DWS, Sunday 24th August to Saturday 30th August 2014

DAWN

WIRE SERVICE

DWS, Sunday 24th August to Saturday 30th 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

Pessimistic PTI terms dialogue dead

Kalbe Ali

ISLAMABAD: As the third round of negotiations between the government and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) wound up on Saturday afternoon, the PTI team declared the talks “dead” as their main demand remained unacceptable to the other side.

ISLAMABAD: As the third round of negotiations between the government and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) wound up on Saturday afternoon, the PTI team declared the talks “dead” as their main demand remained unacceptable to the other side.

The PTI had ratcheted down its primary objective, from demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his relinquishing charge of the top slot for one month so that a fact-finding judicial commission may have time to present its findings on electoral rigging during this period.

“Although we have presented a win-win solution that is in the interest of both sides, as well as in the best interest of the country’s future, the government side insists on sacrificing the country for the sake of one man,” PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi said.

“This is really unfortunate,” he said while talking to media after talks at a five-star hotel in the capital.

Middle-ground?

“Our perspective is that while a judicial commission — consisting of judges of the Supreme Court — is evaluating and investigating rigging in the 2013 general elections, Nawaz Sharif should remain out of office,” Mr Qureshi said, adding that the law does not bar any person from becoming premier for a fourth time, if the commission rules that the elections were fair.

Mr Qureshi said that the prime minister should step down for this brief period as it was essential to ensure the appearance of propriety and ensure that the judicial commission is not under undue influence.

“We do not doubt the integrity of the judges, but political influence will be exerted on the departments which are responsible for providing the necessary information. The best example of this bias is the failure to register an FIR over the Model Town tragedy, in spite of court orders,” he said.

Mr Qureshi said the party had even suggested that the ruling party nominate one of its own parliamentarians as interim prime minister and could even continue with the same over the course of the 30 days. However, if the judicial commission finds evidence of rigging, re-elections will be the only suitable recourse.

These softened demands were also echoed by party chief Imran Khan, who, in his speech at the sit-in on Saturday evening, said that “Ghazi-i-Jamhooriyat” (survivors of democracy) like Nawaz Sharif and former president Asif Ali Zardari had come together to “protect democracy” yet again.

“The people of my country know who believes in real democracy and who is simply minting money in the name of democracy,” he said.

“We have not asked for the formation of a national government, nor are we talking about a third option,” he said, referring to apprehensions about military intervention.

The PTI leader said a parliamentary committee had been formed to discuss electoral reforms and that the party had expressed a willingness to participate in the process, but added that the committee should complete its work within 45 days.

Apart from Mr Qureshi, the PTI team consisted of its President, Javed Hashmi, KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, Jehangir Tareen, Asad Umar and Dr Arif Alvi.

The government side was represented by Punjab Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar and federal ministers Ahsan Iqbal, Pervez Rashid, Zahid Hamid and Abdul Qadir Baloch.

Govt reciprocates

The government too seemed to concede some ground as Chaudhry Sarwar told reporters after the meeting that the PTI’s call for replacement of the chiefs of the Federal Investigation Agency, Nadra and the Election Commission of Pakistan were acceptable to them.

“We have asked them to nominate individuals for the positions and the government will consider those names,” he added.

Meanwhile, Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal told media that the call for the PM’s resignation was an irrational demand.

“We are ready to resolve the issue according to the law and constitution, not based on anybody’s stubbornness or (personal) likes and dislikes,” he said, adding that “As for influencing the departments or the commission, that is still possible because the whole cabinet and the party remains in power.”

Mr Iqbal said that both the houses of the parliament, the provincial assemblies and the legal community had passed unanimous resolutions rejecting the politics of agitation and demands for the PM’s resignation.

“As for demands related to electoral reforms, we have agreed to get rid of lacunas and this process is already under way,” he said, referring to the parliamentary committee on electoral reform.

Despite the PTI’s pessimism, the PML-N team said that negotiations were a never-ending process and they would continue to remain in contact with PTI leaders.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2014

Imran believes this is his moment

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: Notwith­stan­ding mounting pressure both from within the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and outside, its chairman believes ‘this is his moment’ and his party must carry on with its Azadi march until Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resigns.

ISLAMABAD: Notwith­stan­ding mounting pressure both from within the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and outside, its chairman believes ‘this is his moment’ and his party must carry on with its Azadi march until Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resigns.

According to party insiders and analysts, PTI leaders have had a heated debate over the past couple of days on whether to stick to their main demand of the prime minister’s resignation or show some flexibility and try to find a middle ground in talks with the government.

During the party’s core committee meeting held on Friday evening on top of Imran Khan’s custom-made container at the D-Chowk, some leaders aggressively argued in favour of a negotiable deal with the government and getting the maximum by dropping the main demand lower in the order, Dawn has learnt from PTI sources.

In minority though, ones who favoured talks asserted that in case the Azadi march failed, the PTI would be isolated and might lose its voting strength which the party had only established in the last general elections, the sources said.

“If we keep on hitting out at every political party sitting in the Parliament House or outside, who will support us if tomorrow the PTI needs allies,” a member of the committee was quoted as arguing during the meeting. The PTI chief over the past few days has lambasted every politician who has supported the PML-N. But all the main parties sitting on the treasury and opposition benches appear to have agreed to make the resignation of the prime minister conditional to findings of a judicial commission the government has agreed to set up.

The government’s negotiators in their meeting with the PTI on Saturday also agreed to all its demands except the resignation.

But Mr Khan, according to his party’s leaders and others who have met him in his container, holds a deep conviction that he has brought this movement to a level from where he can only move forward, putting more pressure on the prime minister to resign. “I know I will get him out of power,” he was quoted as saying when a visitor confronted him with the fact that all other political parties and both houses of parliament were standing with the government.

Mr Khan believes, contrary to many in his own party, that if the prime minister doesn’t resign and accept the PTI’s demands, more people will join him both at the national and international levels.

A party leader conceded that he and his colleagues had no other option but to follow their leader and that the matters had entered a phase where they were left with little space even to differ with their leadership.

About a widely held perception that both Mr Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Dr Tahirul Qadri were going ahead with their marches on a cue from powers that be, PTI sources said the only message their chairman had received from the General Headquarters was that he should control his crowd and stop it from confronting the law-enforcement agencies.

After the government invoked Article 245, troops are looking after the security of Islamabad.

When Dr Qadri and Mr Khan moved towards the D-Chowk last week and the latter threatened to march on the Prime Minister House, the ISPR issued a warning against storming the buildings representing state authority.

The sources confirmed the rumours of the PTI chief’s backchannel contact with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, but refused to comment when asked if something was cooking up between the two.

The media is rife with speculations that not only are the two leaders in touch with each other, but the PTI chief has also proposed Chaudhry Nisar’s name as prime minister after an in-house change — a face-saving formula both for the protesting party and the government.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2014

Speaker says won’t hurry through processing PTI resignations

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

LAHORE: The Speaker of the National Assembly, Ayaz Sadiq, assured Jamaat-i-Islami emir Sirajul Haq on Sunday that he would not hurry through the processing of the resignations submitted to his office by MNAs of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

LAHORE: The Speaker of the National Assembly, Ayaz Sadiq, assured Jamaat-i-Islami emir Sirajul Haq on Sunday that he would not hurry through the processing of the resignations submitted to his office by MNAs of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

The JI emir, who had called on the speaker at the latter’s residence here, urged him to delay a decision on the resignations in order to give some more time to the conciliation process.

Mr Haq was optimistic that the dispute between the PML-N and PTI would be resolved in 48 hours.

Mr Sadiq himself could not receive the resignations bec­ause he had left for Lahore on Friday evening before PTI leaders Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Arif Alvi and others arrived at the National Assembly secretariat.

The speaker told newsmen after the meeting that he had assured the JI emir of doing everything possible in the interest of the Constitution and democracy. He also said that the standard operating procedure would be followed in the processing of the resignations.

Responding to a question, Mr Haq said Imran Khan’s statement about getting married in ‘new Pakistan’ was a positive sign in the current tense atmosphere.

Mr Sadiq, who had defeated the PTI chief in the 2013 elections from NA-122, said he would be happy to attend Mr Khan’s wedding if he was invited as a witness to the Nikah.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2014

Zardari advises PM to handle crisis ‘politically’

Khalid Hasnain

LAHORE: Former president Asif Ali Zardari has asked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to handle the crisis politically as democracy should not be derailed under any circumstances.

LAHORE: Former president Asif Ali Zardari has asked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to handle the crisis politically as democracy should not be derailed under any circumstances.

“Dialogue, dialogue and dialogue is the only solution to deal with the crisis (in the wake of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s sit-ins in Islamabad). Reservations can only be redressed through dialogue,” the PPP co-chairman told a news conference after paying visits to Nawaz Sharif, Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq and PML-Q leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Husain and Pervez Elahi on Saturday.

Mr Zardari, who looked relaxed, was not specific when asked whether he suggested to Nawaz Sharif to resign or not. “Democracy should not be derailed under any circumstances. I am for Pakistan. I am for the parliament… and not for anyone else,” the former president replied.

However, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar told reporters after the meeting that Mr Zardari was not in favour of Mr Sharif’s resignation. “It has been agreed upon at the meeting that there is no question of the prime minister’s resignation,” Mr Dar said.

About his meeting with the premier, Mr Zardari said: “I asked Mian Sahib to adopt soft stance and show patience even if someone (an obvious reference to Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri) is not willing to listen.

“In democracy doors are never shut. The dialogue process should continue. One political force should not challenge the other. It is time to resolve all issues by sitting together.”

When asked whether he gave any ‘formula’ to resolve the crisis, he said: “The government will have to make any such formula. Like a doctor I am here to diagnose the ailment and then see how to cure it. I have convened the PPP’s central executive committee meeting on Monday to discuss the matter,” he said, adding that it was his and the parliamentarians’ effort to defuse the crisis.

When his comments were sought on ‘third empire’ as referred by Imran Khan to decide the ongoing ‘match’ between the government and the protesting parties, Mr Zardari said: “There is no third umpire. And if there is any then it will have serious repercussions.”

The former president did not term the demands of Imran Khan or Dr Qadri ‘legal or illegal’.

“At the end of the day the country should benefit from this crisis,” he said and complained that ‘foul language’ was used against him but he never responded to that.

When asked whether he advised Mr Sharif to become president to avert the crisis, he said with a smile, “Why I should give him this suggestion as I can become president”.

Earlier, Mr Zardari along with PPP leaders Khursheed Shah, Raza Rabbani, Aitzaz Ahsan and Rehman Malik met Mr Sharif at his Raiwind residence. Federal ministers Ishaq Dar, Khawaja Asif, Abdul Qadir Baloch and Saad Rafique also attended the meeting.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was conspicuous by his absence.

A source in the PML-N said since Shahbaz Sharif had used ‘indecent language’ about Mr Zardari in the past he was advised to better stay away as the media would taunt further.

Ishaq Dar said the government had shown extreme flexibility and all the six demands of PTI had practically been met.

“Mr Zardari has assured his full support to the government in resolving the crisis within the ambit of the constitution and law,” he said, adding that it had been proposed in the meeting that the parliamentarians of other parties (not PML-N) could hold negotiations with the protesting parties.

He said Nawaz Sharif had thanked Mr Zardari for his visit. Qadir Baloch said the talks with the PTI and PAT had reached the point where their leadership had to take decision.

PML-Q senior leader Chaudhry Pervez Elahi said: “We have told Mr Zardari that PAT’s sit-in in Islamabad will certainly derail the Sharifs and not democracy. If the Sharifs are derailed it will only because of their undemocratic behaviour.”

He said since the PML-Q was an ally of the PAT the sit-in would continue till resignation of Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif.

“Mr Zardari has also endorsed that Model Town tragedy was great oppression and the effected people should be given justice,” he said.

“We have asked Mr Zardari to support the demands of registration of an FIR and establishment of the national government,” Mr Elahi said.

Mr Zardari is the first PPP supremo who visited the Jamaat-i-Islami headquarters at Mansoora after about four decades. JI chief Sirajul Haq said after the meeting: “We have suggested that the prime minister should resign if found guilty of rigging in the May 2013 elections by the Supreme Court’s commission.”

“We have told Mr Zardari that the two parties should be given an honourable way to resolve the issue. The PML-N and PTI would have to go one step back to resolve the crisis. It is a good sign both Supreme Court and the establishment have so far distanced themselves from the crisis,” Sirajul Haq said.

JI senior leader Liaqaut Baloch termed Mr Zardari’s visit to Mansoora a positive development. “All mainstream political parties are together to protect the constitution and democracy.”

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2014

India accused of violating Indus Water Treaty

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

LAHORE: Pakistan expressed serious concerns on Sunday over construction of Kishanganga Dam and termed it a clear violation by India of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT).

LAHORE: Pakistan expressed serious concerns on Sunday over construction of Kishanganga Dam and termed it a clear violation by India of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT).

It also said that four other proposed dams on the Chenab would be in violation of the treaty.

According to officials, the objections were raised by the Pakistani IWT commissioner during the first round of a meeting with his Indian counterpart who had arrived here to discuss disputes between the two countries.

Also read: Legal case for dams

Pakistani authorities raised objections to the diversion of Chenab water by India by constructing hydropower projects, including the 690MW Ratli Dam, 1,000MW Pikkal Dam, 1,190MW Karthai Dam and 600MW Kero Dam and said this was a violation of the treaty, the officials said.

“Pakistan has also raised objections over design of the Kishanganga Dam that may reduce the required water discharges to Pakistan. And it will be a clear violation of the IWT,” an official said.

He said the authorities had urged Indian IWT officials to change the dam’s design. The officials from the two countries would discuss all issues in detail during the next round in order to resolve them amicably, he said.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2014

Three killed in firing by Indian forces

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

SIALKOT: Three Pakista­nis, a woman among them, were killed and 11 others injured in unprovoked shelling by Indian forces on villages along the Sialkot Wor­king Boundary on Saturday.

SIALKOT: Three Pakista­nis, a woman among them, were killed and 11 others injured in unprovoked shelling by Indian forces on villages along the Sialkot Wor­king Boundary on Saturday.

The villages which were fired upon were Bajrah Gar­hi, Khadraal, Anula, Beeni, Sucheetgarh and Charwah.

Officials of the Chenab Rangers said farmer Imdad Husain, 55, and Nazia Bibi, 36, were sleeping in their courtyards in Bajrah Garhi and Khadraal when mortar shells fired by Indian forces hit them. The third person to be killed was Asghar Ali, 37.

The officials accused Indian forces of targeting civilian population with mortar shells and light and heavy machineguns. They said the firing began at 1am and continued for six hours.

On their part, Indian officials alleged that two persons were killed and four others injured in firing by Pakistani forces, AFP added.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2014

Govt focusing on appeasing PAT

Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD: The government didn’t get much rest on Sunday. It continued working on pacifying the protesting parties, which have laid siege to Constitution Avenue, by sending federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique to talk to Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s Dr Tahirul Qadri.

ISLAMABAD: The government didn’t get much rest on Sunday. It continued working on pacifying the protesting parties, which have laid siege to Constitution Avenue, by sending federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique to talk to Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s Dr Tahirul Qadri.

However, the minister proved unsuccessful in convincing the cleric to soften his attitude. The latter insisted that negotiations would not move forward till an FIR was registered against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, for their alleged involvement in the deaths of PAT workers in the Model Town incident in June.

The minister landed at the PAT dharna without any prior intimation or announcement despite the fact that earlier the protesting leader had refused to accept Mr Rafique as a member of the government team set up to negotiate with his team.

Also read: Zardari advises PM to handle crisis ‘politically’

PAT had argued then that as the minister was one of the people the party had nominated for the FIR, it would not talk to him. He was then removed from the team.

However, on Sunday, he was let into the container where he spoke to Dr Qadri directly.

After the meeting Mr Rafique spoke to media persons and said the government was ready to hold talks with PAT on its main demand — registration of FIR on Model Town killings. “The solution of the problem will be found through negotiations,” he said.

Talking to Dawn after the meeting, a PAT official, Raheeq Abbasi, said the government team sent had no mandate to offer any concession on the issue of the FIR. This is why, he said, the deadlock prevailed.

When asked why the minister was allowed to meet the cleric, he said, “We are hospitable people and when he turned up at the dharna, Dr Sahib called him in for a meeting.”

Mr Abbasi said the minister spoke to Dr Qadri about the government’s viewpoint on the issue of the FIR. “Khawaja Saad Rafique assured us that he will talk to the prime minister and get back to us,” he added.

Later, Dr Qadri made a speech to his followers.

He told them that Khawaja Saad Rafique had come to make an effort to end the deadlock.

“He assured us that the talks between the government and PAT will resume and that the issue of the registration of FIR will be discussed,” the PAT chief said.

He vowed to continue the dharna in front of parliament till his demands were addressed, warning the government to desist from violence.

“If I am killed my followers will be ready to be martyred and the Parliament House will become a graveyard of martyrs,” he thundered.

However, Mr Rafique was not the only politician who reached out to Dr Qadri.

The cleric spent a very busy day.

Former President Asif Ali Zardari also called him and the two, according to the official account, discussed the current situation during the telephone call.

In addition, PML-Q leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervez Elahi also called on the PAT chief, where once again the prevailing political situation was discussed.

Both leaders, who are supporting PAT’s protest, had also met PPP co-chairman Mr Zardari in Lahore on Saturday.

Apart from these mainstream politicians, a delegation of Milli Yakjehti Council (MYC) also met Dr Qadri after a special meeting of the council.

The meeting ended up supporting most of the demands of PAT and urged all the stakeholders to find a reasonable middle way to defuse the tension. They were in favour of the registration of the FIR and a transparent investigation into the Model Town incident.

After this, the delegation went to D-Chowk to meet Dr Qadri.

The delegation included the council’s president Sahibzada Abulkhair Muhammad Zubair, Liaquat Baloch and Allama Sajid Naqvi.

It is noteworthy that on Sunday the focus remained on the government-PAT negotiations because of these visits, while PTI and its demands remained in the background. In fact, the rumours of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif resigning were so strong that his office had to issue a denial to put an end to the whispers.

The rumours suggested that the resignation of the chief minister would help reach a deal with PAT.

Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif along with the prime minister spent the weekend in Lahore. However, he is reported to be travelling to Islamabad on Monday morning.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2014

Customer 32 — who used FinFisher to spy in Pakistan?

Jahanzaib Haque

KARACHI: Someone inside Pakistan purchased an estimated 300,000-euro toolset of highly controversial surveillance software, and digital human rights activists are concerned about the serious threats this poses to the security and privacy of users operating in local cyberspace.

KARACHI: Someone inside Pakistan purchased an estimated 300,000-euro toolset of highly controversial surveillance software, and digital human rights activists are concerned about the serious threats this poses to the security and privacy of users operating in local cyberspace.

Digital Rights Foundation Pakistan (DRFP), a local NGO focused on digital rights, released its investigation into a 40GB leak of data from the servers of FinFisher, an online mass surveillance software that has been criticised by human rights organisations for its high potential for abuse, as in its use to target protesters in Bahrain (2012) and its purchase by Egyptian secret services during the revolution of 2011.

The latest data leak this August was made downloadable online by a hacker identified only by the online handle, PhineasFisher. The hacker wrote a note on social networking site Reddit, justifying the leak as a means to, “hopefully develop a better understanding of the organisations, and methods of operation involved in these [surveillance] attacks so that those targeted can actually defend themselves.”

DRFP carried out an investigation into the data, given the fact that tests carried out in 2013 by Canada-based Citizen Lab confirmed the presence of two FinFisher Command and Control servers operating in Pakistan.

DRFP sifted through the new data which included correspondence between customers and FinFisher support staff, and found that someone from Pakistan licensed three softwares from FinFisher for a period of three years. FinSpy and FinUSB were purchased by the Pakistani customer in April 2010, while the FinIntrusion Kit was purchased in June 2010.

Also read: PTA says it does not conduct surveillance

FinSpy is used to remotely control and access online users who “change location, use encrypted and anonymous communication channels and reside in foreign countries”. FinUSB is used to infect USB devices, so whoever uses them becomes a target of surveillance, while the FinIntrusion Kit makes it possible to hack into hotel, airport, and other Wi-Fi networks to record traffic, extract usernames and passwords (even for encrypted sessions), and capture data like webmail, video portals, online banking and more.

Chats between “Customer 32” (username 0DF6972B and ID 32) who identifies himself as ‘Khalid’ from Pakistan, and FinFisher support staff indicate that the surveillance software was being used to infect Microsoft Office PowerPoint documents to enable spying on whomever received and opened the file(s).

Additionally, the DRFP report cites that, “Customer 32 also used FinFisher to covertly steal files from target” computers.

All the files of those who were targeted were readily available but Customer 32 wanted more. As outlined in another exchange with FinFisher support staff, ‘Khalid’ requested a software update where: “the agent [should] be able to select files to download even when the target is offline and whenever the target comes online, those selected files may be downloaded without the interaction required from user.”

DRFP alleges that the spy software was likely being used by a Pakistani intelligence agency, given the high cost of the software and the fact that FinFisher’s company policy states that, “solutions are sold to governmental agencies only”.

Director of DRFP Nighat Dad terms these findings “worrisome” due to the human rights violations associated with this technology.

“Vulnerable groups like human rights defenders, journalists and activists are at great risk in Pakistan, where there are no protections of privacy rights and no regulations being followed in the surveillance of people,” says Ms Dad, adding that, “As citizens of a democratic state, it is our right to know who is using such intrusive surveillance software in Pakistan, and what laws and regulations are being followed in their deployment.”

Court case against FinFisher use in limbo

Based on Citizen Lab’s earlier findings, digital rights organisation Bytes For All Pakistan filed a public interest litigation case in the Lahore High Court in May 2013, challenging the existence of FinFisher Command and Control Servers in Pakistan. The same month, the Lahore High Court ordered the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to present a report on the issue within 30 days. Over a year has passed, with six “confirmed dates”, but the PTA has yet to produce the report, and the court has yet to proceed on the case.

Lamenting the lack of action, petitioner and Bytes for All chairman Shahzad Ahmad says, “There is ample evidence already since the Citizen Lab report, so no more investigation is needed. There is hard technical evidence. Right now, we need a response from authorities in the court of law.”

With proof that FinFisher has been and may still be active in Pakistan, Ahmad says the issue of online surveillance is now of greater importance than that of the more high-profile online censorship issues.

“Unfortunately, breach of privacy is a much graver issue than censorship, as censorship can be circumvented; loss of privacy is permanent,” Ahmad says.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2014

Enter the chief

Baqir Sajjad Syed

ISLAMABAD: The long siege of the red zone by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek neared its end because the ‘umpire’ finally looked up and called time out.

ISLAMABAD: The long siege of the red zone by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek neared its end because the ‘umpire’ finally looked up and called time out.

And all the players stopped their games immediately.

At two in the night, PTI Chairman Imran Khan told his followers after his meeting with Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif that he had told the army chief that he was still adamant that the prime minister resign.

He did however add that the army chief had assured him that the army would ensure a transparent and fair investigation of the election rigging.

He told the cheering crowds that if the prime minister resigned by Friday afternoon, he and his party would return to D-Chowk for celebrations.

But this announcement came after a long, tense day, in which politicians ran back and forth trying to convince the three intransigent players — the two protesting leaders and a stubborn government — and rumours of an impending clash in the red zone kept Islamabad on edge, it seemed as if there was little hope of any reconciliation and agreement.

An intransigent government

By the afternoon it seemed the government had dug in its heels and was not willing to concede anything beyond an FIR for the deaths of the PAT workers who died in Model Town, Lahore.

This much was announced by Railways Minister Khwaja Saad Rafique during the National Assembly session.

He then, along with Defence Minister Khwaja Asif, Zahid Hamid and Information Minister Pervez Rashid spoke to the press explaining their efforts to reach out to the protesters.

Mr Hamid and Mr Rashid stood quietly as the other two dominated the mikes.

Mr Rafique said that “We have even agreed to register a fake FIR against ourselves.”

He and Mr Asif claimed that they had accepted five out of six demands by the PTI but could not allow the prime minister to resign.

They added that the deadlock with Mr Qadri occurred because the cleric said that after the government registered an FIR and made the chief minister resign, he would give simply another 24 hours to negotiate the rest of his conditions.

This was all the government provided in terms of information to the citizens apart from the reports later from Lahore that the FIR was being registered.

A hapless opposition

The Jamaat-i-Islami made another effort to reach out when Sirajul Haq and PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira went together to meet Mr Khan but to no avail even though the indefatigable JI chief kept his hopes up.

He said that the PAT and PTI leadership deserved praise for having achieved 90 per cent of their demands peacefully, adding that “I hope the remaining issues will also be resolved in accordance with the constitution and the law.”

Mr Kaira too praised the two parties and their commitment and efforts. However, they had little else to report in terms of progress. But the real progress was being made elsewhere and quietly.

Earlier in the day it had been reported that the prime minister had met the army chief, a meeting which even at normal times is prioritised by news channels – on Thursday afternoon, it was enough to send the electronic media into a tizzy.

The news of the meeting was soon followed by the information that the government had asked the army chief to play a “positive” role.

Following the third meeting between the prime minister and Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif in nine days, the government spokesman said: “The two had agreed to take necessary steps to resume the dialogue.”

But before long, the capitulation of the political class was made public.

The revolution stops short

“Sources” claimed that the military was going to play a role in dispute resolution after the government’s request but the final confirmation came from the two protagonists atop the revolution and azadi containers.

As the breaking news about mediation was still being played out on the television screens, Dr Tahirul Qadri began his speech, which he had promised the night before.

Thundering on about how he refused to accept the FIR that the government had registered, he was told in his ear about a phone call by an aide.

His tone softened there and then; the doctor-cleric stopped short in his tracks, reiterated his ten demands and then called a break for prayers.

The break did not end till after 9.30 when he returned to disclose the army’s offer, which he pretended to accept after the crowd’s aye vote.

A little later, Mr Khan, who was droning on about his efforts to build hospitals, colleges and the Pakistanis he had met at international airports, too stopped mid-way.

Telling his excited crowds that he had to leave them for a short while, he assured them that victory was near.

It was quite clear by then that the political class had officially recognised the real power centre.

This was brought home by the visuals of Mr Khan driving off in a four-wheeler for a meeting with the army chief. Driven by his right hand man during this crisis, Jahangir Tareen, who has served under General Pervez Musharraf, Mr Khan had a wide smile on his face.

He clearly saw it as his moment of triumph; the dark criticism that was pouring in from all sides on the politicians in general for failing to resolve their issues themselves and turning to the military had clearly not reached him.

Director General ISPR Asim Bajwa tweeted that “Army Chief will meet PTI Chairman Imran Khan and Chairman PAT Allama Tahirul Qadri tonight.”

This confirmed the news running on channels that Mr Khan had rushed to meet the army chief.

According to the military, the COAS first met Mr Khan and then Dr Qadri for around half an hour each.

From the government, there was only silence on Thursday night.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2014

Politicians decry army’s role in politics

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: As Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri left their containers for separate meetings with the army chief on Thursday night, leaders from across the political spectrum regretted that things had to come to this juncture, where the military would get involved in a political issue.

ISLAMABAD: As Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri left their containers for separate meetings with the army chief on Thursday night, leaders from across the political spectrum regretted that things had to come to this juncture, where the military would get involved in a political issue.

The most significant reaction came from a PTI leader.

Former PML-N stalwart Javed Hashmi, who is known for his outspoken opposition to military’s involvement in politics, said “After this, we will not be able to hold our heads high. It is shameful time for all politicians who, despite having the time, could not resolve the crisis on their own”.

Speaking to a TV channel, he said that real democracy would only flourish in the country when politicians were able to make their own decisions. The most one can expect from the army is the role of a guarantor between two parties, said Mr Hashmi.

When pressed, Mr Hashmi explained he was known as “Mr Naraaz” within the party for his propensity towards taking principled stand. He stressed that he would never accept martial law in the country.

“This is end of democracy, the Constitution and supremacy of the parliament in the country,” said retired Justice Tariq Mehmood when he heard of General Raheel Sharif’s intervention to defuse the ongoing crisis.

This is the same Justice Mehmood who was at the forefront of the lawyers’ movement, which was brought to fruition by the intervention of another military chief, Gen Sharif’s predecessor Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

“I feel no shame in admitting that military intervention was wrong then and it is wrong now. But considering that all political parties in the country were trying to resolve the impasse, having the army chief mediating between the quarrelling sides is something which will be remembered as a moment of collective disgrace for all politicians across the political spectrum,” he said, adding that Gen Kayani’s involvement wasn’t as overt as Gen Sharif’s has been.

“I wonder how, after succumbing to military pressure, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will face parliament, which has been supporting him throughout,” he mused.

JI Emir Sirajul Haq had a more cautious response. He told a TV channel that if the army could intercede and end this crisis, well and good, but the military had no role in politics.

JUI-F spokesperson Jan Achakzai had a similar response. “It is a failure of the politicians who could not resolve the crisis. But I welcome any deal that remains within the spirit of democracy and the Constitution of Pakistan,” he said.

PPP leader Syed Khursheed Shah, who is also leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, said he would ask the prime minister why the army chief had to be asked to mediate when nearly all political parties were present in the house and had offered their services to them.

Former Punjab governor and PPP leader Latif Khosa put the onus of the military’s involvement in this crisis squarely on the ruling PML-N’s shoulders. “After killing 14 innocent PAT workers, the Sharif brothers were unwilling even to register their FIR,” he said, adding that the government’s delaying tactics in dealing with PAT and PTI further complicated the situation.

Talking to DawnNews, prominent lawyer and rights activist Asma Jahangir criticised both Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan, saying that, “Those who had wasted 15 days must be discouraged.”

Nearly all parliamentary parties and politicians pleaded with them, but they did not heed anyone’s advice, she said. “Now, on a single phone call, they rush to Army House.”

She bitterly criticised military’s blatant involvement in political affairs, and said instead of using their proxies to destabilise the system, why don’t they impose direct military rule.

ANP’s Haji Adeel said it is wrong to make the military a political guarantor; parliament is the supreme guarantor. “This is a major failure for all politicians,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2014

Two journalists shot dead in Quetta

Saleem Shahid

QUETTA: Two journalists and an accountant of a news agency were shot dead here on Thursday.

QUETTA: Two journalists and an accountant of a news agency were shot dead here on Thursday.

Armed men barged into the bureau office of Online news agency at about 7.45pm and opened fire with automatic weapons, killing its bureau chief Irshad Mastoi, reporter Abdul Rasool Khajak and accountant Mohammad Younis on the spot. The killers escaped.

Sources said police could not reach the scene immediately, causing delay in taking the injured to hospital.

Hospital sources said all victims received multiple bullet injuries in their head and chest.

The motive for the killings could not be ascertained.

“We are investigating the incident and will be able to say something after completing it,” a senior police officer said.

No-one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Irshad Mastoi, 37, left behind a wife, a one year-old son and two daughters.

A very active journalist, writer and trade union leader, Mr Mastoi was secretary general of the Balochistan Union of Journalists. He was also working as script editor for ARY News channel at its Quetta bureau.

Irshad Mastoi started his career as a reporter with a local newspaper, worked at daily Mashriq, Quetta, as a feature writer and later joined Online.

Abdul Rasool Khajak was a final year student of Mass Communication at Balochistan University. He had completed a three-month internship at a news channel recently. He was working as a reporter at Online.

Mohammad Younis was working as an accountant in the news agency for several years.

More than 30 journalists have fallen victim to target killing in Balochistan over the past five years, but not a single accused has been arrested.

Soon after the incident, journalists covering the Balo­chistan Assembly proceedings rushed to the Civil Hos­pital. They blocked Jinnah road and staged a sit-in.

The protesting journalists, chanting slogans against the government, also staged a sit-in at the entrance of the red zone. Later, police allowed them to march towards the Governor and Chief Minister Houses.

The bodies of Irshad Mastoi and Abdul Rasool Khajak were dispatched to their native towns Jacobabad and Sibi for burial.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2014

India says it is willing to discuss Kashmir

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Days after calling off talks with Pakistan, and two days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Japan, India on Thursday signalled its willingness to discuss the Kashmir issue with Islamabad in a bilateral format.

NEW DELHI: Days after calling off talks with Pakistan, and two days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Japan, India on Thursday signalled its willingness to discuss the Kashmir issue with Islamabad in a bilateral format.

India’s disruption of this month’s proposed foreign secretaries’ talks had set off strong disapproval of Mr Modi’s decision across world capitals, including in Washington where the Indian prime minister is due to meet President Barack Obama next month.

Japan, due to host Mr Modi for five days from Saturday, is a staunch supporter of India-Pakistan dialogue. Reports said Mr Modi was hoping to clinch a hitherto elusive civil nuclear supplies deal with Japan during the visit.

Reports said the latest affirmation of discussions on Kashmir came from Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin, who was reacting to Pakistan government’s remarks that the Indo-Pak dialogue without discussions on Kashmir was “unacceptable”.

“As regards engagement with Pakistan, we have made it very clear that we will engage in the framework of Simla agreement and Lahore Declaration and both these provide for discussing all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir. Our view is very clear, a bilateral framework to discuss all outstanding issues, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

He was asked about the comments by Pakistani National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz, who has reportedly said that Islamabad offered talks to New Delhi in “good faith,” but holding a dialogue without addressing the Kashmir issue was unacceptable to Pakistan.

Mr Aziz was also quoted as saying that Pakistani officials have met leaders from the Indian portion of Kashmir in the past and New Delhi had not objected until now.

India had called off the talks between Foreign Secretaries slated for August 25, telling Pakistan bluntly to choose between an Indo-Pak dialogue or hobnobbing with the Hurriyat Conference.

India also objected to Pakistan terming the Kashmiri separatists as “stakeholders” in the resolution of Kashmir issue saying that, as per Simla Agreement, it was a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan and any other approach will “not yield results”.

Asked about the Border Security Forces chief’s remarks that India has witnessed heaviest ceasefire violations along the International Border since 1971 war, the spokesman was quoted as saying that Indian forces are best equipped to respond to such incidents.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2014

NA little enthused by belated Lahore FIR

Raja Asghar

ISLAMABAD: Though it would be the second such case in Pakistan, the National Assembly was hardly enthused to hear from the government on Thursday that the Lahore police would, after a lag of more than two months, register an agitating party’s complaint implicating Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in a police shooting that left at least 14 Pakistan Awami Tehreek activists dead.

ISLAMABAD: Though it would be the second such case in Pakistan, the National Assembly was hardly enthused to hear from the government on Thursday that the Lahore police would, after a lag of more than two months, register an agitating party’s complaint implicating Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in a police shooting that left at least 14 Pakistan Awami Tehreek activists dead.

Both friends and foes had been urging the government during a debate in the house over the past 11 days not to delay the matter any more, and it was expected to happen overnight before talks failed to make a breakthrough with the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), whose followers, along with those of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), have been besieging parliament for a week, also seeking the prime minister’s ouster and fresh elections.

Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq had told the house on Wednesday, in the presence of the prime minister, that what is called first information report (FIR) in parlance about the June 17 shootout could be registered if the names of unspecified “innocents” were removed from the complainants’ list of 21 accused.

But, in an apparent change of mind, Defence Minister Khawaja Mohamamd Asif said on Thursday that the government had conveyed to the other side even in Wednesday night’s talks its readiness to entertain the FIR with the prime minister’s name and that “we have begun the registration process”.

He said the government had forgone a legal right to appeal against a Lahore High Court ruling that upheld an earlier order of an additional sessions judge in Lahore directing the city’s Faisal Town police station to register the complaint from Minhajul Quran, a sister organisation of the PAT.

The announcement caused little stir in the house, opposition members have often accused the government of complicating matters with delayed responses such as to the PTI’s original demand for a vote audit in only four National Assembly constituencies in the Punjab province and procrastinating on the issue of the Lahore shooting ahead of a troubled return home of Dr Qadri from Canada on June 23.

The minister acknowledged the unusual delay in conceding to the right of the heirs of the dead to get their FIR registered, for which he offered no excuses, and said that “that right is being given now”.

The last time a prime minister was named in a murder FIR in Pakistan was in 1974 when prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was accused of conspiring a Nov 11 shooting in Lahore in which Nawab Mohammad Ahmed Khan, father of dissident National Assembly member of Mr Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Ahmed Raza Kasuri, was killed when the two men were driving home after attending a wedding party.

Although an inquiry by a high court judge had exonerated Mr Bhutto of the charge and Mr Kasuri too had apparently made peace with his party leader, military dictator Gen Ziaul Haq, who toppled the PPP government in a 1977 coup, later dug out the case that led to a controversial conviction and execution of Mr Bhutto.

Nobody mentioned Mr Bhutto’s case in speeches in the house, but the implications of the Lahore FIR have been discussed on the sidelines of the continuing house debate on the situation arising from two weeks of PTI and PAT sit-ins in Islamabad after the Aug 14 march from Lahore by tens of thousands of their supporters.

While announcing the government decision about the Lahore FIR — welcomed by Naveed Qamar of the PPP and Abdul Rahim Mandokhel of the government-allied Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party – Khawaja Asif ruled out the possibility of the prime minister resigning or of agreeing to what he called unconstitutional courses of forming a “national government” or one of technocrats as a solution to the present crisis.

“We will not step back an inch against unconstitutional and illegal demands,” he said about PTI chief Imran Khan’s demand for the prime minister to resign at least for a month to allow a free judicial probe of his party’s allegations of a massive rigging in last year’s general elections and Allama Qadri’s demand for the replacement of the present government with what he calls a “national government”.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmed denied a reported claim by PTI chairman Imran Khan that the government had made an offer to make him a deputy prime minister and that he had rejected it, and said a PML-N senator, Chaudhry Jaffar Iqbal, had made a proposal for the creation of such a post only “jokingly”.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2014

Kidnapped VC of Peshawar varsity freed

From the Newspaper

PESHAWAR: Security forces got freed Prof Ajmal Khan, Vice Chancellor of the Islamia University, four years after his abduction by the Taliban militants, Dawn.com reported on Thursday night.

PESHAWAR: Security forces got freed Prof Ajmal Khan, Vice Chancellor of the Islamia University, four years after his abduction by the Taliban militants, Dawn.com reported on Thursday night.

A statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Rela­tions said that security forces and intelligence agencies had been trying to locate Prof Ajmal since Sept 8, 2010, when he was kidnapped from Peshawar while going to the university.

“Civil society and relatives appreciated the untiring efforts of Pakistan Army for the safe recovery of Mr Ajmal Khan,” said the statement.

Prof Ajmal was in the Taliban’s captivity since he was kidnapped along with his driver at gunpoint from Professors’ Colony in the University of Peshawar.

The driver was released two years later.

The outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan had demanded the release of four militant prisoners in exchange for the professor’s release.

However, the government had refused to meet the TTP’s condition.

Prof Ajmal is a relative of Awami National Party chief Asfandyar Wali Khan and is a staunch supporter of war against militancy.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2014

Model Town case registered against PM, Shahbaz

Intikhab Hanif

LAHORE: The Minhajul Quran’s FIR on June 17 killings in the Model Town was finally registered on Thursday in accordance with court orders, but without any reference to the Anti-Terrorism Act, reportedly in deference to the government’s desire.

LAHORE: The Minhajul Quran’s FIR on June 17 killings in the Model Town was finally registered on Thursday in accordance with court orders, but without any reference to the Anti-Terrorism Act, reportedly in deference to the government’s desire.

Police had earlier registered a case against Minhajul Quran activists on behalf of the state but refused to entertain a similar request by the latter.

At least 11 activists, including two women, of Minhajul Quran, a sister organisation of Dr Tahirul Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek, were killed and dozens others injured during clashes with police on June 17.

The FIR was registered after a political decision taken by the PML-N government. The FIR names as suspects 21 people, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, under sections 302 (murder), 324 (hurt), 109 (abetment), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 395 (dacoity), 427 (mischief causing damage to the amount of fifty rupees) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of Pakistan Penal Code and 155 C of Police Order 2002 (different kind of misconduct by police officers).

