New Age Islam Edit Bureau
December 30th, 2015
By Mohammad Ali Babakhel
Christians in Pakistan
By Abdul Hai Aryan
Could it be the world is getting better?
By Jonathan Power
By Rasul Bakhsh Rais
Fire and rain
By Mahir Ali
Mohammad Ali Babakhel
December 30th, 2015
POINT six of the National Action Plan calls for the state to choke terrorism financing. Choking funds is not possible without understanding the processes of fundraising, transfers and utilisation of funds. To ensure stern action against the facilitators and financiers of terrorism, the government recently established the National Terrorists Financing Investigation Cell. The creation of NTFIC is the practical manifestation of NAP’s point six. Without a specialised unit, financing cannot be stopped.
The government has tasked FIA, the State Bank, FBR and intelligence agencies to jointly operate NTFIC. The unit will track financial transactions between the national and international banking systems.
Such ventures cannot succeed without the active cooperation of the provinces. The new initiative has been taken in the light of capacity issues of the existing Financial Monitoring Unit and to improve information-sharing among investigation, intelligence and law-enforcement agencies.
Technology has boosted the terrorism financing.
Efforts have been made to freeze suspicious accounts. The central bank has apparently frozen Rs1 billion contained in 126 accounts linked to proscribed groups. Law-enforcement agencies also recovered Rs251.2 million being transferred through hawala.
In countries where the banking sector works in isolation from the counterterrorism apparatus, tracking terrorism financing is a gigantic task. The creation of a new unit is based on a holistic approach. However, merely setting up the NTFIC and working towards collaboration with the banking sector may not work. Financial intelligence will play a key role while cooperation between private-sector banks and the state’s investigation apparatus will also need to be effective.
Extremists primarily collect money as subscription from sympathisers and criminal activities such as extortion, gunrunning and the narcotics trade. Such groups transfer funds through the formal financial system, alternative remittance services, trade, cash, non-profit organisations and charities.
In societies such as Pakistan, where philanthropy is part of religious obligations, extremist organisations engage in charity and welfare work, collecting hefty amounts and ‘blackwashing’ such money for recruitment, propaganda and terrorist operations.
Our investigators try to connect the human links but often fail when it comes to the financiers of terrorism. Even where more is known about terrorism cases, investigators have overlooked the sources and methods of financing.
Technology and globalisation have multiplied the fundraising capabilities of radical organisations. By uploading videos of bloodshed, such organisations not only attract volunteers but also influence sympathisers to contribute financially. They often employ religious, sectarian or ethnic slogans.
Disruption of terrorism financing will affect the propaganda, recruitment and operational capabilities of proscribed organisations. Detection of links between the financiers and terrorist organisations is the only non-violent way by which the police can unearth big names.
In Muslim countries, governments often overlook the regulation of charities, including registration criteria, record-keeping, background security checks, monitoring, financial inflows and outflows etc. Consequently, militant organisations take advantage of the situation.
In fundraising, the ‘diaspora’ also plays an important role. Citizens residing overseas are easily attracted by religious or ethnic slogans. Many Tamils settled abroad (in 44 countries) generously contributed to the kitty of the separatist Tamil group, the LTTE.
During the war against the LTTE, the Sri Lankan government caused the group’s overseas funding to dry up. At its climax, the LTTE had received more than $200m per year. Pakistan also needs to ensure that funds for extremist organisations dry up. We need to improve cooperation with countries where overseas Pakistanis are settled.
To address the shortcomings related to terrorism financing, the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, was amended. However, mere amendments will not serve the purpose; it is the capacity-building of investigators that needs special attention.
In 2012, the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force — the international organisation which defines standards for anti-money laundering and combating terrorism financing — placed Pakistan on the ‘grey list’. After certain legal and procedural actions taken by the government, it was placed on the ‘white list’. Whether it is the incorporation of the resolve to choke terrorists’ funds in NAP, amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act and the ATA or the setting up of NTFIC, these are concrete steps.
