Saturday, October 19, 2013

MQM’s former MPA Nadia Gabol joins PPP

Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s former member Sindh Assembly Nadia Gabol, Saturday, formally joined Pakistan Peoples’ Party. The formal decision was taken during a meeting with PPP leader and provincial health minister Owais Muzzafar Tappi. Nadia had joined the MQM after her meeting with MQM chief Altaf Hussain in London in 2006. She is the daughter of Sardar Abdul Latif Gabol and niece of Nabil Gabol, the former PPP minister who joined the MQM and won the NA-246 seat in the 2013 general elections. The matter of Nadia’s quitting the MQM surfaced when she in an interview to a newspaper revealed that she is looking forward to leave her party and the leaderships of various political parties have contacted her, inviting her to join them. She said she thought the entry of Nabil Gabol in the MQM was the party’s downfall in Lyari. She expressed her trust in the leadership of Asif Ali Zardari and Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in a twitter message has welcomed Nadia Gabool into the fold of PPP.

Critics of PPP should have courage to bear criticism
Sindh Minister for Information Sharjeel Inam Memon has said that opponents have always criticised Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and those who criticise, must have courage to bear criticism. In a statement issued here on Friday, Sharjeel Memon said that Chief Patron of PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has announced to compete in elections 2018 and claimed his party would get complete victory in the next general election. “Right now PPP leadership is living among the masses, solving their problems and working for their welfare,” he said. “PPP is the only party which has roots and support of the people in all four provinces,” he claimed. Sharjeel Memon said that no other political party could present the example of sacrifices as PPP did. Due to sacrifices of great leaders Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto there was democracy in Pakistan, he said.

Ahmadiyya Muslim Persecution Continues in Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan

While banned Jihadi organizations continue to make a roaring business collecting hides, the Ahmadiyya Muslim communities of Pakistan continue to suffer State sponsored persecution. Media reports have emerged that the Ahmaddiya muslims were forcibly prevented from performing the sacrificial rituals associated with Eid ul Azha. Whether the sacrifice of cattle is a mandatory practice is a separate issue that merits its own free and unhindered debate. However, while the rest of Pakistan slaughtered and gorged on millions of cows and goats, the Ahmadiyya muslims were forcibly prevented from even this ritual. While Jammat Islami, LeT/JuD and MQM made a roaring business of collecting animal hides to fund their activities, the Ahmadiyya muslims were prevented from even offering sacrifice. The persecution and bigotry against the Ahmadiyya muslims in Pakistan represents the slippery slope when the State makes Religion its business and then proceeds to infringe upon the fundamental rights of its citizens to practice their religious beliefs freely. The State of Pakistan capitulated to the pressure of extremist fascists when it passed the Objectives Resolution in 1949 and when it took upon itself to play God and passed the atrocious legislation known as the 2nd Amendment. We in Pakistan need to take an honest look at our history and origins and come rapidly to the realization that religion cannot be used as a State building exercise. Before the last elections in May this year, it was a disappointing sight to see certain self proclaimed liberals fawning over Nawaz Sharif. People like Najam Sethi and his group had been actively promoting Nawaz Sharif as an “anti-establishment” icon who would “take on the army” and “make peace with India”. How is that possible given the Sharif’s close links with the Saudi ruling elite as well as the various Jihadis who are funded by them? While Ahmadis are being denied their rights to practice their religion freely, these same anti-Ahmadi Jihadi groups are working freely in Punjab, the bastion of Sharif’s political power base. Lahore: Police on Thursday stopped members of Pakistan’s minority Ahmadi community from slaughtering animals here on Eid-u-Azha after Muslim clerics complained that the ritual of animal sacrifice “is an Islamic injunction whereas Ahmadis are non-Muslims”. Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya Pakistan Punjab spokesman Amer Mahmood told PTI that the Ahmadi community could not “sacrifice the animals” on Eid days in Krishan Nagar (old Lahore) and Sabzazar areas after local Muslim clerics made an announcement in mosques that the Ahmadis were following Muslim rituals. As the tension between Muslims and Ahmadis gripped the areas, the police were also called. The police reached there and instead of stopping the locals from intervening in the affairs of the minority community took Ahmadis into their custody. However, on the intervention of the elders of the Ahmadis the police set them free, Mahmood said. “We gave a written undertaking that the Ahmadis would not sacrifice any animal,” he added. This was the fourth such incident in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province. Pakistan’s Ahmadis consider themselves Muslim but were declared non-Muslims through a constitutional amendment in 1974. A decade later, they were barred from proselytising or identifying themselves as Muslims. Some 1.5 million Ahmadis live across the country. Earlier too, Ahmadis have faced police action in Lahore. On September 22, Punjab Police demolished the domes of two mosques of the minority sect in central Punjab province. They also whitewashed Quranic verses painted on the mosques in Sialkot district, Ahmadi leaders alleged. Earlier, police had demolished domes and removed plaques from graves of Ahmadis in Lahore, Kharian and Hafizabad districts at the “request” of Muslim clerics.+
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A surprising number of Pakistanis are in favor of drone strikes

