New Age Islam Edit Bureau
05 March 2018
Listen To the Pakhtuns
By Zaigham Khan
RTI under Attack in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa
By Muhammad Anwar
Golden Opportunity For Peace In Afghanistan
By Dr Raza Khan
Syrian Genocide and R2P
By Dr Muhammad Khan
MSC 2018- Diplomacy In Shatters
By Arhama Siddiqa
Pak-Iran Confidence Building
By Sikander Ahmed Shah
In The Name Of Lies
Syed Talat Hussain
The Next 90 Days
By Fahd Husain
Not an Easy Crown
By Bilal Rana
Untold Facts about American Economy
By Rashid A Mughal
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Listen to the Pakhtuns
March 5, 2018
Pakhtuns are talking and Pakistan must listen. They are talking the language of peaceful protest, the most beautiful language human civilisation has invented. In order to make sense of these protests, it is important to understand the medium, the message and the messenger. It is equally important to put the current protests in the perspective.
Pakistan is emerging out of a bloodbath. Everyone carries some scar from the period when death stalked us on the streets. Fata suffered the most as it was taken over by terrorists who ran their violent unholy emirate from these areas. The military success against terrorists has revived a sense of normalcy to much of Pakistan. After years of siege, Pakistanis are flocking to tourist spots, festivals, musicals and playgrounds.
It is also an appropriate time to come out for protests. Sociologists have noted that protests happen not at the worst of the time, but when the worst is over and the situation starts improving. This is because the improved situation fails to fulfil expectations. People in Fata are returning to their homes. It is time to take stock of their losses. The level of horror they faced instils numbness. They are starting to feel the pain once again. They are taking stock of the losses and the losses are staggering. Their houses and their markets are a pile of rubble. Their farms are fallow, their livestock is dead and their businesses are gone. What is worse, they feel humiliated and stigmatised.
The people of Fata want to come out of the constitutional limbo and live their lives as normal citizens of the state of Pakistan. They have become weary of the cultural stereotyping they once used to wear as a badge of honour. Their movement is a movement for inclusion, not of exclusion or separation.
Naqeebullah Mehsud, a young aspiring model, represented these aspirations – for a normal life in a globalised world. His murder in a staged encounter allegedly on the hands of Rao Anwar, a police officer notorious for fake encounters, galvanised his fellow Mehsuds and many other residents to protests. It also won the residents of Fata much-needed sympathy from the rest of the country. They have used this opportunity well to put their demands on the national agenda through the Pashtun Long March.
Tribal culture has been both glorified and blamed for being the root cause of terrorism. According to Akbar S Ahmad, a Pakhtun social anthropologist and former civil servant, terrorism all over the Muslim world is based in tribal areas and has its roots in tribal culture. “All Al-Qaeda leadership is from tribal societies”, he said in an interview some years ago. “Ninety-five percent of Al Qaeda comprises tribesmen and 18 out of 19 hijackers were Yemeni tribals, 12 from the Saudi Aseer province belonging to Yemeni tribes.”
In his analysis, the problem is not in tribal cultures per se but the way governments (the centre) have dealt with tribal areas all over the Muslim world as peripheries. It is the lack of respect for tribal cultures by the central authority that is at the root of the problem.
In fact, Fata is in no way unique in its tribal form of social organisation. All humanity has passed through a tribal phase and all the four provinces in the country have an element of tribalism in some areas. Elman Service, an American anthropologist, in his famous categorisation divided human societies into four categories of increasing population, size, political centralisation, and social stratification: band, tribe, chiefdom, and state.
As these factors change, tribes cannot run their affairs using tribal structures, and turn into chiefdoms or get integrated into state structures. This is how state structures have replaced tribes and chiefdoms all over the world. Tribal structures cannot survive because of religious ideology, riwaj or a psychological state like ‘ghairat’ (honour) in the face of change in population size, subsistence, political centralisation, and social stratification of an area.
It is these demographic and socioeconomic changes that had made tribal structures obsolete even before the Taliban dealt them a mortal blow. While Fata was ripe for integration with the rest of the Pakhtun areas and the nation-state, successive governments resisted reforms in the area. This is what created a terrible vacuum and led to space for the Taliban and other extremists to find refuge here. The Taliban physically eliminated Jirgas and elders through their suicide bombers and turned these areas into their chiefdoms, if we use the Service’s categorisation.
The state is culpable by denying political reforms and human development to the area and fostering a criminal elite that has turned this egalitarian society into a land of stark inequality. In terms of distribution of wealth, Fata is today the least egalitarian area in the country, home to a minority of extremely rich people living side by side with a large majority of the poorest and least developed people in the country.
Every crisis is an opportunity and every opportunity for reform has a limited time span. Fata is clamouring for reforms while our governments are dragging their feet and are reluctant to set aside administrative and material resources required for the purpose.
Building a post-conflict society is a huge challenge. Unfortunately, the threat of violence is not completely over as the TTP has found sanctuaries on the other side of the Durand Line. The current difficulties in Fata are rooted in the fact that the government has failed to undertake reform and establish a post-conflict management structure in the area. The old order is over, but the new order has not replaced it. By now, civilian institutions should have been able to take over most responsibilities from the military.
Scholars like Akbar S Ahmad and politicians like Imran Khan have long defined Fata in terms of the tribal code of revenge. According to Ahmad, the tribal code based on revenge and honour is the main operating force behind terrorism. Rather than Islamic ideology of any sort, it is this tribal code that this violence is emanating from.
