzbek. They have not only been involved in the Karachi airport attack, they have also participated in other high-profile attacks eg, Bannu jail, Mehran and Kamra air bases.

Apart from the Uzbeks there are other foreign militant groups such as networks of isolated Chechens, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and Chinese Uighur militants of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. Reportedly, the majority of Arab militants have either been killed by US drone strikes or left the region. Thousands of Punjabi militants also moved to North Waziristan over the years, and established training camps in the restive border region.

The battle for control over this lawless region has assumed much greater gravity with the approach of the endgame in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda-linked groups present a worrying, long-term security threat for Pakistan, in fact, for the entire region.

A major concern for Pakistani security forces pertains to terrorists crossing over to Afghanistan as has happened in the past, and the use of the sanctuaries for cross-border attacks. The Pakistan military has requested the Afghan security forces to seal the border on their side to facilitate the elimination of terrorists who attempt to flee across the border. But that may not work given the tension between the two neighbours.

There is certainly a greater need for cooperation and a joint strategy between Kabul and Islamabad to fight militancy. The security of the two countries has never been so intertwined as now. The militants’ sanctuaries on either side of the border will have serious consequences for the region, particularly, after the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

Surely a major objective of the offensive is to secure the control of the lawless territory. But military action alone does not offer a long-term solution to an extremely complex problem. The government needs to take urgent measures to end the alienation and backwardness of the tribal region as well. The ongoing military operation provides a great opportunity to push for the long-delayed integration of the region with the rest of the country in order to end its ambiguous semi-autonomous status.

The military operation in North Waziristan is only one dimension of the wider battle against militancy and violent extremism in the country. The militant groups have strong networks across the country. For a long-term solution, the government needs to develop a coherent and overarching counterterrorism strategy in order to strengthen the capacity of the civilian law-enforcement and intelligence agencies. There is also need for closer coordination among the various intelligence agencies and strict enforcement of rule of law.

What is most positive is the evolution of a wider political consensus on the war against terrorism. Almost all political parties with the exception of some right-wing Islamic groups such as the Jamaat-i-Islami are united in their support of the military campaign. But that unity can only be sustained by developing a strong internal security narrative.

One must learn from past military operations in other tribal regions. A major flaw in the approach was that after clearing the areas, no effort was made to establish a proper administrative system. As a result, the state’s control over those areas remained tentative.

Swat and South Waziristan present glaring examples of battles not fully won. The presence of the military does not provide permanent solutions. Therefore, it is necessary to establish a formal civilian system along with the military operation. Without that, the objectives of the operation will never be fully achieved.

The writer is an author and journalist.

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Twitter: @hidhussain

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2014

Curse of the prodigy

Rafia Zakaria

TANISHQ Abraham is 10 years old. At an age when most children are finishing fourth grade, he is graduating from a high school in the United States. Schooled at home, Tanishq took an early high school exit exam and has already started taking classes at a local community college in California.

TANISHQ Abraham is 10 years old. At an age when most children are finishing fourth grade, he is graduating from a high school in the United States. Schooled at home, Tanishq took an early high school exit exam and has already started taking classes at a local community college in California.

His parents celebrated the occasion with a large party at which at least 200 people were invited. The young Tanishq, dressed in graduation garb, was photographed and his pictures were splashed across newspapers in India, which proudly proclaimed the Indian conquest of the American high school system.

The phenomenon of the South Asian child prodigy is not a new one, nor a particularly Indian-American one. In India itself, 13-year-old Sushma Verma was reported last year to be getting ready to enrol in a Master’s programme in microbiology. Sushma graduated from high school in India at the age of seven, beating her brother who accomplished that goal at the age of nine. Her brother also obtained certification in computer science at the age of 14.

Having completed her Bachelor’s, Sushma reported that she was pursuing graduate studies in microbiology until she turned 18, at which point she would begin studying medicine. Students under the age of 18 are not permitted to do so in India.

Pakistan shares this Indian penchant for prodigy, the glee at demonstrating how a deficit in years can be overcome by the proficiency of intellect.

In South Asian societies, childhood is simply the bridge between infancy and earning money, and the sooner the bridge is crossed, the better, everyone agrees, it is. When child prodigies emerge, they are happily feted; no one questions the value of their achievements, or the marketisation and exhibitionism that is now attached to them.

One recent Pakistani example was teenager Arfa Karim Randhawa, who suddenly and tragically passed away in January 2012. Arfa, much to the delight of her parents and to that of Pakistanis in general, had become the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional in 2004 at only nine years of age.

Following that achievement, she was recognised in television shows and newspaper columns, feted by numerous technology companies, and at one time served as a brand ambassador for the Pakistan Telecommunications Company Ltd. She represented Pakistan at numerous international events. In December 2011, while she was an A-Level student, she suffered sudden cardiac arrest. The ensuing illness and hospitalisation lead to her death a few weeks later. Pakistan mourned the death of a girl who had inspired so many.

In countries where childhood is a tenuous concept, unavailable to many who are too poor or too endangered, the question of whether children should be rushed or pushed into availing themselves of opportunities at an early age is never questioned. The pressure is particularly great in societies where emerging middle classes see themselves as teetering on tiny slivers of opportunity for which there are many competitors.

Cramming, studying day and night, and memorising vast tomes are the cornerstones of their lives; a difference of one or even half a percentage point can mean vastly disparate career choices, which in turn will lead to markedly different class consequences. In this mix, permitting a child ease or relaxation could well equal condemning them to a substandard life of poverty and struggle; good parenting is thus transformed into pushing them to achieving more and more, pointing to child prodigies as proof of incredible possibility.

This leaves little room to question the treatment allotted to the child prodigy, a mix that depends in equal parts on the natural intelligence of a particular child and the push received to achieve more at an early age. Particularly popular among the middle classes of postcolonial societies and the immigrants they have spawned, the production of prodigy proves so much.

In a world where inherited wealth still means so much and determines even more, it is a windfall, a winning lottery ticket that can reverse life’s otherwise ordinary allotments. It is not that there are no child prodigies in the West and that they do not suffer the pressure of overweening parental ambitions; it is just that they do not have an entire culture’s expectations pinned on them.

Childhood is scarce in the subcontinent anyway and so to lament its unquestioned giving away in the case of the childhood prodigy is not an argument likely to convince many people. When education itself is a privilege for many millions, it is difficult to make an argument for parental affection to be devoid of parental expectations.

The babies of the subcontinent grow up working in factories, begging on the streets, sharecropping in fields, baking bricks — all often for the hoped-for prosperity of their families. Against this reality, how indeed does one make an argument for middle-class parents to view their projections on their children, their expectations of academic excellence, and their conditional affirmations as impositions or abuse?

The dark side of prodigy is that the children with incredible gifts have still only a child’s abilities to understand the social and emotional world around them. Saying ‘no’ to what their parents or teachers or countrymen would like them to do is hence not a possibility; they cram for exams, memorise the spelling lists, take the tests as instructed.

Children expect and deserve love, but for child prodigies this very basic desire gets mixed up with the requirement of performing, of proving their ‘gift’, and for uplifting the conditions of their family, their country, their culture. This demand, the production of the extraordinary, may make them famous and revered, but it deprives them of central notion of childhood, the simple freedom to make mistakes.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

rafia.zakaria

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2014

Human side of jobs

Zubeida Mustafa

A MAJOR challenge faced by Pakistan’s economy today is one of providing opportunities for income generation to the fast-growing manpower. With the country’s population escalating at the rate of 2 per cent per annum and three million young people coming of age every year the first priority is obviously job creation. But barely 700,000 new jobs are generated annually.

A MAJOR challenge faced by Pakistan’s economy today is one of providing opportunities for income generation to the fast-growing manpower. With the country’s population escalating at the rate of 2 per cent per annum and three million young people coming of age every year the first priority is obviously job creation. But barely 700,000 new jobs are generated annually.

According to statistics given by Michael Kugelman of the Woodrow Wilson International Centre, Washington, this has led to a massive exodus of young people to cities and this has caused rapid urbanisation in the country which, in turn, has created difficulties of its own.

Unemployment is a serious problem. Jobs are needed not just to provide livelihood to people and their families, they are also needed because people with nothing to do can form a huge reservoir of discontent. Joblessness robs a person of his self-esteem and he has no stake in socio-economic development having been denied the sense of ownership and economic empowerment that a secure job gives a person.

This dimension of unemployment has not been understood in Pakistan though a lot has been written about its relationship to violence, terrorism and political unrest.

I first understood the relevance of gainful employment in the sense of the well-being of a person when I visited a labour training centre in Sweden in the 1980s when the country was solidly in the hands of the Social Democrats. The government would monitor the economy closely and keep an eye on the labour market. If one sector shrank and workers had to be laid off, another sector would expand and suffer a short supply of labour. That was when government intervention took place and people were offered training for jobs which were in greater supply.

