Books and Documents

Pakistan Press (11 Sep 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims: New Age Islam’s Selection, 11 September 2017

New Age Edit Bureau

11 September 2017

Educated ‘terrorists’

By Lal Khan

Language wars

By Hajrah Mumtaz

Kashmir talks: reality & myth

By Riaz Mohammad Khan

Rule of law is a farce

By Iftikhar Ahmad

The rickety-ride to information

By Naeem Sadiq

Myanmar’s killing fields

By Syed Tariq Fatemi

Compiled by New Age Edit Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/pakistan-press/new-age-edit-bureau/ethnic-cleansing-of-rohingya-muslims--new-age-islam’s-selection,-11-september-2017/d/112486


Ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims

Dr Muhammad Khan

Recep Tayyip Erdoðan, the Turkish President is the only international leader, who dared to raise voice against the Rohingya’s genocide at the hands of Myanmar security forces. Following the recent organised attacks (starting from August 25, 2017) by country’s powerful military on the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state of Myanmar, President Eradogan said in a speech in Istanbul, that, “There is a genocide there.” While pointing towards oblivious international community, he further said that, “Those who close their eyes to this genocide perpetuated under the cover of democracy are its collaborators.” It was not just a condemnation of the Muslims’ genocide by Myanmar’s so-called democracy, but indeed, he exposed the reality of those who preach peace, secularism and a free world for all and above all, those who were given Nobel Peace Prize for democracy.

The eye witnesses say, Myanmar ‘security forces and vigilantes attacked and burned villages, shooting civilians and causing others to flee. Contrary to Government claims that, only 400 Rohingyas have been killed, the fact is that, thousands of Muslims (Rohingyas) have been killed, injured, brutalised and women folk were gang raped. Only few incidents have been reported on social media as evidence. After the massive killings of Rohingya Muslims, there was a brief and vague statement of UN Secretary General, who said, “The current situation underlines the urgency of seeking holistic approaches to addressing the complex root causes of violence.” It indicates a statement of a helpless man. UN Special rapporteur on the human rights however feels, “that many thousands of people are increasingly at risk of grave violations of their human rights.” Human Rights Watch emphasised the Myanmar Government to “stop this offensive” and allow ‘humanitarian assistance’ and neutral journalists to know the facts.

The Washington Post feels that, in Myanmar ‘democracy dies in darkness’. While Aung San Suu Kyi, the current leader of democratic Myanmar was receiving the Nobel Peace Prize (which she won in 1991) at a Nobel ceremony at Oslo’s City Hall on June 16, 2012, a formal genocide campaign had already started against the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state. Upon a question over the killing of Rohingya of Muslims by Buddhist state, this Nobel laureate even did not condemn the act, which clearly indicates her biases and future plans. Indeed, a democratic Myanmar (Burma) has proved to be darker than the Burma under Military Junta.

‘The New York Times’ in its September 9, 2017 opinion writes, “For the last three weeks, Buddhist-majority Myanmar has systematically slaughtered civilians belonging to the Rohingya Muslim minority, forcing 270,000 to flee to neighboring Bangladesh — with Myanmar soldiers shooting at them even as they cross the border.” This prestigious newspaper considers this as an “ethnic cleansing”. A prior report; “Yale study” carried out much earlier than the current wave of violence had ‘suggested that the brutality toward the Rohingya might qualify as genocide.’ Many international peace prize winners have joined the movement, asking Aung San Suu Kyi to return the Nobel Peace Prize.

Although there is a general silence among the nation states (both democracies and autocracies) over this organised genocide of Rohingyas, there are people with conscious, who feel their moral responsibilities to raise their voices against the brutalities under a Nobel peace laureate. So far over 400,000 people had signed a petition, demanding the Award Committee to withdraw the Nobel Peace Prize from Aung San Suu Kyi. People like George Monbiot, a Guardian columnist emphasised the world to sign more on the petition “Why? Because we now contemplate an extraordinary situation: a Nobel peace laureate complicit in crimes against humanity.” This columnist is not a Muslim, but a promoter of peace and humanity. On its part, the Muslim world is as insensitive as rest of the world, the modern democracies.