The case was registered on the order of a Lahore additional district and sessions judge which was challenged but upheld by the Lahore High Court, and on an opinion by the DSP legal operations, Lahore. The opinion has been duly approved by the DIG (operations) Lahore.

Former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had been booked under sections 302, 307 (cases in which Qisas for qatl-i-amd shall not be enforced), 109, 120-B (punishment of criminal conspiracy) of the PPC. The court had added Section 111 (liability of abettor when one act abetted and different act done) of the PPC.

Police officials said that in the department’s opinion ATA clauses did not apply in this case. However, the complainant could approach the court concerned for the inclusion of relevant ATA clauses.

They said none of the accused had been arrested as per the direction of the Lahore High Court which stated “arrest of a suspect or accused is not necessary during the course of investigation and that the arrest of accused is to be deferred till the availability of incriminating evidence.”

According to the FIR lodged on a complaint of Jawad Ahmad of Minhajul Quran International, he and Hafiz Mohammad Waqar and Tayyab Zia Norani were at the Minhajul Quran Secretariat in M-Block, Model Town, at around 1am on June 17 when they heard some noise and came out of the building to see a heavily armed police contingent, with bulldozers, cranes and loader trucks around the residence of Dr Tahirul Qadri.

“As we went closer to Mr Qadri’s residence, we came to know that police who were led by Lahore DIG (Operations) Abdul Jabbar and Model Town SP (Operations) Tariq Aziz had come to remove security barriers and iron fences. Also accompanied with them were the Model Town Assistant Commissioner, Town Municipal Officer, SPs Maroof Safdar Wahla Umer Riaz Cheema, Salman Ali Khan, Kahna SHO Ishtiaq, Nishtar Colony SHO Ahmad Usman Majeed and other unidentified police officers.

“Police were told that the security measures were made four years ago on the direction of the high court and police as protective measures and written orders could be produced to police.

“In reply, the DIG operations said police had received strict orders from Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah to wipe out Mr Qadri and his family even at the cost of uncalculated casualties.

“After a hue and cry, some people from neighbourhood, including Mian Javed Iqbal and Mumtaz Ahmad, and some media people also gathered there and started protesting against police who arrived without any prior notice. Police resorted to teargas shelling on the orders of the DIG and the SP and also fired bullets at the gate of Mr Qadri’s residence. Later police started breaking cement barriers and lifting broken material. A security post was also demolished and copies of Holy Quran kept there fell on the ground. After seeing this on television more people gathered at the spot.

“The DIG kept receiving directions from some higher authority during the course of time and the activity continued…

“As cranes and bulldozers began to move towards Dr Qadri’s residence on the orders of the DIG and the SPs, some people, including women, who had assembled there, formed a human wall in front of the gate. The DIG ordered gunmen accompanying him to shoot them if they did not move away after he counted three.

“The DIG briskly counted three and police opened fire. Two women, identified as Tanzeela Amjad and Shazia Murtaza, suffered bullet injuries and later died at a hospital.

“People lodged a protest over police brutality, but police continued firing, leaving another six people dead and 100 others injured. Safdar Hussain, Umer Raza, Mohammad Iqbal, Asim Hussian, Ghulam Rasool and Rizwan Khan (student of Minhaj Shaia College) died. The DIG and the SP then ordered Model Town DSP Aftab Ahmad and Faisal Town SHO Rizwan Hashmi to move policemen to the secretariat and demolish it.

“Some other officers also reached the secretariat along with reserves and ransacked it. The receptionist and the security in-charge were beaten up and detained by police. Policemen also damaged the property, snatched licensed weapons from security guards and purse and mobile phones from some women. Policemen also fired shots within the secretariat.

“In the meantime, Shahbaz Sharif’s blue-eyed Gullu Butt kept damaging some parked vehicles and removing valuables as the police watched. Butt was also hugged by police officers.

“The motive behind the action was the 10-point agenda of Dr Qadri he had announced for the welfare of the people of Pakistan and his arrival on June 23 which unnerved the rulers who gave a message to our leader by intimidating and killing our workers…

“Mohammad Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, Hamza Sharif, Rana Sanaullah, Khawaja Saad Rafique, Khawaja Asif, Pervez Rasheed, Abid Sher Ali and Chaudhry Nisar ordered police officers to ransack Mr Qadri’s residence. The incident took place under orders given by them. They are equally responsible for the bloodshed and damage to the property.

“The post-mortem and MLC reports of all victims have been kept secret from us which will be presented after availability. The whole evidence of brutal killings is available on television footage. This state terrorism committed by police at the behest of the rulers triggered fear and terror in the entire locality.”

The complainant said a fake FIR had earlier been lodged against PAT people by police on their own.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2014

Deadlock persists as talks fail

From the Newspaper

Despite days of negotiations between the government and the protesting parties, neither side looked too happy with the outcome of the talks.

Despite days of negotiations between the government and the protesting parties, neither side looked too happy with the outcome of the talks.

Late on Wednesday night, Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Tahirul Qadri announced that talks with the government had broken down and said that he would make his final address to the sit-in on Thursday. At his side was Sindh Governor Ishratul Ibad, who hinted that if the deadlock prevailed, MQM chief Altaf Hussain might lose patience.

Imran Khan seemed more optimistic, despite publicly claiming that the talks between the two sides had ended in a stalemate. The PTI has maintained that the government has all but agreed to their demands; the prime minister’s resignation being the only stumbling block.

The prime minister, meanwhile, put up a brave face before parliament, as he vowed to defend the Constitution but stopped short of outlining a specific roadmap on how he planned to defuse ongoing tensions. He cancelled his scheduled visit to Turkey.

Earlier in the day, Mr Khan said he had been offered the post of deputy prime minister, an offer he had refused. This revelation followed the leak of a letter, written by a senior PML-N leader to the prime minister, suggesting that the post of deputy PM be created to end the prevailing impasse.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2014

Govt negotiators ‘non-serious’: Qadri

Baqir Sajjad Syed

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) shut the doors on negotiations with the government after last-minute attempt for a compromise deal failed and said it would observe “Yaum-i-Inqilab” on Thursday.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) shut the doors on negotiations with the government after last-minute attempt for a compromise deal failed and said it would observe “Yaum-i-Inqilab” on Thursday.

The government on Wednesday evening restarted talks with PAT leadership when Finance Minister Ishaq Dar leading a three-member delegation reached Dr Qadri’s container at the protest site in front of the Parliament House as cleric’s “48-hour ultimatum” for acceptance of demands ended at about 6pm.

Two sessions of the dialogue were held in which both sides appeared to dig in their heels and conceded nothing to the other.

PAT set the registration of murder case against all 21 accused named in the Model Town firing incident, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and the resignation of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif as a non-negotiable pre-condition for parleys to proceed, leading to continuation of stalemate.

The government delegation after the first session went back for consultations with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and was joined by Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muham­mad Sarwar and Sindh Governor Ishratul Ibad in the second session, but the impasse persisted.

Mr Qadri speaking to his party workers at almost around midnight announced the failure of the talks.

He accused the interlocutors of being “non-serious” in negotiations and said the government did not believe in the constitution, democracy and human values.

“We tried our level best to find a way out of the crisis, but the government did not reciprocate,” he added.

Sindh Governor Ishratul Ibad, who joined Mr Qadri at the podium for announcing the end of dialogue, hinted that MQM could also support PAT protest after the latest development.

Dr Ibad said MQM chief Altaf Hussain had been closely following the protest and tried to help in defusing the situation. Mr Hussain, he said, had showed a lot of restraint, but could lose patience.

He said “legitimate demands” of PAT should have been met.

Dr Ibad’s indication could add pressure on the beleaguered government.

Dr Qadri did not announce his future course of action and asked his workers to reassemble at the venue at 3pm on Thursday.

PAT’s timing of announcement of final decision coincided with PTI’s call to its workers for the next move at 6pm, reflecting the coordination between the two parties.

Information Minister Pervez Rashid, in a statement on the breakdown of talks, said the government was ready to get “false” murder cases registered against its leaders, but had set the condition of Mr Qadri freeing his “hostages” — a reference to ending the sit-in.

Prime Minister Sharif after the failure of the talks with PAT cancelled his visit to Turkey for attending the inauguration of Turkish President-elect Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to TV reports. President Mamnoon Hussain would represent Pakistan at the ceremony on Aug 28.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2014

Imran sees hope, delays ‘important announcement’

Irfan Haider

ISLAMABAD: After nearly two weeks of deadlock, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan announced to his supporters that he was hearing good news, so he had decided to postpone an “important announcement” until Thursday.

ISLAMABAD: After nearly two weeks of deadlock, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan announced to his supporters that he was hearing good news, so he had decided to postpone an “important announcement” until Thursday.

Earlier in the day, the PTI and the government met to iron out the final kinks in their agreement. The meeting was originally scheduled to be held in a local hotel, but was later shifted to the residence of PTI leader Jahangir Tareen.

During his address on Wednesday evening, the PTI chief seemed confident and relaxed. The party had already revealed that the government was willing to concede to all their demands, save the call for the PM’s resignation.

However, in his address on Wednesday night, Mr Khan stuck to his chief demand, insisting that talks could not continue as long as Nawaz Sharif was still prime minister.

He also boasted that the government had offered him the post of deputy prime minister, but he had refused this “political bribe”.

Mr Khan claimed that he had all the evidence necessary to prove rigging in the general elections of 2013 and that he would present them to an independent commission constituted to investigate the issue.

Meanwhile, both the government and the PTI remained tight-lipped about the progress of talks between the two sides. The government team, in fact, avoided speaking to the press altogether and left the venue in an SUV driven by Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2014

Sharif vows to defend Constitution

Raja Asghar

ISLAMABAD: Breaking a long silence about the worst challenge to his government, an apparently defiant Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed to a supportive National Assembly on Wednesday to stand by his oath to defend the Constitution, but gave no way out of a deadlock with protesters besieging parliament and seeking his ouster.

ISLAMABAD: Breaking a long silence about the worst challenge to his government, an apparently defiant Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed to a supportive National Assembly on Wednesday to stand by his oath to defend the Constitution, but gave no way out of a deadlock with protesters besieging parliament and seeking his ouster.

“We are not the ones who will be afraid of such things,” he said of two weeks of protests starting with marches from Lahore to Islamabad by tens of thousands of supporters of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PTI) on Aug 14 that were followed by days of their sit-ins in the capital and a siege of parliament for a full week now.

Coming a day after discussing the prevailing situation with army chief Gen Raheel Sharif, this was the prime minister’s first speech to the house since it began a debate on the issue on Aug 18 and six days after it passed a resolution unanimously – minus the boycotting 34-seat PTI and some of its allies – rejecting what it called unconstitutional demands for his resignation and dissolution of the 342-seat assembly.

Citing the oath he has taken to defend the Constitution, the prime minister said: “God-willing I will never hurt your sentiments, and God-willing I will not let my oath to be hurt.”

In a 20-minute speech in Urdu, he voiced his “full confidence and belief” that “Pakistan will continue its journey of Constitution and law” and development plans charted by his nearly 15-month-old government uninterrupted, saying: “The march of progress will go on and this thing will pass away.”

But the prime minister gave out little about how he planned to break the impasse in talks with the protesters through his ministers and mediators, mainly over the two most sticking points: a revised PTI demand that he resign for at least a month to allow a free judicial probe of allegedly massive rigging in last year’s general elections and a PAT demand that the police entertain its first information report (FIR) accusing him and his brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif of responsibility in a June 17 police shootout in Lahore which left 14 PAT activists, including women, dead.

However, Mr Sharif promised to speak to the house at an “appropriate time” and “when something tangible comes out” about “why and how all this started”.

Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, asked by the prime minister to inform the house about the progress of the dialogue and what demands had been accepted and offering any hope of a breakthrough, asking how Pakistan could be run if the prime minister resigned, though a Senate member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N, Chaudhry Jaffer Iqbal, told a private television channel that he had sent a letter to Mr Sharif suggesting the creation of the office of a deputy prime minister like the one in the previous coalition government of Pakistan People’s Party.

Mr Rafique also cited a rather surprising hitch to the registration of the FIR about the Lahore shootout despite an order by a Lahore additional sessions judge, which was upheld by the Lahore High Court on Wednesday, that it be done.

The minister asked PAT chief Allama Tahirul Qadri to exclude the names of unspecified “innocents” from the PAT list of the accused so that the FIR could be registered and also gave him the option of pursuing the case under the normal criminal law or Sharia, which seemed a reference to the possibility of settling the case by paying ‘diyat’, or blood money, allowed under the Islamic law.

The prime minister has been attending the house most of the days during a government-sought debate on the situation since Aug 18, but had preferred to keep quiet even after the protesters laid a siege to the parliament house in the early hours of Aug 20.

Not many people expected him to come on Wednesday when the house met with a thin attendance while PAT activists outside had begun digging symbolic graves at the protest site and some of them came out wearing white ‘kafans’ (shrouds), as a sign of readiness to face police bullets in the event of a confrontation.

But despite an apparently sombre situation outside, Mr Sharif entered the house midway through the proceedings to cheers from PML-N members, most of whom later crowded his desk apparently to reassure him of their loyalty.

It was after hearing a couple of opposition speeches against the protest sit-ins — with former railways minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour of the Awami National Party calling the standoff “Punjab fighting Punjab – that Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq gave the floor to Mr Sharif, who began his speech with offering belated thanks to the house for its Aug 21 resolution that he called “the voice of the 20 crore people of Pakistan” and a “victory of democracy”.

While referring to at least four, until then fruitless, meetings with PTI and seven with the PAT – the minister said “all six demands” of PTI had been accepted – including electoral reforms and a judicial probe of poll-rigging allegations — except for the prime minister’s resignation.

Promising that all “doable” PAT demands could be brought to parliament for legislation, he made the Lahore shooting FIR conditional to the exclusion of “innocents”.

Calling on the protesting parties to keep their doors open for dialogue and provide the government negotiators direct access to Imran Khan and Allama Qadri, the minister ruled out any crackdown against the protesters.

He also informed the house of a directive by the prime minister to his party members against holding counter rallies, as had happened on Tuesday.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2014

PAT offered inquiry under governor’s rule

Amjad Mahmood

LAHORE: The government has suggested to Dr Tahirul Qadri imposition of governor’s rule in Punjab for ensuring free and fair investigation into the Model Town case.

LAHORE: The government has suggested to Dr Tahirul Qadri imposition of governor’s rule in Punjab for ensuring free and fair investigation into the Model Town case.

According to a federal government official, the offer was made in response to the Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s demand for resignation of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif so that he could not influence the investigation.

President Mamnoon Husain may invoke his powers under Article 234 of the constitution to impose the governor’s rule, which may continue for two months.

A resolution by a joint sitting of both houses of parliament may allow extension of the rule by two months. The rule cannot be imposed for more than six months.

Under the proposed arran­ge­ment, Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar, whom Dr Qadri trusts, would supervise the investigation, the official said.

The chief minister, along with the provincial assembly, will stand restored if he is found not guilty.

The government has already accepted the first PAT demand: registration of FIR of the incident. A copy of the proposed FIR has been shown to Dr Qadri.

According to the official, Shahbaz Sharif agreed to resign and signed a paper in this respect before leaving for China on Tuesday on a two-day visit, but some PML-N leaders opposed the option, arguing that it would send a negative message, and suggested the imposition of governor’s rule.

Article 234 was used by former president Asif Zar­dari on Feb 25, 2009, to suspend the then Shahbaz government when the PML-N was planning a long march on Islamabad for restoration of the judges removed by retired Gen Pervez Musharraf in 2007.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2014

Shahbaz back from China

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

LAHORE: Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif returned from China late on Wednesday night.

LAHORE: Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif returned from China late on Wednesday night.

The chief minister had gone there on a two-day visit to sign some agreements, including the one pertaining to training of doctors and paramedics in China.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2014

ECP rejects rigging allegations

Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD. The Elec­tion Commission of Pakistan has expressed regrets over allegations of massive rigging in the 2013 general elections levelled by Pak­is­tan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chair­man Imran Khan and ECP’s former additional secretary Mohammad Afzal Khan.

ISLAMABAD. The Elec­tion Commission of Pakistan has expressed regrets over allegations of massive rigging in the 2013 general elections levelled by Pak­is­tan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chair­man Imran Khan and ECP’s former additional secretary Mohammad Afzal Khan.

A meeting of the ECP held here on Wednesday under the chairmanship of acting Chief Election Commis­sioner Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali termed the demand for removal of its members unjustified and unconstitutional, a source told Dawn.

The meeting was held in a hotel, instead of the ECP headquarters, for security reasons because members of the commission found it unsafe to use the road where PTI marchers demanding their resignation were holding a sit-in.

It was noted that under the Constitution the procedure for removal of ECP members was the same as for judges of superior courts.

Afzal Khan recently alleged in a TV interview that the 2013 general elections had been massively rigged and held former chief justices Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and Tasadduq Hussain Jillani, ECP member from Punjab retired Justice Riaz Kayani and some officials of the commission responsible for that. He also said that the then chief election commissioner, Fakharuddin G. Ebrahim, had turned a blind eye and the jurisdiction of the ECP was overstepped by Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry by appointing the returning officers.

Rejecting the allegations as baseless and without any truth or substance, the commission reminded the nation of difficult circumstances under which the elections were held. It observed that a large number of electoral reforms had been introduced to ensure that elections were held justly, fairly and honestly which created a lot of interest outside the country.

It said international observers visited various constituencies and after the poll all of them declared the general elections as free, fair, credible and successful.

Regarding appointment of officials from judiciary as returning officers, the commission noted that during a consultative meeting held in September 2012, major political parties called for appointment of officers from the judiciary to act as DROs, ROs in the elections and resultantly the ECP as a whole requested the former chief justice of Pakistan to allow a one-time waiver.

It was pointed out that in the Judicial Policy, 2009, it had been clearly decided that the judiciary will not be part of any electoral process. However, at the request of the ECP, the National Judicial Policy Forum comprising the chief justices of the four high courts headed by the chief justice of Pakistan allowed the judicial officers to be part of electoral process. Thereafter the chief justices of the high courts placed the services of officials from the lower judiciary at the disposal of the ECP to work as DROs and ROs.

About the allegation of printing of extra ballot papers on May 9, 2013, the commission observed that it carried no weight because the PEC, Punjab, Mr Mehboob Anwar, had clearly denied it.

The commission unanimously condemned the allegations levelled by former additional secretary Afzal Khan and termed them baseless and unfounded as he himself had admitted in the interview that he had no proof or evidence to substantiate the accusations.

It also observed that Mr Afzal Khan himself had admitted in his various interactions with media that the general elections were fair, impartial and credible.

The commission expressed resentment that the former ECP official had tried to malign the “sacred national institution without having any proof”.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2014

SC fears civil war if revolt becomes norm

Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: If the trend of toppling governments through agitation becomes the norm, the Supreme Court fears, civil war and chaos may reign in the country.

ISLAMABAD: If the trend of toppling governments through agitation becomes the norm, the Supreme Court fears, civil war and chaos may reign in the country.

“There would be chaos and civil war in the country if this trend of mobilising crowd to unseat the government of the day catches on,” observed Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali who is one of five judges on the Supreme Court bench — headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk — that heard identical petitions seeking to prevent extra-constitutional steps in the wake of the ongoing sit-ins.

The judge also made it clear that Supreme Court judges were not claiming any special privilege for themselves, but securing the rights of ordinary citizens, the staff of the Supreme Court as well as the lawyers that came to the court every day.

The court, he said, was awash with complaints — even from those in uniform — who claimed they were subjected to body searches and asked to prove their identities by workers of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf who were blocking Constitution Avenue.

“This case is not about one particular road,” Justice Asif Saeed Khosa intervened, observing that this was a matter of the Constitution itself and of perceived threats to it.

In a lighter vein, the judge referred to the possibility of martial law, saying it was akin to an orthopaedic surgeon who wanted to perform brain surgery, which has already failed four times.

But the petitioner was insistent that the Supreme Court restrain them from operating.

Justice Saqib Nisar made a passionate appeal, saying that the Constitution must be preserved for posterity.

The judge also recalled that things had changed in the aftermath of the apex court’s July 31 judgment, that declared the November 3, 2007 emergency illegal. The judgment also introduced a new line in the Code of Conduct for superior court judges, stipulating that no judge could support any functionary who tried to acquire power through extra-constitutional means.

The judge — referring to the famous Bush VS Gore case from the year 2000 — said that political laundry should not be washed in court and vowed that the independence of the judiciary would never be compromised.

On Wednesday, Hamid Khan appeared on behalf of PTI and asked the court to exercise its powers and take suo motu action to end the impasse.

He was referring to the request regarding the formation of a judicial commission to inquire into alleged rigging in the 2013 elections.

But Justice Khosa suggested that instead of asking for suo motu action, they should file a petition instead.

PAT attorney Ali Zafar assured the court that he would also like to see the wishes of the court honoured, but the real inconvenience for the people of Islamabad was the blockade of key roads with containers.

The counsel assured the court PAT would not stop the free movement of vehicles and would clear one side of Constitution Avenue to allow access to Parliament House and the Supreme Court.

The chief justice observed that the PAT reply made it seem as if the party leadership was not fully in control of its workers.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2014

Bid to lodge Model Town FIR thwarted

Faisal Ali Ghumman

LAHORE: A team of Pakistan Awami Tehrik lawyers faced delaying tactics by police and PML-N workers when they went to the Faisal Town police station here on Wednesday to seek registration of an FIR about June 17 Model Town incident. Fourteen supporters of the PAT had been killed and scores of others injured in the police action.

LAHORE: A team of Pakistan Awami Tehrik lawyers faced delaying tactics by police and PML-N workers when they went to the Faisal Town police station here on Wednesday to seek registration of an FIR about June 17 Model Town incident. Fourteen supporters of the PAT had been killed and scores of others injured in the police action.

The team, led by Advocate Mansoorur Rehman Khan Afridi, went to the police station to ascertain whether any action had been taken on an application filed earlier for lodging the FIR and to submit a fresh application with a copy of the Lahore High Court’s order.

The LHC had upheld on Tuesday a lower court’s order for registration of a murder case against 21 accused, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and some senior police officials.

An exchange of hot words took place between PAT lawyers and some PML-N activists who had followed the former to foil their attempt to lodge the FIR.

The PAT’s Deputy Secretary Information, Mushtaq Ahmad, who accompanied the lawyers’ team, said they reached the police station at around 5pm only to find that the station house officer and the Moharrar were not present.

He said the four lawyers had to undergo an agonising wait till 10pm. Only a constable was there and the SHO failed to reach the police station despite several calls.

In the meantime, the PAT’s deputy secretary added, a group of PML-N activists, including traders’ leader Sohail Ayyub, came to the police station and interfered in the matter.

Activists of the Awami Tehreek also arrived there and an exchange of hot words took place between the two sides. But the situation did not take an ugly turn as the DSP of the area rushed to the police station with a contingent.

A police official told Dawn that the PAT’s legal team had been advised to submit the application and leave the police station to let police obtain legal opinion, but they insisted on staying there.

He claimed that police had not received any order from the Punjab government for avoiding registration of the FIR.

The official said policemen had been sent to the police station to prevent any untoward incident, adding that they had removed around 50 PML-N activists from there. But about 20 PAT activists remained there with the lawyers till late in the night.

Meanwhile, Railway Minister Khwaja Saad Rafique told a private TV channel that the government would take a decision about the FIR in the light of the LHC order by Thursday.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2014

Army wants immediate political settlement

Baqir Sajjad Syed

ISLAMABAD: The army warned on Tuesday against protracted protest by agitating political parties and called upon the government to urgently reach a political settlement.

ISLAMABAD: The army warned on Tuesday against protracted protest by agitating political parties and called upon the government to urgently reach a political settlement.

Chief of the Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif, who met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the ongoing political crisis, conveyed the “institutional concerns” and asked for staving off a situation that could potentially draw the military into the conflict, according to a source privy to the meeting.

A statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office after the over two-hour long meeting said: “There was a consensus on the need to resolve the ongoing issue expeditiously in the best national interest.”

This was Gen Raheel’s second meeting with the prime minister since Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek protesters marched on to the federal capital to press their demand for the government to step down.

The earlier meeting, exactly a week ago, was followed by a statement by the ISPR asking both the government and the protesting parties to exercise restraint and find a way out of the crisis through dialogue.

The latest meeting at the PM House included a one-to-one session between the army chief and the prime minister and one in which the two were assisted by their top aides.

The meeting that was seen as “extremely important” across the political spectrum took place as negotiations between the government and PTI and PAT stalled over their insistence on resignation of the prime minister and registration of Model Town police firing case, respectively.

On Monday, PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri set a 48-hour deadline for the government to meet his demands.

Gen Raheel, while stressing on an early resolution of the crisis, referred to the “overall security context” and said it did not allow for continued confrontation.

The military is carrying out a counter-militancy operation in North Waziristan, while skirmishes are continuing on the de-facto border with India.

He feared that prolonged agitation could be exploited by external elements.

The army chief was reportedly particularly concerned about the counter-rallies brought out by the ruling party in its support, the involvement of sectarian groups in pro-government rallies and reports about plans for use of force against the protesters.

The army pressure for quick resolution of the dispute compelled the government to resume its negotiations with the PTI that had hit an impasse on Saturday.

However, no fresh effort was made to placate the PAT. The last attempt to reach out to Dr Qadri was made on Sunday when Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafiq of the PML-N visited the cleric in his container at the protest site.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2014

PM, aides discuss Lahore FIR issue

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif went into a huddle at his office here on Tuesday evening after the Lahore High Court’s decision and leakage of a joint investigation team (JIT) report on the killing of 14 Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) workers.

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif went into a huddle at his office here on Tuesday evening after the Lahore High Court’s decision and leakage of a joint investigation team (JIT) report on the killing of 14 Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) workers.

Dawn has learnt that the meeting which was also attended by top legal advisers of the government discussed the pros and cons in case an FIR has to be registered as ordered by a Lahore additional sessions judge on the 17 June Model Town incident.

According to an official, the prime minister will hold a conclusive meeting on Wednesday after which a final decision would be taken, but dominant discourse of the sitting was in favour of registering the criminal case as ruled by the court and letting the law take its course.

The official said participants of the meeting with a law background were of the view that the government shouldn’t get scared of the FIR because it would take ages for the complainant to prove the Punjab chief minister and his cabinet members guilty of the killings. “For CM Shahbaz Sharif it’s a case of moral responsibility as chief executive of the province, not of criminal liability,” one of the legal eagles was quoted as telling the prime minister.

However, according to the politicians who attended the meeting, may be on the face of it the FIR will not create an immediate problem for the party leadership, but it can be used by its adversaries any time in future. Therefore, they will have to be careful before taking the decision.

In his argument, a minister said that “after registration of the FIR, Imran Khan and other opponents of the government will argue that the CM or anybody else whose name is included in the case have no right to stay in power”.

Law Secretary Barrister Zafarullah Khan, Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt, former law minister and sitting Information Technology Minister Zahid Hamid, Information Minister Senator Parvez Rashid and the Prime Minister’s Political Secretary Dr Asif Kirmani were the main participants of the meeting.

The ruling PML-N has been virtually caught between the devil and deep see and it would not be an easy decision for the prime minister, the government source said, adding that some top lawyers of the country would also be consulted.

After the LHC dismissed the government’s plea against registration of the FIR, the government was left with little option but to take a decision on this issue.

Dr Tahirul Qadri has also given a deadline ending Wednesday evening, asking the government to register his FIR and warning that otherwise he wouldn’t be responsible for any of his follower’s actions. If the government goes ahead with the registration of the FIR, the decision will provide a face-saving exit to Dr Qadri, as this was one of his main demands before launching Inqilab march.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2014

TTP suffers new fissure

Bureau Report

PESHAWAR: The battered Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan has suffered another blow with the emergence of a new group of militants within it, leaving the TTP leader, Maulana Fazlullah, high and dry.

PESHAWAR: The battered Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan has suffered another blow with the emergence of a new group of militants within it, leaving the TTP leader, Maulana Fazlullah, high and dry.

The announcement to form the group, named Jamaatul Ahrar, was made in a 90-minute video released by its media production house. The video shows TTP’s Mohmand chief Khalid Khurasani, Ahrarul Hind leader Maulana Qasim Khurasani, Maulana Haider Mansoor from Orakzai and Maulana Abdullah from Bajaur.

Khalid Khurasani, named the intelligence chief of the new group, announced the appointment of Maulana Qasim Khurasani as its chief and Ehsanullah Ehsan as its spokesman. Ehsan who served as TTP’s spokesman has been keeping quiet for some time.

Haider Mansoor and Maulana Abdullah announced that they had joined the new group.

Speaking on the occasion, Maulana Qasim Khurasani said the formation of Jamaatul Ahrar had been necessitated by circumstances which led to groupings and infightings and weakened the struggle for a “true Islamic system” in the country. He alleged that some commanders had made the TTP hostage to their whims and deviated from true objectives for which the TTP had been formed.

He said the armed forces, politicians and lackeys of western powers were their enemy and the group would target them.

Khalid Khurasani said the new group had pledged allegiance to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and would follow his ideology.

According to him, militant outfits of Khyber and Charsadda also decided to join Jamaatul Ahrar and called upon other groups to do the same.

The emergence of the new group has further weakened the already deeply divided TTP.

The Ahrar leaders did not say anything about the fate of Maulana Fazlullah who is believed to be in the Afghan province of Kunar.

Meanwhile, Fazlullah is reported to have mediated a temporary truce between Khan Said alias Sajna and Shehryar Mehsud – militant commanders from South Waziristan.

What course other smaller TTP groups will adopt following the emergence of the new militant platform is not clear, but analysts believe the division will intensify struggle for space and authority.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2014

PTI, PAT refuse to leave sit-in venue, SC told

Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: Paying no heed to the Supreme Court’s orders, both the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) have refused to budge from their current roost on Constitution Avenue — the seat of the government and the location of most essential state institutions.

ISLAMABAD: Paying no heed to the Supreme Court’s orders, both the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) have refused to budge from their current roost on Constitution Avenue — the seat of the government and the location of most essential state institutions.

A four-page report, submitted in court by the Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt on Tuesday, stated that neither PTI nor PAT was willing to leave the areas where their demonstrators had camped out and had rejected the possibility of relocating to another spot.

On Monday, a five-judge Supreme Court bench — headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk — had asked PAT counsel Ali Zafar and PTI’s attorney Hamid Khan to sit with the AG and figure out a way to ensure that people could move freely on Constitution Avenue. The court will take up the matter again on Wednesday (today).

Ever since both parties pushed their way into the red zone, judges of the Supreme Court have had to take an extended detour and now enter from the rear of the building, as the main gate was blocked by demonstrators. A number of cases also had to be adjourned because either the counsel or the litigants could not manage to get to court.

The presence of these protesters on the avenue of power has made it almost impossible for people to go to various key government institutions, such as the Supreme Court, Parliament House, the Federal Shariat Court, the Federal Board of Revenue and the Election Commission of Pakistan.

During his meeting with the two counsel, the AG had emphasised the spillover effect these sit-ins were having on other roads in the capital.

This was an impediment to the free movement of people and was a nuisance for families living in the parliament lodges and nearby housing units, the AG’s report deplored.

The AG suggested alternate locations to both political parties, and also mentioned the possibility of them returning to the original spots where they began the sit-ins, even thought that would still interfere with the daily lives of Islamabad residents.

These suggestions, the report said, were rejected by both counsel. PAT’s counsel Ali Zafar said his clients might consider vacating one side of Constitution Avenue, provided their party chief agreed.

PTI’s attorney Hamid Khan did not agree with the AG’s suggestion either, saying the party’s sit-in was centred at Parade Lane, which did not interfere with daily life on Constitution Avenue.

The report also said that the AG had consulted Islamabad Commissioner Jawwad Paul, who suggested the parade ground in Faizabad or the Sports Complex as alternate venues for the sit-ins.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2014

Administration, army review security measures

Munawer Azeem

ISLAMABAD: Officials of the capital’s administration and police held a meeting with 111 Brigade on Tuesday to work out a contingency plan for coping with any eventuality after completion of the 48-hour deadline given by the Pakistan Awami Tehreek for acceptance of its demands.

ISLAMABAD: Officials of the capital’s administration and police held a meeting with 111 Brigade on Tuesday to work out a contingency plan for coping with any eventuality after completion of the 48-hour deadline given by the Pakistan Awami Tehreek for acceptance of its demands.

The deadline is due to expire at 6pm on Wednesday.

In addition, the Supreme Court is due to take up a set of petitions against the ongoing sit-ins on the Constitution Avenue on the same day.

According to officials, the meeting, held at Parliament House, reviewed the contingency plan and other issues related to security of installations inside the red zone.

The standard operating procedures were also reviewed.

The officials said that force would be used to get the Constitution Avenue vacated if the Supreme Court gave a directive to the government. Otherwise confrontation with protesters will be avoided.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2014

LHC dismisses writs against court’s order on Model Town FIRs

Wajih Ahmad Sheikh

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court dismissed on Tuesday petitions of four federal ministers against a sessions court’s order directing Lahore police to register a murder case on an application of the Minhajul Quran Secretariat against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and 19 other people, including federal and provincial ministers and government personnel.

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court dismissed on Tuesday petitions of four federal ministers against a sessions court’s order directing Lahore police to register a murder case on an application of the Minhajul Quran Secretariat against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and 19 other people, including federal and provincial ministers and government personnel.

In a short order, Justice Mahmood Maqbool Bajwa observed that the petitioners had failed to establish their case. However, the judge ruled that registration of an FIR did not envisage straightaway arrest of the suspect(s).

Minister for Information Pervez Rasheed, Minister for Defence Khwaja Mohammad Asif, Minister for Railways Khwaja Saad Rafiq and Minister of State for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali had filed the petitions.

Justice Bajwa also rejected the petitioners’ plea for constitution of a larger bench to decide the matter. The judge observed that hearing suspects was not necessary by ex-officio Justice of Peace (sessions court) prior to issuing an order while deciding a petition under Section 22-A(6) of the Act V of 1898.

He observed that the “purpose and object of recording FIR is to set the criminal law in motion and to obtain first-hand information of occurrence in order to exclude possibility of fabrication of story or consultation or deliberation and to safeguard the accused of such like happenings”.

Therefore, the judge said, the registration of an FIR against petitioners shall not prove their guilt till a decision by a court of competent jurisdiction. “It cannot be used as a substantive piece of evidence against any accused unless proved in accordance with law,” he added.

The judge ruled that an inquiry to determine correctness or otherwise of allegations was not required to be made prior to registration of FIR. And it was the job of investigating officer to collect evidence in order to reach conclusion regarding veracity or falsity of allegations referred to in the crime report, he ruled.

Justice Bajwa observed that the arrest of a suspect was not necessary during the course of investigation and the general impression in this regard was misconceived because a person named in an FIR was not to be arrested straightaway upon registration of the case or as a matter of course unless there was sufficient incriminating evidence regarding culpability of the accused.

“The arrest of accused is to be deferred till the availability of incriminating evidence in order to satisfy the investigation officer regarding correctness of allegations levelled by the complainant against person named in the crime report,” the judge concluded.

During the course of hearing, Minhajul Quran’s counsel Mansoorur Rehman Afridi said that police had deliberately ignored substantial evidence and statements of eyewitnesses and lodged a one-sided FIR on the complaint of a police official. He said the FIR registered by police had no value in the law.

He said a bench of the Sindh High Court had ordered a third FIR in the same case.

The head of the joint investigation team, Additional IG Arif Mushtaq, submitted a report to the judge in his chamber.

Petitioners’ counsel Azam Nazir Tarar argued that Minhajul Quran and Pakistan Awami Tehreek leaders, including Dr Tahirul Qadri, had expressed lack of trust in police and avoided joining the investigation into the incident. He said nobody turned up on behalf of Minhajul Quran or PAT despite several invitations by police and the joint investigation team.

He said the petition filed by Minhajul Quran before the sessions court was politically motivated. He said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and others named as suspects in the application had no link with the incident.

Advocate Tarar also argued that an ordinance whereby sub-section 6 was added to section 22-A and 22-B of the Criminal Procedure Code had lapsed and the sessions court no longer enjoyed the power to order the lodging of an FIR.

The Advocate General, Punjab, Hanif Khatana, said the sessions court passed the impugned order without viewing reports of the joint investigation team and police. He said the petition filed by the Minhajul Quran Secretariat was politically motivated and based on misconception.

But the judge dismissed the petitions.

Justice Bajwa dismissed another petition filed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader Zubair Niazi demanding implementation of the sessions court’s order. The judge observed that the petitioner was not the aggrieved party in the case.

An additional district and sessions judge had on Aug 16 ordered the Faisal Town SHO to lodge an FIR over the Model Town incident against 21 suspects named in the application of Minhajul Quran.

The suspects include Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, former provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah, chief minister’s former principal secretary Dr Tauqir Shah, Railways Minister Khwaja Saad Rafiq, Minister of State Abid Sher Ali, Defence Minister Khwaja Asif, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali, Information Minister Pervez Rasheed, PML-N MNA Hamza Shahbaz, former DIG operations Rana Abdul Jabbar and former CCPO Shafiq Gujjar.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2014

Waving burial shroud, Qadri issues ultimatum

Baqir Sajjad Syed

ISLAMABAD: Talks between the government and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) could not resume on Monday, a day after the government appeared to be attempting to mollify the protesting party’s chief, Dr Tahirul Qadri. This prompted the firebrand cleric to issue ‘an ultimate’ 48-hour ultimatum to the government for meeting his demands.

ISLAMABAD: Talks between the government and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) could not resume on Monday, a day after the government appeared to be attempting to mollify the protesting party’s chief, Dr Tahirul Qadri. This prompted the firebrand cleric to issue ‘an ultimate’ 48-hour ultimatum to the government for meeting his demands.

“I give 48-hour ultimatum to the government. Dissolve assemblies, register FIR and hand yourself over to the law. I will not be responsible for what happens after that,” Dr Qadri told his party workers, who have been camping outside the Parliament House for several days to press for their demands for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to step down.

He called for making public the report of the joint investigation team that had investigated the Model Town shooting incident in which 14 PAT workers were killed.

Dr Qadri, who along with his party workers marched into the Islamabad ‘red zone’ last Wednesday after the expiry of his earlier ‘deadline’, said he was giving the ‘last ultimatum’ to the government.

He, however, did not disclose what he intended to do if his demands were not met after the expiry of the new deadline.

Disillusioned with the government’s response to his demands, Dr Qadri said: “There is no institution of the country that may listen to the grievances of the poor.”

Giving an emotional touch to his speech, Dr Qadri waved a shroud that he said he had bought for himself and claimed to have “taken last bath of life with an intention of martyrdom while fighting for the rights of the oppressed and downtrodden people”.

A member of the PAT’s Inqilab march negotiating team told Dawn that their talks with the government were “practically deadlocked”.

The visit by Federal Minister for Railways Saad Rafique to Dr Qadri’s container on Sunday afternoon had led to speculations that the government wanted to strike a deal with the PAT chief.

The negotiator said that contrary to the perception that the government was offering a settlement the PAT had not been offered anything. “Nothing has been offered that could meet our basic demand for justice for those killed in the Model Town incident,” he explained. On the reforms agenda proposed by the PAT, he said, the government had suggested setting up of a committee to discuss their details.

Dr Qadri’s allies, meanwhile, consulted themselves after impasse with the government worsened and reiterated support for the PAT demands.

A delegation of Muttahida Qaumi Move­ment met Dr Qadri. MQM leader Haider Abbas Rizvi later told the media that he feared deterioration in the situation if the government did not show flexibility.

