DWS, Sunday 27th July to Saturday 2nd August 2014

DAWN

WIRE SERVICE

DWS, Sunday 27th July to Saturday 2nd August 2014

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

What’s Inside?

National News | Editorial | Columns & Articles

For suggestions and comments:

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

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

letters

National News

23 die in Karachi Eid beach tragedy

Imtiaz Ali

KARACHI: At least 23 picnickers drowned in rough seas off Karachi during the Eid holiday, with the authorities blaming people for ignoring a warning against swimming during the monsoon season.

KARACHI: At least 23 picnickers drowned in rough seas off Karachi during the Eid holiday, with the authorities blaming people for ignoring a warning against swimming during the monsoon season.

Officials said on Thursday that 21 bathers had drowned at Clifton’s Sea View beach and two at the Hawkesbay.

The officials and rescue personnel said that this was the highest death toll on Karachi’s beaches in recent memory. The officials put the onus on picnickers for not being careful while swimming in rough seas amid poor security and administrative arrangements.

Drowning incidents, especially during July and August, are not uncommon, but it is the first time that Sea View, which is regarded as a relatively safe point, swallowed so many lives.

Navy helicopters were used in the rescue operation because it was difficult for divers to retrieve the bodies in high tide.

“I can confirm the death of 22 people,” Karachi South Zone DIG Barrister Abdul Khalique Shaikh said. Seventeen of the bodies have been identified.

Police sources told Dawn that Section 144 had not been imposed on the sea side, adding that the Sindh Home Department had issued a notification about this with a back date and it was received by the offices of IG, DIG South and SSP South on Thursday morning.

Dr Qadir said that 12 of the corpses recovered from Sea View on Wednesday were partially decomposed. The time lag between their death and retrieval was 20-30 hours, suggesting that they drowned at different times.

Most of the relatives took away the bodies without allowing doctors to fulfil legal or medical formalities.

He said Clifton beach used to be small and safe, but it became dangerous after Sea View was developed and a wall erected there, hampering flow of the tide. Because of the wall, waves reach up to Kothari Parade, making the beach unsafe.

Mr Kazmi said the first four to six minutes were crucial to save the life of a drowning man, but during high tide even divers could not be of much help. “Public awareness and netting of beaches on the pattern of Australia are the only way to save lives,” he suggested.

COMMITTEE SET UP: IG Ghulam Hyder Jamali constituted a high-powered committee under Additional IG Karachi Ghulam Qadir Thebo to investigate the incident, ascertain facts and fix responsibility.

According to a police spokesperson, the committee will submit its report within 24 hours. DIG South Abdul Khalique Shaikh, DIG East Munir Ahmed Shaikh and SSP security are other members of the committee.

The IG also suspended the area SHO and removed DSP Darakshan.

AFP adds: Senior police officer Ibadat Nisar said police had discovered three bodies that washed up at Clifton on Wednesday evening. This prompted a wider search operation, but it was suspended overnight. It resumed on Thursday.

“We started talking to picnickers on the beach and realised that the number of people who drowned was much higher than we thought; people whom we talked to told us about their friends or relatives who had gone missing while swimming,” he said.

Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, the Commissioner of Karachi, said “We have just recovered another dead body and the toll now stands at 21. The coastal area is very long and we cannot say how many people might be still missing – let’s hope the number is not very big.”

Several ambulances were seen on the beach, where relatives of some of the missing were anxiously awaiting word of their loved ones.

Faiz Rehman, 32, said he and his younger brother had come to the beach on Wednesday to go for a swim along with two friends who were now missing.

He said: “As we were swimming, I noticed the waves getting bigger and rougher. I got scared and started swimming back. I also called my brother and friends to swim back to the shore. My brother returned but my two friends were still swimming. As the waves got bigger I lost sight of them. I waited for around three hours, but they didn’t return.”

Twenty-four-year-old Muhammad Haroon said he had come to celebrate Eid with his cousins, but refused to swim with them because he did not want to ruin his new clothes. “I was walking along the shore waiting for them to return. We are still clueless about them.”

Shoaib Siddiqui said a search operation had been launched with the help of Navy divers and a helicopter as well as civil authorities.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2014

PAT, PML-Q may join PTI march on Islamabad

Waseem Ashraf Butt

GUJRAT: Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri may also start his march on Islamabad from Lahore on Aug 13 but will give a formal call only after getting certain guarantees from the PTI leadership through PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Husain.

GUJRAT: Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri may also start his march on Islamabad from Lahore on Aug 13 but will give a formal call only after getting certain guarantees from the PTI leadership through PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Husain.

Sources in the PAT and PML-Q told Dawn that Dr Qadri and his workers would stay in Gujrat for a night on Aug 13. They will be joined by PML-Q workers on the Independence Day. Workers of both the parties will stay in Rawalpindi for a night and start their march on Islamabad on Aug 15.

According to the sources, preparations for the march have begun in towns and districts along the GT Road and local chapters of the two parties are waiting for a final call from their leaderships.

A senior PML-Q leader said Dr Qadri was waiting for the outcome of talks his party was holding with representatives of the PTI core committee through Chaudhry Shujaat.

He said that since the PML-Q leadership had been acting as a bridge between the PTI and the PAT, the former had first sought a guarantee from Dr Qadri. Chaudhry Shujaat assured PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi that Dr Qadri would never back out of his commitment of becoming a part of the agitation aimed at ousting the PML-N government.

In return, the PML-Q leader said, Dr Qadri had made certain demands, which had been conveyed to the PTI leadership by Chaudhry Shujaat. The PAT is now waiting for a PTI reply to its demands.

Chaudhry Shujaat is reported to have advised the PTI leadership not to go for a solo flight because he thinks the PTI workers cannot make a long stay in Islamabad.

It has been learnt that Dr Qadri will stay at the residence of Chaudhry Shujaat in Gujrat on Aug 13 while other participants of the rally will be jointly hosted by the Chaudhrys and the local chapter of the PAT. A source in the PML-Q said Dr Qadri would announce the launching of his march on Islamabad three days before his departure from Lahore.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2014

UN official in tears over killings in Gaza school

Reuters

UNITED NATIONS: An official of a United Nations agency broke down in tears when Al Jazeera television interviewed him about the killing of 16 people in the shelling of a UN school in Gaza by Israel on Wednesday.

UNITED NATIONS: An official of a United Nations agency broke down in tears when Al Jazeera television interviewed him about the killing of 16 people in the shelling of a UN school in Gaza by Israel on Wednesday.

“The rights of Palestinians, even their children, are wholesale denied and it’s appalling,” Chris Gunness, who represents the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza Strip, said in a voice choked with emotion, before burying his face in his hands and sobbing uncontrollably.

In another incident, 17 Palestinians were killed by Israeli shelling near a produce market.

The UN agency has declared a state of emergency and launched an appeal for funding.

UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon was incensed at the attack on the school. The institution’s UN administrator was hit by Israeli artillery, according to some accounts.

“It is outrageous. It is unjustifiable. And it demands accountability and justice,” Ban said.

On the other hand, Israel came up with a hackneyed explanation, saying its forces were attacked by guerillas near the school, in northern Jabalya, and had fired back.

“Such a massacre requires an earthquake-like response,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, whose group has kept up dozens of daily rocket launches deep into Israel.

DESTRUCTION OF TUNNELS : Israel pressed ahead with its offensive on Thursday, claiming it was days from achieving its goal of destroying all cross-border tunnels, but a soaring Palestinian civilian toll triggered international alarm.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet on Wednesday approved continuing the assault launched on July 8. But Israel also sent a delegation to Egypt, which has been trying, with Washington’s blessing, to broker a ceasefire.

The Israelis have kept casualties from the salvoes low with nine Iron Dome interceptor batteries and air-raid sirens that send people to shelters.

Rolling Israeli ground assaults on residential areas, prefaced by mass-warnings to evacuate, have displaced more than 200,000 of Gaza’s 1.8 million Palestinians. The tiny territory’s infrastructure is in ruin, with power and water outages.

Both sides have voiced openness to a truce, but their terms diverge dramatically. Israel wants Gaza stripped of tunnels and rocket stocks. Hamas rules that out, and seeks an end to a crippling Gaza blockade enforced by Israel and Egypt, which view Hamas as a security threat.

The negotiations are further complicated by the fact Israel and the United States shun Hamas as a terrorist group, while the go-betweens — Egypt, Qatar and Turkey — disagree on Gaza policy.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2014

Talks for money stashed in Swiss banks to begin this month: Dar

From the Newspaper

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said on Thursday that talks would be held with the Swiss authorities in August for bringing back about $200 billion stashed in banks of Switzerland by Pakistanis.

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said on Thursday that talks would be held with the Swiss authorities in August for bringing back about $200 billion stashed in banks of Switzerland by Pakistanis.

According to Dawn.com, he said talks would be held in several phases and it could take three to four years to bring the money back to Pakistan.

In 2012, Switzerland said it had returned $1.83bn in illicitly-placed assets to countries involved in the Arab Spring regime changes, but Pakistan’s tax agreement did not allow it to take advantage of the law.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2014

Kerry in Delhi to revive ties after friction

AFP

NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday opened his first meetings with India’s right-wing government as he seeks to reboot a relationship seen as a bulwark against a rising China.

NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday opened his first meetings with India’s right-wing government as he seeks to reboot a relationship seen as a bulwark against a rising China.

Kerry’s visit to New Delhi comes after an unusually large number of disputes between the world’s largest democracies, including charges of US surveillance against Indian politicians and a trade rift that could scuttle a global customs deal.

The top US diplomat met Finance and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, a key player in the new government, as part of an annual dialogue which was meant to be held in Washington but was shifted in light of the political transition in Delhi.

Kerry will meet on Friday Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist who was shunned by Washington until not long before his sweeping election victory in May.

Taking a break from intense Middle East diplomacy that has dominated his tenure, Kerry highlighted other issues close to his heart including the environment. He toured the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology Delhi and spoke to students who are trying to make plastic biodegradable.

“It’s very exciting. I wish you well with that. It would be a huge contribution to the world,” he said.

The United States and India, at odds during the Cold War, began to reconcile in the late 1990s with leaders describing the world’s two largest democracies as natural allies.

But Indian perceptions that the United States is insensitive to its concerns broke into the open in December, when US authorities arrested an Indian diplomat for allegedly mistreating her servant.

More recently, India thre­atened to block a global pact to streamline customs procedures before Thursday’s ratification deadline unless the World Trade Organisation (WTO) approves its stockpiling of food for the poor. Rich nations say the policy distorts global trade.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who is accompanying Kerry, said the United States was “very disappointed” at India’s stance, but was hopeful of a deal to salvage the WTO deal.

“I am hopeful that between now and the end of the month, we will find a way forward which is mutually beneficial,” she said in an interview with Thursday’s edition of The Times of India.

She emphasised the common ground between the two countries, saying there was “great opportunity in this partnership”.

However, allegations that Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party had been the target of surveillance operations by the US National Security Agency while it was in opposition have added to the sense of grievance on the Indian side.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that she told Kerry and his aides that Indians were “angry” about the alleged spying. “I also told them that if we consider each other friendly countries, it is unacceptable that a friendly country spies on other friendly nations,” she told a joint news conference.

Kerry told reporters that he could not comment about specific allegations but he insisted that US President Barack Obama had made “unprecedented” efforts to ensure better oversight of intelligence.

India is among the nations most concerned by the US withdrawal of combat forces from Afghanistan planned this year.

Modi has vowed a tough line against Islamist extremism, although he has shown pragmatism since taking office and reached out to Pakistan.

The United States in 2005 refused a visa to Modi over allegations that he turned a blind eye to anti-Muslim violence as leader of the state of Gujarat.

Washington abruptly reversed course as Modi rose to power, with President Barack Obama inviting him to the White House in September.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2014

Three women injured in Pishin acid attack

AFP

QUETTA: Three women were injured in Pishin district in an acid attack over a family dispute, officials said on Wednesday.

QUETTA: Three women were injured in Pishin district in an acid attack over a family dispute, officials said on Wednesday.

Local administration official Bashir Bazai said: “Three women sustained injuries in an acid attack in Killi Huramzai area of Pishin district.”

He said the men had thrown the acid from bottles.

Balochistan Home Secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani confirmed the incident, adding that the motive was a family feud.

“There was a family feud between two groups and one group stormed the house of the rival group on Tuesday night and threw acid on the women,” Mr Durrani said.

He said six women were present in the house during the incident and the acid fell on three of them. “The attackers threw the acid on the lower parts of the women, burning their feet and lower parts of leg.”

Mr Durrani said that police had identified the attackers and were carrying out raids to arrest them.

On July 22, two men on a motorcycle sprayed acid using syringes on two teenage girls who were returning from a market in Mastung town.

The day before, four women — aged between 18 and 50 — had suffered the same fate in Quetta, in the market area of Sariab. They suffered partial burns.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2014

Nation celebrates Eid today

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

KARACHI: The Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee announced the sighting of the Shawwal moon on Monday and Eidul Fitr will be celebrated across the country on Tuesday.

KARACHI: The Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee announced the sighting of the Shawwal moon on Monday and Eidul Fitr will be celebrated across the country on Tuesday.

The committee which held its meeting at the Met Department in Karachi said it had received evidence about the sighting of the crescent from more than half a dozen places in the country.

“It has been decided with consensus that 1st Shawwal 1435 Hijri will fall on Tuesday,” the committee chairman Mufti Muneebur Rehman said at a press conference.

“Meetings of the regional committees were also held in provincial capitals and their representatives were present in almost every district. The central committee received information about moon sigh­ting mainly from Jacobabad, Umerkot, Mirpurkhas, Zhob, Rohri and Padidan,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2014

Mob kills 3 members of Ahmadi community

Dawn Report

GUJRANWALA: Police registered a case against more than 500 people on Monday after a mob killed a woman and two children and set several houses of the Ahmadi community on fire late on Sunday when a youth from the community allegedly posted blasphemous material on Facebook.

GUJRANWALA: Police registered a case against more than 500 people on Monday after a mob killed a woman and two children and set several houses of the Ahmadi community on fire late on Sunday when a youth from the community allegedly posted blasphemous material on Facebook.

Among those booked by police were prayer leader Maulvi Hakim and his son Zakariya.

According to police, young Saqib allegedly shared a blasphemous image with Ejaz on Facebook. Infuriated, Ejaz, Zakariya and some other people gathered outside the youth’s house in Arafat Colony to “teach him a lesson”.

Sensing danger, members of the Ahmadi community assembled at the house of one Dr Sohail, said police. The angry mob attempted to enter that house in pursuit of Saqib when the people inside allegedly opened fire on them, injuring Zakariya.

The mob had grown in size by that time and eventually entered the house, damaging it. The crowd also damaged some other houses, police said.

Gujranwala CPO Waqas Nazir, Civil Lines SP Zeeshan Siddiqi and CIA DSP Rashid Sandhu reached the spot and began negotiations with members of the two communities to bring the situation under control.

“Later, a crowd of about 150 people went to the police station and sought the registration of a blasphemy case against the youth,” said a police officer. “As police were negotiating with the crowd, another mob attacked and began burning houses of the Ahmadi community.”

The names of the deceased were Bushra (45), Hira Tabassum (seven) and Kainat Tabassum (10 months). Ruqaiya and her two children Noor Tabassum and Ata, Samer Ahmad, Atia Tabassum, Talha, Humaira and Muneer Ahmad fell unconscious.

SP Siddiqi said a woman suffered miscarriage.

Salimuddin, a spokesman for the Ahmadi community, said the incident on Sunday night was the worst attack on his community since the attacks in Lahore four years ago.

“Police were there but only to witness arson and looting. They didn’t do anything to stop the mob,” he said.

“First the crowd looted homes and shops and then they burnt the houses.”

According to police and eyewitnesses, seven to eight houses of the Ahmadi community are in the neighbourhood. All of them have since been vacated.

Heavy contingents of police have been deployed outside the victims’ houses and the hospital where the injured are under treatment.

The police have registered the case against more than 500 people, seven of them nominated accused, under sections 302, 436, 148 and 149 of Pakistan Penal Code and Section 7 of Anti-Terrorism Act on the complaint of Bhutta, the father of the deceased children, at the Peoples Colony Station.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has characterised the mob attacks as brutal and barbaric.

In a statement, it said: “The HRCP is shocked and disgusted at the killings after a blasphemy allegation. As things stand in the country now, particularly in Punjab, a blasphemy charge, however unfounded, makes such cold-blooded killings somehow less repulsive. The people who were killed were not even indirectly accused of the blasphemy charge.

“Their only fault was that they were Ahmadi. Torching women and children in their house simply because of their faith represents brutalisation and barbarism stooping to new lows.

“The community, rights-respecting citizens and civil society would and must demand accountability of the mob that cheered as the deceased and injured cried for help. But if prospects for such justice were even remotely realistic, that might have deterred many in the mob from being a part of the heinous enterprise.

“The HRCP calls for a thorough inquiry to find out why police failed to act as the mob went around a number of Ahmadi localities before they eventually chose the one that they decided to target.

“Members of the mob and the people who instigated them need to be identified and brought to justice. Most importantly, the biases and intolerance that led to the killing must be rooted out through proactive and meaningful steps if we are to survive as a civilised society.”

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2014

Missile mows down 8 children in Gaza

AFP

GAZA CITY: Exchanges of fire killed eight Palestinian children in a Gaza refugee camp and four people in Israel on Monday, shattering hopes for an end to three weeks of devastating violence.

GAZA CITY: Exchanges of fire killed eight Palestinian children in a Gaza refugee camp and four people in Israel on Monday, shattering hopes for an end to three weeks of devastating violence.

The missile that slammed into a public playground in the seafront Shati UN refugee camp also killed at least two other people and wounded another 46, many of them also children, the emergency services said.

Soon after, a security source said five Gaza militants were killed in a shootout with troops in southern Israel. Hamas’s armed wing claimed it killed 10 Israeli soldiers in a raid in the same area, and denied it lost any men.

The latest bloodshed pushed the Palestinian death toll from violence in and around the coastal enclave to more than 1,050.

Palestinian medical sources blamed the refugee camp killings on the Israeli military, with witnesses saying the missiles had been fired from a fighter jet.

“An F-16 fired five rockets at a street in Shati camp where children were playing, killing some of them and injuring many more,” one source said.

Inside Shifa hospital, a correspondent saw the bodies of at least seven children from the blast at the camp, with more bodies being brought in on bloodied stretchers. They were unloaded and taken directly to the mortuary.

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2014

Army in capital: PPP to raise issue in parliament

Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan People’s Party, which has already opposed the government decision of calling the army in Islamabad in aid of civil powers, decided on Monday to take the issue to parliament.

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan People’s Party, which has already opposed the government decision of calling the army in Islamabad in aid of civil powers, decided on Monday to take the issue to parliament.

The party submitted an adjournment motion in the Senate “to discuss the situation arising out of handing over the capital to the army under Article 245 of the Constitution”.

Moved by Farhatullah Babar, the motion said: “Summoning army under the said article has ‘grave implications for the political stability and civil-military relations in the country’ which calls for urgent discussion suspending the normal proceedings of the Senate.”

PPP lashes out at govt for invoking Article 245

The upper house has already been summoned to meet on Aug 8.

The summoning of troops appeared to be a shrewd move of the government to block the long march the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has planned to stage in Islamabad on Aug 14.

However, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had said at a press conference on Sunday that the decision to summon troops was made before the operation Zarb-i-Azb was launched in North Waziristan on June 15.

Talking to Dawn, Farhatullah Babar said actions taken by the army under Article 245 could not be questioned in a high court. Even a judicial inquiry like the one held into the Model Town tragedy cannot be held if there were complaints of arbitrary use of power.

He said the PPP had in the past summoned troops in aid of civil powers during natural calamities and disasters and during Muharram processions, but it had never allowed ousting of the jurisdiction of high courts.

The PPP leader said the army could also be called in aid of civil power under normal laws — Criminal Procedure Code and Pakistan Penal Code — which did not oust the jurisdiction of the high courts.

Mr Babar recalled that during the first tenure of Benazir Bhutto, then army chief Aslam Beg sought powers under Article 245 in case troops had to be deployed in Karachi. Ms Bhutto declined and said she could not pave way for eventual setting up of military courts and tribunals beyond the oversight of high courts.

He disagreed with the interior minister’s assertion that the troops will remain behind the scene in assisting the civil administration.

“However, the notification states that the troops deployed shall exercise powers under the Anti-Terrorist Act, 1997. It means that they will also have powers to carry out searches and detain people for purposes of enforcing the said law without the oversight of the high courts,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2014

Sethi-Zaka litigation has harmed PCB, cricket: SC

Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court observed on Monday that litigation between two former chairmen of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Najam Sethi and Muhammad Zaka Ashraf had caused immense harm to the board and the game of cricket at the domestic and international level.

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court observed on Monday that litigation between two former chairmen of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Najam Sethi and Muhammad Zaka Ashraf had caused immense harm to the board and the game of cricket at the domestic and international level.

“The individuals might have gained or suffered but it is the institution (PCB) which has been impaired excessively in all respects,” regretted Justice Mian Saqib Nisar in a strongly worded 23-page verdict elucidating reasons why a two-judge Supreme Court bench had on July 21 ordered the government to appoint an acting chairman and a chief election commissioner to hold a fresh election of the PCB.

The mad, mad, mad world of the PCB

The court had then allowed Najam Sethi to hold the post of PCB chairman till the election.

The judgment was issued on an appeal moved by the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC), which oversee sports activities in the country, against the May 17 Islamabad High Court verdict reinstating Zaka Ashraf as PCB chairman.

Justice Nisar observed that the people of Pakistan had great passion for the game of cricket and earnestly desired and wanted to see the PCB emerging as a strong, independent, democratic and accountable institution.

But the smooth functioning, prestige and prominence of the PCB were seriously hampered with the litigation, the judgment said. Because of the litigation a game of musical chairs began with Ashraf or Sethi assuming the office and then relinquishing it for the other on the orders of the high court as well as the Supreme Court.

“The institution has been in doldrums and hiccups since the time of commencement of this litigation,” Justice Nisar said.

The court noted that the federal government had formed a committee comprising Justices Faqir Muhammad Kokhar and Syed Jamshed Ali Shah, former Supreme Court judges, to formulate a new constitution of the PCB.

The constitution proposed by the committee has been enforced through a July 10 notification which was accepted by all stakeholders. Besides, as a court of appeal, the Supreme Court could take notice of this vital development which seemingly was for the betterment of the board and the cricket as a whole in the country, the judgment said.

Therefore, while formulating the opinion (verdict), the court cannot remain oblivious of the subsequent development, namely the undertaking given by Zaka Ashraf in the court, his conduct after Feb 10 supersession of forming a management committee by superseding the board as well as the statement of Najam Sethi before court that he was not interested in participating in the election of PCB chairman.

Referring to Zaka Ashraf, the key figure in the entire controversy, the court noted that he had been removed as PCB chairman and then restored on the basis of the high court judgment. Thus he is the prime beneficiary of the judgment.

But Mr Ashraf never personally came forward to challenge his removal and, therefore, he shall for all intents and purposes be considered to have accepted the supersession of the board. And on account of his promise and undertaking given to this court, Mr Ashraf accepted the new constitution and the holding of fresh elections, the verdict explained.

Thus the only reason on which his objection was founded that Mr Sethi should not become the chairman in an oblique manner, a possibility which following the statement of Mr Sethi that he was not interested in participating in the election for the chairman vanished and the grouse not available now to Mr Ashraf.

