New Age Islam Edit
September 9, 2017
By Hussain H Zaidi
By Irfan Husain
happened to Zeenat?
By M Ziauddin
Where To, Now?
By M Ziauddin
The inhumanity of
By Khalid Saleem
Legal eye: State
By Babar Sattar
US imperialism vs
N Korea’s ultranationalism
threshold for militancy
By Abbas Nasir
Compiled by New
Age Islam Edit Bureau
Fleeting Moments- Why
The US Needs War
By Iftekhar A Khan
US President Donald Trump has warned Pakistan to either stop
harbouring and abetting terrorists or be prepared to face the consequences. In
other words, Trump has placed us in a probationary period to either conduct
ourselves to his satisfaction or suffer. He expects us to follow his dictates
on the pattern that a village tough expects his inferiors to suck up to him.
Toughs are always hard to please.
Trump’s warning has alarmed many Pakistanis. Despite our
full support – by providing routes for Nato supplies and air strips to launch
drone flights – the US accuses us of supporting terrorists. In fact, the
so-called war on terror has cost us thousands of precious lives and triggered
losses worth billions to our economy. Yet, we are being blamed for not doing enough
and for playing a double game.
Owing to this war, our way of life has changed forever. Ours
was a free country. People could freely move about in military garrisons. But
all that has changed. Security checkpoints put up on main roads and thoroughfares
cause hardships and miseries. All large government buildings, schools, colleges
and universities have put up high walls with barbed wire running on them. And
yet, the imperial power thinks we have not done enough.
However, before Trump came to power, he showed no
inclination for wars or launching military aggression against any country.
Before his election, he said, “Syria is not our issue” or “we should stay out
of Syria”. But after moving into the White House, he stepped up the intensity
of war in Syria and ordered 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles to be launched in the
war-torn country. Trump’s turnaround from pacifism to jingoism is phenomenal.
What compelled him to change his mind?
When he made anti-war statements, he was a novice in
politics. He had never occupied any key political position in the government.
After moving into the White House, he found himself surrounded by retired
military generals in some of the most important decision-making positions. With
John Kelly as the White House chief of staff, Jim Mattis as the defence
secretary and H R McMaster working as his national security adviser, Trump had
to acquire jingoistic views. Generals are combative by deportment.
Even though the US president is considered the most powerful
man on earth, he is only a spokesperson of the influential
military-industrial-corporate complex that plays a dominant role in formulating
a country’s foreign and defence policies. Let us remember that the US economy
is primarily based on wars. Its powerful military machine, laced with state-of-
the-art equipment, is not meant to sit home and yawn. It must be launched to
occupy weaker states on one pretext or the other. Consider Libya and Iraq.
After Trump’s warning to Pakistan, a debate ensued among the
official circles and on TV and print media that the new American policy of
sending more troops to Afghanistan is doomed to fail. Some have quoted examples
of Vietnam and Iraq to prove their point.
Success and defeat don’t matter much to the US. What matters
is that wars must go on. Wars justify spending the taxpayers’ money to pay
weapon manufacturers. Wars rejuvenate the war-based economy. In return, the
weapon manufacturers donate to the election campaigns of congressmen and the
ruling oligarchy. If in the process, the ordinary American Joe and Jane are
deprived of their hard-earned money and the world loses it peace, it’s just
It’s also cited that Obama wanted to withdraw troops from
Afghanistan. Yes he wanted to, but only at the fag end of his second tenure in
the White House when he had nothing to lose. On the other hand, Donald Trump
has just occupied the White House. He would surely need a whipping horse to
sail through his stay in power. And what better choice than the land of the
poor Afghans, a tried-and-tested ground for weapon testing.
To understand the American psyche of wars, Marines Major Gen
Smedley Butler’s speech in 1933 should be examined: “War is just a racket. A
racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to
the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is
conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses”. He
added: “There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of
our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is
simply a racket”. Are the present American wars mere rackets? This is a
question for the American public to answer.
Pakistan is in a tight spot and it must dig itself out of
it. For a country that is already fending off America’s cutting remarks about
its alleged role of a show-spoiler in Afghanistan, the declaration issued at a
recent Brics summit has added insult to injury.
Without naming Pakistan, the 10-year-old bloc, which
represents major developing countries, has for the first time termed militant
outfits that are allegedly based in the country a regional security concern.
Referring to the situation in Afghanistan, paragraph 48 of the declaration
states: “We, in this regard, express concern on the security situation in the
region and violence caused by the Taliban, ISIL/Daesh, Al-Qaeda and its
affiliates including [the] Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, [the] Islamic
Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani Network, [the] Lashkar-e-Taiba, [the]
Jaish-e-Mohammed, [the] TTP and [the] Hizbut Tahrir”.
Para 49 adds: “We deplore all terrorist attacks worldwide,
including attacks in Brics countries, and condemn terrorism in all its forms
and manifestations wherever committed and by whomsoever and stress that there
can be no justification whatsoever for any act of terrorism. We reaffirm that
those responsible for committing, organizing, or supporting terrorist acts must
be held accountable”.
The strongly-worded declaration issued at the Brics summit,
which was hosted by Pakistan’s all-weather friend China, may have cut the
country to the quick. At the 2016 Brics summit that was held in India, China
had opposed the incorporation of a similarly-worded text in the joint
statement. However, the impression that Beijing has ratted on Islamabad by
agreeing to include the text in a statement issued at the recent summit a year
later is wrong.