NATIONAL surveys find that Pakistanis are overwhelmingly opposed to CIA drone strikes against suspected militants in the tribal badlands close to the Afghan border. The strikes are seen by many as an abuse of sovereignty, a symbol of American arrogance and the cause of civilian deaths. So when Sofia Khan, a school administrator from Islamabad, travelled with hundreds of anti-drone campaigners to a ramshackle town bordering the restive Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) last October she was stunned by what some tribesmen there had to say.
One man from South Waziristan heatedly told her that he and his family approved of the remote-controlled aircraft and wanted more of them patrolling the skies above his home. Access to the tribal regions is very difficult for foreign journalists; but several specialists and researchers on the region, who did not want to be identified, say there is at least a sizeable minority in FATA who share that view. Surveys are also notoriously difficult to carry out in FATA. A 2009 poll in three of the tribal agencies found 52% of respondents believed drone strikes were accurate and 60% said they weakened militant groups. Other surveys have found much lower percentages in favour. But interviews by The Economist with twenty residents of the tribal areas confirmed that many see individual drone strikes as preferable to the artillery barrages of the Pakistani military. They also insisted that the drones do not kill many civilians—a view starkly at odds with mainstream Pakistani opinion. “No one dares tell the real picture,” says an elder from North Waziristan. “Drone attacks are killing the militants who are killing innocent people.” American claims about the accuracy of its drone attacks are hard to verify. The best estimate is provided by monitoring organisations that track drone attacks through media reports, an inexact method in a region where militants block access to strike sites. However, the most thorough survey, by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, suggests a fall in civilian casualties, with most news sources claiming no civilians killed this year despite 22 known strikes. Though there is ample evidence that the Pakistani government has given its secret blessing to the CIA programme, it still allows anti-drone sentiment to blossom. Domestic anger over drones can be a useful negotiating chip on other issues, says one former American official. The government also fears reprisals from militants. Supporters of the drones in Pakistan’s media are even more reluctant to speak frankly. Many commentators admit to approving of drones in the absence of government moves to clear terrorist sanctuaries. But they dare not say so in print. In 2010 a group of politicians and NGOs published a “Peshawar Declaration” in support of drones. Life soon became difficult for the signatories. “If anyone speaks out they will be eliminated,” says Said Alam Mehsud, one of the organisers, who was forced to leave Pakistan for a time. As for Ms Khan, she has had a partial rethink. “I still want the drones to end,” she says. “But if my government wants to do something they should do it themselves, without foreign help.”

Has NATO's ISAF mission in Afghanistan failed?

