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Pakistan Press (25 Aug 2016 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Partying With Jihadis: New Age Islam's Selection, 25 August 2016

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

25 August 2016

Partying With Jihadis

By Owen Bennett-Jones

Brazilian Coffee

By F.S. Aijazuddin

Karachi and Our Conscience

By Khurram Husain

Disappearances Still A Major Issue

By I.A. Rehman

Turkey’s Rapprochement Measures

By Asiya Mahar

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Partying With Jihadis

By Owen Bennett-Jones

August 25th, 2016

FOR many years now, the Pakistani military has been criticised for supporting violent Jihadi groups. And liberals can be forgiven for having strong feelings on the subject. During the 1990s, when the Kashmir insurgency was in full swing, the liberals repeatedly predicted a backlash. The number of people killed by jihadists since then — including many in the army — shows that the liberals’ warnings were well founded.

But the military has not been alone in indulging the men of violence. Civilian leaders too have cut deals with Jihadis who, if circumstances permitted, would like to see those politicians not only out of power but dead and buried too. And this is not a point that favours one party over the others: all the mainstream parties have made compromises with the extremists.

The most obvious recent example concerns the decision of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial administration to grant $3 million to Samiul Haq’s Haqqani madrasa. Lest anyone be in any doubt about where Samiul Haq stands on matters of contemporary politics, his recently published book claims that the Afghan Taliban provided good government; that Osama bin Laden was an “ideal man” and that Al Qaeda was a figment of the Western imagination.

It’s not only the military that has indulged men of violence.

Perhaps more importantly, some of those who assassinated Benazir Bhutto met in his madrasa whilst planning the attack. And Imran Khan has form in this area. When, in 2013, he agreed to head up the Pakistan Taliban’s negotiating team he demonstrated not only that he thought peace could be achieved through dialogue but also that he was willing to represent and speak for the TTP.

But it is not fair to single out the PTI leader. After all, in 2010 the Punjab provincial administration gave $1m to institutions linked to Jamaatud Dawa. In the same year, files recovered from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad reportedly revealed that as Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif suggested the Pakistan government was ready to re-establish “normal relations” with the Pakistani Taliban as long as it did not conduct operations in Punjab. And there have been compromises within Punjab as well. In the run-up to the 2013 election there were widespread reports of a seat adjustment deal between the PML-N and ASWJ. Faced with criticism about these arrangements, some PML-N spokesmen did not issue a denial but argued instead that PPP exhibited a blatant double standard on the issue because it had done much the same thing in 2008.

Certainly, the PPP has on occasion helped hardliners. Given what happened in Islamabad in 2007, it is astonishing that, today, Abdul Aziz Ghazi is not only back in charge of the Lal Masjid but also drawing a state salary. As a recent independent documentary, Among the Believers, has recorded, it is not as if Abdul Aziz Ghazi has changed his view on the need to overthrow the government and impose Sharia: “if you think you can change us, forget it,” he said.

And yet while Asif Zardari was president the authorities not only oversaw the rehabilitation of Abdul Aziz Ghazi but went as far as offering him land for a new madrasa on the edge of Islamabad. The idea, it seems, was that Lal Masjid needed to be compensated for the destruction it had brought upon itself.

These examples of civilian willingness to do business with violent Jihadis suggest that they should not be taken too seriously when they criticise the army for doing much the same thing. Yet there is an important difference between the two. Ever since 1947-48, when the state connived in allowing Pakhtun tribesmen to go on jihad in Kashmir, the military has perceived the Jihadis as a strategic asset that can help achieve various policy objectives. And some objectives have been achieved. The successful Mujahideen campaign against the Soviets in Afghanistan demonstrated that the violent Jihadis can serve a purpose.