In 2012, on the eve of receiving Nobel Peace Prize, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi said, “Ultimately our aim should be to create a world free from the displaced, the homeless and the hopeless, a world of which each and every corner is a true sanctuary where the inhabitants will have the freedom and the capacity to live in peace.” Today she is the architect and mastermind of the Muslims’ genocide of Rohingya Muslims and doing all reverses. The international media clearly revealed; “During the crackdown, government troops were accused of an array of human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killing, rape and arson.” How can Aung San Suu Kyi deny these undeniable ground realities, which have been filmed by neutral observers?

Seeing the recent precedence of liberal intervention by US and West in countries like Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, should not there be an imposition of sanctions against Myanmar over the massive human rights violations or a demand for a separate state for the Rohingyas on the pattern of East Timor or South Sudan. Population of East Timor is 1.269 million, whereas, population of Rohingyas in Rakhine state is 1.3 million with another 1.5 million as diaspora.

A recent UN Security Council meeting remained inconclusive over this genocide and earlier in March 2017, Russia and China blocked a resolution over the issue, which led the current massive human rights violation against Rohingyas in Myanmar. In summary, the harsh realities of global politics is; there are no human rights for the Muslims anywhere in the world and international politics is essentially interests based, where major power decide the issues according to their strategic and economic interests, rather for the grieved communities. Should an indolent Muslim world, an inert OIC and acquisitive Muslim elites learn a lesson now?

— The writer, Professor of Politics and International Relations, is based in Islamabad.

Email: drmkedu@gmail.com



Educated ‘terrorists’

By Lal Khan

The involvement of highly educated youth from the middle class backgrounds in the recent terrorist attacks, particularly in Karachi, is not an extraordinary phenomenon. It has become more of a norm. There is a long list of high profile terrorists from petit bourgeois backgrounds. Sarosh Siddiqui was a postgraduate physics student who escaped last Monday’s attack and Ahsan Israr, who was killed, hada PhD degree and professor at a private engineering university.

The gang involved in the Safoora Carnage in 2015 comprised of highly qualified graduates from different varsities. Daniel Pearl’sassassin Omar Saeed Sheikh, Al Qaeda IT expert Naeem Noor Khan, Al Qaeda operative Dr Arshad Waheed, Time Square bombing planner Faisal Shehzad, Danish embassy bombing perpetrator Hamad Adil, and hijacker of a navy frigate at Karachi dockyard Owais Jakhrani also came froma middle class educated elite. Its also the relatively well-offsections of Muslim diaspora in the West from which the terrorists involved in the New York the WTC attacks to the Daesh recruits including young Muslim women in the peculiar Islamicist modernist fashion mostly come from.

In Pakistan the organised Islamic fanatical tendencies were fostered by the state at the behest of the US imperialists to launch a terrorist insurgency notoriously known as the ‘Dollar Jihad’ to overthrow the left-wing government in Afghanistan after the Saur Revolution of April 1978. Ever since then this menace has spread in the whole region and is ravaging societies as far beyond. Pakistan has been plagued for decades by this ‘home grown’ bestiality. Historically after the failure of the PPP government’sreforms to deliver in the 1970’s and ebbing of the 1968-69 revolutionary tide there was a certain increase of the reactionary tendencies that emerged from the resultant despair in society. This was more profoundly reflected in the educational institutions with violence and killings of the left student activists mainly by the IJT (Islamic Jamiat a Talaba), the student wing of the Jamaat a Islami.

The left students organisations had played the pioneering role in the revolutionary movement of the late 1960’s and had a strong basis in the campuses where these religious outfits were tiny sects in the colleges and universities. Ironically the CIA sponsored these religious outfits. But the student’s politics, elections and students unions at the time were based more on ideological basis and the role of the proxies of wealthy financers was limited. After the state power was grabbed by the reactionary Islamicist dictator Ziaul Haq the religious students’ organisations became more viler with their lethal vigilantes carrying out heinous brutalities against the left-wing students activists, unions and organisations. But such was the resistance and struggle of the left wing students against this vicious dictatorship that Zia banned the students’ elections and unions first in October 1979 and then again in 1983.

It’s only through a mass revolutionary insurrection that this cancer of educated terrorists can be excised and the system transformed

Ever since, despite several democratic regimes being in power Zia’s ban on students unions has not been lifted. The democratic rulers of different parties that came to power were as terrified of students’ movements as was the dictator Zia. The judiciary quashes any parliamentary move to the relief of these democratic rulers.