A resilient insurgency, rampant corruption and a weak government - one year before the NATO drawdown in Afghanistan, many doubt local forces will be ready to ensure security. DW examines the success of the ISAF mission.
"On the security front, the entire NATO exercise was one that caused Afghanistan a lot of suffering, a lot of loss of life, and no gains because the country is not secure." These are the words of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, criticizing NATO in a BBC interview published on October 7 for failing to bring stability to Afghanistan in over a decade after the US-led invasion of his country. These claims, however, were sharply rejected by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen who stressed in a press conference that the war-torn country has come a long way in the past decade: "The changes have been remarkable, and our investment in lives and resources has been unprecedented. Nobody can deny that. And these efforts should be respected."The primary objective of the ISAF mission has been to enable the Afghan government to provide "effective security" across the war-torn nation and develop forces to ensure that the country can "never again become a safe haven for terrorists." However, only one year before the scheduled pullout of international troops, most experts agree the results are mixed. Some argue that accomplishments such as the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the denial of Afghanistan as a safe haven for his terrorist network by toppling the Taliban regime are enough to regard the mission as a success. But others point out that some of the initial successes of the mission are in danger of being reversed and that NATO will simply be handing the Afghans a "stalemated" war. "The Taliban may not be in power, yet they threaten to retake it. The insurgents already have de facto control over key areas of Afghanistan, particularly in the south and east," Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, told DW. And though al Qaeda no longer has a sanctuary in the country, it continues to enjoy shelter in neighboring Pakistan - in fact, much of the al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan simply gravitated into Pakistan, Kugelman added.
A high price
The international community has paid a high price for its 12-year involvement in Afghanistan. According to data collected by the Brookings Institution, more than 3,300 coalition troops have died since the invasion began in October 2001, with the US - the largest troop contributor - bearing the brunt of the casualties (2,156). Moreover, it is estimated that the war has cost Washington alone more than USD 660 billion thus far, of which more than USD 56 billion have been spent on equipping and training Afghan security forces. Both the high human and monetary cost of the NATO-led ISAF mission have led many to raise questions about the purpose and achievements of the military intervention, particularly since the security situation in Afghanistan remains volatile, with civilians increasingly bearing the brunt of the conflict. According to the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, the Taliban and other insurgent groups have changed the focus of their attacks from international troops to locals and are now targeting civilian leaders in order to intimidate and control communities in rural areas.In the first six months of 2013, the UN registered a 23 percent increase in the number of conflict-related civilian deaths. Moreover, casualties among Afghan police officers are reported to have doubled since ISAF handed over security responsibility to local forces. The fighting has also led to 590,000 internally displaced people, a 21 percent increase since January and more than four times the number in 2006, according to UNHCR.
'One big recipe for disaster'
The escalating violence raises doubts about the ability of local security forces to deal with the insurgency and enforce the government's authority across the country. Kugelman believes a part of the Afghan forces remains deeply troubled, as they continue to be afflicted by drug abuse, illiteracy, desertions and combat-related incapacities. "These armed forces preside over one of the world's most volatile security environments. This is all one big recipe for disaster, no matter how much Afghanistan and its allies around the world try to sugarcoat the issue." Vanda Felbab-Brown, a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy program of the US-based Brookings Institution has a similar view: "Afghan troops continue to suffer from deeply inadequate logistical, sustainment, and other support capabilities and are also deeply pervaded by corruption, nepotism, and ethnic and patronage fissures," she said. The situation would "inevitably deteriorate" as NATO troops withdraw, Felbab-Brown told DW. However, the analyst indicates that in spite of the extensive casualties and logistical problems suffered by Afghan troops, they have proved strong and resilient in tactical fighting against the Taliban. “The insurgents cannot expect any quick victory after 2014, unless Washington fails to sign the crucial bilateral security agreement with Kabul and the foreign donors stop financing Afghan security forces.” Although the international community has promised to continue to support Afghanistan after the pullout through training, advisory and financial aid, many key questions remain unanswered. For instance, it is still unclear how many "residual troops" will stay in the country and what their mission will be. Furthermore, a key security agreement between Afghanistan and the US is yet to be concluded due to disagreements over the issue of jurisdiction for American forces.
A number of improvements
Despite the many shortcomings, some experts say that security improvements in some parts of the country – especially in and around Kabul – combined with financial and development aid have led to considerable progress in the living conditions of millions of Afghans. This has enabled a surge in school enrolment from 1 million to 7.8 million children. Moreover, progress has been made regarding the situation of women, with the number of girls getting an education surpassing 2.8 million and a quarter of all seats in the country's parliament being reserved for female politicians. Although Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world, its economy has experienced a rapid expansion - admittedly from a very low starting point - with real gross domestic product averaging 9.2 percent between 2003 and 2012, according to the World Bank.There have also been a number of improvements in terms of communication, transport infrastructure and health services, most of which have been achieved with the support of NATO contributing nations such as Germany which invests up to 430 million euros (around USD 580 million) a year in civilian reconstruction activities," said Rolf Tophoven, director of the German-based Institute for Terrorism Research & Security Policy (IFTUS).
Will the gains be sustained?
Just months before the scheduled withdrawal, the lack of security remains the predominant concern among Afghans. In a 2012 survey conducted by the Asia Foundation just over half of Afghans (52 percent) said their country is moving in the right direction, as they expressed deep-seated concerns over jobs, education, public services and political participation. The future of this South Asian nation post 2014 remains unpredictable. Corruption is still rampant at all levels of the state apparatus, including in the government which has suffered a legitimacy crisis after allegations of widespread fraud during the 2009 vote. "The Afghan government is seen as rapacious, abusive, exclusionary and indifferent to the plight of the people," said Felbab-Brown. Against this backdrop, the analyst believes the way the presidential elections in April unfold will be crucial, if the next government is to be perceived as legitimate by all Afghans and the reconciliation process with the Taliban is to succeed. Afghanistan continues to face enormous challenges, but the country is widely believed to be a better place now than it was before the invasion. "The ISAF mission has led to roads being built, girls' going back to school, and flourishing markets. Yet the biggest measure of success will be if these gains are sustained in the coming years, after international forces have withdrawn," said Kugelman.