Referring to a number of petitions moved by the PCB employees appointed during the time of Mr Ashraf and terminated later but failed by virtue of the Supreme Court decision, the court allowed them to approach the new board constituted after the elections, as envisaged by the new constitution, within one month by filing representations to the new management of the board. But the court said the new board/management would have the final decision about the fate of their employment – a decision which would be conclusive by all means, the verdict concluded.

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2014

Life of key politicians under threat: Nisar

Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has said that major political leaders, including Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan, are facing threats to their lives.

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has said that major political leaders, including Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan, are facing threats to their lives.

Addressing a press conference here on Sunday, he said information about the threats had been received from foreign sources and he had informed the PTI chief about it.

About the government’s move to summon the army under Article 245 of the Constitution to aid police and other law-enforcement agencies to ensure Islamabad’s safety, he said the decision had been taken days before the launching of military operation in North Waziristan because of the experience gained during operations undertaken in cities in 2009. The notification about the summoning of the army had been issued in consultation with the military leadership.

He said that 352 troops were being requisitioned and they would operate under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 to assist the civil administration and police. Decision about places of their deployment will be taken by the district magistrate.

245 taken days before Operation Zarb-i-Azb

A framework for summoning the army has been put in place. He said Article 245 gave a general authorisation without mentioning the law under which troops would operate. “Now this model will be followed by the provinces whenever they want to requisition the army in aid of civil power,” he added.

Chaudhry Nisar rejected a perception that the army was being summoned to stop a march on the capital by a political party and said the decision had nothing to do with any public meeting or sit-in. He accused the critics of the decision of trying to make the army controversial at a time when the country was in a war-like situation.

Answering a question, he said the notification would not be withdrawn even if the PTI called off its protest march. “It’s a pre-emptive action meant to avert any ugly situation,” he said, adding that the delay was caused because some legal and constitutional issues had to be examined.

He pointed out that Article 245 was part of the Constitution and those trying to find faults with it had not only played a role in its passage but also invoked it during their five-year term in government. Army is called in aid of civil power in many democratic countries, including the United States, Britain, Italy, Spain and India.

The minister recalled that the article had been invoked in the country 11 times since 2007 and the army had been called in during general and bye-elections and to aid civilian agencies in counter-terrorism efforts, maintain law and order and even for verification of electoral rolls in Karachi.

He said the PPP had requisitioned the services of the army during lawyers’ long march and the troops had assisted the civil administration in maintaining security during Muharram.

He said Article 245 had been invoked 21 times in recent years, but the notifications issued for the purpose were vague and the number of requisitioned troops and timeframe were not spelt out. The notifications did not mention under which law the troops would operate, he added.

The troops are already providing security to key strategic departments and the latest notification would provide a constitutional cover to them.

He said this time troops had been requisitioned for three months but the timeframe was not sacrosanct and could be reviewed in accordance with the situation.

Answering a question, he said the PTI had not yet sought permission for a rally in Islamabad. Under the law, an application is to be submitted to the district magistrate who will give his opinion before the matter is examined by the interior ministry. A decision is taken by the government.

Responding to another question, he said there was no threat to democracy and the government had good working relationship with the army and other intuitions.

Chaudhry Nisar hinted that after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s return to the country, the government might try to pacify Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Tahirul Qadri. There is no harm in contacting them and discussing their demands.

When his attention was drawn to reports that the notification summoning the army had been challenged in the Islamabad High Court, he said: “We will defend the notification before the court when a notice is issued to us.”

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2014

Many TTP strongholds cleared

Bureau Report

PESHAWAR: The Inter Services Public Relations, the media wing of the armed forces, has claimed to have achieved major success in the operation against militants in North Waziristan.

PESHAWAR: The Inter Services Public Relations, the media wing of the armed forces, has claimed to have achieved major success in the operation against militants in North Waziristan.

It said in a statement on Sunday that a large part of the tribal agency has been cleared of insurgents, including the areas considered to be strongholds of the proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and other militant organisations.

According to the ISPR, security forces have conducted house-to-house searches in Mirali and adjoining villages and cleared up to 70 per cent of the area.

Miramshah, Boya and Degan have already been cleansed of terrorists.

The operation was launched on June 18 and has resulted in displacement of around 52,000 families, who have been registered in Bannu and other places. They are living in camps, with relatives or in rented houses.

Initially, about 92,000 families were registered as internally displaced persons (IDPs) but the number was revised down after verification by the National Database and Registration Authority.

The ISPR claimed that security forces had found two “ammunition factories” with large stockpiles of explosive material. They also found 30 barrels filled with explosives and chemicals used for manufacturing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in two large tunnels in Mirali town, the second largest bastion of militants.

The military also claimed to have seized a large IED, weighing 5,000kg, in Boya. It was defused by a special team of army engineers. When detonated, it shook the entire agency and the explosion was heard even in the settled area.

The ISPR statement said 570 suspected “terrorists” and 34 security personnel had been killed since the launching of Zarb-i-Azb. In addition, 98 hideouts and 30 IED factories, three ammunition factories and several centres for training suicide bombers have been destroyed.

But, the claim about the killing of militants could not be verified from independent sources because the media has no access to the area.

There are unconfirmed reports that the operation has also caused large-scale “collateral damage” in the conflict-hit area.

Huge caches of arms, communication equipment and propaganda literature had also been found, the ISPR said.

RELIEF WORK: Meanwhile, distribution of relief goods among the IDPs continues in Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan and Tank districts. About 152,000 packages of foodstuff, each weighing 110kg, have been distributed so far.

Besides, 53,000 Eid packs have already been given to the IDPs and the distribution is continuing.

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2014

Sindh PPP protests over water, power shortages

Dawn Report

KARACHI: The PPP launched a protest campaign in Sindh on Sunday against severe shortage of water and power. The PML-N was accused of having done little to ease people’s hardships.

KARACHI: The PPP launched a protest campaign in Sindh on Sunday against severe shortage of water and power. The PML-N was accused of having done little to ease people’s hardships.

In Karachi, the PPP took out a procession against unannounced loadshedding being carried out by the K-Electric and warned of a countrywide protest if the supply situation was not improved.

Party leaders Senator Raza Rabbani, Nisar Ahmed Khuhro and Sharjeel Inam Memon, who attended the rally, said the K-Electric had closed many of its power plants to save money and despite the capacity to generate 3,200MW it was producing only 600MW.

PPP leaders attended rallies and sit-ins in major cities and towns, including Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Nawabshah and Umerkot.

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2014

Fighting subsides in Gaza, but truce hopes fragile

Reuters

GAZA CITY: Fighting subsided in Gaza on Sunday after Hamas Islamist militants said they backed a 24-hour humanitarian truce, but there was no sign of any comprehensive deal to end their conflict with Israel.

GAZA CITY: Fighting subsided in Gaza on Sunday after Hamas Islamist militants said they backed a 24-hour humanitarian truce, but there was no sign of any comprehensive deal to end their conflict with Israel.

Hamas said it had endorsed a call by the United Nations for a pause in the fighting in view of the upcoming holiday of Eidul Fitr.

Some firing had continued after the time that Hamas had announced it would put its guns aside and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu questioned the validity of the truce.

“Hamas doesn’t even accept its own ceasefire, it’s continuing to fire at us as we speak,” he said in an interview with CNN.

Israeli rockets pound Gaza, as truce collapses

Nonetheless, Gaza Strip residents and witnesses said Israeli shelling and Hamas missile launches had slowly quietened down through the afternoon, suggesting a de-facto truce might be taking shape as international efforts to broker a permanent ceasefire appeared to flounder.

However, Israel’s military has said it will need more time to destroy a warren of tunnels criss-crossing the Gaza border that it says is one of its main objectives.

Israel and the Hamas Islamists who control Gaza had agreed to a 12-hour ceasefire on Saturday to allow Palestinians to stock up on supplies and retrieve bodies from under the rubble. Netanyahu’s cabinet voted to extend the truce until midnight on Sunday at the request of the United Nations, but called it off when Hamas launched rockets into Israel during the morning.

Palestinian medics said at least 10 people had died in the wave of subsequent strikes that swept Gaza, including a Christian woman, Jalila Faraj Ayyad, whose house in Gaza City was struck by an Israeli bomb.

Some 1,060 Palestinians, mainly civilians and including many children, have been killed in the 20-day conflict. Israel says 43 of its soldiers have died, along with three civilians killed by rocket and mortar fire out of the Mediterranean enclave.

Israel launched its Gaza offensive on July 8, saying its aim was to halt rocket attacks by Hamas and its allies.

After aerial and naval bombardment failed to quell the outgunned guerrillas, Israel poured ground forces into the Gaza Strip 10 days later, looking to knock out Hamas’s rocket stores and destroy the vast network of tunnels.

The army says its drive to find and eliminate tunnels would continue through any temporary truce.

Diplomatic efforts led by US Secretary of State John Kerry to end the 20-day conflict have shown little sign of progress. Israel and Hamas have set conditions that appear irreconcilable.

Hamas wants an end to the Israeli-Egyptian economic blockade of Gaza before agreeing to halt hostilities. Israel has signalled it could make concessions towards that end, but only if Gaza’s militant groups are stripped of their weapons.

Kerry flew back to Washington overnight after spending most of the week in Egypt trying to bridge the divide, putting forward some written proposals to Israel on Friday.

Speaking off the record, cabinet ministers described his plan as “a disaster”, saying it met all Hamas demands, such as lifting the Israeli-Egyptian blockade completely and ignored Israeli terms, such as stripping Hamas of its rockets.

There was no immediate comment from US officials.

The main UN agency in Gaza, UNRWA, said 167,269 displaced Palestinians have taken shelter in the organisation’s schools and buildings, following repeated calls by Israel for civilians to evacuate whole neighbourhoods ahead of military operations.

During the lull in fighting inside Gaza on Saturday, residents flooded into the streets to discover scenes of massive destruction in some areas, including Beit Hanoun in the north and Shejaia in the east.

An Israeli official said the army hoped the widespread desolation would persuade Gazans to put pressure on Hamas to stop the fighting for fear of yet more devastation.

The violence has sparked protests outside the region.

Demonstrators in London marched from the Israeli embassy to the House of Parliament in Whitehall, blocking traffic throughout the West End.

French police clashed with pro-Palestinian protesters who defied a ban by authorities to march in central Paris.

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2014

Moon sighted in most Arab states

Agencies

JEDDAH: The festival of Eidul Fitr will begin on Monday (today) in Saudi Arabia and neighbouring states.

JEDDAH: The festival of Eidul Fitr will begin on Monday (today) in Saudi Arabia and neighbouring states.

The religious authorities in the kingdom announced on Sunday they had received reports of sightings of the new moon, marking the end of Ramazan.

“Eidul Fitr will therefore be celebrated from Monday,” an official statement said.

Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen also said the festival would begin in their countries on Monday.

The authorities in Egypt, Morocco and Bangladesh also announced that the festivities would begin in their countries on Monday.

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2014

Parts of KP, Fata celebrate Eid today

Dawn Report

KARACHI: As the Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee meets on Monday to decide on the sighting or otherwise of the Shawwal crescent, a clutch of unofficial groups declared late on Sunday that the moon had been sighted and Eidul Fitr would be celebrated in several parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal areas on Monday.

KARACHI: As the Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee meets on Monday to decide on the sighting or otherwise of the Shawwal crescent, a clutch of unofficial groups declared late on Sunday that the moon had been sighted and Eidul Fitr would be celebrated in several parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal areas on Monday.

According to APP, the Central Ruet-i-Hilal Com­mittee headed by its chairman Mufti Muneebur Rehman will meet after Asr prayers in the main office of the Meteorological Depart­ment in Karachi.

Members of the Central and Karachi Ruet-i-Hilal Committees, officials of the Meteorological Department and other experts would attend the meeting. Members of the zonal committees would meet at their respective headquarters.

Editorial: Cashing in on Eid

However, a meeting of an unofficial committee held at the Masjid Qasim Ali Khan in Peshawar announced after midnight that 44 reports of the sighting had been received from various parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal areas and Monday would be the first day of Shawwal.

Religious leaders in Bajaur Agency announced they had received reports of 22 sightings. Imams in Mohmand Agency also said the Shawwal moon had been sighted.

Ulema in the Shabqadar area of Charsadda district said they had received four reports of moon-sighting of which two were deemed to be credible.

Religious leaders in Lakki Marwat and Swabi districts made similar announcements.

In Bannu, some people fired in the air after hearing about the sighting of the moon. Thirteen people, including three children and four women, were injured by stray bullets.

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2014

Time for talks with govt over, says PTI

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf made it clear on Saturday that time for talks with the government to find a common ground on its demands for electoral reforms and audit of election results was over. The party said it would go ahead with its march slated for Aug 14 with “full force”.

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf made it clear on Saturday that time for talks with the government to find a common ground on its demands for electoral reforms and audit of election results was over. The party said it would go ahead with its march slated for Aug 14 with “full force”.

At the same time the PTI core committee also warned the government against invoking Article 245, arguing that using the army for political purposes was dangerous and if the decision was not reversed, the party reserved the right to challenge it in the Supreme Court.

“Now the time for such approaches is over. The core committee concluded that now the decisions will be made after the arrival of the Azadi March in Islamabad on Aug 14,” the PTI declared after a meeting, presided over by Imran Khan.

Talking to Dawn, a member of the PTI core committee said till now a few people in the party were in favour of talks with the government, instead of going ahead with the long march, if it was willing to accept PTI’s demands on recount of votes and electoral reforms. “However, the entire party leadership decided unanimously on Saturday to use all its resources to make the Azadi March a success,” said the PTI leader, who is also a member of the National Assembly.

Unanimity in the party was also reflected in its press statement which said that the “entire PTI leadership is on one page and is committed to going all the way to achieve its goal, including resignation from the assemblies, if required”.

The PTI lawmaker insisted that Imran Khan’s struggle for election reforms would remain within the ambit of the constitution. He dismissed a perception as baseless that the PTI would use the long march to depose the government. “All our demands will remain within the Constitution.”

A statement released to media said: “We have spent over a year seeking justice through election tribunals and the courts, including the Supreme Court, with no response. We sought to work through parliament also, but the committee formed to examine electoral rigging was dismantled by the PML-N after two meetings.

“We also sought the constitution of a judicial committee to examine four constituencies through voter verification within a period of two weeks, but again there was a stony silence.”

It recalled the party’s earlier efforts to get its claim on incidence of election rigging verified. In the meeting party leaders also decided to seek support of “like-minded parties” for a democratic and constitutional agenda which the PTI aimed to achieve through its Azadi March.

ARTICLE 245: The core committee also discussed the government’s decision to invoke Article 245 for security of Islamabad and decided that “it will not, under any circumstances, accept the invoking of Article 245 for calling in the army in support of the federal government in Islamabad”.

PTI asked to shun march and serve people

Explaining the reason why his party believes that the government was targeting the long march by invoking Article 245, the PTI leader said: “What’s this Protection of Pakistan Act for. Under the new act, which has only been enacted to deal with a possible blowback of the military operation in North Waziristan, civil armed forces [police and Rangers] have all the powers to deal with the extra-ordinary law and order situation.”

The interior minister had said on Friday that the government had invoked Article 245 as a special security measure for the capital in view of intelligence reports that militants intended to carry out terror acts in retaliation for the operation in North Waziristan.

The government is seeking to place the PTI’s Azadi March in direct confrontation with the army, which is a dangerous tactic and also a futile exercise because the party has always had a culture of peaceful protests and marches, the PTI reminded the government.

The PTI leaders criticised the ruling party for what they termed its “unethical and unacceptable decision to drag the army into what is clearly a democratic political protest march”.

The PTI statement also underlined that the army was a national institution and not a tool for the PML-N to use it against its political opponents.

“While the nation is very clear that the government has failed on all fronts, for the ruling party itself to concede its failure to protect the capital and its citizens and sensitive installations, is a direct admission of its failure. It is also a clear sign that the PML-N government is in desperation, trying to hide its rigging in May 2013 elections and PTI’s expose of the same, by seeking to use Article 245,” the statement said.

Responding to reports that the government was considering going back on its decision of calling in the army, the PTI said if the government had reversed invoking of Article 245, it would be a good decision “because democratic governments do not resort to such measures as it effectively signals an admission of its failure to govern and maintain law and order”.

The PTI said if the government did not reverse the decision, it would be challenged in the Supreme Court as soon as possible. It reminded the ruling party of its own long marches which it carried out just before the Swat operation in 2009 and claimed that it was its democratic right. No Article 245 was invoked at that time, it said.

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2014

Majid Nizami laid to rest

Intikhab Hanif

LAHORE: Majid Nizami, a veteran journalist and editor-in-chief of the Nawai Waqt Group, died here at a hospital in the small hours of Saturday. He was 86.

LAHORE: Majid Nizami, a veteran journalist and editor-in-chief of the Nawai Waqt Group, died here at a hospital in the small hours of Saturday. He was 86.

Majid Nizami was under treatment for severe chest infection for the past three weeks. He had earlier undergone three heart bypass surgeries.

His daughter and managing editor of Nawai Waqt, Rameeza Nizami, said he died at around 2.30am on Saturday. He was laid to rest at the Miani Sahib graveyard later in the day. A large number of people, among them politicians, journalists and newspaper editors as well as owners, attended the Namaz-i-Janaza at the Lawrence Gardens.

Prominent among those who attended the funeral were Punjab Governor Muhammad Sarwar, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq and adviser to the prime minister on foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz. A number of federal and provincial ministers, retired and serving judges, and parliamentarians were also present. Mr Shahbaz Sharif later placed a wreath on Mr Nizami’s grave.

A newspaperman of the old school, Mr Nizami had an unflinching commitment to a particular ideology.

Born on April 3, 1928, in Sangla Hill, Mr Majid Nizami was the younger brother of Mr Hamid Nizami, who launched Nawai Waqt in 1940.

After matriculation, Mr Majid Nizami got admission to the Islamia College,Lahore. He was later enrolled at Lahore’s Hailey College as Hamid Nizami wished him to qualify as a chartered accountant.

But the younger brother had other ideas. He switched over to Government College, Lahore, from where he obtained Master’s degree in Political Science and then went to London to study law. From London, he would regularly send ‘Maktoob-i-London’ (Letters from London) as well as special reports for Nawai Waqt.

Majid Nizami returned to Lahore in 1962 and took over the management of Nawai Waqt on Feb 25 the same year upon the death of Mr Hameed Nizami.

In 1972, Majid Nizami was forced by circumstances to take a break from Nawai Waqt. He launched a newspaper under the title of Nidai Millat, but later on regained control over Nawai Waqt. The paper remained under his control till his death. He also launched the English-language newspaper The Nation, Family Magazine, Phool Magazine and Waqt TV.

He was the chairman of the Nazria Pakistan Trust launched by former chief minister Ghulam Haider Wyne and the Press Institute of Pakistan, which he founded for training journalists. The institute was governed by the same ideology that Mr Nizami advocated all through his years in journalism.

The late newspaperman did not compromise on his interpretation of the ideology of Pakistan. He was a staunch supporter of the Kashmir cause and of Kalabagh Dam and never approved of friendly overtures to India. And he was always ready to take up cudgels with the progressives.

With time he grew into a respected elder for various political groups, especially right-wing political parties. They would bring their disputes to him for resolution and advice. In recent times, he had strived to unite various factions of the Muslim League.

TIES WITH SHARIFS: Mr Nizami was one of the few journalists who retained friendly ties with the Sharif family during their years in exile. After returning to Pakistan in 2007, the Sharifs distanced themselves from many journalists, but Mr Majid Nizami remained close to both Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif right until his death.

“The death of Majid Nizami has caused irreparable loss to the country and the nation and a historic era has ended,” Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said while talking to reporters outside Mr Nizami’s residence on Saturday. “The void created due to his death will never be filled. Indeed he was a patriot, a true Pakistani and the custodian of geographical basis of the country.”

The chief minister remembered Mr Nizami as someone who always stood up for the ideology of Pakistan and inculcated a spirit of patriotism among the youth from the platform of Nazaria-Pakistan Trust. “He never bowed before dictatorship… and struggled for strengthening democracy and democratic values throughout his life,” Mr Sharif said.

Majid Nizami was very active at forums of newspaper forums and editors. He was elected president of the All Pakistan Newspaper Society (APNS) for the years 1981-1985, 1992 and 1996-1999. He was also elected president of the Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors (CPNE) for several terms. Moreover, he had the unique honour of being elected as president of both the institutions simultaneously for one year. He was conferred many national awards and was the recipient of the highest national honour, the Nishan-i-Imtiaz. Previously he had received the Sitara-i-Pakistan and the Sitara-i-Imtiaz.

APNS TRIBUTE: APNS president Hameed Haroon and secretary-general Sarmad Ali expressed profound grief over the passing away of Mr. Majid Nizami. They said that the newspaper industry had lost a staunch and consistent fighter for press freedom and democratic rights.

Qul will be held between 3 to 5pm at his 43 Masson Road, Lahore, residence on Sunday (today).

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2014

Pakistani team conquers K2

Farman Ali Baltistani

SKARDU: A team of Pakistani mountaineers scaled K2, the second highest peak in the world, on Saturday.

SKARDU: A team of Pakistani mountaineers scaled K2, the second highest peak in the world, on Saturday.

Sources in the Everest K2 Central National Research (Ev-K2-CNR) told Dawn that it had organised the expedition to climb the 8,611-metre peak a month ago.

Two Italian mountaineers, Michele Cucchi and Simone Origone, were with the Pakistani expedition for technical support.

The expedition attempted to climb the summit from camp 4 in the morning on Saturday and the team leader, Mohammad Taqi, a resident of Hushey in Baltistan, put his feet on K2 at 2pm.

Hassan Jan, Mohammad Sadiq, Ali Durrani, Ali Ghulam Mehdi and Rehmatullah Baig followed him.

The sources said that Michele Cucchi also managed to conquer K2.

But Mohammad Hassan, the seventh Pakistani mountaineer, and Simone Origone were unable to go beyond camp 4 because of illness.

It is for the first time that an expedition has climbed K2 in the summer.

Ev-K2-CNR spokesperson Munir Ahmed told Dawn that Pakistan K2 Expedition was the first-ever all-Pakistani mountaineers venture. It was supported by the Gilgit-Baltistan government and sponsored by the Italian organisation Ev-K2-CNR.

The expedition started its journey on June 14 and reached the K2 Base Camp in the first week of this month.

The team remained stuck at camps 3 and 4 for several days because of bad weather.

The climbers reached camp 4 on July 24, but had to wait for another day because of heavy snowfall.

Munir Ahmed said two Italian women – Tamoroz and Klaus – also scaled K2 on Saturday.

Nisar Abbas, a local journalist, said it was the first expedition to scale the peak this year.

He said because of negligence of the government, Pakistani as well as foreign organisations and local mountaineers were abandoning the profession.

Mr Abbas said the future of mountaineering in Gilgit-Baltistan was bleak because locals did not have the resources and facilities to take up such an expensive sport.

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2014

Govt challenges PHC order to parliament over Fata jurisdiction

Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: The federal government has challenged in the Supreme Court the April 7 decision of the Peshawar High Court (PHC) to instruct the parliament to amend Article 247(7) of the Constitution in order to extend jurisdiction of superior courts to people of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

ISLAMABAD: The federal government has challenged in the Supreme Court the April 7 decision of the Peshawar High Court (PHC) to instruct the parliament to amend Article 247(7) of the Constitution in order to extend jurisdiction of superior courts to people of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

A petition has been filed with the apex court by office of the attorney general, seeking leave to appeal against the PHC order about Article 247 (7) of the Constitution which deals with the administration of tribal areas.

The date for hearing in the case has yet to be fixed.

Article 247(7) says that neither the Supreme Court nor any high court can exercise jurisdiction under the Constitution in relation to the tribal areas, unless the parliament by law provides for the same.

