The ordeal of Kashmir

Farooq Dar was tied up on a spare tyre at the front of an armoured jeep and driven through villages of Srinagar, after a severe beating. Indian soldiers claimed he had been pelting stones at their patrol and the ordeal of him, tied on a tyre, would scare off others from doing the same.

On 22 May, the Indian army announced an award for the officer who tied Dar to the jeep for ‘sustained efforts in counter-insurgency operations.’ An Indian television even called the officer a hero for using Dar as a ‘human shield.’
Now in a recent surge of events, the Indian authorities imposed a curfew across most part of the valley and suspended mobile and telephone services ito suppress widespread protests after gunning down Hizbul Mujahideen commander Sabzar Ahmad Bhat – the successor of Burhan Wani – and his 16-year-old associate.

The recent unrest in Kashmir has been of a different kind from the insurgency of 1990s and 2000s. India has made the problem quite complex by refusing to differentiate between the new type of demonstrator and the usual guerrillas. It has responded to protests with extreme violence. Last year security forces dispersed wild crowds by firing shotguns at them, blinding or killing several people. Recently, they have abstained from using such weapons, but they have revived aggressive searches of a kind not seen since the height of the Kashmir insurgency, 15 years ago.

Those who throw stones at soldiers, often in response to aggression by the army, are routinely described as ‘militants’. Indian media report, with weak evidence, that Pakistan pays protesters 500 rupees per projectile hurled.

Since when calls for independence is synonymous to violence?

With more than 500,000 security personnel deployed across Kashmir it is highly likely that the current turmoil will now prevail, for quite some time. A lot is being lost, in the paradise on earth.

But mostly, emotionally, it seems, little remains to be saved!

0530 hours
Monday 29 May 2017

The Police 'Encounters'

Yesterday, the Counter Terrorism Department in Punjab claimed that in a terrorist encounter at 1:15, they killed 10-suspected Jamaatul Ahrar terrorists, including the handler of the bomber who carried out the suicide attack at Lahore’s Mall Road.

A firefight followed, in the dark? I’m sure our Counter Terrorism Department must have ‘night-vision goggles,’ or perhaps they are simply superb marksmen — especially in the dark.

At the end of the exchange, there were 10 dead and surprisingly no survivors, injured or uninjured, from the group that attacked the police.

The most unsettling fact about this ‘encounter’ is that there hasn’t been public presentation of evidence against any of the dead as yet. These unusually common incidents of police ‘encounters’, not only in Punjab, has resulted in multiple deaths of men ‘alleged’ to be terrorists.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) report 2016, Police in Pakistan may be illegally executing hundreds of people each year in fake ‘encounter killings’. It said it was concerned that many, ‘if not most’, of the 2,108 people reported by the media to have been killed in encounters in 2015 died in circumstances that were ‘faked and did not occur in situations in which lives were at risk.’

The technique has been widely used in recent years by police and paramilitary forces battling to bring order to Karachi.  It’s shameful how some in Pakistan, often support these killings, which they say are responsible for a dramatic improvement in Karachi’s law and order situation.

This ‘extrajudicial killing’ right after a terror incidents may be an attempt by Punjab authorities to neutralise the public criticism they are facing for their failure to counter terrorists attacks: they surely are not a solution to the real problem.

The real solutions involves the authorities to take effective measures before occurance of an incident - operations against terrorists and effective surveillance. With this mockery of rule of law we are getting nowhere as a society to combat terrorists elements, in the long run. We will miserably fail.

01:30 hours
Sunday 9 April 2017

Trump’s Muslim ban

Not everyone is perturbed by President Donald Trump's executive order to place travel restrictions on the citizens of selected Muslim countries.

Islamists and extremists that have long debated against the "evils" of democracy and the US - are likely having a "told you so" moment. However, there are politicians, such as Pakistan's Imran Khan, that are looking at the silver lining of this policy if Pakistan was added to the selected countries list.

It's true that in a single blow Trump has erected a wall – that of ideology, race and religion. The sides will have to be picked and many Muslims who are not extremists or terrorists will be stranded in the middle.

A potential outcome of Trump's policy is also a slight chance that the immigration restriction would allow some of the Muslim countries, their leaders and the people to take responsibility and control of their countries, instead of plundering it and finding an escape route.

This school of thought is exactly what has been reflected by Imran Khan. In his comments he argued that he would welcome a travel ban from Trump for Pakistan as a way for the country to fix its internal governance and security problems instead of relying on the US.

Perhaps this is Trump's end goal, to shake foreign policy and politics in Washington and do things differently to get different results given that for the longest time US interaction with the Muslim world has only produced corrupt leaders and instability in the region. This could potentially benefit the Trump government and perhaps the Pakistan and US in the long run by breaking the status quo in the region and forcing a bottom-up change.

2125 hours
Tuesday 7 February 2017

Freedom of speech that hurts other people's feelings

Five liberal activists, including poet Salman Maqsood had each gone missing separately since Jan. 4.

While the disappearance has raised many discussions on popular media and human rights activist on the state of freedom of speech in Pakistan and international community, it seems some human rights commentators here confuse freedom of speech as synonym of the right to offend.

Free speech is a crucial part of democracy; but this freedom necessitates respect and responsibility. Simply because we can say something doesn’t necessarily mean that we should.

We should consider more carefully what ‘freedom of speech’ actually means in context. Despite popular belief, free speech is not absolute, even in the United States, the UK and other developed countries that are considered global champions of Freedom of Expression. The US Supreme Court has made this clear through a number of cases. The government can regulate speech in certain instances, with exceptions for circumstances like ‘fighting words,’ or incitement to imminent violent action.

In a democracy with freedom of expression, one must tolerate scorn, mockery and ridicule. Religious and cultural pluralism are core values that democracies should aspire toward. But, pluralism, according to scholars like Harvard University’s Diana Eck, goes beyond tolerating diversity to actively seeking to engage difference through mutual dialogue. This kind of pluralism is impossible if we deliberately use free speech to provoke, demean or injure others – stereotyping a certain section of society, a set of religious values or an institution.

2300 hours
Friday 20 January 2017