DWS, Sunday 17th August to Saturday 23rd August 2014

DAWN

WIRE SERVICE

DWS, Sunday 17th August to Saturday 23rd August 2014

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

What’s Inside?

National News | Editorial | Columns & Articles

For suggestions and comments:

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

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

letters

National News

Govt, PTI back to square one

Khawar Ghumman

Islamabad: Less than half a day after meeting each other, the government and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Thursday suspended their committee-level talks and were back to exchanging barbs.

Islamabad: Less than half a day after meeting each other, the government and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Thursday suspended their committee-level talks and were back to exchanging barbs.

While Imran Khan continued his tirade against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and others, the PTI negotiating team held a brief press conference to announce the suspension of talks. However, the PTI leaders left the door open by saying that if their two reservations were addressed (later the party increased them to four), the dialogue could be resumed.

However, the government did not react nervously to the PTI’s announcement of suspension.

Addressing the media outside the parliament house, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique said that Khan was simply looking for excuses and that his crowds on D-Chowk were thinning out.

The government, the minister claimed, had from the first day shown flexibility, be it its willingness to talk or its decision to not use force but the other side kept changing its goal posts.

Know more: ‘Contained’: Imran, Qadri protest to the same tune

“Negotiations are part of the political process, but, if somebody believes he can dictate to the government he is absolutely mistaken,” he added while referring to Dr Tahirul Qadri’s demand of dissolution of the assemblies and Khan’s call for resignation.

“The government is in favour of talks, but, nobody should view this as our weakness.”

However, the minister no longer made any statements about being willing to grovel at the feet of the protesting party or standing upside down to convince them to carry out talks.

Indeed, there was a change in the body language of the federal ministers; they looked more relaxed and confident on Thursday.

Apart from Mr Rafique, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif gave an exclusive interview to a television channel where he clarified that the army’s involvement in politics was a thing of the past and promised that “the government has no plans to crack down on the participants of the twin-marches.”

He too looked relatively relaxed.

Other federal ministers also appeared in evening talk shows, unlike the past three or four days when the PML-N was represented by the younger back benchers instead of those who are seen as close to the prime minister.

The government response came after an unscheduled press conference by the PTI in the afternoon where the party’s negotiating team announced that it “suspends forthwith all negotiations/discussions with the government to protest the restrictions on free movement of citizen.”

PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi told journalists that they had received reliable information that the government had planned a ‘crackdown’ on the PTI protesters.

He claimed that the government has already started a ‘crackdown’ on PTI workers in other cities as well, adding that the PML-N workers’ attack on his residence in Multan a day earlier was part of the broader strategy of the government.

Pointing out that the government had not registered any FIR against the attackers so far, he argued that such actions of the government are counter-productive and did not create an environment conducive for talks.

As a result, he said, “We have conveyed our decision of suspension of talks to the government committee.”

Reiterating that the PTI was willing to talk, he said the party would respond positively if the government committee contacted them to address the movement of the citizen and the attack on his residence.

PTI President Javed Hashmi and General Secretary Jahangir Tareen also spoke at the press conference.

The PTI appeared convinced that the government was planning a crackdown on the rally at D-Chowk. This was an issue that PTI chief Imran Khan kept bringing up in his speeches all day long.

Talking to Dawn, Dr Arif Alvi, who is part of the party’s five-member team which held a meeting with the government on Wednesday night, also claimed that the PML-N was using strong-arm tactics while asking for talks.

“What message does the government want to send by attacking Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s residence in Multan; sealing Islamabad; increasing the police presence at D-Chowk; and blocking the food being brought in to feed the party workers?”

He said that till the government addressed these four concerns, there would be no talks.

Earlier the PTI leaders at the press conference had set two demands to resume talks with the government — ‘unsealing of Islamabad’ and the registration of FIR against the workers of the PML-N allegedly involved in the attack on the house of Mr Qureshi in Multan. Later, these two were increased to the four mentioned by Dr Alvi.

Till the filing of this report, it did not seem as if the government had gotten in touch with the PTI over the suspension of the talks.

On Wednesday, the government had constituted a committee comprising Governor Punjab Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar, federal ministers Pervez Rasheed, Zahid Hamid, Ahsan Iqbal and Abdul Qadir Baloch to meet the PTI committee that comprised Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Makhdoom Javed Hashmi, Asad Umar, Jehangir Tareen and Arif Alvi.

The two teams had met late on Wednesday night where it was decided that they would meet on Thursday.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2014

PTI workers will remain peaceful, SC assured

Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: The Sup­re­me Court maintained on Thursday its cautious stance on the political impasse between the government and the parties holding sit-ins in the federal capital after Hamid Khan, representing PTI Chairman Imran Khan, said his party was against extra-constitutional measures and its workers and supporters would remain peaceful.

ISLAMABAD: The Sup­re­me Court maintained on Thursday its cautious stance on the political impasse between the government and the parties holding sit-ins in the federal capital after Hamid Khan, representing PTI Chairman Imran Khan, said his party was against extra-constitutional measures and its workers and supporters would remain peaceful.

“The PTI has a commitment to the constitutional rule and will abide by the Constitution. Its workers will neither storm any building nor obstruct free movement,” the counsel assured a five-judge larger bench headed by Chief Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk.

The bench is hearing a set of identical petitions filed by bar associations across the country against sit-ins held on the Constitution Avenue by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) and Imran Khan’s call for civil disobedience.

“The credit of storming the Supreme Court will always remain with a particular party,” Hamid Khan said, referring to the 1997 attack on the SC building by PML-N workers. He said the PTI would try by all possible means to keep the protesters away from government buildings.

On Wednesday, the court had issued notices to both Imran Khan and PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri for reply to the petitions.

Mr Khan was represented by his counsel, but no-one appeared before the court on behalf of Dr Qadri on Thursday, although the notice had been received by PAT Secretary General Khurram Gandapur.

The court asked Hamid Khan to submit a concise statement by Friday.

The court expressed reservations over the words being used by leaders of the two parties, particularly the utterances that let “all the prey”, a reference to parliamentarians, assemble in one place.

Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, a member of the bench, recalled the judgment in a contempt case against Imran Khan in which it was held that politicians were expected to use more decent and guarded language and should be more careful in their selection of words in public gatherings or press conferences to show their intellect, maturity and wisdom and demonstrate respect for national institutions and present themselves as role model for society at large.

When Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt requested the court to issue an order against the PAT leadership for creating an unpleasant situation, the chief justice said the court would not do so, adding that the government which had the authority and power should proceed in accordance with the law and handle the situation accordingly.

“It is heartening to see Hamid Khan appearing on behalf of Imran Khan,” Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja said, but stressed the need for developing criteria for holding protests in a civilised manner.

Justice Saqib Nisar expressed the hope that people like Hamid Khan would help carve a way out of the present crisis.

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa asked Hamid Khan not to budge an inch on their demands but said his party should do something about the Constitution Avenue which had been blocked to an extent that access to justice was being denied.

The chief justice reminded that the court was concerned only about the apprehensions of extra-constitutional steps and impediments in the way of the ordinary people. He said judges had to travel a long way towards Murree to reach their homes.

During the proceedings, rights activist Asma Jehangir said bar associations always recognised fundamental rights like freedom of movement, assembly and forming association but a perception had been created as if these freedoms were absolute.

“Coming to a protest march is a perfect right, but will it not be usurpation if I bring one-fourth members and storm the SCBA office for removing its president by claiming that it is the will of the people,” she asked.

On Thursday, Advocate Rasheed A. Razvi filed a petition on behalf of two stockbrokers from Karachi. It said the country’s economy had been badly affected by the sit-ins, adding that on Aug 11 the KSE index had declined by 1300 points, causing a loss of Rs300 billion. On Wednesday also, the index dropped by 250 points, the petition said.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2014

NA rejects demand for Sharif’s resignation

Raja Asghar

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly, minus the protesting Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and some allies, on Thursday unanimously rejected the demand for the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and its dissolution, but the prime minister himself would not give out his mind as crowds besieging parliament pressed on for his ouster.

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly, minus the protesting Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and some allies, on Thursday unanimously rejected the demand for the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and its dissolution, but the prime minister himself would not give out his mind as crowds besieging parliament pressed on for his ouster.

The rejection, in a joint resolution signed by various parties, came as the house still had no inkling of any progress, or failure, of talks between government-mandated mediators and negotiators of the PTI and non-parliamentary Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) over their demands for Mr Sharif’s removal for alleged rigging of last year’s general elections and for fresh polls under reformed electoral laws.

The prime minister had come to the house for the third time in four days and heard some spirited spee­ches from members of his PML-N to denounce days of protests starting with the so-called Azadi march of the PTI and the Inqilab march of the PAT from Lahore and followed by sit-ins on two Islamabad roads and a siege of the Parliament House since early Wednesday. But Mr Sharif, in spite of a lot of media clamour for him to speak — most private television channels predicting he would — preferred silence, possibly to avoid creating any problems for the mediators.

“The house rejects the unconstitutional demands from certain political parties for the resignation of the prime minister and the dissolution of the National Assembly and deplores the extremely derogatory, defamatory and inflammatory language used by leaders and members of these parties in their speeches,” said the resolution moved by the government-allied Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party’s leader Mehmood Khan Achakzai.

“The house resolves to uphold the supremacy of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the sovereignty of parliament, which embodies the will and the mandate of the people of Pakistan, and the prevalence of the rule of law,” it said, and, in conclusion, added: “It reiterates its resolve to ensure that the democratic system continues to function and flourish in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.”

But despite the strongly-worded resolution, some high-sounding speeches and a standing ovation given to the prime minister from well-attended treasury benches on his arrival, mostly stern faces of ministers betrayed unease in their ranks.

However, the situation in the Parliament House was not as bad as on the previous day when the prime minister and all others who came to the house had to get away from what turned out to be an emergency gate via the Presidency to the west of parliament after Dr Qadri ordered his followers not to let what he called an assembled “shikar” (prey) leave.

While the main entrance to the Parliament House and one for other visitors continued to remain shut for the second day running because of the presence of the protesters there, entry and exit were allowed through an army-manned nearby gate leading to Cabinet Division building in the north, which was blocked by the protesters for a while on Wednesday before a warning by army officers got it cleared.

Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, who was the last interior minister under former military president Pervez Musharraf as the leader of a breakaway faction of the PPP, came out with the strongest defence of the prime minister, denouncing the demands for Mr Sharif’s resignation and a PTI decision to launch a civil disobedience movement and saying there should be a “red line for negotiations”.

Mr Sherpao, who is also one of the mediators, did not sound convincing as he estimated the previous night’s protest crowds outside parliament between 3,000 and 3,500 while other estimates put them at tens of thousands.

He also seemed referring to unspecified hidden hands behind the protesters when he referred to their marches from Lahore and sit-ins in Islamabad side by side before their siege of the Parliament House on Wednesday night, and, borrowing from a Punjabi joke about a Sikh’s unintended act of bravery in saving a drowning child, said: “I ask who gave them ‘dhakka’ (push).”

PML-Z leader Ejazul Haq, another mediator, raised some eyebrows with his question about how anyone could ask for a prime minister to resign right away when even a local councillor’s removal must go through a set procedure, prompting old-timers to recall his father and then army chief, General Ziaul Haq, toppling prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in a coup in 1977 and removing his own hand-picked prime minister Mohammad Khan Junejo in 1988.

A young PPP lawmaker from Sindh, Nauman Islam Sheikh, embarrassed the ruling party’s members as they cheered him for condemning Dr Qadri for describing lawmakers as assembled “shikar” on Wednesday when the PAT leader asked his followers not to let them leave the parliament building.

“Today you are clapping for us, but till yesterday you would not even shake our hands,” Mr Sheikh said about the PML-N’s traditional dislike for the PPP apparently turning into liking for the party for its disapproval of the PTI-PAT protest movement, and evoked a laughter in the house saying: “Now you are offering us burgers and pastries.”

The debate will continue on Friday when the house is due to meet at 11am.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2014

US throws its weight behind PM

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: The United States has firmly put its weight behind the “elected government”, declaring that it did not support any “extra-constitutional chan­ges” in Pakistan or those “attempting to impose” such changes.

WASHINGTON: The United States has firmly put its weight behind the “elected government”, declaring that it did not support any “extra-constitutional chan­ges” in Pakistan or those “attempting to impose” such changes.

At a news briefing in Washing­ton, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf made it clear that the US believed “Nawaz Sharif was elected and is prime minister” and that “there’s a government in place that was elected”.

The statement caused an angry reaction at Islamabad’s D Chowk, where thousands of PTI and PAT workers have been protesting for a week to force the prime minister to resign.

The US statement, however, was not a knee-jerk reaction to the crisis and clearly defined the US position on this issue.

“We support the constitutional and electoral process in Pakistan, which produced the Prime Minister of Nawaz Sharif,” said Ms Harf. “That was a process they followed, an election they had, and we are focused on working with Pakistan.”

In reply to a question about the demand for the prime minister’s resignation, the US official said: “We do not support any extra-constitutional changes to that democratic system or people attempting to impose them.”

“So you’re not calling for Prime Minister Sharif to step down?” asked the journalist.

“I in no way am calling on that,” said Ms Harf.

When another journalist compared Pakistan’s political unrest with the violence in Iraq and suggested that the military may take over the government because of the “grave situation” in Islamabad, she warned him not to do so.

“I’d … caution you from using terms like grave … Nawaz Sharif was elected and is prime minister. There is a government that was elected in place,” she said.

Ms Harf also warned the journalist not to assume that the political unrest would draw in the military.

“And again, I would caution you from assuming, sort of, where this goes from here. We think there’s a path forward here that’s peaceful. We know there’s a lot of space for political dialogue, but it has to remain peaceful,” she said.

Responding to PTI’s claim that since the last elections were rigged, Mr Sharif was not a legitimate prime minister, Ms Harf said: “He’s the prime minister, period.”

Ms Harf also disagreed with the suggestion that the current political crisis had made the country’s nuclear weapons unsafe.

“I would venture to guess that we always care about that issue,” said Ms Harf when a journalist asked if the United States was keeping an eye on those weapons.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2014

Talks stall as Imran, Qadri look to regroup

Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD: The process of dialogue, that began a day earlier, came to a screeching halt on Thursday as both the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) lashed out at the government for trying to sabotage the talks by trying to seal off the sit-in venue.

ISLAMABAD: The process of dialogue, that began a day earlier, came to a screeching halt on Thursday as both the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) lashed out at the government for trying to sabotage the talks by trying to seal off the sit-in venue.

Warning the United States against interfering in the “internal affairs” of Pakistan, PTI chief Imran Khan went as far as to declare, “As long as I am alive, I will not move from here,” as he reiterated his call for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down.

According to late night reports, PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi met US Ambassador Richard Olson.

PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri also lashed out at the National Assembly resolution rejecting the possibility of the prime minister’s resignation, saying, “Except for a few, all parliamentarians are shareholders in the government’s corruption.”

“Do you think that the people of any western country will agree to accept a government that comes into power after rigging the elections,” he asked, directing his question at the United States ambassador in Islamabad.

Mr Khan said he was hopeful that they would succeed in their struggle to get rid of Nawaz Sharif within the next two days.

“Tomorrow, we will celebrate independence after Friday prayers,” he announced.

“The PTI was interested in talks but the government deputed the police force to take action against the protesters and also stopped people who were coming to participate in the sit-in by closing roads,” he said.

In a related development, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ruled out the use of force against the participants of long marches and reiterated to resolve the matter through dialogue.

Talking to senior journalists and anchorpersons at the Prime Minister House on Thursday, he said the government could not think of using force against the protesters because women and children were also among them.

Answering a question, the prime minister said the government could not be blackmailed by bringing 10,000 to 15,000 people outside the Parliament House. He said the government was ready for dialogue and still committed to it for defusing the crisis. All political forces are on the same page and the government will fully respect the mandate of the people.

According to APP, Mr Sharif said the democratic system would not be allowed to be derailed and by accepting the demand for resignation he did not want to bring another crisis to the country. He said people had pinned some hopes on Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri but media had exposed their real faces to the people.

PTI chief Imran Khan also criticised parliamentarians such as Mehmood Khan Achakzai and Maulana Fazlur Rehman for what he called their pro-government role in the current crisis. He also refused to accept Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Khursheed Ahmed Shah on the negotiation committee, saying that he would prefer to talk to former information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira of the PPP.

Late on Thursday night, as a brief downpour cooled down temperatures in the capital, Mr Khan declared, “This rain is a blessing from God.”

Over at the PAT sit-in, the guards that form Dr Tahirul Qadri’s protective cordon were seen armed for the first time this week. Ten to 12 guards were standing atop his cabin, including two armed with automatic weapons. Another two guards with shotguns were also seen on the stage where Dr Qadri delivered his speech.

As the PAT chief warned his supporters of possible arrests on Thursday night, he also made his followers renew their pledge of allegiance to him.

The PAT chairman also accused the prime minister and his family of controlling almost all major industries in the country, from steel, sugar, plastic, dairy, poultry to feed and said they were supplementing their hold by taking billions of rupees in bank loans. He also listed some of the industries and firms allegedly owned by the Sharif family.

He said the country had natural resources in abundance, which the government wanted to sell in exchange for heavy kickbacks and commissions. He alleged that Nawaz Sharif’s son, Hussain Nawaz, had been asked to select an international firm to award a contract to dig and exploit the Reko Diq gold reserves in Balochistan, which had an estimated value of $100,000 billion.

After a daylong of protest, most PAT workers were sleeping on the Constitution Avenue when rain disturbed their reverie. But most workers enjoyed the downpour and appeared to have regained their morale. During the shower, PAT leaders came on to the stage and danced to the tune of different songs to keep their workers involved.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2014

Signs of thaw as all sides agree to talk

From the Newspaper

After nearly a week of stonewalling, both PTI and PAT agreed to talk to the government on Wednesday, a day after the army made it clear that both sides must put an end to the impasse through discussion.

After nearly a week of stonewalling, both PTI and PAT agreed to talk to the government on Wednesday, a day after the army made it clear that both sides must put an end to the impasse through discussion.

But talks began after charged party workers, spurred on by Dr Tahirul Qadri, laid siege to Parliament House while a session of the National Assembly was being held. Tensions were only quelled after the military contingent deployed at parliament intervened.

PAT arrived at the negotiating table first, happy to talk to government representatives in the public eye. The government side also demonstrated a will to negotiate as it sent a couple of groups to Qadri’s container on Constitution Avenue, even though he did not participate in discussions himself.

PTI preferred to negotiate behind closed doors and held discussions with a five-member government committee late into the night, which adjourned with a pledge to meet again the next afternoon.

But in public, both party chiefs stuck to their guns and continued to demand the resignation of the prime minister and his cabinet.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2014

Imran, Qadri summoned by Supreme Court

Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has asked Imran Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri to appear before it to reply to a number of challenges filed against the sit-ins being staged on Constitution Avenue by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT).

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has asked Imran Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri to appear before it to reply to a number of challenges filed against the sit-ins being staged on Constitution Avenue by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT).

“We would like to give notices to all the respondents for tomorrow (Thursday),” observed Chief Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk, who heads a five-judge larger bench that has taken up a number of petitions moved by various bar associations across the country. The latest one has been filed by the Multan High Court Bar Association and names both Mr Khan and Dr Qadri as respondents.

Both leaders are expected to appear before the bench; in person or through their lawyers.

On Wednesday, PAT protesters remained encamped on the median and green belt around the Supreme Court building, blocking the entry and exit gates meant for judges. In the morning, nearly all judges, including the chief justice, had to take a long detour to enter the building and a few had to walk to the Judge’s Block from the rear of the building.

The difficulties faced by Islamabad residents were also mentioned by the chief justice during the hearing when he observed that a number of cases had to be adjourned since neither the contesting parties nor their clients could reach the court. Even court staff, the chief justice said, arrived late.

Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja said that nearly a dozen cases out of a total of 15 that were on his bench’s cause list for Wednesday had to be adjourned because the counsel were unable to make it to court.

Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Kamran Murtaza told the court that the protesters were breaching the rights of the common citizen as enshrined in articles 15 and 16, which ensured freedom of movement and right of assembly, respectively.

Justice Saqib Nisar observed that the rights of citizens were a social contract and the right of one was the duty of the other. The court, he said, was not bothered about the political thicket at its doorstep, but rather the impediment to the fundamental right of free movement.

During the proceedings, Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt piped up, saying that in the 2012 ‘memogate’ case, former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had ruled that the Supreme Court could intervene when the people’s fundamental rights were threatened.

The chief justice, however, promptly cut the AG short, saying that there were limits to that.

Justice Khawaja observed that the government had to function and could only be removed through certain means, given in the Constitution, otherwise anarchy would prevail.

The AG cited the definition of ‘public order’ as given by the Supreme Court in the Khan Wali Khan case of 1976 and the Benazir Bhutto case of 1988, but deplored that both the PTI and PAT were demanding the removal of a legitimately-elected government – both at the centre as well as in the provinces – except the one in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“They have staged a self-proclaimed parliament outside Constitution Avenue and are adopting resolutions against the current political system,” the AG said, highlighting the 1997 judgment by the Kerala High Court of India, where it was held that a threat to the life and property of citizens defied the concept of a strike.

The apex court is currently hearing petitions filed by the SCBA, Lahore High Court Bar Association, Islamabad High Court Bar Association, Sindh High Court Bar Association and Multan High Court Bar Association.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2014

Inauspicious start with PAT

Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) initiated negotiations with the government on Wednesday, but after the first round of talks they were no closer to a deal that might end the sit-in by Dr Tahirul Qadri’s supporters.

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) initiated negotiations with the government on Wednesday, but after the first round of talks they were no closer to a deal that might end the sit-in by Dr Tahirul Qadri’s supporters.

Dr Qadri is reportedly refusing to budge from his demand for the resignations of both Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif, as well as the registration of an FIR against them for the Model Town incident.

Also read: PML-N hints at going beyond SC commission to resolve crisis

Earlier in the day, PAT workers laid siege to Parliament House – at the call of Dr Qadri – where the National Assembly was in session and said they would not let any parliamentarians to exit the building. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, incidentally, was also in attendance at the time.

Hundreds of stick-wielding PAT workers tried to proceed towards the Presidency and the areas behind Parliament House, but they were stopped by Islamabad and Punjab police contingents. While many feared that a clash was imminent, the tensions were quelled after the military force guarding the legislature intervened and kept them from storming the building.

Following the move, a government team, consisting of Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, Safron Minister Abdul Qadir Baloch, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Haider Abbas Rizvi and Ijazul Haq, met PAT President Raheeq Abbasi and Secretary General Khurram Nawaz Gandapur and agreed to honour the PAT’s ‘legitimate demands’.

However, in press interactions, PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat and other PAT allies said the government had sent Mr Rafique to negotiate despite the fact that he was among the individuals named in PAT’s case about the killing of 14 party workers in Model Town on June 17.

“We will not talk to those who have been nominated in the case,” Chaudhry Shujaat said, adding that the impasse began with the Model Town incident and it will end with the resolution of the issue.

The government then replaced Khawaja Saad Rafique with Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal when the team finally met PAT leaders. The PAT delegation included Ghulam Mustafa Khar and Sardar Assef Ahmed Ali.

After meeting the government team, PAT leader Khurram Nawaz Gandapur said they believed that dialogue should be positive and result-oriented. He said PAT could not hold formal talks with the government’s team unless leaders of its allied parties, including Majlis-i-Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM) and the PML-Q joined the talks. “We will wait for our allies and then negotiate with the government,” he said.

“I think the ice is melting now,” Abdul Qadir Baloch said after the meeting when asked if he was hopeful of a positive outcome.

He said the government was ready to accept most of PAT’s demands, save the resignation of the prime minister and the removal of the government.

Khawaja Saad Rafique thanked PAT leaders and workers for “opening their doors for talks with the government”.

The meeting took place outside Dr Qadri’s container, but Dr Qadri did not attend. When the two ministers approached the container, PAT workers began chanting anti-government slogans. At this, Dr Qadri emerged from his cabin and chided his workers, telling them not to hoot at the government representatives.

“They have come to our door, respect them and let them talk,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2014

Little headway with PTI

Kalbe Ali

ISLAMABAD: The first effort at negotiations between the government and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf ended without any progress though with a resolve to meet again.

ISLAMABAD: The first effort at negotiations between the government and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf ended without any progress though with a resolve to meet again.

Within twenty hours of the first message of the army suggesting that the stakeholders reach a solution, an intransigent PTI chief Imran Khan agreed to talks and by Wednesday midnight the party’s five-member team was huddled up with a government team at a conference room at a five-star hotel.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Javed Hashmi, Dr Arif Alvi, Asad Umer and Jahangir Tareen met Governor Punjab Chaudhry Sarwar, federal ministers Zahid Hamid, Pervez Rashid, Ahsan Iqbal and retired Lt General Abdul Qadir Baloch at the hotel.

The security personnel standing outside confirmed that the two sides were talking to each other behind the closed doors.

Know more: Dharna deadlock: Govt, PTI negotiators begin talks to end crisis

When the two sides came out, Qureshi told the media that PTI had presented its six demands to the government team and that the latter would provide a response by Thursday.

Though the meeting appeared to end in a deadlock, the two sides appeared hopeful and friendly towards each other.

Ahsan Iqbal went so far as to say that everyone collected there for the meeting wanted the best for Pakistan, which was a nuclear power, and that whatever they all decided would be in the country’s interest.

Asad Umer and Alvi also expressed similar sentiments.

Only Information Minister Pervez Rashid appeared a bit tense and presented a stern outlook.

The next meeting will take place on Thursday.

The PTI team went into the talks with a six-point agenda which began with the seemingly impossible condition of the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. These conditions were made public by Khan himself in his first speech of the evening at the dharna.

Speaking for the first time on Wednesday evening, after a second message from the army for a resolution of the prevailing crisis had been made public, the PTI chief finally agreed to talk to the government though he stuck to his mantra that the dialogue would take place on the condition that Prime Minister Sharif resigns.

In addition he asked for fresh elections, electoral reforms, a neutral caretaker set-up formed with the consensus of all parties, the resignation of the existing Election Commission officials and the punishment of those who helped Sharif rig the 2013 election.

This six-point agenda was announced after Khan said that “a democratic party was ready for talks with Nawaz Sharif”.

However, Khan did not clarify any of the questions thrown up by his demands – as to how he wanted to negotiate with a government if he wanted the government’s head to resign or what he wanted first, electoral reforms or fresh elections.

Nonetheless, it appeared to be a baby step forward.

This announcement came after a quiet morning and afternoon during which the PTI crowds were missing from the hot and shelter-less Constitution Avenue and there was little news of the PTI chief.

Away from the television cameras, he spent the day at his Banni Gala residence, re-charging himself for his Azadi march. Besides catching up on his sleep, Khan, it is said, held discussions with some party leaders.

A party insider told Dawn that some of those he spoke to suggested that there was no harm in talking to the government in order to find out what the latter could offer.

Others were opposed to this idea, as they felt it would break the momentum built up by the dharna.

It was also during the afternoon that the party vice chairperson Shah Mehmood Qureshi created a bit of a ruckus by telling a television channel that the party was ready for talks. However, he had to backtrack and state that the party continued to stand by its call for the resignation of Sharif after an irritated Khan asked him to clarify his statement. .

This added to the confusion over PTI’s change of heart – if there was one at all.

However, the tension finally ended when the protesters returned to Constitution Avenue in the evening, after rest and recreation.

After announcing his six conditions, Khan informed the crowds that PTI “has formed a committee to carry out the talks”.

While Khan was still speaking, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister’s daughter, tweeted defiantly, “U can spend your whole life in the container, but Nawaz Sharif will NOT resign.”

Her words indicated the government’s mood.

Undeterred, the former cricketer kept hurling challenges at the prime minister, to the delight of his followers.

“You resign, make an independent committee which investigates rigging in the last elections of May 2013 and then we can proceed,” he said at one stage, addressing Sharif.

He kept reiterating that the dialogue process could not be successful till Sharif’s resignation.

“I believe that after the re-elections, a new Pakistan will be established,” he claimed.

He promised the crowd, which seemed smaller in size than the one the night before, that he would sleep in his container till the prime minister resigned and added that he and his workers would rename the D Chowk as Azadi Chowk.

However, the festive mood of the gathering was no less than the previous night.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2014

Army advises parties to hold talks, refuses to mediate

Baqir Sajjad Syed

ISLAMABAD: The army has refused to mediate between the government and the protesting parties to defuse the political crisis and has instead asked both sides to work for a settlement on their own.

ISLAMABAD: The army has refused to mediate between the government and the protesting parties to defuse the political crisis and has instead asked both sides to work for a settlement on their own.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali met Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif for the fourth time in eight days on Wednesday. They were told to directly engage the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) in a “meaningful dialogue” and find out an “urgent solution”.

Gen Sharif asked the government to demonstrate “seriousness” in opening talks with the protesters.

A source privy to the discussions between the government and the army chief said the civilian leadership, besides seeking help for security, had been asking for assistance in negotiating a settlement.

The PML-N had in the past been a staunch opponent of military involvement in political issues.

The source said that the message delivered to the government in the meetings was that the army had no intention of intervening in the political conflict.

“Gen Sharif sees it as a political issue which needs to be expeditiously addressed in a political way,” he said.

The best the government could get from the military through the contacts was a statement that both sides should “break prevailing impasse through meaningful dialogue in larger national and public interest”.

The feeling emerging out of the GHQ to some extent helped in dispelling an impression created by the government that the armed forces had sided with it in the dispute.

It is said to have compelled both sides to at least begin direct parleys, though they stuck to their guns in the preliminary rounds they had on Wednesday.

PTI chief Imran Khan, who announced his party’s decision to start negotiations with the government, said in a television interview that the army wanted them to negotiate, “but it does not mean that I’ll strike an under-hand deal”.

But the army’s insistence on an “urgent settlement” would put additional pressure on the government.

At the same time, the military’s description of ‘Red Zone’ buildings as “symbols of the state which are being protected by the army” has set the red line for the protesters.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2014

Marchers breach red zone, hold sit-in outside parliament

Dawn Report

ISLAMABAD: The ante has been upped in the standoff between the ruling PML-N and anti-government protesters, who, having brea­ched the red zone, have marched on to parliament to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

ISLAMABAD: The ante has been upped in the standoff between the ruling PML-N and anti-government protesters, who, having brea­ched the red zone, have marched on to parliament to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

This, combined with a mysterious ISPR statement issued after midnight that called on all stakeholders to exercise “patience, wisdom and sagacity in the larger national interest”, seems to have put the prime minister in a tough spot.

Tuesday was a tense day in the capital as both the government and the demonstrators of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek looked all set for a showdown. Indeed, all the posturing and media coverage ahead of the promised surge towards the red zone indicated there would be blood.

Earlier in the day, the interior minister issued an ominous warning to both parties’ leaders, saying that the government would stop at nothing to protect institutions of the state and the international community holed up in the diplomatic enclave.

On the other side, both Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri promised their supporters that victory was at hand. Mr Khan announced that demonstrators would sit-in outside parliament until the prime minister resigned. Dr Qadri, who held a ‘people’s parliament’ at Aabpara roundabout earlier in the day, promised his followers that accountability would be ensured for the “corrupt” rulers.

But as evening fell and both leaders urged their supporters onwards into the high-security zone, it seemed that an understanding had been reached between the protesting parties and the government. Security personnel — including contingents from the police, Rangers, Frontier Constabulary and the military — looked on as large cranes moved the containers holding the marchers back.

At the command of their leaders, both marches set off just after 8pm, slowly but surely advancing on the red zone. PAT supporters led the charge, marching down Khayaban-i-Suharwardy and congregating at the G-5 entrance to Constitution Avenue, near Nadra headquarters. PTI workers took the same route too; walking back down Kashmir Highway to Aabpara roundabout and then onwards down Khayaban-i-Suharwardy.

Both marches soon merged and became indistinguishable. All the while, policemen stayed disengaged and did not attempt to restrain the protesters. Although a few isolated incidents of violence were reported, the march was largely peaceful as law enforcers were ordered to stand down and avoid a confrontation at all cost by the powers-that-be.

The entrance to Constitution Avenue at Nadra headquarters, which was blocked by several containers the whole day, was cleared in minutes by PTI and PAT supporters by using cranes they had brought along for the purpose. These cranes, which had accompanied both parties’ demonstrators since they arrived in the capital on Aug 16, played an integral role in clearing a path towards the avenue of power.

Both marches made their way onto Constitution Avenue and by midnight, a sizeable contingent had arrived outside the gates of parliament.

Security personnel stood by as the protesters marched on their target, but none intervened.

Even as army units stood at ready at sensitive buildings such the PM House, the ISPR spokesperson Maj Gen Asim Bajwa issued a statement, calling on the demonstrators to respect the sanctity of buildings in the red zone as they were “symbols of the state and being protected by the army”.

PTI’s advance

Before he initiated the countdown for the march on the red zone, the PTI chief instructed his supporters to remain peaceful and warned law enforcement personnel not to engage with the marchers.

“We will turn the lawns of parliament into Tahrir Square,” he bellowed from atop the mobile PTI stage, which began its slow crawl towards Constitution Avenue.

“I will lead the march and you must follow me without hesitation. We will turn the red zone into a green zone,” he told charged demonstrators.

“Remember, we will change the red zone into the green zone,” he added.

Mr Khan was also unequivocal on who should be held responsible if anything unfortunate were to befall him or his workers. “Nawaz Sharif, if anything happens to my people, I won’t spare you,” he said, adding, “If anything were to happen to me, promise me you will hold Nawaz Sharif responsible and avenge me”.

Later, the PTI chief also said that the protesters would not try to occupy any government building while he also told the participants that they should be ready to take revenge if their leader Imran Khan lost his life during the peaceful protest.

During his session of the ‘people’s parliament’, Dr Qadri set the stage for the march by asking the crowd a set of rhetorical yes/no questions, including whether they would like to go home or not; whether they would prefer to protest in front of parliament and whether the government should stay or go.

His supporters chanted their answers in chorus, as if on cue, setting the stage for the march to follow.

With reporting by Jamal Shahid, Syed Irfan Raza, Irfan Haider, Kalbe Ali and Malik Asad

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2014

48 dead in air strikes on Taliban hideouts

AFP

KHAR: Air strikes targeting Taliban hideouts in Khyber and North Waziristan killed 48 suspected militants on Tuesday, the military said.

KHAR: Air strikes targeting Taliban hideouts in Khyber and North Waziristan killed 48 suspected militants on Tuesday, the military said.

The armed forces have since June been waging an assault to wipe out strongholds of Taliban and other militants in North Waziristan and other tribal areas, killing at least 600 insurgents, according to the military.

An initial round of strikes killed 18 militants on Tuesday morning, a statement from the armed forces said, and 30 more died in later attacks from helicopter gunships.

“Five hideouts were wiped out in Khyber and seven were eliminated in North Waziristan,” the military said.

The claims could not be verified from independent sources because journalists have no access to tribal areas.

Security officials said a house belonging to Hafiz Gul Bahadar, a Taliban leader with links to Al Qaeda, was destroyed in the strikes. Bahadar had already fled the area, the officials said.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2014

Opposition’s efforts get nowhere

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: The helplessness of the politicians painted a dismal picture on Tuesday as the opposition parties failed in their efforts to reach out to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek and rumours went back and forth in the capital.

ISLAMABAD: The helplessness of the politicians painted a dismal picture on Tuesday as the opposition parties failed in their efforts to reach out to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek and rumours went back and forth in the capital.

It was an early start at Parliament House where both the meetings and the parliamentary session were held together.

Also read: Islamabad march: Imran threatens to storm PM House unless Nawaz steps down

Syed Khursheed Shah, leader of opposition, who held a meeting with other opposition leaders on Monday and Tuesday, had to tell the journalists waiting outside his office in the parliament that he, along with other political parties, was in favour of the supremacy of the constitution, parliament and democracy.

“Hence, we will try our best to facilitate mediation between the government and the PTI and PAT leaders,” he told the media.

He hastened to add: “Our efforts are to ensure the sanctity of the parliament and constitution and not to defend the government.”

When asked to explain, he said that the specific demands of PTI and PAT could only be addressed by the government.

“All we can do is get the two sides to the table, and we want to do this because we want the prevailing political crisis to be resolved so that the threat to the system goes away.”

However, he conceded that neither side was willing to bend — the government was not reaching out and the protesting parties were not willing to talk either.

“We repeatedly contacted the PTI MNAs who promised to check with their head about a meeting and get back, but none of them ever did.”

Confronted by a barrage of questions, a defensive Shah, who was accompanied by JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman, JI’s Liaquat Baloch, MQM’s Rashid Godail and PkMAP’s Mahmood Khan Achakzai, said, “It’s unfair to question our sincerity. We tried and we will continue to strive for the protection and safety of the constitution and democracy in the country.”

As the crowd dispersed, the politicians expressed similar views to the journalists standing around. In fact, one of the leaders told Dawn on the condition of anonymity said that the two sides had taken such maximalist positions that the opposition parties could hardly make a difference.

However, the sincere sounding opposition leaders didn’t seem to have any concrete proposals on how the government, which had spent so long doing nothing, could now convince an intransigent protesting leadership to talk.

A government under pressure

A similar despondency or pressure was writ large on the faces of the government ministers, who were present in the parliament house and were for once more than willing to engage with the media.

However, in their press talks they too could not convince a curious bunch of reporters about the government’s plan in the face of PTI / PAT’s threats to storm the red zone.

All Railway Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique could say was that the government was willing to talk but it could not even get in touch with the PTI and PAT leadership.

Neither did he have anything to say when asked if the government had a plan.

The answers provided by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif were no different.

He was besieged by the media when he left the parliament house and all he could say in return was that “the constitution will take its course”. He then raised his finger towards the sky and remarked, “God will help us.”

He at least managed to silence the journalists.

Around the same time, JI chief Sirajul Haq held a press conference at a house in Islamabad.

He too had nothing hopeful to offer.

He simply repeated his agenda such as the judicial commission completes its investigations within one month; the parliamentary committee for electoral reforms make proposals within 40 days and punishment for those found involved in election rigging.

Emphasising the role of political parties in defending democratic dispensation, he also recommended that the army play an impartial role in the ongoing political crisis.

At a separate meeting between the JUI-F chief and PPP Senator Rehman Malik, the two rued the fact that the leaders of Azadi and Inqilab marches had closed the doors on talks and seemed to be heading for a confrontation.

Rumours rule the roost

No wonder then that Islamabad, which is usually also home to considerable rumours and conspiracy theories, was literally exploding on Tuesday with uncertainty and whispers.

From the minus one formula to the parliament being sent home, everything was part of the gossip doing the rounds, especially in the parliament house.

Many a legislator admitted that they had heard of the possibility of an in-house change.

A senior PPP member said, “We are hearing rumours that if the ruling party is further pressed to the wall, it might bring in a new prime minister instead of letting the system collapse.” However, he was quick to add that this appeared to be unthinkable.

This proposal has been doing the round for some days now in various forms.

Politicians had been whispering that the PML-N had been advised that Nawaz Sharif should step down and let someone else lead the government. Some went further and said that the parliament should set up a national government which could then prepare the ground for a fresh election. However, none of them seemed to be based on anything concrete.

But by Tuesday, these rumours took on a new urgency as they seemed to be uncannily similar to the PTI demands.

While talking to more than one television channel, PTI vice president Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that his party was pushing for the resignation of the prime minister and not the dissolution of the National Assembly.