However crisis amongst students has worsened. Privatisation of educational institutions has made education an economic burden for the parents and an ordeal for the students. The semester systems, relentless examinations and the cutthroat competition in education have made studyingagonising. The class system of education, disparity in the syllabi and the lavish flaunting of wealth by students from the moneyed classes creates inferiority complexes amongst less well-off students. The consequential infuriation finds no ideological and political outlets. Such strains are bound to create greater revulsions.

This psychological condition drives, these mostly lower middle class students, into fundamentalist obsessions and terrorist tendencies, an escapist shortcut from a traumatisingsystem with ambitions of heroism without much heroic deeds, abscondingthis cumbersome life.There is only a veneer of piety and religiosity to camouflage this venturing into realm of crime and terror.

Religious sectarian organisations are there for the taking.Funded by the massive primitive capital of the black economy these sects have become toxic. They have penetrated the state, politics and society. The clergy has morphed into fabulously rich entrepreneur in all trades. The sectarian groupings have splintered violently into dozens of rival outfits escalating terrorist savagery in this harrowing contest for plunder.

Some are still sheltered by the powers that be for strategic interests. Other splintered groups have become Frankenstein monsters for the imperialists and the deep state. The Tehreek Taliban Pakistanis in the forefront. The al Qaeda and the so-called Punjabi Taliban emerged from Wahabi, Deobandi and Salafists fundamentalist groups.

The state’s response to these terrorist cellsfostering in the universities has been pathetic. After failing to comb the data of religious sectarian seminaries, state’s agencies are now planning to scrutinise students enrolled in the Karachi’s universities. It will only create more hardships for the ordinary and poor students who have no access to wealth and connections in state and politics. This is not an issue that can be solved through administrative means. It’s a socio economic issue of a sick society drenched in misery and cultural anguish. This fundamentalist terror is the distilled essence of a rotting system. It’s a cancer that has metastasised into every organ of thesocioeconomic system and its state.It’s only through a mass revolutionary insurrection that this cancer can be excised and the system transformed.



Language wars

By Hajrah Mumtaz

September 11, 2017

AN acquaintance recently visited one of the largest bookstores in an upscale area of Islamabad, looking for one basic item that he thought would be available anywhere: an Urdu qaida, or a primer for children that teaches the Urdu alphabet and numerals.

To his consternation, the bookstore — which has nearly an entire floor dedicated to just children’s books — didn’t have any. There were any number of equivalents in English, from the bright, hard-page publications designed for babies and preschool toddlers to others graduated along various reading levels. But in Urdu, all that was available was a couple of magazines and a smattering of fiction and non-fiction books — mostly the well-known names such as the poetry of Allama Iqbal or Faiz Ahmed Faiz, or the novels of Intezar Husain and Quratulain Hyder.

The three other bookstores in the same market didn’t produce what he was looking for either.

A few years ago I went hunting in Karachi for a puzzle for preschoolers that bore the Urdu alphabet. I went to upwards of a dozen shops in several of the various malls and shopping complexes that lie in the generally affluent fraction of the city that is on the seaward side of Clifton Bridge.

My search produced no suitable rewards. Wherever I asked, the shopkeepers tended to look at me in surprise and say that there was no market for stock in Urdu. Finally, at one shop I found what I was looking for. It was when I sat down to go over the ‘alif bay pay’ with a child that I discovered the truth: it wasn’t the Urdu alphabet at all but the Arabic one.

How well is Urdu doing in Pakistan?

Over the years, I have heard many similar accounts. Reading material, and teaching aids and tools for children in English abound in our bookstores and toyshops, but Urdu is quite woefully represented. In schools, too, this situation seems to be being mirrored. Almost all the people I know lament that while their children study the subject in school for pretty much the same number of years as they are taught English, which is for many not even their second but third language, they have nowhere near the same proficiency or interest in Urdu.

So are all the doomsday seers right when they say that Urdu is a dying language in the very country where it is also the national language? Those that believe that under cultural attack from the West and the East, Pakistanis are losing access to a vast wealth of literature, literary traditions and heritage? The ones to decry everything from Hollywood to Bollywood and all that lies in between? From the accounts recorded above, it would appear that this is indeed the unfortunate situation.

