Sunday, December 28, 2014

SPECIAL COURTS FOR 'A SPECIAL COUNTRY’

Concerns about the Special Courts (SCs) to be set up under military presiding officers continue to be voiced from diverse quarters. Co-chairperson of the PPP Asif Ali Zardari, in his speech at the seventh death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto in Garhi Khuda Baksh, expressed his apprehension regarding the misuse of the SCs against politicians like himself and Nawaz Sharif, who could find themselves s behind bars if such a development occurred. The constitutional amendment under preparation for bringing in the SCs should not, he warned, become a ‘black’ law, based on the experience of previous such steps in the past. He categorically rejected the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban binary. He reminded his audience that if the massacre of PPP’s jiyalas in Karachi in 2007 on Benazir’s return had been taken seriously, subsequent tragic incidents including Peshawar could have been avoided. 

While there is weight in this argument, it should not be forgotten that of the seven years since the tragic event in Karachi, the PPP was in power for five years. However, that government failed to either do much about the spread of terrorism itself or persuade the security establishment to do the same. In fact, the COAS at that time, General Kayani, after the military offensives in Swat and South Waziristan, dragged his feet over the necessary tackling of the terrorist safe havens in North Waziristan despite the fact that he had sufficient time to do this after he received an extension in his tenure to six years. Asif Zardari also tried to allay the apprehensions regarding his differences with son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, whose absence was keenly felt by the young workers of the party at the commemoration, which saw declining numbers this year as a reflection of the internal crisis of the PPP. Asif Zardari also attempted to scotch rumours of a falling out with Makhdoom Amin Fahim, the head of the PPP-Parliamentarians, asserting that Makhdoom would never betray the party and there were no cracks amongst the leadership. Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah wanted Benazir Bhutto’s trial to be conducted by the SCs, which he said were accepted with a heavy heart while accepting the exigencies of the present situation.

Meanwhile MQM’s Farooq Sattar in a press conference in Karachi also added his voice to the concerns swirling around the SCs. He emphasised sticking to the sunset clause of two years for the SCs, and argued that local governments, citizens’ vigilance, community policing systems were necessary in the fight against terrorism. The SCs, he said, were only a temporary solution and that parliament should ensure the effective functioning of the so far moribund National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), He said his party only agreed to the setting up of the SCs after strong assurances from the government that their functioning would be restricted to terrorism-related cases. Farooq Sattar offered all the manpower of MQM to ensure the security of schools in the aftermath of the Peshawar massacre, pointing to the fears of school managements, parents and children in this regard. Lawyers in Karachi too expressed themselves in favour of strengthening the existing criminal justice system as the long term solution to the terrorist challenge, regarding the SCs as a temporary measure.


The Peshawar tragedy and the steps announced by the government in its wake have not gone unnoticed worldwide. While the massacre has been widely condemned amidst a show of sympathy and solidarity with the victims and the people of Pakistan, concerns regarding the lifting of the moratorium on executions continue to reverberate. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif to urge a halt to executions. However, the PM argued that extraordinary situations required extraordinary steps while reassuring the Secretary General that legal norms would be respected while dealing with all terrorist cases. The PM consulted his legal aides on Saturday regarding options for setting up the SCs and asked that all parties be taken along in the constitutional amendment and other steps. He also emphasised that legal protection be provided to members of the armed forces in the context of anti-terrorist operations and sectarian terrorists be included in the ambit of the strategy. The PM has set up an umbrella monitoring committee and under it 15 sub-committees with time frames for finalising their recommendations. While the government seems to be getting up to speed on the National Action Plan, no one should labour under the illusion that this will be a short war. Staying the course therefore is of utmost importance. DT

MERE AZIZ HUMWATNO!

I am changed man, meray aziz humwatno, after tragic Peshawar incident. I have resolved that we are now going to definitely take on the terrorists and destroy them. Definitely. Definitely maybe. Inshallah. Perhaps pukka. You will see, by God’s will and sort of firm resolve of political and military leadership of fractured state of Pakistan. Slightly firm resolve. Or should I say, almost firm resolve, hain ji? There is no doubt that these Taliban are barbarians. They are a criminal network. They are behind kidnapping of people also. Sometimes they keep people as ostriches until ransom is paid. Where they keep them, we hear from escapees, are like consternation camps of Nazis where they kept Jews.

This mindset has destroyed peace of our land. We are all brothers and sisters. On occayion of Christmas, I gave such a nice, sweet speech about all of us being same to same. I said even mosques are like churches and other places of worship. Only difference is that roof of mosque is doomed, unlike church which has poking roof. I have been saying these sweet things so that no pogroms against Christians take place during Christmas holidays. Afsos (sorrow) that total of holidays is only two, sadly. Total is when you add up all the numbers and the remainder is the animal that pulls Santa Claus on his sleigh.

For Christmas, American ambassador asked us to see Nativity Play at embassy. In the play, His Excellency played the main prat. British High Commissioner had a minor prat and I told him that next year he must have the main prat because Britishers are batter actors than Americans. All diplomats present spoke of time of reckoning for Pakistan. They said it was now or never. To show off my knowledge I said, “what a pity we don’t have a Joan of Arc. She was great lady who was burned as a steak.”


The Danish ambassador started laughing, “Well, what do you know!” he exclaimed and laughed and laughed. “Excuse me, Excellency”, I said, “I know a lot. The Danish are from Denmark. The Norwegians are from Norway. And the Lapdancers are from Lapland.”
Courtesy TFT

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

IT’S ‘NOW OR NEVER’ FOR GOVERNMENT AGAINST TERRORISTS

Since the Peshawar tragedy, the security and law enforcing agencies have become hyperactive. All through the length and breadth of the country, reports speak of raids, encounters and the killing or arrest of alleged terrorists. Thus on Monday, 15 ‘terrorists’ were gunned down in Afghan Basti near Al Asif Square, Karachi, and one captured in a raid claimed to have been conducted on a meeting of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP’s) Khan Zaman Group. Another suspect in the Peshawar attack was picked up in a raid on Mohalla Khursheed Abad, Karachi. At least 120 suspects were rounded up in the Mansehra district, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Amongst the 117 suspects arrested in Islamabad in a ‘search’ operation, 20 are said to be Afghans. 

In contrast with this flurry of raids and arrests, Malik Ishaq of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is being freed after the Punjab government withdrew its application to extend his expired detention, raising questions about the consistency of approach of the anti-terrorist drive and whether the judiciary’s penchant for sticking to the letter of the law needs appropriate legislation to deal with the special exigencies of the terrorist challenge. One anomaly that has already arisen is the staying of executions of five convicts by the Lahore High Court and two by the Sindh High Court. Both sets of suspensions of executions were based on the defence questioning whether trials by military courts of civilians were kosher, and whether their proceedings met standards of due process. The prosecution has been instructed by Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif to appeal the suspensions in the light of the current hanging spree the authorities seem bent upon as a deterrent message to the terrorists.


Even if all the ‘successes’ of recent days of the anti-terrorist drive are taken at face value, the question lingers what miraculous improvement has occurred overnight in the security and law enforcement agencies’ capabilities to lead them unerringly to the alleged terrorists. Or is it the case that these elements were already known but the requisite political will and ‘go-ahead’ signal from the higher authorities was missing till now? Given the track record of our police and security agencies, it would not come as a complete surprise if the pressure from on high to ‘show results’ is leading to sweeps and dragnets that are more interested in numbers killed and arrested rather than the credibility and provability of any and all charges against those killed or detained. In other words, are our police and security establishment genuinely laying hands on the enemy or simply indulging in karwai (action for show)? The question is critical to the success or failure of the seeming newfound determination to root out terrorism and, as PM Nawaz Sharif put it, their facilitators and defenders in the cities and villages throughout the country. 

The Senate in its debate on the Peshawar incident has come up with some interesting arguments. Demanding practical steps to counter the internal security threats, the members of the upper chamber of parliament asked the government to ensure not only the hanging of terrorists but also those who kill people in the name of religion, pointing in particular to the murderer of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer. They were of the view that the Peshawar tragedy was a total failure of the federal and provincial governments and intelligence agencies. They demanded an effective and meaningful operation against the terrorists and their supporters, apologists and all those who mislead people by misusing the name of religion. Meanwhile a new controversy has broken out about reports that the threat of an attack like Peshawar had been intimated months ago by the intelligence agencies but it seems there was no one in charge of following up on the information and taking necessary pre-emptive steps. And that is the glaring hole in the current counter-terrorism regime: the lack of a coordinating, decision making centre that can bring together disparate agencies and data to mount an effective riposte to the terrorists’ plans in a proactive manner rather than simply react (and that too in knee-jerk fashion) to actual attacks and atrocities.

Pakistan is at a moment of truth. How we go forward from here will determine if this is also a history changer or one more hiccup along the road of our confusion as a state and society. Without a consistent policy against all forms and manifestations of terrorism, whether outward facing or internal, the country cannot find the badly needed salvation from this threat that it craves. 

Courtesy: Daily Times 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

THE BLACKEST DAY (16 DECEMBER, 2014)

THE SMALLEST COFFINS ARE THE HEAVIEST

There are times when the barbarity we witness is so gut wrenching and horrific that we are left without words. Tuesday’s attack by Taliban militants on the Army Public School in Peshawar has left the entire country enveloped in a thick shroud of silence and grief, united in our disbelief that anyone, even the militants who have killed and hurt so many in this land, could stoop so low as to kill so many innocent children. At the time of writing this, news reports are coming in that as many as 141 people have been killed, 132 of them students, with scores more injured. These students were helpless, targeted and eliminated by Taliban suicide attackers and gunmen determined to inflict as much damage as possible to the heart and soul of this nation. Reports tell of how militants stormed onto the school premises during assembly time in the morning, with one detonating his suicide jacket, and opening indiscriminate fire on the hundreds of children. They went from classroom to classroom shooting the children in the head at point blank range — one survivor told of how children belonging to army backgrounds were picked out and gunned down.
 
The siege lasted till the later hours of the evening with reports telling of seven militants being killed by the army. Terror stricken parents gathered outside the school and hospitals, looking for their dead and injured children. They had left their homes in school uniforms and were retrieved in body bags. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility. There is no way the country and its leadership can let this one go; there is no way a solid, chapter-turning decision cannot be made after what is, no doubt, a national tragedy.

For the last many months, we have been urging the government to reassess its counterterrorism strategy, to take the right steps and initiate the right policy so that we do not witness this kind of atrocity. Last year, the PML-N government drew up the National Security Policy (NSP) to show that it was ‘serious’ in countering the growing terror threat in the country. Much noise was made about the strengthening of the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) to coordinate and assemble all efforts to fight the terror threat. However, we have yet to see any concrete steps taken to bring the moribund NACTA to life or the NSP to fruition. In this very space we have been cautioning the government and military to not be complacent or think that the terror threat has abated since the start of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in June this year. The military operation was expected to knock the militants onto the backfoot and degrade their communication and organisational structure but there was always the promise of a blowback. Despite these constant reminders, the authorities were lulled into complacency. December 16, 2014 was the culmination of that false sense of security and we are now gasping for breath. This has been a year of some high profile targets: Karachi International Airport, Wagah border and now the children of Peshawar. Where is the famed NSP? Where is NACTA now?


The government and military must understand once and for all that we are at war. There are no two ways about it; the nation is paying the cost in the blood of its people and now its children. What is needed is a proper counterterrorism strategy that will pr-empt terror attacks before they happen; there is no point in providing security and protection after the fact. Intelligence gathering, security forces and the police are all needed to bring together this kind of umbrella organisation. What is needed is a long-term response. What is needed is a final end to this terror. What is needed is a fitting response to the blackest day we have ever lived through. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

JUNAID JAMSHED OF JJ AND J. UNDER A DOT!

The singer turned fashion house owner turned Islamic preacher Junaid Jamshed also known as JJ during a talk show committed an act of blasphemy. A First Information Report (FIR) was registered against him at the Police Station Risala, Karachi, on 2 December 2014 on the directives of a District and Sessions Court (South) after mounting pressure from influential Sunni clerics at Numaish Chowrangi. The owner of JJ and J. (read J Dot) - mens’ Shalwar Kurta brand, Jamshed is currently incommunicado and his whereabouts are unclear.

The dark stain of the blasphemy laws has been turned on its head in a twist that is as ironic as can be. Junaid Jamshed, the pop star-turned-orthodox Islamic preacher, has been charged with blasphemy after some inappropriate remarks made by him in a televised sermon. He was speaking, in his usual misogynistic manner, about the nature of women and used the example of Hazrat Aisha, the revered wife of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) to illustrate his point. This act of his has unleashed the ‘blasphemy mob’ with many clerics distancing themselves from Mr Jamshed — particularly those belonging to the Tableeghi Jamaat of which he is a part — and one cleric from the Sunni Tehreek getting a blasphemy case filed against him.
 
Things are not looking good for Junaid Jamshed. He even posted a teary, desperate video of himself apologising for the remarks he made, stating that his ignorance is to blame. However, even after that statement of regret, reports are now emerging that the famous religious preacher has fled to the ‘secular’ shores of the UK in fear of his life. After more than a decade preaching God’s word and being a known figure on the sermon circuit, Junaid Jamshed has been damned by the blasphemy madness that has taken Pakistan in its vice-like grip.


While some may be amused by the fact that a staunch religious preacher is being cannibalised by his own, the whole affair is certainly no laughing matter. We have been seeing a frightening upswing of blasphemy cases recently with people being lynched and murdered — the most atrocious being the burning of a Christian couple in a brick kiln — by the ‘protectors’ of the faith, angry mobs driven by the vitriol of the nearest mullah. Now that a famous cleric is also receiving the same kind of treatment we can rest assured about one thing: this monster does not discriminate. Something must be done.

Whilst many sane, levelheaded individuals may not agree with the gender bashing and orthodox ideologies of people such as Junaid Jamshed, one cannot condone anyone, including him, being subjected to the barbaric treatment that all blasphemy accused are given. They are shot in jail cells by members of the police force, they are tortured and killed by manic crowds and no sense of mercy seems to prevail. This has gone on long enough. The blasphemy laws must be amended before all logic and rationale completely abandon this land. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

PLEASE MR. POSTMAN ...

World Post Day: remembering where it all started from

MAHTAB BASHIR
ISLAMABAD

'Stop! Oh yes, wait a minute, Mr. Postman, Wait, Wait Mr. Postman, Please Mr. Postman look and see, If there's a letter in your bag for me, Why's it takin' such a long time, For me to hear from that boy of mine. There must be some word today, From my boyfriend, So far away, Please Mr. Postman Look and see, If there's a letter, A letter for me'. Many of us have heard this classic hit song of 1960's from Marvelettes pleading postman to deliver letter from her beloved.

With the same urge of Marvelettes, World Post Day is going to be observed throughout the world including Pakistan today (Thursday) to create and maintain a structure for the free flow of international mail around the world.

World Post Day is celebrated every year on October 9 and it commemorates founding of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) in 1874 in Bern, Switzerland Capital.

Today, across the world, post offices are celebrating this special day in many different ways. This includes special philatelic exhibitions, free entrance in postal museums, introducing new products and services, seminars, workshops and more.

From the earliest times in history, 'postal services' existed in the form of messengers who travelled large distances on foot or horseback. In the 1600s and 1700s, many countries set up national postage systems and entered into bilateral agreements for the exchange of mail between countries.

By late 1800s, there was a large web of bilateral agreements that made distribution of international mail complicated, nontransparent and inefficient.

In 1863, Montgomery Blair, Postmaster General in the United States of America, organized a conference of representatives from 15 European and American countries.

During this conference, delegates laid down a number of general principles for mutual agreements on international postal services but did not create an international postal agreement.

On September 15, 1874, Heinrich von Stephan, a senior postal official in the North German Confederation (an area that now forms parts of Germany, Poland and Russia), opened a conference in Berne, Switzerland, with delegates from 22 countries.

On October 9, 1874, the delegates signed the Treaty of Berne and established the General Postal Union.

Number of countries that were members of the General Postal Union grew rapidly and the union's name was changed to the Universal Postal Union in 1878.

In 1948, the Universal Postal Union became a specialized agency of the United Nations. The 16th Universal Postal Union Congress was held in Tokyo, Japan, from October 1 to November 16, 1969. During this conference the delegates voted to declare October 9 each year as World Post Day.

Postal Staff College: On the day, various organizations will hold functions at Postal Staff Collage, G-8/4 Islamabad, to celebrate the World Post Day, where Senior Postal Executives and heads of other departments will participate.  

Other activities that will take places include presentation of Universal Postal Union (UPU) documentary, reading out message of D.G. UPU presentations, songs by a group school children, acting play of selected song containing the theme of UPU written by Additional Director General (Operational) Fazli Sattar Khan.

The ministry will also distribute aid packets among flood-affected postal employees in different parts of the country. Musical performance by Ustad Raees Ahmad Khan & group, speech by chief guest and also presentation of souvenirs to Turkish ambassador and chief guest by the chairman Abdul Hameed will be hallmarks of the ceremony.

So, go out, buy some postcards or some nice letter paper and write to all your friends and family; remind them that the post is a very important part of our lives. Happy World Post Day!

Also published in Daily Times

http://archives.dailytimes.com.pk/islamabad/09-Oct-2010/please-mr-postman

Friday, September 19, 2014

SCOTLAND VOTES TO STAY IN THE UK

Only four Scottish constituencies voted in favor of seceding from the U.K.

Scotland rejected independence in Friday’s referendum count, with around 55% of voters choosing to stay within the U.K. The 307-year-strong union has survived, although increased powers will be devolved to the nation.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, who spearheaded the Yes campaign, conceded defeat at around 6:17 a.m. local time. “On behalf of the Scottish government I accept the result and pledge to work constructively in the interests of Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom,” he said.

“The process by which we have made our decision as a nation reflects enormous credit upon Scotland. A turnout of 86% is one of the highest in the democratic world for any election or referendum in history — this has been a triumph for the democratic process and participation in politics.”

Despite a hard-fought campaign, only four of the 32 local authority districts voted for independence, including populous Glasgow, although even in this key constituency the margin was not particularly large, in a devastating blow to the Yes camp.

The final bell tolled for secession advocates after Edinburgh voted to maintain ties with the south by 61%.

“I am delighted,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron, hinting that more devolved powers would also be rolled out to other British regions. “It would have broken my heart to see the United Kingdom come to the end.”

Alistair Darling, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer who led the No campaign, admitted that the closeness of the result was a wake-up call.

“Today is a momentous today for Scotland and the United Kingdom as a whole,” he said. “While confirming our place within the union, we have confirmed the bonds that tie us together — may they never be broken.”

Pubs across the country were staying open throughout the night with customers both anxious and excited to see whether the historic union would be consigned to the history books.

Greg Waddell, a doctor working in Glasgow, told TIME that he voted Yes “because disempowerment breeds dependency; because the current extent of social inequality in Scotland demeans every one of its people.”

Others among the 4.2 million registered voters were less optimistic about prospects for going it alone. Nick Allan, an oil executive from Aberdeen, said the Yes campaign promises were enticing, but he voted No as it would be impossible to pay for them — especially not with North Sea oil.

“The problem comes down to money,” he says. “How on God’s earth are you going to be able to afford all of these improvements? The country will be bankrupt in a matter of years.”

Many questions regarding what a truly independent Scotland would look like remained unanswered, including over currency, health care, defense and E.U. membership. Spain’s Prime Minister was one of several European leaders who said he would not support Scotland’s application to the bloc, as the Iberian nation was unwilling to fan separatist campaigns of its own.

These fears were echoed by Professor Michael Desch, an expert on foreign policy at the Notre Dame University.

“Ironically, a peaceful Scottish secession from the United Kingdom could open Pandora’s Box by raising unrealistic expectations about the ease of parting long-established national ways,” he said.

The vote captivated social media. Over the past 24 hours, 1.3 million people on Facebook made 3.3 million interactions regarding the Scottish referendum debate.
Courtesy: time.com

Monday, September 15, 2014

A LONE WOLF PACES THE STAGE

Courtesy Kashif Abbasi 

On Thursday afternoon, as party leaders announced the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s decision to suspend talks with the government, a lonely wolf paced the roof of his container on Constitution Avenue.

Under the glare of the afternoon sun, Imran Khan was all but alone atop his stage – save for a few other party hands. But before him were not the multitudes that he had grown accustomed to.

In fact, around 2pm, dozens of empty chairs stared back at the PTI chief as he grabbed the mic to try and rouse the spirits of those who were in attendance.

Mr Khan was obviously perturbed, his mind no doubt preoccupied by the politicking that he and his party leaders were involved in.

But as he paced back and forth in clear view of TV cameras, those in attendance betrayed a sense of concern – even if for a brief while.

But as time passed and he began to speak to the crowd, morale among those in attendance improved. More people began to arrive by the late afternoon and the mood in the crowd as well as atop the container began to improve.

“I think our leader is worried about our party workers following reports that the government is set to launch a crackdown against them,” said Mohammad Hashim, who came all the way from Sargodha to hear his leader speak.

Another PTI supporter, Irfan Ahmed, appeared confused, saying it looked like something might happen because the main leadership, including Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Javed Hashmi, Asad Umar and Jahangir Tareen were missing from the stage.

But at the time, these leaders were addressing a press conference, where they announced the conditional suspension of the ongoing dialogue with the government committee.

“My cousin, a constable in the Punjab police, is deployed here on special duty. He told me a few minutes ago that the government is mulling a crackdown… so I think the chairman is thinking about some way to counter this,” said Mardan-resident Niaz Ahmed.

But things improved drastically by the early evening, as Islamabad residents, who had left the venue to freshen up, began to return in droves. In the interim, Mr Khan’s fiery anti-government rhetoric and the rousing beats of DJ Butt kept workers’ morale high. Indeed, hundreds of workers could be seen dancing to the tunes of revolution, particularly the Pashto anthem ‘Waya Waya’.

“There is no need to be tense. It is commonplace for our workers to join the sit-in after sunset. You will see, in the evening thousands will join us,” said another party worker Abdullah Ahmed.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2014

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

NOTHING CHANGED WITH THE RAINS

Looking at the pictures of inundated streets, flooded roads and overflowing drains, one could be forgiven for thinking that this is the first time monsoon rains have unleashed themselves on the province of Punjab. But that would be fooling no one but ourselves. The whole country deals with monsoon rains every year, sometimes in buckets and sometimes in spades. This year, the rainy season has arrived late, but now it has come with a vengeance.

The fact that the provincial government and our disaster management agencies have been caught with their pants down once again is not just embarrassing, it is costing lives. So far, the death toll has reached more than 80. The causes of death include roof collapses, landslides and electrocution. All of these fatalities can be attributed to negligence and an extreme lack of preparedness to tackle a problem that afflicts us each year. Lahore is hardly recognisable: knee high water, homes flooded with rain and gutter filth and vehicles stranded in deep pools. Work, commute, daily activities have all come to a halt because the administration and the disaster management authorities have been lazing about all year refusing to prepare for what we all knew was likely to come. Weather reports state that the downpour will continue for the next few days, perhaps even intensifying in nature. This spells catastrophe for a majority of the people living in shanty homes and the presence of poor quality infrastructure will ensure that more tragic deaths follow.
 
In low-lying areas such as our main cities in Punjab, the monsoon rains are particularly harsh. The poor, ancient drainage system cannot handle the deluge and overflows within minutes, resulting in filthy standing water. No one has bothered to fix or replace this faulty system over the years and, to add insult to injury, no one has even tried to extend any measures to limit the damage by improving the quality of construction in poorer areas of the cities. Every year people with limited resources suffer the rains while those more fortunate celebrate the onset of the monsoon.

However, not many are celebrating this year as even Azad Kashmir is registering record highs in rainfall and is facing landslides. Some 80 villages near Sialkot have been evacuated due to flash flood warnings. Reports suggest that as much as 0.9 million cusecs of water have entered Pakistan through the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has issued flood warnings and that is all. The Water and Sanitation Authority (WASA) stands helpless in oceans of deluge, not knowing where to even begin any relief efforts. It is of little surprise then that the army has been called in to help relocate evacuated families (once again).
 
The flash floods of 2010 submerged one fifth of the country in water and displaced millions of people. We still have internally displaced persons (IDPs) from that catastrophe languishing without shelter and rehabilitation. Subsequent floods and monsoon rains have added to the IDP count and infrastructure damage with nothing done to lessen the hardships of the masses. This is the pathetic state of a country that should be well equipped by now to deal with the calamity of expected rainfall but our only form of management seems to be to mutely move from one disaster to the next, praying that the worst will soon be over. Concrete steps need to be taken to improve construction, the state of how people live, the drainage and sanitation and an early warning system designed to alert the public to impending disasters. We may not be able to entirely alleviate the impact of Mother Nature, but we can at least try to lessen the tragedy and destruction as much as humanly possible.


Courtesy: Daily Times

Monday, September 1, 2014

OUR DARKEST HOUR

Saturday night (August 30, 2014) was a dark time in Pakistan’s history. Spurred on by Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan, workers from the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) and Pakistan Teheek-e-Insaaf (PTI) formed a mob and attacked the Prime Minister’s (PM’s) House and the fenced compound that encloses the houses of parliament and the presidency. Veteran human rights campaigner Asma Jehangir, whose moral stature towers above these two riot instigators, had it right when she told a local television channel: “There is no such thing as peaceful banditry.” Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri, despite their numerous claims of wanting peaceful protest, engaged instead in one of the most disgusting spectacles of mob violence this country has had the misfortune of seeing.

Saturday night’s events have already become obscured by controversy, but the sequence of events shows precisely where responsibility lies for the injuries and deaths among rioters and the police, and the destruction of public property. After presenting yet another deadline to the government for the PM’s resignation, Tahirul Qadri led from behind and ordered his workers to march towards the PM’s House while he sat in his car. Imran Khan had previously said he would not join in the invasion, making promises to the government and the military that these areas would remain sacrosanct. However, at the last minute, and reportedly against the majority consensus in his party, he decided to join his workers to Tahirul Qadri’s. They also told their workers to begin protests in other cities. The combined mob began to press towards the PM’s residence, but diverted and began leaping over and breaking the gates and fences surrounding parliament and the presidency.
 
After the police retreated literally to the doors of the presidency, this was the line drawn in the sand that the government could not ignore and when the mob turned towards the buildings, the police were forced to teargas them and drive them off the premises. The mob responded by attacking the police, using batons and rocks and the situation soon devolved into a full scale riot on the presidency grounds. Reportedly the protestors tried to force their way into the National Assembly (NA) but retreated when they saw the doors were guarded by army and Rangers personnel. No doubt they were told by their leadership not to engage the military. However, engaging the police was more than enough to turn the parliament grounds and Constitution Avenue into a veritable warzone, with rioters bent on causing destruction after being left with no clear goal in mind. In Lahore a mob assembled at Liberty Roundabout and began trashing storefronts and looting.

The riot in Islamabad lasted well into the morning though by then the mob of several thousand had dwindled to several hundreds. Three people were killed and hundreds injured, some by rubber bullets but most from exposure to teargas. Through it all Imran Khan was visible on top of his container, loudspeaker in hand, exhorting workers to charge the police, fight, and attack parliament. It was a sight so putrid that it beggars belief he has the gall to stand in front of the Pakistani nation again today and claim he is the victim. Apparently this realisation is dawning on PTI leaders too. Javed Hashmi and Shah Mehmood Qureshi were reportedly against the decision to join the riot and have not appeared beside Imran Khan since. After calling for a joint session of parliament for Tuesday, it is hoped that the government can quell the riots and bring the perpetrators to justice after imposing Section 144 in Islamabad, which prohibits large public gatherings, but one cannot rule out the possibility that fresh elections become inevitable, despite the PM’s legal mandate.

The country is now poised on the brink of an uncertain future and the situation is grave enough that COAS General Raheel Shareef moved up a corps commanders meeting to Sunday evening to discuss it. He must order the army to do its duty and protect the official residence of its commander-in-chief. With another battle in Islamabad looming, the next 24 hours may decide the future of this country.


Courtesy: Daily Times

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

PTI’s DESPERATE GAMBLE- WHEN "LONG MARCH" TURNS INTO "WRONG MARCH"

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s (PTI) ‘Independence March’ began with a call for the government to resign. It ends with the PTI saying it will resign instead from the National Assembly (NA) and all provincial assemblies except Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), though both decisions are still under debate. Flanked by a worried looking KP Chief Minister (CM) who undoubtedly sees a hard won election victory going down the drain, Imran Khan made the announcement in Islamabad yesterday and said he and his supporters will enter the Red Zone where sensitive government installations are located, despite having given written assurances to the authorities that he would not do so. What this desperate measure is meant to achieve appears to be nothing more than saving Imran the embarrassment of having to back down and admit his march failed to gather the critical mass of people necessary to appear as a legitimate popular movement.

If the PTI does resign the government will have to hold by-elections, where the PTI will probably lose seats if it contests. This could lead to dissent within the party if legislators have to reinvest in campaigning so soon after victory because of their leader’s short-sighted electoral politics. In KP, despite forming the government, the PTI does not have a majority of seats, meaning that if it resigns, unless the CM dissolves the assembly there is a precedent for a minority government that could reign in the interim until by-elections fill the remaining seats. The announcement follows Imran Khan’s garbled call for ‘civil disobedience’ on Sunday, which consists of his supporters refusing to pay bills and taxes. This should not inconvenience the government since it can cut electricity to defaulters, confiscate assets, and punish tax evaders under the relevant laws. It is also difficult to imagine several thousand charged party workers facing off against several thousand policemen in Islamabad’s most sensitive area, the Red Zone, without violence, in spite of his declaration. Since Imran has descended into delusion, the government must ensure restraint in what is a potentially combustible environment.

The government put Islamabad on red alert following the announcement, and the worry is that if ‘civil disobedience’ or marching on the Red Zone leads to clashes, bloodshed and arrests, the country could descend into further anarchy. With terrorism rampant, security is a prime concern and the government has a legitimate worry about letting thousands of people into the country’s nerve-centre. Moreover, a march into the Red Zone achieves nothing aside from a symbolic partial victory. Is it worth losing a strong presence in the NA and the provincial Assemblies? From the perspective of electoral politics, no it is not.

From a populist perspective, Imran is playing the only card he has left. This is not the stuff of revolutions; even the Kiev ‘Maidan’, a similar putsch to Imran’s attempt, had as many as 150,000 people in a country with a much smaller population. This should tell Imran two things; first, his popularity is not as widespread and unflinching as he assumed, which casts doubt on his claim that the 2013 elections were rigged. Second, his protest caused a great deal of uncertainty and upset for ordinary citizens who want nothing more than a few years of stability in which to reorder their lives. It has made him deeply unpopular with many of his former supporters. If anything, it may have strengthened the government, which now has every major political party on its side and appears relatively sane by comparison, its past sins of omission and commission notwithstanding. It repeatedly offered Imran a way out and is still doing so, setting up multi-party committees to negotiate with the PTI and PAT.
Iman Khan now has three options: he can turn to violence, he can negotiate, or his party can resign and fade into obscurity. Nawaz Sharif has given no indication he will resign, and Imran’s best hope of leaving this debacle behind is to accept the government’s peace offering and push his remaining demands at the negotiating table. If his party follows through with the threat to resign, he will be the only loser.  

Courtesy Daily Times

Saturday, August 2, 2014

MAJID NIZAMI: END OF A JOURNALISTIC ERA

Majid Nizami and my father Bashir Hussain Nazim had not only enjoyed unconditional friendship spanning over four and a half decade but also had a similar personal traits, i-e love for motherland, ideology of Pakistan, philosophy of Iqbal, political sagacity of Quaid and last but surely not the least their resistance against dictatorial regimes. 
P.S: Both left this mortal world on sacred days of Islamic calendar. Bashir Hussain Nazim was laid to rest on 27th Rajab (Shab-e-Meraj) June 17, 2012 while Majid Nizami was handed over to his maker on 27th Ramadan (July 26, 2014).   

With the passing away of Dr. Majid Nizami, chief of the Nawa-i-Waqt group of publications, has come to end an important era in Pakistan's history of journalism. Majid Sahib, as he was popularly known, took over the paper after the demise of his elder brother, Hameed Nizami, founder of Nawa-i-Waqt and a pioneer of independent journalism in this country.

In his professional career spanning well over half a century, Dr Nizami made a name for himself as a highly-respected editor. This did not come easy in a country where press has always been under pressure from military rulers, even civilian governments. True to a quotation his paper carried each day on its masthead "telling the truth to an oppressive ruler is jihad", he never hesitated to speak truth to power.

Unlike many in the profession who change colour with the changing times out of self-interest, Nizami always firmly stood by his convictions. Throughout his life he remained an ardent advocate of the 'Ideology of Pakistan', and helped found the Nazria-i-Pakistan Trust, an institution dedicated to the promotion and projection of the "Ideology of Pakistan as enunciated by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Mohammad Iqbal."

Equally zealously he supported the Kashmir cause, and argued for continuation of a confrontational policy towards India. He was also a strong proponent of a nuclear Pakistan. When it came to issues pertaining to India he could be the most hawkish of hawks. He was as uncompromising on the question of normalisation with India without resolution of Kashmir as he was on what he called 'slavery of military overlordship'. Clearly, on the former score, Majid Nizami was out of tune with the times.

Quoting an incident while fixing my date of wedding in the month of April (2012), my father (Bashir Hussain Nazim) straightaway shifted the date of April 21 to April 28 because of an annual function held under the aegis of Nazria Pakistan Trust where he had been reciting Kalam-e-Iqbal for the last 40 years. In this regard he was conferred upon “Iqbal Gold Medal” at Lahore in a ceremony.    

Strong views elicit strong reactions. Not only did Majid Nizami Sahib have a loyal following in some sections of society, he was arguably revered by country's military establishment. But he also had many critics because of his views on the controversial 'ideology of Pakistan' and a belligerent stance on India. To give him his due, he practiced what he believed in. Even though there are few takers left of his views on India, he stuck to them. The consistency with which he dealt with various other national issues and concerns commanded respect. He will long be remembered for the contribution he made to the cause of democracy as editor of a popular Urdu daily.

Majid Nizami will be missed as an upright editor who always wrote and said the right thing under the most trying circumstances. He will be remembered for his legacy of high standards of journalism and proprietorship. May his soul should rest in eternal peace.