“Once the prime minister will resign, we will announce our future course of action and how we want to move ahead with our reform of the electoral system,” said Mr Qureshi.

PTI may still be willing to talk?

At the same time, many commentators had noted that PTI had still not submitted their resignations to the Speaker’s Office at the National Assembly, even though they had been signed and collected by the party a day earlier.

When asked, Dr Arif Alvi, PTI MNA, told Dawn that it was up to party chief Mr Imran Khan to take the final decision.

This slackness on the part of the party seemed to suggest that it might have left some room for negotiations and that it had still not committed political suicide. Had it been serious about not turning back, it would have sent the resignations in, pointed out one observer.

Perhaps the party too was waiting for the miracle that Khursheed Shah had mentioned. When asked about the rumours of the minus one formula and the chances of the crisis being resolved he had said, “Miracles do happens. We might just come out of this crisis,” without explaining how.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2014

Army asks both sides to exercise restraint

Baqir Sajjad Syed

ISLAMABAD: As the protesters marched on to the Constitution Avenue on Tuesday, the army urged both the government and the protesting political parties to exercise restraint and find a way out of the crisis through dialogue.

ISLAMABAD: As the protesters marched on to the Constitution Avenue on Tuesday, the army urged both the government and the protesting political parties to exercise restraint and find a way out of the crisis through dialogue.

“Situation requires patience, wisdom and sagacity from all stakeholders to resolve prevailing impasse through meaningful dialogue in larger national and public interest,” military spokesman Maj Gen Asim Bajwa said in a late night statement.

The statement that came shortly after the protesters began assembling in front of the Parliament building in the “red zone” followed a meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif and discussions with in the army on the unfolding crisis earlier in the day.

Know more: Nawaz meets COAS to discuss security situation

The army had till now avoided giving any public statement on the crisis that had gripped the country since both parties began their protest drive from August 14.

The call for a “meaningful dialogue” was seen as a signal from the powerful military to the squabbling politicians to make serious efforts for resolving the contentious issues. While protesting Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek have been adamant about their demands for resignation of Prime Minister Sharif and holding of fresh elections, the government has been criticised for making no serious efforts for pacifying the protesters.

An initiative by the opposition parties for defusing the situation too had met little success.

The army chief had also asked the prime minister during their meeting in the day to show “flexibility” on the demands made by PTI and PAT and avoid using force against the protesters.

It was in this context that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar, speaking to media after the PM’s meeting with the army chief, had said that the government had decided to again offer dialogue to PTI and PAT.

Although the army is said to have refused a role that could have put them in direct confrontation with the protesters, it deployed 350 additional troops for the security of the buildings in the red zone.

Cautioning the protesters against attacking the Parliament building or other installations on the Constitution Avenue, Gen Bajwa said: “The buildings in the red zone are symbols of state and are being protected by army, therefore sanctity of these national symbols must be respected.”

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2014

Imran move to break out of dead-end street

Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD: PTI chief Imran Khan is on the war path. On Monday, he ratcheted up the pressure by announcing that the next day he would walk into the ‘red zone’ and asked his charged up workers gathered at the dharna to follow him.

ISLAMABAD: PTI chief Imran Khan is on the war path. On Monday, he ratcheted up the pressure by announcing that the next day he would walk into the ‘red zone’ and asked his charged up workers gathered at the dharna to follow him.

“We will stage a peaceful protest outside the National Assembly on Tuesday which was established after the rigging in the general elections of May 2013 and the next destination of our peaceful protest will be the Prime Minister House,” Khan thundered.

Speaking to his workers who had thronged the rally site in as much strength as the previous night, the former cricketer warned the police to avoid confrontation with the peaceful protesters, otherwise he would not be responsible for the consequences.

“I am worried because the police are ours and you are also mine and I do not want any clash with the police. That’s why I have decided I will lead the march to the ‘red zone’,” he said to the protesters.

According to some channels, he will begin walking towards the zone at six in the evening on Tuesday.

As was the routine on other evenings, he kept giving short speeches at frequent intervals, addressing an excited crowd that he kept calling ‘junooni’.

He told the cheering crowds that the temperature in Islamabad would shoot up sharply on Tuesday before adding that, “It will be difficult for the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government to face the challenge of civil disobedience in the upcoming days if Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will not resign on the demands of the people of Pakistan.”

In fact, he had begun his first speech of the evening by bringing up his call of civil disobedience of the day before, saying that some of his followers had misunderstood what he meant.

However, except for adding that the movement would ensure the end of Sharif rule, he did not explain how the movement would commence; nor did he answer any of the questions that tax experts, economists and others had been raising since Sunday night.

The charged up crowds who were busy cheering him and dancing to the songs played by DJ Butt didn’t seem to care either.

Earlier in the day, his parliamentarians — apart from the ones sitting in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial assembly — had already handed in their resignations to their party head.

This announcement came just one day after Khan had already stunned the entire country on Sunday night by threatening a storming of the ‘red zone’ and civil disobedience movement.

He was not the only one who was in the mood for a long drawn out battle.

Just a green belt away, the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri also gave a new ultimatum to the government on Monday afternoon, a few hours before Khan spoke to his followers.

The cleric announced that he had decided not to confine the Inqilab agitation to the federal capital; instead it would now be spread to all the four provinces of the country.

“From today the Inqilab will start throughout the country,” he said.

He did not elaborate how and at what locations the provincial-level demonstrations will be staged.

Later a PAT spokesman, Ainul Haq, told Dawn that expanding the agitation in all four provinces of the country did not mean that the dharna in Islamabad will be wrapped up.

“While sitting in Islamabad, our workers will simultaneously stage dharnas in the four provinces,” he claimed.

During the same speech, Dr Qadri warned the government that if PAT’s charter of demands would not be met till midnight (when the 48 hour deadline given by Dr Qadri will end) he would announce his next course of action.

The spokesman added that at the midnight address, Dr Qadri will also elaborate upon the provincial-level dharnas.

While he was delivering the speech, a powerful speaker on the stage short-circuited, adding to the confusion and high drama.

Giving a lengthy address as usual, Dr Qadri lashed out at the government for ‘jamming’ his Land Cruiser SUV in which he travels a half kilometre – from his containers to the stage.

“On the one hand, the government sends seven warning letters to me that the Taliban and others can attack me but on the other it jams my security vehicle,” he said.

He also brought up the Model Town incident again to assert that the Sharifs had lost the right to rule.

The PAT chairman specifically addressed the citizens of Sindh, Balochistan and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and provided a list of problems confronting them and vowed to address them all.

From the security situation in Karachi to the poor education facilities in Balochistan, he discussed it all.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2014

Govt’s response not fast enough

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: By announcing their resignation from the National and three provincial assemblies on Monday, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan is ratcheting up the pressure on a government that is, by all accounts, not reacting fast enough.

ISLAMABAD: By announcing their resignation from the National and three provincial assemblies on Monday, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan is ratcheting up the pressure on a government that is, by all accounts, not reacting fast enough.

Despite three drastic announcements from an aggressive PTI — resignations, a call for civil disobedience and entering the ‘red zone’ — the government is yet to offer something concrete, for which it has been criticised as much as PTI’s brinkmanship.

On Monday, the PTI further stunned an already tired nation by announcing that its parliamentarians would resign from the National and three provincial assemblies, Punjab, Sindh, and Balochistan.

It may be mentioned the PTI has no representation in Balochistan.

The decision came after a lengthy meeting of the party’s core committee.

It was announced by Shah Mahmood Qureshi who told the media that the decision to resign in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had been delayed for the moment.

Talking to Dawn, Dr Arif Alvi, a PTI MNA from Karachi and member of the core committee, accepted that a few in the party weren’t in favour of submitting resignations. “However, in the end all PTI MNAs have unanimously decided to resign from the National Assembly.”

According to party sources, PTI president Javed Hashmi questioned the decision of resignation, but in the end he also fell in line with the party leadership.

About the KP assembly, Dr Alvi said that since the PTI was part of a coalition, it would be unfair to announce its dissolution without consulting the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) leadership, which was its main ally in the provincial government.

In reaction to such a drastic decision, all the government managed to do was announce a five-member cabinet committee to facilitate mediation efforts of opposition parties. This was announced by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Federal ministers Ahsan Iqbal, Saad Rafique, retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch, Akram Durrani and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Affairs, Irfan Siddiqi, will be part of the committee.

This move came after a visibly irritated opposition, which had offered more than once to mediate between the government and the PTI, refused to be part of the committees announced by the interior minister.

On Sunday evening, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan announced constituting two separate committees for talks with PTI and PAT, comprising both members of the government and opposition. However, the next day names for these committees were announced without consulting the political parties.

As a result, opposition parties in the parliament refused on Monday to become part of the government committees; instead they decided to constitute two separate panels of four members each to reach out to PTI and PAT leadership.

This was announced by Syed Khursheed Shah after he held a meeting with the members of the major opposition parties at the Parliament House.

He said that Haider Abbas Rizvi (MQM), Aftab Sherpao (QWP), Ijazul Haq (PML-Z) and Senator Hasil Bizenjo (NP) will approach Dr Qadri, whereas, Khursheed Shah (PPP), Ghulam Ahmad Bilour (ANP) and G.G. Jamal (independent) and a representative of the JI whose nomination was yet to be finalised will try to talk to the PTI leadership.

Mr Shah said efforts would be made at all levels to contact the PTI leadership. However, by the time the politicians sitting in the parliament took these decisions, the PTI had already announced its resignation decision.

This is not the only time the government has expre­ssed its lack of seriousness.

Earlier on August 12, the prime minister had written to the Supreme Court, asking it to constitute a three-member judicial commission to investigate the allegations regarding the May 2013 general elections.

But till now, there is no information on whether or not the SC has responded to this request.

Political analysts and politicians have filled hours on news channels, criticising the government for its lack of urgency and action. They are agreed that a timely intervention by the government in collaboration with the opposition parties could have prevented the present crisis from emerging.

This was made clear by Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah.

When asked about the reluctance on the part of the government to hold talks with the protesting leaders, he said, “Over the last one week or so, I have personally requested senior members of the government to talk to PTI and PAT leaders. But, eventually it has to be a government call.”

His reluctance to say more made clear the government’s hesitation.

Veteran politician Aftab Sherpao told Dawn that the government had made a critical mistake in reading the writing on the wall and failed to engage Mr Khan and Dr Qadri in time.

“Now the two protesting parties seem to have taken firm positions,” he added.

In fact, the opposition parties’ criticism of the PML-N despite their reiteration of support for the system makes it clear that the ruling party has alienated the very people who are its closest allies.

Aitzaz Ahsan’s speech in the Senate is a case in point.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2014

SC distances itself from political impasse

Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court distanced itself on Monday from the current political impasse between the government and parties holding sit-ins in the federal capital, but made it clear that it would preserve the Constitution at all cost and never permit any deviation from the green book.

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court distanced itself on Monday from the current political impasse between the government and parties holding sit-ins in the federal capital, but made it clear that it would preserve the Constitution at all cost and never permit any deviation from the green book.

“We have taken oath under the Constitution to protect and preserve it,” observed Justice Saqib Nisar, a member of the five-judge bench hearing a petition of Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Kamran Khan who sought a court order restraining state functionaries from taking any extra-constitutional steps.

At the last hearing on Aug 15, the court had restrained the state authorities from acting in any manner unwarranted by the Constitution and the law.

“We are the guardians of the Constitution and can never permit any deviation from the Constitution,” Justice Nisar said, adding that the court was under an obligation to protect the legal document.

But the bench headed by Chief Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk preferred not to get itself entangled into the current impasse when Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt drew its attention to the violation of fundamental rights of the citizens.

They had threatened to storm the ‘red zone’, the AG said, adding that the area inside the red zone housed a number of diplomatic missions and the government had an international obligation to protect them.

“This is something for the government to handle,” the chief justice said.

When the AG referred to the third schedule of the Constitution that deals with the oath of office of the president, prime minister and ministers and members of parliament, Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja observed that the court needed to be cautious of the dividing lines and said it was up to the parliament to take care if oath of the members was violated.

“We should not interfere in everything,” he said, adding that the court did not carry sticks but only moral authority to be exercised strictly under the Constitution.

Justice Nisar asked petitioner Kamran Murtaza to read out articles 5 and 6 from the Constitution – Article 5 demands complete obedience to the state as well as the Constitution from every citizen whereas Article 6 deals with high treason for conspiring against the Constitution.

After Mr Murtaza read out the articles, Justice Nisar asked whether it was possible to deviate from the Constitution.

“Although it is not possible, still there is a possibility (of unconstitutional steps),” the SCBA president said.

Another highlight of the day was the filing of a petition in the Supreme Court by Lahore High Court Bar Association President Shafqat Mahmood Chohan seeking a declaration that the fundamental rights of citizens had been violated by the leaders of parties holding Inqilab (revolution) and Azadi marches and sit-ins and announcing a civil disobedience movement.

The petitioner requested the court to order the administrative and constitutional heads of the state to work in accordance with the Constitution and restrain them from taking any extra-constitutional step under the garb of the current political situation to deprive the citizens of their fundamental rights protected under the Constitution.

The court said it would hear the petition along with the main petition on Wednesday. The court was informed that high court bar associations from other provinces were filing similar petitions.

The court ordered the federal government to submit by Wednesday a concise statement on the petition of the SCBA president.

After the hearing, Kamran Murtaza and Shafqat Chohan told reporters that the high court bar associations would hold a lawyers’ convention titled “Agenda for the protection of the Constitution and the rights of the citizens” on Aug 21 in Lahore. Leaders of all bar associations, political parties and business community and members of civil society would be invited to the convention which would adopt a resolution after discussion on the current political impasse, they said.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2014

‘People’s parliament’ to be held today: Qadri

From the Newspaper

ISLAMABAD: PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri announced on Monday midnight at the expiry of the deadline he had set for the government to quit that a ‘people’s parliament’ would be held at the venue of his sit-in at 5pm on Tuesday.

ISLAMABAD: PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri announced on Monday midnight at the expiry of the deadline he had set for the government to quit that a ‘people’s parliament’ would be held at the venue of his sit-in at 5pm on Tuesday.

He appealed to the masses to turn up in the large number for the event. “It will now be haram to sit at home,” he said.

Recalling the hardships suffered by PAT workers at the hands of Punjab police in the aftermath of Model Town tragedy, he said the likely ‘revolution’ by his party would be dedicated to the 14 ‘martyrs’ of Lahore.

“So far I and other leaders of Inqilab march took decisions but tomorrow the decision will be made by the people. Whatever the decision will be taken by people, we will accept it,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2014

India calls off secretary-level talks

Baqir Sajjad Syed

ISLAMABAD: Hopes of Pakistan and India working their way back to normal relations received a major setback when Delhi called off on Monday the Aug 25 meeting of foreign secretaries of the two countries because of Pakistani high commissioner’s consultative session with a Hurriyat leader.

ISLAMABAD: Hopes of Pakistan and India working their way back to normal relations received a major setback when Delhi called off on Monday the Aug 25 meeting of foreign secretaries of the two countries because of Pakistani high commissioner’s consultative session with a Hurriyat leader.

The foreign secretaries were to meet for exploring the way forward in the stalemated relationship in pursuance of the decision taken by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in their meeting in Delhi in May.

The cancellation statement followed a meeting of Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit with Hurriyat leader Shabbir Ahmed Shah. Mr Basit was to meet other leaders from the All Parties Hurriyat Conference over next couple of days for consultations.

Consultations between Pakistan government and Kashmiri leadership ahead of important engagements with India have been the standard practice because of presence of the Kashmir issue on the bilateral agenda. However, it was the first time that India has cancelled an important bilateral meeting on the excuse of a meeting of the Pakistani envoy with a Hurriyat leader.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office reacted sharply to the development saying Delhi’s decision was “a setback to the efforts” for rapprochement between the two countries.

It further said that practice of meeting Kashmiri leaders ahead of bilateral engagements was meant to facilitate meaningful discussions on the issue of Kashmir.

Dawn’s correspondent in New Delhi, Jawed Naqvi, adds: Indian Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, touring the border in Punjab, suggested that alleged ceasefire violations by Pakistan were deliberately staged to subvert normalisation of ties.

India’s decision to call off the secretary-level meeting came shortly after Mr Basit met moderate Hurriyat leader Shabbir Shah in the first of a series of meetings planned over three days. Mr Shah regretted the decision to cancel the talks, saying he was in Delhi to support the proposed foreign secretaries’ meeting in Islamabad.

Local reports said Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, who was due to meet her Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhury on August 25, spoke to Mr Basit and expressed India’s displeasure in “clear and unambiguous terms”.

“Pakistan’s continued effort to interfere in India’s internal affairs is unacceptable,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin, adding, “It raises questions about Pakistan’s sincerity and undermines the constructive diplomatic efforts by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May.”

New Delhi’s decision came on the heels of its standoff with UNMOGIP, the UN-mandated observers being forced to vacate their decades-old official residence in the capital. It also followed string of terse diplomatic exchanges triggered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s accusations during his visit to Kashmir that Pakistan was too weak to fight a war so it was inflicting terrorism on India.

Analysts said the calling off of talks marked a giant step back for diplomatic ties that received a boost after Mr Modi, in a surprising move, invited Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif along with other South Asian leaders to his swearing-in ceremony in Delhi in May.

On Friday, Mr Modi also made a sharp departure from Independence Day speeches by his predecessors by not mentioning Pakistan at all in his address to the nation.

For his part, Mr Jaitley was quoted as saying on Monday that Pakistan and “powers within” it clearly did not want ties with India to be normal.

“It is clear that there is deliberate ceasefire violation from Pakistan side. Earlier, it was only on the Line of Control (LoC) but now it is also on the international border,” he told reporters after visiting forward areas of Punjab border with Pakistan.

There have been 11 ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops along LoC and IB in Jammu region only during the past 10 days.

Mr Jaitley said he visited the forward posts of the armed forces along the border and said, “Our jawans are fully prepared to respond to any ceasefire violations by Pakistan.”

In Amritsar for a day, he visited the Kasowal BN enclave in Dera Baba Nanak sector and interacted with army and BSF jawans guarding the international border.

An army release in Chandigarh said Mr Jaitley motivated the troops and announced incentives for those deployed on the forward posts.

Mr Jaitley was accompanied by Army Chief Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag, Western Army Commander Lt Gen K J Singh and 11 Corps Commander Lt Gen N P Singh Hira.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2014

Imran’s surprising call for civil disobedience

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: Addressing a charged crowd that was all set to storm the ‘red zone’ on Sunday night, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan surprised everyone by saying that he would give the government time to comply with his demands.

ISLAMABAD: Addressing a charged crowd that was all set to storm the ‘red zone’ on Sunday night, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan surprised everyone by saying that he would give the government time to comply with his demands.

He initially began by saying he would camp out on the streets of the capital for a week, but then revised his deadline down to two days after that drew jeers from the crowd.

Mr Khan declared once again that he would not settle for less than the resignation of the prime minister, but then ordered his supporters to launch a civil disobedience movement against the government.

These seemingly irreconcilable demands threw off many, who were confused whether to treat this as a step forward or a step back.

But over at Khayaban-i-Suharwardy, the much hyped Inqilab of Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Dr Tahirul Qadri seemed to have run out of steam, having already issued his own ultimatum to the government on Saturday night.

In an effort to reenergise his supporters, Dr Qadri presented a formula that he promised would fetch the country over Rs4 trillion, which could be spent on the betterment of the common man.

He also challenged Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to prove him wrong or his grand plan flawed, at any forum.

Stressing that he wanted to avoid violence and clashes between PTI workers and police, Mr Khan called on all his supporters to stop paying utility bills and taxes, such as income tax and general sales tax, to what he called “this corrupt government”.

He took pains to build his argument for the civil disobedience movement. “The prime minister has perfected the art of buying off everything and everyone that comes his way. The PML-N chief has bribed judges, journalists and even tried the same tactics with military generals,” he alleged.

It was difficult to keep up with the PTI chief as he oscillated between two seemingly irreconcilable positions, passionately invoking violent imagery while espousing peaceful means to achieve his party’s main goal: drumming Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his party out of office.

“I personally want to storm this ‘fake parliament’ and Prime Minister House, hold Nawaz Sharif by the neck and subject him to ruthless accountability. But we believe in a peaceful struggle.”

In the same breath, he had a warning for Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. “You have a couple of days left to inform your prime minister that it’s better to leave peacefully, otherwise, my workers will come your way and there will be nothing I can do to stop them.”

Mr Khan also appeared cognizant of consequences of a showdown between party workers and law-enforcers. A conflict could lead to martial law in the country, which we don’t want, he said.

He also repeatedly asked Islamabad’s police not to get in the way and called on the government not to block entryways into the city, as they would not be able to stop the tsunami.

Grand plan

The PAT chairman, who on Friday gave a 48-hour ultimatum — asking for the resignations of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and their cabinets — said the new set-up that he had proposed could generate trillions through austerity measures, tax reforms, revenue generation, elimination of corruption, the exploitation of natural resources in the country, the better utilisation of international funds, Zakat collection and the recovery of the nation’s “looted wealth”.

Both Dr Qadri and Mr Khan have been making periodic announcements over the past couple of days to keep their supporters charged.

In the same vein, Dr Qadri reiterated his pledge to not leave Islamabad until the revolution he had dreamt of had materialised.

He said that even though international barometers had declared that corruption was rife in Pakistan and the growth rate had declined severely, there was still ample potential in the country.

Saying that he had prepared his plans after two years of research in consultation with his experts, the PAT chief claimed that by cutting 50 per cent of the federal and provincial governments’ expenditure, more than Rs7.65 billion could be saved every day.

Quoting a former National Accountability Bureau chairman, he said that the exchequer lost Rs12bn every day due to corruption. “Even if we can control this menace by 50pc, we can save Rs6bn per day,” he said.

Dr Qadri claimed that more than Rs20bn in tax was evaded every day and if the proposed national government made tax reforms and managed to recover even 25pc of the lost money, more than Rs500bn could be collected.

The country, he said, possessed abundant natural resources, which could be exploited to generate income. Different donor agencies roughly gave Rs17bn in grants to Pakistan every year for education, vocational training, health, women welfare, youth and others, he said. But this money was not spent on the poor, rather it went into the pockets of the rulers. “We will end this culture and utilise this money on the welfare of the people.”

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2014

ANP asks PM to take vote of confidence

Faiz Muhammad

CHARSADDA: Asfandyar Wali Khan, who was re-elected president of the Awami National Party (ANP) for the third term on Sunday, has advised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take a vote of confidence from the National Assembly.

CHARSADDA: Asfandyar Wali Khan, who was re-elected president of the Awami National Party (ANP) for the third term on Sunday, has advised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take a vote of confidence from the National Assembly.

Mr Khan, who was elected at a meeting attended by 573 members of the party’s general council in Wali Bagh, said PTI chief Imran Khan and PAT leader Tahirul Qadri would be responsible if any harm came to democracy.

“The ANP will not support any campaign to derail democracy and will resist any move to that end. There’s a way in the Constitution which should be followed,” he said.

He said the PTI-led government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had not fulfilled its responsibility of helping the displaced people of Waziristan. Instead, it had engaged in “bhangra” in Islamabad.

According to the ANP chief, a tsunami always brought destruction and it is a violation of the Constitution to ask the prime minister to quit by holding rallies of 50,000 people.

Political forces should resolve all matters in parliament, he said. The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s demand is illegal and cannot be considered in the parliamentary form of government.

He alleged that PTI’s ministers were involved in corruption and were entering into plea bargain deals with the National Accountability Bureau, but their party was levelling allegations against others.

He said the PTI chief’s demand about formation of a national or technocrat-led government was unwarranted. The country cannot afford adventurism and loss of democracy.

“We have accomplished dreams of Bacha Khan and Abdul Wali Khan by getting a name for the province and getting legal right over its resources.” The ANP leader said peace in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas was necessary to improve the situation in the region and put the brakes on terrorism.

He suggested an amendment to the Constitution to pave way for electing a vice-president from Fata and said efforts should be made to bring the people of the tribal areas into the national political mainstream so that they got the opportunities like other citizens.

Ghulam Ahmed Bilour was elected ANP’s senior vice-president, Mian Iftikhar Hussain general secretary, Tajuddin Khan deputy general secretary, Wajid Ali Khan additional general secretary, Zahid Khan information secretary and Shams Buneri culture secretary.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2014

Imran’s tough stance confuses govt

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: PTI chief Imran Khan’s hard stance has not only confused the government with his refusal to hold talks but also created friction within his own party.

ISLAMABAD: PTI chief Imran Khan’s hard stance has not only confused the government with his refusal to hold talks but also created friction within his own party.

Though he announced during his speech on Sunday night that the government should not send anyone to talk to him, a PTI insider also told Dawn that the party and the government were not in contact to defuse the prevailing political crisis and end the dharna.

This issue was also discussed in detail at a stormy closed-door meeting that the PTI leader held with his senior party leaders at his Banni Gala residence to work out the party’s plan of action.

The two-hour meeting, Dawn has learnt, took place in the afternoon. More or less the entire senior party leadership was present at this meeting that is said to have taken place between one and three in the afternoon.

From all accounts, it was a stormy session in which drastic options such as the PTI parliamentarians’ resignation from the National Assembly and the dissolution of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial assembly came up for discussion.

An official from within the PTI claimed that the chairman and a few ‘hawks’ were in favour of the resignation and the dissolution along with the announcement of the civil disobedience movement.

However, the others poured cold water over these ambitious plans.

Among others, the majority of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa parliamentarians, including its Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, opposed the move.

“It will be political suicide; this will not serve the party’s cause,” one participant was quoted as saying.

Those from the KP argued that the provincial government was the party’s best chance at proving their governance capabilities.

On the other hand, the hawks argued that the resignation from assemblies would strengthen their one-point agenda to push for fresh election.

However, once the KP lot opposed the move, even Mr Khan had to keep quiet and drop the issue of mass resignation.

This point had led to considerable tension and heated discussions, and as a result, when the idea of beginning a civil disobedience movement came up, no-one raised any objection.

The future moves were not the only issue discussed at the meeting. In addition, Mr Khan took many in the party to task for the lack of preparations for the rally and the thin crowds.

The meeting left the party leadership who attended it convinced that their chief was not in the mood for any compromise and that he would stick to his maximalist position.

This has reportedly upset a number of leaders.

Painting a bleak picture, the PTI source said he feared that the party chief might seriously consider storming the `Red Zone’ in the coming days, as he had threatened in his Sunday speech.

He also conceded that frustration was building up within the ranks and file of the party as some of the leaders and the parliamentarians (from the National Assembly and the provincial assembly) were in favour of a settlement though they feared that Mr Khan would not accept it.

This scenario was partially confirmed by the political secretary to the prime minister, Dr Asif Kirmani.

He conceded that there was no productive communication with the PTI leadership, before he added that the government was willing to talk to Mr Khan.

“Provided the PTI leaders agree, a special committee comprising lawmakers from different parties can be constituted for the talks,” he added.

“Demands come up once the two sides are ready to talk to each other. We are yet to reach that stage,” he claimed, before he added that short of the resignation of the prime minister and the dissolution of assemblies the government was ready to discuss anything.

Only time will tell how sincere the government is but this will only become clear if the PTI now agrees to talk to the government directly or through interlocutors.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2014

Multi-party panels being set up for negotiations

Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to form two committees to hold talks with leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) to avert any threat to national interests.

ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to form two committees to hold talks with leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) to avert any threat to national interests.

The decision was taken at a meeting presided over by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after reviewing the political situation in the wake of sit-ins in Islamabad.

Addressing a press conference after the meeting, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the committees would comprise representatives of all political parties. He said a formal announcement about the composition of the committees and their mandate would be made on Monday.

He said the committees would immediately start their work and the government was ready to accept all constitutional and legal demands of the two parties.

About the deadlines given by the parties, he said the issues would be addressed when the way was paved for talks.

He appealed to PTI chief Imran Khan and PAT leader Dr Tahirul Qadri to help unite the nation and avoid pursuing the path of confrontation and violence.

What was important, he said, was not the future of the government but of the state, democracy and institutions.

He said any attempt to get unconstitutional demands accepted through threats of violence would harm the state and would be tantamount to introducing the law of the jungle. “Once such an attempt is allowed to succeed more violent groups would keep on emerging in the days ahead with their wishlists.”

The minister expressed his surprise over the PTIs chief’s announcement to launch a civil disobedience movement and said he was at a loss to understand who had advised Mr Khan to adopt such a course of action. He said such calls were given in countries under foreign occupation. Such calls were not given during dictatorial regimes and the PPP and the PML-N had never even thought of it when their relations were extremely tense in the 1990s.

He said differences of opinion and their expression were allowed in democracy but the scope of political rivalry must be determined. He appealed to the two parties to adopt the course of reconciliation because violence led to nothing but damage and destruction.

Answering a question, the minister rejected an impression that PTI workers had tried to enter the ‘red zone’ on Sunday. He said he had received a message from the PTI chairman who wanted to move his stage some 200 metres and the permission was immediately given.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2014

PTI ministers, MPAs not to pay taxes, utility bills

Waseem Ahmad Shah

PESHAWAR: With the PTI-led coalition government in Khyber Pakhtun­khwa in a fix over Imran Khan’s announcement of a civil disobedience movement, all provincial ministers and MPAs belonging to the party decided on Sunday not pay taxes and utility bills.

PESHAWAR: With the PTI-led coalition government in Khyber Pakhtun­khwa in a fix over Imran Khan’s announcement of a civil disobedience movement, all provincial ministers and MPAs belonging to the party decided on Sunday not pay taxes and utility bills.

Information Minister Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani told Dawn that the provincial government was also expected to abide by the decision but said that a formal decision about running day-to-day government affairs would be taken after a meeting to be convened later.

“Except me, all provincial ministers and MPAs are in Islamabad in connection with the PTI sit-in and they are expected to meet soon to take a firm decision in this re­gard,” Mr Ghani said, adding that they believed that the federal government was illegal because it was the outcome of a rigged election and, therefore, they should not pay electricity and gas bills and GST and income tax.

He said that being members of the PTI he and other MPAs and ministers would fully follow Imran Khan’s command.

A leader of Jamaat-i-Islami, which is a PTI ally in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, told Dawn that leaders of his party would meet soon to decide whether or not to continue to be in the provincial government. He said that before making such an important announcement the PTI leadership had not taken the JI into confidence. His announcement is an extreme step.

The JI leader said it appeared that Mr Khan had entered a dead-end street and made the announcement in sheer desperation, adding that the PTI chief had earlier wanted dissolution of the KP assembly but the JI warned him against doing so.

Mr Khan’s announcement of civil disobedience has put the provincial government in an awkward position because it depends mostly on its share from the federal divisible pool. The province at present receives Rs244 billion from the pool under the NFC Award.

“How can the province survive if its government doesn’t pay taxes and bills and what will happen if the federal government, in return, stops releasing the province’s share under the divisible pool,” asked a senior government official who did not want to be named.

Legal experts said that under Article 5 of the Constitution, obedience to the Constitution and law was an inviolable obligation of every citizen and it would be a violation of the Constitution if the KP government and its ministers started a civil disobedience movement.

They were of the opinion that the president could even impose governor’s rule in the province under Article 234 if the government was not run in accordance with the Constitution.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2014

Imran, Qadri begin sit-ins for PM’s ouster

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: By Saturday evening, one group of protesters near Islamabad’s Red Zone had demanded the Sharif brothers’ resignation while the other threatened to storm the Red Zone.

ISLAMABAD: By Saturday evening, one group of protesters near Islamabad’s Red Zone had demanded the Sharif brothers’ resignation while the other threatened to storm the Red Zone.

“Inqilab” and “Azadi” (revolution and independence) appeared to be settling down in Islamabad, flexing their muscles in more ways than one.

Where street power and the numbers game was one way in which the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek showed their power, aggressive speeches their heads made was another.

In fact, the rhetoric of the two party heads suggested that neither of them would settle for any compromise or give and take, as expected by politicians, such as Jamaat chief Sirajul Haq and predicted by commentators.

After a quiet day, the two leaders arrived at their venues late in the afternoon (Tahirul Qadri turned up at 4pm while Imran Khan finally made an appearance at 7pm).

Although Tahirul Qadri spoke first and presented his four-point agenda which began with the demand for resignation of the Sharif brothers, Khan went a step further – he warned that his rally would sit quietly for one more day, after which the PTI workers would storm the Red Zone.

“I am not here to sit for weeks. It’s better for you to listen to our demand and leave as soon as possible,” the PTI chief warned. “Don’t blame me if I can’t control these people who have gathered here for real democracy. I can control them until tomorrow night, but not beyond,” roared Khan, who was dressed in his trademark black shalwar kameez.

By 10 at night, he had upped the ante by adding that by the time he woke up on Sunday morning, the stage on which he was sitting should be pushed further up the Kashmir Highway. “We will then be closer to the Red Zone and the Constitution Avenue.”

According to analysts, the PTI chief was sending a clear message to the government and political parties who were keen to resolve the situation that overtures should be made to the PTI sooner rather than later.

When a PTI office-bearer was asked about Khan’s hard-hitting statement, he said the latter had realised that he had made a mistake by ‘announcing a break’ in the dharna (sit-in) on Saturday morning and now “he wants to charge the party workers up”.

In fact, Khan and his team tried hard to make up for their absence for most of the day (after making a speech at 5 in the morning he and the rest of his leadership went away to their homes) by making short speeches at frequent intervals. The speeches, high on emotion and theatrics, seemed to be an attempt to electrify the crowd after, what must have been for them, a languid and uneventful day.

Khan was in high spirits, asking for resignations, warning that his workers would not sit quietly for more than a day, predicting that he would be the next prime minister, and calling upon Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to see the writing on the wall and switch sides. “Chaudhry Nisar, Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pervez Khattak and I were class fellows in Aitcheson college; we are waiting for you here.”

His words did more than rev up the crowds.

And undoubtedly, Khan did a good job of charging up the crowds. Till the filing of this report, the dharna had turned into a signature PTI rally, with music, an upbeat crowd that danced to songs and cheered on as the party leaders spoke.

THE OTHER SHOW: Before Khan had turned up, Tahirul Qadri had set the mood for the day with his speech to a more organised and, according to most accounts, bigger audience.

He began by asking for resignations as well as dissolution of the National and provincial assemblies and the formation of a national government.

Shortly after Saturday midnight, Tahirul Qadri issued an ultimatum to the government, asking it to accept the marchers’ demands within 48 hours.

Qadri called on the FIA chief to put the names of the Sharif brothers and members of the federal and provincial cabinets on the ECL to prevent their escape from the country.

Like Imran Khan, Qadri also called on people sitting at home to come out in support of the demands, but urged them to remain peaceful.

The Sharifs were not the only target of the PAT chief.

He also made a veiled criticism of Imran Khan’s stance, saying that “we want a national government, and not any interim government, because the latter cannot carry out reforms”.

“We will not accept mid-term elections because the same faces will come back into assemblies,” he added.

He was dismissive of a PTI demand for recount in 10 to 20 constituencies. “It will not make any difference.”

The cleric then put forward a number of demands – short and long term – that ranged from putting the names of the Sharif brothers on exit control list to “ruthless accountability of corrupt officials” to local government elections to the protection of the rights of minorities “We will cut the hands of those who harm minorities, their places of worship and culture.”

Switching over to English, he assured those listening (and not familiar with Urdu) that he and his followers were democratic people who did not believe in violence.

All along he made it clear that he was no longer in favour of joining hands with PTI by criticising Imran Khan.

For instance, when he appeared among his workers at 2 in the afternoon, he belittled the PTI chairman for leaving his supporters in the rain and going home to rest. “I will not leave you alone and will remain with you till my last breath or the commencement of Inqilab (revolution),” he said.

There was no dearth of drama at the PAT rally either. At one stage, workers ‘discovered’ a man who was in possession of a gun. This provided Qadri the chance to show his ‘benevolence’ by stopping his workers from roughing the man up, calling the man up on the stage and hugging him.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2014

Lahore judge orders FIR against Sharifs

Wajih Ahmad Sheikh

LAHORE: A sessions judge ordered Lahore police on Saturday to register a murder case against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, several other PML-N leaders and some police officials over the June 17 Model Town incident in which at least 11 supporters of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) were killed and scores wounded.

LAHORE: A sessions judge ordered Lahore police on Saturday to register a murder case against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, several other PML-N leaders and some police officials over the June 17 Model Town incident in which at least 11 supporters of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) were killed and scores wounded.

The judge gave the order on a petition filed by an office-bearer of the Minhajul Quran secretariat at a time when the PAT protest was under way in Islamabad. The petitioner, Jawad Hamid, complained that police were not ready to register a murder case of the PAT workers on his application against 21 PML-N leaders and police officials.

The order issued by Additional District and Sessions Judge Raja Ajmal Khan said the SHO of the Faisal Town Police Station had not “discharged his legal obligations as he should have registered the FIR on the application of petitioner”.

However, police had not registered the case till late in the night and a spokesman told Dawn that they had not received the court order so far.

The petitioner’s counsel Mansoorur Rehman Afridi told this reporter that they would take the order to the Faisal Town police on his client’s return from Islamabad where he had gone to participate in the protest.

Punjab Advocate General Hanif Khatana said the provincial government planned to challenge the order before the Lahore High Court.

A judicial commission comprising Justice Ali Baqar Najafi of the LHC, set up to conduct an inquiry into the incident and pin responsibility for it, has already completed its work and handed the report to the Punjab government. The government has not made the findings public.

Apart from the prime minister and chief minister, others named in the application include former provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah Khan, former principal secretary to the chief minister Dr Tauqir Shah, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Minister of State Abid Sher Ali, PML-N MNA Hamza Shahbaz, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Information Minister Pervez Rasheed, former DIG Rana Abdul Jabbar and former city police chief Chaudhry Shafiq Gujjar.

In his order, the judge observed that the case (No.510/14) registered on the complaint of a police official did not mention “whether any person had died during the occurrence and this fact by itself exposes the worth of this FIR”.

He rejected the government’s argument that there was no lawful justification for the registration of a second FIR, citing a judgment passed by the Supreme Court (Wajid Ali Khan Durrani vs Sindh Government, 2001).

The judge said the first FIR had not recorded the petitioner’s version and he had levelled serious allegations against the suspects named in his application.

“The application is accepted and respondent (Faisal Town SHO) is directed to register the FIR on the application of the petitioner and then to proceed in accordance with law in the investigation,” he concluded.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2014

Decision on talks: Sharif to wait and see till tomorrow

Zulqernain Tahir

LAHORE: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif discussed with the Punjab chief minister on Saturday the Azadi and Inqilab marches as well as a court order to register an FIR over the killing of 14 supporters of Dr Tahirul Qadri in Model Town on June 17.

LAHORE: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif discussed with the Punjab chief minister on Saturday the Azadi and Inqilab marches as well as a court order to register an FIR over the killing of 14 supporters of Dr Tahirul Qadri in Model Town on June 17.

The meeting took place at their Raiwind residence.

A senior PML-N leader told Dawn that the prime minister had been closely watching the marches, but “he is in no hurry to engage both Mr Khan and Mr Qadri in talks”.

Know more: PTI, PAT protests: ‘final round’ and ’48 hour deadline’ set

“Mr Sharif has decided to watch the sit-ins till Monday morning before taking a decision on forming a government committee to hold talks with them,” he said.