And yet.

It is also a fact that over recent years, the country has seen the inception of a number of new newspapers in Urdu. This is true especially in Punjab, where by some estimates near a dozen new dailies have started being published, not a small figure when you take it in proportion to how many dailies exist in the country across all languages spoken here. And not only are all these new entrants to the newspaper markets selling to various levels of circulation, they are all in fairly robust financial health. That would indicate that Urdu is certainly in mass consumption in the country. It is also a fact that in terms of the sheer number of copies circulated, an Urdu-language paper almost always beats its English-language counterpart in Pakistan.

And, the Urdu press is flourishing beyond Pakistan’s borders as well. The number of journalists — writers, subeditors, researchers, etc — who move abroad in order to work in the same industry in Urdu beats those who earn their bread through English. In particular, in the US, Canada and the UK, there are newspapers for the Pakistani diaspora, and they are in Urdu (though these dynamics appear to be set to change now, as the Urdu-speaking generation of immigrants is gradually replaced by sons and daughters who might be able to speak the language, but few of whom may know how to read and write it).

It is also a fact that while the posh areas of Karachi or Lahore or Islamabad may not feature bookstores stocking a large choice of Urdu literature and teaching aids, the Urdu bazaars and Saddars and Anarkalis have a vast abundance; the publishing industry is doing well.

Is it the upper classes, then, that are increasingly cutting themselves off from their language and all the profundities and experiences contained within? Have we reached such an extreme point of self-loathing?

It was an Urdu teacher at an upmarket Karachi school, after all, who told me that most of their students struggle with Urdu. “But then,” she laughed, “it is such a boring subject!”



Kashmir talks: reality & myth

By Riaz Mohammad Khan

September 11, 2017

KASHMIR is so deeply emotive that perceptions often mix reality with myth. This is true of discussions over the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions, the Tashkent Declaration, the Simla Accords, the Lahore Summit Declaration and, most of all, of bilateral efforts to address the dispute.

On YouTube, I saw Prof Christine Fair snap at a Pakistani questioner who referred to the UNSC resolutions on Kashmir. She averred that Pakistan violated the UNSC Resolution 47 (1948) calling for a plebiscite by refusing to withdraw “tribesmen” from the territory of the state. This is a half-truth. Pakistan had expressed reservations to the resolution which led to the formation of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan and finally to Resolution 98 (1952) allowing Pakistan to deploy up to 6,000 troops and India up to 18,000. Pakistan accepted the resolution, but India rejected it invoking change of circumstances because of reports of an incipient Pakistan-US defence treaty.

Half-truths and political spin thus cloud agreements and talks on Kashmir. Politics was played around Tashkent and Simla. A text on Kashmir, similar to that of the Simla Accords, adopted at Lahore was projected as a pathway to a settlement. The 2005-06 backchannel negotiations drew criticism that Pakistan had abandoned its principled position. The fact is that Pakistan’s position, based on the UNSC resolutions and the Simla Accords, will remain intact until Pakistan accepts a new international legality affecting Kashmir. Neither the backchannel nor the earlier inconclusive talks changed this position. This aside, the plebiscite as conceived in the 1948 UNSC resolution is as academic today as is India’s claim based on the controversial accession document.

Kashmiri sacrifices and suffering must not be viewed through the prism of our security.

The first variant on the 1948 resolution came in the 1950 Owen Dixon plan for region-wise plebiscites, which was recognition of the demographic and communal realities in Kashmir. Later, Ayub Khan tried to persuade Nehru to accept a territorial adjustment; he had the Valley in mind. The Bhutto-Swaran Singh talks were not about the plebiscite. The Valley is the heart of the dispute. It represents 55 per cent of the India-held Kashmir population, where the Kashmiri people have refused to acquiesce to and have constantly agitated for freeing themselves of Indian occupation. This is the only pressure that India faces pushing it to look for a settlement. The latest youth uprising across the Valley lends fresh urgency to our moral response in support of Kashmiri rights and self-determination.

