‘Straight to hell’ military courts

 All the parliamentary parties last week decided to set up special courts to be presided over by army officers for trying suspected terrorists. But having an independent judiciary system already rooted in the country, why do we need parallel military courts.

Article 10 of the Constitution of Pakistan provides safeguards against unlawful arrest and detention, as a fundamental right to every person. The article states that every person, who is arrested and detained in custody, shall be produced before a magistrate within a period of 24 hours of such arrest.

It's true that many terrorists that were captured in various operations by security forces and handed over to law enforcement agencies, were eventually released after being tried by civilians courts - mainly because of lack of evidences. But can this problem be solved by establishing military courts that would nearly deprive 'civilians' of their rights for a fair trial. Chances are that more innocent people would be tried and executed. 

We already have Aid of Civil Power Act 2011 enforced in the tribal areas of Pakistan that allows the armed forces to detain an accused miscreant and bars high courts from exercising any jurisdiction under Article 199. But what have we achieved so far through this legislation? Are there any concrete results?

The major problem here is the lack of capacity building of law enforcement agencies and the absence of security that should be provided to witnesses and judges in terror cases. Saleem Shahzad's case is a well-known example. When the case was handed over to law enforcement agencies, the basic forensics, like fingerprints, weren't collected from his car. We all have seen how Ahrarul Hind managed to scare off the witnesses and Anti-Terrorism Court judges in Benazir Bhutto murder trial.

Instead of devising this shortcut to make things look better on surface, a more intelligent measure would be to rectify these loopholes in the existing system? Instead of using article 245 of the Constitution to formulate a parallel justice system, why can’t the armed forces aid civil justice system by providing security to judges and witnesses under the same article.

This terrorism is not a fight against Pakistan military only; it is a fight against the state, as people who have lost their live in the hands of these terrorists are mostly local citizens. We give graphic images of those involved in targetting high profile military officers and places to papers’ front pages, to make their punishment exemplary. But we let those out of jail, who confess killing scores of Shias and are involved in the secretarial killings of nearly 4000 of the sect. 

Army enforced measures cannot be the solution for this gruesome problem of terrorism against state. To tackle this  we will have to address the root causes that give rise to terrorist-mindset. And this sure cannot be done by further curbing the rights of fair trials, on the basis of mere suspicion.

2028 hours
Monday 29 December 2014

US War on Terrorism or the war of convenience?

Today, the Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirb said that after Jan 2, US forces in Afghanistan will not target Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders unless they posed a 'direct threat to the US.' Their justification states that ‘being a member of the Taliban doesn't mean that the United States is going to prosecute operations against you for that reason alone.
Now this justification sounds pretty good for letting the most wanted terrorist go, the one who led the Taliban War on Terror, in which large scores of Pakistanis and Afghanis, Americans of course, have lost their lives.
A US Senate report issues a week ago, admitted that the CIA’s interrogation of Al Qaeda suspects was far more brutal than acknowledged and did not produce useful intelligence.  At least 119 individuals were subjected to ‘coercive interrogation techniques’, in some cases amounting to torture. The report concluded “the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information or gaining detainee cooperation. Seven of the 39 detainees known to have been subjected to the enhanced interrogations produced no intelligence while in CIA custody.
What are they doing to compensate the innocent prisoners subjected to torture, mock executions, sleep-deprivation, profanities, chaining naked, and sacrilegious attacks? Why the suffering? Why the deep-seated emotional scars? 
 And now that US doesn't have any ‘vested interests’ left to safeguard in the region, they leave out the 'Global War against Terrorism' and 'making the world safer' ideology behind. After creating an army of brutally retaliating terrorists and making it easier for them to recruit more - giving them reasons to further retaliate through such gross human rights violations, they have created a never-ending fiasco for others to deal with. How convenient is that!
1910 hours
Monday 22 December

Kot Radha and the double standards

So far, I've been trying to keep my mind off the killings at brick kiln in Lahore but have been failing.

The horrible incident is not only about the underprivileged segments of bonded labourers and minorities, it's about the sickness of attitude that makes 'beating a pregnant woman to death, along with her husband' a righteous act. And if that's not enough, the bodies were burned in the kiln.

While we do this to the ones who belong to poor social segments, without even confirming the allegations, we conveniently let those go who manipulate blasphemy law for their vested interest. We didn’t see a similar outrage for the cause when it was proven in the court of law that Khalid Jadoon, the local cleric, had burnt the pages of the Quran to put the blasphemy allegation on Rimsha Masih. Where was the army of vigilante then? Did our passion of ‘forgiveness’ emerged out of blue, because the culprit here was not some poor labourer, or minority worker, but a local imam?

When I first watched Junaid Jamshaid’s video that later landed him in trouble, I was completely taken by the amount of misogyny. In his strong convictions about the inherent flaws of women, he forgot whom he was talking about. Had it not been the blasphemy vigilantism, the video would have gone unnoticed just as all misogynist content routinely does in Pakistan.

Among this vigilante-mentality and their double standards, I don’t think any measures to curb sectarianism and radicalization can be the solution. It's true that 'what we actually need is an entire army of psychiatrists.'

2347 hours
Sunday 30 November 2014

The height of misogynistic crap

Senator Hafiz Hamdullah of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUIF) last week floated a brilliant suggestion in the Senate. He asked for a law to make it mandatory for a woman to get married if she reaches the age of 30. The senator, however, failed to mention any mandatory age for men in his ‘ultimately intellectual’ statement.

This week, at Senate, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar informed the house that over the past five years 14,583 cases of rape had been registered and 12,795 of these occurred in Punjab. A significant number of these cases involved minors with girls aged between three and eleven on the list of victims. What a gross violation of human rights!

But, again a JUI-F senator tried hushing the subject by objecting that the rape of minors should not be discussed in the house as it would bring Pakistan’s name into disrepute.

Definitely, one has to agree with this logic.

Pakistan has just been ‘honoured’ with being declared second-worst country in gender equality, in the annual Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum. The report measures the difference between Pakistani men and women in terms of access to basic facilities of health, education, economic and political empowerment.

This ‘prestigious’ repute of Pakistan can, indeed, be severely damaged by bringing up issues of gross human rights violation, such as disgustingly high number of rapes. 

The so-called laws in place to prevent such heinous crimes are obnoxiously chauvinistic against women victims. And whenever, someone tries to raise this alarming issue, so that some actions can be taken against it, some bigoted MNAs or senators would reject them in the name of honour – falsely moulding ‘religion’ for their misogynistic interests.

Discussing actions to curb rapes is dishonourable to them, but restricting only women from making their own choices, on things as personal as marriage, is a very critical issue, indeed. 

Of course, Mr. Senator, if these women are not rushed into marrying and they developed in to educated and independent citizens, wouldn't they start to challenge your misogynistic practices and thoughts?

2028 hours
Friday 31 October 2014

India and Pakistan, the inevitable enemies

The latest firing incidents at India-Pakistan Line of Control (LOC) killing 17 villagers, mostly on Pakistan side, has hyped the tension between the two neighbors once again.  The firing is being seen as one of the worst flare-ups since the 2003 ceasefire deal.

This can be threatening for the two nuclear powers, especially in context of current situation in the wider region. With withdrawal of NATO forces and most of US troops from Afghanistan this year, India and Pakistan both seem to be competing against each other for a greater influence in Afghanistan. So far, India seems to be clearly ahead of Pakistan in this struggle.

The political leadership in Afghanistan is out-rightly hostile towards Pakistan and seems to point figure at Pakistan for most of Afghanistan’s problem. While they are not entirely wrong, they seem relatively inconsiderate of the fact that Pakistan is currently struggling with its own Taliban fractions and political turmoil. And with this, the previous support to terrorists’ networks in Afghanistan, specifically in terms of providing them safe havens, has definitely ceased for some time. 

Besides, Afghanistan’s talk of re-shifting Pakistan-Afghanistan border to Durand line, is as ridiculous, as Pakistan’s demand for free plebiscite in Kashmir.

Pakistan, has also alienated, its traditional Pashtun sympathizers in Afghanistan, by playing the role of US alliance after 9/11, in exchange for security grants. These fractions of Pashtuns and Afghan Taliban are hard to be lured back now.

As a result, Pakistan has another hostile neighbour at its border.

On the other hand, Afghanistan is all praises for Indian proactiveness in achieving enhanced trade and security cooperation with Afghanistan. With the new business-friendly government in India, bigger western powers seems all out to woo Indian government to safeguard their business interests in India. This has given India an edge over Pakistan, and we see a harder stance from India on ties with Pakistan, and other relevant issues, including Kashmir. The possible alliance of western powers, India and Afghanistan is, of course, the new concerning situation for Pakistan that can result in increased pressure on Pakistan to step back on its stances, as far as its neighbours are concerned. 

This, however, cannot alienate Pakistan completely in the region, as given its strategic location, its highly 'in-demand' nuclear assets, its 'friendly' ties with China and its expertise and past record of mobilizing miscreant groups, specifically in Afghanistan, Pakistan would keep on maintaining the interests of some western powers and the rich Arab nations, even if it's for the wrong reasons.

The result will be a continuation of hostilities between India and Pakistan, further cutting-off of trade and prosperity ties. And in the terrorism-stricken, politically unstable Pakistan, and poverty-stricken India, with both countries plagued by yearly floods, this is the last thing both countries can afford.

2310 hours
Thursday 9 October

The curious case of KP text books

Recently, some ‘objectionable’ text has been omitted from the curriculum of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by the Provincial Government , succumbing to pressure of their major alliance, Jamaat-i-Islami.

Four chapters on Holy Prophet and his wives have been omitted from one of the text books, to replace them with some new chapters, namely one on Raja Ranjeet Singh and others. Some concepts like Christmas cake and the Holy Cross were introduced to kids at different places.

20% of this countries’ population consist of various minority groups. However, our text books seem to cater to the needs of Muslim students mostly. Despite a sizable population of minorities, majority of our students are not acquainted with understanding of religious rights and norms of minorities. In most of the schools, non-Muslim students have to study compulsory subject of ‘Islamiyat.’ No wonder, why are we witnessing a drastic increase in religious violence, mob attacks on minorities and forced conversions of non-Muslims. Polemic arguments with non-Muslims are common practices, at most of the workplaces and education institutions. 

With a compulsory subject of Islamiyat, can’t we not use the space in other text books to introduce some non-Muslim heroes? Or get our children acquainted with some non-Muslim practices? So that our next generation doesn’t look their non-Muslim Pakistani brothers with contempt, and are able to respect them as any citizen of Pakistan should be respected - with equal rights to practice their religious norms and take pride in them.

The second thing, that I found quite shocking, was the omission of pictures of minor girls without head scarves from text books. Do we need to remind these maulvis that head scarves are not compulsory in Islam for minor girls? Which version of Islam are they following really? For they seem more to resonate with centuries’ old ‘pashtoonwali’ and conservatism of FATA region, instead of religion. 

How can a political party, that doesn’t even enjoy the full mandate of Pashtuns of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, enforce their self righteous, conservative traditions on the other less conservative sections of society?

2245 hours
Saturday 27 September

The cost of containers

As some Federal Ministers and media are repeatedly reinforcing that the country economy has suffered a loss of over 550 billion because of ongoing sit-ins. While KSE-100 index isn’t doing too bad, crossing 30,000-benchmark this Friday, the dollar appreciated to 103 in Pakistan. This is a great loss, a poor economy like Pakistan surely can't afford that. 

But what is costing that much to economy? Is it really the security measures and related hindrances to business as usual caused by a gathering of 10,000 to 15,000 at nights, confined to the red zone only, which reduces to only a few hundreds in the daylight?

Obviously, there is more to it! The sheer inefficiency of the present government to deal with the current crises.

The cost of security forces called in to the capital alone had been estimated at over PKR 350 million by the start of this month. One may ask why they need to deploy a police force of 30,000-40,000 to keep a mob of 10,000-15,000 under control. In case of clashes, we have seen how the police force, despite being outnumbered and equipped with shells and rubber bullets, fails to control the mob. While Army had to be called in when the mob occupy PTV building, and a handful of army personnels easily (and more efficiently) get the building evacuated within minutes.  

Schools are now reopened, but they remained shut for a couple weeks with children losing valuable learning time. The reason behind shutting schools, wasn't security concerns, I fear. The police forces called in from Punjab and AJK have been using the government schools’ premises for accommodation, as we learnt. 

We saw some offices and businesses being closed for several days, again on the grounds of security concerns. The Interior Minister repeatedly quoted serious terrorists threats, specifically intelligence of an explosives-loaded vehicle likely to enter the city. Therefore, as Chaudhry Nisar said, the entry points to Islamabad and red zone are sealed and narrowed with containers to make thorough checks of vehicle entering in. 

I happen to work in one of the offices inside red zone. It’s pretty difficult to see the containers narrowing the roads and making sense of the reasoning behind this move. 

Thousands of cars queue up every morning to pass among these containers, while most of them stand unguarded. Even if one or two police officers happen to stand at the check posts at these containers, they don't check vehicles, or even looking at them as they pass by.  What are these containers doing on the roads then?

I fear there must be more to this story.   

It’s easier to hide behind the political turmoil, to put out of sight the present government’s inefficiency on the economic front. The government has set ambitious economic targets for the current financial year and many of these cannot be achieved.

IMF and other international financial institutions that were somehow ready to deal with the government have, for the time being, taken a back seat and are waiting for a resolution of the dispute. 

Protesters seem to have given them a good excuse.

2322 hours
Saturday 13 September 2014

Social media fanatism for and against Khan?

The trends on social media often inform us a lot about the thinking of Pakistan’s relatively educated and young lot.  It tells us what concerns our people.

What I have observed so far, is quite hard to contemplate for me. The most viral posts on social media in Pakistan are religious, conspiracy theories or regarding one political party, PTI!

There are probably over a thousand things that are currently going wrong in this country, from corruption to failure of true democratic process, economy, security, and law and order. 

Our people are very much used to of being treated like craps by authorities and political leaders that with various injustices being done and being robbed of their civil rights every other day, doesn’t seem to surprise them much. All these things don’t make them speak out or condemn these things on social platforms! 

It seems, however, that every move Imran Khan makes, people give so much damn about it! - Whether in support of him, or against him.

I can understand supporters of Khan making zealous comments about his political moves; they are his supporters, right? But what is with his critics?

I don’t understand why they feel compelled to go out of the way to criticize or counter comment Khan and his supporters - Especially, when they remain mum on the face of political leaders, who are commonly known for treating Pakistan and its people like crap since ages. 

Wastage of eight billion of development budget being spent on pointless Metro Bus Islamabad project is, doesn’t get as much criticism as does Khan’s sleep-break, as he leaves its workers on streets for the night. 

If nothing else, I see PTI very successful in their contribution to democratic process. The true beauty of democracy is that it allows every single voice, no matter how insane and immature, to speak out for its opinions. And democracies around the world are best nourished, under the pressure of strong oppositions.

2306 hours
Sunday 17 August 2014

The police brutality

We all saw the disturbing scenes of police brutality in Lahore Model Town incident a week ago, where Punjab police mercilessly baton charged, even at apparently helpless protesters. There were some reports of point-blank shooting at protesters that resulted in 14 deaths and around 80 injured.

Though I don’t really buy the stance of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), but in a democratic setup, people have the right to protest for whatever they deem their cause is. The use of violence of this sort from any law enforcement agency is unacceptable. This is a gross violation of civilian rights.

Police personnel are public servants. They are supposed to serve the common man and protect their civilian rights. Police in Pakistan, however, seems to go the other way around. A common man is the one who suffers the most in their hands. They are known to be the most corrupt, inefficient, and a highly politicised institution in Pakistan.  If any injustice is being done to a common man, it’s nearly impossible to report it without a bribe, provided one is not putting fingers at some power group or anyone influential. Also, common men are often the ones, who are the first ones to be abused, tortured, looted, accused or even punished without trials, often in baseless cases, to succumb to vested interests of influential people. And our police not only facilitate these injustices, in some cases they are the perpetrators.

Punjab police is the worst. Terrible incidences of rapes, mob attacks and police tortures are surfacing in Punjab particularly, in the recent years. In most of these cases, police has either being mum, or have been facilitating these injustices.

This facet of police is not specific to Pakistan only and can be seen widely in the entire sub-continent. The roots of which can be traced back to colonial times. Back then, British established such police norms as their tool to control the multicultural Indians - who were always at row, either with their foreign occupants or among themselves, on the basis of ethnicity, castes or religion. Maintaining law and order of course was their only concern, instead of protecting civil rights of common Indians. But shamefully, even after independence, our bureaucratic set up is still sticking to colonial system.  The British lords are only replaced with local feudal lords. 

Anatol Lieven quotes in ‘Pakistan, A Hard Country:'

‘In 2009 I was sitting in the office of the inspector-general of police in one of Pakistan’s provinces, when a call came through from the province’s Chief Minister –who was roaring so loudly that I could hear him through the receiver from several feet away. He was complaining that a superintendent of police had arrested a bandit leader at the rural mansion of his parties’ provincial deputies. The unfortunate inspector had to promise an inquiry, the dacoit’s immediate release and the immediate transfer of the offending police officer to another province. And this Chief Minister, by the way, has a personal reputation for efficiency, hard work and relative honesty. A senior officer in Punjab told me that around half of the 648 station house officers in the province are chosen by local politician through influence on the Punjab government, to serve their local interests.'

66 years ago, Muhammad Ali Jinnah had rightly envisages this problem that’s crippling Pakistan’s society to date, and its future consequences. Only if we could heed Jinnah, he truly was a visionary leader.  He said in his famous speech to civil officers in Peshawar in April 1948:

‘You should never be influenced by any political pressure, by any political party or any individual politician. Start with that determination and enthusiasm – and I hope the other side will also realize what a terrible evil they are raising up and how it demoralizes the services to try and influence this department or that departments, this office or that officer-and if you stick to your determination you will have done a great service to your nation. Putting pressure on service people is, I know, a very common fault of politicians and those with influence in political parties, but I hope you will now, from today, resolve and determine to act according to the humble advice I am giving you.’

0023 hours
Friday 1 August

Minorities, you don’t have a choice but to quit Pakistan!

The recent incident of mob attack on an Ahmadi community, and torching of their houses in Gujranwala, has again given out a clear message to minorities of this country, ‘Pakistan is NOT a country for you.’

I am sorry, but it's clear that your religion is NOT your personal matter. It is the matter for all of us to interfere in, as and when we feel necessary or find a chance.

All you minorities out there, it seems you don’t have rights to practice your religion or sect either. If you did that, you should better get ready for an army of preachers deliberately enforcing a religious polemic argument on you. No matter how patriotic you feel for Pakistan, you will always stay an American, or Zionist agent. 

What else did you expect from so called torch bearers of Islam in this 'Islamic Republic of Paak-istan?

The Ahmadis in this country are 'heretics,' and hence they are declared as bound to be murdered, regardless of Pakistan’s law and constitution.

Attack on a Hindu temple
Taliban have already given warnings to 'heretics' of Chitral valley to either convert to Islam or face death.

A couple of months ago, three Hindu temples were desecrated in Mirpurkhas . Idols of Hindu deities were smashed with a hammer. Earlier in the year, in Larkana, a mob looted a temple before setting it ablaze. And all this started with a Hindu allegedly or mistakenly putting some old pages of a text book of Islamyat to fire, among other papers.

After the gross attack on Peshawar Church last year, Taliban made it quite clear that the attacks were exactly according to Sharia.It’s hard to understand which version of Sharia they are practising.

Even, the sizable Shia community faces the same fate as other minorities do. So far in Pakistan more than 10,000 Shias have been killed, in direct sectarian attacks only. In Parachinar valley more than 4000 Shias are killed. People are pulled down from buses, their identity cards are checked for Shia names and they are mercilessly massacred.

The bombing on Hazara community in Balochistan, and their subsequent protest with refusal to burry dead bodies of their relatives, were some chilling events that can't be forgotten.

Whatever happened to the teachings of tolerance by our Holy Prophet, but we surely have been failing as ‘Islamic Republic of Paak-istan.’

I’m sorry, but this is no country for you minorities. You should better leave.

2004 hours
Thursday 31 August 2014

'Boycott of Jewish or American products?' Doesn't make sense!

I feel unable to understand all those posts on social media, sharing extremely graphic pictures of Palestinian killings in Gaza, and compelling people to boycott products of multinationals whose owners happen to be either a Jew or American. Somebody, ask them for my sake, what’s the damn link?

Israel is a territory and Judaism is a religion. If a member of a particular religion commits an offence, should all men of that religion bear the consequences? If your answer is yes, then you should not outrage at fanatics across the world labelling all Muslims as terrorists – belonging to Al-Qaeeda and Taliban.

Don’t get me wrong, my heart bleeds too at the atrocities committed at Palestine, specifically with civilians, innocent kids and women. But the turmoil and rampant bloodshed right at my home doesn’t let conflicts far off occupy me.

49,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives in the terrorists’ attacks by Islamic militants since 9/11 - as opposed to 24,000 Palestinian casualties in various conflicts with Israel since First Intifada of 1987. Most of these people killed in my country were innocent civilians – scores of women and children as well. The saddest part is that I never see such an overwhelming response on social media on any of these killings. No appeals are made to people to eradicate the menace of terrorism from our own country.

Last year, in the deadly terrorist attack on All Saint Church, Peshawar, 127 people were killed, and 250 were injured. Thank God Christians all around the world showed tolerance instead of boycotting all Muslims businesses and products.

The multinationals, most of these campaigns sought to boycott, must be owned by some Jew, but they are also source of income for millions of people across the world, including Muslims and Pakistanis.

The most ridiculous of all these social media appeals are the ones made to Pakistan Army and General Raheel Sharif for sending Pakistani troops to combat Israel. The appeals say that an ‘honorable man like General Sharif and an honourable institution like Pakistan Army should jump in to save Muslim Ummah.’

Given Pakistan’s jurisdiction and its status at international level, the simple minded people behind such a comical appeal clearly didn’t understand that never in history, Pakistan Army or any of Pakistan’s governments, stood only for causes that concerned ‘Muslim Ummah’ - unless of course our vested interests also coincided with a given cause.

Such appealers should also know Pakistan Army itself has been involved in killing of 25,000 civilian Palestinian in the Jordanian army attacks in September 1970 – commonly referred in history as Black September. Writer Tariq Ali in his book ‘The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity’ describes how Pakistan’s own ‘Mard-e-Mujahid’ General Zia-ul-Haq, then Brigadier and head of a Pakistani training mission to Jordan, played a key role in planning the offensives. The attacks were thoroughly supported by Pakistan Army.

So, my appeal to all these social media campaigners,

 'Please stop this nonsense!'

0240 hours
Thursday 24 July