The politicians have different motives. Some are simply trying to protect themselves. After all, anyone extending favours to the Jihadi leadership must calculate that there will be an improved chance that they won’t be the victim of an attack. But it’s not just a case of avoiding physical harm. There is also the grubby business of political advantage. Politicians on all sides have calculated that if securing power depends on reaching a deal with the religious hardliners then it’s a price well worth paying.

For millions of Pakistanis who are not at the top of the various power structures, it might seem obvious enough that people who use violence to secure their objectives should be opposed. But most of those who have held power in Pakistan seem to have seen it differently. And while the military is often criticised for sponsoring Jihadis, it’s only fair to point out that the politicians have themselves repeatedly appeased them.

Source: dawn.com/news/1279699/partying-with-jihadis


Brazilian Coffee

By F.S. Aijazuddin

August 25th, 2016

HOW do you take your Olympic coffee — white, or black? In Rio, coffee is prepared from beans imported from countries across the world — Bolivia, Ethiopia, Jamaica, Kenya, Australia, even Thailand. Its percolating machines filter them, a metaphor for the transient internationalism of the Olympic Games themselves.

Never before, though, in the history of the Olympic Games has the subject of colour and race been given such inordinate exposure by sports commentators. Until Rio 2016, certain categories of sport were reserved, like the poorer seats at the back of a segregated bus, for people of colour. It has been a given that any sport requiring equipment or facilities could be pursued only by those who could afford it.

Sports such as “archery, canoe/kayak, cycling, equestrian, rowing, modern pentathlon, sailing, shooting and triathlon squads” were, as one commentator put it, “blindingly white”. Black people were good for running and boxing.

Nothing proved this point more than the statistic that out of all the gold medals won by runners, over half have been by ‘African’ athletes, and in boxing ‘Africans’ alone have won 40 medals. Or that, in the 1960 Rome Olympics, the winner of the showpiece marathon Abebe Bikila, an Ethiopian, ran his race barefoot.

Rio 2016 has changed that, irreversibly. Black is the new gold. The Western media crew of voluble sports commentators have yet to adapt to the new paradigm. A young American girl wins a gold medal in the 100 metres freestyle swimming, and she is touted as the first black/Afro-American girl ever to win such an event. Her compatriot, Simone Biles, wins four gold medals in gymnastics and the media marvels at how a black girl can break the colour bars, horse and rings. Daryl Hanes gains a silver medal in the men’s sabre fencing, and his achievement carries the addendum that it is the first time in 112 years that a black/Afro-American has won in this category.

Never before in Olympic history has the subject of race been given such exposure as was done in Rio 2016.

Almaz Ayana secures the gold for 10,000 metres long distance run, but then, she is from Ethiopia. And when a young woman, Ibtihaj Muhammad, appears — in a Hijab — to compete in a fencing match, the attention of the viewers is drawn not to her skill with an épée but her decision to hide her hair.

No Hijab will ever be large enough or thick enough to hide the bias of some of the more raucous elements of the reporting media. Their remarks about black/Afro-American female sportspersons remind one of Dr Samuel Johnson’s famous observation about female preachers. Told by James Boswell that he had heard a woman preach, Dr Johnson’s retorted: “Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

For one particular contestant — Yulia Refomiva, from cold-shouldered Russia — the Rio Olympics were another battlefield. “Rio was awful,” she lamented, “it was war.” To be booed after four years of preparation, effort, training and high-pressure performance was more than a waste of adrenalin. It was a negation, a perversion of the Olympic spirit. The spectators became judges, and the judges spectators.

If the Russians are to be believed, the United States has conspired to hamstring Russia. Whether Russia could have posed a serious challenge to the US, or for that matter Great Britain, in the medals table is now a matter of Monday morning conjecture. It would appear, though, that both Russia and China have lost interest in the Olympics. They no longer see it as an arena in which they need to prove themselves. In Beijing 2008, China could not afford to lose.

In Rio, China did not care if it did not win. That is not to say its Olympic team did not give their best. They did. But the embers of Beijing had been banked, its fire tempered. The colour of the medal no longer drove the Chinese.