The enormity of the challenge requires a legal framework, an institutional edifice, the hiring of experts and their capacity-building, institutional collaboration and bilateral arrangements with countries where the inflows originate.
Mohammad Ali Babakhel is a police officer.
Christians in Pakistan
Abdul Hai Aryan
Christians form most of the non-Muslim minority in Pakistan and account for 1.5 percent of the total population. Most Christians in Pakistan come from an ‘untouchable’ perception about their background. The 1855 census shows there were no native Christians in present day Pakistan. With the efforts of missionaries, by 1881 there were only 3,912 native Christians who had come from various religious, social, economic and urban backgrounds. The urban and heterogeneous landscape of Christianity in Punjab changed to a homogenous and rural one after a man from an ‘untouchable’ background, identified only by a single name, Ditt, converted in the village of Shahabdike in Narowal in 1873. Ditt invited others to convert to Christianity to get rid of untouchability and caste disabilities. Ditt’s caste rapidly responded to the call and the number of Christians dramatically swelled in central Punjab. The number increased from 3,912 in 1881 to 511,299 by 1941.
Approximately 95 percent of the population in Pakistan is Muslim (Sunni and Shia). Groups composing five percent of the population or less include Hindus, Christians, Parsis/Zoroastrians, and Baha’is, Sikhs, Buddhists, Ahmedis and others. According to the ministry for minorities’ affairs, Sikhs have approximately 30,000 adherents and Buddhists 20,000. According to a Parsi community centre in Karachi, the number of Parsis (Zoroastrians) dropped to 1,750 in 2010 as compared to 2,039 in June 2006. The number of Ahmedis in the country, according to the Jamaat-e-Ahmediyya, is nearly 600,000. Some tribes in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa practiced traditional animist religious beliefs and other religious groups include Kalasha, Kihals, and Jains. Less than 0.5 percent of the population, as recorded in the 1998 census, was silent on religious affiliation or claimed not to adhere to a particular religious group. Social pressure was such that few persons claimed no religious affiliation.
Historically, after partition other minorities in general while Christians in particular, were assigned occupations described as degrading and defiling, such as collecting carcasses, manually removing human excretion from lavatories, providing cheap labour in fields and executing criminals on the orders of the state. It was Tara Masih, a Christian, who carried out Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s execution in 1979 and Masih’s father hanged independence movement hero Bhagat Singh in 1931.
The Christians’ representation in sanitation work, however, is above 80 percent. World Watch Monitor data states that about 6,000 out of 7,894 sanitation workers in the Lahore Waste Management Company are Christian and 768 out of 978 workers in the Quetta Municipal Corporation are Christian. Some 824 out of 935 sanitation workers in the Peshawar Municipal Corporation are Christian. Islamabad’s Capital Development Authority has 1,500 sanitation workers and all of them are Christian. They also have a very high representation in Gilgit Baltistan (GB) province and Karachi municipal corporations in Sindh province.
Regretfully, after the partition in 1947, the land left by the Sikhs in Punjab and Sindh was distributed among Muslim migrants arriving from India while Christians living on this land were evicted leaving nearly 300,000 Christians homeless and on the verge of starvation, the consequences of which are too horrible to imagine. After being internally displaced, the only option these 300,000 Christians had was to move to cities and work as sweepers, Over the years, they migrated to metropolitan areas where they illegally settled on government land without any basic amenities giving birth to hundreds of illegal settlements.
Freedom of religion is a fundamental right that exists only on paper in Pakistan. Each year, thousands of Christians suffer at the hands of religious bigots who use blasphemy as an excuse to ruin their life. Christian girls are increasingly being forced to convert to Islam. According to Aurat Foundation’s (a Pakistani local NGO) report on July 13, 2015, around 1,000 girls are forced to convert to Islam every year in Pakistan. The victims of these forced conversions are largely girls from the Pakistani Christian and Hindu communities. Punjab province has become a hub of forced conversion. Every time a case of gross injustice is reported in the media while the victim remains without justice.
Nonetheless, on the eve of Christmas, the community in Pakistan gears up to celebrate Christmas just like millions of other Christians all over the world. A Christmas tree, which is considered a main symbol of the Christmas celebration, creates more charisma for the festivity of Christmas with its colourful decorative look. Youngsters and children become excited while waiting for Santa Claus in his vibrant outfit of red. Groups of young boys and girls prepare carols to singon Christmas day. Women at home cook delicious food for family and friends. Gifts are wrapped to share joy and exchange best wishes with loved ones. Churches are decorated with fairy lights, colourful bulbs and the traditional Christmas trees. People from the community serve foodstuff to the community on the day when the sun dawns in a country where their coming generations should be be treated as equal and reverential citizens of Pakistan.
Abdul Hai Aryan is a freelance columnist
Could it be the world is getting better?
We have much to be glum about as we come to the end of 2015, the latest is the killings of cafe sojourners and music fans in Paris. But we are brainwashed with bad news” “If it bleeds it leads.” One plane crash is worth more airtime than news that we are winning the fight against early death. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has some telling facts. Over the last two decades, infant deaths have fallen by a half, measles deaths by three-quarters and both tuberculosis and maternal deaths by a half. AIDS related illnesses have been cut by over a quarter. In 1960, one in five children died before the age of five. Today it is one in 20, and falling.
Developing countries have caught up far more quickly in health than in wealth. For instance, Vietnam has the same health as the US had in 1980 but at present the same income per head as the US had in 1920. Despite the Great Recession of the last seven years poverty has plummeted. Although most of that drop has happened in China and India it has also happened in most third world countries. Population growth is slowing. The amount of children in the world today is the most there is likely to be. As Hans Rosling of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute told the BBC: “We have entered the age of the ‘peak child’”. Education is spreading rapidly for girls. In Muslim Bangladesh, there are as many girls in school as boys. In conservative Saudi Arabia, there are more young women in university than men, and their exam results are better.
Coming up in 2016 will be more war in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan. Of that we can be sure. There will probably be another year of ‘cold peace”’ between Russia and the west unless both sides can engineer a way out of the quite unnecessary Ukrainian imbroglio and find a way to work together to pull the rug from under Islamic State (IS). The European Union might be thrown into disarray again if the British vote to leave it. The pace of action against malaria, other tropical diseases and global warming will be out of step with what is necessary.
But, on balance, 2016 could be a good year. We are outracing the four horsemen, extending the length of human life faster than pestilence, war, famine and death can take them. Anti-immigrant political rhetoric and voting may be on an upswing yet most European people have responded to the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees with a degree of unexpected equanimity.
It has long been intellectually fashionable to debunk the value of foreign aid. Yet the evidence is overwhelming that in most poor countries the great advances in medical care would not have been made without it. Take the programme to fight AIDS in Africa initiated by President George W Bush, head of a party that has long derided aid. It paid for the successful treatment of over five million people. These days, more and more of the US’ richest men are donating large sums of money out of an altruistic commitment to help the poor get on their feet, and they are finding success.
Over the decades since the end of the Cold War, war has become less frequent and less deadly. It is true that in the last few years, mainly because of Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia and Afghanistan, the number of fatalities has shown an increase after years of decrease but the world over this downward trend has continued. Today, war is limited to only one relatively small corner of the world.
MIT professor, Steven Pinker, in his 2011 book The Better Angels Of Our Nature, brought to light a treasure trove of data proving that the world has become much more peaceful. Over the last 50 years, deaths in war have fallen from an annual 300 per 100,000 people to less than one per 100,000.
One reason for this has been the fast spread of democracy and the well-proven fact that democracies do not go to war with each other. At the end of World War II there were less than 10 democracies. Now it is commonplace. According to Freedom House, which measures the ups and downs of democracy and human rights, 45 percent of the world’s people are “free” and 30 percent “partly free”. That leaves only 25 percent, which are unredeemed dictatorships. Most of that number is in China. Take China out of the equation then only quite a small number of people live under totally dictatorial regimes
The Paris bombings, IS atrocities and setbacks in Afghanistan — bad news — are important but not as important as this good news. In 2016, we need a return to perspective. Our destiny is not down.
Jonathan Power has been a foreign affairs columnist for the International Herald Tribune for 20 years and author of the much acclaimed new book, Conundrums of Humanity — the Big Foreign Policy Questions of Our Age.
By Rasul Bakhsh Rais
December 30th, 2015
Rasul Bakhsh Rais is a professor of political science at LUMS
Pakistan has a fundamental interest in stabilising Afghanistan. I believe this is our major national security interest. Every piece of practical reasoning and evidence from history of the various Afghan wars, ancient and modern, would lead to this conclusion. The debris of the two longest wars fought in this region by the great powers has badly affected Pakistani society and the national security environment. Oddly, we have been part of both the wars, playing a direct part in the first one waged by anti-Soviet Mujahideen, and indirectly in the longer 14-year war, which has yet to see a peaceful end. The complexities that led local, national and international actors to get sucked into Afghanistan left hardly any room for Pakistan to isolate itself from the events taking place in its western neighbourhood.
Afghanistan is a strategic necessity for Pakistan, more than a choice. All this is due to negative factors, such as the largest refugee population in the world living in Pakistan for the longest of periods, the inflow and outflow of militant groups, the borderless conflict zones and the deadliest of conflicts launched by two superpowers. These conflicts have had a strong, adverse impact on Pakistan. However, deciding what the best strategy is for Pakistan to end the conflict in Afghanistan is debatable — knowing well that in whatever way the conflict ends, if it ever does, Pakistan will face adverse consequences. The real problem on both sides of the ‘border’ has been the absence of empathy and statesmanship. The leaderships, installed, elected or manufactured, have neither personal standing nor any insight into the history of these peoples and cannot look beyond current events.
We are two nations — equal, separate, somewhat sovereign with multiple layers of common history, shared conflicts, interwoven tribal and ethnic communities and open borders, both for ordinary people as well as violent groups. We are physically, culturally and by any standard of common interest, very close. Yet, we are distant, distrusting of each other, and often clash on several issues. Conflict more than cooperation has shaped the history of relations between the two countries. We must understand why this is the case in order to shape a better future for the future generations of this region.
There are two simplistic explanations of why things have been so bad, one from the Pakistan side and the other from the Afghanistan side, although the list of allegations, counter-allegations, and countless episodes of conflict over the past six decades may cover hundreds of pages. Interference and intervention is the consistent accusation that Afghanistan has regularly levelled against Pakistan for the last three-and-a-half decades. Pakistan ostensibly indulged in interference in order to gain ‘strategic depth’, a very subjective construct which is hard to lend any meaning. The Pakistani side believes that the weak Afghan state has created many vulnerabilities that are easily exploited by powers adversarial to Pakistan. The weakness of the Afghan state has been used to turn Pakistan into a common threat in order to secure economic and military assistance.
On either side of the ‘border’, we can go on and on complaining, maligning and accusing each other, as is often the case when we meet Afghans and their local supporters in seminars. There is a wise, practical and rational choice in even in the worst of circumstances, but one must be cool-headed enough to know what that would be. The biggest challenge for all stakeholders, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the great powers and the world at large, is to end the war. We have all failed so far in meeting this challenge.
Afghan reconciliation must be the central objective. The four-state framework — Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the US — is a good starting point to bring an end to the decades-long conflict. However, there has to be a common interest and a shared responsibility.
Rasul Bakhsh Rais is a professor of political science at LUMS
Fire and rain
December 30th, 2015
IN the dying days of the year, nature seemed determined to put a damper on traditional festivities in various parts of the world. There have been floods in Britain and parts of Latin America, tornadoes in Texas and elsewhere in the US, and floods as well as bushfires in separate parts of Australia.
Extreme weather events are broadly linked to the phenomenon blandly known as climate change. Flat-out denialists are a diminishing breed, but even among those who reluctantly accept that the overwhelming majority of scientists are not simply making it all up as part of a vast conspiracy against neoliberal capitalism there are some holdouts against the notion that human activities have contributed to global warming.
There can be little, doubt, though, that the key disasters of the year now ending were man-made in every respect, or that there is anything vastly different in store for 2016.
The key disasters of 2015 were man-made.
Syria, naturally, stands out as a prime example in more than one respect, as a core contributor to disarray not just in the Middle East but in Europe as well. It was, after all, her unexpectedly welcoming stance on the refugee influx that presumably secured for Angela Merkel the accolade of Time magazine’s Person of the Year.
Germany was also a prime protagonist, though, in the ultimately successful tussle to thwart the popular will in Greece. There is a degree of irony in the fact that whereas Greece remains the main conduit for refugees making their hazardous way from Turkey to the European Union, many of Germany’s allies in the drawn-out battle of wills against Athens are vehemently opposed to giving involuntarily displaced Syrians, Iraqis or Afghans a second chance in life.
It is also noteworthy that the worst offenders in this category are states and territories that were components of the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact until barely a quarter of a century ago. The Hungarian regime of Viktor Orbán has been particularly vicious in its response to the influx, describing it as “looking like an army”, and the Czech Republic’s Miloš Zeman has lately added his voice to the far-right tirade by dubbing it “an organised invasion”.
Even within Germany, where Chancellor Merkel has moderately modified her open-arms response, Dresden, once a component of East Germany, is a leading source of backing for the neo-fascist Pegida movement. And in neighbouring France, in the wake of terrorist outrage in Paris, the far-right Front National firmed up its electoral support, even though its hopes of securing absolute majorities in regional elections were set back by Socialist-conservative collaboration.
Russia, meanwhile, has been unreceptive to refugees, but its unprecedented military intervention in Syria has changed the dynamics of the conflict in that country, while at the same time restoring Vladimir Putin’s status as a key player on the world stage, which had been jeopardised by the shenanigans in Ukraine.
It is significant, though, that a diplomatic process on Syria is now proceeding in parallel to military actions, although it’s far too soon to say whether it will bear tangible fruit. The year ahead will be crucial in that respect, as in so many others, ranging from the fate of the European project to the outcome of the US presidential election.
In terms of the latter, the outrageousness of Donald Trump has succeeded to some extent in veiling the perversity of most of his fellow contenders for the Republican nomination. Despite his popularity among hardcore Republicans, though, it is far from clear whether he will emerge as the candidate. On the other side of the largely imaginary fence, Hillary Clinton’s candidature is relatively more assured, even though it is not entirely inconceivable that the anti-Wall Street contender Bernie Sanders may yet spring a surprise.
As party elections go, one of the most hopeful surprises this year has been the emergence of Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of the British Labour Party. As a dedicated socialist and internationalist he inevitably faces an uphill struggle both within his party and in the broader political realm. It would be unwise to write him off just yet, though, as a prospective prime minister, notwithstanding almost universal media hostility. This month’s inconclusive Spanish elections, after all, underlined a sustained anti-austerity mood among crucial segments of the European electorate. And in Greece, Syriza won two elections this year despite overwhelming media scepticism.
The militant group that calls itself Islamic State continues, meanwhile, to dominate the global agenda. But it appears to have suffered significant setbacks lately in both Syria and Iraq, notably in its reported loss of Ramadi.
On the other hand, in Afghanistan, the Taliban have been hammering away in Helmand, and its ultimate fate will likely offer a pointer to what lies ahead. Whether Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise visit to Lahore was, in the Afghan context and others, anything more than a token gesture is among the mysteries likely to be unravelled in 2016.