Pakistani Christian in USA and EU announce protests in Washington DC on October 23, 2013 and Brussels 28th Oct

Pakistani Christians in Europe will gather with play cards, Banners and slogans to demonstrate in front of the European Parliament in Brussels (Belgium) at 1300 hours on 28th October, 2013 to raise voice for basic Rights, Honor and Justice to their religion fellows in Pakistan suffering for decades under the hanging sword of self-made Blasphemy Laws, Hate for believes, attacks of Churches and innocent Minorities as well as Terror attacks. Media Coordinator of the Action Committee, talking to our correspondent confirmed that an ocean of Pakistani Christian Peoples from many countries of Europe is expected to be together for this demonstration in Brussels and notables’ leaders of the Christian Community will address the procession on the said date and time. Action committee appealing to their Country and Religion fellows forgets all grudges of any levels have invited cordially not only to bring it event to its success but also to show their true Love and Practical support. Meanwhile, Pakistan Christian Association in North America PCA, Pakistan Christian Congress PCC and other organizations are making arrangements to protest in front of White House in Washington DC on October 23, 2013, when Pakistan Prime Minister will be meeting US President.

USCIRF to President Obama: Raise Religious Freedom Concerns with Pakistani Prime Minister

During his October 23 White House meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, USCIRF urges President Obama to raise concerns about the dire religious freedom situation in Pakistan, with both Muslims and religious minorities consistently confronting violence or jail. “Based on USCIRF findings, Pakistan represents one of the worst situations in the world for religious freedom,” said USCIRF Chairman Robert George. “The September attack on All Saints Church that killed close to 100 worshippers underscores Pakistan’s exceedingly poor religious freedom situation. The violence extremists perpetuate threatens all Pakistanis, including Shi’as, Christians, Ahmadis, and Hindus, as well as those members of the Sunni majority who dare to challenge extremists." “Given that President Obama and Prime Minister Sharif reportedly will be discussing how best to counter violent extremism, we urge the U.S. to incorporate concern about freedom of religion into these conversations,” said Chairman George. “To successfully counter violent extremism, Pakistan must have a holistic approach that both ensures that perpetrators of violence are jailed and addresses laws that foster vigilante violence, such as the blasphemy law and anti-Ahmadi laws. For the sake of his country, the Prime Minister should be pressed to take concrete action.” USCIRF’s 2013 Annual Report highlighted the dire state of religious freedom in Pakistan and that growing religious extremism threatens Pakistan’s security and stability, as well as the freedoms of religion and expression and other human rights. Notwithstanding this alarming situation, the U.S. government has not designated Pakistan as a “country of particular concern.” USCIRF’s Religious Violence Project found that religious freedom violations in Pakistan have risen to unprecedented levels, and the government continues to fail to protect Christians, Shi’a, Ahmadis, and Hindus. In addition, approximately 40 individuals are on death row or serving life sentences for allegedly blasphemous conduct, a statistic unmatched anywhere else in the world. - See more at:

Defying the Taliban: In Swat, girls are back in school

The Express Tribune
“I got hold of the terrorist who attacked Malala Yousafzai”, said a schoolgirl in Swat. The words coming from an 11-year old caught me by surprise. Musfira Khan, a fifth grader was chatting with her friend during a stroll in her school’s lush green garden. Her words grabbed my attention and my entire focus shifted towards the little girl. “How did you manage to do that?” I asked. She replied with a smile, “In my dream… I dreamt that I had arrested him.” During my visit to Swat—the city where the world’s youngest Nobel Prize nominee Malala Yousafzai opened her eyes—it was pretty evident that girls in Mingora and Swat were attending schools fearlessly and no more scared of the Taliban. In a private school near Makan-Bagh, I managed to interview some girls. I had gone to Swat on October 11, the day when the Nobel Prize winner was to be announced in Oslo. Musfira told me she was feeling very proud that Malala had been nominated for the prize. “Malala is very smart. When I used to visit her, she always advised me to concentrate hard on my studies,” she added. Answering a question if she also wanted to be Malala, her swift response was no. “I am Musfira Khan… I want to be Dr Musfira Khan,” she replied confidently. Asiya Khan, a seventh grader, appeared to be a great fan of Malala. “I like her (Malala Yousafzai) very much. Islam teaches us to get an education and we are doing so without any fear,” Another little girl, Amina Khan said she wanted to be a teacher. The five-year old had not heard of Malala but her schoolmate Muskan said she had been praying since morning for Malala to win the Nobel Prize. A fourth grader Hafsa Bibi said Malala had done nothing for them. “Malala should come back to Swat to support us, she’s enjoying a luxurious life in our name without doing anything for us,” she added. Another seventh grader, Humaima said she knew about Malala only through television programmes. Replying to another question, she said, “Most girls will tell you they have no fear of terrorists and are attending school as usual.”