The officer who briefed me focused more on the human psycho-social dimension than the economic aspect of employment. Twenty-five years later, this aspect of joblessness hit me starkly during a recent visit to Khairo Dero (Larkana district) where the Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust (AHMMT) is working for the uplift of people there.

I was told that unemployment was a major problem and that jobless men whiled away their time gambling and taking drugs. This inevitably boosted the addiction rate while driving down economic productivity. Naween Mangi, who runs the Trust with remarkable efficiency, offered to introduce me to a group of men to help me assess their perceptions. One evening I was invited to meet 15 or so men of all ages.

I asked them to introduce themselves and describe their job status. Ten of them said they were ‘beyrozgaar’ (unemployed). On probing further I felt that many of them were actually underemployed as they worked occasionally when a job was available. However, their earnings were not enough to feed their families. The others had some job or the other but did not feel fulfilled. Perhaps they did not have enough work to occupy them for a full day.

One was a health worker who was called upon to help when needed for a vaccination drive and was paid accordingly. Two labourers had to try their luck daily and sometimes they had no work for several days. The two clerks in government offices and the two teachers in public-sector schools probably did minimum work.

That left only a farm worker cultivating a three-acre plot and a salesman selling plastic ware as the two claiming to be employed. What surprised me most was the apathy and lack of motivation that marked their approach. They said that hope was keeping them alive. When asked to elucidate what they hoped for, they told me that they looked forward to better days when their party came to power. Which party were they waiting for? The PPP they informed me. They had no answer when told that the PPP had been in power in Sindh since 2008.

It appears that unemployment is linked to a state of mind. In the absence of an economic boom lethargy has set in. Whatever little initiative was left has been destroyed by drugs and gambling. Lack of education and socio-economic stagnation — for which the government is wholly responsible — have made matters worse.

Women who have suffered centuries of oppression in a patriarchal society are, on the contrary, more active and dynamic. Many have become community workers and teachers. Others have set up home-based handicraft businesses with the help of AHMMT’s micro-credit scheme to transform their lives. The women’s approach to income generation is more positive. Since 2011, 34 loans of Rs15,000 each have been extended and 14 have been repaid. There have been no defaulters which points to the success of the project.

A push is needed to draw men into employment. Land reforms and small agro industries could provide income-generation opportunities and motivation for the jobless.

www.zubeidamustafa.com

Crack(pot)s in Iraq

Mahir Ali

AS Iraq hovers on the brink of a sectarian civil war, raising the prospect of the bloodiest partition since India was divided in 1947, the serially delusional former British prime minister Tony Blair has deemed it opportune to leap into the fray with the incredible thesis that the US-led invasion of Iraq 11 years ago had nothing to do with today’s events.

AS Iraq hovers on the brink of a sectarian civil war, raising the prospect of the bloodiest partition since India was divided in 1947, the serially delusional former British prime minister Tony Blair has deemed it opportune to leap into the fray with the incredible thesis that the US-led invasion of Iraq 11 years ago had nothing to do with today’s events.

In his blinkered view, the unprovoked aggression that unleashed unprecedented chaos in Iraq was a noble venture that ought to have been repeated in Syria. The primary fault lay in exiting too soon — and that can be remedied by intervening militarily once more.

Luckily, his lunacy does not seem to be particularly infectious. His key allies in the monumental misadventure — the Bushes, Rumsfelds and Wolfowitzes — have thus far opted for discretion. So has Colin Powell, who in his infamous 2003 United Nations presentation repeatedly cited the presence of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi on Iraqi soil as evidence of Saddam Hussein’s collusion with Al Qaeda.

The Jordanian militant Zarqawi, a veteran of the US-sponsored jihad in Afghanistan, no doubt posed a danger. But his training camp was on Kurdish territory protected by Western no-fly zones. He moved in when the invasion offered an opening, wreaking havoc on a scale paralleled only by the Western occupiers. Following his demise in a US military strike in 2006 there were repeated claims that Al Qaeda in Iraq was a busted flush.

Yet it morphed into the Islamic State of Iraq and eventually, under the aegis of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, into the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), whose brutality is believed to be responsible for its expulsion from Al Qaeda.

Not long ago, Ayman al-Zawahiri is said to have ordered ISIS out of Syria, where it mainly holds territory ceded by fellow opponents of the Bashar al-Assad regime. ISIS hasn’t exactly complied — reports suggest much of the hardware left behind last week by the 30,000 Iraqi troops who abandoned Mosul when threatened by ISIS forces has found its way into Syria.

In suggesting that Western intervention in Syria would have thwarted the aims of ISIS, Tony Blair ignores the likelihood that attacking the Assad regime would have produced exactly the opposite effect. He suggests that if the US-UK alliance hadn’t overthrown Saddam Hussein, Iraq would have gone much the same way anyhow in the wake of the so-called Arab Spring — insidiously ignoring the part played by the conquest of Iraq in unleashing that phenomenon.

It is not terribly surprising that ISIS views its role in obscuring the Iraq-Syria border as a crucial blow against the political contours delineated by the Anglo-French Sykes-Picot agreement nearly a century ago. But that allows no room for complacency about the caliphate-resurrecting aims of Baghdadi’s Sunni forces.

The prospect, meanwhile, of a loose US-Irani military alliance — held out on the American side even by some of the hawks who were not long ago salivating at the idea of bombing Tehran — has been underplayed after initially being raised on both sides, exciting much commentary and, presumably, palpitations in Tel Aviv and Riyadh.

Iran is reported to have contributed both Revolutionary Guards and advisers to Baghdad, while the US has positioned an aircraft carrier named after George H.W. Bush in the Gulf, with President Barack Obama saying all options are on the table, barring a redeployment of ground troops — but also cautioning Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, to build bridges with the Sunnis whom he has alienated over the years. It may be too late for that, amid evidence of Sunni tribals and unreconstructed Baathists allying with ISIS.

There is considerable scepticism about the game-changing potential of the American airstrikes. On the other hand, Shia militias have been bolstered by volunteers, while the Kurdish peshmerga have taken control of Kirkuk. The three-way division of Iraq predicted by some a decade ago may well be on the verge of becoming a reality. The potential cost in blood, though, is too awful to contemplate.

And one can hardly overlook the exemplary effect of ISIS-led forays on comparable movements elsewhere in the Muslim world, most notably the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The former have lately come under attack by the Pakistan army, with a civilian exodus reported from North Waziristan, but the military action may well be too late to diminish a threat that manifested itself earlier this month in the audacious attack on Pakistan’s busiest airport.

Pakistan is familiar, of course, with the kind of fratricide being perpetrated in Iraq —- albeit not on that scale, especially if the claims of 1,700 executions by ISIS turn out to be credible. But there’s a much broader danger to be feared if the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham turns out to be more than an aberration.

mahir.dawn

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2014

Who’s got the narrative?

Zohra Yusuf

AS the assorted mix of militants present in Pakistan — global and local — succeed in making their attacks more deadly, the question arises — who is dominating the narrative? Judging by recent events, particularly the audacious attack on Karachi airport on the night of June 9, it is clear that the militants have the upper hand. They have demonstrated their superiority in several crucial areas that were necessary for a successful operation and its desired consequence of spreading terror among Pakistanis.

AS the assorted mix of militants present in Pakistan — global and local — succeed in making their attacks more deadly, the question arises — who is dominating the narrative? Judging by recent events, particularly the audacious attack on Karachi airport on the night of June 9, it is clear that the militants have the upper hand. They have demonstrated their superiority in several crucial areas that were necessary for a successful operation and its desired consequence of spreading terror among Pakistanis.

Firstly, in terms of intelligence they proved that they were more than a step ahead of our own agencies. The precision in planning showed that a detailed reconnaissance of the area had been undertaken for security gaps. Meanwhile, our premier intelligence agency, the ISI, appeared to be more concerned with its own image following the accusation levelled against it by television anchor, Hamid Mir. Its orchestrated battle with Geo and its owners perhaps distracted it from its main responsibility of intelligence-gathering.

Regrettably, in this conflict which has serious repercussions for freedom of the media, competing television channels have outdone each other in trying to protect the reputation of the powerful ISI. The hapless minister of defence has also been pushed into initiating action against Geo for vilifying a ‘national asset’.

With misplaced priorities, it is not surprising that intelligence — even if available — was not acted upon. However, since these agencies have been forgiven for other lapses in the past, such as the presence of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan for many years and the attack on the Mehran naval base in Karachi, it is clear that the civilian governments, at the centre and the province of Sindh, will bear the brunt of the Karachi airport disaster as well. Not that the governments at the centre or the province came through inspiring any confidence among terrified citizens of Karachi.