India had sent the largest Olympic contingent in its history to Rio. Over a billion Indians hoped for a richer trawl of medals than one silver and a single bronze — the first for badminton and the second for wrestling. The silver came as a hard-won surprise. The latter was to be expected.

After all, India has had enough practice. It has wrestled with Pakistan for 69 years over everything — Sir Creek, Rann of Kutch, a seat in the UN Security Council, a place in the ECO, and perennially Jammu & Kashmir.

If only the statue of Christ the Redeemer above Rio could be transposed to Wagah border. With one arm outstretched into Pakistan and the other into India, who knows? He might perform the miracle for them he did for the Brazilians. They are still celebrating their soccer gold by crying into their coffee.

F.S. Aijazuddin is an art historian.

Source: dawn.com/news/1279698/brazilian-coffee


Karachi and Our Conscience

By Khurram Husain

August 25th, 2016

IT is this city’s sad predicament that it embraces all with open arms and is yet endlessly vilified with glee. Following the utterly despicable speech by Altaf Hussain on Monday night, a kind of open season has been declared on the MQM. But what troubles me more is how much of this spills out onto the general citizenry of Karachi.

This is how the line goes: if the people of Karachi still vote for the MQM candidate in the mayoral elections happening on Wednesday, it will prove that they want pain and not change.

There is a certain prejudice against Karachi and its citizens amongst my upcountry friends that I am always struck by. At a personal level, we are all entitled to our feelings and opinions. However, the problem is that when this attitude finds its way into policy thinking, or politics, it is then no longer a personal but a public matter.

Let me give an example. Many years ago, I was interviewing a former official from the privatisation ministry about the various privatisation transactions of the Musharraf regime. When it came to KESC, as K-Electric was then known, he let out a sigh of frustration. “I personally pushed for the privatisation of this entity,” he said. “It was a terrible entity, always asking for subsidies, riddled with rackets and losses.”

Was it worse than the power distribution companies of the rest of the country, I asked. Yes, came the response, much worse. Then he launched into a description of how bad the enterprise was and I couldn’t help but notice that he was describing a mental image of the city of Karachi more than the entity itself.

The way in which people upcountry relate to Karachi is similar to how expats or foreigners relate to Pakistan.

In subsequent encounters with Wapda officials and this was before the bifurcation of the entity into hydro and power sides, I found this unique disdain for KESC. Whenever discussing other entities in the power sector, they had reasons for why things were in a dilapidated state. When it came to KESC, there were no excuses and no sugar-coating. At the time, I didn’t make much of this and took their view that the losses at KESC were the number one problem and the entity must be jettisoned at almost any price.

It was, indeed, jettisoned to a private party that could not manage it. Then another management came in during 2008, and slowly things turned around. Now the losses are gone and the entity is profitable and line losses are coming down. How this is happening is another story, but since the line at the time was that the losses are high and it must be jettisoned at any cost, I though perhaps officialdom in the power sector would be happy.

But no. Recent conversations with upcountry folks in the power sector confirm once again that the same entity which is now called K-Electric, is the subject of the same disdain. They all opposed privatisation of the power sector, and in doing so, pointed towards K-Electric. “Do you want us to become like them?”

What’s wrong with them, I asked? They’re profitable, line losses are coming down, investments are being made, so where is the problem? And now there was a different story. “They’re overbilling their customers,” said one. “They’re only selling electricity taken from the national grid, nothing more,” said another. “If they have their own power plants, why do they take power from the grid?” asked yet another.

Then it struck me. No matter what happens, Karachi’s power utility will always be a whipping boy for the rest of the country, not because of its performance issues but because it is in Karachi. After all, Pepco keeps some of its plants shut while there is load-shedding in the rest of the country too. And why should Karachiites not be entitled to the cheaper hydropower in the national grid? Is there no overbilling in the distribution companies owned by Pepco? And how exactly did K-Electric declare a profit of Rs22 billion through overbilling alone without there being any kind of an uproar in the city?

Here’s another example. A while back, I wrote an article complaining about the massive inconvenience caused to the city’s residents on account of the IDEAS expo being held here. Comments I received in return were “if the city’s residents can endure countless closures on the orders of a political party, what is a few more days of traffic jams?” The answer is simple: every day of traffic and school closures is a lot for a city this size, and nobody enjoys the city’s closures on the dictates of a political party either.

Often I find that the way in which people upcountry relate to Karachi is similar to how expats or foreigners relate to Pakistan as a whole. They see the headlines and generalise about the people. If people want to really understand why a substantial vote bank exists for the MQM in spite of everything they see on TV, all they have to do is understand that voter behaviour is rarely influenced by what happens on television. Elections are decided on local issues, and most people I meet who may have strong feelings about Karachi know very little about the local issues of the city.

Again and again, I keep encountering such blinkered and deeply prejudiced views about Karachi. Yet this is one city where in a single stretch of a market near my house, the Paanwallah is Burmese, the tea vendor behind him is Pashto-speaking, the tyre guy next to him is Urdu-speaking and the AC repairman next to him is from southern Punjab. And you have to experience the friendly vibes between them to understand that this is the only city in the country that brings together so many different people from so many backgrounds, and let’s them all call themselves a Karachiwala.

Source: dawn.com/news/1279695/karachi-and-our-conscience


Disappearances Still A Major Issue

By I.A. Rehman

August 25th, 2016

NEXT Tuesday, which falls on the International Day for Victims of Enforced Disappearances, the world will take stock of the progress or otherwise of efforts to end the outrage that enforced disappearances are. It will be an appropriate occasion for the government of Pakistan to take a fresh look at the problem that has caused endless agony to thousands of families over the last many years.

Since March 2011, the government has left the second Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (CoIoED) to grapple with this huge issue. One good thing the commission does is that it files monthly performance reports with the federal and provincial authorities. Unless these reports remain unread, the government cannot pretend to be ignorant of the fact that enforced disappearances is still a major human rights issue in the country and that a thorough reappraisal of the efforts to solve it is overdue.

The commission receives fresh reports of disappearance in considerable numbers month after month: 56 cases in January this year, 66 in February, 44 in March, 99 in April, 91 in May, 60 in June and 94 in July. That is, 510 cases in the last seven months, or an average of 72.86 cases per month. Although many more instances of enforced disappearance are not reported, the number of cases received by the CoIoED is high enough for the government to abandon its complacency.

At its inception in March 2011, the commission had only 138 cases on its roster that had been left pending by the 2010 inquiry commission comprising three former judges of the superior courts. The number of cases received by it till July 31, 2016 has risen to 3,522. Out of these cases, 2,105 have been disposed of — a creditable achievement no doubt. But the average disposal rate over the 64 months of the commission’s existence is no higher than 32.89 cases per month.

This year’s disposal rate is much higher — 483 cases over seven months, or an average of 69 cases per month. The cases pending on Aug 1 last numbered 1,417. If fresh cases continue being reported at this year’s rate (72.86 cases per month), even at the improved disposal rate the commission will not be able to complete its assignment for many years.

The commission receives fresh reports of disappearance in considerable numbers month after month.

The cases disposed of since March 2011 include 491 that, for one reason or another, could not be accepted as enforced disappearances. Obviously, a much larger number of cases were inquired into as incidents of involuntary disappearance. What are the commission’s findings?

Out of the 483 cases decided during the last seven months, 111 were dropped for not being enforced disappearances and 372 persons were traced; 189 persons, happily a little more than 50pc of the total, were said to have returned home. The commission does not tell us where these people were during the period they could not be traced by their families. The Supreme Court once issued instructions for such people to be interviewed so that those responsible for their disappearance could be identified and punished. That still needs to be done.

With regard to the 183 persons who have been traced this year and have not returned home, they fall into the following categories: under trial — 48; held at internment centres — 46; lodged in prisons — 46; held by Rangers for 90 days — 21; reported dead — 20; killed in encounter — 2.

How and when were the 92, who are facing trial or are held in prisons, received by the police? This issue was examined by the commission of 2010 and it passed strong strictures on the police practice of registering crudely concocted cases against persons it received from the intelligence agencies; and, the quashment of a couple of such cases was ordered. The cases of the unfortunate 92 must be thoroughly probed. One of the 20 persons reported dead is said to have died in a jail; his death as well as the killing of two persons in ‘encounters’ must also be judicially scrutinised.

No review of disappearances can be complete without taking notice of the plight of Hamid Ansari and Zeenat Shahzadi. The former, a young Indian engineer, illegally entered Pakistan because he wanted to help an internet friend, a young girl, and was arrested in 2012. The authorities denied any knowledge of him for a long time and eventually disclosed that he was tried by a military court and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. The Peshawar High Court is hearing his petition for the inclusion of the pre-trial period of detention in his imprisonment term, but now concern has been raised about threats to his life in prison. The government must ensure his safety and it will be proper to start preparing for his repatriation to India.

The case of Zeenat Shahzadi, who was pursuing Ansari’s case, is no less serious than Qandeel Baloch’s, the model who was killed because she wanted to live by her own lights. Zeenat too had dreams that many would consider normal — a poor woman’s ambition to be a journalist and to make a name as a fighter for lost causes. She disappeared over a year ago and her case is pending before the commission of inquiry. At each hearing the law-enforcement agencies spin out meaningless tales. The commission cannot force anyone to fulfil the state’s obligation to find the involuntarily disappeared persons, regardless of who is responsible for it.

It is surely time the government reviewed its decision to leave the issue of disappearances to a commission of inquiry with meagre resources and little authority to enforce its will on hardened experts in cover-ups and denials. Either this commission should be turned into a judicial tribunal, with adequate powers and resources, or a new commission should be set up. Otherwise the state will continue to get a bad name for not dealing with disappearances with the seriousness the matter has deserved all along.

Source: dawn.com/news/1279694/disappearances-still-a-major-issue


Turkey’s Rapprochement Measures

By Asiya Mahar 


After last month’s failed coup, last week Turkish government hosted Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif just days after President’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s historic trip to Russia during which he publicly made up with Vladimir Putin after the shooting down of Russian fighter plane on the Turkish-Syria border last year. These moves have surged the interest to understand Turkey’s rapprochement measures. Do they signal a shift in Turkey’s global alliances as Turkey has been unhappy with West’s muted response to the coup, and frustrated with continued criticism of its human rights record.

What message is the Turkish government sending to the US by getting closer to Iran and Russia? Is it trying to build some kind of leverage or is it making a fundamental shift in its foreign policy? What probable impact these rapprochement measures may have on war in the neighbouring Syria? How will the US respond to these developments? Will the differences dominate and hamper long-term cooperation between Turkey, Iran and Syria? How does the Syrian opposition view this?

By getting closer to Russia and Iran, Turkish government doesn’t seem to send any adverse signal to the US, particularly because of its own interests in the area. Turkey has clearly been upset with US’s muted response to the July coup. Moreover, Turkey wants Fethullah Gulen, the cleric living in the US and alleged by Turkey to be behind the coup, be extradited. But nobody legally living in the US can be extradited just because a government wants a person to be extradited. It is a lengthy process undertaken as per formal official procedures and may take a year or two.

Additionally, the shift in US’s priorities has created a mismatch of interest between US and Turkey. For the US ISIS is top priority and Assad second. Whereas, Turkey’s priorities are the Kurds first, Assad second, and ISIS third. During the last few months, Turkey has expressed frustration with the US over the Kurdish issue.

Apparently, engaging with Russia and Iran may appear more flexible to Turkey than the US at this point in time. The three have adopted correct diplomatic approach by starting dialogue on ISIL i.e., a non-conflictual issue on which they can agree. But on Syria, the three have a varied stance. Iran has been a key ally of Syrian government providing advice and military supplies for its battles against rebels. Russia has also supported President Bashar al-Assad mostly via airstrikes. Although it says it is bombing the ISIL but the opposition group states Russian strikes have mainly targeted other Syrian rebels. Conversely, Turkey has until now been on the opposite side of Syria’s war; it has repeatedly called for Assad to step down and has helped opposition groups along with the US. But unlike the US, Turkey opposes Syrian Kurdish groups who are also fighting Assad.

To develop trust, Turkey, Iran and Russia have to find common interests to reach out to each other, develop a common strategy and work in coordination rather than disengaging on issues of divergent interests. That’s what the Turkish and Iranian foreign ministers’ mentioned in their press conference that despite disagreement on the Syria conflict, they would keep the dialogue open.

Talking of US’s response to this rapprochement, it would probably give it low consideration as it does not perceive it to be a serious engagement for a long term.

There has been a simultaneous easing of tension between Turkey and Israel, Turkey and Russia and now Turkey and Iran. Turkey is a major if not powerful player in the region, and it appears to be basically trying to balance ties between the East and West. What the Turks are in a way doing smartly is that they are reaching out to countries and getting what they want on a bilateral level. For instance, Turkey reaching out to Israel may be to improve Turkey’s image in the West, but access to Israeli gas can also be a factor. To Russia also Turkey reached up as it essentially got cut off from Russian tourism and Russian markets after the shoot down of the Russian airplane over incursion into Turkish airspace. For a year, Turkey wasn’t able to fly over Syria, and its military action against the Kurdish area — one of its key concerns inside the country and in Northern Iraq and Syria — was limited. Significantly, the Kurdish insurgency in Northern Syria is a concern that both Iran and Turkey share. Thus, Turkey has also reached out to Iran to bilaterally talk of its priorities and concerns i.e. Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and any radical agenda that Kurds may carry.

Turkey is part of the western alliance involved in supplying arms to the Syrian opposition with the US, and to expect shift in Turkish policy overnight is very difficult. Moreover, Iran and Russia cannot be a replacement for Turkey’s decade old engagement with the West. They cannot provide excess of gas that Turkey needs, and offer little in terms of money, investment, tourism and markets for Turkish exports. Hence, at this stage Turks are trying to show that they are upset and the Russians and Iranians are playing along with this.

Turkey, Iran and Russia agree on nothing except fighting ISIS in Syria. The chances of them finding any political or diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis are meager. Their interests are different, and their focuses are different, hence, unfortunately, they cannot have anything further than a consultation mechanism.

Pertaining to the concerns of the Syrian opposition over rapprochement between Turkey and two of Assad’s staunch supporters, Turkey’s consultations with the Syrian opposition have helped the latter develop an understanding of what Turkey intends to do. The Syrian opposition is content that Turkey is in a position to bridge differences between countries, which does not imply any movement towards the political position that Russia and Iran have taken. Some analysts point to the already existing possibility that after change in US’s priorities, sooner or later, considering transformation of Syria into a secure state, Turkey may also give up the demand of Assad’s resignation, and agree on a transition period with Assad in office. But some exaggerated analyses go as far as to assert that after amending ties with Israel, Russia and Iran, Turkey may mend ties with Assad as well.

Factually, it is difficult for Turkey to ignore the fallout of any such policy change knowing that there is a movement in Syria that demand a security and stabilisation plan of which Assad’s departure should be a part, particularly in areas close to Turkey’s borders that are controlled by the opposition. Therefore, Turkey most likely will go for a solution agreed upon by the Syrian population particularly in the North.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/25-Aug-16/turkeys-rapprochement-measures

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