In its April 7 verdict, the PHC instructed the parliament through the federal government to bring suitable amendments in Article 247(7) to enable the people of Fata to invoke the jurisdiction of the high courts or the Supreme Court in case of infringement of their fundamental rights. Although protection is available to them under the Constitution it cannot be availed because of the bar contained in clause 7 of Article 247.

In its appeal the federal government has contended that it was ‘condemned unheard’ as it was not given an opportunity to present its case in the matter. Because this is against the principles of natural justice, the PHC judgment is liable to be set aside.

Governing Fata: The big debate

The government’s petition adds that the appropriate forum for amendments to Article 247(7) is the parliament and not the high court. The high court was not justified in issuing a specific direction to the parliament and thus its decision violated the principle of trichotomy of powers between the judiciary, parliament and executive.

Any court under the Constitution enjoyed a jurisdiction as conferred upon it by the Constitution or statute but in the instant case the jurisdiction exercised by the high court was specifically barred by the Constitution, said the petition. Therefore, the judgment was against the provisions of Article 175(2) of the Constitution.

The federal government also emphasised that amendments to Article 247(7) for invoking jurisdiction of the high court or Supreme Court involved a political question.

The high court could not issue any direction to the parliament with regard to amendments to Article 247(7) on the touchstone of Article 2A of the Constitution because the “high court is not a supra-constitutional body as held by the Supreme Court in the 1992 Hakim Khan case”, said the petition.

It added that the high court had not rightly exercised the power under Article 199 of the Constitution by adjudicating upon a legal question with regard to extension of laws to the tribal areas without approval of the president and governor when there was a bar under Article 247(7) that the superior courts could not exercise jurisdiction in Fata.

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2014

Gaza toll tops 1,000 as truce throws up more bodies

AFP

GAZA CITY: Israel on Saturday approved a four-hour extension of a temporary truce in Gaza, Israeli television said, after the Palestinian death toll topped 1,000 with the retrieval of more than 130 bodies.

GAZA CITY: Israel on Saturday approved a four-hour extension of a temporary truce in Gaza, Israeli television said, after the Palestinian death toll topped 1,000 with the retrieval of more than 130 bodies.

Channel 10 said the Israeli security cabinet had agreed to prolong a 12-hour truce that went into effect on Saturday morning by four hours, extending it until midnight local time.

Shortly after the original truce expired, the Israeli military reported that three mortar rounds were fired from Gaza, but media reports said the army did not regard this as a major violation.

The decision for truce extension came after US Secretary of State John Kerry and foreign ministers from Europe and the Middle East urged Israel and the Hamas movement to extend the fragile truce. “We all call on parties to extend the humanitarian ceasefire,” France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters in Paris after meeting Kerry and foreign ministers from Britain, Germany, Italy, Qatar and Turkey, as well as an EU representative.

“We all want to obtain a lasting ceasefire as quickly as possible that addresses both Israeli requirements in terms of security and Palestinian requirements in terms of socio-economic development.”

There was no immediate response from Hamas to either that call or to the Israeli cabinet decision.

After the 12-hour ceasefire began, medics digging through the remains of hundreds of Gaza homes uncovered more than 130 bodies. The grim discoveries pushed the Palestinian toll in Gaza to more than 1,000 since the conflict erupted on July 8.

Israel also announced the deaths of three more soldiers, raising its military toll to 40, along with two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker killed in Israel.

On the ground, Palestinian ambulances sped into Gaza neighbourhoods that have been too dangerous to enter for days. Nine hours into the truce, they had found the bodies of more than 130 people in the debris.

Palestinians ventured onto Gaza’s streets after the truce began, some eager to check homes they had fled, others to stock up on supplies.

In many places they found astonishing devastation: buildings levelled, entire blocks of homes completely wiped out by Israeli bombardment.

In northern Beit Hanun, even the hospital was badly damaged by shelling, and correspondents came across the charred body of a paramedic.

There were similar scenes in Shejaiya, where stiff bodies lay on the floor of a room in one building, one caked in dried blood, all of them covered in dust.

East of southern Khan Yunis, residents hesitated to enter the Khuzaa neighbourhood, saying Israeli forces remained inside the border area.

And in nearby Bani Suheila, where 20 people were killed in a single Israeli air strike shortly before the truce began, women and children wept as they discovered their homes destroyed.

Hamas and Israel agreed to the “humanitarian window” early on Saturday, after Israel’s security cabinet on Friday night rejected a US proposal for a seven-day truce during which the two sides would negotiate a longer-term deal.

Speaking after the rejection, at a news conference in Cairo with the UN chief, Kerry said Israel and Hamas “still have some terminology” to agree to a ceasefire, but added they had “fundamental framework” on a truce. The two sides remain at odds over the shape of a final deal to end the fighting, however.

Hamas says any truce must include a guaranteed end to Israel’s eight-year blockade of Gaza, while in Israel there are calls for any deal to include the demilitarisation of the Gaza Strip.

The West Bank

The situation in Gaza has created tensions in the West Bank, where protests against Israel’s role in the conflict erupted after Friday prayers.

Troops shot dead two Palestinian teenagers early on Saturday in separate clashes in the north and south of the West Bank.

That followed the deaths of six Palestinians on Friday — five shot dead by Israeli troops and one killed by an Israeli settler.

International concern has mounted over the civilian toll in Gaza, including over a Thursday attack in which at least 15 people were killed in alleged Israeli shelling of a UN school.

Rights groups say about 80 per cent of the casualties have been civilians, and the UN agency for children Unicef said on Friday that 192 children had been killed during the conflict.

The Israeli army announced three soldiers were killed in Gaza on Saturday morning before the truce began.

Rocket fire from Gaza continued before the truce, with three shot down by anti-missile defences and one hitting open ground, the army said.

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2014

Footprints: No space for Ahmadis

Nasir Jamal

TWO policemen stand guard over the charred remains of Boota’s house in a narrow alley of Arafat Colony off Racecourse Road in Gujranwala. They were deployed there on Monday to protect the ashes. For further security, the police have locked up the house, inside which may lie evidence against the ‘unidentified’ rioters who had set it ablaze on Sunday night. The attack was part of the anti-Ahmadi violence that broke out in the neighbourhood over an alleged blasphemous Facebook post by an 18-year-old Ahmadi boy.

TWO policemen stand guard over the charred remains of Boota’s house in a narrow alley of Arafat Colony off Racecourse Road in Gujranwala. They were deployed there on Monday to protect the ashes. For further security, the police have locked up the house, inside which may lie evidence against the ‘unidentified’ rioters who had set it ablaze on Sunday night. The attack was part of the anti-Ahmadi violence that broke out in the neighbourhood over an alleged blasphemous Facebook post by an 18-year-old Ahmadi boy.

Jamaat-i-Ahmadiyya leaders in Gujranwala say that the police didn’t budge when a 3,000-strong mob vandalised and burnt homes belonging to their community. “The police were there. They didn’t do anything to stop the attackers. They let them have their way. Our homes were plundered and burnt, our people abused, beaten and killed,” said Munawar Ahmed Nasir, a Jamaat leader. He described the events as the worst anti-Ahmadi attacks in the city since 1974.

“Instead of controlling the mob, the police turned back the fire brigade and ambulances,” he added.

Mob attack over alleged blasphemy: Three Ahmadis killed in Gujranwala

Boota lost much more than his house and belongings in that fire; his mother and two daughters died of suffocation while his sister miscarried. “It is very sad that the woman and her granddaughters lost their lives in the attack. It [the Facebook post] wasn’t their fault; they were punished for someone else’s sin,” said one of the two policemen.

Boota’s was one of the five Ahmadi houses burnt down by the attackers who had begun gathering when the word spread that the alleged blasphemous picture had been shared by the 18-year-old suspect. Several other Ahmadi houses and their shops in the area were vandalised and looted in the attacks that began soon after Iftar.

“A police party headed by Peoples’ Colony police station in-charge Malik Asghar reached there by 9pm. Instead of controlling the attackers, who were quite small in number in the beginning, the SHO tried to placate them by offering to register a case against the suspect. His offer didn’t satisfy the bloodthirsty hounds and their number continued to swell as workers of a religious party also joined them,” alleged a young Jamaat-i-Ahmadiyya leader.

In a street, a little away from Boota’s home, a police joint investigation team (JIT) was filming another burnt house, owned by Aslam, on the main road and collecting ‘evidence’. “We cannot say anything right away. Let us complete our work,” JIT head Naeem Kausar said curtly. “So far we don’t have any evidence or a statement against anyone named in the FIR [registered by Boota against the attackers].”

All the 28 Ahmadi families living in the area have left their homes for safe places since the attack. They are not the only ones to have left their homes. Saddam Hussain, 18, who had accused his friend of having shared the blasphemous picture on Facebook, is said by his neighbours to have left for Sindh to “participate in a family wedding”. Mohammad Hakim, the Peshimam of a nearby mosque, who the Ahmadis allege incited the attacks on their homes, has returned to his village to “celebrate Eid” with his family.

“It was a very unfortunate incident. The mob was uncontrollable. The police appeared unwilling to intervene,” recalled Asghar Farooqi, a homoeopath whose clinic is just opposite Aslam’s house. “They spared my clinic only when I told that I was a Muslim and owned that property.”

In the colony’s market, a group of young men in their early 20s threatened to ‘react’ even more severely if any Muslim named by Boota in the FIR was arrested. The blasphemy suspect “abused Saddam and dared him to do whatever he could when the latter confronted him about his Facebook post. He also shot at Saddam and others from the rooftop of his cousin’s house, injuring Zakriya, the teenage son of Peshimam Hakim. What kind of treatment did they expect after that?” asked Malik Suhail.

Another man, Lateef Minhas, however, claimed that “the rioters did not belong to our neighbourhood”. “They came from outside. I did not recognise anyone of them. We, the neighbours, even rescued women and children who had shut themselves inside after their houses were set on fire,” he said as he showed his ears that got burnt during the effort.

Senior police officials are said to have reached the scene only when the situation spun out of control. “The police also brought Qari Zahid Saleem, chairman of the local peace committee. But instead of cooling down the situation, he endorsed the mob action against the Ahmadis and praised the attackers for punishing the community,” said an elderly Ahmadi leader Chaudhry Amin. “Khurram Dastgir Khan, the federal minister from the area, came at around three in the morning when our homes had been burnt, our children killed and the mob had dispersed. There’s not a single word of condemnation from Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif or any political leader from the ruling party. Perhaps they are scared of standing by the most persecuted community in the country.”

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2014

Imam of China’s biggest mosque killed

AFP

BEIJING: The head of China’s largest mosque was murdered after conducting morning prayers, the local government in the far-western region of Xinjiang said on Thursday, amid intensifying violence in the turbulent region.

BEIJING: The head of China’s largest mosque was murdered after conducting morning prayers, the local government in the far-western region of Xinjiang said on Thursday, amid intensifying violence in the turbulent region.

Jume Tahir, the government-appointed imam of the 600-year-old Id Kah mosque in the city of Kashgar, was killed on Wednesday by “three thugs influenced by religious extremist ideology”, the Xinjiang government’s web portal Tianshan said.

Police launched an investigation and shot dead two of the alleged assailants while capturing the other, Tianshan said.

It said Tahir’s killing was “premeditated” and that the suspects intended to commit a “ruthless murder”. It also said they wanted to “increase their influence by doing something big”.

Uighur group says nearly 100 casualties in China clash

Tahir was found dead in a pool of blood outside the mosque’s prayer house, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported earlier on its website.

Xinjiang, home to China’s mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority, has seen escalating violence which in the past year has spilled over into other parts of China.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2014

Chinese journalist, lawyer win Magsaysay awards

AP

MANILA: A Chinese investigative journalist whose work has led to the ouster of corrupt officials and a Chinese environmental lawyer are among this year’s six recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Awards, often regarded as Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize.

MANILA: A Chinese investigative journalist whose work has led to the ouster of corrupt officials and a Chinese environmental lawyer are among this year’s six recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Awards, often regarded as Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize.

Hu Shuli was recognised as editor-in-chief of the Beijing-based, multi-platform Ciaxin Media Group that has exposed corporate fraud and government corruption, including the sale-for-adoption of children who were seized by family planning officials in Hunan province, the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation in the Philippines announced on Thursday.

Afghan, Myanmar women win Magsaysay award

Hu’s “unrelenting commitment to truthful, relevant and unassailable journalism” has defied China’s restrictive media environment, the foundation said.

Wang Canfa is the other Chinese recipient. He founded the Centre for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims, which has offered free legal services to thousands of people and provided environmental law training to lawyers and others.

Among other awardees were Indonesian anthropologist Saur Marlina Manurung, who set up a “Jungle School” programme for children of Indonesia’s Orang Rimba, or forest people; and Filipino teacher Randy Halasan, for serving the indigenous Matigsalug tribe.

Omara Khan Masoudi of Afghanistan was awarded for his courage in protecting Afghan cultural heritage.

At great risk to his life, the deputy director of the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul led his colleagues in moving some of the museum’s most precious objects to safety during the Taliban’s assault on the country’s cultural treasures in the 1990s.

After Taliban rule ended in 2002, he returned to the museum as director and resurrected the hidden collection and negotiated the return of other treasures smuggled to foreign countries.

The Citizen Foundation, a non-profit organisation in Pakistan founded by six business leaders, was recognised for building 1,000 schools over hundreds of cities and towns in the country with the world’s second highest number of children who are out of school.

The awards are named after a popular Philippine president who died in a 1957 plane crash.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2014

State Dept says no American proud of CIA tactics

AP

WASHINGTON: The State Department has endorsed the broad conclusions of a harshly critical Senate report on the CIA’s interrogation and detention practices after the 9/11 attacks that accuses the agency of brutally treating terrorism suspects and misleading Congress, according to a White House document.

WASHINGTON: The State Department has endorsed the broad conclusions of a harshly critical Senate report on the CIA’s interrogation and detention practices after the 9/11 attacks that accuses the agency of brutally treating terrorism suspects and misleading Congress, according to a White House document.

“This report tells a story of which no American is proud,” says the four-page document, which contains the State Department’s preliminary proposed talking points in response to the classified Senate report, a summary of which is expected to be released in the coming weeks. “But it is also part of another story of which we can be proud,” adds the document, which was circulating this week among White House officials and which the White House accidentally emailed to an Associated Press reporter.

NWA admin looking to book CIA chief

“America’s democratic system worked just as it was designed to work in bringing an end to actions inconsistent with our democratic values.”

It’s not clear who wrote the document or how influential it will be in tailoring the Obama administration’s ultimate response to an investigation that has been the subject of bitter disputes. It is common practice for the White House to solicit talking points from key agencies involved in responding to a major news event, which the release of the Senate report will be.

The Senate report concludes that CIA’s techniques on Al Qaeda detainees captured after the 2001 attacks were far more brutal than previously understood. The tactics failed to produce life-saving intelligence, the report asserts, and the CIA misled Congress and the Justice Department about the interrogation programme.

Current and former CIA officials hotly dispute those findings, as do some Senate Republicans. The fight over the report has poisoned the relationship between the CIA and Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and left the White House in a delicate position. President Barack Obama has branded some CIA techniques torture and ordered them stopped, but he also relies heavily on the spy agency, which still employs hundreds of people who were involved in some way in the interrogation programme.

The report does not draw the legal conclusion that the CIA’s actions constituted torture, though it makes clear that in some cases they amounted to torture by a common definition, two people who have read the report said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the still-classified document publicly by name.

The Senate report, the State Department proposes to say, “leaves no doubt that the methods used to extract information from some terrorist suspects caused profound pain, suffering and humiliation. It also leaves no doubt that the harm caused by the use of these techniques outweighed any potential benefit”.

Those methods included slapping, humiliation, exposure to cold, sleep deprivation and the near-drowning technique known as water boarding.

The White House document is significant because it also reveals some of the State Department’s concerns about how CIA’s tactics will be portrayed around the world. The document lists a series of questions that appear to be designed to gauge what reporters, members of Congress and others might ask about the Obama administration’s response to the Senate report.

The document focuses in particular on the State Department’s role. “Doesn’t the report make clear that at least some who authorised or participated in the RDI programme committed crimes?” the document asks, referring to the programme’s formal internal name, the Rendition, Detention and Interrogation programme.

“Will the Justice Department revisit its decision not to prosecute anyone?” And: “Until now the (US government) has avoided conceding that the techniques used in the RDI programme constituted torture. Now that the report is released is the White House prepared to concede that people were tortured?”

The document also says, “Isn’t it clear that the CIA engaged in torture as defined in the Torture Convention?”

The document also sheds new light on what the Senate report says about the State Department’s role in the CIA interrogation programme. It concludes that the agency initially kept the secretary of state and some US ambassadors in the dark about harsh techniques and secret prisons, according to the document.

The report also says some ambassadors who were informed about interrogations of Al Qaeda detainees at so-called black sites in their countries were instructed not to tell their superiors at the State Department, the document says.

A congressional official who has read the Senate report confirmed that it makes the findings outlined in the document. A former senior CIA official said the secretary of state at the time, Colin Powell, eventually was informed about the programme and sat in meetings in which harsh interrogation techniques were discussed. But Powell may not have been read in when the techniques were first used in 2002, the official said.

Powell cannot comment on a document he hasn’t seen, a spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

It’s not clear exactly which US officials knew about the practices at the time they began.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2014

House of Representatives votes to sue Obama

AFP

WASHINGTON: The Republican-led House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to sue President Barack Obama for allegedly overstepping his powers, a move swiftly denounced by his Democratic allies as a cynical election-year stunt.

WASHINGTON: The Republican-led House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to sue President Barack Obama for allegedly overstepping his powers, a move swiftly denounced by his Democratic allies as a cynical election-year stunt.

By a party-line vote of 225 to 201, the House voted to resort to the unprecedented move of taking the president to court for not having stringently followed the letter of the law while implementing his signature “Obamacare” health care reform bill.

The measure, which would empower House Speaker John Boehner to start the legal proceedings, is meant to rein in a president besotted by power, the top House Republican said from the floor of the chamber.

“Are you willing to let any president choose what laws to execute, and what laws to change?”

Boehner told his fellow lawmakers that Obama violated the country’s founding document by not adhering rigidly to the wording of the law when implementing the health reform law.

Obama, for his part, has been derisive in dismissing the suit, making it a punch-line again during a speech in Kansas City, Missouri. “Instead of suing me for doing my job, I want Congress to do its job and make life a little better for the Americans who sent them there in the first place,” he said to cheers and applause from a supportive crowd.

“And by the way,” he added, “you know who’s paying for this suit they’re going to file? You.”

Lawmakers in Obama’s Democratic party wasted no time decrying the vote.

Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi invoked her outrage over the vote, in a fundraising email sent to supporters late on Wednesday.

“Just now, I watched Republicans vote for the first lawsuit against a president in US history,” she wrote, in her appeal for donations.

“House Republicans took to the floor of the House and compared President Obama to a tyrant,” Pelosi said.

“It’s sickening. This is nothing but disgraceful politics — and total disrespect for our president.”

The language of the measure accuses Obama of “executive overreach”, and charges him with “failing to faithfully execute the law with respect to the implementation” of the law popularly known as “Obamacare”.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2014

UN human rights official slams Israel for Gaza massacre

Masood Haider

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations’ senior human rights official said on Thursday she believed Israel was deliberately defying international law in its military offensive in Gaza and that world powers should hold it accountable for possible war crimes.

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations’ senior human rights official said on Thursday she believed Israel was deliberately defying international law in its military offensive in Gaza and that world powers should hold it accountable for possible war crimes.

Israel has attacked homes, schools, hospitals, and UN premises in apparent violation of the Geneva Conventions, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said a week after her Human Rights Council resolved to open a commission of inquiry into Israel’s alleged crimes against humanity.

Israel vows to crush Gaza tunnels, snubs UN

“Therefore I would say that they appear to be defying… deliberate defiance of obligations that international law imposes on Israel,” Ms Pillay told a news briefing in Geneva. “This is why again and again I say we cannot allow impunity, we cannot allow this lack of accountability to go on.” 

She also criticised the United States, Israel’s main ally, for failing to use its influence with the Jewish state to halt the carnage. 

“Many of my remarks have been directed to the United States since they are a party with influence over Israel to do much more to stop the killing, to bring the parties to the negotiating table. I’ve called also for an end to the blockade and an end to the occupation.” 

She said that she was appalled at Washington consistently voting against resolutions on Israel in the Human Rights Council, General Assembly and Security Council. 

“They have not only provided the heavy weaponry which is now being used by Israel in Gaza but they’ve also provided almost $1 billion in providing the ‘Iron Domes’ to protect the Israel from rocket attacks,” she said. “But no such protection has been provided to Gazans against the shelling.” 

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2014

Footprints: Orphaned and Displaced

Hassan Belal Zaidi

Too often in war, it is children that are the worst affected. Their suffering is not just physical; scars and bruises mean little to the hardened war-zone child, be it Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Gaza or the tribal areas of Pakistan.

Too often in war, it is children that are the worst affected. Their suffering is not just physical; scars and bruises mean little to the hardened war-zone child, be it Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Gaza or the tribal areas of Pakistan.

The Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) estimates that there are 1,478 registered orphans — defined as girls and boys without a father — among the displaced of North Waziristan. And then those without either parent: 58 such children, 39 boys and 19 girls, have been registered by the authority’s child protection team so far.

We drive into the Baka Khel camp for displaced persons, located in a vast open field a good half-hour drive from Bannu city. There is no shade for miles around, save the few tents that dot the landscape in the distance.

Experts, politicians express concern over IDP crisis

Making our way through layer upon layer of barbed wire, past a row of World Food Programme tents and into the registration area, we encounter a burly subedar holding office. He regards us suspiciously, initially, and then — after we introduce ourselves — cautiously. We explain that we’ve come to interview some of the orphaned children and maybe he can help us identify them.

Thankfully, the subedar tells me, most such children live with host families in either Bannu city or further afield. A few though, have been left to fend for themselves.

The subedar remembers a boy in a red cap, the 14-year-old Mussawir, who came to the camp without any papers. A Wazir from a village on the outskirts of Miramshah, his family of five walked the treacherous 70-odd kilometres to Baka Khel in the blistering July heat. His father passed away some years ago; his eldest brother, 17-year-old Abrar, only made it to the camp on Friday, some four weeks after the rest of the family arrived. None of them have an identity card. Since registration in camps and at distribution points hinges on the possession of a valid identity card, it’s easy to imagine how easily such families are marginalised.

“I drive with a truck from Kohat to Khost; it’s a living,” says Abrar, shrugging his shoulders. I ask if we can speak to the rest of his family. He rushes off in a flurry of Pashto and is back hardly a minute later, family in tow.

We introduce ourselves to his mother, the stately Ladona Bibi. She wears the look of a woman who has spent too long taking care of her family with too little help. Abrar’s cross-border sojourns only fetch them so much, but she cuts a courageous figure nonetheless. When I ask what she said to her eldest boy when he arrived nearly a month late, she chuckles and says, “He went with the truck [to Afghanistan] and just stayed there. We’re glad that he’s back.”

As we talk to their mother, the children arrange themselves neatly in front of her, a captive audience. Even if they understand what she’s talking about, their faces don’t betray the knowledge; they giggle amongst themselves. Little Khadija and Fatima look like two of the most beautiful children in the world; on closer inspection, though, one can see the scars on their faces and the solemn eyes belying each smile. They all wear the same vacant look, so wrong and out of place on their youthful faces.