Secondly, while all that the Pakistanis were exposed to, through the media, were trading of accusations and passing the buck between the two, the militants established themselves as more media savvy. They left little time for speculations to do the rounds or conspiracy theories to take root.

With the kind of confidence that comes with an unchallenged successful operation, the militants were quick in not only owning up to the act but in identifying those (from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan) who participated in the attack and were killed by security forces. This kind of clarity in communicating with a terrified citizenry should have come from those wielding power, civilian or military.

There has been little transparency from either in identifying the reasons for the massive intelligence failure and the shattering of citizens’ confidence. Instead, the expected rituals have been completed, including the setting up of an inquiry commission.

Thirdly, this was the determining moment when the government, represented by the popularly elected prime minister, should have taken the initiative in controlling the narrative surrounding the attack. The director general of the Rangers, stationed in Karachi, declared the airport area clear and safe rather prematurely. And then there were vague references to Indian involvement, based on some weapons and chemicals recovered from the militants. While the bottles of chemicals as shown on television channels established India as the manufacturing country, the Urdu text on the labels indicated their import by a Pakistani company.

What Pakistanis needed and expected from their government, and the prime minister in particular, was a public address explaining the circumstances, the reasons for security failure and steps being taken to ensure greater safety for citizens.

Our media-shy prime minister chose to remain incommunicado, apart from calling for reports from various organisations. At this crucial juncture, that demanded leadership and reassurances from Mian Nawaz Sharif, the debate was taken over by the frenzied television channels that once again competed to laud the courage of the security forces involved in the operation against the terrorists.

There’s still no explanation for the prime minister’s silence or reticence on the subject. A page taken from the terrorist’s strategy of transparency would help. With each new attack, responsibility is openly claimed (apart from a brief period when talks with the Taliban were on the cards) exposing the security agencies’ vulnerability. While the terrorists are opting for revelations, the government’s narrative is shrouded in secrecy.

If the current prime minister and previous ones have failed the citizens in their hours of distress, other political leaders have not performed any better. Apart from standard statements of condemnation, following the Karachi airport attack, our elected representatives did little to address the situation or call for accountability from those responsible. The PTI chief, Imran Khan, in fact called for an end to aerial bombing of militants’ hideouts in North Waziristan immediately after the Karachi airport attack. If there was any concern expressed by him on the attack, there was no or scant media reports.

The political leadership in Pakistan seems gripped by fear. Fear of militants and of the military. In such a scenario where there is no coherence of policies — apart from the oft-repeated and vague statements on the need for dialogue with the Taliban — the narrative on the response to terrorism has been effectively hijacked. The debate is being determined by the right-wing pro-Taliban media and the political parties who put their weight behind this narrative.

Without wishing to sound alarmist, one wonders how closely the powers that be in this country are following the developments in Iraq where the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) have captured key cities and are closing in on Baghdad. The Iraqi government and its army underestimated the strength and capacity of ISIS. There are lessons to be learnt. On Sunday, the ISPR announced the launch of a military operation in North Waziristan. Belatedly, the federal government has decided in favour of action. However, the prime minister must keep communication lines open.

The writer is chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2014

Good breakfast, bad history

Jawed Naqvi

THE lady at the adjoining table of the club restaurant gazed steadily at Maulana Azad’s autobiography I was scouring, as she licked the remains of the egg yolk from the fork before picking out the last fatty strips of meat that come with a standard English breakfast. Then she was on the phone with a friend, fixing her next agenda for the day. Where could she find a sumptuous lunch?

THE lady at the adjoining table of the club restaurant gazed steadily at Maulana Azad’s autobiography I was scouring, as she licked the remains of the egg yolk from the fork before picking out the last fatty strips of meat that come with a standard English breakfast. Then she was on the phone with a friend, fixing her next agenda for the day. Where could she find a sumptuous lunch?

I was leaving when she asked if the book was about the Taliban. The cover showed the author with a beard and a ‘Muslim cap’, a far cry from any accepted notion of a Taliban visage. I said it was India Wins Freedom, written by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad in the form of a dictation to Humayun Kabir, the trusted aide of the leading freedom fighter who became India’s first education minister.

The edition I was reading included sensitive pages the maulana wished to be published only 30 years after his death, which occurred in 1958. The narrative chiefly straddled 1935 to 1948, including a prolonged stint by Azad as the Congress party’s president.

Why was I reading an old book that was in the modern history syllabus at Jawaharlal Nehru University years ago? Put it to Najma Heptullah’s induction as minority affairs minister in the Modi cabinet. A grand-niece of the maulana, she flaunted Azad as her ideological lodestar. Rajiv Gandhi pampered her and made her a well-regarded deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha. Outside the house she became known for her funny one-liners but also for a diametrically opposite talent — a pronounced proximity to the puritan Saudis.

It was Ms Heptullah’s transition from a Maulana Azad-loving Congress party to the Sardar Patel-hugging Bharatiya Janata Party that prompts me to quote from the book by her grand-uncle. It should be of use to her as to the lady at the breakfast table. Patel was the home minister and as such the administration of Delhi was his responsibility. Partition-related riots were in full swing in Delhi. This is how Azad saw it.

“As the list of murders and arson grew longer, Gandhiji sent for Patel and asked him what he was doing to stop the carnage. Sardar Patel tried to assure him by saying that the reports, which Gandhiji was receiving, were grossly exaggerated. In fact, he went to the extent of saying that Muslims had no cause for complaint or fear.” Ms Heptullah will note the description is not different from the reported discussion a former prime minister had with a former chief minister of Gujarat following the events of 2002.

Azad continues: “I remember distinctly one occasion when the three of us were sitting with Gandhiji. Jawaharlal said with deep sorrow that he could not tolerate the situation in Delhi where Muslim citizens were being killed like cats and dogs. He felt humiliated that he was helpless and could not save them.… ”

Everyone present was “completely taken aback” by Sardar Patel’s reaction. “At a time when Muslims were being murdered in Delhi in open daylight, he calmly told Gandhiji that Jawaharlal’s complaints were completely incomprehensible. There may have been some isolated incidents but the government was doing everything possible to protect the life of Muslims and nothing more could be done. In fact, he expressed his dissatisfaction that Jawaharlal as the prime minister should express disapproval of what his Government was doing.”

We can see at least a glimpse of why the new prime minister of India is a Patel-worshipper and a Nehru-baiter.

Azad writes on in his stark narrative, which all but declares Patel, not surprisingly, as an anti-Muslim politician. To explain the attacks on Muslims, Patel displayed outrageous tactics that every right-wing ruler in India loves to embrace. Patel put out a theory that deadly weapons had been recovered from the Muslim quarters of the city.

“His insinuation was that the Muslims of Delhi had collected arms to attack the Hindus and the Sikhs, and if the Hindus and the Sikhs had not taken the first offensive, the Muslims would have destroyed them.” Sardar Patel displayed the arms thus gathered in an antechamber of the cabinet committee room. Lord Mountbatten was there.

“On our arrival we found on the table dozens of kitchen knives that were rusted, pocket knives and pen knives with or without handles and iron spikes, which had been recovered from the fences of old houses, and some cast iron water pipes. According to Sardar Patel these were weapons which the Muslims of Delhi had collected to exterminate the Hindus and the Sikhs.”

Lord Mountbatten “took up one or two knives and said with a smile that those who had collected these materials seemed to have a wonderful idea of military tactics if they thought that the city of Delhi could be captured with them”. How does Heptullah regard Azad’s dim view of Patel, mascot of the Modi government? She may have to ponder other changes, even positive ones, which the new government hopes to usher.

During the years when I met her more regularly as a journalist, Ms Heptullah was unfortunately on the wrong of the Shahbano debate. The occasion found Congress party, led by Rajiv Gandhi, spearheading the parliament’s quashing of Supreme Court’s verdict, which dared to give a Muslim divorcee the right to financial allowance from her former husband, a right other Indian women enjoyed.

However, Ms Heptullah is now a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the right-wing Hindu group that at least has one good agenda, provided it is honestly implemented — ushering of a common civil code for all Indians, including Muslims. This could be her chance to redeem Azad’s pledge to his people.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

jawednaqvi

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2014

Polio confusion

Arsla Jawaid

THIS year so far, Pakistan has recorded 82 cases of polio. Of these, 64 cases emanate from Fata with 53 reported from North Waziristan alone. An overwhelming number of cases come from children under two years, implying they never received a single dose of the vaccine due to the Taliban ban in effect since July 2012. Fata alone accounts for more than 60pc of worldwide polio cases this year.

THIS year so far, Pakistan has recorded 82 cases of polio. Of these, 64 cases emanate from Fata with 53 reported from North Waziristan alone. An overwhelming number of cases come from children under two years, implying they never received a single dose of the vaccine due to the Taliban ban in effect since July 2012. Fata alone accounts for more than 60pc of worldwide polio cases this year.