Pakistan: Terrorism galore

The Law Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Israrullah Gandapur has been killed in a suicide attack while he was greeting guests at his home in Dera Ismail Khan on the first day of Eid. At least eight people died along with him. Though celebrations have become few and far between in the country, those left are also visited by terrorism. Since the state has lost the capacity to deliver a decisive blow to the enemy, it has become easy for the terrorists to target and get away with the crime. Knowing that the situation is precarious, especially in KP, the PTI government is behaving as though it is business as usual. The same slack attitude is on display as far as security arrangements throughout the country are concerned and no effort has been made to develop the national security policy on terrorism. For palpable reasons, now that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf is getting the direct flak, its KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak seems to be finally coming come out of the illusion that dialogue could bring the terrorists in from the cold. He has now decided to make some concrete plans to combat them. In the cabinet meeting called immediately after the suicide attack on Gandapur, the KP government has decided to create an anti-terrorist force and recall the Frontier Constabulary from the federal government. So much for the insistence of the KP government to send the army back to barracks from the area. Since it has become apparent that dialogue cannot be pursued as the lone strategy to tackle terrorism, it is time to define the modus operandi required to combat it. How many more lives and how many leaders do we wish to sacrifice before we are convinced that we are not facing any political opposition movement, but a terrorism movement, bent on enforcing its blinkered, narrow and literalist Islamic views on us. Even though the government had planned to talk things out with the enemy, still it was unprofessional and inappropriate not to have a Plan-B in case the hardline elements (as there usually are in such cases) within the Taliban do not respond. Pakistan is now portrayed as allowing its citizens to be killed and places all over the country hit any time. This is perceived as the state having lost its writ, and with that the impression gains ground that it could not do anything against its enemy. In such circumstances, it is difficult to bring the terrorists round to the viewpoint of the government through dialogue. Therefore, as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has rightly put it, it is time to establish the writ of the state to instil the fear of God in the enemy that they could be routed if they play dirty against the state.

Pakistan: Ostrich approach: Minister’s killing

THERE is a depressing familiarity to the chain of events in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: the provincial PTI government talks up talks; the militants go about their business, killing and maiming, frequently targeting the PTI itself; the government responds by pressing yet more urgently for talks. This time round, after the suicide attack that killed KP Law Minister Israrullah Gandapur on Wednesday, the provincial government has tried a different tack: a special cabinet session on Thursday approved the creation of a special anti-terrorism force for the province. Part of a raft of ‘getting tough’ measures announced by the KP cabinet, a special anti-terrorism force can seem from afar as a serious measure taken at last by the PTI against terrorism. But the view from the ground in the province suggests a different reality. The province already has a rapid reaction force and an anti-terror squad and to simply sanction a new force to be drawn from various existing forces is unlikely to meaningfully address KP’s terrorism problem. The basic problem with the new measures announced to try and take on terrorists in KP is that they cast the issue as a law and order one. The security breakdown in KP is far more than just an ordinary law and order problem. There is an organised, trained and well-equipped set of militants in KP and Fata with the explicit agenda of overthrowing the Pakistani state. That is a very, very different problem — and far greater in severity — than more typical law and order issues such as mafias and criminal gangs operating in urban environments. To effectively combat terrorism, the full spectrum of the state’s power needs to be brought to bear on the problem — from direct action against the hardened core of active militancy to slowly rooting out the infrastructure of jihad that continues to radicalise and recruit parts of the population. Of course, the problem is that the PTI leadership continues to miscast the origins of militancy here, seeing the threat as essentially rooted in external factors instead of a long-running and pernicious domestic process. Until that changes, until the PTI accepts that dialogue alone will never truly roll back militancy, the threat of terrorism will never really diminish. In opting for the creation of a new anti-terrorism force, the PTI appears to at least be inching towards the realisation that the carrot of talks cannot really work in isolation. But there is a long, long way to go before the PTI arrives at a more realistic understanding of KP’s terrorism and militancy woes.

Benazir Bhutto: When I Return to Pakistan

By Benazir Bhutto Thursday, September 20, 2007
I am returning to Pakistan on Oct. 18 to bring change to my country. Pakistan's future viability, stability and security lie in empowering its people and building political institutions. My goal is to prove that the fundamental battle for the hearts and minds of a generation can be accomplished only under democracy. The central issue facing Pakistan is moderation vs. extremism. The resolution of this issue will affect the world, particularly South and Central Asia and all Muslim nations. Extremism can flourish only in an environment where basic governmental social responsibility for the welfare of the people is neglected. Political dictatorship and social hopelessness create the desperation that fuels religious extremism. Throughout Pakistan's 60-year history, weaving between dictatorship and democracy, from free elections to rigged elections to no elections, religious fundamentalists have never been a significant part of our political consciousness. We are inherently a centrist, moderate nation. Historically, the religious parties have not received more than 11 percent of the vote in national elections. The largest political party is mine, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP). Pakistan's political landscape has been molded primarily by the moderate PPP, which has demonstrated strong and continuous support from the rural masses and the urban elite. Extremism looms as a threat, but it will be contained as it has been in the past if the moderate middle can be mobilized to stand up to fanaticism. I return to lead that battle.I have led an unusual life. I have buried a father killed at age 50 and two brothers killed in the prime of their lives. I raised my children as a single mother when my husband was arrested and held for eight years without a conviction -- a hostage to my political career. I made my choice when the mantle of political leadership was thrust upon my shoulders after my father's murder. I did not shrink from responsibility then, and I will not shrink from it now. I am aware that some in Pakistan have questioned the dialogue I have engaged in with Gen. Pervez Musharraf over the past several months. I held those discussions hoping that Musharraf would resign from the army and restore democracy. My goal in that dialogue has never been personal but was always to ensure that there be fair and free elections in Pakistan, to save democracy. The fight against extremism requires a national effort that can flow only from legitimate elections. Within our intelligence and military are elements who sympathize with religious extremists. If these elements are not answerable to Parliament and the elected government, the battle against religious militancy, a battle for the survival and future of Pakistan, could be lost. The military must be part of the battle against extremism, but as the six years since Sept. 11, 2001, have shown, the military cannot do it on its own. Many issues remain unresolved in our political structure. Musharraf is precluded from seeking reelection in or out of uniform. Pakistani law requires a two-year wait before a member of the military can run for the presidency. The general can respond to the people's desire for legitimate presidential, parliamentary and ministerial elections, or he can tamper with the constitution. The latter choice would risk a fresh confrontation with the judiciary, the legal community and the political parties. Such a confrontation could lead to another declaration of martial law, civil unrest, or both. Civil unrest is what the extremists want. Anarchy and chaos suit them. The political element in Musharraf's party that presided over the rise of extremism has worked with every Pakistani administration since my government was destabilized in 1996. Its members are blocking the democratic change I have tried to achieve with Musharraf. They fear that democracy will be difficult to manipulate to the benefit of extremists and militants. My dialogue with Musharraf aims to move the country forward from a dictatorship that has failed to stop the tribal areas from becoming havens for terrorists. The extremists are even spreading their tentacles into Pakistan's cities. Last week brought a fresh challenge. Just days ago, Pakistan's election commission arbitrarily amended the constitutional provision regarding the eligibility of a person competent to contest for the office of president. As the constitution can be amended only through a two-thirds majority in Parliament, a judicial hornet's nest has been stirred. My party and I seek fair, free and impartial elections to be held by an independent election commission under an interim government of national consensus. We want a level playing field for all candidates and parties. In words commonly attributed to Joseph Stalin, "Those who cast the vote decide nothing. Those who count the vote decide everything." That's why we have stressed electoral reforms -- although our efforts have so far been in vain. President Bush has rightly noted, "The most powerful weapon in the struggle against extremism is not bullets or bombs -- it is the universal appeal of freedom. Freedom is the design of our maker, and the longing of every soul." When my flight lands in Pakistan next month, I know I will be greeted with joy by the people. I do not know what awaits me, personally or politically, once I leave the airport. I pray for the best and prepare for the worst. But in any case, I am going home to fight for the restoration of Pakistan's place in the community of democratic nations.