Citizens in a civilised society use the code of peaceful protest while making demands on the state and, in this, the residents of Fata are no different from the people of any democratic society – or any other part of the country. Now that the nightmare of the Taliban is behind them, people in Fata want rule of law; they want integration with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and they want respect and dignity.
The people of Fata are some of the most enterprising and hardworking people in the country. They deserve equal rights and must be willing to share equal responsibilities with the rest of the people of the country. A new social contract is needed, not with tribes but with the people of Fata as citizens of Pakistan.
March 3, 2018
The Right to Information Act of 2013 has come under attack for the second time since its enactment. The attackers are none other than the bigwigs of the PTI in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government, which enacted the law, took credit for it and touted it as one of the best pieces of legislation on RTI.
The first assault came in June 2015 when the K-P Assembly exempted all its members from the ambit of RTI through an amendment to the provincial law. The provincial assembly speaker took a naïve stance that the exemption was a pre-requisite for the ‘sanctity’ of the K-P Assembly. The honourable speaker was reminded that by more openness and transparency, the K-P Assembly would enjoy more respect, legitimacy and trust of voters and taxpayers.
The second assault was in the form of the K-P RTI Bill 2018, duly signed by provincial minister Shah Farman. It seems that the K-P government has postponed the tabling of this regressive bill in the assembly owing to the strong reaction by civil society, yet the contents of the bills are important to understand the vested interests and the forces of darkness.
The bill states ‘a requester while applying for information shall provide cogent and sufficient reasons with his request for information…. Which should prominently show that the information requested for is one of public importance’. The bill further defines public importance that ‘means and includes anything which directly concerns the public at large or which is in any way important to the public’. The drafter totally neglected the fact that citizens are the actual owners of the record held by public functionaries, and public entities are entrusted on citizens’ behalf to develop, maintain and protect records.
One does not need to ask the owners to explain the transfer of ownership. It is just like person A owes person B some money and when person A asks for its return, person B demands to know why person A needs his or her money. More than money matters, the right to access information held by public bodies is a fundamental right like the protection of life and property and you don’t ask people why they need protection of life and property.
The second regressive clause included in the bill is related to exemption of internal communication. A new section 18 (A) has been included which states: ‘A public body may refuse a request for information which pertains to the internal communication of such public body as a note sheets of a case file containing personal views of an officer, routine orders of the competent authority of a public body relating to assignment of a work for distribution of business, etc. if such information is not of public importance or otherwise serves a public interest’.
This proposed amendment to the K-P’s RTI law depicts a typical colonial mindset and considers citizens as some unwanted intriguers. Why would an officer, paid through my tax money, put his/her expert ‘personal’ views on some file and the citizens should not know the competency of that officer? What kind of record exists in public offices that does not fall in the aforementioned categories of internal communication? This exempts almost everything from the reach of citizens. Furthermore, it puts a heavy burden on the person requesting information to prove that such information does fall in the category of ‘public importance’ — a very vague term to begin with.
In August 2015, the K-P Right to Information Commission requested the provincial government to include three amendments to the K-P RTI law. These were related to the time-barred appointment of new commissioners whenever the vacancy occurred, making a division bench of the Peshawar High Court as appeal court against the orders of the commission and including the Peshawar High Court in the ambit of the K-P RTI law. It took two and a half years, thanks to the K-P law ministry, to finalise the amendment bill in such a regressive form. The K-P RTI commission has to write a letter to the chief secretary stating ‘the additional amendments are not only against the very spirit of the RTI law, but will significantly weaken it, thereby causing embarrassment to the incumbent provincial government.
Golden Opportunity for Peace in Afghanistan
March 4, 2018
A golden opportunity for peace has emerged in Afghanistan in the wake of President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to recognise the Afghan Taliban as a political movement. The Afghan leader has also dangled before the group the possibility of calling fresh elections in the country and ordering a constitutional review. These are unconditional, confidence-building measures aimed at clinching a peace agreement. The offer is also meaningful because it expects that in order to be recognised as a legitimate political movement the Taliban would contribute to the peacemaking process. Although it has not been officially stated if the Taliban are somehow convinced of the importance and practicality of the talks offer they would play a critical role in making and building peace in Afghanistan.
In the past, President Ghani has been consistently calling the Taliban ‘terrorists’ and ‘rebels’. There are various reasons for Ghani to make such a lavish peace offer to the Taliban. The immediate and foremost reason which seems to have pushed the Afghan president is the Taliban’s favourable reaction to the groundbreaking of the strategic Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline. The Afghan Taliban while welcoming the initiative, announced that they would not pose a threat to the pipeline as it is a project of national importance for Afghanistan. By quickly warming up to TAPI, the Taliban have shown that they are not an anti-development movement.
Moreover, President Ghani has extended an olive branch to the Taliban seemingly in response to the earlier surprise offer of dialogue by the Taliban to the US. The Taliban made the offer in an open letter addressed to the American public, stating that they preferred to resolve the conflict through peaceful dialogue and warned that the use of force alone would complicate the problem in Afghanistan.
United Nations General Assembly passed its Resolution 60/1 in 2005, adopting the principle of Responsibility to Protect (R2P). R2P was the consequence of the World Summit Outcome Document achieved through universal inter-governmental agreement, following the genocide in Rawanda-1994 and massacre in Serbinica-1995. R2P adopts preventive measures, emphasizing to stem the risk of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing or crimes against humanity, before their occurrences. As per R2P, the use of force will be the last resort, once all other non-coercive options have exhausted and that too after UN approval. In case of Syria, neither the Government nor international community made use of this UN mandated principle of R2P, primarily because, both the Syrian Government as well as the major powers is involved in the war crimes in Syria.