The PML-N chief had also asked his party men not to show nervousness or become panicky, he added.

The PML-N leader said: “The prime minister has discussed the sessions court’s order for registering an FIR on the complaint of the PAT at a time when supporters of Mr Khan and Mr Qadri are demanding his government’s ouster.”

The PAT had nominated 21 people, including the prime minister, the Punjab chief minister and some important members of the federal cabinet, in its application for registration of a murder case.

Meanwhile, talking to PML-N legislators, Shahbaz Sharif said the unconstitutional demands of both Imran Khan and Dr Qadri would not be accepted.

“The prime minister will not resign. The demand of resignation from an elected prime minister is undemocratic and unconstitutional,” he said.

“The collusion of Imran and Qadri is a conspiracy against the democratic system which will never succeed. Imran is demanding an unconstitutional technocrat government which is a violation of the court decision,” he said.

The chief minister said the tsunami march and so-called Inqilab march would flop.

“By not becoming part of negative and confrontational politics the people have proved that they will not allow anyone to create hindrance in the development process in the country,” he said, adding that the future of Pakistan was in democracy.

He said a solution to problems in politics was only found through dialogue and mutual understanding.

Shahbaz Sharif said a conspiracy to divide the nation had been hatched by launching the marches when the army was fighting a war against militants.

“Pakistan needs stability and not anarchy,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2014

Marching on the capital — a history

Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: The long marches and sit-ins by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek are not unprecedented. Islamabad has seen a number of political movements over the past five decades.

ISLAMABAD: The long marches and sit-ins by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek are not unprecedented. Islamabad has seen a number of political movements over the past five decades.

The most famous marches were spearheaded by the late Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif when both were in opposition.

The first major demonstration in the capital took place on July 4 and 5, 1980, when the Shia community marched on the capital to protest the enforcement of the Zakat and Ushr Ordinance by former president Ziaul Haq.

The protesters, led by Shia leader Mufti Jaafar Hussain, laid siege to the federal secretariat, effectively paralysing the bureaucracy. It was then that the government gave in to the protesters’ demands and declared them exempt from paying Zakat to the state.

Then, on Aug 17, 1989, during Benazir Bhutto’s first term as prime minister, opposition parties led by Nawaz Sharif surged towards the capital to observe the first death anniversary of Ziaul Haq at the picturesque Faisal Mosque. This was the first-ever challenge to the government of the day, which initially decided – much like the ruling party of today – to seal Islamabad. But later saner heads prevailed and Aitzaz Ahsan, who was interior minister at the time, facilitated the entry of the mourners. They later dispersed peacefully after paying their respects and making political speeches. Some observers maintain that by doing so, the marchers got what they wanted.

A few years later, on November 16, 1992, Ms Bhutto, now leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, announced a long march after declaring that the 1990 general elections were rigged. This movement forced the late Ghulam Ishaq Khan, who was president at the time, to dissolve the first Sharif government, though it was reinstated on Supreme Court orders on May 26 1993.

The next year, on July 16, 1993, Ms Bhutto marched on the capital again, which was completely sealed this time around. The situation was defused after the army chief, Gen Waheed Kakar, forced President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign.

Former Jamaat-i-Islami chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed also held a sit-in in Lahore when former Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee came to visit the city in 1999, during Nawaz Sharif’s second term.

The lawyers’ movement for the restoration of the judiciary began when former military ruler Pervez Musharraf sacked chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry in March of 2007.

This led to countrywide agitation, culminating in the first long march, which consisted of Justice Chaudhry and his entourage, including lawyer leaders Aitzaz Ahsan, Munir A. Malik and Ali Ahmed Kurd, going around the country campaigning for restoration.

After a brief restoration, Musharraf imposed a state of emergency in November of 2007 and sent the top judge packing for a second time. Judges were detained and made to retake their oaths, a move which many judges resisted.

This prompted the second leg of lawyers’ protest, which culminated in a countrywide long march to the capital under the regime of the Pakistan People’s Party. Led by Nawaz Sharif, the march was called off in Gujranwala after then prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani made a late night speech announcing the reinstatement of the former chief justice and all the other judges of the superior judiciary.

Between October 2013 and March 2014, the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons, a group of people whose loved ones had allegedly been picked up by security agencies, marched from Quetta to Islamabad via Karachi on foot, in what was the first ever long march in the truest sense of the word. Led by Mama Qadeer, a group of about 30 marchers, including a sizeable number of women and children, walked a total of 2,000 kilometres, breaking the record set by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi – the great non-violent activist of undivided India – during the Salt March of 1930. But despite their resolve, the activists were unable to exert enough pressure on the government to secure the acceptance of their demands.

The last major sit-in witnessed in the capital was the demonstration by Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri, who marched from Lahore to Islamabad on January 14, 2013, and camped out at Jinnah Avenue near D-Chowk for over four days. That sit-in ended after successful negotiations between the government of the day and the protesters. However, things do not appear to be going the same way for Dr Qadri as they did last time.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2014

Footprints : New drones, new dimensions

Mirza Khurram Shahzad

SEVERAL metres ahead of where containers are blocking the main Islamabad expressway, over a bridge on the Kashmir Highway at the Zero-Point interchange, a group of young Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) supporters have surrounded a young man.

SEVERAL metres ahead of where containers are blocking the main Islamabad expressway, over a bridge on the Kashmir Highway at the Zero-Point interchange, a group of young Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) supporters have surrounded a young man.

The man is holding a white metal object above his head. Not more than 1.5 square feet in size, this object has four tiny fans at its corners, two green and as many red lights, and a camera attached with a cable.

This is the drone camera, the latest tool adopted by Pakistan’s ever-growing electronic media to beat each other in the competition of better coverage of the unending cycle of breaking-news events in the country.

As the young man adjusts the camera and then releases it above his head, the crowd — waving the PTI’s red and green flags — cheers. The “drone” takes a round over the heads of the participants in the Azadi March and returns to the hands of its master.

“This machine is very useful for the coverage of events such as marches, public gatherings and mass movements,” says Asad Butt, who operates the copter camera. “It covers aerial footage across 360 degrees up to one kilometre. It has a wire attached with quadrangular fans and a camera and shows everything at the scene which ground cameras are unable to show.”

Butt works for a private company and provides such flying cameras to local and international television channels on demand.

But he refuses to divulge more details because the authorities have recently shown concern over the rapidly increasing use of these drones.

Since the PTI and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) long marches started from Lahore on Thursday to demand that the PML-N government step down, half a dozen drone cameras have been flying over the crowds.

During the past week, private television channels also showed scenes from inside the PAT chief Tahirul Qadri’s secretariat and the PTI’s Zaman Park activities using these flying cameras. That prompted the authorities to impose a ban on the use of these drones without permission, keeping in view the vulnerability of these machines in being used for terrorism and criminal activities.

“We were stopped from using these machines yesterday to cover the placement of the containers because the authorities have become sensitive about it,” says Nadeem Ihsan, senior manager (technical) of Samaa TV, which says it used the drone camera the first time in Islamabad during the coverage of the PTI’s earlier public gathering at D-Chowk on May 11. The authorities also sought the names of the staff of the channels that are deputed to use and coordinate these cameras in order to regulate this latest media tool.

“Their concerns are valid,” says Ihsan. “This object has the ability to be used for terrorism purposes. There is no doubt that this technology is very useful but the authorities have a right to regulate it. We have applied for the permission from the administration and I think that all others who are using it should also seek a formal approval.”

Satellite engineer Asif Shareef says the technology has become a major tool in competition and people have liked its coverage. “People like variety in the coverage of big events,” he says. According to Ihsan, the price of the copter camera ranges from $200 to $500,000 depending upon the quality of the camera and the other equipment used to prepare one.

But for Shahidur Rehman, director (technical) of Samaa TV, the price takes a backseat when it comes to the quality of the coverage of an event, particularly such large gatherings spread over vast areas where cameramen don’t have the freedom of movement.

“It captures the footage of locations where a cameraman doesn’t have access,” says Rehman. “We can move its lens in the air with a remote. We can show much wider scenes. So the use of such drone cameras has become a compulsion now. We have bought our own drones to meet the coverage demand and use it during all major events in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.”

As the drone camera takes another aerial round under the dark clouds now lifting after a heavy downpour minutes ago, the exciting crowds wave at the camera and yell again.

“It is showing our people from all over the venue, it’s great technology and I’m very happy to see it,” says Jehanzeb Khan, a PTI worker who has come from Peshawar.

But the authorities are cautious about the growing numbers of these new drones. “If there were only top five to six major players that were using drone cameras, it would be fine,” says a senior administration official on the condition of anonymity. “But we are concerned that the number of these drones may increase to an unlimited level and that would be alarming. We need to make rules to control this technology.”

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2014

Army chief urges collective efforts for peace

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif emphasised on Saturday the need for collective efforts to eradicate terrorism from the country.

ISLAMABAD: Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif emphasised on Saturday the need for collective efforts to eradicate terrorism from the country.

“Only a collective approach by the nation and security forces will lead us to elimination of the menace of terrorism and ensure durable peace in Balochistan and other parts of the country,” he said during a visit to Quetta, where he addressed personnel of the army, air force, Frontier Corps and police.

Gen Sharif was in Quetta to visit the Pakistan Air Force’s Samungli base and military aviation’s Khalid base which were attacked by Taliban militants on Thursday night.

He lauded the troops for beating back the attacks and praised the local people for informing security personnel about the terrorists. The nation had rejected terrorism and wanted to get rid of all terrorists, he said.

The army chief was later given a briefing on the law and order situation in the province during a visit to the army’s Southern Command headquarters. He was accompanied by Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch.

Gen Sharif assured Dr Baloch of the army’s continued assistance for enhancing capacity of the law-enforcement agencies active in the province.

The chief minister said the law and order situation had improved in the province over the last 12 months and praised the army for making special security arrangements.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2014

India must build up military might: Modi

AFP

MUMBAI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday that India must build up its military might to the point that no other country “dare cast an evil eye” on the South Asian nation.

MUMBAI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday that India must build up its military might to the point that no other country “dare cast an evil eye” on the South Asian nation.

Mr Modi made the statement at a ceremony in Mumbai for the commissioning of the country’s biggest locally built warship.

“Our aim is to achieve such prowess in our defence capabilities that no country dare cast an evil eye on India,” he told naval officers and other dignitaries.

India is in the midst of a $100-billion defence upgrade programme.

Mr Modi’s government has raised the foreign investment cap on India’s defence industries to speed up modernisation of the military.

Mr Modi said India must stop relying so heavily on defence imports and focus instead on local research, design and manufacture.

India is the world’s largest arms importer with the United States recently overtaking Russia as the biggest arms supplier, followed by France and Israel.

“This warship has been built by India’s engineers, technicians and defence experts,” the premier said.

“It is the biggest example yet of what we can make in India,” he said.

“It is the aim of this government to take India from its position of importing every little piece of military hardware to a position where we can export equipment.”

The 6,800-ton INS Kolkata is fitted with the most advanced weapons systems, sensors and communication technology.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2014

Fears of Ebola spread rise as quarantine centre attacked

Agencies

MONROVIA: Seventeen patients infected with Ebola were unaccounted for on Sunday after they fled an armed raid on a quarantine centre in Monrovia by men who claimed the epidemic was a fiction.

MONROVIA: Seventeen patients infected with Ebola were unaccounted for on Sunday after they fled an armed raid on a quarantine centre in Monrovia by men who claimed the epidemic was a fiction.

“They broke down the door and looted the place. The patients have all gone,” said Rebecca Wesseh, who witnessed the attack on the outskirts of the Liberian capital.

Her report was confirmed by residents and the head of Health Workers Association of Liberia, George Williams.

Mr Williams said the unit housed 29 patients who “had all tested positive for Ebola” and were receiving preliminary treatment before being taken to hospital.

“Of the 29 patients, 17 fled last night (after the assault). Nine died four days ago and three others were yesterday (Saturday) taken by force by their relatives” from the centre, he said.

The attackers, mostly young men armed with clubs, shouted that “there’s no Ebola” in Liberia as they broke into the unit in a Monrovia suburb, Ms Wesseh said.

Residents had opposed the creation of the centre, set up by health authorities in part of the city considered an epicentre of the Ebola outbreak in the Liberian capital.

“We told them not to (build) their camp here. They didn’t listen to us,” said a young resident. “We don’t believe in this Ebola outbreak.”

The Ebola outbreak, the worst since the virus first appeared in 1976, has claimed 1,145 lives in five months, according to the World Health Organisation’s latest figures as of August 13: 413 in Liberia, 380 in Guinea, 348 in Sierra Leone and four in Nigeria.

Officials expressed fears that Ebola could spread soon through the capital’s largest slum after residents took away items including blood-stained sheets and mattresses.

The violence in the West Point slum was led by residents angry that patients were brought from other parts of the capital to the holding centre, Tolbert Nyenswah, assistant health minister, said on Sunday.

West Point residents went on a “looting spree”, stealing items from the clinic that were likely infected, said a senior police official.

The residents took medical equipment and mattresses and sheets that had bloodstains, he said.

“All between the houses you could see people fleeing with items looted from the patients,” the official said, adding that he now feared “the whole of West Point will be infected”.

Liberian police restored order to the West Point neighbourhood.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2014

Screaming survivors, body found in container at UK port

AFP

TILBURY: One man was found dead and 34 others still alive in a shipping container on Saturday after staff at a British port heard banging and screaming coming from inside.

TILBURY: One man was found dead and 34 others still alive in a shipping container on Saturday after staff at a British port heard banging and screaming coming from inside.

The men, women and children, all believed to be from the subcontinent, were discovered inside the container at Tilbury Docks, east of London, on a ship that came from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge.

All the survivors were taken to nearby hospitals; two were in a serious but not life-threatening condition, while the others were suffering from dehydration and hypothermia.

Cases of immigrants trying to enter Britain illegally, often in dangerous circumstances, are not rare.

The police vowed to bring to justice anyone involved in putting the people in the container, while a local lawmaker said the authorities needed to understand what was motivating people to go to such lengths to reach Britain.

Because a body was found, Essex Police have launched a homicide investigation.

Of 64 containers aboard the P and O ship that arrived early on Saturday, police have opened 30 so far to check for any other people.

“Staff here at the port became aware of screaming and banging coming from a container,” police superintendent Trevor Roe told reporters.

“As a result of that noise, staff… immediately breached the container to find 35 persons within that unit. “We believe them to come from the subcontinent.”

P and O Ferries said the container arrived on the quay in Zeebrugge around an hour before it was loaded onto the ferry. Two hours later, the ship began the eight-hour overnight crossing. The people were discovered on the ship’s arrival in Tilbury.

The firm’s Natalie Hardy said the commercial ferry was carrying 64 containers, 72 trailers and five trucks and drivers.

The dead man was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency medics in Tilbury.

“It is a homicide investigation from the police point of view,” Mr Roe said, though there was no suggestion anyone inside the container was a suspect.

He added: “This is a humanitarian issue, and the welfare of these patients is a priority.”

Officials have faced a language barrier in their efforts to communicate with the survivors.

Mr Roe said once the survivors were declared fit they would be formally interviewed through interpreters.

He said the police investigation would look into “the gangs or whoever may be involved in this conspiracy to bring these people in this way over to this country. Clearly we need to try to bring them to justice.”

Stephen Metcalfe, the local member of parliament, said the incident was tragic. “The fact that so many people appear to have travelled so far and are so desperate to get into the UK — either on their own or being trafficked — is really very sad,” he told the BBC.

He said it was important “to get to the root causes of what is motivating people to go to such extreme lengths to travel from other parts of the world to get into the UK” and combat people-trafficking.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2014

Migrants found in container are Sikhs

Reuters

LONDON: Police said on Sunday that 35 people discovered in a shipping container at a British port were Afghan Sikhs and that survivors would be questioned about how they came to be there.

LONDON: Police said on Sunday that 35 people discovered in a shipping container at a British port were Afghan Sikhs and that survivors would be questioned about how they came to be there.

One man died after a group of suspected migrants, including women and children, was found inside a container at Tilbury docks in southeast England on Saturday morning.

The container had come on a ship from Zeebrugge in Belgium.

Staff at the port only became aware of the group after hearing screaming and banging, said the police, who launched a homicide investigation.

On Sunday, the police said 30 of the 34 survivors had been released from hospital after treatment and were in the care of the authorities. The four other survivors were expected to be discharged from hospital soon, they said.

“Now they are well enough, our officers and colleagues from the Border Force will be speaking to them via interpreters so we can piece together what happened and how they came to be in the container,” Superin­tendent Trevor Roe of Essex Police said in a statement.

“We now understand that they are from Afghanistan and are of the Sikh faith.”

Sikhs make up a tiny minority in Afghanistan’s population of around 31 million people.

Police said they were liaising with Interpol and the Belgian police.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2014

Two Indian troops killed

AFP

SRINAGAR: Suspected militants shot dead two paramilitary troopers in India-held Kashmir in the third militant assault on security forces in a week, police said.

SRINAGAR: Suspected militants shot dead two paramilitary troopers in India-held Kashmir in the third militant assault on security forces in a week, police said.

Armed men attacked a vehicle carrying Border Security Force (BSF) personnel near a military airport just south of Srinagar.

“Two BSF personnel got martyred (killed) and two were injured in the attack,” police inspector general Abdul Gani Mir said, adding the men fled afterwards.

Seven arrested as protesters defy curfew in US town

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: Protesters ignored curfew in a Midwestern US town on Sunday to protest the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer.

WASHINGTON: Protesters ignored curfew in a Midwestern US town on Sunday to protest the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer.

The protests forced the US federal government to order a third autopsy of the teenager, Michael Brown, to determine the cause of his death.

In the town of Ferguson in Missouri police extended the curfew for a second day and urged protesters not to defy it. Police have arrested seven people for curfew violations while a mysterious gunman shot a protester.

Police said the protester was in a critical condition.

The curfew was imposed after days of protests over the Aug 9 shooting.

In Washington, US Attorney General Eric H. Holder instructed the Department of Justice to have an additional autopsy performed by a federal medical examiner.

The decision, announced on Sunday afternoon, indicates that the federal government is not satisfied with the probe conducted by local authorities.

Officials in Washington said the federal investigation would focus on determining if police had violated civil rights while shooting the unarmed teenager who made no attempt to harm the officer, Darren Wilson, who shot him.

“This independent examination will take place as soon as possible,” Mr Holder said. He said he had ordered the additional autopsy “due to the extraordinary circumstances involved in this case and at the request of the Brown family”.

A spokesman for the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Al Nothum, urged protesters to remain peaceful and not throw stones at police.

“If they’re throwing tomatoes at us, we’re not going to use gas. But if they’re throwing rocks, we’ll escalate that. We need to meet force with force,” he said.

On Saturday, local officials released a video which allegedly showed Michael Brown robbing a convenience store shortly before the shooting.

US federal officials said that they had repeatedly urged local officials not to release the video as it might further inflame tensions in the city. But the local officials ignored the plea.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2014

Boko Haram kidnaps over 90 villagers in Nigeria

AFP

MAIDUGURI: Boko Haram Islamists kidnapped scores of people from fishing communities in Nigeria’s extreme northeast, hauling some of the hostages away on boats across Lake Chad, witnesses said on Friday.

MAIDUGURI: Boko Haram Islamists kidnapped scores of people from fishing communities in Nigeria’s extreme northeast, hauling some of the hostages away on boats across Lake Chad, witnesses said on Friday.

Several people were also reportedly killed in the militant raids on a number of villages in the Kukawa Local Government area in Borno state, a Boko Haram stronghold.

The remote area has poor mobile phone coverage, and details of the attacks that took place on Sunday have taken days to emerge.

A few survivors travelled to Borno’s capital Maiduguri, where they briefed reporters on the latest mass abduction by the insurgents, who caused global outrage in April when they kidnapped 276 girls from their school. They are still holding 219 girls.

“At first we thought (the attackers) were soldiers… But when they began shooting at people and setting fire to homes we realised they were Boko Haram,” said Halima Alhaji Adam, from the village of Doron Baga.

She said the militants kidnapped roughly 100 young men aged between 15 and 30.

Her account was supported by two other women and a man who also reached Maiduguri as well as a leader of a vigilante force which is helping the military in the counter-insurgency fight.

Abubakar Jatau, from Baga, said 97 men and boys were taken in the raid, which began late on Sunday and continued into the early hours of the following morning.

“They killed 28 people, including four they slaughtered along the shores of Lake Chad. The 24 others were shot dead inside the village during the attack,” he said.

There was no official corroboration of the death toll or any comment from the military on the attacks.

The hostages “were forced into motorboats and taken into Chad,” Ms Adam said.

Another woman who escaped, Fatima Suleiman, said locals feared the hostages would be used as “foot soldiers” by the extremists.

Mohammed Gava, the Maiduguri-based vigilante leader, said a number of girls and women were also taken away.

Mr Jatau said the multinational joint task force, made up troops from Nigeria, Chad and Niger and which is nominally responsible for security in the area, rescued 23 of the female hostages.

The others backed up his account, with Ms Suleiman saying about 20 people were rescued.

The force was formed more than a decade ago — long before Boko Haram became a threat — to crack down on cross-border smuggling.

The survivors said soldiers from this force, deployed to the area after the attacks, clashed with Boko Haram fighters on Wednesday when the insurgents returned.

The troops “gave them a good fight,” said Ms Suleiman.

Boko Haram, which says it wants to create an Islamic state in mainly Muslim northern Nigeria, has been accused of kidnapping hundreds of people in the northeast to use as conscripts, wives and slaves.

Forced conscription is also becoming an increasing problem in neighbouring Cameroon, where the authorities say that hundreds of young men and boys have been recruited in the north, which is home to Boko Haram safe havens.

The April 14 abduction of the schoolgirls from the remote Borno town of Chibok drew unprecedented attention to the conflict and offers of help from major Western powers.

But the violence has continued unchecked.

This year is thought to be the deadliest in the conflict, although reliable estimates of casualties are hard to obtain.

Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2014

Footprints: Metaphors in Maples

Aurangzaib Khan

WE came across a maple on a morning walk, at its base a gaping black hole, a hollow for a heart. Some tramp made fire here. And still, the gnarled old tree grew.

WE came across a maple on a morning walk, at its base a gaping black hole, a hollow for a heart. Some tramp made fire here. And still, the gnarled old tree grew.

Maples, it would seem, are more resilient than men. They can survive a hole in their side. Of the people of Parachinar, I wouldn’t be so sure. I can only detect a simile for their sorrow in a wounded maple, the tree the town is named after.

On the road to Parachinar are other metaphors for human suffering and struggle that the Kurram Agency has come to suggest. Discerning allegories in anything is a matter of one’s fancy; I read them in the foliage if only because it is abundant there. Take, for instance, trakha or the bitter weed — Artemisia kurramensis, the anti-malarial herb named after Kurram where it is found. Legend has it that during the Raj, the local tribes fought with medicine companies who ferried truckloads of the herb from their lands, without permission or recompense.

Bruised maples. Bitter weed wars. On this road from Tall to Parachinar, empty and ominously quiet except for the sound of cicadas in the fields. It will remain so for the rest of the day. The authorities closed it down since the townspeople sat in the streets on Eid day, demanding their religious leader be brought back. On roads and streets they sat, close to graves. “We would embrace death rather than give up protest if the authorities used force to disperse us,” said a determined tribal greybeard. The glow in his pale face was dying. Red rims around his faded blue eyes. Exhaustion.

Allama Nawaz Irfani was banished last December by the political administration of the agency for alleged hate speech, for the misappropriation of funds, for supporting a candidate in the 2013 elections. There are whispers of support for him from Afghanistan, Iran and India. His followers disagree: the authorities want to punish him for standing up against the Taliban when they infiltrated Kurram in 2007, they say.

“Expelling the Allama, who has long been a thorn in the side of political authorities, will end resistance, providing the state the opportunity to use Kurram Agency for its strategic designs in Afghanistan,” says a local tribal elder.

Like others in Fata, the Tall-Parachinar road too has come to symbolise suffering, having taken on the monochrome of sorrow as exhausted, displaced people trudge towards unknown destinations. In the year that is the centenary of the First World War, the war to end all wars, barricaded roads to and from Fata and elsewhere in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have become stark settings for migration, fortification and the prevention of people from returning. The suffering and sacrifices of these locals remain unsung and unseen.

Last Saturday, protesters in Parachinar were pooling money to bring media to the besieged city. The road to Parachinar was closed because the authorities feared people joining protesters. Between 2007 and 2009, this road remained sealed for 15 months, cutting off all supplies to Parachinar in Upper Kurram. The people had to take the long road through Afghanistan to travel to destinations in Pakistan.

“The road that came through the settled areas of Hangu and Tall and had security checkpoints every few kilometres saw Taliban attacking Shia travellers and beheadings,” said a local journalist, adding that people’s suspicion of authorities was rooted in decades of persecution of the Shia community.

At Balash Khel near Parachinar, we stood for hours at the Frontier Corps checkpoint. One of the men was distracted: now and then, he would climb up the truck parked in front of us to check on something. Turned out, it was chickens. He pulled out a few and released them on roadside, where they lay exhausted. He was afraid they would run away. Others around said they wouldn’t, because they were dying.

I traversed this road reminiscing with a fellow passenger, a bright young tribesman studying computer sciences in China, about the three months I spent here as a child. The abundant apricots and apples; the gleaming peaks of Koh-e-Sufaid, the mountain that got its name from perennial snows.

At Shah Kamal, a man-made pool for the freshwater springs of Koh-e-Sufaid, the pool looks too big for the lone old man swimming in it. Shards of light wink over crystal waters. Fallen maple leaves float on the surface. Once, you would have found it hard to secure a spot to stand here, I am told. Now, the authorities deliberately keep down the water level to discourage swimmers, lest they attract suicide bombers.

These days, when people point at the peaks of Koh-e-Sufaid, they offer Tora Bora as its distinguishing feature. Koh-e-Sufaid, the White. Tora Bora, the Black. Black and White. Us and Them. Shia and Sunnis. Liberal and religious. Patriots and traitors. Somewhere along the way we lost sense of the shades of grey.

Up at Maykay, the mountain that has the British-era log cabin where Zulfikar Ali Bhutto stayed, I look at the ancient, lonely rocks frozen in time from the mere burden of being. Up here, the wind blows for no one, the birdsong goes unheard. Suddenly, gunfire, ricocheting from the rocks. The birds go quiet. I spy young men with an AK-47, the bitter legacy of the Afghan war. The curse lingers on.

On the way down, a little girl leaves an orange drop in my lap, a Fanta sweet. What is it, I ask? A niaz, an offering. I look up at the child’s face and find myself wishing, desperately: please God, receive this offering for her sake, for Kurram needs You.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2014

Israel kills three Hamas commanders in Gaza

Agencies

GAZA CITY: Three senior Hamas commanders and four children were among 24 Palestinians killed in Gaza on Thursday as Israel stepped up air strikes on day 45 of the bloody conflict. Apart from the 24 people killed in air strikes, rescue workers found the body of a child under the rubble who had been killed on Tuesday and a man died of his injuries sustained earlier in the conflict, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

GAZA CITY: Three senior Hamas commanders and four children were among 24 Palestinians killed in Gaza on Thursday as Israel stepped up air strikes on day 45 of the bloody conflict. Apart from the 24 people killed in air strikes, rescue workers found the body of a child under the rubble who had been killed on Tuesday and a man died of his injuries sustained earlier in the conflict, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

Hamas, which dominates Gaza, named the slain commanders as Mohammed Abu Shammala, Raed al-Attar and Mohammed Barhoum, the three highest-ranking casualties it has announced since Israel started its offensive six weeks ago.

Know more: Israeli strike killed Gaza commander’s wife and child: Hamas

All three, killed in the bombing of a house in the southern Gaza town of Rafah, had led operations against Israel over the past 20 years, the Islamist movement said. Hospital officials said a four-year-old girl injured in the attack later died of her wounds.

The Israeli military and Shin Bet, the internal security service, confirmed it had targeted two of the men.

Since the collapse on Tuesday of a 10-day ceasefire, the Israeli military has ramped up its efforts to hit the leadership of Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades.

“We will continue to seek out and target Hamas leaders anywhere, and everywhere — wherever they are,” Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said. Hamas said in a statement “the assassination policy has failed to weaken (our) resistance”.

Late on Tuesday, the Israeli air force bombed a house in northern Gaza, an attempt, Hamas said, to assassinate Mohammed Deif, its top military commander. His wife, daughter and seven-month-old son were killed but Mr Deif escaped, Hamas said.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to say whether Israel had tried to kill Mr Deif, but said militant leaders were legitimate targets and that “none are immune” from attack.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians marched at the funeral of the three Hamas commanders on Thursday, firing weapons into the air in anger and calling for revenge.

“The assassinations of the three Qassam leaders is a grave crime,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said. “But it will not break our people and Israel will pay the price for it.”

The Israeli military said aircraft attacked more than 30 sites across Gaza and that militants fired more than 70 rockets and mortar bombs into Israel. A mortar bomb that landed near a kindergarten in an Israeli kibbutz badly wounding a parent of one of the children, according to the Israeli ambulance service.

Amos Yadlin, former chief of Israel’s military intelligence and head of Tel Aviv University’s INSS think-tank, said Israel, which was engaged in indirect ceasefire talks with Hamas in Cairo until Tuesday, had now changed its game plan.

“The prime minister has adopted a strategy which says, ‘You shoot at us, we’ll hit you seven times harder, you want attrition? We have intelligence and an air force that will crush you with greater force’,” he told Israel Radio.

However, Israel’s ultimate goal could still be a diplomatic deal to end the hostilities, Yadlin said.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2014

Amid Afghanistan’s escalating war, a battle to beat polio

Reuters

KABUL: Tens of thousands of volunteers fanned out across Afghanistan this week, braving deteriorating security situation and distrusting parents to administer two chilled drops of the oral polio vaccine each to millions of children.

KABUL: Tens of thousands of volunteers fanned out across Afghanistan this week, braving deteriorating security situation and distrusting parents to administer two chilled drops of the oral polio vaccine each to millions of children.

Keeping the highly infectious polio disease in check in any country is a daunting task. But in a nation where Taliban militants are fast gaining ground against government forces, it’s also a dangerous one.

Also read: Pak-Afghan officials agree on cooperation to eradicate polio

Afghanistan is one of only three nations where the polio virus is still endemic, along with Pakistan and Nigeria. For a nation at war, its anti-polio campaign has had remarkable success, bringing the number of cases down from 63 in 1999 to just 14 in 2013. Only eight new cases have been confirmed so far this year, compared to 108 in Pakistan.

But as fighting between Afghan forces and militants intensifies ahead of the withdrawal of most foreign troops this year, health workers risk losing precious access to the places — and children — they need to keep tabs on.

This week, in some restive areas of the east and southeast, health workers had yet to go door to door to deliver the vaccine, said Dr Mohammad Wasim Sajad, a training officer in the Ministry of Public Health in Kabul.

“People are not willing to go out,” he said, adding that negotiations with local groups to allow vaccinators to do their work safely were under way.

“We don’t see a big problem now, but if (major) fighting continues long term, then access will be difficult,” said Abdul Majeed Siddiqi, the head of mission in Afghanistan for HealthNet TPO, an NGO that advises the Afghan government on polio.

People’s attitude towards the vaccine is another challenge.

In a dusty hillside neighbourhood of Bagh Qazi, Freshta Faizi, a volunteer, trudged from house to house, asking residents if their children had been given their drops. “Sometimes they just say no and shut the door,” she said.

“They say it won’t make any difference. I’ve had people tell me the vaccine is just American urine.”

In August, Human Rights Watch reported that in parts of the southern province of Helmand, the Taliban had stopped health officials from sending out mobile vaccination teams.

That was an alarming development, because — unlike some militant factions in Pakistan, which have targeted and killed anti-polio campaigners — the Afghan Taliban have pledged support for vaccination.

A Taliban spokesman said the group had concerns that some polio vaccinators in Helmand were promoting government policy, not health. However, he said by phone that after the health ministry had organised talks on the issue, the group was satisfied. “There are no more problems,” he said.

Ten years ago, Afghanistan was tantalisingly close to halting the circulation of the virus within its borders: only four cases were confirmed in 2004, according to the government.

But as security deteriorated, health workers couldn’t travel to dangerous areas and were unable to make sure children were getting the vaccine. By 2012, the number of polio cases in Afghanistan rose to 37.

Complicating matters, this summer over 150,000 refugees from North Waziristan, a tribal region of Pakistan where leaders banned the polio vaccine in 2012, poured over the border into Afghanistan, seeking refuge from a military offensive against insurgents.

The influx from an area that has generated most of Pakistan’s polio cases this year immediately raised alarm.

Most of Afghanistan’s new cases of polio this year are genetically linked to Pakistan, according to HealthNet TPO. But the government says that, so far, only one case has been identified as having coming from a North Waziristan refugee.

The flood of refugees yielded an unexpected opportunity, however: over 400,000 vaccine doses were given out in Pakistan along the routes residents used to flee their homes, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

That’s good news for the global fight to exterminate polio and particularly for Afghanistan, where thousands of residents move across the Pakistan border every day.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2014

Nine men freed from Bagram

Hassan Belal Zaidi

ISLAMABAD: Nine Pakistani detainees have been released from the infamous prison at the Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan and repatriated to Pakistan, the Foreign Office (FO) told Dawn on Thursday.

ISLAMABAD: Nine Pakistani detainees have been released from the infamous prison at the Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan and repatriated to Pakistan, the Foreign Office (FO) told Dawn on Thursday.

According to a statement issued by Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) — a legal aid firm that represents some of the detainees — the families of the released prisoners were informed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that the men had been handed over to Pakistani authorities.

FO Spokesperson Tasnim Aslam told Dawn that the men had arrived in the country early Thursday morning and that the FO had coordinated their release with US authorities.

Earlier this year in May, US authorities released 10 prisoners from the facility, nine of whom have returned to their families.

Ms Aslam said that with this latest repatriation of nine men, only one batch of Pakistani prisoners remained at Bagram. “Their nationalities are being verified by the Interior Ministry and as soon as we have that information, we will be able to proceed further,” she told Dawn over the phone on Thursday evening.

The freed men include Abdul Nabi and Sadar Muhammad from Qila Haroot in Balochistan; Zabet and Imran from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas; Imtiaz Khan, Shoaib Khan and Latifullah from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; Imranul Hassan from Lahore and Mohammad Iqbal from Karachi. According to JPP, all have been held for several years without access to legal counsel.

JPP has been representing the families of the Bagram detainees since 2010 before the Lahore High Court.

JPP lead counsel Sarah Belal told Dawn that while they were “pleased to learn about the recent releases from Bagram and are delighted for their families”, the clock was ticking on the remaining prisoners.

President Barack Obama, in line with his previous plan to ensure a US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, envisioned December 31, 2014 as the date for the closure of the Bagram prison.

Around half the facility’s inmates have already been transferred to the Parwan Detention Centre, run by Afghan authorities in the same premises. However, third-country nationals are still in US custody at what remains of the Bagram prison.

Ms Belal said that if the remaining detainees are not repatriated by the time the prison is completely handed over to Afghan authorities, there is a danger that remaining inmates may never be heard from again.

Earlier this month, Sartaj Aziz, who advises the prime minister on foreign affairs, told the National Assembly that according to information received from the US Embassy in Islamabad, 24 Pakistani nationals were detained in Bagram.

With the release of the nine men, that number should theoretically come down to 15. But Ms Belal said that in the absence of any verified figures, there was no way of really knowing how many Pakistanis were still there.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2014

US moves against hawala group

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

WASHINGTON: The United States on Thursday targeted the financial and leadership networks of the Taliban by designating one entity and two individuals as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

WASHINGTON: The United States on Thursday targeted the financial and leadership networks of the Taliban by designating one entity and two individuals as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

The Pakistan-based hawala group, Haji Basir and Zarjmil Company and, its owner, Haji Abdul Basir, have been designated for providing financial services or other support to the Taliban, the US Department of Treasury said.

It also designated Taliban commander Qari Rahmat for acting for or on behalf of the Taliban.

Know more: US offers new bounties for Haqqani network members

The department said that the Quetta-based Basir Zarjmil Hawala distributes money to Taliban members in Afghanistan.

Taliban senior leaders in Quetta and Chaman have preferred to transfer money to Taliban commanders through the Basir Zarjmil Hawala and the Haji Khairullah Haji Sattar hawala, which the Treasury Department and the United Nations sanctioned in June 2012.

In 2013, the department said, the Basir Zarjmil Hawala distributed thousands of dollars to Taliban commanders in Chaman, and in 2012 it conducted thousands of dollars in transactions related to weapons and other operational expenses for the Taliban.

The US Treasury reported that the Basir Zarjmil Hawala had also made use of Pakistani banks to provide money to Taliban members.

Haji Abdul Basir, who owns and operates the group, had authority to distribute money to the Taliban and, over the last several years, Basir distributed thousands of dollars through his hawala to Taliban members in Chaman and Kandahar.

Basir also transferred money to Taliban elders, and facilitated the travel of Taliban informants to Afghanistan.

As of 2012, Basir was considered to be the principal money exchanger for Taliban senior leadership in Pakistan.

In 2010, Basir solicited donations for the Taliban from Pakistani and Afghan expatriates living in Asia and the Middle East.

According to the department, Qari Rahmat has been a Taliban commander since at least February 2010.

He was also accused of collecting taxes and bribes on behalf of the Taliban.

In addition to his operational and financial activities, Rahmat provides intelligence information to the Taliban.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2014

Back-to-back meetings as tension mounts

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: Tensions at the Prime Minister Office, where the mood has been grim over the past few days, came to a head on Wednesday when the marchers virtually besieged for some time its entrance and exits on the Constitution Avenue.

ISLAMABAD: Tensions at the Prime Minister Office, where the mood has been grim over the past few days, came to a head on Wednesday when the marchers virtually besieged for some time its entrance and exits on the Constitution Avenue.

Inside, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif held meetings with important ministers to take stock of the situation after the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) continued to build pressure on the government in a bid to seek his resignation and dissolution of the assemblies, a government official privy to the development told Dawn.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Railway Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, Minister for States and Frontier Regions retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif were regular participants of the huddles which the prime minister was constantly holding to come out of the face-off with the PTI and PAT unscathed, or at least without conceding much to the two adversaries.

A PML-N office-bearer told Dawn that the government was trying to fast-track the working of an all-parties parliamentary committee on electoral reforms and a three-member judicial commission the government had announced for investigation into the allegations of rigging in the 2013 general elections.

The 33-member reforms committee had elected Finance Minister Ishaq Dar as its chairman earlier this month, whereas the Supreme Court is yet to respond to the government’s Aug 12 request for formation of the judicial commission.

The government is considering a proposal which wants the electoral reforms committee to prepare its recommendations before the routine three-month period originally suggested by the prime minister. A similar suggestion will be made once the Supreme Court sets up the judicial commission.

The PML-N official said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was expected to take the National Assembly into confidence on Thursday about his government’s future plan of action.

On Tuesday, Jamaat-i-Islami Emir Sirjul Haq presented a four-point formula to defuse the crisis. He said the judicial commission must complete its investigation in one month and the committee on electoral reforms must make its proposals within 40 days and punish those found involved in poll-rigging.

