DWS, Sunday 22nd June to Saturday 28th June 2014

DAWN

WIRE SERVICE

DWS, Sunday 22nd June to Saturday 28th June 2014

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National News

Zarb-i-Azb: Ground assault delayed

Zulfiqar Ali

PESHAWAR: An extension in curfew delayed a ground operation in North Waziristan, which was expected to be launched on Saturday.

PESHAWAR: An extension in curfew delayed a ground operation in North Waziristan, which was expected to be launched on Saturday.

The human dimension continued to aggravate as the number of registered displaced people swelled to over 300,000.

According to the ISPR, air strikes against militants have been extended to Khyber Agency. “The ground offensive will begin as soon as the evacuation process is completed,” an official told Dawn.

The military operation against militants in North Waziristan was launched on June 15 with air strikes on their hideouts. Security officials claimed that over 200 local and foreign militants had been killed in the bombings.

Fata Additional Chief Secretary Arbab Muhammad Arif said at a press briefing here that the curfew would be relaxed on Sunday to ensure evacuation of civilians. “This is a big human tragedy, especially for those who have fled their homes for the sake of the country,” he said.

The ISPR said 30 terrorists were killed in targeted strikes by jets in Khyber and North Waziristan Agencies in the small hours of Saturday.

Jets destroyed two hideouts close to the Afghan border in Khyber Agency, killing 10 terrorists, it said.

Three hideouts were destroyed in Hassu Khel area of North Waziristan, killing 20 terrorists.

However, the official claims could not be confirmed from independent sources.

The Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) said 307,501 people, among them 132,973 children, had been registered at Saidgi checkpoint by Saturday afternoon.

Mobile teams of the National Database and Registration Authority have been deployed to provide computerised national identity cards to the displaced people.

A mass exodus from North Waziristan continued and thousands of displaced men, women and children were waiting in scorching heat on the Bannu-Miramshah road for security clearance. Security personnel give clearance to displaced people to cross into the settled area after verification.

On directives of the government, the FDMA began distribution of Rs7,000 grants for each displaced family on the spot. Another Rs5,000 is given to each family for buying non-food items.

Arbab Arif said the government machinery had been mobilised to facilitate the internally displaced persons (IDPs). He said 20 registration desks, four health mobile units backed by five ambulances and six mobile units of Nadra had been deployed at Saidgi post.

He said health workers were administering polio vaccine drops to children.

He said only 19 families had reached a relief camp in Bakakhel area of North Waziristan.

Distribution of ration

The World Food Programme (WFP) would begin distributing ration among IDPs on Sunday, sources said.

They said a humanitarian hub would be set up at the Bannu Sports Complex where IDPs would get food items, including oil and flour.

The sources said the WFP was distributing food supplements among around a million IDPs from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas living in and off camps. They said the number of humanitarian hubs would be increased, if required.

Earlier, officials had said that relief agencies would not be involved in the operation and the federal government had stopped them from seeking humanitarian assistance for fresh IDPs.

AFP adds: Civilians have fled into Bannu, Peshawar, Kohat and across the border into Afghanistan. The government-run children’s hospital in Bannu was overcrowded with children suffering from diarrhoea.

Due to lack of space in the hospital, up to five children were being accommodated in one bed. Some children lying outside the hospital were being treated with drip bags hanging from tree branches.

The military said all ranks of the army would donate one day’s pay and 30 days’ ration would also be provided for the people fleeing the offensive.

Latest: 30,000 soldiers involved in operation – over 250 insurgents killed.

Interactive map produced by: Sana Malik | Mahnoor Bari | Gulzar Nayani

Data gathered from ISPR and Dawn

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2014

Argentina beat Iran

AP

BELO HORIZONTE: Lionel Messi finally found a way through Iran’s defensive wall with a superb goal in stoppage time to give Argentina a 1-0 victory on Saturday and a place in the World Cup knockout stages.

BELO HORIZONTE: Lionel Messi finally found a way through Iran’s defensive wall with a superb goal in stoppage time to give Argentina a 1-0 victory on Saturday and a place in the World Cup knockout stages.

Iran had defended solidly throughout the game and also took the match to Argentina in the second half, creating several chances to win the Group F match and cause a tournament sensation.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2014

PTA told to block Afghan Sims

Jamal Shahid

ISLAMABAD: In an effort to block anti-state and criminal activities of terrorists in Pakistan using foreign Sims, the government has directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to disable roaming facility on Afghan Sims.

ISLAMABAD: In an effort to block anti-state and criminal activities of terrorists in Pakistan using foreign Sims, the government has directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to disable roaming facility on Afghan Sims.

A statement issued by the Prime Minister House on Saturday said the directive was given on a request by law-enforcement agencies. The premier said the task should be completed in the next few days, the statement said.

The government believes the decision will help impede communication between terrorists and reduce crimes involving kidnapping for ransom, extortion and acts of terrorism.

According to a source in the PTA, the roaming facility for Afghan mobile phone companies, widely available in Pakistan, is being misused, particularly in tribal areas. The use of Afghan Sims has become a significant threat to Pakistan’s security.

Saturday’s decision is likely to assist the Pakistan Army, which has launched Zarb-i-Azb operation in North Waziristan, in preventing militants from maintaining contacts among them.

The PTA official said that between 40,000 and 50,000 Sims of Afghan telecom companies were functional in Pakistan and most of them were used in acts of terrorism, kidnapping for ransom and extortion.

The official explained that in border areas near Afghanistan, Afghan Subscriber Identification Modules (Sims) were operational because of the signals available there. However, in urban areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the signals from Afghan mobile companies weakened and service of Afghan mobile network was not available except for the roaming facility.

The matter of blocking of roaming service of Afghan Sims in Pakistan was taken up time and again by the Senate and National Assembly committees on information technology and telecommunications.

Members on various occasions requested PTA Chairman Dr Ismail Shah to discontinue the service, which was believed to be misused by the kidnappers and extortionists alike.

He had also been informed that in the case of Pakistan and India there was no mutual roaming agreement and under an understanding both countries had not allowed their telecom operators to erect telecom towers in areas near the border.

However, Dr Shah said on all the occasions that such decisions were outside the mandate of his office. He had informed the committee members that the decision to discontinue or block roaming service of Afghan companies could only be taken up at the government-to-government level.

The PTA chairman had also argued that if roaming facility of Afghan Sims in Pakistan was blocked, Afghan government might reciprocate and Pakistani Sims might become non-functional in Afghan territory.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2014

Pak-Afghan accord to go after all terrorists

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed on Thursday to form a working group on security to oversee their joint efforts against terrorism.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed on Thursday to form a working group on security to oversee their joint efforts against terrorism.

The on-again, off-again relationship between the two countries received a boost when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghanistan’s National Security Adviser Dr Rangin Dadfar Spanta agreed at a meeting to go after all terrorists without any discrimination.

“The main focus of talks was on strengthening bilateral security cooperation. Both sides agreed on the need to take action against all terrorists without making any distinction among them and their hideouts on their respective sides,” says a handout released by the foreign ministry.

Agreeing that terrorism was their common enemy the two sides stressed the need for working in close cooperation at the institutional level to deal with the menace.

Also read: Zarb-i-Azb is war of survival, says ISPR chief

The joint working group will be co-chaired by Pakistan’s foreign secretary and Afghanistan’s deputy foreign minister and will have representatives from the security institutions concerned.

A second meeting has been scheduled for July 3 to fine-tune coordination.

Dr Spanta was accompanied by Janan Mosazai, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Pakistan; Atiqul­lah Hatifmal, Deputy Foreign Sec­retary; Maj Gen Asadullah Akram­yar of the Ministry of Defence and Hakimullah Hakmatullah Foush­a­n­ji, Director International Affairs.

During the meeting, Dr Spanta delivered a letter from President Hamid Karzai to the prime minister.

Both sides reiterated their resolve to strengthen their relations in a meaningful and result-oriented manner.

According to the handout, Dr Spanta also attended delegation-level talks with Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz.

They reaffirmed their commitment to building a comprehensive relationship based on enhanced trade and economic partnership.

The Pakistani side reiterated its full support to an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. The two sides agreed to strengthen bilateral engagement at various levels for addressing each other’s concerns and pursuing the cause of peace and stability in the region.

Later, the Afghan delegation met Chief of the Army Staff General Raheel Sharif.

The leadership of the two countries have been in regular contact since Pakistan launched a military operation against militants in North Waziristan. The Afghan president called Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on June 20 and the Afghan ambassador met Mr Sharif and Gen Raheel last week.

Also read: Pakistan urges Afghanistan to stop terrorists fleeing NWA

PBC DELEGATION: A delegation of the Pakistan Bar Council headed by its Vice-Chairman Ra­m­zan Chaudhry called on the prime minister. The meeting was attended by Minister for Infor­m­a­tion Senator Pervez Rashid, Minis­ter for Science and Technology Zahid Hamid and Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt.

Prime Minister Sharif highlighted the importance of bar councils in a democratic society and said revolution in the country would come only through elections and its future was associated with democracy.

A source in the PML-N told Dawn that following the arrival of Dr Tahirul Qadri in the country and rallies being held by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, the government had decided to contact bar councils and other such associations to mobilise support for the government.

At the meeting, the prime minster highlighted the importance of operation Zarb-i-Azb and said the government entered the process of negotiations to resolve the issue but terrorists thwarted all its efforts. “Now the whole nation stands by the army and we will Insha’Allah come out victorious in this decisive battle against the terrorists.”

He said the nation should unite and help internally displaced persons. By eradicating the menace of terrorism Pakistan will be able to stand along with progressive nations.

About development projects and economy, he said: “We will successfully resolve the issue of loadshedding in our tenure. Our government has taken up unprecedented development projects which will help reduce poverty and create millions of jobs in the country”.

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2014

Zarb-i-Azb is war of survival, says ISPR chief

Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD: The ongoing military operation in North Waziristan is a ‘war of survival’ and will pave the way for the dawn of permanent peace in the country, the military’s spokesperson said on Thursday.

ISLAMABAD: The ongoing military operation in North Waziristan is a ‘war of survival’ and will pave the way for the dawn of permanent peace in the country, the military’s spokesperson said on Thursday.

In a formal briefing to the media on Operation Zarb-i-Azb, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Major General Asim Bajwa told reporters that the operation was being carried out without any discrimination between “good or bad Taliban”.

“This is the biggest and most well-coordinated operation ever conducted against terrorists. It is the beginning of the end for terrorism in the country,” he said.

Maj Gen Bajwa said army troops, Frontier Corps personnel, Khasadars, Levies, intelligence operatives and the Pakistan Air Force were jointly conducting the operation in North Waziristan.

“We have surrounded the entire agency and sealed the 180km border with Afghanistan, as well as the boundary with South Waziristan, making it impossible for terrorists to escape,” he said.

Asked if there was a possibility that terrorist leaders had escaped to Afghanistan before the launch of the operation, the ISPR chief said it was possible a few of them had taken refuge on the Afghan side, but most of them were still in the targeted area. “The terrorists could not anticipate the launch of the operation,” he said.

“Terrorists of all kinds, involved in different activities from Fata to Karachi, are based in North Waziristan. They include local and foreign militants, including Uzbeks and Chechens. Now, it is up to them whether they surrender or fight,” he said.

He said the entire nation and the political leadership of the country were on the same page as the military on the issue of terrorism and fully supported the army in the operation.

Asked about the perception that the military once backed militants groups such as the Haqqani group and Gul Bahadur group, the ISPR spokesman said there was formerly a pact with the Gul Bahadur group, but that had since been violated and now, neither side was bound to honour the agreement.

He said that since the launch of the operation on June 15, a total of 327 terrorists had been killed and 45 of their hideouts had been destroyed.

He said 19 terrorists had surrendered to security personnel but did not reveal any details about their nationality or allegiances. Ten security personnel have laid down their lives, while seven had been injured in the line of duty, he said.

The Afghan government had been requested to take action against those terrorists who crossed over to escape operation.

Also read: Pak-Afghan accord to go after all terrorists

He denied that US drone strikes were part of the operation, adding that US had been asked to coordinate, but the operation was solely being carried out by Pakistani troops.

Control rooms had been set up with the Universal Access Number 1135 in different cities, so people could share information about any suspicious activity in their area.

Internally displaced persons

The DG ISPR told reporters that so far, nearly 36,804 families consisting of 456,292 individuals had been registered as internally displaced persons and that most of them had moved in with host families in Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan and Lakki Marwat. Only a few hundred opted to stay in the camps set up for IDPs, he said.

Maj Gen Bajwa said that 50 army personnel and 20 officials of the National Disaster Management Authority had been deployed to ensure the registration of all IDPs.

Related: IDPs bemoan state’s apathy, neglect

Six ration points have been established in Bannu, DI Khan and Tank for the provision of food packets and medicines to IDPs and each family was given Rs15,000 and one month’s ration by the army. Of the registered IDPs, 221,000 had been immunised against polio drops and 32 relief collection points had been set up in different cities.

The DG ISPR said the National Database Registration Authority’s mobile vans were available to check the identity of incoming IDPs at registration centres. “IDPs are also being screened so that no terrorist can escape under the guise of an IDP,” he said.

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2014

Germany, US reach last 16; Portugal out

AFP

RECIFE: Germany’s Thomas Mueller scored his fourth World Cup goal to pull level with Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Brazil’s Neymar in a 1-0 win over the United States on Thursday. The victory gave his side the top spot in Group G.

RECIFE: Germany’s Thomas Mueller scored his fourth World Cup goal to pull level with Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Brazil’s Neymar in a 1-0 win over the United States on Thursday. The victory gave his side the top spot in Group G.

The US, coached by former German boss Jurgen Klins­mann, also went through to the last 16 despite the defeat in rain-sodden Recife.

Portugal’s 2-1 victory over Ghana was not enough to overtake the Americans in second place. The Portu­gu­ese, led by the mercurial Ronaldo, bowed out of the tournament on a whimper, having failed to recover from the 4-0 drubbing they suffered at the hands of Germany in their first match.

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2014

Shaukat Aziz ordered judges’ sacking: official

Malik Asad

ISLAMABAD: Interior Secretary Shahid Khan admitted before the special court trying retired General Pervez Musharraf that in the wake of November 3, 2007 emergency, several judges including former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had been sent home by the law ministry on the orders of then prime minister Shaukat Aziz.

ISLAMABAD: Interior Secretary Shahid Khan admitted before the special court trying retired General Pervez Musharraf that in the wake of November 3, 2007 emergency, several judges including former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had been sent home by the law ministry on the orders of then prime minister Shaukat Aziz.

On the third day of cross-examination, Musharraf’s counsel Farogh Nasim asked the interior secretary whether the proposal for the ouster of judges was initiated by then law secretary retired Justice Ajmal Mian and Law Minister Zahid Hamid and subsequently approved by the prime minister. The interior secretary, after consulting the documents handed to him by the attorney, replied, “Yes”.

Answering another question, he said, “It is correct to suggest that the summary for the appointment of Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar as chief justice of Pakistan was moved by the law secretary and the minister and was approved by the prime minister.”

He added, “It is correct that the notifications with regard to ceasing of office of the judges of the superior judiciary and the fresh appointments (of judges) were made on the recommendations of the law secretary and the minister with the approval of the prime minister.”

Barrister Nasim argued that following the imposition of emergency, the federal cabinet in its meeting of November 6, 2007 approved the action of former president Pervez Musharraf and on November 7, the National Assembly unanimously passed a resolution endorsing the emergency.

Related: Musharraf’s counsel grills top official for leaving out coup charge

He said then prime minister Shaukat Aziz and cabinet members Zahid Hamid, Mohammad Ali Durrani and Tariq Azim also held a press conference, announcing their approval of the decision to impose a state of emergency.

When Barrister Nasim asked Mr Khan whether Shaukat Aziz, Zahid Hamid, Mohammad Ali Durrani, Tariq Azim and former law secretary Ajmal Mian and the members of the National Assembly who endorsed the emergency had “aided and abetted General Musharraf”, Mr Khan said, “No,” adding that this matter had not been brought into his knowledge by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted to investigate the treason charges against the defendant.

When asked why he did not take action against those members of the 2007 cabinet whose identities were known to him, Mr Khan said, “I did not order against any member of the then-cabinet because the JIT did not bring forward any material against them.”

Also read: SHC rejects Musharraf’s review petition

He also disagreed with the defence counsel, who suggested that the judges who took oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) had also abetted General Musharraf in the imposition of emergency.

The interior secretary told the court that he had been unable to get hold of records of meetings retired General Musharraf had held with the services chiefs and corps commanders to discuss the imposition of emergency.

He said the JIT had tried to obtain the record from the defence ministry, but the ministry had not provided the necessary documents so far.

The special court adjourned proceedings until July 2 when Barrister Nasim will continue his cross-examination of the interior secretary.

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2014

IDPs bemoan state’s apathy, neglect

Zulfiqar Ali

BANNU: People displaced from North Waziristan Agency were standing in a long queue outside Bannu’s sports complex where UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) has set up a camp for food distribution.

BANNU: People displaced from North Waziristan Agency were standing in a long queue outside Bannu’s sports complex where UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) has set up a camp for food distribution.

They were waiting in sizzling heat since early morning for their turn to get food.

Soldiers, with heads covered in scarves and guns slinging from shoulders, would occasionally tap the ground with sticks to maintain discipline. A strong and foul odour coming from the surroundings polluted the air along the main road.

Thousands of people who came from Lakki Marwat and Karak districts and parts of Bannu had assembled outside the complex. Police resorted to firing in the air and baton-charge early in the morning to restore order.

With sweat dripping from his brow, Noorul Amin, a grey-haired Ahmadzai Wazir, was also waiting to receive food. His family took shelter with a host family in Serai Nowrung, a town in Lakki Marwat district about 18km south of Bannu.

He had been coming to the complex for three days to get food. He blamed the government for what he said was the forced evacuation from the agency and maltreatment at the hands of soldiers and police.

“By God, I will hold (Prime Minister) Nawaz Sharif and (Army Chief) Raheel Sharif by the collar on the Day of Judgment. First, we were forced to leave our homes and then we are humiliated here for a small quantity of food,” he said. “We are not even treated like animals.”

Blog: IDP = Internally Disowned Pakistanis

According to the Fata Disaster Management Authority, there is only one food distribution point for over 36,800 families.

The food distribution process is extremely slow. People come early in the morning and stand in queue for the whole day. The food basket provided to each family contains 80kg of wheat flour, 4kg pulses, 30 packets of high-energy biscuits, 1kg salt and five litres of cooking oil.

The WFP said that since the start of food distribution work on June 22, it has provided rations for 15 days to over 4,600 families. Like previous disasters, troops are overseeing all the activities, including distribution of food.

An official said that on an average 1,800 families received handouts daily. Three more distribution points are proposed to be set up next month to streamline the relief operation.

The military operation in the agency was on the cards since long, but the way people were evacuated and the mismanagement at the distribution point showed lack of coordination between law enforcement and disaster management authorities.

Also exposed was the lack of preparedness on the part of agencies dealing with the disaster.

Like in the past, disaster management bodies are depending on security forces and troops are controlling everything from evacuation of civilians to distribution of relief items. Officials of the disaster management bodies have restricted themselves to file work. Workers of the NGOs which are partners of the UN agency are involved in distributing the food items.

Falah-i-Insaniat, a subsidiary of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, and Jamaat-i-Islami’s Al Khidmat Foundation have been offering water to people in the distribution point’s waiting area. They have also kept ambulances on standby and set up donation camps.

Also read: Zarb-i-Azb is war of survival, says ISPR chief

Workers of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam have also set up a small donation camp near the sports complex.

The PML-N has put up banners in the garrison area of the city to express solidarity with the army. A portrait of Gen Sharif has overshadowed smaller pictures of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Mahtab Ahmed Khan on a banner which says: “We salute Pak Army.”

After reaching Bannu, displaced families have started heading to others areas of the country. The trend has worried officials dealing with security-related matters.

Officials said that over 450,000 people had been registered and the figure might surpass 600,000 if evacuation was not stopped from other areas of North Waziristan. Local people said that evacuation had been completed only from two sub-divisions – Mirali and Miramshah.

They said that Razmak sub-division, comprising Sham, Dusali, Razmak, Madakhel and parts of Spin Wam and Shawa, has not been vacated so far. Because the focus of the army operation is Mirali and Miramshah, people from there have been evacuated.

Madakhel, adjacent to the Afghan border, is said to be under the influence of Hafiz Gul Bahadur who is emir of Shura Mujahideen of North Waziristan Agency and signatory to a 2006 peace agreement with the government.

Exemption of Madakhel and other areas from the evacuation process has raised hopes among the displaced people that they would be able to go back to their abodes soon.

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2014

250 held in search for plane attack suspects

Bureau Report

PESHAWAR: After a gun attack on a PIA plane on Tuesday night that left a passenger dead and two crew members injured, flights resumed at Peshawar’s Bacha Khan International Airport on Wednesday.

PESHAWAR: After a gun attack on a PIA plane on Tuesday night that left a passenger dead and two crew members injured, flights resumed at Peshawar’s Bacha Khan International Airport on Wednesday.

However, an international airline announced that it was suspending its operations for the airport.

Meanwhile, police rounded up about 250 people during an intense cordon and search operation carried out in areas around the airport by police and other security agencies.

Pakistan International Airlines Airbus A-310, carrying 196 passengers and 10 crew members from Riyadh, came under fire while landing at the airport shortly before midnight.

The Dubai-based Emirates airline said it was suspending flights to Peshawar till further notice, while the Abu Dhabi-based Etihad said it had cancelled one flight on Wednesday and was assessing the security situation.

Read more: Emirates suspends Peshawar flight operations

But airport manager Tahir Sikandar said flights would continue as scheduled and he was not aware of suspension of operations by any airline. “I have been assured by all airlines that operations would continue as scheduled.”

A large number of Pakhtuns work in the Gulf and the Middle East, making Peshawar one of the most attractive destinations for airlines from the region.

PIA spokesman Tajwar Mashood said a bullet pierced through a window and fatally hit the woman from Nowshera who was sitting next to it. One of the injured crew members was discharged from hospital, while the other underwent an arm surgery and was in a stable condition in the Combined Military Hospital, the spokesman said.

He said the flight was in the landing mode, flying at a low altitude of 300-400 feet, when it was fired at. Some bullets hit the cover of the engine but the plane landed safely.

Editorial: Aviation security

A police official said a light submachine gun “appeared to have been used in the shooting, most likely a Kalashnikov. It has about the same range. Kalashnikov is a common weapon here.”

Immediately after the incident, police launched a search in Sulaimankhel, Badbher area, to the southwest of suburban Peshawar.

“We have rounded up over 250 people for questioning,” the police officer said.

It was not immediately clear if the shooting was an act of terrorism. “We are investigating all aspects.” A report of the incident was registered by Badbher police.

The airport is close to the tribal region and has seen rocket attacks in the past. It also came under a militant assault in December 2012.

Earlier this month: Cathay to stop Pakistan flight operations

The firing incident put yet an­other aircraft of the PIA out of service, at least for the time being, at a time when the airline is alre­a­dy facing a shortage of planes.

Security in and around the airport had been beefed up following the June 8 attack on the Karachi airport.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2014

12 militants surrender to troops: ISPR

Bureau Report

PESHAWAR: Thirteen suspected militants were killed when military planes shelled their hideouts in North Waziristan Agency on Wednesday.

PESHAWAR: Thirteen suspected militants were killed when military planes shelled their hideouts in North Waziristan Agency on Wednesday.

According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the air strikes were carried out in the suburbs of Mirali town. It claimed that 13 terrorists had been killed and five hideouts destroyed.

The ISPR said that 12 militants had surrendered to security forces in the area.

This is the first time since the launch of “Operation Zerb-i-Azb” in North Waziristan that militants have surrendered to troops.

Security forces are repor­ted to have set up ‘surrender centres’ in the conflict zone.

The army, meanwhile, sent reinforcements to the troubled area on Wednesday and long columns of military tru­cks were seen going towards Waziristan from Bannu.

A curfew was imposed in the Frontier Region Baka­kh­el between North Waziris­tan and settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2014

Nigeria move into last 16

From the Newspaper

PORTO ALEGRE: A double from Lionel Messi a day after his 27th birthday inspired Argentina to a 3-2 win over African champions Nigeria and assured them of finishing top of Group F at the World Cup on Wednesday.

PORTO ALEGRE: A double from Lionel Messi a day after his 27th birthday inspired Argentina to a 3-2 win over African champions Nigeria and assured them of finishing top of Group F at the World Cup on Wednesday.

Nigeria’s defeat — their fourth in four meetings at the finals against Argentina — came with the considerable consolation that they still progressed to the second round as Iran lost 3-1 to Bosnia in the other group game.

Argentina, who are to face either Switzerland or Ecuador in the second round, began to turn on the style after low key wins over Bosnia and Iran.

Nigeria, who will be appearing in the second round for the first time since 1998, are likely to face France on Monday.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2014

Work on 4,320MW hydel project launched

Nisar Ahmad Khan

MANSEHRA: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif launched the construction work on 4,320 megawatts Dasu hydroelectric power project in Kohistan on Wednesday.

MANSEHRA: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif launched the construction work on 4,320 megawatts Dasu hydroelectric power project in Kohistan on Wednesday.

“We are sincerely working for prosperity of the nation but some people are on streets not only against development but also against such mega projects which would change the fate of our country,” he said while addressing a group of local people on the occasion.

On March 28 this year, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council had approved Rs486 billion for the first phase of the project.

The prime minister said the project would be completed in record time and would help end darkness in the country.

Also read: Hubco plans $900m coal-run power projects

“I am confident that people will never support those whose politics is against the country because we are facing enormous challenges and these people are creating hurdles in our way,” he said.

The prime minister advised his opponents to wait and asserted that his government would complete its five-year term. “Whatever steps our government is taking are in national interest and we are proud of them,” he said.

The gathering comprising mostly people whose land was being acquired for the reservoir welcomed the project but also voiced their demands.

Some people who were protesting on the occasion were invited by the prime minster to a local hotel where he heard their grievances and assured them that their demands would be met.

“Kohistan is rich in natural resources and soon it will be a model city like Islamabad and people will come to invest here,” he said.

Also read: Nepra cuts power tariff by 82 paisas

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Sardar Mahtab Ahmad Khan and Minister of Water and Power Khwaja Asif were present on the occasion.

The prime minister also visited Naran in Kaghan valley for some time and met a delegation of hoteliers who complained that although the town was a hub of tourism it was still deprived of electricity.

The prime minister asked Khwaja Asif to build a 2MW hydropower project on Kunhar river. He said the work should begin immediately because the small project would cost only Rs200 million.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2014

Two army pilots killed

The Newspaper’s Staff Correspondent

MULTAN: An army helicopter crashed near here on Wednesday night and its two pilots were killed.

MULTAN: An army helicopter crashed near here on Wednesday night and its two pilots were killed.

Major Yasin and Captain Murtaza of 404 Aviation 33 Squadron were on a routine mission when their Cobra chopper lost contact with Multan air traffic control.

According to sources, there were three cobras on a routine mission and one of them crashed inside the base near Tekri Post.

They said the chopper crashed because of technical reasons.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2014

Musharraf’s counsel grills top official for leaving out coup charge

Malik Asad

ISLAMABAD: During cross-examination by the legal team of former president retired General Pervez Musharraf, Interior Secretary Shahid Khan admitted that he had not incorporated the issue of military coup of October 1999 in the charges levelled in the treason case because of a ‘time constraint’.

ISLAMABAD: During cross-examination by the legal team of former president retired General Pervez Musharraf, Interior Secretary Shahid Khan admitted that he had not incorporated the issue of military coup of October 1999 in the charges levelled in the treason case because of a ‘time constraint’.

Khan has already testified before the special court, headed by Sindh High Court Justice Faisal Arab, that after assuming charge of his post in October 2013, he received the findings of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) and filed the complaint against Gen Musharraf on five charges.

When asked by Farogh Nasim whether it was his duty to incorporate the October 1999 coup in the complaint, Khan replied, “it is correct to suggest that it was my duty to include the October 1999 military coup under Article 6, but I did not have time to do so.”

Also read: SHC rejects Musharraf’s review petition

“When I assumed charge as interior secretary on October 13, the matter had already been probed and the JIT then submitted its report to my office,” said Khan.

Barrister Nasim then asked him whether he believed that the July 5, 1977 military coup — when General Ziaul Haq toppled the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto — was also an act of treason; the interior secretary said this might fall under Article 6 of the Constitution. However, when Nasim said, “Do you know that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also aided and abetted General Zia in the imposition of martial law in July 1977,” Mr Khan simply replied “I don’t know”.

Nasim then asked Mr Khan, “Why did the interior secretary not contemplate the successive military coups of 1958, 1977 and 1999 while launching the complaint against General Musharraf,” to which the interior secretary replied, “No inquiry was ordered against these coups, nor were these matters brought before me”.

“Are you aware of the storming of the Supreme Court in 1997 and was that act not a subversion of the Constitution,” asked Barrister Nasim. In reply, Khan simply said, “I do not have the facts of that occurrence.”

During Wednesday’s proceedings, lead prosecutor Mohammad Akram Sheikh raised several objections over some of the questions Farogh Nasim put to the witness and even joked that the counsel might ask a question related to the Jallianwala Bagh incident, which took place in 1919.

Also read: SC suspends SHC order in Musharraf case

In response, Nasim said the country had witnessed an identical incident just last week in Model Town, Lahore.

The special court then adjourned proceedings until Thursday, when Farogh Nasim would continue his cross-examination of the interior secretary.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2014

Number of IDPs may reach 600,000: Baloch

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: The government officially announced on Tuesday that 450,681 internally displaced persons (IDPs) had been registered so far and that the number could reach to 600,000 as the military operation progressed in North Waziristan.

ISLAMABAD: The government officially announced on Tuesday that 450,681 internally displaced persons (IDPs) had been registered so far and that the number could reach to 600,000 as the military operation progressed in North Waziristan.

Claiming that the government was fully prepared to look after the IDPs, Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadri Baloch said the government had so far released Rs1.5 billion for disbursement among 36,392 registered families.

The minister appealed to the general public to make generous donation for the affected people and said that the army had set up 33 points for collection of donation across the country. “It is the national duty of every Pakistani, particularly people with means to open up their pockets for the brethren in need.”

Initially, the government is paying Rs12,000 to family besides ration and other necessary items.

Giving details of registration, the minister said that from June 18 till June 23 the government had registered 450,681 persons out of whom 118,753 were men, 142,113 women and 189,815 children.

Mr Baloch, who is the focal person on matters relating to settlement of the IDPs, said since it was the initial phase the government was in the process of assessing needs of displaced families. “Every reasonable need of the IDPs will be taken care of in the best possible manner and money is not an issue,” he added.

According to the minister, of the 36,392 displaced families only 200 were in the camps set up by the government and the others were living with relatives. And some have rented places for which the government is releasing another Rs3,000 per family.

About reports of lack of coordination with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government in handling the IDPs issue, the minister said the commissioner of Bannu district was the focal person from the provincial government and he had absolutely no problem with him. “We have a perfect working relationship.”

Related: IDPs protest food shortage in Bannu

Since the government launched the military operation in North Waziristan, PTI chief Imran Khan had more than once accused the federal government of keeping the KP government out of the loop, particularly on preparing for handling the IDP issue.

On the PTI chief’s demand for allocation of Rs6 billion for the IDPs, the federal minister said “if need be the government will release Rs12 billion for the welfare of our brave people of North Waziristan who are offering supreme sacrifices so that we can live peacefully in rest of the country.”

On a question about reported ban imposed by the Sindh and Balochistan governments on the entry of IDPs in the two provinces, Mr Baloch clarified that under the Constitution a Pakistani could go to wherever he/she liked. However, he said he was not aware of any such orders issued by the two provincial governments.

When asked how much time the government was expected take to complete the military operation in North Waziristan, the minister refused to give a timeline and said the operation would be completed as quickly as possible. He said the IDPs were being registered through the Nadra database which would ensure a transparent mechanism for payments.

Also read: A homeless world

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was given the task of ensuring supply of tents and other non-food items to IDPs. The NDMA has released 2,000 tents which have been placed at the disposal of Fata Disaster Management Authority.

He said his ministry had set up a control room to coordinate with the Crisis Communication Cell for IDPs of Press Information Department. The control room is being updated daily with information provided by the commissioner of Bannu.

With the support of World Food Programme (WFP), family food baskets have been distributed among IDPs at the Bannu’s sports complex. Curfew was relaxed for another day to let maximum people leave the area of operation. The WFP has provided 15,000 food baskets and has another 45,000 which will be distributed on demand.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif presided over a meeting on the IDP issue at the Prime Minister’s Office which was attended by Mr Baloch, Minister for Information Senator Pervaiz Rashid, KP Governor Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan and directors general of Military Operations and Inter-Services Public Relations.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2014

Uruguay enter second round, eliminate Italy

From the Newspaper

NATAL: Uruguay dumped ten-man Italy out of the World Cup with a dramatic 1-0 victory on Tuesday.

NATAL: Uruguay dumped ten-man Italy out of the World Cup with a dramatic 1-0 victory on Tuesday.

Uruguay captain Diego Godin rose high to thump home an 81st-minute header to settle a gritty Group D battle in Natal. The victory saw Italy knocked out in the first round for the second straight World Cup.

But Italy’s stunning exit was overshadowed by an incredible incident involving Luis Suarez. Television re­plays showed Suarez app­e­aring to attempt to sink his teeth into Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder.

Chiellini leapt to his feet to remonstrate with Mexican referee Marco Rodriguez, pulling his shirt off his shoulder to show the red marks.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2014

Back-channel talks with India revived

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: Pakistan and India have revived back-channel talks following a meeting between their prime ministers in New Delhi last month, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Jalil Abbas Jilani said on Tuesday.

WASHINGTON: Pakistan and India have revived back-channel talks following a meeting between their prime ministers in New Delhi last month, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Jalil Abbas Jilani said on Tuesday.

He said that Pakistan desired an uninterrupted peace process with India that would address the causes of all outstanding disputes and “not just symptoms”.

Addressing a US think-tank in Washington, Mr Jilani said Pakistan also was keen on improving trade and economic relations with its larger neighbour as it believed that this could bring prosperity to the entire region.

The ambassador disclosed that the May 26 meeting between Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi led to the reopening of “back-channel” talks and now foreign secretaries of the two countries would meet shortly to resume the stalled peace process.

Take a look: Pak-India: more of the same?

The back-channel talks, he hoped, would enable the two sides to discuss all issues, including terrorism and Islamabad’s concerns regarding Indian involvement in stoking unrest in Balochistan.

“There have been proposals to develop a serious mechanism on terrorism,” he said, while noting that the revival of the peace process would be “a first step towards creating a cooperative and tension-free relationship between the two countries”.

Mr Jilani said he was confident that Prime Minister Sharif’s proposal for establishing a regular mechanism for talks between the Pakistani and Indian national security advisers would be taken up positively.

The proposal for NSA-level talks was proposed first by Mr Sharif when he met the then Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh in New York last September.

Mr Jilani, who was Pakistan’s foreign secretary during that period, said the Pakistani delegation returned from those talks with the impression that “it was taken positively by the Indian side. It remains on the table and when the dialogue process starts, we will revisit the same proposal”.

He noted that trade between the two countries had increased gradually and might touch $ 5 billion mark by 2015.

The ambassador also noted a marked improvement in Pakistan-US relations and said the Pakistani government was also working for improving its relations with both India and Afghanistan as well as with other neighbours.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2014

Woman dies in shooting at plane

Zulfiqar Ali

PESHAWAR: A woman passenger was killed while a steward and another passenger were injured when a PIA flight coming from Riyadh came under fire during landing here on Tuesday night.