As of June 1, travellers from Pakistan must produce government-issued polio vaccination certificates. Far from implementing the decision, the federal and provincial governments have wasted time deciding who the responsibility falls on. The polio drops are free and must be obtained from a government hospital, with a certificate issued by a health official.

There has been no formal announcement by the government regarding locations thus creating much confusion and prompting travellers to receive the polio drops only when they arrive at the airports. Incorrect information, bolstered by conspiracy theories and myths, has also led many to believe that the vaccine is a sterilisation tool. This is one reason why some citizens are reportedly obtaining vaccination certificates without receiving the vaccine itself.

At the official level, efforts are half-hearted with few airport staff asking to see the certificate. The absence of monitoring and strict checks makes the situation even more precarious.

Travel restrictions alone will not help end the polio crisis or Pakistan’s status as a polio-exporting country. Pakistan, having exported polio to five other countries already, poses an imminent threat to the global community; the severity of this doesn’t seem to have quite sunk into the mind of the current government.

Travel restrictions have also been considered to contain those going to conflict zones abroad and spreading the poliovirus, as well as for those moving from polio reservoirs in KP, Fata or Karachi to other parts of the country. However, it was expected that the elite, who are potentially prevented from taking summer vacations in Thailand, would pressurise the government to address the polio crisis. The private sector has instead chosen to confine itself within its own bubble and remain detached from the crisis, opting to selfishly seek individual immunity.

First, nationwide mobilisation and awareness campaigns are imperative to stamp out polio. This can only be possible if stakeholders from the ulema to national celebrities, from teachers to the army, and from government officials to CEOs are actively united in eradicating polio. By disseminating information, creating awareness and providing measures within its own ambit, a nationwide, multi-pronged solution can be introduced.

Second, the government must be willing and able to introduce such measures. The government’s lack of response signals that the polio threat has not been internalised. No matter how involved international agencies may be polio will never be eradicated if the government does not take ownership to eradicate it. Political will is imperative along with involving national assets such as the army that is already administering drops at border check posts. However, a greater and more coordinated effort with a rigid monitoring system remains wanting.

Third, following the restrictions, it was expected that the government would introduce strategic measures to address the security threats faced by health workers and security personnel, 56 of whom have been killed in militant attacks since December 2012. A drastic decrease in health workers willing to go into the field has dealt a heavy blow to polio eradication efforts.

The government has done little to create an integrated security force that can protect workers who now display low morale. The government’s inability and public showing of weakness when it comes to responding to militant attacks does not bode well for the health sector that already receives little attention in comparison to strategic security threats.

Fourth, a major overhaul of Pakistan’s abysmal health infrastructure is urgently required. Polio reservoirs in Karachi, Peshawar and Fata can only be isolated and eventually eliminated if a robust health sector is efficient, informed and committed to finding solutions. Refusal cases, especially in Fata, are abundant and require a variety of strategies to be addressed. High-risk areas, though isolated, deserve special attention.

The public health system must be bolstered to a level where it can participate in follow-up campaigns and awareness and mobilisation prog­rammes, from the federal to the district level.

Fourth, and most importantly, until health workers do not gain access to Fata to immunise children and the Taliban ban isn’t lifted, polio will prevail. Previously, the government’s weak position and growing security threats made it unlikely that it would negotiate with militants on a topic where there seems to be little flexibility. And with the commencement of Operation Zarb-i-Azb, it remains to be seen whether health concerns are addressed at all alongside bigger strategic and security aims.

The writer is a journalist.

arslajawaid

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2014

Public fraud

Aslam Pervaiz Abro

AT a cheque distribution ceremony in Rawalpindi last month, the National Accountability Bureau gave Rs140 million to the victims of five scams. The recipients included 63 victims who had been defrauded by M/S Capital Builders.

AT a cheque distribution ceremony in Rawalpindi last month, the National Accountability Bureau gave Rs140 million to the victims of five scams. The recipients included 63 victims who had been defrauded by M/S Capital Builders.

It was stressed on the occasion that people should demonstrate vigilance and invest only in legitimate investment companies.

While in a society like ours corruption continues to increase as a result of several factors, incidents of cheating the public occur because there are many opportunities to do so while the chances of getting caught are few. People’s lack of awareness, compounded by their gullibility and greed for the promised high profit create an opportunity for swindlers, while inaction and laxity in the enforcement of rules by regulators result in the impunity with which the fraudsters exploit such opportunities.

There are two common types of offences where cheating the public is concerned in Pakistan — Ponzi schemes and fake housing projects. Financial scams such as those linked to the Z.I. Business Group, Alliance Motors, Double Shah, Perennial International, Life Medicine Company Traders and the recent Modaraba and Musharaka scam are glaring examples of how the general public is easily lured into investing billions of rupees after being promised unrealistic profit returns.

While regulators make low-key efforts to monitor the activities of financial entities, the prospect of higher profits makes it difficult for people to sense the danger and they end up investing in dubious businesses. They even shy away from inquiring into the details of the business activities of the company in which they have invested. The people only wake up to reality when profits stop or significantly diminish. They then complain to anti-corruption agencies by which time the swindlers have vanished along with their money.

Public awareness in this regard is very important. Every legitimate business should operate under a law and there are regulators to act as watchdog. Before moving ahead with investment in any running or newly started business offering lucrative returns, people ought to find out whether it is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and ensure that the company’s operations and activities are in line with the objectives of the memorandum and business areas declared by the regulators.

People further ought to check whether the company is paying taxes and following the rules set by the regulators.

In the recent Modaraba and Musharaka scam, muftis collected funds from thousands of people for their business which was not registered as a Modaraba company with the SECP. The essentials of Modaraba and Musharaka are set out on the State Bank website; people should study those essentials and refer to the Companies Ordinance 1984 to educate themselves and then ask the businesses how their investment will be utilised for high returns.

NAB has inquired into hundreds of cases of housing project scams and continues to receive complaints against real estate companies. An average time for completion of a housing project is three years, but the construction is hardly paced to meet the schedule to deliver houses/plots to the allottees, despite builders and developers collecting money from them as per the stipulated payment schedule. Previously, several housing projects were initiated without permission or no-objection certificates (NOCs), as exemplified by the M/S Capital Builders case.

There are a plethora of housing schemes, especially in Karachi, that have gone into limbo owing to issues with land title, litigation in court, violations of government rules, NOCs from utility companies, and financial bankruptcy of the builders. The ultimate sufferer is the general public.

An ordinary citizen is not aware of the procedures involved in the initiation of housing schemes, the determination of each unit price, regulation rules for construction etc. He is devastated when he learns that the housing scheme in which he invested his lifelong earnings has turned out to be a scam or is unable to deliver.

Before booking a flat or plot in a housing project, people must inquire about the scheme. They should check the builders’ credentials and their experience with similar projects, and whether they are members of the Asso­ciation of Builders & Developers of Pakistan.

The builders should be registered with the Registrar of Firms and have clear title deeds of the land on which the project is erected, an approved layout plan and NOCs from the relevant authorities such as the Capital Deve­lop­ment Authority and utility companies. Rates should be approved by the regulators and the terms and conditions submitted to them.

Fighting public fraud cannot be done single-handedly by the anti-corruption authorities; it is also the responsibility of people to educate themselves and to be wary of swindlers. This can be done through seminars, mobile awareness units etc. These awareness exercises are key to combating corrupt elements. The dream of a corruption-free society can be realised through public-private partnerships between the people and the agencies.

The writer is assistant director, investigations, National Accountability Bureau, Sindh.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2014

Are dark clouds hovering?

Babar Sattar

MAHMOOD Achakzai has stated what is on many minds. Dark clouds hover over the horizon and democracy seems to be in trouble again. It is hard to level with cynics who are committed to the belief that democracy in Pakistan is the problem and not part of the solution. But there is a need to rally thinking segments of the power elite (civil and military) who agree that all institutions over the last 67 years have contributed to the wayward direction we have taken as a state and time to make amends is running out.

MAHMOOD Achakzai has stated what is on many minds. Dark clouds hover over the horizon and democracy seems to be in trouble again. It is hard to level with cynics who are committed to the belief that democracy in Pakistan is the problem and not part of the solution. But there is a need to rally thinking segments of the power elite (civil and military) who agree that all institutions over the last 67 years have contributed to the wayward direction we have taken as a state and time to make amends is running out.

We are a nation adrift while our power elites are busy forging alliances that can produce no good. Why is the PML-N at daggers drawn with PTI over electoral reform but acting as the PTI’s quarterback in thwarting an emerging consensus against terror? Who is propping up charlatans and scheming good-for-nothingers like Tahirul Qadri and the Chaudhrys to put the fear of the devil in the civilian government? If the khakis are cut up over the PML-N’s lack of resolve to take on the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, why are they treating forces of obscurantism in Punjab as bench strength?