Young Mussawir, the youth the subedar remembered, is away looking for work in Bannu bazaar. Abrar, the eldest, squatting on the ground next to his mother, says he couldn’t afford to go back to the trucks because that would take him away from his family. “My family needs me. We’re here as long as the operation is on. What choice do we have? Our home, as we knew it, is probably no more,” he muses.

I ask Ladona Bibi for permission to photograph her children, and she surprises everyone by offering to pose with them. Abrar, however, quickly intercedes on grounds of purdah. We take a few pictures and say our goodbyes.

As we leave, a lawmaker from North Waziristan is distributing ‘gifts’ and care packages amongst children and adults. Abrar rushes into the fray in the hope of securing a packet or three, but his younger siblings linger near the swings, with a strange, unnatural calm, passively watching other people tear at each other.

As we drive back through Bannu and pass the massive distribution point at the stadium, I can’t help but wonder how long these clamouring crowds will collect here. How often? And for how little? I can’t help but wonder if this is the only future available to the orphans of North Waziristan, children who have already lost out on a childhood.

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2014

Quaid-i-Millat’s son Ashraf passes away

Hasan Mansoor

KARACHI: Ashraf Liaquat Ali Khan, the elder son of slain prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan and former Sindh governor Begum Ra’ana Liaquat, died here on Monday after a protracted illness. He was 77.

KARACHI: Ashraf Liaquat Ali Khan, the elder son of slain prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan and former Sindh governor Begum Ra’ana Liaquat, died here on Monday after a protracted illness. He was 77.

“He (Ashraf) had been suffering from lung cancer. His condition deteriorated last week and he was admitted to a private hospital where he died today (Monday),” his younger brother Akbar Liaquat Ali Khan told Dawn.

He was born in Simla, India, on Oct 3, 1937. He was in a Delhi school in July 1947 when his parents moved to Karachi.

He attended Atchison College, Lahore, for a year before being admitted to the Grammar School, Karachi, where he got his higher school certificate. He later studied technology and arts in Rugby School in Warwickshire, England.

Mr Ashraf worked in the English Electric Company in Rugby and then joined KLM Royal Dutch Airlines in Rotterdam where he worked from 1959 to 1962.

He returned to Karachi and joined Mercantile Bank in 1962. He lived in Lahore from 1964 to 1972 and returned again to Karachi and set up his travel firm which he sold in 1979.

He remained affiliated with the Eastern Travels from 1980 to 2004 and retired.

However, during that period he made rather an unsuccessful effort to make a name for himself in mainstream politics.

He joined Tehreek-i-Istaqlal of retired air marshal Asghar Khan and contested for a National Assembly seat from Mirpurkhas but could not win.

His younger brother Akbar Liaquat had tried the same in the 1977 election with the aspiration to do something worthwhile for the people.

He got a ticket from the PPP for a Liaquatabad seat but was defeated by a Jamaat-i-Islami candidate.

The two brothers decided to quit politics after the defeats.

Ashraf Liaquat was president of the Sindh Club from 2006 to 2008 and kept a low-key presence until he was diagnosed with cancer.

He was 14 when his father, the Quaid-i-Millat, was assassinated.

Akbar Liaquat said his brother’s name had been chosen by the Quaid-i-Azam himself. “My father had chosen the name of Akbar, but Jinnah Sahib said he would like the baby to be named as Ashraf,” said Mr Akbar.

Late Mr Ashraf is survived by two sons, a daughter and a widow.

His funeral prayers were offered at Masjid-i-Shafqat in Phase-4, Defence Society. He was buried in a graveyard in the same area.

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2014

13 wounded in Quetta market bomb blast

Saleem Shahid

QUETTA: At least 13 people, including a child, were injured when a bomb went off in the crowded Kandhari Bazaar on Sunday afternoon, forcing shopkeepers to pull their shutters down.

QUETTA: At least 13 people, including a child, were injured when a bomb went off in the crowded Kandhari Bazaar on Sunday afternoon, forcing shopkeepers to pull their shutters down.

The injured included vendors and people who were shopping for Eid.

“The bomb exploded when thousands of people were busy in Eid shopping,” said Wazir Ahmed, who runs a footwear shop in the Kandhari Bazaar.

Balochistan Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch condemned the blast and directed the law-enforcement agencies to arrest the elements involved in the attack. He also issued directives for providing best medical treatment to the wounded.

Police said unidentified people placed the improvised explosive device in a drain near a shop and the entire area was rocked when it went off.

“Thirteen people with injuries have been admitted to the civil hospital,” hospital sources said, denying earlier reports that the blast had left one person dead.

Soon after the incident, police and personnel of the Frontier Corps cordoned off the area and shifted the injured to the hospital. “The condition of three victims is serious,” police said, quoting hospital sources.

“Around half a kilogram of explosive material was used in the IED that was detonated with a time device,” bomb disposal squad officials said after examining the site of the blast.

Windowpanes of many shops were smashed and some vehicles and motorcycles slightly damaged by the impact of the explosion. Shopkeepers closed their shops after the blast which caused panic among shoppers.

Security was beefed up in markets and other places in the city after the Kandhari Bazaar blast.

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2014

Boko Haram kidnaps wife of Cameroon’s deputy PM

Reuters

YAOUNDE: The wife of Cameroon’s vice prime minister was kidnapped and at least three people were killed in an attack by Boko Haram militants in the northern town of Kolofata on Sunday, Cameroon officials said.

YAOUNDE: The wife of Cameroon’s vice prime minister was kidnapped and at least three people were killed in an attack by Boko Haram militants in the northern town of Kolofata on Sunday, Cameroon officials said.

A local religious leader (or lamido) called Seini Boukar Lamine, who is also the town’s mayor, was kidnapped as well, in a separate attack on his home.

Boko Haram, the Nigerian Islamist militant group, has stepped up cross-border attacks into Cameroon in recent weeks as Cameroon has deployed troops to the region, joining international efforts to combat the militants.

“I can confirm that the home of Vice Prime Minister Amadou Ali in Kolofata came under a savage attack from Boko Haram militants,” Issa Tchiroma said by telephone.

“They unfortunately took away his wife. They also attacked the lamido’s residence and he was also kidnapped,” he said, and at least three people were killed in the attack.

A Cameroon military commander in the region said the vice prime minister, who was at home to celebrate the feast of Ramazan with his family, was taken to a neighbouring town by security officials.

“The situation is very critical here now, and as I am talking to you the Boko Haram elements are still in Kolofata town in a clash with our soldiers,” said Colonel Felix Nji Formekong, the second commander of Cameroon’s third inter-army military region, based in the regional headquarters Maroua.

The Sunday attack is the third Boko Haram attack into Cameroon since Friday. At least four soldiers were killed in the previous attacks.

Meanwhile, some 22 suspected Boko Haram militants, who have been held in Maroua since March, were on Friday sentenced to prison sentences ranging from 10 to 20 years. It was unclear whether the events are related.

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2014

50 killed in Benghazi, Tripoli clashes

Reuters

TRIPOLI: At least 36 people were killed in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi, many of them civilians, in clashes between Libyan Special Forces and Islamist militants on Saturday night and Sunday morning, medical and security sources said.

TRIPOLI: At least 36 people were killed in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi, many of them civilians, in clashes between Libyan Special Forces and Islamist militants on Saturday night and Sunday morning, medical and security sources said.

Another 23 people, all Egyptian workers, were killed in the capital Tripoli when a rocket hit their home on Saturday during clashes between rival militias battling over the city’s main airport, the Egyptian state news agency reported.

In the last two weeks, Libya has descended into its deadliest violence since the 2011 war that ousted Muammar Qadhafi, prompting the United States, the United Nations and Turkey to pull diplomats out of the North African country.

With the central government unable to impose order, two rival militias are exchanging rocket and artillery fire in Tripoli, while army units are trying to push out Islamist militants who have set up camps on the outskirts of Benghazi.

The United States evacuated its embassy in Libya on Saturday, driving diplomats across the border into Tunisia under heavy military protection after escalating clashes broke out near the embassy compound in Tripoli.

Early on Sunday, sporadic shelling continued in Tripoli though far less than in the previous days. There were no immediate reports of any casualties.

But clashes were far heavier in Benghazi overnight, where regular army and air force units have joined with a renegade ex-army general who has launched a self-declared campaign to oust Islamist militants from the city.

A source from the Special forces fighting militants in Benghazi said clashes involved warplanes hitting militant positions belonging to Ansar al Sharia and another group in the city.

A medical source said 36 people were killed, many of them civilians, and another 65 wounded during clashes that lasted into the night. Dozens of families have been evacuated from the area between the two sides to escape the fighting.

Libya’s western allies worry the OPEC country is becoming polarised between the two main factions of competing militia brigades and their political allies, whose battle is shaping the country’s transition.

Special envoys for Libya from the Arab League, the United States and European countries expressed their concerns about the situation in Libya, saying it had reached a “critical stage” and called for an immediate ceasefire.

“The UN should play a leading role in reaching a ceasefire in conjunction with the Libyan government and other internal partners, with the full support of the international envoys,” a statement issued after a meeting in Brussels said.

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2014

PC violating rules of appointment

Amin Ahmed

ISLAMABAD: The Plan­ning Commission is reported to be violating the eligibility criteria set by the cabinet division for the appointment of its chief economist, a post which has been lying vacant since the PML-N came to power, according to reliable sources.

ISLAMABAD: The Plan­ning Commission is reported to be violating the eligibility criteria set by the cabinet division for the appointment of its chief economist, a post which has been lying vacant since the PML-N came to power, according to reliable sources.

According to the criteria, the person to be selected for the post should be a professional of eminent stature preferably with a doctorate in economics and having at least 25 years of relevant experience. It has been the stated policy of the commission to adhere to the criteria.

But, sources said that with the intention of appointing a favourite candidate the commission had reduced the required experience period from 25 to 15 years in an advertisement it got published in newspapers in March.

The sources said the requirement of experience had been reduced to make eligible for the job interview a candidate believed to be a close associate of the deputy chairman of the commission. The candidate, Dr Nadeem Javed, could not have met the criteria, had the criteria set by the cabinet division been retained.

The sources said the commission had interviewed three candidates early this month and placed Dr Javed on the top of the list sent to the prime minister for approval. Noted economist Dr Talat Anwar is the second choice and Dr Idrees Khwaja the third.

According to the sources, Dr Javed and Dr Khwaja came from the background of business management with insufficient experience in economics. On the other hand, Dr Anwar has obtained his doctorate degree in Economics from the Sussex University and masters in Quantitative Development Economics from the University of Warwick.

He fulfils the criteria because he has 28 years of relevant experience, and has undertaken research on policy-making for national and international institutions

But his name has been recommended at number two in the summary sent to the prime minister.

Dr Anwar is currently working at the commission as adviser on macroeconomic and monetary policies and economic reforms.

COMMISSION LACKS 13 MEMBERS: Meanwhile, the composition of the Planning Commission remains still incomplete with the present government in power for more than a year.

According to the website of the commission, only the member food security and climate change has been appointed and the appointment of the remaining 13 members is ‘under process’.

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2014

Footprints: Zarjan’s unheard protest

Mina Sohail

RAIN from earlier in the day had provided some respite from the intense heat. The air smells of damp grass. The turf outside the National Press Club in the capital is expansive and a camp easy to spot. Three women inside, with no fan or water, fully veiled, seem unperturbed by the heat. One of them fidgets with her chador but looks intently into the camera, speaking confidently though her voice is inaudible to me.

RAIN from earlier in the day had provided some respite from the intense heat. The air smells of damp grass. The turf outside the National Press Club in the capital is expansive and a camp easy to spot. Three women inside, with no fan or water, fully veiled, seem unperturbed by the heat. One of them fidgets with her chador but looks intently into the camera, speaking confidently though her voice is inaudible to me.

She is Zarjan, wife of Zahid Baloch, the chairman of the Baloch Students’ Organisation (Azad), who was kidnapped on March 18 this year from Satellite Town in Quetta. Posters and banners show close-ups of Zahid’s face. His wife says he’s 27 years old. But his grim, solemn face makes him seem years older.

Zarjan and her husband are first cousins. They have been married for six years but have known each other for a lifetime. She has travelled with three female cousins and two of her children from Balochistan. The journey has not been easy. They left Naal for Karachi, a six-hour ride, and then took a bus from Karachi to Islamabad that lasted 27 hours.

“Our families had hoped that if I came to Islamabad, something good would happen. This is why I came here. I’m hoping international human rights groups and the media will meet us and raise the issue,” says Zarjan, sitting in front of her husband’s photo in a traditional embroidered, red Balochi dress. Her apparel is bright but the mood sombre. Only her hands and eyes are visible. I repeatedly ask her to speak louder as her voice gets muffled in the layer of cloth draped around her face.

Baloch women set up protest camp

Zarjan says that although her family is satisfied with the coverage they are receiving in the local media, she is disheartened that even though the protest camp is in the capital city, no international human rights group has approached her as yet.

Her three-year-old son Doda frolicks around Zarjan’s cousins. As Doda grabs a poster of his father, swinging it around, Zarjan pre-empts my next question. “He asks me every day where baba is and when he would come to us.” She says her elder son, Qambar, is five and has a better sense of his father’s absence and misses him immensely. He was unwell and Zarjan left him with her relatives.

“I haven’t planned how long I’ll stay here. We are independent and there is no organisation helping us,” she says. “But we are fasting and hoping our prayers will be accepted in Ramazan.”

Zarjan says her husband committed no crime. “We want him to be freed and tried in court. Kidnapping him is no way. As he did nothing wrong, I am hopeful God will bring him back.”

Inside the tent, relentlessly dodging ants and flies, Doda slurps his ice lolly, oblivious to his mother’s ordeal. Across the street, the police direct traffic and vehicles keep moving, but life for Zarjan is at a standstill. She has been coming to the protest camp for nine days but her husband’s whereabouts are just as vague as they were four months ago when he disappeared.

Bibi Gul, a representative of the Baloch Human Rights Organisation, who travelled with Zarjan’s family, says they demand nothing illegal and want Zahid’s return so everything can be done constitutionally. She says they come here each day at 10am and leave by 5pm.

Right across from the camp, a group of men begin to assemble in a semicircle, holding placards and a loudspeaker. The sight of Palestinian flags makes me realise the imminent protest is to show solidarity with the people of Gaza.

As we all sit silently inside the camp, camerapersons, women and passers-by stop and heed the vitriolic anti-Israel and anti-America chants. A man speaks provocatively into the loudspeaker, telling the people around him to support his Muslim brothers and sisters in Gaza. As the flags of Pakistan and Palestine sway side by side in the breeze, and just as I begin to ponder how Zarjan, and her family must feel watching people gather for Gaza but not for her missing husband, her cousin breaks the silence. “This is hilarious,” she snickers as she looks at the group of protesters with a hint of derision. “Those in Palestine are Muslim brothers, but he is not?” she says, disillusioned, pointing at Zahid’s picture.

A few days later, as I cross the press club, Zarjan’s camp is not there. Nor are her husband’s photos or material from her peaceful protest of more than a week. Instinct says, she left embittered, but a conversation with Nasrullah Baloch, chairman of the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons, suggests she returned to Quetta to attend a hearing at the Balochistan High Court where the judge instructed the police to continue their investigation that has so far produced nothing significant.

“Zarjan is back because she goes wherever there’s a tiny prospect she can learn about her husband’s whereabouts,” said Nasrullah. “That is all she can do.”

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2014

UN observers, India differ over LoC vigil

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

NEW DELHI: India’s Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said on Saturday ceasefire violations on the Line of Control in Kashmir would figure in talks between India and Pakistan, and the United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) has claimed, to New Delhi’s chagrin, they were there precisely to keep a close watch on the alleged infringements.

NEW DELHI: India’s Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said on Saturday ceasefire violations on the Line of Control in Kashmir would figure in talks between India and Pakistan, and the United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) has claimed, to New Delhi’s chagrin, they were there precisely to keep a close watch on the alleged infringements.

India’s claim that UNMOGIP was irrelevant in today’s political conditions was highlighted earlier this month when it asked the UN observers based in New Delhi to move out of the official premises they occupied free of charge for over 40 years. The government has said the UNMOGIP has outlasted its utility, and said it should wind up the mission.

“I have seen that statement,” visiting UN peacekeeping chief Hervé Ladsous told The Hindu in comments published on Saturday. “It is their prerogative to explain their views, but the mandate of UNMOGIP was established by the UN Security Council 60-odd years ago, and only the Security Council can undo that decision, look at the mandate again and decide. So it isn’t my decision, and I can’t comment further,” Mr Ladsous said.

He clarified in the interview in Delhi that UNMOGIP’s purpose was simply to observe what was happening and to report that. “And I think their very presence on that line, to a certain degree, contributes to confidence. So one should never lose that from your sight.” India could go to the Security Council if it wished to effect any changes in the observers’ status.

Mr Ladsous said the Indian government’s directive asking the group to vacate its official bungalow in New Delhi came up during his daylong discussions with officials of the ministries of defence, home and external affairs, but they had not given any “drastic” ultimatum. He confirmed that the UNMOGIP had already found new offices in Delhi and would be moving shortly.

India asks UN team on Kashmir to leave Delhi premises

Meanwhile in a conversation with the media on Saturday — the 15th anniversary of the Kargil war, which is commemorated as Kargil Vijay Diwas — Mr Jaitley stressed that ceasefire violations “itself is an issue” of the talks.

Mr Jaitley made this observation in response to a question on the impact of the recent alleged spurt in border violations by Islamabad on the upcoming talks between the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan that commence on August 25.

In a statement in parliament on July 25, Mr Jaitley stated that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had stressed the importance of peace and tranquillity along the borders and the need to uphold the sanctity of the Line of Control, during his talks with his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif.

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2014

Delhi sends paramilitary men to UP town after communal riots

From the Newspaper

Around 600 paramilitary force personnel were sent to Uttar Pradesh on Saturday by the centre to maintain law and order in the state in the wake of violence in Saharanpur.

Around 600 paramilitary force personnel were sent to Uttar Pradesh on Saturday by the centre to maintain law and order in the state in the wake of violence in Saharanpur.

The decision to send the paramilitary personnel was taken after Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, official sources said.

Singh had asked Yadav to ensure communal harmony in the state in the wake of violence in Saharanpur and offered all help to contain the situation.

Earlier in the day, clashes broke out over a land dispute between two communities. Even as curfew was imposed in three police station areas, two people died, while at least 18 others were injured during the clashes in Kutubshehr area of Saharanpur.

Saharanpur’s Police Commissioner Tanveer Zafar Ali said a policeman sustained bullet injuries during the clashes and was referred to hospital in a serious condition. DIG N. Ravindra said the clashes began over an old dispute over a piece of land caught in litigation, lodged between two places of worship.

On Saturday, members of one community began constructing a boundary wall around the land, which was then opposed by members from the second community.

The brawl began with a verbal spat and led to the two groups hurling stones at each other.

By arrangement with the Times of India

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2014

PIA gets Airbus A-320

Mohammad Asghar

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has acquired another fuel-efficient Airbus A-320 on lease from Ireland for six years as part of its plan to lease six aircraft to improve its performance.

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has acquired another fuel-efficient Airbus A-320 on lease from Ireland for six years as part of its plan to lease six aircraft to improve its performance.

Secretary Aviation Mohammad Ali Gardezi said this while talking to media personnel on the occasion of inducting the Airbus A-320 into the PIA’s fleet here at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport on Saturday.

“The induction of another fuel-efficient Airbus A-320 into the PIA fleet was part of government’s efforts to improve the national flag carrier. With the induction of another A-320 into the PIA fleet, the number of aircraft operating with the PIA will go up to 26,” he said, adding that five more airbus A-320 will be acquired by the end of January next year.

The aircraft with the seating capacity of 146 passengers will operate on domestic routes with lower operating cost. The flying range of Airbus A-320 is 5-1/2 hours.

PIA director for flights operations resigns over ‘interference’

He said PIA had acquired three Airbus A-320s on lease that are considered the safest planes. It was the second aircraft while the third A-320 aircraft will be acquired in October. In addition, four or five more aircraft will be inducted into the fleet by the end of January 2015.

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2014

Editorial News

Israel’s brutality in Gaza

Editorial

Minutes after its artillery had shelled a Gaza school killing at least 16 people, Israel had the audacity to say, “we have a policy — we don’t target civilians”. There had been no less than 17 warnings, prior to the attack, from a UN agency that the school was housing displaced persons.

Minutes after its artillery had shelled a Gaza school killing at least 16 people, Israel had the audacity to say, “we have a policy — we don’t target civilians”. There had been no less than 17 warnings, prior to the attack, from a UN agency that the school was housing displaced persons.

The spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency has called the massacre a matter of “universal shame”, while this time UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who usually pedals a ‘balanced’ line, did not confine himself to a ritual condemnation of the atrocity.

The UN chief declared categorically that “all available evidence points to Israeli artillery as the cause”. As always, Tel Aviv had boilerplate remarks ready. There was, said an Israeli spokesman, “hostile fire on our people from the vicinity of the school”.

Earlier, when Israel began its blitz on Gaza on July 8, it accused Hamas of using civilians as a shield — the state’s armed forces have frequently come out with such remarks in Arab-Israeli conflicts. As for UNRWA’s warnings, human rights organisations the world over have recorded what amounts to war crimes by the Israeli state in innumerable attacks on refugee camps and UN monitoring posts — twice in Kana — despite warnings.

The shelling of the school, which was housing 3,000 civilians in the Jabaliya refugee camp, wasn’t the only Israeli attack on non-military targets on Wednesday; the same day, Israel poured fire on a market near Gaza City, killing 17 people, bringing the Palestinian death toll in a single day to over 100.

For this massacre, the Israeli war machine came under scathing criticism from Doctors Without Borders because it targeted health facilities in Gaza — Al Shifa, European General, Al Quds and Beit Hanoun hospitals. The attacks on the hospitals and their surroundings, it said, constituted “a serious violation of international humanitarian law”.

Not surprisingly, America has been very careful not to blame Israel for the school massacre; instead, the State Department spokesperson condemned the slaughter “which reportedly killed and injured” children and UN relief workers, without naming the guilty party, and hastened to add: “We would also condemn those responsible for hiding weapons in UN facilities in Gaza.”

Recently, knowing well what the cost of an anti-Israel resolution would be, the US Senate passed a unanimous resolution in favour of Israel’s air, naval and ground assault on Gaza. The response from the European Union has been equally disappointing.

In fact, Western leaders appear more preoccupied with developments in Ukraine than what has been unleashed on the Palestinians. But the greater cause of mortification is the powerlessness of the Arab-Muslim world, which is watching the massacre of the Palestinian people as a spectator. Unfortunately, little else can be expected of a people busy killing each other from Pakistan to Nigeria.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2014

Filing tax returns

Editorial

The government has decided to issue taxpayer cards to all return filers starting this year, according to a report published in this paper. It has also decided to publish the tax directory on March 1 every year. The idea is to incentivise people to file their returns.

The government has decided to issue taxpayer cards to all return filers starting this year, according to a report published in this paper. It has also decided to publish the tax directory on March 1 every year. The idea is to incentivise people to file their returns.

Publication of the directory has been supplemented with a drive to send notices to more than 120,000 non-filers, with the aim of adding 100,000 new taxpayers to the tax net. The response thus far has not been good. Just over 17,000 new taxpayers were registered voluntarily as a result of the exercise, which gives us a hit rate of around 15pc.

Moreover, the incremental revenue that the exercise yielded has been a paltry Rs306m. This is hardly a significant step towards bridging a deficit of Rs1.7tr budgeted for this fiscal year. The publication of a directory of all filers coupled with a campaign to serve notices on all non-filers is part of a larger strategy seeking to promote a culture of compliance with tax laws.

The strategy has attracted the ire of critics, with some arguing that publishing their tax details potentially makes them targets of kidnapping rackets. Others have argued that serving notices on non-filers is not fetching enough revenue in return for the effort invested in the exercise, and therefore should be abandoned.

It would be short-sighted, however, to give in to these criticisms. Those who are afraid of being targeted by kidnapping rackets should know that criminal elements do not need a tax directory to identify high-net-worth individuals. And those pointing to the limited quantum of revenue realised through the effort need to understand that this is not about the money, but about creating a culture where filing one’s returns is seen as an obligation.

In the absence of such a culture, punitive measures come to be perceived as victimisation. Before reaching out to those outside the net, it would be a good idea to rationalise how those within the net are treated.

As it stands, our tax system has two categories of taxpayers within it: those who are paying taxes but not filing their returns, and those who are filing their returns but concealing their real incomes. Getting these parties to file their documentation properly is a key step towards broadening the overall tax base, and all efforts to pursue this goal deserve to be encouraged.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2014

Preventable tragedy

Editorial

A pall of gloom fell over Eid festivities in Karachi because of the high number of drowning incidents reported from the city’s beaches during the holidays.

A pall of gloom fell over Eid festivities in Karachi because of the high number of drowning incidents reported from the city’s beaches during the holidays.

By Thursday, the bodies of at least 20 victims had been rescued while search efforts continued for a number of missing beachgoers. Most of the deaths were reported from Clifton beach, while bodies were also recovered from Hawkesbay on the city’s outskirts.

On any given Sunday, a large number of picnickers can be found at the city’s beaches to cool off by the waters of the Arabian Sea. On public holidays like Eid, the crowds grow manifold, with thousands of men, women and children heading to the coast. Yet, tragedy inevitably strikes because discipline and orderliness are not virtues the majority of Pakistanis adhere to.

For example, every year the government bans swimming in the sea during the monsoon season due to the rough waters. But few beachgoers pay heed to such warnings. People who barely know how to swim, and often accompanied by toddlers, venture into the dangerous waters without realising the risk.

When lifeguards posted by the city administration and volunteer groups warn them about the hazards, they are reprimanded and some even physically assaulted for ‘invading’ the picnickers’ personal space. The result of such recklessness is tragedies similar to what was witnessed during these Eid holidays. It is easy to blame the state, but the public also bears major responsibility for defying rules meant to save lives.

No doubt the public is at fault, but the administration too should make greater efforts to prevent drowning deaths. The number of lifeguards should be increased while female rescuers are direly needed, keeping cultural norms in mind; a larger police presence at crowded beaches can also be used to pacify unruly beachgoers.

Warning signs at the beaches and media campaigns can help highlight the dangers of swimming in rough seas during the summer months while well-equipped ambulances and field hospitals are needed at popular picnic spots to deal with emergencies.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2014

Article 245: questions remain

Editorial

Now that Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan has deigned to inform the public about his government’s alleged thinking behind the invocation of Article 245 of the Constitution, it is worth examining the substance of what Mr Nisar has claimed.

Now that Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan has deigned to inform the public about his government’s alleged thinking behind the invocation of Article 245 of the Constitution, it is worth examining the substance of what Mr Nisar has claimed.

According to the interior minister, the decision to draft in the army to augment the law-enforcement resources of Islamabad was taken before the launch of Operation Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan and was done keeping in mind past experience with counter-insurgency campaigns and counterterrorism operations in the cities.

In addition, not only was the army consulted before the federal government invoked Article 245, but had been involved in the decision to invoke it.

To begin with, now that Article 245 has been invoked and the army is to be drafted in to boost the security of Islamabad from Aug 1, there are two aspects of its operation that ought to be clarified: one, the specific duration — and it must be limited — that the army will be deployed; and two, that fundamental rights and the operation of the superior court’s suo motu powers will not be curbed.

If neither of those two conditions hold, then everything that flows from the invocation of Article 245 will be questionable and poisoned by illegitimacy as far as the public interest is concerned. But consider also the total inadequacy of the justification for invoking Article 245 offered by the interior minister.

If there was a weeks-old understanding that Islamabad was under acute threat both because of the operation in North Waziristan and the growing presence of militants in the city, then why has it taken until now to act? And even now, why is Article 245 only invoked from Aug 1? What possible tactical sense could it make to give the terrorists and militants a public warning of several days to either melt away or attack immediately when, in the government’s own telling, the capital’s defences are not as strong as they ought to be at present?

What also about the rest of Pakistan’s cities and urban areas, several of which have suffered much more violence over the years than Islamabad? To talk about the need for army-led security reinforcements in one city with already significant civilian law-enforcement and intelligence resources while the rest of the country where the civilian law-enforcement and intelligence apparatus is known to be much weaker simply makes no security or policy sense.

There is another aspect to the latest vexing move by the PML-N government: in invoking Article 245, the PML-N has boosted the perception of indispensability and profile of the military in civilian domain — precisely the opposite of what the democratic project needs. If indeed Article 245 is linked to the PTI’s Aug 14 rally, then has the PML-N unwittingly made the military the final arbiter in politics yet again?

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2014

Attack on Ahmadis

Editorial

The latest attack on Ahmadis, in Gujranwala, came complete with the usual features. A group of people, angered by an alleged act of blasphemy, identified a few Ahmadi homes to vent their ire on.

The latest attack on Ahmadis, in Gujranwala, came complete with the usual features. A group of people, angered by an alleged act of blasphemy, identified a few Ahmadi homes to vent their ire on.

Once again, reports say the police were unable to fathom the urgency of the situation; controlling religion-based mob violence is apparently not a subject they are well versed in. Or there may have been simply a lack of will to intervene.

Whatever the case, the police failed to come to the rescue of a community that is all too often persecuted. With this attitude, it is unsurprising that, apart from the police, no other administrative arm of government was there. Many houses were set on fire and at least three lives were lost because of suffocation.

The administrative approach to this latest incident of members of a minority community being targeted inspires little hope that the perpetrators of the violence will ever be held accountable. The standard response of the government and of society is to shrug off such instances, to take them in their stride — and without any signs of guilt.

This attitude in turn promotes a culture that not only condones but actually facilitates the next, inevitable faith-based attack. Not too long ago, a US-based Ahmadi doctor was murdered soon after he came to Rabwah to work in a hospital.

More recently, an Ahmadi man was murdered in Nawabshah in Sindh. This incident, along with a series of mob raids on temples in the same province, indicates the spread of the faith-based menace of intolerance to areas once considered free of such bigotry.

The hate network is spreading and striking with increasing frequency — unimpeded. Instances where there are some courageous calls for justice are getting rarer. Those who do speak out expose themselves to serious consequences.

Not even the judiciary, which prides itself on having taken up causes on its own in recent years, has been moved by the persecution of the minorities to traverse this difficult territory.

Consequently, the choices for those facing faith-based persecution is either to resign themselves to the situation — which means simply waiting for their turn — or try and flee the country. That is a sad reflection of today’s Pakistan.

Each one of us has contributed to this state of affairs, some with their silence, others, who are assigned the duty of protecting the citizens, with their inaction that encourages and empowers the zealots.

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2014

Lunar matters

Editorial

In Pakistan, celebrating Eid on different days has become an annual tradition, just like devouring delectable delights on the festive occasion or collecting Eidi.

In Pakistan, celebrating Eid on different days has become an annual tradition, just like devouring delectable delights on the festive occasion or collecting Eidi.

This year was no different as parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including Peshawar, and Fata celebrated Eidul Fitr on Monday, while the rest of the country waited for the Central Ruet-i-Hilal Committee to make its decision the same evening.

Perhaps we should count our blessings as in years past Pakistan has witnessed Eidul Fitr celebrated on three different days. While most Pakistanis trust the word of the central Ruet body, the gentlemen of the unofficial sighting committee of Peshawar’s Qasim Ali Khan mosque beg to differ.

And so they did on Sunday night; it was after midnight when the unofficial body announced the beginning of Shawwal. Perhaps some of our ulema believe in the dictum ‘the more the merrier’ when it comes to celebrating Eid.

The only catch is the festival is supposed to be about unity and brotherhood, so for one nation to celebrate multiple Eids appears a bit odd. There’s also the fact that as per the weather pundits, the chances of sighting the moon on Sunday night were extremely slim.

To be fair, controversy over moon-sighting is not limited to Pakistan; it’s just that we excel at making a farce of it. In other Muslim countries, or where Muslims form significant minorities, the issue does pop up.

For instance, Muslims in North America are known to celebrate Eid on different days, while the observance has been split along sectarian lines in Lebanon and Iraq. But in most Muslim states, the official body tasked with moon-sighting does the needful and people get on with it, either preparing for Eid or one more day of fasting.

However, in Pakistan, with so many ‘custodians’ of religion, controversy is the norm. In future, hopefully the state and the doctors of religion can come up with a consensus to allow Eid celebrations on the same day across the country.

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2014

Shadow of political instability

Editorial

NO more negotiating, no more compromises, the time for talking is over – if the PTI core committee’s decision on Saturday is to believed, the country can brace itself for a period of intense political instability starting Aug 14, the day of the planned PTI rally in Islamabad.

NO more negotiating, no more compromises, the time for talking is over – if the PTI core committee’s decision on Saturday is to believed, the country can brace itself for a period of intense political instability starting Aug 14, the day of the planned PTI rally in Islamabad.

Even now though the PTI has stopped short of explicitly stating its goals. While party leaders continue to talk about electoral reforms and the need for re-examining last year’s election results, the final objective has perhaps deliberately been left vague so that final “decisions will be made after the arrival of the Azadi march in Islamabad on Aug 14”, according to a party press release.

Time for talks with govt over, says PTI

What that translates into is seemingly an implicit threat – if the numbers on Aug 14 are large enough, will the PTI leadership be encouraged to go for the kill and seek the overthrow of the government? Surely, it is no longer enough for the PTI to say that it only wants change and reforms within the ambit of the Constitution, especially since it is the PTI itself that is attacking the democratic credentials and legitimacy of the PML-N government in Islamabad.

The fact that battle lines are being drawn does not mean that good sense can no longer prevail. For the PTI core committee to repose confidence in its leader and fully back his destabilising political quest is hardly surprising – there is really no party in Pakistan democratically evolved enough yet to challenge its leader once the leader’s wishes are clear. But that still leaves Imran Khan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with time to avert a return to the dreaded political instability of the 1990s.

From a systemic perspective, Mr Khan’s unwillingness to accept the overall results of last year’s general election has a possible upside: the PTI’s disbelief after being electorally swept aside in Punjab can be channelled into genuine electoral reforms.

Yet, for that to happen the PTI chief must be willing to present a workable set of options that can be considered by parliament. Demanding a national audit of the elections does not amount to a practical suggestion. If on or before Aug 14 Mr Khan avoids getting swept up in the excitement of masses on the streets, there is serious business that can yet be done.

The other side of the equation is of course the government itself and specifically the prime minister. In the weeks ahead may lie precisely the kind of political events and moments in which a thrice-elected prime minister is expected to shine. Poise, common sense and a determined look fixed on the real goal – deepening the democratic project and making it more responsive to the public’s needs – is what Mr Sharif will need.

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2014

Sectarian killings

Editorial

ON Friday, participants making their way to the Al Quds Day rally in Karachi were fired upon. And only a couple of days earlier, a lawyer — the son-in-law of a prominent Shia scholar — was targeted on a busy road in the city.

ON Friday, participants making their way to the Al Quds Day rally in Karachi were fired upon. And only a couple of days earlier, a lawyer — the son-in-law of a prominent Shia scholar — was targeted on a busy road in the city.

Karachi, beset with various gangs perpetuating their brand of violence, in particular offers little security against those bent upon using their own interpretation of faith to exterminate the ‘other’.

Karachi: Senior lawyer shot dead in ‘sectarian’ attack

There are few that feel secure in this buzzing commercial metropolis, but those who possess names that easily give away their sect are more vulnerable than others. Educated professionals have been frequently hit in this sect-based violence — but those lower down the occupation ladder have not been spared either. In fact, the regular occurrence of sectarian tension — and not only in Karachi — has given it a sense of something permanent.

Once, not too long ago, an incident of sectarian killing anywhere in the country would have various groups of people up in protest and the government vowing to catch and punish the attackers. With time, and amid an increasing number of incidents of sectarian violence, government officials were gradually reduced to offering empty statements of solidarity with the targeted. Now, even this formality has been done away with.

Promises have lost their purpose because nobody believes them now and because they have not been accompanied by a plan of action. A momentary decrease in the acts of targeted killings has the government heaving a sigh of relief, but even when an improvement in the situation is noted, the city and provincial administrations can hardly claim credit. This is so because there are no official plans on the table to combat the menace of sectarianism, not even those typical ones which look good on paper but are extremely hard to implement.

In the past, there would at least be some elementary discussion about the dangers an administration was exposing the people to when it failed to control hate speech. More than occasionally, there would be a call from somewhere for combined efforts towards religious harmony, and if the speaker chose to be more specific, there would be questions asked about the divisive curriculum taught at schools including religious seminaries. If these questions have become infrequent, that is in aid of the government officials who must always look concerned but do nothing. Protest against such killings must be revived.

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2014

Cashing in on Eid

Editorial

NOTHING says it like the smell and crispy feel of a new currency note. As is the case every year, the demand for fresh new currency notes is skyrocketing with the approach of Eid. And in what has long become an established ritual, the State Bank has made preparations to meet this demand by printing fresh new notes and arranging currency counters at bank branches across the country to “facilitate the general public”.

NOTHING says it like the smell and crispy feel of a new currency note. As is the case every year, the demand for fresh new currency notes is skyrocketing with the approach of Eid. And in what has long become an established ritual, the State Bank has made preparations to meet this demand by printing fresh new notes and arranging currency counters at bank branches across the country to “facilitate the general public”.

Last year, the amount printed was Rs135bn. The year before that it was Rs114bn. This year the amount being printed is more than Rs157bn — a 15pc increase which clearly shows that the rate of inflation for Eidi is somewhat higher than the Consumer Price Index.

Rs87bn fresh notes issued

It is good that the rate of increase in our blessings should outstrip inflation as measured by the CPI. After all, simple arithmetic tells us that if our blessings did not grow faster than the CPI, then we would be blessed no further than we were last year. That would be an unacceptable state of affairs. As a pious nation we expect that our blessings should grow faster than the overall price level.

Moreover, to ensure the crispy blessings of Eid are equitably showered upon the multitude, the State Bank has put in place a series of stern procedures to prevent black marketers from gobbling up the new notes. Anyone wanting some would have to present his CNIC to obtain a packet, for starters. Packets found circulating in the black market will bring a fine upon the bank whose seal they carry. In the past, the State Bank also created a new email account for registering complaints, and with a straight face gave it this ID: freshnotes@sbp.org.pk.

Perhaps one day somebody will actually check that inbox to see what treasures lie buried therein. But let us not let these little absurdities distract us from the festive spirit of the season. A sincere Eid Mubarak to all our readers.

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2014

A controversial move

Editorial

BY now, it has become apparent that neither is the PML-N government particularly good at explaining what it does, nor does it seem to be too concerned about its lack of necessary communication with the public it represents. But that does not mean that opaque decisions taken by the PML-N are not of great significance to the public and more should not be done to induce its leadership to explain controversial decisions. With little warning and absolutely no debate, at least in public, the PML-N has opted to invoke Article 245 of the Constitution to give the army the maximal legal space to operate in the federal capital. But what has triggered the need for army-led operations at this point in the capital? Neither the generic — unspecified security threats — nor the specific — blowback from Operation Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan — that has been offered so far is nearly close to being adequate.

BY now, it has become apparent that neither is the PML-N government particularly good at explaining what it does, nor does it seem to be too concerned about its lack of necessary communication with the public it represents. But that does not mean that opaque decisions taken by the PML-N are not of great significance to the public and more should not be done to induce its leadership to explain controversial decisions. With little warning and absolutely no debate, at least in public, the PML-N has opted to invoke Article 245 of the Constitution to give the army the maximal legal space to operate in the federal capital. But what has triggered the need for army-led operations at this point in the capital? Neither the generic — unspecified security threats — nor the specific — blowback from Operation Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan — that has been offered so far is nearly close to being adequate.

The questions are plentiful and serious. Why is only Islamabad specifically among all the cities and towns of Pakistan under the type of threat that requires such a dramatic escalation? Compared to the civilian law-enforcement and intelligence resources in many parts of the country, Islamabad surely has civilian resources that are reasonable. If the capital’s civilian resources are still inadequate, what has the PML-N done after 14 months of being in charge of Islamabad and nearly a year since a lone gunman humiliated the city’s law-enforcement apparatus by parading before TV cameras for hours near parliament? And what of the PML-N’s recent plan to draft in Rangers and special police squads from Punjab who can be seen patrolling the streets of Islamabad even now? Has the PML-N failed to protect Islamabad or has the threat escalated even further? There are few answers to be had at the moment, particularly since the once-again-active interior minister is loath to answer questions and the prime minister is on an extended summer break.

Yet, there is another dimension to the army-in-Islamabad question that simply cannot be avoided in the circumstances: the politics of the PTI’s rally in Islamabad on Aug 14. Like it or not — and it is difficult to see how politicians such as the PML-N can boast of in its upper ranks can ignore the obvious — the political narrative surrounding the invocation of Article 245 for Islamabad will entail speculation about whether the PML-N is trying to pull the army close and use it as a buffer between itself and the charging PTI. Whether the speculation is true or not, surely, at the very least, the PML-N ought to have been more forthcoming about the size, scope and duration of the army deployment and the specific responsibilities it would have. Else, there is just speculation of politics trumping security.

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2014

Talking trade with India

Editorial

HAVING missed an opportunity to advance opening trade with India, Pakistan now finds itself dealing with the consequences. The forthcoming talks between the foreign secretaries of the two countries could have been an opportunity to move further down the road of regional economic cooperation and integration, but instead they are going to spend their time testing the waters. Going by the words of Pakistan’s foreign secretary, the talks will aim to “discuss the resumption of the dialogue process to improve bilateral ties and address all outstanding issues, including Kashmir”. More than a decade after the signing of the South Asia Free Trade Agreement by both countries, the latter should have advanced much further on the road to freer trade. Instead, they are simply seeking a “resumption of the dialogue process”. Three crucial years of this decade were lost in the wake of the Mumbai attacks when the talks were stalled. The decision to delay the grant of Non Discriminatory Market Access status to India back in March was another lost opportunity and further delays will only embolden those segments of public opinion in India who believe Pakistan is not serious in pursuing closer trade ties with its neighbour.

HAVING missed an opportunity to advance opening trade with India, Pakistan now finds itself dealing with the consequences. The forthcoming talks between the foreign secretaries of the two countries could have been an opportunity to move further down the road of regional economic cooperation and integration, but instead they are going to spend their time testing the waters. Going by the words of Pakistan’s foreign secretary, the talks will aim to “discuss the resumption of the dialogue process to improve bilateral ties and address all outstanding issues, including Kashmir”. More than a decade after the signing of the South Asia Free Trade Agreement by both countries, the latter should have advanced much further on the road to freer trade. Instead, they are simply seeking a “resumption of the dialogue process”. Three crucial years of this decade were lost in the wake of the Mumbai attacks when the talks were stalled. The decision to delay the grant of Non Discriminatory Market Access status to India back in March was another lost opportunity and further delays will only embolden those segments of public opinion in India who believe Pakistan is not serious in pursuing closer trade ties with its neighbour.

Now that the deed is done, it is important the consequences be managed effectively to prevent any further delays. Greater effort should be made to come to the negotiating table with a consensus. This involves addressing concerns arising from India’s sensitive list, to industry’s fears of getting swamped by India’s larger manufacturing prowess on account of its sheer size. But the process so far has not been free from the concerns of the Pakistani military that has had a powerful role in decisions concerning India. The moment is delicate, for sure, but it holds the promise of unlocking the potential outlined in the joint statement issued by the two countries at the conclusion of the fifth round of talks back in April 2011. That statement spoke of bilateral trade as a way to “build confidence, dispel misunderstandings and allay misapprehensions”. Since then, both countries have agreed to a detailed road map towards further liberalisation in the seventh round of the talks. New governments have been sworn in on both sides since that agreement, and it is imperative that both parties remain committed to the road map going forward. Pakistan should use the moment to signal its willingness to continue on the path to freer bilateral trade.

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2014

An intrepid journalist

Editorial

IN the death of Majid Nizami, Pakistan has lost a fearless journalist who headed the Nawa-i-Waqt group of newspapers as chief editor for over half a century, which is a record. Mr Nizami worked tirelessly to advance the political causes in which he believed. He established a number of new ventures in Urdu and English after he took over the Urdu daily Nawa-i-Waqt following the death in 1962 of its founder, his brother Hameed Nizami. He expanded it to transform it into what it is today — the Nawa-i-Waqt Group and Publications, which now includes the English daily The Nation, two weekly magazines, the monthly Phool and Waqt TV. As a student who believed passionately in Pakistan, Majid Nizami took part in the Pakistan Movement and, after freedom, was given a sword of honour by Liaquat Ali Khan, Pakistan’s first prime minister. The education he acquired was indicative of the variety of his taste and calling. After initial college education in Lahore in political science, he proceeded to London for higher studies in international affairs and law. It was in London that he began his career in journalism by writing for Nawa-i-Waqt.

IN the death of Majid Nizami, Pakistan has lost a fearless journalist who headed the Nawa-i-Waqt group of newspapers as chief editor for over half a century, which is a record. Mr Nizami worked tirelessly to advance the political causes in which he believed. He established a number of new ventures in Urdu and English after he took over the Urdu daily Nawa-i-Waqt following the death in 1962 of its founder, his brother Hameed Nizami. He expanded it to transform it into what it is today — the Nawa-i-Waqt Group and Publications, which now includes the English daily The Nation, two weekly magazines, the monthly Phool and Waqt TV. As a student who believed passionately in Pakistan, Majid Nizami took part in the Pakistan Movement and, after freedom, was given a sword of honour by Liaquat Ali Khan, Pakistan’s first prime minister. The education he acquired was indicative of the variety of his taste and calling. After initial college education in Lahore in political science, he proceeded to London for higher studies in international affairs and law. It was in London that he began his career in journalism by writing for Nawa-i-Waqt.

Perhaps his greatest achievement was the bold editorials he wrote in Nawa-i-Waqt during some of the harsh periods of military rules that Pakistan has witnessed. The paper gained in prestige, and its circulation grew — because of his stinging criticism of the government of the day in a style and diction that was all his own. On Indo-Pakistan affairs, he took a hard line, and when India conducted nuclear explosions in May 1998, he pleaded for a prompt Pakistani response. He was a leading figure in the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors and All Pakistan Newspapers Society, with the latter giving him a lifetime achievement award. Despite his fierce criticism of government policies, he received many state awards, including the Sitara-i-Imtiaz, the Sitara-i-Pakistan and the Nishan-i-Imitiaz. His death leaves a big void in Pakistan’s media scene. May his soul rest in peace.

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2014

Columns and Articles

Tolerance and religion

Faisal Bari

I ASKED a guest visiting me during Ramazan whether he wanted to eat or drink something. I felt that as a host it was my duty to ask him. He was surprised by my question and did request a glass of water. He said he had been reluctant to ask even though he was thirsty and had come a long distance in the heat. He felt I might feel offended at being asked for a glass of water during the month of Ramazan.

I ASKED a guest visiting me during Ramazan whether he wanted to eat or drink something. I felt that as a host it was my duty to ask him. He was surprised by my question and did request a glass of water. He said he had been reluctant to ask even though he was thirsty and had come a long distance in the heat. He felt I might feel offended at being asked for a glass of water during the month of Ramazan.

