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Pakistan Press (23 Jun 2016 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Hidden Enemy: New Age Islam's Selection, 23 June 2016

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

23 June 2016

Hidden Enemy

By Mohammad Ali Babakhel

Pakistan Post 9/11: The Pain And Gain

By Iftikhar Ahmad

Imagining Poverty

By Haris Gazdar

The Endangered Kalash

By I.A. Rehman

When The Pope Visits Pakistan

By Peter Jacob

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Hidden Enemy

By Mohammad Ali Babakhel

June 23rd, 2016

EVERY conflict introduces new innovative techniques and targets. While terrorists have always considered improvised explosive devices (IEDs) a handy option, the frequency of IED attacks has increased since 9/11.

IEDs, also known as homemade bombs, may be time- or remote-triggered, and are usually planted along the roadside and detonated when their targets pass through in their vehicles. They are attractive to extremists in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq because they are cheap, easy to make and minimise their own casualties as compared to suicide bombing.

While technology has undoubtedly accelerated its use, some form of IED has been in use in warfare for centuries. The use of the term ‘improvised’ is suggestive of its makeshift nature — used by insurgencies with a lack of access to superior weaponry but the desire to inflict maximum damage.

In Pakistan, Balochistan, Fata and KP are the worst IED-affected areas. In Afghanistan, Kandahar and Helmand are particularly affected. The proliferation of IEDs is more dangerous than that of arms and ammunition. Over the past decade, casualties of IED attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan amount to more than any other form of extremist violence.

IEDs appeal to extremists because they are easy to make.

In 2011, 17,499 civilians were killed or injured by IEDs across the world — in 2013, this number increased to 26,887. In 2013, 73.4pc of civilian casualties resulted from explosive weaponry — hence terrorist organisations increasing reliance on this method. In 2013, the militant Islamic State group carried out 4,465 IED attacks. In 2014, the number of civilian casualties from bombings rose by 5pc and the bombings incident rate increased by 11pc globally from 2013.

A total of 1,953 IED blasts have been registered in KP from 2004-14; 2013 being the worst year, and Peshawar, Charsadda, Swabi, Swat, and Bannu being the worst affected. The frequency and location of attacks reveal the proximity, and vulnerability, of tribal areas in KP and some pockets of Balochistan. On Sept 16, 2013, a major general lost his life in a roadside IED attack on military vehicles in Upper Dir. Such ‘successful’ missions boost the morale of hidden enemies.

Countering the destructive consequences of IEDs requires both timely intelligence and highly trained Bomb Disposal Staff. A few years ago BDS in KP were stationed only in Peshawar. Realising the enormity of the challenge, KP’s police management sought to ensure the availability of BDS services in other parts of the province — increasing its size up to 500 officials and opening Pakistan’s first explosives handling school in Nowshera. Since 2008, BDS in KP have defused about 6,000 IEDs. So far, 15 officials have lost their lives in the process. One such person was Inspector Hukam Khan, who had defused 200 IEDs in 2012 alone.

Recently, Sindh police have started to use robotics for detection. The anti-IED robot can climb stairs, detect an IED or other explosive device within a radius of one kilometre, and is capable of defusing a suicide jacket with minimal chance of explosion. This technology was first used in the security protocols for a religious procession in Karachi. Still, the non-availability of equipment and technology is a serious issue for law enforcement.

However, post 9/11, donors donated state-of-the-art equipment but owing to capacity issues the dividends of technology are yet to be attained.

According to a 2010 study by the New America Foundation, “from 2002-09, 701 [IED attacks] in Balochistan, 368 in Helmand and 689 in Kandahar were reported. With 180 IED explosions in Balochistan, 2006 proved most horrible”. During this period, there were 226 casualties as a result of 177 incidents in Dera Bugti, and 827 casualties in 242 incidents in Quetta. The highest casualty rate was 8.9 per IED incident for Nimroz, Afghanistan — the rate was 4.2 for Quetta.

From the pattern of IED attacks in Balochistan, it transpires that the architects of these attacks primarily targeted vital installations such as railway tracks, electric towers, gas pipelines and bridges — hence avoiding major human casualties. By doing so, their prime objective was to disrupt the pace of development.

Terrorists persistently upgrade their tactics — now placing explosives inside the vehicle, popularly known as ‘vehicle-borne improvised explosive device’. VBIED attacks have escalated worldwide in the past few years; 484 car bombings were reported in 2013, as compared to only 156 car bombings in 2011.

The hidden enemy is being strengthened, owing to easy availability of cheap bomb-making components, such as fertiliser and batteries, in the marketplace, and the proliferation of bomb-making expertise. Its disappearance from use in the near future seems a remote possibility considering its effectiveness — but steps must be taken, and the prevention of its proliferation requires organised and collective efforts.

The writer, Mohammad Ali Babakhel, is a police officer.

Source: dawn.com/news/1266548/hidden-enemy


Pakistan Post 9/11: The Pain and Gain

By Iftikhar Ahmad


Sanity must prevail. The Afghan government should encourage a more peaceful approach and realise that it cannot afford to lose the support that Pakistan extends it to deal with militancy in the region. Breeding mistrust and resentment will not help. The construction at the Torkham border was a completely legitimate course of action for Pakistan to take. Afghan aggression at Torkham speaks the mind that is misguided and not ready for peace.

The economic cost of war on terror would take years to recover. Despite heavy human and financial cost, Pakistan remains committed to eliminate extremism and militancy from its soil.

Circumstances in Pakistan before and following 9/11 have essential linkage reflecting on the continuity of political development, particularly in the context of Pak-US-Afghan relations, and the continuing war on terror. This required full understanding for getting a real feel of what Pakistan had gone through after its decision to participate in the war on terror and the price it had paid.

The book Post 9/11 Pakistan by this author, published in the United States, informs about and compares the American dream and the vision of a prosperous Pakistan, how that vision needs to be actualised and the kind of leadership it requires. There was dire need for policies and international cooperation for counterterrorism. Speedy action was required to do right things and do things right, especially in context of impact of “war on terror” and the menace of terrorism.

The challenges, as the articles in the book suggest, need to be addressed effectively, allowing the country to attain new heights. Pakistan is an important country in the region with many strengths and opportunities. It is a huge market of over 180 million people, rich in natural resources and some of the better institutions of the region and nuclear capability. Above all, its people despite passing through rough times are resilient and eager to bring change. Experts in Pakistan and the United States are of the opinion that this book would help those who want to bring change in Pakistan for the better.

People of Pakistan can create the future. They are keen to let democracy succeed, to promote diplomatic initiatives and shun violence, to work for national development through international cooperation and deliberate approaches for world peace, and to strengthen institutions established for world peace and security and development and for humanitarian assistance. For achieving all these objectives there is need to promote a culture of diversity, assimilation and integration. The United States as the only superpower has the responsibility as well as the means to help actualise these objectives with a missionary zeal.

It must be understood that war is not a continuation of the political process carried on with other means. War is continuation not of politics but a consequence of political and diplomatic failure.

Post 9/11 Pakistan, as a book, is unique in its spirit and character as it is a compilation of articles written for over a decade, since the September 11, 2001 attacks in the Twin Towers in New York, which marked a paradigm shift in the global economic and socio-geographic politics, particularly in context of the Pak-US-Afghan relations, and the war on terrorism and extremism. The book also covers circumstances in which Pakistan got itself involved in the war on terror. In that context, this book is a historical document that captures the evolution and the progression of this phenomenon, as and when it happened. The book is an engaging, real life account of the evolution of socio-political dynamics between the United States and Pakistan since September 11, 2001, having significant implication for regional and international politics. The active role in war on Terror has created more problems and got Pakistan more enemies. The United States had used coercive diplomacy to get Pakistan’s support and cooperation. After more than a decade of war, now analysts may conclude that Pakistan’s decision to agree to be a part of the US-led coalition was perhaps based on misjudgements and without due deliberation.

The book Post 9/11 Pakistan highlights the thoughts and opinions and the ground realities in Pakistan, most of which remained obscured from the international media, as Pakistan has fought internally and externally for the war on terror. The book touches on contemporaneous issues relating to foreign policy, political challenges of the government especially governance, service delivery and, more importantly, the direction that government should follow. A large number of events were happening, and the predictability of outcomes was difficult to envisage in medium and long term.

The foreign policy in Pakistan impinges on all other policies, be these economic or political, and therefore, the direction of the government in Pakistan has been changing accordingly. Due to change in foreign policy, in 1980s and subsequent years, space was provided to regressive forces, which changed the whole direction of the country. Extremism, militancy and terrorism came to grip the economy and society. Institutional decline and increasing incapacity resulted because of weakening of the writ of the state.

The geo-strategic location, relations with neighbouring countries and the United States in particular are the focus of the book especially in context of war on terror. The country is faced with “deficit of resources” as well as “deficit of trust” as a consequence and result of internal and external multiple complexities and changes. There is need to build strong Pak-US relationship. Let us rethink about the pain and gain and more.

Iftikhar Ahmad is a former director of the National Institute of Public Administration, a political analyst, public policy expert and an author. His book Post 9/11 Pakistan has been published in the United States

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/23-Jun-16/pakistan-post-911-the-pain-and-gain


Imagining Poverty

By Haris Gazdar

23rd, 2016

THERE are two views about the economics of poverty reduction. One, that economic growth will trickle down and reduce poverty. Two, that there is no automatic trickle-down and growth may or may not be inclusive. It depends on which sectors grow, whether growth creates new and better jobs, and whether the poor are able to take advantage of economic opportunity.

The first view is largely discredited but this does not mean that we have the magic formula of what inclusive growth would look like or how it might be brought about. Then there is a third view that regardless of growth, and actually in spite of it, there is need for vigorous government action to lift large numbers of people out of extreme poverty.

The budget is a good time to take stock of all these things and to ask whether we see any useful ideas for poverty reduction. But what actually is poverty in a country like Pakistan? There are the usual numbers and debates about them. How many per cent below the poverty line — 9pc or 30pc? Has the ratio gone up or down? How can it have gone down when everyone feels miserable? Is the poverty line appropriate? What is the best way of setting it? Is the data any good — how do we improve it?

Regardless of how we look at the poverty numbers, some things are virtually uncontested. Around half our people do not get an adequate diet and around a third of our families go hungry at times. Around half our children are undernourished — they are physically small compared to a healthy population. And these undernourished children are far more likely to die young than children who have normal weight and height. Nearly two in five children of primary school age are not in school.

How can the instruments of policy reach the poor to help improve their lives? Unfortunately, there are no serious answers to this question at the moment.

And there is more. The poorest are concentrated in the rural areas of Sindh, southern Punjab, Balochistan and southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They are likely to be wage labourers and it is quite likely that women from poor families work for extremely long hours for extremely low wages to support sectors such as cotton, dairy and wheat which sustain the economy.

The poor are likely to belong to ‘low’ castes — or groups which are marginalised from mainstream society and politics due to historical disadvantage based on race, occupation, religion or some combination of these. The poorest are likely to face insecure housing conditions, and have unequal access to justice and the rule of law. In urban areas they are most likely to be migrants from these very regions, classes and communities, subsist on daily wages, and be the first to get evicted when there is ‘need’ for land for decent housing or infrastructure.

How can the instruments of policy reach these people to help improve their lives? Unfortunately, there are no serious answers to this question at the moment. The closest we come to the government’s view on poverty reduction is the annual Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper. It repeats — without elaboration — the self-satisfied notion that economic growth in Pakistan is pro-poor, that it more than trickles — it gushes down. The report then lists and adds up pro-poor government spending, which mostly comes under the mandate of provincial governments.

In fact, virtually all spending on education, health, law and order and other provincial mandates as well as federal and provincial funding on infrastructure is deemed to be pro-poor. If most of what government already does is pro-poor, according to its own words, what more is there to do? Are governments — federal and provincial — really focusing on the poor when they draw up their spending priorities, the majority of which appear to be skewed towards what they call ‘infrastructure projects’?

No amount of infrastructure investment can, by itself, generate enough employment to lift up half the population from the precarious life it leads. But to make sure that people are protected from the most severe forms of vulnerability is not that expensive. At around Rs100 billion, the Benazir Income Support Programme, which is a first and still tentative step in the direction of comprehensive social protection, costs us less than half of what we spend on the annual subsidy to the power sector. The programme does not reduce poverty, but at least it reaches many of the poor, as multiple evaluations have made abundantly clear.

What is needed is something at an even bigger scale, and in many other sectors such as housing, health, education, labour rights and child welfare — not the annual reiteration of what already happens, but something different and real. At the moment, however, there are no ideas on poverty alleviation in the pipeline awaiting implementation. Aside from resources, this poverty of ideas further limits the responsiveness of the state towards the concerns of the poor.

We will know that poverty is a concern in economic policy and budget-making if we could imagine what the federal and provincial government might do for a woman cotton harvester in southern Punjab or Sindh, for her wages and working conditions, for the food security and health of her family, and for her security of housing. Picture this person and then try to imagine what economic policy might have to do with her or him. It is a hard task. Very little trickles that far down, but be aware that down below consists of around half the country.

If we can imagine programmes reaching that woman field worker, and her counterpart in the city, we need to imagine many more such interventions. If we cannot then our imagination is as starved of ideas as our children are of nourishment and learning.

Haris Gazdar is a founding partner and senior researcher at the Collective for Social Science Research in Karachi. He works on social policy and political economy issues.

Source: dawn.com/news/1266547/imagining-poverty


The Endangered Kalash

By I.A. Rehman

June 23rd, 2016

THE recent clash between the Kalash community and their more numerous Muslim neighbours, caused by a girl’s change of faith, appears to have been amicably resolved. However, the incident should awaken the government and the people both to their duty to save the tiny Kalash minority from extinction.

This month’s attack on the Kalash again brought out their tradition of tolerance. Reena, a 14-year-old Kalash girl, was reported to have converted to Islam and chosen to stay with a Muslim family. Then she went back to her parents’ home and complained of having been forcibly converted. This enraged the Muslim neighbours and they attacked Kalash homes. The authorities intervened and the parties agreed to respect the girl’s wishes. The matter ended when the girl deposed before a magistrate that she had adopted Islam of her own free will, and her family accepted her choice.

The affair highlighted the Kalash tradition of treating change of religion as something normal. Reena’s own uncle and aunt had embraced Islam before her. For some time, however, the Kalash have been showing signs of anxiety at the rate of conversions. In January this year, 12 Kalashas were reported to have converted to Islam within a month. According to a spokesman of the Kalash People’s Development Network, about 100 Kalashas embraced Islam over the past few years.

The state must ensure that minorities are not driven to give up their faith by denial of their rights.

Once a large community that ruled the Chitral region, the Kalash population has shrunk to about 3,000 heads. They are also reported to have lost control of a large part of their lands through sale to Muslims or otherwise. In this situation their fears of extinction cannot be summarily dismissed.

The matter of conversion is not as simple as it is sometimes made out to be, especially by some Muslim clerics who run conversion services. One of them once declared that the Kalash girls were turning to Islam as they had become aware of the difference between right and wrong. Another view is that educated Kalash girls change their faith to improve their marital prospects. Such statements cannot conceal the fact that members of religious minorities are under economic and social pressure to give up their status as second- or third-class citizens and join the privileged Muslim community.

Thus while one has no quarrel with voluntary conversions, the state must ensure that minorities are not driven to give up their faith by denial of their rights or unbearable discrimination in social and economic terms. Such conversions are perhaps not welcome in Islam either. Besides, the question whether minors should be considered competent to change their religion needs to be resolved.

Unfortunately, there have been reasons to discount the narrative of all conversions to Islam being free and voluntary. Two years ago, the Supreme Court took suo motu action on reports of threats to the Kalash to convert to Islam or face death. The court accepted the explanation of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government that the threat mentioned in news reports was not new and that an old story had been “picked up by some sections of media for vested interests [sic]”.

All this was based on a report from the Malakand commissioner who had gone to a Kalash village and was able to report that “the representatives of the Kalash minority expressed complete satisfaction over the response of the administration and they were satisfied with the security arrangements in the valleys”.

The commissioner’s report, as reproduced in the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment of June 2014, devotes more space to the deployment of security forces near the Kalash villages and along the border with Afghanistan than to the question of conversions or the Kalash people’s rights in general. These security arrangements are important because the danger of incursions by zealots from across the border cannot be ignored.

In terms of the 2014 judgment, the Supreme Court maintains “a separate file to be placed before a three-member bench to ensure that this judgment be given effect to in letter and spirit and the said bench may also entertain complaints/ petitions relatable to the violation of fundamental rights of minorities in the country”. It may not be unfair to expect this Supreme Court bench to ask the Malakand commissioner to file periodic reports on the condition of the Kalash community. The friends of the Kalash people may also approach the court if they notice anything objectionable.

But guaranteeing the Kalash security against violence is a smaller part of the state’s duty to them. A more important part is the state obligation to ensure that the Kalash can go on living as freely as they wish to, subject only to the laws of change dictated by time and improvement in human consciousness.

The colourful Kalash community, with its tradition of music, love and freedom for the youth, is a precious flower in the national bouquet. It is an integral part of the pluralist society that Pakistan is, and must always remain so, and its culture must be protected against all possible attacks, for it is a most valuable part of the Pakistani people’s heritage.

It is said that efforts to get the Kalash culture included in the UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List that began in 2008 have got lost in Islamabad’s dustbins. Those responsible for cultural heritage and minorities’ affairs in the federal ministry and their counterparts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa administration must get together to devise means of protecting the Kalash heritage and cultural practices under UNESCO’s guidance. At the same time, they should develop their own plans to document Kalash cultural practices and organise a cell to monitor any changes in the community’s festivals and rituals.

Civil society, sadly enough, has by and large been guilty of ignoring the Kalash. None of its reports on the status of minorities issued recently touched on the plight of the Kalash people. This too must change.

Source: dawn.com/news/1266546/the-endangered-kalash


When the Pope visits Pakistan

By Peter Jacob

June 22, 2016

As he came down from his aircraft on Karachi airport in 1981, Pope John Paul II kissed the Pakistani soil. Though he had made the same gesture of love to people wherever he went, for Pakistanis he brought alive the meaning of the first line of the national anthem. His kiss was a testimony to this land being sacred.

The Mass that he led at the National Stadium in Karachi was shown on state-owned television that enabled the people at large to witness symbolic Catholic rites and listen to recitation from the Bible in Urdu alongside the millions of Christians who had gathered to greet the Pope in the city.

An invite for a visit has now been served to Pope Francis in Rome by the Minister for Religious Affairs Mohammad Yousaf and Federal Minister Kamran Michael. So, there is strong hope that Pope Francis might also visit Pakistan though a time for such a trip has not been determined yet.

The government deserves a pat on the back for its thoughtfulness, because Pope Francis has done remarkable things — from challenging the world conscience on the most pressing global issues such as poverty, armed conflicts and migration, to care for the environment and disarmament.

When he refused the extravagance of the Pontiff’s office before preaching simplicity, the world listened to him.

Cleaning his house of financial irregularities and taking action against paedophile priests spoke volumes of his commitment to moral values.

He has been helpful in bringing the message of inter- and intra-community peace in situations such as Palestine and Congo as well as reconciliation between Cuba and the US. So much so, that analysts have started noticing the ripples of the ‘Francis Effect’ across the globe.

It is worth pondering over what Pope Francis’s visit to Pakistan will and should entail. Hosting this prolific guest will require finding a match between Pakistan’s objectives and the mission that Pope Francis supports. In other words, we need to find common ground.

Keeping in view the Pakistani context, we need to prioritise the goals that we would like to achieve if the Pope visits the country.

Sceptics the world over think that Pope Francis is following a personal political agenda. The evidence at hand suggests that he is not. Rather, his uprightness conflicts with how politics is usually conducted.

If John Boehner, the former Speaker of US Congress and a Catholic, is to be taken as an example, the Pope doesn’t seem to be cut out for politics. Boehner’s spontaneous resignation from his job after the Pope’s speech in Congress, who spoke on Boehner’s invitation, suggests that the speech was a factor in Boehner’s decision besides the opposition he faced from within the Republican Party. Hence an exposure to the Pope’s convictions might be dangerous for political agendas.

The persona of Pope Francis exemplifies the moral worth of humans, a post-modern thinking of the 21st century that carries along the sensitivities of third world countries struggling with underdevelopment, social inequality and political instability.

The initiatives he has taken manifest an inspiring position of transcendence beyond human identities and distinctions. We also find him clearly siding with the marginalised — anywhere and in all respects.

Injustice and violence, even in the verbal form, make him angry as reflected in his reaction to Donald Trump’s religiously biased statements. Hence his mysticism should not be mistaken as Malamati Sufism; he is more of a Jalali Sufi.

Justice (retd) Ali Nawaz Chowhan, the chairperson of the National Commission for Human Rights, is optimistic that mediation or a call on the part of Pope Francis can facilitate peace and help find resolution to the miseries of the people of Kashmir. Therefore, he is considering sending a request to the Pope through a direct communication.

The reconciliation between Cuba and America had three more elements besides Pope Francis’s efforts — a black president in the US, the fading influence of Fidel Castro in Cuba and the flexible Raul Castro.

Though Justice (retd) Chowhan’s idea could prove to be worthwhile in creating an environment of goodwill, India has time and again insisted on a bilateral approach to resolving the Kashmir problem, hence support for this proposition from India would be crucial. The local factors and actors will be important to achieve this end while garnering international support from various quarters, including from Pope Francis, may not be a difficult feat.

Besides visiting the churches and the Christian community in Pakistan, Pope Francis would probably be happy to meet with people like Abdul Sattar Edhi (may he recover from his illness soon), and visit temples or shrines such as those of Khawaja Farid, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, Bullhey Shah and Rehman Baba.

Pope Francis’s interaction with prisoners, the youth, farmers and labourers could make his potential visit truly memorable as he is evidently keen to be humanised during his sojourns.

Source: tribune.com.pk/story/1128345/pope-visits-pakistan/

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