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Pakistan Press (16 Mar 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

A Misery Called Disappearance: New Age Islam's Selection, 16 March 2017

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

16 March 2017

A Misery Called Disappearance

By I.A. Rehman

Doubling Down On Dystopia

By John Feffer

Tumultuous Afghan Entanglement

By S Qamar A Rizvi

CPEC: Is There Cause For Alarm?

By Khurram Husain

Tumultuous Afghan Entanglement

By S Qamar A Rizvi

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


A Misery Called Disappearance

By I.A. Rehman

March 16th, 2017

THE lack of satisfactory progress on affording relief to the victims of enforced disappearance makes it necessary to revisit their case. The more one looks at the monthly reports on the cases pending before the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, the more alarmed at the unmitigated suffering of the people affected one becomes.

Let us look at these reports for the last three months — December 2016, January and February 2017. The commission inherited 138 cases from the earlier body. It has received 3,718 complaints since March 1, 2011, when it started working, raising the total number of cases to 3,856. The commission claims to have traced 1,953 people in all. Three hundred and fifty-four cases have been deleted from the list on the ground that information about the disappeared persons was incomplete and another 309 cases were dropped for other reasons.

Thus, at the end of February 2017, the commission had cases of 1,240 involuntarily disappearing persons pending before it.

At the end of December 2016, the number of pending cases was 1,219.

At the end of January 2017, the number of such persons was 1,223.

At the end of February 2017, the number of pending cases was 1,240.

The monthly rate of increase in pending cases is small — four in January 2017 and 17 last month — but the unwelcome fact is that the number of cases is rising. That fresh cases of enforced disappearance have been reported over the past three months, at an average monthly rate of 57 persons, is a matter that should worry any authority whose conscience is not absolutely dead.

Hidden behind the statistics are incredible stories of human suffering.

Where do these unfortunate people come from? The position at the end of February was that the largest group (684 out of 1,240) belonged to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, followed by Punjab (245), Balochistan (103), Sindh (102), Islamabad (44), Fata (43), Azad Kashmir (13) and Gilgit-Baltistan (six).

How do these territories figure on the table of disposal of cases?

The largest group of persons traced so far belonged to Sindh (714 out of 1,025 people reported to have disappeared), followed by KP (626 out of 1,461), Punjab (398 out of 799), Balochistan (102 out of 281), Fata (51 out of 113), Islamabad (49 out of 131), and Azad Kashmir (13 out of 40). As for Gilgit-Baltistan, none of the six disappeared have been traced.

Hidden behind these statistics are incredible stories of human suffering. For instance, out of the 35 cases disposed of in February 2017, the largest group (13) belonged to Punjab. Eleven of them are said to have returned home. They included three of the five bloggers (a fourth fell in the Islamabad quota and the fifth is perhaps still ‘missing’) who had been picked up in January 2017. All of the persons traced were recent cases; seven of them had disappeared in 2016 and one in 2015. Of the two who did not return home, the case of Shahnaz Bibi, belonging to a Jhang village and reported missing since 2013, was not considered one of enforced disappearance, and the case of Muhammad Aqeel Ahmed of Islamabad (wrongly included in Punjab cases), missing since 2006, was dropped for “other reasons”.

The report does not tell us where all those who were reported to have returned home in February 2017 were after their disappearance. If they had been released from official custody, authorised or unauthorised, was the cause of their detention ascertained? Was any action taken or recommended against those responsible for detaining them?

The case of one person, Tallah Pervaiz Alam, living in Orangi Town, Karachi, was deleted on the ground of his address being incomplete. Was it impossible to trace his family? The next entry in the report is that of Mohammad Kaleem, resident of Pak Colony, Karachi. He returned home. Was his address complete?

Five persons were found confined to internment centres — three of them in Kohat, one at Fizaghat and the fifth at Parachinar. They had disappeared in 2012, 2014 and 2015. When were they sent to the internment centres? On what grounds? Has their trial started? What are their conditions of detention? The commission’s report is silent on all these crucial points.

One of the 35 cases disposed of in February was that of Samiullah from Karachi, who had disappeared in 2012; his dead body was recovered. But from where? Had the victim been tortured? Did his family accuse anyone? Does the commission carry out any investigations when dead bodies are recovered? Or is the file closed once a person has been traced in the form of a carcass?

Among a larger number of cases decided in a month, 105 in December 2016, we find that four persons reappeared as dead bodies, one was found in jail, five were said to be in judicial custody, and 10 cases were dropped as the address was said to be incomplete. Strange, as the mobile phone numbers of eight of them are recorded in the report. All the questions asked earlier apply to these cases as well.