Moral principles alone provide justification for Pakistan’s position on Kashmir. Discussions sometimes meander into security considerations or the need to protect water sources, that Kashmir has tied down over half million Indian troops; and that Pakistan must remove an existential threat by securing control of rivers which pass through Kashmir. These are false arguments. Kashmiri sacrifices and suffering must not be viewed through the prism of our security; it will knock out the moral basis of our position, suggesting that we are not interested in a just political settlement. The argument negates the fact that nuclear deterrence is an equaliser which will not be altered even if India doubles its military strength. As for rivers, maps show that the upper reaches of the Indus and the Chenab lie in Ladakh and Jammu respectively, the two non-Muslim majority regions which are unlikely to accede to Pakistan under any scenario.

We may ask: what is Pakistan’s locus standi to speak with India on behalf of the Kashmiris for this or that formula? The question has logic, yet history imposes a responsibility on Pakistan to seek a solution that is consistent with Kashmiri aspirations. Otherwise all our efforts, declarations and resolutions will make little sense. Meanwhile, we must do all we can to help attenuate the suffering and human rights violations of the Kashmiris. Personally, I would say that we should be supportive if they demand azadi provided we can protect our vital interests which, in the strictly territorial sense, are linked to Gilgit-Baltistan. So, what are the realistic options for a way forward?

Do we have a military option, or jihadi recourse, or resort to the United Nations or to diplomacy? Let us focus on the political and diplomatic options. In the UN and other forums, we always make strong references to Kashmir, particularly on human rights. This must continue more emphatically. However, I do not recall any proposal for a resolution or initiative received from our UN missions since 1993 when a resolution was moved and then withdrawn in the Human Rights Council. For UN matters, the Foreign Office normally defers to the advice of our permanent representatives who are invariably persons with great experience and grasp.

India stubbornly rejects third-party or multilateral mediation and accepts no such modality to address Kashmir. Bilaterally, the 2005-06 backchannel has been the most sustained effort. I was associated with it. Doubts swirl around that effort, largely because its deliberations have not become public.

The so-called Four-Point Formula was centred on a provisional arrangement for self-governance within sub-regions of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. The last draft, received from the Indian interlocutor in March 2007, included issues yet to be settled. Much of the text was, however, agreed through exchanges spread over two years, including sections on self-governance, intra-region movement and trade and economic activity. Sub-regions were supposed to have similar systems with their own administration, security, legislatures, police and law-enforcement agencies, in other words, optimum autonomy. The Kashmiris could freely move and trade across sub-regions. Joint mechanism related to specified issues such as international treaties (the Indus Water Treaty), connectivity and travel. This section and the demilitarisation provision needed further work. However, the process, which also envisaged political consultations, was stymied by the judicial crisis in Pakistan and then the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

The present circumstances offer little hope for picking up the threads. The Modi government has even tried to scuttle the IHK special status under the Indian constitution. If ever diplomacy revives for a peace plan, its contours will be no different than those outlined through the 2005-06 effort. Political realities and demography impose limits on what diplomacy can achieve.



Rule of law is a farce

Iftikhar Ahmad

Constitutional democracy is an impossibility in the absence of the rule of law

11-Sep-17 by

There is often a confusion that manifests when people fail to distinguish between notions of the rule of law and law and order. Speaking of the rule of law, we are not concerned with matters of adherence, but rather the equality of all in the eyes of the law itself.

Constitutional democracy pivots around the rule of law. It requires that the state only subjects its citizens to publicly promulgated laws and subordinate legislation. The legislative function of the state must be separated from the judicial function and no one, as a matter of policy, may remain above the law. Modern constitutionalism stems from three features: limiting the powers of the government, strict adherence of the rule of law and the protection of fundamental rights.

We regularly proclaim our abhorrence towards dictatorial and authoritarian rule, harping on about the virtues of constitutional democracy, and yet many conveniently omit to attach due weight to the rule of law itself. In fact, our hapless and ignorant masses have not even been made aware of that fact that a demand for the rule of law is in fact a demand for the enforcement of fundamental rights. Our colonial past has hindered us as much as any other factor. The departure of the colonialist resulted in the passing of the baton of supremacy into the hands of our own landed aristocracy and establishment. One would have thought that the perniciousness of military rule and a longing for constitutional democracy would inevitably prop up the rule of law, but the converse has happened. Our political leaders have morphed into demigods. It is almost inconceivable that they could do any wrong and they have hardly ever considered the red lines of the law as a barrier to the continuing exercise of bloated, excessive power, all pumped up by the machine of political popularity.

The power of our military, unprecedented in any constitutional democracy, has cast a shadow over the very fabric of our society, particularly with its targeted influence in civil affairs. Despite the brazen hostility between Gen Musharraf and Ch Iftikhar and their questionable use of constitutional powers, both Gen Musharraf and Ch Iftikhar’s son Arsalan remained unruffled by the trials and accountability that ensued.

Notwithstanding the virtues of the 18th amendment, certain features have created a collusive system that links the leader of the house with the leader of the opposition, in a gentleman’s agreement that they may flout the law through manipulated appointments of the election commission and NAB. You scratch my back I’ll scratch yours!

Whether it is the arrest and trial of Dr Asim, Sharjeel Memon or other close associates of Asif Zardari, the whole process appears to be a mere sham. Even the Panama Leaks case seems to have dissolved into thin air after the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif. Ironically, the London flats that are under graft investigation have now become a safe haven for the conveniently exiled family of the Sharifs. The NAB references may meet the same fate as that of the Liaqat Bagh firing cases against Mustafa Khar.

The power of our military — unprecedented in any constitutional democracy — has cast a shadow over the very fabric of our society, particularly with its influence in civil affairs

Anecdotal accounts of the daily trampling of the rule of law are unending. The saddest part is the lip service provided by the champions of the human rights and political correctness. For them, apparently, their entire scope of human rights campaigning begins and ends around issues of women’s rights (a legitimate cause, per se) and a hatred of the army. Raising voices and taking concrete actions against routine violations of the rule of law doesn’t seem to be a matter of priority in Pakistan. Perhaps people don’t see any nexus between the fundamental rights and the breach of the rule of law.

The political use of INTERPOL’s assistance and the abuse of the ECL laws make mockery of the rule of law. After the removal of her name from the ECL, the circulation of Ayan Ali’s iconic photo, where she sat in the first class cabin of Emirates Airlines – practically showing two fingers to all, is essentially the truest comment on our judicial system and the fragility of rule of law. This even resulted in the tragic assassination of the investigating officer in Ali’s money-laundering case.

In the absence of the rule of law, contemporary constitutional democracy is an impossibility. Beyond this essential dilemma, however, it is still not completely clear what precise characteristics the rule of law must possess to help sustain constitutional democracy and what specific role it must assume to find its place as an essential ingredient of equitable way of life.

If in our society the rule of law loses all meaning and the current status quo becomes the norm, the overriding goal of developing just governance and delivering a fair future for our people will remain, quite simply, yet another Pakistani pipe dream.



The rickety-ride to information

By Naeem Sadiq

Published: September 10, 2017

In 2016, the Swedish and Finnish governments celebrated the 250th anniversary of the world’s first Freedom of Information (FOI) law that was passed in Sweden in 1766. Nudged by an Asian Development Bank precondition, Pakistan made its first FOI law in 2002. Between the federation and the four provinces, Pakistan today has five independent Right to Information (RTI) Acts. While gaining political brownie points appeared to be the primary motive, the composers of these hurriedly put-together documents had little interest in their content or functionality. No wonder that these five RTI Acts could collectively inspire no more than a few hundred RTI requests in the last 15 years. Compare this to India, which received 976,000 requests in 2016 alone.

The RTI in Pakistan may best be explained by the story of the ‘emperor’s new clothes’, where no one wished to say that the emperor was in fact wearing nothing. We have a hugely overrated and under-performing RTI system. The state is quite happy to keep it like this forever. There is no debate for a serious reassessment of the entire RTI system, the faulty laws, the bureaucratic hurdles and the citizens’ indifference.

The new Sindh RTI Act was passed in 2017. It specifies that an information commission shall be established within 100 days of commencement of the Act. So far, the Sindh government has failed to comply with this requirement. The RTI Act also requires formulation of rules. But no rules have been made to operationalise the RTI Act yet. The appointment of ‘designated officers’ in each public body within 45 days of commencement of the Act has also not taken place in more than 90 per cent public bodies.