PESHAWAR: A woman passenger was killed while a steward and another passenger were injured when a PIA flight coming from Riyadh came under fire during landing here on Tuesday night.

The body was taken to the Combined Military Hospital.

According to Peshawar Cantonment SP Mohamed Faisal, four or five bullets fired from Pishtakhara area adjoining the airport hit the plane.

The airport’s operation was suspended after the attack and incoming flights were diverted to Islamabad and Lahore.

Police and other law-enforcement agencies launched a search operation after cordoning off areas around the airport.

The Peshawar airport is jointly managed by the Civil Aviation Authority and the air force and it also houses an army aviation base.

Abid Qaimkhani, a CAA spokesman in Karachi, confirmed the incident.

He told Dawn that the Airbus was about to land when bullets hit it, but it landed safely. According to Reuters, the plane was carrying 178 passengers travelling from Saudi Arabia.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2014

47 suspected militants killed in N. Waziristan, Khyber

From the Newspaper

PESHAWAR/LANDI KOTAL: Mili­tary planes pounded Taliban hideouts in North Waziristan and Khyber tribal agencies on Tuesday, killing 47 militants and destroying 23 hideouts, according to a statement issued by Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR).

PESHAWAR/LANDI KOTAL: Mili­tary planes pounded Taliban hideouts in North Waziristan and Khyber tribal agencies on Tuesday, killing 47 militants and destroying 23 hideouts, according to a statement issued by Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR).

The claim could not be verified from independent sources and witnesses said that six members of a family were also killed in the air strike in Khyber Agency.

The ISPR statement also said that troops thwarted an attempt by a suicide bomber to blow up an explosives-laden vehicle at a checkpost in Spinwam area. Soldiers opened fire on the suicide bomber’s vehicle before it could reach the checkpost. The vehicle exploded and two soldiers and a civilian died when the roof of a nearby building collapsed because of the intensity of the explosion.

The statement said that 27 terrorists were killed in air attacks on suspected Taliban positions in Mirali and adjoining areas. Eleven hideouts and a large store of arms and ammunition were destroyed.

Air strikes were also carried out in Khyber Agency early in the morning, killing 20 insurgents and destroying 12 hideouts.

Security officials said that the planes targeted Wocha Wana, Rajgal and Pak Dara areas where terrorists fleeing from North Waziristan had taken refuge. At least 20 militants were killed while a number of hideouts were destroyed.

Witnesses said that a bomb hit the house of one Khan Wali in Pak Dara Arwa, killing six members of his family. There was no official word on civilian casualties.

Meanwhile, two militants belonging to a local banned group were injured when troops patrolling the Frontier road in Akkakhel area opened fire on them after they ignored a signal to stop their motorbike for a routine check and tried to escape. The two were taken into custody.

In Shah Kas area of Jamrud, a khasadar man was injured in an attack by two unidentified men on a motorcycle.

Meanwhile, evacuation of displaced persons from North Waziristan came to a halt with the imposition of curfew in the entire area. An official said that the curfew had left a large number of civilians stranded in several areas.

Officials of the Disaster Management Authority have registered 36,514 families from North Waziristan Agency at Saidgi registration point. An untoward incident took place in Bannu when police fired in the air to disperse a large group of protesting IDPs.

The protesters blocked the Bannu-Kohat Road and pelted vehicles with stones. They were complaining about mismanagement in distribution of food items. They said that separate distribution points should be set up for people of each tehsil of North Waziristan to make it convenient for the displaced families to receive relief goods.

MNA from Miramshah Malik Nazir Khan was present during the protest. The Bannu district administration held talks with elders and assured them of all possible help.

The IDPs demanded their families which could not get themselves registered during the mass evacuation from the agency should be registered forthwith. They also complained that children were suffering from gastroenteritis and other stomach diseases due to hot weather conditions.

The ISPR said that six ration distribution points had been set up for the IDPs — three in Bannu, two in Dera Ismail Khan and one in Tank.

It said that distribution of 4,473 tons of ration among 40,000 families will start on Wednesday. The army has established 32 points for collection of relief goods and donations in major cities of the country.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2014

Qadri lands in Lahore, will give ‘final call for revolution’

Amjad Mahmood

LAHORE: Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Tahirul Qadri vowed revenge and asked his workers on Monday to wait for his ‘final call for revolution’, capping an eventful journey full of sharp turns and twists and a controversial plane diversion.

LAHORE: Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Tahirul Qadri vowed revenge and asked his workers on Monday to wait for his ‘final call for revolution’, capping an eventful journey full of sharp turns and twists and a controversial plane diversion.

“I’ll announce the final date for revolution after political consultations,” the cleric-cum-politician told his followers outside the Minhajul Quran headquarters, where 10 of his workers were shot dead on June 17.

From the airport to the city’s Jinnah Hospital, where PAT workers injured in police action last week were under treatment, to the Minhaj offices, he travelled in a four-wheel drive vehicle provided by ally, former Punjab chief minister and PML-Q leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi.

Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar accompanied Dr Qadri from the Lahore airport up to the hospital.

“The control of the revolution,” Dr Qadri made it clear to his workers as well as allies, would remain in his hands.

Dr Qadri, who said he had returned from Canada for good, predicted that the government would be a pushover against his campaign. He said those who were in power would soon be behind bars and elections would be held once the revolution was complete.

At the offices and in the hospital he talked of avenging the deaths of his workers in the June 17 police raid. “I’m here… The blood of the martyrs won’t go waste and we’ll make the cruel rulers pay for it in the form of a green revolution.”

The PAT leader likened the Sharif brothers to Hitler and Mussolini, his voice charged in the wake of the forced diversion of his flight from Islamabad to Lahore. He was scheduled to land in Islamabad in the morning, but in a move that drew widespread criticism, the plane was diverted to the Punjab capital.

Dr Qadri was told to disembark in Lahore, but he refused. At first he insisted that he be sent to his original destination Islamabad and later sought an assurance of security and escort by the army before he came out of the aircraft.

He later agreed to be escorted by the governor, after the airline he was travelling by, the Emirates, showed signs of impatience.

There was talk of possible hijacking charges brought up against Dr Qadri in case he continued to occupy the plane.

While he lauded the governor’s role in resolving the issue at the airport, the PAT leader alleged the Nawaz government had ‘hijacked’ his plane.

The drama came to an end after around six hours after the landing of the airliner at 9.34am.

Raja Zafarul Haq, the PML-N chairman and Leader of the House in Senate, was the other prominent figure among the over 300 passengers.

Dr Qadri said he did not trust police security. He called the police ‘terrorists in disguise’, in a reference to the June 17 incident.

A senior journalist travelling in the plane told a TV channel that almost 150 people accompanying Dr Qadri did not let over 40 other passengers disembark at Lahore airport by blocking the exit, standing in the way in groups of 10.

Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif monitored the situation throughout the day.

Small groups of workers, a few of them belonging to the PML-Q, continued to turn up at the airport till 1pm.

It wasn’t a large gathering even though the government security allowed the workers in after briefly resisting their advance, initially. Slogans were raised and party songs were played from a loudspeaker-mounted mini-truck parked outside the lounge.

As there was no sign of the army accepting his demand and most of the workers, tired by that time, retired to the ground to take some rest, there came a ‘timely intervention’ by Sindh Governor Ishratul Ibad. He told Dr Qadri that a prolonged stay of activists on roads could result in any mishap. A threat by the Emirates that it would get a hijacking case registered if the plane was not vacated within an hour also had its impact.

Showing flexibility in his demands, the PAT chief said vehicles should be brought to the runway and that he would go under the security cover of his personal guards.

But, he said, he would leave the plane only after holding talks with the Punjab governor.

With the approval of the president and the prime minister, the governor reached the airport at 2.30pm, held a brief round of negotiations with Dr Qadri in the plane and made him disembark.

The PAT leader then contacted Mr Elahi. He reached the airport in 10 minutes, from where the trio went to the Jinnah Hospital for visiting the injured party workers, bringing to an end the melodramatic journey of Dr Qadri.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2014

Two troops, 25 militants die in N. Waziristan

Dawn Report

PESHAWAR/BANNU: After a day’s break, security forces resumed action in North Waziristan on Monday and killed 25 suspected militants in air strikes and clashes. Officials, meanwhile, said that the area would continue to be under curfew on Tuesday.

PESHAWAR/BANNU: After a day’s break, security forces resumed action in North Waziristan on Monday and killed 25 suspected militants in air strikes and clashes. Officials, meanwhile, said that the area would continue to be under curfew on Tuesday.

According to a press release issued by ISPR, two soldiers were also killed in clashes with militants in Spinwam and Mirali.

Air force planes bombed hideouts in Mirali and 15 terrorists were killed and eight hideouts were destro­yed. Troops, the press rele­ase said, also spotted tunnels in the targeted areas.

Security personnel thwarted an attempt by militants to break cordon in Spinwam and Mirali. An exchange of fire left 10 militants and two soldiers dead.

Aerial surveillance, vigorous patrolling and siege laid to the area housing terrorist hideouts continued.

Claims relating to casualties could not be verified from independent sources because journalists have no access to the area.

After six days of relaxation, curfew was re-imposed in the area for an indefinite period, apparently because the military is planning to launch a ground operation.

“This is enough and there will be no relaxation in curfew from Tuesday,” a security official said. However, evacuation of people from the areas and their registration at Sadgai checkpoint continued throughout the day.

According to the Provin­cial Disaster Management Authority, the number of registered displaced people crossed the 450,000 mark on Monday.

Hundreds of women, children and men had to walk several kilometres to reach the registration point.

Sakhi Jan said he had reached Bannu in three days after walking all the way.

Local people said that a large number of families were still stranded in Raz­mak, Shawal, Datakhel, Lwara Mandi and other places.

They said evacuation of civilians from Miramshah, Mirali and adjoining villages had been completed and the displaced people had been registered.

ISPR said the Army Engineers Division would help the administration in managing matters relating to the IDPs in Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan. Troops have reached Bannu for the purpose and points for distribution of relief material, including food and medicine, and cash grants annou­nced by the government would be managed by the civil agency concerned. A field hospital was being set up by the Army Medical Corps in Bannu, the ISPR said.

An unpleasant incident took place at a distribution point at the Bannu Sports Complex when police fired in the air and used batons to disperse a group of IDPs, causing injuries to several people.

Witnesses said the IDPs were complaining that arran­gements at the distribution point were not adequate.

A large number of people gathered at the distribution point set up by the World Food Programme (WFP).

The WFP distributed wheat, cooking oil and other food items among 640 families. An official said a plan had been prepared to help 1,500 families a day. The United Nations agency also plans to open humanitarian hubs in Lakki Marwat and Dera Ismail Khan where displaced people have taken shelter with host families.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2014

Dutch beat Chile 2-0, top Group B

From the Newspaper

SAO PAULO: Leroy Fer scored a minute after coming on as a substitute to help give the Netherlands a 2-0 victory over Chile on Monday to top Group B at the World Cup with three consecutive wins.

SAO PAULO: Leroy Fer scored a minute after coming on as a substitute to help give the Netherlands a 2-0 victory over Chile on Monday to top Group B at the World Cup with three consecutive wins.

Fer had only just replaced Wesley Sneijder when he rose almost unmarked in the Chile penalty area to put the Dutch ahead with a powerful 77th-minute header. Another substitute, Memphis Depay, then tapped in a cross from Arjen Robben in injury time to double the lead.

In the other Group B match dethroned champions Spain recorded a consolation win by thrashing Australia 3-0 thanks to goals from David Villa, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata.—Agencies

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2014

Plane diversion was Rafiq’s idea

Mohammad Asghar

RAWALPINDI: Initially the government had two options to get Dr Tahirul Qadri to Lahore once he had arrived at Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIA) on Monday morning – either use a Fokker ATR27 aeroplane to airlift him to Lahore or a helicopter of the Punjab government.

RAWALPINDI: Initially the government had two options to get Dr Tahirul Qadri to Lahore once he had arrived at Benazir Bhutto International Airport (BBIA) on Monday morning – either use a Fokker ATR27 aeroplane to airlift him to Lahore or a helicopter of the Punjab government.

However, both these options were ignored when Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq suggested that the flight not be allowed to land at BBIA and be diverted to Lahore, sources said.

However, before Rafiq’s suggestion was made and accepted, as many as 175 Elite Force commandoes along with 17 female commandos in plainclothes were brought to the airport at around 3am on Monday.

Related: Qadri threatens to topple govt, vows to lead ‘revolution’

The Elite Force, which was formed in 1997-98 by then chief minister Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif, was led by DSP Rana Shahid and DSP Raja Taifoor. They took positions on the apron of the airport (where the Emirates flight was to land); the Fokker and the helicopter were also parked nearby.

According to a security official, the Fokker ATR27 was to be used if Dr Qadri agreed to be transported to Lahore but if he resisted then the plan was to bundle him on to the helicopter.

The Pakistan International Airlines Fokker, which was to be used for airlifting Dr Qadri to Lahore, was scheduled to fly to Skardu on Monday but the flight was cancelled to free the aircraft.

“In case he did not agree, Dr Qadri was to be picked up by the Elite Force commandos and put in the helicopter,” a security official revealed on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to talk to the media.

Also read: Qadri, 1,300 supporters booked on terror charges

But as is now well known, this plan was changed at the last moment.

Commissioner Rawalpindi division and Regional Police Officer were both present at the airport to monitor the situation.

Dawn has learnt that the railways minister suggested the diversion plan.

As a result, the pilot was not given clearance for landing at BBIA; PML-Q leaders and the PAT workers waiting for Dr Qadri were not aware of what was happening till 8.50am when the flight’s diversion to Lahore was announced.

In the meantime, the aircraft remained in the air.

Once it was told to fly to Lahore, the airport authorities said that the plane was diverted for security concerns.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2014

SC suspends SHC order in Musharraf case

Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: Former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf’s desire to go to Dubai to see his ailing mother was frustrated on Monday when the Supreme Court suspended the June 12 Sindh High Court order till it decides government’s appeal against removing his name from the Exit Control List.

ISLAMABAD: Former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf’s desire to go to Dubai to see his ailing mother was frustrated on Monday when the Supreme Court suspended the June 12 Sindh High Court order till it decides government’s appeal against removing his name from the Exit Control List.

The hearing of the appeal will start after four weeks.

“The impugned (June 12) judgment is suspended,” declared Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk, who is heading the five-judge special bench of the Supreme Court.

The federal government had challenged on June 14 the SHC order on apprehensions that if allowed to leave the country the former dictator may not come back to stand a treason trial under Article 6 of the Constitution. It had also requested the apex court to issue an order to restrain the retired general from going abroad without the court’s permission.

Reacting swiftly to the interim order, Mr Musharraf’s counsel Advocate Chaudhry Faisal Hussain, who was assisting Barrister Dr Farogh Naseem, said the court deemed it appropriate to determine the application of ‘Doctrine of Merger’ and granted leave to appeal by suspending the high court order.

“It is a normal way of the Supreme Court,” he said, adding that his client also wanted resolution of the longstanding controversy because the government was using it for political gains and it intended to use the court to settle political scores.

He, however, expressed the confidence that the court would decide the issue purely on legal plane without allowing the government to use it to gain political mileage.

Related: SHC allows Musharraf to go abroad

Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt argued before the Supreme Court that the government was strictly following its orders issued on April 8 last year, requiring placement of Mr Musharraf’s name on the ECL and ensuring that he should not leave the country at any cost.

Until the order was modified by the apex court, Mr Musharraf could not be allowed to leave the country, otherwise the government would be accused of committing contempt of court, he added.

He, however, agreed that the April 8 directive was an interim order since the final order of the court had no mention of the earlier direction.

But Justice Saqib Nisar observed that no final relief could be granted at the interim stage. He said that the April 8 order was issued without providing an opportunity to Mr Musharraf. He wondered why in the changed circumstances the federal government was shy of applying its mind independently about Mr Musharraf’s name on the ECL.

He recalled that the former dictator’s name was placed on the ECL in compliance with the SHC direction of April 5 and not after the April 8 apex court decision.

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, a member of the bench, said Mr Musharraf was facing five different cases and although he was on bail in the cases, the courts concerned issued his arrest warrant. Besides, it was his statutory obligation to appear in each case unless exempted and, therefore, the retired general could not wriggle out of the cases.

Referring to Supreme Court’s proceedings of June 31, 2009, in which the Nov 3, 2007, emergency was declared illegal, Justice Khosa recalled that when Mr Musharraf was abroad, he was asked by the court to show appearance but he disregarded that direction and was subsequently declared a proclaimed offender.

Now what was the guarantee that Mr Musharraf would behave differently this time if he was allowed to go abroad, asked Justice Khosa.

Barrister Naseem said his client returned to the country because he wanted to get his name cleared.

Since different courts trusted Mr Musharraf and condoned his past conduct while granting bail, there was no reason to doubt his intentions, he said.

The counsel argued that since the April 8 order of the apex court was not reflected in the final order, the earlier directions would go in the thin air.

Barrister Naseem requested the court to keep the case against Mr Musharraf alive, but let him go abroad to see his 94-year-old mother who was suffering from backbone problem, the treatment of which was not available in Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2014

Qadri, 1,300 supporters booked on terror charges

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

RAWALPINDI: Police have registered a case against the Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT)’s chief Dr Tahirul Qadri and 1,300 activists, arresting 70 of them.

RAWALPINDI: Police have registered a case against the Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT)’s chief Dr Tahirul Qadri and 1,300 activists, arresting 70 of them.

They have been accused of damaging public property, attacking police, snatching their wireless sets, causing damage to an armoured personnel carrier and creating a law and order situation.

Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act has also been invoked in the FIR lodged by SHO Raja Musaddiq at the Airport police station

Related: Qadri threatens to topple govt, vows to lead ‘revolution’

“Dr Qadri is among the accused because he had asked PAT workers to gather and protest against the government,” the SHO said. Around 70 PAT workers had been arrested, police said, adding that more arrests would be made once the investigation was launched.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2014

Government overreacts in panic, seals capital

Dawn Report

ISLAMABAD: The full force of the government seemed to be at work on Sunday as law-enforcement agencies and the district administration put the twin cities into lockdown ahead of Dr Tahirul Qadri’s expected arrival at Benazir Bhutto International Airport on Monday morning.

ISLAMABAD: The full force of the government seemed to be at work on Sunday as law-enforcement agencies and the district administration put the twin cities into lockdown ahead of Dr Tahirul Qadri’s expected arrival at Benazir Bhutto International Airport on Monday morning.

All roads leading to the airport were sealed with containers and road blocks and access to the capital city was severed as police took up positions to stop workers of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) and its allies from marching on Islamabad.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said in a statement that no-one would be allowed to march on the federal capital.

Nearly 3,000 police personnel have been deployed at the entry and exit points of Islamabad and section 144 has been imposed in Rawal­pindi. In addition, sensitive government installations in the capital and Constitution Avenue were also blockaded on Sunday night.

Scattered clashes between PAT workers and security personnel were reported on Sunday night as charged activists tried to force their way past the security cordon towards the airport. PAT workers scuffled with police at Koral Chowk and Tench Bhatta, but scattered when security personnel respo­nd­ed and attempted to disperse the demonstrators. A pe­r­petual game of hide-and-seek continued on the streets of Rawalpindi until late night.

The Rawalpindi district administration has not permitted Dr Qadri to hold a rally at the airport, but he will be allowed to proceed to Lahore via GT Road. The nearest points where PAT has permission to congregate for a rally are Rawat and Gujjar Khan, on the outskirts of the twin cities.

A Pakistan Telecommu­ni­ca­tion Authority spokesperson told Dawn that mobile services around the airport area will remain suspended from 3am to 12noon on Monday.

Security officials are on their toes and say that such a large public gathering is a possible target for terrorists, who have promised reprisal attacks to avenge losses incurred in the ongoing military operation in North Waziristan.

Dr Qadri is expected to arrive at Islamabad airport on an Emirates Airline flight at 7.30am on Monday. Offi­cials from the Met Office say that following thundershowers on Sunday night, the wea­ther forecast for Monday mor­ning is clear and the flight is expected to land on time.

At least 10 members of the PAT were taken into ‘protective custody’ as they arrived for a meeting with district au­t­horities to finalise arrang­ements to welcome their leader at the airport.

Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2014

Belgium move to next round

AP

RIO DE JANEIRO: Teen­age forward Divock Origi turned a listless Belgian performance into a late 1-0 win over Russia on Sunday, enough to qualify for the next round of the World Cup with two straight victories.

RIO DE JANEIRO: Teen­age forward Divock Origi turned a listless Belgian performance into a late 1-0 win over Russia on Sunday, enough to qualify for the next round of the World Cup with two straight victories.

Belgium barely contained a reinvigorated Russia for most of the match, yet struck with a blistering final spurt of class and opportunism to turn a bad situation into a wild celebration for coach Marc Wilmots in the 88th minute and hugs all around at the fulltime.

“It was not easy, but we never gave up,” Wilmots said.

Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2014

‘No troops at airports’

From the Newspaper

ISLAMABAD: The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a press release on Sunday night that no army troops had been deployed at airports or any other place for policing.

ISLAMABAD: The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a press release on Sunday night that no army troops had been deployed at airports or any other place for policing.

It said that troops had been deployed before the launch of operation Zarb-i-Azb at sensitive locations in view of terrorist threats.

Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2014

Key leaders of PAT arrested across Punjab

Amjad Mahmood

LAHORE: The government sta­rted arresting key leaders of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek across Punjab, while arrangeme­nts were made to prevent the party’s workers from reaching Islam­abad to receive their leader Dr Tahirul Qadri who travelled from London to Dubai airport on Sun­day and is scheduled to land in the federal capital on Monday morning.

LAHORE: The government sta­rted arresting key leaders of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek across Punjab, while arrangeme­nts were made to prevent the party’s workers from reaching Islam­abad to receive their leader Dr Tahirul Qadri who travelled from London to Dubai airport on Sun­day and is scheduled to land in the federal capital on Monday morning.

Dozens of arrests were also reported from various other districts, particularly those close to the Motorway and Grand Trunk Road.

The routes leading to Islamabad were being blocked at points away from public and media eyes.

Officials approached by Dawn in various areas of the province confirmed that they had been asked to adopt “all possible peaceful means” for preventing the PAT activists from moving towards Islamabad.

After consultations with elder brother, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, earlier in the day, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif went to Islamabad in the evening to monitor the arrangements made there, apparently to avert a recurrence of the Lahore Model Town-like situation in which nine people were shot dead and over 100 injured in clashes on Tuesday between police and PAT activists during removal of barriers around the Minhajul Quran headquarters.

The chief minister was also scheduled to meet the top brass of the establishment for “taking them into loop” on the political situation and its likely impact on the army operation in North Waziristan, a PML-N leader said.

Shahbaz Sharif was quoted in a statement as telling a group of PML-N legislators that “the country is passing through a critical phase … Therefore, it can neither afford politics of agitation nor it is justified at this stage.” He said the people would reject the “politics of sabotage and chaos”.

To counter any likely intervention by the judiciary, the PML-N leaders also consulted their official and unofficial legal advisors. Federal Law Secretary Zafarullah Khan dashed to Lahore reportedly to brief the leadership on legal and constitutional aspects of the government’s efforts to foil Dr Qadri’s show in Islamabad and airlifting him to Lahore or any other Punjab town. Mr Khan was assisted by Punjab Prosecutor General and former IGP Rana Maqbool, besides a team of political leaders and bureaucrats, an official said.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar hinted at the airlifting option, saying that it was the government’s responsibility to ensure that Dr Qadri reached Lahore safely.

In a late-night development, security agencies erected barricades around the Lahore airport in a bid to stop the entry of unwanted people, giving credence to reports about Dr Qadri’s airlifting to Lahore.

Before his departure for Dubai en route to Islamabad, Dr Qadri alleged in London that he had reports from inside the government that the prime minister was planning to divert his flight to Lahore or Sialkot.

He said that unlike last year he had no plan to hold a sit-in in Islamabad and he desired to travel to Lahore peacefully.

PAT general secretary Khurram Nawaz Gandapur told reporters here that at least 150 leaders and activists had been taken into custody in the twin cities and eight in Lahore.

In Islamabad, he alleged, PAT leaders had been invited by the administration for talks on Dr Qadri’s reception but they had been taken into custody.

Punjab police spokeswoman Nabeela Ghazanfar said “only a few people have been taken into custody on reports that they may create a law and order situation”.

Interestingly, a handout issued on behalf of newly-appointed provincial Law Minister Rana Mashhood said no PAT worker had been arrested.

The home department issued a security warning to Dr Qadri. “After military operation in North Waziristan, terrorists have announced attacks on important political and religious leaders and there is also threat of terrorism at Benazir Bhutto Airport, Islamabad, and other airports… The terrorists can also target the slow-moving convoy of Pakistan Awami Tehreek on GT Road,” it said.

Political support

Although almost all parties had sympathised with the PAT after the Lahore incident, it was failing to get support for reception of Dr Qadri and its cause of bringing about a ‘peaceful revolution’.

Except the PML-Q and political non-entity Awami Muslim League of Sheikh Rashid, no political force was coming forward in this regard.

PML-Q leader Chaudhry Parvez Elahi called on Dr Qadri’s son Hasan Mohyyuddin and said his party would provide 60,000 activists for the reception and the anti-government campaign.

A leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf said his party could not afford the baggage Dr Qadri was carrying, a reference to the impression of the PAT leader being a pawn of the establishment.

Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2014

Imran wants operation halted till evacuation of civilians

Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan called upon the government on Sunday to suspend the military operation in North Waziristan till complete evacuation of civilians from the area.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan called upon the government on Sunday to suspend the military operation in North Waziristan till complete evacuation of civilians from the area.

Addressing a press conference after visiting Bannu where a large number of people displaced from the tribal region have taken shelter, he urged the centre to provide Rs6 billion from the Coalition Support Funds to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to enable it to provide relief to people leaving the operation-hit areas.

The press conference followed a meeting of the PTI core committee.

The PTI chairman said that a large number of people, including women and children, were still stranded in North Waziristan.

Mr Khan, who was accompanied by KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, regretted that the Sindh and Punjab governments were not allowing the internally displaced persons (IDPs) into the provinces where they wanted to live with relatives. “They are Pakistanis. They are angry. Let them go,” he said.

He urged the federal government to chalk out a plan in consultation with the KP government to help the IDPs.

“The prime minister should stop going on foreign visits and instead plan for rehabilitation (of the IDPs). This planning should have preceded (the operation) but the KP government was not informed about the operation,” he said.

Mr Khan said he had come to know through security briefings and information obtained from other sources that militants were planning to strike in different parts of the KP in four to six weeks. They have been told to beef up security in the province.

About his demand for providing Rs6bn to the provincial government, he said it was the KP which would have to face the brunt of the operation. A large number of the IDPs are going to Bannu which has a population of about one million.

Implying that the IDPs influx would lead to price hike and more patients in hospitals in Bannu, he said: “The hospitals cannot take the pressure of so many people. There will also be a further increase in prices as Ramazan is approaching.”

No Alliance with PAT

Mr Khan again categorically sta­ted that his party neither had an alliance with Dr Tahirul Qadri’s Pak­is­tan Awami Tehreek nor it planned to forge such an alliance. But, he added, the PTI stood with PAT workers who had recently suffered the worst kind of police brutality in Lahore.

He rejected a perception that the PTI wanted to topple the government through undemocratic moves and said that the party had only one-point agenda — those people who had rigged last year’s general elections should be held accountable and punished.

Mr Khan said his party had been struggling for the past year to get justice. Now, at a public meeting in Bahawalpur on June 27, he said, he would announce a deadline for the fulfilment of demand for justice.

After this deadline, he declared, the government would be responsible for the consequences.

He said that during his visit to the Model Town residence of Dr Qadri, he was informed that two women had been shot point-blank in their mouths (during clashes between police and PAT activists on Tuesday).

The PTI chairman said “Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and others responsible for the Model Town incident should be arrested and tried on murder charges.

“Punjab has become a police state. The Sharifs have always used police for their political objectives.”

The PTI would soon distribute copies of the former Punjab IG Abbas Khan’s 1992 report in which he had informed the Lahore High Court that merit had been ignored during the appointment of 25,000 policemen by the Nawaz Sharif government.

Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2014

Over 400,000 registered, says FDMA

Dawn Report

PESHAWAR/BANNU: With families continuously streaming out of North Waziristan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Sardar Mahtab Ahmad Khan expressed disappointment on Sunday over the Sindh and Balochistan governments’ decision to ban the entry of displaced people into the two provinces.

PESHAWAR/BANNU: With families continuously streaming out of North Waziristan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Sardar Mahtab Ahmad Khan expressed disappointment on Sunday over the Sindh and Balochistan governments’ decision to ban the entry of displaced people into the two provinces.

“Decision of Sindh and Punjab governments about banning entry of IDPs is regrettable,” he said while talking to reporters after visiting a helpline centre for internally displaced persons in Peshawar.

He said that people of North Waziristan had vacated their homes for the security and stability of Pakistan and the entire nation should help them.

He said efforts were being made to contain the movement of fresh IDPs within Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. But if some people wanted to settle in other provinces, he said, banning their entry was regrettable.

He said that role of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government was positive and it was helping the IDPs.

As evacuation of people from the troubled tribal area continued, the Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) said 404, 819 people had so far been registered.

Officials said the curfew rela­xation had been exten­ded till Monday because more people were coming out from the area. Guns also remained silent in the region.

IDPs queued up at the Saidgai checkpoint in extremely hot weather to get clearance and receive cash assistance from the authorities.

In Bannu, meanwhile, a group of IDPs held a demonstration in protest against lack of facilities and demanded easing of curfew in North Waziristan.

They complained that a large number of stranded people was finding it difficult to get transport to leave the affected areas.

Owners of private schools have refused to accommodate the displaced people.

Sardar Mahtab said transport had been arranged to get the remaining civilians out of North Waziristan and distribution of cash relief among the IDPs on the spot had been streamlined.

According to ISPR, camps for displaced people have been set up by the army at the COD, DHA Golf Club and Malir Cantonment gate in Karachi, Fortress Stadium, Masjid Chowk in DHA Phase I, Beacon House School in DHA Phase 3 and Wateen Chowk in DHA Phase 5, Lahore, and also in Hyderabad and Pano Akil.

According to sources, the shura of North Waziristan militants headed by Hafiz Gul Bahadur told a jirga of Uthmanzai elders headed by Haji Sher Muhammad that it had taken the decision in the interest of local people.

After the meeting, the jirga requested the government to conclude the military action as soon as possible.

Gul Bahadur’s spokesman had earlier accused the government of violating an agreement reached in 2006.

Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2014

NA passes budget, eulogises Benazir

Raja Asghar

ISLAMABAD: The government pushed its second budget through the National Assembly with ease on Saturday amid some gestures to PPP ahead of threatened anti-government protests.

ISLAMABAD: The government pushed its second budget through the National Assembly with ease on Saturday amid some gestures to PPP ahead of threatened anti-government protests.

The final vote on the Finance Bill, 2014, which will give effect to the new budget unveiled on June 3 and taxation proposals for the next fiscal year, came in presence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after a weeklong general debate and a laborious adoption, also by voice vote, of demands for grants for federal ministries.

It was followed by the adoption of a total of 111 supplementary demands for expenditures made in excess of the outgoing year’s budget and what was called “excess demands” for non-budgeted expenditures made in financial years between 2004-5 and 2007-8.

The new finance bill was adopted with several amendments moved by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to incorporate concessions he announced in a speech to the house at the end of the general debate on Tuesday.

All opposition amendments were rejected.

While the bill must come into force on July 1, an amendment introduced by the finance minister gave exception to six sub-clauses of two clauses relating to collection of several levies, which it said would be effective a day after President Mamnoon Hussain gave his formal assent.

The sub-clauses will empower the government to collect certain levies before the start of the new financial year as had happened last year after the Supreme Court had annulled an authorisation assumed under a British-era law, the now-defunct Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, 1931.

Homage to Benazir

Although the finance minister talked tough in rejecting some PPP amendments to the finance bill and a demand to assign the collection of a gas infrastructure development cess to provinces, the government seemed making a friendly gesture to the party by moving a resolution to pay homage to its slain leader Benazir Bhutto to mark her 61st birthday.

The resolution, moved by Science and Technology Minister Zahid Hamid and unanimously adopted by the house, praised Ms Bhutto for her “indomitable courage and will to fight against extremism and tyranny” and said the house “salutes her single-minded determination to eliminate the scourge of terrorism and pays tribute to her incomparable services for a democratic Pakistan for which she ultimately laid down her life”.

After its passage, a prominent government ally, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mahmood Khan Achakzai proposed that the prime minister, who was not present in the house at the time, invite PPP co-chairman and former president Asif Ali Zardari and leaders of other political parties to a breakfast meeting.

Reacting to the suggestion, Mr Dar said the prime minister had intended to invite all members of the National Assembly and Senate to a dinner on June 19 or 20, but the plan was given up after the murder of Tahira Asif, a house member belonging to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, in Lahore.

However, he said, the prime minister might invite lawmakers to an Iftar dinner during another session of the house that might be called “eight to 10 days” later.

But Mr Achakzai clarified that he actually wanted the prime minister to invite the political leadership of the country to consider forming “a pro-democracy front”.

The apparent olive branch to PPP came while Allama Tahirul Qadri has threatened to hold anti-government protest rallies after his arrival in Islamabad on Monday.

Earlier, on a suggestion from Leader of the Opposition Khursheed Ahmed Shah at the start of the day’s proceedings, the house prayed for the soul of Benazir Bhutto.

The house also unanimously adopted another resolution, signed by all parties, condemning what it called the “dastardly” killing of Tahira Asif and demanding that the “culprits involved in this heinous crime may be arrested forthwith by the police of Punjab and be punished”.

The house was later prorogued after a 19-day session.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2014

Nisar asks police to bolster capital’s security

Kalbe Ali

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan asked police on Saturday to upgrade security measures for the capital as the country was in a “war-like situation” because of the military operation in North Waziristan.

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan asked police on Saturday to upgrade security measures for the capital as the country was in a “war-like situation” because of the military operation in North Waziristan.

He also told police to work out foolproof plan ahead of Dr Tahirul Qadri’s arrival. “The plan should take care of security of those participating in the Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s rally as well as that of the public at large.

“This is only possible through coordination between the administration and police of Rawalpindi and Islamabad,” Chaudhry Nisar said.

Sources in the police department told Dawn that the interior minister had asked police to ensure that the procession led by Dr Qadri did not enter Islamabad.

The directives were issued at a meeting on security measures here on Saturday.

The minister asked police and security agencies to gear up their resources and efforts to fully secure the cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad and their residents in the wake of the military operation in North Waziristan.

He directed the commissioner of Islamabad to ban all congregations, including Urs, citing the bomb attack at a shrine near the capital on Friday.

PAT RALLY: About arrangements for Monday’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s rally, a senior police official said: “Containers will be put in place to seal the `red zone’. Containers will also be placed at Faizabad, the entry point to Islamabad from the airport.”

“A special contingent of Islamabad police, probably with the support of Punjab police and Rangers, will be deployed at Faizabad to stop PAT workers from entering the city,” he added.

The police officer said the arrangements had been made in view of the previous record of Dr Qadri’s party because it had violated an agreement with the PPP government during its sit-in in January last year.

The interior minister directed the officials that the security of other parts of the twin cities should also be ensured so that unlawful elements did not take advantage of the situation.

He, however, asked them not to disturb the life of general public.

The commissioner of Rawalpindi, the IG of Islamabad and the RPO of Rawalpindi briefed the meeting about the measures being taken to ensure security in the twin cities.

Chaudhry Nisar said the sensitivity of the situation demanded heightened security measures and it was incumbent upon security agencies to fully secure public places and strategically important buildings.

“Police should review the overall security of the federal capital, with particular reference to entry and exit points and identification of sensitive buildings,” he said.