According to an office-bearer of the JI’s media cell, Mr Haq again called Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Wednesday and discussed with him a possible way out of the crisis. Later, the JI emir met Imran Khan in his container. Talking to a TV channel, Mr Haq promised good news as the two sides agreed to sit across the table.

According to a government source, the prime minister and his cabinet members gave mixed signals; some time suggesting as if everything was normal, and at times coming out with glum looks after the meetings.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2014

Under siege, PM keeps mum amid vows of support

Raja Asghar

ISLAMABAD: Inside a besieged National Assembly, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif heard on Wednesday assurances of support from both allies and some political foes but left in apparent hurry without speaking about protests by crowds assembled outside demanding that he resign.

ISLAMABAD: Inside a besieged National Assembly, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif heard on Wednesday assurances of support from both allies and some political foes but left in apparent hurry without speaking about protests by crowds assembled outside demanding that he resign.

Tens of thousands of the followers of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) had already laid siege to the parliament house overnight and lawmakers found themselves shut out from the main entrance as did journalists from their entry gate because of protesters blocking them the way.

But the entry of the assembly members and others into the building was allowed through an army-manned gate of the adjoining Cabinet Division north of the parliament house, which too was blocked by the protesters later in the day in a move that apparently forced an early adjournment of the house without an expected speech by the prime minister.

There was some panic in the house and in the galleries as reports came of PAT leader Allama Tahirul Qadri telling his followers outside that assembly members had been allowed to get into house “so the ‘shikar’ (prey) assembles at one place” and asking them to close the entrance from the Cabinet Division and not to allow anybody to enter or leave the parliament house.

A special mike, linked to special red cable apparently for a recording for use by the state media, was placed at the prime minister’s desk even before he entered the house amid cheers from the treasury benches, sparking speculations he would speak about the protesters’ march on parliament and how he planned to break the deadlock after both Allama Qadri and Imran Khan had refused to meet government-mandated mediators on Monday and Tuesday.

The early adjournment, announced by Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi possibly on government advice, enabled the prime minister, other house members, journalists and other visitors to drive out, without any problems, through yet another, but less visible, gate leading to the presidency in the east specially opened for them.

It was the second time in three days that Mr Sharif came to the house but did not speak in an inclusive debate on the situation arising from a week of protest marches from Lahore and sit-ins and this time some prominent allies like Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party leader Mehmood Khan Achakzai and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman urged the prime minister never to entertain the protesters’ demand for his resignation.

“Never at all,” Mr Achakzai said about the demand for the prime minister’s resignation, but his own demand for the house to pass a resolution immediately to condemn the siege of parliament could not materialise before the house proceedings were wrapped up.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman promised that his party — which has two seats in the federal cabinet and could eye for a leading role in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government in the event of a success of a proposed no-confidence vote against PTI’s Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak — would become a ‘sadd-i-sikandari’ (Alexander’s wall), or an impregnable wall, against what he saw as a threat to the democratic system and said: “There can be no resignation.”

“It will not happen, it will not happen,” came chants from the treasury benches.

“We stand by the prime minister,” the Maulana said, adding: “We will stand side by side”.

An unusually strong denunciation of the PTI and PAT ‘dharnas” also came from the ruling party’s traditional arch rival and the main opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), whose two members who spoke on the day — Mir Ejaz Jakhrani and Shazia Marri – called for a negotiated settlement and for saving the democratic system, amid desk-thumping cheers from PML-N benches.

Mr Jakhrani said scenes of Tuesday’s march by the PTI and PAT on parliament, after five days of ‘dharna’ on two roads in Islamabad, had proved “there was a single director and producer” of the show.

Ms Marri said the right to freedom of speech should not be used to undermine parliament as she also had a dig at the ruling party by referring to the presence of ‘baqiyat’, or remnants, of former military dictator Ziaul Haq and comparing some harsh outbursts of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif — without naming him — against PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari during his presidency with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister’s challenge to the prime minister.

Abdul Rashid Godil, whose Muttahida Qaumi Movement has sought to take a middle road in the crisis, called for a further softening of the government’s attitude as he appreciated its permission for holding the sit-ins and said dialogue between the two sides should be held “within the limits of the Constitution and law”.

Jamaat-i-Islami member Sher Akbar Khan seemed quite harsh against the PTI decision for 34 of its members to resign from the National Assembly, said those not recognising the present assemblies must be asked to return crores of rupees received as salaries and perks.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2014

Domestic agenda may be behind Modi’s ‘Kashmir slugfest’

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

NEW DELHI: As the India-Pakistan slugfest continued on Wednesday over the status of Hurriyat Conference in their bilateral agenda, focus panned on a crucial domestic constituency that Prime Minister Narendra Modi could be eyeing in the mayhem — the abrogation of Article 370 that accords Jammu and Kashmir special status.

NEW DELHI: As the India-Pakistan slugfest continued on Wednesday over the status of Hurriyat Conference in their bilateral agenda, focus panned on a crucial domestic constituency that Prime Minister Narendra Modi could be eyeing in the mayhem — the abrogation of Article 370 that accords Jammu and Kashmir special status.

The Indian Express described as defiant Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit’s pointed defence of his meetings with Hurriyat leaders ahead of the now abandoned foreign secretary level talks. The envoy said in his media interactions that the “bottomline” for Indo-Pak talks on Kashmir issue was to engage all stakeholders.

This evoked a sharp reaction from India which accused it of adopting an approach different to the one laid down by Shimla Agreement.

Also read: India’s ‘self-goal’ on Kashmir triggers debate

Within hours of Mr Basit justifying his meeting with the Kashmiris on the grounds of engaging with all stakeholders, India’s foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said that as per Shimla Agreement it was a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan and any other approach will “not yield results”.

The fresh round of sparring has raised doubts about the prospects of early resumption of the dialogue process for bringing the strained ties back on track, the Express said.

“We need to engage with all stakeholders. It is not a question of either or, as far as we are concerned. We are engaging with India to find peaceful ways,” Mr Basit said during an interaction with foreign journalists here while reacting to India’s stand that Pakistan should either choose dialogue with separatists or Indian government.

Justifying his meeting with the Kashmiri separatists, Mr Basit said: “We strongly believe that our interaction is helpful to the process itself. It is helpful to find peaceful solution to the problem. It is important to engage with all stakeholders. So that is the bottomline for us.”

Mr Akbaruddin said: “After 1972 and the signing of the Shimla Agreement by the prime ministers of India and Pakistan, there are only two ‘stakeholders’ on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir — the Union of India and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

“This is a principle which is the bedrock of our bilateral relations. This was reaffirmed in the Lahore Declaration of 1999 between Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Vajpayee,” Mr Akbaruddin said, asserting “that an approach that is different to the one laid down by the Shimla Agreement and Lahore Declaration does not yield results”.

India had called off the talks between foreign secretaries slated for August 25, telling Pakistan to choose between an Indo-Pak dialogue or hobnobbing with the separatists.

According to an analysis in Kolkata-based Telegraph, the decision to call off the talks has more to do with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s domestic agenda and less to do with the Narendra Modi government’s foreign policy.

At the BJP headquarters Mr Modi’s handpicked party president Amit Shah is fine-tuning “Mission 44+”, which cannot realistically co-exist with any breakthroughs in relations with Islamabad.

“Mission 44+” is the codename for Mr Shah’s strategy to repeat the BJP’s good showing in the recent Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Kashmir when assembly elections are held later this year, the Telegraph said.

The BJP, it said, hoped to capture power in the state and, in tandem with its majority government at the centre, make a daring effort to achieve the party’s long-cherished dream of abrogating Article 370 of the Constitution.

The party mobilised its core across the country during the campaign for the Lok Sabha polls on a plank of abolishing the special status for Jammu and Kashmir, among other issues.

Its 2014 manifesto unambiguously stated: “BJP reiterates its stand on the Article 370… and remains committed to the abrogation of this article.”

Detailed analysis of the Lok Sabha results, when the BJP won three of Jammu and Kashmir’s six parliamentary seats, suggests that if that performance is repeated or improved upon, the party could hypothetically come out of the assembly elections with 37 seats from the Jammu region and four from Ladakh, the daily said.

The Jammu, Ladakh and Udhampur Lok Sabha seats, which the BJP won this year, make up a total of 41 assembly segments. If the party bags these seats, it will only need three more to form a government in the state.

Mr Shah’s strategy has been codenamed “Mission 44+” because the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly has 87 seats and 44 constitutes a simple majority.

The paper’s conversations with informed sources indicate that “the BJP’s specialised cells, which function like think tanks, have concluded that if relations with Islamabad improve before the assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, any attempt to tamper with Article 370 under BJP governments in Srinagar and New Delhi will leave Prime Minister Narendra Modi vulnerable to charges of damaging India-Pakistan relations.”

However, if relations are frozen in the run-up to the formation of a new government in Srinagar

and Article 370 is tampered with in an atmosphere where India and Pakistan are already in a bitter but subdued state of hostility, the fallout is likely to be much less severe, the Telegraph’s analysis said.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2014

Basit terms Kashmiri leaders stakeholders in process

AFP

NEW DELHI: Pakistan’s top envoy to India on Wednesday defended his decision to meet Kashmiri leaders, a move that prompted New Delhi to cancel high-level talks between the neighbours.

NEW DELHI: Pakistan’s top envoy to India on Wednesday defended his decision to meet Kashmiri leaders, a move that prompted New Delhi to cancel high-level talks between the neighbours.

High Commissioner Abdul Basit said he met Kashmiri leaders as part of efforts to resolve tensions between the two countries, including over the disputed Himalayan region.

New Delhi’s decision to call off talks between foreign secretaries which had been scheduled next week in Islamabad was a blow to hopes of warmer ties between the new Indian government and Islamabad.

“We believe Kashmiris are a stakeholder in this (diplomatic) process,” Mr Basit told reporters in the capital, saying meetings with the leaders were a “longstanding” practice.

Mr Basit also told reporters Pakistan was confident of “overcoming this setback” over the cancelled talks.

“We will not allow the process (of stronger ties) to be distracted in any way,” he said, adding, “You will find Pakistan seriously committed to the process.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise move to invite his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif to his swearing-in ceremony in May had spurred hopes that peace talks between the two countries could resume.

But last week Mr Modi accused Islamabad of waging a “proxy war” by sending militants to attack Indian targets.

There have also been several ceasefire violations across the Line of Control that have angered India. The United States earlier this week termed the cancellation of the talks disappointing.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2014

Sri Lankan president’s visit put off

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: Ongoing protests in the federal capital have forced postponement of Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s visit to Pakistan.

ISLAMABAD: Ongoing protests in the federal capital have forced postponement of Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s visit to Pakistan.

“The visit has been postponed on our suggestion,” Foreign Office Spokesperson Tasneem Aslam said.

Mr Rajapaksa was due in Pakistan on Thursday on a two-day visit.

Protests by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek have disrupted life in the capital and the government is pre-occupied with efforts aimed at defusing the situation.

The visit was announced earlier this month after the fourth round of foreign secretary-level political consultations between the two countries.

Colombo and Islamabad had decided to review the state of bilateral relations and identify potential areas for cooperation during the now postponed visit.

Pakistan has identified trade and economic relations as priority for ties with Sri Lanka.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2014

Manmohan not entitled to immunity for acts committed as finance minister: US judge

Masood Haider

NEW YORK: A US judge has ruled that Manmohan Singh is immune from allegations that he “supported genocide of Sikhs” during his tenure as head of Indian government but does not enjoy “head of state immunity” for claims arising from his tenure as finance minister, from 1991 to 1996.

NEW YORK: A US judge has ruled that Manmohan Singh is immune from allegations that he “supported genocide of Sikhs” during his tenure as head of Indian government but does not enjoy “head of state immunity” for claims arising from his tenure as finance minister, from 1991 to 1996.

In his verdict, Judge James Boasberg of the District of Columbia said: “Although he is no longer a head of state, (Mr) Singh is entitled to residual immunity for acts taken in his official capacity as prime minister."

“Because such residual immunity does not cover actions (Mr) Singh pursued before taking (the) office, however, the allegations stemming from his time as finance minister survive.”

A US-based human rights group, the Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), and Inderjit Singh had alleged in the 2013 lawsuit that as finance minister Mr Singh “funded several counter-insurgency operations in Punjab in the 1990s, resulting in the extrajudicial killing of more than 100,000 Sikhs”.

According to the plaintiffs, during his tenure as prime minister, Mr Singh was “complicit in the torture and killing of hundreds of thousands of Sikhs and for shielding the perpetrators of the Sikhs’ genocide”.

During the course of the trial, the US government, although not a party in the litigation, filed a Suggestion of Immunity which claimed that Mr Singh, as the sitting prime minister, was entitled to ‘head of state’ immunity. Although at the time when the document was filed Mr Singh was indeed prime minister, he left the office three weeks later.

The plaintiffs subsequently said that Mr Singh was no longer entitled to immunity.

Judge Boasberg ruled that the US law barred former heads of state from being sued for actions they took while in office, but not for private acts or those taken in prior government posts.

“While (Mr) Singh’s alleged acts as finance minister are not ‘private’ per se, they did not occur in the course of his official duties as head of state,” he wrote in the verdict.

Describing the judgment as “a ray of hope” for the plaintiffs, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the SFJ’s legal adviser, said it marked the start of a long and uphill battle for making the former prime minister accountable for funding “counter-insurgency operations across India in which hundreds of thousands of Sikhs were kidnapped, murdered and buried in mass graves during the 1990s”.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2014

Militants behead US journalist

AFP

WASHINGTON: Militants belonging to the Islamic State (IS), formerly known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, have released a video showing the beheading of an American journalist kidnapped in Syria, in the most direct retaliation yet to US air strikes against them in Iraq.

WASHINGTON: Militants belonging to the Islamic State (IS), formerly known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, have released a video showing the beheading of an American journalist kidnapped in Syria, in the most direct retaliation yet to US air strikes against them in Iraq.

The video, in which the IS group also threatened to kill another reporter if US air strikes in Iraq continued, sparked global outrage on Wednesday.

Posted online late on Tuesday, it showed a masked militant beheading a man resembling James Foley, who has been missing since he was seized in Syria in November 2012.

News of Mr Foley’s apparent beheading comes as US air strikes appeared to yield some results, helping Kurdish and federal forces push IS fighters back from some recently-conquered areas in northern Iraq, including the strategic Mosul dam.

“We have never been prouder of our son Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people,” Mr Foley’s mother Diane said in a Facebook message to supporters.

“We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages."

“Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world.”

Anwar Iqbal adds: US President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that the beheading couldn’t force the United States to change policies in Iraq, where it has been conducting air strikes against militants.

“The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people,” Mr Obama said in a brief statement issued by his office. “We will be vigilant and we will be relentless.”

The president also indicated that the killing had further strengthened America’s determination to eradicate militants of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, who decapitated the journalist, Jim Foley.

“When people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what’s necessary to see that justice is done. And we act against ISIS, standing alongside others,” Mr Obama said.

President Obama described Mr Foley as a “journalist, a son, a brother and a friend who was taken from us in an act of violence that shocked the conscience of the entire world”.

The entire world was appalled by this brutal act, he said.

“No just God would stand for what they did yesterday or every single day,” he added. “People like this ultimately fail. They fail because the future’s won by those who build and not destroy. The world is shaped by people like Jim Foley.”

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2014

Marchers call Nisar’s bluff

Ikram Junaidi

ISLAMABAD: Hours before charged demonstrators from both the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) surged towards the red zone, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan warned that no-one would be allowed to compromise the security of the high-security area.

ISLAMABAD: Hours before charged demonstrators from both the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) surged towards the red zone, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan warned that no-one would be allowed to compromise the security of the high-security area.

But as the evening progressed, it became clear that the press conference was merely so much posturing, as policemen stepped aside and allowed marchers to head towards Constitution Avenue without much incident.

Addressing a press conference at Punjab House on Tuesday evening that ended minutes before Dr Tahirul Qadri’s ‘People’s Parliament’ was called to order, the interior minister announced that following consultations between the prime minister and the army chief on Tuesday morning, the military had been handed over security for sensitive buildings inside the red zone.

However, the decision to deploy the army at key points in the capital had already been taken when the government imposed Article 245 in the city over a month ago.

He said the high-security zone would be protected by a three-tiered security cordon, with police personnel manning the first layer, Rangers and the Frontier Constabulary comprising the second layer and military personnel serving as the final security blanket.

Echoing what he said at a press conference earlier in the week, Chaudhry Nisar made it clear that the government could not allow the red zone to be overrun due to the presence of key state institutions in the area, such as the Diplomatic Enclave that houses foreign embassies, as well as institutions such as the Presidency, Prime Minister House, parliament and the Supreme Court, among others.

The minister also said PTI chief Imran Khan had given him his word that protesters would not breach the high-security zone.

However, he said Mr Khan had not honoured his word and the demonstrators, once inside the security cordon, could not then be controlled.

However, when protesters broke through the cordon and headed towards the red zone, law-enforcement personnel simply let them past. Sources said that they had been ordered to avoid a confrontation with the demonstrators.

The minister also talked about how the PTI had gone back on its demands. “The party initially demanded investigations into allegations of rigging in four constituencies, but then changed their position and said that 10 constituencies should be investigated. Now, they’ve changed their stance once again.”

Chaudhry Nisar said the PML-N did not hold the 2013 elections. The Election Commission was formed when the PML-N was in the opposition and the name of the chief election commissioner was proposed by the PTI.

“Imran Khan and his party have been hurling abuses on PML-N leaders for several days now, but we have tolerated this. The incident in Gujranwala was also a reaction to the kind of language being used against the PML-N, but still the Punjab government ordered the arrest of its own party members on the basis of televised footage,” he said.

He also said the Lahore High Court had ruled that these marches did not have constitutional cover so the government would be well within its rights to stop the demonstrators.

“It seems that Mr Khan is trying to punish the government for his failure to gather even 50,000 protesters, although he announced that one million people will march on the capital.

“Mr Khan should be careful and not set a dangerous precedent, whereby tomorrow, an even more powerful group could assemble an even bigger contingent of people and demand that power be handed over to them. Mr Khan is leader of a political party and a role model for several young Pakistanis and he should refrain from advocating violence,” he said.

Chaudhry Nisar apologised to the residents of the twin cities for the hardships they have faced over the course of the past week.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2014

India’s ‘self-goal’ on Kashmir triggers debate

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Unless the Modi government’s objective was to revive the sagging image of Pakistan in the Kashmir Valley or to give the jobless group known as the All Parties Hurriyat Conference a fresh lease of life, India’s cancellation of foreign secretaries’ talks with Islamabad could prove to be what the Indian Express described on Tuesday as a “self-goal”.

NEW DELHI: Unless the Modi government’s objective was to revive the sagging image of Pakistan in the Kashmir Valley or to give the jobless group known as the All Parties Hurriyat Conference a fresh lease of life, India’s cancellation of foreign secretaries’ talks with Islamabad could prove to be what the Indian Express described on Tuesday as a “self-goal”.

“Frankly, I can’t see much sense in making a meeting with the Hurriyat a touchstone for India-Pakistan relations,” analyst Ajai Sahni of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi told the Express.

“It’s almost as if the government is saying we can live with Pakistan shooting our troops on the Line of Control, but having tea with secessionists — that’s unforgivable.”

Kashmiri resistance leader Yasin Malik recalled how previous prime ministers “used to facilitate these meetings”. But, he added, the new government “wants a hardline policy”.

“Indian civil society played a vital role in Kashmir by facilitating a transition from violent militancy to a non-violent democratic movement… by isolating pro-freedom leadership and choking the democratic political space does the government want to push them back to a violent past?” Mr Malik asked.

In private, the Express said, senior officials at the Indian foreign ministry saw the decision as spurred by the fact that the meeting between Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit and Hurriyat leaders happened despite protests from New Delhi.

In other words, officials privately say the meeting would open Mr Modi to criticism from party hardliners.

“The real significance of the decision is that it brings down the curtain on a secret dialogue on Kashmir dating back 10 years and more,” the Express explained.

Just before the current row over the Hurriyat meeting, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had studiously kept himself away from Kashmiris in Delhi. His officials explained the unusual move as an exigency of the multilateral visit he was on in Delhi.

But for the Indian demarche, no Indian TV channel was going to give long exposures to Shabbir Shah or Syed Ali Shah Geelani nor would they have had new thing to say about the Kashmir issue.

In one move by the Indian government the waning influence of the disparate and querulous group got the oxygen it badly needed. Significantly it happened a few months before state elections, which the Hurriyat usually boycotts anyway. Will its members now be spurred to assume a more strident political engagement in the Valley?

In the middle of the showdown in Islamabad, few in Pakistan seemed to have noticed the arriving talks with India. Indian analysts on their part were struggling to stay with their standard theme about the Pakistan army.

After the Hurriyat showdown they were even more clueless: Was the Pakistan army going to fish in the troubled waters at home, or did it have the stamina and the focus to plot the souring of ties with India?

The speculation is unrelenting.

Some of the most ardent critics of Pakistan’s apparent support for cross-border terror were sanguine that it was still Islamabad’s business to talk to the Kashmiris since the issue was an article of faith with Islamabad, and because it had the full support of both, the Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration.

The cancellation of foreign secretary-level talks didn’t stop Mr Basit from having another round of meetings with Mr Malik and other Hurriyat leaders on Tuesday.

A TV anchor, known for revelling in shrill resolves, called for Mr Basit’s expulsion. Others, including M.K. Bhadrakumar, a former head of the Pakistan desk at the Indian foreign ministry, cautioned against such ill-advised decisions.

Will the prime ministers now meet in New York next month, was the million dollar question? Many in India and Pakistan, not the least the United States, will be hoping that they do meet as they invariably do.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2014

Cancellation of Pak-India talks unfortunate, says US

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: The United States has described the cancellation of talks between the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan as ‘unfortunate’ and urged both countries to take steps to improve their ties.

WASHINGTON: The United States has described the cancellation of talks between the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan as ‘unfortunate’ and urged both countries to take steps to improve their ties.

The foreign secretaries were to meet in Islamabad on Aug 25 for exploring various options for improving their strained relations. But on Monday, India cancelled the talks following a meeting in New Delhi between Pakistan High Commission­`er Abdul Basit and Kashmiri leaders.

“It is unfortunate that planned talks between India and Pakistan have fallen through,” US State Depart­ment Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said at a briefing in Washington.

“We continue to support efforts by India and Pakistan to improve all aspects of their bilateral relations. And that is a position we will continue making clear to both parties here,” she said.

Pakistan has defended its consultations with Hurriyat leaders, pointing out that it was a “longstanding practice” to consult them before talks with India. It also urged India to reconsider its decision, which it said was a “setback” for efforts to improve ties.

But India insisted that Pakistan would have to abandon this practice and decide whether it wanted to hold talks with New Delhi or stay engaged with the Kashmiri leaders.

The US official, however, refused to get involved in a discussion over who and what caused the cancellation of the talks.

“Irrespective of why either side says the talks were cancelled, or why, in fact, they were cancelled, what matters now is that both sides take steps to improve their bilateral relations,” Ms Harf said.

“We’ve been very clear about that directly in conversations with both.”

The State Department official also made it clear that the US policy on Kashmir had not changed.

She acknowledged that the Kashmir issue raised strong sentiments on both sides but urged India and Pakistan to stay engaged with each other on all issues.

“We know there are a lot of issues on the table. There’re a lot of emotions involved here — as there are many issues — but what we think needs to happen now, again, is additional steps,” Ms Harf said.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2014

Turkey detains 25 police personnel in eavesdropping probe raids

AFP

ANKARA: Turkish authorities on Tuesday arrested at least 25 police officers in the latest nationwide swoop to detain suspects alleged to have illegally wiretapped key government figures, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reports said.

ANKARA: Turkish authorities on Tuesday arrested at least 25 police officers in the latest nationwide swoop to detain suspects alleged to have illegally wiretapped key government figures, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reports said.

Police conducted raids in 12 cities across Turkey, including Istanbul as well as the western province of Izmir, as part of the investigation into the allegations of espionage and illegal wiretapping, the private Dogan news agency reported.

The swoop was the third such round-up since July of suspects in a probe which has resulted in dozens of arrests and raised tensions as Mr Erdogan prepares for his inauguration as president on August 28.

The probe is linked to last year’s stunning corruption allegations against Mr Erdogan and his inner circle — vehemently denied by the premier — that were based on wiretapped telephone conversations.

In a statement, Izmir governor’s office said the arrests centred on wiretapping allegations involving the Izmir police department between 2010 and 2013.

The suspects were facing a series of charges from forming a crime ring to forging official documents and violating privacy, Dogan said.

Among the detainees was former Izmir police intelligence deputy head Hasan Ali Okan.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2014

US urges all sides to show restraint

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

WASHINGTON: The US urged the government and the protesters in Pakistan on Tuesday to show restraint and resolve their differences through dialogue.

WASHINGTON: The US urged the government and the protesters in Pakistan on Tuesday to show restraint and resolve their differences through dialogue.

“We believe that all parties should work together to resolve their differences through peaceful dialogue in a way that strengthens Pakistan’s democracy,” State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said at a briefing.

“The United States is keeping a close eye on political developments in Pakis­tan,” she said in reply to a question, while calling on all sides to avoid violence.

“We appeal to the PTI and PAT to pursue a non-violent approach to resolve the issue…Pakistani political parties should work out their differences through dialogue,” Ms Harf said.

“We are carefully monitoring. We urge all sides to refrain from violence, exercise restraint and respect the rule of law,” she added.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2014

Three women teachers, two children killed in Bajaur bomb blast

Anwarullah Khan

KHAR: At least six people, three of them women and two children, were killed when a roadside bomb detonated by remote control struck a van taking them to a school in Salarzai tehsil of Bajaur tribal agency on Tuesday.

KHAR: At least six people, three of them women and two children, were killed when a roadside bomb detonated by remote control struck a van taking them to a school in Salarzai tehsil of Bajaur tribal agency on Tuesday.

The women were schoolteachers.

Official sources blamed the blast on Taliban who had been involved in similar blasts in the past.

According to official sources, the blast took place at around 8am on Tuesday in the far-flung area of Thangi, about 10 kilometres northeast of Khar, the administrative headquarters of the agency.

The six people killed in the blast included the driver of the van. The school for girls is run by a non-governmental organisation.

The deceased include three female teachers, two children and the driver of the vehicle.

The six deceased were identified as Tabinda Bibi of Kot Mena in Malakand Agency; Sameera Bibi, of Mardan; Salama Bibi, of Thana in Malakand Agency; Abbas, 6, nephew of Tabinda Bibi; Abbas, 5, nephew of Sameera Bibi; and driver Liaq Shah, Inam Khoro Chinagi area.

Residents said the powerful blast created panic among people.

“I was working in my field near the road when I heard the explosion soon after the vehicle entered the katcha road in the area,” Akbar Khan, a resident of the area, said.

According to the local administration, the blast destroyed the van. A passerby was injured in the blast.

Soon after the blast, local people and members of the peace committee rushed to the area and retrieved bodies and took them and the injured to the agency headquarters hospital in Khar.

Sources in the administration told this correspondent that no arrest and no claim for responsibility had been made till late evening.

“We have started investigating about the tragic incident but according to credible information, Taliban militants are responsible for the attack as these elements have been involved in such activities in the past too,” an official of the administration said.

An official of the `Idea’, a non-governmental organisation working for the promotion of education in the far-flung areas of agency, told Dawn that the teachers who had died in the blast were non-locals.

He said the education project was recently launched in the Bajaur agency to provide basic education to girls deprived of proper schooling because of Taliban threats.

According to official data, at least 109 schools have been blown up by Taliban since the upsurge of militancy in Bajaur region in 2007.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2014

Lanka appoints Pakistani to panel of advisers

Frances Bulathsinghala

COLOMBO: President Ma­­hi­n­da Rajapaksa has annou­n­ced the appointment of Ahmer Bilal Soofi of Pakis­tan and Avdash Kaushal of India to the panel of advisers to the Commis­sion on Missing Per­sons and War Crimes set up by the Sri Lankan government.

COLOMBO: President Ma­­hi­n­da Rajapaksa has annou­n­ced the appointment of Ahmer Bilal Soofi of Pakis­tan and Avdash Kaushal of India to the panel of advisers to the Commis­sion on Missing Per­sons and War Crimes set up by the Sri Lankan government.

The government has repo­r­tedly made the appointments to counter a UN panel on war crimes in Sri Lanka.

Mr Soofi is a well-known lawyer from Pakistan and Mr Kaushal a human rights activist from Uttarakhand in India.

Asked how he would react to possible allegations that advisers appointed by him might be biased in favour of his government, Mr Rajapaksa said that each step taken by him was likely to be criticised.

“There are so many allegations against the advisers on the UN investigation panel too,” he told journalists on Tuesday morning. He said the Sri Lankan commission requested the ap­­pointment of advisers bec­a­u­se it lacked expertise in certain areas of international law.

Criticising the UN panel, the president said he would not allow its members to visit his country because he did not think the world body had jurisdiction over Sri Lanka.

The UN Human Rights Commissioner had said it was not necessary to come to Sri Lanka to collect evidence.

“I am committed to finding the truth. I want to have the allegations of forced disappearances investigated,” he added.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2014

Israel hits Gaza, suspends ceasefire talks in Cairo

AFP

GAZA CITY: Israel and Palestinian militants resumed fire across the Gaza border on Tuesday, sparking panic across the war-torn enclave where residents fled for cover as Israeli aircraft struck.

GAZA CITY: Israel and Palestinian militants resumed fire across the Gaza border on Tuesday, sparking panic across the war-torn enclave where residents fled for cover as Israeli aircraft struck.

A military spokeswoman said that two rockets hit southern Israel during the late afternoon and early evening — several hours before a 24-hour truce was to expire — and two more were intercepted by missile defences.

Israel ordered its negotiators back from talks for ceasefire in Cairo and the military said warplanes hit Gaza. They hit at least 10 targets, according to army radio.

The fighting shattered nine days of relative quiet in the skies over Gaza and cast a dark shadow over Egyptian-mediated efforts to hammer out a longer-term truce.

The chief Palestinian negotiator in Cairo said on Tuesday that no progress had been made.

The Palestinian delegation presented their demands for a truce to Egyptian mediators and were awaiting Israel’s response, said the official, Azzam al-Ahmed.

“There has been no progress,” he said. “Matters have become more complicated.”

The renewal of Israeli strikes spread panic among Gaza residents.

A reporter saw hundreds of Palestinians streaming out of Shejaiya, an eastern area of Gaza City which has been devastated by more than a month of fighting between Israel and the militant Islamist Hamas movement.

More poured out of the Zeitun and Shaaf areas, alarmed by a series of explosions and heading to shelter in UN schools, witnesses said.

Five Palestinians were wounded, three in the northern area of Beit Lahiya and two in the southern city of Rafah, the Gaza emergency services spokesman said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for firing of the rockets, two of which hit near the city of Beersheva, which is home to around 200,000 Israelis.

An Israeli official said the negotiating team had been ordered back from Cairo where Egypt has been pushing for a decisive end to the Gaza bloodshed, which has killed more than 2,000 Palestinians and 67 on the Israeli side.

However, there was no immediate confirmation the team had left.

“The Cairo process was based on the premise of a total ceasefire,” another official said. “If Hamas fires rockets, the Cairo process has no basis.”

Israel has vowed not to negotiate under fire, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned there would be “a very strong response” to any resumption of rocket attacks.

Hamas dismissed his remarks as having “no weight”.

In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri denied the Islamist movement had fired rockets over the border, accusing Israel of trying to sabotage the truce talks.

“We don’t have any information about firing of rockets from Gaza. The Israeli raids are intended to sabotage the negotiations in Cairo,” he said.

The talks in Cairo centre on an Egyptian proposal that meets some of the Palestinian demands, such as easing Israel’s eight-year blockade on Gaza, but puts off debate on other thorny issues until later.

Although temporary truce agreements have brought relief to millions on both sides of the border, the drawn-out waiting and fear of an all-out resumption of fighting has tested people’s patience.

“No one here has any hope,” said Riyad Abul Sultan, a father of 10 with thick curly hair, smoking as he sat on a flimsy mattress at a UN school in Gaza.

Amnesty International, meanwhile, renewed its appeal for access to Gaza.

“Valuable time has already been lost and it is essential that human rights organisations are now able to begin the vital job of examining allegations of war crimes,” it said.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2014

Footprints: Deconstructing the classroom

Haneen Rafi

LEARNING and fun? Certainly not a combination one comes across often. However, while attending my first homeschooling class the expression of joy on each child’s face while learning new vocabulary words was, if anything, unsettling. A smaller group of children huddled around the teacher enjoying the informal process was an alien sight for someone who has been in the field of education for a while.

LEARNING and fun? Certainly not a combination one comes across often. However, while attending my first homeschooling class the expression of joy on each child’s face while learning new vocabulary words was, if anything, unsettling. A smaller group of children huddled around the teacher enjoying the informal process was an alien sight for someone who has been in the field of education for a while.

In Pakistan, study groups are being formed and play dates assigned to allow parents, specifically mothers, to incorporate home-based learning instead of adapting themselves to school-based instruction. For Soheba, mother of two, homeschooling is all about flexibility in learning that “allows you to move faster in the areas your child easily understands … but also spend longer on concepts they take longer to grasp. You can adjust teaching methods to how your child learns best.”

Mona agrees. For her, “learning is more fun. In addition, homeschooling helps them learn how to make more conscious choices in life rather than following the norm. School dilutes the child’s personality whereas home education strengthens individuality and creativity.”

Support from family and friends is essential for a parent deciding to homeschool and may be difficult to come by. For Mona the transition was simpler. Soheba, however, admitted to receiving a mixed response. “The point to be made is that it’s not about what is ‘right or wrong’ but it’s just another option of how to educate your child. [Though] most are concerned about how children are socialised, they are always happy to hear that we have a homeschool community which meets regularly for socialising and joint studies.”

A typical day for a homeschooled child varies with age, though mornings are utilised for maximum learning. Despite enrolling them in reading programmes, subject tuitions, sports classes and as well as weekly book clubs, the kids have “a lot of free time to play, read, socialise with other homeschoolers and explore their own interests,” says Mona. A Quran and Arabic programme has also been designed for interested mothers. Afternoons, for Soheba, involves “free time to read, cook or play, or for me to do errands with or without the kids,” while Mona uses the weekends to work on an art or science project.

One of the biggest shortcomings the homeschooling network faces in Pakistan is that there are no regulatory bodies, no institutional help provided to parents and no test that might help determine the level of the child. There are more problems to boot, according to Hena Hussain, educator with almost 40 years’ teaching experience: “Social and cognitive skills tend to remain underdeveloped in most homeschooled students. Interacting with other children their age, forging friendships with a diverse group of students as well as with teachers, sharing, developing sportsmanship, defending each other as well as competing with each other are all building blocks that form part of a school-going child’s learning process. Also, teaching today is primarily aimed towards making a child more independent.”

For most homeschooling mothers, this does not pose an issue. Their emphasis is not more on testing a child’s capability, than encouraging him to learn and enjoy the process. Mona elaborates: “My daughter struggled with reading initially but she had a wonderful reading teacher who told me not to pressure her. That was the best advice I got and now she’s reading at her grade level.”

Soheba, however, does lament the lack of beneficial material available in the market for primary-level children. Also, while speaking about how her children have adjusted to being homeschooled, she spoke of her elder son who had attended school for three years: “Initially, I was concerned he would miss his friends. He never missed them enough to ask to go back to school even though I did ask him occasionally in the first few months.”

Mona admits to her initial anxieties while embarking on this alternative lifestyle, too, but has settled well as have her children. “Our community grows in strength and the kids increasingly benefit from this loving, nurturing and creative environment, so I feel much more confident of my decision. I also used to have a lot of issues getting the kids to study. I hardly teach now, I only facilitate learning.”

However, Mrs Hussain does not dismiss homeschooling completely in favour of traditional schooling, and insists that “even if a child goes to school, homeschooling still is an essential part of his life. Without a hands-on approach by the mother, a child will not be able to successfully integrate himself into society.”

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2014

Two soldiers injured in Indian firing

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

SIALKOT: Two soldiers of the Chenab Rangers and a civilian were injured on Monday in shelling by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) on villages along the Sialkot Working Boundary.

SIALKOT: Two soldiers of the Chenab Rangers and a civilian were injured on Monday in shelling by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) on villages along the Sialkot Working Boundary.

According to a senior official of the Chenab Rangers, the shelling on the Charwah, Harpal and Sucheetgarh sectors continued for two hours.

Soldiers Mohammad Shamas and Javaid Ahmed and civilian Muhammad Aslam suffered serious injuries in the shelling. They were admitted to the Combined Military Hospital, Sialkot.

The official said the BSF used light machineguns and also fired several mortar shells.

Chenab Rangers gave a befitting reply, the official said.

It was the 13th major incident of Indian firing on the Sialkot Working Boundary villages during the current month.

Meanwhile, Pakistani police buried on Monday the body of an unidentified Indian girl in a local graveyard after her funeral in village Kotli Said Ameer near Head Marala.

According to the police, the body was spotted in River Tavi near the border on Sunday evening.

Police made announcements in nearby villages for recognition of the girl but no one came forward to own it.

This made the police believe that the body might have flown into Pakistan from the Indian side.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2014

Kuwait detains cleric for militant financing

Reuters

KUWAIT: Kuwait has detained a prominent cleric less than two weeks after the United States included him on a sanctions list for allegedly funnelling money to militants in Iraq and Syria, his lawyer said on Monday.

KUWAIT: Kuwait has detained a prominent cleric less than two weeks after the United States included him on a sanctions list for allegedly funnelling money to militants in Iraq and Syria, his lawyer said on Monday.

Shafi Al Ajmi was detained on the border with Saudi Arabia on Sunday while returning from a pilgrimage.

“He is at the state security compound,” his lawyer Mohammed Al Jumia told Reuters. “So far, there are no charges.”

Kuwait has been one of the biggest humanitarian donors to Syrian refugees through the United Nations, but it has also struggled to control unofficial fundraising for opposition groups in Syria by individuals. The government has stepped up its monitoring of individuals and charities suspected of collecting donations for militants linked to Al Qaeda in Syria and Iraq.

On Aug 6, the US imposed sanctions on Mr Al Ajmi and two other men suspected of funnelling money from Kuwait to the Islamic State, an Al Qaeda splinter group that has seized swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.

Washington also said the men had had helped smuggle fighters to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Last year, Kuwait banned a television show that Mr Al Ajmi appeared on, saying it incited hatred.

As well as calling for armed opposition to the Syrian government, he has called on supporters to torture and kill fighters in Syria linked to the Hezbollah.

Kuwaiti Information Minister Sheikh Salman Al Humoud Al Sabah said at the time that authorities would investigate how a show featuring the cleric was allowed to be broadcast on state television.

On Friday, the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on six people suspected of financing militants, including two Kuwaitis, in a move aimed at weakening the Islamic State and Al Qaeda’s Syrian wing, Nusra Front.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2014

Saudi prince robbed in Paris

AFP

PARIS: Heavily armed robbers have attacked the motorcade of a Saudi prince in Paris, making off with 250,000 euros ($335,000) in cash and reportedly stealing “sensitive” diplomatic documents, French police said on Monday.

PARIS: Heavily armed robbers have attacked the motorcade of a Saudi prince in Paris, making off with 250,000 euros ($335,000) in cash and reportedly stealing “sensitive” diplomatic documents, French police said on Monday.

The spectacular robbery took place in northern Paris late on Sunday as the motorcade was making its way from a plush hotel on the Champs Elysees to an airport in Le Bourget, said police, who confirmed there were no injuries.

A gang of between five and eight thieves in two BMWs hijacked the first of around 10 vehicles in the convoy, driving off with the three occupants before letting them go, police said.

A police source and Le Parisien daily had said the men were armed with Kalashnikov rifles but an official later clarified to say they were carrying hand guns.

The Saudis’ Mercedes and one of the thieves’ BMWs were later found abandoned and burned out in the village of Saint-Mesmes, to the northeast of Paris, approximately 40km from the scene of the crime.

Police found two 500 euro notes, documents in Arabic and medication near the burnt-out wrecks of the two cars.

According to Le Parisien, the robbers made off with “sensitive” diplomatic documents.

A source close to the investigation confirmed the theft of diplomatic documents but said: “For the moment, we have no details about the nature of these documents. They could be sensitive documents but they could equally well be unimportant. “The Saudi embassy in Paris could not be immediately reached for comment.

Romain Nadal, a spokesman for the French foreign ministry said only: “An investigation is under way into this unacceptable attack.”

“It’s quite an unusual attack. They were obviously well-informed. It’s true that it’s quite a rare way of operating,” one police source said.

No suspects have yet been apprehended.

The head of a national police union, Nicolas Comte, said: “We need to find out what they were looking for, the money or the documents.”

“I hope we will also have efficient cooperation with the Saudi authorities,” he added. The investigation has been turned over to the BRB special police unit in charge of armed robberies.

One source close to the investigation, who did not wish to be named, said: “If they were looking for sensitive documents, that changes the nature of the crime.” “It will no longer be an armed robbery, but something more complicated,” the source added.

Initial results of the investigation have revealed that the robbers were obviously “aware of what they would find by attacking that specific car and not the others,” he added.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2014

Iraqi Kurds press anti-IS offensive with US help

AFP

BADRIYAH: Kurdish Peshmerga fighters backed by federal forces and US warplanes pressed a counter-offensive on Monday against militants after retaking the country largest dam, as the United States and Britain stepped up their military involvement.

BADRIYAH: Kurdish Peshmerga fighters backed by federal forces and US warplanes pressed a counter-offensive on Monday against militants after retaking the country largest dam, as the United States and Britain stepped up their military involvement.

The recapture of Mosul Dam marks the biggest prize yet clawed back from the Islamic State (IS) group since it launched a major offensive in northern Iraq in June, sweeping the security forces aside.

US aircraft were carrying out strikes in support of the forces battling the militants.

Militants from the same group also came under attack in their Syrian stronghold of Raqa by that country’s air force for the second day.

In Iraq, “the planes are striking and the Peshmerga are advancing,” a Kurdish fighter told AFP near the shore of the lake formed by the vast dam.

Journalists heard jets flying overhead and saw smoke rising from the site of a strike that a Peshmerga member said had targeted one of the entrances to the dam.

Fighting also broke out in an area south of the barrage while engineering teams worked to clear booby traps and bombs left by militants, Kawa Khatari, a leader of Iraq’s main Kurdish party, said.

A senior Peshmerga officer said there was sporadic fighting with militants in the town of Tal Kayf, southeast of the dam, and that only a “small number” of remained in the area of the dam.

Iraqi security spokesman Lt Gen Qassem Atta said the dam had been entirely liberated in a joint operation by the “anti-terrorism forces and Peshmerga forces with aerial support”.

He said on state television that fighting was continuing in adjoining facilities.

The dam breakthrough came after US warplanes and drones carried out their heaviest-yet bombing against IS militants in the north since they began launching air strikes on Aug 8.

The US Central Command reported that the military had carried out 14 air strikes on Sunday near the dam located on the Tigris river, which provides electricity and irrigation water to much of the region.

US President Barack Obama told Congress that the “limited” air strikes he has authorised on Iraq to support the fight for the dam protected US interests there.

“The failure of the Mosul dam could threaten the lives of large numbers of civilians, endanger US personnel and facilities, including the US embassy in Baghdad, and prevent the Iraqi government from providing critical services to the Iraqi populace,” he said.

The IS also faced air strikes on the Syrian side of the border, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

In Raqa province, the Syrian air force carried out at least 14 raids against militant positions, a day after launching 16 strikes which killed at least 31 militants and eight civilians.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron described the IS fighters sweeping across Syria and Iraq as a direct threat to Britain and said all available tools must be used to halt their advance.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, he said that while it would not be right to send an army into Iraq, some degree of military involvement was justified due to the threat that an expanding “terrorist state” would pose to Europe and its allies.

His Defence Minister Michael Fallon said in comments published on Monday that Britain’s involvement now went beyond a humanitarian mission and was set to last for months.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2014

Ukraine, rebels accuse each other of attacking refugee bus convoy

Reuters

KIEV: Ukraine accused pro-Russian rebels on Monday of hitting a refugee convoy of buses with rocket fire near the eastern city of Luhansk, killing people trapped in the burning vehicles, but the separatists denied responsibility.

KIEV: Ukraine accused pro-Russian rebels on Monday of hitting a refugee convoy of buses with rocket fire near the eastern city of Luhansk, killing people trapped in the burning vehicles, but the separatists denied responsibility.

Ukrainian military spokesmen said the bus convoy had been in an area of fierce fighting between government forces and the separatists. It had come under fire from rebel Grad and mortar launchers, they said, causing an unknown number of casualties.

“A powerful artillery strike hit a refugee convoy near the area of Khryashchuvatye and Novosvitlivka. The force of the blow on the convoy was so strong that people were burned alive in the vehicles – they weren’t able to get themselves out,” military spokesman Anatoly Proshin told Ukrainian news channel 112.ua.

Describing the attack as a “bloody crime”, another military spokesman, Andriy Lysenko, said: “A lot of people have been killed including women and children. The number of the dead is being established.”

A rebel leader denied his forces had the military capability to conduct such an attack, and accused Kiev forces of regularly attacking the area and also using Russian-made Grad missiles.

“The Ukrainians themselves have bombed the road constantly with airplanes and Grads. It seems they’ve now killed more civilians like they’ve been doing for months now. We don’t have the ability to send Grads into that territory,” said Andrei Purgin, deputy prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.

Another rebel spokesman denied any civilian convoy had been struck, challenging the Kiev authorities to produce evidence.

REBELS UNDER PRESSURE: The Kiev military reported new successes overnight, building on a weekend breakthrough when troops raised the national flag in Luhansk, a city held by pro-Russian separatists since fighting began in April.

Troops blockaded or recaptured rebel-held positions after international talks in Berlin failed to reach agreement on a ceasefire. Nine soldiers were killed.

Western sanctions against Moscow have failed to stem what Nato says is a steady supply of military equipment and men sent from Russia to help the rebels. Russia denies sending support, saying the rebels have seized equipment from the Ukrainians.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said all issues around a humanitarian convoy sent by Moscow to relieve needy areas of eastern Ukraine had been resolved but no progress had been made in his talks in Berlin on Sunday with the Ukrainian, German and French foreign ministers on a ceasefire or a political solution.

Russia says it would like a ceasefire to allow aid to get to people trapped by the fighting. A 280-truck convoy sent by Russia and carrying tonnes of humanitarian aid has been stalled at the Ukrainian border since last week, as Kiev has insisted on formalities so it can be properly distributed by the Red Cross.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, who was at the Berlin talks, said: “Russia must close the border and stop shelling. If you have mercenaries and weaponry coming through the border from the Russian federation how can you reach a ceasefire? “It’s not about terminology or conditions. It’s about substance. If you want peace, you have to use peaceful means not the means of war,” Klimkin said, according to a ministry Twitter post.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2014

Aided by US jets, Kurds retake key Iraqi dam

AFP

AL QOSH (Iraq): Kurdish fighters backed by US warplanes retook Iraq’s largest dam from Islamic State men on Sunday, as Sunni Arab tribesmen and security forces fought the IS militants west of Baghdad.

AL QOSH (Iraq): Kurdish fighters backed by US warplanes retook Iraq’s largest dam from Islamic State men on Sunday, as Sunni Arab tribesmen and security forces fought the IS militants west of Baghdad.

The recapture of Mosul dam marks the biggest prize clawed back from IS men since they launched their offensive in northern Iraq in early June when they swept Iraqi security forces aside.

IS militants, who have declared a “caliphate” straddling vast areas of Iraq and Syria, also came under air attack in their Syrian stronghold of Raqa on Sunday, a monitoring group said.

Two months of violence have brought Iraq to the brink of breakup, and world powers relieved by the exit of divisive premier Nuri al-Maliki are sending aid to the hundreds of thousands who have fled their homes as well as arms to the Kurdish peshmerga forces.

Buoyed by the air strikes US President Barack Obama ordered last week, Kurdish forces are fighting to win back ground they had lost since the start of August, when the IS went back on the offensive north, east and west of the city of Mosul, capturing the dam on August 7.

Earlier on Sunday, US warplanes and drones pummelled the militants fighting against the Kurdish advance.

The US Central Command reported that the military had carried out 14 air strikes during the day near the dam, which is located on the Tigris and provides electricity and irrigation water for farming to much of the region.

Centcom said the strikes destroyed 10 armed vehicles, seven Humvees, two armoured personnel carriers and one checkpoint.

A journalist saw towers of smoke rising from the area of the dam, apparently from the sites of strikes.

In western Iraq’s Anbar province, security forces backed by Sunni Arab tribal militia, who announced a new effort against the Islamists on Friday, made gains west of the provincial capital Ramadi, police said.

Fighting was also taking place near the strategic Euphrates Valley town of Haditha, located near another important dam, police Staff Major General Ahmed Sadag said.

The rallying of more than two dozen Sunni tribes to the government side marked a potential turning point in the fightback against the IS militants and their allies.

The militants were able to sweep through the Sunni Arab heartland north and west of Baghdad in June, encountering little effective resistance, and Iraqi federal security forces have yet to make significant headway in regaining ground.

Anbar was the birthplace of the Sahwa, or Awakening, movement of Sunni tribes that from late 2006 sided with US forces against their co-religionists in Al Qaeda, helping turn the tide against that insurgency.

In the north, members of minority groups including the Yazidis, Christians, Shabak and Turkmen, remain under threat of kidnapping or death at the hands of the Islamists.

On Friday, IS fighters killed around 80 Yazidi Kurds in the village of Kocho near the northwestern town of Sinjar, Kurdish officials said.

The militants’ storming of Sinjar on August 3 sent tens of thousands of civilians fleeing onto Mount Sinjar, prompting an international aid operation and helping to trigger the launch of US air strikes.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2014

Ummah will never accept Israeli occupation of Al Quds: JI emir

Habib Khan Ghori

KARACHI: Jamaat-i-Islami emir Sirajul Haq has declared that Muslim Ummah will never accept Israeli occupation of Al Quds.

KARACHI: Jamaat-i-Islami emir Sirajul Haq has declared that Muslim Ummah will never accept Israeli occupation of Al Quds.

Speaking to participants of the ‘Gaza Million March’ organised by his party on Sunday, he expressed solidarity with the oppressed Pales­tinians and condemned Israeli air strikes on unarmed people of Gaza.

The rally from the Baloch Colony bridge to the FTC building on Sharea Faisal showed that Pakistanis were ready to render all kinds of sacrifices for the freedom of Palestine and Al Quds, participants said.

Those who took part in the rally, including women, children and elders, waved the Palestinian and Jamaat flags. They also carried banners and placards inscribed with slogans like “Get Gaza Freed”, “Down with Israel and USA” and “Labbaik ya Gaza”.

They also chanted slogans against Israel and the United States and in favour of the people of Gaza.

Describing the rally as the biggest gathering in the history of Karachi, the JI emir said its participants had shown that they were with the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom of Al Quds.

“We will never accept the occupation of Al Quds by the Jews.”

He said the Muslim countries had all the resources, including seven million army personnel, 4,000 tanks, 15,000 aircraft and 70 per cent of the world’s oil reserves, but its rulers had failed even to call a timely meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Mr Haq said he had written letters to the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Iran and met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, but received no response from them. He reminded Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif that Pakistan was the name of an ideology and the country needed to protect the Muslims all over the world.

The JI emir said if the Muslim rulers did not discharge their duty, 180 million Pakistanis would do it for them.

He said the JI had collected donations of Rs50m for the people of Gaza.

He assured Hamas leader Khaled Mashal that every Pakistani was with the Palestinian people.

In his address by phone earlier, Mr Mashal paid tribute to the “Pakistani brothers for expressing solidarity with the Muslims of Gaza”.

He expressed the determination that Hamas would not surrender to Israel.

Former JI emir Syed Munawar Hasan praised his party for holding the ‘Gaza Million March’ to express solidarity with the Palestinian people.

He regretted that the rulers of 56 Muslim countries “remained silent over the Israeli aggression in Gaza”.

Mr Hasan called for an immediate ceasefire and removal of Gaza blockade.

He said that Hamas, Hezbollah and the Taliban were fighting for the real cause of Muslim Ummah.

Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah said the march had proved that the Ummah was united against the Israeli aggression in Gaza.

“This rally is a clear message to the international community that the Muslims of the entire world are united on the Gaza issue,” he added.

The IJT nazim for Karachi presented a cheque of Rs500,000 to the JI emir for the people of Gaza.

Later, the participants set ablaze the flags of the United States and Israel.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2014

Six militants, three troops killed in Yemen

AFP

ADEN: Six suspected Al Qaeda militants and three Yemeni troops died in clashes on Sunday in Hadramawt province, the scene of frequent attacks on the army, a local official said.

ADEN: Six suspected Al Qaeda militants and three Yemeni troops died in clashes on Sunday in Hadramawt province, the scene of frequent attacks on the army, a local official said.

“At dawn, armed forces bombarded a house where Al Qaeda fighters had barricaded themselves in, killing three of them and wounding others,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The body of a fourth militant was later found in the house in the Hadramawt town of Qatan, along with four people who were arres­ted, a military source said.

He said the people arrested were two men — a Yemeni and a Somali — and two women, a Pakistani and a Filipina.

Responding to the army’s action, other militants attacked an army position in Qatan, sparking a shootout, the local official said.

“Three soldiers were killed and six wounded during four hours of fighting,” the official said, adding: “Two of the attackers died and four were wounded”. Weapons of various calibre were used in the skirmish and several nearby homes were damaged, witnesses said.

On Thursday, a policeman and two militants died in clashes in Mukalla, capital of Hadramawt.

Authorities in the city said they had prevented three suicide car bomb attacks against an official residence, a police barracks and another police site.

The defence ministry said it had “thwarted a dangerous criminal plan by Al Qaeda” in Mukalla.

On Saturday night, gunmen riding motor bikes shot and killed two Yemeni men in separate attacks in Lahij province, a security source said on Sunday, blaming Al Qaeda for the murders.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2014

Editorial News

Guessing game

Editorial

Even in the best-case scenario, finding some kind of middle ground between the PTI and Tahirul Qadri on one side and the PML-N federal government on the other would have been difficult.

Even in the best-case scenario, finding some kind of middle ground between the PTI and Tahirul Qadri on one side and the PML-N federal government on the other would have been difficult.

But the skittishness both sides have showed on engaging each other at all has made the possibility of a negotiated political settlement that much more difficult. After finally accepting that talks could provide a way out of the impasse and proposing a raft of ideas, the PTI quickly re-escalated matters yesterday by rejecting talks altogether.

Meanwhile, after overnight speculation that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would at long last use parliament as the forum to address the country and his opponents, Mr Sharif proved true to form and declined to take centre stage in that most democratic of forums, the floor of the National Assembly.

One side of the problem here is clearly the PTI supremo Imran Khan’s flip-flop approach to talks, sometimes seemingly wanting an exit from the corner he has painted himself and his party into, while at other times seemingly indulging in rabble-rousing in front of the crowd that has assembled at his demand.

At times, it is difficult to know who is in charge — the PTI chief or the crowd he has assembled — given that the PTI switches back and forth between providing a glimmer of hope and returning to its maximalist position with breathtaking speed.

For a country that has seen much political turmoil over its seven decades of existence, it would not be out of place to suggest that never before has Pakistan seen a political party and its leader demonstrate such whimsicalness on the national stage as it has with the PTI in recent days.

Even so, efforts at talks must not be abandoned, and despite inflexible demands the government must push on, while the PTI must refrain from imposing preconditions.

If Mr Khan and his PTI’s strategy is difficult to comprehend, the other side of the protest movement against the PML-N government — Tahirul Qadri and his supporters — are virtually impossible to fathom.

Mr Qadri, a religious preacher with a small but fervid support base, is truly seeking to hijack the country and impose his will upon it. To the extent that he has made demands calling for improvements in governance and public service delivery, Mr Qadri makes some sense.

But anything more and he will need to prove he has genuine political support by participating in the electoral process. Surely, the political process is open enough to allow Mr Qadri to prove his legitimate support base.

At the other end, regrettably, Prime Minister Sharif failed to capitalise on the mood in parliament yesterday. The parliamentary resolution reiterating that democracy is the only way ahead for Pakistan would have been that much more meaningful had the prime minister himself added his voice to the consensus.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2014

Report on mass graves

Editorial

Many months after the gruesome discovery of mass graves in Balochistan’s Khuzdar district, we are no closer to getting any answers about the atrocity.

Many months after the gruesome discovery of mass graves in Balochistan’s Khuzdar district, we are no closer to getting any answers about the atrocity.

In fact, some of the findings of a judicial tribunal which were released on Tuesday have only raised more questions about the discovery made in January. For one, the findings of the tribunal, formed by the Balochistan government, are in general terms; and more importantly, the body has failed to identify who is responsible for the deaths of at least 17 individuals buried in shallow graves in the Tutak area.

It has also absolved the government and security establishment of any involvement. Indeed, while the intelligence agencies may not be directly responsible for any of the deaths, did the tribunal look into the possibility that militants supported or at least tolerated by the establishment may have been involved, especially when some of the victims have been identified as ‘missing persons’?

As the tribunal has also discovered, a number of witnesses have testified that a local tribal figure — said to lead a group that reportedly targets Baloch separatists and nationalists — may have had a hand in the killings.

Did the Balochistan government consider such testimony and was this individual investigated for possible links to the crime? Simply naming a potential suspect or blaming local officials for ‘neglect of duty’ will do little to clear the air over the killings.

The tribunal should have come down hard on the investigating authorities for failing to properly probe the case. After all, judges are not investigators and can only work with the evidence they are provided.

The findings of the Khuzdar tribunal are similar to what earlier official probes have uncovered, or rather failed to uncover. For example, the commission investigating the 2011 murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad failed to apportion blame in clear terms.

Similarly, the report investigating the 2011 American raid in Abbottabad, in which Osama bin Laden met his end, was kept under wraps until it was leaked by a foreign news channel.

With reference to the Khuzdar atrocity, it is fair to ask how so many people were killed and unceremoniously dumped while the administration and security establishment remained clueless about the crime, especially when there is a considerably security presence in the area. Unless all the facts are uncovered and the perpetrators brought to justice, the Baloch will only become further alienated from the state.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2014

US journalist’s murder

Editorial

The beheading of an American journalist by the militants of the self-proclaimed organisation the Islamic State highlights once again the barbaric mindset that has become the hallmark of terror groups worldwide.

The beheading of an American journalist by the militants of the self-proclaimed organisation the Islamic State highlights once again the barbaric mindset that has become the hallmark of terror groups worldwide.

Kidnapped in November 2012, James Foley was a brave journalist whose dispatches, in the words of his mother, “expose[d] the world to the suffering of the Syrian people”. The killing was supposed to be the IS leadership’s response to the American air strikes on the IS militants.

But, as made clear by Washington, Foley’s murder is not going to make America change its policy. Calling Foley’s murder “an act of violence that shocks the conscience of the entire world”, President Barack Obama said his government would continue to do “what we must do to protect our people” and that America would be “ruthless”.

Tributes to Foley have come from his family and friends, and his mother said “we have never been prouder of Jim”. We in Pakistan can relate to Foley’s death — we can recall the trauma surrounding Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Pearl, who was murdered by militants in a similar fashion in February 2002.

Pakistan is no place for intrepid journalists, unless they are prepared for the consequences, and some of them indeed have paid with their lives for their courage.

Both foreign and Pakistani newsmen have fallen victim to terror not only at the hands of jihadists but also, allegedly, secret agencies and secular political parties and groups who have punished media personnel for doing their duty and reporting the truth in spite of threats to their lives.

The list is a long one, and it has made Pakistan one of the most dangerous places for journalists. However, the militants should know that Foley’s murder and the shocking display of the crime on video are not likely to discourage newspersons the world over from discharging their duty.

All such acts do is to highlight the barbaric nature of elements and groups wedded to terror, that perpetrate brutality in the name of religion.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2014

Déjà vu

Editorial

By now, it is a well-known script. In the evolution of virtually every political crisis, there comes a point where the military leadership issues a carefully worded statement that is designed to come across as well-meaning and generous, but is in fact ill-advised and unnecessary.

By now, it is a well-known script. In the evolution of virtually every political crisis, there comes a point where the military leadership issues a carefully worded statement that is designed to come across as well-meaning and generous, but is in fact ill-advised and unnecessary.

On Tuesday, after watching silently from the sidelines as the latest political crisis to hit the country ebbed and flowed over several days, the army leadership decided to wade deep into the crisis and offer some political advice to the political leadership.

To some, the ISPR statement will simply reflect an obvious reality: there is a political impasse in the country and the political leadership needs to demonstrate “patience, wisdom and sagacity”. Note though that the ISPR had nary a word to say on constitutionalism, democracy and the rule of law. Instead, there was the usual martial language about sacred symbols of the state and the need to protect the national interest.

Place Tuesday’s ISPR statement in the proper historical context and it amounts to little more than big brother chiding the children of democracy to behave — or else. The ‘or else’ is always left unsaid, but the country hardly needs reminding about what it could be.

Without a doubt, the army leadership has grabbed with both hands the opportunity that the political leadership has created for it — perhaps even steered events from behind the scenes to the present impasse.

Conspiracy theories are manifold in Pakistan, but consider how quickly three forces converged on Tuesday to put democracy under pressure. Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri had, until the decision to move their separate sit-ins to a joint venue directly in front of parliament, kept each other at arm’s length since setting out from Lahore on Aug 14.

Yet, on Tuesday, the two leaders coordinated their entry into Islamabad’s so-called red zone to perfection — Mr Khan and Mr Qadri taking turns to whip up the crowds they had assembled and alternating playing to the TV cameras. Amidst the sudden bonhomie between the PTI leader and Mr Qadri came the ISPR statement that piled on the pressure on the PML-N government.

If such a chain of events in the realm of civil-military relations is still possible in this day and age, some of the responsibility must surely rest on the shoulders of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for time and again mishandling the situation and underestimating his political foes.

The latest mistake appears to have come after Imran Khan’s rally to Islamabad failed to gather the kind of support that the government was initially apprehensive about. As scorn and ridicule were heaped on the PTI and Imran Khan found himself isolated, the government again failed to seize the initiative.

Rather than urgently and decisively switch the focus to electoral reforms and strengthening of the democratic system, the government seemed more preoccupied with ensuring that Mr Khan’s so-called independence rally ended with minimal damage caused to the government.

The government’s mantra of being open to talks within the Constitution with any of its political opponents is almost meaningless at this late stage because the stakes have been raised so high. What was needed was some purposefulness and clarity by the government — instead, it meekly allowed protesters to camp outside parliament.

Yet, whatever the flaws in the government’s political strategy, it must not be forgotten — and cannot be stressed enough — that the origins of the latest crisis lie in an unwillingness of certain anti-democratic and also political forces to play by democratic rules.

As ever, in seeking to bring down an elected government, the short-term goals have completely overshadowed any consideration of the longer-term impact. It may be Mr Sharif who is in the cross hairs today, but if the PML-N government is brought down in this most perplexing, even obscene, of ways, the floodgates will surely open.

On the religious and political right alone are several forces who want nothing less than to reorientate the Pakistani state and society and to have a veto over any system of governance and policy choices that do not fit with their myopic, regressive worldview.

Is Pakistan really prepared to hand over state and society to such forces? Surely, the ouster of an elected government now will only embolden the dark forces that stalk this country.

From here on, the options are limited, but clear. There may be a push for a national government with a mandate to implement electoral reforms before holding fresh polls. The exact mechanism by which such a national government can come into being is uncertain, but it may be an option the PTI is still eyeing given that it has not formally triggered the resignation process of its MNAs.

The more desirable option is even clearer: all democratic forces, inside and outside parliament, must rally to the defence of a system under attack. Democracy is truly a system worth fighting for, till the very end if necessary.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2014

Orphan city

Editorial

Even for a city long inured to violence as Karachi, the past few days have been particularly bloody.

Even for a city long inured to violence as Karachi, the past few days have been particularly bloody.

Over a dozen people have been murdered in several separate incidents, including four policemen, at least three of whom were believed to have been targeted by members of the banned TTP in retaliation for a police raid carried out the day before in which two of their comrades were killed in encounters.

The relentless targeting of policemen — 112 this year alone — is indicative not only of the ruthless nature of the adversary but also of the militants’ tenacious foothold in this city of 20 million. The past few years have seen vast, unregulated settlements proliferating on its outskirts with connivance of local land mafias; these provide safe havens that have become a reservoir for all manner of crime.

But there are also pockets in areas of the ‘city proper’, such as Lyari and Gulistan-i-Jauhar, which have become infested with TTP-affiliated elements that share the organisation’s extremist ideology and anti-state agenda.

Although violence by militants has of late been sporadic and taken the form of targeted killings, the continued existence of their strongholds and networks means they retain the capability to launch devastation on a wide scale, such as in the Karachi airport attack in June.

The recent spate of violence has also exposed the limitations of the much-vaunted Rangers-led Karachi operation that began in September 2013. The requisite political will, finally, it seemed, was there with the federal government throwing its weight behind a decisive campaign to tackle Karachi’s spiralling crime graph.

Indeed, within a few months, significant improvement was recorded: the overall crime rate dropped by 50pc and ethnic and political murders declined sharply. But sectarian killings, although less than before, continued to claim lives at a steady rate, a fact that was once again underlined this week with at least four deaths.

Senior law-enforcement officials concede that results from the Karachi operation have plateaued. The grim reality is that what must be the first line of defence in such a situation, the city police, is a demoralised, under-resourced force, beholden to mercurial political masters, and ill-equipped on all fronts to handle the monumental task before it.

And what of the political forces and administrative bodies that are supposedly the custodians of this benighted city?

Their wilful neglect of essential services and their no-holds-barred opportunism in pursuance of short-term gains has played havoc with Karachi’s dynamics and helped various mafias entrench themselves. And while they engage in ‘beautifying’ its skyline by building high-rises and commercial complexes in upmarket areas, ordinary citizens living ordinary lives continue to pay the price.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2014

A disappointing move by India

Editorial

The Pakistan-India foreign secretary-level talks to have been held next week were supposed to mark the first meaningful engagement in the normalisation process between the two countries since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi won power.

The Pakistan-India foreign secretary-level talks to have been held next week were supposed to mark the first meaningful engagement in the normalisation process between the two countries since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi won power.

Now, the cancelled meeting has instantly become a symbol of the difficulty to even talk about talks when it comes to the two rivals.

To be sure, this time the blame must lie firmly on the Indian side. The suggestion that the Pakistan high commissioner to India, Abdul Basit, committed a grave diplomatic error by meeting a Kashmir Hurriyat leader is simply preposterous.

Leave aside that such meetings ahead of high-level talks between Pakistan and India have occurred in the past and are standard diplomatic fare, if Mr Modi’s government is really keen on starting over with Pakistan, then would it not make sense to bring on board as many stakeholders as possible when it comes to the Kashmir dispute?

Bizarrely, there have even been claims in some Indian quarters that the meeting in India would be akin to Indian diplomats engaging Baloch separatists in Pakistan.

Perhaps it is worth reiterating the basic facts here: Kashmir has been an internationally accepted disputed area from the very inception of Pakistan and India; there is absolutely no question about the legal status of Balochistan as part of the Pakistani federation.

Unhappily, latest events have underlined an old truth when it comes to Pakistan-India relations: if the political leadership on both sides appears weak, hawks and hard-liners emerge to try and scuttle the very idea of normalisation between the two countries.

Consider that on the Pakistani side, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took the difficult decision of travelling to Mr Modi’s swearing-in ceremony despite no Indian prime minister having visited Pakistan in over a decade, even as hawks inside Pakistan openly questioned why Mr Sharif was giving Mr Modi a public relations boost without getting anything in return.

Without that kind of singular commitment at the very highest levels of political power, Pakistan-India relations will never truly be able to move forward.

Of course, if forward movement is difficult, it does not mean that a tenuous quiet is a permanent condition. Going in reverse is all too easy.

The Line of Control and the Working Boundary are tense and low-level violence in recent days could quickly escalate if the political environment also turns poisonous.

Mr Modi himself made some hard-hitting statements against Pakistan on a recent visit to Kashmir. The BJP has been in power at the centre in India before, but Mr Modi is for the first time directly in charge of the international dimension of India’s interests.

It is all too easy to see how Mr Modi could use a hard-line stance on Pakistan to reap domestic dividends. But, while interconnected, international relations should not become hostage to domestic concerns.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2014

Faltering IMF talks

Editorial

Talks between the government and the IMF have failed to conclude. The Fund now says that “discussions will be continuing” via video conference in the coming days, without touching on the reasons for the lack of closure.

Talks between the government and the IMF have failed to conclude. The Fund now says that “discussions will be continuing” via video conference in the coming days, without touching on the reasons for the lack of closure.

Instead, in what can only be called a diplomatic bow, the Fund prefers to use rose-scented language to tell us that it is “encouraged by the overall progress” of the government’s reform effort which is “broadly on track”, that the talks “have been useful” and the mission “made excellent progress”.

We are left guessing at the reasons why the talks failed to conclude. The government has not helped to clear the confusion, either. On Sunday, we were told by the finance ministry spokesman that the talks will end smoothly and on schedule, and waivers were being sought for non-compliance on a couple of minor items only.

He also confirmed that both sides would hold their customary joint news conference on Monday at the conclusion of the talks. Then on Monday, we were told that the talks would continue for another three or four days, possibly with a conclusion on Friday because the finance minister had to rush back to Islamabad for a meeting of the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms.

A few leaks suggest the sticking points might be larger than what is being alluded to. For one, the government is still struggling to bring about the power tariff adjustments required to keep the power subsidy bill from growing.

The matter had been complicated by a Nepra determination calling for lowering of the tariff, followed by an order of the Lahore High Court demanding implementation. Additional leaks suggest that the government failed to fully comply with the terms of the commitment to grant autonomy to the State Bank.

It is disingenuous of both parties to try to conceal the facts. Mr Dar should have given greater priority to the meetings. The political situation in Islamabad is insufficient reason for the government to allow economic decision-making to be paralysed in this way.

It is hard to understand why the parliamentary committee could not wait while the issues with the Fund were cleared. The Fund should make special mention of this delay in its fourth review report, and give the full reasons why the talks dragged on like this.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2014

Death of a star

Editorial

Squash legend Hashim Khan who died in the US on Monday night will forever be remembered as one of the greatest players to have played the game.

Squash legend Hashim Khan who died in the US on Monday night will forever be remembered as one of the greatest players to have played the game.

The little, great man from the back hills of Peshawar was the first sportsman from Pakistan to gain the status of world champion, creating a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

Hashim Khan, born somewhere around 1914 (his exact year of birth remains disputed) in Nawakilli, a small village in the suburbs of Peshawar, won the first of his seven British Open crowns in 1951 at Wembley.

He was around 37 years then, an age when most athletes call it a day. But the squash star was made of sterner stuff. He won the tournament from 1951 to 1956 and then again in 1958 to set a record that was only surpassed years later by Australian legend Geoff Hunt.

But it had not always been like that for Hashim Khan. In his formative years, he quit school to become a ball boy at the courts and played the game barefoot before joining the ranks of the professionals.

As one of his sons put it: “He was a whirlwind who came out of the distant Himalayan mountains and conquered the world. It sounds mythical but it’s sort of fitting that it stays that way.” Hashim Khan was the founding father of the Khan dynasty that has dominated the sport for the better part of the last five decades.

He made his younger sibling Azam switch from tennis to squash and groomed him into a worthy successor. He also taught the art to his nephew Mohibullah Khan Sr, who, like his uncle, won the British Open trophy.

Later, his descendants ruled the hard ball version of the game in North America for years. Hashim Khan brought about a world of a change in the sport and his innovations made it extremely popular and exciting. The game of squash owes a huge debt to this legend.

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2014

PTI’s latest move

Editorial

Every passing day seems to bring out a new, desperate side of Imran Khan and the PTI leadership.

Every passing day seems to bring out a new, desperate side of Imran Khan and the PTI leadership.

Twenty-four hours after vowing to lead a so-called civil disobedience movement against the federal government, the PTI chief announced yesterday that his party was quitting all assemblies, other than the provincial assembly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while today he is to lead the PTI protesters into the high-security red zone of Islamabad which houses parliament, Prime Minister House and other important buildings, including diplomatic missions.

The latest move seems designed to allow Mr Khan to exit his so-called independence rally, not turn it into an on-off sit-in, while allowing his party to retain its prized asset, the only government it has ie the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government.

To be sure, Mr Khan’s attempt to turn up outside, or perhaps even inside, Prime Minister House or parliament will — and should — be rebuffed.

Perhaps what Mr Khan is seeking is to be temporarily detained in front of cameras by the capital’s law-enforcement agencies and for the PTI activists to engage in some televised skirmishes as a way of ending the PTI rally on Mr Khan’s version of a high note.

Deplorable as Mr Khan’s tactics are, there is an immediate challenge for the law-enforcement apparatus of Islamabad to calmly and firmly but without the excessive use of force prevent the marchers from laying siege to state institutions.

Neither has the Islamabad law enforcement exactly covered itself in glory over the last year — as in the case of lone gunman Mohammad Sikander, who held Islamabad and much of the country hostage for many hours last August — nor have PML-N-led administrations inspired much confidence in their dealings with protesters of late — for example, deaths outside the Model Town headquarters of Tahirul Qadri two months ago.

Agree or disagree with their demands, consider them illegal or not, there is a responsibility on the state to protect the lives of all citizens — even those who are protesting against the government and seeking to do something illegal. Barring some violent escalation by the PTI itself, there ought to be enough well-trained and responsible law-enforcement personnel on the scene today to allow for a peaceful end to the PTI’s latest ploy.

The PML-N government should also be aware of the implications of Mr Khan’s other announcement: mass PTI resignations outside Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s provincial assembly (the PTI has several MNAs from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) mean a raft of by-elections will be held across the country in the next couple of months.

That means the political class will be in a semi-campaign mode and the intensity of focus on the PML-N government’s performance in office so far will only increase. It is uncharted electoral territory that the PTI has plunged the country into, so a steady hand on the wheel will be needed.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2014

‘Water car’ politics

Editorial

A few years ago, the chairman NAB made headlines by boldly declaring that Pakistan loses up to Rs7bn every day due to corruption.

A few years ago, the chairman NAB made headlines by boldly declaring that Pakistan loses up to Rs7bn every day due to corruption.

When asked about the source of this number, he upped it to Rs12bn, saying that the figures he was giving were actually conservative and the real amount would be far higher.

A few years earlier, a number began to circulate — there was talk of $200bn belonging to Pakistanis being ‘stashed away’ in Swiss bank accounts.

And somewhere in between, in August 2012, we had the famous water car episode, where a ridiculous fraud by a self-styled inventor captivated the imagination of a handful of TV anchors, cabinet ministers and even some former scientists associated with Pakistan’s nuclear programme.

In each case, the outlandish claims were used to build an argument that a short cut exists to resolve all Pakistan’s problems.

All we have to do, it was said, was to shut off the taps of corruption, or simply bring back the Swiss dollars, or just push the oil mafia aside and start investing massively in the water car, and our problems would vanish.

These examples set large wheels into motion, and the claim made in each case was simply fictitious.

Myths and fictions of this sort are now back in our lives. Wild numbers and claims are flying around all over again.

Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Tahirul Qadri has been telling us that he will raise “trillions” of rupees by cutting “50pc of federal and provincial government expenditures”, and by “controlling the menace of corruption” he will raise an additional Rs6bn per day.

Another sum to the tune of Rs500bn will be collected, he says, if he is only allowed to plug a miserly “25pc of taxes that are evaded” — and with all this money he will create a welfare state.

Never mind that the numbers do not add up. What is troubling about the kinds of claims being made from the podiums of Islamabad today is that they are giving new life to the myth that there are short cuts to solving our problems.

Not only that, the claims of a short cut are laced with a menacing threat: those not marching to the beat are in some way part of the unjust status quo. This is water car politics, and it is needlessly muddying the waters where the realm of the possible is concerned.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2014

Cricket whitewash

Editorial

Sri Lanka’s 2-0 whitewash of the Pakistan cricket team in the recent Test series has left observers dumbfounded.

Sri Lanka’s 2-0 whitewash of the Pakistan cricket team in the recent Test series has left observers dumbfounded.

Despite the unpredictable traits of the Pakistan players, no one could have anticipated the abject capitulation of the team, both in Galle and Colombo, especially in the second innings of the two Tests.

Sri Lanka’s ace spinner Rangana Herath proved the bane of Pakistani batsmen, returning with a magnificent haul of 23 wickets in both matches.

The diminutive bowler, though not as gifted as the legendary Muttiah Muralitharan, sliced through the Pakistan batting to virtually win the series single-handedly for the hosts.

Pitched man to man, Pakistan is perhaps a better side than the current Sri Lankan outfit, and riding on the back of a gruelling month-long preparation camp, one thought they were ideally equipped to counter the Islanders.

However, the manner in which our senior players, including skipper Misbah-ul Haq, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq and Azhar Ali, lost their wickets to Herath was a sorry sight indeed and spoke volumes for our batsmen’s technique, or rather the lack of it, to counter quality spin.

Fingers are also being pointed towards seasoned campaigners like Moin Khan, Waqar Younis, Mushtaq Ahmed and Grant Flower, all paid handsomely by the Pakistan Cricket Board to mould this team into a world-class unit.

But it seems as if the army of coaches failed to prepare our players to tackle the Herath threat.

The harsh truth is that with just seven months left for the 2015 Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, the Pakistan team has a poor standing in world cricket, having been relegated to the sixth spot following the losses in Sri Lanka.

After numerous failed campaigns away from home, cricket pundits ought to realise that players from the subcontinent lack the mental toughness to counter top-class opposition in alien conditions.

England’s 3-1 thrashing of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Indians testifies to that. It is high time Pakistan and India took appropriate measures to address their weaknesses.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2014

Inglorious ending

Editorial

It was billed by Imran Khan himself as the speech of a lifetime, but even before he had begun, it had been obvious for days that the PTI chief had miscalculated disastrously and painted himself and his party into a corner.

It was billed by Imran Khan himself as the speech of a lifetime, but even before he had begun, it had been obvious for days that the PTI chief had miscalculated disastrously and painted himself and his party into a corner.

Neither had the masses lined up in support of Mr Khan’s interminable journey from Lahore to Islamabad nor could the PTI assemble more than a paltry number of protesters in support of his mission to oust the federal government.

So, despite the rhetoric of the PTI and overwrought coverage in the media, the possibility of the so-called independence march ending in anything but a damp squib was rather low.

Even the threat of violence, hyped in certain sections of the media and egged on by the PTI itself, as a way of bringing to bear pressure on the government was overblown: the protesters were too small in number to overwhelm the capital’s security measures and much of the blame would have fallen on the PTI itself for blatantly and unconscionably instigating violence after being allowed to protest freely and fairly for days.

In the end, Mr Khan tried to exit from an embarrassing situation by attempting to obfuscate and confuse further.

While simultaneously announcing a so-called civil disobedience movement centred around the refusal to pay taxes and utility bills, Mr Khan also suggested the government has only a matter of days, if not hours, to secure the prime minister’s resignation or else the PTI chief would not be responsible for party activists attempting to physically remove Mr Sharif from Prime Minister House, a short distance away from the PTI protest site.

At this stage, were Mr Khan’s threat not so risible, it would be worthy of the severest condemnation. Here is the leader of a political party ostensibly invested in the democratic system who is advocating mob rule.

In addition, his recommended brand of civil disobedience involves starving his party’s provincial government of funds, provinces in Pakistan being dependent to a significant extent on federally raised taxes to finance their running.

If it is a sad and ignominious path that a political leader with genuine public support just a year ago is now embarking on, there is still a significant burden of responsibility on the federal government.

The PTI’s latest threats will likely peter out much as the independence rally did, but true political stability will only come if the PML-N too changes tack.

What is crystal clear in hindsight was also fairly evident in foresight: the greater threat to political stability came from the PML-N’s slow response to the PTI’s initially reasonable demands and then the panic mode that the PML-N leadership seemed to go into.

Now, the PML-N will again have some time and space to reshape the political narrative and the national discourse. Will it rise to the task?

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2014

A new PM for Iraq

Editorial

More than three months after Iraq’s third general elections, a new prime minister is to replace Nouri al-Maliki, whose three terms as chief executive were the subject of much criticism.

More than three months after Iraq’s third general elections, a new prime minister is to replace Nouri al-Maliki, whose three terms as chief executive were the subject of much criticism.

Haidar al-Abadi, the new prime minister, starts with an advantage, for support to him has come not only from Iran and Saudi Arabia, but also from some of Iraq’s own Sunni tribes, which had felt alienated during Mr Maliki’s chaotic eight years as premier.

Yet, it would be naive to be optimistic about Mr Abadi’s ability to succeed at a time when Iraq and the region are undergoing one of their worst crises since the Anglo-American invasion in March 2003.

His first task is to form a broad-based government that could take on the challenge posed by the self-styled Islamic State, whose well-armed and highly motivated men have occupied large chunks of territory in Iraq and Syria and sent alarm bells ringing in regional states.

The IS has been ruthless in the territories it has captured, massacring not only Shias, Christians and the Yazidi minority but also Sunnis not on its side.

In Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city, which it captured on June 10, its reign of terror forced a mass exodus, while its covetous eyes on Iraq’s oil-rich north have forced the autonomous Kurdistan government to seek American help after the IS militia routed the peshmerga, the Kurdish fighting force, near Mosul on Aug 3 and captured a dam.

On Friday, the Security Council passed a resolution to ‘weaken’ the IS, while the US air force has already gone into action against the radical Sunni militias. But going by the abysmal success rate of America’s foreign adventures, it is safe to assume that the US military intervention is likely to help and legitimise rather than weaken the IS.

On Friday, Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah warned that the IS posed a threat to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan because it could get recruits in these countries. Let us also note that in his Ramazan-eve speech, Saudi King Abdullah strongly criticised religious extremists and vowed not to let “a handful of terrorists … terrify Muslims”.

A kind of consensus seems to be developing in the Middle East against mass murderers masquerading as holy warriors. The big question is whether the regional states will give up their differences and unite to resist what the Hezbollah leader calls “a monster”.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2014

Right to education denied

Editorial

Heedless of the future, regardless of all the damning statistics pertaining to out-of-school children in Pakistan, criminal negligence in the education sector continues unabated.

Heedless of the future, regardless of all the damning statistics pertaining to out-of-school children in Pakistan, criminal negligence in the education sector continues unabated.

A recent report in this paper offered a glimpse of the dire situation that prevails in Sindh’s Shaheed Benazirabad district, a long-time PPP stronghold.

For example, in the area’s Long Khan Brohi village, there are three schools — two primary and one middle — none of which have teaching staff (apart from, curiously enough, an art teacher) and hence, no students.

Only 30 of the 150 children of school-going age here are getting an education, for which they have to trek to the only primary school in the next village. But while the latter institution actually boasts a teacher, classes are held in the open because the school building was rendered dangerous after the floods a few years ago.

At another school in the district, there are again no students because the sole teacher appointed here takes advantage of his connections in the local power circles to remain absent from duty. Neglect of girls’ schools is compounded by parental apathy towards girls’ education.

The conditions in this district encapsulate the multiple problems that bedevil the education sector to a greater or lesser extent all across the country.

The indifference of the ruling elite towards the constitutional right of all children to education, the lack of accountability of teaching staff, ‘ghost schools’ that exist only on paper, the politicised and irrational system of teachers’ postings, and the shockingly high dropout rate, particularly among girls, are just some of these.

However, given that Sindh back in early 2013 was first among the provinces to pass legislation to make education until Matric free and compulsory, the appalling education infrastructure here — particularly in a place where the PPP-led provincial government could easily take steps towards achieving that objective — makes a mockery of such efforts.

While increasing literacy rates takes time and sustained effort, there is scarcely any evidence that this journey has even begun.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2014

An unreasonable demand

Editorial

THE PTI and Tahirul Qadri have separately played their cards — they have showed the kind of street support they command and they have made known their set of demands. To the extent that Imran Khan has demanded electoral reforms be enacted by the government, the PTI’s claim can and should be countenanced and worked on by parliament. As for much of the rest of the PTI’s and Mr Qadri’s demands, the PML-N government, mainstream political parties and parliament can rightly dismiss them. For why should Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resign a year after winning an election widely perceived to be credible and acceptable? Surely, street power cannot once again become an acceptable means to bring down a democratically elected government — because if the PTI and Mr Qadri’s supporters were to achieve it today, then what is to stop anyone else from marching to oust the government that will replace it or the one after that?

THE PTI and Tahirul Qadri have separately played their cards — they have showed the kind of street support they command and they have made known their set of demands. To the extent that Imran Khan has demanded electoral reforms be enacted by the government, the PTI’s claim can and should be countenanced and worked on by parliament. As for much of the rest of the PTI’s and Mr Qadri’s demands, the PML-N government, mainstream political parties and parliament can rightly dismiss them. For why should Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resign a year after winning an election widely perceived to be credible and acceptable? Surely, street power cannot once again become an acceptable means to bring down a democratically elected government — because if the PTI and Mr Qadri’s supporters were to achieve it today, then what is to stop anyone else from marching to oust the government that will replace it or the one after that?

Consider also the contradictions that riddle the PTI’s stance. The chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pervez Khattak stood in Islamabad to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Sharif — when the two men head governments elected under the same framework of rules and in an election where voters simultaneously voted for the provincial and national assemblies. If the entire electoral system is fundamentally flawed and prone to massive rigging, then why is the PTI’s government in KP not tainted by the same flaws? Furthermore, consider the commitment to rectifying electoral flaws that the PTI has had in other arenas: neither has the PTI-led KP government held local government elections nor has it offered up a raft of proposals to ensure that, when held, the local government polls in KP will serve as a template of fairness and transparency for other provinces and the federation to follow.

Yet, even if there are no acceptable grounds for the PML-N government and Prime Minister Sharif to resign simply because the PTI and Mr Qadri have called for the resignations, there is surely much that the government must adjust in its approach to politics and governance. The present crisis only truly became a crisis when the government panicked and tried to scuttle the protests, whether by trying to dismantle the barricades around Mr Qadri’s headquarters in Lahore or by invoking Article 245 to draft in the army to help protect Islamabad and finally by barricading Lahore and Islamabad and the roads in between. Until the very end, when the government finally showed restraint and calm, it was more the mishandling by the government of the evolving situation that raised the political temperature than anything the PTI or Mr Qadri had done. Now, if electoral reforms are not taken up seriously and urgently, perhaps the seeds of another crisis in the future will be inadvertently sowed by the PML-N again.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2014

AGP in trouble

Editorial

A DISPUTE has been simmering between the government and the auditor general of Pakistan for almost a year now. Last week, tensions reached a boiling point.

A DISPUTE has been simmering between the government and the auditor general of Pakistan for almost a year now. Last week, tensions reached a boiling point.

The National Assembly has now decided to activate the removal procedure against the present AGP Akhtar Buland Rana.

The grounds given for seeking his removal do not inspire confidence. Mr Rana has raised questions regarding the Rs480bn retirement of the circular debt in the early days of the present PML-N government, as well as a Rs5bn anomaly in the tendering of civil works in the Neelum Jhelum project, which occurred in the days of the PPP government. He has, therefore, earned the ire of the Public Accounts Committee members hailing from both parties.

Around the same time as he raised these questions, the PAC charged him with misusing a government transport monetisation policy, under which he allegedly drew Rs100,000 as transport allowance but continued to avail himself of the use of an official vehicle. Many others in government service are also believed to have committed similar violations, so the selective investigation of the AGP arouses suspicion that he is being targeted for his probes. It would be better for the PAC members to clear their position on these points instead of searching for ways to intimidate and silence those raising questions.

For his part, Mr Rana has not helped his position by his refusal to appear before the PAC. Whatever his reservations regarding the motivations of the PAC members, he is duty-bound to appear before the committee and answer their questions. His alleged misuse of the transport policy is also regrettable, but that is a comparatively minor matter next to the issues he is raising, and should be easy to resolve simply by withdrawing the services of the official vehicle against an assurance that the policy will be strictly adhered to in future.

A healthy and functional democracy requires checks and balances built into the system, and autonomous bodies, such as the AGP, perform a vital function in bringing transparency and accountability to the system. Therefore, extreme care should be exercised in activating the extraordinary powers through which an officer of any autonomous body can be removed. Next to the seriousness of the questions raised by the AGP, the alleged misuse of the transport monetisation policy does not appear to be of proportionate seriousness. The PAC should reconsider its decision to seek his removal.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2014

Rain-related deaths

Editorial

HEAVY rainfall and a moderate windstorm brought tragedy to Peshawar on Friday as at least 16 people, many of them children, were killed in weather-related incidents.

HEAVY rainfall and a moderate windstorm brought tragedy to Peshawar on Friday as at least 16 people, many of them children, were killed in weather-related incidents.

Most of the victims died when the walls and roofs of their homes collapsed, while over 80 people were injured as trees, signboards and electricity poles were uprooted. Similar rain-related destruction is often witnessed in other parts of the country; for instance, earlier this month deaths resulted from heavy showers in Karachi.

Though it is difficult to completely insulate ourselves from nature’s fury, long- and short-term steps can be taken to mitigate the effects of inclement weather. These include raising awareness and being prepared. In this regard, the Sindh government has published ads in the media detailing what precautions to take during the monsoon season. While such warnings are timely, especially during the rainy season, civic agencies are often ill-prepared to deal with natural disasters. For example, while many of the lives lost in Peshawar were due to poor infrastructure, the provincial disaster management authority reportedly failed to inform citizens despite the Met office’s warning of impending harsh weather.

While it is true that citizens must stay abreast of matters and take necessary precautions, the role of disaster management bodies in warning the public and, if necessary, evacuating them cannot be overlooked.

Indeed, the role of provincial and district disaster management bodies needs to be vastly improved. But the state can also play a role to change the way in which structures are built in order to withstand harsh weather.

Every year, many people die when walls and roofs collapse. This is mainly because far too many dwellings in Pakistan are built in a non-scientific manner and cannot stand significant load. The state — perhaps with the help of local and foreign experts — needs to train masons in building more durable structures, especially in low-income localities. Such a step would not require any high-tech interventions or massive funding and yet save many of the precious lives that are lost needlessly every year.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2014

Columns and Articles

Our institutional failing

Sakib Sherani

“She had been dismembered and disembowelled. But she had not been interfered with.”

“She had been dismembered and disembowelled. But she had not been interfered with.”

At the start of the Second World War, to forestall a German invasion, the French constructed a seemingly impregnable defensive line, peppered with bunkers, machine gun emplacements, pillboxes and fortifications. The so-called Maginot Line, named after the French defence minister, Andre Maginot, was thought sufficient to slow down the German blitzkrieg. The Germans countered by outflanking the Maginot Line and invading France via Belgium.

In 1973, Pakistan’s constitutional assembly gave the country its first unanimous democratic constitution. Since its conception, however, rather than being regarded as a sacrosanct document, it has been treated as the Maginot Line by a pantheon of ‘constitutional democrats’, venal politicians, corrupt bureaucrats and ambitious generals. (The starting quote from an 18th-century British police crime report sums up our contemptuous and self-serving treatment of the Constitution very well — with one exception: we have interfered with ‘her’ as well.)

The result has been an ‘omni-shambolic’ decline of the state, extending from the dissolution of the social contract by the non-provision of basic services to citizens, to the lacklustre performance of the economy. In fact, the weakening of the state has spread like a cancer, with its more recent manifestations including shenanigans in unexpected (but entirely predictable) places: the Pakistan Cricket Board, the nosedive in hockey and squash, and the pathetic, petty self-serving squabble in the Pakistan Olympics Association.

More dangerously, it has given cause to citizens to manifest their discontent and neglect by the state in often violent ways. It is of little surprise that the fires of secession rage in Balochistan — it remains the most neglected and backward region of Pakistan, with the colonial model of governance applied by the centre ensuring appropriation of resources — and ‘voice’ — by a corrupt elite. To what extent the TTP-led insurgency has similar roots is moot at this stage, given that its leadership has an external agenda and support, but the drawing of thousands of angry men and women to the streets of Islamabad on the call of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) certainly represents the failure of the state at multiple levels.

The ongoing saga on Constitution Avenue has highlighted our institutional decline in many instructive ways. The selective application of the law — and its selective forbearance — was demonstrated in the run-up to the protests by both the expedient serving of retroactive tax notices on Dr Qadri, several years after the alleged commission of tax evasion, and removal of barricades from around his Model Town residence. Rather than that these simple administrative actions were taken in an impersonal, impartial manner as a state response to a transgression or violation of law, they had to be initiated at the discretion of the highest authority in the province, and that too only after Dr Qadri emerged as a political ‘threat’. The non-registration of the FIR against the powerful in the province for the killing of 14 PAT workers, in an unnecessary, excessive show of force, is another reminder of how the system is designed to help those at the helm, and the connected, to evade the rule of law.

The refusal to understand our stagnation or decline as a state — and of the economy — through an ‘institutional’ prism has cost us dearly: we have been left groping for tactical-level ‘administrative’ or anti-cyclical responses to larger issues. (In 2005, in response to my analysis of the then recently-launched ‘Failed States Index’ by Foreign Policy magazine, which included a plea that the underlying analysis should be taken more seriously, the prime minister sent me a message. His response: I should stop thinking ‘like an Indian’ ie being deliberately disparaging of Pakistan!)

Even today, while the creeping institutional atrophy has become increasingly clear to even the most sceptical, its impact on our economic performance remains less clear. I have now been engaged in a low-key debate with some noted economists for the past three years about the notion of Pakistan being a ‘resilient’ state and whether the decline of the economy is secular or not, and to what extent this is related to institutional factors.

Against this backdrop, what do the two separate protest marches that have congregated in front of parliament in Islamabad, mean? Both the parties believe that the non-implementation of the Constitution and rule of law have led to the present state of affairs, and since members of the current political dispensation are ‘insiders’ who benefit from the status quo, and hence have little or no incentive to change, only ‘people’s power’ can bring about meaningful change.

It is both ironic as well as unfortunate, that those who believe in constitutional democracy should resort to bringing a mob of several thousand onto the streets to press for their seemingly just demands. The unintended consequences of these actions have clearly not been thought through. While the electoral system is indeed set up to favour ruling elites, and the judicial system has not given too much confidence that it is not co-opted and working for the protection of the status quo, the demand for genuine change has been growing — not least due to PTI’s emergence as a force for change. Abandoning the path of constitutionalism, negating parliamentary practices and norms, and resorting to mob rule sends a perverse signal to the multitude of aggrieved groups in Pakistan: the only way to redress your grievances is through a demonstration of street power.

The call for a civil disobedience movement can lead towards fiscal anarchy as it inadvertently reinforces the narrative of tax evasion dominant in the country: why should I pay my taxes, what does the state give me in return?

Another negative consequence of bringing people onto the streets is that it may potentially slow down much-needed economic reform by making the government even more cautious. Finally, perhaps the most damaging unintended consequence could be that these protests could undermine the very agenda for meaningful institutional reform that the PTI stands for. By losing its core support base, PTI could weaken as an electoral force and end up strengthening the forces of the status quo. While institutional reform is imperative, how we achieve it is equally important.

The writer is a former economic adviser to government, and currently heads a macroeconomic consultancy based in Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2014

Looking for some method

Asha’ar Rehman

A long march is tiring. A seemingly confused, dithering pursuit of the marchers should be even more energy-sapping for the pursuers as it is irritating for the onlookers. And if the chaser happens to be a government it may have more than an aching body to show for its troubles, like the apparent bruises and desperation that capped the PML-N’s latest tag-along journey on the Lahore-Islamabad route this past week.

A long march is tiring. A seemingly confused, dithering pursuit of the marchers should be even more energy-sapping for the pursuers as it is irritating for the onlookers. And if the chaser happens to be a government it may have more than an aching body to show for its troubles, like the apparent bruises and desperation that capped the PML-N’s latest tag-along journey on the Lahore-Islamabad route this past week.

Is it as simple as that or was there some method to the constant retreat by the PML-N government in the face of the marchers? And how much of this retreat was natural, as caused by the marchers’ push, and how much of it was manufactured to create the needed placating impression that the government was offering concessions to their challengers?

That there was going to be a march was a foregone conclusion from the outset. People subscribing to various views found their own justification for this inevitability, the most fashionable and most believable of the theories still being the one that envisaged powerful handlers pulling the strings of those determined to take their case to Islamabad.

Also, the government had to contend with a precedent even though it hardly fitted its own size and its own circumstances. Less than two years ago, the PPP government had dealt amicably with a long march by Dr Tahirul Qadri, who now led one of the two marches on the capital. Thus after giving competition to the PML-N as its original adversary, the PPP was back to haunt the PML-N — surprise, surprise — with a ‘good example’ from the past.

The comparison was flawed. The PPP’s response then was shaped by a realisation of its own strength — weakness actually — rather than anything else. Berated as the worst government in decades, the PPP hardly had the power at its disposal to react in any other manner than it did: waiting for the Qadri marchers to cool down in freezing nights before the likes of Qamar Zaman Kaira were sent over with a resolution.

There wasn’t much Dr Qadri could have aimed to extract out of an Asif Zardari set-up that was walking lamely on its last legs. The government was counting its days before an election was to be held and was in no position to offer more than the promise of some electoral reforms and end it all amid smiles meant to convey its own sense of victory over the protesters. The end then did manage to create the impression — illusion? — which added to Zardari’s reputation of being a master of reconciliation, which could itself have been a trait based in a lack of choices.

The latest Nawaz Sharif government could not be compared to that shaky set-up barely held together ‘by the genius of Asif Zardari’. This was a heavy-mandated government which could be likened to only one government of the past, Nawaz’s own that came about after the 1997 sweep of Punjab by the PML-N. His strength was his weakness as it exposed Nawaz to greater demands by the protesting marchers, his predicament complicated by the fact that the challenge came so early into his tenure, and by the standard theory about the military establishment and the halters it wanted to place around his neck.

The handlers’ part was something the PML-N had little control over. That had to be pondered over and decided when the hidden agenda was, beyond the dropping of hints and indications, revealed in full. In the given situation, perhaps, it was not too bad that it had refrained from giving out any concessions to those who were visible — the marchers — and had a few offers up its sleeve by the time the procession entered the red zone in Islamabad.

If it came to striking a hard bargain the government had a few choices. Running Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was still enough of a charm for the PTI to be in two minds about discarding the system. In the case of Dr Qadri, the government through its delaying tactics could make a huge concession by agreeing to register an FIR of the June 17 killing of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek workers in Lahore.

The Shahbaz Sharif set-up in Punjab had seemed so very confused in dealing with this ‘routine’ legal matter, and it had been squarely blamed for its inefficiency, but was it pure luck and accident that it had this matter of the FIR in its hand as it sat down to negotiating a compromise? An FIR with the names of the prime minister and the chief minister was a little risky but this was what gave it its value. It was by no means a small offering, the rulers presenting themselves for a murder investigation. The country had not seen a bigger sacrifice for democracy than this.

The organisers of the ‘azadi’ and ‘inqilab’ march may not have found public support on the scale they had been looking for. The government may have always appeared to be behind them. But perhaps the apparent ‘confusion’ with which the powerful governments in Punjab and Islamabad tackled the challenge was not bereft of method. Perhaps it was not as crazy as those wont to comparing the powerful Sharif set-up with the compromised Zardari government thought it was. The Sharifs did what they could as opposed to Zardari who did not do what he could not.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2014

Strengthening PCB

Zafar Altaf

Pakistan cricket was doing reasonably well before intrigue took over. In the last couple of years, there have been so many changes at the highest level that the game of cricket perforce has suffered. Why is the position of the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman so attractive that all kinds of people jockey for it, and, with the appointment of a new PCB chief, what are the requirements that would render a person suitable for the job?

Pakistan cricket was doing reasonably well before intrigue took over. In the last couple of years, there have been so many changes at the highest level that the game of cricket perforce has suffered. Why is the position of the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman so attractive that all kinds of people jockey for it, and, with the appointment of a new PCB chief, what are the requirements that would render a person suitable for the job?

I have seen many PCB chiefs come and go. Some did a good job, others performed their duties tolerably well but a fair lot of them were self-centred, in fact selfish, using cricket assets to pursue their own ends.

At present, Pakistani society is going through a strange phase and any analysis must be in that context. I will not focus on other countries here, despite my considerable experience and discussions with the likes of Don Bradman, John Arlott, and Polly Umrigar and having seen the performance of cricket board chiefs of various countries at the International Cricket Council, where I attended five meetings with the then Pakistan Board of Control for Cricket president Hafiz Kardar.

What are the qualities needed in a PCB chief? The first and foremost is that his knowledge of cricket must be above average; he must be someone with a deep understanding of the game and its compulsions.

Leadership qualities emanate from a selfless personality in which the game and the players are placed above any silly rule or regulation and the ego of the chairman. I have seen many Pakistan cricket chiefs dragged down the reputation of the game because they lack this essential quality of selflessness.

In fact, most PCB chiefs appear to have taken up the post to satisfy their own ego. The PCB is a rich organisation with lots of money, but that money is not meant to be used for projecting oneself. The PCB constitution needs only one amendment, that no chairman of the cricket board will use any financial resources belonging to the latter for travel, not even for official meetings since it is an honorary post. By and large, PCB heads appear to have made considerable use of PCB resources to project themselves.

Besides having a deep knowledge of cricketing matters, PCB chiefs need to show the ability to manage and organise. Past chiefs, barring perhaps Hafiz Kardar, did little for the players.

Leadership qualities in a country such as ours, where systems and institutions are virtually non-existent, mean that the chief has to be a man of many parts. ‘Consilience’ is the word that comes to mind ie he must be able to make decisions that extend beyond the game and cover many other areas, such as image building, negotiating with fellow cricket boards and addressing controversies with potential diplomatic repercussions. In this regard, his qualities of persuasion must be supreme. These will not work unless the person is well respected at home and abroad.

Pakistan cricket — in fact, sports in the country in general — lacks proper management. That is why we are where we are. What is needed is for the PCB chief to be able to give a useful analysis of a situation, and be respected for doing so. Does he have credentials to convince foreign cricket boards? How many people on the board can boast professional output? Has the board the means to persuade foreign teams to come to Pakistan and ensure security for the players that come here? I can recount many mistakes when the Sri Lankans were attacked in Lahore in 2009. We have run out of cricketing friends.

Many PCB chairmen may be intellectually well-endowed in their respective professions but their learning is not necessarily transferable to cricket.

A well developed mind — not brains, for you and I have the same brains as Einstein in terms of weight — that can change the fate of Pakistan’s cricket and provide the pleasure of watching cricket to Pakistani audiences inside Pakistan is needed.

Kardar used his own resources and therefore could be arrogant, but others have often shown conceit without putting in any effort to contribute to the game’s enrichment.

What a pity that the courts had to step in because intrigue and interference was evident in the affairs of the PCB. Lastly, the cricket team is full of icons who have brought glory to the game, and the PCB chief must not be seen to indulge in politics, disregarding them. He must treat them fairly and with respect. The need is not for a person who tries to project his ego but one who gets the job done, while keeping a low profile. At the end of the day, it is the game that should rule.

The writer formerly headed the Pakistan Cricket Board.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2014

Politics is the victim

Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

By any measure, Pakistan is a remarkable country. What has gone on in and around Islamabad’s so-called red zone over the past 10 days or so has confirmed just how dramatic and unpredictable high politics in Pakistan is.

By any measure, Pakistan is a remarkable country. What has gone on in and around Islamabad’s so-called red zone over the past 10 days or so has confirmed just how dramatic and unpredictable high politics in Pakistan is.

Notwithstanding the stakes, however, the drama that has unfolded is likely to deepen the disillusionment that a large number of ordinary people harbour vis-à-vis how this country is run and the role that the proverbial masses play in running it.

Even prior to the advent of 24-hour television, there was little pretence amongst the majority of Pakistan’s people that they could even access the structures of power that exist in this country, let alone change them. For a brief and heady period immediately after live TV channels exploded into our lives, a happy lie persisted that the media would be the fountainhead of change.

Many years later, an incredible number of ordinary people are still sitting riveted in front of their TV screens, but are more convinced than ever that there is no room for them in this choreographed script.

To an extent the people of Punjab may have felt that they were somewhat invested in the whole drama, given that they either watched the marchers from relatively close quarters, or, more significantly, suffered from the numerous blockades within and between cities that disrupted everyday routines. But this still counts as involvement by default; I doubt that too many ordinary Punjabis/Seraikis feel empowered by the whole affair, or believe that its outcome will mark a turnaround in their collective lives.

Pakhtuns were party by virtue of the fact that the PTI runs the government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It is the workers who accompanied Pervez Khattak on the trip from Peshawar to Islamabad on Aug 14 that were the most loyal participants of the ‘azadi march’, given that most of the PTI faithful hailing from Islamabad/Rawalpindi aped their supreme leader’s method of retiring to his home during the day and returning to the protest site after dusk.

Yet I doubt seriously that the Pakhtun nation as a whole is anticipating peace, prosperity and all good things in the wake of Imran’s epic crusade.

The Baloch, as a general rule, have little stake in Pakistani politics inasmuch as they are almost completely invisible within the mainstream. My sense is that Baloch political workers who would otherwise pay some attention are too incensed about the report just released by the Khuzdar mass grave commission to really care about the theatrics playing out in Islamabad.

The commission exonerated the military and the ‘agencies’ from any role in the Khuzdar killings. Unsurprisingly, it did not disclose who was responsible.

That leaves Sindh. While the two big parties from the province have been busy trying to play a ‘responsible’ political role in ending the stand-off, it is hard not to notice that Sindhis — less so Mohajirs — are completely excluded from the power game playing out on our TV screens.

As much as any other ethnic nation, ordinary Sindhis are alienated from the structures of power within which they are ensconced. Unknown to us, because the media refuses to report on it is the fact that over the past few months more than a handful of Sindhi nationalists have been ‘disappeared’ and killed in much the same way as has been happening in Balochistan. Needless to say, then, Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri are hardly representing Sindhi popular sentiment.

Indeed, given how high-stakes the Qadri-Imran show is, and just how much of a disconnect there is between a vast majority of Pakistan’s people and the drama on our TV screens, it does not take a rocket scientist to recognise that the players in the game are not limited only to the usual suspects within the country.

In recent years, Pakistan has garnered a tremendous amount of coverage in the international press during every political ‘crisis’ on account of its being a nuclear-armed state and the clear and ever-present danger posed by the militant right wing. Yet on this occasion reporting beyond the country’s borders has been sparse.

Meanwhile foreign governments have had surprisingly little to say; the State Department has only issued a couple of cautiously worded, and vague statements about the imperative of defending democracy replete with the right to assemble and protest.

Speculation about the role being played by the army, America and any host of other big players aside, the current episode has confirmed that there is no space in Pakistan’s power game for the ordinary people who make this country tick. Even the design and outcome of popular uprisings can be manipulated by the powers-that-be. There may already have been a happy (or sad) ending by the time this column sees the light of day. In any case, politics is the casualty.

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

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2014

The lost week that was

I.A. Rehman

Regardless of the final outcome of the weeklong marches and dharnas, Pakistan seems to have been put back under authoritarian control and this is likely to impose heavy costs on the state and the people in the days to come.

Regardless of the final outcome of the weeklong marches and dharnas, Pakistan seems to have been put back under authoritarian control and this is likely to impose heavy costs on the state and the people in the days to come.

The demands Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri made were political and they struck a sympathetic chord in many a citizen’s heart, but neither of them had the credentials of an anti-authoritarian democrat. They laced their slogans of freedom and revolution with patchy references to history and thus failed to attract the revolutionary core in labour and peasantry.

Also the plight of Balochistan and Sindh did not figure in their concerns and this reduced their challenge to a largely intra-Punjab affair, reinforcing the view that, for the powers that be, Pakistan only means Punjab. At best, they only established themselves as coup-makers without uniforms. They owe their glory to a heavy-footed government that saw safety in making itself invisible and left the public space open to them. The government won credit by following the advice to eschew use of force but this is unlikely to help it alter the script.

The march-dharna confrontation has exposed the state’s vulnerability to upheavals caused by lack of proper governance. The government has failed on two main counts.

Firstly, it treated political challenges as law-and-order matters. Considerable resources were wasted on plans to prevent the marchers from leaving Lahore. The sudden lifting of roadblocks gave the crowd a sense of victory that encouraged it to push forward. The story was repeated again and again till the final retreat on Tuesday evening.

Besides, the government wrongly relied on the police to manage the crowds although they have repeatedly been found deficient in this area. If nothing else, the mess the Lahore police had made outside Tahirul Qadri’s office two months earlier should have convinced the authorities of the ineffectiveness of this approach. Made to answer for the Model Town excesses the police were too demoralised to take on the challengers in Lahore or Islamabad.

Secondly, the government courted trouble by appearing to be without a political response to the situation created by the two marches. By allowing normal life in Islamabad to be suspended, the government handed the agitators a concession they had not earned. It needed to keep its opponents at bay without allowing the administration to collapse.

Above all, the prime minister failed to realise that parliament alone could underwrite his claim to legitimacy. He should have faced the charge all the time from Parliament House. This way he could have prevented the challengers from monopolising the media outlets.

Mercifully, not everybody was carried away by the marchers’ chant. The Supreme Court rightly resisted being drawn into the unsavoury affair though one wished the practice of taking political matters to courts had ceased.

Most of the political parties that tried their hands at mediation won respect by deciding against taking advantage of the government’s difficulties. But they must accept blame for lack of clarity in their initiatives. The government was frequently advised to offer some sacrifice to save the system, but the Good Samaritans were long on generalised homilies and short on specifics of compromise formulas.

One was reminded of an abduction-for-ransom situation in which the victim family is advised to meet the kidnappers’ demand to some extent in order to ensure the safety of the kidnapped person. These intermediaries would have garnered strong public support if they had spelt out the steps the government could have taken to defuse the situation.

While no one can see a peaceful and fair resolution of the situation as it developed yesterday, the fact that our fledgling democracy’s progress towards maturity has been severely undermined cannot be denied. Democratic politics is an arena for contest between democratic parties that have clearly defined agendas and not for duels between individual claimants to power that we have been witnessing since last Thursday.

Tahirul Qadri can mobilise a crowd but we know little about his party structure. Imran Khan has a party structure of sorts but he apparently treats his core committee the way a cricket captain deals with the ‘boys’ on the field and in the dressing room. By personalising his tussle with Nawaz Sharif he has moved away from impersonal politics that democracy demands.

In the common man’s eyes those accusing Nawaz Sharif of being a badshah are also displaying robes and entertaining ambitions that bear the imperial stamp. Finally, the call for change is not accompanied by properly defined alternatives to what is wrong with the state.

The fears that Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri have set a precedent for more extremist forces are not unfounded. If students from Pakistani madressahs could contribute to the Taliban’s victories in Afghanistan they will be easily persuaded to repeat their performance in Pakistan.

Only a few days ago, a religious leader warned the state that the madressah legions were strong enough to seize power. Does the state have the resources to beat off new waves of marches and dharnas, or more serious challenges? The experience of the past few days does not encourage much optimism.

One cannot help feeling sorry for Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri that they have chosen to destroy institutions which, under better promoters, they could have strengthened and stabilised.

The moral of the story is that on the one hand Pakistan must quickly return to democratic ways and build clean and efficient institutions of representative and responsible governance, and on the other, the political parties should sit together to lay down ground rules for their conduct as one another’s friends and adversaries.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2014

PTI’s empty threats

Khurram Husain

Consider some of the threats being made by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in connection with its call for ‘civil disobedience’. They say, for instance, that the public will not be paying any electricity or gas bills, and if the centre should respond by cutting off electricity supplies to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, they will cut off power supply from Tarbela Dam.

Consider some of the threats being made by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in connection with its call for ‘civil disobedience’. They say, for instance, that the public will not be paying any electricity or gas bills, and if the centre should respond by cutting off electricity supplies to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, they will cut off power supply from Tarbela Dam.

I wonder if Mr Mushtaq Ghani, the information minister of the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who made this threat, has ever been to Tarbela. The dam has a large powerhouse with a generation capacity of 3500MW. Downstream from the powerhouse is the Ghazi Barotha hydropower project, with an additional capacity of 1300MW.

Both power stations are run by Wapda, a federal entity. The electricity produced from these stations is evacuated to a number of grid stations from Peshawar to Burhan on the left bank of the Indus. The grid stations and their transmission network is handled by the National Transmission & Despatch Company which sells it on to the eight distribution companies of the country.

At no point does the electricity travel through any office controlled by the PTI or its government. So how exactly do they intend to deliver on this threat to cut off electricity supplies from Tarbela? Both Wapda and NTDC are federal entities and report to the Ministry of Water and Power and are not likely to take instructions from the PTI or its government in KP.

The only way they could cut off this electricity would be to physically force their way into the Tarbela powerhouse and shut it off themselves, or to sabotage the transmission infrastructure, threats that nobody is likely to take seriously.

Take another example. The party leadership is saying that their government in KP will not collect taxes in response to their party’s call for civil disobedience. A brief glance at the KP provincial budget is enough to tell you that this is simply not workable.

The province has budgeted Rs404 billion expenditures for the ongoing fiscal year. The total budgeted revenue is also Rs404bn, of which revenues from taxes controlled by the provincial government are barely Rs25bn. The largest chunk of the revenues to pay for this expenditure comes from what is called the Federal Divisible Pool, which is taxes collected by the centre and then transferred to the provinces according to a formula in the National Finance Commission Award.

So if the KP government does not want to collect taxes any longer, who will be hit the hardest? The provincial government itself, and then it will have to face up to some basic questions. Without the revenue, will it also cut expenditures accordingly? If so, are they prepared to stop payment of salaries to government personnel, including teachers and police and staff at the secretariat? Or will they cut their development budget, which means stopping work on pet projects like some micro-hydel schemes, and then paying for massive cost overruns whenever work resumes?

They could continue running the government and meeting its bills by running into overdraft with the State Bank, but they should know that the bank has in the past felt free to bounce provincial government cheques when it felt that the provincial authorities were being irresponsible in managing their finances.

Then they threaten to stop collecting electricity and gas bills. First of all, the power to collect these bills belongs to the Peshawar Electric Supply Company, which is technically under the federal government and the order to stop collecting bills will have to come from there. If customers stop paying their bills we’ll know the PTI’s call is being answered in large numbers, but if they don’t stop we’ll know they are being ignored in their own constituency.

But more importantly, what will be the effects of stopping bill collection in KP? The distribution company buys just under 7,000 units of electricity from the national grid at an average price of Rs10.45 per unit, and sells it to a customer base of just under three million all told. Because of a difference in the determined and notified price, there is a subsidy element of almost Rs35bn in its finances where total sales revenue is projected at Rs164bn.

Can someone from the PTI please explain how they propose Pesco continue making its power purchase payments if they will not be collecting bills? Will the company borrow commercially? Or will it only come back and bill the consumers later, once this whole mess has blown over? Keep in mind that the distribution company had only just emerged from the damaging effects of a Peshawar High Court judgement that had disallowed it from collecting fuel price adjustment charges, a judgement that was overturned by the Supreme Court just this past April.

The damage done to the company’s finances is substantial, and to add to their problems, the writ petition had been filed by the KP government itself, back in 2011. Now, just as they had that business sorted out, along comes the call to stop paying bills.

The threats being issued, and the demands being made show a fundamental disconnect with reality. There is no way the party or its provincial government can deliver on these threats, or live with their consequences. It is worrying that senior political figures, holding responsibility for the running of a provincial government machinery, would say these sorts of things, which amount to cutting off your own nose to spite your enemy.

Even more worrying is the thought that these threats are not even serious. This kind of politics runs completely contrary to the image of itself that the PTI has sought to portray, as a party committed to good governance, to professionalism in its approach, to taking economic matters seriously. Apparently all that was just talk.

For a party that prided itself on being the first to produce a vision document for economic revival as part of its campaign, and for producing a white paper on the government’s economic performance, to show this cavalier attitude towards critical economic issues such as power sector recoveries and tax compliance is a very sad revelation of its true colours.

The writer is a member of staff.

khurram.husain

Twitter: @khurramhusain

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2014

Policemen’s rights

Mohammad Ali Babakhel

Images of policemen’s funerals and of injured personnel of the force have become all too common. Owing to high levels of violence in society policing has emerged as perhaps the most hazardous profession. To address the situation structural police reforms are needed.

Images of policemen’s funerals and of injured personnel of the force have become all too common. Owing to high levels of violence in society policing has emerged as perhaps the most hazardous profession. To address the situation structural police reforms are needed.

The killing of some 100 policemen in Karachi in the last 200 days is an eye-opener and indicator of growing violence against police. Last year, Karachi lost 166 policemen. In Pakistan, Peshawar, Karachi and Quetta have registered a rising trend of police casualties.

Since 1970 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 1,379 policemen sacrificed their lives. From 1970 to 1980, KP lost 44 personnel, 78 from 1981-1990, while from 1991-2000 the province lost 139 policemen. Since 9/11, in KP 1,118 policemen have been killed. With 201 killings of policemen in 2009, the KP police recorded its highest ever losses in a year.

Since 1970, Peshawar police has lost 378 policemen. On the other hand, since 1979 the Balochistan police has lost 616 policemen, including 239 from Quetta.

Escalating violence against police personnel is not just limited to big cities; the phenomenon also persists in districts bordering Fata.

As the majority of cases of police killings are registered against unknown accused, without the cooperation of the community and proper evidence it’s difficult to trace the killers.

According to the Indian National Crime Records Bureau, during 2011, in 25 states 867 policemen were killed. Out of those killed, 616 were constables and head constables and only three were gazetted officers. The highest number of deaths occurred in Chhattisgarh. In India, as compared to the casualties of 2010, in 2011 a decrease of 2.7pc was witnessed.

Globally, Afghanistan endures one of the highest police casualty rates. According to the Brookings Institution, during 2007 to 2010, 3,290 Afghan policemen were killed. During the last three years, casualties have surged.

In South Africa, on an average 100 police officers are killed annually. But critics say if the police want to reduce their losses, the force should operate within the legal mandate as reportedly, 566 South Africans were killed in police operations in 2010.

In the US, leading police officials have termed increased violence against the force as a ‘war on cops’. However, critics have termed it an excuse to use excessive force against citizens.

Owing to increased violence globally, police forces have added more firepower and equipment that is used by militaries. Consequently, the police are losing the battle to portray a friendly public image.

To directly hit the morale of the police, training centres in Pakistan have also been attacked. Attacks on Manawan (Lahore), Hangu and Quetta training colleges are a few incidents. In Afghanistan, in 2007 the head of the police training school in Qandahar was killed. In that country even the families of policemen have been targeted by insurgents.

The major question pertains to the welfare of the families of policemen slain in the line of duty. Ninety per cent of policemen killed in action from KP police were in their thirties; on an average each left behind two children less than 10 years besides young widows and aged parents.

Despite financial constraints the KP government has increased compensation for families of slain police personnel from Rs500,000 to Rs30,00,000. From 2008 to 2014, the KP police paid Rs1,649.5 million to their families. During the last four years Rs387.7m was released for the purchase of plots and Rs36.54m for the education of the children of slain policemen.

In India, to pay homage to those who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty, different police services commemorate special days at the state level. The postal department also issues a police martyrs’ special stamp.

In Pakistan all police services should plan the commemoration of ‘Police Shuhada Day’. It will help motivate the force and honour those who have fallen. To remember slain police personnel, a national police martyrs’ monument has been established in police lines, Islamabad. Such memorials also exist in the police lines of Quetta and Peshawar. Since all such memorials are located in restricted areas and thus cannot be accessed easily by ordinary people, a national police memorial needs to be established at a public place.

Training in accordance with prevailing challenges is essential. In the majority of cases policemen were victims of either gunfire or improvised explosive devices. After recruitment, training needs special attention. To update training modules it is imperative to carry out needs’ assessments. Self-protection, physical fitness, use of firearms and orientation regarding explosives must be included in the training curriculum.

The loss of senior officers badly affects the morale of police, hence protection protocols regarding their personal security also need review.

In civilised societies, the death of a single policeman is interpreted as a challenge to the state and blow to the society. Therefore, we should not forget those who have protected us with their blood.

The writer is a police officer.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2014

Beyond democracy

Nizar Diamond Ali

Democracy is today considered the most desirable and successful form of government. In part, this has to do with the fall of the world’s major monarchies and autocracies after the First World War and the collective voice of democratic Allied forces after their victory in the Second World War. After the fall of the last counter-democracy centre of power in former Soviet Union in the early ’90s, there has been no significant worldwide governance model that rivals democracy.

Democracy is today considered the most desirable and successful form of government. In part, this has to do with the fall of the world’s major monarchies and autocracies after the First World War and the collective voice of democratic Allied forces after their victory in the Second World War. After the fall of the last counter-democracy centre of power in former Soviet Union in the early ’90s, there has been no significant worldwide governance model that rivals democracy.

Yet, in the world’s most populous regions — Asia and Africa — the benefits of democracy have not reached the common people in many parts. Despite revolutions or regime changes resulting in the ousting of some long-standing dictators in the Middle East, the region continues to be wracked by violence and new power players are still emerging as a challenge to the nascent democracies.

Where democracy is still holding ground, as in Pakistan, key performance indicators impacting the public at large have miserably failed to show substantial improvements.

The oft-arising question of whether or not these outcomes point to a failure of democracy itself, is in fact out of place. This is because over a period of time, the word ‘democracy’ has come to be used as a catchphrase promising the only silver lining available to the masses. On the other hand, the principles of democracy, such as transparency in governance and performance measurement are not brought into public discourse in Pakistan as much as the need for having democracy.

Hence the narrative to support democracy takes the shape of it being the ‘best revenge’, and its worst form being far better than the best dictatorship.

For such a comparison to hold, there must exist statistically correct and verifiable information on public well-being that is widely accepted. This obscurity around data, eg public expenditure and development budget utilisation etc, gives virtual impunity to policy- and decision-makers to act without worrying about the consequences of public scrutiny.

Take, for example, basic operations such as raising internal and external debts via direct loans, participating in IMF programmes, issuing bonds in the international market or printing currency notes. In Pakistan, decisions to undertake these financial activities, which have an immediate impact on inflation and long-term consequences on the country’s economic health, are not arrived at through adequate participation or approval by the people’s elected representatives in parliament.

Moreover, democracy must also allow for the public to ask questions and obtain answers about the government’s day-to-day working and its long-term planning for the country, including foreign policy. The lack of internal democratic processes is clearly evident in the political parties themselves, and their nominations for party office-bearers, assembly seats, and the position of prime minister. Often, the party heads and their close relatives retain control of the party with an iron hand before and after the elections. Apart from the need for electoral parties to demonstrate democratic norms, it’s also equally important that the election is transparent and not questioned by anyone. This must be done structurally, eg through use of modern technologies such as electronic voting systems.

However, these views about democracy and transparency can only be vouched for when there is enough faith in the democratic process itself within the country. With continued deterioration in public health and education, increased cost of living, growing income inequality, decreased per capita income and poor performance against nearly all international assessment para­meters such as Millen­nium Development Goals, Humans Rights Watch, Human Deve­lop­­ment Index and Transpa­rency In­­ter­na­tional, some ask whe­ther democracy is suited for a country like Pakistan, as those elected to govern repeatedly fail in providing better quality of life to the people who elect them.

On top of poor performance against the development indicators mentioned above and lack of data available to the public to make self-assessments on the progress and direction of elected governments, political actions such as the infamous National Reconciliation Ordinance raise questions about the purpose of democracy. Is democracy in Pakistan about the people or about democrats ensuring their re-election while the masses in general suffer? Add to this the lack of visible accountability of public officers for mismanagement of disasters, such as the severe drought in Thar this year or the burning alive of people in the Karachi airport attack. Democracy thus appears an opaque and self-serving idea that benefits the same ruling elite.

For democracy to flourish in Pakistan, it has to claim a few sustained improvements in the lives of people whom it is supposed to serve, in a clear and transparent manner. Until this happens, the long marches and calls for ‘revolution’ demanding a change in the system rather than bringing in reforms for greater transparency and accountability in the existing democratic system will continue to haunt democracy in Pakistan.

The writer is a freelance contributor.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2014

The last episode

Zahid Hussain

The political soap opera being currently played on the capital’s stage is getting more melodramatic. The story is unfolding strictly according to the script in this season of ‘revolutions’. It begins with the march on Islamabad. Now we are into the second episode: the storming of the ‘red zone’. What next? Breakdown of the order and entrance of the arbiter. There is little suspense about the ending, but the next episode is going to be critical.

The political soap opera being currently played on the capital’s stage is getting more melodramatic. The story is unfolding strictly according to the script in this season of ‘revolutions’. It begins with the march on Islamabad. Now we are into the second episode: the storming of the ‘red zone’. What next? Breakdown of the order and entrance of the arbiter. There is little suspense about the ending, but the next episode is going to be critical.

If not macabre, at the very least the situation is bizarre. Imran Khan came to storm the citadel of power and destroy the old order, but may have killed his own and his party’s political future in the bargain. He is trying to rock the boat that may sink him too. His call for civil disobedience followed by the decision to resign from the assemblies is a high-stakes game that he may never win.

Imran Khan seems to have boxed himself and his party in a blind alley with no exit. One wonders if there is any logic behind this apparent madness. How can a leader of a major political party be so thoughtless in his decisions — decisions that not only threaten the entire system but also politically isolate him and his party?

He may be strictly following a prepared script, but the situation seems to be getting out of control. Can there be a new twist to the story? One is not sure. We still have to wait for the end of the political stage show gripping the capital. It may not be too long now, with the fast unfolding situation.

Away from the screen and the 24/7 hysteria, it was a different story on the ground at the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s dharna. It was not even remotely close to the ‘massive sea of humanity’ as projected by party leaders and some television commentators. Over the next five days, it turned into a part-time dharna with the protesters reassembling in the evenings — almost corresponding to prime time TV viewership — to listen to the unending rants of their leaders with the blare of song and music in the background. The atmosphere was more festive than charged with revolutionary zeal.

The disconnect between the leadership and the audience could not be more obvious. While the leaders would return to the comfort of their place of residence after the end of the late-night dharna sessions, those who came from other towns were left to spend nights in the rain. It was a chaotic setting for the struggle that promised to deliver change.

Just a few minutes’ walk across the road it was a completely different milieu where Qadri is staging his separate dharna, a round-the-clock vigil with leaders fully integrated with the cadres and the crowd much bigger and more organised and disciplined.

What has been most impressive is the huge participation of women and those who are surely more ideologically motivated. Qadri’s support comes largely from the educated lower middle class. It is a mix of religious and political following. Notwithstanding his highly questionable background such dedicated support is remarkable.

A powerful demagogue, Qadri has upstaged Imran Khan with his more radical pitch. He proclaims himself a revolutionary in the “cast of Marx and Lenin with a strong Islamic shade”. His ‘revolutionary manifesto’ presents the outline of a ‘utopia’ where everyone will be equal. In contrast, what has been lost on the kaptan is that politics is not a game of cricket. Not being in electoral politics Qadri has nothing to lose, whatever the outcome of this confrontation.

But most intriguing has been the complete disappearance from the scene of the prime minister, regarded as the villain of the piece. He has not emerged since the Aug 14 Independence Day ceremonies where his glum expression was most noticeable. He is occasionally seen in the news in a huddle with his brother. His seems to be getting more dysfunctional in the face of the Khan/Qadri challenge. The suspicion of the military backing the anti-government marches seems to have compounded his inertia.

His decision to set up a Supreme Court commission to investigate the allegations of fraud in the last parliamentary elections is not only too little too late, but may not even be implemented because of some legal and constitutional hitches. Both Imran Khan and Qadri have closed doors on any offer for talks.

A new political alignment is emerging as the threat of the winding up of the system becomes real. All major political parties have closed ranks as the country descends into chaos. Even the Jamaat-i-Islami, the PTI’s only political ally, is not willing to support its decision to quit the assemblies and call for civil disobedience.

The destructive politics of the PTI seems to have given Sharif some space to regain his initiative. The support of parliament still is the biggest strength for the prime minister provided he wakes up from his deep slumber. But it may already be too late. His options are running out as he gets more deeply mired in the turbulent waters. Even support from other political forces is not much of help. The balance of power is already shifted to Rawalpindi.

Once again Pakistani politics has taken a unique twist just when a feeling had crept in of a return to the democratic process. Whatever the outcome of the last episodes of the melodrama, it has broken that slow reassurance amongst most Pakistanis. This confidence, important both for citizens and our image internationally, has been broken by the kaptan leaving deep scars on Pakistan’s already bleeding politics.

The vacuum created by the confrontation would inevitably be filled by horsemen already in the saddle. Sharif is paying the ultimate price for his hubris, ineptness and more importantly for his conflict with the military. The sound of the boots is getting louder, pushing the country deeper into a state of uncertainty and instability.

The writer is an author and journalist.

zhussain100

Twitter: @hidhussain

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2014

Words of a woman

Rafia Zakaria

Last week, while Pakistan and India both celebrated their respective birthdays, and the nationalist fervour that is considered requisite on such occasions on both sides of the border hogged the attentions and emotions of the public, another birthday slipped by.

Last week, while Pakistan and India both celebrated their respective birthdays, and the nationalist fervour that is considered requisite on such occasions on both sides of the border hogged the attentions and emotions of the public, another birthday slipped by.

Ismat Chughtai, one of the most renowned and astute literary voices of the subcontinent, was born on Aug 15. As is the case with most of the subcontinent’s contested history, the year of Ismat Chughtai’s birth is in question, with some records showing it to have occurred in the year 1911 and others dating it to 1915.

Ever mischievous and provocative, Ismat Chughtai did little to remove the confusion regarding her exact age. Perhaps as a writer of fiction, she meant it to be an illustration of the subjectivity and elusiveness of the truth itself.

Instead, Ismat Chughtai’s commitment to the truth was of a far more fervent and passionate sort. In her essay In the Name of Married Women, she speaks of her visceral reaction to the romanticised writing of another contemporary writer, Hijab Imtiaz Ali.

Reading the latter’s rose-hued descriptions of the lives of young women and girls, Ismat rankled. In protest, she wrote her own story, a comparison of her own childhood against the halcyon one memorialised in Hijab’s writings.

Ismat’s recollection was violent and disciplinary, its centrepiece her being beaten by the maulvi sahib for her inability to memorise certain verses of the Holy Quran by heart. The editor of Tehzeeb-i-Niswan, Mumtaz Ali, rejected the essay and sent back a stern reprimand chiding her insolence.

The essay, entitled Bachpan (childhood), would be published later but it would not be Ismat Chughtai’s only altercation with authority, nor her only rebellion against the romanticism of the writers of the time.

As literary critics have noted, Ismat Chughtai was a ‘photographic’ writer; her aim was to capture the caustic and corrosive realities of a society caught in the claws of change. Hers was not the task of stringing together words that would substantiate the status quo, the dreamy purity of the girls enjoying life behind purdah or the selfless mothering of women who gave birth every year.

Instead, she revealed the dissolution and despair of women whose only access to the world beyond was through their artful manipulation of men.

As she recalled in her biographical essay, Dust of the Caravan, her own mother was largely fed up of child-bearing by the time Ismat came along, leaving the child’s upbringing to servants and siblings who were often distracted and sometimes cruel in their temperamental attentions. The result was the ferocious, slightly feral little girl, immortalised in Terhi Lakeer, a literary counterpoint to the submissive, sweet and eternally happy little girl of the more frequent fictive constructions of the time.

Now, almost a century after Ismat Chughtai’s birth, no other female Sub-continental writer can claim to have done the same with the same — to have excised the myths heaped on misogyny to make it acceptable, even welcome, to women. It was Ismat Chughtai who wrote with blunt honesty of her own mother’s opposition to her education. In Dust of the Caravan, she quoted her mother as saying: “This is a man’s world, made and distorted by man. A woman is a tiny part of this world and man has made her the object of his own love and hatred.”

Women, living in a patriarchal society, she thus revealed, internalised the mores of men, hating themselves and resorting to deception and manipulation and becoming obsessed with trivialities and pettiness. In many of her stories, female characters are accessories to the injustices of men, willingly enforcing male-imposed restrictions on their own.

Those were the tragedies of the time when Ismat Chughtai lived and wrote. The challenge of Muslim women then was of subverting a two-headed colonisation. There was the larger theme of overthrowing the British Empire, whose divide-and-rule policies were well known to have mired Indian Muslims in a quagmire of self-detestation and apathy.

In addition, and exclusive to Muslim women, was the task of throwing off the oppressions of segregation and purdah which left them inert and disconnected from the public sphere.

Embracing the independent future required unshackling Muslim women from both, a washing away of the sinister sorcery of the British, whose mirrors showed the natives as ignorant, unwashed, brown, and barbaric; and then a second disinfecting from the equally insidious aspersions of men, who made them instruments of their own subjection.

It was perhaps too tall an order, for even the passage of 100 or so years had yielded little progress. Ismat Chughtai passed away, taking with her the acid reductions with which she distilled a hypocritical feminine reality, the sharp instruments with which she dissected the denials that perpetuated patriarchy.

It is true that the British are gone now, but the direct subjugation they imposed has been replaced by the more attenuated but just as oppressive machinations of new imperialisms packaged in presents of aid and aeroplanes. Just as it was then, many a man rails and rallies against them, and just like then few provide a recipe beyond the paeans of marches and meetings, promises of new eras that fizzle and fade with the dying day.

The task of freeing women from hatred of themselves remains just as undone; a survey done by BBC Urdu this month reports that 43pc of Pakistani women believe it is a man’s right to beat them if they disobey him. Willing participants in their own ruin, the women of now and the women of Ismat’s stories are hence united, their fates and futures tragically unchanged, connected still by the words of a woman born a century ago.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

rafia.zakaria

Rules of the game

Zubeida Mustafa

It was quite an extraordinary way of celebrating the 67th anniversary of Pakistan’s independence last week. Believing that they could usher in freedom/revolution by bringing their supporters out on the street, Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri succeeded only in creating polarisation and instability in a crisis-ridden country.

It was quite an extraordinary way of celebrating the 67th anniversary of Pakistan’s independence last week. Believing that they could usher in freedom/revolution by bringing their supporters out on the street, Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri succeeded only in creating polarisation and instability in a crisis-ridden country.

The two marches organised by these leaders have evoked strong reactions from political observers. A large segment of pro-democracy opinion views this show of force as an extra-parliamentary move by the opposition that could derail the democratic process and open the door for military intervention. There have also been allegations of collusion between the agitators and elements in the military. Others have defended the people’s right to protest against government excesses. The speculation of regime change has been intertwined with an ongoing discourse on the military-civilian role in politics.

Against this backdrop, comes a new book by a political science lecturer at Princeton, Dr Aqil Shah, The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan which attempts to sort out the chicken or the egg conundrum. Aqil Shah throws his weight unequivocally against the military. He holds the army’s belief system to be responsible for the crisis in Pakistan.

According to him, the military perceives its role to be that of a state institution with the capacity to reconstruct the country through a controlled democracy by “officers trained and socialised in an organisation with strong pressures for conformity and assimilation”. They believe that the military’s disciplinary and despotic solutions can be applied to sociopolitical and economic problems while politicians are rabble rousers lacking this ability.

As a result, the army considers it to be its responsibility to seize power every time it feels the country is at the brink. It is, therefore, the army mindset that needs to be reformed, the writer proposes.

This, no doubt, has been a major obstacle to democracy in Pakistan. But not the only one. Have politicians behaved as guardians of constitutional government? So strong has been the aversion to army rule that political scientists generally blame the army for our failures.

But we need to look at the issue with an open mind. A glance at Pakistan’s history shows that civil society and non-military state actors have also let down the country by acting brashly and creating mayhem that gave the army an open invitation to intervene.

There were occasions when the judiciary, the media (including individual journalists), and politicians who were hand in glove with the men in uniform too paved the way for the latter to the corridors of power. If civilian rulers have been forced time and again to call out the army to assist with security duties, as at present in Islamabad, they themselves are to blame. They have never tried to build up the police as a professional law enforcement force, in fact have corrupted it by interfering politically in its working.

The occasions when the army was given security duties to help the civilian governments are too many. Even symbolically, politicians have sometimes presented the military as ‘legitimate’ rulers. Didn’t Z.A. Bhutto, the first elected leader in Pakistan, agree to become a ‘civilian martial law administrator’ in 1971 after the fall of Dhaka? He went on to appoint Gen Tikka Khan, known as the ‘butcher of Bengal’, as his army chief.

The precedence of a civilian government handing the initiative to the military was set in 1947 within a few weeks of the birth of Pakistan. Aqil Shah notes it though its full significance must be emphasised. It was Liaquat Ali Khan’s cabinet that set the trend. Its decision to organise a “covert mission” to exploit the Muslim revolt in Poonch (Kashmir) in 1947 led it to co-opt Col Akbar Khan, the director of weapons and equipment at the army headquarters, to implement the strategy. The idea was to circumvent the military chain of command (that was British at the time). Apparently, it was this need for secrecy that gave Akbar Khan a free hand to plan and execute the Kashmir infiltration, as he himself admitted.

This point in history appears to be when the ‘rules of the game’ between the civilian government and the army were drawn up. They have not changed. The army has had the upper hand in consolidating these rules in its favour as it has been a unified and cohesive force. The politicians, on the other hand, have been locked in a struggle for the fruits of office. They have never acted as statesmen but as parochial frontrunners whose forte is expediency. Democracy cannot survive in conditions of political apathy and the absence of a democratic culture. On the other hand, military rule thrives in such a scenario which gives the one with armed might the upper hand.

www.zubeidamustafa.com

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2014

Parallel politics

Mahir Ali

It may have made slightly more sense had the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf announced the resignation of its elected representatives from all assemblies but one before Imran Khan embarked on his motorised ‘azadi march’ last Thursday.

It may have made slightly more sense had the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf announced the resignation of its elected representatives from all assemblies but one before Imran Khan embarked on his motorised ‘azadi march’ last Thursday.

It may even have conveyed the impression of something vaguely superior to strategy-making on the hop. It is obviously noticeable that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been left out of the loop, by virtue of the PTI being the largest party in the provincial assembly.

Exiting that particular assembly would have produced the largest effect. But it would also have crystallised a revolt among Imran Khan’s motley crew. Hence the hypocritical exception, even though it may not suffice to soothe ruffled feathers among PTI members of other provincial assemblies and the National Assembly — where the Tehreek is the third largest party, but with only 34 members in a house of 342.

In the run-up to last year’s elections, the PTI appeared to seriously be entertaining delusions of being swept into power in Islamabad. It fell far short of that goal, to put it politely, and ‘massive rigging’ emerged as the inevitable culprit. However, other parties whose popular vote fell well below expectations chose, for the most part, not to latch on to that accusation.

The fact that Imran Khan’s dharna in Islamabad has reportedly attracted only a small fraction of the million protesters he vowed would take to the capital’s streets ought to have reminded him that he has consistently overestimated his support.

The parallel ‘revolutionary’ mobilisation by Canada-based televangelist Tahirul Qadri has been marginally more impressive, but that too fell far short of the promised million.

In both cases this could be interpreted as a reminder that politicians routinely over-promise and under-deliver. And that in some ways Khan and Qadri are not terribly different from those they seek to displace.

Beyond seeking the immediate resignation of the Nawaz Sharif government — a demand that can be seen as undemocratic as well as unconstitutional — their aims are both broadly disparate and ultimately desperate.

Khan wants fresh elections. After a year of the Sharif administration, there’s a fair chance that such an exercise would produce a somewhat different result, but the likelihood of the PTI being returned to power at the national level remains abysmal. Perhaps the PPP would fare better after having been reduced to a largely Sindh-based rump in the wake of Asif Ali Zardari’s dismal presidency, but that’s hardly a particularly encouraging prospect.

Qadri, on the other hand, does not seem to want elections. The panacea he envisages is a national government that would wipe out Pakistan’s multiple ills, from endemic corruption to deeply entrenched disparities of wealth and privilege.

It’s a vision that many people find attractive. It’s deeply flawed, though, in terms of precedence. Above-the-fray technocratic administrations have been experimented with before, notably by Pakistan’s two most recent military dictators. Their failure to produce desirable results is a part of the history that too many Pakistanis choose to ignore.

Qadri’s credentials for offering an alternative to the status quo have never been terribly clear. He told the BBC on Monday that there was no basis for allegations about his relations with the military hierarchy, and that he had never communicated with any chief of the army or ISI.

He added that he sought neither a military dictatorship nor a theocracy — what grabbed him was the idea of a democracy along the lines it is practised in the US, Canada, Britain and the European Union.

One can only wonder whether the founder of Minhajul Quran International, whose website prominently features testimonials from the likes of Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and several other former prime ministers, properly realises that the democracies he cites as role models are, for all their flaws, demonstrably secular. Notwithstanding his frequently bizarre demagoguery, he is clearly no fool. But if he holds back from the S-word because it may not go down too well with his acolytes, then it is surely galling of him to accuse anyone else of hypocrisy.

While Qadri on Tuesday was allowing the government only a few hours of survival, it has long been clear that the only serious threat to the administration could come from the army — which had little trouble in removing Sharif from power in 1999, prompting widespread celebrations, even though many of those who rejoiced in haste had cause to regret at leisure their initial enthusiasm for Pervez Musharraf’s cockpit coup.

None of the foregoing is intended as a defence of the Sharif regime, but surely it would be wiser for any political outfit with a substantial following to focus its efforts on displacing it democratically at the next elections, rather than initiating half-hearted political revolts that serve chiefly as a distraction.

mahir.dawn

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2014

Growing disillusionment

Shahid Kardar

Governments cannot seriously live under the grand delusion that the ordinary public will go into a trance on being informed that the budget deficit targets agreed on with the International Monetary Fund are being met, or that foreign exchange reserves have risen sharply (although on the back of one-off inflows and heavier borrowings). Or even that the KSE Index and market capitalisation have increased by 44pc and remittances have risen by almost 17pc (an outcome which has little, if anything, to do with government performance) and that a number of MOUs have been signed in the energy sector.

Governments cannot seriously live under the grand delusion that the ordinary public will go into a trance on being informed that the budget deficit targets agreed on with the International Monetary Fund are being met, or that foreign exchange reserves have risen sharply (although on the back of one-off inflows and heavier borrowings). Or even that the KSE Index and market capitalisation have increased by 44pc and remittances have risen by almost 17pc (an outcome which has little, if anything, to do with government performance) and that a number of MOUs have been signed in the energy sector.

What ordinary mortals are experiencing is their own lives and earnings being wrecked by energy outages, the lack of employment opportunities and the unrelenting increase in prices of essential commodities. They are suffering from inadequately available, but highly priced, electricity — with much of the prohibitive price the result of governance failure to tackle incompetence, mismanagement, corruption and theft in the sector.

They are being subjected to inflation combined with rising unemployment, developmental activity almost grinding to a halt and the increasingly harsh, if not tyrannical, attitude of local bureaucratic structures or public-sector agencies delivering services to them as opposed to the easing in controls for businessmen.

They are also confused about the veracity of official pronouncements on achievements, because what they read or hear in the media is that a combination of ‘illusion, fudging and creative accounting’ has been harnessed into proclaiming good governance and performance.

They are witnessing independent analysts argue that ‘fudging’ has been employed in presenting an improvement in the economy’s growth rate, exports and our external accounts (contradicting data from other more reliable official sources), while ‘statistical jugglery’ has been put to use to show a healthy picture of government finances in the form of a lower budget deficit.

The analysts are saying that without a tax regime requiring different classes to contribute to state coffers on the basis of their ability to bear the burden of adjustment, the budgetary operations have, if anything, established that they have reached a dead end — nearing the end of their tether.

They are asserting that the whole exercise is a delectable dance with hands and legs tied — so limited have the government’s budgetary options become — with allocations for just two expenditure heads, interest on debt, and defence, absorbing almost all its revenues.

Missing are concerted efforts to reduce the structural vulnerabilities of the budget, and the determination to address these chronic issues in a phased manner, as opposed to the well-worn approach of temporary fixes and tinkering.

They are pointing out that these actions are required urgently because our ability to respond to the structural issues is more restricted now, and the window for decisions to avoid crises has narrowed considerably with markets and donors unwilling to wait for a political consensus to emerge. And that the strategy to keep delaying tough decisions, expecting friends off-shore to come to our rescue, is fast coming up against a brick wall.

These analysts are asserting that the IMF (essentially for global political reasons and its own need to speedily recover its past loans) has been a silent, if not an active, partner in accepting the massaging, if not blatant manipulation, of numbers. And although the IMF does not presently appear to be in the mood to pull the plug on our life support system and will continue to provide the necessary funds required to service past debts, they are wondering how long this black comedy of numbers can continue.

Will the attitude and position of the IMF harden markedly by the end of this year when the Fund would have fully recovered the funds that it had lent previously, also the time when the Americans would be packing up to leave Afghanistan?

A harsh reality being encountered by the less affluent segments of the population is the stubbornness of inflation, which has also weakened the structure of the IMF-inspired macro-economic stabilisation programme.

The rise in prices of basic consumption goods has been markedly higher than in the overall consumer price index, eroding the purchasing power of weaker classes; the most acute increase in prices being in items making up their cost of living index.

The least well-off in society are also experiencing poor access to educational, health and sanitary services, apart from depressingly low standards in quality, partly because of the unhelpful, if not boorish, attitude of the bureaucracy providing these services.

Without getting decent quality services they will be unable to contribute to, and participate in, growth. Resultantly, the growth process has been uneven, with limited segments of the population prospering, while large sections and geographical regions attained, at best, inadequate betterment in living standards.

And the problems in these sectors lie less in the realm of adequate budgetary allocations and more in the institutional and governance structures and delivery systems that can ensure the access of the poor to good quality basic services.

Ordinary people are also getting incensed at the impassive response of politicians who are being described as inept charlatans by the public. To them, it appears that the political leadership holds the view that the storm will pass, simply because everyone has a few skeletons in his cupboard.

All this is contributing to disillusionment with the entire spectrum of the ruling elite, leading to an strange restlessness and growing alienation from the civilian leadership. And this is reinforced when the leadership with its perceived suspect integrity, seemingly shows little compunction in feathering its own nest at public expense.

Hence the growing feeling that a nation whose body politic has been gripped by this moral cancer cannot expect to go far.

The writer is a former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2014

Bottling India’s communal genie

Jawed Naqvi

“Brothers and sisters, for one reason or the other, we have had communal tensions for ages,” declaimed Mr Narendra Modi, the starched tail of his loud saffron turban fluttering in the strong wind. “Friends, look behind and you will find that nobody has benefited from it. Except casting a slur on Mother India, we have done nothing.”

“Brothers and sisters, for one reason or the other, we have had communal tensions for ages,” declaimed Mr Narendra Modi, the starched tail of his loud saffron turban fluttering in the strong wind. “Friends, look behind and you will find that nobody has benefited from it. Except casting a slur on Mother India, we have done nothing.”

The prime minister’s maiden Independence Day speech might easily have been a plea by a threatened Christian missionary working courageously in Orissa or Gujarat, and not the least, in Uttar Pradesh. A vulnerable Muslim woman or Dalit daughter whose house is surrounded by arsonists, killers, rapists, would instinctively cling to Mr Modi’s words for desperate solace if not for palpable help.

Jawaharlal Nehru, reference to whose name was studiously blanked out from Mr Modi’s maiden fulminations from the 17th-century Red Fort, in which he had praise for Gandhi and Patel, Vivekanand and Jai Prakash Narayan — would have cheerfully approved of India’s newest prime minister’s worthy sentiments.

Mr Modi then set a tautological condition to achieve the peace he so desired. “I appeal to all those people that whether it is the poison of casteism, communalism, regionalism, discrimination on social and economic basis, all these are obstacles in our way forward. Let’s resolve for once in our hearts, let’s put a moratorium on all such activities for 10 years, we shall march ahead to a society which will be free from all such tensions.” In a nutshell what the prime minister said was this: put an end to violence to attain peace.

The question is, was the prime minister, known hitherto for his macho pugnacity, offering to turn over a new leaf as perhaps Emperor Ashok did after the massacre of Kalinga, when he embraced Buddhism to renounce violence forever? After all, something did happen during Mr Modi’s previous avatar as chief minister of Gujarat, which prompted him to grudgingly regret it. To use his own quaint expression, a puppy came under the wheels of his car, words he used to explain the blood and gore of 2002. He did say he felt bad for the puppy, didn’t he?

Short of such an implication, or words in a similar vein, the prime minister’s call could be prone to misunderstanding for a variety of reasons, not the least because of the opposite things he has said in the past.

In any case, what did Mr Modi imply by asking for a 10-year moratorium on violence? The all-pervasive parochial forms of violence that keep the country perennially on its toes are real. How do we put an end to the menace, why for a short period, and to what avail? If the prime minister believes there can be no economic progress without social harmony, his call should strike a chord with Indians of all communal stripes.

The coming days will hopefully reveal how best the country, chiefly the involved communities, could comply with the prime minister’s vision of peace. If it is doable — there’s no harm in hoping — why shun violence for this or that number of days? When Gandhiji broke his fast after a major Hindu-Muslim bloodbath in Bengal, he was promised lasting peace by both sides, not a sunset-to-dawn truce. Be that as it may, where do we begin with the Independence Day gambit?

It could be a coincidence, but barely two months after Prime Minister Modi was sworn in, the Gujarat high court last month granted bail to Maya Kodnani, former minister and ‘kingpin’ of the 2002 Naroda Patia massacre case in which 97 people were killed. She had pleaded for bail on grounds of her sickness and possible delay in trial. While ordering her release, a bench of Justice V.M. Sahai and Justice R.P. Dholaria suspended her 28-year-long sentence imposed by the special SIT court in August 2012, according to a report in the Times of India. Kodnani was among 32 convicts in the case seeking bail before the high court.

Earlier, on July 8, the Gujarat high court ordered the release of Babu Bajrangi, a key convict in the Naroda Patia killings, “temporarily for treatment of eye disease”. Now, the Gujarat model of targeting Muslims and Christians seems to have unfolded in Uttar Pradesh.

Last month, a Hindu mob attacked the Nazarene Church at Sehkari Nagar, Bulandshahar. Christian activists described it as a direct consequence of the recent and rapid communalisation of Uttar Pradesh and other parts of the country. According to the complaints of pastors and other members of the church who are victims, a group of Bajrang Dal activists attacked the church on July 16, 2014 when a function was going on inside the premises. A man identified as the area coordinator of Bajrang Dal, allegedly led the attackers. The gang ransacked the church, beat up the pastor, Rev. R.C. Paul, broke the cross and church furniture, Christian groups say.

A report in The Hindu was just as disconcerting. A senior Hindutva leader told the paper that from Aug 23 to Sept 15, there would be rallies in all districts against conversions. The flare-up is related to the reported forced conversion of a Hindu girl in a Muslim madressah.

“On Dec 23, the martyrdom day of Swami Shraddhanand (the leader of the 19th-century Shuddhi movement) we will convert Muslims to Hinduism in at least 50 locations in west UP,” he said. “On Dec 25, the day when Christians convert people to their religion, this year, we will do the reverse — by converting them back to Hinduism. In two-three years, the rural hinterland will be free of Christians.”

If anyone does, it is Mr Modi who has the wherewithal to put India’s communal genie back in the bottle. Will he be willing to risk his political career?

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

jawednaqvi

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2014

Few answers

Sameer Khosa

Just before the ‘azadi march’, the prime minister announced the government’s intention to establish a commission, consisting of Supreme Court judges, to inquire into allegations by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) that the 2013 elections were rigged. The hope was that this would defuse the political crisis engulfing the country. Yet, the proposed ‘solution’ comes with its own set of problems.

Just before the ‘azadi march’, the prime minister announced the government’s intention to establish a commission, consisting of Supreme Court judges, to inquire into allegations by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) that the 2013 elections were rigged. The hope was that this would defuse the political crisis engulfing the country. Yet, the proposed ‘solution’ comes with its own set of problems.

First, an issue that could have led to strengthening of the political process will end up weakening it. When the allegations were first levelled, PML-N decided not to engage politically at all, stating that only election tribunals were an appropriate forum for these allegations. Yet, 14 months later — facing calls for resignation — suddenly an alternate forum has been conceived.

Instead, if at the very beginning the PML-N had engaged with PTI, they could have secured a guarantee that the overall election would not be questioned, that the findings from the four constituencies would be used to guide electoral reform and thus the political process would have produced meaningful outcomes. Yet now, once again, the Supreme Court has been asked to wade into a complete political thicket.

Second, the question that the court is being asked to answer is crucial. The court is not being asked whether there was rigging in the elections of 2013. It is being asked whether the ‘allegations’ levelled by the PTI that the elections were ‘manipulated or influenced by anyone for the benefit of a political party or individuals’ are true.

In other words, please tell us if it is correct that your former chief justice, former judge Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday, and former caretaker chief minister Najam Sethi etc were in cahoots with the PML-N. The Supreme Court will either have to implicate a former chief justice — who led the court for eight years and aggressively heard cases against a PPP government — as being a partisan person willing to rig elections; or it will have to exonerate them.

Given this background, even if they exonerate them, the PTI and its supporters will be able to claim that the court had its own interests to protect. It is a political thicket that will only tarnish the court.

Third, even if the terms of reference are changed so that the court is asked to inquire whether rigging took place and not the alleged role of people who may have influenced the elections, there are constitutional issues.

Article 225 of the Constitution provides that “no election” to a house, provincial assembly or the Senate shall be “called into question” except through an election petition, presented in such manner and to such tribunal as legislated by parliament.

This legislation has already taken place in the form of the Representation of People Act, 1976 under which election tribunals are functioning. The term “called into question” is crucial here. If the government is stating that the Supreme Court Commission is to be the final authority on whether rigging took place in the elections, and commits to abide by its decision, isn’t the entire election being “called into question”?

One could argue that Article 225 only refers to a specific election being challenged — and not a general inquiry into the elections. Yet, that ignores the fact that even a general inquiry would have to either ‘select’ a few constituencies or examine each constituency — therefore would have to give some finding as to those constituencies, and that would “call into question” those elections.

Thinking creatively, there could be two ways in which the bar under Article 225 could be avoided. First, the inquiry could be limited to examining the roles of specified individuals, including judges, without looking at any constituency — however, such an inquiry would need to be conducted by a neutral, non-judicial commission for obvious reasons. It might also be too narrow to satisfy the PTI.

Second, if the purpose of the commission is not to call into question the elections at all, but simply to conduct a fact-finding inquiry, the results of which are to guide future reform, it could arguably be justified as not being in violation of Article 225.

Other legal questions would remain. What would be the status of the inquiry in relation to existing election petitions? No agreement between the parties would be enforceable to prevent the other from using the commission report in their election petitions. Also, since inquiries are an essential executive function and the Constitution (Article 175) mandates separation of the executive and judicial functions, there is also an underlying separation of powers issue.

The essential problem is that while a fact-finding exercise — not calling the elections into question — could arguably be conducted; constitutionally, no ‘judicial’ finding can be given regarding an election except through an election petition. Politically, nothing less will suffice. Given that fact, the commission announced by the prime minister will raise more issues than it solves.

The writer is a Lahore-based lawyer.

skhosa.rma

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2014

Strong institutions

Dr Niaz Murtaza

The public’s demand for good governance is high in Pakistan, but its supply unfortunately low. Global experience reveals that strong institutions produce good governance. Ironically, in the recent struggle launched for good governance against PML-N by PTI and PAT, all three parties have seriously undermined the legitimacy of state institutions.

The public’s demand for good governance is high in Pakistan, but its supply unfortunately low. Global experience reveals that strong institutions produce good governance. Ironically, in the recent struggle launched for good governance against PML-N by PTI and PAT, all three parties have seriously undermined the legitimacy of state institutions.

PML-N delegitimised institutions by using the state machinery for its political purposes and its controversial hiring, firing and non-hiring actions. This has included appointing ex-caretakers to plum positions and firing heads of Nadra controversially.

PTI furthered this delegitimisation by hurling unsubstantiated accusations at election tribunals, ECP, Nadra and courts.

While admitting under intense media questioning that it only possesses circumstantial evidence against these institutions, PTI fails to admit that circumstantial evidence at best justifies raising mild suspicions, not full-throated certitudes about institutional involvement in rigging.

PAT has taken this delegitimisation to a higher plane by calling for a whole-scale replacement of the current system through a revolution. Ironically, the only institution spared by its planned revolution is the institution (the old-order military) whose disintegration has been the prerequisite of all mega-revolutions (eg, Russian, Iranian, etc).

Understandably, Qadri is in no mood to challenge that vintage Pakistani behemoth. PAT also fails to mention that no revolution has ever delivered immediate good governance, the time gap at the very minimum being several decades, and most revolutions actually made things worse immediately.

Unfortunately, this assault by all parties on state institutions has been taking place precisely when they were starting to show at least rudimentary-level spine and capacity.

Tribunals are slowly but steadily disposing of cases at a faster pace than in earlier elections and without evidence of bias. Nadra has continued to produce objective verification reports that have attracted little criticism even after Tariq Malik’s unfortunate dismissal, despite possible PML-N attempts to undermine, and vociferous PTI charges questioning, its independence.

My interactions with state institutions at the federal, provincial and local levels (down to union councils across 30-plus districts) throughout Pakistan show that many institutions are gradually acquiring some delivery capacity after decades of incompetence.

Historians identify the 1960s as the golden era of Pakistani institutions when they worked efficiently, meritoriously and free from political considerations. However, despite their supposedly apolitical and meritorious functioning, their outputs then largely benefited elites in certain ethnicities.

Winning by campaigning against this elitism, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto exposed state institutions crudely to meeting the full force of the political demands of hitherto marginalised groups and classes, in the process severely undermining institutional capacity.

Good governance emerges from strong institutions. Strong institutions emerge from relatively egalitarian societal structures which in turn usually emerge as per capita income, literacy, urbanisation and industrialisation levels increase.

As these levels are increasing gradually in Pakistan over the decades, its society is becoming less inegalitarian and the quality of institutions and hence governance is improving too. With time, one foresees these institutions reaching a stage under democracy where they exhibit neither Ayub-era elitism nor Bhutto-era politicisation but can blend merit-based and political considerations effectively to deliver efficient but egalitarian services.

Unfortunately, this pace is too slow for many, who instead favour deceptive short cuts to good governance like dictatorship, khilafat, revolution, technocracy etc. The latest quick-fix panacea to enthral Pakistani imagination is electoral reforms. It is naively believed that reforms will immediately produce a new breed of super politicians, who will immediately deliver high-quality governance, ie, democracy itself will produce short cuts to good governance thus creating a win-win situation.

However tempting it may be to let this misconception prevail as a way of marketing democracy, it must be punctured for realism’s sake. Sweeping electoral reforms must be initiated immediately since they will produce controversy-free elections and eliminate current-type political crises in future. However, they will not produce sudden and enormous improvements in governance. Such improvements will come incrementally over time as societal structures change and institutions strengthen slowly.

Thus, it is important for politicians to spare institutions from their political fights. It is also important for the public to be patient with Pakistani institutions and develop a longer-term vision.

The writer is a development and political economist and a Senior Fellow with UC Berkeley.

murtazaniaz

Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2014

Threat to constitutional order?

Babar Sattar

In an unfortunate ruling, which went unheeded, the Lahore High Court (LHC) restrained the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) from launching their marches. One wishes the court had applied restraint instead of jumping into the political thicket. It could have employed the political question doctrine and held that matters quintessentially political are best left to the executive or the legislature to resolve. It could have considered that the petition was premature with no basis to presume that the PTI or PAT would employ illegal means to enforce their demands.

In an unfortunate ruling, which went unheeded, the Lahore High Court (LHC) restrained the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) from launching their marches. One wishes the court had applied restraint instead of jumping into the political thicket. It could have employed the political question doctrine and held that matters quintessentially political are best left to the executive or the legislature to resolve. It could have considered that the petition was premature with no basis to presume that the PTI or PAT would employ illegal means to enforce their demands.

The outcome aside, the court’s reasoning is also unpersuasive. Why should a court declare prima facie unconstitutional political demands seeking the prime minister’s resignation, the parliament’s dissolution, the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) reconstitution and formation of an interim government of technocrats? Can a court predict in advance that a political party will use coercion to seek their implementation as opposed to rallying public opinion to bring moral pressure to bear on the government?

Our Constitution and laws are political documents that are the outcome of political process. Which law prohibits citizens from demanding the resignation of a public official due to lack of performance or diminished moral authority? Can the parliament not promulgate a constitutional amendment to reconstitute the ECP? Can the government and the opposition not join hands to nominate an interim government of technocrats?

The interim order ruled that “unconstitutional” marches are not to be held, “keeping in view the sanctity of the Independence Day”. Should courts rely on political arguments while rendering judicial decisions? Does the Constitution state that fundamental rights to freedom of movement, assembly, association and speech shall stand diminished on sanctimonious days such as Aug 14? And why focus exclusively on possible encroachment of rights by future marches and not on the infringement of rights by the government due to its heavy-handedness (eg blockades, arrests etc.)?

In contrast to the LHC order, the interim order passed by the Supreme Court is very measured. It has directed state functionaries “to act only in accordance with the Constitution and the law” and to “be guided by the principles of Constitution and law enunciated in the case of Sindh High Court Bar Association v Federation”. The focus here seems to be to preserve the constitutional order and uphold fundamental rights of citizens during this phase of political turmoil as opposed to picking sides between political adversaries.

But there is only so much that the apex court can do to preserve the constitutional order. The new ‘revolutionary’ zeal of political actors (as old as the hills themselves) is a reminder that expediency remains the grundnorm for political order and change in Pakistan. In times like these, the claim that democracy is now firmly rooted with overwhelming support from across civil and military segments of our society seems wishful.

The fears informing the LHC’s misconceived order or the apex court’s sagacious one are not products of fantasy. Democracy and constitutional order in Pakistan remain frail and need nurturing. The PTI’s politics is disconcerting for it is not only recreating the environment of polarisation and political hostility witnessed in the ’90s leaving little room for peaceful coexistence of political rivals but is also threatening to delegitimise vital state institutions key to affecting any change in Pakistan.

There is no logical link between the PTI’s proposals for change and the mechanics for giving them effect. If the prime minister concedes the PTI’s demands, dissolves parliament and orders fresh elections in 90 days, the elections will have to be held under the existing laws and election commission with no accountability for what happened in 2013. If the priority is to ensure fair and credible elections in future, reform legislation will have to be supported by the present government and passed by the existing parliament.

Our Constitution vests in the prime minister alone the discretion to dissolve the National Assembly prematurely and he can’t be forced to exercise such power at gunpoint. The tenure of existing election commissioners is constitutionally protected and only the Supreme Judicial Council can remove them if they are found guilty of misconduct. What can the government then agree to do other than to appoint chairman Nadra, chief election commissioner and election commissioners (once the term of present incumbents expires) in consultation with opposition parties, including the PTI?

The suggestion of appointing a judicial commission to ascertain whether or not there existed a grand conspiracy to rig the 2013 elections in the PML-N’s favour is also problematic. Appointing commissions under the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act, 1956, is an executive function. Can such a commission, even when comprising SC judges, usurp the judicial function vested in election tribunals under Article 225 of the Constitution read with the Representation of Peoples Act, 1976?

Even if such a commission finds as part of its inquiry that a grand scheme of rigging did exist, will its findings be admissible in evidence and binding on election tribunals? Won’t there be need for a judicial forum to consider all evidence and declare that the entire 2013 general elections were rigged and thus void?

Should the SC even agree to conduct an inquiry into election rigging when it is also the authority mandated to hear appeals against election tribunal decisions? And what if the SC-led commission finds that the grand scheme of rigging is a figment of the PTI’s lush imagination? Will the PTI accept such a finding and let the matter rest or add to its previously unsubstantiated charges the allegation that the present SC is an abettor covering up for Iftikhar Chaudhry, its former chief justice?

The problem with the PTI’s politics is that it is leaving little room for a political solution implementable within the existing constitutional order. The partisan movement that the PTI leads is incapable of convincing anyone other than its own supporters that overthrowing the government of a rival party amounts to revolutionary change. What it is doing is exacerbating revulsion against the political class as a whole and reinforcing the mischievous idea that we as a people are unfit for democracy.

The writer is a lawyer.

sattar

Twitter: [@babar_sattar][2]

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2014

[2]: https://twitter.com/Babar_Sattarstrong text

A household quarrel

Umair Javed

All of this is a domestic spat. Setting aside either side’s fables of victimhood, claims of legitimacy, and tales of sacrifice, this is nothing more than an over-the-top household quarrel. And the household in question has the political elite of north and central Punjab, and a few token souls from the south, as its members.

All of this is a domestic spat. Setting aside either side’s fables of victimhood, claims of legitimacy, and tales of sacrifice, this is nothing more than an over-the-top household quarrel. And the household in question has the political elite of north and central Punjab, and a few token souls from the south, as its members.

First things first though — there were two marches, two sets of vague claims, and two self-righteous revolutionaries. The gentleman from Canada, however, deserves an analytical piece of his own. I cannot possibly do justice to his audacity, nor explain the sinister manoeuvres at play that triggered this bizarre aberration to descend upon us. Some things (and individuals) are best left for other times (and other planets).

The PTI, on the other hand, is a real phenomenon, and one worthy of considerable attention. Going by events of the past week, it is eminently clear that the party, despite electoral failures of the past year, has cemented a strong position within Punjab’s political economy. That much is apparent going by the size of the crowds, the participating demographic, and the amount of money involved in this long march.

What is also clear is that this pitched battle against the PML-N government, which at the time of writing has left much acrimony and instability in the air, is moulded across an artificial divide. The difference between the two parties — despite their best efforts at distinguishing themselves from the other — boils down to a choice between two groups of urban Punjabi politicians, led by two personalities, each struggling for control of an oversized province.

Let’s start with some history: the current incarnation of the Pakistan Muslim League emerged as urban Punjab’s manufactured alternative to the PPP during the late ’80s. For a brief period of time in the province, it became immensely popular and coherent for a host of reasons — one was the pesky legal need for a non-uniformed right-wing political voice, and the other was the wound inflicted by Z.A. Bhutto’s socio-economic agenda.

However, over the course of these last two decades, as Punjab urbanised, desired and flourished, its growing population of political elites has found it harder to coexist. Everyone is hungrier for more in what is essentially a zero-sum game. Some feel completely locked out of power, others feel they don’t have enough. Most have tasted it at some point or the other. These fissures — partially catalysed by the army, and partially surfacing and haemorrhaging themselves — have given rise to separate sets of loyalties and hierarchies. This is precisely why the PTI and PML-N appear different, even though their real, material roots are the same.

They are ethnically comparable — both draw a sizable chunk of their core leadership, and their core electorate, from the urbanised districts straddling the GT Road and M-2 in Punjab. Neither are they differentiated by class. Both are led and financed by the wealthy (and the almost wealthy), intellectually augmented by members of the conservative middle-class, and voted for by the poor and the destitute. Even ideologically, both espouse variations of the same neo-liberal populism — one that promises a heady cocktail of development and good governance, shaken with efficiency or stirred by justice.

But perhaps nothing brings these two parties closer than their inability to think of Pakistan as a federal republic — one that extends beyond Attock in the north and Rahimyar Khan in the south. The ruling party, despite attaining power in Islamabad for a third time, has shown little interest in organising itself internally and branching out into other provinces. Their organisation in Balochistan consists of an influential tribal head and his family; in Sindh, a few irrelevant fossils; and in KP, an elbowed-out elite of one Hindko-speaking division. Their relationship with the state remains fraught with insecurities and egoism; and their relationship with the federation, even now, even after all these years, oscillates between paternalistic attention and cold indifference.

Not to be left behind, the PTI matches them pound-for-pound by repeatedly stating its willingness to sacrifice their government in a smaller province for a power grab in central Punjab. Despite receiving a healthy mandate by the tired, violence-stricken population of a troubled province, its leadership continues to cast envious glances at Lahore. And while Peshawar stood still with flash flooding and heavy rain, their chief minister thought it better to protest against the results of the very election that saw him elected.

Part of this is simply because of Punjab’s weight in the national electoral calculus. You can after all power through to Islamabad by winning seven out of the nine administrative divisions in Punjab. But more than that, what these cold numbers breed and eventually sustain is a political culture that’s so completely inward-looking, and so harshly indifferent to all else, it repeatedly threatens to break the fragile edifice of democracy itself. Both the PTI and the PML-N, at different points in our recent past, have proven themselves to be proponents of this culture of indifference and entitlement.

So what we saw this past week was a particularly jarring episode of Punjab’s long-running political soap opera. The PML-N’s usage of thugs and the state machinery, and its inability to imagine political solutions provided half the plot, and the PTI’s lust for power, and failure to deal with an (surely transient) electoral loss gave the remaining script. Tragically for the rest, while these two exchange blows under the callous, provoking eye of the military establishment, the real loser is the decidedly rickety transition towards democracy, civilian supremacy and federalism.

The writer is a freelance columnist.

umairjaved@lumsalumni.pk

Twitter: @umairjav

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2014

Not too big to fail

Huma Yusuf

Calls for ‘naya Pakistan’ may have been mounting in Punjab last week, but the world’s attention is waning. Chatting with journalists who cover Pakistan for international media outlets, I wasn’t surprised to hear that they’re struggling to get column inches for their stories. The world currently offers too many other crises, from Iraq to Libya, Gaza to Donetsk. What seems like a vagary of the news cycle could yet have serious implications for stability in Pakistan.

Calls for ‘naya Pakistan’ may have been mounting in Punjab last week, but the world’s attention is waning. Chatting with journalists who cover Pakistan for international media outlets, I wasn’t surprised to hear that they’re struggling to get column inches for their stories. The world currently offers too many other crises, from Iraq to Libya, Gaza to Donetsk. What seems like a vagary of the news cycle could yet have serious implications for stability in Pakistan.

The idea that Pakistan is ‘too big to fail’ has long been entrenched in our national psyche. We have long assumed that any amount of irresponsible behaviour on the part of our leaders would be excused by the international community because Pakistan is too critical to regional — perhaps even global — stability to let it self-destruct.

This notion is rooted in many national attributes: the country is a large and growing market; nuclear-armed; linked to the West through its diaspora; home to a grab-bag of militant groups whose activities produce ambivalence rather than condemnation; a key supply route in a region dotted with conflict; in cahoots with China, and more.

The perverse confidence that we’re too big to fail has often led to suicidal policymaking on the part of both civilian and military leaders. Consider, for example, the ‘double game’ with regard to militancy; the refusal to cut subsidies; continued obstinacy on India; and persistently poor governance.

Our leaders continue to make bad decisions knowing that the world will think twice before letting Pakistan’s economy collapse or allowing militants to overrun its territory. The US in particular has fuelled this perception over the past decade, frequently giving in to Pakistan’s histrionics by swooping in with military aid or blessing new IMF packages to keep supply routes and back channels open.

But things are changing. The world is becoming better accustomed to failure. Washington concluded a while ago that it could not bring peace to Iraq, and walked away. Its return to that country last week to conduct air strikes against the jihadists of the militant group Islamic State was grudging, limited and pessimistic. The US has also resignedly watched developments in Syria, Ukraine, Israel-Palestine and elsewhere. The challenge in Syria is particularly extreme, with the country poised to be a haven for violent extremism in the heart of the Middle East.

Pakistan is thus no longer unique in its ability to teeter on the brink of collapse in ways that would be potentially destabilising to its neighbours. The paranoia that the thought of a jihadist Pakistan used to induce has lessened as an increasing number of European countries see their Muslim nationals flock to Syria, and fret that they may launch attacks upon their return.

Pakistan’s access to nuclear bombs will of course keep it on the global radar for many years to come, but it may only be a matter of time before this too is a more common phenomenon.

It is in this context that Pakistan’s refusal to tackle internal challenges could lead to instability. The default mode of Pakistan’s leaders is to act now, think later. They feel no need to cultivate a long-term vision for the country believing that they will always be bailed out of trouble: the politicians wait for the military to come to the rescue, the military waits for the US to step in with the backing of the international community.

Ironically, this very confidence in the fact that we’re too big to fail could trigger failure because the international community, plagued by crises, is losing the will to help those who won’t help themselves.

There are many counts on which Pak­istan’s intransigence is likely to cause the world to throw up its hands in frustration and give up: the continued ambivalence to­­wards militant groups, and the tendency to pit ‘good’ Taliban against ‘bad’ Taliban while engaging in proxy warfare; the irrational and self-serving behaviour of Pakistan’s politicians (as manifest in the recent shenanigans of the three Ps in Punjab); the absolute refusal to tackle systemic discrimination and persecution of religious minorities; and the failure to introduce meaningful economic reforms. While fighting to win small battles, our leaders have lost the plot.

There are many analysts who believe the realisation that we are no longer too big to fail (or that our failure won’t be as catastrophic or unique as previously believed) has driven the recent military operation in North Waziristan. Many have linked the military’s alleged pursuit of the Haqqani network to the fact that the US has made the release of a $300m tranche of the Coalition Support Fund conditional on an operation targeting the group.

If true, this would suggest our complacency has been shaken. Let’s hope the world’s diminishing interest in saving us from ourselves leads to introspection, self-reliance and responsible policymaking.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

huma.yusuf

Twitter: @humayusuf

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2014

Pakistan’s Ataturk

Hajrah Mumtaz

It’s been a nerve-wracking week and Pakistan has marked, amidst tumult, another birthday. At the ripe old age of 67, though, this country has still not worked through its restlessness, the desire for ‘something different’.

It’s been a nerve-wracking week and Pakistan has marked, amidst tumult, another birthday. At the ripe old age of 67, though, this country has still not worked through its restlessness, the desire for ‘something different’.

Problem is, nobody seems to have any idea about what that ‘something different’ may be in its nuts and bolts. A ‘corruption-free’ Pakistan, or equality and opportunity, or a nation re-imagined, are all very well, very beguiling. But they don’t come with blueprints.

Democracy isn’t working, people complain; first the PPP government and now the PML-N government have made no difference. What we need, I’m increasingly hearing, is an Ataturk who can change ‘the system’.

Is it possible to flirt any further with danger? In fact, what they mean is that we need a person with absolute power, who brooks no opposition and who can make the hard decisions that must ruthlessly be implemented. These are the same people that are prone to trotting out the opinion that with this populace, only the stick can work.

What’s immediately wrong with this line of thinking is that it carries undertones of a military takeover — and, indeed, there are many who argue that the Ataturk discourse was started, popularised and sent down the wires by whatever the elements are that still see this as an expedient option for the country. Politicians, after all, working within a democratic set-up, will always face opposition, and will always have to negotiate their way through opponents, the Constitution and parliament. Only a dictator has the questionable comfort of brooking no opposition.

But the train for that has long passed. Pakistan’s already had a potential ‘Ataturk moment’, narrowly defined for my purposes here as the unfettered ability to make hard choices. In 1999, for a few years, we had at the helm a person who, irrespective of the means, had absolute power. Musharraf in his early years was in a position to railroad all opposition, and did not have to suffer wading through the turmoil of political negotiation. Whatever is said about him today and the unconstitutional methods he used to depose a legitimate government, let us not forget that back then his actions were even supported by several sections of society.

But, for various reasons, among them the fact Musharraf was no Ataturk in terms of being a genuine leader, the moment passed. Anyone who makes a plea for another such leader needs to look for him or her amongst the ranks of the political classes — perhaps grow one — who can battle it out through the electoral process. Another person with absolute power, another military takeover, may well prove the final straw for this benighted country.

The other thing that people seem to be talking about is of bringing about a “revolution”. Forget Tahirul Qadri and his cynical manoeuvrings and sloganeering, on the streets one hears the desire for an ‘inqilab’. People talk wistfully of the Arab Spring as though something along those lines would ‘fix’ Pakistan and its ‘rotten system’.

What, however, is a revolution at base but the removal by mass agitation of an unpopular regime? Well, that train too has passed. Pakistan already managed to bring down the curtains on a regime through widespread agitation in 2007.

While other factors were involved in the stepping-down of Musharraf and the holding of elections in 2008, of course, the fact nevertheless is that we had thousands of people on the streets, sit-ins and protests, arrests and detentions — and, thankfully, it didn’t on the whole involve too much blood-letting. Unfortunately, for the would-be revolutionaries and fortunately for the rest of us, today’s Pakistan simply doesn’t have several of the ingredients key to revolution, amongst them a society so suppressed that it resembles a close-to-blowing-up pressure cooker.

What Pakistan and its malcontents, whe­ther from the citizenry at large or the political classes, need to recognise urgently is that the only thing that will work is the one thing that hasn’t been tried before: due process. It will take time, it’ll be testing and humdrum, and it won’t have all the sound and the fury we’ve been conditioned into thinking are inevitable. But if only we can stick to the election cycle, there is hope.

Governments have to be allowed to finish their terms, have to be brought to a point where they face the prospect of a resounding electoral defeat that is a direct consequence of their sins of omission and commission. Only then will this damaged, limping country manage to build enough muscle to walk. Remember the PPP’s showing in the last elections?

As another columnist pointed out on these pages last week, Pakistanis have become addicted to moments of supreme promise, unblemished and as yet uncharted as they are. We’re going to have to learn that the morning after, only the long, hard slog will do. Democracy isn’t a magic wand; there are no quick fixes.

The writer is a member of staff.

hajrahmumtaz

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2014

Pakistan’s Moscow option

Munir Akram

SINCE independence, Pakistan’s relations with Moscow have been mostly adversarial. Pakistan was America’s “most allied ally”. India aligned with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Moscow’s veto in the UN Security Council to block Kashmiri self-determination, the U2 flight from Peshawar, Soviet support in 1971 for India’s war to dismember Pakistan and Islamabad’s collaboration with the US in the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan punctuated the hostile relationship.

SINCE independence, Pakistan’s relations with Moscow have been mostly adversarial. Pakistan was America’s “most allied ally”. India aligned with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Moscow’s veto in the UN Security Council to block Kashmiri self-determination, the U2 flight from Peshawar, Soviet support in 1971 for India’s war to dismember Pakistan and Islamabad’s collaboration with the US in the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan punctuated the hostile relationship.

Although the hostility slowly dissipated after the collapse of the Soviet Union, friendship eluded Moscow and Islamabad, for several reasons: Russia’s continuing defence relationship with India, Pakistan’s support for the Afghan Taliban — and by extension their Chechen and Uzbek associates —Moscow’s alignment with the Northern Alliance and Pakistan’s post 9/11 alliance with the US.

However, the new ‘Cold War’ in Europe, ignited by the Ukraine crisis, has profound strategic implications not only for Europe but also for other ‘theatres’ where Russia’s interests and objectives intersect with those of the US and Europe. Sino-Russian relations have become dramatically closer. Moscow is reasserting its role in the Middle East. It is also likely to do so in East and South Asia.

Pakistan-Russia relations have been evolving in positive directions during recent months. Pakistan is acting against Central Asian terrorists. As India has moved closer to the US, Russia has warmed to Pakistan. The closer Sino-Russian relationship has reinforced this trend. There are clear recent signs that Moscow is now open to substantive security collaboration with Pakistan. Russia’s aims are: to secure Pakistan’s cooperation to stabilise Afghanistan, combat Chechen and Central Asian terrorist groups present in the region, compensate for India’s tilt towards America and thereby retain leverage in New Delhi.

There are a number of areas where mutually beneficial cooperation can be promoted between Islamabad and Moscow.

Afghanistan: Over the past year, quiet talks between Pakistan, China and Russia have been under way to consider ways to stabilise Afghanistan. Russia’s old relationship with the Northern Alliance and influence with Iran; Pakistan’s influence with the Pakhtuns and the Afghan Taliban; and China’s financial and economic capacity can be a powerful combination to promote reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan as the US disengages from that country.

Indo-Pakistan: As India’s major defence partner and a member of BRICS, Moscow continues to enjoy considerable, if reduced, influence in India despite New Delhi’s tilt towards the US. Russia desires Indo-Pakistan normalisation to prevent a disastrous conflict, limit American influence and develop new avenues for energy, trade and industrial cooperation with the South Asian region. Given the new global political alignments, Moscow’s mediation between India and Pakistan could be more even-handed and effective than the skewed policies presently pursued by Washington.

Defence: Russia’s defence industry is still among the best in the world. Moscow may now be willing to lift its self-imposed embargo on defence supplies to Pakistan. The dimensions of such cooperation will depend considerably on Pakistan’s ability to pay for defence equipment and, to a lesser extent, on the vigour of New Delhi’s anticipated objections.

Oil and gas: Russia is the world’s largest producer of oil and gas. The expertise of Russia’s Rosneft and Gazprom can contribute significantly to developing Pakistan’s oil and gas potential, onshore and offshore. Western sanctions have enhanced the incentive of these giant Russian companies to find new frontiers of cooperation.

Gas supplies: In the wake of the Western embargoes, Russia is looking for alternate markets for its abundant gas production. Its $400 billion gas deal with China has been the most prominent response. Moscow is also interested in building gas supply routes to India and Pakistan. Russian gas could be added to supplies from the proposed TAPI pipeline. New pipelines can be built to Pakistan and India through China. Russia’s Gazprom could also help in executing the projected Iranian gas pipeline to Pakistan (and India).

Nuclear reactors: So far, Russia has refused to supply nuclear power reactors to Pakistan due to the restrictions imposed by the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group on non-members of the NPT — with the significant exception of India. It is possible that in the new strategic circumstances, and in exchange for appropriate safeguards, Russia, like China, may consider the sale of nuclear power plants to Pakistan, especially if India acquires its new plants from the US.

Trade: If Afghanistan can be stabilised, it would open the way for expanded trade between Pakistan, Central Asia and Russia. While Pakistan requires Russian oil, gas and industrial products, Pakistan can be a competitive source of agricultural and textile goods to Russia. Pakistan could also offer Russia trade access to India in exchange for its help in normalising Pakistan-India ties.

Industrialisation: Russia retains some of the industrial prowess of the Soviet Union. It can modernise the Soviet-supplied Pakistan Steel Mills. Similar cooperation can be pursued in a number of ‘high-tech’ sectors, such as biotechnology, aviation and space, where Russia possesses competitive capabilities.

In some areas — such as Afghanistan, Indo-Pakistan normalisation and counterterrorism — the objectives of the US and its allies are convergent with Russia’s. In other areas — energy, defence, nuclear generation — opposition can be expected from the West to Pakistan-Russian cooperation. India may also object, although its opposition may not be decisive.

While Pakistan no longer requires, nor is likely to receive, US arms supplies or nuclear power plants, its ability to resist Western objections to cooperation with Moscow could be constrained by its financial and trade dependence on the West. Pakistan’s financial stress may also restrict its ability to pay for Russian supplies of defence and other equipment.

Pakistan needs to identify realistic goals for its new relationship with Russia, evolve sustainable ways to minimise its financial vulnerability (including greater financial integration with China) and deploy adroit diplomacy to capitalise on the emerging global and regional strategic realities. Of course, while its politicians squabble on the streets, adding to the country’s turbulence, it is difficult for Pakistan to devise well-considered policies to exploit the Moscow option or other strategic opportunities.

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2014

The oldest game

Cyril Almeida

TIME to sift through the detritus. IK? Got no plan, thinks he can win. That makes him a loser. Nawaz? Qadri was personal; Imran was politics.

TIME to sift through the detritus. IK? Got no plan, thinks he can win. That makes him a loser. Nawaz? Qadri was personal; Imran was politics.

But is this all the politics he — Nawaz — has got?

Breathe. What was the original threat to this government? That street agitation was being encouraged by the boys to either kill off Nawaz’s mandate or oust him. Straightforward enough that.

So, for Nawaz: wait for the enemy to come to you or take the fight to him? Three-term PM decided on the latter. And that’s when the danger escalated. Cause Model Town happened, shutting down Lahore happened, barricading Islamabad happened.

The pressure began to recede not when the marchers failed to materialise, it began to recede when the government stepped back and said, go ahead, guys, show us what you’ve got.

Until that moment, for some reason, the government had made the storyline about what was being done to the would-be protesters instead of what the protests could achieve.

What was that reason?

Closer to Aug 14, it became apparent that Nawaz had two things on his mind: this was being orchestrated by the boys; he was willing to pretend it wasn’t authorised at the very top.

Bluntly, the PM thought sections of the mil-intel establishment were out to get him, but that Raheel and Zahir hadn’t signed off on it.

What that tells you is a further two things. One, that old myth about a unified army, top to bottom, is a myth that the political leadership doesn’t believe.

Two, Nawaz can still play tricks. By pushing back fiercely against the I-Day rallies, but suggesting that Raheel or Zahir weren’t behind them, the de-escalation option — on both sides — remained open.

Now what?

It’s the next part that’s revealing. Nawaz’s circle thinks he has to tough it out till October, when a spate of retirements will trigger a reshuffle among the boys that can take some of the pressure off.

But does Nawaz really believe that this is the hangover of the Musharraf-Kayani era that is out to get him or does he know — and knows that he can’t say out loud — that Raheel, Zahir and everyone else, they’re all the same, and they all either fear, loathe or are suspicious of Nawaz?

Because, on the opposite side, if it is in fact true — facts? What are those? — that it wasn’t Raheel or Zahir who conceived of or authorised the attempted street putsch, exactly how unhappy could they really have been with events if they let events play out till the very end?

And round and round it goes, the civ-mil riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma that is also quite simple: the civilians aren’t up to scratch yet; the boys have an old playbook; the game will continue, until something else replaces it.

For now, the game is here. And Nawaz ain’t winning.

So, is this it? From here on out the memory will linger on, battle lines drawn, Nawaz pushed into survival mode, focusing on a domestic economic agenda, leaving the big-boy stuff to the boys, like Zardari did?

It’s a long time to wait: 2018.

At least in 2009, the military overhang was still monstrously large and the democratic transition in the hands of an electoral novice and political liability.

Then — short-change though it did the country — at least something, survival, was better than nothing. But successive five-year terms of the same? It is an unhappy thought.

What can Nawaz do to salvage his third term? Well, he can stop being Nawaz. But a born-again democrat being re-birthed a fifth of his way through a third stint in power? Shed the advisers, ditch the bureaucrats, bring in some fresh blood — it’d still be the old Nawaz making the final call.

It’s not just the ponderousness, the slowness of response and the visceral need to crush opponents. It’s the personalised nature of all that is happening.

Musharraf — personal. October 1999. And all that happened afterwards. But October 1999.

Qadri — personal. He made him, he financed him, he will teach him a lesson.

Imran — challenge to personal fiefdom, Punjab. To boot, sponsored, in Nawaz’s mind, by the institutional foe and unleashed again on behalf of a personal enemy, Musharraf.

Nawaz is what everyone thought Zardari would be. Unable to forget, unwilling to forgive and unfit to lead. Except Zardari learned, Nawaz hasn’t in three tries.

Hit the re-set button and start the countdown anew. 2018 — unless a miracle happens.

But back to the present, back to the opponents, back to Islamabad. The immediate danger is almost gone; can Nawaz though be magnanimous and engage his political foes?

Qadri left Islamabad in Jan 2013 after working out an important-sounding but meaningless charter with the PPP government and sharing a laugh with Kaira. Will Imran get the same courtesy?

Wander around the sites of freedom and revolution in Islamabad and, if you are of a certain, decent bent, a particular wave of emotions will wash over you.

To see Imran, this version, and Qadri, all versions, in action is to feel a mix of pity, resentment and anger — 67 years on, is this the best we’ve got to bring down a government?

Qadri is a zealot, Imran obsessed with power — whether they are carefully deployed assets or independent opportunists, surely Pakistan deserves better.

Or perhaps not. Because to watch this version of Nawaz — the only version? — in action is to feel fear. Is he really the best of what the democrats have to offer?

The writer is a member of staff.

cyril.a

Twitter: @cyalm

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2014

Bar councils’ decline

Faisal Hussain

IN the beginning, law societies were formed primarily with the object of rooting out the vending of justice through go-betweens, commonly referred to as ‘touts’. This was because the practice of buying and selling judges and justice is as old as the judicial system itself. With time, however, these societies developed into lawyers’ welfare organisations.

IN the beginning, law societies were formed primarily with the object of rooting out the vending of justice through go-betweens, commonly referred to as ‘touts’. This was because the practice of buying and selling judges and justice is as old as the judicial system itself. With time, however, these societies developed into lawyers’ welfare organisations.

The Pakistan Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Act 1973 governs the affairs of bar councils. It recognises two tiers of bar councils, the first being the Pakistan Bar Council which is the parent body of lawyers’ associations and the second comprising the four provincial bar councils. The district and high court bar associations function under the rules of the provincial bar councils.

The main functions of the bar councils under the act are to safeguard the rights, privileges and interests of advocates. The bar councils are also bound to promote and suggest law reforms, and to take measures to ensure inexpensive and fair justice from the judiciary. Being the governing bodies of lawyers, they also organise examinations, tests or interviews to admit new advocates on their rolls and to entertain and determine cases of misconduct, punish the advocates and remove their names from the rolls if guilt is proven.

Practically speaking, however, Pakistan’s law societies have become a virtual tool in the hands of their members and due to subjective lawyer politics, the utility and effectiveness of these bodies have been compromised. As has often enough been pointed out, they demand funds and plots for their members from the government, instead of making coherent and comprehensive efforts to suggest and bring about reforms required to improve standards and quality within their own ranks.

The district and high court bar associations are the electoral college for the respective provincial bar councils. The latter elect members of the Pakistan Bar Council. For this reason, bar associations have become very influential bodies that can often dictate terms to the office-bearers. Even segments of the judiciary are not averse to obliging them.

The legal community has always been very powerful, but the situation regarding its activities has deteriorated after the lawyers movement. Since the success of this movement, many law societies have been accused of corruption, sometimes even of blackmail, while lawyers have emerged as the most dominant component in the administration of the justice system.

The offices of the bar association and bar councils are almost like businesses where huge amounts are spent on ‘campaigns’ by candidates to win bar elections.

The saddest part is that after the lawyers movement, some of the advocates started to indulge in mob tactics. Numerous incidents have been reported in the media where they have beaten up and abused police officials, judges and their staff. There have even been cases where such individuals were detained and kept in illegal confinement in their own chambers because they refused to meet the lawyers’ demands.

The irony is that neither the bar councils nor, unfortunately, the superior judiciary took firm notice of these incidents. The lawyers’ behaviour was overlooked. In a few cases, the victimised officials, judges or staff were forced to beg their attackers for mercy. In others, instead of calling the culprits to account, judges of the subordinate judiciary were transferred out of station.

Often, the office-bearers of law societies are prevented from performing their main role as watchdogs against corruption, nepotism and favouritism.

The appointments in the superior court system are also contributing to this decline. Due to the extremely centralised system of appointments, office-bearers often become job-seekers and end up ignoring their main role of highlighting the problems of the system, including corruption and nepotism.

The process of the accountability of advocates is in the hands of the bar councils, but the legal fraternity is constantly failing to hold its own members accountable.

In the absence of a vibrant and vigorous bar association and firm bar councils, the concept of an honest and valiant judiciary at all levels of the judicial structure becomes doubtful.

Law societies must play their role in bringing about the reform of their own cadres. A number of steps can be taken towards this end.

The first measure in this direction would be to ensure that the bars are completely independent bodies, free of any outside influence. Second, the members must elect those representatives who have a reputation for honesty and professionalism. Third, office-bearers must of their own volition not take up cases for which they will be paid during their tenure, and the courts must also discourage this practice. Fourth, bar representatives should only be allowed to contest elections after the verification of their degrees. And lastly, bar councils must suggest reforms in substantive and procedural laws as well as in legal education.

The writer is an advocate.

Twitter: @faisal_fareed

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2014

Missing debate

Khadim Hussain

COUNTERTERRORISM strategies across the globe and Pakistan’s own experience inform us that the use of force only succeeds in disrupting, dismantling and weakening terrorist networks when supported by an effective counter-narrative, accurate data regarding the progress of an anti-militancy campaign, and a well-trained, well-equipped police force.

COUNTERTERRORISM strategies across the globe and Pakistan’s own experience inform us that the use of force only succeeds in disrupting, dismantling and weakening terrorist networks when supported by an effective counter-narrative, accurate data regarding the progress of an anti-militancy campaign, and a well-trained, well-equipped police force.

With the launching of Operation Zarb-i-Azb by the army in North Waziristan, the militant landscape in Pakistan seems to be getting more complex. The absence of the expected backlash in Pakistan’s urban centres has triggered some critical questions for the public and especially for those affected by the military operation.

The first set of questions relates to the lack of factual information regarding the progress of the military operation. Data is provided by a single source and is not verifiable by other sources perhaps because of the military’s hesitancy to make public its strategy. Whatever the reason, the poor flow of information has created confusion and suspicion among those directly affected by the operation. A common question in both KP and Fata is: ‘where is the command and control structure of the militant network now?’ The other question is: ‘what will the government do to disrupt the militant network in urban centres?’

The recent security conference in Islamabad, chaired by the prime minister, was a positive step as the political leadership was taken into confidence. It is advisable that both houses of parliament be similarly informed on the progress of Operation Zarb-i-Azb. The cabinet committee that was formed to oversee the military operation and handle IDP issues appears to be dysfunctional. One reason could be attributed to the tensions engendered by the ‘long march’ and ‘revolution’ activities. These are at best diversionary tactics that can have grave consequences.

Pakistan’s politicians, media and academia have so far failed to help construct a counter-extremist discourse. The absence of one has complicated efforts to understand the intricacies of religiously-motivated violence in the country. The absence of a backlash so far should not be read as lack of capacity of the militant network to inflict damage on state and society. Unfortunately, the media discourse and educational reforms to construct a pluralist narrative are missing despite this situation.

The absence of an alternative to what the militants are propounding is evident at many levels of society, and has resulted in shrinking space for independent thinking. It has had a negative impact on the role of women in society and has made the environment for ‘minorities’ ever more insecure. The lack of a discourse that counters extremist ideas has also impacted negatively on issues of empowerment, equal distribution of resources and the efficient delivery of social services.

An important factor in the fight against militancy is the presence of a well-trained, well-equipped and skilled police force in all the provinces, especially KP. One of the reasons for the poor resistance to the social control of militants in Fata, KP and elsewhere is the absence of proper law-enforcement under the civilian authority. This is borne out by the extent of the socio-cultural and socio-political space captured by the militant network in these areas.

The militants do not need to launch large-scale, expensive attacks when they are able to dominate society through their narrative. Once they have assumed control, they go for targeted killings. In addition, the network also develops extortion chains. There are credible reports that targeted killings have increased by 30pc and the number of cases of extortion has also gone up substantially in KP, especially in and around Peshawar.

Successive governments in KP have paid an acceptable level of attention to training, equipping and imparting skills to the police force. The sacrifices that have been rendered by the police force have been rightly praised by both ordinary people and ex-police officials. The present and previous KP governments have had plans to establish a police directorate of counterterrorism, to separate investigation and prosecution, and create a proper department for intelligence. Still, there is much left to be done.

One assumes that there must be an analytical wing at the intelligence department to sift through and scrutinise coordinated intelligence reports to come up with a strategy and to form accurate threat perceptions. It is hoped that the analytical wing works closely with experts on the subject. One also expects that information gathering is updated and modernised so that crime, extortion and targeted killings are pre-empted.

It is also important for Pakistan to coordinate with its neighbours in the task of dismantling the militant network. Pakistan needs to demonstrate an inclusive, cooperative approach if it is to neutralise the formidable threat of extremist violence in the country.

The writer is a political analyst based in Peshawar.

khadimhussain565

Twitter: @khadimhussain4

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2014

To subscribe or unsubscribe to this mailing list, please fill the form located at: http://www.dawn.com/subscription

DAWN Media Group, Haroon House, Karachi 74200, Pakistan

Copyright © 2014 Pakistan Herald Publications (Pvt.) Ltd.

Advertisements

About pkdramas
Pakistan is best

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: