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Pakistan Press (30 Aug 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Millions of Women Still Missing By M Taimur Ali Ahmad: New Age Islam's Selection, 30 August 2017

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

30 August 2017

Millions of Women Still Missing

By M Taimur Ali Ahmad

First Step towards Trust

By Omar Zafarullah

A Human Rights Evaluation

By Hammad Asif

Key Takeaways from Census Results

By Hasaan Khawar

The Wolf and the Lamb

By Wajid Shamsul Hasan

'Disappeared, Not Forgotten'

By Irshad Ahmad

Trump and the US War Machine

By Miranda Husain

Militarisation Of America’s Afghan Policy

By Shahid Javed Burki

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Millions of Women Still Missing

By M Taimur Ali Ahmad


The preliminary results of the census have raised many pertinent issues; most importantly regarding the massive population boom. To many, this does not come as a surprise. The population time-bomb has been a fairly relevant issue but one that is often discarded in the face of what are considered pressing issues such as terrorism. An important element of this discussion that does not receive much attention is the female-to-male ratio of the country, a persistent problem that Pakistan, along with India and China, has faced for decades. Preference for male children prevails abundantly across society today, severely hindering social development and democracy.

If there are fewer women in society than there should be, they have greater odds stacked against them in having a voice in state and society

A common generalisation that is casually thrown around is that women outnumber men in the world. Although true in many parts of the world, this region has had an extremely low sex ratio in the past few decades, reaching even 90 women for every 100 men. The 1998 census in Pakistan gave a figure of 91.9 while the 2017 results put the number at 95.2. Although there is a marked improvement in the gender skewness of our population, the figure is still substantially lower than what is found in Western countries but also in sub-Saharan countries. If some of the world’s poorest countries can have a sex ratio in favour of females, then simply linking economic progress to gender bias is a misleading hypothesis. More evidence for this can be found in India and China, where the sex ratio has in fact worsened over the last few decades, despite the tremendous economic progress they have made.

The preference to have a boy is a well-documented phenomenon in the region. Female infanticide, sex-selective abortions, honour killings and a disregard for female wellbeing is rampant, and not confined to any religion, class or ethnicity. Everyone does not partake in the violence, but the majority actively perpetuate the phenomenon through celebrating the birth of a boy, or having more children until there is at least one male heir. Especially with mainstream access to ultrasounds that confirm the sex of the child before birth, and the ease of abortions, the prevalence of sex-selective abortions has increased. If not that, then as documented by a recent piece in DAWN titled “No Country for Girls,” families discard female babies right after birth outside NGOs such as Edhi.

The ramifications of this trend go beyond the moral crime that is committed. In a democratic setup, as far as Pakistan has one, demographics are a fundamental factor in shaping politics. Representation across the political rungs depends fundamentally on the size of social groups; arguments about access to the political sphere come later. If there are simply fewer women in society than there should be, they have greater odds stacked against them when it comes to having a voice in state and society. Electoral politics, civil society and social institutions suffer from an inherent misrepresentation of women, severely diminishing their power to fight patriarchal practices and raise a collective voice.

Pervez Hoodbhoy in a piece earlier this year, laid out the population problem at hand. But if we ever do get around to seriously dealing with family planning, contraceptives and other mitigation policies, it is essential to keep the gender aspect in mind. Pushing for smaller family sizes will raise the stakes for having a boy, risking an increase in the brutal practices against female born and unborn children. China’s rising trend of a more male dominated society after the one-child policy is an important testament to this looming threat. Therefore, along with policies to restrict the population boom, there must be an emphasis on countering the anti-female bias that exists. Countries like Bangladesh are a prime example of population control and an improved sex ratio — almost 99 women per 100 men.

This must happen on two fronts: economic and social. Providing more education and employment opportunities to women is one way to diminish the economic potential that exists between male and female children. However, the importance of countering the social narrative against female children cannot be overlooked. Even the self-proclaimed bastions of morality — the clergy and its zealous minions — are active propagandists of this cruelty. Seeing sons as the custodians of the family legacy, and a source of pride and income is a prejudice that is deeply ingrained in all strata of our society. Only a comprehensive and collective counter-narrative can begin to neutralise this line of thinking.