Chaudhry Nisar stressed that entry and exit points of Islamabad and Rawalpindi should be put on high alert and areas surrounding them should be thoroughly searched and cleared of any unlawful elements.

The meeting noted that the joint patrolling teams of Rangers and police have given a sense of security to the residents of Islamabad and directed to strategise this exercise to get its more optimum use.

It was decided that even unpaved routes, with special attention to unconventional routes, including pedestrian routes, should be secured.

The interior secretary, the chairman of the National Counter-Terrorism Authority and the director general of the Federal Investigation Agency also attended the meeting.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2014

Footprints: A saint without a shrine

Aurangzaib Khan

OLD ghosts crowd the streets of Teri, a hill settlement deep in the district of Karak. Now and then, one comes across them in the crumbling brick lanes: ancient mud-brick houses with architecture that lends the humble decrepit village abode an air of dignity, whispering of an affluent Hindu past. Much of that past has been laid to rest in Teri, buried under the debris of time. And concrete structures built by Muslim occupants when the hill community of Hindus migrated to India after partition.

OLD ghosts crowd the streets of Teri, a hill settlement deep in the district of Karak. Now and then, one comes across them in the crumbling brick lanes: ancient mud-brick houses with architecture that lends the humble decrepit village abode an air of dignity, whispering of an affluent Hindu past. Much of that past has been laid to rest in Teri, buried under the debris of time. And concrete structures built by Muslim occupants when the hill community of Hindus migrated to India after partition.

However, where a past can be buried, not always its ghosts. One such ghost lies at the heart of Teri, refusing to lie still. It is the dispute over the shrine of Shri Paramhans Ji Maharaj, a Hindu mystic who came to Teri a hundred years ago. A guru of high standing, the Maharaj was not cremated but buried here, as per Hindu tradition, in muraqba — a sitting meditative posture. He built a temple at Teri in his lifetime. On his death, his followers added a room to it as a samadhi or a shrine where he was buried.

Nothing of the shrine remains now but a lingering dispute between the Maharaj’s Hindu disciples and the local community that, after partition, demolished the temple and the shrine to build houses. Or more particularly a certain Mufti Iftikharuddin whose family occupied the temple and closed the door to the shrine that now falls in a house behind his. Teri, or for that matter the rest of Karak, doesn’t have any Hindus left but for the community — especially the Maharaj’s disciples — the spiritual significance of his burial place is singular.

“We have a pilgrimage site at Hinglaj in Balochistan that has no Hindu population but that doesn’t mean it should be taken over,” says Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, patron of the Pakistan Hindu Council, who moved the Supreme Court early this month against the illegal occupation of the shrine, an evacuee property owned and protected by the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB). “Thousands of pilgrims from Pakistan and India go there annually.”

While the top court is on the case, the ETPB and Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony have decided in the past that the property belongs to the Hindu community, a decision contested by the occupant Iftikharuddin. To persuade Iftikharuddin to leave the property, the Hindu community paid him Rs375,000 in 1997 through Nasir Khan Khattak, now a PTI MNA. Iftikharuddin says he has returned the money.

At the heart of the issue is a 2005 decision of religious leaders asked by Akram Durrani, the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief minister who led the MMA government in the province back then, to resolve the dispute. After the Hindu community sought the help of Maulana Fazlur Rahman, the chief of JUI-F, Durrani wrote to Maulvi Sharif, a local cleric, to decide the matter through a Jirga led by independent judges — a committee of ulema. The Jirga decided in favour of the Hindu community but Sharif rejected the decision even though parties to the conflict had agreed that the Jirga decision would be acceptable to all.

The Hindu delegation went back to Durrani who asked the district administration that the ulema committee’s decision should be implemented. The administration said it couldn’t because it would have implications for law and order and, perhaps more importantly, exploration of oil and gas in the district. A decade on, the administration still clings to that stance as the Supreme Court seeks to resolve the dispute.

In the Teri market where men sit idly on stairs in front of raised shops, and an abundance of watermelons tantalise with a promise of respite from the blistering heat, people seem oblivious to the shrine issue, generations of them having lived on evacuee property without anyone contesting it. Until 1956, Karak was ruled by the Teri Nawab, and served as the district’s capital. The district’s desolate landscape sits atop huge reservoirs of uranium, oil, gas and gypsum.

“It has now become a community issue where some people want to resolve the issue but are afraid of fatwas,” says Mohammad Nawaz Wazir, the Assistant Commissioner following up on the court’s order. “The community is afraid that if they give a piece, they may end up inviting more claims.”

Maulvi Sharif told Wazir that even if the administration rebuilt the shrine, they wouldn’t allow “outsiders” to visit Teri. That threat, the administration fears, could translate into stopping explorers from visiting Karak that sits on huge reservoirs of oil and gas, producing 40,000 barrels of crude oil annually, a wealth that has yet to turn the fortunes of the district and its people.

The Supreme Court wants the local ulema to persuade people to rebuild the shrine, a repeat of the Jirga held earlier rather than upholding its decision. But the ulema, including the JUI-F that has a huge following in the southern districts and initially helped the Hindu community, say it is not the best course to take.

“Even now, not a lot of people know of the issue,” says Maulana Mirzaqim Khan of JUI-F, who is president of the Khattak Ittehad that works for the rights of Khattaks, the dominant tribe in Karak. “But if we touch it, there is bound to be some aalim rising to lead people astray. Maybe we can build the shrine but with the Hindus here to take care of it, and militancy raging in the region, can we ensure it will not be destroyed again. What happens then?”

Back in the village Chak in Shikarpur, the shrine is the first thing on Prem Talreja’s mind when he prepares for the morning prayers. Talreja, a member of PHC, has led several delegations to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa seeking resolution to the issue. “Every morning when I stand before the picture of the Maharaj, I think of the Teri village and my prayers that are meant to bring hope, only causes me despair because I know his soul hasn’t got a place to rest.”

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2014

Land issues confront dam

Khalid Hasnain

LAHORE: The pace of work on Diamer-Bhasha Dam defies the government commitment to pursue the project with speed.

LAHORE: The pace of work on Diamer-Bhasha Dam defies the government commitment to pursue the project with speed.

The dam necessitated the acquisition of thousands of acres of land owned by the state and individuals. Private owners are now demanding payment of penalties against delays in purchase of their land and while the authorities have been able to secure large stretches of state land in Gilgit-Baltistan, the transfer of state land in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is pending.

A Wapda document states that state land measuring 989 acres in KP is to be transferred for the project, but the province says it is quite unaware of such a requirement. “The ministry of water and power or Wapda has not approached us over the matter,” says Waqar Ayub, a member of KP’s Board of Revenue.

At the same time, the government is faced with problems in its dealings with private owners. They have been demanding payment of interest or penalty for the authorities’ failure to acquire their land within the stipulated period that ended in December 2013.

Related: Environmental study of power project

“The private land acquisition is a big challenge,” says a senior official in Wapda. “We are striving to make the landowners agree to not press for the penalty, but so far they have stuck to their stance.”

According to official record, 37,419 acres of state and private land — 35,991 acres in Gilgit-Baltistan and 1,428 acres in KP — is required for launching the civil work on the dam. Of which 989 acres, owned by the state, are to be acquired through a transfer by the provincial government.

According to the current status, the Gilgit-Baltistan government has transferred 17,214 of the 18,073 acres of the required land in its area to Wapda. Similarly, Wapda has so far acquired 3,048 acres of the total 18,073 acres of private land required in Gilgit-Baltistan and 162 of the total 462 acres of private land in KP.

The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved the PC-1 (Part-1) for land acquisition and resettlement on Nov 6, 2008. In that document the acquisition of the land was to cost Rs60 billion. That covered the net land cost of Rs7.062bn (assets), while the rest of the money was to be spent on the social action plan.

Ecnec approved the PC-1 of the whole project for Rs894.257bn ($11.178bn) on Aug, 20, 2009. A revision in April 2014 doubled the cost of land to Rs119.975bn which was then rationalised to Rs101.221bn.

Also read: Work on 4,320MW hydel project launched

“Since the state land is transferred for development projects free of cost, the total estimated cost of the required private land and assets is Rs49.886bn based on the revised rates approved by ECC,” reads a Wapda document. The document says the land acquisition process began in 2010 and it was to be completed in three years (by December 2013). “And after this the government has to pay interest/penalty to the landowners/affectees.”

While an estimated Rs42.004bn is required to buy the private land for the project, the government allocated Rs25bn for the purpose in the budgets of 2013-14 and 2014-15.

“We had allocated Rs10bn for land acquisition in the ongoing fiscal year for acquiring the private land. And now we plan to allocate Rs15bn for this purpose in the next fiscal year,” Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said in his budget speech.

Since it is an insufficient allocation, the government will be unable to acquire the entire private land required for the project, exposing itself to calls of penalties from the owners.

Wapda has yet to acquire 14,870 acres (83 per cent) of the total 17,918 acres of private land required in Gilgit-Baltistan and 277 acres (63pc) of the total 439 acres of private land required in KP.

Wapda has almost succeeded in getting 90pc of the total required state land transferred in its name in Gilgit-Baltistan, while it has yet to get 989 acres of state land (100pc) in KP.

Waqar Ayub tells Dawn by telephone he has not seen any request from the ministry of water and power or Wapda forwarded to the KP government or the Board of Revenue directly or indirectly since the initiation of the process in 2010. “Had the ministry or Wapda written to us after identifying or demarcating a piece of state land required for the dam, we would have taken action. What I know is the authorities are acquiring private land in Kohistan and we are helping them in the task.”

On the other hand, Wapda’s former general manager (land acquisition and resettlement) Dr Raheel Ahmad Siddiqui says the entire record/correspondence related to requisition of the entire state land (both in Gilgit-Baltistan and KP) is available with the quarters concerned.

“The figure of 989 acres of state land you are asking about was given by the KP government and not by Wapda,” says Mr Siddiqui, who is now the secretary of KP’s excise and taxation department. “Later on the land was distributed among the tribal people.”

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2014

‘Fasting Buddha’ damaged further during cleaning

Shoaib Ahmed

LAHORE: The jewel of Lahore Museum — ‘The Fasting Buddha’ sculpture — carries a fresh scar, the legacy of an amateur attempt at ‘repairing’ one of its arms after an accident during cleaning.

LAHORE: The jewel of Lahore Museum — ‘The Fasting Buddha’ sculpture — carries a fresh scar, the legacy of an amateur attempt at ‘repairing’ one of its arms after an accident during cleaning.

The Buddha had two fingers on its right hand missing and a crack on its left arm since long. The crack was opened up a couple of years back while the staff was cleaning it, Dawn was tipped off by an art lover and conservationist on Wednesday.

They say the statue was “repaired” by museum’s lab staff like an ordinary object instead of being treated by scientific methods of conservation. 

Gandhara Gallery chief Muhammad Mujeeb told Dawn on Wednesday the conservation laboratory staff had filled the crack with simple epoxy.  

When this reporter had a close look at the Fasting Buddha on Wednesday the shiny epoxy applied to repair the arm was clearly visible.

“I had nothing to do with it. The job was carried out by lab staff,” Mujeeb says.

The current Lahore Museum director Sumera Samad, who took over in November 2012, denies any knowledge of the incident.  “Nobody has touched that art piece (during my term),” she says.

A museum expert, who wishes to remain anonymous, is appalled at the damage done to the precious art piece. “It should have been treated scientifically. Proper chemicals should have been applied to restore it through a qualified conservationist,” the expert says.

Though the museum has a conservation lab, it does not have any qualified chemist. The lab is being run by the staff with little knowledge of conservation involved.

The lab is headed by a research officer with a Masters in archaeology — which fall short of qualifying him as a chemical conservationist. The current lab technician was previously working as a gallery attendant and as the driver of a then-director of the museum. A former peon now acts as the lab conservationist.

The museum had a qualified chemist, Waseem Ahmed until 2009. He retired from regular service in 2007 but was then rehired  His term came to an end when Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif sent home all government employees who were on extension.

Hafiz Abdul Azeem, another conservationist who joined the museum in 2009 left the job three months ago, going off to Sweden for his Phd.

Fasting Buddha was excavated at Sikri by Colonel H.A. Dean. It was donated to the museum in 1894. It dates back to Gandhara period.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2014

Asma nominated to UN team on human rights abuses in Sri Lanka

Masood Haider

UNITED NATIONS: Asma Jahangir, the former president of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), has been nominated to a three-member panel to advise UN on alleged human rights violations committed during final stages of armed conflict in Sri Lanka.

UNITED NATIONS: Asma Jahangir, the former president of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), has been nominated to a three-member panel to advise UN on alleged human rights violations committed during final stages of armed conflict in Sri Lanka.

Former president of Finland Maarti Ahtassari and former Governor-General and High Court judge of New Zealand Silvia Cartwright are other members of the distinguished panel of experts UN High Commissioner for Human Rights announced on Wednesday.

“I am proud that three such distinguished experts have agreed to assist this important and challenging investigation,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

“Each of them brings not only great experience and expertise, but the highest standards of integrity, independence, impartiality and objectivity to this task,” she added in a press statement.

The Sri Lankan government declared victory over the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May 2009, after a conflict that had raged on and off for nearly three decades and killed thousands of people.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2014

100 Taliban killed in battle for Helmand districts: officials

AFP

KANDAHAR: More than 800 Taliban militants have launched a major offensive in southern Afghanistan to try to gain territory recently vacated by US troops, officials said on Wednesday, with 40 civilians killed in five days of fighting.

KANDAHAR: More than 800 Taliban militants have launched a major offensive in southern Afghanistan to try to gain territory recently vacated by US troops, officials said on Wednesday, with 40 civilians killed in five days of fighting.

About 100 Taliban have been killed, according to the interior ministry, in clashes that erupted as Afghanistan wrestled with a political crisis over alleged fraud in the June 14 election to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai.

The assault highlights the challenges facing Afghan security forces battling the Taliban as US-led Nato forces pull out.

Local officials in Helmand province said that 800 militants were involved in attacks centred on the Sangin district of Helmand province, a hotbed of fighting during the 13-year insurgency.

The last US troops pulled out of Sangin only last month, handing over their remaining bases to Afghan soldiers and police who have now taken on full responsibility for fighting the militants.

“About 800 fighters began to storm four districts of Helmand last Thursday night,” Helmand provincial governor spokesman Omar Zwak said. “At least 21 Afghan forces have died and close to 40 civilians were killed.”

A government official in Kabul confirmed the figure of 800 Taliban fighters.

Zwak said reinforcements had been sent to repel the attacks in Sangin, Nowzad, Kajaki and Musa Qala districts, where 2,000 families have fled the violence.

The threat of a Taliban revival as Nato combat troops withdraw after more than a decade of war is a major fear for many Afghans, though government and Nato officials insist that the national army and police are increasingly effective.

On Wednesday, the interior ministry confirmed the scale of the fighting in Helmand but insisted that the militants were being beaten back.

“There was a major attack by the Taliban and their supporters,” ministry spokesman Siddiq Siddiqi said. “We have reports of a lot of enemy attackers over the last few days.

Know more: Nato base in Afghanistan was attacked by Taliban

Siddiqi said that 18 policemen were killed on Tuesday.

Local officials said the Taliban had launched overnight attacks on police checkpoints, and that power from the Kajaki dam to Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand, and to Kandahar city had been cut, causing long outages.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2014

‘No distinction between good, bad Taliban’

Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Wednesday said security forces were conducting operation in North Waziristan Agency against militants without discrimination.

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Wednesday said security forces were conducting operation in North Waziristan Agency against militants without discrimination.

Speaking at a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs the adviser presented the ‘Strategic Vision of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy’ and said: “There is no distinction between good Taliban and bad Taliban and the military operation was being conducted across the board.”

Brushing aside some accusations that Pakistan was backing some Taliban groups, he said: “No non-state actor is being backed by the government.” He expressed the hope that lasting peace would be restored in the country at the end of the military operation.

The committee agreed that economic corridor to China alone would not strengthen the strategic partnership until “we also address the concerns about insurgents based in tribal areas planning attacks in the Chinese territory”.

Mr Aziz said the government would continue pursuing the foreign policy objectives, which include safeguarding Pakistan’s security.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2014

Boko Haram abducts another 60 women, girls

AFP

MAIDUGURI: Suspected Boko Haram militants have abducted more than 60 women and girls, some as young as three, in the latest kidnappings in northeast Nigeria over two months since they took away more than 200 schoolgirls.

MAIDUGURI: Suspected Boko Haram militants have abducted more than 60 women and girls, some as young as three, in the latest kidnappings in northeast Nigeria over two months since they took away more than 200 schoolgirls.

Analysts said the kidnapping, which happened during a raid on Kummabza village in the Damboa district of Borno state, could be an attempt by the Islamist group to refocus attention on its demands for the release of militant fighters.

Boko Haram has indicated that it would be willing to release the 219 schoolgirls that it has held hostage since April 14 in exchange for the freedom of its comrades currently held in Nigerian jails.

Nigeria initially refused to sanction any deal but efforts have since been made to open talks with the group, with a possible prisoner swap part of discussions.

The military in Abuja said in a tweet late on Monday it could not confirm the latest abductions and spokesmen were not immediately available for comment when contacted on Tuesday.

But a senior officer in the Damboa local government said: “Over 60 women were hijacked and forcefully taken away by the terrorists.”

“The village was also destroyed,” he said, adding that locals had fled their homes to other parts of Borno and across the state border into Adamawa.

“Among those abducted are children between the ages of three and 12,” he added.

Aji Khalil, a local vigilante leader, said: “Over 60 women were abducted by Boko Haram terrorists. Four villagers who tried to escape were shot dead on the spot.”

Damboa local government officials said they were afraid to speak out because of the controversy surrounding the Chibok abductions, with Nigeria’s government coming under heavy criticism for its slow response.

Another resident, who fled to the Borno state capital Maiduguri and also requested anonymity, said more than 30 men were killed during the raid, which began last Thursday.

“The attackers held the whole village hostage for the next three days,” he added.

News of the abductions came as locals in three villages of the Askira Uba district, some 60km to the south, said they had been attacked over the weekend.

Resident Emos Ali said “many” people had died, although no official toll was available.

A bomb blast blamed on Boko Haram killed at least eight at a public health college in the northern city of Kano on Monday.

ESTABLISHED TACTIC: Boko Haram, which has been waging a deadly insurgency since 2009, used the kidnapping of women and young girls as a tactic even before the mass abduction of the schoolgirls in the remote Borno town of Chibok.

The Chibok abduction triggered a groundswell of outrage within Nigeria that spread overseas, leading to a social media campaign and international pressure on the government to act.

Borno senator Ali Ndume confirmed the latest abductions and said Boko Haram “took advantage” as people returned to the area to check on their farms during flooding when there was no military presence in the area.

“Boko Haram selected young males and females” as hostages, and “left the elderly”, he said, amid local media reports that some 30 young boys may have also been taken.

Abductions have been a regular occurrence since the Chibok kidnapping, he added.

Ryan Cummings, a South Africa-based security analyst for Red 24, said the latest kidnappings could be a way for Boko Haram to redirect international focus on the Chibok hostages.

“It seemed that with international and domestic focus on the issue waning, so has the Nigerian government’s efforts in finding a resolution to the hostage situation,” he said by email.

“It was reported on May 26 that the Nigerian government had rescinded on a hostage exchange agreement with the sect and that negotiations subsequently had stalled.

“The latest abduction, if confirmed, may be an attempt by Boko Haram to both resume and expedite hostage negotiations.”

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2014

Decision in Bangladesh ‘war crimes’ trial delayed

Agencies

DHAKA: A Bangladesh court on Tuesday delayed a verdict against the top leader of an Islamist party charged with war crimes after the defendant became ill.

DHAKA: A Bangladesh court on Tuesday delayed a verdict against the top leader of an Islamist party charged with war crimes after the defendant became ill.

A special tribunal was set to deliver the verdict for Jamaat-i-Islami chief Motiur Rahman Nizami, who faces 16 charges, including genocide, murder, torture, rape and destruction of property during the war in 1971.

The head of a three-judge panel, M. Enayetur Rahim, said a new date for the verdict would not be set until the judges saw a detailed medical report about Nizami.

Rahim delayed the verdict after jail authorities told the tribunal that Nizami could not be in the court for the verdict because of his illness. “We don’t think it will be logical to announce the verdict under current circumstances,” Rahim told a packed courtroom.

Some people, who were demanding the death penalty for Nizami, alleged that the postponement was “a conspiracy”.

“We will continue to campaign for justice,” said Imran H. Sarkar, who is campaigning for a death sentence. “We will not accept any compromise with the people who killed our people in 1971.”

Thousands of extra security officials had been deployed across Bangladesh ahead of a verdict because of worries it could spark violence as similar court cases have in the past.

There was no immediate comment from the government on the delay.

Two special tribunals set up by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to try people for war crimes have delivered nine verdicts in which 10 people have been convicted. One senior leader of Jamaat-i-Islami party has already been hanged for his role in killing people in 1971.

The prosecution alleged that Nizami acted as the supreme commander of a militia group, Al-Badr, which carried out a systematic plan to torture and execute pro-liberation supporters during the war. He faces charges of personally carrying out or ordering the deaths of nearly 600 Bangladeshis.

The prosecution has asked for a death sentence for Nizami, while the defence argued the charges were politically motivated. Niza­mi was a cabinet minister during former prime minister Khaleda Zia’s last term in 2001-2006, and he was sentenced to death in January in a huge arms cache case.

Jamaat-i-Islami party campaigned against independence, but the party has denied committing atrocities.

Bangladesh’s war crimes court, called the Internatio­nal Crimes Tribunal, is a domestic body with no international or United Nations oversight. Rights groups say it falls short of international standards.

Defence lawyers say the court is biased and is a “travesty of justice”. They have accused the prosecution of forcing a witness to give false testimony against Nizami.

The latest verdict would be the first since Sheikh Hasina won general elections in January, which were marred by widespread fraud and a boycott by all opposition parties. Jamaat was barred from the polls.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2014

US urges Kurds to save Iraq from collapse

Reuters

ARBIL: US Secretary of State John Kerry urged leaders of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region on Tuesday to stand with Baghdad in the face of a Sunni insurgent onslaught that threatens to dismember the country.

ARBIL: US Secretary of State John Kerry urged leaders of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region on Tuesday to stand with Baghdad in the face of a Sunni insurgent onslaught that threatens to dismember the country.

Security forces fought Sunni armed factions for control of the country’s biggest oil refinery on Tuesday and militants launched an attack on one of its largest air bases less than 100km from the capital.

More than 1,000 people, mainly civilians, have been killed in less than three weeks, the United Nations said, calling the figure “very much a minimum”.

The figure includes unarmed government troops machine-gunned in mass graves by insurgents, as well as several reported incidents of prisoners killed in their cells by retreating government forces.

Kerry flew to the Kurdish region on a trip through the Middle East to rescue Iraq following a lightning advance by the Sunni fighters led by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS).

Know more on Kurd issue: Iraq may split on Kurd politics

US officials believe that persuading the Kurds to stick with the political process in Baghdad is vital to keep Iraq from splitting apart. “If they decide to withdraw from the Baghdad political process it will accelerate a lot of the negative trends,” said a senior State Department official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.

Kurdish leaders have made it clear that the settlement keeping Iraq together as a state is now in jeopardy.

“We are facing a new reality and a new Iraq,” Kurdish President Massoud Barzani said at the start of his meeting with Kerry. Earlier, he blamed Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s “wrong policies” for the violence and called for him to quit, saying it was “very difficult” to imagine Iraq staying together.

Kerry told Barzani that Iraq needed to stay united, a State Department official said, referring to the Kurdish leader’s comments about wanting an independent state.

The official summarised Kerry’s message as: “Whatever your aspirations are for your future, your interests now in the near-term are for a stable, sovereign and unified Iraq.” The five million Kurds, who have ruled themselves within Iraq in relative peace since the 1990s, have seized on this month’s chaos to expand their own territory, taking control of rich oil deposits.

Two days after the Sunni fighters launched their uprising by seizing the north’s biggest city Mosul, Kurdish troops took full control of Kirkuk, a city they consider their historic capital and which was abandoned by the fleeing Iraqi army.

The Kurds’ capture of Kirkuk, just outside the boundary of their autonomous zone, eliminates their main incentive to remain part of Iraq: its oil deposits could generate more revenue than the Kurds now receive from Baghdad as part of the settlement that has kept them from declaring independence.

FIGHTING AT REFINERY: Baghdad is racing against time as the insurgents consolidate their grip on Sunni provinces.

The Baiji refinery, a strategic industrial complex 200km north of Baghdad, remained a frontline early on Tuesday. Militants said late on Monday they had seized it, but two government officials said troop reinforcements had been flown into the compound and fended off the assault.

Local tribal leaders said they were negotiating with both the Shia-led government and the Sunni fighters to allow the tribes to run the plant if Iraqi forces withdrew. One of the government officials said Baghdad wanted the tribes to break with ISIS and other Sunni armed factions, and help defend the compound.

The plant has been fought over since last Wednesday, with sudden reversals for both sides and no clear winner so far.

In northeastern Iraq, violence continued between Sunni militants and Kurdish peshmerga fighters. Police in Diyala province said two peshmerga members were killed by a sniper and two wounded in Jalawla, 115km northeast of Baghdad.

Police in Kirkuk said gunmen shot dead a local ethnic Turkmen government official in his car in the city centre.

In the town of Yathrib, 90km north of Baghdad, tribes aided by ISIS fighters attacked the huge al Bakr air base, known under US occupation as “Camp Anaconda”, with mortars, according to a security source and the deputy head of the municipality.

Police and army forces also clashed with ISIS militants just north of the town of Udhaim in nearby Diyala province, after being driven out of the town into several villages around the Himreen mountains, a militant hideout, security sources said.

In recent days, Baghdad’s grip on the Western frontier with Syria and Jordan has been challenged. One post on the Syrian border has fallen to Sunni militants and another has been taken over by the Kurds. A third crossing with Syria and the only crossing with Jordan are contested, with anti-government fighters and Baghdad both claiming control.

For ISIS, capturing the frontier is a step towards the goal of erasing the modern border altogether and building a caliphate across swathes of Iraq and Syria.

An Iraqi military spokesman said the government had carried out air strikes on a militant gathering in the town of al-Qaim near the Syrian border, which is under the control of the coalition of Sunni armed groups, including ISIS. A hospital official in Qaim said 17 people died in the strikes and 52 were wounded, a number that was impossible to confirm independtly.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2014

Ukraine helicopter downed by rebel fire

Reuters

KIEV: Rebels shot down a Ukrainian helicopter carrying technicians who had been installing equipment to monitor violations of a peace plan in Ukraine’s rebellious east on Tuesday, killing all nine people on board, a military spokesman said.

KIEV: Rebels shot down a Ukrainian helicopter carrying technicians who had been installing equipment to monitor violations of a peace plan in Ukraine’s rebellious east on Tuesday, killing all nine people on board, a military spokesman said.

The technicians had been returning after setting up specialised equipment when their Mi-8 cargo helicopter was struck by a rebel missile near Slaviansk in eastern Ukraine, government forces spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov said.

“There were nine people on board. According to preliminary information … all those on board were killed,” Seleznyov said on his Facebook page. The nine dead included a three-man crew.

“The (rebel) fighters, having fired the rocket, hid in the nearby village of Bylbasovka,” he said.

The incident took place just hours after pro-Russia separatists on Monday night announced a ceasefire until June 27 to match a week-long truce by government forces which has been ordered by President Petro Poroshenko.

It was the second time a helicopter has been brought down by rebel fire from Slaviansk, a separatist stronghold.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2014

Alarm greets Modi’s order for destruction of historical files

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Controll­ing historical memory yields useful dividends in politics. Destroying historical evidence is a time-tested strategy of autocrats, clai­med academics and other assorted protesters here on Tuesday after Indian prime minister got hundreds of thousands of “historically relevant” files destroyed.

NEW DELHI: Controll­ing historical memory yields useful dividends in politics. Destroying historical evidence is a time-tested strategy of autocrats, clai­med academics and other assorted protesters here on Tuesday after Indian prime minister got hundreds of thousands of “historically relevant” files destroyed.

Times of India said on Mr Modi’s directive the Indian home ministry has gone on ‘a cleanliness drive’ and, in less than a month, destroyed nearly 1,500,000 files that had gathered dust for years.

While going through the almirahs of North Block, where the ministry is loca­ted, officials also found some interesting files which gave an insight to some historic moments, the paper said.

One of these files was about the presidential sanction given to pay India’s first governor general Lord Mountbatten a princely sum of Rs64,000 as TA/DA allowance for moving back to his country.

In today’s terms, the amount will be equivalent to several crores of rupees, a ministry official said.

Another snippet that came out was that after India’s first president Rajendra Prasad refused to take any pension, it was eventually sent to the government’s calamity fund.

Even the salary of former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri was sent to the calamity fund after he refused it, the files showed.

Crucially, another file has details about the cabinet meeting that was called before the death of Maha­tma Gandhi was annou­nced, an official said.

Asked if these files of historic value were saved or junked, an official expres­sed ignorance, the report said.

Academics suspected the government’s motive in ordering the destruction of priceless historical sources.

“In the absence of any assurance that files of historical value will be preserved or even vetted bef­ore being destroyed, all those who respect knowledge and historical resea­rch have cause to be gravely alarmed at this news,” wrote historian Dilip Simeon.

“The files destined for the shredders may be of the highest historical value and it is unacceptable that the prime minister and home minister should destroy them without a transparent vetting process by respec­ted scholars… India’s historical archive is not the private property of the RSS and Mr Modi,” Mr Simeon said.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2014

British PM’s former aide found guilty in phone-hacking case

AFP

LONDON: British Prime Minister David Cameron’s former media chief Andy Coulson was convicted of phone hacking on Tuesday but one-time Rupert Murdoch aide Rebekah Brooks was acquitted in a dramatic end to the News of the World trial.

LONDON: British Prime Minister David Cameron’s former media chief Andy Coulson was convicted of phone hacking on Tuesday but one-time Rupert Murdoch aide Rebekah Brooks was acquitted in a dramatic end to the News of the World trial.

Cameron issued a sombre televised apology for hiring Coulson, showing how toxic the scandal remains nearly three years after News Corp boss Murdoch was forced to shut down the Sunday tabloid in disgrace.

The jury at the Old Bailey court in London delivered their verdicts after eight days of deliberations and nearly eight months of detailed evidence in what had been dubbed the “trial of the century”.

An emotional Brooks had to be supported by a court nurse after the flame-haired former head of Murdoch’s British newspaper wing was acquitted of conspiring to intercept voicemails and of plotting to bribe officials for stories.

But Coulson, her former lover and her successor as editor of News of the World, faces jail following his conviction for phone hacking. The jury is still considering further charges against him and the paper’s then royal editor, Clive Goodman.

Brooks and Coulson, both 46, had an on-off extra-marital affair for several years while working at the paper, a further taste of scandal that only emerged at the start of the trial.

The case centred on News of the World’s efforts to hack the phones of Britain’s royal family, politicians, celebrities and victims of crime, including a murdered schoolgirl and families of people killed in the July 7, 2005 London bombings.

During the trial Brooks’s lawyers argued that there was “no smoking gun” to link her to the phone hacking and that the evidence was “circumstantial”.

Brooks’s current husband Charlie, a racehorse trainer, and News International director of security Mark Hanna were also cleared of perverting the course of justice by allegedly trying to hide evidence from the police.

Her former personal assistant Cheryl Carter was cleared of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. The paper’s retired managing editor Stuart Kuttner was also cleared of conspiracy to hack phones.

The scandal raised questions about the judgment of Cameron in hiring Coulson, who resigned as editor of the News of the World in 2007 after a journalist and private investigator were convicted of phone hacking.

Cameron had promised in parliament when the scandal first broke three years ago that he would make an apology if Coulson was found guilty, and he honoured that on Tuesday, saying he had given Coulson a “second chance”.

“It was a second chance, it turns out to be a bad decision and I’m extremely sorry about that,” Cameron said.

“Employing someone when they gave false assurances was the wrong decision. I’m profoundly sorry about that.”

Opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband said Cameron had “brought a criminal into the heart of Downing Street”.

Cameron was also a close friend of Rebekah Brooks, admitting that he had once been horse riding with her, while Murdoch’s papers swung behind Cameron’s Conservatives before Britain’s last general election in 2010.

Brooks quit as head of News International, the former British newspaper wing of Murdoch’s media empire. She had risen from being a secretary at the company to edit the News of the World and then went on to become one of Murdoch’s top aides.

The company — now rebranded News UK — said it had “made changes in the way we do business to help ensure wrongdoing like this does not occur again”.

Murdoch shut down the News of the World in disgrace and a boycott by advertisers just over three years ago after it emerged that the paper had hacked the voicemails of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

The paper was later found to have hacked a long list of public figures including Prince William, the second-in-line to the British throne, his wife Kate Middleton, and celebrities including former Beatle Paul McCartney and actor Jude Law.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2014

Footprints: Embracing Football

Mirza KhurramShahzad

Saher Zaman’s Gilgit background and the fact that she’s the only girl amongst six brothers has made her family very sensitive about her going away from home for any extended period of time — and that too for playing football.

Saher Zaman’s Gilgit background and the fact that she’s the only girl amongst six brothers has made her family very sensitive about her going away from home for any extended period of time — and that too for playing football.

Her interest in football, which she started playing back in 2007 when she was only nine, became harder to keep undiminished with every passing day. “It was okay for my family as long as I was playing as a child. But as I grew up, they started resisting,” says Zaman, mid-fielder for the Young Rising Stars (YRS) girls’ football club and one of the country’s best female football players. She has just played in the opening match of the inter-clubs girls’ championship at the Pakistan Sports Complex in Islamabad.

“Witnessing my craze for the game, my dad somehow agreed to allow me to continue playing football but it keeps coming up from time to time,” she adds. “You know the sensitivities about us girls.”

Refusing to be disheartened by opposition, though, Zaman, wearing shorts and a T-shirt, dashes up and down the pitch, coaxing teammates on. On the field with 21 other young women, her team in black and the opponents, the Soccer Queen Rawalpindi (SQR) club, in red, she dribbles the ball towards the goalpost.

There are thick, grey clouds looming ominously low, choppers landing and taking off from the adjacent Islamabad heliport. But the girls’ passion for the game is evident. As the cloudburst comes, Zaman’s teammate Ayeza Waheed strikes the sixth goal on a penalty in the last minute. Their team wins 6-0 against the relatively new SQR. The YRS club, established in 2007 in Rawalpindi, has changed the lives of many girls.

Some of Zaman’s seniors, with whom she started playing in the beginning, have joined international universities and clubs abroad. This fact has become a huge inspiration for Zaman. “I want to play for an international club and bring fame to my country, my family and my club,” she says. “My friends have won scholarships from international universities and one has just won a contract from a Maldives club, but I want to play in the US.” Zaman’s former captain, Sana Mehmood, won a scholarship from the US on the basis of her football skills while Hajira Mehmood, a player from Karachi’s Diya club, signed a contract with one of the leading clubs in the Maldives.

Know more: Woman footballer says dream fulfilled

The YRS club was formed by a former national footballer, Ghiasuddin Baloch, in 2007 when he observed that Pakistani girls had ample talent and were in need of only a base. Baloch’s efforts were endorsed by the US embassy in Pakistan and the diplomatic mission supported him with a financial grant of around $30,000 over a period of seven years. The assistance was very well invested because the YRS football club became the national champions in 2008.

They have been defending the title successfully since then. The YRS also went to the US for a recreational tour, an opportunity that presented the players unprecedented exposure and boosted confidence. Zaman has also visited several other countries, particularly in South Asia, to compete in a number of championships.

“My passion is to take my players to the heights of the sport in the world,” Baloch says. “My goal is to beat South Asian, Islamic and Asian countries and that I will Inshallah achieve. If I get proper funding for three successive years, I can make this dream come true. I have gathered together the best talent in the country and the support from the US embassy has helped me raise this club, which I have every reason to believe is of international standard. If I get the required support from the government and the private sector, there is no reason for these girls to not perform well at the international level.”

The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) has organised a national women’s football championship since 2005. Unfortunately, though, female football players are still limited to clubs and departmental teams, and no regular women’s team has been raised as yet.

For Zaman, an irregular national team is insufficient to hone women’s skills. “If we had a regular national team to tour internationally and play in regional and international events, our game would improve and we’d become a top competitive side, a force to be reckoned with on the international football calendar,” she believes.

Baloch thinks Pakistan needs to bring about some structural changes to further strengthen women’s football. “We should regularly organise a national under-16 girls’ championship,” he says. “Plus, we should make it mandatory for each team playing a national event to include a certain number of under-17 players.”

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2014

8 Islamists to hang for bombing in Bangladesh

AFP

DHAKA: A Bangladeshi court sentenced eight Islam­ists to death on Monday for a 2001 bomb attack that killed 10 people and wounded scores more during the country’s main celebrations for the Bengali New Year.

DHAKA: A Bangladeshi court sentenced eight Islam­ists to death on Monday for a 2001 bomb attack that killed 10 people and wounded scores more during the country’s main celebrations for the Bengali New Year.

The head of the outlawed Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami (HuJI) outfit, Mufti Abdul Hannan, was among the eight sentenced to hang for planning and carrying out the bombing in Dhaka’s main park.

It was one of the first deadly attacks by an extremist Islamist group in the country.

Metropolitan sessions jud­ge Ruhul Amin also senten­ced six others to life in prison for setting off two bombs under a tree while thousands of revellers celebrated the first day of the Bengali New Year in April 2001.

The attack was captured live on television, with the scenes of carnage triggering widespread outrage.

“The attack was carried out to destabilise the country and create panic,” Judge Amin said as he delivered the verdict before a packed courtroom in Dhaka’s old city. “The first day of the Bengali New Year is a universal celebration. This celebration is not tied to any religious or political group,” he added.

The Bengali New Year, celebrated on April 14, is the most important secular festival for the 155 million ethnic Bengalis in Bangladesh.

Hundreds of thousands traditionally gather and sing under a banyan tree in the capital’s historic Ramna Park and the nearby grounds of Dhaka University.

Prosecutors said HuJI militants plotted the attack when they gathered at a mosque in Dhaka several weeks earlier.

“It was a heinous attack and unprecedented in our history,” prosecutor Abdul­lah Abu told reporters after the verdict was announced.

“We’re happy with the eight death sentences, but not satisfied with the sentencing of six people who were given life terms. We’ll appeal against the life sentences.”

The HuJI chief, better known as Mufti Hannan, is already on death row after being convicted in 2008 of trying to assassinate the British high commissioner four years earlier in a grenade attack.

Bangladesh saw mass protests last year when several senior Islamists were sentenced to death after being convicted of war crimes dating back to the 1971 conflict.

On Tuesday the country’s war crime court is set to deliver its latest verdict against the leader of the largest Islamist group Motiur Rahman Nizami for alleged atrocities during the 1971 war.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2014

Al Jazeera journalists jailed in Egypt

Reuters

CAIRO: Three Al Jazeera journalists were sentenced to seven years in jail by an Egyptian judge on Monday for aiding a “terrorist organisation”, drawing criticism from Western governments who said the verdict undermined freedom of expression.

CAIRO: Three Al Jazeera journalists were sentenced to seven years in jail by an Egyptian judge on Monday for aiding a “terrorist organisation”, drawing criticism from Western governments who said the verdict undermined freedom of expression.

The three, who all denied the charge of working with the now banned Muslim Brotherhood, included Australian Peter Greste and Canadian-Egyptian national Mohamed Fahmy, Cairo bureau chief of Al Jazeera English.

The third defendant, Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed, was given an extra three years for possessing a single bullet at the hearing attended by Western diplomats, some of whose governments summoned Egypt’s ambassadors over the case.

The men have been held at Egypt’s notorious Tora Prison for six months, with the case becoming a rallying point for rights groups and news organisations around the world.

They were detained in late December and charged with helping “a terrorist group” — a reference to Muslim Brotherhood — by broadcasting lies that harmed national security and supplying money, equipment and information to a group of Egyptians.

The Brotherhood was banned and declared a terrorist group after the army deposed elected Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in July following mass protests against his rule. The Brotherhood says it is a peaceful organisation.

Al Jazeera, whose Qatari owners back the Brotherhood and have been at odds with Egypt’s leadership since he was ousted, said the ruling defied “logic, sense and any semblance of justice”.

“There is only one sensible outcome now. For the verdict to be overturned, and justice to be recognised by Egypt,” Al Jazeera English managing director Al Anstey said in a statement.

The ruling came a day after US Secretary of State John Kerry met newly elected Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo and raised the issue of the journalists.

On Monday, Mr Kerry said he called Egypt’s foreign minister to register his “serious displeasure” over the “chilling and draconian verdict”.

The courtroom quickly descended into chaos as the verdict was read out. Shaken and near tears, Greste’s brother Michael said: “This is terribly devastating. I am stunned, dumbstruck. I’ve no other words.”

The three men had looked upbeat as they entered the courtroom in handcuffs, waving at relatives who had earlier told journalists they expected them to be freed for lack of evidence.

One Dutch woman and two Britons were sentenced to 10 years in absentia on the same charges of aiding a “terrorist group”.

Judicial sources said the verdicts could be appealed before a higher court and a pardon was still possible.

Egypt’s public prosecutor last week ordered the release of another Al Jazeera journalist, Abdullah al-Shamy, on health grounds after he spent more than 130 days on hunger strike.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2014

Kerry condemns conviction

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State John Kerry urged the Egyptian government on Monday to review all political sentences and verdicts pronounced during the last few years and consider all available remedies, including pardons.

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State John Kerry urged the Egyptian government on Monday to review all political sentences and verdicts pronounced during the last few years and consider all available remedies, including pardons.

In a statement issued by his office, Secretary Kerry observed that Monday’s conviction and “chilling, draconian sentences” by the Cairo Criminal Court of three Al Jazeera journalists and 15 others was “a deeply disturbing setback to Egypt’s transition”.

“The long-term success of Egypt and its people depends on the protection of universal human rights, and a real commitment to embracing the aspirations of the Egyptians for a responsive government,” he said.

The White House also strongly condemned the verdicts rendered against the three journalists and 15 other defendants.

“The prosecution of journalists for reporting information that does not coincide with the government of Egypt’s narrative flouts the most basic standards of media freedom and represents a blow to democratic progress in Egypt”, the White House said.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2014

India to ratify agreement with IAEA

Reuters

NEW DELHI: India said on Monday it was ratifying an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to expand oversight of its civilian nuclear programme, in a move aimed at unblocking a major nuclear partnership with the United States.

NEW DELHI: India said on Monday it was ratifying an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to expand oversight of its civilian nuclear programme, in a move aimed at unblocking a major nuclear partnership with the United States.

The ratification sends a strong signal that Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to bolster strategic and trade ties with the United States when he meets President Barack Obama in Washington in September.

“I can confirm that we are ratifying the Additional Protocol to the IAEA Safeguards Agreement,” said Syed Akbaruddin, spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs.

The move signals India’s commitment “to the responsible use of nuclear power”, Akbaruddin added, confirming earlier domestic reports. No comment was available from the IAEA.

Yet critics say the pact fails to address concerns that India could as a result get its foot in the door of a club of countries that trade in nuclear materials, without first signing a treaty that seeks to curb the spread of nuclear weapons.

There would be “no gain for non-proliferation” said Tariq Rauf, a former senior IAEA official now at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2014

Pakistan needs to make hard choices now: Hillary

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has said that Pakistan’s policy of seeking strategic depth in Afghanistan has been proven wrong and the country now needs to focus all its strength on dealing with the militants.

WASHINGTON: Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has said that Pakistan’s policy of seeking strategic depth in Afghanistan has been proven wrong and the country now needs to focus all its strength on dealing with the militants.

“Their idea, that they have these groups to provide strategic depth, as they like to say, vis-a-vis Afghanistan, or vis-a-vis India, I think if that were ever true, which I doubt, but if that were ever true, it no longer is,” she told Indian NDTV channel.

In the interview that focused on her new book, ‘Hard Choices’, Ms Clinton said that Pakistan also needed to make a hard choice now, disconnecting its ties to various terrorist groups and putting together all state powers to “once and for all go after extremists, shut down their training camps, their safe havens, (and) madressahs that are inculcating suicide bombing behaviour.”

The Pakistanis must also “begin to have a different view of themselves in the future”, she added.

Ms Clinton said she believed the Asif Zardari government did not know what the connections were between elements within the military and the ISI and various extremist and even terrorist groups.

She also said that those were under the mistaken view that having these kinds of proxies vis-a-vis India, vis-a-vis Afghanistan were in Pakistan’s interests.

“It’s like keeping poisonous snakes in your backyard expecting they will only bite your neighbour and what we are seeing now is the continuing threat to the state of Pakistan by these very same elements.”

Ms Clinton said that when she visited India after the Mumbai terror attacks, she was “very struck” by how the then government said it was very difficult to exercise restraint. “I don’t think any government could say anything differently.”

She said when Sonia Gandhi and former Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh conveyed the news of the Mumbai terror attacks to her, she told them: “This is an element within the military intelligence institutional base, but that the civilian government was not involved. But I think that no country can turn away from that kind of attack continuously.”

She noted that the terrorists now had moved deeper inside Pakistan, attacking targets in major Pakistani cities. “We’ve just seen the attacks in Karachi. And I don’t see how Pakistan can ignore this much longer.”

Asked who she thought was accountable for the terror attacks, she said: “We certainly never had any evidence that it went to the very top, but that may or may not be true.”

Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2014

Youth shot dead in Kashmir

AFP

SRINAGAR: Indian forces shot dead a youth in occupied Kashmir on Monday during protests following an overnight gunbattle in which one suspected militant was killed and another was believed to have escaped.

SRINAGAR: Indian forces shot dead a youth in occupied Kashmir on Monday during protests following an overnight gunbattle in which one suspected militant was killed and another was believed to have escaped.

The incident happened in the volatile town of Sopore, 45km southwest of Srinagar, during protests by residents at the end of the gunbattle which had started on Sunday evening, a police officer said.

“One civilian was killed and four were injured in the firing,” the officer said.

Residents said police arrested two young men from the area following the gunbattle on suspicion of having links with the militants.

This infuriated residents further and hundreds more joined the protest.

They clashed with police shouting, “We want freedom!” a witness said.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2014

ISIS militants make fresh gains in Iraq

AFP

BAGHDAD: Sunni militants advanced in western Iraq and killed 21 people after security forces left multiple towns, while America’s top diplomat called on Sunday for the country’s leaders “to rise above sectarianism”.

BAGHDAD: Sunni militants advanced in western Iraq and killed 21 people after security forces left multiple towns, while America’s top diplomat called on Sunday for the country’s leaders “to rise above sectarianism”.

It is the latest in a series of setbacks for Iraqi forces, which are struggling to hold their ground in the face of an insurgent onslaught that has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and sparked fears that the country could tear itself apart.

The militants, led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS), seized the towns of Rawa and Ana after taking the Al-Qaim border crossing on Saturday, residents said.

They then gunned down 21 local notables in Rawa and Ana in two days of violence, according to officers and doctors.

The government said its forces had made a “tactical” withdrawal from the towns, control of which allows the militants to open a strategic route to neighbouring Syria where also they hold swathes of countryside along the Euphrates river valley.

ISIS aims to create an Islamic state incorporating both Iraq and Syria, where the group has become a major force in the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad.

The seizure of Al-Qaim leaves just one of three official border crossings with Syria in federal government hands. The third is controlled by Kurdish forces.

Anti-government fighters already hold areas of the western desert province of Anbar which abuts the Syrian border, after taking all of one city and parts of another earlier in the year.

Elsewhere, government forces launched an air strike on the militant-held city of Tikrit, killing at least seven people, residents said, as the defence ministry announced air strikes on the northern city of Mosul.

The insurgents also clashed with security forces and pro-government tribal fighters in Al-Alam east of Tikrit, with militants killing the women’s affairs adviser to the provincial governor.

The fighting came as US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Cairo on a trip to the Middle East and Europe, with Washington aiming to unite Iraq’s fractious leaders and repel the militants.

“We must urge Iraq’s leaders to rise above sectarian considerations… and sp­eak to all people,” Kerry said in Cairo, while also adding that Washington is not responsible for the current crisis.

Kerry later travelled to Jordan, and will also visit Brussels and Paris, where Washington is also expected to push for greater efforts to cut off funding to ISIS.

“First and foremost, we are urging countries that have diplomatic dealings with Iraq and that are in the region to take that threat as seriously as we do,” a senior State Department official said.

“Second, we are underscoring the need for Iraqi leaders to expedite their government formation process and to come together around a new government that is inclusive.” The official also noted that “a lot of the funding and support that has over a long period of time fuelled extremism inside Iraq has flowed into Iraq from its neighbours”.

While Kerry is also expected to travel to Iraq for his second visit since taking over as secretary of state in early 2013, it was notknown when he would do so.

Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2014

Prehistoric cave with figurative drawings wins World Heritage status

AFP

DOHA: UN cultural agency Unesco granted on Sunday its prized World Heritage status to a prehistoric cave in southern France containing the earliest known figurative drawings.

DOHA: UN cultural agency Unesco granted on Sunday its prized World Heritage status to a prehistoric cave in southern France containing the earliest known figurative drawings.

Delegates at Unesco’s World Heritage Committee meeting voted to grant the status to the Grotte Chauvet at a gathering in Doha, where they are considering cultural and natural wonders for inclusion on the UN list.

The cave in the Ardeche region, which remained sealed off for millennia before its discovery in 1994, contains more than 1,000 drawings dating back some 36,000 years to what is believed to be the first human culture in Europe.

French Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti called the cave “a major site for humanity” that provides an exceptional opportunity for study.

It is “a jewel whose emotional power is as strong today as when it was conceived,” she said in a statement.

Unesco said the Grotte Chauvet “contains the earliest and best-preserved expressions of artistic creation of the Aurignacian people, which are also the earliest known figurative drawings in the world”.

The opening of the cave, located about 25 metres underground, was closed off by a rockfall 23,000 years ago.

It lay undisturbed until it was found by three French cave experts and almost immediately declared a protected heritage site in France.

“Its state of preservation and authenticity is exceptional as a result of its concealment over 23 millennia,” Unesco said.

The painted images include representations of human hands and of dozens of animals, including mammoth, wild cats, rhinos, bison, bears and aurochs.

The paintings are more than twice as old as those in the famed Lascaux caves also in southern France and more discoveries are expected to be found in remote parts of the cave.

With the cave itself closed to the public, authorities are building a full-scale replica of the site nearby, which is expected to open in the spring of 2015.

Unesco delegates are meeting for 10 days in Doha to consider the inscription of 40 sites on the World Heritage List and issue warnings over already-listed locations that may be in danger.

Other sites given the status this year include a vast Inca road system spanning six countries and ancient terraces in the West Bank that are under threat from the Israeli separation barrier.

Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2014

Footprints: Road to nowhere

Aurangzaib Khan

Read more: The IDP conundrum

Read more: The IDP conundrum

What do I tell this young man from Mirali whose displaced family — two brothers and two cousins — has sought refuge in a village school in Bannu’s outskirts when he asks, hopefully, if the newspaper report will be able to bring him help? Do I tell him it is not a national tragedy, that no tragedy can shake the state’s numb conscience? He wouldn’t be here in the first place if that wasn’t the case.

Or do I tell him that speaking to a newspaper will highlight the trial he and hundreds of thousands of others face, stranded on the road between Bannu and Mirali, and on the streets of Bannu, looking for shelter in a town where the hotel rooms are all taken and the houses all rented for prices unimaginable for a young man like him?

What do I tell my photographer friend who shows me the picture of a woman out on the Mirali-Bannu road, following a donkey laden with the pots and pans of her poor household, out walking on the burning road, lost and vulnerable because women like her have hardly ever ventured out of homes or villages, let alone been exposed to a world gone wrong? He says the sight made him cry. On the same road that day, I saw scores of the displaced, with thousands of heads of cattle; they had no money or transport to carry animals to safety.

Some of them have walked the road, all 60 plus kilometres of it, pushing unwilling cattle to an unknown destination — who will take their families in, let alone the cattle? They stop on the roadside to take a respite from the blazing heat and exhaustion, women sitting in ditches, men on the side squinting at the traffic of others like them. The number of people stranded on this road is staggering. A displaced person, an education officer who wants to remain nameless, says the displacement is “a calamity, a paradox”. “Look at our women here,” he says. “We gave them Kashmir, and this is what we get.”

“There was a child today, walking the road with his dog Moti [as in pearl],” says an AFP reporter as we eat dinner at a local restaurant. “His sandals were completely worn from walking the road, blisters on his feet. He said his family had died in a drone attack and people took his brothers and sisters to Bannu. But they wouldn’t take Moti along so he decided to walk instead. I asked him where would he stay and he said wherever Moti did.”

I went disaster reporting and ended by doing a bit of disaster tourism because I wasn’t allowed to report, to cover the camp or registration. Above a mound at the Saidgi registration centre where I find myself, watching the parched thousands pour in from Waziristan, I have a glass of cool Rooh Afza while listening to soldiers speaking into crackling walkie-talkies.

They have fumbled through the dark night and the day under a scorching sun, an exodus of man and beast trudging the road for more than 24 hours now. Among them I see a mad man, wearing the long, flowing dress of a Bedouin, walking barefoot on the burning road. He walks in the direction opposite to the one the displaced people take. I try to see poetry in that but there isn’t any. Stepping like he’s walking on coals, he walks back to Waziristan, to home. In the chaos of cars, trucks, tractor trolleys and pedestrians, he is a lone figure walking in the wrong direction. Nobody stops him, no one gives him water or food, or sandals for his singed feet. Nobody stops to tell him he can’t go back that way anymore.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2014

FO disowns refugees ‘detained’ in Sri Lanka

Kashif Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office has distanced itself from the reported arrests of registered Pakistani refugees and asylum seekers in Sri Lanka, but aid workers from the island nation have confirmed that Pakistani refugees are being rounded up by the authorities.

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office has distanced itself from the reported arrests of registered Pakistani refugees and asylum seekers in Sri Lanka, but aid workers from the island nation have confirmed that Pakistani refugees are being rounded up by the authorities.

Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam was unsympathetic to the plight of the detained refugees in Sri Lanka, saying: “These people [asylum seekers] obtained asylum in Sri Lanka by badmouthing Pakistan. If they are in trouble, I have no idea.”

However, a UNHCR official in Sri Lanka, Dushanthi Fernando told Dawn: “Some 140 persons were reported to be detained at the Mirihana and Boossa detention centres. UNHCR is intervening and seeking clarification from the authorities on the reasons behind these arrests,” she said.

“As of June 9, UNHCR has been receiving reports that a number of Pakistani asylum-seekers and few recognised refugees have been arrested,” she said, adding that UNCHR had not been informed of any possible deportations.

“We continuously emphasise the importance and need for respect and observance of the principle of non-refoulement, which is a cornerstone of international refugee protection and a principle of customary international law,” Ms Fernando said.

She said UNHCR would continue to raise the issue with the relevant authorities.

The Sri Lankan newspaper, quoting unnamed sources, had reported that, “(an) operation was launched after intelligence sources revealed that some of the Pakistani asylum seekers in Sri Lanka are involved with insurgent groups in India and Pakistan”.

The report went on to say that asylum seekers in the city of Negombo are living under a cloud of fear following the arrests.

Duniya Khan, a UNHCR official in Pakistan, told Dawn that under the law, asylum seekers and refugees could not be harassed by any authority. “Law enforcement agencies of any country can only interrogate suspects on the basis of concrete evidence,” she said.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is the authority that deals with the extradition of wanted individuals detained abroad. However, officials Dawn spoke to indicated that the action against refugees in Sri Lanka may not have been requested by Pakistani authorities at all.

Explaining the process whereby authorities reach out to law enforcement agencies from other countries, FIA Director Inam Ghani said: “For the extradition of a wanted person, FIA obtains perpetual warrants of the accused from a court of the law, and initiates a case for extradition with the country in question, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”

He said that extradition requests usually pertain to specific individuals and the arrests of large number of people are almost never requested.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2014

Australia offers asylum seekers money to return home: paper

AFP

SYDNEY: Australia is offering asylum seekers in its Pacific immigration camps up to $10,000 (US$9,400) if they voluntarily return to their home country, a newspaper report said on Saturday.

SYDNEY: Australia is offering asylum seekers in its Pacific immigration camps up to $10,000 (US$9,400) if they voluntarily return to their home country, a newspaper report said on Saturday.

Fairfax Media reported that those returning to Lebanon from detention centres on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island and the tiny Pacific state of Nauru were offered the highest amount of $10,000.

The Herald said under the previous Labour administration — in office until last September — the payments ranged from $1,500 to $2,000.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said “return packages” were standard practice but would not reveal what the maximum payments had been.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2014

Abdullah’s supporters mount protest over ‘poll fraud’

AFP

KABUL: Supporters of Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah marched through Kabul on Saturday in protest against alleged fraud in last week’s election, escalating tensions in a political stalemate threatening the country’s first democratic transfer of power.

KABUL: Supporters of Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah marched through Kabul on Saturday in protest against alleged fraud in last week’s election, escalating tensions in a political stalemate threatening the country’s first democratic transfer of power.

More than 1,000 protesters gathered in the city for the largely peaceful demonstration but the United Nations warned that any street violence “could lead to a spiral of instability”.

Abdullah has boycotted the election vote count, taking Afghanistan into a crisis as Nato combat troops withdraw from a 13-year war against Taliban militants.

The former foreign minister accused his poll rival Ashraf Ghani, outgoing President Hamid Karzai and election authorities of committing fraud to deny him victory.

Demonstrators took to the streets shouting slogans and carrying banners that read “Fraudsters should be put on trial” and “We will defend our vote to the last drop of our blood”.

“The election authorities are not impartial,” Asar Hakimi, one protest organiser, said. “All the achievements of the past 12 years are at stake. We will continue protesting if the government and the election commission continue their hostility.”

He said the “anti-fraud” rallies were not organised by Abdullah’s campaign, but the crowds appeared to be made up of Abdullah supporters.

Reports of the ongoing vote count suggest that Ghani has made a surprise comeback after finishing behind Abdullah in the first-round election on April 5.

Abdullah said he now considered the election authorities “illegitimate” and alleged that in several provinces there were more votes than eligible voters.

“We would call upon supporters of the candidates to refrain from inflammatory statements, or statements that promote divisive ethnic mobilisation,” UN mission deputy chief Nicholas Haysom told reporters.

The threat of ethnic unrest is a grim prospect for Afghanistan, where tribal loyalties are still fierce after the 1992-1996 civil war.

Abdullah’s support is based among the Tajik minority and other northern tribes, while Ghani is a Pashtun — Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group, which is strongest in the Taliban heartlands of the south and east.

A smooth election was seen as a key benchmark for the US-led coalition that has fought against the Taliban and donated billions of dollars in aid since 2001.

But Nato military operations are winding down fast, and the dispute could wreck claims that a functioning state has been set up in place of the Taliban regime which was ousted in 2001.

Abdullah, who has called for his supporters to remain peaceful, believes fraud denied him victory in the 2009 election, and he often said that only a repeat of ballot-rigging could keep him from power this time.

He faced Ghani in the run-off vote after the two came first and second in an eight-man first-round election, when Abdullah was ahead with 45 per cent against Ghani’s 31.6 per cent.

In response to calls for it to play a mediating role, the UN said: “We stand ready to assist… in resolving this political impasse, subject to this (being) an Afghan-led and Afghan-managed process.”

“The task ahead of us is to have the candidates re-engaged fully in the election process,” Haysom said. “There is no other way of electing a legitimate leader.”

The preliminary election result is due on July 2 and the final result, after adjudication of complaints, is scheduled for July 22.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2014

Editorial News

PTI’s roadmap

Editorial

THE chief of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Imran Khan, is scheduled to unveil his map for the future at a public meeting in Bahawalpur today. The announcement is being anxiously awaited against the backdrop of reported discussion within the party over which course it should follow from here onwards. In simple terms, the PTI is divided between the moderates who have the patience and will to work gradually within the existing system and the more radical elements who want to strive for forcing sudden change at the risk of severely endangering the system.

THE chief of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Imran Khan, is scheduled to unveil his map for the future at a public meeting in Bahawalpur today. The announcement is being anxiously awaited against the backdrop of reported discussion within the party over which course it should follow from here onwards. In simple terms, the PTI is divided between the moderates who have the patience and will to work gradually within the existing system and the more radical elements who want to strive for forcing sudden change at the risk of severely endangering the system.

These are the two extremes Mr Khan has been shuttling between. One moment he presses for an investigation into vote fraud by the available apparatus and the next he threatens to join Dr Tahirul Qadri. If the PTI is not too bothered about learning from its own experience in public protest so far, maybe there is a case for it to have a close look at the Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s example: how Dr Qadri has been unable to sustain action that would indicate mobility. The drive — led either by Mr Khan or by Dr Qadri or by the two of them jointly — cannot go in fits and starts. There has to be decisive progress aimed at well-defined targets that are fully understood by and acceptable to the masses whose favour is being sought. There is more frustration than purpose to the two moves so far.

Imran Khan has reasons to be upset. He is within his rights to ask for a probe into alleged poll rigging. The delay in addressing his demands betrays problems in the system of governance that lacks an ability to effectively respond to discontent and complaints. Also, there is not too much room for disagreement over him questioning the arrogance with which the current rulers work. The big question, however, relates to the sensitive issue of just how far he can take his agitation and what serious repercussions his acts could entail, for his party and for the country at large. Mr Khan warns he could be ultimately forced to dissolve the provincial assembly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where his party is in power. If this is a statement made in total disregard for the disastrous effects such a dissolution could have on the whole of Pakistan, it seems also to be based on an overestimation of what gains the PTI, now a political party with proven public support, could make in the ensuing chaos. The people want change but, oft bitten, they will be wary of being plunged into yet another period of uncertainty. The PTI leader will persist with his demand for poll-fraud investigation, but if he is to emerge as the alternative he must devote some of his energies to turning his Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government into a model ready to be replicated all across the country.

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2014

For the poor

Editorial

IT has been almost a quarter of a century, now, that the language of our economic policy has been dominated by concerns related to growth. Over these years, we have worried ourselves sick over questions like how to attract foreign investment, how to bridge the fiscal deficit so the state does not become the dominant consumer of the country’s investible resources, what foreign exchange regime would best serve the objective of reserve asset accumulation, how to shift the taxation base away from trade towards consumption, and so on. As the language came to revolve around these questions, the poor and the marginalised increasingly dropped off the policy radar, becoming little more than an afterthought — a nuisance, rag-tag rabble with nothing but bellies to fill. Our infrastructure has seen paradigm-changing investments, like cellular communications and highways, but our public schools have fallen into desolation and disrepair. Flashy brand-name fast food establishments have proliferated, while the majority of our country’s children have been pushed into the clutches of hunger and chronic malnutrition. The government today talks about bullet trains and highways, while our railway infrastructure grinds to a halt and in our largest city, people still commute to work squatting atop buses that resemble rusted iron cages on wheels.

IT has been almost a quarter of a century, now, that the language of our economic policy has been dominated by concerns related to growth. Over these years, we have worried ourselves sick over questions like how to attract foreign investment, how to bridge the fiscal deficit so the state does not become the dominant consumer of the country’s investible resources, what foreign exchange regime would best serve the objective of reserve asset accumulation, how to shift the taxation base away from trade towards consumption, and so on. As the language came to revolve around these questions, the poor and the marginalised increasingly dropped off the policy radar, becoming little more than an afterthought — a nuisance, rag-tag rabble with nothing but bellies to fill. Our infrastructure has seen paradigm-changing investments, like cellular communications and highways, but our public schools have fallen into desolation and disrepair. Flashy brand-name fast food establishments have proliferated, while the majority of our country’s children have been pushed into the clutches of hunger and chronic malnutrition. The government today talks about bullet trains and highways, while our railway infrastructure grinds to a halt and in our largest city, people still commute to work squatting atop buses that resemble rusted iron cages on wheels.

All this must change. In a seminar held in Karachi on Wednesday on the social justice impact of the budget, speakers highlighted the enormous cost of neglect that the poor have had to bear over these decades as the policy conversation has whistled right past their needs. Almost 50pc of the population of 180 million are malnourished, one speaker told the audience. This is a horrifying statistic, especially in a time when the government likes to brag about its accomplishments by invoking currency stability or the rising stock levels of the stock market. “It’s the state’s responsibility to take care of its citizens,” another highlighted. “It should take care of its mothers and children and provide them with a nutritional level that can help them fight for a better life.” It is impossible not to agree. It is imperative that our community of economists take the lead, and help the country find its way back to the older principles that fell off the truck when we began talking about liberalisation. The journey back begins with recovering the language which can put the needs of the poor in the driving seat of policy-making.

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2014

Fasting Buddha

Editorial

TRULY is it said, reality is stranger than fiction — especially here in Pakistan. Since 1894, when it was donated upon being discovered, the Gandhara-era statue of the ‘Fasting Buddha’ has been considered the jewel of the Lahore Museum. Images of it adorn postcards and newsreels, and proud citizens make it a point to take visitors to see it as an indication that whatever else the country may be, a cultural wasteland it is not. This statue, priceless in terms of historical significance, has for a long time had a crack on the left arm. Investigations by this paper, upon receiving a tip-off, have confirmed an unbelievable story: back in April, 2012, the crack widened while being cleaned and the statue was given over to the museum laboratory’s tender ministrations. But, instead of the scientific, delicate and professional handling that an artefact of this stature demanded, an attempt was made to fix it by applying the common adhesive epoxy, which remains shiningly evident on the statue’s surface and has caused irreparable harm. The trail of destruction isn’t hard to trace, given the standards at the moment: the current lab technician worked earlier as a gallery attendant and driver, while the lab conservationist used to be a peon.

TRULY is it said, reality is stranger than fiction — especially here in Pakistan. Since 1894, when it was donated upon being discovered, the Gandhara-era statue of the ‘Fasting Buddha’ has been considered the jewel of the Lahore Museum. Images of it adorn postcards and newsreels, and proud citizens make it a point to take visitors to see it as an indication that whatever else the country may be, a cultural wasteland it is not. This statue, priceless in terms of historical significance, has for a long time had a crack on the left arm. Investigations by this paper, upon receiving a tip-off, have confirmed an unbelievable story: back in April, 2012, the crack widened while being cleaned and the statue was given over to the museum laboratory’s tender ministrations. But, instead of the scientific, delicate and professional handling that an artefact of this stature demanded, an attempt was made to fix it by applying the common adhesive epoxy, which remains shiningly evident on the statue’s surface and has caused irreparable harm. The trail of destruction isn’t hard to trace, given the standards at the moment: the current lab technician worked earlier as a gallery attendant and driver, while the lab conservationist used to be a peon.

What can be made of this but the utter disregard Pakistanis tend to show towards history and culture? This is hardly the only example of this mindset. It turns out that 2012 was an inauspicious year for Gandhara-era artefacts. That summer, the police intercepted a large consignment of such relics that had apparently been about to be smuggled out of the country. But during the recovery process, the police ended up damaging many of them, unprepared perhaps for their weight and certainly unmindful of their value. In the case of the Lahore Museum, the qualified chemist employed at the lab was retired in 2009. No replacement has been found. This is unsurprising, given the importance attached to archaeology and history in the country.

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2014

Unfolding crisis

Editorial

THE difference between governmental action and inaction can sometimes be difficult to discern — but often it is blindingly and shockingly obvious. Hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people from North Waziristan have poured out of the region and the federal government and the political leadership would like the country to believe they are doing all that they can to ease the humanitarian crisis; but the facts, visible plainly to all, suggest that is clearly not the case. When politicians and the administration are in a purposeful mode and go into overdrive, doing absolutely everything they can within their powers to address a particular issue, there is one immutable aspect of whatever they do: publicity. But the handling of the IDP crisis has been left to junior ministers, committees and the like. No senior politician, other than the PTI’s Imran Khan, has even seen fit to visit the areas where the state is ostensibly doing all it can to ease the plight of the IDPs.

THE difference between governmental action and inaction can sometimes be difficult to discern — but often it is blindingly and shockingly obvious. Hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people from North Waziristan have poured out of the region and the federal government and the political leadership would like the country to believe they are doing all that they can to ease the humanitarian crisis; but the facts, visible plainly to all, suggest that is clearly not the case. When politicians and the administration are in a purposeful mode and go into overdrive, doing absolutely everything they can within their powers to address a particular issue, there is one immutable aspect of whatever they do: publicity. But the handling of the IDP crisis has been left to junior ministers, committees and the like. No senior politician, other than the PTI’s Imran Khan, has even seen fit to visit the areas where the state is ostensibly doing all it can to ease the plight of the IDPs.

Compare and contrast the scenes and reports of the swelling number of IDPs appearing helpless and un-helped with the officials’ claims. Remember also the reason why these Pakistani citizens have fled their homes: it is the enormous price the state and the nation have asked of them in order to take on militants threatening the safety and security of Pakistan. Given the level of sacrifice that has been asked of them, it is surely not too much to hope the state took more seriously its responsibilities towards the NWA IDPs — especially since the state has gained significant experience in recent years in dealing with Fata IDPs displaced by military operations. Moreover, it has been known for years that some kind of military operation in North Waziristan would likely be required at some stage — so theoretically the IDP management in the present instance should have been the best managed and most thoroughly planned of all. Instead, it appears to be one of the more miserable and haphazard IDP management programmes in memory.

Unhappily, the growing IDP crisis is having a double negative effect. The unfolding humanitarian tragedy is eclipsing the reason there are IDPs fleeing North Waziristan in the first place: the military operation. How do the goals of a military operation square with the resentment and unhappiness that the IDP crisis is sure to further stoke among the people of Fata? At great cost to state and society, some militant strongholds in NWA may be about to be overrun, but what is the long-term possibility of success against militancy if the sympathy of the locals ebbs and possibly even switches to the militants’ side? Surely, whether from the point of view of morality or state responsibility or even just operational common sense, the North Waziristan IDPs need to be looked after and looked after well.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2014

Aviation security

Editorial

THE nation had not quite recovered from the shock of the deadly militant assault targeting Karachi airport earlier this month when a fresh incident, this time in Peshawar, has raised concerns about aviation security in Pakistan. On Tuesday night a PIA aircraft flying into Peshawar from Riyadh was shot at, resulting in the death of a passenger and injuries to two crew members. The aircraft apparently came under fire as it approached to land, being only a few hundred feet from the ground. The Peshawar airport, like many other public aviation facilities in Pakistan’s cities, is located in a densely populated area. As cities in Pakistan tend to grow in a haphazard manner, it is not unusual for residential colonies and encroachments to sprout up uncomfortably close to airports. Shots and rockets have been fired at aircraft and at the Peshawar airport facilities in the past as well, while the airport was stormed by militants in December 2012. The reasonable expectation would have been that after the Karachi airport debacle, security at aviation facilities across the country would have been beefed up. But despite claims by the Civil Aviation Authority and other state actors, as the Peshawar incident shows, the required groundwork to make Pakistan’s airports safer has not been done.