As China inches closer to becoming an economic superpower,
one of the most potent threats that it faces is militancy. The declaration
prefigures that China is toughening its stance on supporting subterranean
outfits regardless of where they are based. At any rate, bilateral relations
involve taking the rough with the smooth. At the same time, Islamabad will be
ill-advised to put all its eggs in one basket, regardless of whether it is
Beijing’s or Washington’s. Whether it is in the East or the West, inter-state relations
are shaped by perceived national interest.
Pakistan has sallied forth in the war on terror, with
thousands dead and billions lost. But it has not been able to make a persuasive
sales pitch that it is set against militancy in any shape or form. Hence, its
commitment to fight terrorism remains under question from both its friends and
foes. With the situation in Afghanistan going downhill, the pressure on
Pakistan to do more in the war on terror is racking up.
In any event, the growing Taliban militancy can’t be set
down to the alleged acts of omission and commission on the part of Pakistan.
The Afghan predicament is too complicated to warrant such a skin-deep
diagnosis. The narrative that support and sanctuaries provided by Islamabad to
the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network in the pursuit of strategic depth in
Afghanistan are the principal reason that the country is bleeding is short on
Pakistan is not the villain of the piece in Afghanistan.
Other players are also present on the scene, each trying to hit the bull’s eye
in pursuit of its perceived national interest. This has made the country a
theatre of divergent and often incompatible interests. The US has fought as
well as encouraged reconciliation with the Afghan Taliban and has backed the
now largely futile quadrilateral peace process.
American presence in Afghanistan has been actuated less by
the fear of the Taliban and more by the apprehension that after Al-Qaeda, the
war-torn nation may become the stronghold of another transnational militant
organisation, such as the IS. It is only now that Washington has announced to
go all-out against the Taliban. But in case the US has to choose between an
IS-like organisation and the Taliban, it’s not difficult to conjecture who it
For India, a friendly Afghanistan is an instrument of
outflanking Pakistan, both politically and economically. New Delhi has set upon
itself to have a strong commercial and political presence in the unstable but
strategically important country. Given the zero-sum game that New Delhi and
Islamabad are engaged in, any gains made by India anywhere are seen by both
countries as a loss for Pakistan and vice versa.
Iran, which provides an alternative transit route for
Afghanistan’s overseas trade, also wants a friendly government in Kabul. The
Chabahar Port in south-east Iran, which is being developed with New Delhi’s
assistance, will provide India a long-cherished market access to Afghanistan
and beyond that to Central Asia. Tehran may not like Afghanistan to provide
sustenance to transnational terrorist organisations like Al-Qaeda and the IS.
At the same time, it would not mind if the Afghan campaign eats up more US
resources. It may even like the US to pull out of Afghanistan on a losing note.
There are also internal forces of instability at work in
Afghanistan. Years of infighting have ravaged the Afghan economy. On the other
hand, a feeble economy has thwarted efforts for peace and reconciliation and
encouraged corruption as mighty warlords compete for meagre resources. It has
also reduced Afghanistan to a vassal state that serves the often mutually
incompatible foreign policy objectives of key regional and international
Amid this clash of interests and conflicting objectives, the
US, with all its might and main, has failed to stem the rot in Afghanistan. It
will be grossly unfair to expect Pakistan to take the rap for US failure in
Afghanistan. Pakistan also has a valid point that the US has sold its
sacrifices in the war on terror short.
Be that as it may, Pakistan can’t just shrug off the
mounting criticism of its counter-terrorism credentials. Far from pleasing
Washington or even Beijing, coming clean on the issue is in Islamabad’s own
interest. Religious extremism has put the nation’s future at risk. Even higher
education institutions are in the thrall of the diabolical ideology on which
The foreign minister hit the nail on the head through his
comment on the Brics declaration. He emphasised the need for Pakistan to set
its house in order. Evidently, this entails more than erasing negative
perceptions about Pakistan. Quite a few banned outfits continue to operate
under different names as the National Action Plan remains largely
Trump’s threats may be viewed as either a form of
sabre-rattling – implying that Pakistan should not care a hoot – or a reality.
In either case, Pakistan should not wait to find out what they mean. It is
unlikely that Pakistan will go bankrupt or its people will starve without
At the same time, a cash-strapped country like Pakistan is
always in need of foreign assistance to keep the wheels of the economy moving
and to move up the ladder of economic progress. Contrary to the claims of a few
rabble-rousers, external aid is not a Greek gift. Instead, foreign capital
supplements domestic savings, which in the case of Pakistan are quite low.
However, more than the aid, it is a question of fending off
the growing diplomatic isolation. As a result, the government ought to get
around the problem by engaging all the stakeholders – including the US – and
putting across its own viewpoint.
September 09, 2017
JOSEPH Stalin is reputed to have said: “A single death is a
tragedy; a million deaths are a statistic.”
The same applies to migrants. Today, we are concerned about
the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar that has driven over 100,000 unfortunate
Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh. But these are mostly faceless refugees: to be
pitied, but hard to empathise with.
This goes for all the hundreds of thousands fleeing from
conflicts, lawlessness or poverty in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Eretria, Nigeria
and many other countries that are sinking into chaos. Even as their westward
movement is tracked by TV cameras and well-meaning commentary, they remain
It’s only when you actually meet somebody displaced from his
home that a refugee moves from being a statistic to a real, flesh-and-blood
human being. In my case, this happened while watching a recent production of
Fiddler on the Roof.