Our reaction to the audacious Karachi airport attack and the extermination of Shia pilgrims in Taftan last week is a fresh reminder that we might be losing our ability to think rationally about the existential challenge confronting us. We seem so obsessed with the inconsequential stuff.

Should ministers be held to account for not showing up to condole with victims’ families or for failing to make and implement plans to prevent such attacks? Should the prime minister be blamed because he is not deft when it comes to scoring brownie points with a distressed nation or because he has failed to carve out an effective policy and forge a consensus around it to eliminate terror havens across Pakistan that is the cause of distress?

Can someone tell this dumbfounded nation plainly that the hundreds and thousands of targets across Pakistan — military facilities, government buildings, airports, railway stations, bus stops, shopping centres, mosques, schools etc. — can just not be defended so long as terror squads continue to proliferate and roam freely across our wild west and urban centres? And can the policymakers understand that soldiers and citizens exhibiting resilience and resolve when attacked is no manifestation of a functional national security strategy?

First, we need to address the challenge of our incapacity. If the civilian part of the state reeks of incompetence at what it is supposed to do, subject the khakis to a dispassionate analysis and they don’t fare any better. Compare khakis to civvies and the khakis come out looking good. But think about the attacks on GHQ, PNS Mehran, Kamra, the OBL incident, the umpteen intelligence failures since 9/11 or the sum total of our khaki-authored national security policy and you realise that there’s decline all around. Take away? Let’s lose the righteousness.

To prevail over terror, especially in urban areas, we need timely actionable intelligence. And our massive intelligence set-up is faltering here. We need to institute effective checks and balances within our intelligence agencies not to enable civvies to control the ISI, but to ensure that intelligence agencies (a key component in our national security policy especially in this age of terror) are efficient, effective and focused on doing what they are meant to do.

Second, we need to address the challenge of complicity. There is no way to solve problems till they are acknowledged. Whether one relies on the stories of Adnan Rasheed and GHQ mastermind Aqeel Ahmad, the assertions of Saleem Shahzad or plain common sense, the insider angle in most security lapses is hard to dismiss. Our society is getting radicalised and our security agencies are shadows of the same society. Have we been successful in severing the link between state actors and non-state actors and cleansing the residue?

We have a bitter history of creating non-state actors during the 1980s and 1990s that is still haunting us. We then pursued the disastrous good-versus-bad-terrorist policy post-9/11 that produced more destruction and confusion. Granted that states have genuine intelligence needs to cultivate assets for counter-insurgency purposes, but has our national security establishment acknowledged to itself that the aforesaid policies had a design flaw? If so, why does such clarity not reflect itself in relation to our Punjabi non-state actors?

Third, anchoring our national security narrative in religion or defining patriotism as hatred for another state itself poses a threat to national security. The perseverance of Al Qaeda, the declared objects of TTP and the alarming rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) all establish that non-state actors pose the foremost threat to the state in Muslim countries. And when the state derives its legitimacy from religion and so do its non-state challengers, the resulting polarisation as evident in our society is a natural outcome.

The TTP emerged when non-state actors previously aligned with the state rejected Pakistan’s change of security and foreign policy towards Afghanistan. When the Lal Masjid clerics denounced Pakistani soldiers fighting terrorists in Fata, the state was forced to seek the support of the Imam-i-Kaaba to counter the Lal Masjid fatwa. Today, India figures as the arch-enemy in our national security calculus. But this calculus could change. And in such event the state could again become a victim of such notion of patriotism as has happened in Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

We need to redefine patriotism in a religion-neutral pro-Pakistan fashion and not a radical Islamist anti-something idea. This will allow it to accommodate the evolving interest of the country in an ever-changing world.

With the long overdue North Waziristan operation finally under way, let this nation stand behind its troops unequivocally for now. We can do without the spoilers. Let’s be wary of those eulogising Egypt or Thailand at a time when we must singularly focus on routing those looking to Iraq and Syria as imitable models. Let our civil and military leadership join hands to reclaim the soul and spirit of the Pakistan imagined by our founding father.

The writer is a lawyer.

sattar

Twitter: @babar_sattar

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2014

Missing trade unions

Zeenat Hisam

FOR the cynic, or for a gleeful employer, the trade union is a dying breed, perhaps already dead; for a die-hard optimist, the trade union — like a phoenix — is arising from its own ashes. But dead or alive, trade unions are definitely evolving into newer shapes. Driven to the wall in the current cut-throat, neo-liberal, capitalist era, trade unions are fighting precarious employment and multinational corporations by banding together across the globe.

FOR the cynic, or for a gleeful employer, the trade union is a dying breed, perhaps already dead; for a die-hard optimist, the trade union — like a phoenix — is arising from its own ashes. But dead or alive, trade unions are definitely evolving into newer shapes. Driven to the wall in the current cut-throat, neo-liberal, capitalist era, trade unions are fighting precarious employment and multinational corporations by banding together across the globe.

However, it is not the first time that trade union bodies are coming together. Major international trade union federations had emerged in Europe and the US after the Second World War to claim their rights from the state and national capitalists. Now their adversaries are the powerful multinational corporations and financialised capitalism. Since the beginning of the 21st century, international trade union federations are realigning themselves as global unions and reaching out to workers across continents.

The Council of Global Unions, established in 2007 as a platform for ‘solidarity, mobilisation, joint advocacy and campaigns’ is an alliance of the 11 largest trade union federations, each with global outreach. Just one of the council’s members, the IndustriAll Global Union, founded in 2012, represents 50 million workers in 140 countries. Pakistan is also one of the affiliate countries and 11 trade union federations from Pakistan are affiliated with this global union.

IndustriAll has come up with a new instrument to safeguard workers’ rights. It brings the MNC to sign an agreement with the affiliate trade union body committing itself to complying with labour standards, including the right to collective bargaining. Until now, facilitated by IndustriAll, global framework agreements have been signed with 41 multinational companies protecting the interests of the workers in different countries.

The 2013 Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, an independent legally binding agreement, signed by over 150 apparel corporations from 20 countries in Europe, North America, Asia and Australia, facilitated by two global trade unions, IndustriAll and UNI, is another example of the success of the power of global labour solidarity.

Are the benefits of trade union transformation at the global level filtering down to the local unions in Pakistan? It does not seem to be the case. Trade union density has always been low and is continually declining. There are several reasons for the erosion of trade unionism in Pakistan. Foremost is the disabling legislation and repressive tactics imposed by the state and the employers that make union formation and collective bargaining extremely difficult.

A significant factor contributing to the weakening of trade unions in Pakistan has been globalisation of the economy which has pushed millions of workers into insecure and temporary contractual employment with low wages, poor health and safety conditions and lack of social security benefits.

The worldwide corporate attack on the right to organise and bargain collectively is a fact acknowledged by the International Labour Organisation. The latter believes that precarious employment can only be reduced through the promotion of collective bargaining. A research conducted in 51 countries, covering a period from 1989 to 2005, revealed that income inequality was lower in the countries with a high union density.

Employers in Pakistan use several tactics including harassment, threats and dismissal of workers to weaken or curb union activities. A policy adopted by formal private-sector establishments is to convert non-management employees’ position into management cadre as labour law bars officers from trade union activities. Other crucial factors undermining trade union movement in Pakistan include internal fragmentation within unions, lack of an educated cadre and committed leadership, ethnic and sectarian divide and co-option by political governments.

According to the 2014 International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Global Rights Index of the World’s Worst Countries for Workers, Pakistan is ranked near the bottom at four on a scale of one to five. Workers in countries with the rating of four have reported systematic violations of labour rights. “The government and/or companies are engaged in serious efforts to crush the collective voice of workers putting fundamental rights under continuous threat,” the survey states. In its third World Congress held in May 2014, the ITUC identified Pakistan as one of the 24 countries at risk “experiencing a profound failure to guarantee laws that ensure fundamental rights for all workers”. The ITUC, a global union, has 176 million members with 325 affiliates in 161 countries including Pakistan.

In Pakistan less than 3pc of the workers in the formal sector are organised. Officially, the formal sector accounts for only 27pc of employment. According to the latest available official data, in the year 2008 there were only 1,209 registered trade unions reporting, with a total membership of 245,383.

As formation and registration of trade unions under the Industrial Relations Act is restricted, workers in the informal economy register organisations under the Voluntary Social Welfare Agencies Ordinance 1961. Established on the pattern of traditional community-based, voluntary organisations, workers’ associations have come to play an important role in the labour movement. From hawkers and vendors to workers in small-scale manufacturing and services sectors, the workers come together to pursue collective interests.