THE nation had not quite recovered from the shock of the deadly militant assault targeting Karachi airport earlier this month when a fresh incident, this time in Peshawar, has raised concerns about aviation security in Pakistan. On Tuesday night a PIA aircraft flying into Peshawar from Riyadh was shot at, resulting in the death of a passenger and injuries to two crew members. The aircraft apparently came under fire as it approached to land, being only a few hundred feet from the ground. The Peshawar airport, like many other public aviation facilities in Pakistan’s cities, is located in a densely populated area. As cities in Pakistan tend to grow in a haphazard manner, it is not unusual for residential colonies and encroachments to sprout up uncomfortably close to airports. Shots and rockets have been fired at aircraft and at the Peshawar airport facilities in the past as well, while the airport was stormed by militants in December 2012. The reasonable expectation would have been that after the Karachi airport debacle, security at aviation facilities across the country would have been beefed up. But despite claims by the Civil Aviation Authority and other state actors, as the Peshawar incident shows, the required groundwork to make Pakistan’s airports safer has not been done.

Incidents such as the Karachi and Peshawar episodes make headlines across the world and unless there is a drastic overhaul of aviation security procedures in Pakistan, we may see our links with the outside world dwindle even further, as foreign airlines start pulling out. Already, decades of violence and instability have caused several major foreign carriers to abandon the Pakistani market. If the current state of official apathy continues, the carriers that remain — mostly Gulf-based airlines — may also abandon ship. Business may be fairly good in Pakistan, but if foreign carriers feel the risks are too high, they will be under no compulsion to stay. For the safety of aircraft and airports in Pakistan, several steps need to be taken. Patrolling in and around airports must be increased. Intelligence-gathering must also be beefed up in neighbourhoods adjacent to airports while staff working in aviation facilities should undergo background checks. It is the habit of the authorities to appear to strengthen airport security by adding more and more muscle to mainly the points of the public’s entry and exit. Clearly, that does not deter those determined to wreak havoc.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2014

Secret funds

Editorial

IT is in the nature of secrets that until they come to light, there is no evidence of them being there at all, and all sorts of Machiavellian deeds go undetected. This is the reminder that Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch’s disclosure on Tuesday constituted, when he said that the ‘secret fund’ associated with his office had been abolished and no allocation had been made under it in the current budget. More than the Rs500 million the Balochistan government has saved through this route, which will now no doubt be much more usefully spent elsewhere, it is the fact that the fund existed at all that causes eyebrows to rise. It is known that certain quarters, the federal Ministry of Information, for example, maintain a secret fund and this is what has been used over the decades to manipulate the press, tarnish individual journalists’ integrity and insert into public discourse material that strategically furthers the aims of the government of the day. Now, we learn that the office of the Balochistan chief minister too carried the same facility. How many other such secret funds are there, is the obvious question. To whom are they available, for what purpose are they used and how much money are we talking about?

IT is in the nature of secrets that until they come to light, there is no evidence of them being there at all, and all sorts of Machiavellian deeds go undetected. This is the reminder that Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch’s disclosure on Tuesday constituted, when he said that the ‘secret fund’ associated with his office had been abolished and no allocation had been made under it in the current budget. More than the Rs500 million the Balochistan government has saved through this route, which will now no doubt be much more usefully spent elsewhere, it is the fact that the fund existed at all that causes eyebrows to rise. It is known that certain quarters, the federal Ministry of Information, for example, maintain a secret fund and this is what has been used over the decades to manipulate the press, tarnish individual journalists’ integrity and insert into public discourse material that strategically furthers the aims of the government of the day. Now, we learn that the office of the Balochistan chief minister too carried the same facility. How many other such secret funds are there, is the obvious question. To whom are they available, for what purpose are they used and how much money are we talking about?

The Balochistan government’s move in this regard is an exemplary step towards true transparency, and expresses its willingness to submit to the rules of fair play and clip its wings in an area that would give it considerable power to manipulate. Now that Dr Malik has made this announcement, he should also come forward with details about the areas where, over the years, these funds were spent. Further, the other provinces also need to come clean. For years, journalists’ forums have been demanding that such hideaways be abolished, and the details about what monies were given to whom be made public so that in this respect, at least, the ranks can be cleared up. It is high time this is done.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2014

Failed twice over

Editorial

LOST amidst the hysteria and hyperbole of domestic events are often the real, ugly stories. The case of more than 1,500 Pakistani asylum seekers in Sri Lanka and nearly 300 refugees in Sri Lanka recognised by the UNHCR is one such story that is playing out at the moment and underlining the callousness of both the Pakistani and the Sri Lankan governments. A round-up of Pakistani asylum seekers in Sri Lanka that began earlier this month has so far netted around some 140 individuals who are now in detention camps in Sri Lanka and may be deported soon. While the official reasons for the detention of the Pakistani asylum seekers are predictably murky, the Sri Lankan media has claimed that it is being done at the request of the Indian government following a meeting between the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in which Mr Modi allegedly claimed that militants of Pakistani origin in Sri Lanka were planning terrorist acts inside India. Yet, the UNHCR’s bland details tell a different story: of the Pakistanis detained so far, most are Ahmadis while some Christians and Shia Hazaras are also included.

LOST amidst the hysteria and hyperbole of domestic events are often the real, ugly stories. The case of more than 1,500 Pakistani asylum seekers in Sri Lanka and nearly 300 refugees in Sri Lanka recognised by the UNHCR is one such story that is playing out at the moment and underlining the callousness of both the Pakistani and the Sri Lankan governments. A round-up of Pakistani asylum seekers in Sri Lanka that began earlier this month has so far netted around some 140 individuals who are now in detention camps in Sri Lanka and may be deported soon. While the official reasons for the detention of the Pakistani asylum seekers are predictably murky, the Sri Lankan media has claimed that it is being done at the request of the Indian government following a meeting between the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in which Mr Modi allegedly claimed that militants of Pakistani origin in Sri Lanka were planning terrorist acts inside India. Yet, the UNHCR’s bland details tell a different story: of the Pakistanis detained so far, most are Ahmadis while some Christians and Shia Hazaras are also included.

In the ethnic and religious identity of the detained Pakistanis in Sri Lanka perhaps lies the real story of Pakistanis facing persecution at home, escaping to another country only to be rounded up after being caught in the vortex of regional politics. That is a story with tragedy woven into it at every stage. Worse yet is the dismissive reaction of the Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam (“These people obtained asylum in Sri Lanka by badmouthing Pakistan.”) that betrays a callous disregard of Pakistanis who are being doubly failed by the state here: first in not being protected from violence inside Pakistan and then all but being disowned while facing trouble in a third country. Unhappily, the tale of the Pakistani asylum seekers in Sri Lanka is part of a wider tale of a state increasingly failing its citizens here. Where once asylum seekers from Pakistan were largely political in nature, the trend has now switched to those fleeing religious and ethnic persecution.

Surely, though, the Sri Lankan government must also bear some of the blame for targeting asylum seekers who are protected under international law. If the Sri Lankan media claims are accurate, deporting Pakistanis simply to satisfy a third country’s political leadership are all the more deplorable. While the rule of law and the judicial system in Pakistan itself leave much to be desired, it should surely be underlined that the Sri Lankan government does have obligations under international law that the government there appears to be ignoring altogether. By all means, those breaking the law can and must face the consequences — but are the Ahmadis, Christians and Shia Hazaras really undermining Sri Lankan security and neighbourly relations?

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2014

Journalists’ sentencing

Editorial

THE sentencing of Al Jazeera staff members in Egypt on Monday is a reminder of the perils journalists face in the course of their work. As newsmen, it was their job to report among other matters on the political forces at work in the country, including the Muslim Brotherhood which, notwithstanding the July mass protests against its then president Mohamed Morsi, was elected into government. He was subsequently deposed by the military backed Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, now the president of the country. The Muslim Brotherhood has since been banned, and the charges faced by the Cairo bureau chief of Al Jazeera English Mohamed Fahmy, a Canadian-Egyptian national, Australian Peter Greste, and Egyptian Baher Mohamed, referred to them having aided a “terrorist organisation” by broadcasting lies that harmed national security, and of supplying money, equipment and information. In what the Qatar-based news organisation has called a ruling that defies “logic, sense and any semblance of justice,” the three were sentenced to seven years in prison. Apart from condemnation from most sane quarters, the ruling provoked US Secretary of State John Kerry to call Egypt’s foreign minister to register his “serious displeasure” over the “chilling and draconian verdict” — notwithstanding his country’s tacit endorsement of the Sisi regime.

THE sentencing of Al Jazeera staff members in Egypt on Monday is a reminder of the perils journalists face in the course of their work. As newsmen, it was their job to report among other matters on the political forces at work in the country, including the Muslim Brotherhood which, notwithstanding the July mass protests against its then president Mohamed Morsi, was elected into government. He was subsequently deposed by the military backed Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, now the president of the country. The Muslim Brotherhood has since been banned, and the charges faced by the Cairo bureau chief of Al Jazeera English Mohamed Fahmy, a Canadian-Egyptian national, Australian Peter Greste, and Egyptian Baher Mohamed, referred to them having aided a “terrorist organisation” by broadcasting lies that harmed national security, and of supplying money, equipment and information. In what the Qatar-based news organisation has called a ruling that defies “logic, sense and any semblance of justice,” the three were sentenced to seven years in prison. Apart from condemnation from most sane quarters, the ruling provoked US Secretary of State John Kerry to call Egypt’s foreign minister to register his “serious displeasure” over the “chilling and draconian verdict” — notwithstanding his country’s tacit endorsement of the Sisi regime.

The use of such strong language is no hyperbole. The case sets a very dangerous precedent for the suppression of freedoms in a country where the human rights and democracy record is already very poor; these are not the only journalists to have been so prosecuted or sentenced. As journalists carry on with their jobs under the clouds of fear, Egypt risks isolating itself more than it already has. More and more, it is evident that the new military-backed regime in that country is intolerant of not just any dissent, but even of information and, by implication, any discourse on what the future path could look like or should be. It needs reminding that it was the very same intolerance that strengthened the forces it fears so much, and that the suppression of freedoms and the suspension of normal functioning of, amongst others, the media, virtually always creates a power and information vacuum of which retrogressive elements can take advantage. A pardon is still possible, which would mitigate the ill effects of incarceration that is being suffered by these mediamen. But an overturning of the ruling itself would address some of the harm.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2014

Plane truths

Editorial

THIS is what happens when you allow your railways minister to control air traffic. Eyebrows were raised and there was talk of what angry steps an international airline could resort to when the aircraft carrying Dr Tahirul Qadri was diverted to Lahore from Islamabad on Monday morning. It is said the brilliant idea came from the minister Khwaja Saad Rafiq. A top-of-the-line train-stopper among Pakistan’s politicians, he apparently wanted to take his powers to altogether a new level. He did succeed in helping Islamabad avoid an unwanted guest, even if at the cost of some embarrassment to the country’s civil aviation authorities and a little chaos in his own city of Lahore. The act brought back uneasy memories of the past: confused swirling around by planes on the Pakistani horizon and the dangers of sharing airspace with prominent people. At this rate, the reformists should soon be flying all by themselves.

THIS is what happens when you allow your railways minister to control air traffic. Eyebrows were raised and there was talk of what angry steps an international airline could resort to when the aircraft carrying Dr Tahirul Qadri was diverted to Lahore from Islamabad on Monday morning. It is said the brilliant idea came from the minister Khwaja Saad Rafiq. A top-of-the-line train-stopper among Pakistan’s politicians, he apparently wanted to take his powers to altogether a new level. He did succeed in helping Islamabad avoid an unwanted guest, even if at the cost of some embarrassment to the country’s civil aviation authorities and a little chaos in his own city of Lahore. The act brought back uneasy memories of the past: confused swirling around by planes on the Pakistani horizon and the dangers of sharing airspace with prominent people. At this rate, the reformists should soon be flying all by themselves.

This is one area where there has been a lot of activity and where the country has made progress. Fifteen years ago, when Gen Pervez Musharraf’s flight was kept suspended over Karachi for many unscheduled minutes, there was one ‘hijacker’ to blame it on. Now, we have two: the indefatigable Dr Qadri and of course the government authorities who had ordered that Dr Qadri was only fit for a landing closer to home and at a distance from revolution. Also, in this latest case, those who accompanied the PAT leader or those who were plain unfortunate to have been travelling by the same flight were saved the ignominy of being roughed up by law enforcers on arrival. Those in a similar situation when Mian Nawaz Sharif attempted to return to Pakistan a few years ago were not so lucky. It is a surprise the ministers who are so eager to ridicule Dr Qadri for meekly agreeing to give up his occupation of the aircraft are not seeking to add this feather signifying civility and the maturity of the Pakistani democracy to their caps.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2014

Scenes of chaos

Editorial

IN the end, perhaps all too expectedly, it was a forlorn hope that better sense would prevail. The Canada-based Tahirul Qadri’s return to Pakistan was marked by scenes of chaos, violence, near-comical grandstanding by Mr Qadri and a thorough overreaction by the PML-N. Mr Qadri is back in Pakistan and, while his true political relevance is still minimal, he and his supporters have taken centre stage and seem determined to milk their second round in the limelight for everything it is worth. Even now, with his purported and so-called ‘revolution’ seemingly under way, it is difficult to make sense of Mr Qadri’s politics or his demands. In essence, it appears to boil down to the following: remove Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his government and replace them with a pro-establishment, undemocratic set-up simply so the real decision-makers in this country remain unelected, anti-democratic forces. Beyond that, there is little on grounds of policy that appears to so agitate Mr Qadri against the PML-N.

IN the end, perhaps all too expectedly, it was a forlorn hope that better sense would prevail. The Canada-based Tahirul Qadri’s return to Pakistan was marked by scenes of chaos, violence, near-comical grandstanding by Mr Qadri and a thorough overreaction by the PML-N. Mr Qadri is back in Pakistan and, while his true political relevance is still minimal, he and his supporters have taken centre stage and seem determined to milk their second round in the limelight for everything it is worth. Even now, with his purported and so-called ‘revolution’ seemingly under way, it is difficult to make sense of Mr Qadri’s politics or his demands. In essence, it appears to boil down to the following: remove Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his government and replace them with a pro-establishment, undemocratic set-up simply so the real decision-makers in this country remain unelected, anti-democratic forces. Beyond that, there is little on grounds of policy that appears to so agitate Mr Qadri against the PML-N.

Amusing too is the presence of Mr Qadri’s newfound allies. Former chief minister of Punjab Pervaiz Elahi was prominent yesterday among the cohort defending Mr Qadri and lashing out against the government. And yet, those with memories longer than what Mr Elahi would perhaps like Pakistanis to have will recall what his government in Punjab did when Shahbaz Sharif attempted to return to Pakistan after years in exile in 2004. Like yesterday, much of Lahore was shut down and barricaded and an overwhelming show of force by the Punjab administration and police forced the younger Sharif brother to leave Pakistan a couple of hours after returning. What apparently was perfectly acceptable for Shahbaz Sharif in 2004 is not palatable for Mr Qadri in 2014, at least if Mr Elahi’s claims are to be paid any attention to. Somehow, while farce repeats itself in Pakistan every few years, the principals who once stood on one side of history try to wriggle across to the other side of history with a scurrilous disregard for propriety and consistency.

Yet, for all the patent self-serving theatre and faux threats individuals like Mr Qadri would like to serve up, there is also a separate fundamental reality that cannot and should not be forgotten: if anti-democrats are out to destabilise the country’s politics, it is really the government that should rise above such challenges and reinforce its democratic credentials and regard for the democratic project. Unhappily, the PML-N appears to have failed spectacularly in this area thus far. Prime Minister Sharif and the PML-N are not just the country’s elected leadership in present times, they are also the principal custodians of the democratic project and transition to democracy. Condemnable as the anti-democrats’ assault on democracy may be, democracy will only be strengthened if democracy’s custodians demonstrate restraint and unflinchingly adhere to the law and the Constitution.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2014

Sensible suggestion

Editorial

IN calling for a suspension of the military operation in North Waziristan until all civilians have left the area, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan has spoken sense. The exodus from the conflict zone has, understandably, had an air of panic about it. Bannu has been flooded with people, and thousands of families have literally walked miles since transport was either not available or available at too jacked-up a price. So far, according to the Fata Disaster Management Authority, over 400,000 of the internally displaced have been registered, which indicates that the bulk of the population in North Waziristan has already evacuated. Yet that is not every single non-combatant man, woman and child, and while the loss of civilian life in such situations can never be acceptable, the contours of this particular conflict demand that all-out effort be made to ensure there is no collateral damage, for that would foster further disaffection. The army has said that it has laid siege where militants are present, which means that fighters can be weeded out; given that, there is no reason why a few days should not be allowed for citizens to depart with their preparations in place.

IN calling for a suspension of the military operation in North Waziristan until all civilians have left the area, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan has spoken sense. The exodus from the conflict zone has, understandably, had an air of panic about it. Bannu has been flooded with people, and thousands of families have literally walked miles since transport was either not available or available at too jacked-up a price. So far, according to the Fata Disaster Management Authority, over 400,000 of the internally displaced have been registered, which indicates that the bulk of the population in North Waziristan has already evacuated. Yet that is not every single non-combatant man, woman and child, and while the loss of civilian life in such situations can never be acceptable, the contours of this particular conflict demand that all-out effort be made to ensure there is no collateral damage, for that would foster further disaffection. The army has said that it has laid siege where militants are present, which means that fighters can be weeded out; given that, there is no reason why a few days should not be allowed for citizens to depart with their preparations in place.

The fact that Pakistan in general fails to see — partly because it, too, has suffered so grievously — is that these people are already victims of a conflict not of their making. Those affected by earlier military operations in other areas, such as Swat, returned to devastated homes and villages, and had to rebuild their lives from scratch. All that can be done, should be done, now, to ensure that the impact of displacement on the North Waziristan IDPs is mitigated as much as possible. This includes financial and food-related assistance but most of all, it requires an attitude of accommodation. The stance taken by Sindh and Balochistan towards their compatriots is unsavoury, and should change through putting in place mechanisms whereby the provinces’ legitimate concerns are addressed while people fleeing conflict face no closed doors.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2014

Plain speaking

Editorial

HILLARY Clinton must be listened to. Not because she could be in the White House but — let there be no mistake about it — she is one of the few American politicians who understand Pakistan. She was secretary of state during some of the most crucial years in Pakistan’s relationship with America (Abbottabad, Raymond Davis, Salala), and showed remarkable understanding while enjoying it when someone likened her attitude towards Pakistan to that of a fastidious mother-in-law. What she said in an interview with an Indian television channel wasn’t wide off the mark: that Islamabad’s “strategic depth” notion had been proved wrong and didn’t serve Pakistan’s interests. Her remarks centred round the security establishment’s duplicitous policy toward religious militancy. Ms Clinton thought successive Pakistani governments had patronised militant groups in the mistaken belief that these could serve Islamabad’s interests and provide “strategic depth” to Pakistan vis-à-vis Afghanistan and India, and she was extremely critical of Pakistan’s use of proxies. Her comments serve to epitomise the world’s view of the militants who, it so turned out, have hurt no country more than they have Pakistan and its people. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 turned out to be a trauma as much for that country as for Pakistan. Helping the resistance to the Soviet occupation was one thing; turning Pakistan into a centre for the recruitment and training of the US-backed mujahideen was an act of supreme folly that has shaken this country’s state structure and social fabric to the roots. Encouraged by Washington, Pakistan’s army-led governments not only gave a religious tinge to anti-Soviet resistance fighters, the army’s rank and file, too, came to acquire a jihadist mindset that regarded the CIA-funded mujahideen as comrades. No wonder, then, that when the security establishment tried to disown them, the once-mujahideen turned terrorists.

HILLARY Clinton must be listened to. Not because she could be in the White House but — let there be no mistake about it — she is one of the few American politicians who understand Pakistan. She was secretary of state during some of the most crucial years in Pakistan’s relationship with America (Abbottabad, Raymond Davis, Salala), and showed remarkable understanding while enjoying it when someone likened her attitude towards Pakistan to that of a fastidious mother-in-law. What she said in an interview with an Indian television channel wasn’t wide off the mark: that Islamabad’s “strategic depth” notion had been proved wrong and didn’t serve Pakistan’s interests. Her remarks centred round the security establishment’s duplicitous policy toward religious militancy. Ms Clinton thought successive Pakistani governments had patronised militant groups in the mistaken belief that these could serve Islamabad’s interests and provide “strategic depth” to Pakistan vis-à-vis Afghanistan and India, and she was extremely critical of Pakistan’s use of proxies. Her comments serve to epitomise the world’s view of the militants who, it so turned out, have hurt no country more than they have Pakistan and its people. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 turned out to be a trauma as much for that country as for Pakistan. Helping the resistance to the Soviet occupation was one thing; turning Pakistan into a centre for the recruitment and training of the US-backed mujahideen was an act of supreme folly that has shaken this country’s state structure and social fabric to the roots. Encouraged by Washington, Pakistan’s army-led governments not only gave a religious tinge to anti-Soviet resistance fighters, the army’s rank and file, too, came to acquire a jihadist mindset that regarded the CIA-funded mujahideen as comrades. No wonder, then, that when the security establishment tried to disown them, the once-mujahideen turned terrorists.

Today, Pakistan’s political and military leaderships have to make a statement of intent that must repudiate the follies of the past and focus on eliminating the curse of terrorism. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s statement in parliament pledging a war to the finish against the militants and army chief Gen Raheel Sharif’s remarks that the nation had rejected the terrorist ideology should not merely mean a reiteration of the philosophy behind the ongoing Operation Zarb-i-Azb; the two statements, we hope, reflect a resolve to not nurture religious militancy and the jihadist mindset again for a counterproductive concept such as strategic depth.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2014

Unnecessary apprehensions

Editorial

THE democratic project must be kept on track, the PML-N government must shoulder its responsibilities with care and caution, and those opting for the politics of protest must stay within the ambit of the Constitution and the law — that, taken together, is the minimum that ought to be expected of the country’s political, military and social leadership in the days and weeks ahead. But whether everyone — or anyone — will behave responsibly is a question to which there is no clear answer yet. At the time of writing these words, with Tahirul Qadri hours away from arriving in Islamabad/Rawalpindi and the government seemingly already in lockdown mode — or is it panic mode? — it is difficult to make sense of quite why apprehension is rising and events have taken an air of threatening to spin out of control.

THE democratic project must be kept on track, the PML-N government must shoulder its responsibilities with care and caution, and those opting for the politics of protest must stay within the ambit of the Constitution and the law — that, taken together, is the minimum that ought to be expected of the country’s political, military and social leadership in the days and weeks ahead. But whether everyone — or anyone — will behave responsibly is a question to which there is no clear answer yet. At the time of writing these words, with Tahirul Qadri hours away from arriving in Islamabad/Rawalpindi and the government seemingly already in lockdown mode — or is it panic mode? — it is difficult to make sense of quite why apprehension is rising and events have taken an air of threatening to spin out of control.

While the PML-N has acted to sideline key advisers in Punjab over the violence in Lahore this week, the sense of deep outrage has lingered on because of the N-League’s near-total mishandling of the situation. Perhaps the PML-N ought to remind itself of basic electoral maths and democratic facts. The party won an overwhelming majority in the Punjab Assembly a year ago and is into its seventh consecutive year in provincial office. In Islamabad, the PML-N has a majority in parliament and an opposition that, other than the PTI’s barbs, is largely focused on supporting the PML-N’s policy initiatives on the security and economic front. And, for all the rumours of friction with the army leadership, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has played a sensible innings for the most part and focused on bringing stability to the country in order to prepare it for economic revival. The PML-N, then, ought to be able to allow those opting for the politics of protest to exercise their democratic right without being unduly troubled.

Once again, for all the rumours and allegations of behind-the-scenes support by anti-democratic forces for Tahirul Qadri, the fact remains that the country has already seen off a challenge by Mr Qadri once before. This time, with the PTI sitting on the fence as opposed to throwing its support wholeheartedly behind the democratic process, there may be some greater noise surrounding whatever Mr Qadri and his on-again, off-again political allies may choose, but the fundamental calculus ought not to change. The PML-N governments in Islamabad and Lahore can and should step back and therefore deny their opponents the very thing they seek most: the oxygen of publicity and overreaction by the state. As for Mr Qadri and whoever chooses to join his cause, there is an onus of responsibility on their shoulders too. By all means, their right to protest against the government and its policies is sacrosanct and should not be violated. But there is a thin line between democratic dissent and an incitement to violence — and it is far from clear that the PML-N’s would-be tormenters understand where that line ought to be drawn. With a military operation under way in North Waziristan and the state’s resources drawn towards protecting against blowback in the cities and towns, there must be hope that better sense will prevail in Mr Qadri’s camp and his actions will not exacerbate political tensions.

Published in Dawn, June 23rd , 2014

Pemra reform

Editorial

THE media wars which erupted in all their tawdry and shameful glory last April continue to rack up victims. Now, it is the turn of ARY News and Geo Entertainment to suffer 15-day suspensions and the imposition of fines at the hands of Pemra, the so-called electronic media regulator whose role in the media wars has left much to be desired. While the latest licence suspensions are surely unwelcome news for the media as a whole, at least Pemra has acted within what its rules permit and has allowed some semblance of due process in its latest actions. In ARY’s case, there may be schadenfreude in certain quarters that the channel has been burned by some of the very fires it so vigorously fanned against Geo. Yet, surely from the perspective of a responsible and independent media, what is more important is that ARY and other media groups understand how short-term gains against rivals inside the industry can and will come at the cost of long-term losses to the media as a whole. When Geo News was suspended some two weeks ago and the unwelcome precedent was set, it was only a matter of time before the same regulatory environment claimed another victim.

THE media wars which erupted in all their tawdry and shameful glory last April continue to rack up victims. Now, it is the turn of ARY News and Geo Entertainment to suffer 15-day suspensions and the imposition of fines at the hands of Pemra, the so-called electronic media regulator whose role in the media wars has left much to be desired. While the latest licence suspensions are surely unwelcome news for the media as a whole, at least Pemra has acted within what its rules permit and has allowed some semblance of due process in its latest actions. In ARY’s case, there may be schadenfreude in certain quarters that the channel has been burned by some of the very fires it so vigorously fanned against Geo. Yet, surely from the perspective of a responsible and independent media, what is more important is that ARY and other media groups understand how short-term gains against rivals inside the industry can and will come at the cost of long-term losses to the media as a whole. When Geo News was suspended some two weeks ago and the unwelcome precedent was set, it was only a matter of time before the same regulatory environment claimed another victim.

In the case of Geo Entertainment, the suspension has raised a host of other more complicated questions that few will want to address or debate. Quite what the chilling effect on TV the suspension will have and how much more assertive it will make the religious right when it comes to dictating what content is permissible on-air will only be known in the weeks and months to come. Suffice to say that even at this stage, a dangerous precedent has been set where the mere whiff of bad judgement has provoked such a campaign of intolerance on religious grounds. More than ever, then, the original problem needs to be addressed: an independent, fair and transparent media regulator must be established with powers that are strong enough to deter mischief by the media but whose mandate is also to ensure that free speech and the public’s right to information are protected to the absolute maximum extent possible under the law. In the recent media wars, just about anyone who had any role or position of responsibility failed in some way or the other. Unless serious reforms are undertaken, a repeat in the future, near or far, is all too possible.

Published in Dawn, June 23rd , 2014

Ramazan prices

Editorial

WITH the month of fasting just days away, most households across the country are opening up their purse strings to stock up on food essentials and the expense of Eid that will come later. Unfortunately, many unethical traders and shopkeepers make it their business during this month of high demand to jack up prices. This is the time that the government needs to start putting monitoring teams out on the roads to check for hoarding, profiteering and the adulteration of food items that has become a regrettably common feature at this time of the Islamic year. Clamping down on these practices is in any case the responsibility of the state, but special effort needs to be made at times such as these when consumption patterns alter in a way that allows unscrupulous parties to benefit.

WITH the month of fasting just days away, most households across the country are opening up their purse strings to stock up on food essentials and the expense of Eid that will come later. Unfortunately, many unethical traders and shopkeepers make it their business during this month of high demand to jack up prices. This is the time that the government needs to start putting monitoring teams out on the roads to check for hoarding, profiteering and the adulteration of food items that has become a regrettably common feature at this time of the Islamic year. Clamping down on these practices is in any case the responsibility of the state, but special effort needs to be made at times such as these when consumption patterns alter in a way that allows unscrupulous parties to benefit.

The sad reality is that it is the poor that will suffer the most, stalked as they are already by hunger and malnutrition. The prices of dietary essentials have risen steadily over the years, so that now there are estimates that nearly two-thirds of the population spends between 50pc to 70pc of its income on food alone. And even then, most people say that they are not eating the same food they were earlier because those items have become too expensive. In 2012, the Ministry of National Food Security and Research said that about 50pc of the country’s population was food insecure, and international bodies such as Unicef have pointed out the alarming rates of malnutrition. The government may be bogged down in various crises that it considers more pressing, but here’s the bottom line: all other efforts fail if the population doesn’t have access to food, and sufficient quantities of it. The advent of the month of fasting should be taken as a clarion call to efficiently monitor and regulate food prices, as well as to expand the system of food subsidies — such as the utility stores.

Published in Dawn, June 23rd , 2014

Punjab sackings

Editorial

CLEARLY, demonstrating a little bit of efficiency in the Model Town affair in Lahore could have saved the Punjab government a lot of trouble. The intervention from the top for which the province is famous was missing for long hours as the situation outside the Minhajul Quran secretariat on Tuesday deteriorated gradually. If that delay defied logic, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had been rather slow in giving marching orders to two of his senior associates in government. The step that he has now resorted to could have been taken immediately after the firing incident outside the Minhajul Quran office. The delay allowed doubts and accusations to creep in and the opposition demands got louder with time. The Punjab government chose to answer statement with statement, announcing a judicial commission but inexplicably putting off the administrative action it has now taken. The chief minister needed to appear a little more humble in the wake of the Model Town tragedy and, given his reputation for quick responses, to be prompt in his administrative action in aid of a fair inquiry. By procrastinating he exposed himself to criticism that all this time he had been looking for suitable scapegoats.

CLEARLY, demonstrating a little bit of efficiency in the Model Town affair in Lahore could have saved the Punjab government a lot of trouble. The intervention from the top for which the province is famous was missing for long hours as the situation outside the Minhajul Quran secretariat on Tuesday deteriorated gradually. If that delay defied logic, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had been rather slow in giving marching orders to two of his senior associates in government. The step that he has now resorted to could have been taken immediately after the firing incident outside the Minhajul Quran office. The delay allowed doubts and accusations to creep in and the opposition demands got louder with time. The Punjab government chose to answer statement with statement, announcing a judicial commission but inexplicably putting off the administrative action it has now taken. The chief minister needed to appear a little more humble in the wake of the Model Town tragedy and, given his reputation for quick responses, to be prompt in his administrative action in aid of a fair inquiry. By procrastinating he exposed himself to criticism that all this time he had been looking for suitable scapegoats.

The law minister Rana Sanaullah was one of the two top officials to be removed. The other is Tauqeer Shah, who was working as the chief minister’s principal secretary. There is a contrast between the two men, both considered very close to the chief minister: Mr Sanaullah has been a loud-talking minister giving the impression that offence is the best defence policy. Dr Shah, in comparison, has been known as a chief ministerial aide who has preferred to do his assignments quietly. His sacking over a police raid at as sensitive a place as the headquarters of Dr Tahirul Qadri at a crucial moment will feed the legend that casts him as a man authorised to take important decisions by a chief executive who is not known to share power easily. His forced ouster will be construed as some kind of a loss for Shahbaz Sharif.

On the other hand, the outgoing law minister generated a lot of heat and acrimony as he went about publicly responding to whatever challenges the Punjab government was faced with. There had been calls for the PML-N leadership to rein him in. All his critics will now feel vindicated, and both administratively and politically, the PML-N must review its aggressive approach to issues. Dr Qadri and some others have rejected the sackings as insufficient and are demanding the chief minister’s resignation. This is their argument: Rana Sanaullah couldn’t have been acting without orders from above. An effort is now on to delink Mr Shahbaz Sharif from the gory Model Town incident by disconnecting him from his two associates. Their removal apart, this will require some doing.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2014

Shrines under threat

Editorial

IF the militants had their way, the whole nation would forcefully be subscribing to their antediluvian code. All confessional and cultural differences would be vigorously stamped out as the extremists are not fond of difference of opinion. Perhaps that is why today, anything that veers even slightly from the ultra-orthodox path is under threat in Pakistan. Take, for example, Sufi shrines. As reported on Saturday, a shrine on the outskirts of Islamabad was targeted by an IED during urs celebrations. Luckily, due to the low intensity of the device no fatalities were reported, though some devotees were injured critically. Considering that a large number of devotees were attending the event, much greater carnage could have been caused. This is not the first time a Sufi durbar has been targeted in or near the capital. In 2005, an explosion rocked the Bari Imam shrine — perhaps the capital’s best known durbar — during the saint’s annual urs. Numerous fatalities resulted. In the years since, the shrine has been mostly closed during urs festivities, depriving devotees of the colour and zeal that marked the event. A few days earlier, the Auqaf department sealed the shrine as an explosive device was found near the structure in May.

IF the militants had their way, the whole nation would forcefully be subscribing to their antediluvian code. All confessional and cultural differences would be vigorously stamped out as the extremists are not fond of difference of opinion. Perhaps that is why today, anything that veers even slightly from the ultra-orthodox path is under threat in Pakistan. Take, for example, Sufi shrines. As reported on Saturday, a shrine on the outskirts of Islamabad was targeted by an IED during urs celebrations. Luckily, due to the low intensity of the device no fatalities were reported, though some devotees were injured critically. Considering that a large number of devotees were attending the event, much greater carnage could have been caused. This is not the first time a Sufi durbar has been targeted in or near the capital. In 2005, an explosion rocked the Bari Imam shrine — perhaps the capital’s best known durbar — during the saint’s annual urs. Numerous fatalities resulted. In the years since, the shrine has been mostly closed during urs festivities, depriving devotees of the colour and zeal that marked the event. A few days earlier, the Auqaf department sealed the shrine as an explosive device was found near the structure in May.

While ensuring the security of people’s lives is amongst the government’s primary duties, we fail to understand why appropriate security measures cannot be put in place that would safeguard citizens’ lives while allowing them to continue with religious and cultural activities. Militants have attacked everything from mosques to markets; does the state feel that shutting everything down each time there is a threat is the best solution? Militants have also bombed the Data Durbar complex in Lahore, Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s dargah in Karachi as well as Baba Farid’s shrine in Pakpattan. Will the state one day disallow urs celebrations at these iconic shrines due to security concerns? Instead of curtailing cultural activities, the government needs to strike at the root of the problem. For example, there are numerous Sufi shrines in Islamabad and its suburbs, and a number of them are being threatened by the growth of some extremist madressahs sprouting up in the area. Police and intelligence agencies have done little to keep an eye on the activities of the extremists. What is clear is that the age-old cultural and religious practices of the people cannot be put on ice indefinitely due to the murderous bullying of obscurantists.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2014

India’s nuclear ambitions

Editorial

THE negative effects of America’s generous nuclear deal with India have now surfaced, with a defence publication suggesting a significant increase in New Delhi’s ability to add to its nuclear arsenal. A report by IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review says that the covert uranium hexafluoride plant at Mysore will enable India to produce enriched uranium in excess of that required for the nuclear submarine fleet it is building. In fact, the enriched uranium available would be 160kg a year. This amount is double the quantity the country reportedly needs for its nuclear fleet. The “potential use” of the excess uranium, IHS Jane’s says, could involve the production of thermonuclear weapons for India’s land-based missiles. This would give it a further nuclear edge over Pakistan.

THE negative effects of America’s generous nuclear deal with India have now surfaced, with a defence publication suggesting a significant increase in New Delhi’s ability to add to its nuclear arsenal. A report by IHS Jane’s Intelligence Review says that the covert uranium hexafluoride plant at Mysore will enable India to produce enriched uranium in excess of that required for the nuclear submarine fleet it is building. In fact, the enriched uranium available would be 160kg a year. This amount is double the quantity the country reportedly needs for its nuclear fleet. The “potential use” of the excess uranium, IHS Jane’s says, could involve the production of thermonuclear weapons for India’s land-based missiles. This would give it a further nuclear edge over Pakistan.

The fears expressed by Islamabad when the Bush administration was planning the nuclear deal with India appear to have been well-founded, for Pakistan had pointed out that the deal between the US and India for ‘civilian’ use of nuclear energy would add to New Delhi’s military capability. Ignoring Pakistan’s protests, Washington had refused to enter into a similar agreement with Islamabad. The most damaging part of the 2008 deal was that it exempted India’s military nuclear facilities, like the Mysore plant, from inspection by the IAEA. This policy by the superpower and the UN’s atomic watchdog body is in sharp contrast to their attitude towards Iran, on which the US slapped sanctions and whose nuclear facilities are regularly monitored by the IAEA. Pakistan is also under pressure from the US-led West to sign the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. No doubt, Pakistan should consider signing the treaty for the global objective of curbing the production of fissile material — even if India has a bigger stock of weapons-grade material. However, it is equally incumbent on the West to review its own discriminatory approach which has allowed India to gain the upper hand in nuclear prowess, especially in view of the tensions that prevail between the two nuclear-armed rivals in South Asia.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2014

Columns and Articles

Slow death of manufacturing

Sakib Sherani

THROUGH a combination of indifference and ineptness by successive governments in the recent past, Pakistan’s manufacturing sector has been pushed into long-term decline. This unfortunate and inauspicious trend is evident in the numbers. The share of large-scale manufacturing (LSM) in GDP has declined sharply since 2000, dropping from 14.7pc of total value added to a provisional 10.9pc in 2013-14.

THROUGH a combination of indifference and ineptness by successive governments in the recent past, Pakistan’s manufacturing sector has been pushed into long-term decline. This unfortunate and inauspicious trend is evident in the numbers. The share of large-scale manufacturing (LSM) in GDP has declined sharply since 2000, dropping from 14.7pc of total value added to a provisional 10.9pc in 2013-14.

The most worrying aspect of this trend of “de-industrialisation”, if it can be called that, is that new investment by the private sector in large-scale manufacturing has fallen by more than half since 2007. In seven short years, the share of new investment in the LSM sector has declined from over 22pc of GDP to only 10pc. This sharp decline in new capital spending by businesses in large-scale manufacturing for the past several years portends a “weak” outlook for the sector in the years ahead, particularly as the continued opening up of the global and regional economies translates into ever-rising competitive pressures.

In fact, in a related development, Pakistan’s ranking in global competitiveness (as compiled by the World Economic Forum) has plummeted from 83rd in 2007 to 133rd in 2014, a drop of 50 places — the sharpest for any country.

While new investment in the LSM sector has virtually stalled, overall private investment in the country has also declined to record lows. For 2013-14, total investment by the private sector dropped to 8.9pc of GDP. However, this figure is inclusive of $2 billion of Eurobonds purchased by international bond investors. If this resort to dubious accounting is corrected for, fixed investment by the private sector has actually sunk to a new multi-decade low of 8.1pc of GDP in 2013-14.

Why should the decline of the country’s manufacturing sector worry the government — or anyone else for that matter? Despite the much-trumpeted arrival of the so-called “New Economy” at the beginning of the 21st century, the “Old Economy” consisting of smokestack industries, factory floors and mass-production assembly lines remains very much a vibrant part of the global economy.

In fact, for many of the dynamic emerging economies of the world (Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, China among others), “manufacturing” continues to occupy a dominant share of domestic value-added and non-agriculture employment. Despite the sharp rise of commercial services on the global stage, manufactured exports provide the bulk of foreign exchange for non-oil exporting countries, with the share of manufactures in world exports amounting to 67pc.

In Pakistan’s case, the manufacturing sector provides a large proportion of government taxes, and accounts for a still-significant share of new investment, jobs, foreign direct investment (FDI), innovation, the imparting of skills and the diffusion of technology. Apart from prospects for tax collection, the rather dim outlook for large-scale manufacturing in the medium term should be a cause for worry for the government on another important front: job-creation. If industry in general, and large-scale manufacturing in particular, continue to operate at only a fraction of their installed capacity, new employment opportunities will not be created.

The principal reasons for the decline in manufacturing in Pakistan since the 1990s appear to be:

• The disturbed internal security situation

• Policy inconsistency and uncertainty

• Political uncertainty

• Exchange rate policy

• Energy crisis (especially gas)

• Unchecked smuggling and under-invoicing

• Tax policy and practice

While all the factors have played an important part, increasingly it is the resort to what I have called “predatory taxation” by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) that is resulting in the suffocation and slow death of the large-scale, formal manufacturing sector in Pakistan. I am reproducing what I wrote in a previous column:

“In broad terms, this is reflected by the fact that industry accounts for over 70pc of total tax collection by FBR, with agriculture’s contribution at less than 1pc. (In fact, despite all the ruckus about indirect taxation of agri-inputs, this avenue provided Rs 20.9bn, or only 0.3pc of the sector’s value added, to the exchequer in 2012-13).

“Similarly, investors on the stock market continue to be handled with kid gloves. On a capital gain of Rs 2,828bn (US$29bn) in the past 18 months, most of it accruing to a narrow circle of large investors, the stock market’s contribution to the national exchequer was an abysmal Rs588 million (around US$6m) in 2012-13 — for a tax incidence of 0.02pc.

“On the other end of the scale, according to data compiled by the World Bank, a formal business in Pakistan makes 47 different payments of tax and government levies a year, while, on average, it spends 577 hours a year in dealing with tax matters. On both counts, Pakistan is ranked amongst the highest-burden countries in the world.”

The increase in the ambit of the withholding tax regime in the recent budget puts an additional burden of responsibility on withholding agents, adding to their transaction cost. Finally, a potential new layer of complexity for large sales tax payers has been added by the setting up of provincial revenue authorities, with no clear or uniform policy on using the origin or the destination principle for determining the tax liability. Adjustments and credits for input taxes have also been affected.

The bottom-line is that rather than burdening the formal (principally manufacturing) sector, as is happening in practice, the government should strive harder to widen the tax base before it is too late. The slow-motion implosion of large-scale manufacturing is already under way, and if allowed to continue, it will have serious long-term consequences.

The writer is a former economic adviser to government, and currently heads a macroeconomic consultancy based in Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2014

The myth about lesser workers

Asha’ar Rehman

IN a revealing moment in some obscure corner of Lahore you might still run into the person who was once hailed as the epitome of the committed political worker. The jiyala, the man and of course the woman, associated with the PPP was once considered to have no match in the country. The jiyalas would be there unflinchingly, emotionally standing by their party in the bad times that routinely confronted it. The other parties and groups would be painted as being bereft of bravado, courage and selflessness. The rest paled in comparison.

IN a revealing moment in some obscure corner of Lahore you might still run into the person who was once hailed as the epitome of the committed political worker. The jiyala, the man and of course the woman, associated with the PPP was once considered to have no match in the country. The jiyalas would be there unflinchingly, emotionally standing by their party in the bad times that routinely confronted it. The other parties and groups would be painted as being bereft of bravado, courage and selflessness. The rest paled in comparison.

Maybe the PPP jiyala is still around. If that is the case, it seems even this much-celebrated and ‘little-rewarded’ species can be of little practical use when both the leadership and the popular support are absent. The myth of some parties not having the kind of committed cadres, meanwhile, continues to be invoked in aid of simplified understanding.

The latest fit of the theory are those who have in recent days been spotted waving the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) flags. They are the fresh batch of the meek who according to the dominant explanation cannot be trusted to go beyond too many hurdles in their way. Scare them and they will soon disperse is the mantra that has been applied one more time, without any consideration for the umpteen instances when this strategy has failed.

The chorus that casts the PAT workers in this weak role draws some of its verve and substance from how their leader is perceived generally by those who criticise his person and his politics. Dr Tahirul Qadri, initially to everyone’s relief and then to everyone’s amusement, gives in too easily, to whoever is in power. He demands and commands revolution but then settles for a ride with Governor Muhammad Sarwar. With such an accommodating man as their leader, it can safely be presumed that his workers would also yield to gentle pushing around. That is not how it turned out in Model Town one bloody afternoon.

The operation on June 17 — whether it was an act to remove encroachments or a planned police attack — was aimed at putting PAT workers on the defensive, reminding them just who the boss was here. Whoever masterminded it was apparently working on the assumption that this action would deter Dr Qadri’s stick-wielding force from getting any fancy ideas in their heads. Notwithstanding the legal aspects, the same thought could be behind the large-scale booking of PAT workers when policemen exposed to the advance of Qadri followers in Rawalpindi on the morning of June 23 were attacked and injured in large numbers.

There have since been some reports of Governor Sarwar leading a government approach to Dr Qadri geared towards a dialogue between the two sides. There is even talk that the government might rise above the small matter of a publicised attack on the policemen in Rawalpindi in the greater interest of the country and could withdraw the cases against the assaulting PAT workers. Whatever may happen next on this count, the perception about the Allama’s workers in any way lacking the mettle that sets the jiyala apart from the ordinary follower of a cause or a personality has been shattered.

Pakistani politicians have often been accused of commanding mureed-like obedience from their supporters. Dr Qadri’s case is different: he is actually a pir, a guilt-cleanser with a large following and a provider of solace to souls, indulging in a bit of politics of his own. Just as the leader could be pursuing a role bigger than that of a ruler, that of a patron of rulers, the crowds that answer his call comprise people who are not plain political workers but faithful disciples submitting without question to whatever their pir deems fit for them.

This is dangerous — even though against the violent Pakistani backdrop and to the credit of Dr Qadri there could have been a more dire manifestation of this combination of leadership and manpower. The relationship between the captain and his crew is all the more reason for those trying to control the PAT challenge to show utmost care in their handling of this bunch of ‘revolutionaries’. The old notions that encourage the use of force to frighten away protesters have to give way to a subtler, more informed and realistic tackling of the issue. It could well have been advisable that the rulers tried to find out what it was that was actually bothering such a large group of people — only, the PAT activists themselves do not appear to know too much about what was irking them and what they were looking to achieve. In the true pir-and-mureed tradition they seem ready to take Dr Qadri’s word about their afflictions and the remedies.

The PAT workers have shown they are ready to die for the cause they, actually people by and large, know little about. But the PAT workers are not the only factor that brings out the fallacy of the old, convenient belief that encourages governments to view a group of protesters as a pushover. Despite the backfiring campaigns of the past, in recent years the same ‘technique’ of ridiculing and intimidating has been tried on Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf workers, with a lot of benefit going to the PTI. Imran Khan has since been able to garner a few million votes in a general election and he has held big public rallies all around the country, yet the echoes of the assault which painted him as an ex-playboy leading a band of disillusioned, anti-politics minority continues to be heard to this day.

As Dr Qadri gets similar treatment from his powerful opponents this is as unfortunate a case of self-deception as there ever could be.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2014

War of narratives

Tasneem Noorani

THE military operation in North Waziristan has raised hopes of getting rid of the militants. In this euphoria, nobody is interested in tempering the expectations of the public and preparing them for the long drawn-out struggle this proposes to be, with chances of success only if all the parties play their role effectively. The parties in this game are the federal government, the army alongwith the agencies, and most importantly the four provincial governments.

THE military operation in North Waziristan has raised hopes of getting rid of the militants. In this euphoria, nobody is interested in tempering the expectations of the public and preparing them for the long drawn-out struggle this proposes to be, with chances of success only if all the parties play their role effectively. The parties in this game are the federal government, the army alongwith the agencies, and most importantly the four provincial governments.

The narrative of each of the four provinces and the army are different. Punjab wants to end terrorism but has no problem with entering into political dialogue with the likes of Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan. Sindh wants to end violence but sees no problem with going soft on the militant wings of political parties. If the MQM has a militant wing, the PPP is not left behind either and comes up with its People’s Amn Committee. The Awami National Party has its own gunmen.

Balochistan wants peace but wants to treat Baloch nationalists differently from the manner in which the army/FC do. It refuses to acknowledge the Taliban problem, even though foreign sources inform us that Quetta is the favourite destination for the Afghan Taliban. The Balochistan government prefers to follow a wait-and-see policy in terms of Punjab-based sectarian groups that are sworn enemies of the Shia Hazaras.

The KP government wants to continue with dialogue because, given the geography, it feels vulnerable to the onslaught of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. The army has its favourites in the tribal areas, which it perceives will help it retain and enhance influence in Afghanistan. For influence on the eastern front, there is another set of favourites. The federal government’s narrative is neither here nor there; it is too scared to take a stand on anything to do with terrorism and prefers to run to the National Assembly, hold all-party conferences or hide behind the army.

There are thus five clear narratives in the country, if you count the federal government out. Is anyone doing anything to reconcile these narratives and develop the national one that is so crucial in fighting this curse?

The other day, a counterterrorism resear­cher working abroad addressed a seminar in Lahore. The main theme of his findings was that around the world, only those countries have effectively countered insurgencies that were able to put forward a consensus narrative. In our case, we are not only miles away from that consensus, no one is even flagging it as crucial.

The best-case scenario of the ongoing operation in North Waziristan would be neutralising the non-Mehsud Taliban of the tribal areas alone. What will happen to all the gun-toting extremist groups in the country who are supported by one of the provincial governments or the army itself? This includes half a dozen well-known groups ensconced in the tribal areas, southern Punjab, Sindh and Balochis­tan. A number of them are operating under new names after having been proscribed by the government. Does anyone think there can be sustainable peace while extremist wings and political militant wings thrive? We may win respite for a few months, but the extremists will continue to haunt us and push us into poverty, international isolation and despondency until we take the bull by the horns.

Despite our desperate state, where most agree that fixing the terrorism problem is more important than fixing the economy or the power shortages, are any of the main players willing to come on one page? The only consensus they have is to demolish the TTP; but they see no need to touch the extremists that serve their own purposes.

The whole thing started when Pakistan trai­ned mujahideen and entered into America’s war in Afghanistan to contain the USSR, and took the initiative of training non-state ‘soldiers’ for India and Kashmir. It is these trained ‘ghazis’ whose claim to fame is their ability to wreak violence that are our main problem. They may be from any lashkar or jaish; they are available to share their violent skills for money or, in other cases, break the spell their teachers or handlers cast on them.

When there were reports of fighters heading to Syria from the tribal areas, there was no reaction in Pakistan — unless perhaps there was a sense of relief, not realising they would be back after a year or two, with even more sophisticated skills.

These fighters can only be removed through two methods. First, if the six entities mentioned above, including the army, develop a national narrative rather than their own institutional narrative. Or second, if the state establishes its writ and demonstrates zero tolerance for banned parties under any banner, as well as implementing strict gun laws, depoliticising the police and re-establishing a working criminal justice system. The government does not seem to be working on either of these options.

The writer is a former federal secretary interior.

tasneem.m.noorani

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2014

Orientalism lite

Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

AFTER a week acclaiming it as the ‘final solution to terrorism,’ everyone is now clambering to highlight the fallouts of the North Waziristan operation. The government, opposition, and everyone else in between have suddenly woken up to the fact that hundreds of thousands of local people have been forced to flee the bombing zone. The plight of the so-called ‘IDPs’ has, in rather quick time, become the most significant public interest concern in the country.

AFTER a week acclaiming it as the ‘final solution to terrorism,’ everyone is now clambering to highlight the fallouts of the North Waziristan operation. The government, opposition, and everyone else in between have suddenly woken up to the fact that hundreds of thousands of local people have been forced to flee the bombing zone. The plight of the so-called ‘IDPs’ has, in rather quick time, become the most significant public interest concern in the country.

Odd, is it not, that it requires us to see images of men, women and children strewn out across the plains of Bannu with nowhere to go before we realise that the ‘wipe out the Taliban’ celebrations will have to be put on hold? Indeed, one can only wonder whether we are completely devoid of collective memory given that this story has played itself out for millions from Swat, Bajaur, South Wazir­istan and Khyber — to name but a few — on numerous occasions over the past decade.

Or maybe we just like grappling with ‘disasters’ and ‘conflict zones’ that require development interventions? Perhaps we want to make the thousands of reports written by government, donors and consultants using such terminology actually seem relevant?

I, for one, still have a hard time digesting the term ‘IDP’. Devoid of any political and historical content whatsoever, it is the epitome of 21st century development-speak that is increasingly dominant in journalism, academia and popular culture.

We are supposed to feel sympathy for IDPs because they have been ‘displaced’ through no fault of their own. We are encouraged to set up relief camps to alleviate their suffering. We are reminded time and again that the IDPs are suffering for the greater common good. But we are not allowed to ask critical questions about this supposed greater common good, who frames it, and why dropping bombs on the people of this country is unavoidable.

The usual suspects are predictably laying into government for not making proper arrangements for the more than half a million people that have been forced to leave their homes. But let us not forget that camps set up in the past were beset by a plethora of problems. There is no ‘right’ way to be a refugee; it is unbearable under virtually all conditions.

Let alone the authorities, a wide cross-section of the urban, educated classes remain completely ignorant about the lives and social practices of the people who are conveniently all lumped together under the bracket ‘tribal’. Indeed, there is a barely disguised orientalism at work in urban Pakistan when it comes to the people of the peripheries. It is thus that — in the case of North Waziristan at least — we vacillate between perceiving all ‘tribal’ Pakhtuns as extremists and then obsessing about the dismal conditions to which they are subjected as IDPs.

Accordingly we find it difficult to move beyond false choices such as ‘operation versus peace talks’, and ‘state versus extremists’. We urgently need to recognise that, while people in warzones are often victims, they are also conscious agents, aware both of their own history, and able, if we are so gracious as to allow them, to chart out their own future.

Notwithstanding Waziristan’s geographical location and its deliberate and sustained segregation from the settled areas, a large number of people from the region have been exposed to, and participate in, the same Pakistan as the rest of us. As students, merchants, transporters, and government employees, Waziristanis form political opinions about their condition like anyone else, and are, in fact, far better equipped to come up with a ‘final solution to terrorism’ than us armchair experts.

Rest assured, such a solution would involve a look back into history, at least as far back as British colonialism when the ‘tribal’ polity as we know it was created. It would also involve introspection, because there is little question that religion — including the idiom of jihad — has been a potent ideological and political force in local society over a long period of time. Finally, it would involve recognition that neither is everyone in Waziristan a Taliban sympathiser nor committed to resisting the right-wing onslaught. In short, a solution would involve nothing less than dismantling and substituting a political economy of war fashioned over four decades.

Of course the state has actively prevented those outside the regions that it considers its strategic backwater from going into and learning about them. But this does not excuse the ignorance of those who consider themselves progressives. It is not just colonial perspectives on Waziristan — and the rest of Fata — that many of us have internalised; many other regions, including ‘feudal’ Sindh and ‘sardar-dominated’ Balochistan are also, in our imagination, suspended in the medieval era.

Crying hoarse over IDPs after actively asking for them to be bombed is not good enough. Would we feel so charitable if a military operation was launched in Muridke?

The writer teaches at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2014

The chaos-makers

I.A. Rehman

THE melodramatic events witnessed this week brought out a characteristic of anarchy in an advanced stage: the difficulty in determining as to who among the chaos-makers is more to blame.

THE melodramatic events witnessed this week brought out a characteristic of anarchy in an advanced stage: the difficulty in determining as to who among the chaos-makers is more to blame.

Whatever Tahirul Qadri’s motives for challenging the government at present may be, his right to do so is protected by democratic convention. His ability to collect a horde of devotees to join long marches or for confrontations with state agencies at the barricades seems to have persuaded him to show off simply for the thrill of it. He might go on doing this until he exhausts his resources or his followers get tired of marching to nowhere.

He is also on safe ground while he takes the Punjab government to task for the way the attack on his castle was carried out and the senseless killing of his supporters.

However, his call for regime change is unlikely to be backed by democratic elements. The government derives its legitimacy from the popular mandate it received last year. The allegations of manipulation of the 2013 vote count cannot be exploited by him because he did not join the contest. Nor is his rejection of the Election Commission of Pakistan or the political system of much help to him because his campaign on these issues did not dissuade a majority of people from queuing up at polling stations.

Dr Qadri may not be wrong in censuring the government for what he thinks are its failures or shortcomings. But no final verdict can be passed on a government that has barely completed the first year of its five-year term unless its continuance in power can be proved to be contrary to independently verifiable national interest.

The foregoing arguments do not apply to a revolutionary upsurge but it is doubtful whether the people of Pakistan have lost their capacity to make enlightened choices and whether they will endorse Qadri’s agenda for a crypto-theocracy. He does not realise that he is offering comfort to the Taliban, whom he claims to oppose, and showing other clergy-led forces the way to create disorder.

While one can understand the play of outsized ambition on Dr Qadri’s mind, quite incomprehensible is the decision of several political parties to pamper him. Solidarity with the Pakistan Awami Tehreek over the Model Town police brutality was alright but joining its political platform only betrays an extra-democratic craving for the crumbs of power.

On the other side, the government blundered on and on when faced with the Qadri challenge. The operation carried out by the Punjab authorities at his party office in Lahore betrayed a degree of arrogance of power totally incompatible with civilised governance. And the government’s panicky response to Qadri’s arrival on Monday was both inept and suicidal.

Pakistan’s traditionally myopic establishment has often strengthened protest action against it by trying to suppress it with force. It was unnecessary and undue use of violence to quell political protest that started the East Bengal people’s alienation from the state. The tendency to meet political threat through use of brute force has survived, especially in Punjab, despite the success of alternative methods of crowd management.

A memorable instance of the latter tactic was the way the Zia-Junejo administration tackled the unprecedented crowd that had converged on the Lahore airport to welcome Benazir Bhutto on her return from exile in 1986. In the same category fell the previous government’s management of the Qadri long march early last year. By contrast, the Musharraf regime paid the price for subjecting lawyers to violence, and its failure to protect Benazir Bhutto twice has cost the country dear.

The government should seriously ponder whether it was impossible to safely manage the Qadri procession on Monday. What could have happened if Qadri had been allowed to land at Islamabad and proceed to have lunch with the veteran powerbrokers in Gujrat? The plea that the government wanted to protect Qadri against terrorist attacks cuts no ice with anyone. Such excuses have seldom convinced the people. If the government’s fears had a basis in fact, it could have sought support for its strategy by sharing the relevant informative with Qadri and the opposition.

The government left the information minister alone to fend for it and explain away its lack of forethought. Towards the end of the drama in Islamabad the railways minister tried to run his locomotive without a track. The interior minister was not heard of at all though his ministry was mentioned for restricting police violence to the use of batons, and that decision was welcome. Throughout the stand-off at Islamabad and Lahore airports, the government did not realise the risk it was taking by causing loss and annoyance to a friendly airline. Eventually, the denouement at Lahore showed the authorities to be a poor loser.

The crisis the government is facing is much bigger than the pressure from Dr Qadri. That the democratic polity is again being threatened by its traditional detractors is no secret. Indeed there is reason to believe that the various sorties against the government are parts of a single, grand expedition. The government will not be able to win the day by relying solely on its legitimacy, despite the fact that the disastrous consequences of a relapse into extra-constitutional rule can easily be imagined. Any disruption of the democratic system will push Pakistan back to square one, further undermine the federation, and jeopardise economic revival.

In this critical situation the government must seek strength from a broad democratic alliance under which the country’s political parties, at least a majority of them, can join hands to see off the anti-democratic challengers. This is precisely what Mahmood Khan Achakzai’s sensible call means. Nothing less than this will underwrite the survival of the democratic system. Further, nobody should have any doubt that the formula that may help the government ride the storm today will not retain its efficacy forever.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2014

Informal trap

Khurram Husain

A GROWING proportion of economic activities in Pakistan are now taking place in what is called the informal sector. This has three major consequences that possibly present a threat to the future viability of the state.

A GROWING proportion of economic activities in Pakistan are now taking place in what is called the informal sector. This has three major consequences that possibly present a threat to the future viability of the state.

The biggest consequence is how much of this activity is able to escape the state’s revenue machinery. With a declining ability to capture economic output in the revenue apparatus of the state, there is a diminishing pay-off for the state in the economy’s growth.

This is no minor issue. With amongst the lowest tax-to-GDP ratios in the world, the state in Pakistan is already critically dependent on subsidised foreign inflows in order to be able to pay its own bills. With all of the growth that the country has experienced since 1990, when its first opening up to the outside world began, the proportion of taxes collected has failed to keep pace. Simply extrapolating this trend into the future shows quite clearly that a point will arrive when subsidised foreign inflows could become larger than the total quantity of revenue collected from taxing domestic activities. Of course we are far from that point at this stage, but give it another decade or two more and we’ll see how the totals tally up.

Beyond revenue, we can see an increasing quantity of wealth now accumulating outside the formal economy. Consider some other important ratios where Pakistan lags tremendously: total cash in circulation to bank deposits, for instance, where out ratio is amongst the largest in the world. This shows that increasingly money prefers to remain outside the formal depository and payments system of the country. As capital accumulates in the grooves of the informal economy, it restricts the balance sheet of the formal economy and remains inaccessible for investment purposes, at least investment in fixed capital. Consider that total mortgage lending in Pakistan is somewhere around Rs70 billion, probably less than the value of the housing stock in one elite neighbourhood in Karachi, meaning much of our property market, even though it is the preferred asset for collateral when taking a bank loan, remains off the balance sheet of the formal economy.

A point is approaching — and it’s not possible to say with what speed — where the state will be choked of revenue and the economy will be starved of investible capital, locking us permanently in a situation where the state is dependent on geopolitical rents to pay its own bills. The economy would dissolve in a sea of informal trading and services activities, which can blend easily into illicit and conflict economies functioning along our borders and the lawless hearts of our cities.

But informality has some strengths too. For one, the speed and flexibility with which informal players can deploy capital cannot be matched by their formal sector counterparts. Informality is also resilient to the sharp volatilities that our economic environment is subjected to, and can thrive in spaces where the power of the state cannot reach. Large-scale fixed capital, by contrast, has to be white, is dependent on the state for protection of property and contract, and depends on a network of other formal sector inputs like loans and energy. Its fate is critically conditioned by developments elsewhere in the economy.

To a large extent, the informal economy also partakes in the rhythms of the larger economy. Small-scale informal manufacturing, for instance, is hardest hit by the energy crisis because it cannot invest in captive power production. But informal trading, commodity financing and forex broking are able to operate largely unaffected by the energy crisis, but share in the ups and downs of the agrarian economy as well as currency movements.

Second, informal activities keep the economy stuck in a low-productivity equilibrium, primarily because they are not able to reach any economies of scale due to the lack of investible resources as well as a skewed incentive structure which discourages investment in up-gradation and maintenance.

For this reason, informal activity finds it very difficult to enter into export markets for anything beyond rudimentary raw materials, like cotton. Just look at how our mango growers are struggling to tap the export markets in the United States and the European Union as an example. But consider how transport and agrarian lending, which remain largely informal, also inhibit the formal sector with which they come into contact. Oil movement is a good example of how informality in the transport business maintains a chokehold on the formal operations of our oil-based power plants, or how the structure of rural money-lending markets inhibits the diversification of our agriculture away from traditional crops towards higher value added and lower water intensive cropping.

So long as the bulk of the activity in any given sector, such as transport or agriculture, remains in informal hands, will continued investments in infrastructure — roads or dams — really help raise productivity?

Third, since the state finds it difficult to control or regulate or even visualise informal economic activity, players in this field frequently reach out to local power wielders to help resolve their issues. As an example, water provisioning in SITE area was controlled by a group of interests with close ties to the Awami National Party. When the industrial concerns in the area felt they were being squeezed too hard by this racket, they elected a businessman with close ties to the MQM to be the chairman of their association, who promptly sorted out the water mafia. Informal rackets often become drivers of politics, and in many other cases, become drivers of conflict as well.

For the sake of ensuring the viability of our state, of releasing our economy from behind a low-productivity barrier, and of safeguarding the state’s role in governing the affairs of economy and society, it is vital that a pathway be developed to progressively incorporate the informal sector into the formal.

The writer is a business journalist based in Karachi.

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Twitter: @khurramhusain

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2014

Ignoring oil and gas

Akhtar Hasan Khan

PAKISTAN is facing an acute energy crisis. The loss to the GDP due to this is said to be about 2pc, but the agony from load-shedding is incalculable.

PAKISTAN is facing an acute energy crisis. The loss to the GDP due to this is said to be about 2pc, but the agony from load-shedding is incalculable.

However, the energy crisis is being conceived of and dealt with as an electricity problem, even though electricity provides only 16pc of the final energy consumption as compared to 29pc by oil and 44pc by gas. More than half the electricity is generated by oil and gas. Many industrial units have their own energy plants and do not face any energy problem if they get an adequate supply of gas round the year, especially in the winter months.

The allocation to power in the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) has increased from Rs51 billion in 2013-14 to Rs63.6bn in 2014-15. Compare this with the allocation for the National Highway Authority, which has almost doubled from Rs63bn in 2013-14 to Rs112bn in 2014-15. The major allocations are for the Pak-China corridor of Rs49bn, whose total cost would be Rs746bn and Rs30bn for the Lahore-Karachi Motorway, whose total cost will also exceed hundreds of billions of rupees.

The Pak-China corridor from Kashgar to Gwadar is expected to lead to the emergence of many economic zones, and the same is expected from the improvement of the Lahore-Karachi highway to a motorway.

In the oil and gas sector, the Oil and Gas Development Corporation (OGDC) is the biggest public-sector corporation which produces about half of Pakistan’s oil and one-third of its gas. The nine months’ profit of OGDC, after tax, is Rs91bn and will exceed Rs120bn after the completion of the financial year. However, there is no allocation for the OGDC in the PSDP.

Oil and gas production increases with successful exploratory wells. Pakistan’s success rate in exploratory wells is one in three, whereas the worldwide ratio is one in six. Despite the high success ratio, foreign companies are reluctant to explore in Pakistan because of the security situation. Sindh and Balochistan are very rich in gas, and oil is scattered all over Pakistan. Recently, we discovered 5,500 barrels of oil per day near Jhelum; this will take our total oil production to 100,000 barrels per day (which is a puny amount compared to millions of barrels produced by Iran and still more by Saudi Arabia).

In the current financial year we are digging only 50 exploratory wells and OGDC is digging only five. Given its strength in oil and gas production OGDC should be exploring at least 20, but the government is not interested in OGDC playing a big role in development of oil and gas resources. The government kept the post of the CEO vacant for more than one year. The importance of OGDC in the national economy demands an extremely competent management and a well-appraised, state-of-the-art drilling programme.

Shale technology in oil and gas has revolutionised the industry. The US, which was a big importer of crude oil, will become an exporter after utilising this technology in its oil and gas sector. The word shale does not exist in the development programme of Pakistan, although Pakistan’s topography and the geology of the Indus basin provide an excellent opportunity for utilising this technology for developing the oil and gas sector.

The Economic Survey 2013-14 states: “The government’s strategy will focus on disinvesting the government shareholding in various entities, especially oil and gas.” No country in the world, developed or developing, has privatised its oil and gas assets to foreigners. In the US, which is a citadel of free-enterprise capitalism, the Chinese were interested in buying Unocal, a small US company which produces only 1pc of domestic oil. There was so much uproar in the US Congress and media that China withdrew its offer.

Oil and gas assets are strategic entities, perhaps more strategic than armament factories. The partial privatisation of OGDC will be in total defiance of international practice as no country sells its strategic assets.

Billions of rupees have been allocated to the Pak-China Economic Corridor, the Karachi-Lahore Motorway and the Rawalpindi-Islamabad metro bus. These allocations would be understandable in oil-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia, producing millions of barrels of oil. Also, the expectation of the emergence of economic zones is justified neither in economic theory nor practice. Roads are necessary but not sufficient conditions for the emergence of economic zones. Moreover, neither on the Karakoram Highway nor on the Islamabad-Lahore Motorway has any economic zone emerged — not even a housing colony.

At this critical juncture of our history, it would defy economic principles and national interests if the government did not divert the billions allocated to the Pak-China corridor and the prestigious motorway and metro bus projects to energy projects such as the Dasu dam, and especially for drilling more wells for oil and gas. Pakistan’s economic salvation lies in finding another Sui and/or an oil bonanza and in using shale technology.

The writer is former secretary planning.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2014

Vicious substances

Muhammad Altaf Qamar

TODAY, on the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, it would be worth our while to remember that the world as a whole is in the clutches of two kinds of terrorism: one through arms and explosives, and the other through drugs. In case of the former, arms mean that victims meet horrible deaths. In case of the latter, drug addicts first lose their senses, then suffer social and economic collapse and finally, over the years, slowly and painfully meet a miserable end.

TODAY, on the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, it would be worth our while to remember that the world as a whole is in the clutches of two kinds of terrorism: one through arms and explosives, and the other through drugs. In case of the former, arms mean that victims meet horrible deaths. In case of the latter, drug addicts first lose their senses, then suffer social and economic collapse and finally, over the years, slowly and painfully meet a miserable end.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) World Drug Report 2012, in 2011 the estimated annual global production of the cannabis herb was 66,100 tonnes, 9,900 tonnes of hashish were produced, while the production of opium stood at 7,853 tonnes, heroin at 537 tonnes, and cocaine at 1,135 tonnes. The UNODC World Drug Report 2013 told us that of the world’s 4,833 million-strong population aged between 15 and 64, 352 million (7pc) used one drug or the other. These shocking figures on the production and use of drugs warrant urgent attention in every country.

Drugs and drug abuse affect the entire socio-economic fibre of society, ruining individuals, disintegrating families, and disrupting communities. Drug addicts seldom offer a stable family life and can rarely fulfil the domestic, economic, social and psychological requirements of their children in particular. Robbery, street crime and violence are largely connected with drug addicts. Addicted parents often fall into debt, steal or lose their jobs, resulting in their children running away from home and living on the streets — thus increasing the probability of them becoming addicts in turn.

Further, drug abuse has serious implications for the economy of a society, which must pay damages for drug abuse in the shape of decreased productivity, the cost of medical treatment, robbed or destroyed properties, and the cost of law enforcement. Drugs can cause expensive illnesses. And, on top of it all, injecting drug users first become victims of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis-C themselves and then spread these diseases to others who may not be drug users at all.

According to the UNODC Report on Drug Use in Pakistan-2013, 7.9 million people aged between 15 and 64 use drugs in this country. If drug users outside this band are added, the number may touch 9 million (4.5pc of the total population). Taking cognisance, the then Ministry of Narcotics Control (now division) drafted the National Anti-Narcotics Policy, 2010, which was first approved by the prime minister and then the cabinet. This lays down the following three policy objectives (or strategies) to achieve a drug-free Pakistan by 2030.

First, there is drug supply reduction by eliminating poppy cultivation to maintain Pakistan’s poppy-free status, in addition to preventing trafficking and the production of narcotic/psychotropic substances while strengthening law enforcement agencies and streamlining their activities.

Then, there is drug demand reduction by enhancing demand-prevention efforts through education, community mobilisation campaigns and projects, and developing effective and accessible drug treatment and rehabilitation systems.

Lastly, there is the objective of international cooperation, to be achieved by promoting and actively participating in bilateral, regional and international efforts to combat drugs.

All federal and provincial drug-related law enforcement agencies, and the relevant ministries and departments, are partner to this policy and are responsible for implementing its provisions through dedicated efforts. However, being the premier drugs’ related law enforcement agency of the federal government, and also having ownership of the policy, the Narcotics Control Division (NCD) and the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) are most responsible for steering functioning relating to combating drug abuse. The ANF, being the executing agency of the NCD, is usually ranked first, second or third in the world in seizures of hashish, opium and heroin.