Usually, musicals are fluffy entertainment that seldom carry
a serious message, or force the audience to think beyond the songs and dances
they provide, often with great panache. But they are hardly ever vehicles for
Fiddler on the Roof is set in the shtetl, or ‘little town’,
of Anatevka in Russia. For some 250 years, Russian Jews were restricted to
these small rural communities, barred by law from going to university, or
entering professions like law and medicine, or owning land. They were hardly
ever given permission to leave their shtetls, and this lack of mobility
contributed to a high degree of social cohesion. Although life must have been
tough, it still evokes a lot of nostalgia among Jews descended from shtetl
They are to be pitied but hard to empathise with.
As the audience meets the superstitious, raucous inhabitants
of Anatevka, the distant rumours of anti-Semitic pogroms are audible. But life
goes on, and Teyve, the play’s central figure, struggles to balance the winds
of change with the community’s deeply conservative ethos. Tradition! is a
rollicking song about the need to cling to the old ways.
But Teyve — brilliantly played by Omid Djalili, the Iranian
stand-up comic and actor — is forced to fight a rearguard action to preserve
his authority in his family as one by one, his four daughters persuade him to
agree to marriages with men he initially didn’t approve of. One of the young
men, a radical student from Kiev, is sent off to a labour camp in Siberia, and
is followed by his loyal young wife.
Against the backdrop of small-town gossip and bickering, the
harsh reality of tsarist persecution approaches ever closer. A wedding party is
disrupted by Russian soldiers, even though one of them later apologises, saying
he was following orders. But soon, the people of Anatevka are told they have to
vacate the shtetl in three days.
In the final scene, Teyve and the other townspeople say
farewell to each other, and leave with the belongings they can carry to
different destinations. Some announce their decision to go to America; others
head for Western Europe; and the matchmaker is determined to reach Jerusalem.
Theatre demands a suspension of disbelief, and over the
two-hour long production, we come to know the characters who come to life on
the stage. Watching their funereal procession as they leave their beloved
shtetl, it was hard not to shed a tear for their forced departure.
Multiply this misery by a million and more, and you get some
idea of the pain being suffered by so many unfortunate people around the world
today. In many cases, these expulsions are the result of nationalism and faith:
if you are not a member of the majority community, you are the ‘other’ and
therefore pose a threat.
Thus, for the majority Buddhists of Myanmar, the Muslim
Rohingyas are outsiders who do not deserve nationality, dignity or the right to
their own homes. Hundreds of thousands of Christians have been displaced in
Iraq; non-Muslims are forever at risk in Pakistan; and Shias and Sunnis are
locked in battle across the Middle East.
As tribes have evolved into nations, and religious views
have become more intolerant, the killing frenzy has mounted. In fact, these two
forces have led to more death and destruction than any other cause. Even
secular ideologies like communism and fascism have triggered inhuman butchery.
Old footage from Partition of the countless people killed
and displaced reminds us of the high price we paid to separate Muslims from
non-Muslims, even though there are as many Muslims in India today as there are
in Pakistan. Then many thought Bengali Muslims could not live with their West
Pakistani brethren, and today, many Sunnis consider Shias to be apostates, and
So where does this atomisation end? Nations, faiths, sects
and ethnicities have divided us as never before. Education and progress have
done little to break down these ancient barriers as we build walls instead of
bridges. As the Rohingyas are driven out, we must ask if it’ll be our turn
Whatever has happened
Defence of Human Rights has reported that more than 5,000
cases of enforced disappearance have still not been resolved
In August 2015, Zeenat Shahzadi, a Pakistani journalist who
had been following the alleged enforced disappearance of an Indian engineer,
Hamid Ansari, went "missing" from Lahore.
According to Zeenat's family, she had been receiving
threatening phone calls asking her not to pursue the case before her alleged
Two years later, her fate and whereabouts remain unknown.
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has mentioned
Zeenat's case in its latest report (released on August 30, 2017)titled -
"No more 'missing persons': the criminalization of enforced disappearance
in South Asia".
In Pakistan, enforced disappearances are largely reported in
Western region, where people accused of belonging to
militant organizations or of involvement in terrorism-related activities are
known to have "disappeared".
The practice is also reported in large numbers in
Balochistan, where there are ongoing movements for self-determination and
greater provincial autonomy, as well as in Sindh, against people belonging to
or perceived to be sympathetic with nationalist groups.
With the ‘disappearance’ of a number of bloggers and
journalists earlier this year, the practice of enforced disappearance appears
to be expanding — both in terms of geographical reach and the categories of
people being targeted
With the "disappearance" of a number ofbloggers
and journalists earlier this year, the practice of enforced disappearance appears
to be expanding - both in terms of geographical reach and also the categories
of people being targeted.
The number of cases of enforced disappearance has recorded
significant increases in the early 2000s, beginning with Pakistan's involvement
in the US-led "war on terror" in late 2001.
The practice has now become a national phenomenon. Defence
of Human Rights, has reported that more than 5,000 cases of enforced
disappearance have still not been resolved.