In March 2011, once civil war started in Syria, no one thought that it will prolong for such a long time (entered into eighth now). It was considered like Arab spring, which gradually disappeared in some countries of the Middle East but, devastated Syria, Yemen and even Libya. According to an estimate, the death toll in Syria has exceeded 465,000 people and over 12 million people have been displaced so far from their houses. Millions of Syrians have left their motherland as refugees in neighbouring countries and even to Europe under fear of being killed. Over 13.1 million Syrians remain in dire need of humanitarian assistance, with 3 million people in inaccessible areas; some are besieged by Government forces and rebels.
Towards the beginning of Syrian domestic crisis, it was just a movement for the removal of President Bashir Al Assad by opposing factions, who were unhappy with his form of governance. Seeing this as an apt moment, Syrian neighbours, vying for their domination over the larger Arab world, jumped in to this very domestic affair of the Syria. Their entrance into Syria transformed the domestic nature of crisis into a regional conflict; enunciating the ideological basis as its most dominant aspect. Two regional countries started supporting their favourites (Assad regime and the rebels) by all means; weapons, finances and even trained manpower to fight each other.
While, the regional countries were using Syria for their proxy wars, the major powers (US and Russia) entered into this conflict zone, transforming its regional character into major power’s battle zone. Initially, United States attacked some of the Government held areas, which provoked Russia to react strongly. The growing US and European support for the rebels was frozen temporarily, however, involvement of major powers, further complicated the nature of Syrian conflict. Today, there is a simultaneous engagement in Syria between; rebels and Assad Government, regional actors’ and major powers, all are trying to win over their rivals and prove their supremacy.
According to Global Centre for Responsibility to Protect (R2P), there have been unprecedented human rights violations in Syria. These violations and war crimes have been committed by both; the Syrian state forces as well as the rebels including the ISIS people. Even the ‘Human Rights Council’ (HRC)-mandated Commission of Inquiry has ascertained that, “government forces have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity as a matter of state policy. Numerous armed opposition groups have also committed war crimes and violated International Humanitarian Law (IHL).”
In this war of power politics, there is a massive use of all types of weapons, including chemical weapons and new inventions of Russian armoury, as revealed recently. In all this entire conflict, Syrians have suffered; killed, injured, besieged, displaced and migrated. This has happened irrespective of their caste, creed, sect or religion. It is worth mentioning that, the above quoted figures of deaths and displacements are those, reported in media, but, there are thousands of casualties, which have not been reported, owing to inaccessibility.
Very recently hundreds of innocents have been killed at the hands of Assad regime supported by Russian war planes in Eastern Ghouta district. It is to be noted that, approximately 400,000 civilians were held in this area since 2013, since this district has been besiege by the Government forces, owing to presence of rebels in the area. There have been extreme shortages of basic nutritional requirements since last few years. The region was to be de-escalated as agreed between Russia, Turkey and Iran. Despite agreement, it was attacked on February 19, 2018 ‘Syrian forces backed by Russian warplanes escalated the offensive on Eastern Ghouta with a relentless bombing that killed hundreds of people within days.
These attacks continued till March 1, 2018 in which children remained the major target. As per Amnesty International, these attacks and killing of hundreds of thousand can be clearly categorized as the war crimes. This has been done despite a UNSC resolution of February 24, 2018, calling for a ceasefire. Over 700 civilians have been killed in Eastern Ghouta in last two weeks. Over 200 children and 109 women were killed in last few months. There have been reports that, Russian and Syrian forces have used Chlorine gas in besieged areas, which both denied.
Under the principle of Responsibility to Protect (R2P), the primary responsibility lies with the Syrian Government to protect its citizens, but, since Assad Regime itself is involved in the war crimes and genocide of its masses, therefore, the international community has the consequent responsibility to protect the masses of this war-torn country. Despite a fear that U.S and Russia may use veto power against any extreme step in the form of use of force under Chapter VII of UN Charter, the civilized international community must evoke the principle of R2P at UN. Amnesty international has already declared it as the war crimes, thus necessitating the extreme measures against those involved in the ethnic cleansing of Syrians through crimes against humanity. The Assad Regime must step down immediately, allowing a broader Government and the regional countries, should stop their involvement, allowing Syrians to decide their future themselves. This would constrain the space for major powers involvement in Syria.
MSC 2018- Diplomacy in Shatters
THE 2018 MSC took place amidst a complex global security environment, manifest in deteriorating developments regarding the world’s climate, economy and volatile crisis areas. For more than five decades, the Munich Security Conference (MSC) has become an important forum for dialogue on security policy. Each February, it brings together senior decision-makers from around the world. The key issues for MSC 2018 were; the future of the European Union, its relations with Russia and the US, and the conflicts in the Middle East, in particular the war in Syria. Another focus was arms control. This year there were more than 600 participants, including more than 20 heads of state and government, 40 foreign ministers and 40 defence ministers. Non-governmental organizations were also represented.
The Munich Security Conference is usually an opportunity for world leaders to meet on the side-lines and strive for compromise and conciliation. But this year’s gathering is more likely to be remembered for the lack of apparent progress on resolving protracted conflicts around the world. No sign of understanding or hope was evident during the conference. This year’s motto “To the Brink – and Back?” seemed an appropriate portrayal of the condition that the world, particularly the Middle East is in today. With so may pressing issues to discuss, this years conference had the potential to make a difference. However it became more of an open walloping opportunity. Israel’s prime minister and the Iranian foreign minister exchanged harsh words at the high-profile event, with Benjamin Netanyahu equating Iran to Nazi Germany and Mohammad Javad Zarif calling the Israeli leader’s speech a “cartoonish circus.”