Unfortunately, this commission of inquiry is so much handicapped for want of authority and resources that one cannot be angry with it. The government has paid no heed to the advice by UN agencies and forums to increase its powers and give it adequate resources. A high-powered conference to make the search for the disappeared persons truly effective is now overdue. The present commission was set up by the interior ministry on the recommendation of the 2010 commission of former judges that had been set up at the Supreme Court’s initiative. Perhaps it is time for the apex court to address the misery of the disappeared human beings.

Zeenat Shahzadi: The rights activists are deeply worried about a young human rights defender, Zeenat Shahzadi, who disappeared from near her Lahore home in July 2015. How long can the government live down the stigma of failing to recover her?

Source: dawn.com/news/1320669/a-misery-called-disappearance


Doubling Down On Dystopia

By John Feffer

March 16, 2017

Dystopias have recently achieved full-spectrum dominance. Kids are drawn to such stories –  The Giver, Hunger Games –  like Goths to piercings. This apocalyptic outpouring has been so intense that talk of “peak dystopia” started to circulate several years ago. Novelist Junot Diaz  argued last October, dystopia has become “the default narrative of the generation.”

Shortly after Diaz made that comment, dystopia became the default narrative for American politics as well when Donald Trump stepped off the set of The Celebrity Apprentice      and into the Oval Office. With the election of an uber-narcissist incapable of distinguishing between fact and fantasy, all the dystopian nightmares that had gathered like storm clouds on the horizon – nuclear war, climate change, a clash of civilizations – suddenly moved overhead.

The response among those horrified by the results of the recent presidential election has been four-fold.

First came denial – from the existential dread that hammered the solar plexus as the election returns trickled in that Tuesday night to the more prosaic reluctance to get out of bed the morning after. Then came the fantasies of flight, as tens of thousands of Americans checked to see if their passports were still valid and if the ark          bound for  New Zealand had any berths free. The third stage has been resistance: millions poured into the streets  to protest, mobilized at airports  to welcome temporarily banned immigrants, and flocked to  congressional meet-and-greets  to air their grievances with Republicans and Democrats alike.

The fourth step, concurrent with all the others, has been to delve into the dystopias of the past as if they contained some Da Vinci code for deciphering our present predicament.

It might seem counterintuitive – or a perverse form of escapism – to turn from the dystopia of reality to that of fiction. Keep in mind, though, that those novels became bestsellers in their own time precisely because they offered refuge and narratives of resistance for those who feared (in order of publication) the rise of Nazism, the spread of Stalinism, or the resurgence of state-backed misogyny in the Reagan years.

These days, with journalists scrambling to cover the latest outrage from the White House, perhaps it was only natural for readers to seek refuge in the works of writers who took the longer view. After all, it’s an understandable impulse to want to turn the page and find out what happens next. And dystopian narratives are there, in part, to help us brace for the worst, while identifying possible ways out of the downward spiral toward hell.

The dystopian classics, however, are not necessarily well suited to our current moment. They generally depict totalitarian states under a Big Brother figure and a panoptical authority that controls everything from the center, a scenario that’s fascist or communist or just plain North Korean. Certainly, Donald Trump wants his face everywhere, his name on everything, his little fingers in every pot. But the dangers of the current dystopian moment don’t lie in the centralizing of control. Not yet, anyway.

The Trump era so far is all about the center not holding, a time when, in the words of the poet Yeats, things fall apart. Forget about Hannah Arendt and  The Origins of Totalitarianism – also a  hot seller   on Amazon – and focus more on chaos theory. Unpredictability, incompetence, and demolition are the dystopian watchwords of the current moment, as the world threatens to fragment before our very eyes.

Don’t be fooled by Trump’s talk of a trillion-dollar infrastructure boom. His team has a very different project in mind, and you can read it on the signpost up ahead. Next Stop: The Deconstruction Zone.

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/192531-Doubling-down-on-dystopia


CPEC: Is There Cause For Alarm?

By Khurram Husain

March 16th, 2017

A number of articles in the past week have created some undue anxiety about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Let us put it in plain English at the outset: CPEC is not another East India Company. That comparison is specious and entirely unhelpful, even if some find it useful purely as a metaphor.

There are two reasons why the comparison is unhelpful. First, the East India Company had an element of force, something totally absent in the present case. Second, the East India Company gradually shed its trading activity and acquired governance responsibilities, taking on the administration of land revenue and justice, as well as education and the maintenance of an armed force. CPEC is moving in an entirely different direction.

The only area where the comparison might work is in the extraction of a surplus from Pakistan and its transmittal to China. But, even here, it must be kept in mind that the surplus is not being extracted through the use of force or from land revenue (or taxation in the present case), but purely from debt servicing and the repatriation of profits. All foreign investment involves these elements, not just the one coming from China. So at the same time that we are hearing about the arrival of Chinese investment under CPEC, we also have auto makers entering the Pakistani market from Korea and Europe, as well as a Dutch company acquiring stakes in the food sector. This is not necessarily a ‘creeping colonisation’.

The short answer is no. The long answer is not yet.

News about a research report put out by Topline Securities, which claimed that Pakistan will repay $90 billion on CPEC investments of $50bn, sparked a new round of anxiety-laden commentary on social media and television. The report itself is sound, and the figure of $3bn per year as repayment obligations is similar to what others have calculated. My own calculation on CPEC repayments, published in this column a few weeks earlier, gave me a figure of $3.5bn, while former State Bank governor Dr Ishrat Husain calculated $3bn.

But that is not a colonial level of surplus transfer. It certainly means that the projects being set up under CPEC are not for free, nor should they be seen as ‘concessional’. This is not a ‘gift horse’ that we are dealing with. The most that this figure ought to tell us is that we need to be careful in negotiating the terms, and ensuring that appropriate reforms to boost the economy’s productivity and competitiveness accompany the implementation of the project.

CPEC is best seen as an opportunity, not as some sort of manna from heaven that will come and solve all our problems. The worst mistake is to view CPEC as some sort of self-paying enterprise, as if the investments will somehow generate the required level of economic activity to automatically fulfil all the repayment obligations that they bring. This is a mistake because it cannot be taken for granted, and since it appears the government is indeed proceeding under this assumption, it is imperative for us to ask how they have calculated the returns from the investment.

The important question to ask is what will be the impact on domestic industry of the special incentives being given to Chinese investors. And connected with this question is the larger question of transparency. Thus far, too much of the project is shrouded in secrecy, and whatever information is being released appears to be carefully vetted.

Take as an example the question of repayment obligations. Thus far the only figures we are seeing are rough calculations produced by independent observers. The State Bank has told us nothing about the projected burden on the foreign exchange reserves due to CPEC outflows, and the IMF has given us a rough estimate that the total could add up to 0.4pc of GDP per year. It appears the government is not sharing the requisite project details with either of the two institutions, nor is it saying anything meaningful about how it has calculated the repayment obligations connected with the projects. All we have is a misleading statement from Sartaj Aziz that CPEC project loans will be serviced at 2pc, which is true for about a quarter of the total projects at best.

Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal put up an indignant Facebook post saying he is “amazed at baseless and myopic propaganda against CPEC” by those who are asking “why special zones for Chinese companies” are being created. He points out that China is relocating much of its industry to other countries due to rising wages in China. “If those companies are being attracted to come to Pakistan what is the harm?”

The harm, Mr Minister, is when your own government is putting out mixed messages. In one place we hear that the zones are for the Chinese companies, and in another we are reassured that they will be open to all. So what exactly is ‘baseless’ here, the ‘propaganda’ of those who are asking this simple question or the assurances being put out by your own government? And who is more myopic, the one gorging himself on foreign debt comfortable in the assurance that the future will pay for itself, or the one asking what repayment obligations come with these inflows and what is the plan for meeting them?

We don’t need more anxiety concerning CPEC, but we do need answers. When we frame our understanding of the enterprise in terms like ‘East India Company’, it warps our perception of the whole thing, and does not help in framing the right questions. The government can help allay some of this growing scepticism and anxiety by being more forthcoming with the details, and certainly a lot straighter with its answers. Snapping at the questioner is no way for a government minister to behave.

Source: dawn.com/news/1320670/cpec-is-there-cause-for-alarm


Tumultuous Afghan Entanglement

By S Qamar A Rizvi

March 16, 2017

THIS is an undeniable truth being equally endorsed by the seasoned diplomats/strategists/politicians belonging to both the advanced and the developing world that there is no sesame solution of the brewing Afghan crisis. Some of the US political analysts while taking a more local view have been holding the opinion, if the current Af-Pak policy—is not replaced with one where Taliban are an essential part of the settlement— this shall have disastrous implications for both Afghanistan and Pakistan, much more so for the latter. With popular support from a vast majority of Afghans and money from petro-dollars already on their side, Taliban will then have a legitimate political power at their disposal which they may essentially expend in furthering their parochial -set ideology. The trilaterally linked and multi dimensionally connected Afghan crisis thereby involving the major role— of three states, US, India and Pakistan— yet seems to dominate the current regional entanglement scenario.

Afghanistan may not bear a deeper brunt than the ones it has in the past in case so happens. Pakistan, however, seems to lick wounds of a war which is being yet fought without any predictable scenario, and a war for it has suffered a lot. With Taliban in an even stronger position than before. It’ll also mobilise the Jihadi factions for here will be there chance to re-emerge, more victorious and all the more virtuous. There have been unwarranted western apprehensions that Pakistan might return back in Zia epoch, essentially made to take a policy shift which will once again legitimise self-proclaimed Jihad.

Nevertheless, if Taliban come down to a settlement where they give up arms and come to participate in a democratic establishment, this ought to be considered pragmatically. US, Pakistan and Afghanistan can work together to create an arrangement where the militant influence be terminated and democratically replaced with a parliamentary participation. If indeed this must be achieved since it may perhaps be the best choice for everyone. However, it may sound a little utopian now. But we can venture hope for better!

India has had a long-standing enmity towards the Taliban, pre-dating 9/11. Furthermore, India has alleged links between the Taliban and the Pakistan’s military and Inter Services (ISI) long before such claims became received wisdom in the West of particular concern. Indian hostility towards the Taliban has created widespread doubt about the existence of any moderate Taliban and scepticism of the extent to which the Taliban can be separated from Al-Qaeda. This has led India to be dubious about Western suggestions of reconciliation or political settlement with the Taliban. While major doubts remain, some Indian opinion formers have argued in favour of the decentralization of Afghanistan’s system of government –were any process of reconciliation to be successful, it would be likely to involve some form of devolved government.

Disturbingly, a division of sympathies between a Tajik-dominated northern Afghanistan and a Pashtun-controlled central government could prove to be a new battleground considering the heated responses to vote tampering in the August presidential election. Accusations have been rampant, especially in the North where support for Abdullah was expected to be high. In the first round of elections, however, Hamid Karzai received what many claim to be a higher than reasonably expected vote total in these predominantly Tajik areas. In many ways, the unity government may have been doomed from the start, analysts say. Even its critics say it was undermined by a hastily forged agreement that split power between two archrivals: Abdullah and Ghani.

This is not to say that a civil war is imminent, but the possibility of violence between a pro-Indian Tajik leadership and a U.S.-backed Pashtun regime should arouse concern for those countries’ vested interests in Afghanistan. India is seeking to develop long-term diplomatic ties and economic arrangements with a stable, popular and pro-Indian regime in Afghanistan, which then enables India to leapfrog Pakistan and build robust strategic and economic ties with the energy rich states of Central Asia. In what Stephen Blank characterizes as a “great game” strategy, India’s goals reflect the desire to control overland routes to maritime ports for Central Asian resources by denying both China and Pakistan the ability to threaten Indian assets in the region.

As politically visualized here, even if its involvement in Afghanistan disconcerts Pakistan, it is highly unlikely that India will curb its diplomatic/political/social activities, anytime soon. This is primarily due to the fact that the interests— of India and the United States in Afghanistan—seem interconnected. Both states apparently seek a peaceful, secure and non-Talibanised Afghanistan but in reality, their practiced policy does not endorse this objective. Much distrust exists between Islamabad and Delhi over their respective activities in Afghanistan. Islamabad perceives New Delhi’s presence and influence as a deliberate attempt to encircle Pakistan and prevent it from attaining the strategic depth it needs in Afghanistan to avoid two ‘hot fronts’ (or borders with rivals).

Pakistan’s government often accuses India’s official and non-official consulates in Afghanistan— of carrying out clandestine operations against Pakistan in its tribal areas and restive province of Baluchistan. Pakistan has claimed, for example, that India arms and funds Baluchi rebels and the Pakistani Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP), which India denies. Pakistan resents the goodwill of Afghans towards Indians. Set against these notable achievements of the long period of stability, however, the outcome has failed to match several aspects of the aspirations that Afghans and international experts expressed at the start of the crisis period.

Pakistan being the Afghanistan neighbour has been badly implicated by insurgent armed crime because of the large volume of poorly regulated cross border traffic. However, Iran and Russia are also badly affected by the narcotics trade sourced in Afghanistan. But what gives an impending impression that a protracted conflict— which left much of Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban— has increased the scope for regional armed crime, giving extortion and criminal gangs the option to locate some of their activities in the area beyond the reach of state authorities. Nonetheless, a direct Pak- Afghan talk to mend the fences is but a necessity of the day.

Source: pakobserver.net/tumultuous-afghan-entanglement/


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