Category — Pak Media Comments
The writer, a former Pak diplomat, is an adjunct professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore.
Pakistan’s impoverished and peaceful Christian community has endured mob rampages, blasphemy charges, and was largely spared the ravages of suicide bombings, till last month. Suicide bombings on September 22 at Peshawar’s All-Saints Church, which is designed like a mosque to reflect inter-faith harmony, killed 83 worshippers and injured more than 125, bringing to focus how the danger minorities face in the militancy raging across Pakistan. With almost a bomb a day since Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government took over in June, the church was indeed a soft target.
Since independence in 1947 minority numbers have fallen from about a quarter of Pakistan population to 3.7%. Most Hindus and Sikhs moved to India following ethnic riots at the time of partition. Many still do. The separation of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, where Hindus formed one-fifth of the population reduced minority numbers further. Christians, who now constitute 1.6% of the population, live in a state of fear and are left to do most menial jobs.
Weakened minorities look towards the government to restore and protect their places of worship and other properties, which the land mafia continues to expropriate, abetted by state functionaries, for commercial purposes.
Forcible conversion of teenage Hindu girls and their marriage to Muslim boys is reportedly common in Sindh, where Hindus are mostly concentrated. Despite Supreme Court suo moto intervention last year, none of the girls could go back for the fear of retribution, community leaders have claimed.
Christians are routinely accused of blasphemy over minor personal disputes. Aasia Bibi’s case grabbed world headlines in 2011 following the murder of Punjab governor Salman Taseer, by his own guard, for publicly stating that the law had been abused in Aasia Bibi’s case. His murderer was sentenced to death and is a hero to a substantial number of Pakistanis.
Pakistan witnessed heart-wrenching scenes when the Hazaras, a Shi’ite sect sat in sub-zero temperatures in Quetta for four days refusing to bury 100 of their dead. Shi’ites blame the killing of nearly 400 from among them during the past two years on the banned Sunni militant group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. The Ahmediya community, excommunicated in 1974 from the pale of Islam, is the target of some of the worst attacks. Even Ahmediya graves were desecrated in Lahore last year.
While law provides for equality and protection, state machinery stands by passively as hate crimes increase against the minorities.
Minorities now expect little protection from the state. The mystery for them is not the identity of their attackers. It is answering why the Pakistani state cannot – or will not – protect them? “Pakistani Christians have to constantly look over our shoulder,” laments a Christian digital communicator who is based in Dubai.
Societal intolerance apart, the minorities face several kinds of discrimination and a worrying level of state inaction about it. School and college curricula are not tolerant towards diversity. Minorities face severely limited prospects for jobs, especially at the senior levels, and the Pakistani passport identifies a person through his/her religion.
Pakistan was created on the basis of minority rights, yet 66 years after independence minorities await the fulfillment of its founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s words that, “[religion] has nothing to do with the business of the state”. The liberals blame Jinnah’s successors for turning Pakistan into a religiously bigoted, narrow-minded state. Religion, no doubt is used to maintain hold over a largely illiterate society, thus radicalizing further.
The military, especially since General Zia ul Haq, invokes Islam instead of nationalism. No wonder the soldier is now conditioned for jihad against infidels rather than defending the state.
Pakistan’s minorities have played an exemplary role in several sectors since independence. Education, law and healthcare stand out. Several war heroes are among them.
The new (Christian) minister of ports and shipping advises his community to escape the “minority syndrome”. Deeper introspection and a little sense of history suggest that states based upon perceived religious discrimination inevitably suffer paranoia and insularity. They become polarized, turning to the extreme right. In creating this exclusivity for the majority such states exclude minorities, from the mainstream nation building efforts.
The treatment meted to minorities and smaller sects of Islam raises wider questions about Pakistan’s societal culture of intolerance and its consequences.
Paradoxically, much of Pakistan appears oblivious or has given in to the cancerous extremism that is consuming a society that seemed tolerant until the 1970s. Faith now determines identity in Pakistan.
In order to roll intolerance back Pakistani leadership seriously needs to take stock and begin anew by looking at the curriculum, its inciteful media and societal discourse that is promoting extremism, much of it against the teachings of Islam. Pakistan needs to adopt fair economic policies that provide opportunities to the youth. The state must establish rule of law without fear or favor, value human life, and provide essential services to the less privileged. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/SOU-02-151013.html
October 16, 2013 No Comments
The writer is a freelance columnist.
Had the military adventurers heeded Quaid’s words about democracy and allegiance to the constitution quoted by General Ashfaq Parvaiz Kayani while addressing the 128th passing out parade at the Pakistan Military Academy, the country would not have been where it stands now.
Casting a glance on the past mistakes, he urged the military leadership to support and strengthen democracy in the country and also impliedly advised them to owe allegiance to the elected leadership and follow their decisions. His backing of the proposed dialogue with the Taliban has removed apprehensions in certain quarters regarding any rift between the civil and military leadership will regards to dealing with the menace of terrorism in the country. Brushing aside the notion that recourse to dialogue with TTP was a sequel to failure of the military operation, by quoting successes of military operation in Swat and other tribal areas, he made it abundantly clear that the army was ready to meet any challenge and be at the beck and call of the elected leadership in case the dialogue option failed to materialize. He made it clear that future of the country was linked to democracy and constitutional rule and there could be no compromise on that. That is exactly the position taken by the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif regarding how to deal with TTP related terrorism. He wants to give dialogue a chance as first priority and remains committed to using force as a last resort.
Referring to the transition of power through ballot for the first time in the country’s history— of course made possible by a responsible conduct of the political leaders and the support of military leadership, General Kayani emphasized the need for continuation of the process of confidence-building between the state institutions which had been set into motion by this development. These words coming from the COAS are testimony to the fact that the military is all set to retreat from the civilian territory that it had encroached upon as well as to abandon its disdainful posture towards the elected representatives. This radical change in the mind-set of the military commanders and consequent harmony of thought between the civil and military leadership on challenges confronting the country, is a propitious omen for the future of democracy and constitutional rule in the country.
Now that the field has been left open for the political leadership to prove their democratic credentials and being worthy of the legacy bequeathed to them by the founding father of the nation, they must atone for their past follies and lead the nation to a truly democratic destination. There are no two opinions about the fact that our salvation lies in following the vision of the Quaid and any further deviation from this chartered course will be a recipe for disaster.
Pakistan is at the cross-roads because of the bad governance inbuilt in the colonial system that we have followed during the past more than six decades. The feudal character of our political system which breeds a culture of graft and entitlement needs to be replaced by a truly democratic and representative system. Democracy is not merely about holding elections. The prevalent system is inherently anti-people and protects the interests of the elite. This injudicious system is responsible for the unrest that we see in different parts of the country and the fissiparous tendencies that pose an existentialist threat to it. Our present system of elections on single constituency basis is injudicious and non-representative and guarantees concentration of political power in the hands of feudal lords and affluent classes. In this numbers game the parties get the secondary position and its leadership is blackmailed by the vested interests on the basis of their group strength within the party and their ability to destabilize the non-conforming governments. This culture also gives birth to detestable practices like horse trading and changing loyalties for material favours, forcing the leadership of the ruling parties to care more for saving their government than changing the political system and making the people real masters of their destiny. We have witnessed this kind of crass politics in the nineties.
People who have voted Nawaz Sharif into power and the civil society are well within their right to expect game changing measures from him, especially making a departure from the way we elect our leaders and make the system truly representative. In the May 2013 elections fought on single constituency basis, with unprecedented turnout of 55.02% the winning and ruling party obtained 32.77 % of the vote cast and only 17.41% of the total registered votes. If we look at constituency wise turnout the figure fluctuates between 84% to 11.50% and the winning candidates in certain constituencies have obtained even less than 10% of the vote cast. How can such a system be called democratic and truly representative?.
The remedy lies in switching over to the proportional representation wherein people vote for parties and not individuals, to have a really representative parliament and government. The voting should also be made compulsory. This changeover will help bring regional and nationalist parties into the political mainstream.http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/columns/16-Oct-2013/doing-things-by-halves
October 16, 2013 No Comments
The writer is a poet and author based in Islamabad.
The state of our confusionStates are as viable or unviable as their institutions hold them to be, regarded as artificial or as natural as their citizens view them to, and as successful or unsuccessful as their public servants and entrepreneurs make them. Pakistan, in its present form and shape, is viable if our civilian and military leadership sets its domestic and international priorities right. It will be seen as a natural country if it functions for all and services its citizens without prejudice. It will be successful if it offers well-being, decent living, law and order and social stability.
Things are never in black and white. No nation-state is natural, for that matter. If Bengalis, Keralites, Haryanvis, Tamils and Maharashtrians can all be Indians, then Punjabis, Baloch, Pakhtuns, Seraikis and Sindhis are far less different from each other in ethnic, linguistic and cultural terms. Every state is a project in human organisation for people sharing a certain territory. Hence, every state identity is a project identity – a political construct. Some states are aided by an uninterrupted historic process for long, some are not.
Nevertheless, state and society are posed with a challenge to create their own narrative, an ideology (whether they use the term as liberally as we use it in Pakistan or not) and agreed principles of running the affairs of both state and society. While history and tradition may well be interpreted differently by different schools of political thought, a broad ownership and a shared understanding on how to deal with the present and move forward forms the basis of success for any state and society.
While some may argue that there is an absence of a robust narrative for the Pakistani state and society, at best what we have is a completely confused narrative devoid of any sense of history – let alone having different interpretations of it – and any inkling of where to find a respectable niche for ourselves in the comity of nations, grow intellectually as a people and become prosperous as a country. Lagging far behind in every human development indicator, we somehow think we are special and the world has ganged up against us.
The nature of the Pakistani state and the public messages it conveyed over decades, particularly through curriculum and the media, has ended up creating a unique middleclass – the affluent and not-so-affluent included. Middle classes in any country are considered to be the custodians of the narrative of their state and society, progressive or otherwise. Ours is perhaps one of the most confused, schooled but illiterate. This includes all – politicians, public officials, military officers, media personnel, academics, accountants, engineers, bankers, doctors, teachers, office workers, traders, businessmen.
There is a complete theoretical clarity, even if there is limited possibility of long-term success, among those who challenge the existence of the Pakistani state and the principles upon which it was founded. Therefore, whether it is the Taliban or other extremist outfits, they can’t be blamed for changing their stance at the drop of a hat or harbouring confusion about how they view the world. They offer a narrative, a clear set of goals, an ideology on what state should look like and how society must behave, irrespective of how it will lead to the annihilation of state and society or whether we like it or not. But let us take a few examples from the present and recent past and see how our middle class and the political and social institutions it dominates stand confused and divided.
Malala Yousafzai, the brave girl from Swat who was campaigning for girls’ education at a time when hundreds of girls’ schools were being blown up in her region, survived a Taliban bullet and became their nemesis. The Taliban are clear; they want her eliminated. Malala is clear; she wants education for all children especially girls, an end to war and peace in her homeland. But while some Pakistanis think that she is a western stooge, others desperately wanted her to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Commander of his own faction of the confused brigade, the PTI chief wished Malala to win the Nobel Peace Prize on the one hand and holds the west responsible for the TTP’s war on innocent Pakistani civilians on the other. Fighting combatant soldiers who take you on and killing worshippers in a mosque or women shopping in a bazaar cannot be equated. You have to be utterly confused yourself not to find any contradiction in thinking here. Likewise, the less confused but more expedient prime minister of the country wished Malala well while both his political and media supporters questioned her and her family’s integrity. A PML-N friend argued with me that Gordon Brown, who is complicit in the war imposed on Iraq, has become an advocate of Malala’s cause and therefore her struggle is undermined.
I find this logic a little flawed coming from a PML-N enthusiast. If the chief minister of Punjab sings Habib Jalib, the revolutionary poet whose work stands for everything opposite to what the PML-N’s economic and religious ideology is about, that should have no reflection on Jalib’s poetry, thoughts and deeds. Malala is a brave but fragile young girl; her words, acts and deeds cannot be taken away from her if an international politician decides to support her. Also, just massage your memory a little bit and you would recall that it was the army itself that rescued Malala when she was in a critical condition by flying her out of Swat and initially treating her before sending her off to a UK hospital.
Going further back into memory will take us to the Lal Masjid episode. When the two brothers running the mosque and the seminary started using force and imposing regulations in the city, raided homes, shops and businesses, and occupied a children’s library, the media, affected businesses and the utterly confused civil society clamoured for action against them as they were taking the law into their own hands. The government tried to hold a dialogue with the clerics through politicians and public officials. Some self in the media took it upon themselves to help arbiter a solution and a tedious process of negotiations began.
The process failed. A military operation was undertaken. Why was a military action needed? The reason is simple. The people in the mosque and the seminary were armed and ready to put up a fight against the army. As a result of the gun battles, the army lost the commander of the operation, Lt-Col Haroon Islam. Maulana Rasheed Ghazi was killed in the crossfire after the army had stormed the mosque. Between the two, who is the martyr for Pakistanis today, Islam or Ghazi? Who represents us?
If Gen (r) Musharraf has to be tried for Ghazi’s murder, who will be tried for Lt-Col Islam’s death? How many are they and what are the names of the women and men who were killed as a result of the Lal Masjid operation? Where did they get all the weapons from? Why did they not surrender to the state? The Lal Masjid clerics were clear then and are clear now after the mosque has been restored and handed back to Maulana Aziz. There is utter confusion on the other side, though.
Lastly, Pakistanis queuing up outside the embassies and high commissions of western countries or desperately waiting in their living rooms for visas to arrive grow in size by each passing day. Why do the pious and the faithful among the middle class choose to immigrate to countries run by the profane, impious and sinful?http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-
October 16, 2013 No Comments
The writer is a retired police officer.
THE public is beginning to realise that the police force cannot deliver what it promises.
In Police for the Future, David Bayley asserts that dependence on law enforcement for crime-control exposes the police, as well as the criminal justice system, to being scapegoated. Inflated expectations lead to the loss of trust and credibility. Crime cannot be prevented exclusively through law enforcement; the police force constitutes a band-aid on cancer.
What should societies do to prevent crime? What should the police do? We cannot rely solely upon the police force to save society from crime. No single institution can do that. At the same time, we must charge the police with taking the lead in exploring what must be done. In institutional terms, that is the essence of policing.
Can this be done? I think so. Established in 1861 on the Irish Constabulary model, the police force in Pakistan has been a coercive instrument of the state, structured on a military-style force and lacking community-service qualities. Consequently, it has always been used and misused by governments both civilian and military to perpetuate their misrule and pursue ill-conceived policies that were not reflective of the societal will. Lack of public trust was the natural outcome.
Policing needs to be demilitarised. It must no longer be viewed as a war dominated by the use of force that has been devised by the senior ranks and carried out by ‘troops’ whose primary duty is obedience. It needs to be stood on its head.
In conventional policing, the assessment of needs and the development of strategies is achieved at the top, by senior command; lower echelons carry out the plans that headquarters formulate. In order for crime to be prevented effectively, the responsibility for diagnosing needs and formulating action plans must be given to frontline personnel.
Higher echelons should have a supporting role and should either deliver the necessary resources or manage the organisation in a facilitating manner. The roles of staff and line personnel must be reversed.
Four areas of policing require immediate reforms: restructure the urban police; adopt community policing; initiate problem-oriented policing; and fix the fractured police command.
Since the adoption of the Police Rules of 1934, no serious attention has been given to organisational restructuring. Policing large urban centres is based on the archaic rural- and town-policing formulae based on population and the number of cases, while 80pc of the force is constabulary performing mechanical functions.
Cities such as Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta and Islamabad require a metropolitan policing model in which the basic unit of the police has to be raised from the present-day inadequate police station to a self-contained sub-division with a responsible supervisory officer providing the following essential services under one roof: registration of first-information reports or FIRs, investigation, dealing with public complaints, supervising beat patrolling, collecting criminal intelligence and addressing community concerns.
The supervisory officer of the rank of deputy or assistant superintendent of police, well-equipped and resourced, should become the hub of policing a large city which may then be divided into four or five territorial divisions headed by superintendents or senior superintendants of the police who deal with management and resource allocation to basic units.
They should have teams of professional police officers supporting them in intelligence-based investigations and the provision of a dedicated rapid response force for raids and arrests. The divisional police commanders should then report to a senior police chief of the city. The current 80-20 junior rank to supervisory rank ratio should be 60-40.
The next area of reforms deals with community policing. Not a single police department in our country has a community policing or crime-prevention branch at the police headquarters. No strategic thinking is taking place at the command level in terms of the prevention of crime. There is no exploration of cause and effect. Fire-fighting approaches have failed.
Let us rethink the whole philosophy of community policing. The frontline of policing should be comprised of experienced and carefully selected neighbourhood or community police officers (CPOs) who assess all the security needs of areas assigned to them and determine corrective action. The CPO must be known as ‘our police officer’.
CPOs cannot reform society, but they can at least be expected to address local circumstances that lead to crime and disorder. They would be the general practitioners of policing, concentrating on consultations with people who have incipient problems and the care of victims of crime. The creation of frontline CPO officers would institutionalise preventive diagnosis and problem-solving; they must be the best and the brightest of them all.
Given the current state of lawlessness, adopting a problem-oriented approach to policing is crucial. When Rudy Giuliani, then New York mayor, took this approach, it brought down the annual murder rate from 2,000 to 600 in two years in the 1990s.
The idea is to identify a problem, create a task force comprised of police and representatives of relevant departments, and then go all out to address the issue within a time frame. Zero tolerance for even minor deviance leads to the prevention of major crimes. The certainty of punishment is more effective than the selective severity of punishment. Knee-jerk responses to crime situations always flop and reduce the credibility of the state.
A case in point is the Sindh government’s recent, failed de-weaponisation campaign. We did not examine the causes of the failure of two earlier national campaigns in the 1990s and in 2003-4. Criminals do not cough up illegal weapons as a result of media warnings. Such campaigns are part of a sustained policy, not requiring publicity and fanfare but intelligence-based vigilance and the cooperation of the community. Hence, the need for community policing based on public trust.
Finally, the current fractured command of the police has resulted in a politicised, criminalised and brutalised force that has lost the trust of the citizens. The politicians, policymakers and police commanders are equally responsible. The posting of independent, honest, brave and law-abiding police chiefs will stem the rot. Such officers need to be sought in this rudderless state.http://dawn.com/news/1049982/need-to-rethink-policing
October 16, 2013 No Comments
By Madiha Afzal in The Express Tribune, Oct 3
The writer is an Assistant Professor of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, and a Non-Resident Fellow at the Brookings Institution.
“Pakistan is playing a very effective role against terrorism and extremism in the world.” This is one of “Pakistan’s contributions towards peace-keeping in the world”, a direct quote from the new Punjab Class 10 Pakistan Studies textbook, in a chapter on Pakistan in world affairs. This statement would be greeted with incredulity in the rest of the world. It is just one example of a distorted sense of the world, and of our place in the world, that is conveyed in our textbooks.
Overall, the two Pakistan Studies textbooks for Classes 9 and 10 for 2013-14, which follow the new curriculum, present a marked improvement over the corresponding one for Sindh (which I reviewed in my op-ed on September 1). Each chapter has much more substance, detailing actual historical events rather than the repetitive, sometimes nonsensical, statements in the old Sindh textbook. That there is a full chapter on Pakistan’s place in the world is in itself an improvement.
But biases and errors remain. The view of history presented here remains one-sided, with India and Hindus consistently presented as conspiratorial and deceitful — both before the creation of Pakistan and after independence (resulting in, among other things, the break-up of Pakistan in 1971). The word ‘conspiracy’, overwhelmingly used with reference to India, is an all too frequent refrain. Pakistan and its leaders are, no surprise, always selfless, sincere and honest. As in the Sindh textbook, Bangladesh’s creation is stated to be the work of a “secret arrangement of big powers”. No wonder that Pakistanis are the world’s foremost conspiracy theorists.
Mentions of terrorism in this textbook are sparing. “Pakistan supported America in Afghan war but as a consequence Pakistan itself is facing terrorism”, and the sentence that began this op-ed, are the two mentions of terrorism. The book does not at all impart a sense of the depth of the terrorism problem Pakistan is facing today. That is a mistake. On Pakistan’s relationship with America, we hear of the “two-face” characters of America and the Europeans post-1965. Since September 11, the book states that “America has given loan of billions of dollars to Pakistan. However, it has never given aid for any big project of long-lasting economic and defence benefits to Pakistan.” No doubt USAID, and the US military and Congress would be aggrieved to hear this statement.
There is an effort to detail Pakistan’s relationship with a number of other countries, but as a series of facts — with dates of visits from one head of state to the other and regional conferences held in various capitals — which does not convey the true essence of these relationships. In a broader sense, much of the context is lost when students are not taught World History.
I recognise that it wouldn’t be realistic for textbooks (anywhere in the world) to be completely free of bias. These new Punjab textbooks use the word ‘enemy’ a lot less, and the word ‘evil’, not at all, relative to the old Sindh textbooks. But given where the country is today — when we are not sure ‘whose war’ it is that has seen 6,000 of our own citizens killed at the hands of other Pakistanis, when a Christian church massacre becomes a conspiracy to derail peace talks with a stakeholder who is a bloodthirsty animal showing no desire for peace — and given that the root of these very problems can be traced to what we have been taught, there is room for improvement.
The good news is that there is hope that such improvements can be made. In addition to the curriculum reform, the new competitive process for textbook writing by private publishers (based on the National Textbook and Learning Materials Policy of 2007) and the multi-step iterative process through which these submissions are reviewed, revised and the best of the best selected as the official textbook, are positive steps. Further iterations and suggestions for improving these new textbooks are welcomed by the new Punjab Curriculum Authority, as well as by the new publishers, who at the end of the textbooks, ask us to call in with suggestions and corrections. It is time that we — academics, parents, teachers and students — use these channels to voice our concerns. http://tribune.com.pk/story/612452/understanding-the-world-through-our-new-textbooks/
October 3, 2013 No Comments
(The writer is currently Special Assistant on Social and Economic Initiatives to the Federal Minister at the Ministry of Planning, Development & Reforms) I might be extraordinary intelligent, well read, and analytical, but would that change my life in Pakistan? Not really! Because I don’t belong to Lahore American School, Karachi Grammar School, or any other private schools that only caters to those super elites in Pakistan who can afford the price tag of expensive private education.
I belong to a ‘taat’ (floor mat) school of a small village in Balochistan, where students have to beg teachers to teach. I belong to the area that the government of Pakistan and its people have left at the hands of sardars or the military, as long as the continuous supply of gas is provided. Is it, then, fair for us studying at these schools, or perhaps fair to any of those who cannot study at elite private schools? Can we really compete for jobs, scholarships and opportunities with those studying at American and British schools in Pakistan? Never! Not until we are provided the same quality education as the elite in Pakistan get.
Back in the 1970s and 1980s, children from the elite families would at least go to the same universities as others including thd Government College, King Edward, UET etc. However, today, the children of the elite go abroad to study for higher education, some never return. Those who do return maintain their ‘distance’ from Pakistan.
The elite in Pakistan has created fortresses in the form of these private schools where an average Pakistani cannot study or interact with the elite students. And this isolation continues throughout the lives of the elite students who graduate from these schools.
Perhaps it is by design that the elite students are kept into isolation from the real Pakistan, the same way British kept the Indian nawabs and maharajas under their training, at a distance from the local Indians, so the young nawabs could view themselves as more British than Indian, and rule their own people without emotions.
Tragically, the elite mindset honed in these private schools goes beyond the schools. The elites dine at different restaurants, their hangout spots are different, and as a matter of fact, they have reduced themselves to living in a small bubble far away from the daily worries of average Pakistani people. What is more surprising, though, is how the same elite feels absolutely comfortable being a middle class in the United States or United Kingdom. Eating with the commoners, travelling on public transportation, or standing in the long queues suddenly becomes their nature.
I ask, if they can stand in queues in the western world, get body scanned by the security personnel, why can’t they replicate the same attitude here in Pakistan? Why do they get VIP protocols at the airports in Pakistan, or unchecked rides through all police check posts? Why do you show his arrogance to your own people, and exhbit submission to the west?
Not much has really changed since the partition. While the British left the country, they not only left behind their legacy in the form of nawabs and maharajas but also left the imprints of a highly Orientalist mindset: the ability of our own people to look down upon and mistrust other locals, and instead look up and serve those above us in the food chain.
The education at the elite schools has been producing such a mindset, and leaders who now run Pakistan with very little regard to the average Pakistani. Why, then, would they care about providing equal education to all? Isn’t equal education the only opportunity for middle class or lower class to rise in the ranks and compete with the elite? It is! And that is precisely why it appears that by design the rich in Pakistan have created a discriminatory education system: different education for rich, and poor low quality education for lower and middle classes to keep them in their condition forever.
To think of it, the elite of Pakistan is more closely knit together than what meets the eye. They come to people in the form of Pakistan People’s Party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf. But if you scratch a little under the political rivalries, you’ll realise that they all are the same. Their children go to same schools, clubs, and restaurants, and they inter-marry. Some of them even have family members in each political party. For most of the elite it seems there is only one rivalry: the poor middle class of Pakistan that has over the years been pushed into the poor class.
How else to explain the continuation of this discriminatory education system in Pakistan that is only benefitting the elite since past several decades? How possibly difficult it is to develop a uniform educational system of Pakistan? It isn’t. The will to do is, however, missing, and not out of ignorance but a well crafted idea that equal education will only risk the status quo of the leading power brokers of Pakistan.
Pakistan cannot grow, or overcome its current crisis without a concentrated effort on bringing uniformity to the education system of the country. Else, the rich will always get richer, and the rest will decline down below the poverty line.
October 3, 2013 No Comments
Peshawar — one of the oldest living cities on earth — is the heart of the Pashtun lands from Kandahar to Khyber and the Qissa Khwani bazar is the heart of this city. My hapless city was stabbed through its very heart when the jihadist terror struck again this past weekend, leaving at least 40 dead — 17 from one family — and scores maimed. Site of this bombing, apparently carried out through a remote-controlled device, is barely a mile from the All Saints Church where 100 Christians were martyred just days ago. It is but a few furlongs from where the lion of Peshawar, Bashir Ahmed Bilour, was slain in another bombing. The upright police officers Malik Sa’ad and Khan Raziq were martyred in a bombing not too far from this spot. Well, yet another sorrowful chapter has been added to the endless tale of blood and tears that the Qissa Khwani — the storytellers’ — bazar has been telling for years now. But as the Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa bleeds and grieves, its ruling party the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) has a different story to tell and a heinous theory to sell.
The PTI spokespersons claim that the recent string of terrorist atrocities has not been committed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). They blame unknown foreign elements for unleashing this dance of death on the Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa province to undermine the so-called peace talks that the PTI champions. They assert that there are ‘fake’ Taliban within the TTP who have been put up to this by the Afghan-US-Indo-Zionist combine. They even discard the vicious Mullah ‘FM Radio’ Fazlullah’s own admission that he ordered the hit against the martyred General Sanaullah Khan Niazi, claiming that Fazlullah is not ‘TTP proper’. PTI’s Chief Minister Pervez Khattak has blamed even the media for somehow triggering the bombings! Another absolutely rubbish idea peddled by the Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa’s Information Minister Shah Farman is that the present mayhem in that province is somehow related to the bombings that took place there in the 1970s-80s and were blamed on the nationalist and communist governments of Afghanistan then. Never mind the political context then and now and that just the recent church bombing killed more people than all explosions of the 1970-80s put together.
Not to be outdone by his lieutenants, the PTI chief Imran Khan demanded the TTP be allowed to open its office in mainland Pakistan to conduct talks. Implied in this demand is some form of immunity for at least those TTP members who would run this shop. While some in the PTI disowned Mr Khan’s outrageous demand and comparison to the Afghan Taliban’s office in Qatar — note that it was not in Kabul or Kandahar — most of his party stood by him. The PTI’s vigorous defence of the brutal and criminal TTP, absolving it of any fault, makes the PTI look like the political face of the jihadist outfit and Mr Khan its opening batsman. The original proposal to talk directly to the TTP yet again — despite its past history of signing and flouting scores of talks and agreements — is getting nowhere due to the continued jihadist terrorism. The recent All Parties Conference (APC) declaration, which had disastrously elevated the TTP to the ‘stake holder’ level, is virtually dead now. It may be time for the Pakistani state to negotiate with the PTI not the TTP.
The PTI is particularly fond of citing the British handling of the IRA insurgency as a template for talks with the TTP. The fact is that British did not directly negotiate with the IRA but with its political wing Sinn Féin. While there is nothing common between the savages of TTP and a modern nationalist IRA, in Mr Khan and the PTI, Hakeemullah Mehsud may still have found his Sinn Féin. Let the PTI make clear the nuts and bolts of what it is demanding on behalf of the TTP. The PTI leaders are already putting up a grotesque defence of the TTP’s brutalities daily; let them now serve officially as the banned outfit’s emissaries and guarantors. It would also obviate the need for a TTP office.
The fact is that the PTI is providing the TTP prized ideological and political space as well as a tremendous amount of time to hone their machetes. Mr Khan and his confidants are actually mainstreaming a savage group that rejects the Pakistani state and its constitution and anything that is modern. Mark my words, the TTP is no Provisional IRA; it will eventually go after even Mr Khan when they have no use left for him. For now he is serving them well by muddying the waters enough to delay any operation against them. The TTP has no intention to enter a meaningful dialogue, not now, not ever. If the TTP were to accept Mr Nawaz Sharif’s naively stated conditions of dropping their guns and upholding the constitution before the talks, there would be no need for talks at all — as the TTP spokesman has already pointed out. But Mr Sharif seems quite content so long as the terrorist pyres burn down the Pashtun homes while the Punjab — his home province — is safe. Using the Pashtun lands as a buffer is neither new nor a foolproof policy and Mr Sharif will discover that soon — most likely in his present term.
Both the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and PTI invoke their recent electoral mandate to deliver peace as the carte blanche to give the TTP whatever they wish. They cannot be more wrong. These parties won an election not a referendum to pawn away the Pashtun lands to whomever they wish. The APC declaration is at best a political statement, not a constitutional one. It is not worth the paper it is written on, no matter what Mr Khan says. The APC declaration’s only significance now is that Mr Khan is using it to delay or thwart any military action against the TTP. The TTP may have the guns but it is their political face — the PTI — that is holding the Pakistani state hostage. This paralysis of the state, however, is untenable and must be upended with a robust action against the terrorist TTP and its affiliates. The Pakistan army has said that it can inflict a befitting response on the terrorists. It is time perhaps to take the army up on its word. The venue to chalk out course of such action must be the parliament, where the TTP’s Sinn Féin is represented too, not another APC.http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013\10\03\story_3-10-2013_pg3_2
October 3, 2013 No Comments
The writer is an environmental engineer and a member of the PTI.
PTI and ‘immediate peace’After fighting and signing peace agreements – intermittently – for more than a decade, why are we no closer to a solution in dealing with the Pakistani Taliban? The problem lies in our national tendency for wanting immediate results of our liking.
Our short-sighted focus on immediate gains results in the formulation of plans that unravel when the consequences of our actions begin to play out. Thus, all gains made in the initial stages of military operations and peace initiatives are ultimately unravelled with the country back to a violent and bloody square one.
We are, once again, bent on making the same mistake in our approach to the latest overtures for dialogue with the militants. So strong is our expectation for immediate results; immediate overtures from the militants; immediate cessation of hostilities; immediate agreements; that the first act of violence since the unanimous resolve of the APC for talks, or the first demand for Shariah by the militants throws us back into an embarrassing state of national hysteria.
We will measure the militants’ sincerity, reasonableness, radicalism, barbarism, and ruthlessness against our unrealistic yardstick of expectations and in a few months’ time condemn them to yet another ‘decisive’ military action to ‘re-establish the writ of the state’.
However, in the true spirit of consistency, the new military operation will again be planned and executed with the sole focus of seeing immediate results. Having achieved those immediate results, there will be celebration and we will wrap ourselves in yet another warm and inviting blanket of false security. TTP and Fata, negotiations and war, will go off the radar and we will return to business as usual.
In the meanwhile, the militants, who would simply have dispersed in the face of the military onslaught, will regroup and re-establish their chain of command. Soon enough a suicide bomber would successfully penetrate into a densely populated settled area in Pakistan and blow up civilians and security and government personnel.
After a couple of attacks, politicians who were pro-dialogue and drowned into silence by the increasing intensity of the war cries will begin resurfacing saying ‘I told you so’. And so, the cycle will continue, the talk-shows will go on, politicians will continue bickering, the economy will go on plummeting, and Pakistanis will continue dying.
July 2014 will arrive, the US will pull out of Afghanistan and the Afghan Taliban will re-establish themselves as the dominant political and military force in the country. They will be the sole power in the part of Afghanistan that borders us. Imagine what that does to the bargaining power of the local militants by the time Pakistan once again comes around to the idea of pursuing dialogue.
How do we stop ourselves this time from pursuing dialogue with the militants while carrying unrealistic expectations of immediate results? The onus rests on our media and politicians. Our media carries the potential to play the most vital role in making us realise past mistakes and steer debate in a manner that forces our politicians and intelligentsia to think not only of the short-term but also the long-term consequences of our actions. They should also ensure that an in-depth debate on the topic is a regular feature of the air waves and not one that appears only in the aftermath of a gruesome bomb blast.
Among the political leadership, the PTI is in the best position to take the debate away from an emotional and reactionary quarrel. The fact that the party won the majority of seats in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on the back of its pro-dialogue stance leaves no doubt that it has a clear mandate for pursuing dialogue with the militants from the people most affected by the violence.
The PTI’s elected representatives from KP and Fata are also in the best position of playing the vital role of informing the media and the public about the reasons people in their constituencies support dialogue and oppose military operations.
Silence or confusion from the PTI, the most vociferous supporter of dialogue with the militants, by default turns the debate in favour of the pro-war camp. While matters of war and peace lie with the centre ultimately, the PTI’s elected representatives are duty-bound to their electorate to make the strongest possible case for pursuing dialogue and abandoning the tried and tested route of countless military operations. Instead of waiting for the centre or another APC to present a way forward that the PTI may end up having reservations with, it should already be actively selling its own plan to the country.
Imran’s suggestion for opening a Taliban office in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa the ensuing befuddlement among some senior PTI leaders reveals the lack of clarity within the party on the domain and range of the talks it purports. It is high time the senior PTI leadership took an active role in supporting and building on Imran’s vision for peace and reconciliation rather than playing the role of silent spectators. They should conduct internal war-game sessions and come out with a unanimously agreed and concrete proposal for talks with the militants.
The plan should be detailed enough to brief the nation about what demands to expect from the militants; how far the PTI thinks the country should go in accepting the demands and with what preconditions; what the resulting implications will be; and, most importantly, define the yardstick, timelines and milestones for measuring the success of the talks.
The PTI must not forget that more than its promises of good governance, accountability, and social and economic development it was its unambiguous anti-war stance and unyielding support to the pursuit of dialogue with the militants that won the party overwhelming electoral support in KP.
The party’s failure to aggressively put up a strong case against another round of military operations in Fata will overshadow any good legislative and economic work it does if the law and order situation in KP stays the same. Blaming the centre and pointing instead to the good work it did in other sectors will not come to the PTI’s aid and it will be left with little option but to say good-bye to a second term in KP.
October 2, 2013 No Comments
The writer is a director at a consulting firm
The fog of peaceMany narratives led to the decisions taken at the APC. These narratives have resulted in what one could call the fog of peace, since they have misguided many and created nothing but confusion.
The main narrative that has been propagated is that in the past ten years, war operations have achieved little. The reality, though, is that military operations have cleared out the majority of all Fata agencies of terrorists, except North Waziristan. These agencies had been overrun by TTP groups who were running mini-states there, terrorising the tribals in the process.
Except for North Waziristan these mini-states have been eliminated. The TTP groups are now on the run, employing hit-and-run guerrilla tactics but schools, markets and life in general are slowly returning to normal for the tribals. The army operation in Swat was extremely successful and the difference between what Swat was like pre-operation and what it is today is day and night. Again bothering to read accounts of the people of Swat – a simple Google search – would provide much clarity.
The army has managed to clear and hold most of the territory held by the terrorists up north. However, civilian follow-up in terms of administration is lacking. The focus should be on improving this rather than propagating narratives of military failure and calls for withdrawal of the military. A transition timetable for civilian takeover should be there but that still doesn’t mean that the army has to be withdrawn completely. Those areas can have army cantonments like any other part of Pakistan.
The same narrative also argues that if army operations were so successful why do suicide bombers manage to blow up schools, buses, mosques and churches? This barbarity has little to do with the success or failure of military operations and more to do with our criminal negligence in upgrading our counterterror apparatus comprising the police and intelligence agencies. We need to upgrade our counterterrorism capabilities rather than giving out misplaced and deadly drivel about the military being a failure.
And has anyone ever considered the alternative – what if the army wasn’t there? The TTP would be enjoying near-complete autonomy, giving refuge to and training militants and making life a living hell for the locals there. Has there been collateral damage? Yes. But do people prefer TTP rule instead? No.
This brings us to the following narrative: tribals in Fata support the TTP and Al-Qaeda and are against the Pakistan Army, hence talks and using jirgas will create a wedge. Are there tribals who support the TTP? Yes – as do many Pakistanis in the state apparatus, media and civil society. If the state creates, trains and proliferates such elements for many years obviously there will be a disastrous impact on our society.
But to say that the majority of the tribals have taken up arms against the army and the state is absurd. The overwhelming majority of the locals are held hostage by the TTP. Most of the tribal Maliks and elders have been systematically killed by the TTP over the last decade. So which jirgas of elders are our politicians talking about? The jirga comprising people scared to death of the TTP?
As for those who say that this is a war against the Pakhtuns, they need to think again. This is a war against extremism and our self-created monsters that have a clearly-defined agenda. All those who believe that some injustice is being done to our so called ‘gumrah’ brothers should read up on the aims and objectives of the TTP. This war requires military action but most of all better police work, better laws, better functioning of governments and courts.
The extremists are in Karachi, Punjab and all major urban centres. Fata just happens to be a part of Pakistani territory where historically the writ of the state has always been weak. The place has now become home to all kinds of militants.
Another point commonly raised is that the choice is between carpet bombing or talks. People who think this or like this are lucky that they can break down things into such simplistic terms. Rather than making this is an anti-war/pro-war debate, it would be useful to think of this as a struggle against extremism and enemies of humanity. It is also about enforcing the state’s writ.
Then there’s the ‘give peace a chance’ narrative and the notion that history began after 9/11. First off, numerous talks have been held with the militants. The government and the army have both held talks through jirgas as well. They have finalised agreements with groups, tribes, jirgas – you name it. And each of these deals has been violated by the other side. So peace has been given plenty of chances. It’s an all-out state operation that has never been given a chance except for Swat in 2009.
Many say the TTP is a response to Gen Musharraf sending in troops to Fata, becoming part of America’s war and US drone strikes. Is Fata some other country? I think not. Second, if the TTP is aggrieved with the US war how come it is attacking and killing Pakistanis and not crossing over the border to join the fight there? How come the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban are not striking at Pakistanis for the same reason? And if the TTP are international agents, why are we saying they came about in response of the drone strikes then? Finally, how can taking Pakistani lives in response to an American drone strike make sense anyway?
If we want our sovereignty to be respected we have to make sure that all those elements planning attacks against us and the world are uprooted from our territory because if we don’t someone else will. Finally this extremism was created by us. We have been on the slippery slope all our history. The must read Munir Commission Report of 1954 predicted all this. We just applied steroids to the problem in the 80s and now the monster is out of control.
We have to tackle the situation and talks at this moment of weakness and confusion will only make the militants stronger. The good news is that we have the capacity to defeat them. But our army wants the public’s support. No army can fight when its dead go unnoticed and un-honoured.
This could all be turned around in one government’s term. Whether it’s the TTP, the BLA or any other armed group, Pakistan is non-negotiable. If talks could achieve this I couldn’t be happier but since they can’t, armed rebellions have to be put down with force.
October 2, 2013 No Comments
The writer is a freelance columnist
If Pakistan is committed to fighting the war on terror, what purpose a dialogue with the Pakistani Taliban will serve is still unknown. The dialogue means that Pakistan is shying away from fighting the war on terror. However, the question is this: can Pakistan fight the war on terror?
It seems that Pakistan has divided the war on terror into two halves: the US half and the Pakistani half. The US half of the war ends the moment drone strikes launched by it eliminate al Qaeda members on the Pak-Afghan border. However, the collateral damage in the shape of liquidating their Taliban accomplices begins the Pakistani half of the war on terror.
It also seems that Pakistan has divided its part of the war on terror into two halves: the military half and the civilian half. The military half of Pakistan has been fighting the (Pakistani half of the) war on terror at least since 2004 when drone strikes started. Now, in 2013, the government of Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan, is trying to project the point that because his government has entered the national scene for the first time since 9/11, the civilian half of Pakistan is considering the case of the war on terror anew: there should be a dialogue first and a conflict later with the Pakistani Taliban. Certainly, the military half is more experienced than the civilian half of Pakistan on the war on terror. The question is, what has the military concluded so far? It is their conclusion on which the civilian half should build their strategy. It is not possible that the civilian half devises a strategy to deal with the (Pakistani half of the) war on terror not in line with the conclusions gathered by the military half.
Only one drone strike does hold the potential of sabotaging the whole process of dialogue with the Pakistani Taliban. The other conditions such as declaring a ceasefire and withdrawing troops from FATA are secondary in nature. Sharif has raised the issue of drone strikes (for its being counterproductive in nature) at the platform of the United Nations (UN), but the question is, will the US stop drone strikes? The next best question is how long will the US take to halt drone strikes? Till that time, should Pakistan keep the option of holding a dialogue with the Pakistani Taliban on hold?
From amongst the proponents of dialogue, no one knows for sure how many groups the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) comprises and how many of its splinter groups exist. It is also unclear whether the interests of the main body (TTP) and the splinter groups are one or diverse. The attack on the vehicle of Major General Sanaullah Khan was claimed by the TTP while the attack on a church in Peshawar was claimed by Jundullah, an extension of Sipah-e-Sahaba. The former attack was in the domain of the military half while the latter was in the sphere of the civilian half. The responsibility for the bomb attack on September 27 in Peshawar on a bus of civil secretariat employees was claimed by the Ansar al-Mujahideen group. It is yet to be seen which group owns the responsibility for the bomb blast that took place in Peshawar on September 29. There may be a fourth group that comes forward. Does it not mean that there may be a rivalry between various Pakistani Taliban groups vying for seeking the attention of the government to be contacted for the dialogue?
Though Imran Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) has been reviled for his statement of allowing the TTP to open an office in Pakistan, what is the way out if the dialogue process has to be materialised? The critics are right in saying that if the TTP is allowed to open an office in Pakistan, the act will be tantamount to recognising the TTP as a legitimate body vis-à-vis the state of Pakistan. Can it be asked of the TTP to control the splinter (Taliban) groups and surface as a unified body representing all the Pakistani Taliban? It is apparent that the dialogue process is clouded by several answers in the negative.
The military half might have briefed the members of the All Parties Conference (APC) held recently, on its willingness and preparedness to take on the Pakistani Taliban militarily; as is apparent, the civilian half led by Sharif is hesitant to fight the Pakistani (civilian) half of the war on terror. There are two reasons for this: first, the military half has so far failed to win the war, and second, in certain parts of Pakistan including Punjab, a kind of tacit compromise has brought peace. The military half is suffering under the perception that it is fighting against the Taliban on behalf of the US. However, the civilian half is trying its best not to let the Pakistani Taliban harbour the same perception of them too. That is, the civilian half thinks that it cannot withstand the repercussions of the perception that it is acting against the Pakistani Taliban at the behest of the US. The civilian half knows well that it does not have the necessary trained force and wherewithal to repulse the Pakistani Taliban from the civilian areas or launch counterterrorism operations. Resultantly, the civilian half is not ready to let the war spill over from the military half. The question is what the options are left with the military half, which can neither stop drone strikes nor end the war on terror?
To express one’s intention to conduct a dialogue is one thing while to actually carry it out is a different matter. If the mechanism of conducting a dialogue is not put in place, the dialogue cannot take place. The civilian half may be thinking of conducting any such dialogue in November when the winter season sets in and drone strikes abate in number.
October 2, 2013 No Comments