I narrated this incident to a friend to show how we as a society had become so intolerant and had internalised the intolerance expected. My friend, a showroom owner, said that he had a similar experience recently. He discovered that a client visiting his showroom was Christian. He told his salesman to get some sherbet for the client. The client said that he was afraid to ask for it even though it was a very hot afternoon: he was afraid of the reaction of Muslims.

Last Ramazan, a guard who was supposed to stand on duty for eight to 10 hours in the July heat was badly beaten up by a crowd of enthusiasts because he was not fasting and had tried to have a drink of water while on duty. Did the beating strengthen the faith of those involved, or of those who saw the incident or read about it? For me, it had the opposite effect: I felt embarrassed.

One of my teachers, who had employed a Christian domestic helper used to make chapattis with his own hands for his employee during the month of fasting. He did not want to have his employee go hungry throughout the day and, at the same time, did not want to ask anyone else in the house to do this and give the impression that he was passing on the responsibility to others.

When did respect for Ramazan turn into dictatorial hegemony, persecution and intolerance? A guest has to be honoured. Why would his or her fasting or not challenge my religious sentiments in any way? Why do we feel so insecure and threatened that we have to shut down all restaurants during the day in Ramazan? Should we not just worry about our fast and let others worry about theirs?

We are, very rightly, outraged at the killings of the Palestinians in Gaza. But we do not display the same outrage when Ahmadis or members of the Shia community are targeted in Pakistan. Clearly something is very wrong in the way we are interpreting our religion and making and implementing our laws.

Recently four Pakistani Ahmadis were booked for the alleged offence of ‘preaching’ their religion. Meanwhile, one can hardly get away from all the preaching that goes on on television and by all the religious political and non-political parties and factions that exist across our society.

This connects to our notion of how we have constructed our concept of a nation and citizenship. It also connects with the last column I wrote on the role of religion in politics. Religion cannot be, exclusively, the basis of defining a nation. From a religious perspective, this is clear from the Quran as well. Every prophet, when facing opposition from his nation, has nonetheless called them his nation. It stands to reason that if belief in a religion was the basis of nationhood, prophets would not have called their people their nation till the people had started believing in the truth they were sent with.

Being a co-religionist can only be one basis for a common identity; it cannot be the only basis for forming a nation: culture, language, ancestry, geographic location and many other commonalities can be the basis of our identity as a nation. To privilege one group over other groups is a recipe for disaster in a multicultural, multilingual and multi-religious society.

Does this question the status of the two-nation theory? Clearly it does. But this is a bigger topic that Pakistanis need to think through given the context we live in today. We will not labour the point anymore in this column.

The task, clearly, is a big one. We have not only made laws that discriminate amongst citizens on the basis of their religion and give differing rights to worship and preaching and varying access to religion-based laws in family and personal space etc, we have, as a people, also internalised this way of thinking. This is evident in our everyday existence.

Recently, a parliamentarian suggested that alcohol be banned for Christians too. If he had made the argument on moral grounds, one could have reason to debate the issue. But his argument was that since drinking is forbidden for Muslims, it should be banned for all groups in the country. We keep seeing this argument again and again. But the problem is not with the argument alone and the fact that a parliamentarian thought it was respectable enough to present it; the problem is that too many citizens have bought into this way of thinking. And over time, as is bound to happen, the space for disagreement with this now dominant way of thinking has become narrower.

Is it possible to step back from this space? Many feel that this is no longer possible, and we are condemned to keep going down the path of intolerance and religious bigotry. But, despite our trajectory, is it not worth trying to correct our path? Is it not better to try and utilise public space to debate the issue and see if the dominant narrative can be challenged in any way at all? This is just an attempt, however inadequate, to do that.

The writer is senior adviser, Pakistan, at Open Society Foundations, associate professor of economics, LUMS, and a visiting fellow at IDEAS, Lahore.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2014

Countdown to Aug 14

Asha’ar Rehman

POLITICALLY, this must have been one of the more hectic Ramazans in the history of Pakistan. There was not as much action as in the preceding weeks, which was understandable given the limits placed by the holy month. But some barriers were broken and far from taking a breather in their relentless attack on the government, opposition parties, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in particular, made sure that the PML-N was given no respite.

POLITICALLY, this must have been one of the more hectic Ramazans in the history of Pakistan. There was not as much action as in the preceding weeks, which was understandable given the limits placed by the holy month. But some barriers were broken and far from taking a breather in their relentless attack on the government, opposition parties, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in particular, made sure that the PML-N was given no respite.

For each statement issued by the PTI, there had to be four fired in reaction by the PML-N stalwarts. That served Imran Khan’s purpose well. His party had already broken the myth that summer protest rallies in Pakistan were sparsely attended. Now the PTI has proved that, provided you were persistent, some politicking was possible in the country beyond the display of political presence at the usual iftar parties.

There was — there has been — sufficient evidence that the PTI’s change is not restricted to the party’s practising politics in periods where the norm is to go easy. There are signs that the issues it raises also have resonance in public. The support has remained on view, and the fact that the PTI was able to sustain pressure throughout Ramazan could help it greatly in achieving momentum for its scheduled Aug 14 march.

Apart from countering one PTI statement with a barrage unleashed by a team of worthy ministers, there have been disturbing reports about the possible arrests of some PTI leaders in early August to thwart the march. Let us hope that the government refrains from dispensing this tried and tested potion to the protesters.

Also, the PML-N has been parading its development model as a counter to the challenge that the PTI as well as the Pakistan Awami Tehreek has thrown its way. That does not seem to be working. There is just enough panic in the treasury’s ranks to betray insecurity which in turn finds expression in the most ordinary schemes that the government has come up with in its effort to take the wind out of the PTI’s sails.

One such plan is where the PML-N has chosen to use Independence Day to weave its defence against the PTI’s Aug 14 march around. The government apparently believes that by celebrating Indepen­dence Day in an unprecedentedly loud manner it will be able to outshout the PTI. This is very basic and quite naïve, even when the intention behind this resort to patriotic flag-waving is to brandish the government’s respect for the state — and of course the Constitution — in opposition to a ‘bunch of people’ keen on finding extra-constitutional remedies to their grievances.

The idea of matching protest with celebration has evolved from the PML-N tactic of organising a song and dance show to coincide with PTI public meetings. The PML-N has held these shows to divert attention from the Imran Khan rallies without realising that it could add to the impact of the PTI jalsas which remained well attended despite the attempt at diversion. As the same failed scheme is now being planned to be carried out on a larger scale, it is doubtful if the PTI and its supporters could have asked for a bigger confirmation of just how threatened the PML-N is feeling.

For a brief period during Ramazan it appeared as if the PML-N was thinking about a change in its approach to dealing with Imran Khan’s long march. It was during this time that the ministerial assaults on the PTI became a little infrequent and there were a few statements which indicated that, finally, some thought was being given to use a less confrontational policy to defuse the situation.

The promise was short-lived and soon the brigade returned to its old adversarial ways to tackling the marchers, leading to the unveiling of the so-called governmental masterstroke: the decision to call in the army under Article 245 to secure Islamabad, the long march destination on Aug 14.

There may be some political merit in a strategy that seeks to bring Imran Khan — many believe the man who is backed by the invisible establishment — face to face with the army. But that will be then. For the moment, the opposition seems to be winning some points as the interior minister, with a mixture of visible anxiety and his customary straight face, goes about the unenviable task of convincing everyone around that the decision to get the army’s help is not PTI-specific.

How some of Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s admirers wish him to have extended his holiday from work for a few more weeks. This is the only way he could have avoided generating the latest round of criticism for the strangest explanations he has been coming up with since he took up the ministry last year.

Chaudhry Nisar wants people to believe that the decision to call in the army to guard the capital was taken at the time when Operation Zarb-i-Azb was launched to clean up North Waziristan. If this makes little sense given the long time it has taken to be conveyed to the public, the interior minister, in his eagerness to drive home the point, raises the dangerous and most disturbing spectre of how the operation could bring the war onto the streets of Pakistan, necessitating army security for Islamabad.

If anything, this belated clarification adds to the impression that the interior minister and his government are rather slow in deliberating over and deciding about the highly sensitive issues the country is faced with. And if he is speaking the truth about the timing of the decision, logically, Article 245 should have been invoked immediately after the launch of the North Waziristan operation. It has been made public too close to the appointed day of Aug 14 for the people to separate it from the PTI march.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2014

Divide in education

Jan-e-Alam Khaki

ONE of the ideological fault lines within Muslim societies is the division between ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ education. In some Mus­lim countries, such as Pakistan, religious education has been eulogised and secular educa­tion criticised as being in conflict with Islamic principles.

ONE of the ideological fault lines within Muslim societies is the division between ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ education. In some Mus­lim countries, such as Pakistan, religious education has been eulogised and secular educa­tion criticised as being in conflict with Islamic principles.

During the 18th-20th centuries, the colonising countries introduced secular education as a parallel schooling system in madressahs in order to introduce science and liberal arts. After independence, no country could do away with secular education because of its well-established roots and advantages in the process of ‘modernisation’ of their societies. People have already tasted the fruits of modern inventions. Modern gadgets were mostly invented and developed through a liberal science and arts education, not through religious learning.

Many advanced countries retain religious education, promoted by communities without any state hindrance, in many cases with state support (as in the UK). In each country there are different policies towards religious education, but basic schooling has been made compulsory for all children.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, an in­creasing number of Muslims were seen to favour secular education as they admitted their children to educational institutes not only in their own countries but also overseas so that they could obtain higher education in academically advanced countries. Even today a great number of people are going abroad for both secular and religious education, without seeing secular education as inimical to their faith.

However, the more traditional-minded religious leaders, teachers and people in many Muslim societies do not favour secular education, and have made every attempt to speak against it because of their misgivings. In the last two to three decades, in many Muslim societies anti-secular education groups, toge­ther with many ideologically motivated people, have resisted secular education, to the extent of destroying many schools (not madre­ssahs) in the areas they exercised influence over, for example in parts of Pakistan and Nigeria.

Interestingly, none of these groups have renounced any of the modern fruits of secular education; in fact they are some of the most ardent users of inventions such as mobile phones, weapons, communication equipment, including computers etc, none of which have been invented within the traditional religious education system.

Since the beginning of the ‘modern’ age, many countries have tried to separate the religious and secular realms at the state level. This has helped them deal with societal problems.

Increasingly, the state has been made ‘secular’ to develop a more cosmopolitan playing field for all its citizens, rather than favouring one or another religion or sect, which in many Muslim countries is today a major issue. With this split came the ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ education bifurcation.

This created an impression that studying sacred texts is ‘religious’ education and studying nature and all such disciplines dealing with research-based knowledge and modern sciences is ‘secular’. This engendered a fatal misunderstanding in the minds of Muslims about secular education.

The term ‘religious education’ may be used to mean, among other things, a process of education in which learners are helped to develop knowledge, skills, and attitudes to be able to study religion (deen) in its widest sense. Since deen in Islam encompasses all spheres of life, deeni ta’leem or religious education would practically encompass all spheres of life.

If we read the Quran closely, we cannot miss this point. The Quran commands us to reflect on nature and everything it contains (3:191-2), therefore, this and similar numerous verses require us to reflect on all creation as God’s signs (aayaat). Hence, whatever is studied in secular education is a perfectly legitimate area of religious education because subjects in secular education study man and the universe using scientific tools.

We need to appreciate that religious education is not limited only to the reading and memorisation of the imperatives (ahkamaat) of the sacred texts. It also includes the exploration of the universe, producing new knowledge for the betterment of human life.

We need, therefore, to revisit our notions of religious education as only textual study and memorisation, and understand the spirit of the Quran that requires us to reflect on the entire universe. Getting religious education means reflecting on the word of God as much as the work of God.

The artificial dichotomy between religious and secular education must come to an end. Some of the most useful sciences today that have brought so many blessings to human societies are the result of endeavours which generally are studied in the realm of ‘secular’ education. We need both, not just one; therefore, our younger generation must get the best of both realms of knowledge and wisdom.

The writer teaches Histories and Cultures of Muslim Societies at a private university in Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2014

Making the break?

Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

PAKISTAN’S elected rulers continue to break new ground. All in the name of democracy. Petrified in turn by Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan, the Sharif brothers are hoping that their decision to render the entire country comatose by announcing four Eid holidays (read: 10) puts a dent in the preparations of the so-called Azadi march.

PAKISTAN’S elected rulers continue to break new ground. All in the name of democracy. Petrified in turn by Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan, the Sharif brothers are hoping that their decision to render the entire country comatose by announcing four Eid holidays (read: 10) puts a dent in the preparations of the so-called Azadi march.

Perhaps it won’t matter how many people Imran Khan is able to mobilise anyway now that the federal government has invoked a special constitutional provision essentially handing over the federal capital to the army. Indeed, some observers think that the embattled PML-N has shot democracy in the foot by getting the men in khaki involved in the ongoing power wrangle.

I personally don’t see this particular decision as worrisome in and of itself. The generals have never required a constitutional mandate to descend on Islamabad, and they will not need one for a hypothetical takeover in the future.

I do, however, concur that the Sharifs’ desperation signals something about just how weak our democratic foundations are; Article 245(a) follows on the heels of the entirely draconian Protection of Pakistan Ordinance bulldozed through parliament as such bills tend to be.

In short, we continue to wait for our mainstream parties to demonstrate the political sagacity that democracy is supposed to nurture.

For years, principled democrats have argued that repeated and prolonged experiences with martial law have not allowed democratic institutions to develop, and that it is imperative for successive elected governments to complete their terms so as to improve the quality of politicians’ performance.

Progressives in this country have fought tooth and nail for the establishment of procedural democracy, because, as the saying goes, the worst democracy is better than the best dictatorship. This motto is tried and tested, and democrats of all persuasions can always be expected to remain true to it.

But this does not mean that there are not difficult questions that need to be answered about the formal democratic process that we maintain is the bare minimum to take this country forward.

Pakistani progressives are not alone in harbouring bittersweet feelings towards procedural democracy; it has been said many times and should never be forgotten that in the neo-liberal era there remains only the pretence of democratic choice in the political mainstream; all over the world, political parties vying for office are virtually indistinguishable in terms of social and economic policy; the market is God and the role of government is only to facilitate the untrammeled operation of the ‘invisible hand’.

Quite aside from this global quandary, we continue to be faced with an even more rudimentary problem: our mainstream political parties do not appear to want autonomy from the permanent state apparatus, notwithstanding the persistent hope that they will.

Lest the point is still not clear; political maturity in the Pakistani context simply means a minimum common agenda of keeping the ‘establishment’ out of politics. Prior to getting elected, Nawaz Sharif kept reiterating that he is a different person to the one who played second fiddle to the establishment in the 1990s (not to mention his beginnings as a blue-eyed boy of Gen Ziaul Haq).

In the year that the PML-N has been in office, there has been plenty of conjecture about differences between the ruling party and GHQ. But sadly, there is also enough evidence to suggest that there has been far from a definitive break with the men in khaki.

Supporters of the previous PPP government will argue that a definitive break is not really an option; Zardari’s biggest achievement, say the jiyalas, is precisely that he managed such a delicate balancing act, keeping the generals at arm’s length and then completing the transfer of governmental power.

In making such an argument, progressives sell themselves short. Certainly there is no point raising slogans about revolution if that option does not exist, especially now that right-populists have transformed political discourse by confiscating radical terminology from the left. But the completion of an elected government’s term in office is offset by the fact that our ‘oldest and wisest’ parties, the PPP included, have many in their ranks who do the establishment’s bidding, and therefore demean the whole democratic exercise.

It’s a delicate, ruthless affair, no doubt. We can continue to hope that our bourgeois parties will make a break with the establishment, but we should not be naïve about how much autonomy from the state security apparatus parties with such chequered histories will be able to secure. Not to mention the new players that can’t wait out a five-year term and want to achieve their ‘destiny’ by Aug 14.

A new political organisation untainted by the establishment is what the Pakistani people need. No matter how long it takes to build it.

The writer teaches at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2014

The next democratic

Tahir Mehdi

THE National Assembly speaker has notified the Electoral Reforms Committee. It has 22 Assembly members and 11 senators, and represents all political parties in parliament, barring three single-member parties. It is likely to meet soon.

THE National Assembly speaker has notified the Electoral Reforms Committee. It has 22 Assembly members and 11 senators, and represents all political parties in parliament, barring three single-member parties. It is likely to meet soon.

The committee has a daunting task ahead as Pakistan’s electoral system suffers from a host of problems. Starting from faulty electoral rolls and gerrymandering in constituency delimitation to ‘ghost’ polling stations to non-issuance of statements of count, the list is endless. The committee is expected to fix all these problems one by one. But, howsoever meticulous it might be in fine-tuning the relevant laws, practically speaking the problems are not likely to vanish. Even when carefully drafted rules are put to diverse field tests, loopholes stand exposed and are exploited by vested interests.

Take for example, the law that requires presiding officers at each polling station to hand over signed copies of statements of count (Form XIV and XV) to the agents of each contestant. The PPP complained after the 1990 elections that the presiding officers did not put their original signatures on the statements so that these couldn’t be used as evidence in courts. The complaint was redressed and the rules amended requiring the presiding officers to also put their thumb impressions on the statements.

The rule was made watertight but the problem has persisted in all later elections. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had to issue a directive, one month after the polling in 2013, asking the returning officers to make the forms publicly available. But this was simply not followed in many cases.

Making the rules impregnable is only half the job done; it is the other half — their implementation — that is where the real problems lie. There are two major drags on the ECP’s resolve and capacity to implement the law and deliver credible and non-controversial elections.

First is the ECP’s relationship with the judiciary. Conducting elections is first and last an administrative job, and those who are judges by training and description do not qualify to perform it. The misconception about their proficiency probably originates from the constitutional provision that calls for appointing retired judges as election commissioners. The underlying sense is that since judges are perceived as non-partisan, elections under their leadership will be non-controversial.

Former president Ghulam Ishaq Khan improvised upon this to hand over constituency-level duties to judicial officers as well, in the 1988 elections. Since then, seven elections have been held practically by the judiciary under the same scheme but ironically none escaped being tainted. The writing on the wall is that the experiment has failed; and this must be acknowledged and corrected.

The administration of elections by the judiciary also forms a clear case of conflict of interest because as an institution, it administers these and then itself adjudicates upon conflicts arising out of their administration. Acknowledging this, the National Judicial Policy Making Committee had in 2009 decided not to lend its personnel to the ECP but retracted its decision before the 2013 elections in the ‘larger national interest’.

The involvement of the judiciary in elections has confused two separate constitutional spaces reserved for two different constitutional bodies. It has made the elections appear like an auxiliary function of the judiciary while the job of the ECP has been reduced to issuing notifications, directives and statements.

In this confusion, the Election Commission has lost its freedom to make decisions and act. The two functions not only need to be separated from each other, the ECP also needs some kind of immunity from judicial intervention. Elections are a time-bound exercise and their administrators need ability, agility and creativity in order to be able to respond to any unpredictable situation at any hour. If solutions are to be subjected to long procedural delays, they are bound to prove useless.

The second most important area where the ECP needs to be empowered is its control over the civil administration. It needs the services of an army of government employees to perform duties at the polling station level. It needs to wean these seconded personnel off any political affiliations, guard them against threats of violence from vested interest groups, check any negligence on their part and make them work efficiently.

Developing other stakes in civil administration is important as peace and order in society are a prerequisite for elections. The ECP also needs the support of all government departments, including the law-enforcement agencies to ensure that the Code of Conduct for pre-election campaigns is strictly followed, that voters are not bribed or coerced, and that there is a level playing field for all contestants.

The ECP has not been able to ensure all of this to the satisfaction of the parties. One likely reason is that this area too is contested by two constitutional bodies, the ECP and the caretaker government. They are both entrusted with the same responsibility of ensuring neutrality in government. This duplication not only creates confusion but also works as a disincentive for the ECP to take the initiative, besides allowing the two to blame failures on each other.

Interim set-ups have traditionally served as a constitutional window for the establishment to intervene in the electoral process. The system of appointment was changed substantially through the 18th Amendment but caretaker set-ups too have failed to meet expectations.

The ECP thus needs a new legal framework for its engagement with the civil administration. There is no harm in taking a leaf from the Indian experience where no caretakers are appointed and the election commission virtually takes over the entire state machinery, as soon as the election process begins and until the results are announced.

The Electoral Reforms Committee will have to avoid indulging in rephrasing old laws and show some creativity. Readers should be reminded that Pakistan achieved an important milestone in its first-ever democratic transition, from one elected government to the next, in 2013. The subsequent milestone should not be the next transition but electoral reforms as only these can take polls and democracy a qualitative step forward.

The writer works with Punjab Lok Sujag, a research and advocacy group.

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2014

Looks like the work of the wife

Jawed Naqvi

I WAS looking for material to explain Sania Mirza’s trauma with Hindutva’s ultra-nationalists when I remembered that Dilip Kumar had undergone similar experiences, of being called a Pakistan sympathiser, even a Pakistani agent. It is another matter that Muslim zealots in both countries have targeted India’s most emulated movie icon for adopting a Hindu screen name instead of sticking to Yousuf Khan, which came with his Peshawari Muslim identity. So I picked up the thespian’s autobiography, which was released recently.

I WAS looking for material to explain Sania Mirza’s trauma with Hindutva’s ultra-nationalists when I remembered that Dilip Kumar had undergone similar experiences, of being called a Pakistan sympathiser, even a Pakistani agent. It is another matter that Muslim zealots in both countries have targeted India’s most emulated movie icon for adopting a Hindu screen name instead of sticking to Yousuf Khan, which came with his Peshawari Muslim identity. So I picked up the thespian’s autobiography, which was released recently.

What I found in it was frustrating, however. There’s too much Saira Banu the wife and too little Madhubala the love of his life and very little of his Nehruvian politics in the book, The substance and the shadow. The miscued emphasis nudged me to the conclusion Majaaz Lucknavi arrived at 60 years ago over a Mirza Ghalib verse. ‘Ghalib-i-khasta ke baghair kaun se kaam band hain; Roiye zaar-zaar kya, kijiye haaye-haaye kyun’. (‘The world hasn’t stopped if Ghalib has grown decrepit; Don’t mourn for him, don’t lose your wit’.) “Ye to Ghalib ki biwi ka sher maloom hota hai,” observed an impish Majaaz, relishing the thought that it was the poet’s wife who may have authored the damning verse.

There were a few Dilip Kumar biographies before the legendary movie actor decided to speak for himself in his own words, if that is what he really did at 91 this year. If the previous biographies leaned on the actor’s articulate siblings for resource, this one surely has the wife’s imprint. By contrast, Lord Meghnad Desai’s book on the actor focuses on his Fabian socialist ideals and is aptly called Nehru’s hero: Dilip Kumar in the life of India. Movie buff and close family friend Bunny Reuben earlier wrote a ‘definitive biography’ of the man who was a darling of teeming millions for well over four decades.

To stay with the Majaaz logic, from the flap on the opening page, to the very last page of the book, where the dust cover folds over the hardback edition, there is Saira Banu writ large. I won’t saddle the reader with more of the mushy references to a seemingly happy and long conjugality. The book is crammed with that abiding sentiment barring a bit of relief in a photo caption, which announces that the celebrity couple were, in fact, married by a cleric named Qazi Murghey!

Let me just pick out two or three important topics that matter. That Dilip Kumar was a diligent actor whose talent was rooted in the hard work and many rehearsals he put in before the final take should be a lesson to all Indian actors who have striven and are still trying hard to copy him albeit with a minor chance of success. Let me stay with what he has to say about the love of his life, his miraculously beautiful heroine and utterly talented actress, Madhubala.