Compared to many developed countries, Pakistan — and South Asia in general — can boast of having elected women as heads of state. Before partition as well as after, women such as Annie Besant, Fatima Jinnah, Indira Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto have had a major role to play in South Asian politics. However, a small band of women at the top does not translate into real social change at the bottom. Rather than being entranced by political gimmicks and blindly following messiahs, perhaps we should be more cognizant of how our hatred towards a gender has engineered our society to become unnatural and inherently misogynist.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/30-Aug-17/millions-of-women-still-missing


First Step towards Trust

By Omar Zafarullah

August 30, 2017

The latest Afghan policy announced by US President Trump looks a lot like the policy pitched by former VP Joe Biden (as an alternate) in 2009. It stresses counterterrorism instead of the counter-insurgency strategy which was adopted by Obama. It has a smaller footprint and focuses on killing terrorists (and on nothing else).

In order to understand this policy more, one must first reflect on the conditions in the White House. The Trump White House is known for leaks, indiscipline, firings and finger-pointing by President Trump against fired personnel. This White House is filled with ex-generals (one of whom has lost a son in combat in Afghanistan.)

In the last few months, Trump has delegated the decision on troop numbers to one of these ex-generals. The increase in troop numbers calculated by this team of ex-generals (4000) is also not a secret. However, it seems, the ex-generals have chosen not to use their delegated powers for fear of back-tracking by Trump, followed by finger pointing and public shaming – as has happened on other issues.

The ex-generals have instead forced Trump to publicly demonstrate his ownership of this Afghan policy (on prime time television) before proceeding. And, of all the different issues under discussion in this White House, this is the only one that has not been prematurely leaked and the only one on which Trump himself has stayed exactly on course; not straying even a word away from the text before him.

I state all this only to underscore the seriousness of the American establishment regarding this policy.

The new policy has the following major components:

-- It is open ended. This is a departure from previous policies and this reverses the strict controls that earlier commanders were under.

-- Leaving Afghanistan is not an option. This moves the Taliban’s goal posts of withdrawal into an undetermined future. This should also change our calculus.

-- The Afghan army, which is losing dozens of soldiers every day, will continue as front-line troops supported by key US personnel very close to the combat but not on the front lines ala Mosul in Iraq.

-- US Special Ops personnel will engage high-value targets, eliminating jihadi leadership – wherever they are found – with a lower regard for collateral damage.

-- Any negotiations with the Taliban will only be made after sustained fighting. These negotiations will be made not by the US but by the Afghan government.

-- Pakistan has a choice to be a part of “civilisation and order” or face the consequences which are not iterated but left to our imagination. It seems the way to join “civilisation and order” is by eliminating terrorist sanctuaries on our soil.

-- Relatively low levels of troop movement aim to reduce the leverage Pakistan enjoys as Afghanistan’s logistics corridor.

A minor component of this policy is the invitation to India to participate in economic development of Afghanistan. From the eyes of Pakistani planners, this last bit crosses a red line since any sentence with the word India in it is a red line in this part of the world.

Our reaction is accordingly in red type. We deny all allegations and reject all calls to join “civilisation and order”. Instead, we have asked the US to do more.

I like this response primarily because it is a joint response from the two pillars which represent Pakistani thought. The people we have chosen to represent us together with the people who have chosen to represent us have jointly penned this response so this must be the best response there could have been.

But as we sit and wait for the next round in this game of high-stakes bluff – where both nations have called each others’ bluff – one thing makes me worried. And that is the issue of trust. No one trusts us. The COAS has rightly asked the US for “trust”. Trust is a central issue. Obama had called Pakistan “dysfunctional” and now Trump accuses us of harbouring “agents of chaos”. And the US is our ally! There is something wrong here. We have fought for the last forty years in a graveyard of empires – for the world – not for us. And the recompense of this fight is that the world does not trust us. Why? This is the real question that must be answered - between us - before we go back to the world.

If someone in authority knows the answer to this question, the time to speak is now. Square with us. Let us know. If there are secrets that the world knows but we do not, tell them. If there are mistakes that have been made, tell us. We will understand. And we will forgive. And we will unite – not in empty bluster but in solid and fruitful action. We will mend whatever trust has been broken. We will stand with you. We will explain your position to the world. But tell us, the people, the truth and take this first step towards trust.

Instead of brokering deals with Russia and China and Iran, broker a deal with us, the people of Pakistan. Look not for strength without. You will find this strength within. Tell us the truth. Pray tell us and we will help you find a way out.

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/226993-First-step-towards-trust


A Human Rights Evaluation

By Hammad Asif

August 29, 2017

We try to find meaning in our actions. In the decisions we take we always have an obvious ending in mind. We observe outcomes and outputs to correct our actions and change directions, as though we are trying to follow a scientific process in our lives. Our desire to achieve an intended goal puts us closer to understanding the causal relationships that help organise our efforts in controlling change. Our need for evidence-based practice helps us address the problems we face.

Thus, it is valid to say that evaluation is central to human development. It assesses the effects of programmes, policies and initiatives undertaken to find their worth, provide useful feedback and guide further action. With this generic goal of evaluation in mind, each landmark in time is just another reminder of reviewing past decisions.

This August marks the 70 years of independence of both India and Pakistan. In order to evaluate where both these countries stand, we need to look back and see where we started and why we started. Back then, the people of the sub-continent were witnessing a cosmic change. The direct rule of British crown in India was ending and anticipation to this change fuelled an uprising. Deliberations on what post-colonial India will look like spanned decades and gave birth to a movement that was centred on the protection of human rights.

When Jinnah said we fought for Pakistan because there was a danger of the denial of human rights in this sub-continent, he was iterating the vision that was the soul of the partition decision. If we are interested in how far we have come since then, the only true criterion for evaluation is the status of human rights for the people of this land.

Sadly, the state of affairs today on either side of the border draws a very bleak picture.

In Pakistan, militant violence lasting over a decade has favoured the inexplicable rise in the political influence of the military. Without oversight, there is bound to be rights violations when a plan to eradicate terrorism is implemented. Addressing militancy provides a justification for authorities to muzzle dissenting voices in support of human rights. Freedoms are lost, and birthrights are denied when even parliament gives in and passes vague and overbroad legislation.

Be a part of any social minority in Pakistan and only then, you will be able to see how far we stand from the vision that created this divide in the subcontinent. Women, children, transgender and religious minorities all face violent attacks, insecurity and persecution. An overly charged bias has taken over us all that the state finds itself helpless to provide adequate protection to the vulnerable and hold perpetrators accountable.

At times even the state joins hands with the culprits and fails to ratify legislation on forced conversions, turns a blind eye to misuse of blasphemy laws and keeps up the pressure on journalists and rights activists to keep any criticism in check.

The situation in India is not much different. Their military is notorious for acting with impunity when deployed in areas of internal conflict. They also resort to communal violence to protect religious sentiments of a Hindu majority. Just like ours, authorities there are famed to use criminal defamation laws to prosecute citizens with dissenting opinions. Women there are too victims of rape, acid attacks and honour killings while the government seems powerless to ensure their safety.

Seventy years down the road an overview of the rights situation in either country reveals a serious parting from the original plan. We never arrived to the Pakistan, which Jinnah had envisioned. We became the very people who in his mind would have threatened to deny rights had there been no Pakistan. It is ironic to say that our blasphemy law is no different from their beef ban.

Source: tribune.com.pk/story/1493303/human-rights-evaluation/


Key Takeaways from Census Results

By Hasaan Khawar

August 29, 2017

So we are 207+ million in number, up from 132+ million back in 1998. If we keep on growing like this, we’ll be the third-largest country in the world by 2050 with 450+ million humans, behind India and China. This growth rate is outrageous. For the last 19 years, we have been adding one person to our population every eight seconds. Add in the number of deaths and we realise that we have been reproducing at a much faster pace. Population control programmes, which have consumed billions, need serious soul-searching. Even more interestingly, these results have taken many by surprise. The World Bank and UNFPA thought we should be somewhere close to 197 million, but we are off by about 10 million people. Surprisingly, the CCI projected us at somewhere near 205 million, an estimate far better than that of the development experts.

Secondly and more importantly, where have these people come from? Excluding Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), the population growth has been highest in Balochistan, followed by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). This is no surprise, as Balochistan and K-P have a much higher poverty incidence than Punjab and Sindh. Poverty and population growth have long been known to coexist and often nurture each other. On the other hand, the lowest population growth (1.81%) was witnessed in rural Punjab, but urbanisation might have had a greater role to play here.

Thirdly, the change in provincial population shares is perhaps the most consequential issue. If there were 100 people in Pakistan, 15 of them would be living in K-P, two in Fata, 53 in Punjab, 23 in Sindh, six in Balochistan and one in ICT. In 1998, K-P had 13, Punjab 56 while Balochistan had five (out of 100). The rest had the same proportion. This change will have important repercussions about distribution of resources and allocation of national assembly seats. The next NFC award will have to be announced, with Punjab compromising in favour of K-P and Balochistan. Similarly, Article 51(3) of the Constitution will have to be amended, in the light of Article 51(5), which mandates the allocation of seats based on the basis of population in accordance with the last preceding census officially published. This would mean at least eight fewer seats for Punjab in 332-strong National Assembly, with 5-6 more seats for K-P and almost three more for Balochistan.

Next comes the male-to-female ratio. Using the 100 people analogy, we would have 51 males and 49 females, which is very close to world’s average. This has, however, come down since 1998, when we had 52 men out of every 100 people. This change could be a result of widening gap between female and male life expectancy at birth, which currently stands at almost two years.

Another upsetting aspect of these results relates to productivity. According to the World Bank data, Pakistan ranked 126th out of 175 countries in 2016 based on GDP per capita, a measure of the country’s workforce productivity. Even if our GDP grows by 5% this year, our GDP per capita in 2017 would only be as high as we claimed to have in 2015. We knew we were unproductive, but it’s worse than we thought.

The most striking number from census results is the transgender population. While the government must be given credit to acknowledge the so far ignored transgender population, the number looks far too small. The population of 10,418 translates into one transgender person for every 20,000 people. In India, there is one for every 2,600 individuals, with a clear realisation that the actual number may be six to seven times higher. This means that there could actually be one transgender person for every 400 citizens. Our demographics can’t be that different. Even if we assume 1/2,600 ratio, it means that we have identified only one out of every eight transgender persons in Pakistan. Considering this huge anomaly, it is critical that any policy measure to support transgender needs should not be based on these modest estimates.

Lastly, comes the urban-rural split. About 64 people out of every 100 live in rural areas, while 36 reside in urban settlements. The latter, however, may grow to 40 by 2050 with existing growth rates. We have added 30 million people to our urban population in the last 19 years and we are all set to add another 112 million by 2050, if we continue unabated. This unfortunately is not a result of any coherent strategy, which means that we are not well prepared to face this challenge neither do we have any mechanisms to reap its dividends.

Urbanisation and its associated issues are likely to force their way onto policy makers’ radar in the near future or else the population pressure is going to wipe out whatever semblance of service delivery and public order remains. Merely feeding these 450 million souls would be a nightmare, let alone educating them, providing them health services or catering to their electricity, transport and water requirements. These preliminary census results should be an eye-opener for policymakers to have a paradigm shift. We are facing an emergency and we need to attend to it now or else we are going to witness a crisis of unprecedented proportions in not very distant future.

Source: tribune.com.pk/story/1493372/key-takeaways-census-results/


The Wolf and the Lamb

By Wajid Shamsul Hasan


When we were kids we learnt many a lesson of life from Aesop’s fables. As one looks at the current war of words launched by American President Trump against Pakistan, one is reminded of the “The Wolf and the Lamb” story. We have had more than six decades long relations with the United States. It has been a mix bag of ups and downs — from most trusted ally in East of Suez — a cornerstone of American foreign policy — to our present status of a lamb threatened by the wolf blaming Pakistan for its reverses in the ongoing 16-year long war in Afghanistan — known in history — as the graveyard of empires.

Looking at the intensity of heat going up every moment, I wondered if it was a comedy of error or something deliberate to provide new vistas of debate on Pakistani TV channels running out of steam after the disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on being a God-father running his government as Sicilian mafia, his resignation and taking over by Shahid Khaqqan Abbasi in his place. As soon as President Trump blasted Pakistan, one saw a surge of foreign policy, security experts and ex-diplomats queue up outside TV channels — suited and booted, painted and powdered — to counter blast Trump.

Expressing our anger by putting off Alice’s visit is definitely not the right approach. We should have let her come in and express our dismay to her in the best of diplomatic language. Now Americans must be thinking that President Trump has given us a shock and we are finding it hard to recover

I came across a picture of Barbara Bush, wife of President Bush Sr laughing over something with President Obama. And the caption said and I quote — Barbara to Obama: “I was mad at you for making my George look so dumb, but that’s behind us now. Thanks to the moron who succeeded you, my son is looking more like a genius every day”. Indeed.

Now coming back to the wolf and lamb story — I reproduce it to bring out the commonality of interest. The wolf is hungry; he sees a little lamb drinking water at a brook. Like Trump wants to teach lesson to Pakistan, wolf found some plausible excuse for eating him. Standing higher up the stream began to accuse lamb of disturbing the water, mudding it up and preventing him from drinking.

Like Pakistan fighting its own war on terror and having no direct role in Afghanistan as such, the lamb replied that he was only touching the water with his lips; and that, besides, seeing that he was standing downstream, he could not possibly be disturbing the water higher up to make it muddy. Having made no head way in its do more mantra, American General Nicholson now says that the Afghan troublemakers are ensconced in safe havens of Peshawar and Quetta. It is much like the wolf having done no good by his earlier accusation, said: “Well, but last year you insulted my Father.” Poor little creature replied that at that time he was not born, the big bad wolf wound up by saying: “However ready you may be with your answers, I shall none the less make a meal of you.”

Current strain in the social media is between sublime to ridiculous. Bigoted and emotional mavericks, would like Pakistan to test fire its long range capabilities. On the other hand, both the Prime Minister and his Foreign Minister reacted first mutedly, then there was knee-jerk reaction to Trump’s firework, followed by volleys of insinuations by General Nicholson. Our Foreign Office decided to cancel American Secretary Alice Wells visit to Pakistan — a symbolic manifestation of our belated so-called hawkish response. Now one has learnt that so far three requests have been made from our side to reschedule it.

We are in a Catch-22 situation. It is time to get over with the initial shock, dispel urgently the impression that none of the stakeholders are on the same page. Deft diplomacy requires taking into consideration all the pros and cons. Our reaction should be mature, well conceived and well measured. By putting off Alice’s visit to express our anger is definitely not the right approach. We should have let her come in and given it to her in best of diplomatic language-toughest message. However, with a house divided and knowing not where to go — now Americans must be thinking that President Trump has given us a shock and we are finding it hard to recover.

President Bush soon after 9-11 and his administration’s failure to strike a deal with Mulla Omar’s government over gas pipeline, served an ultimatum on General Pervez Musharraf that you are either with us or with them (Taliban), Pakistan has been sinking deeper into the quagmire. His successor Obama had promised to end war and leave. Both the previous Presidents thought that Pakistan would deliver in a platter Taliban to deal with them.

In a recent interview I heard Gen Musharraf crying over spilt milk accusing the USA of having used Pakistan to fight the Soviet Union and then leaving us in the cold with four million Afghan refugees and Taliban to look after. I wish the interviewer could have asked him who sold Pakistan out to the Americans as a frontline state in return for billions of US dollars in aid and equipment — both during Gen Zia and his days. Pakistan today is reaping the bitter harvest of the seeds sowed by the two. They preferred to seek legitimacy from Washington rather than their own people. Currently, it is an exercise in futility to continue the endless debate. To effectively counter them we shall have to put our house in order and bury the impression that there exists a nexus between the government, establishment and Haqqani Network.

Lastly, Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto and PPPP’s leader of opposition Khursheed Shah have rightly demanded immediate calling of the joint session of Parliament to debate not only President Trump’s speech, his latest threats but also lack of effective foreign policy. We need a well-meaning unanimous resolution to convey to Washington to stop bullying us for its own failures despite its heavy presence, drones and mother of all bombs plus troops more to come.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/30-Aug-17/the-wolf-and-the-lamb


'Disappeared, Not Forgotten'

By Irshad Ahmad


Today, the world is commemorating the International Day of the Victims of Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, standing with the victims of enforced disappearance (ED), asking the Government of Pakistan to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED), specifically criminalise ED, bring the perpetrator of ED to justice and to curb the legal and procedural impunity for the perpetrators.

ICPPED was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on 20 December 2006 while it entered into force on 23rd December 2010. The UNGA through its resolution 65/209 decided and declared 30th August as the International Day of the Victims of ED, to be observed every year. Although the ICPPED has been signed by 96 states and has been ratified by 57 states it is yet to be ratified by Pakistan.

Pakistan’s 3rd UPR will be in the upcoming 28th session of Human Rights Council, scheduled in Oct-Nov2017. In the 2nd Cycle of UPR held in 2012, Pakistan accepted four recommendations with a promise to fulfil, noted two and rejected one, related to ED. One accepted recommendation asked Pakistan to specifically criminalise ED in the Penal Code and reinforce the capacities of the Commission on ED. The second was requesting Pakistan to reinforce its efforts to fight impunity regarding cases of ED by bringing all responsible persons to justice, while the third accepted recommendation was to “ensure investigations and prosecution of those responsible for abduction and ED.”

Although Pakistan accepted the above-noted recommendations, it failed to specifically criminalise EDs. It hasn’t initiated any procedural steps or legislation to curb impunity conferred on perpetrators, nor has it taken any steps to investigate EDs or to prosecute the perpetrators.

Like, in the extraordinary situation of terrorism, the President of Pakistan promulgated Actions in Aid to Civil Power Regulations (AACPR), for Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) and Provincially Administered Tribal Area (PATA) on June 27th, 2011. A retrospective effect was given to AACPR from February 2008. AACPR empowered the military to make arrests and keep the ‘suspects’ in prolonged detentions in the internment centres, established in FATA and PATA. Under AACPR, the ‘suspects’ illegally arrested or detained after February 2008 were considered legally arrested and detained, after June 2011.

The Peshawar High Court (PHC) has shown its infuriation on the non-functioning of the Oversight Broad established under AACPR many times. Citing its duty which is to review cases of an interned person within 120 days. The data shared by Peshawar High Court in 2014 shows that around 1992 persons were kept in these internment centres.

After the Peshawar Army Public School incident in December 2014, military courts were established for the trial of a civilian suspect of terrorism by amendments in Pakistan Army Act (PAA) and the Constitution. Through 21st Constitutional Amendment, military courts were initially established for two years. Later on, when the two years period expired, it was extended for another two years, through 23rd Constitutional Amendment. These military courts were also given retrospective effect, which empowered it to make trials of the civil suspect arrested or detained under AACPR (since February 2008). The law arbitrarily conferred impunity for the security forces and officials of the law enforcement agencies for their acts done in good faith. And it is now absolutely clear that no legal proceeding can be initiated against them (being protected by law).

On the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance, we urge the government of Pakistan to implement and enact relevant laws to deter such practices

Suspects who were illegally detained after February 2008 were supposed to be shifted to the internment centres established under AACPR in 2011. It is also important that these internment centres were alleged to be the places where victims of ‘enforced disappearance’ were kept. These suspects who were arrested or detained under AACPR can be tried by military courts established in January 2015.

Pakistan has enacted counter terrorism laws with little tangible effects. It has not only failed to specifically criminalise the ED but has enacted laws and regulations which legalise ED. Through different counter terrorism legislations, it has conferred absolute impunity for the perpetrators of ED. It also failed to investigate ED and till date, even a single perpetrator of ED hasn’t been prosecuted.

Besids that, Pakistan’s superior courts have many times held that any criminal laws which take away rights of the individuals shall not be enforced. Pakistan is also state party of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, article 15 of which says that no one should be charged with an offence which was not a crime according to the law for the time being enforced. Furthermore, the, extension of laws in criminal jurisprudence is considered a violation of international human right law in general and ICCPR in specific. Pakistan has a history of enacting laws retrospectively and legalizing prolonged and indefinite detentions.

Here on the eve of International Day of the Victims of ED, we urge the government of Pakistan to implement and enact laws quickly. Pakistan should take back AACPR, should ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, should criminalise ED, should strengthen the Commission of Inquiry on ED to investigate cases of EDs and should also prosecute perpetrators involved in EDs by curtailing their legal and procedural impunity.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/30-Aug-17/disappeared-not-forgotten


Trump and the US War Machine

 By Miranda Husain


Donald Trump is a man who likes to leave his mark on things. Even when it risks being more of a stain than a mark of, well, anything of real substance.

After lamenting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and more or less promising the American people a cut-and-run in both he looks predictably set to stay the course. Indeed, the unquiet American is doing the do that George W Bush never did. The latter became seemingly bored by the sheer lack of glamour in Afghanistan and found himself rather unbothered about finishing what he had started there. Far more exciting to just go ahead and invade Iraq, just because he could. Yet far more strategic, as well, to leave both in a state of utter chaos.

The same goes for Trump. He isn’t about to pack up and get out of Afghanistan. Not while there is the small matter of unfinished business there. Meaning that the inconsequential troop surge that has been announced will not accomplish anything meaningful aside from a token presence — just sufficient to blame Pakistan for the American failure to exit the Afghan quagmire of its own making. Which is, at it transpires, something rather consequential in terms of rewriting occupation narratives on the go.

Over in Iraq, that other post-9/11 military invasion that also had nothing to do with those attacks, the apprentice-president, similarly, doesn’t seem too bothered about exit strategies. The pretext there is that the US is committed to flushing out ISIS. Yet media watchdogs, such as the Committee to Protect Journalists, have warned that territorial losses by the latter aren’t cause for celebration. Given the rise of the Popular Mobilisation Units (Al-Hashd Al-Sha’abi), an umbrella group of some 40 different milita outfits boasting a total capacity of 100,000 men. Though said to be overwhelmingly Shia in composition it is believed to cross some ethnic divides. The CPJ and Human Rights Watch have pointed to the PMU’s poor human rights record, extending to enforced disappearances and torture. Yet this hasn’t stopped it from being on the Iraqi state’s payroll, after Parliament last year moved to have it incorporated into the regular armed forces. Nor has it prevented American collaboration. Indeed, when the US-led coalition finally admitted to being behind the Mosul civilian massacre that left 200 dead earlier this year — it also came clean about using PMU-provided coordinates.

Iraqi militia outfit the PMU is fighting ISIS. Yet it has a poor human rights record, extending to enforced disappearances and torture. This hasn’t stopped it from being on the Iraqi state’s payroll. Nor has it prevented US collaboration

The world ought to have learned one lesson from the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Namely that when a US president appears to act without rhyme or reason that is when he is at his most ruthless. Because just as there is always rhyme so, too, is there always reason. It’s just true agendas are usually well concealed. Consider, PM al-Abadi is a man who has supposedly endeavoured to guarantee increased Sunni participation in the governing of Iraq. Yet he, by all accounts, doesn’t want to see the Shia militia dissolved. By contrast, we have Muqtada al-Sadr, the so-called firebrand Shia cleric, who has repeatedly called for this un-merry band of men to be disbanded. And then there is the US that has gone from relying on PMU logistics to earlier this month bombing the militia outfit. It may or may not have been significant that the latter was said to be fighting at the time in the district of Akashat close to the border with Syria. The US, for its part, has reportedly indicated that any ‘trespassing’ into Syrian territory by PMU forces is unacceptable. That al-Abadi has announced an increased budget for the group doesn’t bode well. For it recalls to mind the situation in Afghanistan when the Interior Ministry and the US military literally spent millions in futile efforts to buy off local warlords during the Karzai regime.

It seems that Donald Trump might just be smarter than the average bear. In other words, just like Bush junior before him, he is strategically sowing the seeds of further chaos in the region to justify American military presence there. And he is doing so as both a signal to Russia and China that the battle for resources is not only on — so, too, is the war for regional hegemony, a hegemony that is never exclusively restricted to just one area. Afghanistan and Iraq are simply the first fall guys of the era of a new American empire.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/30-Aug-17/trump-and-the--us-war-machine


Militarisation of America’s Afghan Policy

By Shahid Javed Burki

August 28, 2017

On August 21st, in front of an audience of military personnel gathered at Fort Myer, Virginia, President Donald Trump announced a new strategy for dealing with the situation in Afghanistan. During the long campaign for the presidency, Trump said that he did not want to have the American troops fighting foreign wars. He would, he told his cheering supporters, the moment he entered the White House, bring back America’s fighting men and women in their bases at home in the United States. But once in office, he had to deal with reality and take into account the wishes of the senior officers in uniform. Many of these worked in his administration. His new chief of staff, a serving lieutenant general who had experience of working in Afghanistan, held views very different from the president’s.

The president asked his security team to come up with a new strategy that would serve America’s interest not only in Afghanistan but also in the large geographical space around the war-torn country. The coupling of Afghanistan with South Asia had been attempted once before. In the policy review of the Afghan situation in the early days of the Barack Obama administration, Washington decided to create a new office that would focus on the larger area around Afghanistan that would include India and Pakistan. But New Delhi objected and wanted to be kept out of any formal arrangement. This was done and the new office was called Afghanistan-Pakistan. Richard Holbrooke, a seasoned diplomat, was put in charge of the office.

The Af-Pak interpreted its mission to work with Kabul and Islamabad and have the two capitals develop a joint strategy with respect to the control of the insurgency that had begun to take a heavy toll in the country. It was under Holbrooke that the Americans began to use the drone as the weapon of choice of dealing with the leaders of the insurgency. Washington did not fully appreciate that the use of unmanned aircraft to fire at the chosen targets would inflict a great deal of collateral damage in the form of civilian deaths. The drones killed hundreds of women and children and led to the strong antipathy among the people in Pakistan about America and the Americans. The Pew Research, a Washington-based organisation that researches public opinion about issues of importance for the American policymakers, found that of all the people it surveyed around the world the Pakistanis had the most contempt for America. This fact — that America was not popular with the general public — could not be ignored by the politicians working out of Islamabad.

These developments in the American Afghan policy occurred while Pakistan was attempting to create a political order in which elected civilians were in charge of policymaking. Previous epochs of close Islamabad-Washington cooperation had occurred during military rule in Pakistan. Now with the military having withdrawn to the barracks, the civilian authorities had to be mindful about public opinion. It is important to bear in mind that the new Afghan policy has the heavy military footprint.

Those working on the details of the Afghan strategy for consideration by President Donald Trump reviewed three options. The first was complete withdrawal from Afghanistan. This was the approach favoured by the president but in the military’s view that would have resulted in disastrous consequences. There were lessons to be learned from America’s engagement in Iraq. The then president, Barack Obama, ordered the complete pullout from that country and the result was chaos which helped the rise of Islamic extremism in the form of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The military feared that something similar would occur in Afghanistan. America had to stay engaged and that led to the question of how that should be done. One answer — the second of the three considered — came from Stephen Bannon who was then President Trump’s designated chief strategist.

Bannon chaired Trump’s campaign headquarters and was close to the new president in his thinking about global matters. He, like the president, was of the view that the Trump administration should concentrate its energy and money on solving domestic policies and not on foreign engagements. If America had to stay involved in Afghanistan, it could do so by outsourcing the war effort to the CIA who would conduct operations in that country by hiring private contractors. The intelligence agency rather than the Pentagon would be in charge of America’s involvement in Afghanistan. There was a foretaste of this approach in Pakistan when, in January 2011, Raymond Davis who was stationed in Lahore killed two young men on a busy street in broad daylight. The incident led to a near breakdown of Pakistan-Afghan relations. The military firmly rejected the Bannon approach.

The third approach was to continue with “more of the same” but with one important difference. Under president Obama, the White House managed the war to the minutest detail. It not only decided how many American troops will be involved but also where they will fight and how they would do the fighting. The military leadership did not like to be put again into this kind of straitjacket. Its preference was to be left alone to decide on most matters. The president was inclined to do that and was one reason why he did not announce how many additional “boots on the ground” would be dispatched to Afghanistan and how they will operate.

The militarisation of the Afghan policy has been missed in most commentaries in Pakistan about the newly adopted approach by President Trump to deal with the worsening situation in Pakistan’s neighbouring country. It is important to fully understand the role the military is now playing in designing America’s approach to the world outside its borders. This should be factored in as Islamabad develops its formal response to the new Afghan policy.

Source: tribune.com.pk/story/1492728/militarisation-americas-afghan-policy/


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