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Cronyism, lawyers and big money : edit in The Express Tribune, Sept 10th, 2017.

There is something more than usually offensive about reports that the government of Khyber-Paktunkhwa (K-P) is willing to spend Rs10 million on lawyers’ fees in pursuit of the reinstatement of Akhtar Ayub, previously of the Pakhtunkhwa Energy Development Organisation (Pedo). Ayub was removed from his post on the orders of the Peshawar High Court (PHC) which found that his appointment was not based on merit and that whoever came into the post subsequently had to earn their position — a decision that this newspaper supports. It now transpires that the K-P government is unwilling to accept the ruling of the court and needs an expensive lawyer to plead its case. The case was filed on 19th August by K-P Advocate General, Abdul Latif Yousafzai, an indication of the support there is for the move in the highest level of K-P government.

There is no shortage of highly priced lawyers anywhere and in a meeting of the PEDO board on June 9th 2017 there was approval of a budget of Rs8-10 million to hire a lawyer to plead the PEDO case. Why the matter is so odious is that this is yet another example of cronyism. The man ousted by the court is a close associate of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) central leader Asad Umar and the party, currently in power in K-P, is willing to go to considerable lengths to ensure that their placeman in an important entity is reinstated. Thus far it is understood that none of the monies approved have been paid, but it is reported that ‘large sums’ have already been given to counsel preparatory to pleading the case.

There are plans to amend the PEDO Act by loosening the expertise requirements for the person appointed to be the CEO of the organisation — an attempt to institutionalise cronyism and allow political appointments to be made with greater ease — and an official imprimatur. Not all members of the PEDO board were happy about the decision regarding expensive lawyers but they did not carry the day and the decision is in the official minutes of the meeting. Without putting too fine a point on it — this stinks.

September 10, 2017   No Comments

Nothing to be gained from standoff with institutions: Nisar

Report in Dawn, September 10th, 2017
KARACHI: The most mercurial member of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s cabinet on Saturday stated categorically that no political objectives could be attained through confrontations with the judiciary or the military.

“Better coordination with both the judiciary and military is the only option in the current situation, where conspiracies are being hatched against the country,” Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told a private TV channel.

In an interview with Saleem Safi of Geo News — the first part of which was aired on Saturday — the former interior minister said “paani sar ke bohat qareeb hai” (the tide has risen to dangerous levels) when asked if matters had come to a head.

Regarding the Panama Papers controversy, he said he was against the advice of a few people in the party who wanted to adopt a confrontational path.

Conceding that he had differences with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif because of the latter’s policies, he said there were some people in the PML-N who wished for a confrontation with state institutions.

He said his relationship with Mr Sharif dated back to 1985, and that until 2013, nobody knew about any differences between the two. “The majority of my differences [with former PM] were over policies. I felt that I was intentionally kept away from consultations.” He claimed that he had never disclosed his issues with the party or Mr Sharif publicly. “Those who leaked it did so dishonestly.”

“Politics, especially governance, is both an art and a science,” he said, adding that in his time with Nawaz Sharif, he had “always tried to manage things”.

He said he believed that the military had no role in the disqualification of Mr Sharif, and when asked if he could play a role to pacify the situation between state institutions and his party, he stated: “This would not only be better for the party, but for Nawaz Sharif and everyone else.”

Talking about the foreign pressure mounting against Pakistan, he said it was the collective responsibility of every stakeholder to put aside their differences and create a “broad consensus” for a joint and united front against all threats.

Talking about criticism of his remarks about Hakimullah Mehsud’s death in a drone strike, Chaudhry Nisar contradicted his critics, saying that he had merely criticised the US for derailing the dialogue process with the Taliban.

He said Pakistan had taken the US and other “friendly countries” into confidence before initiating talks with the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. “It was an incorrect perception that the army was not on board. The army was on board.”

Referring to his house arrest during Nawaz Sharif’s time in exile, he said 24 soldiers surrounded his residence, and dispelled the impression that he received preferential treatment due to his family’s military background and connections. “How do you compensate someone who has lost 2 years of his life?” he asked, recalling how Gen Musharraf and his aides tried to get him to join their government.

He also claimed that the Ayyan Ali case was not handled by the interior ministry, but the finance ministry.

Dawn reached out to several PML-N leaders for their reaction to Chaudhry Nisar’s remarks, but none of those contacted was willing to comment, saying they did not want to get entangled in controversy.https://www.dawn.com/news/1356693/nothing-to-be-gained-from-standoff-with-institutions-nisar

September 10, 2017   No Comments

Sending data on Dar to NAB costs NADRA officer his job

By Danish Hussain in The Express Tribune, Sept 10, 2017
ISLAMABAD: The services of a senior National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) officer were terminated just a day after he dispatched ‘top secret’ information about a family member of federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

NAB’s Lahore regional office had sought the information in question in connection with the probe against Ishaq Dar.

It is learnt that NADRA was directed to assign “a senior officer…to courier by-hand the requisite information to investigators in NAB Lahore”.

NADRA Headquarters Data Warehouse Director Qaboos Aziz was assigned this task by the chairman of the authority and a letter to this effect was issued bearing prefixes ‘most immediate’ and ‘top secret’.

The information was needed in connection with investigations in a reference filed by NAB in the accountability court on September 8 against Ishaq Dar.

Specifically, the information was about Dar’s daughter, who lives in the UK.

The package was handed over to NAB investigators by Aziz on August 21.

On August 23, he was handed a termination letter without assigning any particular reason. He served NADRA for 17 years. There was also no pending inquiry against him.

“It is to inform you that your service contract is hereby terminated with immediate effect”.

When The Express Tribune tried to get his comments, the officer in question refused to comment, saying that the matter was sub-judice because he had challenged his termination in the Islamabad High Court.

Attached with the petition filed by Aziz is an affidavit for the court’s record in which he lists the events leading up to his termination.

He claimed that just a day before his termination, he had been asked to meet NADRA’s Director-General (Projects) Zulfiqar Ali.

The Projects DG had informed him that Aziz enjoyed cordial relations with the deputy chairman of NADRA, Muzaffar Ali. “I was told by the Projects DG that I should try to persuade the deputy chairman to voluntarily resign from his post. In case of failure, I was informed that I will be terminated from service.”

“I was assured by the Projects DG that if I manage to convince the deputy chairman to resign, my service will not be in danger,” the affidavit stated.

The Projects DG, the affidavit stated, is very close to NADRA Chairman Usman Yousuf Mobeen.

The affidavit stated that Qaboos was surprised when he heard the demand as it was “completely unexpected”.

However, the very next day, on August 23, he was handed over his termination letter that too without assigning any valid reason.

Qaboos had joined NADRA in 2001 as a database administrator.

Despite repeated attempts, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal could not be contacted for comment. https://tribune.com.pk/story/1502396/sending-data-dar-nab-costs-nadra-officer-job/

September 10, 2017   No Comments

Fata MPs threaten sit-in against reforms non-implementation

by Javaid-ur-Rahman in The Nation, 10-Sep-2017
ISLAMABAD – Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) parliamentarians Saturday once again threatened that they would not allow to run the affairs of parliament and other main institutions if the federal government failed to fully implement the proposed Fata reforms.

“Fata parliamentarians with ANP lawmakers would share future course of action on 14 September (Thursday), if practical steps were not taken to ensure Fata reforms,” Fata parliamentary leader in the National Assembly Shah G Gul Afridi shared with The Nation.

Fata lawmakers have thrice threatened the incumbent government to take practical steps for FATA reforms, including representation of FATA in 2018 general elections, proper share in the National Finance Award (NFC) award etc.

“We expect the government would force us to stage sit-in in front of parliament house…Hopefully government will deal this matter very soon,” said Afirdi while responding to a query regarding their future planning.

About a high-level National Committee on the Implementation of Fata Reforms, Afridi lauded Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for taking interest in the matter. “The Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan’s interest in the matter shows that there would be no need of sit-in,” he remarked.

The Prime Minister last Friday directed the Minister for Law and Justice to take fast track legislative and administrative measures for mainstreaming of FATA so that area’s can have access to the fundamental rights.

The committee overseeing the FATA reforms process had decided to install a transitional mechanism. The decision taken in this effect has revived the package for mainstreaming of the tribal areas after it was frozen by Nawaz Sharif-led government under the pressure from its coalition partners — JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and PkMAP chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai.

This session of the committee was meant to set the guidelines for future action for implementation of the reforms. The FATA Reforms Package was approved by the federal cabinet on March 2 but the government later deferred the Reforms Bill in the National Assembly.

The JUI-F chief had expressed numbers of reservations over the report presented by the FATA Reforms Committee in the Parliament.

“I have reservations over the report of the FATA Reforms Committee on the status of tribal areas as it is replete with wrong statistics and information,” JUI-F chief remarked in one of his press conferences.

The reforms hit a snag when former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, on the request of JUI-F chief a couple of months ago, had directed the government to hold back the controversial Rewaj Bill, presented by it in the National Assembly and the decision was implemented.


Staff Reporter from Peshawar adds: Chairman Qaumi Watan Party Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao on Saturday called for early merger of Fata with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to bring the tribal areas into the mainstream.

He said that merger of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) into KP would not only stamp out the black law of the colonial eras, the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR), but would also open up new vistas of development and uplift to tribal people.

He was addressing a public meeting in Charssadda. QWP KP Chairman Sikandar Hayat Khan Sherpao and other party members were also present on the occasion. Sherpao said while referring to the federal cabinet’s meeting that the federal government should take its allies and stakeholders into confidence on the merger and devise a comprehensive policy on the matter.

He said that any solution of the issue short of Fata-KP merger would not be acceptable. He said that if certain quarters had reservations over the merger, then the matter should thoroughly be debated in the Parliament.

Sherpao out-rightly rejected the interim census report on Fata population, saying the population of Fata was shown lesser than the actual. He said that the QWP had earlier expressed reservations over the census process and had recorded its protest over installation of counting machines for KP and Fata in Islamabad. He said that unlike other provinces, the machine was not installed in Peshawar.

He said that undermining the population of Fata was sheer injustice with the tribesmen which, he said, would further deprive them of their share in the national the resources, job quota as well as representation in the Parliament.

Sherpao said that Pakhtuns rendered matchless sacrifices for the country but, he said, they were always denied their due rights. He said that the aim of the QWP was ensuring the rights of Pakhtuns. He added that the only objective of the QWP was welfare of Pakhtuns and it would continue its struggle for the cause. http://nation.com.pk/national/10-Sep-2017/fata-mps-threaten-sit-in-against-reforms-non-implementation

Fata: a step forward: edit in Dawn, September 10th, 2017
PRIME MINISTER Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had suggested that the new PML-N government would take up the task of implementing Fata reforms that the previous government had deferred for political reasons and it now appears that he has delivered where his predecessor was unwilling to. In what may prove to be a significant decision in the history of Fata, Mr Abbasi on Friday approved the appointment of a chief operating officer to implement Fata reforms on a so-called fast-track basis, giving fresh momentum to a mainstreaming process that had stalled. The delay in implementing the government’s own reforms programme in Fata, drawn up by Sartaj Aziz and others after a fairly expansive consultative process, has been mystifying and self-defeating. Political allies of Nawaz Sharif who had opposed the government plan for Fata had failed to offer realistic alternatives and their opposition had only delayed a desperately needed civilian-led stabilisation project in the tribal areas. Fortunately for Fata, Mr Abbasi has been willing to revisit the issue and make decisions that PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif had been unable to.

Certainly, a broad reforms agenda does not mean automatic success in a region which has been ravaged by war for over a decade and is governed by a colonial-era system. A major military presence, significant tensions along the border with Afghanistan and limited local human capital resources mean that Fata’s legal and administrative reforms will need to be addressed with determination and patience. The federal government has pledged to allocate sufficient resources for the mainstreaming programme, but political will to release the vast sums may be tested in the years ahead if macroeconomic stability and state finances continue to deteriorate. Further, while the military has been clear about the need for greater civilian leadership in Fata, it remains to be seen if civil-military relations will allow for long-term cooperative solutions to Fata’s myriad security and socioeconomic challenges.

Yet, the profound challenges in Fata and elsewhere are also a significant reason for the state to improve its own performance. Mr Abbasi is effectively a technocrat chief executive because the political aspect of his job is still retained by his party boss, Nawaz Sharif. But focused and pragmatic decision-making at the apex of government can have significant and immediate consequences, a reality that political paralysis or dithering can obscure. Fata reforms are a vital component of national long-term peace and stability, but a reforms process in virtually every aspect of the state is needed. The PML-N government had seemed to suggest that reforms would follow macroeconomic stabilisation; instead, the government’s first four years witnessed a remarkable hollowing out of democratic institutions. Mr Abbasi may not have much time in office, but as his Fata decision has indicated, sensible decisions can and should still be taken. https://www.dawn.com/news/1356675/fata-a-step-forward

September 10, 2017   No Comments

Pakistan: Music Ban….?

Cleric apologises for banning music: report in Dawn, Sept 10th, 2017
LANDI KOTAL: A local cleric, who had imposed ban on music, on Saturday tendered an apology to the political administration for taking law into his hands.

Sources said father of the cleric, Mohammad Ibrahim akka Bacha Jan, and three other family members were summoned to the offices of political administration in Landi Kotal, where officials reprimanded them for taking law into their hands by not only conducting raids at private properties of some local residents but also imposing ban on all types of music in the Shinwari territory of Landi Kotal.

They said the political administration was under pressure from public after the ban.

In their written apology they contended that the incident (burning of music instruments) which occurred on Sept 8 and the announcements made were result of a misunderstanding and would not be repeated in future.

“We will not take the law into our hands in future and will remain peaceful citizens,” the statement said and added that they repented their deeds.

The apology came after strong criticism from the civil society and even the ordinary citizens.

Hakim Shinwari, a local trader, said it was tantamount to creation of a parallel administration, which the local residents won’t tolerate.

Music ‘ban’ in Landi Kotal: edit in Dawn,September 10, 2017

FORTUNATELY, it seems that the day the music died in Landi Kotal lasted barely 24 hours. On Friday, administrators of the Khanqah-i-Binoria madressah announced a ‘ban’ on musical gatherings in the town, which is located in Fata’s Khyber Agency close to the Afghan border. They warned residents that the homes of anyone holding such gatherings or in possession of musical instruments would be burned down and they would be subjected to a social boycott. Then in the presence of a large crowd, they set fire to a number of musical instruments that people belonging to the madressah had seized from weddings and other private gatherings in the area. Yesterday, however, one of the clerics involved, after being summoned by Khyber Agency’s political administration over the incident, reportedly changed his tune and offered an apology for the seminary’s vigilantism.

It is not often that self-appointed guardians of public morality are reined in by the state. That this time a handful of them have been unable to get away with their dubious use of religion to trample on cultural traditions is to be welcomed — even if we are yet to see this become the norm rather than the exception. The spectre of musical instruments being torched is emblematic of some of the most puritanical times in our history and that of our neighbours. For one, it is reminiscent of Afghanistan while the Afghan Taliban were in power. Pakistan also witnessed similar scenes during the time of Gen Zia; so was the case in parts of KP — then NWFP — when it was ruled by the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal. Lal Masjid vigilantes in 2007 also made bonfires of CDs and DVDs in the streets of Islamabad; ultimately, their anti-state campaign proved to be their undoing. With the benefit of hindsight — although there was no dearth of people warning of the perils at the time — the state is perhaps at last realising the folly of having encouraged or at least turning a blind eye to such regressive behaviour. https://www.dawn.com/news/1356672/music-ban-in-landi-kotal

September 10, 2017   No Comments

Extremist minds on campus: by Muhammad Amir Rana in Dawn, Sept 10th, 2017

The writer is a security analyst.
IRRESPECTIVE of who had put it forth, the proposal to securitise educational campuses is a terrible idea. Hopefully, it won’t be approved as it would add to our past failures to effectively deal with the country’s education and security affairs.

The media hype around the arrest of some university-educated terrorists of the Ansarul Sharia group in Karachi gives the impression that universities have become a breeding ground for violent extremism. This is a simplistic interpretation of a complex phenomenon.

The suggestion to control campuses through security institutions is as bad as the response of some official quarters that welcomed the idea. It is an indication not only of the lack of empirical wisdom among those dealing with violent extremism — our most critical challenge — but also their approach to academic institutions. Rather than facilitating an independent and fair academic, intellectual and research atmosphere on campuses, the government apparently deems educational institutions mere degree-awarding factories — perhaps that is why it believes that the objective can be achieved even in a controlled atmosphere. Such measures, however, would worsen the persisting academic crisis in universities.

The challenge of extremism is far more complex and deep rooted than is understood by policymakers. Extremist tendencies are common in all segments of society, irrespective of their socioeconomic status and educational backgrounds. A study carried out last year by the Sindh Counter Terrorism Department revealed the diverse educational backgrounds of 500 detained suspected militants. According to the study, 202 had not received any education at all. Among the literate, 134 had Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees, 63 were matriculates, while 101 had studied up to class nine. The institutional background of these suspects was also diverse as 169 had studied at madressahs, 98 at public schools and 92 at private institutions.

The trends of violent and non-violent extremism amongst educated youth are cause for concern as they represent technically skilled and academically strong individuals — and such extremism is a great loss of the nation’s talent. At the same time, such qualified individuals inject new energy in terrorist groups, as happened in the case of the Ansarul Sharia which recently triggered a new wave of violence in Karachi.

The extent to which educational institutions’ curricula contribute to the construction of extremist minds is debatable. One thing, however, is clear: certain religious narratives persist in the country, and largely act as factors of violent and non-violent extremism. As these narratives are widespread, the process of ideological radicalism or extremism can take place anywhere, including in educational institutions, mosques, homes, neighbourhoods, even cyberspace.

One can’t deny the fact that student wings of religio-political parties and of sectarian, charitable, radical and banned militant organisations are still active on educational campuses. These wings have a key role in promoting religious extremism amongst students and have an array of tools at their disposal to increase their influence. They consistently rely on radical literature and publications and disseminate the message not only through the printed word but also through CDs, DVDs, and the social media, depending on which group or class they are targeting. For instance, social media is an important propagation and recruitment tool for organisations such as the militant Islamic State group, and Al Qaeda as well as radical outfits like Hizbut Tahrir. Sectarian and tribal militants still prefer printed publications though they are also increasingly inclined to use different apps to communicate.

That radicalisation among educated youth is a recent phenomenon is an evolving myth. Public-sector educational institutions have remained the primary target of militant organisations since the 1980s, under state patronage to boost a ‘jihad’ culture in the country. There will be hardly a town in Pakistan that doesn’t have a street or road named after the martyred of Kashmir or Afghanistan, and most of them studied in some mainstream school, college or university.

After 9/11 it became difficult for militants to launch their recruitment campaigns in public spaces. As an alternative, they first established their student wings with cover names and then targeted teachers and encouraged them to form ‘jihadi study circles’ on their campuses. After the Lal Masjid crisis in 2007, they amended their strategies, changed their mode of communication and became sophisticated in their recruitment operations. During the past decade, the number of multiple types of international, regional and local militant and radical groups has increased in the country; they compete to make their calls more attractive, thus hoping to ensnare the best minds.

Religiously motivated radicals and militants are still operating overtly and covertly on campuses. While administrations fear radical elements and are thus reluctant to take action against them, the government is neither willing to provide any protection to the administrations nor take on such elements itself. Both the administrations and the government try to silence alternative and moderate voices on campuses.

The ban on student unions badly hurts the academic and democratic atmosphere of campuses. The fear that student groups will disturb the atmosphere is based on myopic perceptions. Most studies on the subject recommend that the long-term effectiveness of student unions should not be undermined by the excuse of short-lived tensions. The government should ban the student wings of religious and militant organisations and focus on breaking the radical groups’ nexus with teachers and students. This can be achieved through allowing students to live in an open academic and political atmosphere. The securitisation of campuses will further restrict free spaces and the radicals will continue to invent new ways to survive and encroach.

The administrations of colleges and universities can take some initiatives themselves to secure their campuses from the influence of extremists. They can form student-teacher vigilance committees to spot the activities of radical groups on their premises and to promote the culture of sharing and dialogue. The government can sensitise teachers about the threat and organise refresher courses for this purpose.

Obviously, teachers and students would have more creative and practical solutions in their minds; administrations and the government should have to listen to them and include their voices in collective decisions for safe and secure campuses in the country.https://www.dawn.com/news/1356677/extremist-minds-on-campus

September 10, 2017   No Comments

LEA arrests 7 TTP terrorists during operation in Karachi

Report in The Nation, September 09, 2017, 2:27 pm
KARACHI: 7 terrorists affiliated with banned outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) were arrested by Law Enforcement Agencies and police during joint operation.
According to reports, the LEA was given information about the presence of terrorists in mosque located in Al-Habib society.
They conducted an operation and arrested 7 terrorists.
During the operation, LEA and police have recovered cache of weapons including suicide jackets.
Raids were being conducted for the arrest of one terrorist Qari Zahid who managed to escape from scene during operation.
The LEA has shifted arrested culprits to undisclosed location for further investigation.http://nation.com.pk/national/09-Sep-2017/lea-arrests-7-ttp-terrorists-during-operation-in-karachi

September 10, 2017   No Comments

Al-Qaeda member formed Ansarul Shariah: DG Rangers Sindh

Report in The Nation, September 09, 2017, 9:29 pm
Sindh Rangers Director General (DG) Major General Mohammad Saeed said on Saturday that an Al-Qaeda member formed Ansarul Shariah.

Speaking to a news channel, Major General Saeed said that the students affiliated with Asarul Shariah did not come from any one specific university.

He said well-educated students from different academic institutes were members of the group, adding, as many as three members of the group have Masters degree in Applied Physics.

Maj Gen Saeed reiterated that no security institution including Sindh Rangers have demanded student records from Karachi University.

Major General Saeed said that as an intensive operation is underway against the militant group, the paramilitary cannot share further information about the group.

He said that as many as seven members of the group have been arrested and according to the initial investigation the militant group was limited only to Karachi.

The paramilitary chief informed that Ansarul Shariah were focused on attacking police personnel and the authorities have identified the target-killers of the group.

The paramilitary chief urged parents to keep an eye on the activities of their children as parents of the two group members had no idea of what activities their son was involved in.

He added that the teachers must take into account why students are being attracted towards radical ideas

The group has been involved in multiple terrorism incidents in Karachi and Mastung, security sources have said.

The group first made headlines in Karachi in April this year in the targeted killing of a retired army colonel.

Police officials also believe the group is behind several attacks on police officials in Karachi in the past few months and an IED blast targeting security forces in Mastung.

The outfit was not inspired by Daesh’s ideology, but instead, it was influenced by al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Initially, it did operate under Daesh’s umbrella, however, differences led to the parting of the ways later.

The group comprises of militants from Al Qaeda subcontinent, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Daesh, sources said.http://nation.com.pk/national/09-Sep-2017/al-qaeda-member-formed-ansarul-shariah-dg-rangers-sindh

September 10, 2017   No Comments

The missing debate:by I.A. Rehman in The News on Sunday (TNS) Sept 10, 2017

The author is a senior columnist and Secretary General Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).
The horrible phenomenon of enforced disappearances in Pakistan has been in public debate for more than 25 years and there is hardly any aspect of the matter that has not been discussed threadbare and from different points of view. If the demand for an end to enforced disappearances, criminalisation of the practice punishment of the perpetrators and payment of compensation to victim families has been made from various national and international forums, there have also been suggestions, though from a tiny minority, for giving the security forces powers to detain indefinitely dangerous criminals who in many cases are victims of enforced disappearance (ED).
In the present article, we will not go into the whole gamut of issues in debate and deal with only three questions: 1) Is enforced disappearance in Pakistan a post-9/11 practice or what is the nexus between 9/11 and ED?; 2) To what categories — terrorists, persons suspected of links with terrorists, political dissidents, and holders of ‘undesirable’ views on socio-cultural-linguistic issues — do the victims generally belong?; and 3) What can be done to root out the practice of ED?
The impression that Pakistan had no ED problem prior to September 11, 2001 is not correct. The country has a long history of persons being detained for months on end, without any charge and without information to family/lawyer, and ultimately killed in encounter with the police or freed after extorting ransom. Many of these persons met the international definition of victims of ED.
During the 1991-92 operations in Karachi and other Sindh cities, MQM alleged the disappearance of 28 of its workers. The complaint led to an inquiry by a Senate committee in 1996 that was able to trace only two of the ‘missing persons’; one was in a jail and the other one was lucky to be out of prison on bail.
The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (UNWGEID) has been transmitting to the government of Pakistan complaints regarding ED since 1985. Between 1985 and 2000, the group transmitted to the Pakistan government 93 cases of ED, the highest figure in any year being 46 in 1995. Thus, there is no doubt that Pakistan’s ED problem was wholly an indigenous enterprise till the 9/11 attack on New York’s World Trade Centre Towers.
However, 9/11 did have an immense impact on the ED phenomenon. The framing of draconian laws, curtailment of the due process and reckless derogation of human rights in North America and Europe emboldened Pakistan’s security apparatus to follow suit and detain for long periods persons they suspected to be terrorists or their facilitators or contacts.
Laws were amended or new ones made to extend the period of detention without trial and the victims of ED held incommunicado. The internment centres set up in and along the tribal belt for detaining suspects were apparently inspired by the Guantanamo Bay prison complex. Created under the Actions in Aid of Civil Power Regulation, these centres are supposed to hold detainees till they are tried on specific charges.
How many people have been held at these centres and for how long are details that are not in public knowledge. If a person has been detained for months and years, without trial and there is no knowing as to when his trial will begin, it is nobody’s business to ask questions.
The impact of 9/11 can also be seen in the erosion of due process in the administration of criminal justice in cases that could not be put in the category of terrorism. The creation of special and military courts and extensive resort to death penalty can be traced to the trend to justify extralegal acts as steps necessary to protect national security.
Now, who are the victims of enforced disappearance?
When the first disappearances were reported from areas other than Sindh, the authorities maintained that the persons reported missing had gone away voluntarily, most probably to join the jihad in Afghanistan. In some cases, at least this explanation was valid but after 9/11 involuntary disappearance could not be denied.
In 2002, Dr Afia Siddiqi, a notable scientist, disappeared. The fact that she was handed over to the American forces in Afghanistan was admitted by the Pakistani authorities. But this was before the policy of denying everything was adopted. Saifullah Piracha disappeared in 2004 and there was no news about his whereabouts till a letter from him was received from the Bagram military base.
What started worrying human rights organisations in 2004 and 2005 was the realisation that while some enforced disappearances were reported from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which could be linked to the Taliban activities, a sharp increase in ED had been reported from Balochistan, where a jihad enthusiast was rarely found. Although KP (NWFP then) soon surpassed Balochistan by reporting a larger number of disappearances, the latter province was a close second in cases that came up before any forum.
The three-member Commission for Enquiry into Enforced Disappearances (CEED) — the commission of retired superior court judges — that held hearings for eight months in 2010 received 203 fresh complaints of ED. Out of them, 65 were from KP and 62 from Balochistan. The commission left 138 cases pending — 55 from KP and 47 from Balochistan. While the KP situation is a bit confusing because a large number of people from that province have been rounded up for links with the Taliban, there is no such confusion about Balochistan.
That there was no link between the Afghan jihad and ED in Balochistan was apparent from the very beginning. The situation in that province deteriorated when mutilated corpses of quite a few missing persons were found lying at odd places. Most of the victims could not be described as terrorists and even if they were their extralegal execution was not justified. Many of them were political dissidents or members of nationalist student organisations. A random check of the list of the missing persons from Balochistan reveals the following victims:
Dr. Deen Muhammad — Balochistan National Movement (BNM), Zakir Majeed Baloch — Baloch Students Organisation (Azad), Abdul Ghaffar — Baloch Students Organisation (Mengal), Zahid Baloch — Baloch Students Organisation (Azad), Shabir Baloch — Baloch Students Organisation (Azad), Mi Kabeer Reki — Pakistan Muslim League-N, Aslam Shoaz Baloch — Baloch Students Organisation (Azad), Ghulam Fareed — Baloch Students Organisation (Azad), Saadullah Baloch — Balochistan National Party (Mengal), Mushtaq Ahmed Rodeni — Balochistan National Party (Mengal), and Abdul Kabeer Baloch — Balocistan National Party (Mengal).
It did not take Sindh long to start reporting disappearances in significant numbers. There, too, the list of the disappeared included political dissidents and social/cultural activists, such as the following:
Abdul Wahid Arisar — leader of Jeaay Sindh Movement and author of more than 20 books, Dr. Ghanshiam Parkash — activist of Sindh Taraqi Pasand Party, Asif Baladi — nationalist activist, writer and journalist, Raja Dahir Bhanbhro s/o Abdul Haq Bhanbhro — author of more than 20 books on language and history, Muzaffar Bhutto — activist and writer who disappeared twice and was finally found killed, Ustad Rahmoon — 75 years-old, teacher and writer, recovered after eight months, Raza Jarwar — writer, poet, Surwech Pirzado s/o well-known journalist and writer, Lutaif Peerzado — disappeared and was found killed, Asif Panhwer, student of Sindh University, remained disappeared for many months, died in an encounter alleged to be fake.
It has been established that a good number of the disappeared persons were innocent. In June this year, the present commission of enquiry decided 45 cases and 20 missing persons were reported to have returned home. Obviously, nothing to warrant criminal proceedings against them was found. They deserve to be compensated for their ordeal. But is it possible to compensate them for the trauma caused by loss of liberty, solitary confinement, torture, and separation from their dear ones?
The main reason for the state’s failure to effectively tackle the ED problem is that it looks at the whole thing from the point of view of law-enforcing agencies. It has tried only to trace the disappeared and shirked the responsibility of preventing disappearances and punishing the culprits.
The Supreme Court completed the task of identifying those largely responsible for ED. A comprehensive plan for making ED part of history was prepared by the judges’ commission of 2010. The commission called for legislation to “rein in” the intelligence services and also for measures to meet the administration’s security concerns. It also emphasised the need for paying compensation to victims’ families. Further, it urged the police to desist from concocting charges against the victims of ED after they had been handed over to them. These are eminently sound recommendations and deserve to be implemented without any delay.
A major obstacle to a campaign to end disappearances is lack of interest in listening to the UN group (UNWGEID). The group visited Pakistan in 2012 and, despite being cold-shouldered by most of the important people it wished to meet, it made a number of valuable suggestions.
It called for the inclusion of a new and autonomous crime of enforced disappearance in the Penal Code, guarantees that anyone deprived of liberty shall be kept at a fully authorised place of detention and quickly produced before a magistrate, strengthening of the Commission of enquiry (COIOED) set up on the recommendation of the CEED, training of the police and intelligence personnel, protection of witnesses and victims’ families, financial aid and compensation for victim’s families, and ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons against Enforced Disappearance.
Despite regular reminders from the working group the recommendations remain unimplemented. The UN Human Rights Committee, while discussing Pakistan report under the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, made similar recommendations.
The Pakistani authorities will do well to look at the latest UNWGEID report submitted to the Human Rights Council. According to it, Pakistan with 703 cases under intimation to the government ranks 11th in the world.
The pattern of reporting to the government is worth noticing: 93 cases were reported during 1985-2000, the number of cases intimated during 2001-2014 was 199, and the figure jumped to 253 in 2015 and 264 in 2016. The number of cases intimated this year — till May 17 — was 17.
Also worth noting is the fact that Iraq, Sri Lanka, and Argentina that have reported the largest number of enforced disappearance have recorded a huge decrease in cases over the last few years. Iraq that accounted for 16,416 cases in all reported only 37 cases during 2003-2017, and Argentina (3,241 cases in all) reported only 18 cases during 2002-2015. This is a fair indication that if the will to curb enforced disappearances is there the task is not beyond human means.

September 10, 2017   No Comments

The ‘legal’ cover: by Asad Jamal in The News on Sunday (TNS) September 10, 2017

The writer is a lawyer.
There are few problems that challenge the integrity of the Pakistani state as seriously as the enforced disappearances.
Hundreds of court proceedings post-9/11 and the information provided and data released by different (civilian) official commissions confirm that the national security institutions have adopted enforced disappearances as a long term measure for ‘national security’/counter-terrorism strategy.
Is there a way out of this huge national problem? Can a legal regime based on long term detention mainly at the hands of the executive/state security apparatus, and constitutional immunity and impunity for past disappearances, as argued by some, provide a way forward? Consider the following.
It may be relevant to mention at the outset that ‘enforced disappearance’ is a term of international law (the Pakistani law recognises no such term). It occurs when state agents or anyone acting on its behalf abduct, arrest or detain an individual followed by a refusal to disclose the person’s fate or whereabouts or acknowledge their deprivation of liberty, which places such individuals outside the protection of the law.
The periodic data released by the COIED (there are other sources of information as well) shows that the total complaints received up to August 31, 2017 stood at 4271 out of which the commission claims to have ‘disposed’ 2899 complaints. Probably, we would never be able to confirm the accurate number of persons who were forced to disappear for months and years. The outstanding complaints before COIED are put at 1372.
Enforced disappearances have been adopted as a strategic tool as opposed to a mere short term tactic. This is supported by the fact that in several legislative measures introduced at the behest of the national security institutions, the focus has been to provide ‘legal’ cover rather than prohibit and criminalise the practice as required under the constitutional framework and international law. Foremost among such legislative measures is the Actions in Aid of Civil Power Regulation 2011, the Protection of Pakistan Act 2013 which stands expired, and amendments to the constitution and the Army Act 1952 to establish military courts. The resistance to wholly abolish the Frontier Crimes Regulation 1901 may also be seen as part of the larger national security scheme.
These new instruments of oppression were enacted despite the fact that Pakistan already has a range of laws which allow for short term to long term administrative detention, preventive or otherwise, without judicial or parliamentary oversight. The foremost is the much used Security of Pakistan Act 1952. Others include the Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance 1962 and the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.
One of the main differences between the old laws and the ones introduced since 2011 is that the former didn’t grant the armed forces, including its intelligence agencies and the civil armed forces such as the Pakistan Rangers and the Frontier Corps routinely accused of enforcing disappearances, the power to detain ‘anti-national’ suspects without recourse to the police.
By all accounts, the problem of enforced disappearances had assumed immense significance by the year 2008. It was around that year that the realisation of the enormity of the issue of illegality, unconstitutionality and serious negative consequences of the practice for officers dawned upon the authorities. It was in that context that the Actions in Aid of Civil Power Regulation 2011, a presidential decree, was issued under article 247.
Article 247 is a constitutional anomaly. It makes a black hole of the tribal areas. It grants the president power to frame laws for the tribal areas; two, it ousts the jurisdiction of high courts and the Supreme Court over the tribal areas, which makes enforcement of fundamental rights through judicial means almost impossible.
If it were not for article 247, the Frontier Crimes Regulation 1901 would not exist. It was used in this context only to circumvent constitutional guarantees of freedom from arbitrary detention and the right to be informed of reasons for arrest and be defended by a legal practitioner.
Wrapped in human rights jargon, the 2011 Regulation does some significant things. For instance, it prohibits torture and provides that after gathering evidence the detained suspect may be prosecuted. But it’s a cunning piece of legislation nonetheless for the following reasons, among others. One, it provides a legal cover to the ‘actions in aid of civil power’ initiated by the federal government by calling in armed and civil armed forces in the tribal areas. (This is an Article 245 requirement) This cover is provided retrospectively since February 2008. All actions taken since then suddenly became ‘legal’. Two, it gives the armed forces the power to arrest and detain anyone for an indefinite period of time. For this purpose, the Regulation also allows the armed forces to establish and administer internment centres with civilian oversight only in word. Three, while it was ostensibly made to apply to the tribal areas only, it is so crafted that it seems to also apply to all parts of Pakistan because it allows internment of any person who may be anywhere in Pakistan and is suspected of having committed acts or has nexus with cognizable actions or suspects in the tribal areas.
As revealed in a number of court proceedings since the setting up of military courts, a large number of detainees held incommunicado, including those who were made to involuntarily disappear in previous years from various places across Pakistan, are believed to have been shifted to several internment centres established under this Regulation. A black hole within a black hole, one might say.
Despite all this, enforced disappearances even if covered under the 2011 Regulation are still likely to be taken notice of by the high courts and the Supreme Court as a host of verdicts have held. Even though the judiciary has failed to perform its duty, the threat of possible action by the courts against state agents who have perpetrated enforced disappearances remains.
It is in this context that some legal minds argue for a more ‘flexible’ long term detention regime under the control of executive authorities and a constitutional amendment to grant immunity from prosecution for full disclosure for past enforced disappearances, in the hope of prosecution of offending state agents for their future conduct. Similar proposals are also said to have been recommended by an official Task Force on Missing Persons in 2013.
Will a legal regime providing for long term detention and impunity for past conduct solve the problem? We don’t know. The figures released by the COIED (presented here in the table) show the consistency with which complaints of disappearances continue to arise round the year. One may therefore argue that if the state agents involved in such crimes had such intention, would we not see a clear sign of decline in disappearances?
Only one thing can be said with confidence: such a solution is not likely to diminish the possibility of black holes appearing in the hearts and minds of the people.

September 10, 2017   No Comments