Sunday, October 27, 2013

Afghanistan: Illiterate candidates on IEC list

A number of upper house members on Sunday claimed that some provincial council candidates on the preliminary list released last week by the Independent Election Commission were illiterate. The list features 2,395 of the 3,056 wannabes for provincial council seats, including 323 women. The process of submitting complaints against candidates began with the announcement of the initial list. During Sunday’s Senate session, a public representative from southern Zabul province accused the election commission of pursuing double standards in short-listing candidates. Mohammad Daud Hasas, without naming anyone, claimed the IEC list included provincial council runners who could not read or write. “People who haven’t gone to school but have got fake certificates have their names on the list. But those who have graduated from universities and are known internationally have been excluded from it,” he alleged. The senator asked the election panel to demonstrate neutrality and avoid defaming leading figures through its double standards. His colleague from Farah province, Gul Ahmad Azimi, remarked: “Rank illiterates are on the list, which doesn’t include educated individuals.” The IEC had either resorted to hypocrisy or had failed to properly scrutinize candidates’ documents.” Neighbouring countries were opposed to transparent elections in Afghanistan, he said, accusing Iran and Pakistan of issuing fake intermediate certificates to a number of runners. Bismillah Afghanmal, a lawmaker from Kandahar province, said: “At the very outset of the electoral process, people have flooded us with complaints. What will happen in the end?” Other members held similar views, stressing the need for improving the security situation ahead of elections. If the polls were held in an environment of insecurity, the future government would be devoid of legitimacy, they argued. Deputy Chairman Mohammad Alam Ezedyar, who chaired the session, asked the IEC to treat all contenders equally and investigate their documents minutely.

Give Saudi women the right to drive

By Rothna Begum
This weekend, Saudi women will once again defy their nation's long-standing driving ban and get behind the wheel, facing harassment, intimidation and arrest. On Saturday, the "Women2Drive" campaign will renew Saudi women's demand to exercise their right to drive. In many parts of Saudi Arabia, women are already driving and publishing online videos of themselves in the act. Interestingly, footage has also surfaced of Saudi men driving by and giving the thumbs-up sign to show their support. An informal Saudi ban on driving became official policy in November 1990 during the Gulf War. As female American soldiers based in Saudi Arabia drove freely through military bases, 47 Saudi women organized a convoy to drive the streets of Riyadh in protest against the law that restricted them. Officials arrested them and suspended many from their jobs.The Grand Mufti, the country's most senior religious authority, declared a fatwa, or religious edict, against women driving because driving would expose women "to temptation" and lead to "social chaos." Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz, then minister of interior, issued a decree on the basis of the fatwa banning driving for women. The Grand Mufti who issued the fatwa died in 1999, as Prince Nayef did in 2012, but the ban has remained. When King Abdullah came to power in 2005, he said he believed that, "the day will come when women drive." That day might have arrived. Saudi Arabia issues warning to women drivers, protesters Saudi women launched the online "Women2Drive" campaign in 2011, perhaps inspired by women in Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Libya who stood shoulder to shoulder with men during uprisings to overthrow dictators and fight for freedom. They declared that starting on June 17, 2011, women with international drivers' licenses should take to the roads. Scores drove, and many were stopped by traffic police. Their male guardians were forced to sign pledges that they would not allow the women to drive again. One woman was sentenced to 10 lashes; later an appeals court overturned her sentence. Recently, Saudi Arabia has made several small advances in women's rights. Women can stand as candidates and vote in municipal elections, next due in 2015. They can work in various sectors without approval from their male guardians. The king has appointed 30 women to the Shura Council, his 150-member senior advisory body. Saudi Arabia has also recently passed a law criminalizing domestic violence. Despite these advances, Saudi women continue to face profound discrimination. The guardianship system still treats them as legal minors who cannot conduct official government business, travel abroad, marry, pursue higher education or undergo certain medical procedures without permission from their male guardians -- a husband, father, brother or even a young son. Two leading women's rights activists, Wajeha al-Huwaider and Fawzia al-Oyouni, who have also fought the driving ban, face imprisonment for trying to help a woman who said that her husband had locked her and her children in their home without food or water.The ban on driving may not be the most limiting form of discrimination for some Saudi women, yet it has become symbolic of a much deeper oppression that touches all aspects of women's lives in the kingdom: It has become for Saudi women what a bus seat was to Rosa Parks and other African-Americans in the 1950s. To explain why women cannot drive, Saudi authorities often use the excuse that "society is not ready." Yet on occasion, King Abdullah has chosen to ignore such arguments and sidestep the religious establishment. He opened the King Abdullah University for Science and Technology in 2009 as the first mixed-gender university in the kingdom. Then he fired a cleric on the Council of Senior Scholars, the highest state body for the interpretation of Islamic law, when the man spoke out against the mixing of men and women at the university. Recently, a cleric presented a new excuse to prohibit driving for women: he asserted that "driving affects women's ovaries." While this absurd contention is unsubstantiated by any medical or scientific evidence, it may be significant in Saudi discourse because it seems to separate the prohibition on driving from Islamic law, or Sharia, claiming women shouldn't drive because of health risks, rather than any religious prohibition. Even the head of the religious police stated in September that Sharia has no text forbidding women from driving. In short, the Saudi government, having ratified the U.N. Convention on All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, is obliged to treat women equally and not enforce a discriminatory policy. As Saudi women take to the roads again, the world should join them in demanding an end to this denial of basic rights.