In 2013, the ANF seized 5,613kg of heroin, 13,290kg of opium and 1,05,260kg of hashish. Over 35,000kg of these three types of narco-substances were intercepted during the first five months of 2014. This amounts to almost 40pc of the total seizures made by around two dozen drugs-related law enforcement agencies across provincial and federal police departments in Pakistan. The ANF has also arranged some 1,500 awareness-raising activities over the past four years.

The ‘Drug Free City Lahore’ project is working under the umbrella of the ANF and has organised over 3,000 community mobilisation activities in Lahore over the last three and a half years. In addition, the ANF has treated some 12,000 drug addicts in three Model Addiction Treatment and Rehabilitation Centres established and run under its supervision in Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore.

Nevertheless, the menace can only be defeated in Pakistan if every citizen participates in this “war against drugs” with zeal. Much more remains to be done if Pakistan is to achieve a drugs-free status.

The writer is a retired IGP and a former deputy director-general of the ANF.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2014

The Qadri factor

Zahid Hussain

HE is neither a Lenin nor a Khomeini. But it is the mere folly of a ham-fisted government that has made a ‘revolutionary’ out of a charlatan.

HE is neither a Lenin nor a Khomeini. But it is the mere folly of a ham-fisted government that has made a ‘revolutionary’ out of a charlatan.

Last week’s carnage in Lahore and a panicky reaction by the administration on his arrival has provided Tahirul Qadri with the spark he needed to ignite public outrage. But can he succeed?

There is indeed no dearth of political orphans in the country ready to piggyback on any pretender. Then there are also political parties using the event to raise their own stakes. But surely there will not be any winner in this political chess game.

Qadri has returned more than a year after he made a humiliating retreat to the comforts of his Canadian abode, hoping now to cash in on the growing public discontent over the failed promises of our national leadership. He vows to change the system through a mass uprising but is at the same time anxiously looking towards the military for support.

One wonders if Qadri is just a maverick or a cog in a wider power play. Nothing can be said for certain in our political world of smoke and mirrors. His ever-hardening rhetoric exposes the dubiousness of his real mission. His sudden ascent to political prominence and the timing of his return lend fuel to some conspiracy theories.

Besides the overthrow of the elected government, Qadri now also seeks to mobilise public support for the offensive in North Waziristan. It is most intriguing the way he is trying to get the military involved in his political game plan. He called for the military’s protection as his flight was diverted to Lahore.

Qadri is playing an extremely dangerous game. It is exactly what he attempted to pull off during his previous dharna in Islamabad last year when he tried to create the impression among his followers that he had the blessings of the military as well as the Supreme Court. But the sham was exposed soon enough. The humiliation he suffered at the Supreme Court some weeks later was enough for him to fly back to Canada, abandoning his campaign. He then waited for a more opportune time to return.

In fact the PPP government handled last year’s protest much more deftly, getting him to the point where Qadri desperately looked to save face. Everyone knows the agreement the PPP government signed with the cleric did not mean anything. The Qadri balloon could have easily been burst this time too, had the PML-N government not used such terror tactics and unleashed Gullu Butt and the police on his supporters.

What happened in Lahore last week was a classic example of the PML-N’s arrogance while in power. The Sharifs may have gotten away with the use of brute force to subdue the opposition in the past, but this time the administration crossed all limits. Damage control by the government came too late and was too little to defuse the situation. The sacking of Rana Sanaullah and shuffling of some senior police officers has certainly not pacified public outrage. It is well known that it was simply not possible for the police to use live rounds without instructions from the top.

Those dead bodies became a handy tool for Qadri to galvanise his supporters and to rally round some other opposition parties. Imran Khan, who is already agitating against the Sharif government over alleged election fraud, has his own reasons to ally with the self-appointed Shaikhul Islam. The common cause may help the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf to step up the pressure on the government, but it is not certain to what end.

It is apparent that Qadri does not believe in the existing democratic system and appears vague about what he really wants. His slogan of “people’s revolution” is no less than a megalomaniac’s flight of fancy. A man who has left the country and decided to live permanently in Canada would find few takers for his pretentious ideology. It is hardly the make-up of a revolutionary leader to travel first class and then call for the overthrow of a ‘repressive and unjust order’.

Qadri’s support is largely a personality cult and sect-based. He does not have the kind of mass support that could present any serious challenge to the system. He has, however, created for himself some nuisance value largely because of the media publicity he has been able to buy with the large financial resources that he seems to have.

The source of his funding has long remained questionable. A friend who runs a public relations firm narrated to me how Qadri came to his office a few years ago with a briefcase full of money that he offered to pay the firm for organising an effective publicity campaign for him. Money has certainly not been any problem for the Shaikhul Islam. He claims the funds are donations from hundreds of thousands of followers across the world.

Qadri has developed strong connections in the West over the years. His campaign against terrorism and his religious decree against suicide bombing have won him many friends in Europe. But his support base among the Muslims in various parts of the world remains largely religious in nature and is certainly not based on his politics.

It is most intriguing why Qadri chose this time to launch his campaign to dislodge the government through undemocratic means. When the nation needs to focus entirely on the battle against violent militancy threatening national security, Qadri’s divisive campaign has diverted attention away from it.

Though it is Punjab that has become the main political battleground, its ripple effect is being felt across Pakistan. The country cannot afford violent agitation while thousands of its troops are engaged in a critical battle in North Waziristan and hundreds of thousands of people are displaced from their homes.

The writer is an author and journalist.

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Twitter: @hidhussain

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2014

A homeless world

Rafia Zakaria

MORE than half of them are children. According to a report released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the number of refugees — people who have had to flee from their homes — has exceeded 50 million for the first time since World War II. They are scattered in various parts of the world, and the youngest of them, the children, filed nearly 28,000 applications for asylum in as many as 77 countries.

MORE than half of them are children. According to a report released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the number of refugees — people who have had to flee from their homes — has exceeded 50 million for the first time since World War II. They are scattered in various parts of the world, and the youngest of them, the children, filed nearly 28,000 applications for asylum in as many as 77 countries.

Unsurprisingly, the largest numbers come from Syria, where 1.1 million children, 75pc of whom are believed to be under the age of 12, have registered with the refugee agency since the conflict began. If all the refugees in the world were put together and given their own country, it would be the 24th most populous one in the world.

A sizeable chunk of humans living today do not have the luxury of living at home. A UN spokesperson releasing the report called it “a quantum leap in forced displacement” around the world. The reasons for displacement are varied: some are fleeing war, others famine and environmental degradation. Some are forced to flee their own countries, while others are displaced within their own countries, moving from village to village or from small rural towns into large cities — all of them leaving behind the family and community structures that sustained them.

For those who are crossing borders, their destinations are often just as poor and hapless as what they are trying to leave behind; the largest recipients of refugees from the conflict in Syria are Lebanon and Jordan. Over the past three decades, following wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran have been the recipients of the world’s highest numbers of refugees, receiving 900,000 and 1.6 million respectively.

Pakistan’s refugee problem has not only come from abroad. With the beginning of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, a huge number of people have been displaced from the areas where the military is targeting suspected militants. Preliminary counts of these internally displaced people have estimated the numbers to be anywhere from 200,000 to 300,000. In terms of percentages, it is estimated that nearly 80pc of the populations of Miramshah and Mirali have fled their homes owing to the fighting.

In a country where one conflict is followed by another, producing refugees piling one atop another, the task of providing aid and resources to rehabilitate these people is gargantuan. Those who have left difficult circumstances at home are thus likely to face new challenges at their destinations, forced to navigate ruthless urban landscapes that are unlikely to be very hospitable to their condition.

These local challenges to resettlement, connected as they are to global conflicts, have no part in the conversation on refugee resettlement at the international level. While countries such as the US and the UK did not hesitate to lead invasions into countries like Iraq and Afghanistan (and now probably Iraq again), they have done little or nothing to assist with refugee resettlement.

Not long after the UN report on refugees was published last week, The New York Times reported UN officials as saying that they had asked donor countries for $16.9 billion this year and had received only 30pc of that amount. Not only do developed countries, complicit as they are in causing conflict in regions, refuse to give the money required to deal with the consequences, they are increasingly unwilling to accept refugees for resettlement within their own borders. So while Pakistan counts up 1.6 million refugees and even a small country like Chad can claim to be home to nearly half a million, the US has given shelter to only 263,600. Countries such as Germany and France have done no better, offering a home to only 187,600 and 232,500 respectively.

The difference in numbers is notable, particularly because it is absent from the discourse on strategic interests and global futures. Developed countries, even those directly responsible for causing upheavals in populations in countries from where refugees originate, are used to lamenting the ongoing political upheavals and seemingly endless governmental chaos. Few or none are willing to connect the dots and look at how the ongoing instability is coddled and continued by people moving from here to there in landscapes of limited opportunity.

As the current debate on re-intervening in Iraq amply demonstrates, the strategic norm is to mess and meddle, and then sequester. The displaced of Iraq must be absorbed by its neighbours, the homeless of Afghanistan also. So long as the borders of the US, the UK or Germany or France are well-sealed from these undesirable human consequences of imperial overreach, everything is entirely okay — the pain of it negligible and easily forgotten.

If hapless refugees or asylum seekers do somehow manage to arrive at the shores of any of these countries (and if they are not immediately deported), they face incarceration in detention centres. Human rights investigations into immigrant detention centres in the US and Australia have revealed all manner of abuses among detainee populations.

This catastrophe of homelessness points to the reality that even the concept of ‘home’ has become a luxury, unavailable to a huge number of people in the world and comfortably claimed only by those who are insulated from the vagaries of war or famine by the luck of having been born in a developed country. Those who must roam face closed borders, decrepit camps, ethnic profiling, broken families, and lost connections. In the meantime, the UN issues reports such as this one, telling us all about how badly it has failed in the very mission for which it was created: failed to convince nations waging war to consider for a moment the cost in lives and homes.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

rafia.zakaria

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2014

O the rankings again

Zubeida Mustafa

THE Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings released last week offers some food for thought — that is, if we do not dismiss this annual exercise as a Jewish conspiracy. For Pakistan the bad news is that none of our universities figure in the first 400 institutions of higher education ranked globally. Pakistan failed to make it even to the top 100 Asian institutions.

THE Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings released last week offers some food for thought — that is, if we do not dismiss this annual exercise as a Jewish conspiracy. For Pakistan the bad news is that none of our universities figure in the first 400 institutions of higher education ranked globally. Pakistan failed to make it even to the top 100 Asian institutions.

Using carefully selected criteria, THE ranks universities across the globe according to their “core missions — teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.” As can be expected, American and European universities have the highest ranking — the California Institute of Technology, Harvard University and the University of Oxford are the top three. Asia also boasts of 20 universities that are part of this prestigious global list — the University of Tokyo was judged as the best in the continent, and China, Korea and Singapore are making remarkable headway.

According to THE, thoughtfully calibrated performance indicators are employed to rank an institution. These include: the teaching and learning environment, volume, income and reputation of research, citations of research (indicating influence), industry income that serves as evidence of innovation and global outlook as assessed in terms of the collaboration between staff, students and researchers with international colleagues.

If no other lesson is learnt, these indicate what we should be looking for in our institutions of higher learning. Research, be it in social disciplines or the physical sciences, is at the core of scholarship. The emphasis should be on research-led teaching. The basic requirements for this are highly qualified academics that are experienced in research and know how to pass their skills on to students. Funds are another essential requisite. Cash-strapped universities cannot move forward in research. In fact, Chinese universities have shown more improvement in their ranks compared to Japanese institutions because the former have received more funding. Japan’s expenditure on research has been affected by the pressure its economy faces. Research output is a key determinant of an institution’s ranking.

The other factor is the environment. Societies that do not encourage research do not innovate and cannot progress. Research must be secular in its approach to be considered genuine and authentic. An interesting point to note and investigate is that universities in the Muslim world have been absent from the first 200 global rankings all these years. The sole exception in 2013-2014 is Turkey which has made its debut in the coveted list: the Boaziçi University in Istanbul was ranked 199th.

It is strange that not much notice is taken of the academic standards of students who enrol in these institutions of higher education. Although the quality of university research and teaching is important for its standing, the fact of the matter is that no university can make brilliant scholars out of students who have not mastered the tools of literacy, numeracy and critical thinking in 10 years of schooling. Yet in Pakistan academics do not give much importance to school education when planning for universities. In fact, when the Higher Education Commission was created it hogged much of the limelight and the scarce funds while school education was relegated to the back-burner.

In the West where basic education is compulsory and free, the focus lies more heavily on universities. Academics and educationists have paradoxically found that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) lacks “validity and reliability”. They have accused PISA of “damaging education” because of the importance it attached to rankings and “the race to the top” it ignites.

If one were to use PISA as a tool to assess the education system of a country and not as a yardstick for competition, it certainly has its value. PISA has been testing students triennially since 2000 in science, mathematics and reading. It is not designed to test curriculum-based knowledge but instead it assesses the ability of 15-year-olds to apply their knowledge to real life situations. The questions are what one may describe as a test of a student’s common sense and rationality. One can presume that education that really “educates” a child and teaches him or her how to think and reason should induce rationality and logic, the key tools for lifelong education.

The city of Shanghai in China — not the whole country — has consecutively ranked at the top in the last two tests. The last test was held in 2012 and its results were announced in December 2013. Nearly 510,000 students from 65 countries participated. PISA is actually a test of a country’s education system and the results are an “approximation of reality,” as one of its protagonists stated in its defence. The factors that are considered to be vital for the success of an education system are students’ expectation and motivation, pedagogy, early childhood learning, students’ sense of belonging in school and, above all, equity in education. Isn’t that what really matters?

www.zubeidamustafa.com

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2014

Not such a Great War

Mahir Ali

BACK in 2008, in the wake of Russia’s conflict with Georgia over South Ossetia, Moscow’s ambassador to Nato, discerning a certain echo in the pattern of events, expressed the hope that Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili wouldn’t turn out to be “the new Gavrilo Princip”.

BACK in 2008, in the wake of Russia’s conflict with Georgia over South Ossetia, Moscow’s ambassador to Nato, discerning a certain echo in the pattern of events, expressed the hope that Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili wouldn’t turn out to be “the new Gavrilo Princip”.

He was referring to the young Serbian nationalist who assassinated the heir to the Habsburg throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife, Sophie, in Sarajevo a hundred years ago this week, triggering a chain of events that led shortly afterwards to bloodshed on an unprecedented scale across the European continent and beyond.

More recently, during the initial stand-off over Ukraine, the events of 1914 — when a relatively minor dispute spiralled into a gargantuan confrontation — were again cited as a cautionary tale. Two decades earlier, during the siege of Sarajevo, it was commonly obser­ved that the 20th century was drawing to an end precisely where it had effectively begun.

And just last week another reference to World War I sneaked into contemporary reportage when the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) declared that its latest successes in capturing territory on the border between Iraq and Syria had obliterated the Sykes-Picot lines — a reference to the Anglo-French accord of 1916 on dividing the spoils of the disintegrating Ottoman empire in the Middle East.

A century later, historians are still divided on the precise causes of the conflict that engulfed Europe. Would Austria-Hungary have gone as far as it did without having been egged on by Germany? Did Russia mobilise its forces too quickly? Would Germany have reconsidered its belligerence had it known in advance that Britain would plunge into the war?

The consequences are somewhat clearer, albeit not without areas of contention. The industrial scale of the mass slaughter that ensued — mainly in France and Belgium, but also in Turkey, which had joined forces with Germany, and in Ottoman outposts such as Mesopotamia — can in part be accounted for by recent innovations such as aerial and chemical warfare and new-fangled hardware such as tanks and machine guns.

Much of the combat, though, was rather more old-fashioned. At the start of the war, some of the troops still carried lances on horseback. And a popular anti-war slogan famously categorised the bayonet as “a weapon with a proletarian at both ends”.

Communist propaganda on the eastern front, among the ill-equipped and poorly fed Russian troops, was instrumental in facilitating the October Revolution.

More broadly, given that the belligerent powers were driven to a considerable extent by rivalry over colonial conquests, the outcome of the war sealed the fate of more than one empire. And it is widely, albeit by no means universally, held that the punitive Treaty of Versailles imposed on a defeated Germany in 1919 more or less guaranteed that “the war to end all wars” turned out to be nothing of the kind, with Europe reverting to bloodshed barely two decades later.

Some historians, meanwhile, consider the resurgence of fundamentalist Islam to be among the key consequences of the war. One of them, Philip Jenkins, notes: “Armed Islamic resistance movements challenged most of the colonial powers in the post-war years … That wave of armed upsurges would be instantly recognisable to American strategists today…

“[B]etween 1919 and 1925, Britain’s newly founded Royal Air Force saw action against Muslim rebels and enemy regimes in Somalia, Afghanistan, Waziristan and Iraq. Throughout the 1920s, the Basmachi revolt fielded tens of thousands of guerrillas against the Soviet Union, fighting on behalf of an autonomous sharia state and operating across most of Soviet Central Asia.”

Such reminders reinforce the sense of unfinished business, and not only in the Muslim world — witness the continued tensions in the Balkans and the tendencies towards spikiness on Russia’s borders.

There is, of course, nothing particularly novel in the notion of the present being fashioned by the past. The tragedy is that history’s lessons all too often go unheeded. And some of the current controversies over how best to commemorate the centenary of World War I illustrate humankind’s reluctance to recognise that there are always more desirable alternatives to an orgy of slaughter.

This fairly simple idea was perhaps most potently articulated by one of that war’s best known victims, Lieutenant Wilfred Owen, who died in combat a week before Armistice Day. Relating the effects of a chlorine gas attack on one particular comrade, he writes: “If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood/ Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,/ Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud/ Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,/ My friend, you would not tell with such high zest/ To children ardent for some desperate glory,/ The old Lie: Dulce et Decorum est/ Pro patria mori.”

That “old lie”, taken from an ode by Horace, roughly translates as: It is a sweet and wonderful thing to die for one’s country.

mahir.dawn

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2014

Daunting challenges

Shahid Kardar

THE country faces multifarious challenges which need to be addressed for ensuring the success of any economic revival plan. These problems are summarised below:

THE country faces multifarious challenges which need to be addressed for ensuring the success of any economic revival plan. These problems are summarised below:

a) Although public opinion about seeking action against militant, ethnic and sectarian outfits has seemingly changed, the key political leadership is still dithering despite the recent expression of resolve to take on the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. Resultantly, the narrative about the perpetrators of protracted internal threats and the available choices to deal with them are confusing. Within the country this causes a lack of informed discourse and a vacillation in public support for any strategic shift, while the international community perceives us to be exporting terrorism instead of promoting peace within the country, region and the world.

b) The apparent lack of capability to craft a balance between the realities of global power structures and our long-term natural interests tied with strengthening regional links and bonds.

c) Although political stability is a new and positive development, the scale and intensity of the entire range of crises — internal insecurity, sluggish economic growth and the failure to productively employ the large young labour force, the majority of which has limited education skills — will question the capability of the leadership which is widely perceived to be upholding parochial interests.

d) The fact that demographic and social pressures and the blowback of a mindset bred by 30 years of policies are intensifying at a time when the disparities of incomes and wealth have sharpened. This has resulted in the country being polarised between the haves and have-nots and between modernists and traditionalists, fuelling bitterness against the pillars of the state and the iniquitous systems and structures.

e) The inability of the political, military and bureaucratic leadership to tackle social tensions and internal issues — such as Baloch nationalism — through greater accommodation and provincial autonomy.

f) Despite being a more manageable issue, external security concerns continue to weigh heavily on the allocation of scarce resources, thus compromising the capability of the state to perform its economic and social responsibilities efficiently and effectively. Due to poor economic management, undertaking the imperatives of a security state and the resistance of the political, economic, military and civil bureaucratic elite to accept fundamental reforms has caused a tax to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio of less than 10pc of GDP, low rates of savings and investment and skewed spending priorities at the expense of public services. Decent social services would produce a more equitable society by equipping the poor with the education, skills and health to participate meaningfully in economic growth which will be required to create productive jobs for 230 million people projected to be part of the labour force by 2045.

g) There has been a failure to initiate sustainable civil service and governance reforms at all levels of government to ensure the integrity and capability of the system. Institutions are currently deemed as dysfunctional; they have been rendered weak over time by the lack of the rule of law, weak coordination between the intelligence-gathering agencies to ensure synergies of mandates, the failure to empower the police, adequately resource it, and make it functionally independent, issues of incompetence, non-merit appointments, corruption and political interference in governance structures and operational matters. Resultantly, there is a fear that the political and administrative leadership can exploit opportunities, especially since the pace at which political and bureaucratic structures and supporting mechanisms can facilitate the institutionalisation of good governance is recognised.

h) With external capital flows destined to become more volatile, the poor-country image makes it more difficult to access these funds at affordable rates. Hence, the reliance on domestic sources will increase to meet the growing investment requirement, a tough task given the low domestic savings and tax to GDP ratio and the difficulties of raising these in a low-growth environment.

i) Fears regarding social unrest and political economy considerations make the reduction of large budget deficits through expenditure cuts a daunting proposition. This poses a dilemma on how to generate growth without more debt before fiscal space can be created through fundamental tax and public expenditure reforms for development spending, combined with remaining policy and institutional reforms needed to stimulate private investment.

j) A growth in exports has become critical for financing the country’s rising import bill, especially with doubts about the continuing robustness of remittances from sluggish Europe and the US and the high level of dependence on the economic health of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and their policies that will allow for the continued inflow of skilled and unskilled workers. But the constraint is the disproportionate geographic and product (low-tech and of sunset- and low-growth industries) concentration of our exports and the inability of the leadership to design adequate policies and tools to improve the country’s competitiveness.

k) The access, quality and relevance of education has lagged behind the requirements of the economy and the aspirations of people. Skills are not becoming available at the pace, breadth and depth that is needed to meet domestic and international demand.

l) A deficiency in managerial skills due to the weak education system, poor work ethic and weak incentive structures which do not create a demand for professional skills. The entrenched culture of Statutory Regulatory Orders protects different sectors of industry, rendering irrelevant the need for quality skills to improve industrial competitiveness.

m) The weak democratic governance and judicial systems, incomplete decentralisation and ineffective institutional arrangements for transparency, rule of law and convoluted processes disallow the predictability and accountability of public servants and service providers.

n) Finally, a major challenge is the management of excessive expectations and aspirations, aroused by exposure to the internet and cable television in a highly interdependent and interconnected fast-changing world that has induced greater convergence of norms for organising equitable, inclusive and cohesive societies.

The writer is a former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2014

A sad song for world music day

Jawed Naqvi

EVERYONE loves to sing and dance. There are songs for childbirth and there are very well-crafted compositions sung at death. There are victory dances. There are anti-war songs and blood-curdling verses of gore and brutality driven by the belief it is a patriotic duty to do so. Revolutionary music eggs the comrades on to their dream of Sugarcandy Mountains. Hitler promoted Wagner. His opponents watched cabaret shows, which he hated. Sheema Kirmani in Karachi and Malika Sarabhai in Ahmedabad dance for democracy. Bharat Natyam exponent Sonal Mansingh in Delhi is ecstatic about her exclusive meeting with Narendra Modi.

EVERYONE loves to sing and dance. There are songs for childbirth and there are very well-crafted compositions sung at death. There are victory dances. There are anti-war songs and blood-curdling verses of gore and brutality driven by the belief it is a patriotic duty to do so. Revolutionary music eggs the comrades on to their dream of Sugarcandy Mountains. Hitler promoted Wagner. His opponents watched cabaret shows, which he hated. Sheema Kirmani in Karachi and Malika Sarabhai in Ahmedabad dance for democracy. Bharat Natyam exponent Sonal Mansingh in Delhi is ecstatic about her exclusive meeting with Narendra Modi.

It is a lie that the Afghan Taliban or the Gulf Arabs who subscribe to puritan Islam shun dance and music. The erstwhile Muslim mujahideen in Kabul would be all too frequently netted by Soviet sleuths watching the latest Indian movie. Low tier Gulf Arab women dance a monotonous movement before their puritan patrons by waving their hair shoulder to shoulder. The most rabid video of Salafis from Mosul begins with a musical score.

In the anti-Nazi love story of the 1942 movie Casablanca, ‘Die Wacht am Rhein’ was sung by German soldiers at Rick’s bar, who then were drowned out by exiled French singing the ‘Marseillaise’. Both were mesmeric, and that is the tragedy of music. The German song though must grip the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, the Hindu group that idolised Hitler, and remains the only ultranationalist entity to hold an annual ritual of arms worship, or shastra pooja.

The German Rhine song was to become a role model for later rightwing nationalists: “The cry resounds like thunder’s peal, Like crashing waves and clang of steel: The Rhine, the Rhine, our German Rhine, Who will defend our stream, divine?”

The late anti-war singer Pete Seeger gave South Asia two of its most frequently heard songs against injustice and war — ‘We shall overcome’, and ‘Where have all the flowers gone?’ His first recordings in New York in 1940 with the Almanac Singers became the theme song for American labour activists for generations. The group also recorded anti-war ballads, which proved embarrassing when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and the American left became patriotic. I believe Seeger had to row back somewhat from his staunch pacifism to accommodate exigencies of his battling partisans.

There can be good or bad art, dance or music on either side of the sharp ideological divide. V.D. Paluskar sang a most moving composition of ‘Vande Mataram’ replete with Hindu religious motifs at a pre-Independence session of the Congress, while the spreading of Hindu revivalism in recent years was handed over to jarring crooners like Narendra Chanchal and Anoop Jalota. (You could see it as the essential cultural difference between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party — the former promoted quality aesthetics of a Brahminical elite, the other relied on tinsel garishness that went with the culture of overcharging mohalla shopkeepers.)

Music sometimes becomes a duty. Most Indians would not know the first thing of what their heavily Sanskritised national anthem means. Most Pakistanis would struggle to divine the Turko-Persian words composed by Hafiz Jalandhari as their nation’s choice for anthem. Yet we can’t help marvelling at the earnest fervour with which these songs are sung. In this confusing melee of music imposed as patriotic duty, my choice goes for sheer lyrical beauty to the Tagore-composed Sri Lankan anthem — ‘Namo Namo Mata’ — though I would loathe lip-syncing it with the Sinhalese troops who raped and massacred their Tamil compatriots. Now they are also targeting Sri Lankan Muslims.

Shubha Mudgal has been singing everything she likes about Indian music. Her range of Hindustani classical music includes khayaal, thumri, tappa and a host of traditional songs that go with marriage and childbirth in Uttar Pradesh; from the devotional to the risqué; from the traditional to fusion. A supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi verbally attacked her as she prepared to sing at a temple gathering in San Francisco recently. Mudgal had opposed Modi’s candidature with other democratic artists. She was later deleted from a concert planned by an FM Radio in Delhi to celebrate the World Music Day last week.

It is not known if Modi has an ear for music, but in January this year, he reportedly inaugurated CDs containing songs celebrating Savarkar. a hero among the more virulent variants of Hindu revivalists. Savarkar is also idolised by those that see Mahatma Gandhi’s killer — a Savarkar acolyte — as a patriot. Some Savarkar fans stand accused of bombing the Samjhauta Express though they should have tarried as he was the original proponent of the two-nation theory. Jinnah only followed a lead.

Mudgal is not alone in being punished for her music. Popular playback star Kishore Kumar was shunned for opposing Indira Gandhi’s emergency. The revered Chilean singer Víctor Jara, a close friend of Pablo Neruda, was brutally killed by Pinochet.

And how many artists suffered during Zia’s religious regime? I remember interviewing the late singer Malika Pukhraj for a newspaper in Dubai. She had stressed that Hindustani khayal could not be named Pakistani khayal simply because there were two countries claiming a common musical

legacy. She also felt that Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni Sa, the sargam of Indian music with its Sanskrit roots, could not be sung in the Urdu alphabet. “You can’t have sargam as Alif Bey Pey Tey,” she had said. Zia banned her for this and more.

“In the dark times, will there also be singing? Yes, there will also be singing, about the dark times,” wrote Bertolt Brecht.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2014

Violence continuum

Razeshta Sethna

LIKE many others who may have followed the recently concluded Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, held in London, I was interested to learn why governments representing countries where atrocities are rampant were invited as participants, listening to victims about their horrific experiences of sexual violence.

LIKE many others who may have followed the recently concluded Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, held in London, I was interested to learn why governments representing countries where atrocities are rampant were invited as participants, listening to victims about their horrific experiences of sexual violence.

These same negligent and complicit governments, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Syria in­­clu­ded, the organisers — UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and actor-activist Angelina Jolie — hoped would be ‘forced to act,’ and that they would be moved enough to want to act to stop violence against women and girls.

Governments have not been shamed for their poor rights record or threatened into compliance by the international community because women’s rights are seen as collateral damage. Take the case of Afghan women pre-2001 and their fear of a Taliban resurgence post-2014.

Strangely confident that these governments would have no excuses for inaction after this summit because a new ‘manual’ would provide instruction on how to stop sexual violence, the organisers ensured that they sign up to a protocol on collecting evidence of violent crimes, ensuring prosecutions, supporting victims and aiming to remove the culture of impunity.

Are powerful governments actually interested in forcing a movement to address sexual violence beyond charting road maps? How can victims of sexual violence and rape, and survivors of acid attacks, ‘honour’ crimes and child marriages in Pakistan expect justice when they are unprotected and mistreated by the state? With no protections such as safe houses, legal assistance, fair trials, police protection, healthcare and empowerment opportunities, the state has failed in its responsibilities.

There’s also the fear of right-wing extremists that keeps high-profile politicians and other activists from lending their support to relentless and visible campaigns the Jolie-Hague way, to change conservative mindsets and anti-women laws. Summits have proved to be talking shops so far; the ground reality is impunity, inaction and fear.

Failure to recognise that violence against women is a crime that must be investigated and prosecuted renders the state culpable because it is apathetic or even complicit in denying justice to victims of sexual violence. When a pregnant woman was bludgeoned to death outside Lahore’s high court by her own relatives for marrying without their consent, the police stood by. It was later revealed that the victim’s husband had strangled his first wife so he could marry her and was forgiven by his adult sons.

A culture of change is not impossible when women are educated about their rights and the law, but it is also driven by educating men, given that most decisions and the management of women’s lives is under their charge.

Bridging gender gaps can enhance economic productivity, improve development outcomes for the next generation, and make institutions and policies more representative. However, it is distressing that regressive recommendations made, for example, by the Council of Islamic Ideology (most of the council’s members are not exactly known to be supporters of women and child rights) are accommodated in parliamentary sessions, especially rulings that child marriages are permissible and absurd decrees sanctioning second marriages requiring no consent from first wives.

When countries like Pakistan, Nige­ria, India, Syria, Sudan, Turkey, Afghanistan and certain others sign declarations, make pledges and draft protocols, they take no note of the words on paper that are meant to translate into action on the ground. Although 187 countries have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Dis­crimination Against Women drafted in 1979, discrimination and violence against women are rampant.

Renewed pledges were made among more than 151 countries prior to the London summit where international civil society movements, activists, politicians, victims of rape and war violence, and governments talked about practical actions to improve investigation and the prosecution of sexual crimes in wartime, ensure better care for victims, and ultimately end violence in war.

As a high-profile campaign backed by governments and fronted by activists, this is an opportunity to carefully monitor pledges made by states known to fall back on their words. Setting timeframes and holding non-compliant governments accountable that have shown no respect for women’s and girls’ rights is what Hague and Jolie must follow through.

With bilateral relationships focused on political machinations, trade and fighting terrorism, the state of the world’s women doesn’t matter. Without pressuring these governments to ensure that human rights are preserved by using strong-arm measures (cutting military and other assistance if pledges are not carried through and pro-women legislation not formulated) and monitoring abuse, the future for women looks decidedly the same.

The writer is a journalist.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2014

Points of contention

Moeed Yusuf

PRIME Minister Modi’s election in India has spurred interesting conversations bet­ween Indian and Pakistani political pundits. In my interactions, most recently at a well-established track-II dialogue, three threads stand out as potential sticking points that governments in India and Pakistan should be aware of as they seek forward movement.

PRIME Minister Modi’s election in India has spurred interesting conversations bet­ween Indian and Pakistani political pundits. In my interactions, most recently at a well-established track-II dialogue, three threads stand out as potential sticking points that governments in India and Pakistan should be aware of as they seek forward movement.

Indian experts are visibly irked if Modi’s past is brought up.

The Indian view is that it should be irrelevant to Pakistan’s approach towards him. Even those Indian experts who were quite openly concerned about the baggage Modi carried in the pre-election period seem converted on this point.

The Pakistani view is not entirely reconciled. No one is questioning Modi’s legitimacy, of course. Pakistanis have absolutely no business grudging his rise. But equally, his controversial past does strike a very strong emotive chord in Pakistan for obvious reasons. Rightful or not, he is not seen as just another prime minister.

The perception of Modi, especially among the Pakistani right, makes him a much easier target of a politically motivated campaign that seeks to malign the Pakistani leadership. He is undoubtedly a higher-cost option for any Pakistani leader to engage with than, say, a Manmohan Singh or even a Vajpayee was.

As a Pakistani prime minister looking to fend off political rivals, then, you want Modi to go the extra mile to prove his skeptics in Pakistan wrong. Forward movement almost necessitates the Indian prime minister playing big brother and putting something out of the ordinary on the table — some tangible concession or incentive that would show his commitment.

I’d go a step further by saying that mere words won’t do. It will have to be tangible action — whether in the economic realm or something like reviving and prioritising a backchannel on Kashmir.

The disconnect is that Indian colleagues see no need for anything extraordinary. A senior Indian expert summed up what I find to be the majority sentiment: “The ball is still squarely in Pakistan’s court as far as India is concerned.”

On the Pakistani side, two issues must be taken head on.

First, Indians continue to worry about and question the merits of dealing with a Pakistani civilian government that is unable to carry the military along. Every time this is brought up in expert discussions, Pakistanis quickly react to say that this is an internal matter and that New Delhi should focus on working with whichever government occupies office in Islamabad irrespective of its strength.

The Pakistani contention is diplomatically correct of course. But just like with Modi’s past, there is a history here that you can’t ignore.

Indians have the right to remember Vajpayee’s 1999 overtures and what came thereafter — especially Modi, since his domestic constituencies are likely to be much more skeptical about any approaches to Pakistan.

If Modi is to stick his neck out, he must know that Islamabad’s end of the deal will be held up. And just like mere words won’t satisfy Pakistanis about Modi, verbal assurances from Nawaz Sharif on this count won’t mean much. The latter will have to get his military to publicly back his overtures and to signal overtly that it will not play the spoiler. The all too obvious civil-military tensions at the moment make this even more important.

Second, the ‘T’ word will be more important for this Indian government than any other.

No matter how you see Mr Modi and his relationship to his domestic political constituencies, this BJP dispensation will not be able to play softball on terrorism. The message is loud and clear no matter which segment of the Indian expert com­mu­nity you talk to. Equally, there is a consensus that Modi will be far more susceptible to a muscular response in case of any provocation linked directly or indirectly to Pakistan than other recent Indian leaders.

Simply put, if Pakistan is unable to control jihadis from creating trouble in India, a rupture in ties is all but guaranteed.

Also, the concern is not only about the future. Mr Modi’s cache will remain limited unless he can show his people that Pakistan has delivered something on the pending Mumbai trials. We can say all we want about the lacunas in our legal system — and we all know there are many — but the Indians, and for that matter the world, ain’t buying the argument that the Mumbai trials are held up because of that. Modi needs Pakistan to do something on terrorism. Otherwise, his followers, fed only one message about Pakistan and its links to terrorism, will force his hand to hold back. Delhi will still continue talking but that is about it.

I remain skeptical that either side will be able to do what it is going to take to achieve a paradigm shift in India-Pakistan relations. We’ll most likely be stuck with minor gains susceptible to quick reversals. Business as usual, that is.

The writer is a foreign policy expert based in Washington D.C.

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2014

Hysteria to hyperbole

Hajrah Mumtaz

IN the tumultuous days at the end of the Musharraf regime, when it started being said that the country’s electronic news media was not just a spectator of the political game but perhaps a player, too, many could smell change in the air.

IN the tumultuous days at the end of the Musharraf regime, when it started being said that the country’s electronic news media was not just a spectator of the political game but perhaps a player, too, many could smell change in the air.

A friend who works in theatre was approached by a certain channel: give our news presenters and commentators some of the appropriate training that actors are given, they said, so that they can more easily stay on top of breaking or swiftly evolving stories, and keep audiences involved.

My friend started by putting his class through a series of breathing and voice-modulation exercises. He explained how, in moments of stress, the human voice tends to get high-pitched, and that this is undesirable for people in their profession since the person relating the news must appear calm and in control to gain the audience’s trust. He demonstrated how in moments of agitation, people tend to wave their hands about a little too much, which audiences find irksome and distracting, and how frequently changing positions of the body — elbows on and off the table, the shuffling or sorting of papers — can negatively impact the credibility of the presenter.

A few days later, though, the suit called. He wasn’t pleased. His objection was, why on earth are you teaching my crew to tone it down? They’re absolutely lacklustre now. It turned out that while the channel had indeed wanted its people trained, the last thing it wanted was poise.

“How do you expect viewers to stay with us if our presenters have no animation, as if they don’t have emotions about the events, too?” he boomed. My friend objected, pointing out that audiences need to be able to form a cool understanding of events, and for that they needed a calm presenter or reporter. Poise was not the same as being lacklustre, he said.

“What do you know?” the corporate retorted. “Pakistan is hysterical. Pakistanis are hysterical. To keep them tuned in we need to whip up their emotions and provide them entertainment. Train our people, but don’t make — BBC presenters out of them.”

Needless to say, the classes were discontinued.

Around the same time, a few trained actors that I used to know found employment in a corner of the television industry that they had never earlier thought would have a place for them. They were hired by news channels as the hosts of the sort of shows that do exposés. You know, the sort that tell One Man’s story and invite you to imagine the injustice that was done to him, or the tragedy that he suffered. Or surreptitiously follow someone around and then confront him.

Trained actors, acting as outraged journalists — so much better able to manipulate the audience’s emotions.

On the other side of the spectrum, consider what a certain Andy Bodle had to say recently in a blog called ‘Mind your Language’ that is on The Guardian’s website. Opposed to hyperbole in general, because it dilutes the meaning of words, about it being used in journalism he writes: “While hyperbole can be effective in, say, comment pieces and reviews, I would question whether it has any place at all in news reporting. … Open the news pages today and you’ll struggle to find a policy that isn’t a flagship policy, a ruling that isn’t a landmark ruling, a speech that isn’t a landmark speech, a criticism that isn’t damning, a negotiation that isn’t frantic, a blow that isn’t devastating, a large company that isn’t a giant or a majority that isn’t vast. … Crisis — ‘a period of intense difficulty or danger’ — seems a reasonable term to describe what’s been happening in Ukraine, Syria or South Sudan. But is it really the appropriate term to describe a slight decline in popularity of South Korea’s national dish? …

“Hyperbole, as a technique of oratory, was praised by the likes of Aristotle, Cicero and Quintilian because it conveyed emotional truth. … News journalists aren’t supposed to argue cases or convey feelings. They’re supposed to tell us the facts. You could argue, therefore, that if a news journalist exaggerates, it’s not hyperbole at all; it’s deception.”

Yes, exactly. Through various tricks to which sections of Pakistan’s news media, print and news, resort, they betray their willingness to deceive and cheat in the thirst for audiences. It’s not just Pakistan, obviously. But here, there seem to be no sane voices calling for restraint. Even a code of conduct agreed upon by major news channels several years ago has been thrown to the winds, as was demonstrated during the coverage of the attack on Karachi airport. In this recent debacle, organisations went as far as to announce the movement of security forces, something that happened before at the Manawan Police Academy, too.

Can we ask our journalists to go back and read the manual, please?

The writer is a member of staff.

hajrahmumtaz@gmail.com

Published in Dawn, June 23rd , 2014

The reign of Gullu Butts

Babar Sattar

THE Model Town operation that claimed 10 precious lives and its aftermath highlight much of what is wrong with today’s Pakistan. The legitimacy of state authority is already in tatters. The Gullu Butt mode of governance in Punjab just made it two notches harder for defenders of democracy to advocate continuity of the political process as the best long-term solution to our ills. What excuse does Shahbaz Sharif have for passing on responsibility for the carnage under his nose in his own neighbourhood?

THE Model Town operation that claimed 10 precious lives and its aftermath highlight much of what is wrong with today’s Pakistan. The legitimacy of state authority is already in tatters. The Gullu Butt mode of governance in Punjab just made it two notches harder for defenders of democracy to advocate continuity of the political process as the best long-term solution to our ills. What excuse does Shahbaz Sharif have for passing on responsibility for the carnage under his nose in his own neighbourhood?

Why do public officials resign? Do they resign when found guilty of heinous crimes or to redeem the moral authority of the government? The South Korean prime minister, Chung Hong-won, resigned in April over the Sewol ferry disaster. He had not ordered that the ferry be capsized or that the rescue be bungled. “Keeping my post is too great a burden on the administration,” his resignation statement said. “…On behalf of the government I apologise for the many problems from the prevention of the accident to the early handling of the disaster.”

Shahbaz Sharif has somberly announced that he will resign if the judicial commission finds him responsible for the killing of Tahirul Qadri’s (TUQ) supporters. But why not hold off till after being found guilty of murder or manslaughter by a court?

Mr Sharif has ruled Punjab with an iron fist for the last six years. Ten people were killed and dozens grievously injured under his watch in a planned operation where police fired live rounds. Everyone watched police brutality being indiscriminately unleashed on women, children and the elderly on live TV. What died along with the civilians was the myth that de-institutionalised hands-on autocratic rule can be packaged as good governance.

And what does Mr Sharif wish to do now? He wishes to punish minions and hold them responsible for the culpability or the failing of his administration. Passing the buck and making scapegoats out of loyalists and subordinates are acts perfected by our ruling elite. The younger Sharif has now made it clear that he will follow and strengthen this entrenched tradition.

The most charitable explanation of the Model Town carnage is that the PML-N wanted to raise the stakes for TUQ followers and put the fear of the devil in them should they be planning to throng the streets later this month. The operation was executed the day a new inspector general of police was assuming charge. In all likelihood he wasn’t involved in the planning. But that didn’t prevent him from holding a press conference to justify the murderous acts of his force as self-defence.

Thrown in at the deep end by his political bosses on the first day of his new job, Mushtaq Sukhera might have felt slighted. But why take personal affront when at stake is the biggest job everyone in your service vies for and you finally have it at the twilight of your career? Why not simply avoid looking at the mirror for a few days like a conscientious public servant? Or better still declare that the dreamy ideas, that the police are only to follow legitimate commands of the political masters or that it is meant to serve the citizenry, are now obsolete and must be discarded?

In addition to moral bankruptcy, our key law and order challenge is the toxic combination of inability, incapacity and a culture of impunity. If the idea was to drive home the message to TUQ supporters that the ‘revolution march’ in 2014 will be unlike the walk in the park in 2012, Good-Governance Sharif and his blue-eyed babus in the police and district management couldn’t even manage that properly.

The plot seemed simple enough. The administration and the police would come under attack while removing illegal barricades outside TUQ’s headquarters. It would appear that the Gullu Butts were TUQ revolutionaries torching public property and attacking law enforcement agents having been incited by TUQ. In self-defence and to maintain public order the police would be forced to act tough. In this process TUQ supporters would get beaten up. The message would stand delivered: come out but at serious peril to your physical safety.

TUQ would blame the PML-N for the melee. PML-N would blame him back. As all of Pakistan would be focused on the North Waziristan operation, TUQ, the miscreant focused on derailing democracy and constitutionalism in Pakistan and distracting the nation at a time when it needs to stand united against terror, would come out looking bad.

But it all went horribly wrong. During the operation command and control was virtually absent. No water cannons were brought in. No tear gas was used. No rubber bullets were fired. And together with Gullu, police brutality, indiscipline and impunity were telecast live to a nation aghast. Is this the police force that will act as the first line of defence against terror across Pakistan? Will it lead the more crucial phase of our fight against terror once the army reclaims North Waziristan and the war between militants and the state moves to urban centres?

If self-pity is ever forgivable it should be now. Many of us lament civil-military imbalance in Pakistan as a primordial fault line holding this country back and see TUQ as a pawn in that old game. But do we expect an inebriated political elite suffering from self-induced delusions of grandeur to fix this historical imbalance — a political elite incapable of removing barricades from outside a political non-entity’s house without killing citizens and shooting itself in the foot?

If there is ever a justification for exercise of Article 184(3) suo moto powers, it is in cases where the state grossly abuses authority and the possibility of delivering justice to aggrieved citizens is dismal unless the Supreme Court throws its institutional weight behind citizens to even the odds against them. Like the missing persons’ case, the Model Town killings call for such an exercise. No disrespect to the lordships, but will justice come to be seen as ethnicity-blind in Pakistan? Will malfeasance of Punjabi political elite attract judicial scrutiny?

The writer is a lawyer.

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Published in Dawn, June 23rd , 2014

The real victims

Huma Yusuf

AS military strikes in North Waziristan continue, the expected wave of IDPs has swelled — up to 300,000 people are expected to leave the tribal agency. And as in previous instances, there is little in the way of state preparation to greet them.

AS military strikes in North Waziristan continue, the expected wave of IDPs has swelled — up to 300,000 people are expected to leave the tribal agency. And as in previous instances, there is little in the way of state preparation to greet them.

Caught in the crossfire and forced to flee, IDPs correctly invoke sympathy and their plight often contributes to dwindling support for military action against militants. This is exacerbated by the fact that the terms in which they are portrayed by the media emphasise their poverty — they are depicted as fatigued, malnourished, polio-ridden, laden down with buckets and blankets, with cattle in tow.

But it is worth remembering that the IDPs who have been inundating Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are those fortunate enough to have the resources to save themselves and their families. According to news reports, the cost of hiring vans has surged to Rs35,000 and more while rents in Bannu and other KP destinations are also soaring. One can only assume that hundreds of people who would prefer to leave North Waziristan have been unable to do so because of inadequate funds.

This is the latest reminder that Pakistan’s poor are among the worst-affected by terrorism, a fact that is often lost in the media din — you’d think only English-speaking ‘liberal fascists’ and Imran Khan’s urban, elite supporters are affected by terrorism, since it is primarily their voices that manage to participate in the national dialogue about militancy.

But the poor suffer in myriad ways. Having fewer options to safeguard themselves, they are the most exposed. The soft targets that militants have hit in recent years include markets, mosques, open-air volleyball courts, girls’ schools, government hospitals, and more. These are not the fortified sanctuaries of the elite, though those too are increasingly vulnerable to attack. The sense of fear among political elite, senior police officers, high-ranking military officials, and public figures who condemn terrorism — most recently Tahirul Qadri — is justified and valid. But the focus on their security too often masks the fact thatthe poorestare just as — if not more — vulnerable.

Much of the impact of terrorism on the poor is indirect: a loss in daily wage earning following a terrorist attack; reduced freedom of movement owing to the higher frequency of checking and intimidation at police checkpoints; fewer employment opportunities as elites in the professional and private spheres increasingly worry about militant infiltration; the diversion of charity from the truly needy to radicalised groups that have better networking and fundraising processes.

Ironically, attempts to secure richer and more influential Pakistanis against terrorism often come at the expense of the poor. For example, barriers erected in cities to protect government buildings and posh residential areas also obstruct ordinary, innocent people trying to reach workplaces and markets. Those from beyond the barrier are thought of as threats, and are offered no recourse against the daily perils they face. Think, for example, of Lyariites in Karachi who have to endure gangs but are seen as criminals outside their own slum. And as researcher Sobia Kaker has pointed out, any attempts by these vulnerable groups to protect themselves — whether through ad hoc barriers or armed neighbourhood groups — are automatically criminalised, despite playing the same role as privatised security for the affluent.

Recent academic research (for example, a 2012 paper by Blair, Fair, Malhotra and Shapiro) has consequently found that the poor — particularly the urban poor — are more opposed to militancy than those in the middle class, likely be­cause they are more ex­posed to and negatively impacted by terrorism.

Despite this, Pakistan’s poor are too often presumed to be militants-in-waiting, if not already radicalised. Rather than explore how terrorism might exacerbate poverty, public discourse in Pakistan focuses on how the poor are more vulnerable to being ideologically brainwashed or frustrated by their lack of options and thus more easily enticed by militant groups. These perceptions also partially inform the fear in urban areas of IDPs.

Development money continues to be allocated for poverty alleviation in the hope that it will check the spread of extremism and terrorism. But perhaps more research and funding should be allocated to ensuring that all Pakistani citizens can protect themselves — or be protected — against militancy, which is certain to surge in response to government and military efforts to clamp down on terrorism.

There is an urgent need for better urban planning and regulation to ensure that mega-projects do not cut off swathes of urban areas from each other, keeping some people secure while locking all those below certain income levels into violent enclaves. Community responses to help those injured, traumatised or rendered jobless by terrorist incidents also need to be cultivated. Without such measures, terrorism will be yet another factor driving inequality in Pakistan.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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Published in Dawn, June 23rd , 2014

Questions worth asking

Umair Javed

POLITICAL parties, mainstream media sources and several civil society groups have designated the army operation in North Waziristan as a strategically sound course of action, and support for it as patriotic obligation. The prime minister and ISPR, the military’s media wing, have made several appeals to the public to ‘fully support the troops’ as they undertake what is the sixth operation in the tribal areas over the last decade. An appeal has also been made to the people of Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to — if one were to paraphrase — ‘take one for the team’.

POLITICAL parties, mainstream media sources and several civil society groups have designated the army operation in North Waziristan as a strategically sound course of action, and support for it as patriotic obligation. The prime minister and ISPR, the military’s media wing, have made several appeals to the public to ‘fully support the troops’ as they undertake what is the sixth operation in the tribal areas over the last decade. An appeal has also been made to the people of Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to — if one were to paraphrase — ‘take one for the team’.

These appeals, though earnest as they are made to sound, are largely redundant for two reasons.

The first is that the army has, historically, never taken on the burden of seeking out public opinion on military or administrative action in Pakistan’s border areas, least of all from the local populace. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the views of those most affected by the violence of the Taliban, and the retaliatory bombardment of the military, have been deemed largely irrelevant once again.

The second reason is that segments of society, which matter most to the state (the urban electorate in Punjab and, to a lesser extent, in Karachi), are already on board. This can be gauged from not only the societal outlets listed in the first sentence of this piece, but also through vociferous expressions of support on various internet platforms.

This current consensus can be seen oscillating between firm approval (with an appeal for probity and transparency) on one hand, and active cheerleading complete with patriotic Facebook cover photos, ‘go get ‘em’ Tweets, and chest thumping monologues on the other.

It must be pointed out, however, that any situation where nearly everyone is ready to cheerlead a military assault — especially one resulting in civilian casualties and mass displacement — is exceptionally unreasonable. What those amongst us actively celebrating this operation need to contemplate is that baying for blood and shrugging off the loss of innocent lives as collateral damage is a primal, borderline fascistic response. All it does is floor the already low level of moral and intellectual debate in the country, and endorse the already dehumanised view of Pakhtuns and other communities living in Fata and its adjoining areas.

A second theme worth pondering over is the representation of such operations as the whole solution, as opposed to operations and other forms of state-led violence being a small instrument in a much larger political project of eradicating religious militancy and extremism.

As an outcome of the ‘peace talks versus Fata operation’ binary developed during these past few years, the country is at the mercy of a superficial train of thinking that reduces militancy to the activity of specific deviant groups concentrated in a specific part of the country. Consequently, what we now see under way in North Waziristan is a fully backed, simplistic response to a purposefully, and quite wrongly, simplified question.

As patterns of both the spectacular and everyday varieties of violence repeatedly show, religious extremism and militancy is a geographically pervasive, an administratively complex, and a socially embedded phenomenon. It takes various forms, which include not only attacks on airports by foreign fighters, but also the systematic societal discrimination against/killing of progressive voices, Shias, Ahmadis, Christians, and other minority groups.

Thus it can be reasonably assessed that the wide variety of participants populating this exclusionary and often violent landscape — comprising not only distinct militant groups like the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Lashkar-e-Taiba but also the everyday reactionaries found in workplaces, neighbourhoods, and mosques — all form part of the same problem.

In light of this assessment, two things surely beg deeper inquiry. Firstly, has there been any accompanying acknowledgement of the infrastructure of funding, recruiting, and administration that exists beyond Fata and well into ‘mainland’ Pakistan? And secondly, whether the complexity and ideological milieu underpinning extremism in all its ugly forms — from the suicide bomber to the middle-class bigot — has been taken into account not just by a state that has presented the North Waziristan operation as the ultimate solution, but also by enthusiastic supporters, which are so willingly throwing their weight behind it.

Finally, perhaps the most pressing question arising from the current impasse concerns the state’s historical aspirations beyond its own borders, and the corresponding relationship cultivated with various ‘acceptable’ militant groups.

While many now speak of changing circumstances and strategic rethinks, there has been enough to suggest in the past few weeks (such as Hafiz Saeed’s ringing endorsement of the army on a number of issues), that Islamist groups continue to be viewed as useful allies in certain situations.

Any well-intentioned actor therefore — be it an individual citizen, civil society group, or a political party — interested in the eradication of religious extremism should not only reflect and acknowledge this history of domestic complicity, but also independently assess whether this long-standing umbilical cord linking the military and the militants stands truly severed.

Over the next few months, it is expected that support for the operation in North Waziristan will continue to be used as the litmus test for both patriotism, and sensible/‘solution-driven’ thinking. Any such slant, however, which passively encourages a damagingly simplistic binary and promotes a face-value acceptance of the state’s opaque violence and shallow thinking process, must be freely scrutinised and criticised without fear of reprisal.

This is nothing less than necessary for instituting a democratic political culture, and moving towards a more effective conversation on how to tackle the pervasive menace of religious extremism.

The writer is a freelance columnist.

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Published in Dawn, June 23rd , 2014

The gates of hell

Munir Akram

AS the US was about to launch its 2003 military invasion of Iraq, the then secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, warned presciently: “You will open the Gates of Hell”.

AS the US was about to launch its 2003 military invasion of Iraq, the then secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, warned presciently: “You will open the Gates of Hell”.

Carved out from the debris of the Ottoman Empire by the secret Sykes-Picot pact, Iraq was a Humpty Dumpty state , ruled by a Sunni minority with an oppressed Shia majority and a disaffected Kurdish minority.

To ward off the war and prevent Iraq’s disintegration, Saudi Arabia floated a proposal at the eleventh hour that would have sent Saddam Hussein into exile and passed power to an Iraqi general who would cooperate to assure that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction. Pakistan, then a member of the Security Council, offered to sponsor this proposal. However, it was summarily dismissed in Washington.

Undeterred by friendly warnings, the Americans, soon after occupying Baghdad, proceeded to disband the Iraqi army and ban the Baath Party, the only organised institutions in Iraq. Six months into the invasion, they decided to hold elections. The theory propounded by the ‘neo-conservatives’ in the Bush administration was that democracy could be inducted in authoritarian Arab states, by force if necessary. When the view was expressed that the elections in Iraq would lead to a pro-Iranian Shia government, it was countered by the bizarre thesis that the US aimed to create a rival Shia centre to Iran in Iraq, notwithstanding the deep ties of each of the three Iraqi Shia political parties to Tehran.

As feared, the consequences of American hubris were Iraq’s political disintegration and a Hobbesian ‘war of all against all’. The Kurds, already separated during the years of sanctions against Saddam, consolidated their de facto statelet. The ousted Baathists and army veterans joined the Sunni resistance. Shia parties vied for power, often violently, like Muqtada al-Sadr, against the foreign forces, the Sunnis and often each other. Sunni extremists, including Al Qaeda and Zarqawi, emerged as important actors in fighting the foreign forces and the Shia factions. The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) was born during this Sunni resistance. It worked with Al Qaeda but was separate from it, focused on local rather than global ‘jihad’.

The US 2006 troop surge, counterterrorism operations, co-option of Sunni tribes and formation of a broad-based coalition in Baghdad restored a semblance of order to be preserved by a new US-trained and equipped Iraqi army.

Then in 2011, the US withdrew totally from Iraq. Nouri al-Maliki, the Shia prime minister, refused to sign a status of forces agreement immunising US forces from Iraqi jurisdiction. President Obama felt obliged to fulfil his promise to end America’s war in Iraq.

With the American departure, Maliki proceeded to transform Iraq into a Shia state, excluding and persecuting Sunni politicians and tribes and further alienating the Kurds. The escalating terrorist attacks against Shia targets over the last two years signalled the resumption of Iraq’s civil war.

The opportunity for the revival of Sunni resistance came not in Iraq but Syria. As the West encouraged opposition to Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite (a Shia sect) regime, the ‘moderate’ Sunni resistance provided a legitimate cover for more ‘radical’ groups: the Nusra Front, linked to Al Qaeda, and specially ISIS, to carve out a leading role for themselves in the Syrian struggle. Al Qaeda broke with ISIS not because it was too ‘radical’ but because it was more effective.

ISIS had a clear military and political strategy: to secure sources of finance and recruits and capture and hold territory in Sunni-majority areas across Syria and Iraq. It displayed tactical flexibility: shifting its attacks to the most vulnerable targets. It has controlled Fallujah for several months. Its takeover of Mosul and march towards Baghdad were well-executed. Surprisingly, the Iraqi army collapsed under the ISIS onslaught.

Mobilised by fear and humiliation and Ayatollah Sistani’s call to arms, the Iraqi army and Shia militias are likely to succeed in defending Baghdad and pushing ISIS out of some mixed Sunni-Shia towns. Retaking Sunni strongholds, like Fallujah and Mosul, may prove more difficult.

America’s ‘hawks’ are pressing the administration to launch air strikes against ISIS, if needed, in tandem with Iran. Admission of their past strategic mistakes or remorse for the massive suffering these have inflicted on the Iraqi people is not in their DNA. Obama has been wise to deflect their pressure, hold back from air strikes and keep his options open.

Unless Maliki reaches a rapid accommodation with the Sunnis and other political forces, which is unlikely, US air strikes would reinforce the Sunni alienation and Iraq’s political division. If American strikes were conducted now in coordination with Iran, they would heighten the suspicions of America’s Gulf allies that it is indeed tilting strategically towards Tehran. Attacking ISIS would willy-nilly also strengthen the ability of the regime in Syria to extend its military advantage over the ‘moderate’ opposition once its main combatant (ISIS) is militarily diminished. 

In any case, unlike Al Qaeda, ISIS does not pose an immediate threat to the US ‘homeland’. Its objectives are regional. Bombing it could change its agenda and create the very threat that some in Washington presume it poses. Its eventual neutralisation will have to be achieved by a combination of political and military means.

However, the threat posed by the ISIS advance may generate the political will in Baghdad and, more importantly, in Tehran, to work for a political solution which accommodates the legitimate aspirations of Iraq’s Sunnis within a federal structure.

It appears from Obama’s remarks that Washington intends to evolve its response in consultation with Saudi Arabia and other allies. It will require adroit diplomacy to cut through the deep layers of hostility to achieve a consensus between them and Iran on a peace strategy for Iraq. If this can be achieved, it could lead to a wider understanding on ways to neutralise ISIS and other Sunni and Shia extremists in Iraq, promote a similar ‘federal’ solution to the Syrian conflict, end the region’s sectarian wars and close ‘the gates of hell’.

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2014

Dead wrong

Cyril Almeida

IN the middle of the dirty deed and the ugliness — monstrousness? — of what was perpetrated, the mind raced to two conclusions. And both made the heart sink.

IN the middle of the dirty deed and the ugliness — monstrousness? — of what was perpetrated, the mind raced to two conclusions. And both made the heart sink.

Why now? Because it was the best darn moment. An operation had been announced, the prime minister had reluctantly owned it, the gap between civ-mil had narrowed, the army was distracted — now was the moment to strike.

Because now was the moment they could get away with it.

All this talk over the PML-N losing the plot and derailing a national consensus against militancy hours after it emerged and disastrously moving the national conversation back to why the N-League is unfit to rule misses the point: this was the week to do it because the boys were busy and the likely repercussions few.

But why do it at all?

Qadri is a nuisance, but he’s hardly a threat. And he’s only a threat to the extent the boys back him. But even if the boys are backing him, we’ve been here before and his march on Islamabad has failed before.

So why obsess over a threat that has been neutralised before?

Take your pick. Qadri is the weakest link in the boys’ chain. Precisely because he’s vulnerable and can’t hit back, he makes for a good target.

You’re the PML-N. You’re Nawaz. You’re sick of all the blows you’ve absorbed in recent weeks without even getting in a punch or two of your own. You want to make the point that you’ve felt the pain and that you’re still willing to fight. So you whack Qadri — or Qadri’s supporters anyway.

Or you’re the PML-N. At its core, the unreformed, unreconstructed PML-N is about the cold and calculated use of violence against opponents to protect its turf.

Qadri & co were running around mocking you. Making the tiger look like a pussycat. Pride was being dented, but, more importantly, reputation was being hurt too.

Imran did it last year and now every Tom, Rashid and Qadri thinks they can get in on the act. But not in Lahore. Not in Punjab. A lesson had to be taught.

Now, the signal has been sent. Hunting the tiger ain’t going to be no fishing expedition. There will be a price to pay. The pretenders to the throne will have to show what they’ve got.

And so it would have come to pass. If only the PML-N had figured out one additional thing: the changed media landscape. Specifically, the electronic and social media.

That Gullu Butt has gone viral and become a cultural meme isn’t the problem. In fact, he’s spawned a thousand jokes and all of them work to the PML-N’s advantage because they draw attention away from the dead bodies.

But the problem is the dead bodies. And the live bullets fired into a crowd of civilians. And the breathless, live, on-the-spot reporting.

If nothing else, you would have thought the PML-N would have waited for Geo to be back on air before laying siege to Qadri’s Lahore HQ. Maybe Geo’s coverage wouldn’t have been sympathetic, but neither would it have been cheerleading for the demise of the government the way the still-on-air big boys were this week.

OK, the Pemra suspension meant that the window of opportunity would have been too small between Geo getting back on air and TUQ arriving in Pakistan. Still doesn’t change the point: what the hell did the PML-N think was going to happen if they sent in the police to disperse a crowd in front of live, very hostile TV cameras?

Aha, there you go. The PML-N will pounce on that as proof that it was all unplanned and definitely not green-lighted at the very top. Except, not really. All that does is prove that they still don’t get the new media world they’re living in.

Which itself is a strange thing, given the almighty scare they were given by the PTI and its TV and social media push during the last election. A scare that led to the PML-N going out and looking for an ally in the world of TV and co-opting the biggest and baddest media beast in the land, Geo.

But forget Geo and TV for a minute. What can be kept off air can’t be kept offline. Social media’s reach may be limited for now — 3G and an internet boom, anyone? — but it has an outsize effect because so many in the media use it.

So the rage and anger over the Lahore killings would have burned through quickly enough and radiated onto TV. There was really nowhere to hide.

Which again leaves you with the question, what the hell were they thinking?

Everything — everything — that has been done to this government to make it vulnerable, to reduce its space to manoeuvre, to open it up to assault has been done through the media.

And here was the PML-N, giving the media, TV and social, everything it could have ever dreamed of and more.

The PML-N will survive Lahore and TUQ won’t bring down the government. But several truths have again been put up in big bold letters.

The PML-N is stuck in a pre-1999 mode. The PML-N will react under pressure. The PML-N will eventually choose the wrong option.

As for the anti-democrats, they will try again. And if anyone wanted to write it, they could write Gen R’s speech in five minutes flat. Today.

The writer is a member of staff.

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Twitter: @cyalm

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2014

A mishandled clash

Tariq Khosa

EVEN as the armed forces launched a crucial operation in North Waziristan, an unnecessary and ill-timed ‘anti-encroachment’ operation took place in Model Town Lahore that resulted in the administration’s excessive and brutal use of the police to settle scores with a political adversary of the ruling PML-N.

EVEN as the armed forces launched a crucial operation in North Waziristan, an unnecessary and ill-timed ‘anti-encroachment’ operation took place in Model Town Lahore that resulted in the administration’s excessive and brutal use of the police to settle scores with a political adversary of the ruling PML-N.

It was, in fact, a clash of egos that resulted in the avoidable loss of 10 lives besides causing injuries to scores of others. Everyone came out bruised: the Punjab government headed by an impetuous chief executive; the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief and his supporters who allegedly promoted illegal activities; the district administration for its servile following of political bosses; and the Punjab police for their inept and ruthless use of force to please their political patrons.

The district administration and the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) have to answer some tough questions. Was the anti-encroachment drive part of a city-wide campaign in which the encroachers were given written or verbal notices in advance? Or are encroachments only being removed in the constituency of Model Town where the PML-N lost to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in the general elections?

Specifically, who gave orders to the DCO Lahore and DG LDA to remove the illegal barricades around the Minhajul Quran secretariat just a few days before the scheduled arrival of the PAT chief? Why did they choose to furtively remove the barricades at 2am? And when they met with resistance, did they seek clearance of the bosses to go in with heavy machinery and elite police contingents? Were they trying to establish the writ of the state or slavishly obeying a political command? Our civil servants must reflect on whether they are public servants or servants of the government.

The institution that has faced the most public ire and anger is the Punjab police. Like typical sycophants, the police commanders act like courtiers of the rulers. The encroachment saga and resultant bloodbath has badly exposed them for their lack of professionalism, inept handling of a law and order situation, lack of restraint in the face of provocation and blindly pandering to the wishes of their political bosses.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakis­tan is correct in saying that “this is not the first incident [in which] lack of police training or … inclination for crowd control without violence has been badly exposed”. The “incident makes it abundantly clear that there are no bounds to police brutality in action against political rivals of the parties in power,” adds the HRCP. This is a justified charge sheet against the Lahore police and as the force’s proud commander in the early 1990s, I hang my head in shame now. This was a command failure.

The Lahore police chief (made ‘officer on special duty’ after the incident) must be asked whether he took the inspector general, who assumed charge the day this ill-timed operation was carried out, into confidence. Did he know of the attempt to remove barricades at 2am by the district administration that took along only 10 policemen and had to retreat after resistance by the PAT security staff? Is it true that after only initial resistance, the police chief chose to enlist the support of elite police commandos trained for encounters with terrorists and outlaws?

Was this kind of heavy-handed response planned by the police command or did they get specific orders from bureaucratic or political channels to remove the barricades even if it meant using force? Under the media glare, the superintendent of police leading the operation was badly exposed in allowing a PML-N activist to resort to violence and smash cars indiscriminately and then walk away patted by senior police officials on the spot. This is shameful.

And now a word about the way the police reacted to the violence. In the heat of the moment, the supervisory officers lost control over their under-command policemen who resorted to aerial firing when pelted with stones. They then fired directly and indiscriminately, not even sparing women. This is to react in sheer panic. First they are supposed to use tear gas, then batons, hitting miscreants on their legs. If some mischief-mongers have weapons, the police are to fire with rubber bullets, intended to be non-lethal. Do the Lahore police have rubber bullets?

Under the Criminal Procedure Code, only the senior-most police officer present is authorised to order fire aimed at a particular individual or group that is endangering the lives of others. That is the last resort. The SP Model Town or DIG operations, being the senior-most police officers, have to answer these basic questions.

However, the ultimate responsibility rests with the chief executive. While he has offered to resign if found responsible for this fiasco by a judicial commission, merely expressing remorse is not enough. He should ensure ruthless accountability of the political, bureaucratic and police chain of command responsible for the unfortunate tragedy.

The writer is a retired police officer.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2014

The IDP conundrum

Khadim Hussain

OFFICIAL statistics show that thousands have been internally displaced from North Waziristan in the run-up to Operation Zarb-i-Azb and after. According to the Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA), around 227,000 people, including over 100,000 children, have so far been registered.

OFFICIAL statistics show that thousands have been internally displaced from North Waziristan in the run-up to Operation Zarb-i-Azb and after. According to the Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA), around 227,000 people, including over 100,000 children, have so far been registered.

Locals say that IDPs are faced with four major humanitarian issues. First, the availability of transport — necessary for families to shift to safer places — has become a crucial problem. Those who get transport pay huge costs, much more than they could ordinarily afford.

Second, the provision of food items has not been streamlined so far. Keeping in view the large number of women and children refugees, delay in the provision of food might pose a serious threat.

Third, arrangement of space for stay has not been satisfactorily organised. Recognising the cultural peculiarities of the region, this problem might turn into a larger issue in the coming days.

Four, preventive measures and immediate treatment in health matters have so far not been taken care of.

Four institutions must bear responsibility for transport, living conditions and food- and health-related issues. The primary responsibility lies with the FDMA and the federal government. The record of disaster management authorities in the country has so far not elicited any confidence in their capabilities. The FDMA can justify its existence by dealing effectively with the exodus from North Waziristan.

The second institution that is primarily responsible for resolving IDP issues is the civil administration of North Waziristan and the adjacent Frontier Regions. The secondary responsibility lies with the district administrations of the adjacent districts of North Waziristan, especially Bannu. It also lies with the whole machinery of the KP government.

The process by which all humanitarian issues can be resolved may be divided into the relief, recovery and rehabilitation phases. These phases can be effectively and smoothly tackled if there is a mechanism for coordination among the institutions responsible for resolving IDP problems. The divisional administration of the KP government has been declared the focal point for coordinating the relief phase. One hopes that recovery and rehabilitation is planned soon so that workers of various institutions find time to make the necessary arrangements.

A positive development during the ongoing operation has been the formation of an oversight or coordination committee consisting of Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch and the KP governor.

The terms of reference state that “the coordination committee will hold regular meetings and subsequently brief the premier about the progress of the operation”. One hopes that these meetings do take place regularly and the briefing to the prime minister takes place on all relevant issues, including IDPs. The prime minister must take into confidence the leaders of political parties represented in parliament.

With the restrictions on foreign NGOs to support the relief and rehabilitation effort, the responsibility of local civil society organisations seems to have multiplied. All government institutions responsible for resolving the humanitarian issues must allow locally screened groups to help deal with humanitarian issues related to the IDPs.

Besides these issues, there are two others re­lated to the security aspect of displacement that must be taken into consideration. The first issue that cropped up during the Swat military operation in 2009 and the South Waziristan operation the same year was the melting away of the middle-ranking cadre of militant groups in the garb of IDPs.

One wishes the National Counter-Terrorism Authority had been in place for coordinating intelligence gathering of various state outfits. A huge responsibility falls on various institutions of the state intelligence network to sift genuine IDPs from the militant cadre. The activists of militant groups usually melt away in the urban centres of Pakistan and form sleeper cells. They regroup after the military push is over and wreak havoc in the shape of targeted killings, extortion and kidnapping for ransom.

The second security issue related to the IDPs is space for the welfare wings of the militant network to work within the IDP camps and living spaces. They have so far succeeded in using various disasters to perpetuate the militant ideology. This not only perpetuates the militant discourse, it also takes away space from the moderate civil society groups to work with communities.

It is hoped that the ban on foreign NGOs to help IDPs also includes dubious groups working with Saudi funds and funds from other Arab counties.

The writer is a political analyst based in Peshawar.

khadimhussain565

Twitter: khadimhussain4

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2014

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