By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
21 February 2017
After Terror, A Parade Of Foolishness
By Mosharraf Zaidi
How To Strike At The Root Of Terror
By Saleem Safi
Turkey’s IS Test
By Karamatullah K. Ghori
Pak-Afghan Cooperation Policy
By Ammara Farooq Malik
By Shahid M Amin
Consensus On FATA-KP Merger
By Mohammad Jamil
Pak-German Ties On An Upward Trajectory
By Hassan Khan
No More Military Courts
By Reema Omer
So That The Jokes Won’t Fall Flat
By Jawed Naqvi
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
After Terror, A Parade Of Foolishness
By Mosharraf Zaidi
February 21, 2017
A parade of foolishness has followed the atrocity at Sehwan Sharif. It is a colourful melee of all kinds of unfounded, emotive and irresponsible attitudes and approaches to the serious and lethal challenges Pakistanis must contend with. Let’s examine some of the egregiousness.
Top billing in this parade belongs to the ‘seal the border’ and ‘punish the Afghans’ narrative. This is being propagated by the same people whose predecessors once trained the Afghan Taliban in the art of governance. Those dark arts produced stadium lashings of women, the blowing up of Buddha statues in Bamiyan and choosing an embrace of Bin Laden over evading an American invasion after September 11, 2001.
Somehow, we are supposed to simply trust the same system of intellectual and operational efficiency that helped manufacture three dictatorships, multiple wars, the fiasco of Kargil, a dysfunctional relationship with all our neighbours, and a systemic dependency on one or the other superpower. Just trust the army and the intelligence community! What an unmitigated disaster this line of thinking has been already.
Afghanistan is a hot mess with a dysfunctional government, and large swathes of its territory either under the authority of insurgents (the Afghan Taliban) or of terrorists (Daesh) or under foreign occupation (the US). They lay the blame for this dysfunction on Pakistan’s consistent refusal to hand over a bunch of people they believe are behind the instability in Afghanistan and who happen to live in Pakistan. Let’s leave aside whether Pakistan is right or wrong about anything (it is often right, actually). And let’s leave aside whether India is behind the sourness of Pak-Afghan relations (it absolutely is). Let’s just focus on the current notion that the root of terror in Pakistan today is Afghanistan and that the solution to this problem are sealed borders, and sealed hearts: a distrust of and contempt for Afghanistan.
Whether we complain about the kalashnikov and heroin culture, or about Latifullah Mehsud, Fazlullah and other anti-Pakistan terrorists being cultivated in Afghanistan by the nexus of Indian and Afghan handlers, we must remember what this approach actually represents. Essentially, we are saying that Pakistan has had to kneel before the spectre of goons and thugs from Afghanistan with heroin in one hand, AK-47s in the other, and suicide jackets tied to their chests.
The big bulking, future regional superpower with a killer stock exchange, a robust democracy, the world’s bravest soldiers, and the only country to beat back the terror threat as well as it has. Ladies and gentlemen: Mighty Pakistan! Vanquished by teenage suicide bombers from Kunar and Nuristan?
Now, let’s get real. On the one hand, Afghanistan barely has the agency to manage Kabul, while on the other it must identify and take out anti-Pakistan elements on the farthest reaches of its soil? Since we know it can’t, should we do it for them? We could – but why make a big show of it? What are we trying to communicate, and to whom? It doesn’t seem like this has been thought through. It feels like we are lashing out because we want to use the Afghanistan card to avoid a more urgent and serious conversation about what’s going on inside the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Here we have a country that has already demonstrated a unique and unprecedented capacity to deal with adversity. No Muslim majority country has the diversity or tolerance or freedoms that inform Pakistani society. No modern country has had to deal with the aggressive machinations employed by regional and global powers to undo it the way Pakistan has. No country with a Muslim majority has a nuclear weapon, what to say of nearly one hundred. No country, anywhere, is defined by the spiritual and religious traditions that are being attacked at Sehwan, and previously at Rehman Baba, at Bari Imam, at Data Sahib’s in Lahore, at Abdullah Shah Ghazi (twice), and at Shah Noorani last November. The haters are coming for us because we are an extraordinary blend. They will keep coming.
The Muslim tradition, derived from the Seerat-un-Nabi, shows us wisdom is a better path than despair, and being smart is better than being whiny. At the Battle of the Trench, and beyond, Muslim survival was ensured by doing one’s homework and building alliances with obvious candidates. If there is one country Pakistan is destined to be allied with and supportive of, it is Afghanistan. This is true for geostrategic and economics reasons, as much as it is for ethnic and religious ones.
The good news? Our home has been their home for three decades. Afghan refugees are a source of Pakistan’s single greatest soft-power asset. Better still, Afghans have little choice in the matter: Pakistan is an inevitability for Afghanistan. But they do have pride. Our natural embrace is delayed only by our clumsy incompetence, and our lack of imagination in dealing with India’s successful sabotage of Pak-Afghan coherence and unity. Instead of pushing away Afghanistan, now is the time to embrace it and to do a better job than the competition. It can start by us challenging attempts to outsource responsibility for what happens on our soil.
The post-Sehwan attitude, however, is not limited to blaming Afghanistan. Within 24 hours of the attack, we also learnt that over 100 terrorists had been killed. Many of us exhaled with satisfaction – “That’ll show ‘em!”. This mass killing of alleged terrorists was a follow up to the ISPR’s announcement that vengeance would be exacted for Sehwan Sharif. Inquiring Pakistani minds must wonder where this appetite for vengeance was after Shah Noorani last November (52 dead), or Model Town in May 2010 (94 dead), or May 2005 at Bari Imam (20 dead). What was less special about those attacks that they were not deemed deserving of vengeance?
More importantly, how does our state determine who is okay to be killed? Is there a list that the state has drawn up? Or is the plan here simply to arm our brave young men in police and the army, lock, stock and barrel, jacked up by thoughts of vengeance, and unleash them upon various suspected terrorists? Will every terror attack now be followed with mass killings of terrorists? And if we already knew whom to hunt, and where to hunt them, then where can we send an application to have the terrorists killed before they bomb the next shrine, the next school, or the next place of worship? Shouldn’t someone be asking some questions about how these 100 suspected Daesh members escaped death before Sehwan Sharif? And why the next 1,000 are being spared now that the dust seems to have settled?
Of course, neither elected civilian leaders, nor our army top brass want to deal with these questions. It is a lot easier to nod in the direction of seemingly liberal causes for one, and to go out and kill a bunch of people for the other. And for the rest of us, we get the tidbits. A debate on the civil-military divide for some, a debate on the state of Islam in the 21st century for others. Some of us ooze contempt for corrupt and inefficient politicians, others among us pour scorn upon a military that is immune to any kind of accountability whatsoever.
Fixing Pakistan’s terrorism problem is hard. So we have chosen the easy way out: pretend to seal the border, lash out at Afghanistan, kill a bunch of suspected terrorists, and wipe the slate clean so that we can repeat this cycle all over again when the next attack takes place. The memories of our fallen soldiers and policemen deserve better. The potential of this great country’s inevitable bright future deserves better. Our pride as Pakistanis demands better.
But this can’t be coming from newspaper columns. It has to come from the heart and soul of our political and military leaders. How will it, if they never have to answer hard questions, and we are lining up their escape routes from this conversation, by pitting one against the other?
How To Strike At The Root Of Terror
By Saleem Safi
February 21, 2017
How to strike at the root of terror
The country bleeds and the nation mourns the loss of innocent lives that were lost in terrorist attacks from Charing Cross in Punjab to Quetta in Balochistan and from Mohmand Agency in Fata to Sehwan Sharif in Sindh. The monster of extremism is once again spreading terror at will and with impunity. The recent wave of terrorism has shattered our short-lived celebration of the so-called success against extremism. It is indeed a long drawn-out battle that seems difficult to win with the current strategy.
Time and again I have emphasised on the strategy of cutting the roots and trunks of extremism instead of just trimming the branches. Though military operations may be effective in a few cases, they will only offer temporary solace instead of a permanent solution. Until we focus on the root causes of extremism and militancy, the nation will live at the mercy of the terrorists and will remain exposed to a periodic reign of terror. There are many root causes of extremism in the country.
The use of religion for politics and strategic goals has been one of the prime causes of extremism. Since the inception of the country, religion – a message of peace – has been exploited and used for politics and other vested interests. In the 1980s, thanks to cold-war politics, it began to be used for strategic goals as well. That proved to be a risky gamble since the country failed to extract anything positive from it. What is even more unfortunate is the fact that we have failed to learn from our past strategic blunders. The misuse of religion for political ends – not only by the traditional religious forces but also by newer forces – is still a common practice.
Another cause of extremism is the presence of a specific jihadi narrative. At the pleasure of the US and with the generosity of the Arab countries, we developed a specific jihadi narrative and brainwashed an entire generation to fight against the Soviet Union and Communism. Resultantly, jihadi groups emerged in the country, training centres were opened and jihadi literature was developed. The same jihadi narrative still exists in the country. Unfortunately, we have failed to produce a counter-narrative. Alarmingly, the same narrative still being retold and propagated through different books, newspapers, sermons in mosques, TV channels and social media. No one can dare challenge it. Those who are courageous enough to do so quickly face the music. Unfortunately, those who are at the helm of power have failed to prioritise the need for a counter-narrative.
Hostile relations with India and Afghanistan have also contributed to the rise of extremism in Pakistan. Islamabad’s relations with Delhi and Kabul have never been ideal and have now reached a level of extremely high tension. Both countries seem to be on the same page and are united in their proxy war against Pakistan. Though the army has conducted multiple military operations internally, the nation has failed at the diplomatic front to tame Kabul and New Delhi.
Moreover, power politics in the Middle Eastern states also has a direct impact on Pakistan. The Arab countries and Iran are embroiled in a proxy war in the Middle East, flames of which have reached Pakistan. Pakistan also seems to be on the brink of becoming the battlefield for the proxy war between China and its rivals. If Pakistan does not strengthen its act and refuse to play in the hands of all the external powers and their proxies, the situation at home will become dangerous.
Despite all the rhetoric, the civil and military establishments are still not on the same page on issues of great national importance. Both have failed to develop a mechanism of effective and productive cooperation. Previously, the divide was based on their different approaches towards foreign policy, but in the last few years, national security policy has also become a bone of contention. In the past, differences in foreign policy and national security used to affect domestic politics, but now domestic politics affects our foreign and national security policies as well. In addition to this, our political forces are involved in blame games and even try to use the security establishment against each other. They question each other’s patriotism and thus impair unity at critical moments.
There is also a lack of unity and trust among state institutions. The military has reservations against politicians while the government and other institutions question the role of the judiciary. In return, the judiciary is angry at and even sceptical of the government machinery. The executive, judiciary and legislature also have reservations against the media. Instead of jointly fighting against terrorism, every state institution seems busy in a struggle for self-survival.
The lack of productive coordination between the law-enforcement agencies can also help extremism’s cause. This is because the war against terrorism is a gigantic task and cannot be achieved without effective and productive coordination among these agencies. Unfortunately, no concrete step has been taken towards bringing these agencies together. Though Nacta was formed, it has been sidelined and made powerless.
Economic disparity is widespread in Pakistan and the gap between the rich and the poor is widening, leading to a feeling of deprivation and alienation among the people. The state seems to have failed to address this economic injustice. The current government had a chance to uplift the socio-economic conditions of the deprived regions through CPEC, but due to the vested interests of the ruling elite, some areas remain ignored. It is a historical fact that economically deprived people and regions can be easily exploited and used by hostile powers against the peace and stability of any country.
In a nutshell, our current approach towards extremism has serious flaws which need to be fixed. Instead of trimming the branches, we must focus on the root causes of terrorism. We desperately need to develop a strong counter-narrative against extremism and against the misuse of religion for political and strategic ends. We should engage India and Afghanistan through aggressive diplomacy and also refuse to become a battlefield for external powers and their internal proxies.
There is also a need for a meaningful civil-military dialogue and effective coordination among the state institutions. Nacta should be made an effective institution on the pattern of the US’s Department of Homeland Security. Economic disparities and injustices should be eliminated with a special focus on deprived regions and their people.
Unless we address the root causes of this menace, the problem will continue to exist. The current strategy can only give temporary peace but does not offer a permanent solution. It is high time we gave up self-deceiving slogans and focused on eradicating the root causes of extremism.
Turkey’s IS Test
By Karamatullah K. Ghori
21 February 2017
THE recent claim by Recep Tayip Erdogan, Turkey’s intrepid president, to go for the jugular of the militant Islamic State group in Syria, and take his fight against the terrorists to their stronghold in Raqqa, may seem bravado to his myriad critics. But not so to those who know this man with nerves of steel.
Erdogan has unveiled his plan to administer his coup de grâce after dislodging IS from Al Bab, inside Syria but not too far from its border with Turkey. However, he knows the group’s nuisance capacity for pinpricks and the need to take it out of the Syrian equation. This will not be possible until IS is driven out of its ‘capital’ in Raqqa, nearly 200 kilometres from Al Bab.
Erdogan has gone through many a detour on Syria, Bashar al-Assad and IS. Before Assad was engulfed in his civil war, Erdogan had a soft corner for him and admired him for being a rare liberal among the well-entrenched orthodox Arab rulers. However, once the Gulf potentates, driven by their myopic sectarian take on an Iran-friendly Alawite Syrian regime, helped unleashed the IS genie in Syria, Erdogan too changed his stance. He saw distinct prospects for Turkey to play the role of kingmaker in a post-Assad Syria, if not in an Iran-leaning Iraq.
Erdogan initially erred on Syria and IS when he turned a blind eye on his land being used by IS-inspired jihadists from all over to take both men and weapons into strife-torn Syria.
But course correction wasn’t long in coming once he realised that his Gulf ‘brethren’ had unleashed monsters that could also unravel Turkey’s fragile national equanimity.
The game changer for Erdogan included the shenanigans and antics of Turkey’s Kurds in the wake of the Syrian imbroglio.
Course correction for Erdogan wasn’t long in coming.
The Kurdish issue has been Turkey’s Achilles heel from the day the modern Turkish Republic was born in 1924 after Kemal Ataturk had admirably renegotiated the humiliating terms of the Treaty of Sevres imposed on the tottering Ottoman caliphate at the end of the First World War. A major achievement of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne was the evaporation of an autonomous Kurdish region that was anathema to the Turks as much then as it is now.
The Kurds may be mourned as perhaps the most unfortunate people on earth because despite having all the attributes of a nation — and a glorious past — they have no prospects of becoming a sovereign nation anytime soon.
The Kurds make up at least 15 per cent of the Turkish population. They are more numerous in Turkey than in other neighbouring countries: Syria, Iraq and Iran. However, Turkey has a red line drawn, not today but since the Kemalist era: it will not allow even an autonomous Kurdish region let alone a sovereign Kurdistan.
But Turkey’s Western allies haven’t shied away from turning the screws on the issue to its inconvenience, off and on.
This scribe knows from his personal experience as Pakistan’s ambassador to Iraq — with its own inconvenient Kurdish minority — during the post-Gulf War I days how the Americans used the cover of UN sanctions against Iraq to whet the Kurdish appetite for independence from Baghdad. Alarm bells had been set off in Ankara, as early as those days, with regard to America’s mischief in using the Kurds as their Trojan horse.
The Americans have been up to their tricks with ill-disguised intent on the heels of the festering Syrian civil war. In the guise of combating the menace of IS, the Americans have been beefing up the militant Kurdish outfit YPG.
For months, if not longer, a battle of nerves has been going on between Ankara and Washington over this thorny question posed by Erdogan: what’s the American end-game in Syria? Is it only to get rid of Assad or use this as a foil to create a new geostrategic dynamic for Turkey by quietly building up Kurdish strength, which could only be at the expense of not only Syria but also of Iraq and Turkey?
Trump’s unexpected induction into the White House has made it urgent for Erdogan to accomplish his own political architecture in Syria before the flippant Trump sets his gaze on the region.
Finishing off IS is as much an end-game for Erdogan as, simultaneously, breaking the back of YPG before it becomes a force to reckon with for Turkey. Ostensibly Turkey’s push towards Raqqa is to ensure the creation of a safe zone where millions of Syrian refugees could be relocated in safety. But this ‘noble’ mission also has a pragmatic sideline: snuff out the Kurdish ambition of independence before the genie becomes hard to be put back in its bottle.
Pak-Afghan Cooperation Policy
By Ammara Farooq Malik
February 20, 2017
For now, there is an uneasy silence in the Pak-Afghan business community circles that would otherwise exchange ideas about regional trade cooperation and progress. There really can be no ‘business as usual’ or trade cooperation or objective discussions on the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement, unless both sides are open to sincere discussion and dialogue on all ancillary matters, including cross-border terrorism. The Pak-Afghan history is a complex mix of border disputes over the Durand Line, refugee influx in Pakistan and decades of informal trade at the porous 2,430km border. Afghanistan depends on foreign aid to boost its young generation that is trying to emerge from a war torn economy and counter the influence of informal trade through the cultivation and sale of drugs that account for more than 50% of illegal trade in Afghanistan which incidentally also directly funds terrorist networks in the tribal belt.
Pakistan needs a working relationship with Afghanistan to ensure that a number of common issues, with terrorism topping the list, can be effectively addressed. However, will cracking down on ‘terrorists’ overnight after deadly attacks in Pakistan really be able to avert a regrouping of terrorists both inside and across the border of Pakistan to flourish? Or does another parallel methodology need to be adopted?
It is a tricky question to ask whether the state is ‘doing enough’ because the state seems to be in a quagmire. The National Action Plan and Zarb-e-Azb will not be enough because there is a robust support network available for terrorist outfits in Pakistan. No foreign spy agencies can flourish with their agendas unless we provide them with the playing ground on our own land. Disunity, poverty, extremism, a clash of ideologies and disillusionment with the state are factors that help provide the deadly support network needed for that lone suicide bomber to calmly walk through a crowed shrine in Sehwan or a busy road such as Charing Cross right under the Safe City cameras, to get away with their agenda of killing almost 100 people combined. This support network must be broken to nip the evil in the bud. The state needs decades of good policies to counter the aftermath of 40 odd years of bad policies of the past. The reality is that the world is stuck in a vicious cycle of terrorism through which we will not be pulled out in a few days, months or even years. The same Daesh that claimed responsibility for the recent attacks in Pakistan also recently killed more than 50 people in Iraq. There are therefore no simple one-sided solutions.
It would be pragmatic for the state to conduct its due diligence to identify all avenues of support that it can generate to unify the people of Pakistan in this fight against terrorism.
We need to move away from the ‘Pakistani big brother’ rhetoric in the Pakistan-Afghanistan relationship, to speak as equals, if we expect the Afghans to take the Pakistani Government’s formal requests of regional intelligence cooperation seriously. But in turn, Afghanistan must also realise the importance of its relations with Pakistan, a neighbour that has been there to support it in the past, rather than demonstrate an obvious shift towards India.
The army’s job is to protect the land and the civil society’s to keep hope alive for humanity. The new Pakistan needs to move away from the image of the ‘resilient nation’ in the region to the ‘progressive nation’ and to that end, every small input or effort whether coming from bilateral trade, joint innovative social enterprise ventures, joint regional media campaigns to inform ordinary people about the complexities of the ground realities or the role of civil society to combat extremism, must be welcomed, rather than sidelined or silenced, as the much-needed parallel diplomacy for regional cooperation to pave the way for sustained regional peace and prosperity.
By Shahid M Amin
February 21, 2017
PAKISTAN has gone through a week of sheer terror in which over a hundred innocent lives have been lost, and many more injured, due to the savagery of suicide-bombings. Terrorists massacred ordinary pilgrims who were visiting revered shrines. Police officers performing civic duties have been targeted. Both IS (Daesh) as well as Jamaat-ul-Ahrar affiliated to TTP (Tehreek Taliban Pakistan) have claimed responsibility for these outrages. In November last, another Sufi shrine in Balochistan had been the target in which a hundred lives were lost, for which also IS had claimed responsibility.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other government leaders have vowed to take severe action against terrorists, till their total extermination. Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa has warned: “Each drop of the nation’s blood shall be avenged, and avenged immediately. No more restraint for anyone.” Intensive combing operations are being conducted across Pakistan and many terrorists were killed. An intensive crackdown on banned organisations has been launched in Punjab and Rangers are to be deployed for the first time. Punjab police has already arrested the facilitator of Lahore suicide-bomber, who has divulged that planners of the attack were based in Afghanistan.
Gen. Bajwa and several high-ranking Pakistani civil and military officials have stated categorically that the latest terrorist acts were planned by groups who have sanctuaries in Afghanistan. They have demanded that the Afghan authorities should take firm action against them. A list of 76 terrorists has been handed over to Afghan officials with the demand that they should be handed over to Pakistan. Gen. Bajwa also called Gen. Nicholson, commander of US military mission in Afghanistan, to protest against continued acts of terrorism in Pakistan, perpetrated from Afghanistan, which were “testing Pakistan’s policy of cross-border restraint”. Gen Bajwa asked the US commander to play his role in “disconnecting this planning, direction, coordination and financial support”.
There are media reports that already Pakistan’s armed forces have targeted militant hideouts across the border and a number of terrorists and their training camps were destroyed. If so, this would be the first instance of cross-border attacks by Pakistani military. Among others, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has suggested that Pakistan should make “surgical strikes” in Afghanistan against such militant groups, based on collection of reliable evidence. Pakistan-Afghan border has been closed for several days and some Afghan refugees have been detained for abetting terrorists. Afghanistan, for its part, has protested against violation of its territory by cross-border firing and closure of border crossings, as well as harsh measures against Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
The latest developments come against the background of anger that has been building up in Pakistan against Afghanistan for quite some time. For the last many years, Afghan rulers have chosen to use diatribe and invective against Pakistan on a sustained basis. Their main grievance is that Pakistan is giving sanctuary or even help to the Taliban forces fighting against the Kabul regime. While making such accusations, they ignore the internal strength of the Taliban, such as ethnic support for them among Afghan Pakhtuns. They refuse to take into account the historical reality that some areas in Pakistan’s tribal territories have remained outside authority of the state and Pakistan cannot be held responsible in all such cases. They are unmindful of the fact that the Pakistani Taliban, who are an ally of the Afghan Taliban, have long been at war with the Pakistani state itself. Unfortunately, Kabul has made a habit of putting all blame on Pakistan for the successes of Afghan Taliban. Pakistan has been made a scapegoat for the failures of Afghan military forces. Due to these reasons, an anti-Pakistan phobia has developed in Afghanistan, affecting even the common Afghan citizen.
Pakistan has another legitimate grievance that the Afghan rulers have made a common front with India, Pakistan’s antagonist, and developed close ties with India in political, military, economic and other fields, unmindful of Pakistan’s sentiments and security concerns. Pakistan’s vital help, and immense sacrifices, during the Afghan Jihad against Soviet occupation is all but forgotten, nor is there any real gratitude in Kabul towards Pakistan for looking after millions of Afghan refugees. During that Jihad, India was an ally of the puppet Communist regime in Afghanistan and was an abettor of the Soviet military occupation. One really doubts if Afghanistan, despite being a proclaimed Islamic Republic, has any sentiments of Islamic brotherhood at all since its rulers cozy up to India which has long maltreated its Muslim minority and suppresses Kashmiri Muslims on daily basis. They have clearly also forgotten Afghan history since the days of Mahmud Ghaznavi and other Muslim rulers based in Afghanistan, who conquered India and established centuries of Muslim rule. Finally, Afghanistan needs to be reminded of what harm Pakistan can do if it chooses to adopt a hostile stance towards Kabul. The closure of border can cripple Afghan economy. The deportation of millions of Afghan refugees can put an unmanageable burden on the Kabul regime. It is also widely accepted that without Pakistan’s active cooperation, it would be difficult to find any kind of negotiated settlement of the current war in Afghanistan. The time has clearly come to talk bluntly to Afghan rulers and make them understand hard realities, as outlined above. But “surgical strikes” is probably not best option for Pakistan. It will take away moral high ground from Pakistan and would be seen as violation of International Law.
It would provide India a rationale for similar action against Pakistan. Moreover, surgical strikes could lead to escalation and unpredictable consequences. This is certainly not the time for Pakistan to get involved in any kind of war in Afghanistan or elsewhere. At present, Pakistan is coming up economically and is making a great leap forward with progressive realisation of the objectives of CPEC. In international relations, decisions must be made on hard-headed calculations and emotions must not be allowed to determine national policies. Most importantly, it should be understood by Kabul and Islamabad that terrorists are the common enemy of both countries. They are seeking to secure their nefarious objectives by deliberately provoking the two neighbours, so as to create mutual mistrust and prevent any coordinated action against the terrorists.
Consensus On FATA-KP Merger
By Mohammad Jamil
Last week, opposition staged a walkout from Senate over dropping the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) reforms from the cabinet agenda. In fact, members of all political parties in KP assembly demand merger of FATA with KP without any delay. Even JUI-F, which has been opposing the merger in the past, is poised to support it, as JUI-F President Maulana Fazlur Rehman has said the other day that he is not opposed to the merger of FATA with KP, and only once he had suggested to hold referendum. Former President and head of the Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians Asif Ali Zardari has expressed grave concern over reports that the government has shelved FATA reforms proposals that called for early implementation of political reforms to give its people their legitimate rights as equal citizens of the country. He warned that any delay in this regard would lead to crisis.
In fact, there is no reason for the delay in implementation of FATA reforms when all parties of KP, elected NA members of FATA and almost all political parties in the National Assembly and the Senate want FATA-KP merger. On 9th September 2015, all FATA parliamentarians, excluding the JUI-F MNA from North Waziristan, had jointly presented the 22nd Constitutional Amendment Bill proposing integration of FATA into KP. In December 2015, members called to abolish Article 247 of the constitution to make FATA part of the KP. It is rather surprising that the Pukhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) has no representation in FATA tried to throw spanner in the works. One would accept his claim being champion of Pashtuns’ cause in Balochistan, but KP assembly members and people of KP do not accept him as their leader and guardian.
In August 2016, the committee formed to decide the fate of the tribal areas had concluded that the option to merge the region with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is the only viable route to mainstream the areas. The 51-page report of the FATA committee, submitted to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, read that without reforms, the Army might have to stay in FATA for an indefinite period, thus affecting strategic military balance on the Eastern front. It was proposed that in order to sustain the successes achieved by the military, law enforcement agencies and political administration, legal and security reforms are essential. It was recommended that the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the high court be extended to the tribal areas by amending Article 247 and other relevant laws. Since all members of the KP assembly and all parliamentarians from FATA demand merger with KP, there is no reason for the delay.
The nation has been listening to the rhetoric about reforms for the tribal areas, but without any progress. There are 19 elected representatives from FATA who have been demanding that fundamental rights of the residents should be guaranteed. Unfortunately, even the amendments to Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) made in 2011 have not been implemented. The FCR is remnant of British Raj framed in 1890 by which the tribal areas were administered through political agents. Under this system, if an individual of a tribe commits a crime, the entire tribe is penalized, which negates the very concept of justice. Apart from judicial reforms, it is imperative to introduce political reforms in tribal areas, as the people of the tribal areas are very much citizens of Pakistan. And under the Constitution they are entitled to the same rights and privileges enjoyed by the people living in other parts of the country.
If political reforms are introduced to bring tribal areas in the mainstream politics, political parties could reach the voters, circulate their manifestos and create political awareness among the residents. The political leaders of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) were allowed to join political parties with the extension of political parties order in 2011 for the first time in its history. Had they been part of mainstream politics, it would not have been possible for the extremists’ outfits to aid or abet foreign militants to create problems for Pakistan. Of Course, development in FATA should be undertaken on war footing. The US had taken the responsibility to set up industrial units in FATA and earthquake-hit areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa as part of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones. But, the project was abandoned by the US, as after withdrawal of US and NATO forces it lost interest in the project.
Anyhow, it is the responsibility of the federal government to take substantive initiatives to expedite the development of the region, which will provide job opportunities to the people of the area. Reportedly, the 10-year development program of the government would include major infrastructure and irrigation projects, mineral development program and integrated plans for health, education including establishment of university, medical and engineering colleges, vocational training centres and industrial zones with special incentives. Last year, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz had made public the recommendations aimed at bringing FATA into the mainstream to end poverty, and focus on its development to make up for years of neglect. In his capacity as Chairperson of the FATA Reforms Committee, he had told reporters at a press conference at the Foreign Office that the region faced Pakistan’s highest rate of endemic poverty and lowest development indicators.
Anyhow, people and lawmakers of FATA vociferously demand merger of their territory with KP. In April 2016, FATA Lawyers Forum President Rahim Shah while addressing a press conference organized by ‘Centre for Governance and Public Accountability (CGPA)’ demanded of the parliamentarians to pass the 22nd amendment to the Constitution to make FATA part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In principle, government is inclined to accept their demand. Reportedly, the government is drafting the bill that seeks to repeal the infamous Frontier Crimes Regulations, and extend the jurisdiction of Peshawar High Court to Federally Administered Tribal Areas, which will be welcome by the people of tribal areas. But judicial reforms would not be enough, and FATA should be brought in the political mainstream at an early date. When elected representative of FATA demand merger with KP, and KP is willing to take FATA in its fold, there is no reason for the delay.
Pak-German Ties On An Upward Trajectory
By Hassan Khan
In International Relations, inter-state bilateral relations-combined with realpolitik-are considered one of most important aspects for states to cooperate on a variety of issues that range from economic to security matters. Successful diplomacy is only possible when the concerned parties largely have common or overlapping interests. Since its inception in 1947, Pakistan’s foreign policy has mainly focused on establishing stable and peaceful relations, not only, with its immediate neighbours, but also with the West and the Arab world.
While a lot has been discussed and researched on relations with most of the key global and regional powers, there has been a lack of academic and journalistic research by think tanks and media on the importance of Pakistan-Germany relations that have largely remained strong ever since the late Pakistani President Ayub Khan made a much-publicised visit to the former West Germany back in 1961.
Why relations with Germany are of crucial significance? Well, it’s a premier world economy, in fact the fourth largest economic power in the world. Moreover, it is Pakistan’s 5th largest trading partner in the world and leading trading partner in the European Union (EU) with trade surplus on a positive trend –approximately three billion dollars’ worth of trade. With its growing interest in world affairs, Germany is already considered the leader of EU and increasingly the whole Europe (with Russia being a Eurasian power).
For Pakistan, Germany has multiple significances. Besides, the trade, investment and development cooperation elements, the Pakistani Diaspora of over 100,000, which has doubled when compared to just a decade ago, is important.
The trade between the two countries has been growing steadily for the past many years with many German companies - including the world renowned Siemens - currently having their operations in Pakistan. Furthermore, German automobile companies such as Audi have started envisioning strong presence in the country, since 2015 due to the federal government’s new automobile policy that broke the monopoly of Japanese carmakers. A visit by Sindh Investment Board to Germany in early 2016 has also paved way for Audi to establish an assembly plant in Karachi soon. This is a welcome sign given how Japanese carmakers in the past have been producing lower standard cars at a much higher cost on domestic level when compared to the international market.
Textile, sports and surgical products have been a vital part of the bilateral trade between the two states with annual visits by large Pakistani delegations to fairs held in cities such as Dusseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich. The GSP-plus status provided to Pakistan in 2014 by the EU has also had positive impact on economic production that helped boost exports. While Pakistan’s own exports have weakened since recent years internationally, they have been on an upward path in Germany. With Pakistani economy rebounding due to economic stability returning to the country as recognised by major international news outlets and magazines such as Forbes, Barron’s and Bloomberg, all signs point to a bright future in terms of economic relations with Germany.
Education and vocational training have also played a key role in forging close relations between Pakistan and Germany. Around 5000 Pakistani students are currently enrolled in various German universities, which is the third largest Pakistan-origin student population after the United Kingdom and the United States. In terms of vocational training, Germany is considered a world leader and German institutes have maintained a strong presence in Pakistan for such purposes. This has led to a significant increment in employability for the locals.
As for the crucially important energy sector, Germany - once again - is a pioneer in the world, particularly, in providing alternative energy as a key resource. Solar panels and wind turbines of German-origin are of the best quality in the world and Pakistan has imported such products for its own energy needs. Although, it still largely relies on lower priced imports from China that are sometimes prone to be defective or low quality.
Multiple state-level and business delegations from Pakistan have been visiting Germany. Ministerial and committee-level visits by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Senator Mushahid Hussain, Chief of Army Staff and Foreign Secretary in the past one year have helped discuss bilateral and international issues so to promote further understanding and cooperation.
In the realm of inter-state relations, both countries have also maintained strong defence relations. Pakistan and Germany have been exchanging official visits for both training and cooperation purposes. Former Pakistani Army Chief General Raheel Sharif, who himself was an officer-level graduate from Germany, knew the importance of defence ties with Berlin and paid a much-highlighted visit to the German capital in Summer 2016.
In the current global scenario, the rise of Donald Trump in the United States has shaken the international order to such an extent that many analysts believe that Germany is the next leader of the free world that world should look upon for stability and peace in the world, given the threat of right-wing nationalism, stemming from exaggerated fear and bigotry. The Brexit which resulted from such nationalism and populism has already diminished UK’s role as a viable great power contrary to what British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government believes in.
Pakistan should continue focusing more on maintaining strong ties with the strongest economies of the world with growing international clout such as Germany. It is heartening to see the embassies of the two countries working well for fostering greater positive interaction. Besides political and economic diplomacy; public and cultural diplomacy have acquired new importance as key areas of diplomatic focus worldwide and Pakistan’s Embassy in Berlin has been quite active in these domains.
Although German Chancellor Angela Merkel is currently at a critical juncture of her political career with federal elections due in September 2017, the recent election of former German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier as German President has led to further hope for Germany’s stability and ascendance. With mutual interest and commitment, Pakistan-Germany relations can continue to thrive in the future, since both have more in common to work on rather than any divergences.
No More Military Courts
By Reema Omer
21 February 2017
ACCORDING to official sources, the government has decided to table a bill to extend the ‘exceptional’ use of military courts for another three years. Reportedly, the draft amendment would give military courts jurisdiction over any offence considered to be an act of terrorism, a broader mandate than the 21st Amendment, which was applicable only to “terrorism motivated by religion or sectarianism” and where the accused were “members of proscribed organisations”.
At the expiration of the 21st Amendment in January 2017, ISPR, the military’s media wing, made two assertions supporting their ‘success’: first, “cases were dealt through due process of law in the military courts”; and second, that military trials have had “positive effects towards reduction in terrorist activities”. Both these claims are debatable, making the case for the extension of military courts misleading and in violation of Pakistan’s international law obligations.
Human rights groups and legal experts have documented in detail how military trials of civilian terrorism suspects pursuant to the 21st Amendment have fallen far short of fair trials standards.
Particularly worrying is the opacity with which these courts have operated. Proceedings of military courts, their judgments, reasoning and evidence, and details about the alleged offences for which suspects were tried have been kept secret. The trials were closed to the public and families of the accused — even the National Commission for Human Rights, a statutory body with a mandate to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights, was not given access to observe the trials.
Also of concern is the high rate of ‘confessions’. At least 159 out of 168 people whose convictions were publicly acknowledged by the military allegedly ‘admitted’ to the charges, raising serious questions about coercive measures being used to get these ‘confessions’.
Furthermore, suspects have been defended by military officers who are not civilian lawyers. The military says the accused willingly decided to forego their right to engage civilian lawyers — a claim that is impossible to verify because of the lack of independent access to the accused.
The claim that these courts have helped reduce the threat of terrorism is weak.
The assertion that these trials met ‘due process’ makes a mockery of the principle of fair trial. Such trials are not just a violation of the rights of the suspects, they also necessarily bring the finding of guilt by these courts into question. On this ground alone, military trials of civilians must not be extended.
The second claim, that these courts have helped reduce the threat of terrorism, is also weak. In the last nine days alone, several attacks alleged to be acts of terrorism have killed over 100 people in Pakistan. Even when they were in operation, the country saw some of the deadliest attacks in recent years including at an Imambargah in Shikarpur, a university in Charsadda, a park in Lahore, a hospital in Quetta, and a mosque in Mohmand Agency. In this context, the claim that military courts have reduced terrorism, without any evidence or elaboration, is perplexing.
In any event, it is nearly impossible to show any kind of causal link between the types of jurisdiction used to adjudicate serious crime like acts of terrorism and the propensity of those who engage in such crimes to carry out these kinds of acts.
The impression created that ‘terrorists’ roaming the streets were incapacitated from carrying out further attacks only because of convictions by military courts is also difficult to sustain.
These courts have largely convicted people in two categories of cases: people whose cases were pending in ordinary criminal courts or anti-terrorism courts that were transferred to them for trial; and people who were detained at ‘internment centres’ in Fata or other undisclosed locations (many of these people are alleged to have been subjected to enforced disappearance). This indicates that many of the convicts were already in detention before their military trials, and not suspects ‘set free by the courts’, as is popularly believed.
A dispassionate assessment of the performance of these courts shows they have been catastrophic for human rights and the rule of law in Pakistan. The 21st Amendment targeted the Constitution’s fundamental principles: separation of powers, independence of the judiciary and protection of human rights. Yet, the promised ‘quick results’ — the ‘benefits’ of the ‘human rights cost’ — are nowhere to be seen.
This is not surprising, as the very rationale behind military courts as a solution to terrorism was flawed.
The frustration with impunity for terrorism and serious crimes in Pakistan is legitimate, but there are no overnight solutions to a crisis caused by decades of neglect. Ensuring justice — as opposed to convicting a large number of people without the fair and impartial adjudication of responsibility — will require major rethinking of Pakistan’s political and security strategy as well as significant reform of the criminal justice system.
It will require learning from the successes and failures of other jurisdictions that face similar security threats; ensuring that minimum guarantees of the right to a fair trial are at all times protected; and drawing from the actual everyday experiences of judges, lawyers and investigators, not hasty, ill-conceived measures motivated by political expediency at the cost of the fundamental principles of fairness.
The government failed to enact any of these reforms in the two-year period military courts were in operation. And now, instead of admitting that the 21st Amendment was a terrible mistake, the government has started talks to reintroduce the courts.
This attempt must be resisted. We have ample evidence to show reviving these courts will not help counter the very real terrorist threat facing Pakistan. Instead, it will bring Pakistan a step closer to permanently incorporating into law what was said to be an ‘exceptional’, ‘short-term’ departure from the normal legal processes and human rights protections, giving the state an excuse to continue to ignore the actual reasons behind the lack of accountability for terrorism and other serious crime.
So That the Jokes Won’t Fall Flat
By Jawed Naqvi
21 February 2017
HE is not clubbable, not by Delhi standards it seems. Also, his critics make fun of his messianic delusions. The vision as he calls it thrives on a steady supply of spilled blood. Gory indeed, but it is now only a handy archival file, dusted before the occasional poll.
Public memory is not short; attention span is. Few can forget Delhi (1984) or Ayodhya (1992) or Gujarat (2002) to name the big carnages. Teesta Setalvad and Rana Ayub won’t let you forget the horrors even if you were an ostrich. It is the attention span that trips up with the overload of life’s ceaseless demands.
The leader is fortunate there are no fussy dress codes for Delhi’s elite clubs, but the reminders keep coming: let’s not ignore his sense of what he wears, which of course is gross.
Remember the day when he flaunted that funny jacket during a high-profile international moment? Facebook and Twitter went berserk over the apparent lack of class. It was so uncultured, the leader’s name threaded in garish gold along the entire length of the cloth. Some said that’s why he lost Delhi. They didn’t see the corollary to their logic — he won with every massacre but lost because of a badly designed jacket. If the reasoning has substance, we are in greater trouble than we imagined.
And look. How dare he call himself a fakir after rubbing shoulders with the jet set? That’s another remark that comes up from the liberal critics, never mind their short attention span with his other greater horrors. The visiting Americans found the jacket first. Their sharp cameras zoomed in on the fine print. Then the rest sat up and rejoiced at the foibles of the parvenu leader.
His boorishness remained the subject of mirthful chatter. They then picked on his language skills, concluding sagely it was the pits. His diction is rotten like something the cat brings home. There were other blemishes, the grating nasal intonations, enough for the intelligentsia to flail their arms, a few whipping up a muddy froth at the corners of their mouth.
Teesta Setalvad and Rana Ayub won’t let you forget the horrors even if you were an ostrich.
The opposition seldom wakes up when a slaughter is under way. But the dormouse party just about perked up to register a personal affront. How dare the grosser leader poke fun at its more cultured leader? The protests came in a blinkered bandwidth, directed specifically against a parliamentary slight — the leader had remarked, astutely perhaps, that his predecessor wore a raincoat in the bathroom, reference to raining corruption. On the other hand, what do butchers wear when they work the cleaver?
Suppose the lampooning becomes the counterpoint, say, to the opposition’s helplessness when mass rape and bloodbath raged near Gandhi’s birthplace? Mayhem cut loose in the wee hours of a February morning that year, lasting for many bloody days, in slow motion.
The opposition satraps whispered to their inviolable leader she should not visit the grief-stricken women amid the manmade ruins. So she took her time to condole with the widow of a former MP, her own party’s MP. The man was slaughtered before the eyes of the brave wife, brave because she is among the clutch of women who are leading the charge against religious fascism today. Give or take some minutes, the horrors peaked around the time the finance minister was beginning his budget speech to an unusually attentive parliament.
Peeping Tom, he peeps into people’s bathrooms was how the offending leader with inferior language skills came to be denounced, including by cartoonists and editorial writers.
Coming to think of it Adolf Hitler had shocking table manners. Cartoonists had a field day with him. He grew a round waist, we are told, by hogging on cake in his bunker while his men murdered millions of helpless Jews.
The revelations came in 2009 in a hitherto unnoticed diary of a Nazi officer. He boasted of dining with the Fuehrer 30 plus times. Is this what was wrong with Hitler, his flatulence? The man was gross. That’s a given. Mussolini was grosser still.
Worryingly, their laudatory biographies or autobiographies have been doing brisk business for decades at India’s every train station. “Democracy is beautiful in theory; in practice it is a fallacy. You in America will see that some day.” So railed the Duce. “The truth is that men are tired of liberty.” Both sides of India’s ideological street can see the import, the right as an endorsement of its thuggery, the left as a wake-up call on an alarm clock with drained batteries.
Poking fun is good, more so if the target is a right-wing adversary. Charlie Chaplin excelled in portraying Hitler as a buffoon. In a movie there’s a scene in which Chaplin takes the pants off of both Hitler and Mussolini. The humour could have easily miscued. The fact that the laughter endures is of course much thanks to Chaplin’s genius. Had he not had the ancillary support of two ideologically committed militaries that came together to breach the Nazi fortress the joke would be on Chaplin, and on his fans if there were to be any.
The victory was heady and also sobering as Chaplin argued in The Great Dictator. “I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone — if possible — Jew, Gentile — black man — white.” The magical speech can still give goose bumps to anyone with a grain of humanism. Chaplin’s sagacious words both inspired and imbibed from the rout of the Nazis in their lair.
Women like Teesta Setalvad are a great source of inspiration to fight the fight in India, and, in fact, everywhere. Foot soldier of the Constitution is the title of her new memoirs. Yet how far can a foot soldier fight on without a motivated army in combat mode to ensure the promised victory?