Punjab passed its RTI Act in 2013. The government, however, became uncomfortable when the information commissioners began taking actions against the non-compliant government officials. It was therefore, considered prudent to neutralise the information commission by neither appointing any further information commissioners nor allocating funds necessary to operate the commission. The commission responsible to oversee the RTI function was thus, made comprehensively inoperative.

The 2005 Balochistan FOI Act is conspicuous by its under-utilisation. It is loaded with bureaucratic compulsions like using a specific format for application, giving reasons for seeking information and attaching a bank challan, which calls for knowing impossible numbers such as Major Head C0, Minor Head C038 and Detailed Head C03885.

In August 2017, parliament finally passed a new RTI Bill to replace the outdated FOI Ordinance 2002. The new bill gives ministers the power to deny disclosure of information. This single clause defeats the very essence of the RTI. One can only hope that the lower house before passing the bill will remember to remove the vague and niggardly characteristics of the bill. The missing definition of the word ‘information’ could lead to additional possibilities for misuse.

Pakistan has made three fundamental mistakes in the context of the RTI. It tried to make five RTI Acts instead of opting for the Indian model of a single RTI Act for the whole country. Next, it did not invest in building its semi-functional or completely dysfunctional RTI commissions. Except for K-P, there is no functional RTI commission in any other province. Lastly, the state has shown no interest in giving awareness, training or motivation to ordinary citizens on the use of RTI. In a few cases, the donor agencies assumed this role as if they had a greater interest in Pakistan’s RTI than our own government.

It calls for courage and truthfulness to admit that we have a quasi-functional RTI system that will not get better without a major restructuring. Article 19A of the Constitution will continue to remain a dream as long as the state is unwilling to reconstruct the three primary pillars of the RTI. These are developing a single RTI Act, ensuring separate but effective RTI commissions for the centre and provinces and conducting an on-going nationwide RTI awareness programme.



Myanmar’s killing fields

By Syed Tariq Fatemi

 September 11, 2017

From an icon of democratic values and poster child of liberalism, Aung San Suu Kyi, the de-facto ruler of Myanmar, has fallen to the status of a conniver in the genocide of the Rohingya population. On her watch and right under her nose, the country’s Buddhist monks and armed forces have systematically terminated over 10,000 Rohingya, uprooted tens of thousands and have created such a tall tower of death for this stateless community that it would make Hitler go green with envy.

A Nobel Laureate with a high moral ground, Suu Kyi now stands on the titled stage of dishonour and disgrace. True, the Rohingya’s systematic cleansing (read: extermination) predates her government’s arrival on the scene. But the fact that she – the most known face of her country internationally – has chosen to create a moral equivalence between the killer and the killed and has thrown her weight behind genocidal policies makes her look morally deficient and devoid of principles. She has been a letdown to the millions of her admirers, proving yet again that titles and badges do not make heroes.

Can she and the country she controls be turned back from annihilating the Rohingya? The sheer burden of tragedy has already forced a slow-moving and compromised international community to take notice of the slaughter. Yet this is just in words and not in action. As Asma Jehangir, Pakistan’s celebrated human rights activist and UN rapporteur, pointed out on my show recently, the existential threat to the Rohingya has been documented since 1992 and more recently the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, has been crying hoarse over the worsening situation. The media, while restricted and blocked through an iron wall of censorship by the government, has also chronicled this tale of horror for years. Social media, even though at times inaccurate and misleading, has served an exceptionally useful medium to put out incriminating evidence of the Rohingya’s persecution.

And yet the killings have gone on unhindered. From gang rapes to hacking to pushing groups into flowing river waters, unimaginable atrocities have taken place in recent months. Part of the reason is that Myanmar is a strategically-located country. As China and the US vie for influence in the Indian Ocean, it becomes a hotbed of global power struggle that leaves little scope for its isolation on the grounds of despicable human rights violations. The Rohingya’s plight is further exacerbated by the fact that the community has been disorganised and totally impoverished. Their voices have been weak and wholly dependent on outside support for being heard across a treacherous land that is now closed to any outside scrutiny and documentation. In a dog-eat-dog world, this is a ruinous disability. The Rohingya had to die in their thousands and be uprooted and displaced to be heard.

Besides, the bordering countries, India and Bangladesh, have regimes whose own track record of handling minorities and voices of anguish in their midst is abysmal. You don’t expect Narendra Modi of the Gujarat massacre fame to be moved by the plight of Rohingya. Or for that matter Madam Hasina Wajid to shed a tear over the tragedy considering her brutal suppression of opposition at home, including the hanging spree of those she conveniently dubbed as traitors.

Perhaps the only real-life issue that can bring some relief to the Rohingya in the days ahead is the fear that most countries in the region share – that this tragedy might become a magnet for revenge squads of religious groups to descend from all across and start a new chapter of jihad in the name of the Rohingya. As a recent report has pointed out, the South East Asian region will “have to confront the reality of returning Islamic State (IS) fighters from Iraq and Syria. Experts estimate that hundreds of foreign fighters have returned to Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, while only a handful have been identified. More are expected to make their way back following the allied operations in Mosul and Raqqa – the two Islamic State territories in Iraq and Syria respectively.”

The report also says that “their numbers are said to be bigger than those who returned from the Afghanistan war in the 1980s, and subsequently established the Al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah terror group”.

India and Bangladesh have enough tinderbox at home to light the fire of an indigenous reaction to the tragedy that has been allowed to befall the Rohingya. Thailand is already struggling with internal strife involving Buddhists and Malay Muslims. China has its own issues. The blood-curdling sight of a Muslim minority being put to the sword without any effective action being taken by the regional and international countries is a powerful symbol that can unite many disparate groups. That danger can spread fast and wide. We have seen it happen in the Middle East. We have seen it happen in Afghanistan.

Injured sentiments can trigger reactions beyond imagination. Perhaps this consideration will make the regional countries drive some humanity in the heads that govern Myanmar. For those who have perished and whose lives have been damaged among the Rohingya, any action now will be too little too late but for those who survive any intervention at this point will still be welcome.

The above sets the context in which we have to analyse our own reaction and response to the mass murder of the Rohingya. Officially, the right noises have been made even though practical steps to register this protest have been conspicuous by their absence. Pakistan remains a distant but deeply interested observer to the happenings in Myanmar, trying to balance arms deals with growing public demand to talk tough to the Myanmar authorities. The civil society and the religious right have both raised voices of concern and condemnation, which is a reassuring aspect of national life even though the motivations for both groups seem different and even divergent.

The religious right and their affiliates want to champion every cause involving religion, even though their application of the Muslim brotherhood principle has been selective when it comes to tragedies of the Muslims in say Yemen, Nigeria, and even Iraq and Syria. For the civil society, the issue is essentially one of human rights and their grave violation at the hands of a government that has been deaf to reason and humanitarian appeals. Politically, voices have been heard from all quarters about the Rohingya but this has been more in the spirit of expressions on a publically popular subject than any substantive and durable concern about the problem.

Politics in Pakistan continues to revolve around the NA-120 by-election, civil-military ties and – from today onwards – the unfolding spectacle of the review petition before a bench whose three-member, five-member puzzle is making jurists go nuts. Politically, the Rohingya are/were a fleeting concern worthy of press releases, tweets and Friday demonstrations.

The media has been attentive to the tragedy after its details and facts became too ugly to ignore. But even there we have witnessed instances of impotent rage. In one case, an actor-model-turned-analyst (and that’s a tragic combination) frothing at the mouth heaped scorn over Pakistan’s passport and suggested that all the Rohingya should be given Pakistani nationality because, according to his superior logic, Pakistani nationality is hardly a matter of honour at any rate. Since this character is an officially-designated super patriot and he made these remarks from the pure platform of a patriotic channel, his fulminations did not become a matter of national crisis. Anyone else making such pronouncements would have been condemned to the same fate that the Myanmar government has reserved for the Rohingya.

But these aberrations aside, it is heart-warming to see Pakistan debate with great energy and interest an international humanitarian crisis – something that you will not find happen in most so-called developed or Islamic countries that miss no excuse to put down Pakistan’s standing among the comity of nations. There is some humanity left in this world after all and it’s good to be a significant part of it.

The writer is former executive editor of The News and a senior journalist with Geo TV.

Email: syedtalathussain@gmail.com


URL: http://newageislam.com/pakistan-press/new-age-edit-bureau/ethnic-cleansing-of-rohingya-muslims--new-age-islam’s-selection,-11-september-2017/d/112486


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