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
Pak-German Ties On An Upward
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
So That the Jokes Won’t Fall Flat
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
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?