Of the four films he did with Madhubala, Kumar ranks Tarana (1951) as “among the memorable ones I have done in the early years of my career”. Madhubala was “a vivacious artiste and was so instantaneous in her responses that the scenes became riveting even when they were being filmed”. The narrative quickly drifts to the actor’s problems with doing too many tragic roles and his search for psychiatric help, which he found in a British doctor, to address his morbid countenance. Madhubala figures again several pages later, but in guarded prose.

“As an answer to this oft-repeated question straight from the horse’s mouth, I must admit that I was attracted to her both as a fine co-star and as a person who had some of the attributes I hoped to find in a woman at that age and time.” Madhubala “could draw me out of my shyness and reticence effortlessly”.

The announcement of their pairing in the magnum opus Mughal-i-Azam made sensational news in the early 1950s, when things went wrong between the two. “The classic scene with the feather coming between our lips, which set a million imaginations on fire, was shot when we had completely stopped even greeting each other.” Unbelievable reasons that went into the break-up — her father’s ego against his — have been done to death in all the biographies, and this one doesn’t offer a new perspective.

Another telling view on Madhubala: “I was truly relieved when we parted because I had also begun to get an inkling that it was all very well to be working together as artistes but in marriage it is important for a woman to be ready to give more than receive.” And then he cites his mother as an example of an ideal woman.

Dilip Kumar’s politics has been clearly more engaging, even defiant, than everything he is willing to reveal of his loves and heartbreaks. In the 1960s, during the trouble he had with the release of his self-produced Ganga Jamuna, a big hit, there was more than a hint of communal and bureaucratic obstruction. His home was raided, as was that of two of his Hindu friends, where transmitters were planted. In 1998, he was accorded the Nishan-i- Imtiaz by Pakistan. The Shiv Sena kicked up a furious row against his visit to Islamabad and Bal Thackeray “cast aspersions on my integrity and patriotism, which were uncalled for and hurt me deeply”.

Sania Mirza will see that the times were a lot less suffocating then. Yousuf Khan turned to prime minister Vajpayee, who urged him to go to Pakistan. “You are an artiste and as such you are not restrained by political or geographical barriers. You have been chosen for the humanitarian work you have done and your efforts to improve the relations between the two countries is well known.” Such are the vagaries of time; Madhubala’s and Saira Banu’s Eid became inevitably different. As will be Sania Mirza’s this time.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

jawednaqvi

The ‘human’ machine

Sikander Ahmed Shah

US DRONE strikes have resumed in Fata in the wake of Operation Zarb-i-Azb. There is anger over this campaign, because it leads to violations of Pakistan’s territorial sovereignty and political independence.

US DRONE strikes have resumed in Fata in the wake of Operation Zarb-i-Azb. There is anger over this campaign, because it leads to violations of Pakistan’s territorial sovereignty and political independence.

However, many individuals, including government officials, feel that if drones, their delivery system and operating technology were transferred to Pakistan, the state’s use of such weaponry to target militias in Fata would comply with national and international law. For them, the use of drones is preferable to other modes of military engagement with militant outfits.

However, one must approach this proposition with caution. Drones are not just legally and ethically problematic because of their challenge to state sovereignty. They are problematic for other reasons too. Most notably, their use can undermine fundamental rights.

Extrajudicial killings in the form of drone strikes contravene international human rights law, irrespective of whether such targeting is undertaken by a host or a third state. If drone attacks qualify as violations of peremptory norms of international law — norms that include torture, crimes against humanity and war crimes — then Pakistan can neither use, nor consent to the use of drone strikes on its soil.

Drone technology, inclusive of the workings of the drone delivery platform, is constantly being upgraded by militarily advanced nations employing these weapons. Effective targeting requires real-time data communication, which depends on specialised computers, satellites and an assemblage of sophisticated hardware and software.

While drone technology rapidly evolves, it naturally requires continuous R&D expenditure and the ability of a state to indigenously produce all the components required for a successful operation. Thus, if drone warfare is accepted as a legal form of engaging in armed conflict, the asymmetrical advantage that will be enjoyed by developed and militarily ad­­vanced states in warfare will prove decisive.

Pakistan cannot compete in a drones’ race with states it perceives as hostile, such as India, because of their advantage in developing advanced combative drone programmes. Pakistan should, therefore, resist the push for legitimising the use of combative drones under international law.

One should note the ethical and humanitarian challenges posed by drone warfare. The combative drone system is not unchanging. Technology is driving this form of warfare with the objective of lowering the military costs of wars through increased automation. In fact, the US Defence Department reported in 2009 “that the technological challenges regarding fully autonomous systems will be overcome by the middle of the century”.

The logical conclusion of such developments in drone technology is an unmanned system that will coordinate and direct an attack solely on the basis of a code or algorithm, without direct human involvement.

A machine cannot qualify as a lawful combatant under the law of war and hence cannot be tried or held responsible for war crimes. Even with limited human involvement, it is becoming increasingly harder to allocate responsibility because of the layers of human decision-making combined with the role machines play in conducting even a single drone strike. Social psychology experiments seem to confirm that human reliance on machines and the transference of responsibility for decision-making during drone strikes result in the disproportionate and unnecessary use of lethal force.

Another issue is that drone technology relies on signatures to target suspected militants. These signatures are based on pre-identified patterns of behaviour that allow machines to make probabilistic assessments of who and when to target. However, social and cultural differences are not accommodated. Hence, drones often end up targeting civilians. Signatures such as having a beard and carrying weapons in Fata are not useful indicators for determining who is a militant actively engaged in hostilities.

Ethically, the question arises whether the human race can accept machines making qualitative decisions about the value of life during armed conflict. What level of civilian causalities is acceptable ‘collateral damage’ when targeting a military target, and what is the proportional use of force, with regard to human suffering? The determination of a military target is itself a qualitative determination. Such assessments are difficult to make, but we accept them if made by human combatants acting reasonably.

While currently machines cannot make these assessments, with improvements in artificial intelligence, will they be able to substitute for human decision-making to measure the value of life in conflict? Are these assessments not the sole prerogative of humans? Can fully automated drones ever be capable of being coded to think emotively about the repercussions of actions that result in death? A terminator-like scenario as far as drones are concerned is not a distant reality. Hasta la vista, human rights.

The writer is an associate professor of public international law at LUMS.

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2014

Our security disorder

Farhan Bokhari

THE battle to secure control of militant sanctuaries across North Waziristan was meant to proceed without distractions for the Pakistan Army. But the choice by the government to invoke Article 245 of the Constitution facilitating the handing over of Islamabad to the army, has thrown up a wider question over the future of Pakistan’s civil-military ties at a critical juncture in the country’s history.

THE battle to secure control of militant sanctuaries across North Waziristan was meant to proceed without distractions for the Pakistan Army. But the choice by the government to invoke Article 245 of the Constitution facilitating the handing over of Islamabad to the army, has thrown up a wider question over the future of Pakistan’s civil-military ties at a critical juncture in the country’s history.

Notwithstanding the PPP’s swift rejection of the move, the ruling structure in Islamabad has chosen to defend the choice as necessary to block a coming militant blowback following the North Waziristan campaign.

Yet, the dangerous possibility of the army being drawn into an unnecessary political wrangle involving Imran Khan’s Aug 14 protest in Islamabad, raises compelling questions over Pakistan’s already fragmented security narrative.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was conspicuous by his absence from Pakistan, when the interior ministry revealed the decision. This detail was hardly surprising for a leader who has earned a well-known reputation for having little appetite either for fine detail or the determination to push a robust debate within and outside parliament on Pakistan’s most pressing challenges.

Enacting Article 245 of the Constitution promises to further deepen widespread popular anxiety over the ruling structure’s failure to begin tackling the worst breakdown of security across Pakistan. In brief, the eventual reliance on the army for Islamabad’s security, highlights the cumulative failure to begin reforming civil institutions responsible for Pakistan’s internal security.

Meanwhile, the implications of invoking Article 245 is no mean affair. It carries possible consequences for the future of Pakistan’s internal environment and possibly civil liberties.

In the words of Farhatullah Babar who spoke out on the PPP’s behalf, “The decision [to impose Article 245 in Islamabad] is pregnant with serious consequences for the people and the country, as it means not only failure of the civil administration but also total suspension of the jurisdiction of the high courts”.

The choice is clearly out of sync with Pakistan’s all too familiar challenges. Months have passed since Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan publicly disclosed the presence of up to 26 agencies responsible for intelligence-gathering across Pakistan, without across-the-board coordination among them.

For anyone looking at Pakistan’s emerging future, it is clear that key challenges will remain unaddressed unless internal security conditions improve dramatically. That conclusion is all the more vital, not only in the face of a continuing militant onslaught but also in view of the advances made by the army in North Waziristan.

With the battle likely to lead to an on-the-ground victory at some stage, the next compelling question is additionally vital. Will the threat to the Pakistani state begin to recede in the foreseeable future? The obvious answer to that question must only be in the non-affirmative. It is clear that an on-the-ground victory in North Waziristan needs to be reinforced with at least three equally important steps.

First, a battlefield victory runs the risk of remaining half-baked, unless immediately followed by a comprehensive push to back it up with an unwavering political consensus. This must involve enlarging a political debate within and outside parliament, to craft a broad understanding on the framework for a national security policy. In contrast, the decision to hand over Islamabad to the army under Article 245 of the Constitution without prior consultation with other political stakeholders, is exactly the kind of move that needs to be avoided.

Second, alongside the military push, the significance of tackling issues related to widespread disempowerment, deprivation and Pakistan’s prevailing crisis of governance cannot be overlooked. In a country where up to half the population is believed to live either in abject poverty or within very limited means, there is plenty of scope for militant outfits to recruit unemployed young men to join their bloody cause.

The broad direction of Pakistan’s official economic policy only suggests that it is not in sync with the country’s most important priorities, given the official obsession to build infrastructure projects while public services such as schools and hospitals remain widely neglected.

Finally, Sharif needs to move quickly and decisively to mend fences with the army. In contrast to the oft-repeated official mantra claiming all is well between Islamabad and Rawalpindi, the reality may well be starkly different.

The ruling structure’s ill-advised decision to wrap retired Gen Pervez Musharraf in a controversial prosecution appears to have disrupted the chemistry between elected politicians and the army. But even with this matter on the mend, the overall tenor of civil-military ties is unlikely to improve. This is largely the consequence of Sharif’s regime having done little to begin impressing the average Pakistani with long overdue reforms. Eventually, it is difficult to see the prevailing security disorder beginning to turn for the better.

The writer is an Islamabad-based journalist.

farhanbokhari

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2014

Rampant extortion

Mohammad Ali Babakhel

INCREASING incidents of extortion are an added challenge law enforcers are confronting. It’s an organised crime and a parallel taxation mechanism administered either by non-state actors or organised criminals.

INCREASING incidents of extortion are an added challenge law enforcers are confronting. It’s an organised crime and a parallel taxation mechanism administered either by non-state actors or organised criminals.

Extortion provides funds to militant organisations. Whenever other funding sources dry up terrorists turn to extortion and kidnapping for ransom. Criminals are also indulging in the extortion racket. Resultantly, the growing menace of extortion erodes the public’s confidence in the police.

It is an erroneous perception that extortion is a by-product of the ongoing wave of militancy. The incorporation of extortion in Article 383 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) of 1860 indicates that the menace is not a modern-day problem. However, technology today has facilitated extortionists in accomplishing their objectives in an organised manner.

In an extortion bid, the first step is the identification of a potential target; information is often gathered through a confidant of the family. To achieve this objective, militant organisations also establish research wings.

The second step is communication. The extortion demand is communicated through a handwritten letter or mobile phone call. In exceptional cases demands are also communicated via SMS or email.

If the target opts not to pay up then the extortionists go for low-level coercive methods, such as setting off an improvised explosive device in front of his residence or lobbing a hand grenade inside it.

Due to fear and mistrust of the police, complainants initially do not report such matters to the law enforcers. Victims are reluctant to share the facts regarding extortion demands. Such avoidance of contact with the police on part of the victim further complicates the situation. Initially, extortionists play on the fears of the target but afterwards they actually harm him. In such cases witnesses are usually from the same family and therefore afraid to share the facts.

Migration to other cities also does not resolve the issue, as the criminals’ agents follow the victims in other cities too.

Extortionists are taking full advantage of technology and loopholes in the business of illegal and unverified Afghan and Pakistani SIMs. Extortionists also take full advantage of administrative limitations faced by the KP police. For example, in the majority of cases when the location is traced, it happens to be beyond the police jurisdiction.

Mobile service providers are merely interested in profit; they are least concerned about the consequences of illegal SIMs. The existing gap between the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, police and mobile telephone companies needs to be bridged; it will help the police nab the extortionists.

In Pakistan, this menace has travelled from the south to the northwest. During 2013, Karachi police registered 545 cases and KP police 40 cases of extortion respectively. During the current year KP police registered 164 cases and arrested 156 accused. However, the conviction rate remained zero.

The nature of extortion in Karachi is different from that in Peshawar. The majority of cases in Peshawar have links with terrorist outfits concentrated in Afghanistan and Fata.

In 2013, owing to the increasing trend of extortion in Honduras, a National Anti-Extortion Force was raised. Within 10 months, the force arrested 370 extortionists and prevented the collection of $1.8 million in payments.

The creation of a new force motivated the victims to register complaints. All those arrested in nine months were convicted; 100pc conviction rate was a strong message from the criminal justice system.

Article 222 of the Honduran penal code instituted a sentence of 15 to 20 years and a fine of minimum $12,000. The Hon­duran model encouraged reporting and helped the authorities understand the gravity of the situation.

Likewise, El Salva­dor’s penal code establishes a 15-year prison term for extortionists. To nab them, the anti-extortion sub-directorate has allocated more officers and resources. This unit also increased public engagement and introduced a toll-free hotline.

Article 384 of the PPC incorporates maximum imprisonment of three years or a fine, or both. Keeping in view the reluctance of witnesses, the poor capacity of investigators and lack of technological support to the police, it is imperative to amend the PPC and enhance the punishment. Pakistan Rangers also introduced online registration of complaints against extortionists while the KP police has an anti-extortion unit.

Since it is also a trans-border crime, cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan is imperative. To nip the evil in the bud, cellular companies should revise their business protocols, particularly the roaming service extended to Afghan mobile companies.

Technological barriers confronted by the police facilitate criminals. To nab extortionists the police need instant access to call data, availability of GSM locators and capacity-building of investigators.

The writer is a police officer.

Twitter

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2014

Newspeak

Zarrar Khuhro

EVERY once in a while, something comes along to shatter the cocoon of one’s carefully cultivated cynicism. In this case it’s an editor’s note that preceded a Washington Post article.

EVERY once in a while, something comes along to shatter the cocoon of one’s carefully cultivated cynicism. In this case it’s an editor’s note that preceded a Washington Post article.

These are usually reserved in cases of egregious screw-ups by the paper in question, but this one was different. It read: “One reporter sent to cover the protest, Britain Eakin, is an intern who has written opinion pieces elsewhere that sharply criticise Israel in the conflict. The Post should not have sent her to cover the protest and, had it known of her writings, would not have done so.”

The story in question was about a protest against Israeli policies held in Washington and was, to a normal eye, pretty standard fare. Did it have the Israeli ambassador’s version? No, but then he wasn’t at the protest. As for the other writing Ms Eakin has done, defenders of the Post’s action point out an editorial she wrote, replete with stats and quotes, in which she says the near 80pc civilian casualty rate “should call into question Israel’s claim that it’s waging a war of self-defence”. I know, the anti-Semitism just leaps off the page. (Editor’s note: This is sarcasm).

But let’s acknowledge that the Post didn’t actually change or drop the story itself, and that this note, disgraceful and shameful as it is, is probably a victory for some harassed editor in the Post’s offices.

While we’re at it, let’s have a moment of silence for those in the mainstream media who are trying so hard to find equivalence in an assault in which one-third of the victims are children. It’s in this backdrop that they have to somehow paint Israel as a victim, a white lamb among the dark wolves, and that requires semantic gymnastics on an Olympic scale.

Here’s a gold medal finalist in that category. When four children were killed by Israeli shelling on a Gaza beach, the New York Times posted this fairly straightforward headline on social media: “Four young boys killed while playing on Gaza beach”. Apparently this was unacceptable. Because by the time it got to print it had become: ‘Boys drawn to Gaza beach, and into centre of Mideast strife’. Now the beach is some kind of siren, drawing children into the amorphous arms of strife. It wasn’t Israel, you see, it was the Mideast. Artillery didn’t kill them, a geographical designation did. But while mainstream media was busy covering itself in glory, social media decided to go for shame. Thus the Twitter trend #NYTHistory was born, with satirical gems like;

“Thousands of natives turn out to appreciate British crowd control methods at Jallianwala Bagh” and “Drawn to stake, Joan of Arc finds herself in centre of fiery death”.

Indeed it was on social media that the marked contrast between the views of the reporters on the ground and the coverage of their parent organisations became stark. So stark, in fact, that it often got those reporters in trouble, despite struggling to couch their very human revulsion in neutral, journalistic language. Take the case of NBC’s Aymen Mohiyudin, who witnessed the above-mentioned artillery strike. Soon after, he tweeted: “just spent 45 min see family relative after relative learn that their children have been killed in #Israeli shelling of #Gaza port #horror.”

The tweet was soon deleted and, surprise, surprise, NBC told him to leave Gaza and that his beat would be covered by another reporter. No reason was given, though outrage soon compelled the organisation to reverse the decision. There are hundreds more examples, like when Israeli fatalities are highlighted in huge bold letters and the hundreds of Palestinians are ‘others’, worthy only of a small font. Put that in your talking points next time a philosophy student brings up ‘othering’.

It’s a cliché to say that the first casualty of war is the truth, but it rings true. Except here the legitimacy of Western mainstream media itself, and the sacred trust of its consumers, have been murdered.

While the tear ducts remain dry at that former prospect, the sad part is that, in the future, the work of upstanding journalists will be called into question simply because of the organisation they work for. Anyone choosing to deny or avoid uncomfortable truths will simply be able to cry ‘propaganda’ and, let’s face it; there will be no real reply to that.

On the other hand, ‘new media’ (Salon, Vice, Buzzfeed and Huffington Post) has emerged as an increasingly legitimate and trusted voice. Of course, there are issues with such sources, both in terms of reach and resources. More, social media in particular is prone to misreporting and rumour-mongering. But in this vacuum, the slightest hint of oxygen is welcome. Media barons across the board should know that nature simply does not tolerate vacuums for very long.

The writer is a member of staff.

zarrar.khuhro

Twitter:

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2014

Who will fill the vacuum in Fata?

Babar Sattar

ARE IDPs abettors of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan or victims of both the TTP and state policies? Are we reluctant to help North Waziristan IDPs as generously as we did in case of the earthquake, floods or the Swat operation? Is it because for us Fata is an alien land with regressive customs? Is it because we blame Fata for sustaining the infrastructure of terror that is haemorrhaging Pakistan? Or is it just donor fatigue?

ARE IDPs abettors of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan or victims of both the TTP and state policies? Are we reluctant to help North Waziristan IDPs as generously as we did in case of the earthquake, floods or the Swat operation? Is it because for us Fata is an alien land with regressive customs? Is it because we blame Fata for sustaining the infrastructure of terror that is haemorrhaging Pakistan? Or is it just donor fatigue?

Over 800,000 people have been exiled from their homes due to Operation Zarb-i-Azb. There have been reports that some IDPs have been picked up for interrogation. With North Waziristan emerging as Pakistan’s terror headquarters it is likely that many amongst the IDPs would have worked with or for the terrorists. The infrastructure of terror that our military has found in the centre of reoccupied towns is both unnerving and thought-provoking.

The thriving IED factories, the suicide bomber units (luring, brainwashing and transforming youth into human bombs) and caches of currency must give pause to those who argued that only if the state spoke nicely to our terrorist ‘brethren’ they would just melt away. That such terror infrastructure couldn’t have existed without local acquiescence is also true. But to brand tribals as abettors of terrorists is to place the burden of the state’s failings on hapless citizens.

There is a need to evaluate what led to the emergence and sustenance of terror in Fata to ensure that what happened there over the last three decades never happens again. The terror infrastructure being demolished painstakingly by our soldiers can emerge again, unless the causes allowing militants to establish their writ and enlist local support are effectively addressed.

Operation Zarb-i-Azb is aimed at physical deconstruction of the terror infrastructure in North Waziristan and tracking linkages, whether they lead to other agencies, Afghanistan, Karachi or IDP camps. The challenge of feeding and lodging the IDPs is an ancillary part of this operation but of crucial importance, for if mishandled it could further alienate a population the state must win back to build peace.

But even if the IDPs are fed and housed well and sent back to (reconstructed) homes, what will happen in North Waziristan post-op? The military strategy for Zarb-i-Azb is the same as that for Rah-i-Rast: clear, hold and build. Five years after the Swat operation (undertaken in a settled area), the civil and military authorities blame each other for failure to build sustainable governance structures that do away with the need to hold territory by military means.

To be fair to the khakis, it is not their job to build. They can clear and hold, but building falls squarely within the civilian domain. The khaki high command can probably be blamed for the delay in initiating Zarb-i-Azb, which allowed time and space to the militant infrastructure to prosper. There has been cryptic commentary over Maj Gen Athar Abbas’s statement that the operation wasn’t launched earlier because Gen Kayani was opposed to it.

Were we told anything we didn’t already know? That our security policy and strategy falls within jealously guarded khaki domain? That in a hierarchical army the chief has the last word? Maybe Gen Kayani was loath to move troops into North Waziristan seemingly under US pressure immediately after the OBL disaster. Or maybe our ‘strategic thinking’ wasn’t ready to part with the Haqqanis in 2011.

George Clemenceau has famously said that, “war is too serious a matter to be left to the generals”. But can you blame the khakis for delaying Zarb-i-Azb when they eventually had to force it on the politicos still pussyfooting on terror. And how do you make a case for civilian oversight over military matters when the civilians do absolutely nothing about governance (a mandatory requirement for building peace) that they are responsible for?

There are things that must happen in relation to our tribal belt. Exposure of IDPs to de-radicalisation programmes must start immediately. Wars and insurgencies change communities. This is the time to present IDPs with the promise of a peaceful and prosperous future. But words are cheap if not backed by action. Fata needs new governance and justice systems and a border with Afghanistan that provides for control over the entry and exit of men, material and money.

The old system of the state patronising tribes through political agents and tribal maliks is gone. Terror groups filled the vacuum and severed the link between Fata residents and the state. There is a need to get tribal leaders together with politicos and bureaucrats (who understand state functioning but also local customs due to their work as political agents). They can jointly put together a local government law for Fata that combines tribal representation and autonomy with citizen responsibility to the state.

There is a need to introduce a formal justice system that uses a mediation-plus structure as its first tier: trial by jury of peers resembling the jirga system Fata is used to. The second tier can be an appeals court that intervenes when jirga decisions are against fundamental rights. And then an appeal to a high court, which will only be possible once Article 247 is appropriately amended to extend full citizen rights to Fata residents.

The argument that there is nothing Pakistan can do about the porous border with Afghanistan cannot be acceptable in this day and age. We have a disputed border with India, but it is fenced. People still get through but it is harder. Why can’t the Durand Line be fenced while providing for members of tribes spread across it to cross over on the basis of special entry cards etc from dedicated points? Pakistan cannot allow the life and security of its citizens to hang on the vicissitudes of war and peace in Afghanistan.