Invoking Rosa Parks, Dozens Of Saudi Women Openly Defy Ban On Driving

Brushing off threats from the government, more than 60 Saudi women got behind the wheel on Saturday in a bold protest of the nation’s de facto ban on women driving. Sara Hussein, a Saudi woman involved in the effort, drew parallels to the U.S. civil rights movement: “Think back in history — Rosa Parks was the only person who sat down on the bus, wasn’t she? And then it started to happen gradually. It does have to start with the few brave people who are willing to risk whatever there is to risk.” Many women documented the act of civil disobedience on social media, even posting videos to YouTube. The most popular video, which has already been viewed nearly 100,000 times, was posted by May al-Sawyan, a 32-year-old economics researcher. She drove to the grocery store: Many other videos are posted to the movement’s YouTube channel, October 26 Driving. On Friday, the Interior Ministry threatened to punish anyone involved in the protest. So far, however, there are no reports of arrests or tickets issued. Last month, a prominent Saudi cleric claimed that driving would damage women’s ovaries and cause birth defects. Saudi Arabia does not formally prohibit women from driving, but effectively bans them from doing so by refusing to issue licenses to women.

Pakistan: Must not negotiate with Taliban, says head of Shia political party

The Express Tribune
Majlis-e-Wahdat-ul-Muslimeen (MWM), the leading political group for the Shia community in Pakistan, said Sunday that there should not be any negotiations with the Taliban, Express News reported. Secretary General MWM Raja Nasir Abbas Jafari said this while addressing audience in the Azmat-e-Wilayat Conference at Nishtar Park today. Allama Ameen Shaheedi said on the occasion that negotiations with militants will only result in more terrorist attacks and more corpses to bury. The MWM leadership went on to denounce the ongoing operation against criminals in Karachi as a “mere show”. They said the Kashmir issue will remain unresolved unless a government truly representative of the citizens takes over. Jafari also criticised the judiciary for focusing on high-profile cases and ignoring those of the poor and helpless. Last month, Allama Jafari had said that Pakistani Shia Muslims were on the frontline in the nation’s war against terrorists and thousands have sacrificed their lives for the cause. He claimed citing financial, logistic and military aid to the terrorists, that the US in connivance with the Saudi monarchy was using them as proxies to spread terror in Pakistan and across the world.

On the directives Bilawal Bhutto , Syed Owais Muzaffar visits the family of victim in the village Karo Bheel
Sindh Minister for Local Government Syed Owais Muzaffar has directed DIG Hyderabad to hold fresh inquiry into the Pangriyo incident where some criminals had desecrated the body of Hindu Dalit folk singer, Bhooro Bheel, a few weeks back. On the directives of Patron-in-Chief of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Syed Owais Muzaffar visited the family of victim in the village Karo Bheel near Pangriyo town today afternoon. He was accompanied by Minister Minority Affairs Gyanchand Esrani, MNA Sardar Kamal Khan Chand, MPAs Hasnain Mirza and Muhammad Nawaz Chandio, and Surender Valasai. Syed Owais Muzaffar summoned DIG Hyderabad, DC and SP Badin to village Karo Bheel and ordered that all the culprits involved in this gruesome incident should not be stared and assured the family of Bhooro Bheel justice will be made to them and the criminals cannot escape from the long arms of law. On the occasion, Syed Owais Muzaffar announced that land will be granted for the minorities’ graveyard and also asked the minority minister that a boundary wall is constructed around this graveyard. He further said that one member of Bhooro Bheel family will be given government job and his widow will be provided financial assistance from Sindh government. He said that a few people having criminal minds want to defame the province and the country through their nefarious designs but Sindh government will foil such conspiracies. He also took notice that a particular qabza group wants to encroach upon the graveyard land and ordered DC Badin to start operation against any kind of encroachment on government lands in Badin and asked him to requisition additional police contingents from anti-encroachment force, if needed.

Pakistan: Khursheed Shah urges PM to implement APC decisions

Opposition leader, Khursheed Shah has said that decisions of All Parties Conference (APC) should be implemented because country cannot face more delay in this regard. In a letter to Prime Minster, Shah asked the premier that why the government has not implemented the decisions of APC yet, adding decisions were taken in APC through national consensus so it should be implanted, he added. He informed the PM that ministers do not visit parliament and they are insulting parliament by doing so, adding attendance of ministers should be regularised in the houses. “Parliament and masses should be taken in confidence over decisions of APC”, opposition leader said. Talking about dialogue with Taliban, Khursheed Shah wrote to PM that government had given mandate for talks, adding why talks have not been started? He questioned. He maintained that masses are suffering due to raise in prices of electricity, gas and petroleum products.

Diplomatic relations with Pakistan make little sense

Indian foreign policy suffers from capacity constraints. Strangely for a nation of 1.2 billion people it can only throw about 900 of them at the world - diplomatic bodies that is. Its external affairs ministry budget is about $1.5 billion a year, that includes the overseas aid programmes and passport offices. Throw in interference from regional parties, a population whose idea of "phoren" is the Indian State next door and a soft power arsenal that consists of the Buddha and a lot of brassy films and one realises why no Indian official has ever said "superpower" and the name of his homeland in the same breath. India needs to prioritise. There are simply some countries or parts of the world that New Delhi cannot afford to expend too much time and energy to cultivate or generally influence. There are others that it makes sense for India to burn the midnight oil about. Even among countries that matter to the national interest, there is a need to differentiate. Somewhat like choosing where to put your savings - gold, mutual funds and so on - India must recognise the returns in diplomatic investment can be very different. The most obvious case is Pakistan. Diplomacy with this country is like wildcatting in the desert, but with minimal geological knowledge. The domestic political cost of getting things wrong is the higher than any other foreign policy initiative. The likelihood of returns is minimal. Most attempts at drilling will come up against hard stone and saline water. Of course, if you were to succeed, there would be no greater diplomatic prize. Stabilising relations with Pakistan is the Holy Grail of Indian diplomacy. But the likelihood of winning this prize is so minute as to be akin to playing Russian roulette. There is a reason that the great powers are where Indian leaders like to concentrate their energies. Partly it tickles Indian egos to see their netas parleying with American presidents and Chinese premiers. But it is a sign of a country's maturity that the amount of time and effort you put into building relations with them is roughly coterminous with what you get in return. Mind you, things can go wrong occasionally. Beijing became increasingly unpredictable in the last few years of Hu Jintao. Barack Obama has been difficult if only because his interest in foreigners seems to be limited to a) terrorists bearing bombs and b) businessmen bearing contracts. On the other hand, George W Bush loaded India with more gifts than it could bear. The bulk of India's neighbours are smallish countries. The concept is relative: Bangladesh would be a giant in population terms in any continent except Asia. However, the pattern of diplomacy with these countries is similar to a SIP, small amounts of political capital and diplomatic initiative at regular intervals gives you small returns at regular intervals. The point of all this is to ask whether the Manmohan Singh government is getting its investment priorities right in the global arena? This is an Indian government on its last legs, its account in the bank of politics well overdrawn and the creditworthiness of the prime minister next to zero. Where should it be investing its foreign policy resources? Singh is doing some spadework with the United States and China, repairing his failures on the first and seeing if some semblance of normality is possible with the latter. He has succeeded somewhat, an honourable thing to do as it will help his successor. Relations with the small neighbours, an unsung if half-done success of the government, should not be neglected. As mentioned, like hothouse plants they need regular tending. Relations with Sri Lanka are tense, but should not be ignored. Those with Bhutan are gently entering a new phase. Nepal is good when it comes to India, not so good when it comes to itself. Myanmar wants us to build roads, dams, supply arms and education - things New Delhi can't seem to do inside India let alone overseas, so that may have to be done later. The basket that makes the least sense to be putting one's last few eggs in is the one woven in Islamabad. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has signalled from the start that he has no authority over his country's India policy. The US withdrawal from Afghanistan has already meant that Kashmir and the Line of Control have become the favoured jihad of the unemployed militant. No black swan is possible with Pakistan. For a year or more, this is the dead horse of Indian diplomacy. If our western neighbour is not the place where a fading government should expect to make waves, where should Manmohan Singh look? Waves evokes beaches, beaches evoke the Maldives. This is a country in trouble and it is about the right size for the prime minister's political status today.

Despite Gains, Pakistan's Transgender Community Under Attack
Zeba, a transgender rights activist in Pakistan who was born with both male and female sex organs, was resting at home in the Imamia Colony neighborhood of Peshawar when the front door was suddenly kicked open. Local police, together with angry residents of the area, stormed inside -- smashing Zeba's belongings and shouting threats. Forced outside into the street on that October 20 evening, Zeba saw that the same thing was happening to scores of others from Pakistan's transgender minority who have moved to the neighborhood during the last 25 years. "Nobody listens to our outcry. Now look at how these locals, along with police, have attacked our homes. They destroyed our household items and beat us badly. Some of our friends are now in the hospital. They injured us badly," Zeba said. Members of the long-oppressed community had hoped their plight would improve after the Supreme Court ordered national identity cards to include a third gender category in 2009.
'Third-Gender' Citizens
Official status for "third-gender" citizens -- often loosely referred to as eunuchs or hijras, but which include hermaphrodites, transsexuals, eunuchs, and transvestites -- technically guarantees them the same basic civil rights of any other Pakistani citizen. But it took another two years before Pakistani election officials were ordered to register third-gender voters -- a development that was hailed when transgender candidates and voters participated in general elections this May. Despite the advancements, however, the plight of Pakistan's third-gender community is difficult. Discrimination limits employment opportunities, and the transgender minority regularly faces intimidation, humiliation, and abuse. Most describe themselves as professional wedding dancers. Zeba, for example, prefers to be referred to as a "Khwaja Saraa" -- the term used to identify the transgender courtesans who danced in the courts of the Mughul emperors during the 17th and 18th centuries. But rights activists say their main source of income is from begging or prostitution. Many also become the victims of extortion, sexual violence, and criminal gangs. That has driven them together into unofficial settlements such as Peshawar's Imamia Colony neighborhood. But that has caused tensions with Sunni and Shi'a Muslims and Pakistani Christians who also live in the neighborhood. Those groups -- often at odds elsewhere in Pakistan -- have united in Imamia Colony behind the goal of trying to force out members of the transgender community.Leading the campaign is Abdul Rehman, a 48-year-old Sunni Muslim who is trying to put pressure on the landlords of Imamia Colony to evict any transgender residents. Rehman told RFE/RL he sees his efforts as a "cleansing campaign." "All of them have made their homes in the area into brothels. Mostly, it is criminals who are visiting them. I witnessed an incident one night in which a drunk person was using abusive language. When a local resident tried to stop them, this drunk man shot him dead," Rehman said. "The case was registered in the local police station. I am also worried about the influence of these hijra on my own young children and other kids who live in this area. Those kids are naïve and young and they could be easily trapped into homosexuality." Shamaa, a Khwaja Saraa who moved to the neighborhood after being rejected by family at the age of 15, said Rehman's way of thinking about Pakistan's transgender minority is typical. "What can I say? The way people think about us and why they insult us depends upon everybody's personal way of thinking and their own level of consciousness," Shamaa said. "We were not born from the trees. We are human beings just as they are. We are also the children of Pashtuns and we are human."
Most members of Peshawar's transgender community insist that they are good practicing Muslims. But Javed Nasim -- a provincial lawmaker in Peshawar and a member of the ruling Tehrik-i-Insaf political party -- disagrees. Nasim equates their lifestyle with homosexuality and says the very idea of a "third gender" is un-Islamic. "If I, Javed Nasim, change my gender I will be cursed by Allah. And if there is anybody who looks at my face, they will be committing a sin. Allah says that if you are born as a man or as a woman, you have to come to Him after death the same way," Nasim said. I.A. Rehman, the director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said that the situation for Pakistan's transgender minority has been deteriorating in northwestern Pakistan. "Generally in Pakistan, Khwaja Saraa are not under threat. But they are in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province because [of the new coalition in power there and their concept of] a 'new Islam' under way," Rehman said. "Generally, human rights groups in Pakistan have done great advocacy on the issue of [third-gender] identity cards. For them, they have conducted and organized a lot of seminars and workshops. But to be honest, when people are asking about gay rights in Pakistan, it must be said that even the rights of non-gays are not protected. So how can gay rights be protected." Members of Peshawar's transgender community are trying to stand up for their own rights. They have taken to the streets during the past week to protest the targeted violence against them. But those demonstrations have deteriorated into street brawls with local police using truncheons to beat the protesters and break up their rallies.

Pakistan: ''Privatisation'' : ‘Selling off the family silver’

Daily Times
By Lal Khan
The new assault of privatisation will further aggravate the already excruciating curse of unemployment and price hike The incumbent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz regime has announced the biggest ever privatisation of state assets in the history of Pakistan. Sixty-eight State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) are to be sacrificed at the altar of aggressive neo-liberal capitalism. In direct contrast to the perception being peddled by the corporate media, most of these SOEs, like the Oil and Gas Development Corporation Limited, several large banks, oil refineries, are those that have yielded large profits, with future prospects of higher profitability and growth. Hence the notion that privatisation is to end the haemorrhage of the loss-incurring enterprises is a deception and a lie. According to an Asian Development Bank 1998 report, a total of 166 state-owned enterprises have been privatised since 1990 for a cumulative sum of Rs 476.5 billion. Most of this sum has gone to finance budget deficits. Over 78 percent of these enterprises have either shown no improvement or have actually performed worse. This privatisation resulted in accumulation of wealth in a few select families, who have controlled the economy since the establishment of Pakistan. These new owners, rather than investing, ended up stripping these assets, downsizing and carrying out unprecedented attacks on the terms and condition of workers’ employment, mass redundancies and an attack on trade union activity. This privatisation has been carried out at a very heavy social and economic cost. Pakistan’s first privatisation started in the 1950s, which resulted in concentrating wealth in the hands of the ‘notorious’ 22 families. The Sharif government is itself composed of mainly the capitalists who have huge stakes in this privatisation, and will be the main beneficiaries from this plunder of state assets. Banking and finance, oil and gas, energy, fertilisers, engineering, minerals and natural resources, infrastructure entities such as the Civil Aviation Authority, Karachi Port Trust, Port Qasim Authority, Pakistan Railways, National Highway Authority are all up for grabs. Other sectors include Tourism, Telephone Industries of Pakistan, Printing Corporation of Pakistan, National Book Foundation, Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation, Utility Stores Corporation and stores, Export corporations, Shalimar Recording Company, and even the Convention Centre Islamabad; all will be put up for bidding and sold at throwaway prices. The only exceptions are various institutions of state coercion, such as the police, prisons, judiciary, armed forces and commercial and real estate enterprises of the armed forces. This mass selloff is more akin to the privatisation carried out after the collapse of the Soviet Union, where the sellers, bidders and buyers were the same class and cartels. In the process we will see artificial, fake, concocted identities, names and corporations. The question of transparency in a society and state drenched in corruption and malpractices is a utopia, to say the least. With the unprecedented crisis of capitalism, investment dropped by more than 14 percent on a world scale. With the present security situation, energy crisis, hikes in production costs and the rotten state of the infrastructural facilities in today’s Pakistan, no serious investment can be expected. This means that bidding will be low and rigged, and with the party of the mafia bourgeoisie in power. In the 1980s when Margaret Thatcher embarked upon a vicious privatisation policy, it even shocked some of the Tory veterans. Harold Macmillan, the Tory prime minister of Britain from 1957 to 1963, dubbed that privatisation as “selling off the family silver”. Ever since the Second World War, till the mid-1970s, the rapid growth and development in the advanced capitalist counties was mainly due to the massive intervention of the state in the economy. In India, under the so-called Nehruvian ‘socialism’, 74 percent of its economy was nationalised. In the 1960s, the high growth rates in Pakistan were also due to the greater intervention of the state in the economy and the huge infrastructural projects. However, in both the countries, these growth rates failed to raise the living standards of the masses. Under the government of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) led by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto of the first half of the 1970s, the reforms in health, education and other sectors were only possible due to large scale nationalisations. But they could not be sustained in a redundant capitalist system that had failed to carry out the tasks of the national democratic revolution. During the world recession in 1974, even in the advanced capitalist world, Keynesian policies failed to sustain high rates of profits. It was precisely because of this that they embarked on the old trickle-down economics being peddled by Milton Friedman, a new guru revered by the likes of Reagan, Thatcher and General Pinochet of Chile. This policy relegated Britain from an industrial engine of the world to the hub of finance capital and casino capitalism. The biggest economy of the world, the USA, became the largest debtor in the world. In countries like Pakistan, with the uneven and combined patterns of weak capitalist growth, these policies have only brought misery and destitution to the teeming millions. Health and education and other essential services have been deeply penetrated by private capital as the state failed to provide these basic services that are not a privilege but a fundamental right in any civilised society. The masses are being deprived of these essential needs as they cannot afford decent health services and education so expensive in the private sector. And it is these sectors where most of the private investment has flowed due to their indispensability and larger rates of profit. The new assault of privatisation will further aggravate the already excruciating curse of unemployment and price hike. Deprivation in society will only worsen. It is true that corruption and mismanagement were terrible in some of the SOEs, but in a crisis-ridden capitalism under the dictatorship of the financial oligarchy, it was inevitable. A system where the formal economy has contracted to less than one-third of the total economy, corruption and malpractices flourish in black economies, and have become social and ethical norms. The trade unions are weak and fragmented. The leadership of the trade unions has since long capitulated to capitalism. The main party of the masses, the PPP, had embraced capitalism since the early 1980s, and the leadership had abandoned the party’s socialist origins. In 1988, Benazir Bhutto hired the services of N M Rothschild to carry out a feasibility study for privatisation in Pakistan. The previous regime of the Public Private Partnership only gave the masses price hikes and poverty. But the present capitalist regime now wants to go the whole hog and sell off all assets. In their sheer ignorance they think that the class struggle is finished and the masses will never revolt. The tolerance of the masses is in its last phases. How much and for how long can the toiling masses endure this exploitation and coercion? Keynesianism and Monetarism, all models of capitalism, failed to develop society. Nationalisations and half-measures under the rule of capitalism are no solution. Once the class struggle erupts, it will have to fight to the finish. The whole system has to be transformed from the economics of greed and profit to the economic system of the fulfilment of human needs, i.e. a planned socialist economy.

Pakistan’s Internal Security Policy- Stop Playing Favorites When it comes to Terrorist groups

by Shahram Ali
Pakistan’s internal security policy should be based on only one criterion. A particular group or organization should be classified as militants or terrorists if the basic objectives of the group are not compatible with our national interest. Please note that the job at hand is not to develop an understanding of the morality of the objectives of the various militant groups or to make abstract value judgments as to whether they are good or bad in an absolute sense. For example, while discussing the case of the Sri Lankan Tamil tigers the international media always debated whether the movement and its tactics were justified on moral- political grounds and from time to time they either supported these elements and insisted that Sri Lanka negotiate with them, or described them as terrorists depending on their own preferences. This was not helpful to the Sri Lankan government and in fact confused Sri Lankan policy and hindered Sri Lanka from taking decisive action against these elements which had become a cancer to its own people. Perhaps a more interesting example, is that of the case of how Jordan under King Hussain the First, got rid of elements within it which had started becoming a threat to Jordan’s own existence. It may surprise the readers to learn that here our own Gen. Zia ul Haq, then a brigadier, helped them fight and destroy the Palestinian formations in Jordan in the 1970 Black September events there. The point I am trying to make is that while developing a strategy to safeguard its own interests Jordan did not have to de-legitimize the Palestinian movement. It only had to establish whether Palestinian formations within its borders were a threat to its own existence. Likewise in our case we need not establish whether the Taliban movement or the activities of the Jihadi outfits are justified on political or moral grounds or whether or not the outfits that want to promulgate a Salafi brand of Islam in Pakistan are propagating the “correct” version of Islam. We only need to establish whether the activities of these groups are good or bad for the State of Pakistan. In fact the militant groups active here use this very logic and behave very rationally and completely without regard to any altruistic religious or national affiliation, when it comes to the achievement of their own objectives and act accordingly. We observe for example, the Kashmiri Jihadi groups are friends of Pakistan only until such time that they feel that our policy is supportive of their goals. As recent times have shown, they can turn on the State at a moment’s notice or commit acts, such as the attack on the Indian Parliament in Delhi and the Taj Hotel in Bombay that can seriously endanger the very existence of Pakistan. It will be recalled that the second attack took place at a time when Pakistan’s Foreign Minister was in Delhi, trying to negotiate a settlement of issues with India. The most recent example of this behavior was seen four months ago or so. We will recall that at this time the Army Chief, Gen. Pervez Kayani, made a very important speech where-in he stated that perhaps the time has come for Pakistan to start viewing the internal threat from the militant groups within the country as the more crucial one than that on the eastern borders with India. This was the first time that any Army Chief, in my memory, has made such a threat assessment. It also needs to be noted that he had done this in the continuum of improving relations with India over the previous few months. However, within two weeks of this statement incidents started re-occurring at the LOC in Kashmir. One, in which Kashmiri Jihadi groups were suspected, was particularly serious where the heads of two captured Indian soldiers were decapitated and their bodies mutilated. This caused an immediate cessation of all friendly overtures and the two sides quickly retreated to their previous hard-line postures closing all avenues of rapprochement, at least for the near term. It is therefore clear that these groups will try to make sure that Pakistan does not have peace on its eastern borders until such time that their own interests are met in accordance with their wishes. The Taliban and their affiliates too have behaved similarly. In the wake of the Pakistan Army operations against them in the Tribal areas, they have carried out several attacks on Pakistan Army and ISI establishments where they have tried to kill officers and soldiers. However, what is more important to note is that in addition to these attacks, they have also attacked some of Pakistan’s key strategic military assets. Examples are their attacks on the 11 French engineers in front of the Sheraton, Karachi, several years ago. These engineers were engaged in building an Augusta class submarine at the Pak Navy Dockyard in Karachi – a submarine which is equipped with Exocet missiles which are nuclear capable. This wa s followed by the more recent attacks on the Pak Navy- Mehran and Air Force- Kamrah bases where they destroyed PC3 Orion aircraft which are used by the Navy to detect and combat a submarine threat and AWAC like aircrafts which are used by the Air Force to detect an airborne threat at a distance of a several hundred miles. It needs to be noted that none of these assets could be used against the Taliban in the Pakistan Army’s move against them in the tribal areas and KPK. This shows clearly that the Taliban’s interest in these attacks was to weaken the very State of Pakistan and not merely extract revenge against the army for moving against their compatriots. Most likely, they had help from outside interests who would like to see the military capacity of Pakistan downgraded and who would directly benefit from such an act. I think our armed forces are capable of taking on these two groups who have caused a similar situation in our country. There is an increasing opinion in Pakistan that they in fact want to do so having suffered seriously at their hands, but are just waiting for a consensus to develop within our own people and political leadership. This is so since it would be impossible to move decisively against these groups without the full support of the majority of our people. In closing, I would like to say that the new political establishment will need to step up to the plate and take difficult decisions to ensure that the country can prosper and be rid of terrorism. I say this since:
(A) :
Pakistanis, as of today at least, have not moved sufficiently to the right to tolerate a regime that was witnessed in Afghanistan under the Taliban or an environment that was witnessed in Swat, in their own country. This is evidenced by the public outrage against the shooting of Malala Yusuf Zai, the bombings of the mazaars in Lahore and other places and the sectarian killings in Quetta and Karachi.
(B) :
Despite what is said across the border in India, most Pakistanis were horrified at the Mumbai attacks and would like to see the killers brought to justice;
(C) :
The main political parties, be they right or left of center in their politics, have a very significant following from educated people who genuinely want a change and would like to see Pakistan get rid of this morass and concentrate on its key domestic development agenda. These people will feel completely let down in case the new political leadership, either does not tackle this issue head on or takes a step backwards and follows the path of the Taliban. Since in view of past experience, it is highly unlikely that these groups will change their current behavior, the Government will need to take them head on at one point or another, if it would like to establish the writ of the State across the whole country. The longer we wait the more difficult the task will become.
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