Syria which was supposed to be on top of the agenda became synonymous to a battle ground between all the parties involved- with each player citing their own grievances and nobody touching upon the main issue. It became a primary example of the chaos and confusion reigning in the region. For the first time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to attack Iran directly, citing the latter’s actions designed against Israeli in Syria; Iran in turn admonished the United States of illegal occupation of the area east of the Euphrates. Russia brought up the US strikes against Assad supporters that had caused many Russian casualties while Turkey’s foreign minister underlined Turkey’s war against Kurdish terrorism and called for the protection of Syria’s territorial integrity (its own incursion into Afrin made its argument weak). In his turn, the Lebanese foreign minister placed the blame for tensions on Israel which, he accused of constantly violating Lebanese sovereignty by attacking Syria from Lebanon’s airspace.
The other main issue was Palestine, which was marginalized, displaying its lack of significance in international affairs in general. It was barely mentioned in the talking points. Prime Minister Netanyahu called for giving peace and a Trump plan a chance, despite Mahmud Abbas’s refusal. He even responded to Palestinian attempts to shift the negotiations setting to a new international forum by maintaining that the United States was playing an important role in the process. So a two-state solution or in fact any kind of solution might not be in the cards any time soon. And not to forget the Saudis who were trying to propel an agenda of their own. Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister called on the US to give it the same rights as other nuclear nations in its push to develop its own nuclear fuel, revealing that it’s presently in talks with ten other countries should America refuse. Saudi Arabia plans to build 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 to 25 years at a cost of more than $80 billion.
There is no end in sight for the madness that is the Middle East today; with the recent announcement by the US that its embassy will open in Jerusalem this May, with Eastern Ghouta been bombed relentlessly for the past week and calls for a ceasefire falling on deaf ears and with bloodied images of children traversed across social media, the Middle East is suffering from fresh carnage day by day. The US increasingly looks like a rudderless ship. Qatar has even called for an EU-style security pact for Middle East so that some semblance of peace can be retained.
Mr. Zarif is right when he stated that fresh regional security architecture is required in the region, rather than a strong man in the region. So far the latter is the order of the day with Syria becoming a battleground of egos. In a world searching for leaders, this year’s conference proved there were no leaders in sight. The conference produced far more questions than answers, and, as it went on, more and more accusations. Israel blamed Iran, Iran blamed Israel, the US blamed Russia and Turkey blamed the Kurds. All the while new weapons are being developed. The so-called leaders failed to display cohesion on what type of common security policy the world needs. They have their own strategic interests and priorities. It’s a play out of the realism theory in its most ruthless form and the only casualties are the people on ground.
March 05, 2018
THE three-day, high-profile visit of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to India last month infuriated many in the Pakistani establishment for what is being perceived as Iran’s outright partisanship towards India. Rouhani was reciprocating an earlier visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Iran in 2016 when India, Iran and Afghanistan signed a trilateral transport agreement.
Rouhani spent two days in Hyderabad (India), where he visited cultural landmarks and found the time to interact at length with students, religious scholars and members of the Iranian diaspora. He then flew to New Delhi where he signed a series of agreements, including one that gives operational control of the Shahid Beheshti port — phase one of the Chabahar port — to India for 18 months.
Rouhani’s visit was not ceremonial; while India continues to unnecessarily sensationalise the visit, it is a significant development in regional geopolitics and will yield tangible results. This is already evident as under the auspices of the India-Iran parliamentary group, several Iranian legislators will soon be travelling to India to review the implementation of agreements signed earlier.
President Rouhani’s visit to Pakistan in March 2016 was nowhere near as spectacular; the visit was shorter and miles away from any culturally significant or festive surroundings, and the Iranian president remained quite defensive throughout his trip because he was incessantly questioned about Kulbhushan Jadhav, the Indian spy who had illegally entered Pakistan from Iran under false pretences and was captured in Balochistan while engaged in clandestine activities. Interestingly enough, he was based in Chabahar located just 90 kilometres from the Pakistani port city of Gwadar.
Historically, relations between Pakistan and Iran have at best remained lukewarm; in fact, it is safe to say that they have not been ideal, given the geopolitics of the region. Indeed, both these states have often found themselves in opposing global geopolitical camps.
Today, US sanctions have put Iran under tremendous economic pressure and it is desperately seeking to improve and diversify its economic base. It thus sees India as a huge, and relatively close, market with which it can help develop economic and trading ties. But Pakistan’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia is a significant concern for it; Iran is also irked by Pakistan’s failure to operationalise the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline, and has recently threatened to take legal recourse if Pakistan fails to complete its obligations in this regard.
Nonetheless, Iran is well aware that an Indian presence on Pakistan’s western border through the Chabahar reconstruction and gateway project is viewed by Pakistan as both an economic as well as a security threat, and therefore realises that it has to tread carefully. In this vein, the Iranian air force chief, Brig Gen Hassan Shah Safi, visited Pakistan and met army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa recently. Perhaps it would be a positive move if Iranian Foreign Minister Javed Zarif, and the all-important head of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, Seyyed Kamal Kharazi, travelled to Pakistan to allay fears about Indian influence over the Chabahar port.