None of this is rocket science. But for it to be done our government needs to look beyond its nose. Without meaningful reforms and introduction of workable governance and justice structures, the clean-up of Fata will be like the clean-up of circular debt; gone today only to reappear tomorrow.

The writer is a lawyer.

sattar

Twitter:

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2014

Coal miners: the ground realities

Zeenat Hisam

PAKISTAN ranks as the sixth richest country in respect of coal reserves but those who dig out the black gold from the depths of the earth are the most exploited section of the workforce. Descending into dark, airless tunnels, miners extract coal from simple tools, inhaling coal dust, fearing methane gas explosions, fires, cave-ins, poisonous gas leakages and haulage accidents.

PAKISTAN ranks as the sixth richest country in respect of coal reserves but those who dig out the black gold from the depths of the earth are the most exploited section of the workforce. Descending into dark, airless tunnels, miners extract coal from simple tools, inhaling coal dust, fearing methane gas explosions, fires, cave-ins, poisonous gas leakages and haulage accidents.

Out of the mines, the workers endure harsh conditions in makeshift mud shacks nearby, or in villages devoid of all basic facilities. Mine workers in Pakistan get a pittance for work considered one of the highest-risk activities in the world in terms of safety and health.

Mine management in Pakistan lacks hazard identification, risk assessment and preventive and protective measures. The number of fatal accidents is high. Occupational diseases—black lung, skin diseases, hearing loss, hypertension, tuberculosis— are rampant. Accidents are not recorded in the registry as required by law, and often go unchecked. A few weeks ago, on June 30, two workers were killed and two injured in a cave-in in a small coal mine at Jhimpir. The mining zone was reported to be without a medical facility.

Pakistan has not ratified the International Labour Organisation’s Safety and Health in Mines Convention 1995 (No. 176) and neither does it follow the 2006 ILO Code on Safety and Health in Underground Coal Mines that sets out general principles and specific guidance in all aspects of mining operations, including record keeping and documentation. It is crucial that the government ratifies the ILO convention and commits to implementing the regulatory and legislative framework according to international standards.

In Pakistan, the mining sector contributes 3pc to GDP according to the 2013-2014 Economic Survey and employs 0.34pc of the work force. Of these mine workers, 68pc — 1.4 million — earn a meagre monthly income of Rs5,000 to Rs10,000, as per the Pakistan Labour Force Survey 2012-2013. In developed countries, mining is a highly paid job. In the US, mine workers’ average income is higher than the national average income.

In developed countries, modern tools and the latest remote-controlled equipment is used in mining, operated by a highly skilled workforce. Mine operations are calibrated and monitored to the last detail to ensure the safety and health of the workers.

Due to lack of structural development, the mining sector in Pakistan is highly fragmented. Small areas are leased out to private investors by provincial governments. Private owners invest minimally in mine infrastructure development.

The regulatory and legislative system is subverted though the applicable law, framed by the British 91 years ago, the Mines Act 1923, spells out the provisions for health and safety and the responsibilities and duties of inspectors, owners, agents, managers and state officials. The main reason for lack of implementation is the collusion of state officials with the owners affiliated with the political elite.

The Mines Act 1923 needs to be reviewed for its Section 9 (‘Secrecy of information obtained’), Chapter Two, which requires all records of the mine to be kept confidential by the chief inspector and not to be disclosed to any other person besides a couple of state officials. Apparently, this clause was to serve the interests of the colonisers.

In Pakistan, industrial development policy documents hardly contain any reference to labour, a key factor of production besides land and capital. The National Mineral Policy 2013 claims to enhance “…the contribution of the mineral sector for … the benefit of the people of Pakistan”. Yet, it does not mention labour in any of its 13 specific objectives of the policy. Curiously, indicating a Freudian slip, the objective (No. XI) states: ‘Ensuring safe mining operations and safety and security of investors’.

The sector’s exploitative labour relations and the prevalence of forced labour have been well documented by Ahmed Saleem in his 2002 research. The abysmal conditions persist. “The terms and conditions of work in coal mines in Pakistan are worse than the conditions that existed 500 years ago in pre-industrial economies. Deaths in mines are a routine affair and dead bodies don’t make even a ripple. Workers are paid piece-rate and none is registered with social security,” says Sultan Khan, general secretary, Pakistan Central Mines Labour Federation, Quetta.

The sub-committee of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Labour and Manpower, Balochistan, recommended in July 2010 mine workers’ registration with Nadra to access social security benefits. Recommendations and good intentions of a handful of parliamentarians and experts cannot bring about a change unless their number turns into a critical mass of powerful stakeholders committed to social justice.

In Pakistan, trade unions in the mining sector are weak and ineffective as most cater to the interests of the owners and contractors. It is time trade union federations, particularly in Sindh, mobilise mine workers, for the Thar coal field, the sixth largest coal reserve in the world, is poised to become operative in the years ahead.

Historically, coal miners, being the most militant, were among the first groups of workers to organise during the industrialisation era and in many countries (ie Britain, Poland, Chile, Japan and Canada) during the 19th and 20th centuries, the miners allied with radical socialist movements. Trade unions played a major role in ensuring the safety of mine workers. In 1920, the Chicago Coal Miners’ Union wrote in one of their handbooks: “When the workers themselves take charge of the coal mines through their unions, they will, first of all, make coal mining as safe an occupation as hoeing in the garden. It can be done, and there is no reason why it should not be done.”

The writer is associated with the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research.

zeenathisam2004

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2014

The tale of HuJI

Muhammad Amir Rana

WHAT happened to Qari Saifullah Akhtar? Once a prominent and influential militant commander, he is no more in the spotlight. Similar is the status of the militant group he led — the Harkatul Jihad-i-Islami (HuJI), which is considered the mother of many militant groups in Pakistan and that once had outreach to various conflicts zones across the Muslim world.

WHAT happened to Qari Saifullah Akhtar? Once a prominent and influential militant commander, he is no more in the spotlight. Similar is the status of the militant group he led — the Harkatul Jihad-i-Islami (HuJI), which is considered the mother of many militant groups in Pakistan and that once had outreach to various conflicts zones across the Muslim world.

Not long ago, Qari Saifullah and his group, HuJI, were as notorious as Lashkar-e-Taiba is today in India and the West. It was found to be involved in many terrorist attacks in India during the 1990s and was declared by many as the most dangerous militant group of the region.

The group was a self-proclaimed ‘second line of defence of every Muslim state’ and had links with militant groups in Central, South and East Asia. It was HuJI which had first hosted the Uzbek militants in Pakistan, who are among the prime targets of the ongoing military operation in North Waziristan.

A few years back, media reports hinted that Qari Saifullah had renounced violence and had adopted the creed of Sufism. Some of these reports quoted his close aides as saying that he had quit jihadist activities and had become a Sufi. Qari Saifullah served as a khadim (devotee) at Syed Nafees-ul-Hussaini’s Syed Ahmed Shaheed Khanqah (a spiritual centre) near Sagian Bridge in Lahore. After the death of Nafees-ul-Hussaini in 2008, he undertook to build a new khanqah, or Sufi retreat, in Ferozewala in district Sheikhupura and was arrested from the same site with his three sons.

Qari Saifullah’s tale is useful in understanding the jihadist and other features of militancy in Pakistan. No doubt he has remained a mysterious character in Pakistan’s political and jihadi history. He is considered one of the founders of jihad in Pakistan. He was among the first batch of Pakistani mujahideen who went to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

He served as military advisor to Mullah Omar during the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and coordinated the escape of Mullah Omar from Kandahar after the American forces attacked the city in 2001. He was the first Pakistani jihadist leader who was arrested abroad and handed over to Pakistan in August 2004 by the UAE government. He was released in 2006 and rearrested on Feb 26, 2008 in connection with the Oct 18, 2007 terrorist attack on former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in Karachi. Ms Bhutto alleged that Qari Saifullah was a perpetrator of the attack in her book Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West.

Qari Saifullah was allegedly involved in a 1995 army plot but his name was mysteriously dropped from the case. He reportedly helped then Major General Zaheer ul-Islam Abbasi and Brigadier Mustansar Billa to hatch a plan called Operation Khilafat that was meant to overthrow Benazir Bhutto’s government and eliminate the top military leadership to bring about an Islamic revolution in the country. The plan was discovered and thwarted. After this unsuccessful coup attempt, Qari Saifullah flew to Kabul and became a military advisor to Mullah Omar.

This was the time when HuJI was facing organisational and structural problems. Many HuJI commanders had parted ways and formed their own groups, for instance, Ilyas Kashmiri who founded Brigade 313. The establishment of Jaish-i-Mohammad in 2000 further weakened HuJI but its operational wing was still strong and considered a trusted force by Osama bin Laden.

After 9/11, HuJI faced the critical challenge of survival. Because of the group’s close links with Al Qaeda and international militant groups, the Pakistani establishment decided to end its strategic and tactical engagement with Qari Saifullah and eliminate his group. Qari Saifullah had fled to Saudi Arabia where he was hosted by a Saudi family. As he had close links with Al Qaeda and was thus afraid of being arrested, he did not stay in Saudi Arabia for long and took shelter in Dubai where he reportedly started some ‘business’, mainly money laundering for Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

HuJI’s organisational structure in Afghanistan was badly damaged during the US attack and its leadership decided to go underground for a while. But most HuJI members did not agree with the strategy and preferred to stay in Afghanistan or in the Pak-Afghan border areas to continue jihad. Some formed militant cells in Pakistan with the help of Al Qaeda. Harkatul Mujahideen al Alami and Jundullah were the prominent groups which were formed by HuJI remnants; some others joined the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi. The former groups also included members from other banned organisations and they started to carry out terrorist attacks inside Pakistan.

HuJI was the first Pakistani group which had launched attacks on its own soil. Before the Red Mosque siege in 2007, it was the HuJI and LJ factions which were behind most of the terrorist attacks carried out in Pakistan, mainly between 2002 and 2006. These attacks included assassination attempts on Gen Musharraf, former prime minister Shaukat Aziz, and a Karachi corps commander, as well as attacks on the US consulate in Karachi and on various churches. Even the militants that orchestrated the attack on GHQ in Rawalpindi in 2009 reportedly belonged to the Amjad Farooqi group, a breakaway faction of HuJI.

HuJI was a small group but took more than nine years to become non-functional. During that time it not only caused enormous damage to the country through terrorist attacks it also provided trained militants to other terrorist groups. It contributed towards the formation of the Punjabi Taliban groups, which comprised HuJI’s splinter terrorist cells beside others. The HuJI militants also joined the ranks of Al Qaeda and the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan.

Eliminating militant groups is not an easy task. HuJI’s story suggests that even those groups who once served as proxies of state institutions can cause huge damage to the country before becoming non-functional as an entity.

The writer is a security analyst.

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2014

A new Kayani moment?

Cyril Almeida

STOP the press. It’s official. The PML-N is committing political suicide. Nawaz and co are back — the original, unreconstructed Nawaz and co — and they’re dying to get kicked out.

STOP the press. It’s official. The PML-N is committing political suicide. Nawaz and co are back — the original, unreconstructed Nawaz and co — and they’re dying to get kicked out.

You can even start cueing the jokes now.

Why is Nawaz already in Saudi? Because this time he didn’t want to be bundled out in a hurry.

Why did Nawaz fly commercial to Saudi? Because he only needed a one-way ticket.

The PML-N doesn’t need an opposition. It doesn’t need an opponent. It doesn’t even need an aspiring PM or a would-be uniformed saviour to pile on the pressure.

No, the PML-N will screw things up for itself all by itself, thank you very much.

Here’s the state of the play. The PTI is going for broke; it wants power. Imran wants to be PM and won’t rest until he is. Democracy be damned.

The boys are busy counter-insurgencying, but boys will be boys and they are licking their lips and eyeing the throne.

The PML-N — at least the few at the rarefied top — is convinced a plot is unfolding. It’s a vice of sorts, one side political pressure, the other side the boys’ security stuff.

And boy, is the PML-N screwing it up. Obsessed with politics, clumsy with security, it’s a horror show of quite stunning proportions that leaves you looking on in awe and mystification.

Right now, there is really just one question: is the PML-N lurching towards its own version of a Kayani moment, the March ’09 intervention as the PML-N-led long march inched towards Islamabad?

Remember that? Back when Zardari was gullible enough to believe he had a shot at taking over Punjab, so he had CJ Dogar disqualify Shahbaz and then tried via Salmaan Taseer and sundry opportunistic jiyalas to form a government with the Q-League, only to push the Sharifs into the arms of Iftikhar Chaudhry and trigger a long march to Isloo that ended with Kayani picking up the phone and suggesting the PPP back down?

Five years on, we could be heading for the next version of a Kayani moment. And if — when? — the story is told, it may just begin with this let’s-invoke-the Constitution, suspend-the-high-court’s-suo-motu-juris­­diction, call-in-the-army-and-save-Isloo nonsense.

Save Isloo from what? Depending on whom you ask, there are two stories — at least on the security side of the tale.

The first is that the boys are seriously concerned about the militant threat that has taken up residence in the rural areas/new settlements on the outskirts of Islamabad proper.

Having decided that the threat needs to be countered now and that the civilian law-enforcement and intel apparatus isn’t up to scratch, the boys want to act. But for them to act, they need another threat neutralised first: the courts.

The troubles with the courts on the missing persons’ front are now long-running. And that’s with missing persons picked up in the middle of nowhere and stuffed away for years also in the middle of nowhere.

Imagine an army-led operation on the outskirts of Islamabad, with a hyperactive judiciary ever ready to leap into the fray and residents having access to courts and cameras. Suddenly, the army is the bad guy again and in a world of legal trouble.

So, the constitutional protection offered by Art 245 — over and above that provided by regular law mandating troop deployments — is what the army wants.

Nawaz, according to this theory, resisted at first, but when the conversation is about security and the boys have their heart set on something, the boys usually get their way.

The other story is a bureaucratic one. In the telling of this tale, the PML-N leadership, dependent on and clueless without its ace bureaucrats, was convinced by the bureaucrats that a) the security threat to Isloo is serious and imminent and b) the army is needed, but that the army won’t come unless cloaked in Art 245.

Again, the PML-N leadership, in the telling of this tale, was reluctant to do what the super bureaucrats wanted, but then, as the threat level and urgency increased, eventually acquiesced.

So much for the security angle.

Now to the only thing that may really be on the mind of the PML-N: politics.

The PML-N is either in panic mode or being too clever by half. Either way both versions of why Islamabad needs the army under Art 245 right now suggest the N-League is heading towards its own version of a Kayani moment.

Assume story A is correct. That means the boys have bullied their way into Islamabad and turbocharged the national conversation about a mini martial law — all of this on the eve of Aug 14 and Khan’s arrival in the capital.

Succumbing to pressure from the boys now would mean panic mode has set in in the PML-N leadership. For if caught in a vice, why help it along?

Or assume story B is correct. That would mean the PML-N knows there is a legitimate threat to Islamabad, but the timing of Art 245 is about the N-League brain trust being too clever by half — essentially, playing politics with security.

In this version, the PML-N thinking would be: Imran is coming, let’s wrap the army around ourselves as tightly as we can and then we’ll see what he — or they — can do to us.

Either way — whether 245 stays or not — or if its panic mode for the PML-N or too clever by half, the political ground has shifted already.

Imran is coming. The N-League is deeply anxious about the army. Mistakes, big ones, are being made.

Is a Kayani moment à la March ’09 around the corner? And if it is, what will Raheel do?

The writer is a member of staff.

cyril.a

Twitter: @cyalm

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2014

Eyes shut at home

Bina Shah

PAKISTANIS like to think of themselves by nature as a compassionate people, with large hearts that bleed for the poor, oppressed and suffering all over the world.

PAKISTANIS like to think of themselves by nature as a compassionate people, with large hearts that bleed for the poor, oppressed and suffering all over the world.

These days, private citizens are organising donation drives for the displaced people of North Waziristan. The army is collecting donations, young people are putting together relief goods and clothes, and with the approach of Eid, gift packages are being put together for children that include toys and books.

Just like the Kashmir earthquake of 2005, Pakistanis have been eager to assist those who have lost their homes and livelihoods because of events that are out of their control. It’s an admirable quality in us, the desire to help, to offer comfort and succour, and to pledge solidarity to people who need allies in a hostile world.

Witness the large outpouring of outrage that has been taking place over the last two weeks over Israel’s siege of Gaza — there have been public protests, condemnation by leaders and religious figures, and many users of social media have been posting pictures and articles about the atrocities taking place in Gaza every day since the war began.

Pakistanis feel good about doing their part to draw the world’s attention to the suffering of Palestinians, a cause they have held close to their hearts for several decades.

But this outpouring of outrage doesn’t happen when people belonging to minority groups in Pakistan are hurt or killed because of their identity. Shias are murdered, Ahmadis are bombed, Hazaras are slain, Christian villages are burned, Hindu women kidnapped and forced to convert and ‘marry’ — the reaction of Pakistanis has been, by and large, silence.

No large-scale protest marches, no condemnation by political or religious leaders, no cries on Facebook or Twitter about the mistreatment of minorities and our solidarity with them in their time of need.

There’s a phenomenon a friend of mine calls ‘Whataboutery’ which goes like this:

X: What Boko Haram is doing in Nigeria is really awful.

Y: Yes, but what about Gaza?

Or, X: What’s happening in Iraq and Syria with ISIS is truly horrible.

Y: Yes, but what about the Rohingya in Myanmar?

‘Whataboutery’ is a great way to distract, to evade having to think about conflicts where the villains are somewhat like you and the innocent are different from you. It’s like a blanket you pull over your head when the oppression happens too close to home. If you can point the finger at faraway Israel, you avoid having to examine how our treatment of minorities might compare, in some small way. Or large way, depending on how you look at it.

One of the most ridiculous things being asked on the internet, and I’m sure elsewhere, goes like this: ‘Why isn’t Malala Yousafzai speaking out about the atrocities in Gaza?’ The poser of this question doesn’t actually want to hear an answer; she has already condemned Malala as an ‘agent of the West’ who only speaks about the issues that ‘the West’ wants to condemn.

So when Malala went to Nigeria to advocate for the 200 schoolgirls kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery by Boko Haram, people ridiculed her efforts, even though she brought attention to the un-Islamic actions of the Nigerian extremists and framed it as going against the tenets of the Quran. What an important message for the rest of the world to hear, and nobody in Pakistan appreciated it.

Our concern for the refugees of Gaza also doesn’t ring quite true in light of the recent outcry against North Waziristan IDPs who have been trying to enter Sindh (and presumably come to Karachi to join relatives already settled here) after being displaced from their homes in the military operation.

Today’s protests against IDPs are based in fear and bigotry, but couched in terms like ‘demographics’ and ‘militancy’ — the same terms used in Israel to keep Palestinians locked in their open-air prisons in Gaza and the West Bank.

There are conflicts going on where Muslims are visiting atrocities upon other Muslims, and we should be brave enough to protest. Yes, Muslims are being oppressed in Gaza and Myanmar, but one atrocity doesn’t cancel the other out.

Islam charges Muslims to speak against all oppression; it advocates peace and justice, but also tolerance and pluralism within our own societies. And if we refuse to be champions of peace and tolerance within our own borders, our championing peace in Gaza rings hollow.

Of course we have to pick our battles, and it’s tiring to speak out all the time on every conflict, but a consistent message of pacifism from all of us on oppression in our own backyard would be such a guiding light to other Pakistanis who are unwilling to be vocal about these issues. And, as the saying goes, charity begins at home.

The writer is an author.

Twitter: @binashah

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2014

More trade options

Huma Fakhar

PAKISTAN’S commerce minister Khurram Dastgir Khan says that a trade deal between Pakistan and India appears likely this year, even though matters between prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi do not look so comfortable.

PAKISTAN’S commerce minister Khurram Dastgir Khan says that a trade deal between Pakistan and India appears likely this year, even though matters between prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi do not look so comfortable.

The planned trade deal continues to be subjected to excuses and barriers, whereas the rest of the world has created new ‘growth nodes’ through regional economic corridors, not to mention the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership being crafted by the US.

Margaret Flowers of the Flush the TPP group calls the upcoming agreement a “global corporate coup” that would encompass two-thirds of world GDP and one-third of world imports. Where will India and Pakistan, or the larger South Asian region for that matter, stand in the wake of such deals?

As a result of strained India-Pakistan ties, South Asia is the least connected of all regions in the world. True, connectivity in this region would require a balancing act. Once data and communication flows open up, risks to privacy and national security will become more pronounced. And yet, this consideration should not have halted the economic union for so many decades.

A look at the archives of the trade negotiation process between India and Pakistan shows that the last 30 years were committed to trade in only a few areas such as textiles, agriculture, automotives etc. But the truth is, no one promotes trade easily in these conventional job-creating sectors. Far more homework is needed in these sectors, while the current negotiations must be accompanied by some modern tools of trade.

The commerce ministries on both sides should revise the current trade negotiation agenda. Firstly; this agenda was set prior to, and, without full understanding and knowledge of, the impact of technology flows, data communications or even of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and the services sector. Secondly; it has pulled along without the active engagement of the private sector.

A proactive approach in the targeted areas with a focus on ‘real’ mutual advantages is needed. Mainstreaming modern trade tools such as a facilitation mechanism for the SMEs, an information and communications technology (ICT) agreement on the digitisation of information at the Wagah border, an understanding on creative industries (film, music, fashion), perhaps also a study group to explore the effect of communications and data flows is important.

Mexico calls its SMEs the ‘small giants’ of modern knowledge economies. SMEs on both sides of the India-Pakistan border are also small giants of formal and informal trade. The Sustainable Development Policy Institute says the informal flow of goods from India into Pakistan in 2012 amounted to $4.2 billion. Fabric imported from India informally was about $3.7bn and auto parts $268 million. An SME facilitation mechanism with a view to digitising the Wagah-Attari border should be a good start to encourage the participation of SMEs in the formal economy.

ICT too can play a key role. Perhaps an ICT cooperation agreement similar to the one between Japan and the Philippines could be deliberated. If Pakistan was to transform its logistics and manufacturing sectors by replacing some physical flows with virtual flows, many players would be the beneficiaries.

The Pakistani handloom fabric company Khaadi has launched a platform where Indians can place their orders online. Ali Zafar and Rahat Fateh Ali are exporting their services across the border to the Indian film sector. In the same way, Pakistan is becoming one of the larger markets for film promotion for Bollywood. In five to 10 years, Pakistan could be the largest Bollywood market after India.

It is also necessary to safeguard the rights of the artists and craftsmen on both sides from double taxation and strict visa regimes. Service providers with a good track record can be given priority. A cooperation framework agreement in mutually agreed creative sectors can pave the way for shared commercial interests.

Another game-changer in the negotiation process is the powerhouse called the private sector. It is not governments, but the private sector that creates jobs in abundance. It is the private sector that is the foot soldier in the battlefield of trade and business, hence its engagement is essential in the ongoing negotiation process.

Connectivity is the new economic growth model, generating welfare along with alternative trade tools. South Asians deserve this unleashed welfare. For how long will South Asian leaders continue to shut their eyes to these inescapable fundamentals? Surely the inaction is not due to lack of vision; for Mr Modi put it very well: “India and Pakistan can together write a new chapter in the development of South Asia if the two countries were to concentrate on fighting poverty and unemployment”.

The writer is the managing director of MAP Services Group.

Huma.Fakhar

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2014

To subscribe or unsubscribe to this mailing list, please fill the form located at: http://www.dawn.com/subscription

DAWN Media Group, Haroon House, Karachi 74200, Pakistan

Copyright © 2013 Pakistan Herald Publications (Pvt.) Ltd.

Advertisements

About pkdramas
Pakistan is best

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: