DWS, Sunday 10th August to Saturday 16th August 2014

DAWN

WIRE SERVICE

DWS, Sunday 10th August to Saturday 16th August 2014

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National News

PTI kicks off Azadi march

Mansoor Malik

LAHORE: “Democracy and autocracy will fight it out in Islamabad to determine the destiny of a new Pakistan,” Imran Khan affirmed to rapturous applause as he kicked off the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s much-awaited march on the federal capital on Thursday.

LAHORE: “Democracy and autocracy will fight it out in Islamabad to determine the destiny of a new Pakistan,” Imran Khan affirmed to rapturous applause as he kicked off the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s much-awaited march on the federal capital on Thursday.

The PTI chief reiterated his demand that the prime minister resign and in the same breath called upon members of the Election Commission to quit “before I reach Islamabad”.

Imran Khan fired up an already charged crowd with a speech laced with rhetorical flourishes and populist idiom.

“No one will gift you freedom on a silver platter. You’ll have to snatch it through a sustained struggle,” he said.

The wheels of Azadi March started rolling at around 1 pm with a not-so-strong attendance, but started gathering strength as it reached Faisal Chowk on The Mall, its first stop in the city, in about seven hours.

The march turned out to be a festive occasion for PTI workers as they danced to the tune of party songs in front of a truck carrying their leaders, including Imran Khan.

The youths sported caps carrying the colours of their party’s flag, headbands and wristbands. Women also sported colourful dresses. They chanted slogans against the government.

As the PTI caravan moved at a snail’s pace, Imran Khan kept coming out of the bullet-proof container to perk up his supporters.

According to PTI Punjab President Ejaz Chaudhry, Mr Khan was also accompanied by his nephew, Azeem, who waved victory signs to the marchers.

The marchers reached the Data Darbar’s vicinity at 11.30pm. Insaf Youth Wing workers’ force “Khan’s Army” escorted the party leaders’ truck.

Addressing a mammoth rally at Faisal Chowk, Mr Khan said he was going to Islamabad to force the prime minister to resign amidst deafening slogans “Go Nawaz Go”.

He said Mr Sharif was trying to be stubborn by not resigning. “I have won many matches and will return after winning this match too,” he asserted.

The PTI leader whipped up passions by promising that he would prefer to give his life to letting people down.

He reiterated that the Sharif family was ruling the country like monarchs and stashing wealth abroad. Asserting that the PTI would bring the nation’s money back, he pledged that his party leaders would keep their accounts in the country.

He said the PTI (when in power) would imprison all “Gullu Butts” and added that the government should order release of his party workers. “Otherwise I will go to police stations and get them released.” He said Gullu Butts in police had also stopped PTI workers from reaching Lahore.

Mr Khan urged the party workers to accompany him to Islamabad to create a ‘Naya Pakistan’ envisioned by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

Telling the marchers that PTI loyalists from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have already reached Islamabad, he urged workers and supporters to show full strength while reaching the federal capital.

Addressing PTI supporters in Karachi, Sindh and Balochistan, the PTI chief apologised for not giving them due attention because he was busy confronting the Sharifs. “They are in panic. I will be having a lot of time for you,” he affirmed.

PTI workers and supporters had started converging on Faisal Chowk around 12 noon and were kept engaged with party songs. Party leaders, led by PTI Punjab general secretary Dr Yasmin Rashid, kept the show alive for almost seven hours until party chief’s truck reached there.

Sources said that PTI MPA from Faisalabad Khurram Zafar fainted during the march and was admitted to the Doctor’s Hospital.

Meanwhile, PTI Punjab President Ejaz Chaudhry told Dawn that the party leadership wanted to quicken pace of the march, but enthusiastic workers were not allowing them to do so. He said a ‘mammoth Azadi march’ was on its way peacefully, but the PML-N workers had tried to disrupt it at various points and even chanted slogans against the PTI.

“Posters of the PML-N were seen on The Mall in abundance, but the PTI protesters did not even touch them,” he asserted.

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2014

A decade of peace must for progress, says PM

Saleem Shahid

ZIARAT: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Thursday that the country could not afford any more confrontations and needed 10 peaceful years for solving the problems the nation had been facing for the past 67 years.

ZIARAT: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Thursday that the country could not afford any more confrontations and needed 10 peaceful years for solving the problems the nation had been facing for the past 67 years.

He said that celebrating Independence Day jointly by the civil and military leadership was the ‘real march’ which would make Pakistan a peaceful and prosperous country.

The prime minister, who was addressing a ceremony for the inauguration of the restored Ziarat residency of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, said the country could attain development and prosperity and all its problems could be solved if it got a decade of peace without any interruption. The government can also pay its full attention to the welfare of the people.

The ceremony was attended by Chief of the Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, Balochistan Governor Mohammad Khan Achakzai, Chief Minister Dr Malik Baloch, Balochistan Assembly Speaker Mir Jan Mohammad Khan Jamali, Commandant Southern Command Lt Gen Nasir Khan Janjua, federal ministers Pervaiz Rashid, Abdul Qadir Baloch, Jam Mir Kamal and Abdul Ghafoor Haidri, National Party president Mir Hasil Khan Bezenjo and provincial ministers, including Sardar Sanaullah Zehri.

The Quaid’s residency was destroyed in a rocket-and-bomb attack by militants in June last year. It was restored to its original design at a cost of Rs144 million.

Prime Minister Sharif congratulated the people and government of Balochistan for completing the renovation work in a record time of four months.

He expressed satisfaction over the improving law and order in the province and hoped that complete peace would be restored soon. “I appreciate the efforts made by Dr Malik and Gen Janjua to improve the situation. They and their teams are working in the right direction and this should continue for restoring complete peace and order in the province.”

The prime minister said his government had accepted the mandate of the governments established in the provinces. The federal government is extending full cooperation to the Sindh government for restoring peace in Karachi.

Mr Sharif said the people also had great expectations from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government. “It also should work for solving people’s problems and restoring peace in the province. They (the PTI-led KP government) should hold long and Azadi marches but also work for the betterment of the people,” he added.

He said the centre would help the KP government and cooperate with it in carrying out development projects. “Negative politics should be avoided because the country cannot afford it anymore. Only positive politics can put the country on the path of progress and development.”

Mr Sharif said his government was trying to make Pakistan a developed and prosperous country. He said he wished to see the country develop and progress even if his party did not win the next election.

The prime minister praised the army for eradicating terrorists from North Waziristan and other areas and said its officers and soldiers were sacrificing their lives for protecting the motherland. “The Zarb-i-Azb operation will be successful and achieve desired results.”

Referring to the energy crisis in Balochistan, he asked the provincial government to introduce solar system in areas with no transmission lines. He said that depletion of the underground water level was a serious problem and efforts would be made to solve it.

The prime minister said his government had launched a number of power projects which would produce 10,400MW over the next three to four years.

Earlier, Chief Minister Malik Baloch said the law and order situation had improved in Balochistan and efforts were being made to restore peace. He said the provincial government was working on improving the health and education sectors and needed federal government’s assistance.

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2014

PTI and PAT allowed to march on Islamabad

Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD: Ending days of uncertainty, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan finally announced on Thursday the government’s decision to allow, in principle, both the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) to march on the capital.

ISLAMABAD: Ending days of uncertainty, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan finally announced on Thursday the government’s decision to allow, in principle, both the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) to march on the capital.

But he had a warning for all protesters: swift action would follow any attempts to cross red lines and the Red Zone’s security would not be compromised on.

“Providing foolproof security to the diplomatic corps is the government’s obligation to the international community and there should be no ambiguity about the government’s resolve in this regard,” he said at a press conference at the Punjab House on Thursday night.

The interior minister told reporters the PTI had made a written request, asking for permission to hold a rally in the capital, while the PAT had verbally asked for permission and their written request would be processed upon receipt.

He made it clear that both parties would be allocated separate venues and said that both were expected to reach the capital on Friday.

The government has exercised restraint and tried to defuse the situation, ignoring all provocations, accusations and threats, he said. “Nobody will be allowed to trample the law and the Constitution and make Pakistan a laughing stock. There will be no compromise. Pakistan is not a banana republic,” he remarked.

Asked if the PTI had asked the government to allow it to save face by holding their much-hyped rally, he replied in the negative and said that the Lahore High Court had clearly defined the scope of the march, for both the government and the demonstrators. As per the court’s decision, the government was bound to remove all containers and hurdles, adding that though the verdict applied to Punjab and not the federal capital, the federal government also would observe the order.

He said the government had asked for some clarifications from both parties and a set of ground rules had been agreed upon. He expressed the hope that the marchers would cooperate with the government, which was trying to ensure their safety.

In response to a question, he said the government had made arrangements for a million people, but did not elaborate.

The interior minister said the government would facilitate residents of twin cities who sought to commute between Rawalpindi and Islamabad and would open certain routes once both processions reached their allocated venues.

He refused to comment on the Jamaat-i-Islami’s ‘Five Point Plan’, saying he had not seen it.

Earlier in the day, Chaudhry Nisar visited various checkpoints in the capital to inspect security arrangements at the venues for both demonstrations.

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2014

Two assailants killed near airbase

The Newspaper’s Staff Correspondent

QUETTA: Two gunmen were killed and eight security personnel injured in an exchange of fire near Smungli Airbase, on the outskirts of the provincial capital, on Thursday night, a spokesman for Frontier Corps (FC) said.

QUETTA: Two gunmen were killed and eight security personnel injured in an exchange of fire near Smungli Airbase, on the outskirts of the provincial capital, on Thursday night, a spokesman for Frontier Corps (FC) said.

Khan Wasey, the FC spokesman, said seven of the injured personnel were policemen. An FC man was among those injured.

According to sources, the area near the airbase and Quetta airport began to reverberate with the sound of explosions and heavy firing at about 11pm.

They said security personnel took positions and immediately took measures to stop assailants from entering the two sensitive installations.

They beat back the attackers after an exchange of fire that lasted for more than an hour, the sources said.

“The Smungli Airbase and Quetta airport are safe and secure as security forces are in full control of them,” Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti said. The sources added that at least two rockets were fired which exploded near the airbase. No explosion was reported inside the base.

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2014

Ditched Qadri overtakes PTI march

Amjad Mahmood

LAHORE: The Pakistan Awami Tehreek, led by Dr Tahirul Qadri, kicked off its ‘Inqilab’ march on Islamabad on Thursday afternoon after the Shahbaz Sharif government delayed even a conditional permission to the marchers.

LAHORE: The Pakistan Awami Tehreek, led by Dr Tahirul Qadri, kicked off its ‘Inqilab’ march on Islamabad on Thursday afternoon after the Shahbaz Sharif government delayed even a conditional permission to the marchers.

Cranes started removing the containers placed around Model Town, the neighbourhood housing PAT and sister organisation Minhajul Quran’s offices, at 2pm after the police manning the barriers were withdrawn.

Residents of the locality, besieged along with PAT activists for the past week and facing problems of mobility and shortage of essential items, heaved a sigh of relief as the government decision averted a feared showdown between the charged workers and law-enforcement personnel.

Enthusiastic and jubilant activists helped the crane operators remove the barricades.

A large number of workers were seen walking because of inadequate transport facilities. Only the vehicles that had transported workers from across Punjab for a “martyrs’ day” held by the party on Aug 10 were at hand to take the activists to Islamabad.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the PAT were to launch a joint march as agreed during PTI vice-chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s meeting with Dr Qadri on Tuesday. Under the plan, Dr Qadri was to join PTI chief Imran Khan at the latter’s Zaman Park residence for jointly leading the marchers.

But to the shock of the PAT chief, Mr Khan left his residence without waiting for him.

A slighted Dr Qadri changed his route but without complaining. “I’m not hurt by Imran Khan’s act of leaving for Islamabad alone,” he told the media.

The second shock for him was Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid’s failure to keep his promise of riding with him instead of Mr Khan.

The PAT chief, instead of following the ‘Azadi march’ on The Mall, took the Allama Iqbal Road that runs parallel and, stepping up the convoy’s pace, overtook the PTI procession.

He was a couple of kilometres ahead of Mr Khan on the GT Road by midnight.

Among around 10,000 participants of the PAT march, a big chunk comprised boys and girls carrying backpacks containing mats, clothes and eatables like roasted gram and dates since they expect a prolonged stay in the capital.

Many of them were also carrying masks and goggles to protect themselves in case of tear gassing by police.

In an attempt to belie a perception that students of Minhaj institutions were taking part in the march without their parents’ permission, a student, Ahmed Pervez, told Dawn: “We’ve full backing of our families in following our leader Dr Tahirul Qadri.”

Notwithstanding assurances given to the government that the marchers would not carry clubs and other weapons, some young women had sticks in their hands.

“The club is meant for protecting myself in case police try to force me away from the protest venue in Islamabad,” one of them said. “We’ll do everything for the cause of revolution and bear any type of torture.”

Fayyaz, another participant, said: “I’m sure that the march will achieve what the poor of this country have been dreaming of.”

He said Dr Qadri had promised to control price hike and provide basic necessities to every citizen and “our leader is known for keeping his promises”.

Abdul Qadri, from Kasur, said: “Our passion will make the rulers flee Islamabad. We have already forced them to remove all the obstacles in Lahore.”

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2014

Saner minds prevail amid manoeuvring

Baqir Sajjad Syed

•Shahbaz, Nisar meet army chief •Sharif consults political leaders •PM Office begins work on SC commission

•Shahbaz, Nisar meet army chief •Sharif consults political leaders •PM Office begins work on SC commission

ISLAMABAD: The temperatures and the political weather kept most of Islamabad indoors for most of Wednesday.

But it was only after darkness fell that the feverish activities that had kept the ruling party occupied behind closed doors were revealed, making it clear that the government was following sane advice and had not just rolled over in the face of the march, but also continued to take steps to establish a judicial commission to investigate the alleged malpractices in the general elections of 2013.

The prime minister may have been holed up on Constitution Avenue as his administration was lugging containers around, but he was consulting his advisers and ministers.

In addition, he was probably also in touch with his brother, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, and Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan, who were carrying out an important mission for him.

As the chief minister and the interior minister were holding an all-important meeting in Rawalpindi, the federal government announced that it had sent a request to the Supreme Court to form a commission to investigate the 2013 elections, in line with the elder Sharif’s offer in his televised address the night before.

SC commission

Law Secretary Barrister Zafarullah Khan, in a formal correspondence addressed to Supreme Court Registrar Syed Tahir Shahbaz, said the government had decided to constitute a commission of inquiry consisting of three judges of the Supreme Court.

“Whether the allegations levelled by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman — that the general elections of 2013 were manipulated or influenced by anyone for the benefit of a political party or individuals, have any basis in fact or law, and if so, to fix responsibility thereof,” the law secretary said, explaining the committee’s terms of reference.

He then added that suitable nominations might be sent to the Ministry of Law, identifying the three judges, one of whom is to be the commission’s president.

The Prime Minister’s Office released both the summary prepared by the law ministry for the prime minister and the letter written to the Supreme Court registrar.

In the two documents, dated August 13, the allegations of electoral rigging levelled by the PTI are referred to.

Two days earlier, on Aug 11, PTI Chairman Imran Khan had alleged that ex-chief justice Iftikhar Moham­mad Chaudhry and caretaker Punjab chief minister Najam Sethi had, in connivance with Election Commission officials, helped rig the elections and ensure a victory for the PML-N.

Though the PTI had rejected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s offer and others too had criticised the idea of involving the judiciary in political issues, the government is clearly set in its reconciliatory gesture.

Perhaps this letter was made public while the Sharif junior and Chaudhry Nisar were still in their meeting.

Meeting at Army House

The chief minister is said to have arrived from Lahore on his special aircraft at about 3.45pm. He was received at the airport by the interior minister, after which the two headed for Army House. The two remained there for nearly two hours before leaving for Islamabad at nearly 6pm, where they met the prime minister.

Though Chaudhry Nisar, in his media interaction later, tried to downplay the meeting as a routine affair and hence “not big news”, the rendezvous set tongues wagging about a possible “settlement” between the PML-N government and the military ahead of the PTI long march.

The meeting at Army House, according to a source, took place at the request of Chaudhry Nisar and Shahbaz Sharif.

After meeting the prime minister, the chief minister is said to have left for Lahore, while the interior minister addressed a press conference at Punjab House.

However, before he spoke to the media, the decisions the government seemed to have made in the day started becoming public.

Consultations

After the news of the letter that was sent to the Supreme Court, it was revealed that Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) emir Sirajul Haq had been called by Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid and passed a message from the prime minister.

The JI confirmed the telephone call and said that the prime minister sent the message that the government was going to allow the long march and in exchange now Mr Haq had to live up to his side of the bargain by ensuring that the protesters would remain peaceful.

Though this was not immediately confirmed by the government, Dawn learnt later that the prime minister spent most of the day consulting his own as well as other party leaders – he told them that the government had decided to allow the PTI to hold its march provided that the protesters remained peaceful.

The information minister was given the responsibility of getting in touch with other political party leaders and passing on the message.

A government official told Dawn that by early evening, the government had made up its mind but it deliberately delayed the announcement because it was waiting for the Lahore High Court’s judgment on the long march.

The LHC was hearing a petition on the march and announced its decision around eight at night.

A source privy to the government’s plan, however, told Dawn that the government was deliberately keeping its plans for the PTI march vague, so as to throw off party workers and confuse them.

Court order

In his press conference, the interior minister made it clear that while there were differences between the government and the military over the trial of retired Gen Pervez Musharraf, it was inappropriate to drag the army into the prevailing political quagmire.

Talking about the LHC order regarding the ‘Azadi march’, he said the government would implement the order, but then seemingly backtracked and asked the PTI to properly request permission for the march from the district administration. He said the district administration would examine the objectives of the political gathering and see whether they fell within the ambit of the Constitution.

The interior minister was apologetic, asking the people of Islamabad and Lahore to excuse the inconvenience they had faced over the past few days, but that it was all for a good reason.

“I have received 15 security alerts in the last half hour from security agencies regarding the march,” he disclosed.

A government official claimed that multiple teams of law-enforcement agencies will strictly monitor the march and arrest anyone who creates any trouble.

“A contingency plan will remain in place to stop the rally at any point on the GT Road if its leaders and participants don’t behave,” the source said. He claimed that it was being considered that the protesters would be asked to head to Jinnah Stadium in the sports complex, provided the PTI agreed.

PTI’s information secretary Dr Shireen Mazari wasn’t available to comment on the government proposal.

Another official of the PTI, however, told Dawn that the rally’s first stopover in Islamabad will be Zero Point. “We have a moveable stage; therefore, a last minute change of plan will not be an issue.”

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2014

PTI, PAT say their plans unchanged

Dawn Report

LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek vowed on Wednesday to hold marches on Thursday (today) with a common agenda of dislodging the PML-N government.

LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek vowed on Wednesday to hold marches on Thursday (today) with a common agenda of dislodging the PML-N government.

While the PTI has been promised free access to Islamabad, PAT leader Dr Tahirul Qadri and his supporters were still besieged by police at the Minhajul Quran secretariat on Wednesday night.

Unlike Tuesday when PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the PTI and PAT would jointly march on Islamabad, Imran Khan did not mention the PAT in his address to workers of his party at his residence on Wednesday night.

He called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down and called for mid-term elections under a neutral, non-political government.

Mr Khan retracted his earlier statement about forming a technocrats’ government, apparently to appease his party’s president Javed Hashmi, who had expressed reservations over the demand and left for Multan on Tuesday night.

The PTI chief said that he would present demands again, when the Azadi March would reach its destination — Islamabad.

He said the march would be within the limits of the constitution. “We stayed within the ambit of the constitution yesterday and today and will follow it tomorrow,” he said in reply to a reporter’s question about the Lahore High Court’s order banning any unconstitutional protest, rallies and sit-ins.

In his news conference on Wed­nes­day night, Dr Qadri pledged allegiance to the law of the land. Assuring that his march would remain peaceful, he announced that the marchers would leave for Islamabad on Thursday at all cost.

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2014

PM calls for ensuring continuity of democracy

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has called for upholding the constitution, protecting rule of law and ensuring continuity of democracy.

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has called for upholding the constitution, protecting rule of law and ensuring continuity of democracy.

“Let us pledge together that we’ll not allow anyone to inflict harm upon supremacy of the constitution, rule of law and continuity of democracy,” he said at a ceremony held here on Wednesday evening to celebrate the 68th independence anniversary of the country.

The premier’s comments at the ceremony hosted by the armed forces in the lawns of Parliament House came against the backdrop of long marches to be staged by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Pakistan Awami Tehrik.

Mr Sharif, who appeared tired and tense because of high pressure politicking, made a conscious effort to avoid saying anything about the planned agitation, though he spoke at length about the issue during his public engagements over the past couple of days.

The silence on the political crisis was, however, put down to the solemnity of the occasion — the event was dedicated to troops taking part in the Operation Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan.

But Mr Sharif made an indirect reference to the agitation, saying that the country required unfettered development but regrettably that could not happen over the past 67 years.

The prime minister was ostensibly referring to the confrontational politics of the past that had quite often led to interruptions in democracy.

He had used the same logic against agitation during his recent speeches.

He also took this opportunity for sending a message to India, whose political and military leadership has been making belligerent statements over the past few days.

“We desire peaceful and good relations with all countries, particularly our neighbours, on the basis of mutual respect,” he said. “Pakistan wants a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute so that the contentious issue makes way for improved ties between the two neighbours.”

In a message directed at foreign and domestic audiences, he said that the government remained committed to eliminating terrorism.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a day earlier accused Pakistan of carrying out a “proxy war” in Kashmir. Similar allegations have been levelled by Afghanistan also.

Meanwhile, a national security conference of the political leadership had last week asked the government to chalk out a long-term strategy for dealing with terrorism and extremism.

Mr Sharif also spoke about Israeli atrocities in Gaza, terming them a great tragedy. He said the government condemns the Israeli barbarity in the strongest possible terms.

The prime minister said it was incumbent on the international community to stop the brutality in Gaza. He warned that the world would lose confidence in the “global bodies” — a reference to the UN — if they failed to stop Israel.

ZARB-I-AZB: Prime Minister Sharif said the operation launched in June was going on successfully.

“The nation salutes the officers and troops who have laid down their lives for the sake of peace. They are our benefactors.”

He also noted the contributions made by civilian law enforcement agencies against terrorism.

Speaking about the internally displaced persons, Mr Sharif said the government had prepared a comprehensive plan for their rehabilitation.

The plan would be implemented as soon as the security situation improves in the conflict-hit areas.

Nawaz Sharif will celebrate the Independence Day with IDPs from North Waziristan at the Baka Khel camp in Bannu.

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2014

Situationer: Nawaz & Imran looking to miltary help

Nasir Jamal

LAHORE: Zaman Park has undergone a world of change. It was once the epitome of the long-established order, the game of cricket being a cornerstone of the life of leisure that its inhabitants appeared to lead. Now this place is buzzing with chants of change. A prominent resident of the locality — Imran Khan — has taken it upon himself to bring down the old order and build a new Pakistan.

LAHORE: Zaman Park has undergone a world of change. It was once the epitome of the long-established order, the game of cricket being a cornerstone of the life of leisure that its inhabitants appeared to lead. Now this place is buzzing with chants of change. A prominent resident of the locality — Imran Khan — has taken it upon himself to bring down the old order and build a new Pakistan.

His supporters from as far as Rahimyar Khan have been arriving here for the past couple of days to participate in the ‘azadi march’ that he promises will topple what he sees as a corrupt, unfair social and economic system and replace it with a new one offering equal opportunity to everyone. The number of protesters gathering here is swelling by the hour the night before the planned march, as small convoys continue to arrive.

The crowd outside the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief’s home mostly comprises men in their early 20s. Many women and teenagers can also be spotted roaming about the place, waving party flags and chanting slogans of change. No one appears worried about the shipping containers the government is using to seal off Islamabad and prevent the protesters from entering the federal capital.

“We’re going to Islamabad Thursday morning, no matter what. We have made arrangements to remove the shipping containers to enter the city. Nothing can stop us. We also know how to handle the police if the government uses force to scuttle our peaceful protest,” Naqi Abbas tells Dawn.

“We will not accept anything short of Nawaz Sharif’s resignation and a new election,” says the college student who, for the past three days, has been busy making preparations for the long journey to Islamabad.

Like their leader, the protesters remain unimpressed by the prime minister’s late response to their demand for an inquiry into allegations of vote-rigging in last year’s general elections. “The government has announced a court probe a little too late,” says Mohammad Subhan, another PTI worker from Samanabad, as he repeats what Khan has been telling the media over and over again for the past several weeks.

Khan has already spurned the prime minister’s offer of a judicial inquiry into the vote-rigging allegations, saying it is too little, too late and vowed to press ahead with his march on Islamabad to force Nawaz Sharif’s resignation to pave the way for the formation of a neutral government that can implement electoral reforms and organise new elections.

Political analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi says the government realised the “gravity of the situation” very late in the day. He appreciates the recent government efforts to defuse the situation, but says the rulers should have changed their tone months ago.

“Moreover, the government’s conciliatory tone has not changed the ground reality,” he notes. “Instead of allowing Imran Khan to freely take out his protest march, the government is demanding certain assurances from him. It has also cited intelligence reports of possible terrorist attacks [as a reason] for not unsealing Islamabad and letting the protesters enter the capital,” he says, referring to a late-night news conference by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.

“They [the government] should realise that it is not possible to settle the details of the protest at this stage. The better course for the government is to allow the PTI protest march and sit-in without any conditions. It would, perhaps, have created an opportunity for reconciliation between the two opponents,” he asserts.

Analysts agree that the government’s delayed conciliatory efforts had left Khan with no choice but to carry on with his anti-government protest. “If Imran is pressing ahead with his protest in spite of the softer language being used by the government and the concessions the prime minister has announced in the form of a court probe into the vote-rigging allegations, it means that the PTI leader hasn’t lost the hope of achieving his objectives,” a political scientist who teaches at a private university says on condition of anonymity.

He does not rule out the possibility of the protesters being backed by the military establishment, or even being a part of it. He also sees possible intervention by the military leadership, as the final arbiter in such situations, for the resolution of the crisis. “Now that every politician, including the chief of the Jamaat-i-Islami, the PTI’s coalition partner in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has failed to dissuade Imran Khan from calling off his protest march, who but the military is left to mediate between him and the government?” he asks. Yet he refuses to say who he thinks the military will throw its weight behind.

However, Hasan Askari Rizvi doesn’t see the army drag itself into the dispute unless violence breaks out in the country. “If that happens, then the military will be forced to step in.”

With Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif and interior minister Nisar meeting the chief of the army staff on Wednesday, Rizvi believes the “Nawaz government is trying to tell the people that the military is on their side”.

The question is: will Khan be able to achieve his chief objective of ousting Nawaz Sharif and getting a re-election without the military’s intervention?

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2014

Sharif proposes rigging inquiry by SC judges

Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif once again tried to resolve the prevailing political crisis by accepting a demand of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and requested that the Supreme Court announce a commission to investigate PTI’s allegations about the rigging in the May 2013 general elections.

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif once again tried to resolve the prevailing political crisis by accepting a demand of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and requested that the Supreme Court announce a commission to investigate PTI’s allegations about the rigging in the May 2013 general elections.

However, his offer did not impress the PTI while many analysts on various new channels also dismissed it as “too little, too late”.

It was a day of political uncertainty as the standoff seemed to continue with little efforts at mediation. The only hope of reconciliation was the scheduled speech of the prime minister which was supposed to come at eight o’clock at night.

But, at seven o’clock, Imran Khan gave an exclusive interview to a news channel where he provided what the anchor called a concrete proposal for what the PTI chief expected to announce once he reached Islamabad — the resignation of the prime minister; an investigation by the Supreme Court and fresh elections under a government of technocrats.

It seems as if someone in the government was listening.

After a delay of half an hour, at eight thirty, the prime minister’s recorded speech was telecast on most channels.

Clad in a dark sherwani, the prime minister rambled on about mandate, his government’s ‘economic achie­vements’ and the supremacy of the parliament.

Partly sticking to his written speech and occasionally breaking away to speak extempore, he spent quite some time explaining that the parliament was a supreme institution that had the power to bring reforms and that change would not come through agitation on the street.

“All the paths to reforms will pass through the parliament. In the presence of the parliament, it is impossible that important national decisions are made on streets, squares and grounds,” he said.

He then spoke about the electoral reforms committee formed by the parliament.

He promised that all recommendations of the 33-member parliamentary committee will be implemented and, if required, laws will be changed accordingly even if it means amending the manner in which the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) works.

However, towards the tail-end of his speech, the prime minister suddenly announced that he was willing to offer a way out and appealed to the SC.

He said the government was requesting the chief justice to form a commission comprising three SC judges, which would examine the election results and present their findings.

“I hope that after this decision of the government there is no question of any agitation,” he said.

He also invited the annoyed political forces for a dialogue with the government, adding that he would not make his ego an obstacle in the way of national security, stability and prosperity in the country.

Before he made this offer, the prime minister referred to the long march announced by the PTI and the PAT without taking names.

He said that a “particular political party was levelling allegations of rigging in the polls without providing any evidence” which he said was “challenging the whole democratic system and the country’s economy, political stability and international reputation is being destroyed”.

He added here that though he believed in peaceful protests, no-one would be allowed to create anarchy and play with the constitution. “No one would be permitted to take the entire system hostage and provoke people, in the name of religion, to kill others.”

Analysts agreed that the prime minister made it clear by such sentences that while the government was willing to negotiate with the PTI, it would not tolerate the PAT protesters.

“No trouble-maker would be allowed to wrap up projects worth billions of dollars that are aimed at improving infrastructure and energy, throwing the nation into poverty, backwardness and darkness,” he warned.

The prime minister lauded the role of the media but cautioned that it should not be used as a tool for furthering the un-constitutional agenda of some elements.

Published in Dawn, Aug 13th, 2014

Imran spurns prime minister’s offer

Mansoor Malik

LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan has spurned the prime minister’s offer to form a commission consisting of three Supreme Court judges to investigate allegations of rigging in the 2013 general elections and asserted that “no probe is acceptable” without resignation of Nawaz Sharif.

LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan has spurned the prime minister’s offer to form a commission consisting of three Supreme Court judges to investigate allegations of rigging in the 2013 general elections and asserted that “no probe is acceptable” without resignation of Nawaz Sharif.

Addressing a news conference at his Zaman Park residence after the prime minister’s televised address to the nation on Tuesday evening, the PTI chief said he did not expect a fair investigation with Mr Sharif still in the saddle. “First the prime minister and members of the Election Commission should step down and then a judicial commission be formed,” he said.

Expressing full confidence in Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk, he stressed that the independent judicial commission should bring all those in the dock who had rigged the elections.

Earlier, in an interview with a television channel, Mr Khan demanded formation of a government of technocrats to hold fresh elections after a thorough probe into vote-rigging by the Supreme Court judges, reconstitution of the ECP and enforcement of electoral reforms for fair polls.

Implying that the prime minister’s offer had come a little late in the day, he said there was no stopping the ‘Azadi march’ now. He warned the government against obstructing the march and said he had information that the rulers planned to let loose its ‘Gullu Butts’ in police uniforms to prevent PTI workers from marching on Islamabad. “You will dig your grave if you try to stop the march with police force,” Mr Khan warned the prime minister.

He said he would himself lead the march and was ready to give his blood for the cause of bringing genuine democracy to the country. He also warned the prime minister that: “If any untoward thing happened to me, I have asked the PTI youth not to spare Nawaz Sharif.” He said he had asked his workers to go after Nawaz Sharif even in London.

He said he wanted peaceful protests, adding that his party had the constitutional right to protest and throw out monarchy. If this right was denied, he said, there would be anarchy in the country and Nawaz Sharif himself would be responsible for that.

Mr Khan said the battle was between two ideologies – monarchy and democracy – and after marching on Islamabad, PTI protesters would hold a sit-in there which would continue till the party’s democratic demands were met.

He said the prime minister had only now offered to open four constituencies for verification because of public pressure, although he had been demanding that for 14 months. He alleged that the entire election had been rigged because the government itself admitted that there were 60,000 to 70,000 unverified votes in all constituencies.

Earlier, the PTI chief, other party leaders and workers visited Data Darbar and prayed for the success of the Azadi march.

Published in Dawn, Aug 13th, 2014

PPP wants SJC to try ‘corrupt’ ECP officials

Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD: The PPP called on the Supreme Judicial Council on Tuesday to try members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for their alleged role in rigging the general elections of 2013.

ISLAMABAD: The PPP called on the Supreme Judicial Council on Tuesday to try members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for their alleged role in rigging the general elections of 2013.

“A reference, under Article 209 of the Constitution, should be initiated against the four ECP members and action taken so that their successors know they can be punished if they indulge in foul play,” PPP Senator Saeed Ghani said during a discussion in the Senate on the invocation of Article 245 in Islamabad.

The demand comes a day after Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan specifically accused the ECP member from Punjab, retired Justice Riaz Kiani, of playing a major role in rigging the polls in favour of the PML-N – an allegation denied by Justice Kiani.

Know more: PTI wants removal of all ECP members: Qureshi

The discussion on the floor of the house was overshadowed by various political parties offering advice to the government over the impending demonstrations in the capital on August 14. Nearly all the speakers called on the ruling party to allow marchers to come to Islamabad on Independence Day. Many of the speakers insisted that by creating hurdles, the government might worsen an already volatile situation.

Saeed Ghani also criticised the government’s handling of the situation, saying that it had made millions of people miserable just to stop a few thousand activists from the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT).

“The government seems to believe that it was on its way out. It needs to come out of this fear and must allow marchers to come and stay (in the capital for as long as) they want. The system is not so weak that it can be done away with by a single march,” he remarked.

Referring to PML-N leaders’ statements about “a conspiracy against democracy”, he said the party that had authorised the use of force in the anti-encroachment operation outside PAT headquarters in Lahore’s Model Town was, in fact, an enemy of the government and democracy.

Former interior minister Rehman Malik of the PPP proposed the constitution of a parliamentary committee to investigate the rigging charges levelled by Imran Khan. “Whoever is found to be responsible should be brought to book and taught a lesson,” he remarked.

Calling Imran Khan “a leader”, Mr Malik called on the government to welcome him. But the senator criticised Dr Tahirul Qadri and asked him to define what he meant by ‘revolution’. He condemned Qadri’s statement which called on his supporters to ‘kill’ members of the Sharif family.

Senator Taj Haider also slammed the government for invoking Article 245, noting that those who came into power with the “funding from the agencies” and “with the help of terrorists” did not know the value of democracy.

He warned the government against adopting “a path of confrontation”, saying that the forces which had opted for a referendum under a dictator would strengthen the hands of some other dictator if the government continued its confrontational stance. He said the democratic system was under pressure and the government should join hands with pro-democracy forces to avert these attacks.

Awami National Party’s Afrasiab Khatak asked the government not to be unnerved and said that those who wanted a peaceful protest should not be stopped. He said that those who were trying to overthrow democratically-elected governments should also revisit their attitude.

He said there was no justification for a long march in the presence of a vibrant parliament, free media and independent judiciary. “It is nothing but an invitation to undemocratic forces,” he remarked.

Kulsoom Parveen of the BNP-A criticised the government for not accepting Imran Khan’s demand for verification of voters’ thumb impressions in four constituencies.

The minister of state for parliamentary affairs, winding up discussion, said that Article 245 had not been invoked to stop Imran Khan’s march, but rather to counter the threat that terrorists posed to the city.

The house will meet on Aug 18.

Published in Dawn, Aug 13th, 2014

Ban likely on Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

LAHORE: The federal government is reported to have decided to declare the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) as a proscribed organisation.

LAHORE: The federal government is reported to have decided to declare the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) as a proscribed organisation.

Police sources privy to the development told Dawn on Tuesday that the decision had been taken at a high-level meeting held in Lahore and Dr Tahirul Qadri’s party was likely be included in the official list – First Schedule of the Ministry of Interior.

Know more: Key leaders of PAT arrested across Punjab

They said Dr Qadri’s speeches had incited his followers and other people against the government, waging war against the state and indulging in incidents of ransacking, arson and terrorism.

The sources said the procedure to be adopted in declaring PAT as a banned organisation would be in the light of the Anti-Terrorism Act, meaning that its fund-raising campaigns would also come under scrutiny.

Published in Dawn, Aug 13th, 2014

Activists held in crackdown across Punjab

Faisal Ali Ghumman

LAHORE: The Punjab police rounded up dozens of office-bearers and activists of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in several districts of the province during a Monday night crackdown.

LAHORE: The Punjab police rounded up dozens of office-bearers and activists of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in several districts of the province during a Monday night crackdown.

However, the ‘verbal’ orders of detention were withdrawn by the government on Tuesday afternoon, Dawn has learnt on good authority.

On the other hand, police action continued against Pakistan Awami Tehreek of Dr Tahirul Qadri across the province with the strict government directive to detain or arrest maximum number of activists in order to stop them from participating in the march announced by their leader on Aug 14.

Know more: Crackdown on PAT goes on

A source at the Central Police Office confided to Dawn that the IG had issued ‘verbal’ orders to the district police to launch a crackdown on PTI activists and to stop them from reaching the city for the Azadi march.

He, however, said the detention orders were withdrawn at around 3pm. The source said the activists detained under Maintenance of Public Order would remain in police custody till further orders.

A delegation led by PTI’s Punjab president Ejaz Chauhdry also met Inspector General of Police Mushtaq Sukhera at his office and brought the matter of detention, raids on residences and harassment to his notice.

According to a press release, Mr Chauhdry who was accompanied by party’s provincial general secretary Dr Yasmeen Rashid, leader of opposition in the Punjab Assembly Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed and MPA Mian Aslam Iqbal demanded release of their 1,500 activists. They also demanded that PTI caravans coming from other provinces be allowed to enter Punjab.

According to the PTI’s provincial media cell, police intensified crackdown on PTI activists across the province and about 1,500 party supporters had been detained in districts of Narowal, Sialkot, Attock, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Mandi Bahauddin, Multan, Muzaffargarh, Rajanpur, Khushab, Mianwali, Sargodha, Dera Ghazi Khan, Chiniot, Faisalabad, Toba Tek Singh and Pakpattan.

Mr Chauhdry and Dr Yasmeen have ordered all PTI district presidents of the party to lodge peaceful protests outside police stations where the activists have been kept.

The media cell said that party chief Imran Khan had strongly condemned unjustified detention of activists.

A convoy of around 2,000 PTI office-bearers and activists led by the party’s Sindh President Nadir Akmal Laghari was stopped by the Rahim Yar Khan police around 3am and was not allowed to enter Punjab. It was still stuck up on the National Highway.

An official of the district police confided to this reporter that the convoy had not been allowed to enter Punjab because of imposition of Section 144 of Cr Pc.

He said the PTI office-bearers didn’t agree when asked by police to proceed on individual basis and hand over about 30 weapons they were carrying.

The official said that R.Y. Khan police had received intelligence from Sindh that people in the caravan carried 30 weapons.

A Lahore police source told Dawn that the government was likely to give free access to PTI for their march and all hurdles at the entry-exist points and on the National Highway would be removed.

He, however, said that PAT workers would not be allowed to hold their march as police crackdown on their office-bearers and activists had intensified and security and hurdles had been doubled in and around the Model Town residence of Dr Tahirul Qadri.

According to the source, Lahore police had arrested 300 PAT activists over the last few days and detained another 18 on Tuesday evening.

Published in Dawn, Aug 13th, 2014

PTI long march: Govt to avoid arresting leaders

Amjad Mahmood

LAHORE: The government has decided not to arrest leaders of the August 14 march but keep the situation under control with ‘administrative’ measures, as mediators continued their efforts to broker a truce between the PML-N and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

LAHORE: The government has decided not to arrest leaders of the August 14 march but keep the situation under control with ‘administrative’ measures, as mediators continued their efforts to broker a truce between the PML-N and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

The decision was taken at a consultative meeting presided over by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at his Raiwind residence here on Monday. It was attended by important members of the federal and Punjab governments and senior leaders of the PML-N.

The meeting discussed the marches on Islamabad the PTI and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) have planned from Lahore on Aug 14.

A participant of the meeting told Dawn that Mr Sharif asked the PML-N leaders and ministers not to get panicked by the protest plans and face the situation in a calm and composed manner.

According to the participant, the prime minister rejected a proposal to take the leadership of PTI and PAT into custody. “There is no question of arresting the leaders. Rather, we’ll see to what extent they may go,” Mr Sharif was quoted as saying.

He also rejected a proposal to bring PML-N workers on the road as a measure to counter the protests. “A clash between parties should be avoided at all cost,” he said, stressing the use of only administrative measures to keep the situation under control.

Know more: Islamabad district administration says ‘no’ to PTI march

On Sunday, Punjab Law Minister Rana Mashhood had said the PML-N would bring hundreds of thousands of its activists on the road and lay siege to the Zaman Park residence of PTI Chairman Imran Khan for thwarting his ‘Azadi march’.

A rally of PML-N workers got entangled in a stone-pelting contest with PTI activists while passing by Mr Khan’s residence on Monday evening, but the prime minister immediately intervened and directed his workers to avoid a clash.

Since Lahore will be the epicentre of political activities on Aug 14 because both the PTI’s ‘Azadi’ and PAT’s ‘Inqilab’ (revolution) marches will start from here, the prime minister is also likely to spend the evening in the provincial capital to personally monitor the situation and issue directives to defuse any untoward development. In the morning (of Aug 14), he will attend the main Independence Day ceremony in Islamabad and then fly to Quetta for inaugurating the restored Ziarat Residency of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

MEDIATION: Jamaat-i-Islami emir Sirajul Haq, who has been trying to broker a deal to end the conflict between the PML-N and PTI for a couple of days, called on Imran Khan at the latter’s residence on Monday night.

According to a PTI leader, Mr Haq brought a fresh proposal from the government that the party would be given a free hand to proceed with its Azadi march, but its participants would not be allowed to stay in Islamabad for more than a day.

In a TV interview, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said the prime minister had allowed the JI emir to hold negotiations with the PTI chief on behalf of the government.

As part of a deal, the government will announce before Aug 14 the opening of the controversial constituencies as demanded by the PTI.

At a function in Islamabad, Prime Minister Sharif again offered Imran Khan an olive branch by announcing his willingness to visit the PTI chief for redressing his grievances.

Shahbaz Sharif also expressed his willingness to meet the PTI chief in the larger national interest, listen to his demands and get them approved from parliament.

APP adds: Addressing a ceremony held in Islamabad to launch the Pakistan Vision 2025 programme, Prime Minister Sharif said no-one would be allowed to sabotage the government’s development agenda.

“The nation has given us a mandate and we do not want to disappoint them by not delivering [on our promises]. People want an end to lawlessness, protection of fundamental rights, end to energy crisis and progress in all areas,” he said.

The prime minister said the nation must decide that democracy and vote were the only way out for Pakistan. “Dictatorship has only brought us misery and trouble. Today the United States, Germany, France and other countries are progressing only because they have democracy.”

Without mentioning the name of Tahirul Qadri, the prime minister said a person from Canada was here with a claim to bring about a revolution in the country. He asked that with his ability to get only 200 votes how could he make tall claims of bringing about a revolution.

“They should have contested the election and come to parliament if they wanted to bring about a change,” he said.

Mr Sharif said he had visited the PTI chief’s residence in the past and was ready to talk to him to resolve all matters amicably.

He regretted that some people were not ready to learn lessons from the experiences of past 65 years and said the country had suffered immensely because of dictatorship that hindered development.

“Who is responsible for sowing the seeds of terrorism in the country; will they be held accountable for it?” he asked.

The prime minister said his government wanted to improve relations with neighbours, including Afghanistan and India, as part of its development plans.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2014

Political crisis discussed by army commanders

Baqir Sajjad Syed

ISLAMABAD: The military top brass on Monday took stock of the emerging political crisis in the country because of agitation planned by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek on Aug 14.

ISLAMABAD: The military top brass on Monday took stock of the emerging political crisis in the country because of agitation planned by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek on Aug 14.

The discussion took place at the Corps Commanders Conference at the GHQ, which was presided by Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif.

A couple of participants confirmed that discussions took place over the “political developments”, but wouldn’t speak about the nature of the deliberations or the conclusions reached because of the sensitivity of the matter.

A statement on the meeting issued by the military’s public affairs wing – ISPR – too did not say anything about the issue and focused on the briefing to the commanders on Operation Zarb-i-Azb in North Waziristan.

The military may have chosen to stay quiet on the matter, but it was not much helpful in quashing speculations that have been doing rounds in the country.

While whispering has been going on, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif gave voice to those fears as he speculated about the “secret hands orchestrating the long marches”.

“It hurts and confuses me – who has given them (PTI and PAT) these agendas,” Mr Sharif asked while speaking at the launch of the government’s economic ‘Vision 2025’.

Meanwhile, the United States has conveyed to the Army that it will not be supporting any extra-constitutional step in the country as a result of the agitation and will apply sanctions in case of such an eventuality.

Troops have been deployed in the federal capital for security since the start of military operation in North Waziristan. This makes it all the more important to see how the military plans its response, when the marchers begin arriving in the city.

Civilian law enforcement agencies have, meanwhile, taken unprecedented steps to stop the marches.

Discussing operation Zarb-i-Azb, the commanders laid stress on not allowing terrorist groups to regroup and return to areas cleared by the military. “Neither will they be allowed any space across the country,” the ISPR statement added.

Gen Raheel Sharif consolidated operational gains made so far by the military in North Waziristan.

In a reference to the government, the COAS hoped that “concerned stakeholders” would make long-term plans for counter-terrorism and counter-extremism.

“Recounting the sacrifices made and cooperation extended by the tribals in fight against terrorism, COAS directed all concerned that no stone be left unturned to assist IDPs during their stay outside and in their early return to their homes,” the ISPR said.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2014

KSE index suffers worst ever one-day fall

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

KARACHI: The stock market suffered on Monday its largest ever one-day drop in share prices with the KSE-100 index witnessing a free fall of 1,309.09 points, or 4.46 per cent.

KARACHI: The stock market suffered on Monday its largest ever one-day drop in share prices with the KSE-100 index witnessing a free fall of 1,309.09 points, or 4.46 per cent.

The index has lost 2,243 points, or 7.56pc, in just six trading sessions, which started the previous week, wiping out Rs486bn from the market capitalisation.

Nervous investors went into panic selling on Monday, apparently because of uncertainty about Aug 14 when some political parties will march on Islamabad with avowed threats to force the government to step down.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2014

Imran comes up with details of alleged poll rigging

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: On Monday afternoon, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan further raised the political temperatures in the country by sharing his detailed findings on the alleged rigging carried out by the PML-N in May 2013.

ISLAMABAD: On Monday afternoon, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan further raised the political temperatures in the country by sharing his detailed findings on the alleged rigging carried out by the PML-N in May 2013.

As the party had promised, the PTI chief presented an account of the rigging carried out during the general election, identifying a number of those who allegedly made it possible.

Khan named the former Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, former caretaker chief minister Najam Sethi, retired senior judge of the Supreme Court, Khalilur Rehman Ramday, and three senior serving officials of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) as having played a role in the rigging.

Though based on testimonies of individuals who have not so far come forward, the allegations provoked the government into reacting fast and furiously.

Government strikes back

By night, reactions (in the form of denials) came from those accused. Justice Ramday and Mr Sethi denied the charges while talking to news channels and Punjab Election Commissioner Mehboob Anwar addressing a press conference in Karachi. Justice Kiyani, according to his staff, will issue a detailed reply on Tuesday (today).

Around the same time, Prime Minister’s daughter also tweeted that her father would address the nation the next day, which was then confirmed by the government.

Irfan Siddiqui, the prime minister’s adviser explained that the Prime Minister would explain his government’s performance and its stance over the ongoing political situation.

An official of the prime minister office told Dawn that the decision was taken at the Lahore meeting. “The party feels that now that Dr Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan have joined hands against the government, the prime minister should take the people into confidence, before it’s too late,” he said.

Addressing the media outside on a humid afternoon, Mr Khan used cricketing terms to explain the role of the key players who allegedly used their official positions to influence the outcome of the election results. “Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Justice (retired) Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry played as the opening batsman for the Sharif brothers, setting the stage for a sweeping election victory in Punjab for them.”

He painted a vivid picture worthy of a thriller in which election cells worked on the quiet, reaching out to junior officials; where personal loyalties mobilised those employed by the state; and nervous politicians and dishonest bureaucrats worked hand in glove to print ballot papers on the side.

But it was a story that appeared to be more than fiction because people were identified.

‘Former CJ was the opening batsman’:

According to Mr Khan, it was on the insistence of the former CJ that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) agreed to appoint judicial officers as returning officers who administratively didn’t fall under the control of the then Chief Election Commissioner, Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim.

Khan claimed that Justice (retd) Riaz Kiyani, who had a former association with the Sharif family, was the ECP member from the Punjab and he allegedly worked in collaboration with the former CJ.

He then explained how the more neutral officials were transferred out.

“The then Punjab election commissioner Mr Tariq Qadri was directed by the ECP to remove my portraits from Lahore as they were in violation of election laws. Mr Qadri pointed out that the PML-N was guilty of the same transgression. He was transferred to Sindh,” Khan said.

Clad in a dark-coloured shalwar kameez and constantly wiping his brow due to the humid weather, Khan told that Mr Qadri had himself explained to him how the pre-poll rigging was managed.

‘The Election cell’

The PTI chief added that in place of Mr Qadri, Justice Kiyani had Mahboob Anwar appointed as the election commissioner of Punjab while Justice (retd) Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday was tasked by the Sharif family to set up an election cell.

According to Khan, Justice Ramday managed everything from behind the scenes such as a reception where some of the ROs were addressed by the former CJ.

“It was Justice Ramday’s idea to have Nawaz Sharif make an early victory speech, in which he asked for a clear majority.”

Mr Khan claimed that as the voting had stopped by then, the PML-N chief was asking the ROs to ensure his clear majority.

But these were not the only culprits in Khan’s account.

‘Stuffing the boxes’

He reserved harsher words for the Punjab Election Commissioner, Mr Anwar, who allegedly, had new ballot papers printed two days before the election – on May 9.

These ballot papers, said the PTI chief, were sent to five divisions of Punjab, comprising 98 National Assembly constituencies.

Mr Anwar continues to be chief election commissioner in Punjab; he is on an extension.

Flanked by Javed Hashmi on the one side and Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Jahangir Tarin on the other, Mr Khan claimed that the ballot papers were printed by private printing presses. “These are the ballot papers which can’t be verified; if this is investigated by an independent inquiry commission, it will prove that rigging took place,” he said.

Mr Khan explained that the party could prove its allegation through eyewitnesses, the testimonies would be provided at the appropriate time and forum, because the witnesses had to be kept safe while the Sharif family was in power.

‘Finance, Home and Education’

Najam Sethi, the former caretaker chief minister, was also accused of being part of the ‘rigging’ as he allegedly transferred around many officers but didn’t touch the people heading education, finance and home who used their respective departments to help the PML-N win the election.

For instance, 100,000 ad hoc teachers were regularised in Punjab shortly before the election; the home secretary ensured the presence of key (or loyal) police officials in key places and the secretary finance ensured that the development projects begun by the PML-N continued to be completed.

Mr Khan claimed that in response of their services, the then secretary finance Tariq Bajwa was appointed Chairman FBR, and secretary home, Shahid Khan, secretary interior in the federal government. Similarly, he said Mr Sethi was awarded the PCB chairmanship while Justice Ramday’s son Mustafa Ramday won the slot of advocate general Punjab, his brother Asad Ramday became an MNA and a niece was given a reserved seat.

Secretary election commission Ishtiaq Ahmad Khan has also been given an extension because of the role he played in May last year, said Mr Khan.

Mr Khan reiterated that his party’s struggle will remain within the parameters of the constitution, adding that true democracy was not possible in Pakistan as long as the Sharif family ran the show and the culprits for May 13 not held accountable.

He also added — ominously — that re-election is the only way forward.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2014

PM to address nation today

APP

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will address the nation on Tuesday.

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will address the nation on Tuesday.

According to Special Assistant to Prime Minister Irfan Siddiqui, the premier in his address will take the nation into confidence about the government’s performance and the current political situation in the country.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2014

In a first, NA puts AGP in the dock

Raja Asghar

ISLAMABAD: Making history, the National Assembly on Monday put the government’s top audit official, Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP), in the dock, charging him with “misconduct” for having received more than Rs4.6 million in what it called “excess salary and privileges” in about three years and demanding his removal through a presidential reference to the Supreme Judicial Council.

ISLAMABAD: Making history, the National Assembly on Monday put the government’s top audit official, Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP), in the dock, charging him with “misconduct” for having received more than Rs4.6 million in what it called “excess salary and privileges” in about three years and demanding his removal through a presidential reference to the Supreme Judicial Council.

In the first such action in Pakistan’s parliamentary history, the house unanimously adopted a special report of its Public Accounts Committee (PAC) demanding the recovery from AGP Muhammad Akhtar Buland Rana a total of Rs46,278,13 paid to him as allegedly excess pay or allowances and expenses of fuel and repair for two unauthorised vehicles.

Know more: Tug of war for prized post of AG Sindh

Lawmakers from almost all parliamentary groups in the house and both sides of aisle supported the report presented by PAC chairman Khursheed Ahmed Shah, who is also the leader of opposition, based on a report of a multi-party sub-committee that investigated the charges, which first emanated from a newspaper report.

While some lawmakers called the alleged refusal of the AGP to appear before the inquiry sub-committee a breach of the privilege of the entire house, the PAC’s final report made four specific charges against him, including that he, “being responsible to safeguard the interest of the government of Pakis­tan, has not ensured accountability and fiscal transparency in government operations”.

The other charges were that the AGP “tarnished the image of … (his) constitutional position and its credibility by drawing excessive salary and allowances”, acted “against the law in financial matters for his personal benefit”, and “deliberately violated the oath of auditor-general’s office”.

The report also called for initiating disciplinary action against Manzar Hafeez Mian, the then accountant general of Pakistan revenues, and Farhad Khan, the then controller general of accounts.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2014

Imran Khan’s statement: Sethi, Ramday reject allegations

Zulqernain Tahir

LAHORE: Former caretaker chief minister of Punjab Najam Sethi has said that Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan is accusing him and others of rigging the 2013 elections at the behest of what he called the “third force”.

LAHORE: Former caretaker chief minister of Punjab Najam Sethi has said that Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan is accusing him and others of rigging the 2013 elections at the behest of what he called the “third force”.

“Imran Khan is dancing to the tune of the ‘third force’ and, therefore, he has started believing in the conspiracy theory that the May 2013 elections were rigged,” Mr Sethi told Dawn in reaction to the allegations levelled against him by Mr Khan.

“I wonder how Mr Khan could believe in the conspiracy theory. On his recommendation I did not appoint Chaudhry Zaman as chief secretary of Punjab. I transferred at least 15 officers who were considered close to the Sharifs. The Sharifs were not happy over this.

Also read: PTI does not support martial law, says Imran

“I brought upright officers for the posts of chief secretary, additional chief secretary and home secretary and nobody could point a finger at their work,” he said, adding that the education secretary had not been removed at the request of the then British ambassador because a project worth millions of British pounds was under way in the province.

“The health secretary also was in the middle of negotiations with the World Bank for a grant of Rs4 billion for a project. He was also effectively controlling measles epidemic. As far as the finance secretary was concerned he was a competent officer and funds had already been frozen after the election schedule was announced,” Mr Sethi said.

He said Mr Khan should have blamed either him for being the caretaker chief minister or returning officers for the rigging. “Either the ROs or the caretaker chief minister could be involved in the rigging, and not both.”

Mr Sethi, a former chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, said he would send a legal notice to Mr Khan for levelling baseless allegations that he did not pay taxes. “I have never got a single penny of tax waived.”

He said: “Imran Khan was a good friend of mine. He turned against me when he bought the elections conspiracy theory. Besides, he (Imran) had reservations on columns about him published in The Friday Times. When a book was published on these columns and sold in the UK, Mr Khan got angry.”

JUSTICE RAMDAY: Retired Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday, a former judge of the Supreme Court, dismissed as baseless the allegations levelled by the PTI chief against him.

Talking to a private TV channel, he said: “It appears that some allies of Imran Khan are misguiding him. I have the right to take legal action against the PTI chief.”

Retired Justice Riaz Kayani denied to have met Sharif brothers.

“I met Ramday as a friend and no words on elections were exchanged. I never met Pervez Malik either,” he said.

Mahboob Anwar said a provincial election commissioner could not increase the number of ballot papers. “Hence, there is no question of printing extra ballot papers,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2014

Qadri to march side by side with Imran

Amjad Mahmood

LAHORE: Adding a political twist to his campaign, the chief of Pakistan Awami Tehreek, Dr Tahirul Qadri, announced on Sunday that his ‘Inqilab’ march would move side by side with the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s ‘Azadi’ march on Aug 14.

LAHORE: Adding a political twist to his campaign, the chief of Pakistan Awami Tehreek, Dr Tahirul Qadri, announced on Sunday that his ‘Inqilab’ march would move side by side with the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s ‘Azadi’ march on Aug 14.

“We will be encamping here for the next three days,” Dr Qadri said while addressing thousands of his supporters gathered outside the headquarters of the PAT and Minhajul Quran in Model Town after braving a harsh lockdown to the city by the government. “And on August 14 we will start our Inqilab march”.

Before the announcement, there was a great deal of speculation about what Dr Qadri planned to do next: would he take some new action or wind up his campaign.

The declaration was a vindication of the efforts made by some political leaders —particularly Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and Sheikh Rashid — who had been working hard for some kind of an arrangement between the forces led by Dr Qadri and Imran Khan.

Dr Qadri’s ‘revolutionary’ endeavour got the much-needed impetus from the way the Punjab government handled the latest episode in the Qadri series on Sunday – which was described by many as an overreaction.

Lahore was declared out of bounds for PAT workers days ahead of the Sunday event planned to pay homage to victims of the June 17 Model Town tragedy. There was a brief respite when senior police officers ordered removal of some of the containers placed at various places in Lahore and in other cities and towns across Punjab on Saturday evening. This was done amid reports of serious shortage of fuel and essential items of everyday use in the provincial capital because of the blockade of roads.

But on Sunday the containers were back at places around the venue of the event. But this was not enough to prevent charged PAT supporters from converging at Model Town.

Much of Dr Qadri’s speech was on the theme of martyrdom and he invoked examples from history and religious sayings for the maximum impact. He paid tribute to the ‘martyrs of Model Town’ as well as the army soldiers who had sacrificed their lives in the ongoing Zarb-i-Azb operation in North Waziristan. And then he spoke of his own impending ‘Shahadat’.

The PAT chief said his was a non-violent movement, but at the climax of his speech he urged his supporters to take revenge if he was assassinated. “Don’t spare any male member of the Sharif family and those members of the ‘kitchen’ cabinet”. He spelled out his ‘will’ and asked his followers to pledge to abide by it.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan has issued a similar directive to his workers.

Going a step further, the fiery cleric also directed his followers not to spare anyone betraying and abandoning the Inqilab march.

In the same defiant tone, he asked his followers who would be staying outside the Minhajul Quran headquarters for three days not to take the police’s bullying lying down. “Teach a lesson to the beast. Don’t let him indulge in cruelty against anyone.”

Dr Qadri, who has been nominated in at least one murder case of a constable in Lahore and about a dozen cases of treason and terrorism, directed his followers to conserve their energy for the final push on Aug 14 and not to initiate any clash with police now. He said they should move out of the camp only in emergency but in a group of at least 100 members.

The activists were asked to stay put around the PAT offices, apparently to avert any possibility of their failure to reassemble in the face of strong-arm tactics the government might use.

And possibly not satisfied with the present strength of the people at the camp for launching the march, the PAT chief asked his followers to continue to come to Model Town.

Meanwhile, a multi-layer security cover for Dr Qadri has been put in place by the PAT. The first layer consists of well-built security professionals, including women, who had accompanied him from Canada. Private security guards have been hired from a local agency for the second layer and around 2,000 club-wielding Mustafavi Students Organisation’s activists, including women, for the third security layer.

But PAT officials said that only volunteers were protecting their leader.

Hasan Mohyuddin, son of Dr Qadri who was active until four days ago, has been ‘missing’ from the scene for a couple of days, apparently as part of a plan to provide second tier of leadership in case his farther is arrested.

Earlier, a delegation of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement led by Rasheed Godail, Ameenul Haq and others carrying food and medical supplies for ‘besieged’ PAT activists was denied entry into Model Town. They were given permission to move to the camp only after MQM chief Altaf Husain gave a half-an-hour ultimatum through a TV channel of paralysing the entire country if that was not done.

PML-Q leaders Chaudhry Shujaat and Pervaiz Elahi left their Gulberg residence in a caravan to attend the Model Town event in the afternoon. People in the caravan were first stopped at the Jinnah Hospital barricade but later allowed to go to the PAT offices on foot.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2014

‘Tsunami’ to hit capital on Aug 14 as planned

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: This Independence Day may be the most eventful in recent memory, as the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) resolved on Sunday to proceed with its Azadi March as planned, party insiders told Dawn.

ISLAMABAD: This Independence Day may be the most eventful in recent memory, as the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) resolved on Sunday to proceed with its Azadi March as planned, party insiders told Dawn.

During a meeting of the party’s core committee held in the capital, Imran Khan painstakingly dispelled an impression that his party was pursuing back-channel talks with the government and that the march may be called off.

He stuck to his stance of ‘no negotiations’ and declared that the August 14 demonstration was the only thing on his mind.

A PTI member who was present at the meeting told Dawn that the meeting, held at Mr Khan’s Bani Gala residence, focused on the preparation for the upcoming march on the capital.

“As long as I am alive, I am prepared to even walk to Islamabad on August 14, come what may,” Mr Khan was quoted as saying during the meeting. He has consistently referred to this march as a turning point in the history of the country and alleges that he has damning evidence of widespread rigging in the 2013 general elections, which he has promised to share with demonstrators on Independence Day.

Ahead of the meeting, PTI office-bearers, particularly those from other cities, were quite concerned about the party’s own lack of clarity and had been anxiously awaiting details of the plan for the Azadi March.

They were concerned by reports of political manoeuvring that indicated that the party might have struck a deal with the government and the long march was simply going to be an opportunity to announce the party’s gains.

According to a member of the core committee, these concerns were passed on to Mr Khan, who spent a good deal of time during the two-hour meeting explaining to party leaders that they should not heed reports of any mediation between the party and the government and concentrate on the march instead.

A statement released after the meeting carried a similar message, saying: “The core committee sent its workers a clear message — that they must make it to Islamabad at all costs and should come prepared with all essential supplies (such as food and fuel). The core committee resolved that PTI workers and leaders would come to Islamabad even if they had to walk the distance.”

Talking about the demands that the PTI chief was expected to announce in his speech on August 14, another party leader said they had broadly decided that they wanted sweeping electoral reforms, including the reconstitution of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and a re-election across the country. However, he said, a set of detailed demands would be included in the chairman’s speech, to be finalised later.

In the statement, the party warned the government to be careful in their handling of the Azadi March and reiterated that if anything were to happen the government of the day would be held responsible.

The committee called on the ruling PML-N to remove all roadblocks and containers immediately and reopen petrol stations.

It demanded that the Punjab government immediately implement a Lahore High Court order asking for the release of all impounded motorcycles.

Fearing the possibility that their leader might be arrested, the committee declared that any attempt to take Imran Khan into custody, even if for “his own safekeeping”, would be met with the full strength of party workers and leaders.

To a question, the core committee member told Dawn that the party had a ‘Plan B’ in place as well, in case the government did not allow marchers to enter the capital or tried to keep party leaders from leading the demonstration.

“We hope the government will not stop us from exercising our democratic right because in doing so, it will only create problems for itself. Reaching Islamabad on August 14 is a do-or-die matter for the party now,” the source said.

Separately, the PTI core committee said it would demand compensation from the Sharifs for all those whose livelihood was affected by the roadblocks put in place by the government.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, PTI President Javed Hashmi said the party would not support the imposition of martial law and warned the government against resorting to high-handed tactics.

PTI chief Imran Khan is expected to address a press conference on Monday at his Bani Gala residence. According to the party, he will expose “a grand conspiracy to rig the 2013 general elections in favour of the PML-N”.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2014

Shahbaz apologises to people for inconvenience and hardship

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

LAHORE: Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has apologised to people for the inconvenience caused by ‘measures’ taken by the government in the face of ‘violent activities’ in the province.

LAHORE: Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has apologised to people for the inconvenience caused by ‘measures’ taken by the government in the face of ‘violent activities’ in the province.

The chief minister said in a statement issued here on Sunday that he was aware of the problems faced by the people of the province, particularly those travelling between cities, due to protective measures.

He said the government had taken the measures reluctantly because no government could allow ‘mischievous’ elements to play with people’s life and property.

Also read: Big Lahore lockdown

The chief minister said that damaging public and private property, setting police stations on fire and torturing policemen to death by PAT workers had proved that without such steps taken by the administration, the enemies of peace would have crossed all limits of violence and lawlessness.

He expressed deep sorrow over policemen’s death and said he shared the grief of the bereaved families.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2014

Imran welcomes decision

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

​ISLAMABAD: ​Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan has welcomed Dr Tahirul Qadri’s decision to hold his Inqilab march on Aug 14 when the PTI plans to march on Islamabad.

​ISLAMABAD: ​Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan has welcomed Dr Tahirul Qadri’s decision to hold his Inqilab march on Aug 14 when the PTI plans to march on Islamabad.

Mr Khan said in a statement that PTI had already urged all democratic forces to join the movement for strengthening democracy in the country and getting rid of the current ‘Badshahi Nizam’ of the Sharif family.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2014

Imran spurns PM’s olive branch?

Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD: Saturday proved quite an eventful day in the capital as observers scrambled to keep up with fast-changing political developments.

ISLAMABAD: Saturday proved quite an eventful day in the capital as observers scrambled to keep up with fast-changing political developments.

Signalling his exasperation with backchannel diplomacy, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan said he would not entertain any more mediators, even as the prime minister made friendly overtures towards the party whose protests have been a thorn in the government’s side for some months now.

With the country’s civilian and military leadership bearing witness, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif used his opening remarks at the National Security Conference to extend an olive branch to the PTI, saying that his party was prepared to accept the demand for a recount on 10 National Assembly seats, as conveyed to him by Jamaat-i-Islami emir Sirajul Haq at Mr Khan’s behest.

“The country cannot afford any more confrontation as it is dealing with the scourge of terrorism, a debilitating energy crisis and an already weak economy,” he told the audience, which was taken aback by this infusion of politics into an otherwise security-themed event.

Mr Sharif’s speech, which was broadcast live by state television, was the first overt gesture towards reconciliation on behalf of the government, indicating that the government was serious about negotiating with the PTI.

The PM made these remarks in front of nearly everybody who had been working to negotiate a truce between the on-the-warpath PTI and the overly defensive ruling party.

But jubilation among those who thought the impasse was at an end was short-lived. Wasting no time, PTI’s information secretary Shireen Mazari denied the party had asked the Jamaat to convey any message to Nawaz Sharif.

Mr Sirajul Haq had been carrying messages between the premier and the PTI leader over the past week. However, the Jamaat’s secretary general Liaquat Baloch said that they were only concerned with what the two leaders – Mr Sharif and Mr Khan – had to say and were not worried by political posturing from any other party member.

Downplaying the PTI chief’s apparent spurning of talks, he said the party had done its bit for political reconciliation and hoped that their efforts would soon bear fruit.

Syed Khursheed Shah, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, who has been among those at the forefront of rapprochement efforts, said on Saturday that no politician could afford to close the door on negotiations and the government should allow the “Azadi March” to proceed as planned.

PTI marches on

“Now no delegation should come to me,” Imran Khan told reporters outside his Bani Gala residence on Saturday evening, referring to the possibility of a meeting with JI leaders.

The PTI chief said that the government would be responsible if any harm came to him, calling upon party workers to “take revenge on the Sharif brothers” if anything happened to him.

Saying that his party would be available for negotiations only after the Azadi March, he insisted that the he had not sent the PM any messages through the JI.

Talking to Dawn, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the party had never asked for a recount on 10 seats. “We only want fresh elections. We have some other demands as well, which will be revealed on the Independence Day.”

Mr Qureshi said his party would go ahead with the march even if rulers accepted all of the PTI’s demands. “We want to show the real face of the government to the people,” he said, alleging that the government had already blocked all major highways linking Islamabad with the rest of the country.

Political commentators believe that Mr Khan has reached the point of no return and cannot afford to cancel the August 14 demonstration without doing considerable damage to his political clout.

“Mr Sirajul Haq is a respected politician and we have no reasons to distrust him,” said Mr Rashid, who met the JI leader at the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa House just after the security conference. Railways Minister Saad Rafique accompanied him.

The information minister told Dawn the JI leaders had told him that they were in touch with Mr Khan through KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak.

Mr Rashid also said that the PTI had not officially informed the Islamabad administration about its plans for Independence Day.

Asked if the government would allow the PTI to hold the demonstration in the capital without any intimation, Mr Rashid refused to comment, saying that the government would wait till Aug 14 for a word from the PTI.

Liaquat Baloch, the Jamaat secretary general, also refused to comment on contradictory claims coming out from both parties, saying simply: “Things will become clearer when the time comes.”

Saturday’s National Security Conference had a decidedly political tinge, as nearly all political parties that had been working to mend fences between the government and the PTI were represented at the event.

Although the government insisted all parties that were represented in the National Assembly had been invited, the PML-Q, Sheikh Rashid’s Awami Muslim League and Pervez Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League were conspicuous by their absence. The PTI chose to boycott the event, which meant that KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak did not attend.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar also could not make it to the venue owing to bad weather.

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2014

Govt, army urged to make long-term strategy to curb terrorism

Baqir Sajjad Syed

ISLAMABAD: The political leaders attending a national security conference here on Saturday endorsed Operation Zarb-i-Azb and underscored the need for bringing to logical conclusion efforts to eliminate the terrorist infrastructure in the tribal areas.

ISLAMABAD: The political leaders attending a national security conference here on Saturday endorsed Operation Zarb-i-Azb and underscored the need for bringing to logical conclusion efforts to eliminate the terrorist infrastructure in the tribal areas.

They asked the government and the military to address extremism and work out a long-term strategy for eliminating militancy and terrorism.

The conference, convened by the government for a briefing on Zarb-i-Azb, was attended by the leaders of parties represented in the National Assembly and military commanders.

This was the second conference on militancy in 12 months – the previous one held on Sept 9 last year had authorised the government to hold dialogue with the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan.

“There was absolute unanimity of views on the need to evolve a strategy to eliminate terrorism on a long-term basis. The meeting also agreed to work to address extremism,” a statement said.

A senior parliamentarian, who attended the conference, said he witnessed “rare consensus” among the political leaders against extremism and terrorism, some of whom even called for action against sectarianism.

The media statement on the conference also noted “the rejection of terrorists and their ideology” by the political parties and the nation as a whole.

The parties stressed upon the government to ensure effective border management to prevent the terrorists from returning to the region.

In this regard, the government was asked to engage Afghanistan politically and diplomatically for removing lingering distrust.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while speaking at the conference, recalled the circumstances that led to the launch of the military operation after his dialogue initiative failed.

Terrorism, he said, had resulted in massive casualties among civilians and security personnel, besides causing huge loss to the national economy.

Endorsing the military operation in North Waziristan, “representatives of all political and religious parties agreed that the state has to fight and eliminate militancy”.

The participants were told that the military operation and contingency planning for pre-empting the feared blowback had been given the required legal and constitutional cover through the invocation of Article 245.

The parliamentary leaders were given a briefing by the director general of military operations on the progress in the operation and handling of the displaced people.

The conference was told that terrorists were on the run and their command and control system had been crippled.

Efforts were also being made to block financing of terrorism, the participants were informed.

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2014

Clashes between PAT workers, police intensify in Punjab

Faisal Ali Ghumman

LAHORE: Clashes between Pakistan Awami Tehrik chairman Dr Tahirul Qadri’s supporters and the Punjab police intensified on Saturday, leaving a constable dead and a number of people, including PAT protesters, injured across the province.

LAHORE: Clashes between Pakistan Awami Tehrik chairman Dr Tahirul Qadri’s supporters and the Punjab police intensified on Saturday, leaving a constable dead and a number of people, including PAT protesters, injured across the province.

Meanwhile, one of the policemen injured in a Lahore clash two days ago died at Lahore General Hospital.

There were contradictory claims from the PML-N government and Dr Qadri about the number of people killed, injured and detained in the clashes that erupted on Friday.

Qadri put the death toll of his party workers at eight while Punjab police insisted that only one Pakis­tan Awami Tahrik worker and a policeman lost their lives in the clashes.

Qadri told a news conference at PAT headquarters that his party had lost eight activists while almost 2,000 others suffered injuries and 20,000 were detained in different parts of the province. How­ever, Punjab police refuted the claim.

Police registered two more cases in Lahore under multiple sections of Pakistan Penal Code, 16-Miante­nnace of Public Order and 7-Anti-Terrorism Act on behalf of state against PAT leaders and activists for allegedly beating gunmen of the Lahore DCO and a judge, snatching weapons from security personnel, damaging vehicles and motorcycles, and holding six policemen hostage.

Police also arrested over 350 PAT activists in connection with multiple cases.

Know more: [Azadi] march madness: 4 days to go

Official statistics available with Dawn showed that Punjab police had detained as many as 1,310 PAT activists since the start of clashes on Friday.

Police version

According to a police spokeswoman, an Elite force constable, identified as 34-year-old Muhammad Fayyaz, died after he was allegedly tortured by PAT protesters at Bhera interchange on the Motorway.

She said up to 135 policemen were injured in 20 clashes, 22 made hostage while many others had gone missing.

She further said PAT workers had damaged police stations and vehicles, besides burning government record.

According to her, PAT workers used nail-studded sticks, slings, stones, knives and other weapons in their attacks on police.

Gujranwala City Police Officer Waqas Nazir; DSPs Rashid Sindhu, Rana Shafique and Abid Ghani; Inspectors Ghazanfar, Khadim, and Safdar; SIs Irshad Hussain, Riaz Hussain, Ahmad Shabbir and T/ASI Nasir suffered serious injuries.

Nine officials were injured in Lahore, 55 in Gujranwala, one in Okara, 25 in Bhakkar, 14 in Jhang, 13 in Rawalpindi, nine in districts of Sargodha and four in Toba Tek Singh.

As many as 55 police officials were injured in a clash with PAT activists on National Highway near toll plazas of Kamoki and Sadhoki in Gujranwala district.

In Sargodha district, 20 policemen and an equal number of PAT workers were injured in scuffles. The PAT alleged that a constable of the Elite force died in an accidental fire by his colleagues.

However, according to a source in Motorway police, the shooting took place during a clash between PAT activists and police on M-II.

A team of Sargodha’s regional police officer rescued 15 people allegedly made hostage by PAT workers at Bhera Interchange Motorway II.

Activists of the PAT, police alleged, also took 19 cops hostage in Attock, Jhelum and Chakwal districts of Rawalpindi region. In Jhelum, 12 Punjab Constabulary men suffered stone injuries. In Toba Tek Singh and Jhang, four policemen were injured and a vehicle damaged.

On orders of the provincial police chief, Lahore police removed containers and barriers from 10 entry/exist points.

Lahore DIG (Operations) Dr Haider Ashraf told Dawn that police constable Muhammad Ashraf of Narowal, who was doing guard duty outside the residence of former law minister Khalid Ranjha in Faisal Town, was taken hostage, dragged and beaten with clubs by PAT activists. He said Ashraf died of head wound at the LGH.

He, however, said containers and barriers would remain in place on all roads leading to Model Town and Faisal Town till further orders.

Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif announced a financial assistance of Rs10million for the heirs of constable Fayyaz. He also announced an assistance of Rs500,000 each for police officials injured at Bhera.

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2014

AJK villager’s body handed over by India

Tariq Naqash

MUZAFFARABAD: A day after Pakistan returned an Indian Border Security Force (BSF) soldier as a good will gesture, authorities in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) received on Saturday the body of a villager killed by the Indian troops along the Line of Control (LoC).

MUZAFFARABAD: A day after Pakistan returned an Indian Border Security Force (BSF) soldier as a good will gesture, authorities in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) received on Saturday the body of a villager killed by the Indian troops along the Line of Control (LoC).

Kala Khan, 42, had gone missing while cutting grass for his animals near the unmarked dividing line outside his Darra Sher Khan village in Poonch district on Wednesday. He was later reported to have been captured by Indian army patrol personnel.

However, despite reports in the Pakistani media to this effect, there was no word from the Indian side.

“This morning we received intimation from the Indian held side that they want to handover a body. However, they did not provide any information beforehand about the identity of the deceased,” Malik Ayub Awan, assistant commissioner Hajira, told Dawn.

Mr Awan was part of an official team which received the body at Tetrinote-Chakan da Bagh crossing point in Poonch division at about 3:30 pm.

From the Indian-held side, an army officer of the rank of a lieutenant and some others in civvies had arrived to deliver the body, placed in a wooden box and draped in a plastic sheet, he said.

According to Mr Ayub, the body bore gunshot wounds at the ribs, chest and abdomen and was swollen, suggesting that the death had taken place two to three days ago.

Initially, relatives of the deceased – his cousin and nephew – failed to identify him as their kin, but an old wound on his left arm, mentioned on his CNIC as identification mark, helped them recognise him, he said.

On being asked by the AJK authorities, the Indian army official maintained that he had been handed over the body at a hospital in (occupied) Poonch city in the morning for transference to the Pakistani side.

“I don’t know where it has been brought from and when,” Mr Ayub quoted him as telling them.

He said the Indian official did not give them any document from any civilian authority in occupied Kashmir, including the Poonch city hospital doctors, about the death of Kala Khan.

Know more: Indian BSF soldier says he had ‘comfortable’ stay in Pakistan

Deputy Commissioner Poonch Chaudhry Fareed told Dawn that the postmortem report conducted in Hajira had revealed that Kala Khan was shot from point blank range.

“This obviously suggests that he was first captured and then shot dead in cold blood,” he said.

Meanwhile, AJK Prime Minister Chaudhry Abdul Majeed has strongly condemned the killing of an innocent civilian by Indian troops, terming it yet another manifestation of Indian army’s aggressiveness in the disputed Kashmir region.

Footprints: Shrine to the Disappeared

Saher Baloch

IT couldn’t be more ironic. As we enter Marri Camp, near Shalkot — an area outside Quetta playing host to an estimated 100,000 members of the Marri tribe — songs lauding the land that is Pakistan start playing on the radio. At a nearby peak, flags installed by the separatists fly high. A feeling of being completely unwelcome follows.

IT couldn’t be more ironic. As we enter Marri Camp, near Shalkot — an area outside Quetta playing host to an estimated 100,000 members of the Marri tribe — songs lauding the land that is Pakistan start playing on the radio. At a nearby peak, flags installed by the separatists fly high. A feeling of being completely unwelcome follows.

Mud houses — some intact, some caving in due to continuing search operations or plain neglect — can be seen. As the song continues our car swerves on the dirt path leading towards the final resting place of the Marri chieftain, Khair Baksh Marri. What was earlier a bare graveyard is now under a tent, surrounded by carpets, and equipped with a solar panel and a water cooler. In the middle is a graveyard with flags of independent Balochistan flying above, most of them handmade, and on the right of the rugged plain white plaques are installed row after row.

Some of the plaques carry in Balochi the names of those who have disappeared over the years. Each has a name of the missing person, his tribe, date of birth, date of disappearance and of recovery (if someone is found, that is) inscribed in black. Other plaques are blank, waiting to be inscribed, I am curtly informed.

Most people, the majority of them men, refuse to speak. Those who do, speak in monosyllables. Two months have passed since the memorial was rebuilt. It was destroyed by the Frontier Corps a few days after it was built three months back. “They didn’t want this place to turn into a mazaar [shrine],” says a journalist speaking on the condition of anonymity. “But that’s exactly what happened soon after the Marri chieftain passed away and he was laid to rest here. People want to know where the disappeared are. Many know the answer, but are too scared to articulate it.”

When it comes to the disappeared of Balochistan, the answers are very few. Seven months ago, a shepherd found “bones lying around a mound in Tootak”. Though a judicial tribunal was formed on Feb 1 by the provincial government and Balochistan High Court judge Noor Mohammad Meskanzai went to investigate the graves as head of the tribunal, the findings of the report are still awaited. It was reported a few weeks ago that the report had been given to the chief minister of Balochistan and a decision on whether or not to make the report public would be made after his visit from abroad. Now, it is said the report is sealed and will be made public after the permission of the Supreme Court that took suo motu notice of the case earlier this year.

“This report will never come to the fore,” says a high court lawyer who is not authorised to speak to the media because he accompanied the tribunal during the judicial inquiry. “It is similar to the Hamoodur Rehman Commission formed in 1972. The original report never came out, though there was public outcry and debate over the atrocities committed in what was formerly East Pakistan.” He added that most people who were part of the tribunal on mass graves “are either being sidelined or facing threats by some elements actively involved in disturbing the law and order of Balochistan. Since becoming a part of this commission, my phones are being tapped. And I have to constantly prove my loyalty to my country rather than my expertise as a lawyer.”

A few more bodies were found in March after the discovery of the graves in February. “We believed that an area that has been tampered with will reveal itself as a possible mass grave,” says the lawyer. “But a few of the graves we later found were in the ground that didn’t seem like it had been touched for years. This means the mass graves have not been a recent phenomenon. But who’d say that, without losing their life?”

Fighting for the recovery of the missing persons since 2009, after receiving his son’s mutilated body, Abdul Qadeer Baloch — better known as Mama Qadeer — holds a vigil at the press club every day. But this afternoon he wants to speak about a security guard that has been deputed outside his camp. “I don’t want to be killed by him,” he says. “I have been sitting here for years now, where was the security then, and why now?” Calming down a little eventually, he speaks about the report and says it will be published for sure. “When half of those responsible are settled abroad or retired or dead or no longer worthy of being protected.”

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2014

Modi greets Pakistanis on Independence Day

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has extended greetings to the people of Pakistan on the country’s 68th Independence Day.

ISLAMABAD: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has extended greetings to the people of Pakistan on the country’s 68th Independence Day.

“On the occasion of their Independence Day, I convey my greetings to the people of Pakistan,” said a tweet on Indian leader’s twitter account.

A statement by the Press Information Bureau of India also said, “The prime minister has greeted the people of Pakistan on their Independence Day.”

Mr Modi’s greetings followed accusations by him two days ago that Pakistan was carrying out a proxy war in Kashmir.

Skirmishes along the Line of Control have rekindled tensions between the two countries that were looking forward to a meeting of the foreign secretaries scheduled for Aug 25 for finding the way forward in the bilateral relationship.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while speaking at the official Independence Day ceremony, had called for settlement of the Kashmir issue.

“In all seriousness, we want peaceful resolution of Kashmir issue so that this source of tension could be removed and the two countries could progress in their ties,” Mr Sharif said.

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2014

Militant siege in Iraq broken but air strikes to continue, says Obama

AFP

DOHUK: US President Barack Obama declared on Thursday that America broke the siege of Mount Sinjar in Iraq, where thousands of civilians were trapped, but said air strikes against the militants would go on.

DOHUK: US President Barack Obama declared on Thursday that America broke the siege of Mount Sinjar in Iraq, where thousands of civilians were trapped, but said air strikes against the militants would go on.

The UN refugee agency had said tens of thousands of civilians, many of them from the Yazidi religious minority, were at one point trapped on Mount Sinjar by fighters of the Islamic State (IS) group, which has overrun swathes of Iraq and Syria.

“The situation on the mountain has greatly improved and Americans should be very proud of our efforts because the skill and professionalism of our military and the generosity of our people, we broke the (IS) siege of Mount Sinjar,” Mr Obama said in a statement to reporters.

“We helped save many innocent lives. Because of these efforts, we do not expect (there) to be an additional operation to evacuate people off the mountain and it’s unlikely we’re going to need to continue humanitarian air drops on the mountain,” he said.

But he added that the air strikes, which were begun on August 8, would go on. “We will continue air strikes to protect our people and facilities in Iraq,” the president said.

He had cited the risk to the US consulate in Erbil as a reason for the military intervention.

The US sent a military assessment team to Mount Sinjar, while it and other countries have dropped food and water to those stranded on the mountain.

Iraqi helicopters also delivered aid and flew civilians from the mountain to safety.

But even after all civilians have escaped the mountain, major difficulties will remain.

Thousands of people have poured across a border bridge into camps in Iraq’s Kurdish region after trekking through neighbouring Syria to find refuge, most with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Some women carried exhausted children, weeping as they reached the relative safety of the camps. But the relief of reaching relative safety was tempered by the poor conditions of the camps hurriedly erected by the Iraqi Kurdish authorities.

“We went from hunger in Sinjar to hunger in this camp,” said Khodr Hussein.

In his remarks, Mr Obama also reiterated his call for an inclusive government to be formed and his backing for premier designate Haidar al-Abadi.

“We are urging Iraqis to come together to turn the tide against IS above all by seizing the enormous opportunity of forming a new inclusive government under the leadership of prime minister designate,” he said.

Mr Abadi, whose nomination was accepted by President Fuad Masum on Monday, has 30 days to build a team that will face the daunting task of defusing sectarian tensions and, in the words of Mr Obama, convincing the Sunni Arab minority that IS “is not the only game in town”.

The UN Security Council has expressed backing for Mr Abadi’s nomination, calling it “an important step towards the formation of an inclusive government”.

And the office of top Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani on Wednesday released a July letter in which he called for incumbent premier Nuri al-Maliki to be replaced.

Mr Maliki has defied growing international pressure to step aside and insisted it would take a federal court ruling for him to quit.—AFP

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2014

Hospital mistakenly declares 200 patients dead

AFP

MELBOURNE: An Australian hospital apologised “unreservedly” on Thursday after sending out notices to the doctors of more than 200 patients telling them they had died instead of being discharged.

MELBOURNE: An Australian hospital apologised “unreservedly” on Thursday after sending out notices to the doctors of more than 200 patients telling them they had died instead of being discharged.

The error by Austin Hospital in Melbourne was spotted within hours and the doctors were contacted, but not before at least one had called a family member to express their condolences, the Herald Sun newspaper reported.

Austin Health, which runs the hospital, said the notices — which were sent on Wednesday, July 30 — were a result of “human error” after changes to a death notification template were saved to the standard discharge template.

“On recognising the error on Wednesday morning, Austin Hospital immediately contacted all GP clinics affected,” Austin Health spokeswoman Taryn Sheehy said in a statement.

“We apologised unreservedly to affected clinics who, for the most part, were very understanding about the error.” Sheehy added that patient care was not affected, but the president of the Australian Medical Assoc­iation’s Victoria state branch, Tony Bartone, said the blunder was “unacceptable”.

“IT issues must not undermine patient care or trust in the Victorian healthcare system,” he said in a statement.

“Many of these GPs have long relationships with these patients and their families.

“It would have been distressing to receive such a fax, especially relating to the unexpected death of children and teenagers.”—AFP

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2014

Shells hit rebel-held city in Ukraine

Agencies

DONETSK: Artillery shells hit close to the centre of Ukraine’s separatist-held city of Donetsk for the first time on Thursday, killing at least one person, as a large Russian aid convoy rumbled towards the border.

DONETSK: Artillery shells hit close to the centre of Ukraine’s separatist-held city of Donetsk for the first time on Thursday, killing at least one person, as a large Russian aid convoy rumbled towards the border.

With Ukrainian government forces tightening the noose on pro-Russian separatists, shelling rocked Donetsk, sending frightened residents rushing for cover, witnesses said.

Two shells landed 200 metres from the Park Inn Radisson, one of the city’s main hotels, shattering windows. The blasts opened up a yawning hole on the third floor of an apartment block and left a broad crater on the pavement.

Nearby, a body covered by a sheet lay stretched out on the blood-stained ground.

In a related development, Ukrainian troops surrounded the rebel bastion of Lugansk by cutting the last road linking the city to the Russian border, a military spokesman said. Government forces captured the village of Novosvitlivka therefore “closing off the final road connection between Lugansk and other territory controlled by the Russian mercenaries, in particular the border post of Izvaryne,” security spokesman Andriy Lysenko said.

Meanwhile, a huge Russian convoy carrying 2,000 tons of water, baby food and other humanitarian aid drove through southern Russia towards the frontier, while Kiev repeated it could not enter until Ukrainian authorities had cleared its cargo.

The pro-Western Kiev government says the humanitarian crisis is partly of Moscow’s making and has denounced the dispatch of aid as an act of cynicism. It is also fearful that the operation could become a covert military intervention by Moscow to prop up the rebels who appear on the verge of defeat.

Moscow, which denies charges of giving the rebels heavy weapons, has dismissed as “absurd” suggestions it could use the convoy as a cover for invasion.

By Thursday evening, the convoy had stopped near Kamensk-Shakhtinsky and one of the drivers said it would be heading to the crossing point at Izvarine, which is held by the Ukrainian rebels.

If this were the case, Ukrainian border guards and customs officers would be unable to conduct proper formalities and make the checks they say are needed on the cargo.

“The cargo will all the same have to be looked at by Ukrainian border guards and transferred to representatives of the Red Cross,” said military spokesman Lysenko. It was not immediately clear how this could happen. —Agencies

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2014

UN declares highest level of emergency

AP

BAGHDAD: The United Nations has announced its highest level of emergency for the humanitarian crisis ignited by the advance of Islamic State (IS) militants across much of Iraq’s north and west.

BAGHDAD: The United Nations has announced its highest level of emergency for the humanitarian crisis ignited by the advance of Islamic State (IS) militants across much of Iraq’s north and west.

The terrorist group’s lightning advance has driven hundreds of thousands of people from their homes since June, and last week prompted the US to launch air strikes as the militants threatened religious minorities and the largely autonomous Kurdish region.

The UN on Wednesday declared the situation in Iraq a “Level 3 Emergency” — a development that would allow for additional assets to respond to the needs of the displaced, said UN special representative Nickolay Mladenov, pointing to the “scale and complexity of the current humanitarian catastrophe”.

The Security Council also said it was backing a newly nominated premier-designate in the hope that he can swiftly form an “inclusive government” that could counter the insurgent threat, which has plunged Iraq into its worst crisis since US troops withdrew at the end of 2011.

The UN move came after some 45,000 people, members of the Yazidi religious minority, were able to escape from a remote desert mountaintop where they had been encircled by IS fighters.

They were able to reach safety after Kurdish fighters from neighbouring Syria opened an exit corridor. The US and Iraqi forces had earlier airlifted aid to those trapped.

The UN said it would provide increased support to the Yazidis and to 400,000 other Iraqis who have fled since June to the Kurdish province of Dahuk. A total of 1.5 million people have been displaced by the fighting.—AP

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2014

Renewed Gaza ceasefire takes hold after rocky start

Reuters

GAZA CITY: A new, five-day truce between Israel and Hamas appeared to be holding on Thursday despite a shaky start, after both sides agreed to give Egyptian-brokered peace negotiations in Cairo more time to try to end the Gaza war.

GAZA CITY: A new, five-day truce between Israel and Hamas appeared to be holding on Thursday despite a shaky start, after both sides agreed to give Egyptian-brokered peace negotiations in Cairo more time to try to end the Gaza war.

The Israeli military said Gaza militants had breached the truce by firing eight rockets at Israel shortly after midnight. In response, Israeli fighter planes targeted “rocket launchers and terror sites” across the enclave. No casualties were reported and hostilities died down by dawn.

The second extension of the ceasefire, this time for five days rather than three, has raised hopes that a longer-term resolution to the conflict can be found, although the way ahead remains fraught with difficulty.

A senior Hamas official who returned to Gaza from the negotiations in Cairo said they had been tough but expressed some optimism.

“There is still a real chance to clinch an agreement,” Khalil al-Hayya told reporters, saying that it depended on Israel not “playing with language to void our demands”.

Know more: Truce holds as Cairo talks turn to Gaza blockade

“The Egyptian mediators are entering a good effort and we wish them success in this negotiation battle.” After more than a month of intense conflict, which killed 1,945 Palestinians, many of them civilians, as well as 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel, there is little appetite on either side for a resumption of bloodshed.

Hamas and its allies want an end to the Israeli and Egyptian blockade on Gaza. But Israel and Egypt harbour deep security concerns about Hamas, the dominant group in the small, Mediterranean coastal enclave, complicating any deal on easing border restrictions.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told Al-Aqsa Hamas television on Wednesday that Hamas would insist on “lifting the Gaza blockade” and reducing restrictions on the territory’s 1.8 million people’s movements as a prerequisite to a “permanent calm”.

Members of the Palestinian delegation said they would return to Cairo for more talks on Sunday.

Egyptian and Palestinian sources said Israel had tentatively agreed to relax curbs on the movement of people and goods across the border, subject to certain conditions.

A Palestinian demand for a Gaza seaport and reconstruction of an airport destroyed in previous conflicts with Israel has been a stumbling block, with Israel citing security reasons for opposing their operation.

The sides have agreed to delay discussion of any agreement on the ports for a month, a Palestinian official said.

As part of Egypt’s blueprint, Israel would expand the area where it allows Gaza’s fishermen to operate to 10km from the shore, from 5km at present.

Farms devastated

The conflict in Gaza has caused serious damage to crops, herds and fishing as well as irrigation systems, bringing food production to a halt and sending prices sharply higher, the UN’s food body has said.

The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in a statement that virtually the entire local population of about 1.8 million was dependent on food aid and significant long term help would be needed for local farms to recover.

Ciro Fiorillo, head of FAO’s office in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, said specialists had been able to make a series of field visits to the coastal Palestinian enclave to prepare a detailed assessment of the damage during the latest ceasefire.

He said bomb damage, water and electricity shortages and financial problems, as well as the uncertainty about a possible resumption of military activities had caused major problems.

“Under the most recent ceasefire many farmers and herders are now able to access their lands, however resumption of food production faces serious obstacles,” he said.

Food prices have shot up for many items since the start of hostilities, with egg prices up 40 per cent, potatoes up 42 per cent and tomatoes up as much as 179 per cent.

FAO said there had been substantial direct damage to the 17,000 hectares of croplands in Gaza and the area had lost around half its population of poultry either through direct hits on shelters or by lack of feed or water. —Reuters

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2014

Quaid residency ready for reopening

Saleem Shahid

QUETTA: The Quaid-i-Azam Residency in Ziarat that was destroyed in a rocket and arson attack last year has been restored to its original shape and is likely to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at a ceremony to be held on Thursday to mark the Independence Day.

QUETTA: The Quaid-i-Azam Residency in Ziarat that was destroyed in a rocket and arson attack last year has been restored to its original shape and is likely to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at a ceremony to be held on Thursday to mark the Independence Day.

The restoration of the building cost over Rs140 million and the work was completed in four months.

The governor and chief minister of Balochistan, provincial ministers, military officials and senior bureaucrats will attend the ceremony.

Over 700 police and Frontier Corps personnel have been deployed in Ziarat valley.

The residency was attacked on the night of June 15 last year. The entire wooden structure was gutted and articles used by the Quaid-i-Azam and kept on display there were reduced to ashes.

After the incident, the federal government and many businessmen and other persons offered to provide funds for restoration of the residency, but Chief Minister Dr Malik Baloch announced that the work would be carried out by the Balochistan government from its own resources.

A committee headed by former chief secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad was set up for the project and Rs50m was allocated for it.

The work was taken up in March at the end of winter under the supervision of Abdul Jabbar Khan Kasi, technical adviser to the Communications and Works Department.

Prominent architect Nayyar Ali Dada was assigned the job of preparing the design of the building.

Additional Chief Secretary for Planning and Development Ali Zaheer Hazara said the residency was a national monument and its restoration was Balochistan government’s Independence Day gift to nation.

According to Mr Kasi, the wood work covers 7,000 square feet of the total building area of 8,000 square feet. A workshop in Lahore prepared the pieces of weed and the stone used in parts of the building was brought from Domiara mountain near Ziarat. The stone used in the original building was from the same mountain. He also said the building could withstand even a severe earthquake.

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2014

Deployment of Pakistani and Egyptian troops in Saudi Arabia denied

Syed Rashid Husain

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has refuted reports that forces from Pakistan and Egypt have been deployed along the kingdom’s northern border to defend it from IS militants.

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has refuted reports that forces from Pakistan and Egypt have been deployed along the kingdom’s northern border to defend it from IS militants.

Saudi National Guard Minister Prince Miteb Bin Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz said the kingdom’s security forces were more than capable of dealing with any cross-border terrorist threats, denying reports that troops from friendly Muslim countries had been deployed on its borders.

“It would be better for them [terrorist organisations] not to approach Saudi Arabia’s borders and if they opt to do so they will really suffer,” the minister said according to a report carried by Saudi Press Agency.

Addressing a press conference in the northern city of Arar, Prince Miteb denied reports that Egyptian and Pakistani forces had been deployed to defend Saudi Arabia’s border with Iraq.

“We have very good relations with Egypt and Pakistan but the reports about the presence of their forces in the kingdom are not true . . . We in Saudi Arabia have the capabilities to defend our lands,” he said.

“The kingdom’s military strength has reached 27 million, which is the population of the country including soldiers and ordinary citizens. Every citizen in the kingdom is a soldier and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has stated he will be in [the] forefront to defend the nation,” Prince Miteb added.

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2014

FO terms Modi’s allegations baseless rhetoric

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office rej­e­cted on Wednesday Indian Prime Mi­n­ister Narendra Modi’s allegation of proxy war in Kashmir as “baseless rhetoric”.

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office rej­e­cted on Wednesday Indian Prime Mi­n­ister Narendra Modi’s allegation of proxy war in Kashmir as “baseless rhetoric”.

“Indian accusations, at the highest political level, are most unfortunate,” a statement by the Foreign Office said.

The statement was in response to Prime Minister Modi’s speech to Indian troops in Leh a day earlier in which he said: “It is unfortunate that our neighbour’s attitude… they have lost the power to fight a war but they use proxy war. There has been a process of killing innocent people through this proxy war.”

Mr Modi’s accusations are likely to spoil the atmosphere ahead of the meeting between foreign secretaries of the two countries on Aug 25 for exploring ways of resuming peace dialogue.

The dialogue process has been stalled since last year because of hostilities along the Line of Control (LoC). Renewed acrimony has roots in fresh incidents of violence along the LoC and Working Boundary.

Troops traded fire along the LoC in Jammu even as Pakistan responded to Mr Modi’s charge. The skirmishes that began on Tuesday night continued till early Wednesday morning.

This was the fourth such exchange in recent days and 55th since July.

The Foreign Office asked the Indian leadership to refrain from “engaging in blame game” and instead “focus on resolving all issues through dialogue and work together to promote friendly and cooperative relations” for the sake of regional peace.

The FO statement recalled that Pakistan had suffered greatly at the hands of terrorists and that the measures it had taken to curb terrorism had been acknowledged internationally.

“Pakistan has consistently condemned terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations. Having lost the lives of 55,000 of its people as a result of terrorism, Pakistan is the biggest victim of the menace.

“The entire world has, time and again, acknowledged Pakistan’s unprecedented sacrifices, rendered by our valiant armed forces with over 5,000 soldiers having embraced Shahadat (martyrdom),” the FO said.

Brushing aside Mr Modi’s assertion that Pakistan “had lost the strength to fight a conventional war”, the FO said: “Our armed forces remain ready to defend the country’s borders and thwart any threat of aggression.”

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2014

All means will be used to deal with terrorism: India

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

NEW DELHI: In a spiralling war of words days before their foreign secretaries are due to meet, India warned Pakistan on Wednesday of dealing with cross-border terrorism with options that are not restricted in any way.

NEW DELHI: In a spiralling war of words days before their foreign secretaries are due to meet, India warned Pakistan on Wednesday of dealing with cross-border terrorism with options that are not restricted in any way.

Responding to Pakistan’s criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proxy war comments in Kargil on Tuesday an Indian foreign ministry spokesman asserted that terrorism was a “core concern” in bilateral ties and all means available will be used to deal with the challenge.

The spokesman said Mr Modi was articulating India’s concerns about terrorism emanating from Pakistani soil and India will deal with it effectively as its “tool kit is not restricted in any manner”.

Also read: FO says Modi’s accusations against Pakistan ‘most unfortunate’

“Terrorism for us is a real and present danger. The prime minister was articulating what is for us the core concern in our relation with Pakistan. Mere denials of selective approaches towards terrorism are not going to drive away our concerns,” foreign ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin was quoted by Press Trust of India as saying.

Earlier, Pakistan had rejected Mr Modi’s remarks that Islamabad was indulging in a proxy war as “baseless rhetoric” and said both countries should focus on resolving issues instead of engaging in blame game.

“India will in any case address its concerns on terrorism through all means available to us. Our tool kit is not restricted in any manner,” the spokesperson said. He said India’s concerns stem from the fact that some of the worst terrorist attacks in the country owe the genesis to areas which were either in Pakistani control or in Pakistan and referred to the parliament attack and 26/11 Mumbai strikes.

Asked whether the talks between foreign secretaries of the two countries will go ahead, he only said they are meeting following directives from prime ministers of both the countries to be in touch and look at the way forward in bilateral ties.

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2014

Modi visits Kashmir, slams ‘proxy war’

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a second visit to Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday condemned the “continuing proxy war by Pakistan”, reports from Leh said.

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a second visit to Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday condemned the “continuing proxy war by Pakistan”, reports from Leh said.

They said Mr Modi’s plan to visit the Siachen Glacier was aimed to send a strong signal to Pakistan about its importance to India.

Addressing soldiers at Leh, Mr Modi said the “neighbouring country has lost the strength to fight a conventional war, but continues to engage in proxy war of terrorism”.

His comments came a day after a Border Security Force convoy was ambushed near Srinagar by suspected militants, injuring seven troopers. There were reports of sporadic breach of ceasefire along the LoC.

Mr Modi said that Indian military was suffering more casualties from terrorism than from war.

He recalled the Kargil war and said the armed forces deployed in border areas were well-connected with the people living there.

He highlighted the example of Kargil infiltration, about which “first information was given to our armed forces by a shepherd named Tashi Namgyal”.

India, he said, defeated Pakistani infiltrators in the 1999 Kargil war.

Mr Modi said the government was committed to making India self-reliant in defence manufacturing.

The prime minister spoke of the provisions made in the budget towards modernisation and welfare of the armed forces, including ‘One Rank One Pension’.

He also promised that the National War Memorial would be built and would inspire future generations of Indians.

This is Mr Modi’s second visit to Jammu and Kashmir after becoming the prime minister in May. During his first visit, he had inaugurated Udhampur-Katra railway line and Uri-II hydroelectric project in Baramulla district.

Meanwhile, Chief of the Army Staff General Dalbir Singh Suhag visited on Aug 10 the world’s highest battlefield Siachen in Jammu and Kashmir, where he extensively interacted with the jawans and officers of 14 Corps. This was Gen Suhag’s first visit to Siachen after taking over as army chief.

Published in Dawn, Aug 13th, 2014

Killing of 1,100 Egyptians was systematic: HRW

Masood Haider

NEW YORK: Following a year-long investigation into Egyptian crisis, the Human Rights Watch charged on Tuesday that the systematic and widespread killing of at least 1,150 demonstrators by Egyptian security forces in July and August 2013 probably amounted to crimes against humanity.

NEW YORK: Following a year-long investigation into Egyptian crisis, the Human Rights Watch charged on Tuesday that the systematic and widespread killing of at least 1,150 demonstrators by Egyptian security forces in July and August 2013 probably amounted to crimes against humanity.

In the August 14 dispersal of the Rab’a al-Adawiya sit-in alone, security forces, following a plan that envisioned several thousand deaths, killed a minimum of 817 people and more likely at least 1,000.

The 188-page report, “All According to Plan: The Rab’a Massacre and Mass Killings of Protesters in Egypt”, documents the way the Egyptian police and army methodically opened fire with live ammunition on crowds of demonstrators opposed to the military’s July 3 ouster of Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first elected civilian president, at six demonstrations between July 5 and August 17, 2013.

While there is also evidence that some protesters used firearms during several of these demonstrations, the Human Rights Watch was able to confirm their use in only a few instances, which do not justify the grossly disproportionate and premeditated lethal attacks on overwhelmingly peaceful protesters.

“In Rab’a Square, Egyptian security forces carried out one of the world’s largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of the Human Rights Watch.

“This wasn’t merely a case of excessive force or poor training. It was a violent crackdown planned at the highest levels of the Egyptian government. Many of the same officials are still in power in Egypt, and have a lot to answer for.”

The watchdog group said it interviewed more than 200 witnesses, including protesters, doctors, local residents and independent journalists, visited each of the protest sites during or immediately after the attacks began, and reviewed physical evidence, hours of video footage, and statements by public officials.

The Human Rights Watch wrote to relevant Egyptian ministries soliciting the government’s perspective on these events, but received no responses.

Published in Dawn, Aug 13th, 2014

Comedian Robin Williams commits suicide

Reuters

TIBURON: Robin Williams, the actor whose madcap comic style made him one of television and film’s biggest stars, was found dead on Monday after an apparent suicide at his home in Northern California. He was 63.

TIBURON: Robin Williams, the actor whose madcap comic style made him one of television and film’s biggest stars, was found dead on Monday after an apparent suicide at his home in Northern California. He was 63.

The comedian’s appeal stretched across generations and genres, from family fare as the voice of Disney’s blue Genie in “Aladdin” to his portrayal of a fatherly therapist in the 1997 drama “Good Will Hunting”, for which he earned his sole Oscar.

But many remembered the master of impressions on Tuesday for his tender portrayal in “Mrs Doubtfire”, when he played the part of a British nanny whose identity he assumed as a divorced father to be with his children.

Mr Williams had been recently suffering from severe depression, his publicist Mara Buxbaum said in a statement, and the actor had repeatedly talked about his past struggles with alcohol.

“This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken,” Mr Williams’ wife, Susan Schneider, said in a statement.

Social media was alight with appreciation for Mr Williams, who introduced his boyish exuberance and outlandish vaudeville-esque style to audiences as a quirky extraterrestrial in the late 1970s TV comedy “Mork & Mindy”.

President Barack Obama called Mr Williams a “one of a kind” actor who could make people laugh and cry in his array of characters.

“He arrived in our lives as an alien — but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit,” he said in a statement.

Mr Williams, who was most recently in the CBS television comedy “The Crazy Ones” until it was cancelled after one season in May, had entered a rehabilitation centre this summer to help him maintain sobriety.

Published in Dawn, Aug 13th, 2014

‘Actor died of asphyxia by hanging’

Reuters

SAN RAFAEL: Robin Williams hanged himself in his home and died by asphyxia, a coroner said on Tuesday.

SAN RAFAEL: Robin Williams hanged himself in his home and died by asphyxia, a coroner said on Tuesday.

Mr Williams was found dead by his personal assistant at midday on Monday, suspended from a belt wedged between a door and a door frame in a seated position just off the ground, Marin County’s assistant chief deputy coroner, Keith Boyd, told a news conference.

Officials also found a pocket knife near Mr Williams and cuts with dried blood on his wrist that matched the knife blade.

Published in Dawn, Aug 13th, 2014

Footprints: When death is celebrated

Nabeel Anwar Dhakku

THEY had gathered to muse over a death, but the six or seven old men showed few signs of sorrow.

THEY had gathered to muse over a death, but the six or seven old men showed few signs of sorrow.

Into the hush came an elderly man with a thin, long, henna-dyed beard, a contented smile on his lips. “Bara afsos aye, jee [it is a matter of great sadness],” said one of the men to him, the banal phrase used to express condolences. “Don’t say that, it is wrong to use this phrase here,” reprimanded the man with the red beard. “It was the will of Allah; Allah has blessed only a few parents with such a great reward.”

The man with the red beard is Mohammed Ilyas, a resident of Ratta village, some 38km to the north-east of Chakwal city. Men are coming to his home to offer their condolences over the sudden death of his 23-year-old son who, according to Ilyas, was waging ‘jihad’ against India under the umbrella of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM). This is an outlawed militant organisation engaged in activities against the Indian Army in Kashmir. It seems that Ilyas’s son, Mohammad Abdullah, was allegedly killed on Aug 2 by Indian Army soldiers in the Kail Sector of Azad Jammu and Kashmir while leading his group to cross onto the Indian side. Ilyas tells his visitors that they should congratulate him since his son was martyred.

Abdullah’s body was brought to this sleepy village on the morning of Aug 5 by his fellows in the mission. Ilyas said that he personally made the announcement regarding his son’s death on the loudspeakers of the village mosque. The funeral prayers were to be offered at 8:30am but they were delayed for an hour as the JeM’s fiery orator, Qari Ghulam Abbas, the man who authored the outfit’s anthem, delivered an hour-long speech on the importance of ‘jihad’. Citing Quranic verses and sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him) he urged people to participate in the ‘jihad’ his organisation is waging against India.

Abdullah is not the sole ‘jihadi’ killed by the Indian Army. The body of a 37-year-old militant was brought to Waulah village located in Choa Saidan Shah tehsil, some 40km to the south of Chakwal city, on July 25. Those were the remains of Mohammad Atif who had reportedly been carrying out ‘jihad’ for 15 years under the platform of another banned militant organisation, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). His funeral prayers were led by firebrand leader Hafiz Abdul Rehman Makki.

Until a few years ago, Abdullah was leading a normal life. It all started with Al Qalam, a weekly newspaper published by JeM from Peshawar and secretly circulated. “I have been an avid reader of Al Qalam and Zarb-e-Momin for the last 12 years,” Ilyas told Dawn. “After reading these newspapers, I made up my mind to send my son for jihad.”

Abdullah met JeM’s men at a mosque in Rawalpindi a year ago and went to Muzaffarabad where he was trained for six months. He also attended a training course of 15 days in Bahawalpur, the hometown of Maulana Masood Azhar, the founder of the JeM. When, after a long hibernation, Azhar addressed a crowded and well-organised rally at Muzaffarabad last February, Abdullah was there too. Later that month, he was selected for a mission.

“When my son informed me that he had been selected for a mission, I went to Mufti Jamil-ur-Rehman for his consent,” said Ilyas. “He said, ‘Yes, you can send your son to fight in the way of Allah,’ and I allowed my son to go ahead.”

Mufti Jamil-ur-Rehman, a prayer leader at Imdadia Mosque in Chakwal city, is said to be second-in-command to Qazi Zahoor-ul-Hassan, the chief of the Tehreek-i-Khuddam-i-Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (TKASWJ), which was founded by his father, the late Qazi Mazhar Hussain. Although the organisation is not banned, it allegedly has close links with the banned Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat and other militant organisations and wields considerable influence in the district. The TKASWJ is believed to be backed by PML-N leaders who need its help for support at election time.

“My wife is happier than me over the martyrdom of Abdullah,” said Ilyas. His youngest son, Saifullah, is seven, and studies in the second grade at the village primary school. “I would also send him for jihad,” said his father, pointing at him.

“We know that funeral prayers were held but we don’t know where and how these two persons were killed,” said District Police Officer Dr Moeen Masood.

“Militant organisations exist in Chakwal district and they select youngsters for their missions,” explained Yunus Awan, a senior local journalist. He added that seminaries are operating in the district in large numbers.

“The influence of banned outfits is rapidly increasing in the district. The trend towards active ‘jihad’ is on the decline but the charged mindset is spreading in the absence of any policy to curb it,” said Iftikhar Haider, advocate and member of the Chakwal District Bar Association.

“The reactivation of the JeM and the LeT is highly alarming,” said Zahid Hussain, a noted author and columnist. “The government should control the activities of such outfits as militancy is not the solution to the problems,” he explained, adding that such incidents are damaging the genuine Kashmiri movement.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2014

Iraqi president nominates new PM

AFP

BAGHDAD: Iraq moved closer to turning the page on Nuri Al Maliki’s controversial reign on Monday when his own clan spurned him for another prime minister to save the country from breakup.

BAGHDAD: Iraq moved closer to turning the page on Nuri Al Maliki’s controversial reign on Monday when his own clan spurned him for another prime minister to save the country from breakup.

The much-awaited political breakthrough in Baghdad came as Kurdish troops backed by US warplanes battled to turn the tide on two months of militant expansion in the north.

“The country is in your hands,” President Fuad Masum told Haidar Al Abadi after accepting his nomination by parliament’s Shia bloc.

Mr Abadi, long considered a close Maliki ally, has 30 days to form a government, whose breadth the international community has stressed would determine Iraq’s ability to stop sectarian bloodshed.

Mr Maliki, who had been in power since 2006, did not immediately react to the rebuke. While he could still seek to challenge the decision, he looked more isolated than ever.

His last appearance was when he gave a midnight address vowing to sue the president for failing to nominate him, in what looked like a desperate move by a beleaguered leader making his last stand.

Simultaneously, special forces and armoured vehicles deployed across strategic locations in Baghdad.

The UN’s top envoy in Iraq called on the security forces to “refrain from actions that may be seen as interference in matters related to the democratic transfer of political authority”.

According to the White House, Mr Abadi told US Vice-President Joe Biden he intended “to move expeditiously to form a broad-based, inclusive government capable of countering the threat” posed by the Islamic State militant group.

Also read: Iran backs Maliki as Iraq’s PM

The group, which had already been controlling parts of Syria, launched an offensive on June 9, swiftly taking over the main northern city of Mosul before sweeping across much of the Sunni heartland.

Kurdish Peshmerga forces initially fared better than federal troops but the militants carried out fresh attacks this month, bringing them within striking distance of autonomous Kurdistan.

The threat to Kurdistan, where some US personnel are based, was one of the reasons President Barack Obama gave for sending drones and fighter jets, a potential game changer in the two-month-old conflict.

His other justification was what he said was the risk of an impending genocide against the Yazidi minority, many of whose members were trapped on a barren mountain for days after fleeing a militant attack.

US intervention appeared to make some impact on both fronts, with the Kurds reclaiming two towns on Thursday and more than 20,000 stranded Yazidis escaping their mountain death trap.

Their flight led to scenes of traumatised civilians flocking back to Kurdistan after surviving with little food and water on Mount Sinjar.

Several thousand were still thought to be hiding on the mountain as the area remained far from safe.

Stretched thin along a 1,000-kilometre front, the Peshmerga were defeated in Jalawla, a long way southeast from the US bombing’s targets, in a two-day battle that left 10 dead in their ranks.

Western powers were ramping up a coordinated effort to provide the Kurds with more arms to fight the Islamic State, which in late June proclaimed a “caliphate” straddling Iraq and Syria.

France called for a European-wide mobilisation to supply the autonomous region in northern Iraq more weapons.

Western powers have also provided aid, air-dropping survival kits on Mount Sinjar or supporting the huge relief effort to cope with the hundreds of thousands of displaced people.

Many had come to see Mr Maliki as partly responsible for the violence because the June offensive exposed the weakness of the armed forces and the support the IS found in some areas revealed the level of disaffection felt among Sunnis.

People in a neighbourhood of Baquba gathered in the street and fired shots in the air to celebrate his political defeat.

Mr Abadi, a Shia politician, was born in Baghdad in 1952 and returned from British exile in 2003 when US-led forces toppled Saddam Hussein.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2014

Woman killed by Indian firing

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: The Indian deputy high commissioner was summoned to the Foreign Office on Monday for receiving protest after firing by Indian forces along the Working Boundary killed a Pakistani woman.

ISLAMABAD: The Indian deputy high commissioner was summoned to the Foreign Office on Monday for receiving protest after firing by Indian forces along the Working Boundary killed a Pakistani woman.

“Deputy High Commissioner of India was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs today to lodge Pakistan’s protest over unprovoked Indian firing across the Working Boundary in Sialkot sector on 10-11 August 2014, which resulted in one civilian casualty and injuries to three others,” the Foreign Office said.

The incident happened in Khokhar village in Charwah sector and the woman was identified as Hanifa Bibi, wife of Rahmat Ali.

The FO said that firing along the working boundary was the 54th incident of ceasefire violation by Indian troops since July this year.

During the meeting with the Indian diplomat, the FO said, it was emphasised that such unfortunate incidents were taking place at a time when the leadership on both sides had expressed willingness to improve bilateral ties.

The foreign secretaries of the two countries are scheduled to meet on Aug 25 for exploring ways for resumption of dialogue suspended since January 2013 because of violations along the Line of Control.

Our Staff Correspondent adds from Sialkot: The Indian firing came two days after Pakistan handed over to India a BSF soldier who had mistakenly entered its territory.

Officials of the Chenab Rangers said the BSF shelling pounded the villages for two hours (from 8:15pm to 10:15pm) on Sunday night.

Hanifa Bibi was sleeping in the courtyard of her house when it was hit by a barrage of shells.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2014

Erdogan wins outright victory in first round

AFP

ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan won an outright victory in the first round of presidential elections on Sunday, promising to be a powerful head of state.

ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan won an outright victory in the first round of presidential elections on Sunday, promising to be a powerful head of state.

Mr Erdogan won 51.8 per cent of the vote, way ahead of his main opposition rival Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu on 38.6 per cent, according to official results based on a 99 per cent vote count.

The third contender, Kurdish candidate Selahattin Demirtas, won 9.6 per cent of the vote.

The inauguration is set for August 28.

The result marked a personal triumph for Mr Erdogan, 60, who has served as premier since 2003 and could potentially now be president for two mandates until 2024.

He has promised to be a powerful president with a beefed-up mandate, in contrast to the ceremonial role played by his recent predecessors.

The polls are the first time Turkey — a member of Nato and long-time hopeful to join the EU — has directly elected its president, who was previously chosen by parliament.

As the results came out, Mr Erdogan briefly addressed hundreds of supporters in Istanbul before praying at the historic Eyup Sultan mosque built after the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans.

“As long as I am alive, I will continue our struggle to sustain a more advanced democracy,” said Mr Erdogan.

He has said he plans to revamp the post to give the presidency greater executive powers, which could see Turkey shift towards a system more like that of France if his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) succeeds in changing the constitution.

But Mr Erdogan’s opponents accuse him of undermining the secular legacy of Turkey’s founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who established a strict separation between religion and politics when he forged the new state from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.

“A ballot paper with only one name does not represent the democracy, it does not suit Turkey,” said Ihsanoglu, 70, as he cast his ballot in Istanbul.

He complained that the campaign had been “unfair, disproportionate”, nonetheless predicting that the votes of the “silent masses” would help him to victory.

Mr Erdogan ran a lavish three-month campaign that swamped those of his rivals, his face glaring down at pedestrians in Istanbul from gigantic billboards at almost every street corner.

The campaign of Mr Ihsanoglu — a bookish former head of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) whose candidacy was backed by the two main opposition parties — was modest by comparison.

While many secular Turks detest Mr Erdogan, he can still count on a huge base of support from conservative middle-income voters, particularly in central Turkey and poorer districts of Istanbul, who have prospered under his rule.

“He has helped feed the poor and reached out to a larger section of our society,” Zahide, 52, a retired nurse, said after voting in Istanbul for Mr Erdogan.

But Ozlem, 24, a university student, said she voted for Mr Ihsanoglu. “Our country is at a turning point. It’s either democracy or dictatorship. Everyone should come to their senses.”

Regional breakdowns of the results showed a clear geographical polarisation of the country, with Mr Ihsanoglu taking the strongly secular western coast, Mr Demirtas the Kurdish southeast but Mr Erdogan the Black Sea coast, Istanbul and the entire heart of the country.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2014

Four die in Kabul suicide attack

AFP

KABUL: A suicide attacker targeted a Nato convoy in Kabul on Sunday, killing four civilians and wounding at least 35 others, officials said, in the latest violence to hit the capital.

KABUL: A suicide attacker targeted a Nato convoy in Kabul on Sunday, killing four civilians and wounding at least 35 others, officials said, in the latest violence to hit the capital.

The Nato force said none of its soldiers had been killed, but did not give any details of injuries in the blast, which came as foreign troops wind down combat operations at the end of a 13-year war against Taliban militants.

Also read: Three foreign advisers killed in suicide bombing near Kabul airport

“Two children, a woman and a man were killed and 35 others wounded in the attack,” Kabul police said in a statement.

A spokesman for the Taliban said the militants were responsible for the attack, in which the bomber detonated an explosives-packed vehicle on a main road as the Nato convoy passed by.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2014

Obama prepares nation for long-term Iraq engagement

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama urged the Americans to be ready for a “long-term” engagement in Iraq as his military expanded its Iraq air campaign over the weekend to beat back militants.

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama urged the Americans to be ready for a “long-term” engagement in Iraq as his military expanded its Iraq air campaign over the weekend to beat back militants.

“I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem in weeks … I think this is going to take some time,” Mr Obama told the White House press corps. “This is going to be a long-term project.”

Fighter jets and drones struck IS fighters near the northern town of Sinjar, where extremists had killed more than 500 members of the Yazidi religious minority.

Officials said US air strikes had so far killed more than 20 extremists of the group called IS.

The US military conducted a third airdrop of food and water on Sunday for thousands of Iraqi citizens threatened by the insurgents on Mount Sinjar in Iraq.

During the weekend, President Obama consulted key world leaders, including British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande, on the developments in Iraq. The leaders underscored the serious threat the IS “poses to all Iraqi communities throughout the country, and discussed the need to support the Iraqis by increasing their ability to counter these extremists,” the White House said.

Mr Obama also spoke to King Abdullah of Jordan and they discussed “the risks to the region from the IS and other extremist groups, and the importance of supporting an inclusive Iraqi political process,” the White House said.

US Vice President Biden called Iraqi President Fuad Masum to discuss US military operations in northern Iraq and the ongoing government formation process in Baghdad.

He reiterated President Obama’s commitment to “bolster Iraq’s ability to take the fight to the IS”, the White House said.

Earlier, Mr Biden spoke to Kurdistan Regional President Masoud Barzani and offered similar assurances.

Mr Obama assured the war-weary Americans that the US military intervention would not go beyond air strikes as he had no intentions of sending ground troops back to Iraq more than three years after their withdrawal.

Mr Obama also sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, identifying his objectives.

The military operations, he said, would be limited in their scope and duration as necessary to protect American personnel in Iraq by stopping the current advance on Erbil by the terrorist group IS and to help forces in Iraq fighting to break the siege of Mount Sinjar and protect the civilians trapped there.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2014

Footprints: Residency Rebuilt

Saher Baloch

THE peace and quiet surrounding the Ziarat residence of the founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was wrecked last year by an explosion set off by militants inside its premises. But on Friday morning, there is an air of urgency and quick activity around the residency as labourers hammer away, putting the finishing touches to the newly constructed edifice before it is inaugurated on Aug 12. The colour of the residency is now parrot-green, which the officers at the site insist “will camouflage it easily among the juniper trees surrounding it”.

THE peace and quiet surrounding the Ziarat residence of the founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was wrecked last year by an explosion set off by militants inside its premises. But on Friday morning, there is an air of urgency and quick activity around the residency as labourers hammer away, putting the finishing touches to the newly constructed edifice before it is inaugurated on Aug 12. The colour of the residency is now parrot-green, which the officers at the site insist “will camouflage it easily among the juniper trees surrounding it”.

Around 9am, an army contingent makes its way into the premises as a high-level meeting is said to be taking place to ensure security before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit. The inauguration date, which was earlier fixed for Aug 14, was brought forward to Aug 12, with no reason being given for the last-minute change. And no explanations were asked for either.

A momentary silence descends as labourers stop to take a break. But in the very next moment, an argument ensues at the left entrance of the residency which is being used as an entry or exit point.

The FC officer asks the man to be understanding and return the next day or on the day of the inauguration. Muttering under his breath, the man instead stands beside a tall and scrawny-looking juniper tree, refusing to move until he gets his pan and plates.

The FC officer, looking partly relieved that the man has at least moved away from the gate, starts explaining to me that a week ago, the “higher management” looking over security received a pamphlet from the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA).

“They said they will attack the residency before its inauguration,” he says. “As a result, we have been asked to tighten the security.”

For this purpose, personnel of the Levies and the FC have been called in from Loralai, Kalat and Khuzdar. The residency is surrounded by armed personnel who have been told to be strict with trespassers.

Around 8am on Friday, the FC claimed to have arrested on suspicion five men in the Baba Kharwari area, a small village named after a revered 18th century saint, located in the south of Ziarat and inhabited mostly by Pashtuns and Marri tribesmen. The locals, however, do not support the FC’s claim, insisting that the arrested men were local shepherds from the Arnayi area and were held because of their ethnicity.

Our conversation is interrupted again by the man standing under the tree asking for his plates. But he cuts his rant short as a newly-wed couple walks towards the gate to ask if the officer can take a picture of them posing in front of the residency. “Sirf photo leni hai,” says the woman, only to be told that a picture of the residency is exactly what he can’t allow anyone to take.

Throughout the day, many families and groups of friends come towards the residency trying their luck to get a peek after its renovation. Most are turned away, apart from two children aged four and six who are taken to the front of Mr Jinnah’s house with another guard in tow as their parents wait outside.

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2014

Obama vows to stop IS from setting up ‘caliphate’

Masood Haider

NEW YORK: President Barack Obama has said he may support a sustained effort to drive Sunni militants out of Iraq, provided Iraqi leaders form a more “inclusive government”.

NEW YORK: President Barack Obama has said he may support a sustained effort to drive Sunni militants out of Iraq, provided Iraqi leaders form a more “inclusive government”.

In an interview with Thomas L. Friedman of The New York Times, he said his administration would not allow the Islamic State (IS) militants to set up a “caliphate” in the Middle East.

President Obama said he authorised air strikes in Iraq after concluding that the United States needed to protect Kurdish regions in the north of the country and “bolster” an Iraqi leadership that was panicking in the face of advances made by the IS.

Mr Obama said he was confident that the Iraqi leaders understood that “cavalry is not coming to the rescue” with ground forces.

He insisted that the United States had a “strategic interest in pushing back” IS, suggesting a broader mission than the one he described in a White House address earlier: to protect American personnel and prevent mass killings of Iraqi religious minorities.

The American president also offered justifications for authorising air strikes in Iraq but lamented the outcome of a similar decision he made in 2011 with regard to Libya.

He defended his desire to help oust Col Muammar Qadhafi with American firepower but acknowledged that he had “underestimated” the chaos that would follow after the US forces left.

“So that’s a lesson that I now apply every time I ask the question, ‘Should we intervene militarily’.”

Turning to the ongoing war in Gaza, Mr Obama said “neither Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have the political will to come to terms on a lasting peace agreement”.

Massive anti-Israel protest in London

AFP

LONDON: Tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched through central London on Saturday, urging Britain to take a tougher line against Israel over its military assault on Gaza.

LONDON: Tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched through central London on Saturday, urging Britain to take a tougher line against Israel over its military assault on Gaza.

The Palestinian Solidarity Campaign said 150,000 people attended the march, the third major demonstration for Gaza in London in the past four weeks.

Protesters packed the main shopping artery of Oxford Street, marching to the US embassy and on to Hyde Park, many of them chanting “Free, Free Palestine” and holding up banners saying “UK — Stop Arming Israel”.

Know more: View of worldwide protests against Gaza assault

The first two protests attr­a­c­ted at least 10,000 people each, according to police, although organisers said it was more like 50,000 each time. Police declined to give a number for Saturday’s event.

Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, an umbrella group of NGOs, said: “The level of anger is unprecedented.

“The British government has remained silent whilst Israeli aerial bombardment and a ground incursion in Gaza has killed thousands.

“We are calling for an end to the massacre and the recall of the UK parliament. Our government must be forced to end its support for Israel’s siege of Gaza.”

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2014

IHC asks lower judiciary to ensure perception of fair trial

Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has emphasised upon lower judiciary the need to maintain independence at all cost by ensuring an environment and perception of fair dispensation of justice.

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has emphasised upon lower judiciary the need to maintain independence at all cost by ensuring an environment and perception of fair dispensation of justice.

The observation by the high court came when it granted bail to Mohammad Shafique and Mohammad Nasir, who were denied the same by a trial court.

The accused were arrested on May 27 for “writing defamatory and critical banners” against Supreme Court judge Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja. The banners popped up in Islamabad when the apex court was hearing a case moved by Geo television network against the backdrop of a hate campaign against it.

Also read: Man behind banner plot applies for bail

During the hearing, the court had expressed its determination to find out the identity of the people behind the banners in which the judge was attacked for his relationship with the owner of Geo TV network.

The additional sessions judge (west) for Islamabad had dismissed the request for post-arrest bail of 16-year-old Mohammad Nasir, an employee of Mohammad Shafique, the proprietor of the Shafique Sign Services which produces banners, on the sole ground that the offences amounted to maligning, defaming and ridiculing the institution of the judiciary.

The accused were implicated under Section 505(2) of the Pakistan Penal Code, which deals with the non-bailable offence of conducing public mischief, but the high court said the section was not applicable in the case.

Authored by Justice Athar Minallah, the 14-page judgment said that any perception of impartiality or bias, even if it was far from reality, would prejudice the right to a free trial of any accused.

“Confidence in the court and assurance of a fair trial were a prerequisite for the dispensation of justice and pivotal for creating public confidence and trust in the judiciary.”

The high court said independence of judiciary entailed that the trial should be conducted by courts which were competent, independent and impartial.

Therefore, bias, even if it’s in favour of one’s own institution, vitiates the proceedings, as the trial is no longer fair and the judge appears to be “acting as a judge in his/her own cause”, according to the verdict.

While dispensing justice the judges of district courts must have the confidence and belief that each one of them has the same status as a judge of the Supreme Court or a high court. It is their duty to ensure fair trial without being influenced or swayed by the persons involved in the cause before them.

When presiding over a court the judges must be conscious that they are not subordinate to anyone, the judgment says.

Independence of judiciary is measured by the conduct of the presiding judge in guaranteeing the right to fair trial and giving decisions without fear or favour.

The judgment also noted that the criminal proceedings in a case of defamation could only be initiated on the complaint of the person or institution against whom the alleged defamatory material had been made public. “The offences relating to defamation are person-specific and transaction-specific, therefore FIR could not have been registered on the complaint of a sub-inspector and hence the entire proceedings are coram non-judice (without jurisdiction),” the high court observed.

Representing the petitioners, Advocate Ilyas Siddiqui argued that the ground for rejection of bail was commission of offence against the judiciary, but no such allegation was mentioned in the FIR.

In addition to citing a number of Supreme Court and high court judgments, the verdict quoted ‘Hedaya’, a compilation of opinions by Imam Abu Hanifa and other Islamic scholars in which it was stated: “The Kazi (judge) must not give judgment when he is hungry or thirsty, because such situations diminish the intellect and understanding of the person affected by them. Neither must (the) Kazi give judgment when he is in passion, or when he has filled his stomach with food, because the Holy Prophet (SAW) has said ‘Let not a magistrate decide between disputants when he is angry or full’.”

Thus the view taken and expressed by the trial judge in dismissing the bail applications had rightly raised concerns and questions regarding bias and impartiality, without realising that the trial court and all other forums under the institution of the judiciary were stakeholders in the proceedings pending against the two petitioners and, therefore, the court had prejudiced their right to a fair trial, the judgment said.

He also ordered that Mohammad Nasir be released on bail subject to furnishing of personal bond of Rs50,000 to the satisfaction of the trial court.

The high court directed the sessions court to complete the trial within three months.

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2014

Editorial News

Editorial: The forgotten war

Editorial

For long, years even, a military operation in North Waziristan Agency against militants was considered essential if the country were to ever seriously start down the long road to defeating the militant threat.

For long, years even, a military operation in North Waziristan Agency against militants was considered essential if the country were to ever seriously start down the long road to defeating the militant threat.

Now, with the military’s Operation Zarb-i-Azb under way for over a month and a half, the battle that was billed as a major turning point in the country’s security outlook has nearly vanished from the national conversation.

Neither is there much news from the battle zone — at least in terms of independently and credibly verifiable news — nor, tragically, does there seem to be much interest in political and media circles at the moment to give more than a passing mention to events in North Waziristan and the repercussions beyond.

In part, this is surely because of the spectacle unfolding on TV screens across the country — a so-called long march to Islamabad by the PTI in a bid to perhaps topple the government.

Yet, current events do not fully explain why Operation Zarb-i-Azb has quickly become the forgotten war. Part of the problem is surely the mixed — often outright — confused stances that many mainstream political parties have on the issue of militancy.

The PTI having long argued that dialogue was the only option has perhaps chosen not to keep advocating its long-stated position quite so vehemently now that the military has come out openly and fiercely in support of the operation the PTI was politically opposed to.

The PML-N government having long argued that dialogue was the preferred option appears unhappy that its pursuit of the latter was cut short and is unwilling to take any real ownership of a war that it did not want.

Meanwhile, parties such as the PPP and ANP, which supported a military operation, have been undone by also simultaneously supporting the dialogue option when pursued by the PML-N.

What all of that adds up to is a deafening political silence on North Waziristan. The media, distracted by potentially seismic events in the epicentre of politics, has been unable to sustain any critical interest in North Waziristan, allowing military PR to dominate the narrative on the operation.

Unhappily, even the initial media focus on the humanitarian crisis that is an estimated one million IDPs has now dissipated and there is little light shed on the continuing struggles of a displaced population that is key to the question of whether or not militancy will return and flourish in the tribal areas.

Worryingly, even the military has chosen to shed less and less light on events in the tribal agency thereby leaving the media and the public in the dark about the actual situation. Bland pronouncements of progress being made, events unfolding according to plan and the military remaining on track to victory do not make for meaningful analyses.

The record is one of mixed results with no real exit strategy. Is North Waziristan shaping up to be the same?

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2014

PTI’s white paper

Editorial

The PTI’s white paper on the government’s performance in the first year is a laudable effort but remains a disappointment mainly because it is riddled with errors that betray a careless compilation of the facts.

The PTI’s white paper on the government’s performance in the first year is a laudable effort but remains a disappointment mainly because it is riddled with errors that betray a careless compilation of the facts.

For instance, calling the sale of UBL shares a “loot sale” to “near and dear ones” on the basis of information coming from “market rumours” can only be termed sloppy.

In some places, the paper makes grievous factual errors, such as claiming power tariffs have increased by 78pc in the last year, whereas the real figure is 31pc. Or that the size of the debt has increased by Rs2,000bn, when the real figure is closer to Rs 1,375bn.

Referring to the $1.1bn raised through the 3G auction as “a dismal response” based on a news item again indicates shoddy fact-checking, because the amount budgeted to be raised from the auction was $1.2bn.

Some of the complaints the document raises are fair, particularly regarding the nepotism that the PML-N is known for, and also the delays in filling key posts in regulators and state-owned enterprises.

But many other complaints should have been checked first, such as the declines noted in the Global Competitiveness Report which actually relate to the period 2010-2012.

The paper is a laudable initiative to build a fact-based critique of the government’s performance, but careless fact-checking combined with emotional appeals erodes its credibility. Above all, the paper fails to make a case for the government to step down.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has issued a detailed but point-by-point rejoinder to the white paper. The minister’s efforts to engage with the critique of the paper are commendable, but his responses can also be termed misleading in important ways.

For example, he argues that foreign investment has increased to $4.4bn in the last year despite questions regarding how this figure has been computed, and the IMF’s assessment that FDI remains “disappointingly weak”.

He barely touches on the charges of nepotism even though they are substantial and provide clear indication that his government views alternate opinions and independent minds with suspicion.

The government’s efforts to shift borrowing towards foreign sources has been questioned by the State Bank as well, yet Mr Dar does not address the concerns.

Overall, it is good to see this fact-based exchange between the PTI and PML-N, but it would be better if both sides made a more honest effort to indicate the reality.

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2014

Erdogan as president

Editorial

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reason to be jubilant. Enjoying his third term in a row as prime minister, Mr Erdogan will on Aug 28 assume office as Turkey’s first directly elected president after he convincingly defeated his two rivals in the first round of Sunday’s election.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reason to be jubilant. Enjoying his third term in a row as prime minister, Mr Erdogan will on Aug 28 assume office as Turkey’s first directly elected president after he convincingly defeated his two rivals in the first round of Sunday’s election.

Charges he used government machinery for his campaign may or may not be true, but there is no doubt Mr Erdogan’s political and economic achievements make him one of the most influential leaders in the region.

Political stability stemming from three consecutive electoral victories since 2002, the booming economy and the peace agreement with Kurdish militants have transformed Turkey into the world’s 17th and Europe’s sixth biggest economy.

Now Ankara is playing a more active role in the region, and even though there is little possibility that Turkey will be admitted to the European Union as a full member it was Mr Erdogan who convinced the EU to begin entry negotiations.

Perhaps his biggest achievement has been the way he established civilian supremacy by taming the Turkish army, which had toppled four elected governments and hanged a prime minister.

Deriving confidence from poll victories that enabled him to form a single-party government thrice, Mr Erdogan, unlike his mentor Necmettin Erbekan who attempted to rush through reforms like former president Mohamed Morsi of Egypt, avoided a clash with the army, the self-proclaimed guardian of Ataturk’s secular legacy.

Publicly accepting Turkey’s secular character, Mr Erdogan proceeded cautiously: he stripped the National Security Council of its military character and now feels confident enough to try army officers, including a former president and army chief, for treason.

Charges of corruption against his ministers and the Taksim trouble gave him anxious moments, but he has been able to weather the storm. Now he wants to amend the constitution on the lines of the French model to give the president more powers.

This move has raised fears in some quarters that greater powers as president will contribute to the authoritarian streak in him.

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2014

Tension on Independence Day

Editorial

Sixty-eight years since the creation of Pakistan, the country will face its umpteenth political crisis today. Like most crises, if not all before it, this crisis was neither necessary nor desirable — but the democratic system can still emerge strengthened in the long run, if the chief protagonists do not let ego override good sense.

Sixty-eight years since the creation of Pakistan, the country will face its umpteenth political crisis today. Like most crises, if not all before it, this crisis was neither necessary nor desirable — but the democratic system can still emerge strengthened in the long run, if the chief protagonists do not let ego override good sense.

For the government, the announcement by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday that a judicial commission consisting of Supreme Court justices will be formed to investigate allegations of fraud in last year’s general election is another late gamble to try and find some middle ground with the PTI.

There are rightful fears of renewed politicisation of the superior judiciary by drawing it into power politics again and also questions of whether a Supreme Court judges-led commission would nullify the necessary power of review of electoral disputes the court has.

But it is also true that given the intransigence of the PTI and the stubbornness, at least until recently, of the PML-N, only the highest forums in the land can act as final and binding arbiters. Better that arbiter be a commission of Supreme Court judges than some anti-democratic force in the country.

Immediately, Imran Khan swatted away the suggestion of a judicial commission, although the PTI has long held that the judiciary is the right forum to decide electoral disputes — notwithstanding the simultaneous allegation by the PTI that elements in the superior judiciary last year were responsible for some of the alleged rigging against the party.

Rejecting the idea of a high-powered judicial commission could either be posturing by the PTI supremo determined to deliver on his promise of a grand Aug 14 rally in the federal capital. Or it could be that Mr Khan has decided that he will do whatever he can to bring down the government, electoral reforms only being a ruse to achieve the real goal.

Either way, there is a very real responsibility on the shoulders of Mr Khan to ensure that his rally remains within the bounds of the law and that the PTI does not incite its supporters to violence, directly or tacitly.

The PML-N government, while still trying to disrupt the PTI rally, has not used the kind of tactics it has against Tahirul Qadri and his supporters against the PTI. Furthermore, the PML-N has consistently talked of the need for a peaceful solution to the PTI’s demands and remained open to compromise.

Mr Khan and the PTI therefore should press their demands in a way that they abide by their pledge to stay within the bounds of the Constitution and the law. The real X-factor today though may be Tahirul Qadri: neither he nor the PML-N seem inclined to compromise in any way with each other. Unhappily, the country has the tensest of Independence Days ahead of it today.

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2014

Egypt killings

Editorial

There is good reason to reflect on the carnage Egypt has suffered in its quest for political maturity. After the ouster in June last year by the military of Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first elected civilian president, tens of thousands of people gathered on the streets to protest, and the security forces reacted with excessive force.

There is good reason to reflect on the carnage Egypt has suffered in its quest for political maturity. After the ouster in June last year by the military of Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first elected civilian president, tens of thousands of people gathered on the streets to protest, and the security forces reacted with excessive force.

On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch laid bare the reality of this situation: in a thorough, 188-page report, the rights organisation said that the killing of at least 1,150 demonstrators by security personnel in six demonstrations in July and August had been systematic and widespread, that they “probably amounted to crimes against humanity”.

In the Aug 14 crackdown last year, as they sought to disperse a sit-in at Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, security forces killed at least 817 people and probably up to 1,000. HRW says that the encampments, especially at Rabaa al-Adawiya, were variously attacked with armoured personnel carriers, ground troops and snipers, and live rounds were fired into the crowds who found themselves without a safe exit.

It concludes that this was “a violent crackdown planned at the highest level of the Egyptian government” and that many of the officials remain in power; they “have a lot to answer for”.

This, indeed, needs to be brought to the attention of many of the world’s leaders and governments that choose to look the other way as the military establishment in Egypt commits transgressions against people’s rights and democratic freedoms — because elections threw up a result they found unpalatable.

In fact, as exemplified by US Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent visit to Cairo, many governments have no qualms about engaging with a regime that has blatantly undemocratic credentials. The situation in Egypt today is a reminder, as much to Pakistan as to any other country, that democracy cannot be tailored, that political maturity lies only in following the path of legitimacy and the mandate given by the people.

Meanwhile, as Egyptians mark the anniversary today of the massacre at the Cairo mosque, there is reason for Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri, who have been irresponsibly throwing out references to Egypt and Gaza, to take note as well: there is no comparison when it comes to the situations in the Middle East and Pakistan. To try and conflate the current domestic political crisis to that level is to make light of unbearable tragedy.

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2014

Modi’s Kashmir concerns

Editorial

The issue of Kashmir is a perennial lightning rod in the subcontinent. Whenever leaders in both India and Pakistan wish to burnish their nationalist credentials, jingoistic references are made about the troubled territory.

The issue of Kashmir is a perennial lightning rod in the subcontinent. Whenever leaders in both India and Pakistan wish to burnish their nationalist credentials, jingoistic references are made about the troubled territory.

In a similar vein, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi used a visit to Leh — his second to India-held Kashmir after securing the top slot — to slam Pakistan and revive memories of 1999’s Kargil imbroglio. Speaking to the Indian troops, Mr Modi castigated Pakistan for engaging “in a proxy war” while he recalled the infiltration of Kargil.

Considering his audience — Indian military personnel — it can safely be said that Mr Modi was playing to the gallery. While there has been some militant activity in India-held Kashmir, the most recent incident being an ambush of troops near Srinagar, as well as cross-LoC trading of fire by both militaries, Mr Modi knows there is no comparison with the situation that existed two decades ago.

At the height of the Kashmir insurgency in the late ’80s and throughout much of the ’90s, hundreds of deaths were reported every year from the held territory, including a high civilian death toll. Today there is no such parallel; instead, there is a feeling of isolation from India in Kashmir and periodic waves of unrest — much of this is due to the harsh laws in place in the region as well as the heavy Indian military presence.

Comments such as those made by Mr Modi will only raise the temperature in the region and fail to address the real problem. And we must accept that Kashmir remains an unresolved issue.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office, while criticising the Indian prime minister, said Islamabad seeks “good, neighbourly relations” with India. Both countries must realise that good neighbours discuss their differences in a calm, logical manner and do not go about accusing each other in public.

If India has concerns about infiltration — which is indeed unacceptable — it needs to communicate these via diplomatic channels. Issuing combative statements only makes the resolution of outstanding issues all the more difficult.

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2014

March of folly

Editorial

It is the season of political immaturity and nobody is putting their money on the outcome.

It is the season of political immaturity and nobody is putting their money on the outcome.

The stock market has seen historic withdrawals sparked by panic. The rupee is struggling as importers are buying dollars in large quantities, also driven by panic. Day-to-day government work has ground to a halt. Shipments of edibles and fuel into cities and towns across Punjab are disrupted, leaving markets and homes running low on supplies of perishable food.

Citizens have to first locate pumps that are open and then endure a four-hour wait to fill up. The intercity movement of goods and people is strangulated, decisions remain stuck in limbo, stocks are running low in factories and homes and uncertainty grips the financial markets as the country waits to see how the brewing confrontation between the government and the PTI will end. Pakistan may have witnessed worse situations before, such as the post-election violence of 1977, but even today, extra-constitutional intervention cannot be discounted.

The blame lies with the politicians, beginning with Imran Khan, who has thrown a spanner into the wheel of democratic consolidation in Pakistan. His grievances, while valid and in need of investigation, do not merit such extreme action, especially when it is yet to be demonstrated convincingly that the irregularities pointed out changed the outcome of the election. Many elections, particularly in developing countries, when examined under the microscope, will show irregularities of some sort, and Pakistan is no exception.

But, instead of calling for a re-election and demonstrating his support on the streets, the wiser course would have been for Mr Khan to accept the government’s offer of negotiating a way out of the stand-off. In the end, the vast and messy contest of democracy works only because all parties agree that the outcome in hand is the only one they have to work with in spite of imperfections in the process. Mr Khan might think he deserved to win the election last year, but he did not and must accept that reality.

And what is Nawaz Sharif’s excuse for his role in such amateur politics? After all, this is not his first taste of the combustibility of Pakistani democracy. He takes pride in presenting himself as the repository of Pakistan’s political memory, boasting three decades of experience in politics. Was it then so hard for the prime minister to deal with Mr Khan’s grievances before matters came to a head? Was it necessary to blockade his own capital and his hometown, thereby signalling his weakness and desperation?

Mr Khan has behaved like a novice by not leaving himself a way to climb down from the maximalist position he has taken. But Mr Sharif has played into his opponents’ hands by staying aloof for long and then panicking. The result is a march of folly that begins tomorrow and ends in territory as yet unknown.

Published in Dawn, Aug 13th, 2014

Role of tribunals

Editorial

Amidst the din of political brinksmanship, the real reason why the PTI launched its protest — electoral reform — has been obscured and overtaken by more grand designs.

Amidst the din of political brinksmanship, the real reason why the PTI launched its protest — electoral reform — has been obscured and overtaken by more grand designs.

However, on Monday, PTI chief Imran Khan said he had ‘proof’ that last year’s polls were rigged, thereby boosting his party’s claim that its mandate was ‘stolen’. Mr Khan named many individuals whom he holds responsible for last year’s alleged electoral malpractices.

Prominent among them is former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and Najam Sethi, who served as caretaker chief minister of Punjab last year, while serving officers of the Election Commission of Pakistan are also included. As expected, nearly all the individuals have dismissed the allegations as ‘baseless’.

Imran Khan claims the judicial and administrative machinery was mobilised to stack the cards against his party. According to him ‘loyal’ judicial officers were appointed and ballot papers of questionable authenticity printed to pervert the electoral process.

The PTI chief has promised more disclosures and the testimony of ‘eye-witnesses’ once, he says, the PML-N leadership is sent home. Of course, while some of these allegations sound like rhetoric, designed to charge the atmosphere before Thursday’s planned march, allegations of irregularities in the 2013 polls cannot be dismissed and certain issues raised by Mr Khan must be investigated thoroughly.

At the same time, we must ask if poll reform is best carried out on the streets, or within constitutional parameters. For example, on Monday a tribunal in Karachi declared the election of Ghulam Murtaza Jatoi to the National Assembly void based on a number of reasons, among them the fact that the individual had falsely claimed to possess a university degree.

Earlier, over the past few weeks, the tribunal had also declared the elections of winners on three Sindh Assembly seats void; the disqualified politicians hail from numerous parties, including the PTI.

While the Karachi tribunal took far more time than the 120 days within which petitions have to be decided — part of the delay attributed to slow verification by Nadra — its decisions show that the present system can work to address electoral malpractices if capable officers are appointed and standard operating procedures followed.

On the other hand, many tribunals in Punjab have yet to decide on petitions. Once the dust settles it would be advisable for all stakeholders to focus on the role of tribunals and how they can be used to meaningfully reform the electoral process.

Published in Dawn, Aug 13th, 2014

Independence Day

Editorial

On the face of it, it would seem incongruous that at a time when the country is yet again in the throes of a political crisis, what with plans being finalised for the assault on the capital tomorrow and speculations about ‘revolution’ rife, the makers and sellers of the national flag and mementos bearing its image are basking in a boom.

On the face of it, it would seem incongruous that at a time when the country is yet again in the throes of a political crisis, what with plans being finalised for the assault on the capital tomorrow and speculations about ‘revolution’ rife, the makers and sellers of the national flag and mementos bearing its image are basking in a boom.

Although the rising cost of production has pushed the prices of such items higher, traders and individual stall-owners have already lifted more than 10 million flags, with the revenue estimates being put at around Rs500m to Rs600m. A closer look, however, might indicate that it is during moments of insecurity that people cling most to cherished notions.

This patriotism may be a good thing, especially if there are chances that one day, hopefully not too far in the distant future, Pakistan will be a country whose prime characteristic is not tumult. That said, though, what lies in the immediate future is clear.

Leaving aside concerns pertaining to the behaviour of the marchers, who we hope will remain peaceful, the country can expect rowdiness on the streets in another form — one that has become a regrettable hallmark of the marking of Independence Day.

Every year there are reports of incidents of harassment and intimidation and traffic accidents as a result of rash driving and other perilous activity. While the police and law-enforcement authorities have a role to play, of course, there needs to be a better understanding of the fact that it is citizens themselves who should own up to the responsibility of keeping the celebrations orderly.

There is nothing wrong with patriotic fervour, but this should not be accompanied with unbridled chaos. There must be some introspection on what led Pakistan to the current juncture — a political crisis that has proved disruptive of the process of governance and has diverted attention from all other serious issues confronting the country — and how matters can be improved.

Published in Dawn, Aug 13th, 2014

A dangerous game

Editorial

Imran Khan, Tahirul Qadri and their respective supporters are to march together on Aug 14 — and with that decision has gone much of the veneer of democratic protest that Imran Khan and the PTI have tried to cling to in recent days.

Imran Khan, Tahirul Qadri and their respective supporters are to march together on Aug 14 — and with that decision has gone much of the veneer of democratic protest that Imran Khan and the PTI have tried to cling to in recent days.

Consider the PTI’s democratic credentials and thus far constitutional demands. The PTI in May 2013 broke the PPP and PML-N duopoly and won millions of votes, with the electorate in virtually every part of the country responding to PTI candidates. Since that election, the PTI is governing one of the country’s four provinces and is the third largest party in the National Assembly.

Now, even though the PTI’s demand for electoral reforms appears to be morphing into a demand for the exit of the government, the PTI has at least publicly pledged to remain within the bounds of the Constitution and is not seeking the end of democracy itself.

Contrast that with the very different nature of Tahirul Qadri’s politics. Mr Qadri professes no allegiance to the Constitution, does not believe in any version of democracy most Pakistanis voters would be familiar with, has explicitly aligned himself with anti-democratic forces in the past and, perhaps most dangerously, appears to believe that his standing as a religious leader for a very small section of the population gives him a veto over what kind of system of governance Pakistanis ought to have.

In short, Mr Qadri is a dangerous demagogue who is expressly seeking the toppling of the very foundations of the state through any means necessary. How, then, can an ostensibly democratic party like the PTI line up alongside Mr Qadri? While both the PTI and PAT have bandied around the term ‘revolution’, the former has so far talked about improving the system already in place while the latter wants the overthrow of the system itself. So whose agenda will prevail? Imran Khan’s still somewhat democratic agenda or Tahirul Qadri’s explicitly undemocratic agenda?

To be sure, the PML-N has bungled the handling of both the PTI and PAT protests. Little can justify any of the tactics used by the government so far. Yet, if the PTI and PAT themselves stand side by side and adopt a common agenda, what room does that leave for the PML-N to try and negotiate its way out of the present crisis?

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself suggested over the weekend that the door to seat recounts remains very much open. Yesterday, too, while decrying the politics of protest in a speech, the prime minister sounded a conciliatory note when it came to the legitimate demands of the PTI. But Mr Sharif sounded a very different tone when it came to the PAT. Freedom march, revolution march — whatever the nomenclature, the demands have to be just and constitutional.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2014

Industry in the crossfire

Editorial

Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s apology to the people for the “inconvenience” caused by his government’s increasingly desperate attempts to immobilise the long march cannot mask reality.

Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s apology to the people for the “inconvenience” caused by his government’s increasingly desperate attempts to immobilise the long march cannot mask reality.

In addition to any “inconvenience” caused by these measures, the disruptions of industrial and food supply chains are also growing. Industry in Punjab had already been reeling from a sharp curtailment of energy when scarce gas and electricity were diverted towards domestic consumers in a bid to placate the people.

Now industry representatives are reporting a shortage of shipping containers in which to dispatch finished orders, and some have seen their shipments intercepted en route, with fully loaded containers that were carrying export cargoes for shipment to clients overseas instead being used for crowd control purposes in Lahore.

Others are complaining that the movement of raw material and goods for their factories has been impacted as obstacles to the intercity movement of goods and people have increased. Growing fuel scarcities are leading to rising absenteeism in offices, and to top it off, business is now contemplating the likelihood of a shutdown of mobile communications.

As the authorities ramp up their efforts to immobilise the protest marches, the hampering and possible immobilisation of the supply chains that keep industry and commerce moving is worrying business leaders across Punjab. The full consequences will appear only if the situation is prolonged, but already early signs of disruptions in the vital supply chains of Punjab’s economy are apparent.

And industry is not the only affected party. Arrival of perishable food items into the city of Lahore has been badly affected with prices of tomatoes, for example, having tripled over the weekend and further increases possible in days to come. Other perishables, such as milk, are also in scarce supply, and vegetable sellers in at least seven Sunday bazaars in Lahore only had potatoes and onions to sell.

The impact on industry and livelihoods will only grow with time. If movement of goods and people is further hampered, ordinary citizens will pay the price in the form of food and fuel scarcities as they are turned into virtual hostages in their own homes. Industry and business will pay the price in the form of depleted stocks, disrupted production schedules and missed deadlines for export consignments.

All parties in this growing crisis should realise that their actions are sending terrible consequences cascading throughout society and the economy, with far-reaching impacts that could be months in playing out.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2014

Tribesmen’s fears

Editorial

A part from the mass exodus of civilians from North Waziristan towards the settled areas in the wake of the military’s crackdown on extremists, issues are now cropping up with those non-combatants who are reluctant to leave the conflict zone.

A part from the mass exodus of civilians from North Waziristan towards the settled areas in the wake of the military’s crackdown on extremists, issues are now cropping up with those non-combatants who are reluctant to leave the conflict zone.

As reported on Saturday, residents of Eidak, a settlement outside Mirali, have refused to evacuate despite looming military action in the area. The administration had earlier warned residents of the settlement and several adjoining areas to head for Bannu.

A tribal jirga has decided to stay put, though channels with the government remain open. Reports from the area indicate that apart from the fear of displacement, locals are also apprehensive of what will become of their properties once they leave.

After all, the hardships that IDPs from other parts of North Waziristan have faced are no secret, while the army-approved images coming out of Mirali show infrastructure that has been thoroughly pounded. The tribesmen also claim their area is free of militants and that earlier, the military had agreed they would not be displaced.

The area is indeed a war zone and militants cannot be allowed to regroup. However, the tribesmen should not be forced to vacate their areas against their will. What can create confidence amongst the tribal population is if the administration and military start rebuilding the areas which have been cleared of extremists, or at least assure the locals that infrastructure will be rebuilt as soon as the situation stabilises.

Seeing the fate of their fellow tribesmen as IDPs and indeed the fact that people displaced by conflict from South Waziristan as far back as 2009 have still not been able to return to their native areas must have strengthened the local people’s doubts.

The civilians still present in North Waziristan should be persuaded to leave but if they refuse, they must not be considered militant sympathisers and their areas should not be pounded by heavy artillery. The military needs to evolve a strategy that is in keeping with the situation.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2014

Undemocratic actions

Editorial

Determined to quell the protests of Tahirul Qadri and his supporters, the Punjab government — with, surely, the backing of the prime minister — has raised the stakes alarmingly.

Determined to quell the protests of Tahirul Qadri and his supporters, the Punjab government — with, surely, the backing of the prime minister — has raised the stakes alarmingly.

A siege mentality combined with a reckless willingness to use the coercive power of the state against political opponents left the provincial capital, Lahore, in a state of virtual lockdown over the weekend and disrupted the transport infrastructure in many parts of the province. To be sure, neither are Mr Qadri’s demands legitimate nor have his supporters been entirely peaceful during various run-ins with the provincial law-enforcement authorities.

Yet, this is the same Mr Qadri and the same set of supporters who a year and a half ago set out for Islamabad from Lahore, camped on the streets of Islamabad for days to press their unlawful and unconstitutional demands, and then disbanded — with little to no violence.

So it is clearly more than a little disingenuous for the PML-N leadership to claim that Mr Qadri and his supporters are now some great threat to the public peace and so, implicitly, responsible for whatever actions the PML-N government has decided to take against them.

Perhaps the larger tragedy here is that a political party that has been in power in Punjab for over six years, has an overwhelming mandate in the province and faces absolutely no threat of being toppled by Mr Qadri’s antics is showing itself to be so undemocratic in its actions.

Using the police and the administrative apparatus of the province in such a partisan manner, denying the citizenry its right to free movement and creating an artificial shortage of basic necessities — this is truly the stuff of undemocratic regimes.

Elected — legitimately — and twice in a row by the voters of Punjab, the PML-N is proving yet again why genuine and meaningful reform of the police and bureaucracy is so difficult regardless of who is in power.

Were there a more independent and rules-bound police and public administration in Punjab — something surely six years of being in charge would have made possible if there had been the political will — the PML-N would be unable to try and crush its political opponents.

And so long as that is the basic approach to power (crush or be crushed), the necessary institutional reforms will be resisted by civilian, elected leaders too.

Yet, the problems for the PML-N, predictably, have only increased thanks to the events in Lahore over the weekend.

Mr Qadri has announced he and his supporters will join the PTI’s Aug 14 rally in Islamabad — signalling an expected convergence of anti-PML-N forces.

Meanwhile, the PML-N’s strong-arm tactics will have alienated a few more potential political allies and surely left sections of the public unhappy as well.

Political isolation is never a winning political strategy — but it appears to be where the PML-N is headed at the moment.

Published in Dawn, Aug 11th, 2014

Gaza: the real issue

Editorial

A temporary ceasefire halts killings for a while but gives no guarantee of a long-term peace based on justice.

A temporary ceasefire halts killings for a while but gives no guarantee of a long-term peace based on justice.

On Friday, the 72-hour Gaza truce agreed upon for ‘humanitarian reasons’ came to an end with hostilities resuming in what by any standards is an uneven match. Pledging “no nonsense”, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s hawkish prime minister, has threatened to continue the killing in Gaza until the job is finished.

By this he means putting an end to Hamas’s ability to resist. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, however, spoke the truth when he said: “Israel is not defending itself, but its settlements.” The world has reacted with horror to Israel’s cold-blooded murder of Gaza’s civilian population under the dubious claim that Hamas is using civilians as a shield.

The bombing of two UN schools has evoked universal condemnation, and even Israel’s ally America has been constrained to voice criticism. But the issue is neither that of global fury nor of any number of ‘temporary’ cessations of hostilities. The issue — and it needs to be repeated — is Israel’s refusal to pull out of the occupied territories.

There is no denying that the methods employed by Hamas to resist Israel’s hardline policies are questionable. But what Mr Netanyahu does not realise is that Hamas is, in fact, a creation of years of Israeli injustices and barbarity that have targeted the Palestinians. And even if Israel does manage to neutralise the fighting capabilities of Hamas, groups even more extremist in nature will arise.

After having accepted the two-state solution not once but many times through public declarations and international agreements, it is binding on Israel to step away from its confrontationist policies and to meaningfully engage with the Palestinians to meet their justified demands. Otherwise Palestinians will have every right to resist the blockade imposed on Gaza.

Here are some of the fundamentals for a durable peace: Israel must end its blockade of Gaza, stop building new settlements and expanding the existing ones on the West Bank, and start pulling out of the occupied territories to pave the way for the emergence of a sovereign Palestinian state.

Without bowing to this reality, Israel will always face Palestinian resistance even as it continues to pursue, at the cost of many lives, its obvious agenda

— annexing the West Bank and Gaza.

Published in Dawn, Aug 11th, 2014

Waste not, want not

Editorial

Whatever else the police force in Pakistan may be accused of, never let it be said that it lacks creative thinking.

Whatever else the police force in Pakistan may be accused of, never let it be said that it lacks creative thinking.

Several years ago, some bright mind must have noticed that as a result of a variety of reasons, from law and order problems to energy shortages to capacity issues, Pakistan was struggling in the export sector. This meant that storage facilities and dockyards were littered with containers — great hulking rectangles of heavy metal — that were not being put to good use.

Meanwhile, the streets were increasingly becoming vulnerable to crowds of protesters riled over one thing or the other — there is, after all, no shortage of causes in Pakistan. The mob predilection for violence was something the worthies in uniform were quite unable to control, and it is almost possible to see the light bulb switched on over this unsung hero’s head as he put two and two together.

So it was that we started seeing containers being used as a method of crowd control. Need to block a road? Call a forklift, requisition some containers, and a little bit of heavy work later, the job is done. It takes resolute demonstrators, indeed, to get past blockades that are so firmly solid (though they have been successful in this endeavour, notably at a protest at Islamabad’s D-chowk against the trailer of a religiously offensive film uploaded on YouTube in 2012).

The authorities have taken to the containers like a duck to water. They are now used so frequently that outside several ‘sensitive’ installations in many cities, containers have become a permanent feature taking up sidewalk or road space, ready to be moved the instant officialdom feels a little insecure. As further proof that Pakistanis are enterprising, many even sport advertising.

Nostalgia for a time when the usual barricades were all that were required is fruitless. It is better, perhaps, to ask why the state is so fearful of the people in whose name it rules. Could the answer lie in the unavailability of good governance and administration?

Published in Dawn, Aug 11th, 2014

Is a solution at hand?

Editorial

SPEAKING at the hastily called national security conference yesterday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif revealed two crucial bits of information: the PTI has indicated to interlocutors it is still willing to consider a recount on several seats from the May 2013 election; and the PML-N is willing to find a way to make a recount happen.

SPEAKING at the hastily called national security conference yesterday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif revealed two crucial bits of information: the PTI has indicated to interlocutors it is still willing to consider a recount on several seats from the May 2013 election; and the PML-N is willing to find a way to make a recount happen.

Immediately, the information shared by the prime minister with the political leadership of the country on the PTI’s private stance was denied publicly by the PTI, but it does suggest that the door still remains open to some kind of negotiated settlement whereby the PTI’s threat of street agitation does not lead to a full-blown political crisis and a make-or-break situation on the streets of the country.

Consider though what it has taken for the PML-N supremo to accept that a recount on several seats is not only possible but that the government can find a way to make it happen legally. When the demands of Imran Khan and his party focused on four seats earlier this year, the PML-N showed little flexibility. Now, with a long march threatened and a crisis on another front with Tahirul Qadri, the prime minister has acknowledged that votes in not four but 10 constituencies could be recounted and that it is something that can be done if the government is willing to find a way.

Cleverly, the prime minister also suggested to his audience that a recount on 10 seats was the price the PTI had demanded to cancel the Aug 14 rally in Islamabad — thereby trying to sow some doubt about the PTI’s determination to hold its protest in Islamabad come what may. But that aside, it is a welcome sign that the prime minister himself has talked about a specific idea to end the impasse with the PTI.

Know more: Imran told Siraj march may be cancelled if recount done on 10 seats: PM

Yet, there is a need to broaden the focus from simply a vote recount to encompassing genuinely needed wider electoral reforms. The prime minister’s suggestion that everything is open for negotiation so long as it is done legally and constitutionally and without the threat of street violence needs to be translated into something more concrete beyond simply ensuring that the government survives Aug 14. On virtually every subject other than the power crisis and aspects of the economy and infrastructure, the PML-N has had a desultory approach — promising much and delivering very little.

In truth, every politician in parliament and many outside it know precisely what the problem with the electoral system is — because they have either suffered from or exploited every loophole in the system. The goal is also clear: every vote cast must be counted and only genuine votes must be allowed to be cast. Surely, if other developing countries have managed progress on that front, so can Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, Aug 10th, 2014

Pipeline trade-offs

Editorial

IT is good that the government is continuing talks on the TAPI pipeline even in the midst of a political crisis at home.

IT is good that the government is continuing talks on the TAPI pipeline even in the midst of a political crisis at home.

This week, as the crisis approached boiling point, the prime minister met Rashid Meredov, who is both the deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Turkmenistan to review progress on the TAPI gas pipeline project. The political situation should not be allowed to hold important policy decisions hostage.

Also read: Sharif vows to complete Tapi project

Likewise, it would be good to see the important matter of pipeline imports of natural gas liberated from geopolitics. Even as the government advances the TAPI project, the other big pipeline project — the Iran-Pakistan pipeline — is suffering from neglect. It may be true that Iran’s involvement is causing financiers to shy away from the latter, but the government could do more to build on Iranian commitments to meet the project’s construction costs. It is difficult to escape the impression that the government is itself soft-pedalling on the Iranian project to appease its benefactors in Riyadh.

It has accepted a ‘gift’ from the Saudi government that has helped to stabilise the country’s foreign exchange reserves in the short term, but it does appear as if measures of this sort have left the government beholden to the Saudi authorities and thereby reluctant to undertake actions that might be viewed with displeasure by the ‘friendly country’.

Pakistan needs pipeline imports of natural gas to meet its growing deficits at home. It also needs to build stronger ties with its neighbours, east and west as well as north. Both priorities are linked, and unlocking the potential of Pakistan’s location is central to breaking out of the low-growth equilibrium in which the economy is stuck.

By all reckonings, the projects to build natural gas pipelines from Iran and Turkmenistan are necessary for the country’s medium energy security, and both projects should be processed with an equal measure of urgency. The stream of positive messages for the Turkmenistan project is good.

The Thursday meeting released many smiles in Islamabad and a generous photo op showing files being exchanged amidst handshakes. The silence on the Iranian project by contrast, is conspicuous, save for one dour pronouncement by the finance minister early in the year that foreign financiers are not interested in the project. Our western neighbours deserve better answers than this, and Pakistan’s medium-term energy security deserves more balanced attention than what the government has managed thus far.

Published in Dawn, Aug 10th, 2014

A dedicated educationist

Editorial

HAILING from a family of scholars, among them Mirza Qaleech Baig, Anita Ghulam Ali made a name for herself as a dedicated campaigner for education, particularly in Sindh.

HAILING from a family of scholars, among them Mirza Qaleech Baig, Anita Ghulam Ali made a name for herself as a dedicated campaigner for education, particularly in Sindh.

With her passing on Friday, education in Pakistan, particularly in Sindh, will be poorer. A teacher and a mentor, she dedicated her life to improving education, especially in the public sphere. She had at one time served as a broadcaster on Radio Pakistan and was a keen athlete in her youth. But it was in the field of learning and teaching that Anita Ghulam Ali would leave her mark.

She was active in teachers’ trade unionism calling for the privatisation of colleges in the late ’60s and early ’70s. An enlightened person, she was a strong supporter of women’s empowerment. Ms Ghulam Ali championed the adopt-a-school programme in Sindh, while one of her key projects was a school for child labourers in Karachi. In fact, bringing education to the children of the poor and disadvantaged remained at the top of her agenda.

Despite having served twice as education minister in the Sindh cabinet, she was not afraid to criticise the state for what she saw as faulty policies, while she also turned down many ministerial perks. Those who had known her for several decades described her as a lifelong activist for education who did commendable work with the Sindh Education Foundation, with which she spent 24 years. She brought energy and verve to her cause and was candid and forthright, not mincing her words. It is said she could have pursued more lucrative avenues in private educational institutions but instead chose to improve the lot of public schools.

While tributes to Anita Ghulam Ali have been pouring in, what is needed, especially from those in government, is a pledge to continue her mission of reforming the public school system. Ms Ghulam Ali pursued innovative solutions to solve the problems confronting education; a similar visionary approach is needed to tackle the ‘education emergency’ that we face.

Columns and Articles

The minority Pakistani

Faisal Bari

A fellow citizen and a friend, a Christian by faith, had to leave Pakistan and seek asylum as he and his family were threatened by a militant organisation.

A fellow citizen and a friend, a Christian by faith, had to leave Pakistan and seek asylum as he and his family were threatened by a militant organisation.

The departments and agencies responsible for the safety of citizens and for maintaining law and order across Pakistan had acknowledged their inability and lack of willingness to protect this friend and his family. He has now settled in another country. And he feels more of a citizen there.

Another Pakistani friend, an Ahmadi, having lost his job because of religious bigots in his office, finally moved his family to Canada. I was talking to him recently and he mentioned that he lived with discrimination almost throughout his life in Pakistan and this was not only in the form of the two beatings he received at the hands of religiously-inspired mobs. In fact, he was referring to the more corrosive effects of the everyday discrimination that he had to face.

Finally, when he could not see any future for himself and especially for his children, he migrated.

Over the last couple of decades I have seen many friends from minority groups of one hue or another (Christian, Shia, Ahmadi, Baloch, Hindu) leave Pakistan and not come back.

Some went for education and never returned, others migrated by applying via the ‘skilled people’ class, while some even had to seek asylum due to one issue or another at ‘home’. When I talk to them now, few seem to have gone willingly and all of them have one thing in common: they were forced to leave due to either direct or indirect persecution by dominant religious and/or nationalist groups.

Some have harrowing tales to tell. But all of them have plenty of stories about how they faced discrimination while even interacting with ordinary citizens or institutions of the state in their everyday lives. The latter, in many cases, more than the former, has left deeper scars.

We did a few Google searches on incidents involving minorities and reported in mainstream English-language newspapers in Pakistan over the last couple of years. Even though these searches were not very rigorous as they did not constitute all the incidents reported in all the papers, the results tell a very sad story. And here we are not talking of the incidents that are not reported in the papers at all or instances of everyday discrimination.

Many of the incidents involved not just one person but a family or group belonging to a certain community as exemplified by the violence perpetrated on Hazara pilgrims), leading to multiple fatalities in one incident.

Christian Pakistanis constitute only 1pc to 2pc of the country’s population; however, the 70-plus incidents in which they feature tell the tragic story of how some Pakistanis are being treated here and how the state is failing to protect its citizens.

There have been reports on these issues by various NGOs and rights groups, while civil society raises the issue and protests after every incident. Even the courts have taken notice of some of the larger issues. But, on the ground, little seems to have changed or is changing.

In fact, the social, political and economic space for these Pakistani citizens seems to be narrowing all the time. Ahmadis have been hounded out of jobs; they have been booked for ‘preaching’ their religion; they have been asked to remove Quranic verses from their places of worship; some have been denied burial space in graveyards. And many Christians and Hindus continue to be converted by force to Islam; and threats not only to the members of these communities but to any who raise their voice in support of their rights as citizens, have become a lot more common. We clearly need to do more to arrest and reverse the trend.

There is a more corrosive element that does not get as much attention as larger incidents. Slowly, but surely, extreme views that started from the fringes of our society have become the mainstream mode of thinking. This has been less noticed and has been less commented on. And there is less momentum to counter this as well.

People mention that wearing black kurtas is not a good idea anymore, and wearing Naad-i-Ali bracelet is a sure way of inviting trouble. A goatee is associated with being Ahmadi, and going to graves or mazars with Barelvis.

All of these, and many similar signs, are ‘deviations’ from the mainstream and are not tolerated well.

I remember a time in Pakistan when the frontier on social space was a lot wider. The debate was on sleeves or no sleeves, dupatta or no dupatta, beard or no beard rather than on the colour and size of the hijab, or the shape and length of the beard. Narrowing of any space hits the ‘deviants’ the hardest.

Should we just ask all minorities to leave Pakistan? If not, it is not enough to just allow them to exist on the fringes of society and deny them the rights due to citizens. But this, given the entrenched nature of discrimination in our society, cannot be the responsibility of state institutions alone.

All citizens have to stand up to ensure rights for all and have to take the risk of countering the dominant, narrow and bigoted narrative currently prevalent in our society.

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 15th, 2014

Changing shades of Lahore

Asha’ar Rehman

Lahore hasn’t had this kind of variety for a long time. It has been boringly two-sided for most of the last quarter-century. There would be the PML faction led by Nawaz Sharif and there would be its ever squandering, progressively compromised challenger in the PPP. It made for such predictable fare, especially after it became clear that the PML-N was running away with the show.

Lahore hasn’t had this kind of variety for a long time. It has been boringly two-sided for most of the last quarter-century. There would be the PML faction led by Nawaz Sharif and there would be its ever squandering, progressively compromised challenger in the PPP. It made for such predictable fare, especially after it became clear that the PML-N was running away with the show.

Over and over again, the same sequence was played between 1988 and 2002, when a PML group under the leadership of Gen Pervez Musharraf and comprising House-of-Sharif renegades sought to provide the third dimension to the politics of the city which then defined the politics in vast areas across Punjab.

The election in 2008 threatened to restore the old equation, if briefly, before Mr Asif Zardari intervened with his reconciliatory politics to reduce his party to a spectator. The past few days bring yet another confirmation just how absent from — or worse still, irrelevant to — the proceedings the PPP is.

The PPP made a last-ditch effort to make its existence felt in Lahore on the evening before the scheduled marches on Islamabad. And guess who was leading the party’s quest for regaining a dignified presence in the city of its birth? Rehman Malik, ex-FIA and the PPP’s nominee for a role in the battle that some had been saying involved a few renowned spymasters.

Even in these moments, when the PPP had committed itself to standing firmly by the PML-N, its relevance to the politics out in the streets here was in severe doubt. And even when the PPP-PML-N alliance at the centre stage of Pakistani politics was being hailed as both a victory and guarantee for the continuation of democracy, in the public space the PPP was more shunned than welcomed.

By comparison, even a lone ranger named Jamshed Dasti appeared to create a stir when he arrived at Zaman Park to volunteer his support for an Imran Khan who has been at best indifferent to his friendly overtures.

The run-up to the long march pulled parties of all kinds and sizes to the Punjab capital — all of them looking to use the situation for leaving an impression on the city that matters.

According to the ongoing discussions here, the least expected were the catering services the Muttahida Qaumi Movement provided to the besieged Pakistan Awami Tehreek workers around the Minhajul Quran complex in Model Town. The blocking of food brought for thousands of PAT protesters got the MQM ‘unprecedented’ coverage from the media in Lahore, even when the barricades that Rashid Godil and company ran against was a metaphor of how tough for the party it was to get the message across away from home in this alien land.

As relevance and impact and success go, Jamaat-i-Islami’s Sirajul Haq stood head and shoulders above them all. He was more prominent among the mediating politicians and it was he who ultimately managed to win the licence for acting as a messenger between the opposing camps. He didn’t quite have the effect of a Qazi Hussain Ahmed on the Jamaat admirer Imran Khan, but still his efforts to defuse tensions did no harm to his reputation as a pragmatic Jamaat emir.

He did not just have a sense of purpose about him but also some political weight, and earned his party capital which it can now build upon for dividends in the long run. Without doubt, Sirajul Haq’s constant well-meaning shuttle during this long march episode has done much more to introducing him as a national player than all his rallies since his election as the Jamaat emir put together.

Long after the marchers are done and gone, this August gathering in Lahore will continue to be used for gauging actions and the responses they generate on the public scale. The variety that the past week put on show may not please everyone but that is the choice before us, short of a dramatic recovery from the old players. Even in revolutionary times there are always a few things that need to be resurrected.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2014

Religion’s mosaic

Muhammad Ali Musofer

Religion is commonly seen by believers as divine inspiration for the guidance of mankind. The heavenly inspiration, mostly recorded in sacred books, reveals itself in figurative and allegoric language. When mankind endeavours — with human capacity — to make meaning of the divine message, the result is diverse expressions. Therefore, multiplicity of understanding and interpretation exists in most world faiths.

Religion is commonly seen by believers as divine inspiration for the guidance of mankind. The heavenly inspiration, mostly recorded in sacred books, reveals itself in figurative and allegoric language. When mankind endeavours — with human capacity — to make meaning of the divine message, the result is diverse expressions. Therefore, multiplicity of understanding and interpretation exists in most world faiths.

During its journey, Islam shaped different cultures and reciprocally, some Islamic concepts and practices got coloured by local cultures as well. It is evident that Muslims of different cultures and geographies tried to make meaning of Islamic teachings within their context and culture.

Historically, whenever Muslims faced new situations and challenges they had to look at their faith with different perspectives to seek fresh insight. It was because of this attitude that Muslims in the early period of Islam contributed diversely to the treasures of human knowledge such as theology, philosophy, art, architecture and literature.

Similarly, many Muslims were deeply inspired by the spiritual dimension of Islam. The Sufis and some other groups focused on the spiritual facet in order to seek guidance and salvation. This is the reason that a huge amount of inspirational literature is found in Muslim societies.

Furthermore, people with interest in jurisprudence showed overwhelming engagement with the legal dimension of Islam. Such engagement contributed to developing rich jurisprudential traditions in Muslim societies. At times, due to political reasons, the jurisprudential aspect remained more influential than the other dimensions of Islamic teachings.

The above examples reveal that trends within Islamic history have not been monolithic, but more a mosaic of understanding. This mosaic, with its plurality of understanding and interpretations, is an integral part of Muslim history.

Today, many Muslim societies, like Pakistan, reflect the diversity of Muslim history. However, sometimes this reality is ignored, intentionally or unintentionally, by some groups and a particular understanding of Islam is considered as ‘the understanding’, and efforts are then made to impose it by force. As a result, societies face violence and polarisation.

It is observed that most history books available for ordinary people and the material taught in educational institutions in Pakistan have been written in the orthodox and heterodox paradigm. It means such material indicates that there is only one orthodox or ‘right’ understanding of Islam and others are heterodox or ‘deviating’. This kind of learning is not able to provide an opportunity to the learner to understand the rich diversity of Muslim history and societies. Such a frame of reference promotes hatred and rejection of different views.

There is a need to understand that diversity is a historical reality and cannot be eliminated. There is a need to understand this reality in order to create a peaceful society.

The state needs to develop an inclusive policy that ensures equality and discourages discrimination on the bases of faith, ethnicity etc. It should promote research-based and balanced history books for ordinary readers and students while polemical literature should be discouraged.

The education system needs to review its policies, curriculum and the teaching-learning process in order to develop a balanced and tolerant citizenry.

The media plays a significant role in shaping or reshaping the culture of society. Hence, it needs to introduce programmes that promote diverse views in society.

In sum, Islam as a faith and civilisation has a dynamic and rich history. Historically, Islam has been understood and expressed through different ways. The diverse expressions are like a mosaic with different colours and shapes.

Today, Muslim societies reflect the same plurality of understanding of Islam. Hence, in order to create harmony in Muslim societies, there is a need to accept and appreciate every piece of the mosaic of Muslim history.

The writer is a freelance contributor with an interest in Muslim history and culture.

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Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2014

Rolling back

Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

While the right-wing, and particularly religio-political groups, were becoming increasingly influential by this time, it was undoubtedly the left that played the vanguard role in those heady days. That much of the left’s thunder was eventually stolen by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is not to be understated. But regardless of the left’s failings, there is little question that without its ideas and organisational capacities, a revolutionary moment would not have come to pass.

While the right-wing, and particularly religio-political groups, were becoming increasingly influential by this time, it was undoubtedly the left that played the vanguard role in those heady days. That much of the left’s thunder was eventually stolen by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is not to be understated. But regardless of the left’s failings, there is little question that without its ideas and organisational capacities, a revolutionary moment would not have come to pass.

Unfortunately, the full-fledged transformation that so many political workers and ordinary people alike had envisioned never materialised. With the deposal of the PPP government began a counter-revolutionary era with no precedent during which most of the gains made during the previous period were rolled back.

The counter-revolution was not limited to Pakistan. Indeed the left suffered defeat after heartbreaking defeat in one country after the next; while the domino effect started with the overthrow of the elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973, the trend was decisively consolidated after Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan came to power in 1979.

What Reagan explicitly called the policy of ‘rollback’ was unleashed upon the world in the 1980s. While analysis of the shifts that have taken place under the guise of ‘rollback’ typically focuses on the reduced role of the state in the economy and the attendant globalisation of capital, as significant has been the change in the tone and tenor of politics, and particularly the political imaginary of change.

So the right-wing ‘Tea Party’ can claim to be the face of change in America while reactionary ‘civil society’ movements purportedly committed to challenging political dynasties of various kinds rear their head with startling regularity in all parts of Asia and Africa. Only in Latin America is change of the ‘old’ leftist variety still talked about, and even made into a reality, in the shape of elected leftist presidents in half a dozen countries of that region.

First, it is preposterous to suggest that we are presently in anything like a ‘revolutionary’ moment. While we are in the midst of a relative breakdown of the hegemonic order, not unlike the situation during the late 1960s and particularly following the secession of East Pakistan, there are nothing like the mobilised constituencies of that era in today’s Pakistan.

Notwithstanding the rhetoric, does anyone outside of the elite ghettoes that can’t get enough of Imran Khan actually believe that Pakistan is on the cusp of social transformation? Where are the workers and peasants of yesteryear? Much has been made of the ‘youth’ but as someone who comes into contact with young people regularly, I can testify to the mind-numbing alienation of most of today’s educated youth. They generally scoff at the handful of their peers who take even an interest in matters of collective concern, let alone ideological politics.

In fact, notwithstanding a sting in the tail, the fact that the ‘azadi march’ and ‘Qadri revolution’ are proving to be little more than damp squibs confirms another major difference between the revolutionary heights of the 20th century and today’s counter-revolutionary era; while in the past revolutions actually had to be built from the ground-up by the genuinely downtrodden, today ‘revolutionary’ dramas can be concocted by the TV media. It is thus that rollback continues, and the right wing prospers.

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

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2014

Five causes of the crisis

I.A. Rehman

Never have the unfortunate people of Pakistan been so full of apprehension about their future on Independence Day as they are today. What gives their anxiety sharper focus is the realisation that in the confused, slogan-dominated debate on the state’s affliction, the root causes of the crisis are being studiously avoided.

Never have the unfortunate people of Pakistan been so full of apprehension about their future on Independence Day as they are today. What gives their anxiety sharper focus is the realisation that in the confused, slogan-dominated debate on the state’s affliction, the root causes of the crisis are being studiously avoided.

The first basic cause of Pakistan’s endemic crisis is the failure to create a modern, democratic state. The colonial administration inherited at independence was totally unsuited to the demands of a democratic state based on the equality of citizens. It was also at variance with the principles of a democratic federation of equal and autonomous units that the Lahore Resolution of 1940 envisioned.

During the period 1947-1956, when the Govern­ment of India Act of 1935 was used as the basic law, the vision of a democratic polity got dimmed and anti-democratic actors found opportunities to establish and nourish authoritarian traditions.

The constitutions adopted over the past six decades have merely replaced colonial authoritarianism with indigenous plutocracy. This entity is lower on the democratic scale than even the state established in India under its constitution in 1950. The scholars looking for reasons for Pakistan’s predicament will find an answer in the speech of Dr Ambedkar (one of the most far-sighted politicians this subcontinent has had) that he made after the adoption of the Indian constitution bill that he had ably piloted:

“On the 26th of January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will be recognising the principle of one man one vote, and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value. … How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove the contradiction at the earliest possible moment, or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which this Assembly has so laboriously built up.” (Emphasis added)

Throughout the years of independence Pakistan has suffered because of the curse of inequality. Not only are citizens unequal in an economic sense they are not equal in the political sense either. There is no political equality between Muslim and non-Muslim citizens; all non-Muslims are not equal, nor are all Muslims equal to one another. So long as a majority has its political decisions made by landlords and pirs, or is caught up in its struggle for national rights, the people cannot sustain a democratic polity.

Pakistan’s troubles will not end until the rural masses are freed of their bondage to the landed aristocracy and pirs, and citizens of less populous provinces, including the Baloch, have the same rights as the Punjabis.

The second cause of Pakistan’s crisis today is the failure to adapt the apparatus of the state to the needs of a democratic dispensation. Even when Pakistan’s rulers have tried to be good to the people, the state apparatus has frustrated them. How the state apparatus ensures non-implementation of the laws on the statute book is known, and the reason is not always incompetence.

All setbacks suffered by the various leaders who possessed constitutional authority were the doings of the state apparatus, eg, Nazimuddin’s fall in 1953, Ayub Khan’s in 1969, Bhutto’s in 1977, and Nawaz Sharif’s in 1999. Pakistan’s politicians must find a way of redesigning the state machinery and acquiring control over it, otherwise they will not only remain vulnerable they will also be led by the administration to make wrong, even fatal, choices.

The third main factor of instability is the presence of the theocratic seed in Pakistan’s genes — now grown into a big tree. Weak and misguided regimes have pandered to the theocratic lobby to an extent that it is now holding the state to ransom. The interpretation of belief and the ideology based on it, offered by the orthodox clergy, is incompatible with the democratic, federal and egalitarian imperatives of the state. Besides, it is obstructing resolution of conflicts, domestic as well as external.

To appreciate this situation, students of politics will find a study of Prof Moonis Ahmar’s book Conflict Management & Secular Pakistan, immensely rewarding. The sooner Pakistan gives up its theocratic aberrations the better.

The fourth cause of the crisis is the imbalance in civil and military relations. The defence set-up has almost always been autonomous of civilian authority, especially the democratically elected one, and this has adversely affected the functioning of both. While the military’s views on security must carry due weight the exclusion of civil authority from the formulation of security plans or defence strategy is manifestly harmful.

Strangely enough, the army still says that it follows the civilian government’s directives but no civilian authority in Pakistan has tried to remove the imbalance in its relations with the military through institutional mechanisms. Unless this flaw is removed, Pakistan will not find a way out of the woods.

There is no situation for which a constitutional solution cannot be found. The Constitution had a solution in 1977 (fresh elections) and also in 1999 (judicial remedy). And the Constitution’s silences or ambiguities can always be overcome through the procedure of amendment.

Thus crises have been caused by a refusal to use the constitutional route for the resolution of issues and not by non-availability of constitutional remedies. Reliance on the myth of constitutional deficiency to justify extra-constitutional intervention will keep the crisis alive.

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2014

PTI’s white paper

Khurram Husain

If you haven’t read the PTI’s white paper on the government’s first year in power, here’s a quick brief. It begins with a quote, rather strangely chosen, by a Frenchman from the revolutionary era, saying something about Spartans and Persians and how people are slaves because they cannot utter the word ‘no’. The Frenchman in question — Nicolas Chamfort — is then erroneously identified as a 19th-century French writer.

If you haven’t read the PTI’s white paper on the government’s first year in power, here’s a quick brief. It begins with a quote, rather strangely chosen, by a Frenchman from the revolutionary era, saying something about Spartans and Persians and how people are slaves because they cannot utter the word ‘no’. The Frenchman in question — Nicolas Chamfort — is then erroneously identified as a 19th-century French writer.

In fact, Chamfort died in 1794 and belonged firmly to the 18th century. But let’s not quibble over trivial details.

Monsieur Chamfort had other lines to his credit, besides the one that decorates the top of the white paper. “One can be certain that every generally held idea, every received notion, will be an idiocy, because it has been able to appeal to a majority,” he once wrote.

Few ideas are more “generally held” in Pakistan than the idea that corruption alone holds this country back. The white paper peddles much of this simplistic reasoning, calling for a “historic struggle” against this “nearly 70-year pattern of careening from one corrupt and illegitimate regime to the next”.

And what is the pattern? In tight prose and a neat juxtaposition, the white paper begins with a panoramic view of the Metrobus project, “sealed off by steel barrier walls in splendid isolation from the rest of the traffic” and with a price tag said to be Rs1 billion per kilometre.

But it is what lies beneath the ground upon which the project is built that the authors draw our attention, where “invisible to the citizens of Lahore but vital to their existence, runs the city’s system of water pipes”. This system, the paper tells us citing a press report, is so poorly maintained that raw sewage infiltrates it, and the water is laced with arsenic.

“It is difficult to imagine a more perfect illustration of the grandiosity and cynicism of the ruling PML-N government than this stark juxtaposition,” says the paper. We get expensive visible projects, like the Metrobus, while “the actual workaday business of governing” is allowed to languish. “No one sees what is underground.”

From here the paper launches a broadside against the rule of the PML-N, “where the grinning Sharif brothers cut ribbons on vanity projects and then hand the invoices to working people” who are left to drink water laced with sewage and arsenic.

Let me say this: it’s a good thing that we have a political party which is pointing these failures out so trenchantly. The failures in governance are grave indeed and not just the Sharif brothers, but others too need to have them rubbed in their faces. But it would be helpful if in the course of doing so, the PTI did not reduce them to the level of “idiocy” by turning the whole thing into an absurd theatre.

It faults the government for paying out Rs500bn to settle the circular debt at the very beginning of its term last year, but doesn’t mention what else could have been done to get power generation going again. Were other options available in the immediate term?

It faults the government for raising power tariffs by “78pc” in the last year, but how would the PTI advance power-sector reforms without narrowing the gap between the cost of generation and the cost of selling electricity?

In many places, the complaint it brings against the PML-N government is valid — like the government’s failure to reduce line losses or the fevered pursuit of the Nandipur power project. But in other places it takes failures that are the consequence of deep structural rigidities that will take far more than one year to resolve, and puts them on the list of the government’s failures in its first year in power. For example, raising the GDP growth rate or raising competitiveness.

It raises some valid points about delays in appointments in state-owned enterprises, but bundles in other miscellaneous complaints into the package, like Najam Sethi in the PCB and the sacking of the Nadra chairman.

The mixed bag of complaints — some valid, others imagined and many far-fetched — leads to another lyrical conclusion.

The present government, we are told, has reduced people’s lives to “a constant struggle for survival, it robs them of what makes us truly human — the ability to dream”.

Against this failure, the paper promises that “the protests will continue until the people have justice” and invokes the legacy of protests in city squares like Tiananmen, Tahrir and Taksim, while lionising “the courage of those who gave their lives trying to bring down corrupt rulers”. From here, the prose takes off into a flight of literary fancy of “only the truth can set a nation free” variety, describing the first year of the government as “a disaster of unprecedented proportions”.

Nothing bothered Monsieur Chamfort more than pretentious hyperbole of this sort. Groomed in the parlours of the French aristocracy, he fell out with his patrons and joined the Jacobins in the revolutionary years, serving as their secretary general for a while. Eventually, he turned the sharp end of his wit against the revolutionary pretensions of his new brethren, summing up their creed as “[b]e my brother, or I will kill you!” What a perfect epitaph for the pseudo revolutionary zeal that fires the marchers on the GT road today.

The writer is a member of staff.

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Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2014

A crimson birthday

F.S. Aijazuddin

This 14th of August will be a crimson birthday for our country.

This 14th of August will be a crimson birthday for our country.

Crimson, from the colour of the blood of all those — guilty and innocent alike — who have been killed during the Zarb-i-Azb campaign in Waziristan.

Crimson, from the wounds of those slaughtered in the streets of our cities because certain political parties cannot control their ambitions.

Crimson, from the embarrassment a chief minister must feel at being unable to allow a political demonstration in his provincial capital to go unthwarted.

Crimson, from the anger 10 million Lahoris at being quarantined like internees in Gaza, and at their entry and exit being blocked by a steel wall of containers.

Crimson, from the shame a governor of the province should feel at barricading himself behind two containers emblazoned with the unwitting admission: “Allah O Akbar”.

Crimson, from the creeping realisation Imran Khan must feel that he has now cohabited with the very two parties — Tahirul Qadri’s PAT and the PML-Q — that he arrogantly refused to espouse in January 2013.

Crimson, from the remonstrance expressed by a London-based political leader that the solution to our political ills lay in the removal of the prime minister, a ‘minus-one’ formula. It is as impious a hope as the suggestion (in another context, almost 2,000 ago) that ‘one man should die for the people, instead of the whole nation being destroyed’.

Crimson, from the self-consciousness the prime minister ought to feel at neglecting governance and instead pursuing stubbornly a personal vendetta against one man — former president Gen Pervez Musharraf.

Crimson, from the mood of a nation that is being made to learn that even though we may be winning the war against terror in Waziris­tan, we are losing the battle against error in the streets and alleys of the rest of our country.

Crimson, from the stain on our national self-respect that allows us to accept that invocation of Article 245 of the Constitution is justified, that it can be used in Islamabad to protect a civilian government which last year won an electoral endorsement by 15 million voters, and within a year has lost the confidence of the 180 million Pakistanis.

Inevitably, celebrations this August on both sides of the border will attract a comparison. In New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is gripped by the dilemma whether or not on Independence Day he should award the Bharat Ratna to his mentor Atal Behari Vajpayee and/or to Neta-ji Subhas Chandra Bose. In Islamabad, prime minister Nawaz Sharif will be wondering whether he will be given a reprieve by his opponents or the boot.

To anyone who follows the convulsions inherent in Pakistani politics, there is no possibility of Nawaz Sharif quitting the prime ministership voluntarily. As a third-term prime minister, he is unlikely to commit political suicide, even if there is always the compensation of relapsing into the purgatory of Saudi Arabia.

Nawaz Sharif cannot be coerced into a resignation. He has received an oxygen endorsement from Mr Asif Zardari who has announced that he would like to see Mr Sharif complete his tenure.

Mr Zardari has two reasons for saying this — firstly, he is returning the favour by which Mr Sharif’s cooperation enabled him to complete a full-term as president, and secondly he would relish seeing Mr Sharif sink deeper and deeper into the quicksands of inept governance. Nothing succeeds like the failure of a political opponent.

There are some with long memories who rummage for a comparison in the confrontation between Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the Pakistan National Alliance following the bitterly contested verdict of the general elections in 1977. The similarities were too superficial to be relived.

Then, the public believed Mr Bhutto had rigged the elections to an unconscionable degree. Today, the public has yet to be convinced (Imran Khan’s dramatic but inconsistent advocacy notwithstanding) that Nawaz Sharif is guilty of rigging on a mass scale. A constituency here, a constituency there perhaps, but too few and, in any case, too long ago. The cement of history has already set.

Once czar Nicholas II and his cronies had been overthrown, the allies fell out among themselves and the Bolsheviks took control. Trotsky, speaking for the disappointed Menshe­­viks, railed against his former allies: “You are miserable isolated individuals. You are bankrupt. You have played out your role. Go where you belong — to the dust heap of history.”

A disenchanted, disappointed Pakistani public would be forgiven for hurling similar invective against its political leaders on this crimson 14th of August.

The writer is an author and art historian.

www.fsaijazuddin.pk

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2014

Police and the mob

Mohammad Ali Babakhel

A challenging task for the police is crowd control where the law enforcement personnel often find themselves wandering between the law and an emotional surge of people. It is a situation that restricts adherence to perfect policing standards.

A challenging task for the police is crowd control where the law enforcement personnel often find themselves wandering between the law and an emotional surge of people. It is a situation that restricts adherence to perfect policing standards.

While Articles 15, 16 and 17 of the Constitution guarantee freedom of movement, assembly and association, Sections 128 and 129 of the Criminal Procedure Code empower the police to disperse an assembly of people through force, even though this affects basic human rights such as the right to life, liberty and security. Our colonial past is full of brutal examples, such as the Jalianwala Bagh incident.

Internationally, the UN basic principles state that law enforcement officials “shall, as far as possible, apply nonviolent means before resorting to the use of force” and may use force “only if other means remain ineffective”. When force is unavoidable, law-enforcement officials must “exercise restraint in such use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence”. Further, use of force requires a “graduated response” and respect for the legal process.

Dealing with a spontaneous mob is easier than handling planned protests, the latter requiring more skill and patience. Ultimately, it is also a test of nerves for the police.

Meanwhile, clashes between protesters and police led the Ukrainian government to disband its anti-riot police unit whose members were accused of beating, torturing and shooting demonstrators. The unit had 5,000 personnel stationed across Ukraine. Clashes between the Tunisian police and protesters in 2012 injured more than 200 people and led to a debate on the crowd management capabilities of the police, many of whom were also injured.

In the same year, the Bureau of Police Research and Development in India constituted a study group with the focus on dealing with agitators with minimum force. The group was mandated to study existing procedures and to suggest amendments in existing crowd-control procedures.

At the other end, after protests by Indian workers, Singapore decided to double the size of its anti-riot force. However, an increase in manpower is not the solution. Transparency in policing is also required. Recently, the London police decided to equip the force with 500 body-worn cameras. Where excessive force is alleged, such cameras will help investigators ascertain the facts and determine responsibility. These cameras will also be instrumental in improving the conviction rate.

Such forces need a dedicated command with a clear understanding of the situation. After assessing the circumstances, the field commanders can deliberate on the use of force that is proportionate to the situation.

Sadly, police here have to learn on the job. However, the recent move by the Rawalpindi police to set up an exclusive anti-riot unit, together with the KP police’s school of public disorder management is a step in the right direction. The Pakistani police’s being engaged in anti-terrorism efforts since 9/11 has compromised other obligations.

The police have a poor image and this is often exploited by anti-police elements. Skirmishes often start when elements within a rowdy crowd start pelting stones, or when protesters and police fail to maintain a safe distance.

Such situations are often aggravated by rumours. In this day of mass media, crowd control becomes trickier.

In our strategy, negotiation is a missing link. Hence, force is often used without attempting negotiations. There is no doubt that the police must negotiate and maintain a constant dialogue with the organisers of a protest. Police officers must state that they respect the public’s right to demonstrate, but cannot allow them to harm others or to damage property.

On the other hand, the police should be educated about the principles of proportionality, legality, accountability and necessity.

In Pakistan, the National Police Bureau should assess the crowd management capabilities of the law enforcers and identify legal flaws and logistical needs. Where the use of force is concerned, the bureau should draft training modules and standard operating procedures. In such an endeavour, the assistance of researchers and psychologists is a must, as is a code of ethics, drawn up after consultation with and among political parties to instil a sense of responsibility in political workers.

Meanwhile, openness in the policing culture will strengthen a form of policing that will shield both the police force and the public from each other’s wrath.

The writer is a police officer.

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2014

The perils of promises

Rafia Zakaria

Fifteen years before August 1947, Winston Churchill said: “We have no intention of casting away that most truly bright and precious jewel in the crown of the king, which more than all our other dominions and dependencies constitutes the glory and strength of the British empire.”

Fifteen years before August 1947, Winston Churchill said: “We have no intention of casting away that most truly bright and precious jewel in the crown of the king, which more than all our other dominions and dependencies constitutes the glory and strength of the British empire.”

We all know how it ended; this almost ides of August we mark the departure of the British and the independence and creation of our very own Pakistan. As they left, the British gathered up all the crowns they had collected from the myriad maharajas and sultans they had encountered during their sojourn of two centuries and went back to their island on the other side of the world. The crowns, literally, they kept and arranged in glass cases in the carpeted rotunda of Windsor Castle, where they remain today, the headgear of Bhopal and Tipu Sultan, the lined-up, once lustrous loot of empire.

Pakistan’s was a special victory, a double rout, a one-up against the British and then a wresting from what had been before empire; a new country whose existence and possibility had been even less likely, less imaginable, than the departure of the British. Imagined first by a poet as he longed for home in the frigid grimness of Europe, Pakistan was a promise, a just-realised possibility whose allure lay in its emptiness.

Progressive writers, caught up in the feverish euphoria of the subcontinent’s grandest anti-colonial moment, imagined it as a host for their literary aspirations, political leaders as a playground for ideological innovation, a deftly devised polity of democracy and faith leavened by linguistic and cultural diversity. Those that had the least, who loaded up their oxcarts and left behind their fields, who rolled up their bedrolls and remained undeterred by the unknown, had their own dreams — idyllic recreational patchworks of prosperity and new community, hopefully created.

Because Pakistan had just recently graduated from possibility to reality, it could hold them all, these vastly varied dreams of a perfect homeland, all fit into the receptacle of its newly created borders. Pakistan was a promise and in its unrealised capacities everyone could believe.

So many of our current wars and vagaries are due to the collisions of these varied promises, all of whom existed together for a time but have now decided against cohabitation. There are the promises of constitutions past, pushing and shoving at the content of amendments present. There are the memories of one vision of the nation, promoted by the sayings and writings and remembrances of leaders past and the competing recollections of others also bolstered by bits and pieces of the past.

One by one, those that lived then, when the magic moment of creation happened, are being taken away by time; and with them go the empirical truths of what was said, what little was certain, and what was meant to be. In its wake, Pakistan is today a battleground of varied dreams, a warzone of parallel promises, each of which yearns for fulfilment.

The problem, however, is not simply the competing content of promises differently remembered, or even the grisly contest of irreconcilable visions. A nation built on promises is not a problem; indeed, every nation, even those that count themselves as the strongest, most cohesive and dominant of our contemporary times, can claim that germ as the first act of creation. With crowds gathered in the streets, cities sealed and marches pledged on the eve of its 67th birthday, Pakistan’s problem with promise is not its inability to decide which ones it wants fulfilled.

Instead, it is an addiction to a particular stage of political existence, the point of promise at which anything is possible, nothing is certain, and passion determines everything. The rage in the streets, the brokenness of justice, the incredible allure of a different future attached to a new promise thus tempts and taints each time.

As Pakistanis, we can believe in promises but we cannot live through the pain of their realisation, the mediocrity of the path that must be taken to fruition, the banalities that ensue after the fervour subsides. Even the content of the commitment does not seem to matter, for with every crisis — and there are so many and so frequent — a crowd of diehards appears, its faith invested, its flags raised for the most recent promise for something new.

It is not, then, a contest of promises, a rout to see whether it will be the military or the civilian leadership, the few secularists or the many populists. The question is not one of who will define the future but that as a country Pakistan will remain addicted to the possibility that is promised, yet never have the patience or perseverance to see a vision — any vision — realised.

Behind us, in the 67 years that have gone before, lies the collective carnage, the discarded detritus of promises past. In front of us are the promises we accept today but will no longer be able to tolerate tomorrow.

A move towards political maturity requires patience and process, and in Pakistan’s promise-filled present and promise-filled past neither seems to be forthcoming.

The 67th birthday, like the 66th that came before and the 68th that will come after, will bring the passion and tumult of upheaval, a call to believe in one man’s vision and to join another man’s march. The rulers of the present will thwart the rulers of the future, each detailing the real ills and travails of a country stuck in a single stage of existence, unwilling to grow, earn, work, or live out the promises it sentences to yesterday.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

rafia.zakaria

Published in Dawn, Aug 13th, 2014

Running out of options

Zahid Hussain

The battle lines are more or less defined now with the approach of Aug 14. Unsurprisingly, Tahirul Qadri has joined hands with Imran Khan for the ‘azadi march’. His fanatically motivated supporters, drawn mainly from the lower middle classes across the Punjab heartland, may add spine to Imran Khan’s middle-class youth brigade with no experience of street agitation.

The battle lines are more or less defined now with the approach of Aug 14. Unsurprisingly, Tahirul Qadri has joined hands with Imran Khan for the ‘azadi march’. His fanatically motivated supporters, drawn mainly from the lower middle classes across the Punjab heartland, may add spine to Imran Khan’s middle-class youth brigade with no experience of street agitation.

Besides, Qadri has set a more strident tenor for D-Day. Now there is no going back on the ‘revolution’, he has warned his allies. It is certainly the politics of expediency that has brought together Qadri and Khan on the same platform. But the radical rhetoric of the Canada-based cleric and his incitement to violence could turn him into a liability for the PTI and prove to be the undoing of the ‘azadi march’ even before it has taken off. Nevertheless the new coalition will shape the emerging political polarisation in the country.

Most other political parties are sitting on the fringes weighing their options as the confrontation comes to a head. What happens on Aug 14 is most likely to determine their future course of action. But more importantly, what are the choices for the beleaguered prime minister in this hour of reckoning?

Will he sail through the storm or be swept away by the tide? Having already lost the initiative in the battle of narratives, Nawaz Sharif faces a tough fight ahead to survive in power against strong odds. It is more than just a political battle; the government’s unresolved tension with the generals over Musharraf’s treason trial and a host of other issues will also matter in the endgame.

Having been thrown out of power halfway through his tenure twice, one expected Sharif to exercise discretion while tackling the mounting political tension. However, the dynamics of the present crisis are quite different from the past. Unlike his previous terms, when the power struggle at the top echelon cost him his government, Sharif is confronting a street show of force challenging the very legitimacy of his rule for the first time.

Surely, the threat is compounded by the conflict within the power structure. Sharif’s uninspiring and absent leadership does not help his cause for mobilising mass support for the impending battle. The concentration of power within a small family circle has exposed the weak ability of the government to motivate party cadres to stand up to the challenge

Yet there is no sign the prime minister realises the gravity of the situation. He still wonders where he has gone wrong. His speech on Monday at the launching of Vision 2025 had a defensive tone with no clarity on how he is going to fight the battle. He still seems to be in a state of denial about the gathering storm. His implicit inference to the military being the author of the script will surely further sour already tense civil-military relations at this crucial stage.

The Punjab government’s perilous handling of the Qadri issue — first the killing of 14 Minhajul Quran activists in June and then the recent blocking of the roads by containers — has cost the administration dearly. The spectacle of men and women crawling under the containers to reach their destinations in Lahore could not be more politically damaging for the Sharif brothers. The container strategy has failed to work and any move to detain Imran Khan and other leaders ahead of the Aug 14 sit-in will surely boomerang on the administration, fuelling uncontrollable violence across Punjab and perhaps giving more dead bodies for Qadri to exploit.

It would have been more sensible had the government permitted the PTI’s march in the first place. In that case, the onus of maintaining peace would squarely be on the opposition. Now Qadri’s joining the march has changed the matrix and any show of flexibility by the government would be taken as a sign of weakness. The space for Sharif regaining the initiative is fast shrinking.

Yet it is not the end of the road for the Sharif government. There are still a few options left for the troubled prime minister to regain the lost political space. His biggest political capital is the party’s absolute majority in the National Assembly that he has yet to put into action. A major problem for Sharif is his utter disregard for parliament. His rare appearances in the House and inability to initiate debate on major policy issues has rendered parliament ineffective and increased his isolation.

It took a long time for Sharif to embrace the other major parties represented in parliament and that too came when the chips were down. Inviting political leaders to the national security meeting to discuss the North Waziristan military operation may be a positive move.

But mixing the discussion on security issues with politics in the presence of the military brass raises some relevant questions about the actual purpose of bringing together the civilian and military leadership. The image of a line of army generals in their battle fatigues sitting across the table from the political leaders was presumably meant to send a signal to the public of the military’s backing for the government.

What was the idea behind the decision to telecast live the prime minister’s opening remarks concerning the political crisis in what was supposed to be an in-camera security briefing? This kind of game is counterproductive. The government is expected to take a saner approach in such a situation.

Sharif may be down, but he is not out of the game yet. It is neither a 1993 nor a 1999 situation when he lost the power struggle. But the wrong moves could land him into the same situation. It is not just the issue of facing up to the challenge thrown by the Qadri-Imran combine, Sharif also needs to address other problems concerning governance and the economy to ensure his survival in power and avert the derailing of a fledgling democratic process.

The writer is an author and journalist.

zhussain100

Twitter: @hidhussain

Published in Dawn, Aug 13th, 2014

Legacy unbounded

Zubeida Mustafa

Do icons really pass away? They can’t, because being iconic makes them immortal in the public collective consciousness. And it is an icon that Anita Ghulamali had become. What made her so outstanding was her will to take on the most powerful enemies of education in Pakistan.

Do icons really pass away? They can’t, because being iconic makes them immortal in the public collective consciousness. And it is an icon that Anita Ghulamali had become. What made her so outstanding was her will to take on the most powerful enemies of education in Pakistan.

Her constituency comprised the common people. Her battles were fought for them and the only battle she lost was with death on Aug 8. The outpouring of admiration and affection for her that has followed testifies to her sincerity.

She is being eulogised most for her contribution to education and rightly so. But the difference she made to this key social sector has yet to make an impact. I am confident her ideas will prevail, though it may take time. In education the decay begins insidiously and reform is a long-drawn process that spans generations.

What was most striking about Anita was her love for the people of Pakistan. Her concern was primarily for the education of children. As the managing director of the Sindh Education Foundation, her thinking was focused on public-sector schools where the children of the poor study. She knew the wealthy could take care of their sons’ and daughters’ learning needs.

Small wonder she was happy teaching microbiology for over two decades at the SM Science College to youth from low-income localities who were enrolled there. When she gave up teaching to move to the policymaking side of education, she made the maximum use of her position to benefit the institutions that catered to the needs of the poor.

It was for them that she thought up schemes and mobilised support. There are a number of them benefiting 370,000 students today when their founder is no more, the adopt-a-school-programme being the most well known.

The teacher in her never died. She knew that to demand accountability from others she would have to prove her own integrity. Working in a sector that has acquired notoriety for its money-making propensity and corruption, Anita was actually feared for her honesty. Many education ministers known for their alleged corruption and nepotism fell out with her and avoided her for she fearlessly lashed out at them in public. She once resigned as education minister in an interim government when pressure was brought to bear on her to transfer teachers to new postings to facilitate the electoral prospects of a favoured political party.

As a teacher she had developed the quality of instinctively assessing people and networking accordingly. She knew who was good at what and from where authentic information could be obtained. Since she was always generous in giving time, guidance and references many found their work facilitated by the SEF under Anita’s stewardship.

I just had to pick up the phone for any information I needed and there was her brusque “hello, bolo” often followed by an invitation to come over to discuss the issue in person. I owe to her the historical insight she gave me into education in Pakistan and why the problems have multiplied. She invariably referred me to the relevant people in related departments who could tell me more.

It was her concern for the well-being of people around her that endeared her to all. Her versatile mind came up with ideas to enhance the performance and knowledge of the SEF staff. The ‘Critical Discourses’, the like of which I have not seen in any office, were organised periodically to bring together a wide range of scholars, poets and writers to speak to the SEF staff.

Another brainchild was to help the female staff with young children needing babysitting facilities. One day on one of my visits to the SEF I found a small child playing in the garden into which Anita’s office opened. There she was trying to arouse his curiosity in some plants in the flowerbeds below the window. Upon inquiry, I was told it was Hamza, her colleague Sadaf Zuberi’s son. Hamza’s pre-school years were spent at the SEF.

Sadaf tells me, “The arrangement for bringing Hamza to work was allowed by Anita Apa as a natural move. I remember this came up during a conversation of what will happen after the baby arrived. Next morning she told me in a matter-of-fact way, ‘Of course you will bring the baby over’. She made it sound as if it was a very normal phenomenon. Other children of my colleagues followed suit.”

And now Sadaf has migrated to Canada where she works at the Art Gallery of Mississauga. When her director learnt of the babysitting arrangement at the SEF she followed in Anita’s footsteps. Sadaf says, “Hamza is growing up at the Gallery this summer. Anita Apa’s legacy continues in shades more than one — just as she was.”

That is what icons are. Their ideas cannot be limited by boundaries. They are universal for the wise to adopt.

Published in Dawn, Aug 13th, 2014

The thief executive

Mahir Ali

Amid the plethora of left-field cultural interventions that indicated some Americans were less than thrilled by the presidency of George W. Bush was a catchy song by Sonny Meadows titled ‘I Never Thought I’d Miss Richard Nixon’.

Amid the plethora of left-field cultural interventions that indicated some Americans were less than thrilled by the presidency of George W. Bush was a catchy song by Sonny Meadows titled ‘I Never Thought I’d Miss Richard Nixon’.

It wasn’t intended to vindicate the 37th president of the United States, who resigned in August 1974 — the first time an American chief executive had exercised that option.

Much of the US heaved a collective sigh of relief when a helicopter conveyed Nixon away from the White House on Aug 9. His unelected successor, Gerald Ford, declared that the nightmare was over, and most Americans accepted the notion that the presidency, after having descended to its nadir, had been rescued by a broader system that worked.

The idea behind Meadows’ lyrics was to point out that there was, in many ways, worse to come.

Reflections on the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s dishonourable exit this past week have inevitably focused largely on the Watergate scandal, which related to the break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee by ‘plumbers’ tasked by the White House. A pair of young reporters at The Washington Post, intrigued by the fact that one of the culprits was directly associated with the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP), decided to dig further.

Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward were astonished by what they began to discover — a chain of culpability that seemed to stretch all the way to the apex of the American political structure. Yet the first few months of their reportage barely seemed to register in electoral terms, given that Nixon was returned to the White House by an unprecedented landslide in November 1972.

By then the White House was in full cover-up mode. But Nixon had surreptitiously set up a system for recording all conversations in the Oval Office and its environs. Amazingly, the hidden microphones remained in place even after the cat was out of the bag.

On more than one occasion, Nixon ordered his chief of staff, Bob Haldeman, to destroy all the tapes. For reasons that are not altogether clear, the order was never carried out. Once the existence of the tapes became public knowledge, some of them were legally subpoenaed. It is widely acknowledged that but for the incriminating tapes, Nixon would not have felt obliged to quit.

He resigned in the face of impeachment proceedings that cited not just the Watergate affair but the secret bombing of Cambodia as part of the Vietnam War effort. In fact, it was activists opposed to that war who first provoked Nixon to violate the law.

Arguably, one of the Nixon administration’s worst misdemeanours was to thwart a Vietnam peace initiative launched in the dying days of Lyndon Johnson’s presidency.

In certain other respects, though, Nixon pursued a relatively enlightened foreign policy, which notably included the overdue establishment of ties with Mao Zedong’s China (with assistance from Yahya Khan’s military regime in Islamabad, which was rewarded with the infamous ‘tilt towards Pakistan’ in 1971) as well as détente with the Soviet Union.

Even on the domestic front there were some progressive initiatives. The primary trend, however, was overwhelmingly reactionary, and included relentless pursuit of the “southern strategy” whereby the Republican Party became the natural home for Americans disenchanted by the Democrats’ adoption of the civil rights agenda.

The bitter and paranoid personality Nixon brought to the White House in 1969 was in some part a consequence of his conviction that the Kennedy family had stolen the 1960 presidential election. He is subsequently likely to have rued the fact that his downfall was precipitated not by constitutional violations per se, but by the almost accidental discovery of his direct role in crimes and cover-ups. And the dogged pursuit of the truth not just by Woodward and Bernstein, but by the likes of district court judge John Sirica, Senator Sam Ervin and special prosecutor Archibald Cox.

“Forty years later,” Bernstein told the BBC’s Owen Bennett-Jones last week, “what we see is that the truth was far worse than we thought at the time. That the criminality was far more extensive, pervasive and basic to what this president and his presidency was.”

Several of Nixon’s closest aides and advisers served time in prison, but the ring leader got away thanks to a pre-emptive presidential pardon from his successor.

Back in the day, meanwhile, artists considerably more prominent than Sonny Meadows were singing a different tune. Arlo Guthrie’s ‘Presidential Rag’ featured the lines “You’re the one we voted for, so you must take the blame/For handing out authority to men who were insane”. And Phil Ochs, well before Watergate, had rewritten one of his best-known songs to say: “Here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of/Richard Nixon find yourself another country to be part of”.

mahir.dawn

Published in Dawn, Aug 13th, 2014

Waging war

Tariq Khosa

While the operation by the armed forces against the foreign and domestic terrorists in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) has been under way since June 15, the prime minister has also unequivocally declared war against militancy. The military and political commanders-in-chief thus appear to be finally speaking with one voice after a period of discordant security and political narratives.

While the operation by the armed forces against the foreign and domestic terrorists in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) has been under way since June 15, the prime minister has also unequivocally declared war against militancy. The military and political commanders-in-chief thus appear to be finally speaking with one voice after a period of discordant security and political narratives.

A nation at war certainly requires all the necessary tools for protection against insurrection and prevention of acts threatening its security. Viewed in this context, the Protection of Pakistan Act (PPA), passed by the National Assembly and the Senate, amounts to a declaration of war against militants across the country over the next two years. However, the elected representatives have gone too far to accommodate the needs and desires of the security agencies battling the militants. While some safeguards have been put in place, certain aspects nevertheless raise concerns. I have listed these below and made some recommendations to meet the ends of justice.

The first pertains to the term “enemy alien”, defined for the first time in any national legislation. Who will ascertain the identity of an enemy alien? While it may be comparatively easy to determine the status of some foreigners, the aliens who were encouraged since 1980s to converge in Fata and other regions bordering Afghanistan, some of whom obtained Pakistan national identity cards, got married and had children who were born here, but who all along considered themselves participants in a cosmic ideological war, would pose a challenge to the authorities. Moreover, proper, justiciable procedures should be drawn up for the deportation of foreigners living illegally in Pakistan.

The second issue relates to the very broad and thus liable to be misused definition of a “militant” as one who “threatens or acts or attempts to act in a manner prejudicial to the security, integrity or defence of Pakistan”. The more rational approach would be to follow the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 that entails listing sectarian terrorists and activists under the Fourth Schedule for monitoring and follow-up. These are not covert lists and include mostly members of banned militant organisations. Banning persons rather than organisations is more effective as the latter continue to operate under different identities whereas suspected militants can be directed to curtail their movement or restricted through administrative and legal measures.

Then there are the controversial ‘shoot to kill’ clauses of the PPA. While police officials of BS-15 rank or higher can order firing as a last resort, there is no restriction on the rank of officials of the civil armed forces and the military to authorise firing. In my view, only a gazetted police officer ie deputy superintendent or assistant superintendent in BS-17 and a captain or equivalent ranking officer of the civil armed forces or military may, by way of last resort, issue the order to fire at a militant who is armed and demonstrating his intention to shoot at the raiding party. Moreover, any death as a result of firing by civil or military personnel should invariably be inquired into by the judicial authorities. The option of an internal inquiry by the same law-enforcement agency is simply unacceptable, given the history of cover-ups by our agencies.

The fourth issue pertains to preventive detention. In the case of Pakistani militants, their families have a right to know the location of the notified detention facility where they are being kept. Moreover, the period of enemy aliens’ detention should not be unlimited and left at the discretion of the arresting authorities. Consular services and the right to notify family should not be denied even to an enemy combatant. Special courts to try militants and enemy aliens should be constituted by the high courts and not by the government. And above all, the PPA should not be applicable with retrospective effect for those in custody prior to the passage of this law.

Placing the burden of proof on the accused is also problematic besides being testimony to the fact that the state has acknowledged its limited capacity and lack of professional commitment to prosecute the terrorists by collecting substantial evidence to prove their guilt. However, the courts have interpreted this to mean that the initial onus of proof shall always be on the prosecution and shall shift to the accused only after the prosecution faithfully discharges its basic function of placing before the court sufficient evidence to prove the charges against the accused. The military and the police often shift the blame on the courts for acquitting the suspects and do not admit their failure in investigation, not collecting arrestable evidence and not relying on circumstantial, technical and scientific evidence to successfully prosecute the terrorists.

The last, but not the least, issue relates to the amendment of the schedule of offences specified in the PPA. The federal government has taken upon itself to amend, add, modify or omit any offence contained in the schedule which was approved by parliament. The executive should not encroach upon the role of the legislature as was done in case of the Anti-Terrorism Act in which offences that have no link with acts of terror were included. Such unbridled authority is likely to be misused, given the religious, political, ethnic and sectarian fissures in our body politic.

Rather than promising the army more legislation along the lines of the PPA, the prime minister and his team should devote more time and energy towards building safeguards so that a balance can be achieved between security imperatives and the liberty of individuals. While bestowing more authority on state functionaries, there is an urgent need for parliamentary and judicial oversight of the operations of the security and intelligence agencies. In the long term, it is the rule of law, good governance and socio-economic justice that will defeat the militants.

The writer is a retired police officer.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2014

Rise & fall of a Shakespearean hero

Jawed Naqvi

To those few who have closely watched his rise and fall in the ebb and flow of Indian politics, Jaswant Singh embodies thinly camouflaged elements of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes.

To those few who have closely watched his rise and fall in the ebb and flow of Indian politics, Jaswant Singh embodies thinly camouflaged elements of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes.

The canny likeness to the invincible Caesar who was let down by those he trusted, a Hamlet-like journey of self-limiting revenge against one or several newly revealed foes that plotted to rob him of his political heirloom, his parliamentary constituency of Barmer on the Pakistan border — these are some images that readily come to mind about the soft-spoken politician battling for life with a head injury from a fall at his Delhi home last week.

The former Indian cavalry officer might also be likened to Macbeth, a decorated soldier of distinguished valour getting lured by fate in the macabre alleys of murky politics. Though not the one to plot to overthrow any Duncan he had professed loyalty to, Jaswant Singh betrayed enough fatal flaws in his ideological pursuits.

He nearly disallowed my request to recite a couplet instead of shooting a question at him when he allowed himself to lead the chorus for a major military stand-off with Pakistan in December 2001.

‘Jang me qatl sipahi hongey/ Surkh roo zille ilaahi hongey’ (‘In war, the foot soldiers die/ For the halo, for which the monarchs vie’).

The foreign minister retorted brusquely, but not insensitively. He had been a soldier too, he said, and didn’t need a lecture on valour. He was familiar with the sufferings of the fighting men in war. Saying that, he brought the crucial press meet to a closure.

Jaswant was thrown out from the Bharatiya Janata Party at the behest of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, all for writing an objective book on Mohammad Ali Jinnah. The author was to go on to become an intellectual bridge with the Pakistani intelligentsia, not least because he had shown unusual candour in assigning blame for Partition on not Nehru and Jinnah alone but on Sardar Patel, the ‘iron man’ of resurgent Hindutva.

His views on Patel’s complicity in the bloody division of India were bound to rankle Narendra Modi under whose watch during the recent elections he was thrown out for a second time from the party. He never went back to the fold.

To return to his withering observations on Patel, on March 8, 1947, the Congress Working Committee adopted its resolution on an ominous division of Indian states, going behind the backs of Gandhi and Maulana Azad.

“These tragic events [in Punjab] have demonstrated that there can be no settlement of the problems in the Punjab by violence and coercion and that no agreement based on coercion can last,” the resolution backed by Patel and Nehru read. “Therefore, it is necessary to find a way out which involves the least amount of compulsion. This would necessitate a division of the Punjab into two provinces, so that the predominantly Muslim part may be separated from the predominantly non-Muslim.”

Earlier, Nehru had gone to the extent of recommending a communal trifurcation of Punjab, Jaswant notes in the Jinnah book. The proposal baffled him. “It is difficult to accept that Nehru had offered this solution seriously, or was it more an insidious design to further narrow the funnel of Jinnah’s options?”

Singh underscores the date of the resolution to fortify his critique of Nehru and Patel. “The date of the adoption of this Resolution by the Congress was unfortunate for it was when Gandhi was away on his great healing mission in Bihar, Maulana Azad was ill and also absent. Patel and Nehru had both known, all along, that the two absentees would oppose the Resolution. It was, in fact, about three weeks later that Gandhi, finally through a letter, asked Nehru the reason for this Resolution.”

You could feel him as he notes Patel writing to Gandhi: “That you had expressed your views against it, we learnt only from the papers.” Nehru was more brazen with Gandhi. “About our proposal to divide Punjab, this flows naturally from our previous discussions,” he claimed.

Jaswant Singh’s description of the communal upsurge of the 1920s finds an echo in the polarisation even today. Religious festivals got associated with almost all communal conflicts of the 1920s. “So much so, that British observers then began to refer to ‘Hindu-Muslim’ clashes of the period, derisively as the ‘cow-music’ question.”

Left to himself as a former soldier, Singh has been wary of military solutions to cross-border as well as domestic issues. As former defence minister and foreign minister did he think the army should be used in places like Kashmir when there are public protests?

“You forgot to mention that I have also been a soldier,” he told the questioner. “I think it’s wrong to use the army in such a manner. The army is not meant for policing functions. Please don’t lightly or casually talk of employing the army against our own citizens, whether it is here or against the Maoists. I can’t think of anything less desirable … I personally believe that the factories that are producing Maoists are active on a daily basis in every police thana, every tehsil and patwari’s office. Governance depends on grievance redressal system. If grievance redressal is blocked, what will the army do?”

The last public stance of the 76-old politician came replete with Shakespearean fanfare, music, high emotions and colourful election political rallies. ‘Jaswant Singh ji ri sena bhaari/ Saari Marwar mein sobha nyari/Gaon, gaon ro kehno hai, ab apman ro badlo leno hai,’ the Muslim Manganiyars sang, seeking revenge for the insult to their Rajput hero by the people he had helped become strong. They sang to the rhythm of dhol, khartal and morchang, rousing a surreal war-like emotion in the stretches of the Thar desert while, unbeknown to them, their hero headed for defeat, not his first, but possibly his last.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2014

Doomed labour

Zeenat Hisam

Labour relations, or industrial relations, refer to a system of governance of interaction between employers, workers and the state. Based on the concepts that set the ground rules for governance of a tricky relationship between two unequal partners — employers and workers — labour relations are worked out under a body of legislation and administrative procedures mediated and implemented by the state. The role of the state is crucial in determining the direction and the policies of labour relations.

Labour relations, or industrial relations, refer to a system of governance of interaction between employers, workers and the state. Based on the concepts that set the ground rules for governance of a tricky relationship between two unequal partners — employers and workers — labour relations are worked out under a body of legislation and administrative procedures mediated and implemented by the state. The role of the state is crucial in determining the direction and the policies of labour relations.

Let’s begin with the Labour and Human Resources Department, Sindh which carries out eight tasks related to labour relations (law enforcement, dispute resolution, labour courts, social security, vocational training, facilitation of employment, minimum wage fixation, labour welfare) through seven attached departments. The Directorate of Labour is one of the seven departments and is entrusted with the tasks of trade union registration, determination of collective bargaining agents, settlement of industrial disputes and enforcement of labour laws.

The factor that undermines the performance of the labour directorate the most is political interference. According to a source, Grade 8-15 staff is appointed on recommendations. Only grade 16-17 officers are selected through standard procedure by the Sindh Public Service Commission but again, their postings and transfers are determined by politics. This demoralises the personnel who have the capacity to work.

Nepotism wipes out accountability and kills work ethics, for the person thus appointed knows whether he works or not he would remain on the payroll. The labour department’s functions are also obstructed by unethical power play of the higher state functionaries. As reported in the media in September 2012, the Sindh labour minister resigned in protest when the then chief minister ordered him to stop inspection of the factories.

In this regard, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has achieved a feat: it has strictly disallowed political intervention in any matters of the labour department where, as a result, things are said to be changing for the better. In Punjab, the labour department performs better than the other three provinces. That, according to one source in the Sindh labour department, is because “higher-ups [in Punjab] want work to be done. The chief minister acts as facilitator. In Sindh, it is money they are after.” Balochistan is the poorest in performance because, says the same source, “It simply copies the Sindh department.”

It has been noted that the nature of the relationships among organised labour, employers and the government with respect to health and safety is indicative of the overall status of industrial relations in a country. The labour inspection system in Pakistan, never strong in the first place, suffered further decline after the Punjab Industrial Policy 2003 stopped physical inspection in the province. Sindh, though it did not come up with a specific notification, adopted the same course and the labour inspection system crumbled. Till today there is no sign of recovery.

In Pakistan, no specific qualification is required for a labour inspection officer (hired at Grade 16-17) beyond a Bachelor’s degree in any discipline. In most countries, including India, a labour inspector must be a science graduate. In developed countries, higher education (16 years of schooling) is required for labour inspectors and after induction, formal training is mandatory.

The ILO advocates extensive in-house ‘integrated labour inspection training’ to address three aspects of learning — knowledge base, skill base and social competencies.

In Sindh, a labour inspector is attached to the assistant director who is supposed to train the fresh recruit for six months. The senior is either not interested in training the officer, or does not know anything himself.

The shabbiness of the administration office of the Sindh Labour Depart­ment, with piles of dusty, tied-with-string files, disorderly desks, empty chairs (as officers come late and move in and out frequently) speaks volumes for poor documentation and low performance. After the Year Book 2000, which contains a record of the directorate’s functioning of 10 years (1991-2000), no document has been published. I was told that the Year Book 2010 (2001-2010 data) is ready but printing is delayed for lack of funds. With the exception of a couple of persons, none of the staff is computer literate. The directorate has no website. There is no internet connection in the department because “…there is no expenditure head under IT”.

Institution-building is not about putting up concrete structures, as the provincial government erroneously believes and lists in its recent, widely disseminated special supplement. Unless state institutions rid themselves of political interference, bring about fundamental reforms, introduce accountability, ensure integrity of personnel and change strategic direction, labour relations are destined to deteriorate.

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

zeenathisam2004

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2014

The morning after

Anwar Abbas

In a few days both Pakistan and India will be ‘celebrating’, jointly and with equal sobriety, their 68th Independence Days.

In a few days both Pakistan and India will be ‘celebrating’, jointly and with equal sobriety, their 68th Independence Days.

Sixty-eight years ago when the subcontinent was to attain its political freedom a middle-class Muslim family were huddled together in their New Delhi house in thrilled anticipation of the declaration. What does freedom look like, they wondered? Does it look like a voter’s ballot box or political prisoners walking out of prison? Did it mean the freedom to go anywhere one pleases or buy anything one fancies? To continue to profess one’s faith and express one’s opinion openly?

Each member of the family, including the youngest children and the elderly on whom public affairs and political events had impinged during the period leading up to actual freedom, was feeling thrilled at the prospect of the country’s freedom and imagined that it would quickly alter the shape of things and herald a new era of peace and prosperity.

But there is a difference between what it means for us to be free from something and free to do something. These are different from one another. In respect of India and Pakistan, the decades have proved that it is not easy to retain freedom to the fullest. We were under political subjugation for long not because the British had conquered us, but because we had lost the qualities that really make men and women free.

These qualities will not suddenly spring up full-fledged like switching on the electric bulb, but will have to be gradually and laboriously fostered. This had to be done by each one of the several hundred million people living in both India and Pakistan.

What were the qualities that were needed in all citizens who were attaining freedom? Five were identified and crystallised: moral courage that would defy fear and resist temptations in the interest of what one considers right; tolerance, to live and let live and welcome honest differences and not make them a cause for fratricidal conflict; efficiency and integrity in work; a desire for service which implied a greater preoccupation with what one can put into life than what one can get out of it; and a good temper.

But within three months, as the colours of the landscape ripened into autumn tints, tragedy stepped close on the heels of tragedy.

Punjab went up in flames. Delhi had its gruesome bloodbath while Calcutta had flared up twice before Gandhi’s magic had brought about a semblance of sanity to the Hindus and Muslims in volatile Bengal.

In many parts of India and Pakistan life and peace and decency trembled on the verge of a breakdown. The rosy glow of freedom had turned blood-red. Communal rioting and civil war had taken the place of law and order and millions of men, women and children had, for the first time in their life, come in contact with organised and armed ‘goonda’ raj.

Thousands of families both in India and Pakistan were grief-stricken. Some were bitter while most were stunned. They had spent all their lives in small villages and towns to which they were deeply attached and in which their ancestors had settled for many hundred years, lived and worked, married and multiplied, enjoyed and suffered, died and found their eternal rest.

Here is where they built their modest homes, places of worship, educational and cultural institutions, ploughed their land and carried on business, at peace with their neighbours of all communities. Some of them had carried the message of culture and religion, poetry and literature to the far corners of the subcontinent. Indeed, to the entire world.

And now, all of a sudden, the bottom had been pulled out of their secure life, adrift in an unfamiliar world without any moorings. They felt bewildered and unable to assess the forces which had pitched them into the centre of this cruel storm.

But the extent of suffering which ‘freedom’ and the exchange of populations brought about in their train were not the worst to happen.

The bitter experiences did not induce feelings of pity and charity. The danger was by no means confined to adults but slowly and steadily seeped into the minds of children like poison.

Fifty years later, a modest effort was made by a Karachi school in collaboration with schools, colleges and sports bodies in India to arrange goodwill tours to India which had considerable impact on the minds of young students on both sides of the border. ‘Aao dosti karen’ was the theme. The objective was simply to hold fast to faith in shared human values and disallow madness to affect young minds and hearts to make freedom truly joyful for all.

We need similar efforts to free the mind of bias.

The writer is a freelance contributor.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2014

Revolutionary expediency?

Babar Sattar

If the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has thought through the logic of its ‘azadi’ march, what does such logic say about its evolving politics? Many Pakistanis interested in change want PTI, led by a man of unblemished financial integrity, to flourish. The hope was that PTI (with its mould of idealism) having successfully gatecrashed into mainstream politics would reintroduce principles to politics, which, coupled with a solid programme for institutional and policy reform would force existing political parties to reform themselves.

If the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has thought through the logic of its ‘azadi’ march, what does such logic say about its evolving politics? Many Pakistanis interested in change want PTI, led by a man of unblemished financial integrity, to flourish. The hope was that PTI (with its mould of idealism) having successfully gatecrashed into mainstream politics would reintroduce principles to politics, which, coupled with a solid programme for institutional and policy reform would force existing political parties to reform themselves.

Has PTI mastered the politics of expediency practised by others instead of being the breath of fresh reforming air it had set itself out to be? Has its goal changed? Does it wish to be like the existing parties, but only better at fostering intrigue? Is the primary aim of Imran Khan’s politics now to hanker after power like his competitors, except with more hunger and impatience? Has PTI finally evolved into a seasoned political actor that won’t let principles get in its way?

In the Machiavellian world, PTI’s march is far from mindless. It is opportunistic, disruptive to democratic evolution and meaningful reform, harmful for institutional legitimacy and rule of law, but not mindless. It is only due to Imran’s image as a straight shooter and not a crafty politico that the purpose of the march (removal of Nawaz and mid-term polls) appears mindless. But if the sole purpose of politics is to amass power, isn’t PTI acquiring the knack for crafty politics?

Whether or not Imran genuinely believes that the people of Pakistan voted for him to be prime minister in 2013 is not relevant. That he would like to be prime minister sooner rather than later is. And four years can seem like an eternity. In a country like Pakistan where anything can suddenly happen in politics (like this PTI march) why play straight and give your adversary the opportunity to pull some devious trick out of his hat?

So long as Imran kept asking for a recount in the four infamous constituencies, Nawaz wouldn’t budge. Now that Imran has formally asked for Nawaz’s head, Nawaz might agree to the intermediate step as a compromise to weather the present storm. And if as a result of a recount or re-poll PML-N doesn’t emerge victorious in the four constituencies (the new litmus test for how genuine its mandate is), midterm polls will be the logical next step.

Even if PTI loses the four constituencies in a re-evaluation, does it really lose anything it presently has? And what has it gained? A reason to rally and reorganise the party in Punjab merely a year after performing modestly in the province, staking a claim as key challenger to the ruling party, and bolstered personal standing of Imran as PM-to-be.

Those who argue that all parliamentary parties standing with Nawaz on the issue of his continuing in office weakens or isolates Imran are wrong. Nawaz is already the prime minister and has nothing to gain from this fight. Imran has nothing to lose (other than his party’s claim to being a principled political entity). By challenging Nawaz he has raised himself to the level of the prime minister. Other party heads coming to Nawaz’s aid make Nawaz look needy.

Who is the first person that comes to mind when you think of PML-N and Nawaz’s replacement? It’s not the PPP and Zardari. It is PTI and Imran. It is now established in the public mind that the next political duel in Punjab will be between the PML-N and PTI.

What determines the timing of PTI’s move? One, Tahirul Qadri is back with a vengeance. Can Imran afford TuQ stealing his thunder and emerging as the face of change in Punjab? Two, the PPP is down and out. If Punjab goes into election mode soon, PML-N’s rival ‘dharas’ in rural Punjab could switch from the PPP to PTI. In a couple of years, with its scandals and misdeeds forgotten, the PPP could (though unlikely) stage a comeback making elections in Punjab a three-way contest.

Three, what if under PML-N’s watch terrorism is brought under wraps (largely due to khaki resolve), the economy remains afloat (with privatisation receipts and foreign aid), and energy shortfall is largely plugged? Wouldn’t allowing the PML-N a full term to be able to perform be political folly? Four, if PTI has a two-stage ouster plan, it isn’t really aiming for Nawaz’s immediate removal: stage-one is meant to bleed him enough so he agrees to a recount/re-election in four constituencies, which will lead to stage two aimed at ouster.

Clever politics is one thing and principled politics another. The PTI believes its mandate was stolen in the 2013 elections. Such belief remains an allegation till the alleged facts are verified and upheld by a neutral third party. The transformation of an allegation into a fact or truth thus requires the involvement of an adjudicator such as the judiciary. If you elect to execute a verdict of your choice because you don’t like the one delivered or can’t be bothered to wait for one it is called vigilantism.

If you can’t bear your beliefs to be subjected to scrutiny and perceive criticism to be the manifestation of a grand conspiracy against you, you could be suffering from intolerance, self-righteousness, paranoia or all three. Is the Constitution sacrosanct for the PTI? It provides a mechanism for legal accountability and political change. Can the PTI claim to be working within the fold of the Constitution if its best argument for regime change through mob force is that it first tried the legal way, which didn’t work?

The PTI’s claim that it will overthrow this malfunctioning democracy and replace it with ‘true democracy’ is reminiscent of “meray aziz humwatno” speeches. It is a matter of record that no-holds-barred saviour instinct, whether exhibited by dictators, judges or politicos, has done our country no good. The PTI that can reform Pakistan has to be a party capable of introducing and executing serious reform while working within the system and not one that throws its hands up and argues that noble ends justify rotten means.

The writer is a lawyer.

sattar

Twitter: @babar_sattar

Published in Dawn, Aug 11th, 2014

Iraq’s diversity in peril

Qasim A. Moini

As the ‘Islamic State’ (IS), formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, continues its rampage across parts of Iraq, the risk of that country’s patchwork of ethnic and religious communities unravelling quickly is high.

As the ‘Islamic State’ (IS), formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, continues its rampage across parts of Iraq, the risk of that country’s patchwork of ethnic and religious communities unravelling quickly is high.

It is difficult to say whether the extremist Islamist militia — which proclaimed the establishment of a ‘caliphate’ in June — has the firepower, manpower and tactical and strategic expertise to march on Baghdad, especially with the Americans now targeting it through air strikes. But what is obvious is that IS has the ability to cause untold havoc across Iraq, while at the same time spreading instability across the region unless it is permanently put out of business.

The IS poses two major threats to Iraq in its atavistic zeal to forge a ‘pure’ Islamic order: the militants can exploit existing intra- and inter-religious fissures to the point where whatever happens in Iraq will have debilitating global ramifications; they also have the ability to obliterate small ethno-religious communities that have existed in Iraq largely under the radar for centuries.

Iraq is an incredibly diverse country, much like its neighbours Iran, Syria and Turkey. Unlike the Gulf states, where nearly the entire population is Arab and the only major confessional division is the Shia-Sunni divide (apart from Oman, which has an Ibadi majority), Iraq is a mosaic of religions, sects, sub-sects and ethnicities.

But why does Iraq matter? Firstly, because it is home to some of the most revered Islamic heritage sites in the world. If the extremists succeed in their goal of harming any of these sites, the ramifications within Iraq as well as internationally will be incredibly grim, specifically where Shia-Sunni relations are concerned.

Among the revered Islamic sites in Iraq is Najaf, where the mausoleum of Hazrat Ali is located. Equally revered is the city of Karbala, the resting place of Imam Hussain. An IS spokesman has said his organisation intends to target both cities.

Also of significance is Kazmain located in Baghdad, which contains the mausoleum of Imam Musa al-Kazim and Imam Muhammad Taqi al-Jawwad, while Samarra hosts the shrine of Imam Ali an-Naqi and Imam Hasan al-Askari. It should be remembered that it was the bombings in 2006 and 2007 targeting the Samarra shrine that plunged Iraq into a bloodbath of horrific proportions that has left long-lasting communal scars.

Other Islamic holy places include the mausoleum of Imam Abu Hanifa in Baghdad and the shrine of Hazrat Abdul Qadir al-Jeelani, also in the capital. As the iconoclastic IS has already destroyed numerous shrines and tombs associated with revered personalities across Syria and Iraq, it will not be beyond the militants to target any of these mausoleums.

Beyond Iraq’s Muslim sanctities, IS also has the country’s beleaguered Christian minority in its sights. The recent takeover of Iraq’s largest Christian town sent members of the community fleeing to safer areas, while reports from the region indicate churches were desecrated and manuscripts burnt.

Ever since the US-led invasion in 2003 the Christians of Iraq have been fleeing the country in droves. Their population has dropped from a figure of 1.4 million in 1987 to a few hundred thousand today. However, the IS extremists seem bent on eliminating whatever is left of Iraq’s Christian population.

Beyond the ‘mainstream’ religions in Iraq (Islam, Christianity) there are numerous ethno-religious communities that were barely known to outsiders before IS launched its blitzkrieg. Many of these adhere to syncretic, esoteric belief systems that blend elements of mainstream faiths with folk religion. With the militants on the march, these communities are facing existential threats.

Among the communities making news are the Yazidis. Also found in Syria and Turkey, the Yazidis are a mostly Kurdish insular community numbering a few hundred thousand people. They adhere to secretive, mystical beliefs, with Malak Tawus, a supernatural being, at the centre of their creed. Some scholars link their name to the Umayyad ruler Yazid, though there is no consensus amongst academics. The fact that Shaikh Adi, an 11th/12th century figure revered by Yazidis, was of Umayyad heritage may have contributed to this theory. Yazidis combine elements of Islam, Christianity and older Iranian religions and believe in transmigration of the soul.

The Mandaens number under 100,000 people and can also be found in Iran. They revere John the Baptist (known as the Prophet Yahya in Islamic tradition) and are linked to the Sabians mentioned in the Quran. For religious services, the community uses a dialect of Aramaic while baptism — specifically in rivers — is a central tenet of the Mandaen faith. It is a dualistic belief system, in which the World of Light is locked in constant struggle with the World of Darkness.

A third minority group in Iraq are the Shabak, who number no more than a few hundred thousand people. Some scholars consider them Kurdish, while others say they have Turkmen origins. Some researchers have said the group has a similar belief system to the Bektashi and Alevi communities of Turkey combined with elements of Sufism.

Another distinct minority community of Iraq are followers of Yarsanism, also known as Ahl-i-Haq and Kaka’i. Numbering around one million, they are also found in Iran and Turkey, with mostly Kurdish adherents. A 14th/15th individual named Sultan Sahak is the religion’s central figure while the faith has some strongly heterodox tenets (compared with traditional Islamic thought) such as God taking human form and reincarnation.

If the Islamic State has its way, the religious and cultural heritage of Islam in Iraq will be razed to the ground, while Christians and smaller non-Muslim religious groups will be driven from the land they have inhabited for centuries. Along with the geopolitical risks involved, this is an additional reason why the world community — particularly Iraq’s neighbours — must help Baghdad halt the extremist militia in its tracks.

The writer is a member of staff.

qasim.moini

Published in Dawn, Aug 11th, 2014

Same old story

Syed Saadat

A joke doing the rounds at wedding ceremonies in Pakistan refers to a mouse dancing at a lion’s wedding. When asked the reason for its rather disproportionate joy, the mouse reveals that it had also been a lion before getting married. I am not sure how true this is for marriage but it seems the elections have had a similar effect on the stature of the ruling party.

A joke doing the rounds at wedding ceremonies in Pakistan refers to a mouse dancing at a lion’s wedding. When asked the reason for its rather disproportionate joy, the mouse reveals that it had also been a lion before getting married. I am not sure how true this is for marriage but it seems the elections have had a similar effect on the stature of the ruling party.

Tall claims about the upholding of merit and zero tolerance for corruption have fallen flat. The appointment of qualified professionals to head various government-run enterprises was a major talking point in the lead-up to the elections. Applications from qualified professionals were invited through half-page advertisements soon after the newly elected government took charge.

Unfortunately, the zeal did not last. A notification was issued by the Establishment Division in January to make exceptions for the list of organisations whose heads were to be appointed through a thorough selection procedure: as many as 23 organisations that were initially on the list were excluded and individuals were to be appointed to head these organisations via direct appointments.

To cut a long story short, now, there is hardly an organisation of note where appointments are to be made via the selection procedure promised by the government in light of the Supreme Court judgment in the Khawaja Muhammad Asif case.

This stated that “to ensure fundamental rights a commission headed by and comprising two other competent and independent members having impeccable integrity is required to be constituted by the federal government through an open merit-based process having a fixed tenure of four years to ensure appointments in statutory bodies, autonomous bodies, semi-autonomous bodies, regulatory authorities, to ensure the appointment of all government-controlled corporations, autonomous and semi-autonomous bodies etc”.

The Federal Commission for Selection of Heads of Public Sector Organisations was indeed formed by the government but it has done nothing so far. We have an experienced government that knows how to make every move plausible. The real objective of allowing direct appointments is to appoint blue-eyed boys to coveted public-sector posts but the stated reason is that these organisations are functioning under the Companies Ordinance where the top appointments can only be filled under the procedure laid down in the Companies Act.

No law, act or statute should be in violation of the principle of ensuring fundamental rights such as meritocracy. A cursory analysis of some of the key appointments made by the government recently reveals a lot.

The appointment of the chairman of the Higher Education Commission, for example, is an intriguing one as Dr Mukhtar Ahmed was rejected for appointment to the same position by the Prime Minister’s Office a couple of months ago. What caused this change of heart?

Similarly, Pakistan State Oil presents a bizarre scenario: Amjad Pervez Janjua, an individual currently being investigated by the FIA and the National Accountability Bureau, was appointed managing director on the prime minister’s directive for three months but continued to work for over a year until recently, when the Standing Committee for the Senate termed his appointment illegal beyond the initial three months.

Dr Nadeem Javed has been appointed the chief economist of Pakistan by relaxing experience requirements. “The choice is either to keep the post vacant or have a trade-off,” commented Ahsan Iqbal, the minister for planning and development. Who could have thought that a country that produced economists such as Mahbub-ul-Haq would one day look for such trade-offs? The problem is not the lack of able men but an absence of the will to bring them in, because they would not be the puppets that our rulers love.

The government first takes an eternity to appoint somebody to such positions and when it does, it is usually in absolute disregard of the principles it stressed during pre-election days. When the judiciary reverses such actions through its rulings, there is further delay and greater paralysis.

Human resource has never been a priority for any government in Pakistan. It is not surprising that reform in the education or health sectors is non-existent, since these hardly make for a catchy election slogan. Nawaz Sharif, addressing his election campaign rallies, asked voters to give his party a clear majority. People kept their end of the bargain but at the other end, it’s the same old story.

The so-called azadi march might just see thousands of people joining in, not because they are convinced at the alleged lack of credibility of the elections or because they want reform in the electoral process, but because the rulers have failed to realise that one can fool some people for some time, not all the people, all the time.

The writer is a former civil servant.

syedsaadatwrites

Published in Dawn, Aug 11th, 2014

Politicide in progress

Zarrar Khuhro

There are two operations being conducted in this country of ours. One is the much-heralded Zarb-i-Azb, and beyond ISPR press releases we really don’t know much about it. The other is operation ‘shoot ourselves in the foot’ being conducted by none other than the PML-N government in full public view.

There are two operations being conducted in this country of ours. One is the much-heralded Zarb-i-Azb, and beyond ISPR press releases we really don’t know much about it. The other is operation ‘shoot ourselves in the foot’ being conducted by none other than the PML-N government in full public view.

This was supposed to be a Nawaz who had become both wise and wizened; a Nawaz who, tempered by his exile, had learned the lessons of the past. He would do well, what with no coalition to cater to, Punjab in hand and a simple majority in the National Assembly.

A few months in, doubts began to rise when the same ‘takht-i-Lahore’, the same blatant, dynastic nepotism, the same policy of governance by inaction seemed to emerge.

Some counselled patience, and justifiably so. After all, one pillar of the state was controlled by the canny Kayani and the other

by the suo-motu-happy Iftikhar Chaudhry. Neither of them were people to trifle with. Let them leave, they argued, and you will see Nawaz shine.

Instead we saw a prime minister intent on enclosing himself in a cocoon of courtiers. He had indeed learned lessons in exile, but apparently the most important of them was to value loyalty over merit. And speaking of merit, the PML-N has even sabotaged its own talking points, has negated the strengths it sought to project.

Take this for example: they sold themselves on experience and governance. After all, they had been in power many times and had ruled Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous and politically vital province for almost an entire term. And that province was headed by a Shahbaz Sharif who would quite literally roll up his sleeves, don rubber boots and wade into the mire.

This is a man so thoroughly competent that he controlled several ministries himself and made babus shiver, all the while keeping an eagle eye on everything that happened in his province.

This is also a man who claims that he only learned of police deployment outside the PAT’s model town headquarters on June 17 through the television. Take a moment to consider that. This wasn’t Bhai Pheru, this was the heart and the seat of the Sharif power. If we are to accept his version of events, then we must also consider that his super chief minister status is simply an illusion. Let’s not even talk about Joseph colony, Gujranwala and Rashid Rehman.

The loss of life on June 17 was avoidable; the attempts at damage control laughable, and victory went to Tahirul Qadri, whose previous revolution had been defused by a Zardari who knew how to play the game. Indeed, even as Qadri shouted his ‘mubarak ho’, all you had to do was see Kaira’s smiling face to see who really won.

The second time around, despite the government guaranteeing him coverage by diverting his flight (again a move out of a failed playbook of the past), his movement would likely have withered without the shot in the arm the Punjab government, in its panic, so willingly provided.

And on Aug 8, when Qadri’s charged supporters ran riot, the Sharifs laid siege to their own constituency, an overreaction that undoubtedly fed Qadri’s megalomania. And the biggest joke is that it’s not even Qadri who is the real threat, but Imran Khan.

Here a saying of Napoleon’s comes to mind: “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” And, despite the public protestations of diehards, the ‘azadi march’ is a mistake. Privately, even dedicated PTI supporters question its timing and simple logic tells us that the energy to protest is not an unlimited resource, especially in country weary of turmoil.

But instead of letting it happen and letting it fizzle out (no one can sustain indefinite sit-ins), the government panics. It invokes Article 245, then imposes Section 144 and calls for a high-sounding national security con­ference. That move would have been laudable a few months ago, but now it reeks of desperation.

Consider also that they could not have asked for a more self-destructive foe than the PTI, whose leader has transformed from a symbol of hope and change to one of brinkmanship and intransigence.

In quick succession he threatened to hang policemen (if they attacked his supporters), and said he would shut down the country (if put under house arrest). This is stuff even PTI’s internet trolls were hard pressed to defend.

Then his deputy information secretary accused Kayani, America, India, Saudi Arabia and the UAE for having rigged the elections in one of the most ludicrous statements ever made. And the list of follies goes on. Yet, instead of handing them the rope to hang themselves with, the government hands them the initiative. Nawaz Sharif got power on a silver platter and still manages to conjure crisis out of thin air.

Forget giant flags, this is what the Guinness World Record people should take note of.

The writer is a member of staff.

zarrar.khuhro

Twitter: @ZarrarKhuhro

Published in Dawn, Aug 11th, 2014

Fixing a conventional problem

Muhammad Amir Rana

THE free and unchecked activities of welfare or charity wings of banned organisations in the camps set up for the internally displaced from North Waziristan are once again in the news.

THE free and unchecked activities of welfare or charity wings of banned organisations in the camps set up for the internally displaced from North Waziristan are once again in the news.

As the government faces criticism from some quarters for its failure to implement the administrative aspects of a ban, many argue that a legal declaration putting certain groups on the list of those ‘banned’ cannot solve the problem by itself.

Pakistan’s militant landscape is diversifying in discourse and outreach, making it difficult to assess the potential threat it could pose. Populated with militant groups formed during the Afghan-Soviet war and terrorist cells that have appeared in recent years, a diverse militant landscape has emerged in the country. Many of these militant groups’ ideological and political aspirations overlap but each group tries to achieve those aspirations in a distinct and exclusive way, which keeps them on different courses.

Most of the militant groups in Pakistan operate underground, and the ordinary Pakistani has little information about them. However, some of these groups are quite visible on the surface but only through their welfare and charity wings, which create ambiguity in the minds of the people about these groups’ militant credentials.

Though these groups are not involved in terrorist activities in Pakistan, their breakaway factions and individuals had empowered Al Qaeda and tribal militants. But at the moment, many of these groups are trying to become part of far-right politics in Pakistan. For that purpose, they are gradually detaching themselves from anti-state militant groups.

These militant groups can be described as conventional jihadist organisations. They were established earlier in connection with the Afghan-Soviet war in the 1980s and later their operational scope was expanded to fight in Indian-held Kashmir. The purpose of the establishment of these groups was to fight proxy wars for the state and to safeguard its strategic interests in the region.

Though these groups were formed to achieve certain strategic objectives, their ideological foundation rested on religion and Pakistani nationalism, ie a separate identity based on the two-nation theory. They believe that Pakistan’s independence movement would culminate with the merger of Kashmir with Pakistan. Jamaatud Dawa goes a step further and demands the merger of what were then India’s Hyderabad and Junagadh states with Pakistan arguing that both states had announced their annexation to Pakistan after partition in 1947.

While these groups have had clear nationalistic tendencies, which limited the scope and target of their militant struggle, blending this nationalistic discourse with religion was an area where they enjoyed a great deal of independence.

The groups formed during the Afghan-Soviet war had strong religious credentials, while the groups that came into existence in Kashmir were, in the beginning, nationalist in character. Gradually, the former came to dominate the Kashmiri nationalist groups, which also changed the composition of the militant movement in Kashmir. Some Kashmir-based groups which had strong faith-based credentials, like Hizbul Mujahideen, succeeded in gaining a prominent role in the ‘jihad’.

The strength of religious credentials played a critical role in shaping the jihad movements both in Afghanistan and Kashmir. These militant groups were free to use religion to glorify their movement, in recruitment, even differentiating themselves from each other. State institutions allowed them to play with religion as long as they were serving their cause.

Later, in an effort to enhance their religious credentials, many of these groups established links with international organisations, and started thinking of operating independently. The nationalist cause started losing its attraction and appeal; the process was speeded up especially after 9/11.

When, after 9/11, some conventional militant groups decided to fight alongside the Afghan Taliban against the international coalition forces in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s security establishment realised for the first time that religion was an area in which it could not be certain of its control over these groups. Especially after the assassination attempts on Gen Musharraf by some militants associated with Kashmir-based groups, the establishment began to realise that these groups may no longer serve as proxies.

These groups were banned under international pressure at a time when they were facing internal crises and external pressure. Their leadership was arrested, or went underground, which caused rifts among the lower cadres that started fleeing to the tribal areas to join tribal-based and international groups there.

Over time, these groups developed expansive infrastructures including schools, madressahs and health centres across the country, and came to have properties, offices and organisational networks, which were difficult for their leadership to surrender. This forced them to gradually revert to their traditional nationalist agendas. As this nationalist cause had little attraction for new associates and some members of the groups, they started to join other militant groups such as the Punjabi Taliban and violent sectarian organisations.

Interestingly, this happened at a time when religious-political parties of Pakistan, considered by many as puppets of the security establishment, had started efforts to shed their image as ‘B teams’ of ‘dictators’. These parties had served the purpose of the far-right in the ’80s and ’90s. The space was there, and conventional militant groups started filling this void, while forming alliances like the Defence of Pakistan Council.

There is no doubt that the far-right retains the po­tential to trigger violent campaigns; in particular, those with a militant past can cause more damage. However, to cope with the current diverse militant landscape of Pakistan, what should the state prioritise? The answer is obvious but, on the other hand, the state needs an innovative approach to deal with conventional groups.

The state can take steps to reintegrate individuals and even conventional groups into society. Many measures can be taken, and a reintegration model built, but two issues need to be addressed: the first relates to the political will of the state and the second pertains to how the state will satisfy the concerns of the international community about some militant groups.

The writer is a security analyst.

Published in Dawn, Aug 10th, 2014

Unfit to lead

Cyril Almeida

IT’S happening. It really is. Scorched earth. Pyrrhic victory. Cutting off nose. Shooting in the foot.

IT’S happening. It really is. Scorched earth. Pyrrhic victory. Cutting off nose. Shooting in the foot.

The custodians of democracy have done what the anti-democrats wanted. Lahore feels like a war zone. Fuel is unavailable. Roads are shut. Folk are scared. Nobody really cares who wins — they just want it to stop.

It needs to stop. It will stop. It always does — and in the end, it will be the democrats who will have struck another grievous blow against democracy.

Nawaz and co have taken their obsession with Punjab and done to it what any combination of ego, paranoia and obsession will do.

The problem with democracy is its fragility — without a population that believes in it, without institutions that believe in it, without politicians who really care about it, it doesn’t survive. Sometimes it limps on, like it did under Zardari and may now under Sharif. But continuity means little when the present is populated by sins egregious and stunning.

Who is Qadri? He’s the Mansoor Ijaz who won’t go away. Remember Mansoor Ijaz? Exactly. Qadri would have gone the same way, a speculator always angling for relevance but fundamentally irrelevant.

Qadri will slide back into irrelevance again, but this time he’ll take a fistful of PML-N flesh with him. We have to wait and see if the flesh is Nawaz’s scalp.

By now we know: Nawaz thinks Qadri is a threat. Let’s drop the pretence — always weak anyway — that the squeeze on Qadri and his supporters was authorised and prosecuted from anywhere but the top.

The PML-N is doing silly things to Qadri, and to Punjab’s hapless citizenry, because Nawaz wants dumb things done to Qadri — and Nawaz doesn’t care that Punjab’s hapless citizenry is caught in the middle. But why is Nawaz willing to inflict pain on his beloved Punjab to fight Qadri? He’s fighting for something, this Nawaz is. Understanding it doesn’t mean accepting it.

Shutting down Lahore. Closing off that great pride and joy, the motorway. Making Lahoris doubt their affection for Mian Sahib. Denying privileged Lahore its basic services.

Surely, all of that is only done by someone sensing a fundamental challenge to their rule. It’s not that the collateral damage is neither perceived nor recognised; it’s that the collateral damage is deemed acceptable, necessary even, to achieve the goal.

The goal is first and always — survival. Why is Qadri a threat to Nawaz’s survival? Because he’s rabid, he’s got a base of committed supporters in Punjab and he’s in the boys’ camp.

But sometimes the goal is survival plus something else. The victory, pyrrhic or not, sends a message across the land: mess with Nawaz in his Punjab and he will snarl and snap and fight you before you can fight him. That raises the cost for anyone who wants to snatch the throne. For the boys, it means the veneer of deniability, staying tucked away out of direct sight, won’t work.

They’ll have to come out into the open, launch a more direct, frontal assault themselves if they want Nawaz out now. That carries its own risks and raises the costs for the boys.

For civilian aspirants, facing the brunt of the civilian-run security and administrative apparatus means you’ve got to have enough muscle of your own. Resources, men, women, camps, coordination centres, an A team and a B team.

Those kinds of options exist with only a handful of challengers. And anyone among them having the same thoughts as Qadri will have to think twice, and then twice more, if they want to take on Nawaz.

And all of this Nawaz is willing to sanction because his greatest asset is also his biggest vulnerability. Having nothing politically — nothing meaningful anyway — outside Punjab means he has to dominate Punjab.

Punjab can’t be shared — the middle class, urban, conservative parts of Punjab — because sharing Punjab would mean no route to power, both at the provincial level and, most definitely, in Islamabad.

So fight, fight and fight Nawaz will. Any attack that comes from the conservative, establishment sections of Punjab, Nawaz will whack. The problem is, he’ll always lose. Maybe not in the first round or the second this time, but, eventually, he’ll lose.

Because he’s playing dirty from the wrong side of the pitch. A general the public knows will do dirty things. A power-hungry civilian outsider the public knows will stop at nothing.

But neither of those options needs the public to grab power. They don’t have to go to the public, cap in hand, head bowed and ask for their vote.

Nawaz is nothing without electoral legitimacy, without political capital and without the public’s backing. Well, without them he’s just a super-rich guy who was prime minister once. Which is essentially nothing.

And yet, here he is, sacrificing his political capital in his hometown to fight an enemy who keeps goading Nawaz into shedding more and more of his democratic armour, leaving him more and more vulnerable to attack in the arena of power politics.

Is he really stupid? Is his ego simply too big? Is his paranoia too deep-rooted? Has hubris simply taken over?

Or, simply, is Nawaz unfit to govern Pakistan?

Walk around Lahore this weekend — driving being difficult even on empty roads because fuel is near impossible to find. There’s police with guns everywhere. Fearful customers are raiding store shelves for basic supplies.

A bewildered citizenry is wondering where this political storm came from and why they’re caught in the middle of it. This is Lahore. In 2014. This is the heart of Sharif’s Pakistan. In 2014.

Yes, this weekend, it does look like Nawaz is unfit to lead Pakistan.

The writer is a member of staff.

cyril.a

Twitter: @cyalm

Published in Dawn, Aug 10th, 2014

Courting disasters

Dr Niaz Murtaza

IN Pakistan, disaster management (DM) largely means rescuing people hit by disasters and providing immediate succour. But this is band-aid work. Comprehensive DM systems address root causes and nip disasters in the bud.

IN Pakistan, disaster management (DM) largely means rescuing people hit by disasters and providing immediate succour. But this is band-aid work. Comprehensive DM systems address root causes and nip disasters in the bud.

Comprehensive systems first attempt to reduce the frequency of disasters, eg, major floods. Flood frequency in Pakistan has increased considerably. This has to do with global warming. Per capita-wise, Pakistan is a minor contributor to climate change, the main culprits being rich countries. Nevertheless, studies identify it as the third most vulnerable country to climate change.

While Pakistan cannot directly combat climate change, it needs to be more active in global climate change talks to pressurise major CO2 emitters to curb their emissions.

The second cause lies within Pakistan and is linked to massive deforestation and soil erosion. These processes result in more floods as riverbeds rise due to soil erosion. Thus, curbing deforestation and undertaking river dredging can reduce the frequency of floods. However, government prog­­rammes to do this are limited and ineffective.

Since there will still be some floods despite such steps (in fact some flooding is beneficial), the next step in effective DM is building buffers between remaining floods and communities, eg, bunds, embankment walls etc.

Unfortunately, rural and poor urban communities lack such protection. Consequently, floods always affect poor people most. In fact, in recent floods, such structures were deliberately breached to protect powerful people or collapsed due to poor maintenance, hence causing increased flooding among poor communities.

Since building such structures everywhere may take time, the next DM step is to have strong early warning and preparedness systems to warn and evacuate vulnerable communities before the floods hit them.

This requires coordination between the Met department which predicts rains; irrigation departments which must monitor rising river levels and protection structure sturdiness and inform provincial and district authorities accordingly, which in turn should evacuate people in time. However, the Met department lacks the latest technology; irrigation departments are unable to translate river level information accurately into the likely flood radius and local authorities usually fail to warn vulnerable communities in time.

Thus more than 90 of the hundreds of communities I have visited throughout Pakistan since the 2010 floods had received no prior government flood warning while others ignored it.

EU and UNDP have recently helped the six regional governments establish state-of-the-art emergency control centres for such preparedness. In visiting three, I found that only KP plans to recruit permanent centre staff. In Punjab and Sindh, the centres are being managed part-time by one to two personnel due to budgetary constraints and are not very effective.

Since the floods, NGOs have filled this void partially by establishing community-level preparedness systems. They provide communities with contact information for flood warning government departments and media; help identify evacuation routes and shelter places; provide evacuation and rescue equipment; and develop collaborative linkages among communities and relevant government departments. And so, over the last three years, I have observed a nascent preparedness system starting to emerge.

The last step is rescue and relief for people who could not be evacuated in time. However, the last step in countries with effective systems becomes the main step in Pakis­tan. Ideally, this step should be needed for a tiny minority. But, due to weak preparedness, it has to serve very large numbers in Pakistan and does so inefficiently.

The main reason for this overall situation is that since floods largely affect poor people, DM is a low government priority.

This apathy causes three main problems. The first is inadequate funding. Pakistani governments must develop detailed costing for the steps mentioned and allocate resources accordingly under a five-year comprehensive plan. The second problem is an inefficient and uncoordinated DM organisational structure.

The steps mentioned above are divided across nearly two dozen agencies which do not coordinate well. Some such agencies must be merged. A clear coordination structures must be created among remaining agencies, with one agency, eg, NDMA nationally and PDMAs provincially, having clear authority over others.

Finally, community participation within government DM programmes is low — a problem exacerbated by non-existent LG systems. Promisingly, the pending KP LG system envisages village councils which, among other tasks, will facilitate effective DM. Until these steps are implemented, Pakistan will unfortunately continue courting disasters.

The writer is a development specialist.

murtazaniaz

Published in Dawn, Aug 10th, 2014

Asylum rights

Sharjil Kharal

THE handling of the predicament of Pakistanis seeking asylum in Sri Lanka these days has come in for much criticism by human rights advocates. We as a nation are in a state of conflict and it is not surprising that the current circumstances have resulted in a number of people, including the displaced, seeking refuge in neighbouring countries or those not too far away such as Sri Lanka.

THE handling of the predicament of Pakistanis seeking asylum in Sri Lanka these days has come in for much criticism by human rights advocates. We as a nation are in a state of conflict and it is not surprising that the current circumstances have resulted in a number of people, including the displaced, seeking refuge in neighbouring countries or those not too far away such as Sri Lanka.

Displacement is our colonial legacy. The great divide of 1947 saw millions of people in the subcontinent crossing the border from either side to seek refuge in India and Pakistan. Such was the state of affairs back then that the movement was termed a fait accompli and there was little debate on it, though some state mechanisms to cope with the massive cross-border influx were installed.

The decade-long Afghan war that began in the late ’70s also saw Pakistan becoming one of the largest hosts of Afghan refugees. This situation continues even today. True, there are some xenophobic elements in the country that oppose the presence of refugees in Pakistan. But still, over 1.5 million refugees from Afghanistan continue to live in Pakistan under a special status granted to them.

While we continue to be one of the largest refugee recipient countries, without ratifying the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention, our very own displaced people are finding life difficult in countries in which they are trying to claim asylum status. These unfortunate people are being ‘refouled’ or facing deportation by states which have in fact ratified the international refugee convention.

‘Non-refoulement’ is the cornerstone of the international refugee law. The principle, which lies at the heart of the 1951 Refugee Convention, puts strong emphasis on a state not to forcibly return refugees who are knocking at its doors in the belief that they will be safe and secure there. Such refugees are fleeing persecution at home and are seeking the support of a number of international treaties and conventions to reach safer shores.

The principle states that “no contracting state shall expel or return (‘refouler’) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion”.

Not only is the principle binding on states that have ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention, it also applies to non-member states as it is a preemptory norm of international law. Furthermore, this principle is backed by other international human rights treaties such as the Convention Against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These highlight its importance all the more.

State authorities on the other hand close their borders for many would-be ‘refugees’ or asylum-seekers or in some cases, as in the present one, attempt to deport the asylum-seekers giving out the usual reasons, such as security hazards, drain on the economy, health issues etc.

While it is the prerogative of the host government to deny entry to a certain group of people that wants to enter its territory, as a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, it is obliged to protect the rights of those who are on the move for fear of persecution and that too which is well founded.

Many state authorities do have their own system of processing asylum claims in order to ensure that only those that have well founded fears are given refugee status. In the absence of such a system the onus lies on the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to sift the wheat from the chaff.

The UNHCR has a well-established procedure to determine refugee status. It is one which is, on the one hand, rights-based, and on the other, fair and transparent so that bogus claims, including those by fugitives or by persons indicted and convicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity, are excluded. The fears of economic migrants — as Sri Lanka claims the asylum-seekers are in the present case — entering a host country are also well addressed through this status determination process.

Perhaps no other international law is shrouded in as much negative perception as the refugee law. Perceptions of the Sri Lankan authorities about Pakistani asylum-seekers as economic migrants or some people basing their claims on false reasons, ought to be based on evidence, for if there is none then asylum-seekers should be allowed to prove their status by having their cases processed under the refugee status determination procedure.

Until this is done, their right to seek refuge will continue to be denied and the states obliged to uphold the rights of these people through international commitments will continue to deviate from their obligations.

The writer was a Visiting Fellow at the University of Oxford for a course on Forced Migration.

Published in Dawn, Aug 10th, 2014

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