The dilemma facing Pakistan-Iran ties is that both countries currently operate under a trust deficit, with virtually no history of serious mutual confidence building. Instead, they often take half measures or indulge in tokenism in order to improve ties that do not have a major impact on trust-building in real terms. So while high-level interaction, such as a visit by Gen Bajwa to Iran in November 2017, have led to a few reciprocal gestures of goodwill by Iran and some confidence building between the two states, these have been short-lived at best.
For example, when Gen Bajwa somewhat allayed Iran’s concerns over Pakistan’s involvement in the Saudi-led Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Alliance, Iran publicly confirmed the status of the Chabahar port as a sister port to Gwadar and invited Pakistan’s Minister for Maritime Affairs Mir Hasil Bizenjo and the chairman of the Gwadar port to attend the inauguration of the Shahid Beheshti port. The nature of Rouhani’s trip to India, however, irked Pakistan. Observers have pointed out that shortly after his visit, Pakistan pledged to post an additional army contingent to Saudi Arabia on a training and advisement mission.
While there is no legal requirement for Iran to consult or seek approval from a foreign state for the development of its economic, infrastructural resources in its border areas contiguous with Pakistan, cooperating with Pakistan in good faith would help bring stability to the region.
Further, if Iran wants Pakistan to be comfortable with economic development in Chabahar, it cannot take its own responsibilities lightly, especially in matters that undermine Pakistan’s national security, as it did in the handling of the Jadhav incident. Pakistan’s sovereignty was violated under Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter when Jadhav used Iranian territory to illegally enter Pakistan and Iran’s oversight in preventing this blatant infringement of international law was a violation of its own responsibility as a state under customary international law.
Both Pakistan and Iran have to work towards eliminating the trust deficit which currently plagues relations by creating an enabling environment for meaningful confidence-building measures. Intermittent rhetoric from a foreign minister or an adviser or two is not sufficient to address the trust deficit that exists today between the two neighbouring states.
Both countries must take the initiative and be bold and, as a matter of policy, make their official positions on significant matters clear to each other, especially regarding foreign relations. Domestically, Iran is sympathetic to the Kashmiri cause, but it must clearly and openly voice its concerns about India-held Kashmir at all international forums and proactively offer to mediate in the dispute with the interests of the Kashmiris in mind. Similarly, Pakistan must also try to genuinely mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran to lower hostilities between the two and it must refrain from any military adventurism in the Middle East.
Some things are foretold – and so it is with the conclusion of the FIA’s inquiry into the fantastic claims of a TV anchor about the headline-grabbing Zainab murder case. The report proved through a month-long sweat of the brow and much leg-work that all the man had said on air and before the Supreme Court was a tissue of lies.
In light of the report’s findings, his ‘claimed facts’ (the report says 18 in all) are all fabrications at best and delusional allegations at worst. Zainab and other minors that the serial rapist Imran made victims of his diseased instincts, were not filmed for the Dark Web’s Red Rooms, where sick men supposedly pay heavy money to watch children being murdered. Red Rooms (special time slots on the Dark Web online) are legends that have never been proven. The Dark Web, while it does exist as a platform for all sorts of illegal internet-based activity across the world, has no connection with the curse that Imran became for the little girls of Kasur.
The report unequivocally negates any suggestion of Imran being a millionaire: in a rare development, the family of Zainab themselves said on oath that they knew the background of Imran, that he had a lowly economic existence and that he, like his other relatives, eked out a tough living bordering on poverty. The fanciful projection of the case by the anchor as global crime with a national ring leader (a federal minister from Faisalabad) and the latter’s local links in Kasur (an MNA and two MPs) was nothing but hoaxes.
The insistence of the anchor and another one of his colleagues from Lahore, that Imran possessed dozens of bank accounts, were claims grounded both in ignorance and fiction. Ignorance because the anchor’s list of these alleged accounts were logs of the Nadra databank that develops when anyone in the banking sector feeds a national identity card in the system to check whether a certain individual is an account holder in any of the said bank’s branch or not. The query based on the ID card number is automatically registered in the Nadra databank because, one, it is their data that is being used and, two, because they charge a certain fee for each query.
It is the log sheet of this Verification System (VeriSys) that the anchor along with at least one other media person dangled before a dazzled public as ‘bank accounts’. These queries of different banks from the VeriSystem multiplied after the Supreme Court asked the State Bank to inquire into the possibility of Imran having the alleged bank accounts. As bank after bank checked its records relying on VeriSystem, the log sheet expanded. The last count of the log sheets inquiries of Imran’s alleged bank accounts using Nadra databank was well over 170.
If anyone was insane enough to accept the illogic of the anchor, Imran while sitting in jail behind five locks and five keys, now has 170 ‘bank accounts.’ As for Imran having more than one National Identity Card, the reality is that his second so-called ID card is not even an ID card: it is actually a Child Registration Certificate that was issued to him before he attained the age of 18. And as even a villager knows, you can’t open an independent bank account on that card.
In any other society, the bizarre and nonsensical claims of a man in front of the camera would not have merited any serious consideration except for a quiet departmental inquiry into their veracity just to eliminate any possibility of these containing some useful bits of information. But since we have developed such a voracious appetite for ingesting lies and believing in concocted stories, this matter became a national crisis. It was taken to new heights when the Supreme Court mandated, after a full-day media event in Lahore, a month-long inquiry.
During the time when these claims were being aired and the anchor in question was gloating in the limelight of his lies, every bit of commonsensical analysis of his claims was rejected as a ‘partisan attempt to hide the truth’. Imran Khan supported the anchor hook, line and sinker, styling him as some sort of a hero fighting an evil and decadent system that allows the rape and murder of young girls, makes money out of it, protects the criminals and then manipulates the entire state and economic machinery (the banks, the police, the civil administration, the intelligence networks etc) to hide the tracks of this heinous crime.
Others from the media joined him by praising him for his ‘investigative skills’ and for ‘exposing’ the stark realities hidden from the eyes of thousands of other journalists who bothered to go Kasur but could not dig the gold of the scandal that he brought out during his travels abroad! His channel allowed him full play to further aggravate his flight of fabrications and malign everyone who questioned his claims. Reasonably well-groomed people, educated people, those with PhDs from leading universities, mused in private about how horrible the crime was and how compromised the system that allowed this imagined global network to operate from our holy land.
No one, and I mean no one, for a second paid any attention to the unspeakable oppression this fictional account of the Kasur murders must have inflicted upon the families of the victims. First the horror and trauma of seeing an innocent child being murdered in the most foul way imaginable. Then the devastation of the thought that the child’s final hours were being taped and aired on the internet for others’ evil pleasure. It is hard to imagine the pain mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and relatives must have felt upon being told that the tortured deaths of their precious ones are now part of video images to be played and replayed around the world.
Even though this possibility has now been proven to be a fraudulent formulation and a sick supposition, the fear of the ‘what-if’ will haunt these unfortunate families forever. No negation, no inquiry, no probe proving the scandal to be a baseless one will ever erase the deep anxiety weeks of media hype must have burnt into their minds. For the rest of their lives they will live with the fear unleashed by these lies.
Equally worrying is the fact that since the FIA report came out proving the allegations of the TV person to be absolutely baseless, there is no debate about the outcome. There is silence even in the face of the continued and unabashed insistence of the man that what he said was the reality. There is no outrage. No meaningful discussion. It is almost as if nothing has happened. It is life as usual with Senate elections and the MQM and the chief justice in headlines. Society has collectively allowed painful lies and shamefaced untruths to go unnoticed. It has shown that it has no passion to root for facts when these come out while it has a lot of energy to spend on fabrications and wants to believe them.
The FIA report and its aftermath point to the dark holes in our soul. It marks how anger, paranoia and penchant for populism are driving the national debate today. How you can say and do the most outrageous and despicable thing and get away with it by calling it a ‘service to the nation.’ It shows how a garbage culture of misinformation, disinformation, and deceit has overcome our senses, drowning rationality and humanity in its gush.
Most importantly, the report is not just an indictment of an individual’s dangerous and ignorant conduct: it holds a mirror to everyone in love with rapacious behaviour, full-throttle lies, and pomposity of authority – traits that are unfortunately common among many holding powerful positions these days. In all this, one would pray for the departed souls of the girls from Kasur and for sanity to return to a land that so desperately needs it.
Senate elections are done and one controversy has gone to its grave. But many more lurk ominously. Here’s what the next 90 days could hold:
1. The PML-N is still very much in the game as evidenced by its impressive performance in the Senate elections. It has taken hits from top court judgments but so far has held itself together as a party and managed the tricky and delicate matter of succession with apparent smoothness. If some feathers have been ruffled during this succession (Shehbaz Sharif replacing Nawaz Sharif as the president of the party) it has not become too obvious in the public domain. In July last year, many from among the opposition had predicted that the PML-N as a unified party would not be able to withstand the disqualification of its leader and would fracture. That did not happen. With the Senate elections done and over with, the party now has crossed a huge hurdle.
2. The next hurdle is the verdict of the Accountability Court in the case against Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and others. In the worst case scenario all would be convicted and sent to jail. If this happens, is the party likely to see desertions? With Shehbaz now holding the party together as its president, the PML-N expects to tide over the challenge of convictions and go into the election campaign in a fighting and defiant mode. If Nawaz and Maryam are both incarcerated, the party will turbo-charge its campaign using the symbolism of its leadership jailed as a result of a ‘conspiracy’ by those who have joined hands to ensure the ouster of the Sharifs. Shehbaz will lead the campaign and will most likely replace his milder positioning with a hawkish line more in tune with that of Nawaz and Maryam. If Maryam escapes conviction, she will fire up the campaign trail along with her uncle.
3. It is fairly clear that the PML-N is not splitting in Nawaz and Shehbaz camps and therefore will go into elections as a unified entity. However can it experience significant desertions from within its ranks? If there is one genuine threat to the party and its electoral prospects, it is this possibility of many so-called ‘electables’ breaking away from it. And yet these electables need a reason to break away — a reason that is of course rooted in the propagation and promotion of their self-interest. In other words, how will they benefit from jumping off the PML-N bandwagon and clambering atop another one? Anecdotal evidence suggests many such electables have been getting calls from various quarters urging them to jump ship. They will only do so if they calculate their winning chances to be brighter with some other ticket.
4. The alternative of course is the PTI. However, a handful of defections from the PML-N to the PTI in Punjab will not do the trick. The numbers have to be large enough to make a significant dent, and cement a perception that a PML-N ticket is not a winning ticket any more.
5. There’s another problem with such a scenario: if electables from the PML-N join the PTI, they will do so only on the guarantee of a PTI ticket. This means they will replace the existing PTI candidate. Deprived of a ticket at this late stage, this candidate will become the aggrieved party. The local constituency dynamics will ensure this candidate becomes the spoiler and either contests as an independent or aligns himself with the opposing candidate, or at the very least withdraws his support. This could spell trouble for the PTI in some constituencies.
6. The PTI for its part needs to pick up the momentum that it lost sometime during its last romance with the discredited Tahir ul Qadri. It needs to be seen as the winning party, not the king’s party. As things stand today, the party’s enduring images of the last few months are: a) empty chairs in the Lahore Charing Cross Jalsa; b) a defeated Jahangir Tareen sitting morosely with his son as the shock results of Lodhran poured in; and c) Imran Khan sitting with his veiled wife as controversy swirled around the date of his wedding. Whichever way one sees it, these images do not help the party a few months before the elections. The surprise victory of Chaudhry Sarwar in the Senate elections is a much-needed reprieve for the party from a long line of electoral defeats. The PTI however desperately needs a makeover.
7. The Ahad Cheema affair is taking a toll on Brand Shehbaz. Cheema is under arrest by NAB for his role in a failed housing scheme and has plenty to explain to investigators. Will the investigations lead to Shehbaz himself? At this stage it appears unlikely as per senior officials. However, the negative political impact is already making its presence felt. There is a chink in the Shehbaz armour which his opponents will gladly exploit if allegations against Ahad Cheema are proven in the court of law. The timing, as always, is key. Will the Cheema affair drag on beyond the elections? If so, will calculated leaks from the investigation be ensured? Such leaks will keep tarnishing Brand Shehbaz at a time when he is shouldering the burden of the party presidency.
8. With less than 90 days left in the current National Assembly’s term, parties will start locking in their candidates wherever possible. This means with each passing day conspiracy theories about the fate of elections are getting weaker and weaker. The PML-N believes if it can survive these 90 days without major defections it stands to do very well in the elections.
9. This may be one reason the party would prefer the shortest possible time for the caretaker government. This can be done if the government dissolves the parliament before the expiry date of May 31st. If it were to do so, elections would need to be held within 60 days as opposed to 90 days if the assembly completes its full term on May 31st.
10. Now that the Senate elections are done, the race for the caretaker prime minister and his cabinet is on. The next few weeks will see names of many hopeful being bandied about in the media. Ninety days can still be a long time.
Elected as acting president by the Central Working Committee (CWC) of the PML-N, endorsement of the younger Sharif by the general council for party presidency is mere formality. However, there was visibly more to the CWC meeting than passing the leadership baton. There was Nawaz Sharif. The elder Sharif was proclaimed as the party’s guide for life. He proposed the name of Shehbaz for the position. He caustically reiterated his narrative of judicial partisanship and conspiracy, and resolved to continue his fight for supremacy of the electorate.
Then there was a meticulously orchestrated and choreographed bonhomie publicly displayed by the Sharif clan. Maryam and Hamza accompanying each other with unusual warmth, Maryam going to the stage to be affectionately embraced by her uncle, and the two Sharifs reposing unwavering confidence in each other, were powerful optics. The message was evident: the nerve centre of the PML-N — the Sharif house — stood united.
From these two different strands, arise the principal challenges Shehbaz faces in his new role. Will he be able to exercise real power in party decision-making process, or will the newly elevated lifetime guide would have the ultimate ideological, strategic and operational sway over party affairs? Whether the PML-N would toe an all-out confrontationist party line espoused by Nawaz, or will it be a more reconciliatory approach towards the establishment, that Shahbaz stands for?
Inextricably linked with these questions are the dynamics within Sharif household. Rumour mills contend that Maryam and Begum Kulsoom have strong reservations against shifting the mantle of leadership to younger Sharif. Maryam was repeatedly propped up as an alternative despite her limited political exposure and acumen. Even the ailing spouse of Nawaz was among the contenders. At a subterranean level, the two Sharif families are grappling with this issue behind closed doors. How will the question of Sharif legacy be addressed? Shehbaz has to carefully navigate through this predicament as well.
Until now, Shehbaz has carefully distanced himself from the harsh rhetoric peddled by Nawaz against state institutions. Portraying himself as a man out to deliver, he advertises a persona of an effective and untiring executioner of public welfare projects. However, in his role as president of the PML-N, he cannot extricate himself from mainstream narrative of the party. The PML-N has crossed many a bridge. He has to align with a collision course that his party is treading vociferously. It is impossible to feign innocence and indifference any more.
Interestingly, the Nawaz mantra is paying off. Massive crowds, thunderous cheers, passionate slogans — all augur a robust launching of the election campaign. Nawaz has been wronged — this one-point agenda energises party adrenaline today. The judiciary and the establishment have marginalised the public mandate and the people ought to snatch back their right from usurping forces is the clarion call. The PML-N’s popular clamour is incessantly gaining momentum. Shehbaz cannot change the winning strategy mid-stream, and that too when Nawaz thinks otherwise.
Showcasing himself as prime ministerial stuff demands a certain persona from Shehbaz. Leading a party propelled by a vindictive agenda to massively restructure existing institutional structure and equilibrium, he stands on slippery ground. Graduating from provincial to central leadership of the PML-N, he also has to negotiate with party heavyweights who might not be as pliant as the likes of his provincial party subordinates. Moreover, they comprise the core team of Nawaz, and would be focusing more towards him for inspiration. A veteran of political arena, Shehbaz is also cognisant of the Maryam factor. Party presidency might be a stepping stone, but is no guarantee of transference of the ultimate political legacy. Maryam is on his tail, and with the blessings of her father — the lifelong guide — can assume the crown at an opportune time.
Shehbaz has been acting as a one-man army in Punjab for years. Centralisation of power and absolute decision-making has been his administrative hallmarks. Will he be able to continuously play second fiddle in the party? Will he be comfortable leading a party going against his own preferred policy of reconciliation with state institutions? And importantly, will he be a president in substance and spirit or just in name? His is a peculiar situation. He can assert, but will not prevail. He will be president, but won’t have the clout and space to bestow ideology or strategic direction to the party. He will be the prime ministerial candidate, while always apprehensive of what Nawaz might have up his sleeve to carve Maryam’s future political fortune. Conversely, the elder Sharif will be closely monitoring his younger brother. Such has been the cruel and malicious nature of power politics since eons.
External challenges to Shehbaz are manifold. Nawaz being disqualified from active political arena, the PTI and the PPP have all their ammunition pointed towards him. The Model Town tragedy is dormant at the moment. Relief in Hudaibiya case had been a breather. However, NAB probes into Ashiana housing scheme, the 56 public-sector companies in Punjab, and alleged anomalies in mega projects across Punjab cast dark shadows. Recent defections within the PML-N are not making things easier. Shehbaz needs to stop this trend and dispel the perception that an anti-establishment party stands a slim chance of forming a future government. The opposition, particularly the PTI, will keep hounding him. But the real challenge for Shehbaz is from within.
Some days before being elected acting president, Shehbaz talked about his refusal to a prime ministerial offer by Musharraf. He was clearly proclaiming his loyalty to his elder brother. This reflects insecurities of both Sharifs. Presidency of Shehbaz will mean little to his person, and to his party, if the shadows of his elder brother always loom large on the party landscape. Loyalty is one thing, subservience, quite another.
DO you believe America’s financial problems from 2008 depression and crisis have been fixed? Do you think USA is on the brink of another banking crisis, or a problem with its currency? If you are concerned about these possibilities, you are not alone. US is facing serious economic problems though on the face of it ,it looks like a robust economy. And it’s about to get much, much worse. The evidence is piling up all around. In recent months, we’ve seen nearly $8 trillion disappear from world stock markets… and a whopping 70% of investors lost money in 2015.Even the great Warren Buffett lost $11 billion dollars. We’re looking at a collapse in corporate bonds and plummeting oil and commodity prices. Research shows the “too big to fail” banks, the top five largest financial institutions (the ones that were bailed out in 2008), are now 25% bigger than they were back then, and more dangerous than ever.
We’ve seen private businesses take on more debt than any time in the past 12 years, and an incredible 863 companies that have had their credit rating downgraded last year, the most since 2009 and it includes the retail giant WalMart too which announced the shutdown of more than 250 stores, worldwide. This is what happens when our government embarks on a gross, out of control experiment, expanding the money supply 400% in just six years, and more than doubling our national debt since 2006.
It took USA 216 years to rack up the first $8.5 trillion in debt… then just 8 more years to double that amount. As per Stansberry Research, which has been investigating this situation closely for years, “this is a 100% certainty: The way we, live, work, travel, retire, invest… everything is going to change. Some of it in ways most people would never expect. A “new” crisis of epic proportions is already underway”, says the research report. Stocks will fall further. Bonds are going to collapse.
Huge numbers of bankruptcies in the energy business may soon ripple through the financial system. And eventually, there is going to be a major stock market crash and it will be worse than the one world experienced seven years ago. There is, perhaps, going to be a currency crisis too because investors and governments around the world will realize the US dollar is not the safe haven, it once was. Sooner than most people think, we’ll see the US dollar lose it’s “reserve currency” status, and this will make it much harder for US government to borrow money, and have its military stationed in more than 150 countries.
There are going to be massive changes to retirement system and Social Security payments. There will be huge tax increases and even a “wealth tax,” which levies a fee on all savings and any assets of value. There will be all kinds of new laws and rules about what one can do with money, just like House of Representatives bill H.R. 2847, which went into effect July 1, 2014. This law made it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the average American to get some of their money out of US dollars, and into more stable currencies via foreign banks. In the months and years to come we’re going to see more and more of these “capital controls” placed on personal savings…There is all the possibility of a massive inflation when the trillions and trillions of newly printed dollars begin making their way into the economy.
Many people see the recovered stock market, the rebound in real estate prices, and want to believe everything is “back to normal.” But, the research report says, nothing is “normal” about what is happening in America today. It is all smoke and mirrors the result of an out of control government experiment with our money supply. After all, how can it be “normal” when roughly 75% of Americans are living pay check to paycheck, with essentially zero savings, according to another recent study. The “labor force participation rate” (basically the percentage of able bodied people who are actually working) has fallen every year since 2007 and at the end of 2015 was at its lowest level since the 1970s. (Source: The US Bureau of Labour Statistics)
How can things really be “normal” in America, when the number of people on food stamps has basically doubled during Barack Obama Presidency… and when half of all children born today will be on food stamps at some point in their life? Yes, you read that correctly: Roughly 50% of all children born in America today will be on food stamps at some point in their lifetime. Does that sound “normal” to you? Can America really be back to “normal” when, according to the most recent numbers from the Census Bureau, an incredible 49% of Americans are receiving benefits from at least one government program every single month? Or when 52% of all American workers make less than $30,000 a year?
Can things really be “normal” in America when at one point, a single US government controlled agency (the Federal Reserve) was purchasing up to 70% of the bonds issued by the US Treasury simply by creating money out of thin air? Or when the “too big to fail banks” that got bailed out in 2007 are actually 25% larger than they were back then. And how can things be normal when country’s money supply has increased by 400% since 2006 all just printed out of thin air (Qualitative easing policy initiated by former Fed Chairman, Bernanke).