The Voice of Baloch Missing Persons alleges 18,000 people
have been forcibly disappeared from Balochistan alone since 2001.The officially
constituted Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, which has been
granted a three-year extension on Friday, on the other hand, reports 1,256
cases of alleged enforced disappearance as of 31 July 2017.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, whichdocuments
human rights violations in 60 selected districts in the country, has documented
nearly 400 cases of enforced disappearance since 2014 from the 60 districts it
So far the Government has failed to bring perpetrators to
account in even a single case involving enforced disappearance.
On the contrary, it has enacted legislation that facilitates
the perpetration of enforced disappearance - including by explicitly legalizing
forms of secret, unacknowledged, and incommunicado detention - and giving
immunity to those responsible.
Enforced disappearance is not recognized as a distinct crime
Police register complaints of enforced disappearances against
'unknown persons' under section 346 of the Penal Code that relates to
"wrongful confinement in secret", and prescribes a penalty of two
Families of "disappeared" people have also made
habeas corpus petitions in the high courts and the Supreme Court under Article
199 and 184(3) of the Constitution respectively, requesting the courts to find
out the whereabouts of their "missing" loved ones.
Courts have responded by directing concerned authorities to
"trace" the whereabouts of "missing persons" and producing
them before court.
The Supreme Court first took up the issue of the widespread
practice of enforced disappearances in Pakistan in December 2005, when it took
suomotunotice under Article 184(3) of the Constitution of a news report citing
the growing numbers of enforced disappearances in the country.
During the hearings, the Supreme Court acknowledged evidence
establishing that many of the "disappeared" were in the custody of
the government agencies and summoned high level officials before the Supreme
Court to explain the legal basis of the detention and to physically produce the
As the number of cases of enforced disappearances pending in
the Supreme Court steadily grew, the Court directed the Government to establish
aCommission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearance to investigate enforced
disappearances across Pakistan and to provide recommendations to curb the
The 2011 Commission was initially established for six months
but its mandate has since been extended a number of times, and the Commission
remains in operation at the time of writing.
Among other functions, the Commission has the mandate to
"trace the whereabouts of allegedly enforced disappeared persons",
"fix responsibility on individuals or organizations responsible", and
"register or direct the registration of FIRs against named individuals…who
were involved either directly or indirectly inthe disappearance of an untraced
Despite the broad mandate, the Commission has failed to hold
perpetrators of enforced disappearances criminally accountable.
In one of its strongest judgments yet on the practice of
enforced disappearances, the Supreme Court held in the Mohabbat Shah case that
the unauthorized and unacknowledged removal of detainees from an internment
centre amounted to an enforced disappearance.
The Court expressed concern at the "Kafkaesque
workings" of the government forces and held that "no law enforcing
agency can forcibly detain a person without showing his whereabouts to his
relatives for a long period" and that currently, there was no law in force
in Pakistan that allowed anybody to "unauthorizedly detain undeclared
Notably, the Supreme Court also held that even though
Pakistan has not yet become a party to the International Convention for the
Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED), principles
enunciated in the Convention are applicable in Pakistan in the interpretation
of other rights such as the right to life.
The Government responded by filing for a review of the
judgment, askingthe court to delete remarks implicating the agencies as such
findings could "demoralize the troops".
The Pakistani Government has committed to criminalize
enforced disappearances on multiple occasions. However, it has taken no concrete
steps to fulfil this commitment.
For example, the Government constituted a "Task Force
on Missing Persons" in 2013 to provide recommendations on how to deal with
the prevalent practice.
The Task Force submitted its report in December 2013. While
the report has not been made public, members of the Task Force have revealed
that one of the recommendations in its report was the criminalization of the
The Committee also urged that Pakistan should also ensure
that "all allegations of enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killings
are promptly and thoroughly investigated; all perpetrators are prosecuted and
punished, with penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crimes.
Published: September 9, 2017
Keeping in view the current situation in the world and the
region, Pakistan will have to swiftly “change its direction,” said Foreign
Minister Khawaja Asif on Thursday, September 7th, after the conclusion of the
Pakistani envoys’ conference.
But do we have the time to change course before the
onrushing train of world public opinion crashes into Pakistan?
On the face of it, however, it seems only an impossible
Houdini act can snatch us from the jaws of the oncoming challenges. Indeed, we
have missed this bus so many times that it has now stopped coming our way.
Still, there are a number of steps that we could quickly
take to convey to the world that this time at least we mean what we are saying,
so that those who are driving the onrushing train take their foot off the
throttle for a minute or two as they take a closer look at what we are
The first step that needs to be taken urgently is to remove
foreign policy from national pride and link it up with national interest even
if it appears on the face of it to be a move for appeasement, especially
towards our enemy number one — India. The next step is to immediately proceed
against all those who were allegedly involved in the Mumbai massacre of
Those who have worked on this case believe that we have
enough evidence to get a guilty verdict from the courts against its alleged
Next, we must stop testing China’s friendship by having
Beijing block a proposal by the US to designate Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) chief
Masood Azhar a global terrorist.
Pakistan had the choice to go after the non-state actors
(NSAs) immediately or dismantle their infrastructure gradually. The first
option was considered too dangerous as the militants, it was feared, would
morph into many groups once their leadership was arrested and jailed, making it
impossible to monitor the splinters. So, the second option was adopted. This
was based on the theory that if one tried to jump from the top of the ladder,
there was this possibility of ending up with broken limbs. It was therefore
decided that we would climb down the ladder one step at a time.
The gradualism theory seems to have done us no good. We seem
to have lost a lot of limbs already. We have lost as many as 53,000 Pakistanis,
including 7,000 security personnel and suffered a massive dent of $120 billion
to the economy.
More importantly, we have lost a lot of ideological space to
the distorted version of Islam propagated at gunpoint by these NSAs. This
ideology has spread like wildfire from Fata to Punjab and Karachi, to rural
Sindh and Balochistan.
As a result, Pakistan has become a pariah state, almost. No
country wants to play cricket here and our tourism has taken a big hit. Even
our most secure establishments, like the GHQ and the naval and air force
installations have come under attack.
We consistently deny the presence of safe havens for the
Haqqani Network in the tribal belt, or the existence of the so-called Quetta
Shura or/and Peshawar Shura. But let us make doubly sure that this is what the
actual truth is.
We took a long time going into North Waziristan despite the
heavy price the nation kept paying all these years in terms of men, money and
the all- important ideological space.
There were said to be about 3,500 foreigners in North
Waziristan, about a few scores of Arabs, a thousand or so children of Arabs
from Pashtun mothers, some tourist jihadists, and a sprinkling of Uzbeks, Tajiks,
Chechens and Uighurs.
It used to be argued that if we tried to send boots into the
region, the jihadists would use the civilian population as human shields
resulting in colossal collateral damage. If we bombed them from the skies, the
collateral damage would be equally enormous. Using gunship helicopters would be
disastrous because the terrorists would shoot them down.
The inordinate delay in launching this war for peace has
also injected a large dose of trust deficit between Islamabad and Washington,
and two of our immediate neighbours — India and Afghanistan — continue to
suspect our intentions and accuse us of playing a double game.
The on-going international refugee crisis in the wake of the
ambitious adventures of the powers that be should serve to bring home to all
right-thinking people that welfare of human beings does matter. Riding
roughshod over people’s right to life and livelihood is just not on — no matter
what the justification.
On the outskirts of the beautiful city of Algiers, a visitor
would find the very well-maintained Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery. Buried
there are servicemen who lost their lives fighting for the victors during the
Second World War. Those who have had the opportunity to visit this cemetery
will have noticed etched on the gravestone of one young soldier the epitaph:
“Someday we shall know the reason why.” One could hardly think of a more apt
summing up of man’s anguish over the insanity of war than this poignant outcry
of the distraught family of this young victim.
Over the years, men have gone to war against other men at
the behest of ambitious leaders, killing and maiming their fellow beings in the
process. And yet, when history was at long last written — by the victors —
nothing but nothing emerged to justify the carnage, the cruelty and the havoc
wrought as a result of these horrendous campaigns.
The history of man’s march towards civilisation is replete
with vivid instances of man’s inhumanity to man; of man’s greed, rapaciousness
and untold ambition. All to what end? Man’s inherent mental capacity to
distinguish right from wrong is, instead, utilised to justify the
unjustifiable; man’s covetousness of what is not his but rather the veritable
right of his fellow beings.
Each war that has been fought has had its own peculiar
justification and particular set of advocates. These advocates take pains and
go to any extreme not only to justify the conflict but also to glorify the gory
details. In the current conflicts the powers that be have coined a brand new
pretext: pre-emption. This pretext is based on the philosophy that a mighty
power has the inherent right to hunt and destroy any hapless minion that in its
opinion could one day pose a threat to its own selfish interests.
The recent conflicts are no different from the wars in the
past waged by those who coveted what was not rightfully theirs. The solitary
difference is that the visual media have conferred on the conflicts an entirely
new dimension. People around the world follow them like on-going soap operas;
only that the bullets are real, the smart bombs and daisy cutters lethal and it
is real human beings who are being cut down.
The world is passing through an extremely difficult, nay
critical, phase. Talk everywhere is of belligerence, not peace; of bigotry, not
tolerance. War, which was once regarded by sages as the last option, is now
being peddled as a quick-fix solution for all ills. Human life, shorn of its
sanctity, has never appeared so cheap or so dispensable.
A wanton act of terror has turned the entire world order
upside down. Doesn’t the irrational response of the great world leaders over
the past years indicate that they have played right into the hands of the
‘terrorists’? After all what does a terrorist hope to achieve through his
desperate act, but to create terror? A dispassionate look back would indicate
that this is exactly what the perpetrators of 9/11 have managed to achieve.
Response to terror does not lie in counter-terror, just as
the riposte to murder does not lie in vendetta. The international agencies have
yet to pin a plausible definition to ‘terrorism’ or, more importantly to ‘state
terrorism’. No religion condones wanton violence per se. All uphold the
sanctity of human life. Advocate justice, fair play and righteousness. It is
the greed of man rather than his creed that breeds violence. And greed has no
nationality or ethnicity.
Time may be opportune for the elders of the world to join
their heads together to devise an integrated plan to tackle the root cause of
terrorism, as also of chauvinistic adventurism. If this course were to be
followed, the elders may well come to the conclusion that the remedy lies not
in an open-ended sordid adventure, but rather on a course of conciliation.
Legal eye: State and
September 9, 2017
Ten years, numerous investigations and a trial later, we are
as unaware of the truth surrounding Benazir Bhutto’s assassination as we were
the day she was taken. The saddest part is that this has come as no surprise.
Had we stumbled upon the truth amid the state putting up a show of trying to
bring offenders to justice, it would have been a break from our history and
practice. The ATC ruling, considered dispassionately, epitomises the rot that
parts of our state have come to represent. As a whole, it is a picture of
depravity, complicity, inability and timidity.
There were at least three hypotheses regarding BB’s
assassination: One, she was killed on Musharraf’s instructions; two, she was
killed by the Musharraf regime by engaging non-state actors; three, non-state
actors conceived and executed the assassination plan and the Musharraf regime –
while being aware of the threat – was either incapable or unwilling to protect
BB. To state the obvious, none of these makes the state look good. It was a
state crime, or state and non-state actors being in bed, or non-state actors
acting with impunity due to an inept state.
The ATC ruling clarifies nothing. There is no attempt to
understand or analyse the larger picture. One gets no sense that the court
tried to decrypt the motive of crime or pass a ruling that would unveil the
facts surrounding it or announce a sentence that legal heirs of the victim
could consider retributive justice or one that would have deterrent effect in
general. Is a justice system anything more than a charade if it can’t decipher
the truth surrounding a heinous crime, can’t identify or nab culprits and can’t
bring peace to legal heirs or society-at-large?
The ATC seems to reject the third hypothesis (proposed and
pursued by the state): that non-states/the TTP executed BB. This is the only
slightly reasoned part of the ruling. The court decries lack of causal linkages
between the accused and the crime and highlights the larger problem with
criminal prosecution: the accused kept in illegal confinement, arrest date
falsified, confessional statements taken under duress, evidence concocted,
involvement of intelligence agencies, SOPs not followed, investigations rife
with loose ends leading to prosecution presenting a fabricated story that
doesn’t withstand scrutiny.
By separating Musharraf from the trial and ordering that he
be tried at a later time, the ATC court doesn’t directly address the theory
that Musharraf ordered BB’s assassination. But by convicting DIG Saud Aziz and
SSP Khurram Shahzad (under Sections 119 and 201 of PPC, for concealment of
design to commit an offence that the police were duty bound to prevent, and for
causing disappearance of evidence) the ruling leaves both theories (state
ordering BB’s assassination and executing it itself, or having it executed by
The part of the ruling that deals with the role of the
police officers is almost devoid of reasoning. It deals with their defences
mechanically and while convicting them doesn’t explain in cause-and-effect
terms what “design” they tried to conceal. So without the court saying who
killed BB and why, we have two police officers convicted (one for ordering that
the police escort team assigned to BB attend to the firing incident targeting
Nawaz Sharif and for not ordering a post-mortem, and the other for ordering
that the crime scene be hosed 100 minutes after the incident).
(In the interest of disclosure, as a young ASP Saud Aziz was
our neighbour in Civil Lines. Khurram Shahzad was a classmate in Quaid-e-Azam
University and probably the mildest soul in class. And from police officers one
has only heard about both being professionals). Notwithstanding the
acquaintance, if they were part of or complicit in any ‘design’ to assassinate
BB, they must face the wrath of law in its harshest form. But can someone be
punished for protecting a design without determining what the design is or who
its authors/executioners are?
Holding the police accountable for being negligent is one
thing (and about time we do so) and punishing them for deliberately destroying
evidence to protect real culprits is another. Have the officers been
scapegoated or have they been punished for not revealing the identity of the
hidden hands behind BB’s murder? Due to poverty of reasoning, the ruling
doesn’t explain. The inability of actors within the justice system to be candid
in such cases is evident from the fact that the only plain-speaking part of the
ruling is where the judge quotes the findings of the UN Commission of Inquiry.
The UN Commission in its findings noted: “The [BB murder]
investigation was severely hampered by intelligence agencies and other
government officials, which impeded an unfettered search for the truth. Despite
their explanation to the Commission that they do not have a mandate to conduct
criminal investigations, intelligence agencies included the ISI were present
during key points in the police investigation, including the gathering of
evidence at the crime scene and the forensic examination of Ms. Bhutto’s
vehicle, playing a role that the police were reluctant to reveal to the
“More significantly, the ISI conducted parallel
investigations, gathering evidence and detaining suspects. Evidence gathered
from such parallel investigations was selectively shared with the police. What
little direction police investigations had was provided to them by the
intelligence agencies. However, the bulk of the information was not shared with
police investigators. In fact, investigators on both the Karachi and Rawalpindi
cases were unaware of information the ISI possessed about terrorist cells
targeting Ms Bhutto and were unaware that the ISI had detained for persons in
late October 2007 for the Karachi attack.
“More importantly, no aspect of the Commission’s inquiry was
untouched by credible assertions of politicized and clandestine action by the
intelligence services – the ISI, Military Intelligence, and the Intelligence
Bureau. On virtually every issue the Commission addressed, intelligence
agencies played a pervasive role, including a central involvement in the
political negotiations regarding Ms Bhutto’s return to Pakistan and the conduct
“The Commission believes that the failures of the police and
other officials to react effectively to Ms. Bhutto’s assassination were, in
most cases, deliberate. In other cases, the failures were driven by uncertainty
in the minds of many officials as to the extent of the involvement of
intelligence agencies. These officials, in part fearing involvement by the
intelligence agencies, were unsure of how vigorously they ought to pursue
actions that they knew, as professionals, they should have taken.”
This last paragraph of the UN Commission’s finding cited in
the ATC ruling is an apt critique of the ATC ruling as well. BB’s assassination
and subsequent events, including bungled up investigations, the lies and
cover-ups, death of a prosecutor and a clumsy trial scream out loud that
instrumentalities of our state made a deliberate and sustained effort to ensure
that no one gets to the bottom of who killed BB and why. The scarier bit,
highlighted by the fact that BB’s party was in government after her
assassination, is that everyone has made peace with the fact that survival demands
not entangling with powerful state instrumentalities.
The Saleem Shahzad Commission headed by a SC judge had
concluded that, while information wasn’t forthcoming and he couldn’t name
names, he also couldn’t give a clean chit to intelligence agencies suspected of
foul play. The issue of forced disappearances is alive and screaming to this
day without an end in sight. The Axact case has been messed up just like BB’s
with investigators pressurised and at least one prosecutor being delivered the
‘message’ with a grenade attack.
We saw bloggers being picked up, charged and convicted for
blasphemy in a media trial by faceless accusers before being let off in the
dark of the night.
So here is the message. You can survive non-state actors if
you antagonise them, but neither they nor you can survive if you cross the
US imperialism vs N
THE world gets cautioned by the growing nuclear rift between
Washington and Pyongyang, which has been doubled down by Kim Jong Un’s blunt
initiative of exploding a hydrogen bomb test on Sunday. And yet, the real cause
of the 15-year hot nuclear conflict between the two Cold War rivals lies in the
US-coveted imperialist policy in the Korean Peninsula and North Koreans’
orchestrated policy of reactive ultra-nationalism against Washington. US
tensions with North Korea severely brewed when President Trump opted to again
highlight the threat the US military could pose to Pyongyang, tweeting that
“military solutions are now fully in place” and “locked and loaded” should
North Korea “act unwisely. The US Pacific Command is more signaling its
promptitude to fight if need be than spoiling for a battle within days.
On the other hand, the UNSC has scheduled a second emergency
meeting in a week about North Korea after a powerful nuclear test explosion
added another layer of urgency for diplomats’ brain storming— what to do about
the North’s persistent weapons programmes. The Americans apprehend not beyond
thirty minutes about how long it might take a nuclear-tipped intercontinental
ballistic missile (ICBM) launched from North Korea to reach Los Angeles. On
July 4, North Korea carried out its first-ever successful test of an
intercontinental ballistic missile. Xi and Putin have had already shown their
reservations over US deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence
(THAAD) system in South Korea when the launch occurred. Both China and Russia
advocated for a dual freeze solution soliciting that ‘’North Korea would freeze
its nuclear and ballistic missile testing while both US and S Korea would hold
their conventional exercises’’. But their precept did not work.
As for the North Koreans, the US-North Korea scuffle has to
be seen within the perspective of Washington’s half century hostile and
imperialist policy towards Pyongyang. The North Korean state attempts to
engender a visceral hatred for the United States. Kindergarteners have
demonstrated anti-American martial images. The Korean media releases videos of
the US military— in flames as shown at the June 25 anniversary of the start of
the Korean War—depicts the display of the day of struggle against US
imperialism. The Korean veteran of war, Kim Il Sung, is revered as a god in
North Korea and attributed with countless accomplishments, exclusively
inventing the country’s guiding ideology, juche — which means self-reliance —
and liberating the Korean Peninsula from Japanese occupation. The US has been
deploying its most advanced capabilities to Japan, to further contribute to the
security of Japan. This deployment has stimulated Kim’s rage after he warned
this week US military escalation was dragging the world to the “brink of
nuclear war”. “In case of a US- triggered aggression, the DPRK will opt for
with a powerful nuclear treasured sword for self-defence’’.
Japan has mobalised missiles and defence systems to its
major cities in preparation for a missile attack. Hiroshima, Shimane and Kochi
are particularly at risk as any North Korea missile fired at the US territory
of Guam would pass directly overhead. The fact is: any malfunction of the
missile over Japan could put thousands of thousands of people at risk. Marc
Pelini, a US general, commander of 6-52 Air Defence Artillery Battalion said
‘’in the Gulf War, the Patriot missile had just a nine-percent success rate;
it’s now a key piece of protection’’. “We’re truly the first line of defence,”
Pelini said. “We buy decision space for the president and for the Combined
Force Command (CFC) Commander. General Vincent Brooks, Commander of the United
States forces Korea (USFK) make decisions on how to potentially deescalate or
escalate the conflict as necessary.”
The international condemnation notwithstanding, North Korea
has conducted 10 missile tests this year. Two of them carried solid-fuel
missiles, which the North could launch with less warning; while the US has a
carrier strike group, the most powerful unit of naval power in existence, near
North Korea’s shores. Washington has permanently stationed 25,000 members of
the world’s best-organized fighting force near the North’s borders — and they
just finished a massive military exercise. Adm. Dennis Blair, the former
director of national intelligence under President Barack Obama, recently told a
crowd at the Harvard Club that there was just no way to safely knock out all of
North Korea’s nuclear capabilities in one go. He emphasised even the best
systems can’t stop a determined foe with a handful of nukes.
However, a neutral Switzerland is ready to act as a mediator
to help resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis. Swiss President Doris Leuthard
has said Swiss troops were strategically deployed on the demarcation zone
between South Korea and North Korea and the country had an unprecedented
history of neutral diplomacy. Though the South Korean President Moon Jae-in,
favors a diplomatic solution of the said crisis, Seoul has requested United
States about deploying aircraft carriers and strategic bombers to the Korean
peninsula after promptings N-Korea might launch more missiles in the wake of
its sixth and largest nuclear test. As for Beijing, tensions with N-Korea are
“now at a tipping point approaching a crisis” following its firing of a
ballistic missile over Japan. Yet a close look at China’s military posturing
reveals that If Trump opts for a military option, he could find himself in a
fix— not only in a damaging war with N-Korea but also, potentially, with China.
writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-analyst based in Karachi, is a
member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR,
Critical Peace & Conflict Studies.
AFTER President Donald Trump asked Pakistan to crack down on
the Afghan Taliban on its soil in his Afghan policy address, army chief Gen
Qamar Bajwa spelt out his country’s response, saying Pakistan cannot fight
Afghanistan’s war in Pakistan.
Speaking on Defence Day, the army chief also demanded that
space not be allowed to terrorist groups opposed to his country on Afghan soil.
The world can’t ask us to do more. It should do more itself, he added.
The army chief recounted the sacrifices of his soldiers in
the fight against terrorism in the country and said Pakistan was determined to
win this war as failure was not an option, for that would destabilise the whole
The army chief’s statement came at the same time as the
consultations at the Foreign Office where envoys from key foreign capitals had
been summoned home for a policy formulation session presided over by the newly
appointed foreign minister Khawaja Asif.
The foreign minister acknowledged in a television interview
the need to first set our own house in order before taking on critics
Interestingly enough, a Twitter handle usually articulating
the point of view of an outlawed militant group active in India-held Kashmir
had taken exception to the foreign minister’s statement and lauded the army
Following the foreign policy meet where recommendations were
finalised for discussion in parliament, Khawaja Asif told the media that a
“paradigm shift” was expected keeping in view the current environment and the
options before the country.
But what happens when the state deploys non-state actors in
pursuit of its policy goals?
The foreign minister also underlined Pakistan’s dilemma
rooted in the legacy of “two dictators, Zia and Musharraf, a baggage that is
best got rid of” where there was a dramatic divergence of views on how Pakistan
saw itself (and its sacrifices) and how the world saw it.
The minister said that in any policy, Pakistan’s interests
would be supreme and all else came second. The army chief had made similar
remarks earlier, going on to say that if the world couldn’t help Pakistan fight
terrorism, it should at least not pin its own failures on Islamabad.
The army chief had also words of counsel for those who think
they are waging jihad against the state and said such elements were engaged in
fasaad as jihad was solely the prerogative of the state and no individual or
group could get endorsement for their own actions as jihad.
Although articulated somewhat differently, both the foreign
minister’s ‘own house in order’ and the army chief’s ‘jihad vs fasaad’
statements referred to the same thing ie explosively radicalised and often
misguided sections of society prepared to kill others and perish themselves in
the name of faith.
Khawaja Asif was correct in saying the country was left with
the baggage of the two dictators Zia and Musharraf where the first
systematically radicalised and militarised society as an article of faith and
the latter did nothing to challenge the purveyors of hate in any practical
manner and made compromises to perpetuate his rule.
And this is where the complications start. Who can disagree
with the army chief that only the state should monopolise the tools of coercion
in order to have a civilised society? But what happens when the state deploys
non-state actors in pursuit of its policy goals?
We have long lamented how the national security state leased
out some of its key functions to these non-state actors. All was well so long
as the non-state actors played ball. But when some of them decided to go rogue
there was all hell to pay.
In private conversations, a number of army officers assert
that the military’s entire top leadership today is battle-hardened, having
commanded troops engaged in counterterrorism operations and fighting insurgents
in not only the northwest tribal areas but elsewhere too.
“Most of the three stars today have either commanded
brigades or battalions in the counter-insurgency operations. They have
personally witnessed the ugly manifestations of extremism and militancy. There
is no way that anyone of these commanders will have a soft corner for any
non-state actor,” one Fata veteran told me recently.
Where differences of opinions crop up with the outside world
or even with their critics within the country is on, for example, how to handle
groups that the military believes have never gone rogue in Pakistan.
“We need to deradicalise these groups and try and mainstream
them before attempting to disarm them. This is important as we can’t fight on
too many fronts and layers at the same time,” explained one former officer.
The directives by Jamaatud Dawa leader Hafiz Saeed to his
men to contest elections under the banner of a new party he has created is seen
as one such step. Moreover, this newspaper has carried news stories that
another militant leader, Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, is also on the verge of
launching a political party for mainstream, electoral politics.
It isn’t clear how would these militant
groups-turned-political parties will react if they make no headway in electoral
politics and their first attempts to secure seats in parliament to enforce
their Islamic agenda are frustrated. Will they keep faith in the democratic
process and persist or revert to jihad — this time here?
Even if there is a desire in each state institution to brush
away the mess created by decades of near-suicidal policies and start with a
clean slate, it won’t be easy. And if state institutions continue to differ on
the way forward even now then help us God.
In terms of the global environment, China may appear as if
it is in our corner vis-à-vis the US but it would be foolish to assume
Beijing’s tolerance threshold for religious militancy in Pakistan would be any
different to Washington’s. Hope the policymakers understand this.