Awami Muslim League leader Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, who was contacted by PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari for interceding with PTI chief Imran Khan and Dr Qadri, said he had told the former president that both leaders had gone too far.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2014

Justice Kayani terms ex-ECP official’s allegations pack of lies

Amjad Mahmood

LAHORE: Retired Justice Riaz Kayani has refuted the vote-rigging allegations levelled by a former additional secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan and termed them a pack of lies.

LAHORE: Retired Justice Riaz Kayani has refuted the vote-rigging allegations levelled by a former additional secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan and termed them a pack of lies.

Addressing a press conference here on Monday, the ECP member from Punjab urged the Supreme Court to take suo motu notice of the accusations which also targeted against two former chi­ef justices of the apex court.

Retired Justice Kayani said Afzal Khan levelled the allegations because he had been denied service extension and promotion in violation of rules.

“He is levelling allegations 18 months after the elections, which smacks of a conspiracy,” he asserted.

“There must be some other force acting behind the scene because it is not logical that Afzal Khan waited for 18 months to reveal the rigging allegations.”

In an interview to a private TV channel on Sunday night, Afzal Khan who had retired a week after the 2013 general elections, had accused former chief justices Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, Justice Riaz Kayani and former chief election commissioner Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim of having been involved in the rigging.

Justice Kayani said Afzal Khan’s TV interview “was a fixed and pre-planned mat­ch” as the interviewer was putting words into his mouth.

It may be mentioned that photographs of Afzal Khan participating in the PTI sit-in surfaced on the social media.

Justice Kayani also said there was no reason for him to resign on moral grounds, adding that it would give a message that his stance was weak.

Responding to a question, Justice Kayani said the magnetic ink used in the general elections could retain its effectiveness only for six hours and that this fact was revealed by authorities of the Pakistan Council of Scientific & Industrial Research, which had prepared the ink, only after the polls.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2014

Derailment of democracy may threaten federation: PPP

Habib Khan Ghori

KARACHI: The Pakistan People’s Party believes that the prevailing political situation has the potential of derailing democratic process and eventually posing a threat to the federation.

KARACHI: The Pakistan People’s Party believes that the prevailing political situation has the potential of derailing democratic process and eventually posing a threat to the federation.

Resolutions adopted at a meeting of the party’s central executive committee held at Bilawal House here on Monday said that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Pakistan Awami Tehrik and the PML-N would be held responsible if something untoward happened to democratic system.

The meeting called upon the three parties to rise above their egos, demonstrate patience and sense of accommodation and engage in meaningful result-oriented talks to work out a solution in accordance with the constitution. It said that dialogue was the only way out of the impasse.

It warned that no adventure, like wrapping up the democratic system or an unconstitutional move in any form, would be allowed.

Holding peaceful gathering and protests are fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution. Freedom of expression and diversity of thought are essential for democratic growth and should not be curbed by the state.

A resolution called for investigation of allegations of election rigging by superior judiciary.

It said that last year’s general elections were not transparent and, therefore, electoral reforms within a specific timeframe were necessary.

The meeting urged registration of an FIR about the June 17 Model Town incident to pave the way for free, impartial and independent investigation.

The meeting reposed confidence in the PPP leadership and decided that the party would play a role for defusing the political tension through dialogue to save democracy. In the event of democracy becoming a victim of an adventure, the party would be in the forefront of struggle against it.

It recalled the relentless struggle and sacrifices rendered by the nation for democracy, federalism, provincial autonomy, parliamentary form of government, independent judiciary and rule of law.

It said the government had failed to solve problems being faced by the country. Masses continued to suffer because of electricity loadshedding, price hike, inflation, deteriorating healthcare, lack of education facilities, unemployment, massive corruption and bad governance.

It supported the Zarb-i-Azb military operation and called upon the nation to help the displaced persons, who were suffering as a result of the fight to eradicate terrorism.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2014

PTI seeks support for ‘in-house change’

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: As the stalemate between the government and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf continued, the latter held discussions with the heads of opposition parties in the National Assembly on Monday to get their support for its ‘in-house change formula’.

ISLAMABAD: As the stalemate between the government and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf continued, the latter held discussions with the heads of opposition parties in the National Assembly on Monday to get their support for its ‘in-house change formula’.

The PTI camp believes that it has offered the best possible way out, allowing the PML-N to stay in power while the proposed Supreme Court judicial commission carries out the investigation into allegations about election rigging.

Therefore, the PTI leadership, according to a party insider, has decided to share its new plan of action with opposition parties in a bid to secure their support.

Jamaat-i-Islami Emir Sirajul Haq held a detailed discussion with PTI negotiators involved in talks with the government at the residence of the party’s general secretary, Jahangir Tareen.

Later in the evening, PTI Chairman Imran Khan had a telephonic conversation with PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari.

Talking to newsmen after meeting the JI emir, PTI leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi reiterated his party’s stance and said it had shown enough flexibility by climbing down from its original demands and now it was the government’s turn to respond. “We are not in a position to offer more than this,” he added.

Before talks with the government, the PTI’s main demand was the resignation of the prime minister, followed by dissolution of assemblies and setting up a national government to investigate the alleged election rigging and holding mid-term elections.

However, after three rounds of talks ending on Saturday night, the PTI proposed resignation by the prime minister only for 30 days.

According to the PTI formula, in the absence of the prime minister the ruling PML-N may bring in anybody from within as prime minister without any change in the federal cabinet.

On the possibility of resuming talks with the government, Mr Qureshi said the PTI was waiting for the government’s response.

However, the counter rallies which the PML-N had staged showed that they were out on a confrontational path.

The JI chief, who had been shuttling between the PTI and government camps for a peaceful resolution of the standoff, said he had not lost hope and would urge other parties also to come forward and play their role.

“I am happy that Imran Khan has shown flexibility and the government has accepted all demands of the PTI except the resignation of the prime minister. We can still try and find a middle ground,” said Mr Haq.

The JI leader even claimed to have a recipe which can still resolve the crisis, but refused to share it with the media. “I will meet the government delegation soon. Let me convince them first and then I will share it with the media.”

Mr Haq once again promised to give good news in the form of an agreement between the protesting parties and the government.

In his telephonic talk with Mr Zardari, according to a PTI source, Imran Khan explained the reason why his party was pressing for the resignation of the prime minister, even for a month.

PTI Information Secretary Dr Shireen Mazari was not available to explain what had transpired between the two leaders, but a PTI core committee member said Imran Khan told the PPP leader categorically that the Azadi march would continue till its objective was achieved.

He said if the PPP agreed to the PTI’s proposal for an in-house change it would put a huge pressure on the government. A similar message had been delivered to the MQM leadership, he said.

A PML-N source close to the prime minister’s office told Dawn that the government was ready to hold talks with the PTI on all its demands, except the resignation of the prime minister.

“Having unconditional support of all political parties represented in the two houses of parliament the prime minister is not going anywhere,” he said.

He said doors would remain open for talks, but as far as the resignation of the prime minister was concerned, only Mr Nawaz Sharif himself could decide because no-one in the party could even dare to ask him to consider it.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2014

Opposition, speaker discuss PTI resignation

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: The opposition parliamentarians were back in the news on Monday as they held a meeting with the National Assembly Speaker at night to discuss the current political situation and specifically the resignations submitted by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MNAs.

ISLAMABAD: The opposition parliamentarians were back in the news on Monday as they held a meeting with the National Assembly Speaker at night to discuss the current political situation and specifically the resignations submitted by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MNAs.

The meeting which went on for a couple of hours ended around one at night. It was attended by Maulana Fazlur Rehman (JUI-F), Aftab Ahmad Sherpao (QWP), Mehmood Khan Achakzai (PkMAP), Ghulam Ahmad Bilour (ANP), G.G. Jamal (Independent), Khursheed Ahmed Shah (PPP) and Kalsoom Parveen (BNP-Awami). The government was represented by federal ministers Khawaja Asif, retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch and Akram Durrani.

The government representatives briefed the opposition about the talks with the PTI.

According to the press release disseminated after the meeting, Leader of Opposition Khursheed Shah said the speaker had assured the parliamentary leaders that he would follow the rules and due process in the case of the submitted resignations.

It is noteworthy that earlier the speaker had told Dawn that it would take him around two weeks to go through the resignations and ensure that it was genuine and reflected the parliamentarian’s personal choice.

Mr Shah also said the participants of the meeting and the speaker agreed to continue the session of the National Assembly. He added that it had also been decided to call a session of the Senate.

The government ministers brought the opposition leaders up to date on the talks with the PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek. They told the parliamentarians that the government was not willing to accept the demand for resignation of the prime minister, as has been demanded by the PTI. It was however willing to accept the other demands.

Mr Shah said he too agreed that the demand for prime minister’s resignation was not acceptable.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2014

SC wants Constitution Avenue cleared

Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: Amid the beat of national songs punctuated with announcements which were quite discernable inside the Courtroom No 1, the Supreme Court on Monday asked the parties holding sit-ins on the Constitution Avenue to clear the road.

ISLAMABAD: Amid the beat of national songs punctuated with announcements which were quite discernable inside the Courtroom No 1, the Supreme Court on Monday asked the parties holding sit-ins on the Constitution Avenue to clear the road.

“The test will be when we come to the Supreme Court from the Judges Enclave through the Constitution Avenue on Tuesday,” observed Chief Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk who heads a five-judge bench hearing a set of petitions against the sit-ins.

He ordered that a joint report in this regard be submitted on Tuesday for perusal of judges in their chambers. It will be taken up when the court resumes the hearing on Wednesday.

The court asked the counsel for the two protesting parties – Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) — to meet Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt to find a way out of the problem and ensure free movement on the Constitution Avenue.

“You have to clear the avenue by shifting your protest to some appropriate place,” Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, a member of the bench, said. He added that he wondered whether the baton-wielding PAT workers had come to the avenue for a peaceful march.

For the past many days, judges, including the chief justice, have to take a long detour to reach the Supreme Court. A number of cases have also been adjourned because neither the counsel nor the litigants could reach the court.

On complaints about placement of containers on different arteries of the federal capital by the government to prevent the entry of protesters into the arena, the court said it would move step by step.

The attorney general said the government could consider providing a space preferably inside the Sports Complex and then clearing all roadblocks by removing containers.

The court categorically stated that it was not concerned about the oft-repeated notion of a third umpire when Supreme Court Bar Association President Kamran Murtaza, one of the petitioners, referred to the statement of PTI chief Imran Khan.

Justice Saqib Nisar said that both the parties had made a commitment in their replies that they would abide by the Constitution and that the cricket terminology might have been used in a lighter vein.

He said that in its July 31, 2009 judgment which declared the Nov 3, 2007 emergency unconstitutional, the apex court had already buried the doctrine of necessity, adding that the court would intervene whenever someone interfered in the right of others. He regretted that the functioning of the Election Commission of Pakistan and the Federal Shariat Court had been obstructed badly.

Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja observed that the containers could be removed if the sit-in was shifted to some other place. He said the judges had been coming to the Supreme Court for the past two years by crossing police pickets and barriers because the executive was convinced about a threat to the red zone that housed important government offices.

“We cannot interfere into the domain of the executive if they have credible information about the threat of terrorism,” Justice Khawaja said. He regretted the postponement of Sri Lankan president’s scheduled visit because of the continuing sit-in.

“Responsibility is the first hallmark of any person,” he said, adding that the marchers should protest in accordance with the Constitution.

Blocking roads might happen in Canada, he said, referring to the Canadian nationality of Dr Tahirul Qadri. Justice Khawaja cited an earlier case of Dr Qadri on electoral reforms during which the oath taken by him pledging allegiance not only to Queen Elizabeth but also her successors had been mentioned.

The chief justice also showed photographs which had appeared in the print media showing clothes hanging on the railings of the Supreme Court and mentioned the complaints by the court staff and lawyers of being searched by PAT workers and asked to prove their identity.

Advocate Hamid Khan, representing the PTI, said its workers were neither demanding identity from people nor blocking the Constitution Avenue. According to him, the sit-in was being held on the Parade Avenue.

Ali Zafar, the counsel for the PAT, assured the court that the party workers would not obstruct people going to their offices.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2014

Polls massively rigged, alleges former ECP official

Iftikhar A. Khan

ISLAMABAD: The prevailing stalemate between the government and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf was jolted on Sunday night when a former official of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) – who was directly involved in the preparations for and execution of the general elections of 2013 – came out in support of Imran Khan’s allegations of electoral rigging.

ISLAMABAD: The prevailing stalemate between the government and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf was jolted on Sunday night when a former official of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) – who was directly involved in the preparations for and execution of the general elections of 2013 – came out in support of Imran Khan’s allegations of electoral rigging.

Mohammad Afzal Khan, who also goes by the name of Afzal Qadhafi, appeared on the ARY News show ‘Khara Such’, hosted by Mubasher Lucman and alleged that the general elections were ‘massively rigged’ and pointed the finger squarely at former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and retired Justice Riaz Ahmed Kiani, the ECP member from Punjab.

Mr Afzal was the additional secretary at the ECP from 2012 until his retirement just after the elections in May last year. He began his career as a journalist with the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan in 1979 and served there until 1996. He then joined the ECP as director of Public Relations, where he worked until 2003.

He was appointed the NWFP information secretary the next year, but returned to the ECP as the provincial election commissioner for the same province from July 2008 to March 2010. In April 2010, he took charge as a joint secretary at ECP headquarters in Islamabad.

The post was re-designated in January 2012 and Mr Afzal was made a director general, a position he retained until his elevation to his penultimate post. It is not clear what made him keep quiet for over 14 months since his retirement.

Mr Afzal alleged that the chief justice had interfered in the ECP’s mandate by appointing returning officers (ROs), but managed to cover up his wrongdoings by influencing the erstwhile Chief Election Commissioner, retired Justice Fakharuddin G. Ebrahim.

“To save his skin, the CJP ordered Fakhru Bhai to submit an application seeking the apex court’s assistance in appointing ROs,” Mr Afzal revealed.

Referring to the scandal around the 35 punctures that Imran Khan often talks about, Mr Afzal alleged that those involved in fixing the elections had applied a lot more than ‘35 punctures’.

“The chief election commissioner was a silent spectator while Justice Kiani played a major role. He is the man who tarnished the image of the ECP,” he said, adding that, “Everyone, myself included, was involved in the rigging process in one way or the other.”

To a query, he said that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan should be asked who told him that votes polled in the 2013 elections were unverifiable.

Talking about the role of election tribunals, the former ECP additional secretary claimed that these too were used to cover up rigging.

“(The tribunals) have 60 days to decide an election petition, but 14 months have passed and hundreds of petitions are still lying unheard. What does that mean?”

These allegations are not new. Indeed, former ECP secretary Kanwar Dilshad had made similar claims, while Mr Imran Khan – in a press conference held before his long march left Lahore for Islamabad –raised similar allegations. However, this is the first time an ECP member involved with the electoral process in 2013 had come out in support of these claims.

Former Justice Riaz Kiani denied the allegation. He told DawnNews Mr Afzal was disgruntled because he had been refused an extension of service, and was making these ‘outlandish’ claims to get back at him for that.

“I will hold a press conference tomorrow to issue a detailed response to the allegations levelled by Mr Afzal. There are still corruption cases against him pending with the ECP and I will ensure he is duly punished,” Justice Kiani said.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2014

Imran preparing for next big push?

Khawar Ghumman

ISLAMABAD: From inside his container on D-Chowk, Imran Khan cuts a confident, if haggard figure. Days of living on the road may have taken its toll on the cricketer-turned-politician, but they don’t seem to have dented his resolve.

ISLAMABAD: From inside his container on D-Chowk, Imran Khan cuts a confident, if haggard figure. Days of living on the road may have taken its toll on the cricketer-turned-politician, but they don’t seem to have dented his resolve.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman insists that by proposing an in-house change, he has offered the ruling PML-N “the ultimate compromise” and believes that the ball is now squarely in Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s court.

Talking to a group of journalists at his container on Sunday, Mr Khan sounded confident that he would be able to secure the prime minister’s resignation, even if for a month.

In person, one can see the signs of exhaustion on his face: swollen eyes and dark circles — a clear sign of sleeplessness.

As he spoke to half a dozen reporters from his easy-chair in the outer corridor of his container-home, Mr Khan snacked on cereal. On the table before him was a generous helping of throat lozenges, no doubt to soothe his overworked vocal chords.

Clad in his favourite black shalwar-kameez, Mr Khan seemed aggressive — ready to pounce like a cornered tiger.

Asked whether he was afraid that he would lose out on the concession the government was currently offering if he continued to ask for the PM’s resignation, Mr Khan said: “Free and fair investigations cannot take place in the presence of Nawaz Sharif because witnesses, fearing reprisals, will not be willing to testify.”

Asked what difference will a temporary PM’s installation make when the same cabinet and indeed the same party would still be in power, the PTI chief said if done, it would be a powerful message to all concerned. Everybody will learn that they cannot risk protecting the corrupt.

He also maintained that since the PM stood to gain the most from the results of last year’s general elections, it was morally incumbent upon him to stay out of the picture while the judicial commission conducted its investigation.

Mr Khan was accompanied by Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who has been leading the party’s team that is negotiating with the government. Mr Qureshi said Mr Khan, and indeed the entire party leadership, had been burning the midnight oil in trying to come up with a workable plan which would be acceptable to all concerned. “The PTI has offered the best possible deal to the government to resolve this crisis,” he said, adding that he hoped government negotiators would respond to their overtures soon.

Explaining what happened during the last round of talks between the PTI and the government on Saturday night, Mr Qureshi said both sides had agreed on everything – including an independent probe into rigging allegations as well as the replacement of controversial government officials – except the matter of the PM’s temporary resignation.

Mr Khan also boasted that the number of people at the sit-in would only increase in the days to come. In his speech to the crowd later in the evening, he recalled the allegations of rigging he levelled against former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and the Election Commission.

“(PTI) has several credible witnesses who are willing to testify before the judicial commission, but are waiting for the prime minister to step down,” he said, possibly a veiled reference to the subsequent claims by former ECP official Mohammad Afzal in an interview to Mubasher Lucman of ARY News. In the second half of the programme, Imran Khan came online and thanked Mr Afzal for making the revelations, which he said would set the record straight.

When one reporter asked him about rumours about the government’s apparent decision to replace Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to placate Dr Tahirul Qadri, Mr Khan said: “The PTI’s case is completely different. We have been raising the issue of electoral rigging for the past 14 months and consistently asking for a thorough probe.”

Asked why he was convinced Nawaz Sharif would quit when he enjoyed the support of all houses of parliament and commanded a comfortable majority of 190 MNAs in the National Assembly, the PTI chairman simply said: “Come what may, I am here to stay, and I won’t leave until the PM resigns.”

Mr Qureshi brushed aside concerns of political isolation, harking back to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s apparent isolation when he came out against all major established political players.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2014

Footprints: Living on death watch

Reema Abbasi

Their passing will not be dignified with obituaries; they are seen as lives after death. So, before a prisoner who will die in prison stares one in the face, assumptions run amok in the mind. Trudging towards their sordid barracks through tree-lined, idyllic pathways and lawns, it is conventional to assume that the night sky is a hard hue of ink, the stars, dimmer and each journey towards dawn longer than the last.

Their passing will not be dignified with obituaries; they are seen as lives after death. So, before a prisoner who will die in prison stares one in the face, assumptions run amok in the mind. Trudging towards their sordid barracks through tree-lined, idyllic pathways and lawns, it is conventional to assume that the night sky is a hard hue of ink, the stars, dimmer and each journey towards dawn longer than the last.

Happily, these men slaughter trite notions — facing a blurry final frontier, they are portraits of the human mind at its edgiest. Death row inmates grapple with uncertainty in varied ways. Some clutch at faith; others adopt art and scholarly pursuits.

Aftab, soft-spoken Baloch of 36 years, has spent nine years in Karachi’s central prison. Although not sentenced to capital punishment, he has the burden of multiple sentences — a 210-year imprisonment and three life terms for explosions and murder. However, he discovered the flawless artist within and now produces fluid, intricate work.

“I make sculptures, calligraphy and abstract paintings to rein in my mind. Otherwise the thought of two centuries can paralyse. Each piece fetches Rs5,000,” he smiles. “No one has come to see me in two years. I still stay shaven for mulaqat.” Aftab also says he filed an appeal five years ago. “Being associated with the Bugti clan cannot mean that I can’t be heard?” he asks.

This is the jail’s art world where a sense of achievement is definite — an inmate sketches his mother’s face to perfection as he holds her photograph tightly; a thin, pony-tailed Husain shows exhibition coverage in magazines with delight and mentions his life sentence as a footnote. A gentle teacher praises their endeavours.

Into this red brick courtyard walks Akbar Sheikh of Larkana. At 53, he has spent the longest time here — 24 years.

Sheikh is dapper in a starched white suit, a Sindhi cap and kohl-rimmed eyes. “If you include the pardons then I have done 55 years for kidnapping. In these years, I lost my parents, watched my two sons grow up through the bars, and saw my wife in photographs.”

Sheikh’s survival lies in laughter. “This is a beautiful place now as opposed to when I had walked in. I spend my time laughing with friends and waiting for my sons. Now it’s easy; just two years to freedom.”

But many nights are endless for him, when memories cling like leeches. “My wife is so old and her eyesight is diminishing. She spent these years doing fine needlework to raise the children.”

From here, through more luxuriant grassland stands the B Grade Ward, reserved for taxpayers, senior citizens and degree holders. A white stone bungalow with a small garden patch, arched, grille doorways and windows, it is quaint enough to be a period film set. This is home to the co-accused in the Asma Nawab case in the late 1990s.

Polished, flirtatious and informed, Farhan has spent 15 years and eight months mastering mind games. But he murdered for love. “Visit the phansi ward and see the crippled minds. I graduated, then got a Master’s degree in international relations and another in political science to get here. I read history and comparative religion; these are subjects that never end so my mind is safe,” he grins.

“The first impact of this sentence is on memory because thinking can be the only option. Despite feeding my mind so much I know mine is becoming fuzzy too.” When asked to recount the initial impact of jail on his 20-year-old mind, Farhan is nonchalant. “I come from a reasonably well-off family so the first three years were a honeymoon period; the next couple of years are spent on lollipops from lawyers and then the survival instinct kicks in and you set a few goals.”

The conversation then turns to Asma Nawab. The first response is an instant “I will never see her again!” However, fixing his eyes on the sky, he softens, “I feel very sorry for her, she has no one.”

Walking out of Farhan’s environs, the jail superintendent chuckles about another aspect to this prisoner: “He can suddenly become so overweight that he is unrecognisable and then turns into a stick.”

This prison, built in 1899, has 145 condemned prisoners with 10 on mercy petitions of which two have received black warrants that were halted by human rights groups.

It is the Mercy Ward where hope to change fate can wane. “The idea of annihilation is more appealing. I don’t know the world outside these walls for 21 years, since I was 18,” says Shafqat, one of the eight mercy petitions. Short, stout and bald, he like the rest of them looks well past his years.

“I watch a lot of TV to see the outside and wonder how I will adjust. I make fashion accessories but then, my gut knots up. The thought of hanging comes a dozen times, mostly at night,” he says and I sense blood run ice cold.

As the debate on how the state should kill its people rages on, death row inmates prefer execution. In the meantime, prison authorities owe them counselling services for both intimacy and catharsis. I walk away wondering if Shafqat has more days; if Aftab has a chance at life and whether Husain can subsist on art for 25 years.

These are living epitaphs; their own swansongs in motion.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2014

Boko Haram says seized town is part of ‘caliphate’

AFP

KANO (Nigeria): Boko Haram’s leader said a northeast town seized by the militants earlier this month had been placed under an ‘Islamic caliphate’, in a video obtained on Sunday.

KANO (Nigeria): Boko Haram’s leader said a northeast town seized by the militants earlier this month had been placed under an ‘Islamic caliphate’, in a video obtained on Sunday.

“Thanks be to Allah who gave victory to our brethren in (the town of) Gwoza and made it part of the Islamic caliphate,” Abubakar Shekau said in the 52-minute video.

In a July video, Shekau voiced support for leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS) Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who in late June declared himself “the caliph” and “leader of Muslims everywhere”.

But there was no indication from Shekau in the latest video that he was associating himself with Baghdadi, whose Sunni fighters have seized parts of Iraq and Syria.

As such, it was not clear if Shekau was declaring himself to be a part of Baghdadi’s call or he was referring to a separate Nigerian caliphate.

Shekau — who has been designated a global terrorist by the United States and sanctioned by the UN Security Council — is shown in the video wearing military fatigues, with a Kalashnikov rifle strapped to his body.

He alternates between Arabic and the Hausa language that is dominant in the region. He is pictured standing in front of three SUVs and flanked by four fighters, who are masked and armed.

It is not clear when or where the video was filmed.

There was no indication that Shekau was actually in Gwoza for the filming and his whereabouts remain unknown but another unidentified fighter who speaks later in the video vowed that Boko Haram would keep control of the area.

“By the grace of Allah we will not leave the town. We have come to stay,” said the militant wearing a green shirt and a white cap.

The United Nations humanitarian office (OCHA) earlier this month confirmed reports that Gwoza was under militant control.

Boko Haram is also believed to be in control of other areas near Gwoza in southern Borno, as well as large swathes of territory in northern Borno and at least one town in neighbouring Yobe state.

Mapping the precise areas which have fallen into Islamist hands is nearly impossible.

Experts have described Boko Haram’s gains in recent weeks as unprecedented, saying the group is closer than ever to achieving its goal of carving out a strict Islamic state across northern Nigeria. But many analysts believe the military still has the capacity to reverse the insurgents’ advance.

A major offensive launched when emergency rule was declared in May last year appeared to put the militants on the defensive, flushing them out of their strongholds. But critics say top brass failed to sustain the pressure and allowed the Islamists to retake some of the areas they had abandoned.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2014

Delhi orders scrutiny of govt hospitals’ activities

Reuters

NEW DELHI: The Indian government ordered on Saturday a review of activities at all state-owned hospitals to end what the health minister called systemic corruption, as part of the Modi administration’s crackdown on malpractice in the healthcare sector.

NEW DELHI: The Indian government ordered on Saturday a review of activities at all state-owned hospitals to end what the health minister called systemic corruption, as part of the Modi administration’s crackdown on malpractice in the healthcare sector.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has vowed to eradicate graft in India’s $74 billion healthcare industry, where doctors receiving extra payments for referring patients to a particular clinic or receiving gifts from companies for prescribing their drugs are common.

“There are many aspects to corruption in hospitals which as a medico I know exist,” Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said in a statement.

“If money is made in the allocation of beds or as kickbacks from suppliers, it is sleaze. What is equally corrupt is the silent practice of reserving beds and facilities for employees or VIPs.

“In my first 90 days in office, hardly a day has passed without inquiring into the transparency of the ministry and its outposts. Very soon the results are going to be in the public domain,” he said.

The statement said that Mr Vardhan had placed all systems in the central hospitals… “under critical review to end systemic and symptomatic corruption”.

Private companies dominate India’s healthcare system, while government hospitals are overcrowded and lack the resources to cater to growing demand.

Though the industry is growing at 15 per cent per year according to consulting firm PwC, public spending on healthcare has stagnated at about 1 per cent of gross domestic product for years.

That compares to 3 per cent in China and 8.3 per cent in the United States, according to a World Bank database for 2012.

The review ordered on Saturday would also apply to New Delhi’s premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences, where thousands of patients queue up daily for subsidised treatment.

The government crackdown began last month after a media report exposed alleged kickback arrangements between diagnostic laboratories and doctors in the capital.

In recent months, leading doctors and advocacy groups have teamed up to try to root out corruption from the system, forming anti-graft panels at hospitals and writing open letters to the government.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2014

Two soldiers, four militants killed in Kashmir: India

Agencies

SRINAGAR: Two soldiers and at least four militants were killed in two separate gunfights in India-held Kashmir over the weekend, an army spokesman said on Sunday.

SRINAGAR: Two soldiers and at least four militants were killed in two separate gunfights in India-held Kashmir over the weekend, an army spokesman said on Sunday.

A daylong battle with a group of militants on Sunday left one soldier and four militants dead in Kupwara district, said Col N.N. Joshi, the spokesman.

He said another soldier was killed in fighting in Keran sector, near the de facto border in the disputed Himalayan region.

Soldiers encountered on Saturday night the militants, who had crossed the border, some 150km northwest of Srinagar, the official alleged.

“In the resultant exchange of fire between army and terrorists, one soldier was injured who succumbed later to his injuries,” Col Joshi said. The violence came after India called off high-level talks with Pakistan, scheduled to take place in Islamabad, angry that a Pakistani official had met Kashmiri leaders in New Delhi.

Pakistan described the cancellation of talks as a setback for closer relations with India’s rightwing government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

India’s military says it has stepped up operations to flush out “suspected Pakistani militants” moving across the Line of Control.

On Saturday, Indian and Pakistani forces exchanged fire along the border further south in the region of Jammu, resulting in four deaths and forcing villagers to flee their homes.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2014

ISIS begins push to seize Syrian air base

AFP

BEIRUT: At least 24 militants have been killed and 150 wounded in clashes with Syrian troops defending an air base in Raqa province, a monitoring group said on Saturday.

BEIRUT: At least 24 militants have been killed and 150 wounded in clashes with Syrian troops defending an air base in Raqa province, a monitoring group said on Saturday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack began overnight when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance to the base, prompting clashes that killed 14 ISIS fighters.

The two sides exchanged rocket, artillery and machinegun fire, and the army deployed air strikes against the attacking militants, the Britain-based group said.

The deaths brought ISIS losses since it began its assault on Tabqa to at least 94, with more than 400 wounded, according to the Observatory.

The assault on Tabqa comes after ISIS fighters seized the army’s Brigade 93 and Division 17 posts in Raqa, killing dozens of soldiers, some of whom they beheaded.

The army has airlifted reinforcements to the base and stepped up air strikes against ISIS positions across Raqa, using both precision rockets and barrel bombs.

On Saturday afternoon, Syrian state television broadcast images from Tabqa showing soldiers it said were “ready to repel any new attack”.

It also showed the bodies of what it said were “terrorist mercenaries of the Islamic State”.

“These terrorists have tried to attack the airport several times in recent days but have been repelled by the force and bravery of the army heroes,” it added.

“The Tabqa military airport is secure, the army is defending it and launching attacks against the armed men outside the base,” an officer interviewed at the base told the state broadcaster.

The nine men — apparently eight policemen and a soldier — are among 24 security personnel still in the hands of militants after fighting erupted on the Syrian border earlier this month.

In the video posted on Friday night on Islamist websites, the men are seated in front of a black flag with the logo of Al-Nusra, the Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda.

Although the men say they are speaking freely, they use the language of Al-Nusra and call on their family members to stage demonstrations and block roads in Lebanon to protest Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria, where the Shia group is fighting alongside the regime to put down a Sunni-dominated uprising.

One of them says the hostages have been warned they will be killed unless their families take action.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2014

Militant group releases US journalist

Anwar Iqbal

WASHINGTON: An Al Qaeda-affiliated militant group has released an American journalist held captive in Syria for nearly two years, senior US officials said on Sunday.

WASHINGTON: An Al Qaeda-affiliated militant group has released an American journalist held captive in Syria for nearly two years, senior US officials said on Sunday.

“We are all relieved and grateful knowing that Peter Theo Curtis is coming home after so much time held in the clutches of Jabhat al-Nusrah,” said US Secretary of State John Kerry.

“Just as we celebrate Theo’s freedom, we hold in our thoughts and prayers the Americans who remain in captivity in Syria,” said US National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice.

Also read: Militants behead US journalist

Mr Kerry said that in the last two years, the United States had “reached out to more than two dozen countries asking for urgent help from anyone who might have tools, influence, or leverage to help secure Theo’s release and the release of any Americans held hostage in Syria”.

Al Qaeda kidnapped Mr Curtis near the Syria-Turkey border in October 2012. The Nusrah Front, which kept Mr Curtis, has broken with the more radical group called the Islamic State in Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS).

ISIS beheaded another American journalist, James W. Foley, in Syria last week. He was kidnapped a month after Mr Curtis. The group also posted images of his execution on YouTube.

“Notwithstanding today’s welcome news, the events of the past week shocked the conscience of the world,” said Ms Rice while pledging to “continue to use all of the tools at our disposal to see that the remaining American hostages are freed”.

A family friend told The New York Times that Mr Curtis, who is a Bostonian, was handed over to a United Nations representative.

Al Qaeda and its affiliates are still holding three Americans — two men and a woman. ISIS, which beheaded Mr Foley, has threatened to behead Steven J. Sotloff, also a journalist, as well if its demands are not met.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2014

Israel kills 10 more in Gaza

AFP

GAZA CITY: Israel pounded Gaza on Saturday with scores of air strikes, killing 10 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and bringing down a 12-storey apartment building as Egypt called for new truce talks.

GAZA CITY: Israel pounded Gaza on Saturday with scores of air strikes, killing 10 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and bringing down a 12-storey apartment building as Egypt called for new truce talks.

Since a round of frantic Egyptian diplomacy collapsed last Tuesday, shattering nine days of calm, 86 Palestinians and an Israeli boy have been killed in the violence.

Israel sent text messages, voice mails and leaflets warning Palestinians that “every house from which militant activity is carried out, will be targeted” and to stay away from “terrorists”.

Israel has vowed no let-up until it can guarantee the safety of its civilians, while Hamas insists that Israel must end its eight-year blockade of the territory as part of any truce.

At least 2,103 Palestinians and 68 people on the Israeli side have been killed since July 8. The UN says 70 per cent of the Palestinians who have died were civilians.

Israel said it had carried out 55 air strikes over Gaza on Saturday and that around 64 rockets and mortar rounds from Gaza hit Israel, with another 14 intercepted, including one over Tel Aviv.

The deadliest Israeli air strike levelled a home in Al-Zawayda in central Gaza, killing a couple, their sons aged three and four, and a 45-year-old aunt, medics said.

Neighbours said the family house had been bombed earlier in the conflict and that the family had returned to camp out in the ruins, when it was hit overnight by an F16.

An Israeli air strike levelled an apartment building in the heart of Gaza City on Saturday night, wounding at least 18 people, 10 of them children, emergency services said.

Residents in the building were called 10 minutes before the attack and told to evacuate, after which at least two missiles slammed into the complex, levelling it completely, witnesses said.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said a Hamas military operations room had been located in the building.

Another air strike later destroyed a car in Gaza City, killing one person and wounding 11 others, medics said.

Witnesses and Palestinian officials said two mosques were destroyed in the Khan Yunis area of southern Gaza, while a third, in the Shati refugee camp which had already been damaged, was bombed again.

The intensified air strikes came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed harsh retribution for the killing of a four-year-old boy at his home in kibbutz Nahal Oz on Friday.

One Israeli child and at least 480 Palestinian children have been killed since the conflict began, Unicef said, in the deadliest fighting since the 2005 end of the second intifada.

Meanwhile, Israel was yet to respond to Egypt’s call for new talks, while Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that “any proposal offered to the movement will be discussed”.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas said that “what interests us now is putting a stop to the bloodshed”.

“As soon as a ceasefire goes into effect, the two sides can sit down and discuss their demands,” he said after meeting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Mr Abbas’s meeting with Mr Sisi came after he held two rounds of talks in Qatar on Thursday and Friday with exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, whose Islamist movement is the de facto ruler of Gaza.

Since the July 8 outbreak of the conflict in and around Gaza, Israel and Hamas have accused each other of committing war crimes. Joining the ICC would also expose Palestinian factions to possible prosecution.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2014

BD gang held for trying to sell fake uranium

AFP

DHAKA: Bangladesh police said on Sunday they had arrested 11 people suspected of trying to sell fake uranium as part of an elaborate scam.

DHAKA: Bangladesh police said on Sunday they had arrested 11 people suspected of trying to sell fake uranium as part of an elaborate scam.

In a series of raids in Dhaka on Saturday, police swooped on the gang and recovered a leather box marked “USSR” and containing what some members of the group described as uranium, a senior officer said.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesman Masudur Rahman said that police would send the hundreds of small objects similar to medical pills inside the box to Bangladesh’s Atomic Energy Commission for testing.

But the spokesman said police suspect the gang was running an elaborate scam aimed at selling the off-white “uranium” tablets for cash.

“After primary investigation we’ve learnt the accused targeted rich people and told them about the demand for uranium in the international market,” a police statement said.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2014

Footprints: Legions of the unknown

Imran Ayub

WITH thick clouds above and the winds blowing wild and free, Khair Muhammad Baloch puts in maximum effort to keep the 16 wooden pieces he is handling in order. Each piece carries a number and is set to be placed over 16 new graves in Edhi Foundation’s Mowachh Goth graveyard — home to some 250,000 unclaimed bodies.

WITH thick clouds above and the winds blowing wild and free, Khair Muhammad Baloch puts in maximum effort to keep the 16 wooden pieces he is handling in order. Each piece carries a number and is set to be placed over 16 new graves in Edhi Foundation’s Mowachh Goth graveyard — home to some 250,000 unclaimed bodies.

“People are survived by families, loved ones, friends and even assets, but here there are only numbers by which they are remembered,” he says, pointing to hundreds of graves around. “I don’t know who is inside. Man or a woman, Muslim, Hindu or Christian, I don’t know anything. For me, it’s just a number.”

As he pauses to take a gulp of water, I stroll around and find his son a few yards away. The 35-year-old Nadeem Baloch is preparing to lead funeral prayers. Clad in a worn-out shalwar kameez, the younger Baloch repeats this exercise at least once a week for the unknown dead of this beleaguered city, who have found their final abode in this 10-acre piece of land owned and managed by the country’s largest charity.

From the Foundation’s cold storage in Sohrab Goth, a specially-designed vehicle brings in 16 unclaimed — hence unknown — cadavers on average in a week. Shrouded bodies are laid out before the open graves for the final short prayers to be said by three faithful men. The younger Baloch, being a second-generation gravedigger at the Mowachh Goth graveyard, is joined by the vehicle’s driver and his assistant to offer the final prayers for the most unfortunate of people who have died without leaving behind a trace of their identity.

“You can say it is mandatory for us,” replies the gutka-chewing Nadeem when I ask him the logic behind final prayers when one doesn’t know the religion of the dead. “I can’t explain how much sympathy I feel for these people. God knows who they were and how they met their end, while their loved ones would have been searching desperately for them. Prayers are the only service I can offer before burying them forever.”

The Balochs’ workplace is fast running short of space as the number of unidentified bodies buried by the Edhi Foundation has touched the 250,000 mark while the police and other relevant authorities have failed to devise a system to identify unclaimed corpses despite advanced technological facilities.

“We started the job in 1984-85,” says Anwar Kazmi, the key man behind the Edhi Foundation and close aide of its founder, Abdul Sattar Edhi. “The then Karachi mayor, Abdul Sattar Afghani, provided Edhi sahib a 10-acre piece in the Mowachh Goth area. The need grew, and the authorities gave us two more pieces of land of 10 acres each.”

Since no other system exists, he says, the Edhi Foundation buries an unclaimed body after keeping it for up to a week at the morgue in Sohrab Goth. Prior to burial, a photograph is taken to be shown to people visiting the facility in search of their relatives, he says.

“After that, we bury the body in the Mowachh Goth graveyard,” says Kazmi. “I should say that not many are fortunate enough to achieve a sense of closure regarding the disappearance or death of family members after leafing through the albums of the dead we have. Only a few are lucky, whose exhausting search comes to an end here.”

As he points out, only a few graves here carry gravestones. The two Baloch men are busy adding another 16 to this burial ground.

“I have buried even 30 bodies a day here,” says the elder one while supervising his son. In his mid-60s now, he is no longer an active gravedigger. He handed over his job and trained his son “at least a decade ago”. As Nadeem finishes with the burial of all the 16 bodies, one after another, Khair Muhammad steps forward for the final ritual.

“I have buried bodies that are mutilated, charred, torn apart, cut and bruised beyond recognition,” he says, affixing a number on the last grave. “It’s definitely a tough job and an under-appreciated one. But someone has to do it. So I did it for 35 years and now my son is doing it. Just think for a minute: what if there were no Edhi sahib, no Mowachh Goth graveyard. What would happen to these dead?”