Notable in terms of activism and struggles are the workers’ organisations in brick kiln, power looms, glass bangles and the fisheries sectors. Transport is another sector where workers have united in different associations and unions. A powerful labour struggle to emerge in the last decade is of non-unionised agricultural workers under the banner of Anjuman Mazarain Punjab. The benefits of alliance with global unions will accrue when trade unions in Pakistan develop and pursue strategies to connect with non-unionised membership-based organisations and individual workers in the informal sector. n

The writer is associated with the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research.

zeenathisam2004

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2014

Merit suffers

Syed Saadat

THEORETICALLY, a political leader must be upright to earn the loyalty of his followers. However, in order to buy blind and unwavering support a politician in Pakistan must necessarily be the opposite, bestowing undue favours on his ‘supporters’.

THEORETICALLY, a political leader must be upright to earn the loyalty of his followers. However, in order to buy blind and unwavering support a politician in Pakistan must necessarily be the opposite, bestowing undue favours on his ‘supporters’.

Similarly, in order to obtain a government job the correct way, one has to work hard, appear for competitive exams as well as interviews, and perhaps even pray for success. But in order to bypass this path, all that a diehard ‘supporter’ has to ensure is that Bhutto stays alive forever or a Sharif establishes a monarchy under the garb of democracy every few years or so.

A couple of years ago, I had highlighted in an article titled ‘No short cut to success’ on these pages, the violation of the principle of merit by the then government that had regularised the contract of employees without having them take competitive exams. Some people then moved the court. A couple of years later, the court seems to have endorsed the argument against the regularisation.

Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court, in a recent judgement, declared null and void the decision of the former PPP government’s cabinet subcommittee, headed by Syed Khursheed Shah, to regularise the services of the daily wage and contract employees of the federal government. Mr Shah has already indicated that he will appeal the decision, and what will follow is bound to be at least a couple of years more of litigation.

Apart from upsetting those who had in fact been recruited on merit, the delay in litigation will keep promotions and postings in limbo — until the status of the beneficiaries of the subcommittee’s decision is clear. Needless to say, the billions paid to these employees as salaries are unlikely to be reimbursed by them, even in the event of the high court’s decision being upheld. The number of employees that have been regualrised is 110,000; the requirement of such an army of human resource is questionable but even if it was required, why were contractual appointments made instead of recruiting the candidates through the proper channels? Contractual appointments are supposed to be a stop-gap arrangement and not a permanent solution.

This is not the only case of its sort; another one has been pending for two years in the Sindh High Court and concerns 62 audit officers who were inducted without having to take any competitive exam thus affecting the seniority of the assistant audit officers appointed through the Federal Public Service Commission.

The obvious remedy to this painfully slow dispensation of justice is the reform of the judicial system. True, the judicial system does need reform but until the necessary changes are made, our democratically elected leaders need to perform.

Why has it been so difficult for the incoming government to issue a notification declaring all such orders, as demonstrated by the two examples, null and void?

In the regularisation case, when the defence counsel argued that such a decision would render thousands of people jobless Justice Siddiqui remarked that we had buried the ‘doctrine of necessity’ and that everything should be done on the basis of merit. The doctrine of necessity might have been buried but politicians seem to have come up with a new euphemism for unconscionable corruption — ‘the doctrine of the politics of conciliation’.

The ‘wait and see model’ of governance which stalls action against the wrong done by the previous government until another institution intervenes belies the claims of transparent governance.

The shortcomings highlighted here are not just one political party, or a couple of leaders, they are entrenched in the system itself. The politics of patronage is mistaken as democracy in this country. For a political party to do well irrespective of performance, the diehard follower must thrive and for the latter to thrive, the principle of merit is made to suffer.

The essence of democracy is contained in periodic accountability provided by elections; unfortunately, in Pakistan, accountability is nowhere to be seen because people choose more of the same — primarily because there are few options. Democracy in Pakistan is not threatened by an intelligence agency, an emigrant ‘revolutionary’ or a former cricketer; it is in danger of being destroyed by a corrupt system.

Meanwhile, hats off to the few officers who managed the resources to pursue the regularisation case, otherwise the subcommittee’s decision may never have been challenged.

The fight for rights in this country is getting expensive by the day. Women have to pay for their right to justice by torching themselves; the cost for a member of a minority community to exercise his right to practice his faith may be a hail of bullets; and a government servant might have to pay for the right to survive by selling his soul to the highest bidder.

The writer is a former civil servant.

syedsaadatwrites

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2014

Easy pickings

Zarrar Khuhro

WHEN it comes to laying blame for terrorism in Pakistan, there are usually two schools of thought. One posits that all such acts are the work of the much-feared foreign hand, sometimes Indian, sometimes American or Israeli and, increasingly often, Afghan.

WHEN it comes to laying blame for terrorism in Pakistan, there are usually two schools of thought. One posits that all such acts are the work of the much-feared foreign hand, sometimes Indian, sometimes American or Israeli and, increasingly often, Afghan.

Were it not for the active encouragement and support of these hostile powers, Pakistan would live at peace with itself. Muslims don’t kill Muslims after all, unless they’re Afghans. Or Indian Muslims. It’s clearly complicated.

On the other side of the chasm are those who say that the exact opposite is true; that all the various groups brutalising Pakistan are home-grown and home-sponsored. That there is no proof of any kind of foreign involvement and that all those who point to such a possibility are deep in denial, and possibly part of the deep state.

They’re both right and wrong at the same time. Let’s start with the latter. Pakistan has had a history of using non-state actors to fulfil strategic objectives. These groups were nurtured, trained and motivated and seen as an effective, low-cost tool for waging a relatively deniable low-intensity conflict with a conventionally superior foe.

Of course, that whole ‘low-cost’ part is only valid if you ignore the irreparable harm that state patronage to such extremists has done, and continues to do, to the tattered social fabric of this country. You’ll also have to ignore that even the best non-state tools (‘good’ is just clichéd now) can and do go out of control and act as if they have a mind, and an agenda of their own. We’ve heard this song many times, and the notes still ring true.

But what of the ‘third force’? Every once in a while dark hints are dropped by officials as to the extent of foreign interference in Pakistan, though no actual proof is ever presented beyond some random blog screaming about uncircumcised terrorists and such. Still, the case is compelling. Take Mullah Fazlullah’s presence in Afghanistan, for example. Or that the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan’s Latif Mehsud was colluding with Afghan intelligence.

Then there’s India. Do they fund those taking up arms against Pakistan? There are valid concerns that they do, and have been doing so for some time now for reasons that even casual geopolitical analysis would lay bare. Now there’s a right-wing government in place in India, and Modi’s national security team is comprised of some serious players who would like nothing better than to ‘fix’ Pakistan.

We are seen as having fomented discord in India, as well as being a veritable arm of China, which is arguably seen as the chief security challenge to India in those circles. Thus, keeping Pakistan consumed with its internal problems is indeed desirable.

But it is not the ‘why’ that should occupy us. States with historically hostile relations can and do try and destabilise one another. We’ve done it in full public view and its certainly no great perfidy that others should be trying to do it to us. That’s simply the way the world has always worked, and will likely continue to work. It’s the ‘how’ that we should be concerned with.

And that’s easy to answer. Imagine for a moment that you were tasked with damaging Pakistan. After having examined its fault lines, divisions and vulnerabilities, you’d find yourself spoiled for choice. You’d see a country that has in fact exacerbated every fracture that ever existed, from ethnic to linguistic to sectarian.

You’d see a state where terrorists walk free when arrested (if they’re ever arrested in the first place), where hate graffiti covers too many walls, where murderers are garlanded and their sympathisers sit in pulpits, parliament, court benches and the barracks alike. You’d be forgiven for rubbing your hands with glee and wondering just how stupid these people are, to leave themselves so deliberately naked and vulnerable, with so many open wounds just crying out for a touch of infection.

You would also see a country where the civilian and military leaderships, if such a grandiose term can be used for the ad hocism that prevails in the corridors of power, are at loggerheads. You’d see state agencies obsessed with carrying out witch-hunts, with playing traitor games and rallying the most fringe and dangerous elements to their defence. You’d see all the powers of propaganda they are capable of marshalling used, but not against the true enemies of the state.

Also, when attacking Pakistan, the best part is that you won’t even need to import terrorists, since they’re all here to begin with, and quite eager to get funding and training from wherever they can, even from states that will eventually also become their targets.

But that’s a concern for a later day. Today, you’ll just be happy to have the easiest job in the world.

The writer is a member of staff.

zarrar.khuhro

Twitter: @ZarrarKhuhro

Published in Dawn, June 16th, 2014

Understanding the threat

Muhammad Amir Rana

AT least two things are quite clear about the lethal terrorist assault that took place on the Karachi airport’s cargo terminal. First, more than one terrorist group was behind this attack. Second, as initial assessments indicate, the terrorists achieved much of what they wanted to by launching this attack.

AT least two things are quite clear about the lethal terrorist assault that took place on the Karachi airport’s cargo terminal. First, more than one terrorist group was behind this attack. Second, as initial assessments indicate, the terrorists achieved much of what they wanted to by launching this attack.

The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan have separately claimed responsibility for the attack. But the possibility of the involvement of more groups than these two cannot be ruled out. The TTP spokesperson had hinted that its local affiliates in Karachi had helped orchestrate the attack.

Terrorists usually set out multilayer operational objectives for an attack which might vary from a minimum to maximum level of achievement. In high-profile attacks, the terrorists’ first priority is to engage the security forces for the maximum length of time to expose the security lapses. This is what happened in the Nairobi shopping mall attack. In such attacks, terrorists take people hostage or capture one or more strategic location in the field of attack and keep striking at their prime target.

The attack on Karachi airport was similar. Though the security forces ended this crisis relatively quickly, the terrorists successfully exposed the vulnerabilities of the security shields, the weak and divided political response, and the confused public opinion.

Above all, the incident once again reminded us that the state yet has to fill all existing capacity gaps in the security institutions including those related to threat assessments and early warnings.

Al Qaeda is still ignored in threat assessments in Pakistan and the capabilities of sectarian organisations are underestimated. The gaps in threat assessments hamper countering responses. On the threat matrix, the TTP is considered a major actor with its capacities ranging from conceiving the plan of the attack to its implementation.

There is a perception that the TTP carries out such attacks through its sleeper cells in different cities. The sleeper cells are loosely organised groups of terrorists which blend in with different communities easily and act on their own when they find a suitable environment and the time. Of late, Al Qaeda formed such cells at places where it did not have a sufficient support base or likeminded terrorist groups.

In Pakistan, Al Qaeda or the TTP have no need to form sleeper cells as they have extensive reach across the country through their affiliates and likeminded violent and non-violent groups.

Most high-profile attacks are managed by hit squads. The sleeper cells are only capable of launching low- to medium-scale attacks. These low- and medium-scale operations could cause greater damage and lead to more human deaths such as in a suicide attack or indiscriminate firing. But coordinated large-scale terrorist attacks cause more psychological and moral damage to nations.

Small terrorist groups do not become one organisation because they have different operational specialties, areas of influence and tactical approaches. For example, different Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ) factions, especially those concentrated in Karachi and Balochistan, are diversifying their attack tactics.

Traditionally, they have had expertise in targeted killings and preparing and planting IEDs. But increasingly they are tending towards suicide attacks. In suicide attacks, too, they have used different kinds of IEDs. Their capabilities have made them a dangerous force and an important strategic asset for Al Qaeda and the TTP. This tactical transformation in LJ ranks started when the alliance of Qari Hussain Ahmed and Qari Zafar (LJ Karachi faction) emerged some years ago.

The TTP also has expertise in suicide attacks. But its different factions specialise in ambushes and guerrilla-style attacks. They apply this technique in armed clashes with the military or in hit-and-run attacks. These groups can launch small attacks in their areas. But as the TTP holds organisational legitimacy and supremacy over these militant groups, it gives the group the power to decide when and where these groups will launch a big attack.

Different TTP factions across the country especially in Karachi are involved in criminal activities to generate funds. In this context, the TTP with the help of affiliated groups can manipulate its human and logistical resources for launching massive terrorist attacks.

The IMU and other Central Asian terrorists are a lethal force, and are part of the hit squads of the TTP and Al Qaeda with the capabilities to hold nerves, and sustain and control long terrorist attacks. They have showed these capabilities many times in the past as in the Mehran and Kamra terrorist attacks.

The current Punjabi Taliban factions are also considered good as handlers and in creating spaces for hideouts and providing logistics. But in Karachi’s context, Jundullah and the Dr Arshad group have these capabilities with local knowledge as well.

Al Qaeda’s competitive edge in terrorism expertise influenced the Taliban and other terrorist groups in the region. Al Qaeda’s support in the form of improved capabilities and techniques for striking their targets was a virtual lifeline for them. Typically, the influence has impacted smaller groups who had been struggling to survive or had material deficiencies and required external help to survive.

Al Qaeda has been more than willing to help through both ideological and operational support. The major terrorist attacks are an opportunity for smaller groups to learn sophisticated terrorist techniques.

In this context, the sketch of a major terrorist attack in Pakistan may read something like this: the TTP chooses the time and place to launch the attack. It has key assistance from Al Qaeda, which can facilitate in planning and training. The IMU and foreign militants provide the hit squads. Sectarian terrorist groups back up the fighters in the form of suicide bombers. TTP and Al Qaeda affiliates such as Jundullah provide the logistics and intelligence.

Without breaking this operational nexus, preventing big guerrilla-style terrorist operations is an uphill task. Breaking the nexus requires better understanding and vigilance. These are areas which the state cannot afford to ignore.

The writer is a security analyst.

Heroes and villains

Cyril Almeida

LET’S play a little game. Call it alternate reality. There is a place called Pakistan. It has a power called the boys. The boys own everything, decide everything, do everything — as long as that everything is good.

LET’S play a little game. Call it alternate reality. There is a place called Pakistan. It has a power called the boys. The boys own everything, decide everything, do everything — as long as that everything is good.

Responsibility for the bad stuff is never theirs. Responsibility for the bad stuff belongs to some schmucks called civilians. At the moment, the chief fall guy is someone called Nawaz.

So, the boys decide to pound a place called North Waziristan. Quite why, nobody knows. But since we are in an alternate universe, we can make up a reason.

Say, one of those international friends the boys pretend to hate but secretly work with and always take their money rang up the boys.

Umm, boys, there’s something cooking in that NWA backyard of yours and it looks bad. If you don’t do something about it, we will. Good luck and hope you guys enjoyed the bag of goodies we sent last week. Bye for now from Langley.

The boys love their games. But precisely because they love their games, they know when not to push their luck.

They wallop a tiny part of North Waziristan. Better the boys do it before someone else does — or before North Waziristan becomes the place the next 9/11 was planned.

So far so good. Makes some kind of sense.

As does what comes next. The foreigners who get walloped in North Waziristan don’t take very kindly to it. They decide to retaliate. Something spectacular, something to grab the attention.

Something like an attack on the country’s biggest airport in the country’s biggest city. Say, like the airport in Karachi.

Now, here’s the problem. You’re Nawaz. Everyone’s blaming you for what went wrong in Karachi and falling over themselves to praise the boys for saving the day

But you’re thinking, hang on. I didn’t want this. I didn’t authorise this. I wanted dialogue. And dialogue was working — because nothing, nothing much anyway, was getting hit.

Then the boys decide to go and pound a bunch of foreign militants for God knows what reason and the militants decide to strike back and now Karachi is my fault, how?

Since you’re Nawaz in a parallel universe, you can afford to be blunt.

Nawaz: OK, you boys wanted to take out some foreign militants, but what the hell did you think would happen? That the survivors would shrug and move on, like they’re a bunch of Pakistanis?

Nawaz: And if you knew the foreigners would attempt something monumental, what the hell did you do to try and prevent it? Or were your intel boys too busy keeping Geo off air to, y’know, do their job?

Nawaz: Had anyone — anyone — among you boys thought it would be a good idea to complement the action in North Waziristan with emergency intel-led operations in the logical blowback zones of Pakistan proper?

In this alternate universe, Nawaz would be on the warpath and the boys would have a lot to answer for.

But we live in Pakistan. Where the real PM is in deeper trouble while the troublemakers are the saviours.

Oh, and in the real world, let’s have a look at what’s going on with the Airport Security Force that’s been so maligned this week.

Here, verbatim, is an excerpt from a typed-on-plain-white-paper note written by an ASF-er in July 2013:

“On 30th April [2013] TTP leader Ehsan ulah ehsan claimed that he has assets (accomplices) at airports. One wonders about the possibility of having such assets in ASF, the force primary responsible for the security and safety of aviation industry. If that, God forbade be the case terrorism can unfortunately add bloodiest chapters in the history of mankind.

“So, can it be? If you check the pulse of the force even an outsider can gauge that this department is in perils. The crippled morale and disgruntled H.R, no wonder can give away such assets to trouble finders like TTP.”

Forgive the language; focus on the sentiment. Why is the ASF’s morale crippled and the organisation on the verge of collapse? According to the ASF-er’s note, reason no 1, again reproduced verbatim:

“Story of ASF that bears burnt of army hegemony and subjugation due to MPML [Manual of Pakistan Military Law], under the blotted eyes of former ministry of Defense. Under these DMS shoes [standard-issue army boots] one can not be heard, can not approach to redress the grievances. This lot of 11000 men is virtual slave of The Boys without any fundamental rights or coherent law.”

Don’t take this anonymous ASF-er at his word. Assume he’s exaggerating by fifty per cent. Maybe he’s got an axe to grind.

But who’s going to dig deep and tell you the real story? The media that’s been falling over itself to praise the boys for their gung-ho response?

Ra ra ra, go, boys, go. Nawaz is the problem. Down with Nawaz! To hell with democracy. Pakistan needs to be saved.

Sure, Nawaz has got it wrong again. Where he’s picked battles — Musharraf — he’s had no real plan. Where battles have been thrust on him — Geo — he hasn’t been able to adapt. And where everyone thought he would pick a battle — India — he’s done nothing.

But note the symmetry in those battles: on one side, Nawaz; on the other side, the boys. So, is democracy what’s really our problem or you-know-who?

The writer is a member of staff.

cyril.a

Twitter: @cyalm

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2014

Militancy thrives

Tasneem Noorani

THE attack on Karachi airport was something that the government had been trying to postpone through dialogue with the militants. It could have been postponed but not avoided.

THE attack on Karachi airport was something that the government had been trying to postpone through dialogue with the militants. It could have been postponed but not avoided.

The enemy has territory in the tribal areas and can disappear into the border region with Afghanistan. It has hundreds of mosques and madressahs across the country where it can hide and recuperate and from where it can launch attacks at will.

It can broadcast its message free of cost, courtesy our national media, and boast about its deeds and terrorise the country through threats. In fact, it seems the media is as pleased to terrorise the public as the terrorist.

There is no doubt that an overwhelming majority in the country is not with the Taliban, even in the tribal areas, and for bringing back peace, both leaders and the population will have to bite the bullet. If it is only the government that refrains from following the path of least resistance, extremism would increase as the population may accept a radical version of Islam, if its proponents ensure them and their children safety.

Our leaders have their game plan all worked out. They are in the country now. But as soon as it becomes too dangerous here, they will use their fallback position to leave for freedom and luxury in foreign lands, where their mansions and luxury cars await them.

All our rulers can think of are high-visibility projects, which they will leave behind as their legacy. There is apparently no time and money to focus on education and health issues, but plenty of both for roads and metro buses. We are already ahead of our neighbour India and Bangladesh where our road infrastructure is concerned, but we are way behind in essentials such as education, health and population control. That does not rattle our rulers. We are well on our way to becoming an illiterate, violent and extremist nation with beautiful roads.

The policy of keeping dialogue on the table and hitting back when hit has been followed with success. There is no need to abandon it, even with the Karachi airport provocation. The government can still talk of dialogue, while hitting back firmly where necessary. Declaring an all-out operation raises too many hopes, displaces too many people, disempowers the civil administration, and ends up with the army not being able to leave the area.

The option of dialogue continues to create fissures in the ragtag ranks of the enemy, where unhappy factions can come over to the government’s side to get even with the adversary, as in the case of the Sajna group.

Concrete steps can still be taken to pull us back from the brink.

Firstly, the political leadership should realise that terrorism is the main problem of the country, far more than electricity, the economy or infrastructure. These can only be present in a country that’s there. So this year should be focused on eradicating terrorism. All financial resources, all manpower resources, all newspaper ads should be focused on controlling terrorism and not on new roads and metro projects.

Secondly, there should be a ban on publishing or broadcasting any statement to do with the terrorists that glorifies them.

Thirdly while the government should be clear about its strategy it should not be announced.

Fourthly, a strategy for regulating madressah and mosque activity is needed. Madressahs and mosques need to be monitored closely by the various intelligence agencies, making it obligatory for them to be absolutely transparent with the administration. Enough laws exist but if a new law is necessary, it should be there on the books. Mosques and madressahs cannot be allowed to be used against the state. It would be better to face the reaction now, rather than when it becomes impossible to do so.

Fifthly, a strategy for the tribal areas should be prepared to bring back the old empowered administration. If the powers of the political agent need to be enhanced or decreased, let it be done through local consultation and the process of holding jirgas. The army needs to swallow its command instinct for a while and play its part in providing an enabling environment for civil officers to be able to regain their lost self-confidence and esteem .

Sixthly, a strategy should be formulated to strictly monitor all educational institutions in the country, to see that no matter, faith-based or otherwise, that can create a destructive, biased or angry Pakistani, is taught at the educational institutions. Let the rulers show their passion to ensure that Pakistanis are taught to forge themselves into a harmonious nation.

True, this sounds like a tall order, but if we don’t act immediately, we will go back to the dark ages, even if the rulers are able to supply us with ample and free electricity.

The writer is a former federal secretary interior.

tasneem.m.noorani

The scholar sardar

I.A. Rehman

NAWAB Khair Bakhsh Marri, who had to be in coma before death finally overpowered him some days ago, had been living for the better part of his life with a broken heart. Nobody could prevent him from struggling for the right of his people but he was never allowed to serve them the way he wanted to.

NAWAB Khair Bakhsh Marri, who had to be in coma before death finally overpowered him some days ago, had been living for the better part of his life with a broken heart. Nobody could prevent him from struggling for the right of his people but he was never allowed to serve them the way he wanted to.

Greater than his personal tragedy was the inability of the Pakistani state to benefit from his capacity for opening a new chapter in the Baloch people’s history.

He was barely three years old when his father, Nawab Mehrullah Khan Marri, died and his estate was taken over by the Court of Wards. The one good thing that resulted from this arrangement was that he was sent to Lahore’s Aitchison College. Although he acquired some princely habits, such as socialising with men and women of intellect and beauty, he found better companions among the heroes of revolutions he read about.

By the time he was dragged into politics by the Ayub regime’s plans for prospecting for gas and oil in the Marri area, he’d been recognised as a scholar who invoked socialist axioms to resolve the contradictions he encountered in his personal life or politics.

Though always sceptical of the scope for parliamentary democracy in Pakistan he gave it a try. When he was elected a member of the National Assembly in 1970, along with Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo and Dr Abdul Hayee, while Ataullah Mengal and Gul Khan Naseer dominated the provincial assembly, Pakistan had a unique opportunity to win the Baloch people’s support for a voluntary federation of equal units.

The conspiracy that resulted in the dismissal of the Ataullah Mengal ministry, Abdus Samad Achackzai’s break with the National Awami Party, the infamous Hyderabad trial and the split within the Baloch group, caused a setback from which Pakistan has still not recovered. The entire community of democrats was disillusioned but no one more so than Khair Bakhsh Marri. On the one hand he lost faith in his nationalist friends; on the other he convinced himself that the ruling elite was only interested in expropriating Balochistan’s natural wealth.

Eventually, he broke away from all comrades concerned with the plight of the Baloch in Balochistan alone or were ready to accept offices without power; he set his eyes on the goal of freedom for all Baloch. He was optimistic about the success of this cause. Malik Siraj Akbar has reported Marri telling him in 2008: “We are unlikely to compromise on anything less than freedom of the Baloch nation. We are optimistic of achieving our goals, though gradually.”

Those who criticise Khair Bakhsh for giving up on Pakistan don’t realise that the maximal position he took was not his first choice. He was driven to the extreme by the rulers’ refusal to concede the Baloch people’s right to be masters in their home and to own and develop their natural resources. And killing his son was no way of winning over an angry nationalist. Now Khair Bakhsh’s successors will find it hard to ignore his legacy.

Khair Bakhsh’s rise as the most uncompromising Baloch leader created serious contradictions between his intellectual training and social status. His socialist creed demanded respect for egalitarian principles while he needed his status as sardar to challenge the establishment. As a sardar he sometimes acted in a manner the scholar in him could not have approved. The contradiction could not be resolved. He became more of a recluse.

During his last imprisonment, on a concocted murder charge, there were reports of his being maltreated by his jailers. Asma Jahangir led the entire leadership of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan to pay him their respects in prison. He did not decline to meet them but it was an opaque-eyed sardar that they saw. He showed little inclination to speak. It seemed he and the visitors belonged to two different worlds. The sardar had clearly raised himself to a position where his enemies could do him no harm, and his friends could do him no good.

After his release, he realised his strength lay in being honest to himself, in his ability to reject the offices he was offered. The killing of Balaj, a dear son, caused a deep wound and he was deprived of the company of all his surviving sons except one. The state made no attempt to win over the wounded patriarch. The only thing he was left with was the pride that the Baloch have not yielded to any of the various tyrannies they have faced in their long journey towards realising themselves.

Now that Khair Bakhsh is gone it is for Islamabad to ponder the situation it has created for itself by failing the Baloch people along the line — from a man of compromise (Nawab Akbar Bugti) to a man of principle (Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri.) The lesson is: the Baloch will survive, let their detractors worry about themselves.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2014

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