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Pakistan does not need more thieves, harassers or mobs – its police officers are doing the job for them

by Shakir Lakhani in The Express Tribune blogs, September 24th, 2017.
The writer is a, former visiting lecturer at NED Engineering College
Recently, I came across a news article about senior police officers breaking down the door of a house in Rawalpindi to arrest a murder suspect.

The house they raided belonged to the cousin of the man suspected of having committed said murder. In addition, when these upright gentlemen did not find the man they were looking for, they decided to take with them cash and jewellery, worth at least a million rupees, which belonged to the owner of the house.

Naturally, the poor victim immediately went to the nearest police station to file an FIR (without which the police cannot investigate a crime) against these officers. However, as usual, the police refused to register his case against their own, and the man went from pillar to post for two months before they finally agreed to file an FIR.

Now let us take a closer look at what exactly happened. The robbery mentioned above took place in Rawalpindi, which is in Punjab. What is ironic is that the Punjab chief minister has reportedly transformed the Punjab police force into a highly professional organisation. Therefore, it is even more surprising that police officers within the ranks of Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) and Station House Officer (SHO) calmly looted the house, as if they knew they would not be caught or held accountable.

Of course, it is rare for police officers to be punished or penalised for their misdeeds. Even when they beat up women, their superiors do not take any action against them. Recently, I came across another video entailing a woman being beaten up by male police officers in Gujranwala.

Apparently, the cops believed no eyebrows would be raised and they would not be punished for manhandling a woman like that. In fact, they behaved in a manner that the police would normally behave in, as if they were above the law. However, the sad part is that they are not wrong – they are above the law and we see that every day.

If they were held accountable, senior police officers would have taken them to task, but no, why would they? They depend upon the lowly constables to do their dirty work and share their illegally earned loot.

I remember a time when police officers were honest and efficient in doing their jobs. Even the low-ranked constables and havaldars (sergeants) were highly respected and many young boys dreamed of becoming police officers after graduation. In fact, I knew a civil engineer who resigned from his job, joined the police, and retired as an Inspector General (IG). Apparently, he gave up on a highly lucrative job in the private sector, just to enjoy the perks and privileges available to police officers.

Gradually with time, the police have become very corrupt. In Karachi, most police officers are appointed not because they are qualified for the jobs, but because they have either paid a lot of money to get employed, or they happen to be relatives of influential feudal lords or people higher up.

Numerous police officers are also activists of the ruling political party and use their resources and power to gather support.

After getting a job, they resort to bribery since they cannot maintain their lavish lifestyles with the salaries that they get. They also have to keep paying the right people to remain posted in Karachi otherwise, they are sent to other smaller districts. In a few years, they get so rich that they are able to buy plots and bungalows in posh housing societies, like the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) in Karachi. And because they have the right people on their side, they know that they cannot be sacked and so they continue their nefarious activities until they retire.

There was once an SHO in Karachi who owned a car show room on the ground floor of a residential building. One day, there was a dispute between his clerk and a couple of residents on the upper floors of the same building. The clerk was injured in a fistfight, and the incensed police officer immediately got cases registered against seven residents of that building. Mentioning the names of the seven people accused in the FIR was to ensure that there would be no bail for them, as the charge against them was ‘rioting and hooliganism’. It took them a week to placate the powerful SHO. Furthermore, the SHO got his clerk to state in court that there had been six people who had attacked him, instead of the previous seven. Such are the powers of an ordinary SHO in Karachi (who had probably paid a fortune to get posted to the metropolitan city).

If you are a resident of Karachi, you know that whenever someone is robbed in the city (even if the amount is in millions), they will never go to the police. A few years ago, dacoits barged into a relative’s bungalow, stayed in the house for two hours (having tea and biscuits and joking) and finally took off with about Rs15 million in cash, prize bonds and jewellery. Judging by their confidence and attitude, my relative was sure that the robbers were either serving or were former police officers. Even though I tried hard to persuade him to report the matter to the police, he refused.

“Going to the cops will only mean more harassment for me and my children,” he said.

I knew a factory owner who was recently kidnapped. The kidnappers relieved him of whatever cash he had on him, and then he managed to escape after a few hours. He reported the matter to the police and it only added to his troubles. For the next few days, the cops would call him at odd hours, mostly after midnight, to ask him questions about his ordeal. Finally, he managed to find someone who knew a very senior police officer and he ordered the SHO to end the harassment.

That is the reason why ordinary and decent folks are scared to call the cops whenever a crime takes place. Twenty-five years ago, I was the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a salt manufacturing company on the coast of Karachi. Heroin addicts would routinely steal wires and cables from there, which would end up in factories that made electrical items.

My fellow directors and I never reported these thefts to the cops because we knew that they would never be able to catch the thieves in the dead of night. Furthermore, the place was mostly deserted at night and the locals were even convinced that it was haunted by evil spirits. However, one day, the heroin addicts went too far. They broke open the door of the electric meter room of our company and took away electric meters, transformers and equipment worth around half a million rupees (in today’s money). K-Electric (KE), formerly known as Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC), said we had to get a case registered with the police or we would be charged with theft.

My fellow directors begged me not to go to the cops, saying, “The cops will torture and even kill you if you go to them!”

Nevertheless, since I had no choice, I did go into the police station and ‘persuaded’ the officer to register the complaint. When I came out of the station and returned to the salt works, my business partners were astounded to see that I was safe and sound. And mind you, they were not your common Pakistanis, they were millionaires back in the day (when a litre of petrol cost less than a rupee). Therefore, if such people were so scared of the cops, you can well imagine how a poor labourer or peasant would feel at the mere sight of a police constable.

So, will we ever have honest police officers in Pakistan? Swift justice is the answer. Until and unless justice is done and seen to be done, we shall always have corrupt police officers. Those who committed the recent robbery in Rawalpindi, for instance, should have been terminated and given lashes in public as the police even had proof in the form of CCTV footage.

This kind of punishment will ensure that all police officers turn into law-abiding citizens themselves. But I doubt that the government will have enough courage to even try to reform the police departments in the country. This is because they need a corrupt police force to enrich themselves. As long as our politicians continue to use the police for their own nefarious deeds, it will be a long time before all our cops turn into law-abiding and god-fearing citizens of the country.https://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/57383/pakistan-does-not-need-more-thieves-harassers-or-mobs-its-police-officers-are-doing-the-job-for-them/

September 24, 2017   No Comments

Mainstreaming of terror outfits: There are no signs that groups like JuD, LeT and JeM have been disarmed

by Marvi Sirmed in Daily Times, September 24th 2017.
The writer is a staff member
The recent by-election in Lahore’s National Assembly constituency NA 120 has ignited an important debate about the counter violent extremism, radicalisation and terrorism in the country. For many, the candidates fielded by Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) linked Milli Muslim League (MML) and Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), led by Barelvi extremists was alarming.

But there is a far greater number of ‘experts’ and commentators, belonging to even the liberal quarters supporting it as the best strategy to ‘eliminate’ terrorism by allowing them in the political and social mainstream if they renounce violence.

The proponents of ‘mainstreaming’ are quoting Northern Ireland’s IRA/Sinn Fein duo and a more recent process in Afghanistan wherein a former militant warlord Gulbadin Hekmatyar was allowed to join politics. The narrative, howsoever it seems appealing, is thoroughly misleading to say the least. Talking about the Afghan process, it was led by the political leadership of that country with transparency and openness to the extent that several drafts of the ‘peace agreement’ were signed with the militant group, the text of which appeared in media and was commented upon by a range of commentators, before finally declaring the group ‘former militants’.

Also, Afghanistan’s scenario is absolutely sui generis, with a history of warlordism, which was so intertwined with the political fabric of the country that it still is quite difficult to completely isolate warlords from their tribal areas of political influence. Almost the entire parliament comprises these former (or current) warlords. In this backdrop, it is a sensible approach to bring the rogue warlords to the folds of legitimate political activity, to prevent them from joining or to isolate them from their existing alliances with domestic militants and terrorists actively engaged in crimes against Afghan people and state.

Coming to the Northern Ireland process, ever since this successful peace process it is pretty common in the world of counter terrorism to try applying the lessons learnt during this textbook case of negotiating with the terrorists. In 2012, Jeffrey Donaldson and Denis Haughey, two prominent Irish politicians flew to Afghanistan to offer advice to Hamid Karzai’s government to help kick-start a formal process of peace talks with the Taliban. Donaldson was in the Ulster Unionists’ negotiating team in 1998 for the famous Good Friday Agreement, while Haughey led the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) team in the Brooke-Mayhew Talks and later the talks which led to the Good Friday Agreement. Although the Irish and the Afghan insurgencies has altogether different ideological shades, with the former demanding the right to self determination and the latter committing acts of terrorism on Afghan people in order to impose their rule and their own version of religion. Yet there were some applicable lessons from the Irish experience that Afghanistan could employ in dealing with its own domestic militants.

The Northern Ireland peace process, however, is starkly different from what happened in NA 120 recently or has been happening generally in Pakistan despite military operation Zarb-e-Azb and the National Action Plan (NAP). The peace process followed in Northern Ireland was stretched over various years and culminated in the complete disarmament of the insurgency and its leader’s mainstreaming into the political process. The process was completely transparent wherein various agreements were achieved and announced, but not before briefing the parliament thereon. One could cite speeches by John Major and later by Tony Blair to the parliament briefing on the process.

In case of JuD, all of it might not be applicable or even comparable. Sinn Fein was political face of Irish Republican Army, an underground organisation with domestic agenda that disarmed and surrendered weapons to be accepted as legitimate actor in political process. The groups like JuD, LeT and JeM are already quasi-state supported and there is no sign they have been disarmed. Secondly, these groups have been carrying out violent activities outside Pakistan. This will certainly affect our image internationally.

Since they are not protagonists in a civil war, their international targets and victims have to accept their demobilisation. Otherwise, Pakistan’s international isolation would exacerbate.

More importantly, these groups will inject xenophobia and extremist views in the body politic if given free hand in politics. They’ll propagate their xenophobic ideology to masses who are already ripe to fall for the trap. If it happens, the state would gradually lose its agency to change the policy if it wants to change it in future. The recent example being the anti conversion law that Sindh’s provincial assembly passed. After strong opposition led by JuD and other groups, the provincial government decided to let go of a law made by the elected representatives.

The optics of such an opaque ‘mainstreaming’ of these terrorist organisations won’t go down well with the world. Whosoever is propagating the image of us as a terror-supporting nation, would be dancing to see all this because this gives them enough meat to continue with their hoopla.

The question, then arises, how else to deal with these Frankenstein monsters? The answer is simple; the state should immediately stop all kinds of ideological or logistic support to these groups. If there is a process of negotiations, parliament must be requested for input and buy-in. Once the disarmament is achieved, it must be properly announced with evidence of arms decommissioning, so that the entire world knows what these groups are committing themselves to. A carefully devised de-radicalisation framework should be developed for these groups before allowing them any political activity. For a specific period, all activity by these groups must be watched by a specially designated Commission to ensure they don’t eulogise their militant achievements and glorify their violent methods and objectives. We have to have guarantees in place to ensure that while mainstreaming the violent extremists, we are not mainstreaming extremism. http://dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/24-Sep-17/mainstreaming-of-terror-outfits

September 24, 2017   No Comments

In Pakistan, once-fringe Islamist radicals are making their way into mainstream politics

by Pamela Constable in The Washington Post, Sept 23, 2017
ISLAMABAD — One candidate was from a banned group, its leader under house arrest for past ties to armed militants. The other was from a movement built around the cult of an assassin and the belief that blasphemers against Islam deserve death.

Few people noticed the campaign posters pasted in many run-down alleys that featured these obscure, bearded figures and religious messages. Instead, the nation was waiting to see which of two mainstream political parties would win a crucial parliamentary election in Lahore this past Sunday.

But when the final results were announced, the two hard-line Muslim candidates had placed third and fourth in a race with numerous other contenders, winning 11 percent of the vote. It was a stunning debut for two Islamist groups that had shunned electoral politics but built devoted public followings, inspired by figures who used violence in the name of defending their faith.

It was also a sign that such groups, long considered to be at the fringes of Pakistani society, are making unprecedented inroads into the mainstream life of an impoverished, fast-growing country of 207 million. More than 90 percent of Pakistanis are Muslim, and many have felt increasingly frustrated by a lack of opportunities and justice under multiple leaders from the wealthy elite.

A shrine honoring Mumtaz Qadri in Bhara Kahu, Pakistan, in February. Qadri was put to death last year for killing a governor. (Pamela Constable /The Washington Post)
This development coincides with new accusations from the Trump administration that Pakistan is giving shelter to anti-Afghan militants and “agents of chaos,” which it has denied. The emerging religious groups have no connection with Afghanistan, but they have condoned violence against Hindu-led India or to support the honor of Islam.

The timing is also significant because the Lahore contest was seen as a prelude to national elections scheduled for next year. The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N and the opposition Pakistan Justice Movement came in first and second, respectively. But the two fringe religious campaigns did well with just a fraction of the publicity and effort, and with literally no prior political experience.

“The resurgence of the religious ultraright in politics ought to be a matter of concern for state and society,” the editors of Dawn, Pakistan’s leading daily paper, wrote Wednesday, noting that both candidates ran as independents at the last minute after their parties had problems registering.

“Testing by stealth the viability of mainstreaming militant groups is unacceptable,” they wrote. “The two radical campaigns bode ill for next year’s general election.”

Pakistan has several Islam-based parties, some of which are anti-West and pro-sharia but have been participating in the democratic electoral system for years. None has ever won a significant role in power, except from 2002 to 2008, when a coalition of religious groups governed the conservative northwest province now called Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Until now, though, extreme parties mostly have built support through mosques and religious appeal. Some have changed their names, added front groups, embraced popular causes and carried out charity work to soften their image. Some have benefited from selective government tolerance and appeasement, even when accused of terrorism by Pakistani or international officials.

The party that backed candidate Sheikh Yacoob in the Sept. 17 race was the latest of many offshoots of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a radical anti-India militia accused of masterminding a terrorist siege in Mumbai in 2008. After that, it rebranded itself as Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a religious teaching institute, and founded a separate charity to provide disaster relief. A month ago, it established its first political party, the National Muslim League.

But the central figure behind all these groups remains Hafiz Saeed, 68, the fiery cleric who founded Lashkar in 1987 and has been a relentless crusader against alleged Indian abuses of Muslims in Kashmir, a contested border region. The popularity of that cause — and of Saeed — has made Pakistani authorities reluctant to imprison him or fully enforce their own ban on his organizations.

“People love Hafiz Saeed, and we see him as a hero,” Yacoob, 46, a Saudi-trained Islamic scholar, said in an interview during his campaign, which featured the benign party symbol of a power-saving lightbulb. He said he found “a lot of silent support” for Saeed when going door-to-door, and he dismissed accusations of Saeed’s role in the Mumbai siege as “all Indian propaganda. It was never proved in court.”

Other groups with extreme creeds have appealed to Pakistanis who are not connected to Islamist militancy but who feel a deepening attachment to Islam and view it as under attack — whether from the West, domestic secular forces or muscular Hindu leadership in next-door India.

This is the case with the Movement in Service to the Messenger of God, the anti-blasphemy group on the Sept. 17 ballot. It arose in 2010, when a Christian peasant woman was sentenced to death for blasphemy and the Punjab provincial governor, Salman Taseer, suggested that the harsh anti-blasphemy laws needed to be revised. Mumtaz Qadri, one of Taseer’s guards, shot him dead out of religious conviction. Last year he was hanged for murder, but to some Pakistanis he has become a cult figure.

“Ours is a long struggle for the respect of the prophet and for those who gave their lives for him,” said Allama Khadim Rizvi, the movement’s founder. He said the group already is making plans to participate in next year’s national elections. “If we win, we will serve the people and struggle to establish Islamic rule in this country, based on Islamic justice for all,” he said.

The Lahore results also have triggered a renewed debate on the sensitive subject of how state authorities, especially security and intelligence agencies, treat various banned or extremist groups. The issue already is raising official hackles and disputes here because of the Trump administration’s accusations that Pakistan is providing sanctuary for anti-Afghan militant groups.

Both the anti-blasphemy and pro-Kashmir movements have been unofficially tolerated because of their public popularity, and Pakistan’s intelligence agency has long been reported to abet Lashkar-e-Taiba in its various incarnations. Saeed has been repeatedly placed under house arrest, then allowed to return to his fiery pulpit in Lahore on Fridays. The activities of Qadri’s devotees have been watched carefully but left alone.

Some analysts suggest it is better to allow such groups to join the political process, assuming it will de-radicalize them. Others say it is a dangerous mistake, because it will legitimize extreme views and stir up sectarian fights. A new chance to test these theories will come in just one month; since Yacoob’s candicacy did so well in Lahore, an official of the Saeed-led group Jamaat-ud-Dawa has now registered to compete as an independent in another parliamentary race in the northwest city of Peshawar on Oct. 26.

“By participating in the electoral process, these outfits are trying to spread their influence in society. This is alarming, because it means that sectarianism and friction will increase,” said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a political analyst in Lahore. “They cannot win elections and come to power. There is no planned effort to bring them into the mainstream. They can only cause problems, because their agendas haven’t changed. They just want to control more and more segments of society.”https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/in-pakistan-once-fringe-islamist-radicals-are-making-their-way-into-mainstream-politics/2017/09/23/81cec5bc-9d38-11e7-b2a7-bc70b6f98089_story.html?utm_term=.0e962dde7820

September 24, 2017   No Comments

Decline of some groups means rise of others : op-ed

by Dr Raza Khan in The Express Tribune, Septe 23, 2017.
The writer is a political, economy and security analyst and a governance and public policy practitioner:
In Pakistan, the role of Muslim religious and sectarian political parties has always been important. These parties and groups have been representing the ultra-conservative sections of society and appealing to votes of this stratum of society. However, none of these parties have ever been able to win a majority in any national election. Only in the 2002 elections, an alliance of these parties known as the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal had won around 50 National Assembly seats and attained a majority in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) province. Despite being unable to win national elections or a substantial number of seats of National Assembly and provincial assemblies, religious parties have been getting a noticeable number of votes in each electoral constituency.

For quite some time, religious and sectarian parties in Pakistan have been grappling with multiple challenges. This is despite the fact that the two larger Muslim religious political groups, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan (JIP) are still part of the federal government of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the K-P government of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. But by and large, these outfits are beset with troubles and facing strife. These range from organisational problems to incompatibility of their narrative and arguments with the values and discourse of the postmodernist age, which have also attracted a lot of people in Pakistani society and affected our political culture. Like elsewhere, Muslim religious parties in Pakistan have had based their politics on ideologies and grand or meta narratives which are no more relevant in the postmodernist age. Rather we are living in the post-ideological age where issues, identities and personalities are more relevant than ideologies or a grand discourse. The present situation of Muslim political groups can be analysed within that context. Here we have an interesting example of the recently held election in the National Assembly constituency (NA-120) of Lahore.

A key dimension of the NA-120 election was the humiliating defeat of the JIP. The party only polled around 500 votes. The JIP has always had a sizable vote bank in Lahore, a key metropolis of Pakistan. The party has been getting more than 5,000 to 10,000 votes in most constituencies of Lahore and even won some of them in the 2002 national elections. The September 17th result of NA-120 must have come as a big blow to the party. So the demagogic antics of JIP head Sirajul Haq have resulted in the decline of the party instead of rejuvenating it. The JIP, although a coalition partner of PTI in the K-P government, has been refusing to support the latter in elections elsewhere in Pakistan. The JIP has gained a lot from its uneasy alliance with the PTI but its strategy has failed in K-P — at least politically. This is because of the incompatibility of the party’s politics with the spirit of the times. Similar is the case of the JUI-F. The ‘perfect society’ which these parties promise to their followers and people at large can never be created, forcing the people to disbelieve their arguments. Even the leaderships of these outfits themselves know that such a perfect society cannot be created. Consequently, leaders of these parties have been more after power and perks.

Another important aspect of the NA-120 election has been the impressive showing by two independent candidates who were backed by purely sectarian parties. The one belonging to that got around 6,000 votes, while Hafiz Saeed-led Milli Muslim League (MML), the political face of the Jamaatud Dawa, bagged more than 4,000 votes. The MML represents the Ahle Hadith school of thought. The impressive vote tally of these Muslim sectarian groups could be seen in the light of political values of our time in which identities and issues are of prime importance. These parties got so many votes because their supporters are more concerned about their sectarian identities and issues.

September 23, 2017   No Comments

Inspired by ‘blasphemy killer’, new Islamist party eyes 2018 vote

Reuters report in The Nation, Sept 20, 2017 at 10:23 pm
The head of a new Islamist party that lionizes the killer of a provincial governor said it would take its rallying cry of “death to blasphemers” to next year’s general election, after its surprisingly strong showing in a recent vote.

The Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan party, which won more than 7,000 votes at a weekend by-election, was born out of a protest movement supporting Mumtaz Qadri, a bodyguard of the governor of Punjab who gunned down his boss in 2011 over his call to reform strict blasphemy laws.

Supporters of Tehreek-e-Labaik waved photos of Qadri, who became an icon for Muslim hardliners after his execution last year, at campaign rallies in Lahore, where it won six per cent of the vote in a contest for the seat vacated by ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

“He is a hero,” party leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi said when asked about Qadri, adding that after its third-place finish in Sunday’s by-election it would focus on next year’s poll. “Our preparation starts from today. We will contest bravely.”

While the party has almost no chance of gaining power next year, it is part of a new crop of political movements that espouse stricter Islamic rule as a remedy to corruption accusations and squabbling among Pakistan’s three main parties.

A stronger showing for Islamists could give them more influence after the election, expected to be hard-fought after the Supreme Court barred Sharif from holding office.

In an interview with Reuters, Rizvi outlined his vision of governance according to the Barelvi branch of Islam, of which he is a prominent cleric.

Frequently citing Quranic verses and Pakistani history, he said his party could solve corruption problems “in a day” through stricter adherence to sharia, or Islamic law.

“Sharia will have to be enforced. No one should be worried about it,” he said, sitting in the upper room of a Lahore mosque surrounded by followers, many who had adopted Qadri’s signature look of long hair and kohl-lined eyes.

He acknowledged his vision would mean some changes to daily life, giving the example of barring women from working as airline flight attendants.

Death to blasphemers

In its party platform, Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan calls for free education, free healthcare and social justice.

But it is best known for its public and passionate support for Mumtaz Qadri – campaign rallies featured posters with Qadri’s photo – and its insistence that Muslim-majority Pakistan’s blasphemy laws should remain among the world’s harshest.

Dozens of people convicted of blasphemy are currently on death row and at least 65 Pakistanis have been murdered over blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to the Centre for Research and Security Studies.

One of the highest-profile killings was of Punjab Governor Taseer, who had called for the laws to be re-examined after a minority Christian woman was sentenced to death for blasphemy.

After his arrest over the killing, bodyguard Qadri drew a slew of admirers among Islamists who showered him with rose petal at court hearings. Tens of thousands thronged his funeral last year to condemn Sharif’s government for his hanging.

Tehreek-e-Labaik spokesman Ejaz Ashrafi said the party started out as The Movement to Free Mumtaz Qadri, but changed its name and entered politics after his execution.

Asked about Qadri’s role as an inspiration to the party, leader Rizvi said: “He is a hero until doomsday. He is a hero beyond doomsday.”

Asked if any Muslim has the obligation to kill a blasphemer, Rizvi said: “No … there is a law. Hand him over to that.”

But Qadri, he added, was justified because Pakistani police had failed to charge Taseer with blasphemy for criticising the law.

Votes for Islamists

Tehreek-e-Labaik surprised many by its relatively strong showing in the Lahore by-election to fill the parliamentary seat left vacant when the Supreme Court ousted Nawaz Sharif over unreported income, in a case initiated by opposition figure Imran Khan.

The seat was won, as expected, by Sharif’s wife, Kulsoom, but the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party’s share of the vote in the NA-120 constituency was cut to 49.3 per cent from 61 per cent in a 2013 election.

Imran Khan, a former cricket star, saw his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party increase its share to 37.6 per cent from 35 per cent in the last vote.

But much of the PML-N’s margin loss came from votes cast for candidates of new Islamist parties.

In addition to Tehreek-e-Labaik, a newly declared party linked to Hafiz Saeed, named by the United States and India as the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, won about five per cent of the Lahore vote.

Religious parties have never gained more than a few seats in Pakistan’s parliament because they tend to appeal to one particular sect or a single issue, such as blasphemy.

Still, a surge of support for the ultra-religious parties could drain away votes from mainstream groups and potentially give Islamists leverage in policy-making.

Tehreek-e-Labaik’s Rizvi said his only goal was to see a stricter vision of Islam enshrined in the law of the land.

“We want to bring the religion of Islam to the throne,” he said.http://nation.com.pk/national/20-Sep-2017/inspired-by-blasphemy-killer-new-islamist-party-eyes-2018-vote

September 21, 2017   No Comments

NAP ‘lacks’ civil-military ownership: by Faizan Ali Warraich in The Nation, Sept 21, 2017

by Faizan Ali Warraich in The Nation, Sept 21, 2017
LAHORE – The 20-point National Action Plan, which is aimed at curbing militancy in the province, lacks civilian and military ownership.

NAP implementation is going at snail’s pace due to a lack of inter-provincial coordination and this has made the National Counterterrorism Authority virtually ineffective.

This was stated by speakers at a workshop organised by the PILDAT on the 20-point National Action Plan for the Punjab Assembly Standing Committee on Home Affairs at a hotel on Wednesday.

Speaking to the session, Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Home Affairs Makhdum Syed Masood Alam stated that a number of laws relating to counterterrorism had been passed with the efforts of the committee, but the committee did not have the authority to call its own meetings and hold the government departments accountable. This severely limited its ability to undertake oversight of NAP. He said there was no extremist content in syllabus being taught in Punjab schools.

Mujeeb-ur-Rahman Shami pointed out that across the world it was parliamentary committees who are responsible for oversight and review of executive action. He stated that media coverage of their meetings could have a positive impact and enhance confidence in elected representatives. He said it was a matter of concern that now ruling PML-N workers were being picked up. “It is a worrisome situation in Punjab and it needs to be addressed,” Shami said.

PILDAT President Ahmed Bilal Mehboob stated that periodic progress reports based on factual data should be issued by provincial and federal governments and parliamentary committees should take responsibility for oversight in this matter.

The National Action Plan serves as the landmark consensus blueprint for combating terrorism and violent extremism in Pakistan.

“The purpose of this initiative is to highlight the need for the Parliament and provincial assemblies, especially Punjab Assembly, to take an active role in periodic review of the progress on NAP, and hold the government and all relevant institutions accountable,” he said.

Columnist Rauf Tahir said that NAP had become a “joke”. In the recently held NA-120 by-election two jihadi parties ran their election campaigns without changing their narrative. He said that NAP should be taken serious but authorities were not showing the concern on it.

Former interior secretary Tasneem Noorani said that military and civilian ownership of NAP was being seen nowhere. “If authorities concerned will ask and peruse the progress work on NAP, the implementing officers will not pay attention to it,” Noorani said.

Punjab Assembly Parliamentary Secretary for Home Rana Muhammad Afzal said that Pakistan had paid a heavy price in the War on Terror, but its achievements had not been recognised.

PML-N MPA Chaudhry Laal Hussain said that parliamentarians were unable to perform their legislative and oversight duties because they have to deal with day-to-day issues in their constituencies. He stated that empowering local bodies will be very beneficial.

Senior Secretary of Punjab Assembly Rai Mumtaz Hussain Babar said that a lack of authority for the standing committees to hold meetings on their own was a major hurdle.

September 21, 2017   No Comments

Civil Military Cooperation: edit in The Nation, September 20, 2017

The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Qamar Bajwa, on Monday had a meeting with the Defense Committee of the Senate. Addressing the rumours regarding army’s involvement in the panama case and the general concerns over the security situation, and the civil military tensions; the COAS reinforced the fact that army as an institution completely and wholly supports democratic principles.They want to establish good ties with the civilian set up to improve the security lapses in the country.He also emphasized the fact that the army and he personally, are answerable to the parliament, and would always be willing to come to the Senate to answer questions and queries.There are very positive and welcome overtures from the military, which need to be followed up by actions that reinforce this stance.Politicians and interest groups have been trying to pit the government and the military against each other for a while now and efforts have redoubled following the US announcement of an increase Afghanistan deployment and its response.In the face of such efforts both the military and the government need to work together to dispel this notion – not only to preserve internal stability but also to present a united front to the international community.

While such statements go a long way to publically silence speculation, they must be matched by polices and visible cooperation from the civilian side too.The new cabinet has been making all the right noises on the issue of terrorism.The Foreign Minister is speaking candidly of putting our ‘house in order”, the Interior Minister is detailing new polices and now the Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, has supported the statements made by Khawaja Asif.However, action – direct measurable action – is still missing.If the military is truly willing to work with the government and listen to its concerns, and the government has sorted out its stance on the terrorism issue, then actionable policies shouldn’t be far behind.
We have recently witnessed how success is inevitable when the two institutions combine. The army and the government were very vigilant when it came to ensuring not only the success of the PSL final but also the World XI series.This is the precedent that should be set.Especially that in order to rid Pakistan of extremism we need to put our own house in order.http://nation.com.pk/editorials/20-Sep-2017/civil-military-cooperation

September 20, 2017   No Comments

Senators suspicious of military role in Fata’s future

by Kalbe Ali in Dawn, September 20th, 2017
ISLAMABAD: Upon being told that the Rawaj Act, recently approved by the cabinet and laid before the National Assembly, would be withdrawn, lawmakers from the upper house expressed concerns that the development package meant for the tribal areas would be handed over to the military.

“We are withdrawing the Rewaj Act due to opposition from lawmakers, yet I am hopeful that Fata will be merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) before five years,” Minister for States and Frontier Regions retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch told the Senate’s Committee of the Whole on Tuesday.

Chaired by Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani, the body was also informed that the immediate merger of Fata with KP would have serious consequences for the people of the tribal areas, due to the bad law and order situation in some areas. The minister also admitted that transitory permits and levying of tax by the political agent were illegal activities.

Senators from various parties expressed concerns over the appointment of a military officer as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) to look after Fata reforms, as well as the decision to extend the jurisdiction of the Islamabad High Court to Fata instead of the Peshawar High Court.

For Awami National Party (ANP) Senator Ilyas Bilour, the move displayed the government’s ill-intent, saying that it seemed there would be no merger or mainstreaming of Fata in future.

Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Farhatullah Babar also opposed the creation of the COO position.

“It is a ploy to appoint a serving general at a later stage. Contracts worth billions will then go to Frontier Works Organisation and National Logistics Cell without bids, as the locus of power shifts from Islamabad to Rawalpindi and the area is further militarised,” he said, warning that the black hole of Fata would only deepen.

On March 2, 2017, the cabinet had decided to extend the jurisdiction of the Peshawar High Court to the tribal areas. “But in an unexplained somersault, the government has now decided to extend the jurisdiction of IHC to tribal areas without taking into account the problems it will cause to litigants from far-off areas such as Bajaur and Waziristan,” he said.

PPP Senator Sherry Rehman criticised the rampant corruption and injustice that had become prevalent in the tribal areas.

The chairman, while recognising the sacrifices of the armed forces in the war against terrorism, said that their role was to defend the country, while governance in the tribal areas was the prerogative of the Fata Secretariat.

However, Mr Baloch said that the Senate might compile its recommendations, which would be placed before the National Committee on Implementation of Fata Reforms, headed by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

The minister also claimed that there was no proposal to appoint a serving military officer as COO in Fata. However, he said, it would be unfair to exclude the armed forces from the rebuilding phase. https://www.dawn.com/news/1358816/senators-suspicious-of-military-role-in-fatas-future

September 20, 2017   No Comments

PPP lawmaker, 17 others booked for beating up army personnel

by Imtiaz Ali in Dawn, September 20th, 2017
KARACHI: Darakshan police, on the complaint of an army Hawaldar, registered a case on Tuesday against PPP lawmaker Tariq Masood Arain and his over a dozen guards and armed men on charges of attempted murder and others as the lawmaker’s guards allegedly subjected the army squad protecting the family of the Karachi Corps Commander to beating.

“The FIR (485/2017) has been registered on the complaint of Army Hawaldar, Fahimullah Jan, a resident of 5 Corps Headquarters, Karachi,” said a senior police officer who wished not to be named.

The case has been registered under sections 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 147 (punishment for rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapons), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 337 (Shajjah: whoever causes on the head or face of any person, any hurt), 324 (attempt to commit qatl-i-amd) and 34 (common intention) of Pakistan Penal Code.

According to the FIR obtained by Dawn, the complainant, Hawaldar Fahimullah Jan, stated that he, along with sepoys Arif, Ali Jan and driver Mohammed Altaf on official duty to protect the family of the Karachi Corps Commander, when reached Khayaban-i-Mujahid at around 2250 hours (10.50pm), one car in which four men were travelling appeared there and stormed into the army VIP squad.

The complainant and other staff were ordered by their senior army officers to check the vehicle and its people. When the army squad asked the vehicle driver to stop, he did not stop the vehicle and a chase began and finally the army squad intercepted the car near Saba Avenue Crossing.

The occupants of the car were asked to furnish their CNICs, but those travelling in the car did not produce their ID cards. In the meantime, two youths, who were later identified as Moon and Asad, made a telephone contact with a person named Tariq who immediately sent two four-wheelers in which 15 to 18 armed men carrying SMGs arrived there, according to the FIR. One person, identified as Manzoor, later arrived along with the gunmen in a Land Cruiser and started beating up the army squad personnel and gave threats of dire consequences to the army personnel. In the meantime, their accomplice, identified as Jehangir, also arrived along with other accomplices and started beating sepoys Arif, Ali Jan and the complainant.

“Their accomplices Moon, Asad and others also beat and injured us and we had to get ourselves treated at the JPMC where a medico-legal report was also prepared,” the complainant said in the FIR.https://www.dawn.com/news/1358824/ppp-lawmaker-17-others-booked-for-beating-up-army-personnel

September 20, 2017   No Comments

Zardari seeks death for Musharraf, others in Benazir murder case appeal:

by Faisal Kamal Pasha in The News, Sept 19, 2017
RAWALPINDI: Former presi and Co-chairman PPP Asif Ali Zardari has filed three different appeals at Lahore High Court (LHC), Rawalpindi Bench, against the August 31 judgment of an Anti Terrorism Court (ATC) in the Benazir Bhutto murder case.

Zardari has challenged the separation of trial against Pervez Musharraf on the basis mentioned by the court that he is an absconder, acquittal of five accused in this case and for awarding maximum punishment to the police officers Saud Aziz and Khurram Shehzad of death sentence.

In the case of Pervez Musharraf, the petitioner Zardari has prayed to the court to set aside the order dated May 8, 2017 and judgment dated August 31 of ATC. Trial of Pervez Musharraf may be completed, concluded under Section 19(10) of ATA and he may be awarded exemplary punishment on all charges in accordance with law.

About the five acquitted accused, Zardari has appealed to the LHC to set aside the August 31 judgment and trial of the five may be entrusted to the ATC once again and they may be awarded death sentences.

He prayed their non-bailable arrest warrants may be issued and they be kept under judicial custody. About Saud Aziz and Khurram Shehzad Zardari, he prayed to the LHC to set aside the ATC judgment and they may be awarded maximum punishment of death sentence.

In the appeals, Zardari said that General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, DIG Saud Aziz and SSP Khurram Shehzad cannot escape the gallows on the grounds of this case. Petitioner Zardri has nominated Rafaqat Hussain, Hasnain Gul, Sher Zaman, Rasheed Ahmed, Syed Saud Aziz, Khurram Shehzad, Pervez Musharraf and the state as respondents.

An LHC Rawalpindi Bench consisting Justice Muhammad Tariq Abbasi and Justice Habib Ullah Amir will hear in these appeals on September 21. Zardari has filed these appeals through his counsels former chairman Senate, Syed Nayyer Bukhari and Sardar Latif Khosa, advocates.

As per appeals, the judgment of the anti terrorism court is perverse, wholly artificial, shocking, ridiculous, fanciful and based on misreading or non-reading of the evidence and has resulted in grave miscarriage of justice.

Appeals say that Pervez Musharraf had issued threats to Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto because Musharraf found Ms Bhutto the greatest threat to his rule. Benazir Bhutto was murdered due to a conspiracy. On October 18, 2007 when she came under attack, she wrote an email to Mark Siegel explaining to him that Musharraf issued threats to her and she was also not allowed to keep private security. She also wrote in the same email that if anything happens to her, Musharraf will be responsible.

According to the appeal, former prime minister Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was murdered due to a conspiracy following which an FIR No 471/2007 was registered under sections 302, 324, 435, 436, 120(b), 119, 201, 109/34 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) while 4/5 of Explosive Substance Act and section 7 of anti terrorism act (ATA) at the City police station of Rawalpindi where the complainant is inspector Kashif Riaz.

That initially investigation was conducted by the Punjab Police when Rafaqat Hussain and Hasnain Gull were arrested on February 7, 2008 where they made judicial confessions on February 13. Eitzaz Shah was arrested on January 21, 2008 and he made judicial confession on February 16, 2008. Rasheed Ahmed accused was arrested on February 14, 2008 and he confessed his crime February 15, 2008.

As per appeals, all the accused confessed to their crimes and incriminating material was also recovered from them. Scotland Yard in its report dated February 8, 2008 opined that Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto died of severe head injury due to a bomb blast while the United Nations Commission in its report said that “The Commission is persuaded that the Rawalpindi police chief, CPO Saud Aziz, did not act independently of higher authorities, either in the decision to hose down the crime scene or to impede the post-mortem examination.

The government press conference concluded by Brigadier Cheema on December 28, 2007, the day after the assassination, was ordered by General Musharraf,” thus pointing fingers toward the gubernatorial dictator.

That the investigation into this case was subsequently entrusted to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and high powered JITs probed the matter. As per appeal, the FIA indentified 15 accused guilty of conspiracy. Out of accused persons Baitullah Mehsood, Ubaid-ur-Rehman, Nadir alias Qari Ismail, Nasraullah Ahmed and Abdullah Saddam were killed in drone attacks or in self defence when attacked by the security forces.

Faiz Muhammad and Ikramullah were declared proclaimed offenders, Eitzaz Shahder juvenile justice system while Syed Pervez Musharraf absconded and his trial was segregated too.

Remaining 7 accused were tried at the anti terrorism court of Rawalpindi. Appellant Zardari said that the United Nation Commission had pointed toward powerful in the government at that time. In ATC judgment that report has been ignored, but FIA in its report have unfurled the truth and found Pervez Musharraf and other accused guilty.

Zardari also expressed his apprehensions that the post-mortem was also not conducted on the behest of Musharraf. Appellant said that there was enough evidence and material available against the accused persons whom ATC acquitted through its August 31, judgment. Appellant alleged that former City Police Officer (CPO) Rawalpindi Saud Aziz and Senior Superintendent Police (SSP) Khurram Shehzad were privy to the entire conspiracy of eliminating Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and they are responsible for the whole gory incident. Meanwhile JIT also held Saud Aziz and Khurram Shehzad responsible for the destruction of evidence from the crime scene.

Separate to this matter, the two convicted police officers Saud Aziz and Khurram Shehzad has moved the LHC seeking bails after arrest. An LHC bench will hear this matter today on Tuesday. The two officers were convicted with 17 years imprisonment and one million fine each in Benazir Bhutto murder case.https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/230941-Zardari-seeks-death-for-Musharraf-others-in-Benazir-murder-case-appeal

September 19, 2017   No Comments