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2014

Afghan poll result delayed again despite US pressure

AFP

KABUL: Afghanistan will not have a new president in time for a key Nato summit next week, officials said on Thursday, as the country’s prolonged election crisis lurched towards another damaging delay.

KABUL: Afghanistan will not have a new president in time for a key Nato summit next week, officials said on Thursday, as the country’s prolonged election crisis lurched towards another damaging delay.

The latest deadline of September 2 was abandoned as a UN-supervised audit of all eight million ballots has fallen behind schedule, with both candidates still claiming victory in the fraud-tainted vote.

A Nato summit in Britain from September 4 is meant to agree on future support for Afghanistan after the 13-year US-led combat mission ends later this year.

But Nato members had repeatedly stressed a new president should be in place before the summit to prove that the country is becoming a functioning state after receiving billions of dollars of military and civilian aid assistance.

The United Nations released a statement saying that its mission chief Jan Kubis had told outgoing President Hamid Karzai “that a rigorous and credible audit required time, but could be completed around 10 September”.

“Following all necessary steps, as required by law, the inauguration of the new president should then be possible soon after,” it said.

The US had led a strong international effort to push for the next president to be inaugurated by September 2 to allow him to attend the summit.

Mr Karzai, who has had a series of bitter spats with US-led military coalition, has confirmed that he will not go to Britain, though a senior minister may attend in his place.

Nato press officials in Kabul were not immediately available to comment on whether both Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, the two presidential candidates, could attend the event.

The summit was meant to showcase the signing of a security pact that would allow a US-led Nato support mission in 2015 after all foreign combat troops depart by December.

The disputed June 14 election has sparked fears that protests could spiral into ethnic violence — and even lead to a return of the fighting between warlords that ravaged Afghanistan during the 1992-1996 civil war.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2014

Rebels seize 43 UN peacekeepers at Golan Heights

AFP

UNITED NATIONS: Syrian armed groups, some of whom are linked to Al Qaeda, captured 43 UN peacekeepers on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights on Thursday and surrounded 81 others, the UN said.

UNITED NATIONS: Syrian armed groups, some of whom are linked to Al Qaeda, captured 43 UN peacekeepers on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights on Thursday and surrounded 81 others, the UN said.

The 43 peacekeepers from Fiji were forced to surrender their weapons and taken hostage near the Quneitra crossing, but 81 Filipino blue helmets “held their ground” and refused to disarm, the Filipino defence department said.

“This resulted in a stand-off which is still the prevailing situation at this time as UN officials try to peacefully resolve the situation,” said the statement from Manila.

Syrian rebels, including fighters from the Al Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front, stormed the crossing at Qune­itra on Wednesday, sparking an ex­change of gunfire with Israeli troops.

Quneitra is the only crossing between the Syrian and the Israeli-controlled sides of the strategic plateau.

The 81 Filipino troops were locked in a standoff near Ar Ruwayhinah and Burayqah, while the Fijian soldiers were taken to the southern part of the buffer zone, UN officials said.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said it was unclear which group had staged the attacks. “Some groups are self-identified as affiliated to Al-Nusra but we are not able to confirm,” he said.

In June 2013, there was a similar takeover of the crossing by rebel forces, but the Syrian army managed to regain control.

Six countries contribute troops to the 1,200-strong United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF): Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, the Netherlands and the Philippines.

The Philippines, which has 331 troops serving in UNDOF, announced on Saturday that it would pull out of the peace force, citing security concerns.

Filipino defence officials said no fresh troops would be sent to serve in UNDOF once the current soldiers return from duty in October.

Last year, Manila also considered pulling its Golan peacekeepers out after 25 of them were kidnapped but later freed by Syrian rebels in two separate incidents.

A Filipino soldier was wounded by a wayward shell last year.

Since the Syrian conflict erupted in 2011, the plateau has been tense, with a growing number of rockets and mortar rounds hitting the Israeli side, mostly stray, prompting occasional armed responses.

During fighting on Wednesday, several mortars landed in or near UN positions.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2014

Erdogan sworn in as Turkish president

Agencies

ANKARA: Recep Tayyip Erdogan was sworn in as Turkey’s president on Thursday, cementing his position as its most powerful leader of recent times.

ANKARA: Recep Tayyip Erdogan was sworn in as Turkey’s president on Thursday, cementing his position as its most powerful leader of recent times.

Reading the oath of office in a ceremony in parliament, Mr Erdogan vowed to protect Turkey’s independence and integrity, to abide by the constitution and by the principles of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern secular republic.

“In my capacity as president of the republic, I swear upon my honour and repute before the great Turkish nation and before history to safeguard the existence and independence of the state,” he said at the brief ceremony.

He was seen off by a military salute as he left to lay a wreath at Ataturk’s mausoleum on a hill in the heart of Ankara, one of the most important symbols of the republic.

Moments after being sworn in, Mr Erdogan appointed outgoing foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu as acting prime minister, according to an announcement in the official gazette.

Mr Davutoglu will oversee the existing cabinet until Mr Erdogan asks him to form a new government, expected to be announced on Friday.

Members of parliament from the main opposition CHP walked out moments before Mr Erdogan took his oath, while party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu boycotted the event entirely, accusing the former of breaching the constitution by remaining in office as prime minister after his presidential victory.

“We’re now more worried than ever about one-man, autocratic rule in Turkey,” CHP deputy Aykan Erdemir said.

Mr Erdogan’s victory in Turkey’s first popular presidential election this month capped more than a decade as prime minister in which the economy has tripled in dollar terms and the country has carved out a growing, though often controversial, role in the politics of the conflict-torn Middle East.

Opponents warn his ambition to establish an executive presidential system will concentrate too much power in the hands of a leader with autocratic instincts and roots in Islamist politics, and lead the EU candidate country ever further from the secular ideals of Ataturk.

In a final speech as AK Party leader on Wednesday, Mr Erdogan spoke of his move to the presidential palace as the birth of a new Turkey. But he vowed that the AK’s mission to elevate the country as a major regional power would go on unchanged after he left party politics. He must cut across party lines as head of state.

Earlier, President Mamnoon Hussain arrived here for a two-day visit to represent Pakistan at ceremonies marking the inauguration of Mr Erdogan.

President Hussain was received at Ankara airport by chairman of the Turkey-Pakistan Parliamentary Friendship Group in the Turkish Grand National Assembly and other high-ranking officials.

“Coming to Turkey is like coming home,” Mr Hussain said on the occasion. He expressed the hope that his visit would reinforce efforts for even closer bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2014

Russian troops directly involved in Ukraine war: West

AFP

KIEV: Ukraine and the West alleged on Thursday that Russian troops were actively involved in the fighting tearing apart the east of the country, raising fears of a military confrontation between Kiev and its former Soviet master.

KIEV: Ukraine and the West alleged on Thursday that Russian troops were actively involved in the fighting tearing apart the east of the country, raising fears of a military confrontation between Kiev and its former Soviet master.

The UN Security Council geared up for an emergency meeting on the crisis as the latest rapid-fire developments sent alarm bells ringing in the United States and Europe.

Ukrainian President Petro Poros­henko held an urgent meeting with his security chiefs after scrapping a visit to Turkey over what a top official des­cribed as a “direct invasion” by Russia.

Nato said at least 1,000 Russian troops were on the ground supporting pro-Kremlin separatists who have been fighting against Kiev’s rule since April, but Moscow insisted none of its soldiers were on Ukrainian soil.

US officials accused Russian troops of being behind a lightning counter-offensive that has seen pro-Moscow rebels seize swathes of territory from government forces, dramatically turning the tide in the four-month conflict.

“I will be frank, the situation is extremely difficult,” Mr Poroshenko told security chiefs.

“But it is manageable, manageable enough for us not to panic, keep a cool head, good sense and continue calculating our actions,” he said.

Kiev said Russian soldiers had seized control of a key south-eastern border town and a string of villages in an area where fighting had been raging for days.

“An increasing number of Russian troops are intervening directly in fighting on Ukrainian territory,” the US ambassador to Kiev Geoffrey Pyatt wrote on Twitter.

A Nato official said the supply of weapons to the rebels had also increased in both “volume and quantity”.

But Russia swiftly denied the allegations, with its envoy to the OSCE pan-European security body insisting: “There are no Russian soldiers in eastern Ukraine.”

Britain warned Russia it could face “further consequences” as EU leaders are due to discuss the crisis on their doorstep at a weekend summit.

Kiev had called on the West for urgent help after a rebel counter-offensive from the southeast border appeared to smash through an army blockade around the separatist stronghold of Donetsk and threaten the government-held port city of Mariupol.

The gains by the separatist fighters come after weeks of government offensives that had seen troops push deep into the last holdout rebel bastions in Ukraine’s industrial heartland.

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk blasted Russian President Vladimir Putin for having “deliberately unleashed a war in Europe” and called for urgent action.

A top rebel leader, Alexander Zakharchenko, admitted on Wednesday that Russian troops were fighting alongside his insurgents, but said they were on “holiday” after volunteering to join the battle.

British Prime Minister David Cameron told Russia to “pursue a different path and to find a political solution to this crisis”.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2014

Modi pledges 75m bank accounts by January

AFP

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged on Thursday to provide bank accounts to 75 million people by January in an ambitious bid to end “financial untouchability” in the nation of 1.2 billion people.

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged on Thursday to provide bank accounts to 75 million people by January in an ambitious bid to end “financial untouchability” in the nation of 1.2 billion people.

Mr Modi, who pledged this month to provide accounts for all, said 68 per cent of India’s population did not have access to banks, leaving millions of poor vulnerable to unscrupulous money lenders.

“If 40 per cent of our population can’t get into the mainstream, we can’t develop,” Mr Modi said, in a grand unveiling of his flagged financial inclusion initiative.

“If Mahatma Gandhi talked about social untouchability, to tackle poverty, we have to end financial untouchability,” he told a gathering of ministers and media personnel.

He made the pledge in his Independence Day speech after sweeping to power at elections in May on a platform of reforming and reviving the ailing economy.

While the drive for universal banking access dates back decades, India is still far from its goal. Now Mr Modi is taking a personal stake in the quest.

Despite winning the biggest mandate in 30 years, his rightwing government has not yet introduced big-ticket reforms that are needed to trigger economic growth.

Mr Modi said 75 million bank accounts would be opened by mid-January, with the new holders given a debit card, accident insurance worth up to Rs100,000 and life insurance of Rs30,000.

“Sixty eight years after our independence not even 68 per cent of the population has got bank accounts,” said Mr Modi, adding that he had emailed 700,000 bank employees urging them to support the initiative.

He said welfare payments would be transferred directly into the new accounts which would help in the “fight against corruption”.

The direct transfers are aimed at reducing waste and corruption that hike India’s multi-billion dollar subsidy bill for food, fuel and fertiliser for the poor.

Experts say there are many hurdles to achieving Mr Modi’s goal, among them a lack of identity documents among poor people.

Would-be bank customers have to produce a host of documents from birth certificates to residence proofs that many Indians do not possess.

Indians have one of the world’s highest household saving rates, but the central bank says just 35 per cent of the savings go into the banking system.

Microfinance institutions, which loan small sums to those unable to get credit from mainstream banks, have sought to step into the breach, but have been criticised for exorbitant lending rates, adding to already high poverty levels.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2014

Man held in UK over murder of Imran Farooq

AFP

LONDON: British police on Wednesday arrested a 30-year-old man in connection with the 2010 murder of influential politician Imran Farooq in London.

LONDON: British police on Wednesday arrested a 30-year-old man in connection with the 2010 murder of influential politician Imran Farooq in London.

Mr Farooq, 50, a founding member of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), was stabbed and beaten to death in Edgware, northwest London, as he returned home from work in September 2010.

Scotland Yard police were questioning the suspect at a central London police station after he was arrested at an address in Waltham Forest, east London.

They were also searching a property in the area, according to a statement from police.

Detectives believe that Mr Farooq was under surveillance in the days and weeks before his murder and have already arrested one man and given the names of two others they want to trace in connection with the killing.

A 52-year-old man was arrested at Heathrow Airport in June 2013 on suspicion of conspiracy to murder, after landing on a flight from Canada, and remains on bail.

Detectives are looking for 29-year-old Moshin Ali Syed, who was in Britain from February to September 2010.

They also want to speak to Muhammad Kashif Khan Kamran, 34, who was in Britain in September 2010, and have released CCTV footage of the two men.

The two men lived in Stanmore, a suburb neighbouring Edgware, prior to the murder, police said.

Mr Farooq claimed asylum in Britain in 1999. He was wanted in Pakistan over scores of charges including torture and murder related to the MQM’s activities, but always claimed the accusations were politically motivated.

He had twice been elected member of Pakistani parliament, but went into hiding in 1992 when the government ordered a military crackdown against party activists in Karachi.

More than 200,000 mourners packed the streets of Karachi for his burial.

MQM is the most powerful political party in Karachi, but is run by exiled leader Altaf Hussain from a small office in Edgware.

For over two decades, Mr Hussain has addressed supporters through a loudspeaker linked to his home telephone. He was arrested in June on suspicion of money-laundering before being freed on bail.

The MQM has strongly denied any claim that the killing of Mr Farooq was linked to an internal dispute.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2014

Abdullah boycotts Afghan election audit

Reuters

KABUL: Afghanistan’s disputed presidential election veered further off course on Wednesday after both candidates withdrew their observers from a UN-supervised audit of votes that was meant to resolve the crisis.

KABUL: Afghanistan’s disputed presidential election veered further off course on Wednesday after both candidates withdrew their observers from a UN-supervised audit of votes that was meant to resolve the crisis.

The crisis over the outcome of the vote has raised the spectre of instability, turmoil and perhaps even another round of fighting in a country already battling a potent Taliban insurgency.

The audit was part of a US-brokered deal to defuse escalating tension between rivals Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, who have both claimed victory in the ballot intended to mark the country’s first democratic transfer of power.

“We boycotted the audit process today because it is worthless for us. Let them carry on,” Fazel Ahmad Manawi, Mr Abdullah’s chief auditor, said early on Wednesday.

A few hours later, the United Nations asked Mr Ghani’s team to withdraw its observers in the interests of fairness and it had agreed, according to a team member, who said the withdrawal was unfair but prudent.

“Today we requested the team of Dr Ghani to review whether they should participate actively in the process,” UN deputy chief Nicholas Haysom told reporters.

“Underlying this request was a realisation that the audit must not only have integrity, it must be seen to be even-handed by all Afghans,” he said.

After a pause on Wednesday morning, the audit resumed in the afternoon, Mr Haysom said, adding he did not expect significant further delays as the audit proceeded without the physical presence of representatives from candidates’ teams.

“We continue to urge the return of both candidates to full participation in the process, and we stand ready to address their concerns whether they return or not,” he said.

Officials involved in the process say it is likely Mr Ghani would eventually be confirmed president.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has twice flown to Afghanistan since a June 14 run-off vote to defuse tension and push the rivals to agree to cooperate.

US officials stepped in again earlier on Wednesday and held emergency talks with Mr Abdullah, according to a member of his team.

If the rival politicians needed a reminder of the militant threat, Afghan security forces were battling the Taliban for control of the northern province of Kunduz on Wednesday with heavy clashes also reported in parts of the south.

The political crisis and fighting comes at a time of deep anxiety in Afghanistan as the United States, Kabul’s biggest aid donor, and other Nato nations withdraw their troops after nearly 13 years of fighting Taliban militants.

Chaos at a time when Western forces pull out would be a huge embarrassment for those countries which have spent billions of dollars and lost about 3,500 soldiers in a bid to bring peace and stability.

Mr Abdullah, a former foreign minister, won a first round vote in April but without a majority needed for outright victory, while preliminary figures showed that Mr Ghani, a former finance minister, won the run-off by more than a million votes.

But Mr Abdullah complained of rigging and demanded a recount in which fraudulent votes would be thrown out.

Mr Abdullah’s team believes that the more fraudulent votes are thrown out, the better his chances will be of victory but they have complained that the rules of the audit are not strict enough to weed out the invalid ballots.

On Tuesday, Mr Abdullah’s team said the United Nations had until Wednesday to accept its demands to tighten the rules for identifying and discarding ballots deemed fraudulent, or else it would drop out of the electoral process.

Outgoing President Hamid Karzai, who is not allowed by the constitution to run again, has urged both candidates to respect the terms of the US-brokered deal.

Officials and diplomats fear a breakdown between the candidates and the power-brokers who have a stake in the process could trigger conflict along ethnic lines.

Mr Ghani is a member of Afghanistan’s biggest ethnic group, the Pakhtun, who make up most the population in the south and east.

Mr Abdullah, is part Pakhtun and part ethnic Tajik but draws his support from Tajiks and other smaller minorities, largely in the centre and north.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2014

UK Muslims outraged over sex abuse report

AP

ROTHERHAM: Members of Britain’s Pakistani community reacted with outrage on Wednesday amid reports that officials failed to act on sex abuse cases because of concerns about racism in the northern English town of Rotherham.

ROTHERHAM: Members of Britain’s Pakistani community reacted with outrage on Wednesday amid reports that officials failed to act on sex abuse cases because of concerns about racism in the northern English town of Rotherham.

Muhbeen Hussain, foun­der of the Rotherham Muslim Youth Group, told the Daily Mirror that Muslims were disgusted that justice was not done, leading to some 1,400 children being sexually exploited over a 16-year period, mostly by Pakistani men.

“Race, religion or political correctness should never provide a cloak of invisibility to such grotesque crimes.”

Report author Alexis Jay cited appalling acts of violence between 1997 and 2013 in the town of some 250,000.

Charities dealing with abused children have expressed shock not just at the number of victims but also by the reluctance of the authorities to address the question that people of Pakistani heritage were involved in most of the cases over fears they would be labelled racists.

Barnardo’s, a charity that works with vulnerable children, unilaterally condemned the abuse which left so many to suffer for so long. “No one should ever be frightened to act decisively because of fear of being seen as racist or politically incorrect,” said Barnardo’s chief executive, Javed Khan.

Britain’s Labour Party called for the resignation of the police commissioner in the town after the report found that “collective failures” led to inaction.

But Ms Jay said Rotherham is not the only place in Britain struggling with this issue. She told the BBC that “demand for this kind of sexual activity with children is on the increase and that is validated across not just the UK but Europe and worldwide”.

“We can’t say that Rotherham is any better or worse than other places because the information simply doesn’t exist at a national level to tell us that,” she added.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2014

‘15 Australian fighters killed in ME’

AFP

SYDNEY: Fifteen Austra­lians, including two young suicide bombers, are believed to have died fighting in Syria and Iraq, intelligence chief David Irvine said on Wed­nesday, warning that espionage and foreign intervention threats were increasing.

SYDNEY: Fifteen Austra­lians, including two young suicide bombers, are believed to have died fighting in Syria and Iraq, intelligence chief David Irvine said on Wed­nesday, warning that espionage and foreign intervention threats were increasing.

Canberra has expressed alarm that around 60 Australians have joined violent groups such as the Islamic State (IS), formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Al Sham.

One IS fighter, Australian man Khaled Sharrouf, sparked outrage when an image of his Sydney-raised son posing with the head of a Syrian soldier was reportedly posted on Twitter.

“The draw of foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq is significant and includes more Australians than any other previous extremist conflicts put together,” Mr Irvine said.

He said the Australian Security Intelligence Organ­i­sa­tion (ASIO) believed the number of citizens posing a potential security threat had increased substantially as a result.

“ASIO believes there are about 60 or so Australians fighting with the two principal extremist Al Qaeda de­rivatives, Jahabat-al-Nusra and the Islamic State in Syria or Iraq,” Mr Irvine said.

“We believe 15 Austra­lians have already been killed in the current conflicts, including two young Australian suicide bombers.”

He said 100 more people in Australia were “actively supporting” these extremist groups by recruiting new fighters, grooming suicide bombing candidates, and providing funds and equipment.

Australia has boosted its efforts to counter terrorism on fears that the bloody conflicts in Iraq and Syria are creating a new generation of militants, including increasing spending on security and intelligence and strengthening terrorism laws.

Mr Irvine said intelligence agencies were concerned about the dangers posed when some of these people — potentially with a commitment to violence and training in the use of weapons or bomb-making — returned to Australia.

He also warned that the age-old threats of espionage and foreign interference were on the rise against Australia.

“I can say that we are seeing growth in espionage and foreign interference against Australia, both through cyber and more traditional methods,” he said.

“Further, the threat to government information from self-motivated malicious insiders has increased.”

Asked about the killing of United States journalist James Foley, beheaded on a graphic video posted online last week, Mr Irvine said he had no view on whether media outlets should have shown the footage.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2014

UN calls for Pak-India talks

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

NEW DELHI: UN chief Ban Ki-moon has asked Pakistan and India to resolve their issues peacefully, through dialogue, against the backdrop of cancellation of foreign-secretary level talks between the two countries and continued ceasefire violations, local reports said here on Wednesday.

NEW DELHI: UN chief Ban Ki-moon has asked Pakistan and India to resolve their issues peacefully, through dialogue, against the backdrop of cancellation of foreign-secretary level talks between the two countries and continued ceasefire violations, local reports said here on Wednesday.

“The secretary-general calls on both sides to resolve the issues peacefully and through dialogue,” a statement given to Press Trust of India from the office of Mr Ban’s spokesperson in response to questions about the cancellation of the talks and ceasefire violations said.

The statement did not respond to a question whether the UN chief would intervene in the tense situation and encourage the leaders from the two countries to meet.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government cancelled the Aug 25 meeting scheduled in Islamabad between the foreign secretaries after Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit held talks with Kashmiri separatist leaders.

Defence Minister Arun Jaitley has said that India has been responding effectively and strongly to what he termed ceasefire violations from the Pakistani side. India has also strengthened its counter-infiltration grid to tackle any attempt to push in militants during the ceasefire violations.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2014

Poppy crop destroyed near Afghan border

Saleem Shahid

QUETTA: Personnel of the Frontier Corps (FC) have destroyed poppy crop cultivated over thousands of acres in Murgha Faqirzai area of Qilla Saifullah district.

QUETTA: Personnel of the Frontier Corps (FC) have destroyed poppy crop cultivated over thousands of acres in Murgha Faqirzai area of Qilla Saifullah district.

According to official sources, local tribesmen had cultivated the crop over 1,988 acres in the Muslim Bagh sector, along the Afghan border.

“Around 200 FC personnel cordoned off the entire area and launched an operation for destroying poppy crop with the help of local people,” a senior Frontier Corps official said on Wednesday.

He said the operation was launched on Tuesday and completed on Wednesday.

The sources said that about 35 tractors were used for destroying the crop.

The FC has the powers to launch an operation to rid the areas of drugs and narcotics.

Murgha Faqirzai is situated near the area in Afghanistan from where about 70 suspected terrorists and drug smugglers tried to force their way into Pakistan after attacking Pakistani security personnel.

The FC troops deployed at the border had foiled the attempt and pushed the terrorists back into Afghan territory.

A Pakistani soldier and a tractor driver had been killed in the surprise attack.

After the incident the authorities decided to destroy the poppy crop because the assailants had used it in their bid to enter Pakistan.

The FC troops destroyed poppy crop cultivated over thousands of acres in different areas of Zhob, Duki and Qilla Abdullah districts last month after conducting an aerial survey.

FC Inspector General Major General Ejaz Shahid Khan said that destruction of poppy crop is part of a campaign to rid the province of narcotics.

“Nobody will be allowed to cultivate poppy in any area of Balochistan,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2014

Both state, non-state actors committing atrocities in Syria: UN committee

Masood Haider

UNITED NATIONS: Large-scale atrocities are being committed both by state and non-state actors in Syria, contributing to a spill-over of violence that adversely affects international peace and stability, a UN-appointed panel has said in a new report.

UNITED NATIONS: Large-scale atrocities are being committed both by state and non-state actors in Syria, contributing to a spill-over of violence that adversely affects international peace and stability, a UN-appointed panel has said in a new report.

In its report released on Wednesday, the independent International Commis­sion of Inquiry on Syria emphasised that with the continuous influx of foreign fighters and the success of extremist groups “risks of the conflict spreading further are palpable”.

The report, based on 480 interviews and a number of documents, chronicles the human cost of the Syrian conflict that began in March 2011.

The impact has been particularly grave for women and children, whose most basic rights are being violated each day, according to the report.

“The international community’s failure in its most elementary duties — to protect civilians, halt or prevent atrocities and create a path towards accountability — has been matched on the ground by an abandonment of even the pretence of an adherence to norms of international law,” said Paulo Pinheiro, the chairman of the commission.

“As can be seen today, this has grave implications for the entire region. Hundreds of civilians are dying each day as the fighting goes on with no regard to law or to conscience.”

“Women have been lashed for not abiding by the dress code decreed by the Islamic State (IS) group (formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham),” said the report.

In Ar-Raqqah, children as young as 10 are being recruited and trained at IS camps. The group has forcibly displaced Kurdish communities in northern Syria. Journalists and other media workers are being systematically targeted.

In Syrian areas under the control of IS, particularly in the north and north-east of the country, Fridays are marked by executions, amputations and lashings in public squares, according to the report.

The report said the Syrian government had also committed violations, including war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Between January and July, hundreds of men, women and children were killed every week by the government’s indiscriminate firing of missiles and barrel bombs into civilian-inhabited areas.

In some instances, there was clear evidence that civilian gatherings were deliberately targeted, added the report.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2014

Long-term ceasefire goes into effect in Gaza

AFP

GAZA CITY: Celebrations erupted in Gaza on Tuesday as a long-term ceasefire agreed by Israel and the Palestinians went into effect, ending 50 days of the deadliest violence in a decade.

GAZA CITY: Celebrations erupted in Gaza on Tuesday as a long-term ceasefire agreed by Israel and the Palestinians went into effect, ending 50 days of the deadliest violence in a decade.

The agreement, which came into effect at 1600 GMT, involves an immediate halt to the violence in Gaza, which began on July 8 and has claimed the lives of 2,143 Palestinians and 69 on the Israeli side.

The number includes an Israeli who was killed by a mortar round in the last hour before the fighting stopped.

The Palestinians said it was a “permanent” truce, while a senior Israeli official described it as “unconditional and unlimited in time”.

As the ceasefire took hold, thousands of Palestinians flooded onto the streets of Gaza City, some firing joyfully into the air, among them gunmen from Hamas, correspondents said.

Mosques used their loudspeakers to broadcast celebratory chants of “God is greatest” as the war-torn enclave hailed the apparent end to seven weeks of violence that has seen a quarter of the territory’s 1.8 million people flee their homes.

“Thank God the war has ended. I can’t believe I’m still alive with my kids,” 32-year-old Maha Khaled said. “It was a very harsh war. I never thought that we would see peace at the end.” Others in the territory, where the Islamist Hamas movement is the dominant power, hailed the truce as a victory for the Palestinian resistance over Israel.

“Thank God. The resistance won,” said Tamer al-Madqa, 23. “Today Gaza showed the world that it is resisting and that it is stronger than Israel.”

News of the agreement first emerged from the West Bank city of Ramallah where a Palestinian official said a deal had been reached over a “durable” halt to more than seven weeks of bloodshed and violence in and around Gaza.

Hamas hailed the deal as a “victory for the resistance”.

The official said the agreement involved “a permanent ceasefire, a (deal to) end the blockade and a guarantee that Gaza’s demands and needs will be met,” but gave few other details.

Ending Israel’s crippling eight-year blockade of Gaza had been a key Palestinian demand in earlier, abortive truce talks in Cairo.

The formal announcement came from Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in a live speech at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Shortly afterwards, Israel confirmed its acceptance of the deal, saying the negotiating teams would return to Cairo “within a month” but without saying when.

“We have accepted, once again, an Egyptian proposal for an unconditional and unlimited-in-time ceasefire,” a senior official said.

“The framework includes an immediate and unconditional ceasefire and then, inside a month, both delegations will be in Cairo raising issues with the Egyptians,” he said.

“We will be raising our concerns about demilitarisation and preventing Hamas from rearming and they will be raising their concerns. This is the framework that has been on the table for weeks now.”

In a statement, the Egyptian foreign ministry said there would be an immediate opening of Israeli border crossings to allow in both aid and reconstruction supplies.

Alongside a comprehensive ceasefire, the two sides agreed to the “simultaneous opening of the border crossings between Israel and Gaza to enable the rapid entry of humanitarian aid and relief and reconstruction supplies”, a statement said.

The Egyptian-brokered deal also provides for the immediate extension to six nautical miles of the area open to Gaza’s fisherman working the seas off the coastal enclave.

It also refers to the “continuation of indirect negotiations between the two sides on other matters within one month of the ceasefire taking effect”.

News of the reported deal came after weeks of Egyptian-led efforts to end the violence. There have been several short-term ceasefires between the two sides, which brought relief to millions of civilians, but they all broke down in the absence of any agreement on a longer-term truce.

The latest collapsed on August 19 as hostilities resumed, killing more than 120 Palestinians and two Israelis.

There had been no sign of any let-up in the fighting earlier on Tuesday, with 12 Palestinians killed in Israeli air strikes and tank shelling, among them two children.

And on the other side of the border, an Israeli was killed and two others seriously wounded when a mortar round struck next to a swimming pool in a kibbutz close to the frontier.

Israel also bombed two high-rises in Gaza City, wounding 40 people. One was a 16-storey complex in which there were 60 flats and a shopping centre, while the second was a 14-storey residential block.

The army said they had housed “Hamas command and control centres” but Hamas denounced the move as a “war crime aimed at terrorising the people”.

The military also confirmed striking two schools in central and northern Gaza from which “low-trajectory fire” had been directed at Israel.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2014

Model Town probe report says police acted on govt orders

Intikhab Hanif

LAHORE: The judicial commission investigating the June 17 Model Town incident has held the government responsible for it and said police acted on government orders which led to the bloodshed.

LAHORE: The judicial commission investigating the June 17 Model Town incident has held the government responsible for it and said police acted on government orders which led to the bloodshed.

The report has said the affidavits of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and former law minister Rana Sanaullah contained contradictions regarding the orders they reportedly issued to police to disengage, and declared that what happened on the ground did not match such claims.

Contents of the report, which the government says is secret, were first revealed by anchor of a private television channel on Tuesday and were confirmed to Dawn by independent sources.

Quoting the report, the sources said decisions taken at a meeting presided over by Mr Sanaullah before the incident led to the worst kind of bloodshed.

According to the report, Mr Sharif claimed in his affidavit that he had ordered police to disengage in Model Town. However, the chief minister did not mention this in the press conference he addressed after the fiasco.

“It seems the word ‘disengagement’ was an afterthought to save the chief minister,” the sources quoted the report as saying.

The report said the action in Model Town was taken under the orders of the government, said the sources. It also said the police were totally responsible for it.

A Punjab government spokesman said the report of the judicial tribunal was received and examined. It was observed that it required further analysis, as it was inconclusive.

He said that because the report was based on some documents, statements and affidavits which were not provided with it a request was immediately made to the high court for the provision of the documents so that the report might be reviewed and necessary action taken.

“Meanwhile, the government has constituted a committee to carry out a detailed analysis of the report and make recommendations and a way forward accordingly. The moment the subject missing documents are received, the report shall be referred to the committee and further necessary action would be taken in the light of its recommendations,” the spokesman added.

Sources in the Punjab government did not contradict the claims made by the television anchor or by those who talked to Dawn. But they insisted that the report was inconclusive.

The commission did not have the mandate to give findings or fix responsibility and its presiding officer, Justice Ali Baqar Najfi, mentioned this to media while handing over the report to the provincial home department.

They said that during the proceedings the commission did not object to the affidavit of the chief minister in which he had said that he had asked police to disengage.

His was the only affidavit which was not read out before the commission. Also, the chief minister was not cross-examined by the commission.

“Under the law, the objections are highlighted during cross-examination of the provider of an affidavit. And changes are shown to the supplier and his or her signatures are sought on it.

“If this is not done, the affidavit is considered to be accepted. And this is what happened with the chief minister’s affidavit,” a source said.

The sources said the Punjab government had sought affidavits and other documents from the commission exactly for this purpose. They said Mr Sanaullah ordered removal of the encroachments in front of Dr Tahirul Qadri’s residence after receiving reports that they were illegal. “He did not order action against anything legal.”

Official sources said the findings of any judicial commission were not binding on the government. And in this case there were no findings.

Giving findings and fixing responsibility were the job of the government. The government would fix the responsibility only after examining the supporting affidavits and other documents being sought from the commission, they added.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2014

Proposal to limit validity of Umrah visa

Syed Rashid Husain

RIYADH: The Saudi Haj ministry is proposing to limit the validity of Umrah visa to a maximum of 15 days’ stay in the kingdom.

RIYADH: The Saudi Haj ministry is proposing to limit the validity of Umrah visa to a maximum of 15 days’ stay in the kingdom.

If the ministry goes ahead with the proposed legislation, Umrah pilgrims will only be able to stay in the country for a maximum of 15 days. With a major expansion going on in Haram, Saudi Arabia has been endeavouring to limit the number of pilgrims.

According to a report in the daily Al-Madinah, the proposal has been communicated to Umrah companies as they have been asked to send their opinion within a week.

Under the proposed rules, the service-providing companies have also been advised against bringing in large batches of Umrah pilgrims at any one time, especially during Ramazan.

The ministry said that after receiving the observations and remarks of the companies, it would draft new rules that will be implemented from the next season, which starts in December. In this regard, Haj Minister Bandar Hajjar met in Madinah on Sunday the government and private sector companies in charge of the Umrah pilgrims.

Some 1.3 million foreign pilgrims are expected to perform Haj in October this year. South Asian countries are expected to send the largest contingent of 410,000 pilgrims followed by Arab countries with 250,000.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2014

NA speaker received resignation of 31 PTI legislators

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: The mystery surrounding the resignations of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf members of parliament was resolved on Tuesday after the National Assembly Secretariat revealed that out of a total of 34 MNAs, 31 had submitted their resignations.

ISLAMABAD: The mystery surrounding the resignations of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf members of parliament was resolved on Tuesday after the National Assembly Secretariat revealed that out of a total of 34 MNAs, 31 had submitted their resignations.

The media wing of the NA Secretariat said that of the 31 resignations, 26 were valid, while five contained minor errors and had to be resubmitted after corrections. Three lawmakers, Gulzar Khan, Nasir Khan Khattak and Mussarat Ahmadzeb, had yet to hand in their notices.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who is PTI’s parliamentary leader in the National Assembly, told Dawn the three legislators had not been able to hand in their resignations due to personal reasons and dismissed rumours of a split within the party over the decision to quit the National Assembly.

The NA speaker’s office said it had invited all 26 MNAs – who filed valid resignations – for a personal hearing to confirm the veracity of their notices. The rest will be contacted after they submit corrected copies of their resignations. “National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq will meet the PTI MNAs who have decided to quit the assembly in person on Thursday and Friday,” a National Assembly Secretariat official told Dawn.

Currently, the official said, the issue of the resignations was secondary as it was connected to the outcome of the ongoing talks between the government and the PTI, which resumed on Tuesday. In case the two sides agreed on a middle ground, the speaker would simply reject these resignations.

During a late night meeting on Monday with heads of various parliamentary parties, the speaker was asked not to accept the resignations of PTI MNAs to allow the two sides more time to think and reach some sort of an agreement to defuse the political standoff.

“The moment the speaker accepts these resignations, it means there is no turning back and the two sides will then meet each other head on,” a source present at the meeting told Dawn.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2014

Pakistan, India to end border hostilities

The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and India have agreed on de-escalation along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary that have lately witnessed frequent violations of the ceasefire accord.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and India have agreed on de-escalation along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary that have lately witnessed frequent violations of the ceasefire accord.

The decision on ending hostilities was taken on Tuesday during a conversation between the heads of military operations directorates of the armies of the two countries.

“Directors General of Mil­i­tary Operations (DGMOs) of India and Pakistan talked on the hotline today. Both sides mutually agreed to reduce tensions along the LoC and Working Bound­a­ry,” a military spokesman said.

The conversation took place on Pakistan’s call.

There have been 136 ceasefire violations by India this year, 103 of them took place along the LoC and 33 on the Working Boundary. Four civilians were killed in shelling carried out by the Indian Border Security For­ce over the past two months.

The situation has been impacting the bilateral relationship.

Last week India cancelled the foreign secretaries level talks on the pretext that Pakistan’s High Commissioner had met Kashmiri separatist leaders. But it is believed that hostilities along the Working Boundary had actually prompted India to call off the dialogue.

The DGMOs had earlier met in December last year after which the two sides agreed on upholding the 2003 LoC ceasefire accord. The two sides had then also discussed protocols for avoi­ding violations and defusing the resulting tensions.

Last year’s meeting came after 416 alleged LoC ceasefire violations by India and about 150 by Pakistan.

Talks between the two countries have been held up since ceasefire violations started in January 2013.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2014

India agrees to re-examine objections to Kishanganga dam design

Khalid Hasnain

LAHORE: India has agreed to re-examine Pakistan’s objections over designs of Kishanganga dam and four other hydroelectric power projects on Jhelum and Chenab rivers.

LAHORE: India has agreed to re-examine Pakistan’s objections over designs of Kishanganga dam and four other hydroelectric power projects on Jhelum and Chenab rivers.

During the third and concluding day of talks held here on Tuesday, a 10-member Indian team headed by the Commissioner of Indus Water Commission pledged to resume talks after two months by submitting detailed reply/justification to the objections raised by the Pakistani Commissioner on Indus Water Commission (IWC).

“Though there is not a major breakthrough during the three-day talks, we have succeeded in explaining our objections with certain logic before the Indian team. And the team has agreed to re-examine and reply all our objections and logic deeply and restart talks again with us after two months,” Pakistan’s Commissioner on Indus Water Commission Mirza Asif Baig told Dawn.

“Actually some of their logics are not well-founded, which are not required to be even re-examined. And some of their justifications are required to be re-examined by us. So we will review these surely,” he maintained.

While explaining the objections and justifications, the commissioner said that the Pakistani team had expressed serious concerns over the designs of Kishanganga and four other dams.

“We have objected to the spillways with deep spilling of the Kishan Gang dam at the Jhelum River (Neelum distributary) and other dams at the Chenab River, as India cannot do this under the Indus Water Treaty. Similarly, we have asked them to avoid excessive water poundage and intake. Likewise, there are some other objections we have raised on the dams’ designs/drawings,” he explained.

Mirza Asif was of the view that if designs of these dams are not changed India would get complete control on the western parts of the rivers which would reduce their flow. “It can destroy our agriculture sector and other sorts of water needs in the country.”

He said members of the Pakistani team had categorically told their Indian counterparts that Pakistan wanted practical, acceptable, meaningful and viable conclusion of the talks after two months. “We have also told them that we will have no option but to approach the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for arbitration in case India does not change designs of its dams,” he added.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2014

Footprints:Abandoning Displaced Persons

Aurangzaib Khan

UP north kadoo, pumpkin and squash in English, isn’t much favoured as a vegetable. Hosts take care not to serve it on a feast, just like they won’t have saag or dal.

UP north kadoo, pumpkin and squash in English, isn’t much favoured as a vegetable. Hosts take care not to serve it on a feast, just like they won’t have saag or dal.

‘Kadoo’ used as an epithet denotes hollowness. When used for a person, the term connotes a lack of grey matter. It is not uncommon for Pakhtuns to employ the term, earnestly or by way of jest, for someone who is witless.

So when a displaced elder from the North Waziristan agency used the term for politicians leading the Azadi and Inqilab marches in Islamabad, it seemed a tad harsh. But then, being politically correct is not something that the displaced aspire to.

“A head without true understanding of revolution is but a pumpkin,” said Nisar Ali Khan, the president of the Qaumi Committee for the Displaced Population of North Waziristan agency, addressing a procession of the displaced in front of the Bannu Press Club. “Let it break. The authorities appointed to care for the displaced have been leaching our blood while Imran Khan and Qadri act out their drama in Islamabad. Their corruption has robbed us of our food; we have nothing to give them. Imran Khan should remove the ‘Khan’ from his name as he has failed to represent the Pakhtuns.”

Also read: From Datta Khel to Sohrab Goth: IDPs’ nightmare

On Sunday, Nisar Ali Khan stood in the dusty Char Bijli Chowk receiving tribal elders of the displaced Wazir and Dawar tribes. The small, single-room Qaumi Committee office is in a basement of a hotel. A young cook stands sweating in a vest, placing large rounds of thin dough on an outdoor tandoor made of a metal cylinder. The supple bread is perfect for Suhbat, a local specialty of bread softened in meat gravy. Hosts insist on serving it, guests find it hard to resist.

The elders are here to plan their presser at the Peshawar Press Club on Monday. They sit in a circle on a carpeted floor, taking turns to speak about problems the IDPs face. Among them is Haji Amin Rehman, president of the Teachers’ Association of North Waziristan. When he speaks, he often lapses from Pashtu into Urdu. His language seems customised to the needs of journalists — it’s as though he’s reading out a press release, complete with journalese characteristic of the Urdu press. He, and the other elders here, are more cultured than their unassuming appearances initially convey. They quote Bahadur Shah Zafar and Pitras Bokhari to convey ironies and their predicament.

For someone fed on stereotypes about tribesmen, it throws up a stark insight: perhaps the people of Fata are far more enlightened and integrated in mainstream Pakistan than the state would like us to believe. When I bring this up, they say their culture, education and society was deliberately distorted to serve the state’s ‘jihadi’ agenda.

With so many strong voices and opinions, it takes effort to steer the conversation back to the marches in Islamabad. “It’s a conspiracy to take away the media attention from the IDPs,” says Haji Amin. “The politicians have been shedding crocodile tears to secure a photo opportunity with the IDPs for political point scoring. But when it comes to our real problems, they have closed their eyes.”

Why do they feel the marches are a deliberate effort to take attention away from the operation in North Waziristan and the displaced? “Because there were no marches between May 2013, when Imran accused the government of rigging, and June 2014, when the military operation happened,” says Humayun Dawar, a writer from North Waziristan. “We protest against Imran Khan and Qadri because if the military operation was started to clear the agency of terrorists, taking it to a logical conclusion should have stayed a national priority.”

The elders say that more than a million people have been displaced. They want their villages to be cleared so they can go back home. “But the attention has been taken away from the operation and possible returns,” says Humayun. “It is one thing that we have been subjected to suffering and humiliation; but this drama in the capital is like rubbing salt in our wounds.”

The elders say the NGOs helping them have closed down their offices because funds and supplies are not coming in due to political uncertainty and the closure of routes. They say the authorities are distracted.

“Imran Khan marched here against the drone attacks but now that we have been displaced by military operations, he has disappeared,” says Haji Saeed, a tribal elder. He and others think that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government is just as bad because it approved the military operation.

The conversation somehow segues from the problems of the living to the disposal of dead. One minute, we speak of education for children in local schools, separate distribution points for women, resuming salaries for minority government workers and space for people displaced from schools, and then: “Let alone the living, the space in Bannu is falling short for the dead,” says Haji Amin. “We have no burial space.”

“We bury our dead as amanat, to be exhumed later for reburial in our ancestral graveyards, among our forefathers, when we go back home,” he continues. He then quotes Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal king who died in exile in Rangoon: Kitna hai badnaseeb Zafar dafn key liye, do guzz zameen bhi na mili koye yaar main.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2014

Afghan poll dispute in crucial phase

AFP

KABUL: Afghanistan’s 10-week election crisis entered a risky new stage on Monday when officials started invalidating fraudulent votes in a process likely to bring to a head the bitter dispute between the presidential candidates.

KABUL: Afghanistan’s 10-week election crisis entered a risky new stage on Monday when officials started invalidating fraudulent votes in a process likely to bring to a head the bitter dispute between the presidential candidates.

The country has been in paralysis since the June 14 election to choose the successor to President Hamid Karzai, who will step down as US-led Nato troops prepare to end their 13-year war against Taliban.

Also read: Afghan election result delayed as fraud dispute deepens

Karzai has insisted the delayed inauguration ceremony must be held on Sept­ 2, imposing a tough deadline that has raised tensions between supporters of poll rivals Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah.

The June vote was quickly mired in allegations of massive fraud, with Abdullah claiming that he had been denied victory after Ghani was declared ahead on preliminary results.

A smooth transition of pow­er was meant to be the democratic keystone of the multi-billion dollar military and civ­ilian aid effort in Afgha­n­istan, but the impasse has emboldened the Taliban and weakened the fragile economy.

The anti-fraud audit of all eight million votes was agreed by both candidates as part of a US-brokered deal to calm tempers as fears rose of a return to the ethnic hatreds of the 1990s civil war.

“The IEC today begins the inspections of the audit result in an open session in the presence of national and international observers,” Abdul Rehman Hotaki, deputy chairman of the Independent Election Commission, told reporters.

He said the audit, which has not yet been completed, was a “huge logistical task” but would be transparent to ensure legitimacy of the final result.

Ghani and Abdullah have also pledged to form a national unity government whoever wins the election, though the details of the power-sharing system have been subject to disagreement between the campaigns.

The US has been pushing for the next president to be inaugurated before a Nato summit starting on September 4, which should sign off on follow-up support after the coalition’s combat mission in Afghanistan ends this year.

The political crisis would worsen sharply if either candidate pulls out of the audit or rejects its outcome, with possible street protests in Kabul by aggrieved supporters posing a major challenge to the national security forces.

On Monday, 3,644 of the 23,000 ballot boxes were put through the invalidation process. Only 74 boxes were thrown out, with 697 selected for a further recount.

“It is still premature to draw conclusions about the final audit result based on these initial findings,” UN mission chief Jan Kubis said in a statement.

“All parties should continue to respect the process so as to not create unrealistic expectations. “The UN earlier warned that “speculation about any unconstitutional alternatives or appeals for civil disobedience can only worsen the current complicated situation”.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2014

Water row with India may be taken to ICJ

Khalid Hasnain

LAHORE: Pakistan may approach the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for arbitration if India continues with its stance of constructing the Kishanganga Dam on River Jhelum and four other dams on the Chenab in violation of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT), Dawn learnt on Monday.

LAHORE: Pakistan may approach the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for arbitration if India continues with its stance of constructing the Kishanganga Dam on River Jhelum and four other dams on the Chenab in violation of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT), Dawn learnt on Monday.

A 10-member Indian delegation is here on a three-day visit to discuss the issue but so far no headway has been made in the talks.

“We have raised serious objections to the designs of the Kishanganga Dam at the Neelum distribution point of River Jhelum and four other projects on River Chenab. Since our objections are logical, we are trying hard to persuade the Indian team to accept these in the light of the IWT.

Know more: India accused of violating Indus Water Treaty

“And if the Indian side continues sticking to its stance, we will have no option but to go for arbitration by the ICJ,” Pakistan’s Indus Water Commissioner Mirza Asif Baig said.

Sharing details of the second day’s meeting, he said the Indian team led by its Indus Water Commissioner K. Vohra tried to justify its stance about designs of the hydropower projects.

The Pakistani side presented its stance and objections to the Indian projects. “Since both the countries stuck to their stances, the issues remained unresolved,” Mr Baig said.

He said if Indian team continued sticking to its stance even on Tuesday, Pakistan would not wait for years to get its concerns redressed through more and more talks.

“For going to the ICJ, we will have to complete the procedure through the ministries of water and power, foreign affairs, law and defence,” the commissioner said.

He said it was a general policy of the government to go to the ICJ in case of failure of such talks because Pakistan had a strong and logical case.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2014

Modi magic suffers jolt

Jawed Naqvi

NEW DELHI: The Modi wave that gave the Bharatiya Janata Party its first absolute majority in parliament in May suffered a jolt in key by-polls for which results were announced on Monday.

NEW DELHI: The Modi wave that gave the Bharatiya Janata Party its first absolute majority in parliament in May suffered a jolt in key by-polls for which results were announced on Monday.

Perhaps the most crucial of the adverse outcomes for Prime Minister Narendra Modi came in the populous state of Bihar where the BJP had done unexpectedly well. In three other races in Congress-ruled southern state of Karnataka, the Congress took two seats against the BJP’s 1.

In the Punjab, the Congress and BJP ally Akali Dal took the honours equally with one seat each. In BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, the Congress got one unlikely seat against the BJP’s two. A BJP spokesman described the results as disappointing. The by-elections were held in the four states on August 21.

However, the re-bonding of old rivals Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar was a key feature of by-polls. They checkmated the BJP’s march in Bihar with secular alliance winning 6 of the 10 assembly seats. In 2010 assembly poll, BJP had won 6 of the 10 seats which went to polls, while Lalu Yadav was victorious on 3 and Nitish Kumar on 1.

This time, BJP won Narkatiaganj, Hajipur, Banka and Mohania seats.

RJD of Lalu Prasad was victorious in Rajnagar, Chapra and Mohiuddinagar. Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) won in Jale and Parbatta, while Congress wrested Bhagalpur from BJP.

In Banka, BJP candidate Ramnarayan Mandal defeated his nearest RJD rival Iqbal Hussain Ansari by a slender margin of 711 votes.

The outcome of the by-poll would not have much impact on health of Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi as it already enjoys support of 145 MLAs in the 243-member House.

The Press Trust of India said the by-elections infused new energy in JD(U), RJD and Congress in the state after they received severe drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls.

BJP and allies had won 31 out of 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar.

RJD which had fought with Congress and NCP had won 7, while JD(U) which went solo had managed only 2 seats in the wake of “Modi wave”. The by-poll saw a low voting percentage of about 47. In an earlier race, after the parliamentary polls, the Congress had thrashed the BJP in Uttarakhand by-elections.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2014

Villager killed, two troops injured by Indian shelling

The Newspaper’s Correspondent

SIALKOT: A villager was killed and at least eight people, among them two soldiers of the Chenab Rangers, were injured in heavy Indian shelling on villages along the Sialkot Working Boundary on Monday.

SIALKOT: A villager was killed and at least eight people, among them two soldiers of the Chenab Rangers, were injured in heavy Indian shelling on villages along the Sialkot Working Boundary on Monday.

According to CR officials, Mohammad Latif, a 65-year-old resident of village Bajrah Garhi, was going to a mosque early in the morning when a mortar shell hit him. He was taken to the Combine Mili­tary Hospital, Sialkot, where he succumbed to injuries. Latif’s house was destroyed in shelling by the Indian Border Security forces two days ago.

CR soldiers Mohammad Azam and Mohammad Iqbal, Saleem, Iqbal, Nasir, Sakeena Bibi, Bashir Ahmed and Ghulam Hussain were admitted to the CMH with multiple injuries.

According to the Chenab Rangers, the Indian shelling on about two dozen villages continued for nine hours. The Chenab Rangers retaliated effectively each time, a senior official said.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2014

Director Attenborough dies

Reuters

LONDON: British actor and film director Richard Attenborough has died at the age of 90, the BBC reported, citing his son.

LONDON: British actor and film director Richard Attenborough has died at the age of 90, the BBC reported, citing his son.

One of Mr Attenborough’s greatest achievements was making the cinematic tribute to Mahatma Gandhi for which he won an Oscar for best director.

He also won worldwide acting fame for roles such as a theme park owner in ‘Jurassic Park’.

Richard Samuel Attenborough was born on Aug 29, 1923 in Cambridge, England. He was knighted in 1976 and made a baron in June 1993.

His father Frederick was a university professor, and his mother marched behind a banner denouncing Spanish dictator Gen Franco and helped care for Spanish Civil War refugees.

Mr Attenborough played underdogs and misfits in a string of character roles in films after World War Two, notably ‘Brighton Rock’, ‘Seance on a Wet Afternoon’ and ‘10 Rillington Place’.

His fifth film as a director, ‘Gandhi’ established him as one of Britain’s best-known cinema personalities. The $22 million epic came out in 1982 and scooped eight Hollywood Oscars.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2014

Boko Haram attack forces thousands of Nigerians to flee to Cameroon

AFP

KANO: A Boko Haram militants’ attack on a border town in northeast Nigeria forced thousands of people to flee on Monday to Cameroon, in a fresh assault indicating militants’ growing ability to strike at will.

KANO: A Boko Haram militants’ attack on a border town in northeast Nigeria forced thousands of people to flee on Monday to Cameroon, in a fresh assault indicating militants’ growing ability to strike at will.

The attack on Gamboru Ngala comes after the town was almost entirely destroyed in May in a devastating assault that also left more than 300 people killed and prompted outrage at the lack of military response.

Many local residents sought refuge across the border in the north Cameroon town of Fotokol, where troop reinforcements were being sent, a security service source told AFP.

Also read: Boko Haram says seized town is part of ‘caliphate’

Boko Haram, which has been blamed for more than 10,000 deaths in a five-year-old uprising, has in recent weeks sought to take over a number of towns in Borno state, shifting from hit-and-run tactics to an apparent holding strategy.

The group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, declared in a video obtained by AFP on Sunday that the town of Gwoza, southwest of Gamboru Ngala, was now under an Islamic caliphate.

Residents said the Monday’s attack began at about 5:30am, with extremists launching coordinated strikes on the main police station and a military base known as the Harmony camp.

“The sounds (of gunfire) became more deafening as police and soldiers responded to Boko Haram,” said witness Hamisu Lawan. “Most of our people have fled to Cameroon. “Others locked themselves in their homes, voicing fears that the militants would turn their guns on civilians once they had overrun the police station and military camp.

Residents in Fotokol, which is separated from Gamboru Ngala by a river, also reported “intense” fighting throughout the morning.

“(Cameroonian) soldiers are at the bridge,” one said.

Cameroon said on Aug 18 that it had closed its vast border with Nigeria to guard against the spread of Ebola, which caused five deaths in the country’s financial capital, Lagos, in the far southwest.

But few believed that Cameroon had the resources needed to seal all the possible crossing points along the roughly 1,600-kilometre border.

Local officials and residents in Borno say that Boko Haram may be in control of a key road that connects Gamboru Ngala to the state capital Maiduguri.

Establishing which parts of the area have in fact fallen into insurgents’ hands is difficult in the remote region, where travel is dangerous and prolonged fighting has hit mobile phone networks.

In Sunday’s video, Shekau did not develop his claims about Gwoza being part of the Islamic caliphate, despite previously voicing his support for the leader of the Islamic State (IS) militants, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who proclaimed himself the “leader of Muslims everywhere” in June.

Al-Baghdadi’s fighters have taken over parts of Iraq and Syria.

Nigeria’s military dismissed Shekau’s claim as “empty”, maintaining that the country’s sovereignty remained intact.

But that assertion is in conflict with multiple reports indicating that Boko Haram controls several towns in Borno and at least one in neighbouring Yobe state.

Analysts believe that Boko Haram will attempt to hold more towns in Borno in the short to mid-term, with Nigeria’s military unable or unwilling to tackle them.

Some Nigerian troops stationed in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, have refused to deploy to retake Gwoza because of what they say are sub-standard weapons that leave them at the mercy of the better-equipped rebels.

Defence analysts have also argued that Nigeria needs to improve its counter-insurgency strategy and adapt to guerrilla fighting rather than relying on conventional means.

Others complain of a lack of political will to properly tackle Boko Haram, which wants to establish a hardline Islamic state and whose campaign has targeted schools, churches and government installations.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2014

Israeli spy drone heading for N-facility shot down: Iran

Reuters

DUBAI: Iran said on Sunday it had shot down an Israeli spy drone that was heading for its Natanz nuclear enrichment site, Iranian media reported.

DUBAI: Iran said on Sunday it had shot down an Israeli spy drone that was heading for its Natanz nuclear enrichment site, Iranian media reported.

“The downed aircraft was of the stealth, radar-evasive type and it intended to penetrate the off-limits nuclear area in Natanz… but was targeted by a ground-to-air missile before it managed to enter the area,” state news agency ISNA said, citing a statement by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

The Natanz facility is at the heart of a long-running dispute between Iran and countries that believe it is seeking nuclear weapons capability, something Tehran denies.

Iran and six world powers are trying to negotiate an end to the standoff which has led to damaging economic sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic.

Israel, widely assumed to have the Middle East’s only atomic arsenal, demands Iran be stripped of all nuclear technologies, something Tehran rules out and which most foreign diplomats deem unrealistic.

Iran has accused Israel and its allies in the West of assassinating its nuclear scientists and attacking its nuclear sites with computer viruses.

Israel has always declined comment on such accusations and on Sunday its military said it did not comment on foreign reports.

About the drone incursion, the Revolutionary Guards said: “This wily act further exposed the Zionist regime’s adventurous temperament and added yet another black page to a record filled with crime and mischief.”

If confirmed, an aircraft built by Israel’s state-owned Aerospace Industries known as the Heron, or the more powerful Heron TP, is likely to have been involved for such a long-range mission. Military commanders in Israel have described both as a possible means of monitoring Iran and other countries.

In December 2012, Iran said it had captured a US intelligence ScanEagle drone, but the United States said at the time there was no evidence to support the assertion.

In December 2011, Iran said it had captured a US RQ-170 reconnaissance drone which was reported lost by US forces in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Iranian commanders have since announced they had extracted technology from the aircraft and were reverse-engineering it for their own defence industry.

In 2010, Iran’s nuclear facilities were hit by a virus known as Stu­xnet, which was widely believed to have been developed by the United States and Israel, though no government took responsibility for it.

In March of this year, pumps at Iran’s planned Arak reactor, seen by the West as a potential source of plutonium that could be used in nuclear bombs, were subjected to a failed sabotage attempt, a senior Iranian official said.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2014

Editorial News

No answers for the displaced

Editorial

CITIZENS displaced by the military operation in North Waziristan are justifiably asking numerous questions about their fate.

CITIZENS displaced by the military operation in North Waziristan are justifiably asking numerous questions about their fate.

Yet neither the civilian leadership nor the military high command has any satisfactory answers for the IDPs. Tribal elders from the conflict zone addressed a news conference in Peshawar on Tuesday, in which they raised many of their key concerns.

The tribal people have two main questions: when will they be able to return and will the state care for them until it is safe to do so? These are valid concerns.

The tribesmen say they are willing to wait even for a relatively long period, but that they must be given a time frame. The North Waziristan residents have also highlighted the problems they have faced since fleeing their native areas, including insecurity and lack of proper shelter.

Also read: Bajaur elders asked to expedite peace efforts

Perhaps the affected tribesmen are not wrong when they say that the response to the Swat IDPs’ crisis in 2009 was a lot more robust. For example, while the persons displaced by Operation Zarb-i-Azb have been given cash by the state, other arrangements have been found wanting. As the tribesmen look for answers, both the government and the military seemingly have bigger fish to fry.

The IDPs’ plight is also a reminder of the general lack of attention the operation has been getting ever since the political crisis in Islamabad started brewing two weeks ago. When the operation began in June, ISPR, the military’s media wing, was very active in releasing frequent operational updates to the media. In fact, most of the information coming out of the conflict zone depends on the military, as the media does not have access.

Yet for the past 15 days there has been mostly silence from the military. What is the status of the operation? Have all the areas been cleared of terrorists? When will it be safe for IDPs to go home? The security establishment has not given adequate answers to any of these queries.

Let us not forget that, due to the operation, hundreds of thousands of lives are on hold, with families living in limbo. While civilians cannot be allowed to enter an active combat zone, the tribal people must at least be told how long they will have to wait till they can return.

The spectacle in Islamabad has managed to take the limelight away from the plight of the displaced. The state cannot afford to forget these unfortunate people in the midst of all the noise. The military and the government — busy as the latter is in trying to ensure its own survival — must also inform the nation of the status of Zarb-i-Azb. Not too long ago, we were told the operation was meant to wipe out an existential threat to Pakistan; today its details have been drowned out by loud calls of ‘revolution’.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2014

Polio vaccination funds

Editorial

AS if the job wasn’t difficult enough, Pakistan’s polio vaccination efforts are now suffering due to a shortage of funds.

AS if the job wasn’t difficult enough, Pakistan’s polio vaccination efforts are now suffering due to a shortage of funds.

The Ministry of National Health Services has said that the countrywide polio vaccination and awareness programme will come to a halt if funds are not arranged within the next two months. Once the trained workforce of 2,000 communications specialists as well as polio workers disperse due to nonpayment of stipends and salaries, it will be very difficult to bring them back and restart the programme.

Moreover, vaccination efforts at the Chaman border crossing appear to have suffered for a number of days now and officials of the health ministry claim that they are reduced to arranging funds from alternate sources as a stopgap measure.

Also read: Health ministry running out of funds for polio campaign

The funding difficulties have been attributed to the ongoing political crisis in Islamabad which has distracted the government from its day-to-day responsibilities. In this case, those responsibilities include convening a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet, in which representatives of the provincial governments are present, to approve the PC I for the campaign, which will open the doors for funding from various donor organisations to flow in.

An ECC meeting was held recently, but apparently representatives of the provincial governments were not present, reportedly due to the political crisis.

Having braved security challenges, the anti-polio campaign now has to brave bureaucratic hurdles and a political stand-off. A mixture of four different government bodies and committees had to sign off on the funding the NHS requires to run the campaign.

First it was the Central Development Working Party which approved the PC I, but the Planning Division required approval from the Council of Common Interests. When this was also achieved, the ECC had to sign off. One grows weary simply reading all the names and acronyms that make up government red tape, only to learn at the end that approval could not be obtained because a political crisis prevented key members from attending the last meeting.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation is preparing to review its decision to impose temporary travel restrictions on people travelling from Pakistan. That review is scheduled for November. What a pity it would be if the government is forced to tell the WHO to postpone its review because it has been unable to implement the required steps due to the political crisis in Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2014

A permanent truce?

Editorial

IT may not exactly be the victory the Palestinians want to celebrate, but there is no doubt they have proved their mettle by taking on the Israeli behemoth and fighting back for no less than 50 days in a way that has impressed many.

IT may not exactly be the victory the Palestinians want to celebrate, but there is no doubt they have proved their mettle by taking on the Israeli behemoth and fighting back for no less than 50 days in a way that has impressed many.

It was homemade missiles versus some of the world’s most sophisticated arms that Israel possesses. The Palestinians had to pay a heavy price for retaliating — over 2,000, a vast majority of them civilians, including children, dead, infrastructure destroyed, the economy crippled and the sick and wounded going without medicines.

Also read: UN rights council launches probe into Israeli violations in Gaza

Even some of Israel’s most hawkish supporters refused to believe the state’s war machine was not deliberately hitting civilian targets, and that Hamas was using civilians as a shield when Israeli forces bombed two UN schools and two apartment buildings.

‘Israel has the right to defend itself’was a regrettable American cliché to justify what can only be called mass murder.

Described by Hamas authorities as “permanent”, and “unconditional and unlimited-in-time” by the Israelis, the ceasefire, brokered by Egypt, will no doubt provide immediate relief to the Palestinians, while the opening of crossings at the Israel-Gaza borders would enable relief agencies to move in.

Israel has also agreed to restore the six-nautical-mile limit which it had arbitrarily reduced to three for Gazan fishermen.

While the truce deserves to be welcomed, it doesn’t solve the real issue — Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories and the emergence of a Palestinian state.

The US-led peace process is nothing short of farcical, and the Zionist state has no intention of giving up its theft of Palestinian land. Last month, speaking at the defence ministry, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear he would never countenance a fully sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank.

The Palestinians are not likely to accept this stance. Which means that they will not be deterred from efforts to win their own state, even if Israel continues to perpetrate atrocities on the Gazans every now and then.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2014

Another trying day

Editorial

BEFITTING a political impasse that ebbs and flows seemingly several times a day, yesterday began with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif finally addressing parliament and delivering a reasonably reassuring speech before Imran Khan took to the microphone outside parliament in the evening and rejected further negotiations with the government unless the prime minister resigned.

BEFITTING a political impasse that ebbs and flows seemingly several times a day, yesterday began with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif finally addressing parliament and delivering a reasonably reassuring speech before Imran Khan took to the microphone outside parliament in the evening and rejected further negotiations with the government unless the prime minister resigned.

This after five rounds of talks between the government and the PTI. Meanwhile, Tahirul Qadri, a marginal figure who nevertheless has the ability to create much trouble thanks to his zealous following, again tried to steal the limelight last night, after the expiry of yet another deadline.

The first half of the day at least had some positives.

Despite attending the extended session of parliament several times already, the prime minister had avoided a speech from the floor of the National Assembly until yesterday.

Perhaps it was coincidental that Mr Sharif chose to address parliament the day after he had another significant meeting with army chief Gen Raheel Sharif — or perhaps it was not.

Either way, the prime minister put on a confident display, suggesting that he and his small coterie of advisers were feeling less institutionally isolated than they may have felt several days ago.

While the prime minister did not directly address what he considers to be the real reasons for the present crisis or indeed directly make any mention of the present impasse, he rightly pointed out that the focus should be on the system and not on individuals.

It is the democratic system, respecting the sanctity of the Constitution and an institutional shift towards the rule of law that will put Pakistan on the path to stability — not the personalisation of politics without any real sense of responsibility towards the system.

There are surely political and governance shortcomings of Mr Sharif and the PML-N generally — and Mr Sharif acknowledged that in his comments in parliament yesterday — but without a system, there can be no institutional fixes.

Just as the PPP paid a huge price for its governance failures, so will any other government — if the electorate is allowed to vote on schedule and without disruption. But that is precisely what Imran Khan seems determined to ensure does not happen.

The resignation of Prime Minister Sharif would effectively mean the end of the government Pakistan elected just 15 months ago.

There are clearly circumstances in which early elections, snap polls or an unscheduled return to the voting public could be a good idea — and may even be necessary.

But these are not those circumstances.

The question is really why should Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri have a veto over the affairs of the state and by whom it is governed? Now into the third week of their protests, Mr Khan and Mr Qadri are running on fumes — at least as far as rational discourse goes.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2014

Model Town FIR

Editorial

ON Wednesday, as the ‘final’ deadline set by the Pakistan Awami Tehreek chairman for meeting his demands expired, a group of lawyers approached a police station in Lahore for the registration of an FIR against the violent action at the PAT headquarters on June 17.

ON Wednesday, as the ‘final’ deadline set by the Pakistan Awami Tehreek chairman for meeting his demands expired, a group of lawyers approached a police station in Lahore for the registration of an FIR against the violent action at the PAT headquarters on June 17.

The lawyers, who carried a high court order clearing the way for the registration of the report, were confronted with the same stalling tactics that had been employed to deny the PAT its demand thus far.

This signified no progress in an affair that has led Dr Qadri to march on the capital to stage a prolonged sit-in. PAT’s call for an FIR was generally termed a fair one, even when some of its other demands have been dismissed as unreasonable by those who realise the importance of persisting with the system.

There is agreement that a gross violation of the law was committed around the Qadri compound on June 17 and those responsible for the brute use of force should be held accountable.

From the outset, it was believed that the Punjab government had landed itself in an extremely dangerous situation and it would struggle to come out of it without too much damage.

But as the government tried to delay the lodging of the FIR, one logical view was that it was also trying to delay the inevitable until it was firmly and finally compelled to strike a compromise.

The thinking was that the FIR was enough of a concession to help defuse the situation, and the unavoidable risks it posed could be dealt with later. In the event, the delay emboldened the PAT marchers and added rigidity to their already strong agenda.

The time gained by the government by stalling was the time spent in speculation.

And while in recent days some excerpts from the two forums assigned to investigate the unfortunate occurrence have been leaked they do little to lift the mist surrounding the actual June incident.

But whatever little has escaped the official grasp does seem to corroborate the first impressions about the FIR.

They point to the urgent need for an impartial investigation by the police before a trial, involving the stiffest challenge faced by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in his entire career as a tough unyielding administrator, begins. Notwithstanding the final outcome, it is a lesson in how essential rules are and how they must be adhered to thoroughly.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2014

A laudable approach

Editorial

IT makes eminent sense for Iran and Saudi Arabia to get together to probe each other’s mind regarding the situation in their neighbourhood, especially where the militant group, the so-called Islamic State, is concerned.

IT makes eminent sense for Iran and Saudi Arabia to get together to probe each other’s mind regarding the situation in their neighbourhood, especially where the militant group, the so-called Islamic State, is concerned.

On Tuesday, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal and Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian met in Jeddah and discussed what an Iranian diplomat called “the challenges facing the region”, particularly in Iraq, and the “means to confront extremism and terrorism”.

This was the first high-level meeting between Iran and the kingdom since the assumption of power by Iran’s relatively moderate president, Hassan Rouhani.

Let’s note that Iraq has been in the grip of terrorism for a long time, but the two oil-rich powers never could get together because of the diametrically opposite nature of their foreign policies.

The IS militia’s ‘conquests’, however, seem to have made the two regional rivals reassess their relationship.

Formed as an offshoot of Al Qaeda, the IS aroused universal condemnation because of its barbarism and was disowned even by that radical militant network.

Its capture of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, clashes with Kurdistan authorities and the move into Syria as far as the Lebanese and Turkish borders have sent shock waves across the region.

Its extremist agenda and massacres have transformed not only the Iraqi scene but also the situation in the Levant.

In short, not only is the organisation’s barbarism widening already existing fissures in Middle Eastern societies, it is a dangerous threat to the integrity of the Iraqi state.

No wonder alarm bells have been ringing in Tehran and Riyadh, making the two powers develop a common strategy towards the group’s sectarian radicalism. Saudi Arabia is especially vulnerable, because the IS could find recruits there.

Failure to adopt a common approach to the IS threat would only mean an intensification of America’s military involvement in the region.

This will complicate matters, make heroes out of mass murderers and cause the region to sink deeper into the morass.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2014

Dangerous trends

Editorial

MUCH as Imran Khan, Tahirul Qadri and their respective protesters gathered in the heart of Islamabad would like to pretend otherwise, it is not just the PML-N government that is in the metaphorical firing line but the democratic system itself that is on trial. And, with the street protest against the government entering its third week, the pressure on the system has grown.

MUCH as Imran Khan, Tahirul Qadri and their respective protesters gathered in the heart of Islamabad would like to pretend otherwise, it is not just the PML-N government that is in the metaphorical firing line but the democratic system itself that is on trial. And, with the street protest against the government entering its third week, the pressure on the system has grown.

Quite how much that pressure has grown in recent days was in evidence on Tuesday as the Prime Minister’s Office issued an extraordinary statement after a meeting between Nawaz Sharif and army chief Gen Raheel Sharif. In the press release issued by the Prime Minister Office, there is not just an explicit mention that matters of high politics were discussed between the highest-ranking civilian and the most powerful military leader on matters concerning politics but that, rather extraordinarily, the two men are in agreement that the political impasse should be resolved expeditiously.

The benefit that Mr Sharif and the PML-N would have hoped to gain from such a statement is fairly obvious: the federal government is trying to show that the army leadership and the PML-N are still working together and in agreement on the way out of the crisis.

Essentially, the PML-N’s posturing is meant to signal to the protesters and their leaders that the military is on the government’s side, not the protesters’. In truth, however, the PML-N’s posturing only reveals its own uneasiness – and perhaps even uncertainty – about what may happen if push comes to shove. In truth, there are enough tensions on policy matters between the PML-N government and the military to leave a lingering question mark over whether the army leadership may prefer a different political dispensation in the country.

In truth, there are no guarantees in politics.

For the PML-N, the pressure is coming from many directions. The PTI has floated the idea of a so-called in-house change in parliament; the MQM has talked of a possible sacrifice being made; the PML-Q leadership has tried to sow fear by ominously reminding the political class of how political crises have led to military interventions in Thailand and Egypt; and even the ANP has talked of being committed to the democratic process but not necessarily the prime ministership of Mr Sharif.

Meanwhile, protesters continued to occupy Constitution Avenue yesterday despite the Supreme Court suggesting that they needed to move. Amidst all of this, Prime Minister Sharif has unhappily returned to his approach of being seen sometimes and heard rarely. Mr Sharif ought to speak to the public and put in perspective what this protracted crisis is about and the kind of pressures his government is under.

In May 2013, Pakistanis in unprecedented numbers showed their preference for a democratic system. That same public could be Mr Sharif’s strongest ally — if he takes them into confidence.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2014

Swiss talks

Editorial

CONFUSION persists around the question of ‘ill-gotten gains’ of Pakistanis kept in Swiss bank accounts. This week negotiations will take place between Swiss and Pakistani tax authorities to amend the double taxation treaty.

CONFUSION persists around the question of ‘ill-gotten gains’ of Pakistanis kept in Swiss bank accounts. This week negotiations will take place between Swiss and Pakistani tax authorities to amend the double taxation treaty.

The Swiss envoy to Pakistan has reportedly said the talks are “just a technical meeting” to upgrade an existing treaty to avoid double taxation between the two countries.

Also read: $200bn of Pakistan in Swiss banks: Dar

Meanwhile, in Pakistan an expectation has developed that the talks are a step towards creating the legal architecture necessary to enable the identification and retrieval of ‘ill-gotten gains’, a vague term that has come to describe tax-evaded money as well as money generated from illicit activity.

In fact, the law makes a distinction between these two categories, and that distinction is important because only illicitly acquired funds can be restituted. For tax-evaded funds, information can be exchanged but that “does not mean Switzerland can help in tax collection”, the envoy is quoted as having said.

A needless haze of confusion surrounds the issue in Pakistan. The false and fabricated figure of $200bn of Pakistani money ‘stashed’ away in Swiss bank accounts continues to be bandied about, despite having been shown to be a myth. But beyond the amounts involved, confusion also surrounds the steps required to retrieve these funds in part because of mixed messages given by the government itself.

In May, the finance minister told the National Assembly that the government intends to pursue illegal assets stashed away in Swiss bank accounts “by amending/renegotiating the existing Pak-Swiss Tax Treaty”. Many understood this statement to mean the current talks will be part of a larger effort to locate and retrieve ‘ill-gotten gains’. But the envoy’s words suggest the talks are only about updating the legal framework so information on tax-evaded wealth can be exchanged. In equal part, the confusion exists because corruption and the siphoning away of ‘ill-gotten gains’ is a politically sensitive issue in Pakistan, especially in the current environment, and even the coarsest of nuances are bulldozed over in the rush to judgement.

Since those perpetuating the confusion draw on a statement made in the National Assembly on the finance minister’s behalf, perhaps Mr Dar should clear the air by saying what his best information is about the amounts stashed abroad, and by clarifying the steps his government is taking to locate and retrieve those funds.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2014

Need for precaution

Editorial

SHORTAGE of funds and lack of cohesion between the Karachi administration and the Sindh government has raised concerns about the effectiveness of dengue control efforts in the city.

SHORTAGE of funds and lack of cohesion between the Karachi administration and the Sindh government has raised concerns about the effectiveness of dengue control efforts in the city.

As reported in this paper, the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation has failed to carry out citywide fumigation to neutralise the mosquitoes that transmit dengue, while the administration has also failed to keep an eye on tyre shops. Such establishments are known breeding grounds of dengue-carrying mosquitoes, as is fresh water.

Know more: Dengue outbreak looms large for want of cleanliness, full-scale fumigation drive in city

The authorities cannot afford to be complacent as there were over 30 dengue-related deaths in Sindh last year, while over 6,000 people tested positive for the ailment, the vast majority of them in Karachi. Apart from the dengue threat, the metropolis has also witnessed at least eight deaths caused by Naegleria fowleri, more commonly known as the ‘brain-eating amoeba’, over the past three months. The dangerous amoeba, found in warm, fresh water, usually proves fatal if water containing it enters the nasal cavity.

What is needed from the provincial and civic authorities is a robust response to both of these public health threats. In the case of dengue, the methods successfully employed by the Punjab government can be replicated. After all, while a few dengue cases have been detected in Punjab this year, the number of dengue victims is nowhere near the levels of previous years, which saw a high number of fatalities.

This is mainly because the Punjab administration has been carrying out a proactive vector-control campaign while doctors in the province are also now better trained to effectively treat dengue. The Sindh authorities need to launch an effective campaign against dengue now, before the threat balloons. Where Naegleria fowleri is concerned, the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board needs to ensure proper chlorination of water, as this can neutralise the threat.

One figure suggests up to 40pc of Karachi’s water is not properly chlorinated. Equally important are awareness campaigns in the media advising citizens about precautions to take against dengue and the hazardous amoeba.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2014

Controversial allegations

Editorial

IN the midst of many a political crisis, out of the woodwork come individuals looking for a turn in the spotlight or simply to whip up more controversy. Now it is the turn of Afzal Khan, a retired bureaucrat who was additional secretary in the Election Commission of Pakistan when the May 2013 general election was held.

IN the midst of many a political crisis, out of the woodwork come individuals looking for a turn in the spotlight or simply to whip up more controversy. Now it is the turn of Afzal Khan, a retired bureaucrat who was additional secretary in the Election Commission of Pakistan when the May 2013 general election was held.

Allegedly in possession of sensational secrets that chime perfectly with the PTI’s allegations of massive electoral fraud in Punjab, Mr Khan’s choice of platform and the timing of his so-called revelations tell a story in and of themselves.

First, the former ECP bureaucrat kept to himself his alleged knowledge of widespread fraud for 15 months. Next, the former ECP bureaucrat kept to himself his alleged knowledge of widespread electoral fraud even over the past two weeks, though the dispute has been all that has dominated the national political conversation.

Know more: Rebuttal: Afzal Khan interview was fixed match, says Justice Riaz Kiani

Finally, he decided to share his alleged secrets on a controversial programme hosted by a media personality with specific political leanings. Why not a news conference to reveal such dramatic allegations?

Assume that Afzal Khan’s choice of platform and timing is entirely coincidental and that it is the call of his conscience that he is finally responding to. Even then, there have already been serious questions raised about his credibility.

The former member of the ECP Riaz Ahmed Kiani, against whom Mr Khan laid specific allegations, has publicly alleged that the former ECP additional secretary is in part motivated by the denial of an extension in service. In addition, observations have surfaced that Mr Khan himself defended the May 2013 election and the ECP’s supervisory role in many forums over the past year.

When claims such as Mr Khan’s are made, credibility is of great importance — at the moment, there are enough questions regarding Mr Khan’s motives, his political loyalties and the nature and quality of the evidence he has, if any, to not give his claims the kind of automatic sanctity that some sections of the media, and certainly the PTI, have been giving them.

As ever, there remains open an authoritative and credible forum for Afzal Khan — indeed, anyone relevant at all to allegations of electoral fraud and rigging — to take his claims to: the judicial commission led by Supreme Court judges tasked by the government to investigate charges of alleged fraud and rigging in last year’s election.

Unhappily, the distinction between fact and fiction has been blurred so much and the intersection between law and politics become so distorted that the mere airing of an allegation is now treated as valuable evidence. Mr Khan may or may not have any actual evidence that can stand up in a court of inquiry, but whether he does or not seems to matter little to those whose political aims do not quite jive with electoral reality.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2014

Counter rallies

Editorial

THE stand-off brought about by the dharnas in Islamabad brings Pakistan face to face with a situation without precedent in the country’s history. Political ‘experts’ can at best pretend that they know, and then they can pretend a little more when the situation demands a change in their position.

THE stand-off brought about by the dharnas in Islamabad brings Pakistan face to face with a situation without precedent in the country’s history. Political ‘experts’ can at best pretend that they know, and then they can pretend a little more when the situation demands a change in their position.

One moment assurances are given that the past is not going to intervene, and the very next minute suspicions are raised about the protesters being led by unseen masters.

For its part, the PML-N is clearly under pressure and perturbed, and the party and its allies are leaving nothing to chance. They are not content with statements that remind the protesters that a government brought to power by millions cannot be browbeaten into submission by a few thousand demonstrators on the road and by what many see as their unreasonable demands.

Also read: PML-N’s counter-inqilab fails to match tsunami

They are not satisfied with the fact that while they have won the backing of so many political forces in the country and of international power-brokers, the protesters appear isolated. They are, apparently, not satisfied by the assurances of non-interference they themselves claim the military high command has given them.

Since this is unknown territory that everyone is trying to navigate, they feel they cannot avoid countering street power with street power. The political stakes are far too high to stop them from taking the risk of a rally of their own spiralling out of control and ending in violent confrontation with the followers of the PTI and Dr Tahirul Qadri’s PAT.

The PML-N allies — veterans such as Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Mehmood Khan Achakzai — have been quite eager to confront the protests with people’s power. They could have alternately tried to bridge the differences as some other old-timers are doing. The men belonging to Ahl-i-Sunnat Wal Jamaat have also made an impact, by the side of the government.

The PML-N itself has graduated from allegedly carrying out freak attacks in Gujranwala and Multan against their opponents to call for full-fledged shows of strength in various cities. These shows have been — are expected to be — strong, reconfirming the PML-N’s presence. They will ensure some television time. But what these rallies also do is they compound the impression of disorder, and could actually be aiding those seeking to disrupt proceedings here. After all the calculations have been made, the resort to street power by the government could well be taken as a sign of desperation.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2014

Choosing enemies

Editorial

IF there were any doubts that the self-styled Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, has become a transnational terrorism threat, its rapid gobbling up of territory in Iraq and its latest ‘conquest’ — the Tabqa military airport in Syria’s Raqqah governorate — should put uncertainties to rest.

IF there were any doubts that the self-styled Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, has become a transnational terrorism threat, its rapid gobbling up of territory in Iraq and its latest ‘conquest’ — the Tabqa military airport in Syria’s Raqqah governorate — should put uncertainties to rest.

Syrian activists say the militants recently took the military facility from government forces after a tough fight. After seizing the key Iraqi town of Mosul and large swathes of territory in that country as well as in Syria, the capture of the airport is another ‘feather’ in the IS cap.

Yet if the militants are not countered, they will threaten the stability of regional states as well as the security of the West. But geopolitics seems to have trumped better sense; while the US and some European states have come to the aid of Iraq’s government and the autonomous Kurds in the north of that country in their battle to contain IS, the Syrian regime has received no such help.

In fact, Washington, as well as many European capitals along with most Arab states, has been more interested in engineering regime change in Damascus.

However, in the ‘mission’ to ensure Bashar al-Assad’s defeat, a variety of dubious armed opposition groups — including some linked to Al Qaeda — have been supported, mainly because of Mr Assad’s tilt towards Iran and his alliance with Hezbollah. Yet this policy has proved disastrous.

Today, the UN says over 191,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict while the extremists who were directly or indirectly supported have aided the rise of the Islamic State. America and its allies must decide who poses a bigger threat to regional peace: Mr Assad or IS? While foreign military intervention is unadvisable, regional countries as well as the West must change tack and cut off support to extremists in Syria — and Bashar al-Assad should be urged to reach a negotiated settlement with the moderate opposition.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2014

PTI’s bizarre proposals

Editorial

WHEN is a resignation not quite a resignation? It seems when it is demanded by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

WHEN is a resignation not quite a resignation? It seems when it is demanded by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

Determined to secure seemingly even a ‘non-resignation resignation’ to fulfil its original demand that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif step down, the PTI has mooted a most peculiar set of ideas: the prime minister should, according to the PTI, resign for a short duration while the judicial commission completes its work, and thereafter resume office if the commission’s findings do not warrant fresh elections. In the annals of global political history, it would be difficult to find an example that would match the PTI’s extremely bizarre proposal. For what, exactly, would Prime Minister Sharif’s temporary resignation achieve?

Consider that the very elections that the PTI is disputing were held under a caretaker government. Clearly then, even within the PTI’s scheme of things, if the PML-N was allegedly able to rig an election when not in office, could it not affect the outcome of a judicial inquiry when the party has governments at both the centre and in the principally electorally disputed province of Punjab?

Or is the PTI arguing that it is Nawaz Sharif and he alone who is able and willing to distort elections and inquiries, and that with Mr Sharif temporarily on the side lines, the PML-N governments in the centre and in Punjab would miraculously become independent bodies that will discover the world the way the PTI sees it?

Or does the PTI secretly hope that nominating a stop-gap prime minister would bring in a national government of sorts through the back door, giving the party a say in who the temporary leader should be? The latest PTI suggestion is as ludicrous and off-putting as several that have come before it.

At this point, it is worth asking who is advising Imran Khan. Shah Mehmood Qureshi has taken a central role in the present crisis and has been both extremely visible and active. The former PPP foreign minister has forged a reputation of sorts of having political ambitions that perhaps do not quite match his political stature. Is Mr Khan listening to the wrong man? Or is that wrong man Mr Khan himself?

That Mr Khan could in fact be on a solo flight, with his PTI colleagues struggling to keep up, is a possibility that was further reinforced on Friday as Mr Khan suggested that his quest for a so-called new and improved Pakistan was in part tied to his desire to get married again.

Allow that proposition to sink in for a moment. Thousands of people assembled outside parliament, a country held hostage to a political crisis, and Mr Khan has his mind on personal affairs and marriage, even if he attempted to qualify his remarks later. Is Imran Khan a serious politician a pop star or, sadly, just a pop-star politician?

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2014

Trading possibilities

Editorial

IT remains to be seen what impact the cancellation of the foreign secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan will have on that other large issue being discussed between the two countries: normalisation of trade ties.

IT remains to be seen what impact the cancellation of the foreign secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan will have on that other large issue being discussed between the two countries: normalisation of trade ties.

For the time being, it is clear that the ball is in Pakistan’s court and until a firm step is taken towards the grant of Non-Discriminatory Market Access status, meaningful progress will remain elusive.

This past week, a conference held at the Lahore University of Management Sciences between academic and industry delegates from both sides saw the exchange of candid views on future directions in trade liberalisation. The discussions largely revolved around policy questions, but political realities that stand in the way of further progress were never far from the discussion — the culture of enmity that engulfs the public discourse on both sides as well as the implications of a new government headed by Mr Modi.

The cancellation of the secretary-level talks might provide a glimpse into how the new government in India intends to approach the larger question of trade liberalisation with Pakistan, but actions of this sort should not hold hostage Pakistan’s decision to grant NDMA status to India.

All participants at the conference agreed that trade liberalisation between India and Pakistan is ultimately a political enterprise, and the single best path forward towards building constituencies for peace in both countries.

There is weak ownership of the process amongst the business communities in India and Pakistan, and this needs to be rectified. In India, the reason for the comparative lack of interest is the paucity of the gains that India stands to reap from a trade opening with Pakistan.

For the business community in Pakistan, fears of competing with their larger and admittedly more savvy counterparts in India is the cause. But this is about more than just the fortunes of a few businessmen or the limited vision of the hawks. This is about unleashing the transformative powers of trade. Towards that end, it is necessary for Pakistan’s business and policy community to understand that moving the process along is in its own interest, and a key plank in the strategy to unlock Pakistan’s locational rents.

Keeping the process moving forward in spite of setbacks in other areas is the best way to signal Pakistan’s seriousness of purpose, as well as providing a reciprocal gesture of support to those holding out an olive branch from the other side.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2014

Police technology

Editorial

THE volatility of Karachi’s law and order situation is well known, and serious enough to have necessitated a targeted Rangers-led operation that has been under way since last September.

THE volatility of Karachi’s law and order situation is well known, and serious enough to have necessitated a targeted Rangers-led operation that has been under way since last September.

While this has faced criticism from some quarters with regard to some of the methods being used, there is no dispute that all legal means must be employed to bring crime under control.

One of the answers the Sindh police have come up with is technology: in 2010, the police launched a video surveillance system which, at the cost of some Rs500m, saw the setting up of 1,000 cameras on the city’s roads at sensitive locations. Later, this project was expanded. And on Friday, it was reported that the Sindh police have put together a fleet of 100 mobile police vans that are equipped with surveillance cameras. If the move proves helpful in police operations, more vans will be similarly equipped.

On the face of it, this is a commendable manoeuvre, for there is no argument that law-enforcement agencies around the world have found that technology can in many ways make their jobs easier.

Surveillance cameras act as the eyes and ears of the police, reducing the need for boots on the ground and freeing up manpower for more urgent activities. However, there is a catch, a serious one: video footage only helps if there is a system in place for cross-referencing the faces caught on camera with a larger database of citizens and suspected or known lawbreakers for the purposes of identification. This is where there is a disconnect in Karachi and elsewhere.

As a result, there have been several instances, among them bank heists, where the criminals haven’t even bothered to cover their faces, knowing no doubt that even if caught on tape, the chances of them being identified will be minimal. Without a cross-referencing system in place, investing in the technology may not produce results. The situation is easily remedied, though, and it is time that this was done.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2014

Contours of a middle path

Editorial

As Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri continue to play to the crowds and government spokespersons continue to posture before the media, the contours of a possible exit strategy from the national political impasse are starting to take shape.

As Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri continue to play to the crowds and government spokespersons continue to posture before the media, the contours of a possible exit strategy from the national political impasse are starting to take shape.

In essence, squaring the difference between the PTI’s six-point charter of demands and the PML-N government’s refusal to countenance the demand for the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while still insisting on a high-powered judicial commission to investigate PTI claims of fraud in the May 2013 general election, a middle ground may be opening up.

This could see the judicial commission completing its task as quickly but in as wide-ranging a manner as possible and make the possibility of the prime minister’s resignation and even fresh elections contingent on the findings of the judicial commission.

What that would allow is for the protesters to leave their sit-in site outside parliament without their central demand being rejected altogether while it would put the allegations of electoral fraud in independent hands for investigation so that a final verdict on last year’s election is issued by someone other than the government.

If that sounds like a sensible climbdown for both sides, it is also heartening to note that potential interlocutors between the PML-N and PTI also swung into action yesterday.

Former president and still PPP supremo Asif Zardari’s day trip to Raiwind and Mansoora gave both the PML-N leadership an opportunity to elucidate the grounds for a negotiated settlement further and allowed the PPP and Jamaat-i-Islami leadership to consult on how to bridge the gap between the PTI and PML-N positions.

Whether the hectic, all-day diplomacy will produce quick results is difficult to know, but it was a good sign for democracy that mainstream electoral forces were demonstrating both their keenness to resolve the impasse and their commitment to the democratic project.

As much as the PTI would like to downplay the idea of a high-powered judicial commission investigating the charges of electoral fraud, it remains the single most sensible and democracy-enhancing of possibilities mooted so far.

Given a strong enough mandate and allowing all stakeholders to depose before it, a judicial commission would be able to both establish irregularities at the micro level as well as to suggest macro improvements to the democratic process.

Also, the government should publicly and firmly commit via parliament to a speedy electoral reforms process so that if constitutionally permissible snap polls are to be held, they would occur under a much improved system rather than one that allows defeated candidates to forever deny the authenticity of their defeat.

A clear set of proposals with specific timelines and divided into specific short-, medium- and long-term goals is a good way to prepare the country for the next round of elections. Surely, working on a stronger electoral system now can only strengthen the democratic system over time.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2014

Pakistanis in Bagram

Editorial

The US military’s internment facility in Bagram, Afghanistan, much like the American prison camp in Guantanamo, Cuba, has become a symbol of one of the darker aspects of global counterterrorism efforts: there is torture, abuse and detention of suspects without recourse to due process.

The US military’s internment facility in Bagram, Afghanistan, much like the American prison camp in Guantanamo, Cuba, has become a symbol of one of the darker aspects of global counterterrorism efforts: there is torture, abuse and detention of suspects without recourse to due process.

While those accused of terrorism must be tried and punished if found guilty, this must be done in consonance with the law and international human rights standards. Sadly, in many instances this has not been the case. As reported, nine Pakistanis held in Bagram were repatriated on Thursday.

Justice Project Pakistan — a group which extends legal help to detainees — says, quoting the International Committee of the Red Cross, that the men were now in the custody of the Pakistani government. The Foreign Office has also confirmed the men’s arrival.

This is not the first batch of detainees to have arrived from Bagram; in May 10 individuals were repatriated while a number of men also returned last November. Though the men’s arrival is welcome, it throws up a number of disturbing questions about the conditions in which they were captured and detained, as well as the role governments — American, Afghan and Pakistani — may have played in their detention.

Rights activists say all the men who arrived on Thursday had been held without access to counsel, some being in captivity for as long as eight years. Considering the allegations of abuse that have swirled around Bagram, there are distinct possibilities the men were subjected to illegal punishments.

The problem is we do not know the exact details as none of the governments in question have been transparent regarding the men’s detention. Islamabad needs to say what charges the men were being held for; were they in Afghanistan to take part in militant activities, or were they simply living and working in Taliban-controlled regions of that country?

The Americans and Afghans also need to explain why the men were not tried in detention. We understand that local intelligence agencies will want to interrogate the men, but their families need to be informed and given access to them, while the individuals must also be granted access to counsel.

If no charges are framed they should be set free; if the situation is otherwise they must have fair trials. The government must also inform the public how many Pakistanis remain in Bagram while the US needs to shut down such gulags.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2014

The media noise

Editorial

It may be a sign of progress considering that the last time a government was under prolonged siege in the country, criticism lacked the intensity and urgency of today.

It may be a sign of progress considering that the last time a government was under prolonged siege in the country, criticism lacked the intensity and urgency of today.

In fact, the intense media coverage of the current political situation involving the two sit-ins in Islamabad has resulted in the observation that all that was required to thwart a revolution was to switch off the television channels.

There are also complaints by people — not the politicians concerned — of partisanship by the media, thus relegating sensationalism to the status of a far lesser evil in the current discourse. There are news anchors who are accused of instigation and provocation, while some anchors make no secret of their presence among the protesters — as protesters.

In the now-forgotten past, journalists would scoff when they were accused by anyone of pushing an agenda. Today, a journalist walking around without an agenda could invite suspicion about his or her motives.

No wonder then that those defending their right to stay in power speak of the protesters and the media covering the march in the same breath. The government has magnanimously ‘allowed’ the people to protest and the government, the ministers tell us proudly, has ‘allowed’ the media coverage of the protest.

However, it is the same government which says that times have changed, and that the old methods to create hype are now doomed. It is clear that, as everyone comes to terms with new realities, there are going to be some journalists who might try too hard out of concern that they would otherwise fail to read the situation and commit the ultimate journalistic ‘mistake’ of not predicting, and effecting, change.

This urge is far too strong for many of them to adhere to ethics. But what is truly perplexing is the inability of media personnel to be chastened when their forecasts have turned out to be wrong. Ultimately, journalistic fare is determined by substance, and there is a difference between being crisp and unbearably loud.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2014

Columns and Articles

Follies of a desperate lot

Tariq Khosa

IN the current crisis, the rule of law, constitutionalism and democracy seem to be under imminent threat of disruption. Unfortunately, the Punjab police are likely to go down in history as having the dubious distinction of precipitating the crisis because of their lack of professionalism and pandering to the patently illegal orders of their political masters.

IN the current crisis, the rule of law, constitutionalism and democracy seem to be under imminent threat of disruption. Unfortunately, the Punjab police are likely to go down in history as having the dubious distinction of precipitating the crisis because of their lack of professionalism and pandering to the patently illegal orders of their political masters.

The June 17 Model Town fiasco in Lahore was the product of an arrogant mindset that unleashed a totally unnecessary bloodbath reflecting the thoughtless and impetuous decision-making of some desperate people at the helm of political, administrative and police affairs. Their continuing follies have only aggravated the crisis.

The judicial commission comprising a judge of the Lahore High Court, appointed on the request of the Punjab government, has held the government responsible saying that the police had acted on the government’s orders that led to the bloodbath. This damning indictment of the government came at a late stage when the Pakistani Awami Tehreek ‘revolution’ march had entered the final deadline phase. The provincial government unwisely chose not to release the report to the public when it was submitted to the home secretary about two weeks ago.

The judicial tribunal has pointed out some glaring discrepancies in the affidavit submitted by the chief minister and statements filed by other key officials.

It is evident from excerpts of the report that the participants of the June 16 meeting presided over by the former law minister planned and implemented the gory operation the next day.

It is intriguing to note the viewpoint of the government that the commission did not have the mandate to give findings and fix responsibility. Was it only a fact-finding commission? Were the terms of reference clearly spelt out at the initial stage of constituting the tribunal or amended later by the home department? Why didn’t the government declare that the report of the commission was inconclusive as soon as it was submitted to the home secretary? Why the delay and secrecy?

These are questions being raised by the media and those spearheading the protests against the government. Although an FIR against 21 suspects in the Model Town killing was finally lodged yesterday, the issue has been marked by police reluctance, at the behest of the authorities, to deny the Minhajul Quran victims of police action the registration of the first information report. This matter was grossly mishandled.

Victims of police violence have every right to become complainants. After spilling blood, the police chose themselves to become a complainant against PAT/Minhaj activists who had resisted demolition of the security gates by pelting stones at the law enforcers. The right course should have been to be truthful and admit the mistakes made.

From the word go, the police version should have been recorded in the daily diary of the police station concerned and Minhaj representatives could have been asked to file a written or verbal complaint so that the death of their workers could be investigated impartially by a joint investigation team comprising senior police officers of the provincial investigation branch and representatives of the federal intelligence agencies.

Instead, the police blamed the Minhaj people and even arrested some of them. By not recording a timely FIR on behalf of the victims, the police provided the aggrieved party time to retaliate and file an application for a fresh FIR before the sessions court against 21 functionaries of the government, including the prime minister and chief minister.

The sessions court acting as ex-officio justice of peace decided the Minhaj petition under section 22-A (6) of the Criminal Procedure Code with the object of setting the criminal law in motion on behalf of the victims and ordered the recording of an FIR against the nominated accused. Again the government went into panic mode. Haunted by the Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto FIR recorded promptly by the police and investigated years later resulting in capital punishment for the former prime minister, the Sharif government opted to file writ petitions before the high court against the sessions court’s orders.

As expected, the Lahore High Court dismissed the petitions of four federal ministers and rightly observed that “a person named in an FIR was not to be arrested straightaway upon registration of the case or as a matter of course unless there was sufficient incriminating evidence regarding the culpability of the accused”.

The FIR is not a sacrosanct document that binds the police to arrest the accused. If incriminating evidence is lacking, the police are not supposed to arrest the suspect and can even move the trial court to discharge those against whom there is insufficient or no evidence, even at the pre-trial stage.

Unfortunately, the idea of being named in an FIR in our society is so negative and the misuse of police for vendetta so pervasive that the people in power are not only wary of a media trial but also feel that once removed from government, a process of victimisation would be set in motion by their successors. Thus, it is important to depoliticise the police and grant them autonomy in their investigative, operational and administrative matters.

There should have been no delay in adopting the right course and recording the cross version of the murder case on the application of the Minhajul Quran Secretariat against the 21 nominated suspects. For the purpose of fair investigation, a joint investigation team should be reconstituted to probe the version of the Minhaj victims. This team can be headed by a carefully selected senior police officer of known integrity.

The representatives of federal investigative and intelligence agencies such as the FIA, IB, ISI and MI can be co-opted as members of the team. For the purpose of transparency, a high court judge can be nominated to monitor and oversee the investigations.

Wisdom demands that saner elements in our state institutions and government must try to defuse the situation immediately by allowing the law to take its course and ensuring the supremacy of the Constitution at all cost.

The writer is a retired police officer.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2014

No escape for some

Asha’ar Rehman

THEY say that there is a good reason behind whatever happens to you and around you. The events in the last few days should reinforce the belief in the rule.

THEY say that there is a good reason behind whatever happens to you and around you. The events in the last few days should reinforce the belief in the rule.

Imagine if one had a soft corner for the antics-happy followers that a pir managed to gather in Islamabad. Now imagine just how painful it would have been to see a bunch of mysterious, shrouded men and women avowedly going through the ultimate rituals of freeing themselves from worldly afflictions.

The sight of a few men digging their own graves would have been impossible to bear — only if one could associate with those excavating out there for a new life. The viewing required a certain disinterest that most recent telecasts have needed for the onlooker to survive scenes that would shake up even the remotely concerned.

Just as there are so many choices to ally oneself with inside the new, ‘pluralistic’ Pakistan, provided you have the inclination, there is also no dearth of objections that can be raised to avoid association and affinity with any of the causes on display. The kafan-bardars or shroud-carriers have long ceased to be reasonable people.

They could have been worthy of sympathy if not outright support on the basis of their fair demands, but over and above the matter of an FIR, they are not to be trusted. Their cover has been lifted. They are a threat not just for a chief minister who might finally be forced to concede the FIR and expose himself to a court trial. They are a threat to society at large.

Neither can Imran Khan be trusted. The man is guilty of having already created a new Pakistan that is governed by his own logic. There are signs that this new Pakistan group comprises hundreds of thousands, a section of which is willing to take part in the evening dharnas and listen to their leader repeat and reiterate.

There are many in the other, old vaguely connected Pakistan who are prepared to grant that Imran’s original grievances about polling are genuine. Then again an angrier, less reasonable Imran intervenes to free his odd sympathisers in the old quarters of any compulsion to be part of his campaign.

For the legally and constitutionally inclined, there are lawyers and there are choices within this option. There is the Supreme Court Bar Association office-bearer who stands by the Constitution and democracy and through that route with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif — even though the prime minister says he does not ‘personally’ know the SCBA guy. Then there is a Pakistan Bar Council statement that endorses the protesters’ right to block the Constitution Avenue.

There are further choices. The debates are about what is legal and what is constitutional, there being a clear distinction between those who speak about the Constitution and those who are merely concerned with the legal which may have its own serious consequences.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is faced with a constitutional question and those who are asking for his resignation are invariably, even if a bit vainly, accused of making an unconstitutional demand.

By contrast, even though it is potentially a more dangerous challenge, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif is up against merely a legal question. Those who say that it is unconstitutional to demand a resignation from the prime minister are mindful lest they mix up the legal matter of the registration of the FIR in Lahore with their drive to protect democracy.

This is variety for you; the assertion of the choice to remain uncommitted to any of the trends in itself is a manifestation of the grey area today as opposed to the black and white, establishment-dominated world that existed in the past. This is the beauty of democracy as the politicians are so wont to claim on the media — the ultimate forum where the proud Pakistani plumage is constantly flaunted.

The media itself and perhaps more than any other section, point out the optimists, reflects the developing pluralistic culture in the country. Comparisons with the past where media organisations would, en masse, be forced to side with the establishment are rife, and the conclusions drawn are a source of some satisfaction for those committed to the establishment of democratic norms in the country. They will be hoping that the variety is next carried to other areas needing serious debate and that this current episode is not an illusion created by the nature of the conflict right now.

Maybe some time is needed before this can be taken as a sign of real progress. It will have to survive the suspicion and allegations that it is just a camouflage for the old order and tendencies. Most importantly in the context Pakistani democracy must next appear to be receptive to the demands of smaller groups rather than be exploited as a justification for the majority or leaders of the majority party to impose their versions on everyone around.

It may be early days for this country but the recent events forcefully highlight a few points that can help in evolving the principles of conduct for the future. A democracy would be incomplete and a tool of convenience as long as it is applied to impose the will of the majority on smaller groups with demands that can be substantiated.

Not everyone can afford to use the existing diversity as an escape from taking prompt positions on issues, trends and forces as they emerge — least of all those at the helm. The next time they must not wait for the grave-diggers to arrive on the scene.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2014

Islam & modernism

Anwar Abbas

THERE are many examples of questionable traditions and interpretations of Quranic verses offered by obliging divines. In such conditions it is the duty of individuals with conscience and sensitivity to truth, to try and distinguish between wheat and chaff.

THERE are many examples of questionable traditions and interpretations of Quranic verses offered by obliging divines. In such conditions it is the duty of individuals with conscience and sensitivity to truth, to try and distinguish between wheat and chaff.

It is a right which Islam has given to all — the right of personal interpretation. The need for thinking in depth (fikr) as well as in breadth (dhikr) has been stressed in the Quran.

There have been many forces and agencies in history — social, political, economic, philosophical and religious — which have attempted to cripple human intelligence in order to exploit men either for vested interests of the self or of persons in power.

Take, for instance, the despicable drama in Nigeria where some 200 schoolgirls were taken captive in April by the extremist militant group Boko Haram, reportedly to be sold as slaves. Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, declared that he had abducted the girls and will continue to do so. “By Allah I will sell them in the marketplace,” he boasted.

What is one to make of such religious interpretations by extremists when the Quran unequivocally declares “Read in the name of your Lord, Who created man from a clot of congealed blood. Read! And Your Lord is the Most Generous Who taught by the pen, taught man what he did not know”. (Surah Alaq). In the same spirit is the hadith of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) that urges believers “to go to China [then a remote destination] to gain knowledge” if necessary.

Boko Haram is of the opinion that Western education is evil. It is mystifying how acquiring knowledge and education in any language or about any culture can be ‘evil’. One reason for the contradiction is that religious leaders have attached less importance to the essentials such as faith in God and the eternal moral code and given more importance to accidental features and later accretions, in which they radically differed.

Narrow-mindedness of the clergy was also faced by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, who is considered the first Muslim voice of reform in India. He appeared on the scene at a time when Muslim society was sunk in obscurantism and inertia and showed no desire to emerge out of its medieval grooves. The unwholesome influence of the clergy had made Muslims of the time view education as hostile to religion.

Syed Ahmed Khan wrote: “I reflected on the decadence of the Muslim community and came to the conclusion that modern education alone is the remedy of the ills they suffer from. I decided on a strategy to disabuse their minds of strong communal belief that the study of European literature and science is anti-religion and promotes disbelief.”

The objectives of Sir Syed were educational and social reform and he did not wish to dabble in matters of religion. In fact, conscious of clerical hostility, he offered not to have any role in religious curriculum in his college and invited leading clerics to do the needful.

But the maulvis of Deoband shot down the proposal and reportedly said they would not associate themselves with an educational institution that had Shia students on its rolls. In his biography of Sir Syed, Altaf Husain Hali wrote that 60 maulvis and alims signed a fatwa accusing Sir Syed of disbelief and apostasy.

But even as voices of clerical hostility rose from Kanpur and Lucknow, Agra and Allahabad, Rampur and Bareilly and Maulvi Ali Baksh travelled to Makkah and Madina to seek a fatwa for beheading the great educationist and social reformer, he continued in his mission of setting up a college. “For,” wrote he, “my heart is overflowing with the idea of welfare of my people in which there is no room for any anger or rancour.” History proved that Sir Syed, founder of Aligarh Muslim University, was right and the clergy utterly wrong.

Has Islam come in the way of modernisation? I venture to suggest that there is no inherent conflict between Islam and modernism. Neither science nor rationalism has ever been rejected by Islam. As a matter of fact, as modernism seeks social and economic justice it is working in the direction that Islam has always favoured.

There is nothing in Islam or in Muslim history to suggest that it is averse to change. In fact, the ease and confidence with which Muslims adapted themselves to new conditions which they found in the countries that came under their sway shows that they do possess adaptability.

Present-day Muslim scholars should present Islam in a way that stresses the universality of its values, the tolerance of its outlook and the compassion of its thoughts, so that the faith is not associated with a hostile approach and taking irretrievable positions.

The writer is a freelance contributor with an interest in religion.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2014

The magic wand

Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

IT has been three months since the start of the Zarb-i-Azb military operation. In this period there has been a remarkable let-up in suicide bombings and targeted killings by militant outfits. The military option, its supporters would hence argue, has been a resounding success.

IT has been three months since the start of the Zarb-i-Azb military operation. In this period there has been a remarkable let-up in suicide bombings and targeted killings by militant outfits. The military option, its supporters would hence argue, has been a resounding success.

The opaque nature of the relationship between the two principal antagonists in North Waziristan aside, it is preposterous to suggest that a military incursion into a relatively limited territory on the geographic periphery of the state could eliminate millenarian violence across the country forever.

There are militant groups operating with impunity in far less remote regions, including the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi in Quetta and Jaish-e-Mohammad in and around Bahawalpur. More significantly, mainstream parliamentary parties such as the Jamaat and JUI have well-established links with militant groups, whereas non-religious political groups, the ruling PML-N top of the list, at best tolerate the far right and at worst maintain alliances with it.

In sum, a consensus exists between mainstream political forces and extra-parliamentary militants. Lest we forget, the men in khaki are the crucial third party which mediates between all sides, directly intervening to re-establish order when any given militant faction transgresses the rules of the game.

These periodic interventions by the ‘angels’ — as they came to be known in the wake of the GEO affair — often produce sensational results. Indeed, it is almost as if the guardians of our ideological frontiers possess a magic wand which can literally wave away inconveniences to their hearts’ content. Case in point — what would appear to be a relatively enduring peace established following the North Waziristan operation.

But then this was the case all those years ago in the immediate aftermath of the Swat operation. And there have been other lulls in violence too, almost all of which were preceded by initiatives that brought our army’s ‘heroic sacrifices’ into the spotlight. But the lulls have never lasted. I don’t wish to be the bearer of bad news, but somehow I doubt that this ‘peace’ is going to last very long either.

I wonder if it might just carry on for a little bit longer though, at least until the political hullabaloo that is the combined PTI and PAT show in Islamabad tides over. Following quickly on the heels of the Zarb-i-Azb ‘success’, the spectre of politicians dragging one another through the mud has been contrasted with the reasoned ‘appeals’ by the military leadership to resolve all outstanding disputes through dialogue.

In the wake of a ‘decisive’ military strike against terrorists posing an existential threat to the country, the credentials of the men in khaki have been further strengthened by their ‘impartial’ coaxing of mainstream politicians to act responsibly and restore political stability.

If, however, the Sharifs and Khans and Qadris of the world do not demonstrate the required sagacity, the magic wand might be called into action again, and a swift change in posture from non-intervention to direct intervention undertaken. It would be in keeping with the proverbial script.

It is another matter altogether that enough has changed in Pakistan that a military intervention — if one can possibly argue that the men in khaki have stayed out of the politicking over the past couple of weeks — would not be so widely welcomed as in times past. Indeed, our uniformed saviours are probably not even sure of support in the Punjabi heartland, let alone the restive peripheries, an indication of just how fractured the formerly hegemonic structure of power has become.

That is to say that the magic wand cannot continue to be waved with reckless abandon. But chan­ged circumstances call for new magic tricks. A host of media corporations are indeed at the beck and call of the wavers-in-chief, willing to choreograph just about any half-baked scheme that the latter cook up. And let us never forget that the men in khaki never hatch a plan without the support of one or other foreign patron — they have, after all, become quite adept at playing the New Great Game.

It is in many ways a case of the more things change, the more they stay the same. Certainly, it is important not to understate how fragile the military-dominated system has become, but it is also imperative that we recognise the extent to which the combination of the military-industrial complex and the corporate media are able and willing to manipulate public discourse.

To be sure, this manipulation is not just based on the desire of these magicians to ply their trade but also on how they make their millions. Their magic wands in tow, they can make a buck out of war, peace, political unrest and just about everything else. All copyrighted for special release in the land of the pure.

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

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2014

Let’s have a king

I.A. Rehman

SINCE it is a bit too late to ask the British to relieve the people of Pakistan of the unmanageable burden of democratic governance, the best option available to us is to find a king, or an equivalent.

SINCE it is a bit too late to ask the British to relieve the people of Pakistan of the unmanageable burden of democratic governance, the best option available to us is to find a king, or an equivalent.

This is the result of the failure of aimless efforts to resolve the tussle between the Nawaz Sharif government and the challengers, as represented by Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan, and Altaf Bhai’s desperate plea to God to save Pakistan.

This is also the result of parliament’s having been sentenced to death for rigging in the 2013 election on the solitary testimony of a retired Election Commission official Mohammad Afzal Khan.

Since Mohammad Afzal Khan said what his handlers wanted him to say and what the pretenders to the throne wanted to hear, and his testimony provided much needed grist to the media mills, the Islamabad trial concluded without subjecting him to even an elementary cross-examination.

Mohammad Afzal was not asked why he remained silent till the date for the umpire to raise his finger had passed. Earlier on, he had only suspected rigging, now he was convinced of it. Nobody asked him what evidence had fallen into his hands, and how and when that transformed his doubts into certitude. And he forgot to identify any single party as the culprit.

History will surely be interested in the anatomy of the Islamabad trial of democracy.

The targets of Afzal Khan’s venom are three former judges. Former judge Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim (who chose to resign from the Supreme Court rather than submit to Ziaul Haq’s diktat, and served with distinction as law minister and provincial governor) is accused of ignoring irregularities, that according to Afzal Khan were most common in Karachi, and of being afraid of asserting himself. Afraid of whom?

By playing up unsubstantiated allegations against the former chief election commissioner, who had accepted the assignment only to gratify his passion for holding a free and fair election, the media subjected an iconic figure to character assassination. But who cares for this when freedom is knocking at the door — pardon, at the container?

The two other former judges in the line of Afzal Khan’s broadside are the two most recently retired chief justices of the apex court. In olden times hurling unsubstantiated charges against the judges might have been considered a grave offence. It might have been said that the deficiencies of the judiciary could be removed by corrective measures over a certain period. But such counsel has no value when revolution is only an arm’s length away.

The key sentence in Mohammad Afzal’s deposition was: everybody interfered with the electoral process in proportion to one’s capacity (hasb-i-taufeeq). What this meant was that all contestants used mob power wherever they had it to secure results in their favour — a phenomenon known to election-watchers since the beginning of the election system in the subcontinent. Such manipulation rarely leads to the defeat of a popular candidate. It is also distinguished from rigging which is a term used for state-sponsored interference in the election process.

There are quite a few steps on the path of rigging that only the state can take. These include interference with the people’s right to franchise (exclusion of people from the electoral lists, wrong entries, last-minute inclusions, et al); delimitation of constituencies in a manner favourable to a particular party (called gerrymandering); and leaving the polling process at the mercy of local, and vulnerable, functionaries. These problems have been noted during each election. But there is no time for arguments.

The three allegations against state functionaries are: that ballot papers were privately printed for the benefit of a particular party, that the returning officers were appointed contrary to the procedure and they manipulated the outcome; and that the popular verdict was interfered with by declaring a large number of votes invalid.

These charges used to be considered mere allegations until proved through a proper inquiry and judicial adjudication. When the government shows little keenness to have these accusations examined by a non-partisan tribunal and the challengers lack the patience to wait for the crucial scrutiny these questions bother no one except for some good-for-nothing devotees of democracy.

Similarly, the irregularities non-state actors can commit were known and could be measured. These included: impersonation, preventing a citizen from voting through threat of divine or cultural sanction, use of force or bribery, stuffing of ballot boxes, decamping with the ballot boxes, and booth-capturing. Whether such irregularities did occur last year, and where and to what extent, were matters of fact that needed to be established through a credible inquiry. But again there was no time for these unnecessary formalities.

Further, Pakistanis were needlessly told to learn from history and the experience of other peoples. They were asked to recall the 1977 movement against rigging which was none-too-cleverly turned into a drive for Nizam-i-Mustafa and ended up as Nizam-i-Zia.

They were also asked to study the reasons that persuaded the US Supreme Court to end the hearing of complaints of rigging in Florida during the Bush presidential election (the first one) and why the complainant (Al Gore) did not wish to bring the presidency under the cloud of illegitimacy. Now, are we going to take lessons from the Americans who could not find a place for the Statue of Liberty on their mainland?

Happily all props of a democratic order have been hacked away. The political parties have been replaced with supreme leaders’ darbars in which party office-holders are mere errand boys, the ideas of settlement through mutual give and take have been buried, and parliament has been ridiculed by men consumed by ambition. Let’s quickly find a king before the mischief-mongers among democrats start misleading the poor by promising them land reforms and workers’ rights.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2014

Towards madness

Khurram Husain

SO now what? After multiple iterations of each demand, after half a dozen ultimatums, after at least two face-to-face meetings between the two real protagonists in this whole affair — Messrs Sharif and Sharif — and after ample theatrics and screaming and shouting, where do things go from here?

SO now what? After multiple iterations of each demand, after half a dozen ultimatums, after at least two face-to-face meetings between the two real protagonists in this whole affair — Messrs Sharif and Sharif — and after ample theatrics and screaming and shouting, where do things go from here?

If Nawaz Sharif digs in his heels, and he made it abundantly clear in his speech in parliament yesterday that he is not stepping down, there is no way to force him to resign unless the robes decide to do some gymnastics of their own, which looks unlikely. Lacking a clear endgame, the road ahead is to either raise the temperature further still or look for a way to climb down. There are many routes to climbing down, but what more can be done to raise the temperature further still?

The only way is to drag the economy into the picture. Thus far the economy has been a reluctant guest in the whole affair, dragged in to quench the thirst for vindication by both parties. When the protesters were gathering in Lahore at the start of the march, the economy groaned under the suffocating embargoes on intercity movement in Punjab, struggled with the sudden shortage of shipping containers and the clouds of uncertainty as they gathered on the political horizon.

Then came the crippling of major decision-making in the government, the biggest example of which might be the inconclusive talks with the IMF which are still stuck in limbo, perhaps because other powers are waiting to see how this whole thing ends before agreeing to replenish Pakistan’s foreign exchange coffers as well as delivering a judgement on the soundness of the macroeconomic situation.

The first ripples of uncertainty hit the financial markets when the stock market fell sharply, and the rupee also descended to 102 to a dollar. Everybody in the markets is playing the same guessing game these days to see how this deadlock will resolve itself.

But here ended the economic impact, for now. In fact, for all the huffing and puffing in the capital, it is surprising to see the little impact on the economy. There has been no run on the banking system, no sudden rush to buy dollars, no large-scale capital flight, no rundown in the stocks of oil, no power cuts of unusual duration and intensity, no spiralling inflation in the prices of food and fuel. All of these were key elements of crises past.

We’re seeing practically no recourse to extraordinary measures to prop up the economy or sustain confidence, barring some minor interventions by the central bank in the interbank market and perhaps a huddle between the regulator and the heads of major private banks.

There is no sudden drop in interest rates or other effort to rapidly inject liquidity into the banking system in the face of any large-scale withdrawals, no freezing of foreign currency accounts. Of course, there is a great deal of anxiety about the fate of the government and the shape of the political realities that will emerge once the dust settles, and this anxiety is feeding into investment decisions. But for the mass of ordinary citizenry, the crisis exists only as fevered coverage on their television screens.

The only way to raise the temperature now is to take this political crisis and transform it into a national crisis by actively triggering the sorts of adverse movements mentioned above. Hence the talk of stopping remittances through official channels, of not paying electricity bills or stopping taxes or withdrawing money from state-owned banks. The hope is to create a more general crisis in the country whose impact begins to cripple the operation of day-to-day life, forcing growing numbers of people to become so fed up with the situation that they all start saying ‘what the hell, give the man what he wants already’.

Without turning this into a general crisis, there is no endgame, no way to force the resignation of the prime minister, let alone the dissolution of the assemblies. Having jammed up the political system, those looking to drop the curtain on the government now find that they have to jam up the economy as well to consummate their ambitions.

This is a far larger proposition than any of the protagonists imagined at the start of the whole affair. Not the first time that they’ve launched into an adventure without having thought through the endgame by the way.

Within the limits of the present, the only way to push through to the end would be with an exercise of extraordinary prerogative by one of the remaining arms of the state: the Supreme Court or the army. Either the court would seek a dismissal like the one that saw Yousuf Raza Gilani fired from his post, or the army intervene to force the prime minister out.

The court is showing no appetite for any such action as of now, and it’s doubtful that the army would want to intervene directly without further escalation of the crisis.

I sincerely hope they are not going to escalate it further. It would be madness of epic proportions to do so. This protest, which talks of law today and revolution tomorrow, must find a way out that doesn’t involve destroying the system in order to own it.

The writer is a member of staff.

khurram.husain

Twitter: @khurramhusain

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2014

Bride-in-waiting

F.S. Aijazuddin

CITIES have often been included in the dowry of important brides. Bombay, for example, was part of the dower taken by the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza when she married the British King Charles II in 1661.

CITIES have often been included in the dowry of important brides. Bombay, for example, was part of the dower taken by the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza when she married the British King Charles II in 1661.

To any eligible Pakistani woman, merely being married to Imran Khan would have been blessing enough. Imagine the thrill of having not a city but a whole country, a ‘New Pakistan’, included in one’s dower. It is enough to transform any commoner into a princess.

Who the bride-to-be is, only Imran Khan’s inner circle would know. He has drawn a discreet veil over her identity. He wants to wait until his ‘New Pakistan’ has settled in before he is prepared to settle down. If he keeps his promise to his followers (and to her), and if he continues his mono-rail policy of confrontation with the Sharif brothers, this bride-in-waiting may have to cool her hennaed heels for weeks, perhaps for months, possibly even for years.

It is already a full fortnight since Imran Khan and Allama Tahirul Qadri — the twin horns of Nawaz Sharif’s dilemma — led their cohorts to a sit down outside Parliament House in Islamabad. “A week,” the British Prime Minister Harold Wilson once said, “is a long time in politics.” By that measure, to many suffering Pakistanis, this past fortnight has seemed like an eternity.

They have watched their hapless capital hostage to two demagogues: one, a fiery cleric exhorting improved governance; the other, a passionate socialite do-gooder predicting the advent of a New Pakistan, with himself as its prime minister.

Imran Khan’s courage cannot be questioned, nor his integrity impeached. He is audacious, persistent and uncompromising. He is also impatient, impetuous and impulsive. It is no secret that he regards himself as his own best advisor and therefore, like the lawyer who elects to defend himself, he has a fool for a client.

Posing as a modern Moses determined to convert Egypt into the Promised Land, he has refused to accept anything less than the head of the pharaoh. He may have to settle for the bitter herbs of isolation.

It has taken a talent of Imran Khan’s proportions to have alienated in the space of a fortnight almost everyone of significance in the country: the prime minister of the country, the chief minister of its largest province, the spectrum of parliamentary parties, his storm-ravaged electorate in KP, the judiciary, ex-chief justices, the election commission, the police, to name just a few of his freshly moulded enemies.

It would take courage equal to Imran Khan’s stature to admit that he could have been wrong. Winston Churchill once wrote of a similar aspirant for a prime ministership — the inflexible Lord Curzon who in 1923 saw his prize awarded instead to Stanley Baldwin — that because Curzon would not stoop, he did not conquer.

Imran Khan must have realised (as those around and beneath him already have) that his use of intransigence was perhaps not the best crowbar to prise Nawaz Sharif out of his seat. Patience brings its own rewards; impatience exacts its own penalties.

Mian Nawaz Sharif has opted to answer Imran Khan’s rhetoric with silence, defamation with decorum. He can however be faulted for his judgement: first, in defending his favourite Khawaja Saad Rafique whose questionable victory in NA 125 (Imran’s Khan’s posh stronghold) triggered the present fracas; secondly, for nominating the very same Saad Rafique to conduct the parleys with Tahirul Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf. Provocation could not have been more contemptuously personified.

Sooner rather than later, Tahirul Qadri’s ‘people’s parliament’ and Imran Khan’s face-painted followers will have to return to the reality that is Pakistan. After that, all of them — leaders and the led — will have time enough to assess the brevity of their victories and the length of their failures.

Constitution Avenue will have been cleared and the organs of the federal government allowed to return to their offices. There, they will find their in-trays piled high with recurring, inescapable problems such as a tottering economy, a falling rupee, unwanted IDPs, water disputes with India, skirmishes on the LoC in Kashmir, law and order, etc., ad infinitum.

Whatever these two container-orators may or may not have learned from this avoidable episode in our nation’s history, Pakistan’s public is certainly better educated. It has witnessed demagoguery at its best, and worst. It has learned to be wary of TV anchorpersons peddling poisoned opinions. It has realised that the demons of our past have not been completely exorcised. And it now knows that Imran Khan (an agile 62-year-old) is getting married.

To paraphrase Cicero, no one is so old that he does not think he could be a prime minister once, and a bridegroom again.

The writer is an author and art historian.

www.fsaijazuddin.pk

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2014

Bureaucrats’ union

Syed Saadat

WHEN two elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled, goes an African proverb. We in Pakistan do not have elephants other than those caged in zoos, and grasslands are also a rarity. So the Pakistani version of this proverb would have to be: no matter who fights, it is always the civil servant that gets trampled.

WHEN two elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled, goes an African proverb. We in Pakistan do not have elephants other than those caged in zoos, and grasslands are also a rarity. So the Pakistani version of this proverb would have to be: no matter who fights, it is always the civil servant that gets trampled.

The Model Town incident has all the hallmarks of a case where state machinery was used by political demagogues to settle personal scores. Nevertheless, all efforts are being made by those in power to blame the carnage on guess who? Yes, the voiceless civil servants — the policemen.

The ill-timed removal of the IG Islamabad during the ongoing protests in that city does not seem to be ‘business as usual’ either. Similarly, a couple of years ago, the secretary establishment was removed from his position for complying with court orders when the government locked horns with the Supreme Court over the transfer of the officer investigating the Haj scam.

The sacking of Nadra chairman Tariq Malik and his subsequent resignation under pressure tells the same story. Such is the state of affairs that the civil servant comes under fire even for matters as trivial as the prime minister being stuck in traffic for a few minutes.

In February this year, the DSP traffic Lahore was actually suspended for this very reason. I wonder if the prime minister ever spares a thought for those rendered immobile on the roads whenever there is so-called VIP movement.

What is common to all of the above cases, apart from the arrogance of the rulers, is the fact that civil servants have been victimised. The maxim for a promising career in civil service has now become to neither say no, nor speak up.

According to the Esta Code, the bible of civil service in Pakistan, a civil servant should be unbiased, non-political and non-partisan. Further, the Esta Code proscribes lobbying and grouping but this can be achieved only in an ideal world. When everyone has a voice then why should the bureaucracy, the second largest institution of the state after the army, be mute and open to persecution?

Lawyers have bar councils, journalists have organisations that voice their concerns, clerks have associations, labourers rally together via labour unions, the army has a mouthpiece in the form of the ISPR which puts its point of view across by issuing craftily worded and immaculately timed statements while even the judiciary has established its independence.

There is a need for a union of bureaucrats, a forum which may not exert pressure but could at least be the voice of the bureaucracy taking a stand against being treated as personal slaves by the rulers.

The process of evolution entails the development of institutions to suit changing needs; the British-era bureaucracy was different from the current dispensation — both in scope and style of governance. A bureaucracy meant for a democratic era cannot subscribe to the same rules as one meant for a colonial era. Pakistan’s civil servants must form a union, one with a quasi-political and quasi-official status. This can help provide the platform for bureaucrats to adopt a just stance rather than throwing in the towel at the whims of vested interests.

The proposed forum could also highlight the government’s performance and encourage self-accountability in the bureaucracy by issuing quarterly reports on quality of governance. It can also provide a somewhat secure forum for whistle-blowers; currently the system is designed to single them out and make an example of them. Even press leaks can be made through this forum if unscrupulous elements try to manoeuvre state machinery for personal benefits. Shady deals causing loss to the national exchequer can be averted by harnessing public opinion.

It’s time the bure­au­­cracy goes political, for it is better to be overtly political in the greater interest of the state rather than being covertly political for individual interests and undermining state institutions.

Lastly a caveat: the formation of such a forum can lead to unfair manipulation as well but one can be reasonably sure that the collective wisdom of civil servants from different service groups will prevent such tendencies from playing out.

The forum should be structured in a democratic manner that transcends the bureaucracy’s usual preoccupation with hierarchy. It should be organised as a collection of colleagues rather than that of subordinates and bosses.

Since successive governments seem to have no forthcoming reforms aimed at bureaucracy’s empowerment, the bureaucracy must get together on its own by forming a forum to resuscitate a failing institution. In the words of Munir Niazi, Awaz de ke dekh lo shaed woh mil hi jaey, Warna ye umr bhar ka safar raaegan to hai (Seek him out, perhaps you’ll find him, The journey of life is futile anyhow).

The writer is a former civil servant.

syedsaadatwrites

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2014

Theatre of the absurd

Zahid Hussain

The daily spectacle of a frothing at the mouth Imran Khan and a hysterical Tahirul Qadri performing live shows has worn down the nerves of this hapless nation. The midnight sessions invariably end with yet another deadline for an instant ‘revolution’ and ‘azadi’ and another set of demands.

The daily spectacle of a frothing at the mouth Imran Khan and a hysterical Tahirul Qadri performing live shows has worn down the nerves of this hapless nation. The midnight sessions invariably end with yet another deadline for an instant ‘revolution’ and ‘azadi’ and another set of demands.

An elusive ‘third umpire’ was supposed to appear last weekend and raise his finger signalling the beginning of the ‘revolution’. But he is yet to arrive. Maybe the game plan has changed, making the wait more agonising for the container revolutionaries. The indomitable ‘Kaptan’ is now willing to spend months in the container and the ‘Shaikhul Islam’ is preparing to embrace ‘martyrdom’. It has turned into a theatre of the absurd.

It is now a game of nerves and a battle of marches as the prime minister’s supporters too are taking to the streets in a show of political power. Neither side is stepping back in this stand-off. The unanimous resolutions passed by both houses of parliament last week rejecting the demand for the resignation of the prime minister, however, may yet prove to be a game-changer.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf now finds itself pitted against parliament though Imran Khan appears adamant to take the battle to the bitter end. He is not willing to settle for less than Nawaz Sharif’s scalp even if he gets to keep the trophy for only a month. He will not compromise on the issue that is central to his campaign. His inflexibility may also prove to be his undoing. There is no way he can have his wish list come true without derailing the current dispensation.

Though most political parties support the PTI’s stand on the election fraud inquiry and its demand for poll reforms, there are no takers for the disruption of the democratic political process or involvement by an outside force. This may well be the reason for the ‘umpire’ not coming to the Kaptan’s help. He has to do more to bring the umpire into the field. But it is not going to be that easy against such heavy odds.

Imran Khan’s desperation was evident by his ridiculous call for civil disobedience. More recently, he advised people to close down their accounts with state-owned banks and for Pakistani expats to transfer their money through the hundi system.

He seemed to have lost his senses when he warned the World Bank and IMF not to deal with the government. With these kinds of irresponsible statements, can anyone take him seriously as a leader? His entire politics now revolves against Sharif and is completely devoid of any constructive thinking.

Had Imran Khan showed some prudence and political acumen, he could have easily salvaged the situation by accepting the deal offered by the government conceding five out of the six points presented by the PTI in the talks. No doubt, he won a moral victory by forcing the government to agree to form a high-powered inquiry commission to probe the rigging allegation and initiate electoral reforms. Now, due to his stubbornness and irrationality he has taken a confrontationist path.

Predictably, Imran Khan’s decision to submit resignations of his party members from the assemblies and the call for civil disobedience has brought the split in party ranks to the surface. Many senior members have long grumbled about his dictatorial ways, but now the differences seem to have sharpened with some members reportedly refusing to resign from their seats.

It may have been the reason for his suspending the decision to pull out from the KP Assembly. KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak reportedly approached the opposition not to table a vote of no-confidence against his government, as he has no intention of dissolving the assembly.

It is a sad state of affairs for a party that promised to bring about change in the political culture and strengthen democracy within its ranks. The slogan for change had won the PTI the support of the young generation and gave the latter hope. But instead of consolidating the gains the party made in the last elections, emerging as the second powerful political force in terms of the number of votes polled, Imran Khan seems to have lost the opportunity because of his impatience.

Disillusionment seemed to have crept into party ranks much before the march on Islamabad began. Many hardcore young stalwarts were upset with his apologetic stance on the Taliban and militancy. The ongoing political stand-off certainly does not help restore faith among the disgruntled cadres.

It took Imran Khan more than 18 years to bring the party to its pinnacle, but it could take only a few wrong decisions to throw it back into political oblivion. It would certainly not be good for the nascent democratic process in the country.

It is still hard to predict the outcome of the stand-off. The prime minister may scrape through, but certainly not unscathed. The conflict has already shaken him out of his imperial hubris. His stranglehold on Punjab is now under serious threat.

It appears increasingly difficult for Shahbaz Sharif to stay at the helm in Punjab after his reported involvement in the Model Town killing case. There seems to be no way out for the prime minister but to sacrifice his brother to bring down the political temperature.

It may be a case of too little, too late when it comes to defusing the situation. The challenge faced by the government is enormous. It is time to end family-dominated politics. One can only hope that Sharif has learnt some lessons from the crisis and shows some statesmanship.

There is no time for the part-time leadership that he has so far provided. It is also a moment for truth for all other political parties. Time is running out for status quo politics. Notwithstanding their methods, the Imran/Qadri combine has brought public discontent to the fore. The message is loud and clear if they bother to listen.

The writer is an author and journalist.

zhussain100

Twitter: @hidhussain

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2014

Women on the march

Rafia Zakaria

THE last time women were occupying public space in the country’s capital, it was the spring of 2007. Then, a conflict brewed between the country’s justice system and the country’s rulers. The then chief justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Chaudhry, had been fired by the then president, Pervez Musharraf.

THE last time women were occupying public space in the country’s capital, it was the spring of 2007. Then, a conflict brewed between the country’s justice system and the country’s rulers. The then chief justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Chaudhry, had been fired by the then president, Pervez Musharraf.

The women, however, belonged to neither camp; they were the black-clad, stick-wielding women of Jamia Hafsa. In the days before, they had occupied a federally owned public library. When they did leave the premises, it was for the moral policing of their urban environs: holding hostage some Chinese women. We all know how that awful episode ended, with the Lal Masjid siege and a violent confrontation. The image of the women, none of them identifiable, all of them forbidding, remained etched in many minds.

It is perhaps the seven-year shadow of that ugly episode that makes the appearance of some different kind of occupying women in Islamabad a welcome scene. In the tumult of the marches that have claimed television screens and newspaper columns for the past two weeks, women of all ages and sorts have been a welcome constant. Unlike the women of Jamia Hafsa, who were notable in the uniformity of their attire and the narrowness of their ideology, the women at the two marches appear to represent a varied spectrum of views and beliefs.

There are the young women of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s ‘azadi march’, swaying to patriotic songs and bracing against the unpredictable tempests blowing through Islamabad. Then there are the more sedate and resolute women of Allama Tahirul Qadri’s march, some with headscarves, others with dupattas.

Regardless of the agenda of each — the actual possibilities of change, the likely damages to democracy, etc — witnessing women of all sorts inhabiting public space and existing and persisting in it for days is a victory for at least one half of Pakistan, regardless of its political leanings. It is a victory for women.

The reasons for this are clear and simple, and transcend the individual qualms and quibbles of this or that political or religious leader, the agendas of governments of the past, present and future. Recent years have been dismal ones for women in Pakistan’s public spaces.

A perusal of newspapers from just a few weeks past reveals various cruelties, from acid attacks in markets in Balochistan to bans on the public presence of women in many areas in the northwest. Those, of course, are the simple abridgements of personal movement, felt just as much by female students harassed at universities as by those unfortunate ladies sentenced to braving Pakistan’s public transport to navigate jobs and errands.

Added to them are the far more grotesque and caustic attacks on women’s personal freedoms; it must not be forgotten that just a few months ago, a woman was bludgeoned to death outside a courthouse for the crime of marrying a man of her own choice.

Stoning, acid attacks, harassment, then, are the colours in which the presence of women in Pakistan’s public sphere has been painted. As these constrictions, bit by bit and piece by piece, have descended on women, neither the present government nor the previous one seemed to have had much of a strategy to combat their cumulative curses. The rote-learned and parroted recipes of condemnations and commissions have been utilised again and yet again, applied to any and all cases — to women buried alive by family members, to women blown up when their university buses are bombed, to women forcibly married. The story of the Pakistani woman has been one long, uninterrupted saga of misery. No one in power has considered it worthy of anything more than the most perfunctory of attention; it is what is generally reserved for women.

All revolutions, promised or presumptuous, must be measured on the relative scales of incremental advances. In those measures, then, the appearance of women, many women, happy women, dancing women, and most of all, political women, represents the overturning of the precedent set by the black-clad, stick-wielding women of Jamia Hafsa seven years ago.

While many have legitimate and pertinent concerns regarding their ultimate actions, and while their absence in leadership positions in either party is cause for hesitation in anointing them champions of women, the condition of the country and the exclusion of women in the recent past makes their simple inclusion at least noteworthy.

Some applause is also owed based on the un-gendered bravado required to enter any public space in Pakistan. After all, men and women, tens of thousands of them, have been killed indiscriminately and in public spaces as Pakistan has fought its battle with terror.

In its very limited sense, then, the very appearance of women in a country that has in the past several years seemed unconnected to half its population, and unconcerned with their marginalisation can be agreed upon as a good thing. But just as the exclusion of women has made the latter’s sudden appearance and inclusion a celebratory moment, the surfeit of promises and the superficiality of change must engender an equally healthy scepticism regarding the depth of this commitment.

In a country where meaning is contested, this small vision of an inclusive Pakistan can easily be erased if the commitment goes no deeper than opportunistic screen-time, never elevates itself to actual leadership, meaningful participation, and an ideological commitment to gender equality. Those details, like the promised new Pakistan, have so far remained elusive, buried in songs and chants and the hope so many of us are hungry for.

The writer is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.

rafia.zakaria

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2014

Helping oneself

Zubeida Mustafa

LAST week was World Humanitarian Day. It came as a simple reminder that the world is not a welcoming place any longer for a large number of people in countries beset with crises. Conditions have deteriorated to such an extent globally that the need for humanitarian help has been growing. Yet, at the same time, brutality against aid workers is also on the rise making them more vulnerable. In 2013 alone, 155 aid workers were killed and 134 kidnapped.

LAST week was World Humanitarian Day. It came as a simple reminder that the world is not a welcoming place any longer for a large number of people in countries beset with crises. Conditions have deteriorated to such an extent globally that the need for humanitarian help has been growing. Yet, at the same time, brutality against aid workers is also on the rise making them more vulnerable. In 2013 alone, 155 aid workers were killed and 134 kidnapped.

Why this need for humanitarian aid? The fact is that frequent emergencies are being created due to ever-increasing conflict and also natural disasters — many of them manmade — such as floods and droughts. Pakistan has experienced these in abundance in recent times. We seem to be living from crisis to crisis. Such an abnormal pattern of existence pre-empts economic and social development and growth while whatever progress had been achieved in the preceding period has been undone.

This has also led to the concurrent breakdown of political, economic and social institutions. The events of the last fortnight in Pakistan are a clear manifestation of this breakdown. In the long term, this is visible in the state of the public-sector school system and the healthcare delivery structure which are in a shambles.

Even the poorest of the poor do not want to send their children to a government school. They avoid going to a public-sector health facility as the popular belief is that it is inefficient or not functional. This was not the case before and many in my generation studied at public-sector institutions and did well in life. Government hospitals used to perform well once upon a time and even the middle class went there for treatment and was satisfied with the services.

All that has collapsed. Unemployment and inflation have escalated to render making a livelihood a greater challenge. It is bad enough in so-called normal times. In emergencies it is the poor who are worst affected. Living from hand-to-mouth, they have no savings or reserves to fall back on when normal economic activities are paralysed as is happening today when politicians have decided to test their strength.

The World Bank classifies us as lower middle income while its development indicators of 2013 put 60pc of the population below the poverty line.

This is a stupendous increase in poverty levels from the previous maximum poverty level of 37pc. The absolute number of those needing help has risen as we are now a country of an estimated 182 million.

Initially, it was unwisely hoped that the foreign assistance that the country received in abundance would help build the economy and the trickle-down effect would benefit those at the bottom of the heap. The donors made their aid conditional to suit their own interests. Yet we continued to take aid and it fuelled the corruption that has filled the coffers of the rulers. It never reached the poor.

In this scenario, quite common in many Third World countries, something positive was happening. The poor tried to help themselves. Many of them found job opportunities abroad and became migrant workers in greener pastures. Working for the developed and growing economies, they could earn more and remit money to their families and ease the burden of poverty somewhat. Globalisation helped in the mobility of men and money.

Pakistan was also a beneficiary of this process. Remember the ‘Dubai chalo’ syndrome of the 1970s. Foreign remittances have grown over the years and now total nearly $10bn (2014) according to the State Bank. These remittances are now a substantial source of our foreign reserves. True, a lot of this money comes from well-paid Pakistani professionals abroad who are generous in their philanthropy. But the poor have also benefited directly when unskilled workers have transferred funds to support their families.

This should not be viewed as a permanent poverty alleviation measure, however. Remittances are not being invested in the economy to create jobs. The individual families that benefit from remittances from their breadwinners abroad are not more than a few thousand in number. What is worrying is that the ratio of skilled and unskilled migrant workers from Pakistan is changing as many labourers in the Gulf states are being sent home and Western countries are tightening immigration laws.

All this means that the number of low-income families receiving support from their migrant members is falling. Poverty will rise. Every time there is a political crisis in Pakistan there is economic paralysis too. That translates into greater numbers needing humanitarian help because they are too poor to help themselves.

What is worse is that the poor become victims of the political polarisation and manoeuvring that grip the country. Of course, everyone claims to speak for them, but are their problems really the concern of the leaders who talk so loudly?

www.zubeidamustafa.com

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2014

US in black & white

Mahir Ali

THERE was no doubt a considerable degree of schadenfreude in social media activity from official sources in nations such as Egypt and Iran in reaction to the events of recent weeks in Ferguson, Missouri.

THERE was no doubt a considerable degree of schadenfreude in social media activity from official sources in nations such as Egypt and Iran in reaction to the events of recent weeks in Ferguson, Missouri.

The US, after all, is seldom backward in offering condescending advice in relation to how other governments deal with dissidence (inevitably with some notable exceptions, particularly in the case of Israel).

So a degree of implicit mockery disguised as sage advice from those usually at the receiving end of pompous homilies comes as little surprise. What’s more interesting is the tips on how to cope with tear gas and bullets that have been offered to the protesters in Ferguson from veterans of the Gezi Park mobilisations and those at the receiving end of violence in the Gaza Strip.

The link in this respect is particularly interesting, because the tools of repression all too often come from the same source. When the Israelis recently were running short of ammunition in their Gaza assault, the US rushed to resupply its ally. Security forces in Egypt and Turkey are also regular recipients of hardware from American sources.

What is far more embarrassing, though, for the American authorities is that domestic confrontations reflect its overseas military interventions, given that police forces across the country have been equipped with army surplus gear. The sight of armoured vehicles and combat attire prompted some to dub the troubled St Louis suburb Fergustan.

The death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in a seemingly gratuitous police shooting would likely have attracted little attention but for the protests and riots that followed — partly, no doubt, because the young man’s corpse was left lying on the street for something like four hours. To some, this was a bitter reminder of the way lynching victims were once left dangling as a cautionary example.

Sadly, it wasn’t an exceptional incident, which was another reason why Ferguson exploded. Victimisation by the police of non-whites is all too common. Fatal consequences are relatively rare, but who can seriously deny that they proceed from the same mindset that leads the forces of the law to stop and search African Americans far more frequently than whites?

For instance, as Jon Swaine reports in The Guardian: “Figures published last year by Missouri’s attorney general showed that seven black drivers were stopped by police in the town for every white driver, and that 12 times as many searches were carried out on black drivers as white, despite searches of white people being far more likely to turn up something illegal.” Another pertinent figure that he and others have highlighted is that in Ferguson, where two-thirds of the population is black, 50 of the 53 police officers are not.

And here’s one more interesting statistic: north of a Ferguson dividing line called Delmar Boulevard, 98pc of the population is black (with an average annual income of $18,000); south of it, 73pc people are white (and the median income in $50,000).

Renowned former basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recently commented in Time magazine that in the context of Ferguson “we have to address the situation not just as another act of systemic racism, but as what else it is: class warfare”.

Making a powerful argument for greater economic equality and opportunity, Abdul-Jabbar goes on to say that outrage is not enough: “If we don’t have a specific agenda — a list of exactly what we want to change and how — we will be gathering over and over again beside the dead bodies of our murdered children, parents and neighbours.”

He has attracted some criticism, given the reasonable assumption that Michael Brown would still be alive had his skin been a different pigment. More broadly, though, there are many levels at which race and class intersect, and it is certainly no coincidence that poverty is more pervasive among blacks. Nor should anyone be surprised that entrenched disadvantage can serve as a crucible for petty crime, or that the incredibly high rate of African American incarceration helps to perpetuate a vicious circle.

That occurrences of the Ferguson variety are far too commonplace 50 years after the Civil Rights Act does not indicate the absence of progress in the interim. A great deal has, no doubt, changed. But there have also been instances of regression and patterns of re-segregation — and frequent reminders that prejudice cannot simply be legislated out of existence.

However, given the political will, a determined effort to tackle institutionalised racism would surely yield some positive results. At Michael Brown’s funeral on Monday, the Reverend Al Sharpton made an impassioned call for action on policing — which would arguably be the obvious place to start in terms of policies, attitudes, recruitment, training and, not least, equipment.

Sadly, a post-racial society — prematurely posited as a possibility in the wake of Barack Obama’s election to the White House — remains something of a dream deferred.

mahir.dawn

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2014

The tamasha in Islamabad

Ashraf Jehangir Qazi

HOW should we view the goings-on in Islamabad? Low comedy and high farce? A national disgrace? A serious breakdown of governance? A critical opportunity? The start of a real transition towards better governance and more genuine democracy? Or preparing the ground for another decade of open or de facto military rule? Some analysts suggest all these views are valid to one degree or another, except that it is not clear what the outcome will be.

HOW should we view the goings-on in Islamabad? Low comedy and high farce? A national disgrace? A serious breakdown of governance? A critical opportunity? The start of a real transition towards better governance and more genuine democracy? Or preparing the ground for another decade of open or de facto military rule? Some analysts suggest all these views are valid to one degree or another, except that it is not clear what the outcome will be.

Nawaz Sharif is seen by many as a three-time elected prime minister who must be allowed to complete his tenure if democracy in Pakistan is not to be derailed yet again. His record of governance may be patchy. But he has only completed 15 months of a five-year mandate. Moreover, governance is always a learning process and democracy is always a work in progress. As Bill Clinton said in his address to Pakistanis during his brief stopover in Islamabad in 2000, imperfect democracy needs to be addressed through better democracy, not the suspension of democracy. Gen Musharraf argued he was a better democrat than the politicians.

The Constitution of Pakistan, however, explicitly excludes unconstitutional and undemocratic interventions to resolve political challenges facing the country. Those of this view might approvingly refer to Bertolt Brecht’s play The Life of Galileo in which Andrea says, “Unhappy the land that has no heroes” to which Galileo replies, “Unhappy the land that needs heroes”. Nawaz Sharif supporters might also quote Aneurin Bevan’s description of a political opponent as “suffering from petrified adolescence”.

According to this view, both Imran Khan and Allama Tahirul Qadri are endangering constitutional democracy and the economic development of Pakistan through their “antics”. They are also making a spectacle of themselves and of the country through their politics of anger and frustration. Their escalating and shifting demands, accompanied by a range of threats, only confirm their hunger for power at any cost to the nation. This is the essence of fascism rather than democracy. It represents an entire negation of the Quaid’s philosophy of political agitation which rested on an uncompromising respect for constitutional procedures and an emphatic rejection of Gandhi’s calls for civil disobedience.

According to Noam Chomsky there is a “commonsense” or dictionary meaning of democracy and a contrasting “doctrinal or real world” meaning of democracy”.

According to the commonsense or dictionary meaning, “roughly speaking, a society is democratic to the extent that people in it have meaningful opportunities to take part in the formation of public policy. There are a lot of different ways in which that can be true. But insofar as it is true, the society is democratic.”

The “real world,” (indeed we may say traditional Pakistani) meaning has been “a top-down democracy that leaves traditional structures of power in effective control”. Chomsky adds “if segments of the public depart from their apathy and begin to organise and enter the public arena that, according to those in control, is not democracy. Rather it is a ‘crisis’ of democracy”.

Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri, according to their supporters and sympathisers represent an aspiration for “commonsense” democracy which empowers and liberates the common man.

Nawaz Sharif and his ilk, in this view, represent “traditional power structure” democracy; in other words, crony and phony democracy that has been manifest in the worst ever governance in Pakistan’s history. This is rule by money and power including the criminal abuse of constitutional authority. This excludes the prospect of real movement towards any kind of inclusive or “commonsense” democracy. According to this view, both protagonists of “commonsense democracy” (some would argue Imran more than Qadri) represent the only hope for Pakistan to avoid descending into the realm of state failure.

Many who are deeply aware of Imran’s shortcomings as a political leader, including his exaggerated and empty posturing in recent days, see him as a vitally important transition figure. His contribution has been to make the people aware of their rights and their potential to organise and sustain a multi-layered struggle on behalf of “commonsense” democracy and inclusive and consultative governance. This is the only way to prioritise the agendas of the people rather than those of their exploiters who rule them in the name of “doctrinal” or “constitutional” democracy.

Moreover, Imran’s supporters argue he has a “vision” for Pakistan for which he has stood up whereas Nawaz Sharif stands for no vision at all except power, pelf and privilege for himself and his family. They might approve of two biblical sayings: “where there is no vision, the people perish” and possibly also, “great men are not always wise”.

So where are we headed and what can we hope for? We need first to be clear. Nawaz Sharif would not accept that he represents “traditional power structure” democracy and that his governance is beyond redemption. Nor is it clear that Imran Khan has the leadership qualities embodied in the Arab proverb, “it is the tribe that tells the chief how to do his job”.

He has to broaden his focus beyond Nawaz Sharif without compromising his core demands. He should avoid off-the-cuff public statements that embarrass his supporters. He should accept that a Supreme Court appointed judicial commission will be able to act very independently of a battered and weakened Nawaz Sharif, especially if the FIRs concerning the Model Town massacre are registered against the accused.

At a critical time before the elections of 2013 Imran Khan switched from leading a national movement for radical reform of the political system to leading a party for electoral success. He did very well in the elections. But not as well as he expected. Significant if not game-changing fraud may have been involved. We should soon find out. Even significant fraud if established will compel Nawaz Sharif’s resignation and a fresh poll. Whether Imran wins or loses a fresh poll he can decide how to restore his national movement for commonsense democracy which he unwisely put on the backburner.

The writer is a former ambassador to the US, India and China.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2014

The dice is loaded for Kashmir

Jawed Naqvi

Explanations abound for the current spat between India and Pakistan. The less accepted view, which I am inclined to go along with, might seem perverse. Yet I do believe that Prime Minister Modi wants to strengthen the ragtag resistance leaders in Kashmir — who are still quaintly known by much of the media as the Hurriyat Conference.

Explanations abound for the current spat between India and Pakistan. The less accepted view, which I am inclined to go along with, might seem perverse. Yet I do believe that Prime Minister Modi wants to strengthen the ragtag resistance leaders in Kashmir — who are still quaintly known by much of the media as the Hurriyat Conference.

Strengthening the Hurriyat leaders, even though many of them don’t talk to each other — the reason why their Pakistani interlocutors have to meet them separately — will be a shrewd electoral step in pursuing the prime minister’s promised abrogation of Article 370 that gives Jammu and Kashmir its special status in the Indian Constitution.

The Kolkata-based Telegraph first put focus on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s ‘Mission 44+’. The reference was to the party’s proposed election gambit to wrest a first-time majority in the 87-seat Jammu and Kashmir assembly. After its shocking success in the parliamentary polls, the BJP wants to capture the assembly at Srinagar, a requirement to clear a mandated step to dissolve the area’s special status eventually through an act of parliament.

Assembly elections are due also in Maharashtra this year, a major state where the BJP and its local ally, the Shiv Sena, require large helpings of anti-Pakistan polarisation to evict the Congress from power. The November anniversary of the Mumbai terror nightmare will be handy. The Congress in its current form offers only a tinctured version of the BJP’s full-blooded Hindutva. It is thus never far behind in brandishing its own narrow nationalism to plug the leak in its depleting vote count.

Take for example some of the senior Congress leaders’ more than enthusiastic response to the BJP’s move to stop talks with Pakistan. The idea, the Congress seems to have concluded, should be to seek ways to sound more ultra-nationalist than the BJP wherever possible.

However, in the arriving electoral competition the Congress is saddled with its commitment to stay with Article 370. It interprets the clause as an assertion of India’s sovereignty on the disputed region. For the BJP its removal is an article of faith, at par with its proven commitment to make India a nuclear power with the May 1998 tests. A grand temple to Lord Ram in Ayodhya and a nationwide ban on cow slaughter are other issues with electoral traction for which the party keeps the powder dry.

How will strengthening the disparate Hurriyat leaders help the BJP? Mr Modi’s ‘Mission 44+’ needs a foil to Kashmir’s two main electorally active parties led by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and opposition leader Mehbooba Mufti. So far the Hurriyat leaders have stayed away from the ‘Indian-sponsored’ polls, though in doing so they have painted themselves into an uneventful corner.

By projecting the Hurriyat as Pakistan’s cat’s paw in Kashmir, a role that was for all practical purposes abolished by the advent of the Gen Musharraf-led talks and the eruption of Kashmir-centric puritan Islamists in Pakistan, the Modi government has tried to give the bunch of jobless leaders a political purpose. With their anti-India halo shining brighter, the bunch can be trusted to subvert the Abdullah-Mufti dominance, to split the votes, should the need arise.

In hindsight, calling off the foreign secretaries’ talks by India was not the only issue that seemed to negate the May 27 meeting of the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers in Delhi. Much of last month was a tight spiral of minor escalations between the two countries building up to the showdown.

On July 25, exactly a month before the secretaries were planning to meet in Islamabad, India and Pakistan traded doubts, shall we say, over the delay in two politically sensitive terror trials — the Mumbai nightmare trial that New Delhi wants to be hastened, and the Samjhauta Express bombing, which Pakistan believes has taken too long at the trial stage. The perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage are linked by India to elements in the Pakistan army. The suspects in the Samjhauta outrage are likewise considered close to the new ruling establishment in Delhi. It’s become a ‘who-blinks-first’ kind of situation.

A day after the Mumbai versus Samjhauta spat, India’s defence minister shifted the focus to the heated up Line of Control in Kashmir, saying the cross-border firing would figure in the foreign secretaries’ talks. However, the United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan claimed the same day, to New Delhi’s chagrin, they were there precisely to keep a close watch on the alleged infringements.

What Mr Modi told his army commanders in Kashmir — that Pakistan was too weak to wage war so it was fomenting terrorism against India — was also part of the pattern of moving away from the May 27 bonhomie.

It wasn’t as if India was single-handedly fomenting doubts about the peace talks. Pakistan though distracted by its domestic political turbulence, or perhaps because of it, had been keeping pace.

Mr Modi made his combative comments on Aug 12, making the diplomatic corps comb for similar hints albeit in vain in his Independence Day speech three days later. However, Pakistan’s envoy in Delhi had flaunted unusually candid postures about Kashmir too — about it being at the root of bilateral disputes with India. Such comments are rare if the two sides are heading for talks that would but of course include the Kashmir dispute.

In any case, does Pakistan have a view on Article 370? Or does it see it as an Indian ploy to divert the focus from the main issue of Kashmir’s future? Or does it in fact feel comfortable with the Kashmir issue hanging fire so as to conserve its greater energies to confront an issue more palpably urgent than Kashmir — the division of spoils in Afghanistan?

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

jawednaqvi

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2014

No border control

Arif Azad

DISEASE does not respect borders. It originates in one country and then crosses borders, afflicting hundreds and thousands in its destructive sweep. In the 14th century, vast swathes of central and northern Europe were destroyed by the plague, the scourge of the continent, facilitated partly by increased travel and movement of people and animals.

DISEASE does not respect borders. It originates in one country and then crosses borders, afflicting hundreds and thousands in its destructive sweep. In the 14th century, vast swathes of central and northern Europe were destroyed by the plague, the scourge of the continent, facilitated partly by increased travel and movement of people and animals.

In more recent times, a worldwide influenza pandemic killed millions at the beginning of the 20th century. Thus in time the regional sequestration of infectious diseases and their international spread became a global concern as travel and movement of people expanded. In 1969, international health regulations (IHR) — covering yellow fever, the plague and cholera — came into effect.

These regulations more or less governed internal policy on infectious disease detection, monitoring and sequestration as well as international notification of these diseases with a view to triggering an international remedial response. With the world becoming ever more globalised and international travel becoming a mass industry, the spread of infectious disease is a recurring phenomenon.

In 2002, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, originating in China, spread to 26 countries in five continents. This gave a new push to hitherto glacial efforts to update IHRs in view of more infectious diseases emerging and their hindrance-free spread. The result was updated regulations in 2005, covering a wide array of diseases accompanied by a robust drive to enlist all WHO member states in their enforcement.

IHR 2005 came into effect in 2007. Pakistan has also signed up to IHR 2005. Yet action on meeting the obligations laid down in IHR 2005 has been half-hearted. This was apparent when Pakistan failed to check the ingress of H1N1 influenza which affected 262 people in 2009. The government’s inability to properly invigilate the flu and contain it led to a ban on the import of poultry from Pakistan.

The importation of the flu in Pakistan showed the inadequacy of robust public health activities at ports, airport and land entry points despite official claims of putting in place enhanced measures pertaining to detection, reporting and importation of infectious diseases contained in the IHR 2005.

As a corollary, Pakistan has been placed on a list of countries at risk of exporting polio virus, resulting in the requirement for all Pakistanis leaving the country or those visiting the country for more than four weeks to be administered polio drops and vaccination.

This yet again reflects our poor management of detection and control mechanisms of communicable diseases. Despite these dire warnings on the state of infectious disease management, Pakistan is still lagging behind in fulfilling commitments in the IHR 2005.

IHR requires the country to set up early warning and surveillance systems, initiate more robust public health actions at all entry points, improve the diagnostic, technical and laboratory system and have a focal point for IHR’s implementation and international coordination. But apart from fulfilling some commitments such as nomination of a national institute of health, there is a lot that needs to be done to conform to the IHR spirit.

Given this ill-preparedness, Pakistan will need to make more efforts to face the challenge of the spread of the Ebola virus. This latest WHO-declared public health emergency has killed more than 1,200 people in West Africa, particularly in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria. There is considerable traffic between Pakistan and African countries which opens up the possibility of the disease spreading to Pakistan if no remedial public health action at entry points is instituted. (India has acted speedily to put in place screening and quarantine measures for those travelling from West Africa.)

In Pakistan already the requirement of filling out health cards by travellers from Africa and South America is honoured more in the breach than the observance. In most cases the filled-out forms are either ignored by immigration officers or thrown in the dustbin as soon as they are handed in.

More worryingly, there do not seem to be dedicated health desks set up to deal with those travelling from the pandemic-affected regions. This state of affairs hardly inspires confidence that Pakistan is taking seriously the danger that Ebola poses to the country despite the issuance of a health advisory.

A large part of the problem loops back to our progress on the IHR 2005 compliance. Though government has put in place some cosmetic measures, substantive measures that can put us in sight of full compliance are slow in coming.

According to a year-old report, the Pakistan government, while partially fulfilling the stipulations of the IHR 2005, has asked for an extension of two years to meet all requirements. This lethal complacency lends further gloom to the gathering health crisis already made worse by the growing incidence of dengue, measles, polio and Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic fever.

The writer is an Islamabad-based development consultant and policy analyst.

drarifazad

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2014

Missing rules

Moeed Yusuf

THE last fortnight has provided us an opportunity to judge how far Pakistan has come in terms of consolidating democracy. In praising the democratic progression since 2008, we seemed to have missed how obviously absent credible rules of political contestation remain here.

THE last fortnight has provided us an opportunity to judge how far Pakistan has come in terms of consolidating democracy. In praising the democratic progression since 2008, we seemed to have missed how obviously absent credible rules of political contestation remain here.

Polish-American political scientist Adam Przeworski defines democratic consolidation as a state when democracy is accepted by all as the “only game in town”. In our context, political forces would have to recognise that their battles have to be fought by the formal rules of political contestation set within the civilian democratic sphere. For that to happen, these rules must be well understood, seen as fair, and adhered to.

Nothing of the sort has been on display in Islamabad.

One theory for what the dharna was all about comes out of the old mould: the whole drama was orchestrated by the khakis. Khan (and Qadri) was manipulated by GHQ to cut to size Nawaz Sharif’s ambitions of usurping his rightful foreign policy space from the military. If true, nothing has changed: the military can bolster or challenge governments at will.

The second explanation accords Imran Khan agency: Khan was frustrated with the unresponsive attitude of the government regarding the poll reservations of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI). The long march was a last resort option. The goal was to emulate the success of Nawaz Sharif’s long march for the judges’ restoration.

If he was looking for events to play out identically, he would have realised that Sharif’s success came not because of his rallying power — by all accounts, he had rallied modest numbers — but the military’s decision on how the game should end. Again, not a trait of a consolidated democracy fighting it out strictly within the civilian sphere.

On the other hand, if Khan believed he would have enough public support to bring the government to its knees, it was clear early on that the numbers were nowhere near what could bring a government’s moral legitimacy into question. Yet, Khan continued to up the ante. Most political observers couldn’t understand why he wasn’t leaving himself room for an honourable retreat.

Khan — mind you, many in PTI did not agree with him — to his mind, was in a no-loss situation. As one of his lawmakers told me, he is obsessed with the idea that he simply can’t succeed in a system skewed so heavily in favour of the PML-Ns and PPPs of the world.

Ultimately then, while Khan’s ideal outcome was to force an overhaul of the system without causing it to crash, even a crash followed by forced rebuilding was a more attractive option than mere tinkering with the status quo which is all the government was willing to offer before the march. Hence his constant efforts to raise the stakes — even though he realised that the longer the situation dragged, the greater the chances of some untoward incident leading those in uniform to take some action.

The government was concerned about GHQ signals. Right from when it imposed Article 245, it wanted to be sure the military stood behind it (or at least not behind the protests), even in return for some rumoured quid pro quos in terms of the division of policymaking space. Parse the government’s behaviour and you’ll find a strong correlation between its demeanour on any given day during the dharnas and where it thought GHQ stood on the issue.

The khakis’ power to arbitrate was never in doubt. Neither did they shy away from using it. No single act in this whole saga mattered more than the ISPR statement calling for the situation to be resolved through dialogue. How quickly this forced talks on the warring factions reflects GHQ ability to lord over matters.

Finally, if media is to be used as a benchmark for the thinking among our opinion-makers, we seem split on the value of democratic continuity within the current framework. That many talking heads seemed convinced of the merits of the ‘system capture’ argument being presented by PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek is not surprising; more worrisome was the sense that the constitutional efforts at improving the rules of the game undertaken since 2008 have not cut it — and won’t because those in charge of bringing in changes have vested interests in the status quo.

This is something civilian and military custodians of the system need to think about: people are disillusioned by the system’s ability to deliver. And till this remains, you’ll always have questions about the value of its continuity from one quarter or another.

Optimists like me need to revisit just what the last six years may have meant for our democratic consolidation. We are nowhere near Przeworski’s benchmark.

The writer is a foreign policy expert based in Washington, DC.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2014

The mask of anarchy

Babar Sattar

Shelley is believed to have introduced the idea of nonviolent resistance in his poem The Mask of Anarchy, which celebrated the power of ordinary people to defeat violence with pacifism. Thoreau in his essay Civil Disobedience advocated listening to one’s conscience and rising up against injustice and slavery. Gandhi’s doctrine of Satyagraha, inspired in part by Shelley, aimed at freeing India from colonial shackles and seeking self-rule. Nelson Mandela suffered penalties of law to fight apartheid.

Shelley is believed to have introduced the idea of nonviolent resistance in his poem The Mask of Anarchy, which celebrated the power of ordinary people to defeat violence with pacifism. Thoreau in his essay Civil Disobedience advocated listening to one’s conscience and rising up against injustice and slavery. Gandhi’s doctrine of Satyagraha, inspired in part by Shelley, aimed at freeing India from colonial shackles and seeking self-rule. Nelson Mandela suffered penalties of law to fight apartheid.

In transformational revolutions (eg French, American, Chinese, Iranian) the key idea has been to liberate the many from the oppression of the few. And civil rights movements (such as that of Martin Luther King) resonated with people when they sought equality and justice for those oppressed due to vile prejudice or tyranny of the majority. What is the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s great revolutionary idea that will fix our broken homeland? Replacement of Nawaz Sharif with Imran Khan? Is the PTI fighting for a goal larger than the political aggrandisement of Imran Khan?

If this movement ensures that the mandate to rule in our democracy must be beyond suspicion, it will benefit ordinary Pakistanis. But if its sole purpose is to fix a perceived unproven wrong inflicted on the PTI voter in 2013, this movement by definition is a narrow partisan struggle not aimed at empowering ordinary citizens but a means to snatch power from the PML-N and hand it to the PTI.

There appears to be a shared overwhelming sense amongst Pakistanis that we, as a state and nation, need to hit the reset button. Why then are the PTI and Pakistan Awami Tehreek ‘revolutions’ attracting such suspicion? Is it because focused on their core support base, PTI and PAT have alienated all others and painted themselves in a lonely corner? Or is it because PTI and PAT are neither addressing the causes that have led Pakistan astray nor proposing meaningful solutions through constructive means capable of implementation?

Rhetoric if backed by principles, ideals and charisma can stir peoples’ conscience. But when employed to promote selfish interest, it attracts derision. Anna Hazare successfully forced his Lokpal Bill on an unwilling political elite (despite widespread criticism that his ways were anti-democratic) because he spoke from outside the system and sought reform not power. Arvind Kejriwal ousted Sheila Dikshit but fell out of favour with Delhi as people realised that he could only critique the system from outside, not reform it from within.

Leaving aside some new faces, will the menagerie of tried and tested politicos (Chaudhrys, Sheikh Rasheeds, Khars etc) who have been all around and are permanent fixtures in the ‘system’ be able to convince anyone (other than unconditionally committed PTI/PAT devotees) of being harbingers of revolution against the very system that keeps them relevant? With a government in KP and otherwise comprised largely of those who have been in power corridors for over three decades, is PTI a system insider or outsider?

And what is the new revolutionary understanding of the ‘system’? Is Nawaz Sharif in trouble because he is the system that people have rebelled against or because he has fallen out with the system? Who has been the nemesis of the PPP since the 70s? Did the PML-N and PPP play musical chairs in the ’90s because every two years people of Pakistan revolted against the system? If Pakistan is to be built afresh have we heard our firebrand revolutionaries pontificate about the desirable role for the khakis — the most potent players in our system?

Did the Anna Hazare movement threaten the ‘system’ in India when he spoke of unacceptable corruption? Did the Indian parliament have to pass resolutions in favour of continuity of the constitutional order? Did its Supreme Court have to pass a restraining order against unconstitutional moves? If Pakistan did not have an unfortunate history of military interventions, would any rational observer even consider that these PTI/PAT revolutionaries pose a threat to the PML-N government?

Today, Pakistan has two systems: the feeble and struggling de jure system backed by the Constitution; and the all-powerful yet invisible de facto system backed by the khakis. While there remains a constant tug-of-war between these two, the history of Pakistan so far is a history of the de facto system being in effective overall control. None of this is meant to suggest that the de jure system is a well-oiled machine only malfunctioning due to disruptions caused by the de facto system.

But doesn’t the de facto system feed off the de jure system? If the de jure system worked, would there be room for the de facto system? Only someone interested in reforming the de jure system and rendering the de facto system subservient to it can set Pakistan in a new direction. This is what made the possibility of a principled reform-driven PTI emerging from within to fix the de jure system a breath of fresh air. The PTI’s latest moves disappoint, as this ‘revolution’ in its existing form can only succeed with the de facto system’s sponsorship.

Khan and Qadri both believed Musharraf would make them prime minister back in 2001. Khan acknowledged his mistake and has come a long way since: he is now a popular leader with a genuine political base. His position today is heartbreaking as standing alongside Qadri and delegitimising the ‘system’ without proposing an agenda for reform, Khan is deliberately or unwittingly entrenching the rhetoric about uncouth politicos, broken constitutional order, skies caving in and mighty saviours that is staple diet for our de facto system.

Many standing with the existing constitutional order and against the ‘revolutionaries’ are not inspired by love for Sharif. In a choice between the de jure system and the de facto system, they are standing with the former. But if the choice were between a status quo de jure system and a reformed de jure system, they would stand with the latter.

The writer is a lawyer.

sattar

Twitter: @babar_sattar

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2014

No more preventive detention

Reema Omer

REPORTS of the government’s campaign to arbitrarily detain hundreds of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek workers and activists as the parties launched their protests in Islamabad, illustrate, once again, the dangers of Pakistan’s preventive detention regime and its potential to be used as a tool to clamp down on fundamental freedoms.

REPORTS of the government’s campaign to arbitrarily detain hundreds of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek workers and activists as the parties launched their protests in Islamabad, illustrate, once again, the dangers of Pakistan’s preventive detention regime and its potential to be used as a tool to clamp down on fundamental freedoms.

Not only is preventive detention incompatible with human rights law, the long history of abuse of preventive detention in the country suggests that Pakistan must reconsider its laws and policy on arrest and detention as a matter of urgency.

Preventive detention is a form of administrative detention, ordered by executive authorities, usually on the assumption that the detainee poses future threat to national security or public safety. Unlike regular detention under criminal law, its immediate aim is often not to bring criminal charges, much less to try the detainee in a court of law.

In the subcontinent, preventive detention dates back to the colonial era. Under the British Raj, executive authorities had sweeping powers to preventively detain individuals on a wide range of grounds including threat to public order and national security. After its creation in 1947, Pakistan retained this security-oriented strategy in response to post-independence violence and instability, sacrificing fundamental rights and freedoms in the name of preserving order and peace.

Justified at that time as an exceptional measure being adopted for exceptional circumstances, preventive detention as part of the supposedly provisional extension of state control and curtailment of individual rights has over time become a normal paradigm of governance.

Preventive detention featured prominently in all post-independence constitutions: 1954, 1962, and 1973. Pursuant to these provisions, many laws have been passed providing for detention without charge including the Security of Pakistan Act in 1952, the West Pakistan Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance in 1960, the Anti-Terrorism Act in 1997, and most recently, the Protection of Pakistan Act in 2014.

Generally, preventive detention is prohibited under international human rights law. The right to liberty is a bedrock standard of human rights, recognised by Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Pakistan ratified in 2010, and all major international human rights treaties and national constitutions. International human rights law and standards only allow for preventive detention pursuant to a lawful derogation following a declaration of a state of emergency and, even then, any act of detention must be narrowly time limited and justified in accordance with strict grounds of necessity and subject to judicial control.

It is striking that Article 10 of Pakistan’s Constitution, 1973, allows parliament to make preventive detention laws during peacetime on a number of grounds including prejudicing the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan, the external affairs of Pakistan, and public order, expressly excluding safeguards such as prompt judicial control and legal representation.

Pursuant to Article 10, parliament has passed extraordinarily repressive laws such as the recently enacted Protection of Pakistan Act, 2014, which allows for individuals to be detained at undisclosed locations, without access to family or lawyers, putting them at risk of enforced disappearance, torture and ill-treatment.

Subsequent military and civilian governments in Pakistan have routinely used preventive detention for political purposes to silence and intimidate critics and opponents, justifying the practice on the grounds of security and order.

Some of the biggest victims of this misuse have included activists belonging to nationalist and separatist movements; members of communist parties; political opponents of governments in power; human rights defenders; and more recently, ‘terrorism’ suspects. This abuse has seriously undermined the enjoyment of fundamental rights such as freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right to political participation in the country.

Ironically, while Pakistan has condemned the United States’ indefensible practice of lengthy and arbitrary administrative detention of terrorism suspects (most prominently in Guantanamo Bay), Pakistan’s security legislation is modelled largely on the same detention regime. This is despite the fact that the US detention policy, especially at Guantanamo Bay, has been widely denounced as falling outside the rule of law.

There is evidence, for example, that hundreds of people were and continue to be detained unlawfully and arbitrarily for long periods at Guantanamo Bay on suspicion (often unsubstantiated) of involvement in or connections with terrorist groups. Even officials involved in the administration of Guantanamo Bay have called it “America’s most notorious prison — a prison that should have never been opened”, and a mistake that has validated a very negative perception of the United States.

A security strategy based on compromising human rights can often generate new resentment, fuel existing hostilities, and give rise to a sense of victimisation, resulting in a vicious cycle of human rights abuses that further damages the rule of law, peace and security. As the International Commission of Jurists’ panel of Eminent Jurists points out in its report based on a three-year comprehensive global survey of post-9/11 security legislation, human rights are not, and can never be, a luxury to be cast aside at times of difficulty. Instead, providing security and respecting human rights both form part of a seamless web of protection incumbent upon the state.

Pakistan’s pervasive security-centred discourse remains unchanged since independence, and human rights continue to be explicitly sacrificed to vague and broadly defined national security priorities. But while the discourse has remained unchanged, objectively, security has got progressively worse. The time has come for Pakistan to make a paradigm shift in its security strategy and move towards the recognition that human rights and security concerns are complementary, and not antagonistic to each other.

The writer is a legal adviser for the International Commission of Jurists.

reema.omer

Twitter: @reema_omer

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2014

Perilous wires

Zeenat Hisam

THOUGH we do not take electricity for granted due to outages, yet energy is at the heart of everyday living. What we take for granted is the national grid system — transmission lines, high-tension cables, substations, pylons, transformers and the dangling maze of naked wires visible in every street.

THOUGH we do not take electricity for granted due to outages, yet energy is at the heart of everyday living. What we take for granted is the national grid system — transmission lines, high-tension cables, substations, pylons, transformers and the dangling maze of naked wires visible in every street.

We seldom think about those who keep the grid system running even when we spot a lineman perched precariously on a vehicle-mounted ladder, examining a pole, repairing the cables, or meddling with dangerous-looking circuit boxes. Unless one day at the breakfast table we read in the morning paper that 25 linemen died in the line of duty within two weeks.

The news recently of the workers’ rally of the Lahore Electric Supply Company demanding investigation into these preventable deaths and enforcement of safe working conditions is the tip of the iceberg. The underbelly of the work structure supporting the edifice of economic growth pulsates with contractual, informal labour deprived of social protection, including protection from fatal accidents and injuries at workplaces.

Line installers and repairmen encounter serious hazards on the job, considered one of the 10 most dangerous occupations in the world. The risks involved in installation, operation, management and maintenance of power supply systems have led to ever evolving international sets of standards, codes and regulations to ensure safety of workers.

Electrical workers’ unions have been highlighting the issue of safety. In October 2013, the Pakistan Wapda Hydroelectric Workers’ Union stated that more than 150 electrical workers die annually, and demanded implementation of safety regulations, provision of standard equipment and professional training of a young labour force. Poor supervision by officers was cited as another reason for death and injuries of linemen.

According to an electrical engineer, all electric supply companies in Pakistan use internationally adopted IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Standards in the installations. The IEEE has over 395,000 members in 160 countries, including Pakistan. But “each company also has its own policy and rules for Health, Safety, Environment and Quality”. To what extent these are implemented is another matter.

In addition to safety standards, the skill, knowledge and training of electrical workers is another crucial factor relevant to the safe and competent performance of electrical work. In developed countries, electrical workers undergo specialised training before they are issued licences by the relevant authority. Standards are maintained for protective equipment and the workers are provided with safety gear such as rubber insulating gloves and sleeves, leather protectors, personal climbing equipment, dielectric footwear and fire-resistant clothing.

Till about a decade ago, power generation, transmission and distribution were the responsibilities of the government under Wapda and the Karachi Electric Supply Corporation. KESC was privatised in 2005 and since 2008 is working under a new management. Wapda was bifurcated in 2007 and power generation, transmission and distribution were handed over to Pepco that now manages nine distribution companies, four generation companies and the National Transmission Despatch Company.

According to the Private Power and Infrastructure Board, there are 31 private power projects. Pri­va­­­tisation is considered the catchword for efficiency and profit. Corpo­ratisation also conjures up a lean, efficient workforce well-cared by a management committed to labour compliance. Realities on the ground, however, in­­di­­­­­­cate a different scenario.

Privatisation of KESC led to retrenchment of permanent emp­loyees and induction of contract workers in large numbers. “In KESC [K-Electric] there are about 5,000 to 6,000 permanent workers entitled to facilities and earning up to Rs30,000 per month,” says Ikhlaq Ahmad Khan, chairperson KESC labour union, “and 12,000 to 15,000 workers are on contract who receive about Rs7,000 per month.”

The workers are allegedly not provided with proper protective gear or adequate training. The K-Electric website states that “Since July 2009, 46,055 staff — from all cadres — have gone through sustained safety awareness sessions”. According to Khan, these “sessions” comprise only a one-hour lecture. He also added that contract workers are often not even matriculate as required under the Sindh Electricity Rules 1978.

In Pakistan there are 22 laws related to electricity. Most relevant to the workers are the provincial Electricity Rules 1978 which deal with licensing procedures and requirements for electrical contractors and supervisors and the granting of certificates to wiremen.

Pakistan’s workforce confronts not just lack of labour compliance but suffers from lack of opportunities for human resource development in terms of specialised trainings, competencies and skills.

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

zeenathisam2004

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2014

Bloody instructions

Zarrar Khuhro

THERE is one thing that the azadi and inquilab marches have generated in massive amounts, and that is debate. There have been exchanges on what constitutes an unconstitutional act, on the extent of the rigging during the 2013 elections and, most of all, on whether the tactics adopted by Imran Khan will lead to reform or anarchy.

THERE is one thing that the azadi and inquilab marches have generated in massive amounts, and that is debate. There have been exchanges on what constitutes an unconstitutional act, on the extent of the rigging during the 2013 elections and, most of all, on whether the tactics adopted by Imran Khan will lead to reform or anarchy.

On the latter point, critics of the idea that street power alone is a barometer of public will had a few arguments to make. One was that many parties and groups, given resources and incentive, can easily muster tens, and sometimes hundreds of thousands, of people to press for their demands.

One example was of the MQM, while others observed that even the tableeghi jamaat’s ijtima attracts massive and motivated crowds. Others asked what would happen if a desperate PML-N, out of its all-encompassing insecurity, decided to enlist the aid of its own street power and that of ‘friendly’ hard-line outfits?

And then on Friday the Ahl-i-Sunnat Wal Jamaat led a rally from the Lal Masjid to the press club in which it spoke out against Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri and the latter’s ally, the Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen. Qadri is of course anathema to the arch-Deobandi ASWJ, as is the Shia MWM, for obvious reasons. They also didn’t like all that dancing and qawwali.

Predictably, this has led not only to justified criticism of the PML-N (the apparent beneficiaries of this rally), but has also been used as an opportunity to point towards the hypocrisy of criticising the PTI’s much-bandied appeasement of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan while largely ignoring the PML-N’s nexus with sectarian outfits.

Just to ensure that no doubts were left, the PML-N’s local chapter also sent their representatives to the rally and its youth wing’s Yasir Abbasi called Ludhianvi a “defender of Islam”.

But the ASWJ is no mere PML-N proxy and, in this case, it is using more than it is getting used. It has done this before and will do it again, all in the cause of pushing and legitimising its stated agenda of declaring Pakistan a Sunni state and its Shia citizens non-Muslims.

Banned in 2002, the Sipah-i-Sahaba re-emerged as the Millat-i-Islamia Pakistan. Banned again in 2007 it then became the Ahl-i-Sunnat Wal Jamaat. Despite (again) being banned by the interior ministry in 2012, it managed to contest elections in 2013, where it polled significant votes for a party of its nature.

In Karachi, for example, Aurangzeb Farooqi gave a tough contest to the MQM’s Waqar Ali Shah under the aegis of the Muttahida Deeni Mahaz. In other constituencies, they also, in effect, secured more of the Deobandi vote than their closest ideological challengers Fazlur Rehman’s JUI-F.

In Punjab, ASWJ leader Mohammad Ahmed Ludhianvi was defeated by the PML-N’s Sheikh Muhammad Akram only to see the latter disqualified by an election tribunal. Were it not for the Supreme Court’s dismissal of the disqualification notification, Ludhianvi would be an MNA now. With its electoral clout augmenting its already existing networks and cadres, the ASWJ has seen many parties courting it for its support (or at least to avoid its outright enmity) and not all of these parties are political.

And the ASWJ itself has always been open to such overtures. It joined the platform of the Difa-i-Pakistan Council, allowing it to rub shoulders with all those who graced its stage and also allowed it to link itself to a broader religio-national agenda. The same agenda that is evident in the wordings of the latest march, which is to ‘save Islam and the integrity of Pakistan’.

And here is where the ASWJ makes its gains, by linking itself to broader (relatively speaking) movements, by making itself available to all who may need its ‘services’, whether those be political parties or intelligence agencies.

If that sounds confusing, wrap your head around this: they are rallying in favour of a government which is (apparently) opposed by the establishment which the ASWJ also rallied in favour of against Geo, which in fact gave it a great deal of (arguably) unnecessary airtime in the past and which is now (pretty much) opposed to Imran and Tahirul Qadri who (so they say) are backed by at least one faction of the same establishment, and against whom the ASWJ is also rallying.

And here we haven’t even gone into Lashkar-i-Jhangvi’s 1999 assassination attempt on Nawaz Sharif, or the bounty Riaz Basra had previously placed on Nawaz, Shahbaz and Mushahid Hussain. Nor have we mentioned the whispers of how these groups are being used in Balochistan.

The bottom line is that this group, and others like it, unlike the ‘fail first, explain later’ planners of most of our political leadership, know exactly what they’re doing. And they have no shortage of takers.

The writer is a member of staff.

zarrar.khuhro

Twitter: @ZarrarKhuhro

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2014

Dilemma of Barelvi politics

Muhammad Amir Rana

Irrespective of what Allama Tahirul Qadri is destined to achieve through his politics of agitation, he is injecting a sort of activism among disillusioned Barelvi religious organisations with a political orientation.

Irrespective of what Allama Tahirul Qadri is destined to achieve through his politics of agitation, he is injecting a sort of activism among disillusioned Barelvi religious organisations with a political orientation.

Most religio-political organisations subscribing to the Barelvi school of thought do not have organised structures and networks. Pirs, or custodians of shrines, and influential religious scholars constitute the local power centres and seek strength from the followers of their respective shrines.

They hesitate to pool their local political resources to form a mainstream party fearing it might compromise their authority. Also, they think it will curtail their bargaining position in local politics used to make alliances with mainstream political parties. Eventually, they tend to secure their local interests that are largely linked to maintaining their influence over their followers. Although they sometimes succeed in getting electoral tickets from mainstream political parties, this factor has been largely responsible for the weak electoral performance of Barelvi parties in Pakistan.

But a prominent Barelvi scholar and leader Tahirul Qadri has successfully managed to build and develop the structure of his organisation along the lines of the Jamaat-i-Islami and similar groups following the Salafi and Deobandi schools of thought. He has developed separate organisational structures for the charity, religious, educational and political wings of his movement. Organisations of this sort not only appeal to the urban middle classes in Pakistan, their different wings and departments also create the synergy needed to sustain and develop them.

Minhajul Quran International, headed by Tahirul Qadri, is running a large chain of schools and madressahs across the country which help it garner public support and attract funding from the upper middle classes and Pakistani diasporas in the West. Students and teachers of these schools and those working in charities operated by the organisation are political assets of Tahirul Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek. In the recent PAT demonstrations, most of the participating families, including women and children, are either students, employees or other beneficiaries of the schools and charity institutions of Minhajul Quran.

Many other religio-political organisations are doing the same. Qadri’s dilemma, however, is how to capitalise on the religious and political support base he has developed over the past two decades or so. Many factors have contributed towards strengthening Salafi and Deobandi groups and parties in Pakistan. Many of them have gradually become part of mainstream politics. On the other hand, the Barelvi groups and parties have weakened over time. Their share in the sectarian and militant discourse has also remained minimal, even when Salafi and Deobandi organisations were thriving in this area.

Though Barelvi scholars and leaders project themselves as peaceful Sufi believers, they felt marginalised during the Soviet-Afghan war in the 1980s. They had then blamed the security establishment and Saudi Arabia for discouraging their participation in the Afghan jihad. Many Barelvi leaders also believed that the insurgency in India-held Kashmir was their front to fight from, but they were ignored there too.

They claim that the groups who had instigated the insurgency in India-held Kashmir were indigenous, nationalist and followers of the Barelvi school of thought but the security establishment replaced them with groups belonging to other sects who had experienced fighting in Afghanistan.

Such claims made by Barelvi leaders previously suggested that they had the desire and potential to become proxies in regional insurgencies. Some even felt that Barelvi organisations had paid a political price for staying or being kept away from the jihadist discourse while rival sectarian groups had successfully generated and spent funds on developing their religious, social welfare, educational and political infrastructures.

This perception has created an impression among some Barelvi religio-political groups that they can regain their political share in the power structure through establishing good relations with the establishment and developing militant credentials. In the recent past, Barelvi parties have paid less attention to restructuring and organising themselves along modern lines. Nonetheless, their prime emphasis has remained on developing good relations with the country’s security establishment. Qadri has managed to achieve both.

However, establishing militant credentials is a difficult task. A Barelvi organisation Sunni Tehreek attempted to do so in Karachi but eventually decided on a political role. It did not have a nexus with militant organisations in the country or abroad which would provide its cadres with militant training and logistics. Secondly, the Sunni Tehreek did not have any tactical sectarian support from an Arab country.

Given that they do not have organised violent groups as do Salafi and Deobandi organisations, it should not be surprising if Barelvi parties start depending on mob violence to achieve their religio-political objectives. But gaining political power through mob protests and violence is a hard task. The reason is obvious; mobs cannot hold their instant emotions over sustained periods. Politics is a rational discourse where people have multiple choices.

Tahirul Qadri has the ability to mobilise crowds for political purposes but is confused about where to lead them. He is unable to transform his rabble-rousing into electoral success. Despite his current clout, he is unlikely to secure even a few seats in parliament and to get a share in the system like the Jamaat-i-Islami and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl. One obvious reason is that he has gradually detached himself from the mainstream political discourse and built his entire political clout on extra-constitutional and undemocratic narratives.

Interestingly, the late Shah Ahmad Noorani of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan had realised in the late 1990s that the Barelvis’ political survival is in mainstream religious politics as they cannot compete with the well-organised Jamaat and Jamiat through solo flights. He supported political alliances of religious parties and was a major motivating force behind the creation of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal in 2002.

Does Qadri have such vision and patience to give direction to Barelvi politics in Pakistan? If not, he will continue acting as a spoiler and a destabilising agent. Certainly, this is not a good model to follow.

The writer is a security analyst.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2014

Three, two, one

Cyril Almeida

If they can, they will. If there’s an incentive — power — and there’s opportunity — a rickety system — someone will attack.

If they can, they will. If there’s an incentive — power — and there’s opportunity — a rickety system — someone will attack.

Defence — plugging the holes — is usually ex-post, after the event, because ex-ante, before the event, it’s the attacker who has the greater incentive to find the vulnerabilities.

Simply, democracy will be attacked as long as democracy is weak, and the weaknesses will be found by the attackers more often than they will be by the defenders.

Frustrating as it is to watch Nawaz & co flail around and struggle to stay upright, it is also true that the foes they are contending with are many and the avenues of attack innumerable.

Start with Imran. He’s tough to defend against because he’s unpredictable and bound by no rules. He’s like that guy who’ll stand and throw fistful of mud after fistful of mud at a wall until something sticks.

Immediately after the election, Imran tried the electoral-fraud fistful of mud. It didn’t stick. Then he switched to electricity. It nearly stuck — but Nawaz offered to let him take charge of Pesco and Imran backed down.

Then he found a fistful of mud that stuck and stuck for a while — attacking the government for not engaging the Taliban in dialogue. It was a potent line of attack given that an internal war is unpopular.

Eventually, Nawaz owned the dialogue option and Imran had to find something else. That’s when he returned to electoral fraud, but this time the fistful of mud was better moulded: four constituencies.

PML-N had a look, shrugged and went back to business. But that narrow, focused demand stuck — and struck a chord in the wider public and political arena. What’s the harm in having a look at four constituencies? It was damaging precisely because it was innocuous.

Thirty-five seats, recounting every vote cast, altogether fresh elections — those options seemed far too disruptive and were easily swatted away. Four constituencies was the fistful of mud that stuck to the wall of Fortress Sharif and stayed in place.

From there, Imran had something he could build on. More and more mud was flung until a mud ramp began to take shape and storming the castle became a possibility.

That’s what got us here.

If it wasn’t this, it would be something else. If it wasn’t something else, it would be another thing altogether. Something, anything — if the attacker is persistent and willing to try anything, the vulnerabilities will eventually be exposed. Especially if the system is weak.

Which means the defence needs to be more alert, hungrier, fiercer, nimbler than the attacker. Nawaz & co failed that test. They failed to spot the danger, failed to neutralise an incipient threat, failed to scrape off that first fistful of mud that clung to the walls of Fortress Nawaz — and now are facing the biggest of crises.

Imran won’t go away because Imran has time and possibility on his side. It’s in the nature of weak systems. Imran is simply showing us what’s possible when the system is weak.

Turn to the boys. Three mistakes Nawaz made: Musharraf; keenness on India; and siding against the ISI in the media wars. Which is fair enough ’cause what is power without ruffling status quo feathers?

The problem for Nawaz was the weak democratic system, which meant that pushback didn’t have to be direct. The attack could come from above or below or behind or from the sides — it never had to come from the front, the only thing Nawaz seemed to have prepared for.

The problem with Nawaz and the boys isn’t that they don’t get each other or understand each other, it’s that they precisely understand each other and know what the other is up to.

For the boys, there are three red lines: the leadership; the perks and the sprawling empire; and national security and foreign policy on India, Afghanistan and the US.

Nawaz ceded two, but went after the third: the leadership. Trying Musharraf is a Trojan horse, the thin edge of the wedge, putting the civilian cat among the army pigeons.

Get Musharraf and the door opens, not for mass trials but for collective demotion, of a slow road to ordinary-citizen status, vulnerable to the same whims and damage that the political class is.

The boys know this, Nawaz knows this — and only one side can win. It didn’t have to be this way. It could have been the strong system of the boys versus the weak but united system of the civilians.

Except, Nawaz is the go-it-alone sort. An emperor with a vulnerable kingdom and not the means to defend it. If only a valiant fight, the good fight, was a winning fight.

Perhaps — and oh the things, the many things that could be different — the worst thing to have happened to Nawaz was winning that damn election outright.

Zardari proved a survivor, a sustainer of coalitions, because he needed to be. The electoral maths post-May 11 meant Nawaz needed no partners. The emperor could do as he pleased.

And he did. And the system hit back.

If they can, they will. They can, so they have. Nawaz thought he could and there was no one to tell him that he couldn’t.

1990-1993; 1997-1999; 2013-2014?

Three years, two years, one year — terms one, two and three have proved one thing: if they can, they will. And they grow less patient with time.

The writer is a member of staff.

cyril.a

Twitter: @cyalm

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2014

Enemy defined

Sayeed Hasan Khan

Enemy civilians are never worth nearly as much as one’s own immaculately innocent civilians. So we behold recent TV clips of jubilant Israeli civilians celebrating the deaths and mutilations of entire Gazan families.

Enemy civilians are never worth nearly as much as one’s own immaculately innocent civilians. So we behold recent TV clips of jubilant Israeli civilians celebrating the deaths and mutilations of entire Gazan families.

The mitigating pity is that due to tightly controlled Israeli media they imagine that every single Gaza casualty is a highly-trained Hamas fanatic. Meanwhile, the biggest factor generating Palestinian resistance is instead the systematic maltreatment Palestinians experience daily, even when not under bombardment.

Yet everywhere we look the distinction between soldier and civilian, combatant and non-combatant, grows ever more porous, arbitrary, irrelevant. Protection of civilians in war always has been piously insisted upon and at the same time carelessly violated by powerful and often democratic states. The appalling term ‘enemy non-combatant’ entered the growing Orwellian vocabulary after 9/11 at the ruthless behest of Bush’s obliging legal counsel.

No surprise there. Elites, especially in a war-like climate, reckon they can do anything they want and lie about it. After all, where are the penalties for doing so?

Camouflage terms such as ‘collateral damage’ were conjured up to conceal crimes that increasingly refined technological weapons inevitably inflict. If we actually look at their effects, and not their public relations brochures, the real purpose of ‘precision-guided’ devices, from missiles to lasers to aerial drones, is to enable civilian killings under the guise of selective targeting.

Furthermore, armed conflict since the Second World War has shifted from inter-state wars towards civil wars and counter-insurgency campaigns where civilians are entirely fair game. The field manual has not been invented that can help, let alone compel, soldiers to distinguish civilians from guerrillas.

For settler-colonial societies in their early phases, like the US, Australia, and Israel, civilians were anything but innocent because rubbing out the native populations was precisely the point of conquest.

Frankly, the only realistic reason not to play hell with civilians is when it happens to be a waste of resources compared to other vicious uses. Superpowers always want to reserve the right to decide who is a civilian, before or after they arrest or attack them abroad and, as displayed in Ferguson, Missouri, increasingly at home.

These travesties do overturn small but important legal efforts to corral murderous mentalities. In the Second World War more than half of the casualties were civilians; most were deliberately targeted. So suddenly there was no better way to demoralise the enemy than slaughter his family on the home front — except it never works. Kill or maim our loved ones and do you really think we will seek peace with you? Not even many military leaders believe that childish nonsense. But plenty of well-paid pundits do.

Incinerate Dresden even if it is not a military asset; obliterate Hiroshima and Nagasaki even if the Japanese signal surrender; make the “rubble bounce” in Korea in the 1950s; Fallujah must fall. Over 70pc of deaths in Iraq since 2003 are civilian and the percentage in Afghanistan may be higher.

All this violence is disastrously counterproductive if the aim of occupying forces really was to win support and bring peace. The only reliable military goal is domination.

Gaza spurred accusations that Israel was engaged in “Hitler-like fascism”, as the Turkish prime minister said. Palestinian spokespersons decried Holocaust-like behaviour, to which an indignant letter by some 400 Israel policy supporters last month retorted:

“The Holocaust was the deliberate, systematic mass murder of six million innocent Jews by Nazi Germany and its collaborators. By contrast, Israel is acting in legitimate self-defence against Hamas terrorism. Israel has no interest in harming innocent civilians, and indeed has done its utmost to avoid civilian casualties, whereas Hamas deliberately targets Israeli civilians. Any comparison between Israel and the Nazis outrageously distorts Israel’s actions and trivialises the enormity and nature of the Holocaust.”

It’s always a clue to watch certain people dismiss five million other deaths in the Nazi mass murder campaign. What trivialises the Holocaust is invoking it to excuse Israeli state injustice.

Elites count on ‘empathy fatigue’ to set in, though it really is fatigue with evident powerlessness to stop heinous acts. The trouble is that it isn’t hard to stoke outrage against civilian deaths, against heedless authorities, against environmental crimes, against bankers and speculators who loot vastly more than every mugger in the world can dream of. The elites are the ones doing the stoking. Today, if you don’t follow their orders you are the enemy.

So we are all potentially enemy non-combatants. None of us are innocent. Be very aware of it, but don’t get used to it.

The writers are the authors of Parables of Permanent War and No Clean Hands.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2014

Saving the PM?

Farhan Bokhari

As the political storm led by Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri continues in Islamabad, the illustrious members of Pakistan’s parliament have rallied behind Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, supporting his belief that his position cannot be up for grabs. But saving the prime minister may be far easier said than done.

As the political storm led by Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri continues in Islamabad, the illustrious members of Pakistan’s parliament have rallied behind Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, supporting his belief that his position cannot be up for grabs. But saving the prime minister may be far easier said than done.

Sharif appears convinced of Pakistan’s inevitable downhill journey if he is forced out eventually. However, with or without his survival in the face of the country’s increasingly troublesome and treacherous politics, Sharif’s future as a relevant member of the power structure may have been compromised.

Parliamentarians from both sides of the political divide are backing Sharif on the grounds of preventing a dangerous precedent where a mob forces out a democratically elected chief executive. What is there to stop a repeat of a similar episode in future, goes the argument.

Yet, while there is no doubt that their concerns are valid, especially in view of Pakistan’s turbulent history, the broader context of Pakistan’s political realities cannot be overlooked. In the heat of the moment, many may forget an important aspect of the prime minister’s position in the power structure. The prime minister wears not just one but two hats, the other being the top leader of the ruling PML-N.

In over two months since the June 17 killings of 14 of Tahirul Qadri’s supporters in Lahore’s Model Town neighbourhood, the ruling structure in the province led by Shahbaz Sharif conveniently ignored calls for the registration of police cases against key members of the local ruling structure. The fact that the onus was on the PML-N government to investigate the killings and take action was sidelined.

Without the storm now gathered in Islamabad, it was conceivable that those 14 deaths would be conveniently forgotten, and lost among the numerous cases of victims across Pakistan whose stories eventually fall into the dustbin of history. While the prime minister’s brother remained beyond reproach and Sharif maintained silence on the killings, the matter cannot be dismissed.

As the ruling structure scrambles to launch a political rescue mission by reaching out to friends and foes alike, the issue is not just about saving the prime minister and simultaneously saving a government that has been tainted by the Model Town killings. It is equally about the future of a party leader who appears to have done little when the moment of reckoning came on June 17.

Moreover, in the early part of his tenure, Sharif’s failure to tackle some of the worst challenges surrounding Pakistan is indefensible. Nowhere was the disconnect more obvious than the tail end of Ramazan. Sharif’s 10-day spiritual journey to Saudi Arabia was quickly followed by a five-day sojourn to Raiwind, conveniently detaching the prime minister from Pakistan’s mainstream challenges.

Notwithstanding Pakistan’s ongoing bloody battle with the Taliban militants and the scores of lives already lost in the fight, the record points towards a government in Islamabad with little capacity to lead Pakistan from the front in an all-out war.

Meanwhile, the PML-N’s failure to mount its own show of popular support in the face of the gathering storm is raising questions about its apparent inability to reach out to the grass-roots. Clearly, the much bandied about economic choices which remain a bedrock of the PML-N’s politics, have failed to ignite the popular spark.

During its first year in power, the regime has remained obsessed with the launching of one infrastructure project after another. If the plans conclude successfully, Pakistan will see more motorways, fancy bus projects and speedy urban trains, goes the argument from Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. Ironically, however, the matter of the crisis-stricken energy sector is yet to show a long-awaited light at the end of the tunnel as frequent power breakdowns and long hours of load-shedding take a toll on both industry and the people.

For the moment, it is difficult to precisely predict the final outcome of the turmoil. For Sharif’s political allies in parliament, saving Pakistan’s democracy appears to be synonymoust with saving the prime minister’s job — and given the situation their stance is understandable. But judged from the many other vantage points, and going beyond the current crisis, the long-term view of the PML-N’s rule might be different.

It’s not surprising that both Khan and Qadri, now camped for more than a week with thousands of followers across the road from parliament, have managed to sustain crowds in Islamabad’s sizzling summer temperatures, barring the temporary relief brought by the intermittent monsoon spells. It is not just about Sharif’s future as Pakistan’s first ever prime minister elected thrice to the job. Equally vital is his record as leader of a party that has become mired in controversy after the Model Town affair.

The writer is an Islamabad-based journalist.

farhanbokhari

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 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: