Saturday, January 3, 2015

Video Report - Protesters, police clash after Washington criticizes Bahrain arrest

U.S - Weekly Address: Make 2015 the Year for Quality, Affordable Health Insurance

Afghanistan - Wedding bloodbath

Afghanistan has become a country where no one knows when one would be harmed by landmines, suicide attacks, or other happenings. The Afghans live in a land where life resources are few but the causes of death are abundant. Haplessness is visible everywhere while happiness is missing. And why shouldn’t it be when the Afghans have been at war for the past four decades? The recent incident where 20 people were killed as mortars hit a wedding party in Helmand province is something that will haunt not only the province but also the country for a long time. It is not the first time a wedding party has been attacked inadvertently. Before it was the NATO forces that were involved in such bloodbaths, now it is the Afghan forces that have killed innocents. The victims of the mortar attack say they seek presidential intervention and until President Ashraf Ghani in person visits the locality, they will remain on hunger strike. The ill-fated bride, who was also injured and whose wedding party was devastated by the attack, succumbed to her injuries in hospital. Six Afghan National Army (ANA) troops have been detained in connection with the incident.

The tragedy appears to be the outcome of an attack by the Taliban when they hit an ANA outpost and then infiltrated the wedding party where people were busy in celebrations. ANA troops pounded the house with mortars thinking the participants of the wedding were also Taliban who had gathered for a coordinated attack. This is the biggest ever human intelligence failure. There should be a serious investigation into the matter. Though a few officers have been arrested, unless there is a thorough investigation and those responsible are punished, such incidents will keep occurring and undermine the writ of the government. The government also needs to provide speedy justice to the victims. It is really hard to forget the pain of the loss of their near and dear ones. The government should try to heal the scars of the tragic incident and soothe the grief and anger of the victims’ families. The Taliban should be taught a lesson so that they know that they too will not find peace if they go on killing. This macabre slaughter of the wedding party should be an incident for turning enmity into brotherhood, bloodshed into peace. This will be possible only when the Taliban realise their warpath is misguided because in this war, Afghans are the worst losers and the only victims.

Pakistani Political Party Leaders Visit Kabul on Ghani Invitation

President Ashraf Ghani has invited a number of leaders from Pakistani political parties to meet with him in Kabul to discuss strengthening relations between the two neighboring countries and their mutual struggle with terrorism.
President Ghani's spokesman has said that the goal of these discussions is to encourage opportunities for cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan in combatting terrorism and securing their shared border region, which has been a hotbed of militancy in the region for decades.
According to Pakistani media, the meeting is expected to take place on January 8.
Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai visited Pakistan over 20 times during his presidency without any significant results. Experts have long said support from Islamabad is the only way the Taliban insurgency and al-Qaeda threat can be fully addressed in the region. Yet it is only since President Ghani has taken office that ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan seem to have actually advanced toward that goal.
"Meetings will be held between the political parties heads and tribal elders of both sides of the Durand, and the main goal is to strengthen the relationships between the two countries, improving security and fighting against terrorism," presidential spokesman Nazifullah Salarzai said on Saturday.
A number of political analysts in Pakistan welcomed the move by President Ghani. "It is beneficial for both countries, Pakistan must participate in this meeting and stand on its decisions," Pakistani political analyst Safdar Hayat told TOLOnews.
Others emphasized the mutuality of responsibility for addressing regional security problems. "It is very important and there is a need for reaching a result; both countries must agree that there are terrorist cells in both countries, which must be eliminated and both sides must work jointly toward security and peace," Pakistani analyst Naser Mahmood said.
A number of Afghan House of Representative members, who recently met with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other senior Pakistani officials, have said that it was international community pressure, especially from China, along with growing violence inside Pakistan, that forced the hand of the Pakistani government into greater cooperation.
"Whether Pakistan is committed or not, there is a lot of pressure from the international community, especially China," MP Shir Wali Wardak said. "The heads of political parties that are coming here have an agenda for how both sides can work toward peace."
MP Gul Pacha stressed the importance of conveying to the Pakistani political leaders that they must ensure the Taliban's Shura Council - believed to be based in the city of Quetta - is dismantled. "The concerns of Afghanistan are that the four terrorist Shuras active in Pakistan must be eliminated," he said.
With the formation of the national unity government in Kabul, along with the Taliban's massacre of over 130 children at a school in Peshawar last month, the two neighbors seem more galvanized than ever before, moving closer to the honest partnership they have often paid lip-service to.

Pakistan - #PeshawarAttack - Death of innocence


Teaching children to glorify wars and belittle other faiths is also a form of violence.

It struck you in the pit of your stomach. The pain was gut-wrenching. You felt as if the ground beneath your feet had parted. Your mind was blown into a million little pieces. How do you cope with the images of schoolchildren, some as young as 11 and 12, their school uniforms drenched in blood, their faces peering out of coffins? Mothers wailing inconsolably, fathers with a vacant stare in their eyes; eyes that looked like dried-up wells in the middle of a parched desert. Mirrors to souls wounded so deeply that life itself had ceased to have any meaning.
The massacre of 141 people, including 133 children, at Army Public School in Peshawar on December 16, 2014, was, at first, beyond comprehension. The grief and pain of the parents and siblings, many of whom had just managed to escape the orgy of killing at the school, defies rendering in ordinary language.
The initial shock soon gave way to an all-consuming rage. Pakistan’s military and civilian leadership, which had hitherto been unable to see eye to eye on how to deal with the Taliban, met in Peshawar and declared to the citizens of their beleaguered country that ‘enough was enough’. Significantly, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, flanked by opposition leaders, including erstwhile cricketer Imran Khan — known to be a Taliban apologist — told newsmen that there would be no distinction made any more between ‘good Taliban’ and ‘bad ones’.
Surely, moral outrage and anger are all too natural in the face of such a gruesome incident. If calculated murder of over 10 dozen children does not make us angry, perhaps nothing will. However, anger also blunts your capacity to see things in perspective. It engenders a tunnel-vision manifested in the punitive overdrive the Pakistan government went into immediately after the Peshawar massacre. The unofficial moratorium on the death penalty, which had been in place since 2008, was lifted. The hangmen were called up and at least six convicted terrorists were executed by December 21, 2014, despite urgings by international human rights groups to the contrary.
Almost everyone in Pakistan today is saying they want to stand true to the memory of children slaughtered in Peshawar. That seems to be the least common denominator across the political and societal divide. Exceptions are rare. These include increasingly jittery Taliban supporters, such as Maulana Abdul Aziz, the head Imam of the Red Mosque in Islamabad that was stormed by the Pakistan Army in 2008 following a prolonged standoff. Underneath this common resolve, however, lie fundamentally divergent worldviews and ideologies, currently concealed by shared grief and anger.
The struggle of man against power, wrote Milan Kundera, is the struggle of memory against forgetting. The key question today is what is it that you decide to remember and how? You could view Peshawar as an isolated incident, a total aberration in an otherwise acceptable state of affairs. Or, you could see it as the extreme end of a spectrum of violence that defines contemporary religious terrorism. The conceptual choice has significant consequences for how the public thinks about an event like this and how policymakers respond to it.
What happened in Peshawar has no exact parallels. Yet, children falling prey to terrorism and violence is now so common — and in such a wide variety of contexts — that it hardly strikes you as something unusual. Violence against children is now part of what Hannah Ardent memorably called the ‘banality of evil’.
The Taliban, for one, have made a career out of blowing up schools on both sides of Durand Line, the official border dividing Pakistan and Afghanistan. Children, let us not forget, also find themselves within the ranks of suicide-outfits from Boko Haram in Nigeria to the Taliban in Pakistan. Some of these children themselves witnessed extremes of physical violence before being duped or coerced into becoming soldiers of jihadist Islam.
Malala Yusufzai, mature beyond her years, nailed it when she said recently: “I tell my story, not because it is unique, but because it is not.” To transcend your own suffering and to connect it with that of others is indeed a sign of a beautiful mind and a spacious soul.
Now that we have decided to remember, let us also remember that, as Malala fought for her life after being shot in her school van, many in Pakistan had the temerity of calling her a Western stooge. She had herself shot to gain popularity and find herself a foreign passport. So went a shamelessly repeated conspiracy theory. How is that for denial and moral depravity?
In her Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Malala remembered schoolchildren killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan — children who in official accounts in Pakistan are dry statistics, if anything at all. The truth is, children caught in violence, children blown up in suicide attacks, as well as children orphaned by acts of terrorism are all victims. Seldom do we pause to think that children within the folds of the Taliban, who blow themselves up having been brainwashed into believing that it is the shortest route to paradise, are victims too. So are Afghan refugee children in Jolazai and Mosazai camps at the outskirts of Peshawar, whose only fault is that they were born on the wrong side of the border. Yet, as Pakistan mourns the Peshawar massacre, many hyper-patriotic politicians and TV anchors are demonising refugees and demanding that they be driven out supposedly because refugee camps serve as sanctuaries for the Taliban.
Consider also the suffering of Esha, 14, who has problems walking and speaking, and Esham, 13. They are the children of Asiya Bibi, a Pakistani Christian woman who has now spent four years on death row for allegedly insulting the prophet of Islam. She was framed and convicted — as the standard practice goes, on instigation by local extremists — under Pakistan’s notorious Blasphemy law bequeathed to the nation by dictator Zia-ul-Haq. In the apparently evolving consensus against the Taliban in Pakistan, no one has dared to openly suggest the following: Let us now repeal this draconian and blatantly discriminatory law. Enough is enough.
To me, as a Pakistani and as someone who has worked with children across the country, including Peshawar, this is not the way to honour the memory of little souls butchered by the Taliban on December 16, 2014. Sure, responsibilities must be fixed. Those involved in planning and abetting the massacre must be caught and put on trial. Fixing individual criminal responsibility, however, does not imply that you can wriggle out of collective failures.
The ‘we shall not forget Peshawar’ pledge, ringing out across Pakistan today, must also encompass an acknowledgment of a million guises that violence parades in. We must also promise our children, all children, that militants will never be used as strategic assets. We must also acknowledge that teaching children to glorify wars and belittle those who do not happen to share their own faith or nationality is also a form of violence, albeit not as spectacular as the cold-blooded mass murder we witnessed in Peshawar. We have no choice but to become fully conscious of the brutalisation of children in conflict zones, on its peripheries, and in seemingly normal settings. Only then will we cease to pass on violence blindly to future generations.


By Ghous Bux Khan Mahar
“Let China sleep, when she wakes up, will shake the world”, once said Napoleon. If we take a look at contemporary China, the Napoleonic prediction has turned out to be a tangible reality as China has woken up from its long slumber and has emerged as an economic powerhouse of the world.
The awakening of dragon has triggered tectonic shift in global geo-political and economic order, marking the beginning of the era of a multipolar world order. The remarkable economic rise of China has transformed it into the second largest economy in the world. Its economy is poised to position itself as the largest economy by around 2030, dislodging the US from its current economic supremacy. What is important to note is that China has an illustrious past as well. It is the world’s oldest surviving civilization with many innovations and inventions to its credit. For instance, paper, the compass and gunpowder are among the greatest Chinese inventions and contributions to the human civilization.
Back in 1980, I happened to visit China. In sharp contrast to the China of today, I found my host country no markedly different from any typical third world country. Poverty and underdevelopment was palpably visible there. Even its capital Beijing was not that modern unlike any western capital. The city was devoid of world class infrastructure and basic features of any modern city. There were single or two-floor old buildings, no cobweb of modern roads or avenues and no skyscrapers at all. On the basis of my profound observation, I can say with confidence that Karachi and Islamabad were ahead of Beijing in terms of modern infrastructure and amenities at that time. The Great Wall of China, the most iconic tourist destination of the country, was also deprived of much facilities. It was still a poor country with a fragile economy and fractured international relations.
Recently, I visited China in 2013. To my amazement, it was not the same country I had visited in 1980. I was immensely amazed to find it transformed beyond any recognition as China had built itself anew. This time around, I was welcomed by a new China born out of dazzling economic development. I found myself in a rich and
modern China with booming economy growing at double digit figure. Beijing was diametrically different from what I saw back in 1980s. The capital of the nation, was lively with modern and sophisticated infrastructure comparable to any western capital. There were gleaming high-rises, state of art road and rail network and world-class luxury hotels to welcome millions of visitors every year. Shanghai, the commercial capital was even more dazzling and true reflection of the exceptional progress and prosperity made by China over last few decades. The city’s skyline was dotted with eye-catching skyscrapers and other marvellous landmarks like bridges, highways, amusement parks, shopping malls, high-speed train terminals and so on. It was pulsating with modern life. Moreover, the financial capital of China, stood as the monumental testimony and tribute to the Chines nation’s dynamism, energy, hard work, vision, commitment, determination and dedication to the socio-economic development of the country. Furthermore, the country was breaking new grounds from space exploration to development of stealth technology.
Undoubtedly, the rapid and remarkable rise of China can be characterised as an economic miracle which has baffled both her friends and foes alike. During my last visit, I was naturally awe-struck by the overall advancement of the country whose giant leap from being a third world country to the emergence as a great nation on the global horizon, gave birth to a logical question in my mind.
What is the secret behind the enviable economic success of China? As I moved around, explored and observed the different dimension of the country, the riddle of China’s unmatched economic achievement began to unravel itself answering the question resonating in my mind. Thus, I was led to the cogent conclusion that in addition to the mobilisation of man and material resources, it is the competent and sincere leadership, the national spirit of hard work, honesty of purpose, national cohesion and consensus, unflinching commitment, unwavering dedication and steel-strong determination that is the real moving spirit or driving force behind the economic revolution that has transformed China into an engine of global economy.
The 21st Century is being called as the Asian century symbolized by the breath-taking and meteoric rise of China as a global power. The centre of economic and political gravity has significantly shifted from The West to the East. The phenomenal economic advent of China has provided the nation with unprecedented confidence and capabilities to proactively secure and safeguard its geo-strategic and economic interests around the globe. The subsequent growth in her global clout, rapid build-up of offensive and defensive capabilities and increasingly assertive foreign policy posture in the Asia Pacific and beyond, has sowed immense and unprecedented fear in the American strategic community that view China as the main challenger and strongest threat to the American global supremacy.
In the strategic response to counter and contain China in its track, US has shifted its geo-strategic focus away from Europe and Middle East to Asia-Pacific region, what has come to be called as US Asia-pivot characterized by the relocation of US naval power to Asia-Pacific region, revitalization of the existing alliances and cultivating the new ones to put up a formidable security alliance against China. Like any rising power, China also aspires to carve what China calls the rightful place in the world matching its great power status and progress. These China’s aspirations and American apprehensions and the consequent geo-strategic, military and economic rivalry are going to be the very shapers of the 21st century.
As far Pakistan, the advent of China as a world power is a welcome development as the new global power is not only our next-door neighbour but also our all-weather friend and strategic security partner. We need to learn a result-oriented lesson from China’s inspiring and impressive economic success in order to put our country on the path to progress and prosperity.
Pakistan continues to languish under the siege of socio-economic and political problems. The country’s economy is in freefall, poverty is pervasive and illiteracy is rampant across the country. Pakistan is geo-strategically located at the confluence of central Asia, South Asia and Middle East. Thus the country has potential to emerge as the trade and energy corridor for China bordering Pakistan through its Xinjiang province that will stand to benefit from the Gwadar deep sea port. China has been building the Gwadar port as vital link of the maritime silk route. The fully functional silk route is likely to usher in an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity for the underdeveloped regions of both countries, like Baluchistan, northern areas of Pakistan and Xinjiang region of China.
However, what remains to be seen is how skilfully and wisely the new power (China) and the established power (America) accommodate each other taking full advantage of opportunities of convergence by dexterously dodging the areas of divergence. Arguably, the benefits of economic cooperation, integration and interdependence are greater than those of geo-strategic and military rivalry or adventurism that pose an existential threat to the entire humanity in this age of nuclear weapons.


2015 began with the same question that the sunrise of 2014 brought for Pakistani security establishment: If any action against the 10 percent pro-takfiri Deobandi-Wahhabi seminaries will be taken for their involvement in ongoing terrorism across Pakistan from FATA to Karachi.
This question was floated in the form of demand by Shia scholar Allama Shabbir Hassan Meesami and Sunni scholars at Amir Liaquat’s Morning Show in Geo TV channel. They asked federal interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ai Khan, to take due action against those (Deobandi-Wahhabi) religious seminaries immediately who, according t interior minister himself, have been and are involved in terrorism in Pakistan.  
Chaudhry Nisar himself tried to downplay the terrorist threat that Deobandi-Wahhabi takfiri seminaries pose to Pakistan saying that only 10% of them were involved in terrorist attacks. Allama Shabbir Meesami, a leader of Shia Ulema Council, has questioned why action was not taken against those 10% if we believe in the statement of federal interior minister Chaudhry Nisar.
As a matter of fact, PMLN government of Pakistan’s interior minister tried to cover up the Saudi-funded CIA-trained terrorists by understating the involvement of takfiri clerics of Deobandi-Wahhabi seminaries. Intelligence and police investigators had named the Saudi-allied Deobandi seminaries of Pakistani capital city Islamabad and Rawalpindi, Garrison City of Pak Army’s GHQ, for sheltering terrorists and providing them logistic support for terrorist attacks.
But, surprisingly, they are free till now in January 2015 and they are invited by media people at talk shows and during news bulletins for their comments on terrorist attacks. Reports had it that fifth column within the security establishment have not abandoned their policy of patronizing the takfiris under the most-defeated and deleterious policy of “Strategic Depth” that made takfiris as strategic assets despite huge and colossal irreparable human and financial losses.   
Pakistanis know that Asif Ali Zardari, now co-chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party, was portrayed as Mr. 10% during first government of his wife Benazir Bhutto in 1988 that was dislodged before completion of 5 years Constitutional term. Then, Mr. Zardari had spent almost 11 years behind the bar, the only politician of Pakistan who experienced such a long-term jailing.
He lost his wife Benazir Bhutto and then accepted as President of Pakistan, due to “compensation” for that loss and Mr. 10% who was defamed as Mr. cent percent by the pro-takfiris, proved the electoral power of relatively 3 smaller provinces of Pakistan who voted him as President. His government tried to change the course of strategic mindset of powers that be. Then Chief of Army Staff introduced a new military doctrine under which violent extremism (the coded name for takfiri ideology or Talibanisation) was also declared an internal threat alongside India as an external threat.
Under that, Pakistan began improving the relations with Russia, the remnant of fallen Soviet Empire, against who, Pakistan introduced the ideology of strategic depth and remained a staunch ally of the U.S.-led West and Saudi-Zionist included alliance. Last year too witnessed high-level foreign visits between Russia and Pakistan. Now, it comes quite clear that U.S.-led West and their Saudi-Zionist included alliance is engaged in upgraded phase of covert actions on the issue of Ukraine, remnants of model military dictator General Zia u Haq, have intensified their negative , immoral and illegal efforts, to protect their strategic efforts, may be this time, they argue they need them, in occupied Kashmir.    
Whatever their empty and hollow arguments, so-called strategic assets, had never been assets but they had been liabilities since the day one. Pakistan failed to win all wars in which these “assets” were frontline allies.  Neither their unschooled illiterate Mulla Omar nor semi-illiterate other clerics could win any guerilla war on their own. They brought humiliating defeat even at Kargil for entire Pakistani nation. Architects of strategic policy should not waste time on oft-repeated anti-people, inhumane policy of strategic assets in which ferocious butchers of human flesh always made historic records, one after one. Nation knows they are not 10% now but nearly cent percent, but the question and demand has become an acid test of sincerity of behind-the-scene-real-rulers of Pakistan if 10 percent of the said Deobandi-takfiri seminaries and their clerics are crushed.    

Pakistan - Blaming the 'other'

By Saima Baig 

Keeping with the tradition in Pakistan, whereby each time after a terrorist attack or any tragic event, fingers are pointed against someone else, this time again the blame was laid squarely at the door of others.
The hero was Amir Liaquat who invited on his show a panel of bigots, at least two of whom openly blamed people from the Ahmadiyya community for the Peshawar attack. Mr Liaquat also blamed India, which is of course our favourite pastime, second only to ensuring that Pakistan remains overpopulated.
As Jibran Nasir initiated a movement to call out Mullah Aziz for not condemning the taliban, Orya Maqbool Jan and the esteemed people of Lal Masjid, started a campaign to bully him into shutting up, by calling him an Ahmadi or a Hindu.
It should not have come as a surprise that some so called ulema blamed the Ahmadis. It was not even surprising that Amir Liaquat did not stop them. After all he has become famous due to precisely this kind of bigotry.
I was however surprised to see the audience who nodded sagely and applauded enthusiastically, at words that could not be termed anything other than hate speech. I was also surprised that calling someone an Ahmadi is considered worse than being a terrorist.
I shouldn't have been though. This is our general mindset: Muslims could never do such horrible acts. And the kuffar, who do not have the morality do them left right and center. This is what the majority of Pakistani populace believes, whether they are conservative Muslims, Islamists or even moderates. And some people have made careers out of it.
I should not have been surprised because I know that this mindset is inculcated from a very young age in Pakistan. The madrassa is the main site of such ignorance, but they are not alone. Our whole education system also promotes this. We even have to sign an affidavit saying that Ahmadis are non-muslims when renewing our passports. I have felt extreme guilt every time I have had to do that. And we all know how freely we use the charges of blasphemy.
Why should it matter who they are? Why is it the governments or anyone else's prerogative to call someone non-Muslim. And even if they are, why is it necessary to blame them for everything?  It's because we must! The 'other' is always to blame.
We must maintain that our moral code is better than everyone else's otherwise how can we show our superiority? And we do this by collectively calling someone kafir; thus giving ourselves the right to persecute or even kill them. We do this by protesting for a while when someone spouts hate speech and then moving on.
The time has come to get rid of this collective ignorance that Pakistanis wear as a badge of honour. And that will need to be done from two ends. While I cheer all those who are calling for such hatemongers to be held accountable, I also insist that we need to get to the root of the problem, which is taught in our madrassas and our schools and that which is spoken of in our media.
It is all very well to say that anyone who spouts such hate speech should be stopped, but why not also say that such expressions should be eliminated from our national psyche? And to do that we must start at the source of the problem.
It is such ideas and beliefs, which we teach our children that lead to inhumane actions. When we plant the ideology of 'us and them', it will lead to someone deciding that 'they' must be punished for some crime or the other. We must accept this truth because if we do not, we will not see an end to such mindless persecution. And if we continue to blame the "other" we will have lost the last vestiges of our humanity.

Surprise Change in Policy: Hate Material Seized From Shops In Quetta

In a move that hints towards change in policy of government, security forces in Quetta launched a crackdown against the shops that were selling hate material, on Saturday.
Crackdown was jointly carried out by Police, Levies and Frontier Corp (FC) with the help of information provided by intelligence agencies.
According to security officials, at least 40 shopkeepers were arrested during the raids who are being interrogated.
According to media sources, the hate material belonged to TTP and other militant organizations.
Furthermore, the crackdown was expanded into 15 districts of Balochistan by security forces. At least 100, shopkeepers were detained in those districts and they are being questioned for any links with militant organizations.
“This crackdown is insufficient to prove the resolve of government in fighting militancy,” said an analyst. “Confiscating hate literature will be meaningless if the leaders of sectarian outfits are allowed to roam freely in Balochistan,” added the analyst.

Safekeeping: Security for VIPs costs K-P a whopping Rs278.9m per year

While many in the general public evade regular militant bombings and assaults mostly by sheer luck, politicians have a helping hand. Around 653 security personnel guard more than 250 VIPs in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) at an estimated cost of Rs278.9 million every year.
According to details submitted in the provincial assembly by the Home and Tribal Affairs department, a total of 653 security officials have been assigned to 273 politicians, MNAs, MPAs, senators and other VIPs in K-P. This costs the provincial kitty up to Rs22.23 million per month.
The document, which was submitted in response to a question raised by JUI-F lawmaker from Hangu, Mufti Syed Janan, shows that federal minister and former K-P chief minister Akram Khan Durrani has the highest number of personnel deployed for his security. As many as 35 official guards have been assigned to the minister whose security costs an estimated Rs7.96 million annually.
Incidentally, the politician with the second-highest deployment is also from Durrani’s party. JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has a security detail of 33 personnel costing the provincial exchequer Rs10 million a year. Similarly, K-P Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser’s security entourage of 22 security officials costs around Rs8 million.
Keeping K-P’s lawmakers safe
Provincial ministers for education and agriculture Atif Khan and Akramullah Gandapur have eight and 11 guards each at an estimated cost of more than Rs2.8 million and Rs3.1 million, respectively.
Likewise, PTI MPA from Swat Dr Haider Ali Khan has nine security guards and their cost amounts to over Rs2 million, while another PTI MPA Ayub Khan has 11 guards costing Rs2.2 million. Adviser to the Chief Minister Amjad Afridi’s security detail comprises seven guards and costs Rs2.2 million per year, while excise minister Mian Jamsheduddin also has seven guards which drain Rs1.3 million from the provincial kitty.
Not far behind, ANP lawmaker Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour has eight guards that cost Rs3.2 million, QWP parliamentary leader Sikandar Sherpao’s 16-man security team costs the government Rs6.6 million, while ANP Senator Abdul Nabi Bangash’s seven guards cost Rs2.2 million.
MPA from Mardan Jamshed Mohmand has been provided eight security guards and it costs the government over Rs2.8 million. Incidentally, JI chief Sirajul Haq has only three people deployed for security which drains Rs1 million from the kitty per year.
Other bigwigs
MNA and former K-P chief minister Amir Haider Hoti’s security retinue of 12 personnel costs Rs4.6 million, while prime minister’s adviser Amir Muqam’s 12 guards cost more than Rs3.5 million a year. ANP secretary general and former K-P information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain’s security detail comprises 10 persons and costs the province about Rs3.5 million.
Similarly, Peshawar High Court’s former chief justice Ibne Ali’s security costs Rs2.2 million; he has 13 guards in his posse. The Afghan and Iranian consul generals in Peshawar have also been provided security by the provincial government. They both have six guards each, costing Rs2.1 and Rs2.8 million, respectively.
ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan’s security detail comprises seven personnel, costing over Rs4.5 million.
Whither austerity measures?
Speaking to The Express Tribune, JUI-F MPA Janan who sought the details said enhanced security was to some extent a result of the deteriorating law and order. However, he lashed out at PTI chief Imran Khan for not following his own mantra of austerity. “Imran Khan makes tall claims in the media to have eliminated VIP culture from K-P, but in reality provincial ministers and lawmakers are enjoying protocols that are burdening the province with millions,” said Janan.

Pakistan - Dust In Our Eyes

The past few weeks have seen a strong narrative being built against terrorism; from the top military and civilian brass to the civil society, people have come out to express their unwavering resolve to tackle terrorists, their support structures and apologists. The state has made some headway on the first count, although it still has difficulty defining the word terrorist. Yet, what about the terms ‘support structures’ and ‘apologist?’ how do we define such terms? How do we proceed to tackle them?
The starting point for the first term would be to tackle madrassas and seminaries; institutes which are significant in creating brainwashed, radicalised and isolated students, following a one-track path to religious fundamentalism that has no place in the modern world. Qari Muhammad Hanif Jalandhari, the general secretary of both Ittehad-i-Tanzeemat-i-Madaris-i-Deenia (ITMD), an umbrella organisation of five main bodies representing seminaries from different schools of thought, and of Wafaq ul Madaris Al-Arabia, the organisation representing the seminaries of the Deobandi school of thought, on Thursday has come out vehemently defending the seminaries by quite simply negating that any link exists between seminaries and terrorism. Jalandhari demanded evidence from the state to prove that the two are related, while writing off the criticism of seminaries as propaganda campaigns by the West. While declaring the Peshawar Massacre a tragedy and offering support in action against institutes behind it, he threateningly – and ironically – said that any action against the wishes of ITMD will not be accepted.
Of course, this is hardly surprising. In his role, this is all he can do; the Madrassah system is, amongst other things, an enormous financial network with the stakes of many powerful men vested in their continuation. The state will have to deal with a lot more than the wrath of Jalhandhari if it truly wishes to dismantle the seminary system for good. This brings us to another problem; the problem of alternatives. As it stands, the state has been consistently unable to provide a counter-method of reasonable literacy or a counter narrative to its people. Madrassahs don’t only encourage fundamentalism, they also usually provide free meals to their students as well as shelter. Perhaps this is the most important point of all. It is one thing for the state and its technocrats to draw ideological links between madrassahs and violence, but there is another link almost as simple, between madrassahs and poverty. And between poverty and extremism.
As long as the state does not address that crucial link, and does not accept responsibility for its failure to provide alternative ways of life to the people enrolled in seminaries, it will remain the greatest apologist of all.

Pakistan - Former president Asif Ali Zardari helps bring about consensus

Former president and PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari emerged as the ruling party’s main benefactor on Friday. Indeed, it was he who tipped the scales in the PML-N’s favour by endorsing the demand to set up military courts by amending the constitution and ending debate on the subject.
Mr Zardari’s support for the amendment is doubly significant, because it means that the PPP, which effectively controls the Senate with 41 out of 104 seats, will not block passage of the amendment in the upper house.
According to a participant of the All-Party Conference held on Friday, the PPP co-chairman played his cards well by first allowing his party’s legal eagles to criticise the bill for calling for a constitutional amendment, then ended up acting as a patriot who gave his consent in the ‘greater national interest’.
Soon after the meeting formally opened, PPP senators Farooq Naek and Aitzaz Ahsan tore into the amendment bill. For Mr Ahsan, the proposed amendment was an anathema to established democratic norms and would therefore not be accepted by the legal fraternity. He warned all those present of a possible adverse reaction from the bar councils.
The leader of the opposition in the Senate, Mr Ahsan also reiterated his earlier stand that the required objective of establishing military courts could be achieved through changes in the Pakistan Army Act (PAA) of 1952.
Senator Naek, on the other hand, told those in attendance how, in the past, similar measures were used against politicians. “If something unusual happens tomorrow, as the country has witnessed in the past, the proposed law will remain active and can be used against politicians,” Mr Naek was quoted as saying.
However, defending the measure, Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt and Barrister Farogh Naseem of the MQM said that without constitutional cover, merely changing the PAA will not serve the purpose and could be struck down in no time.
The argument of both legal experts centred on the possibility that the proposed amendment may be challenged in the superior courts. Mr Butt said that because of existing Supreme Court judgments against military courts, changes in the PAA would not be able to withstand legal wrangling. For Mr Naseem, “If we all believe the country is facing unprecedented circumstances, there is no other option but to accept the constitutional amendment for two years.”
The first part of the over five-hour-long meeting was consumed by arguments over the legalities of the proposed amendment, whereas politicians gave their input later. However, after Mr Zardari said “we should carry on deliberating until the issue is resolved”, nobody from PPP said a word of opposition.
According to a participant, Mr Zardari said these were difficult times and all parties had to come together to take measures that the PPP had opposed in the past, simply to ensure the terrorists’ defeat.
The JUI-F chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, also expressed concern over “repeated usage” of the national action plan against religious extremism, saying: “It seems that the entire consensus is being built against madressahs.” The Maulana also sought assurances that the proposed changes in the constitution wouldn’t be used to target religious parties.
PML-Q leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Senator Mushahid Hussain, in reaction to prolonged discussion among the lawyers—both for and against the amendment—said the meeting room was not a courtroom to decide legal issues. “If the entire political leadership is on the same page, there is nothing wrong with the proposed changes in the constitution,” Mr Hussain was quoted as saying.
Talking to Dawn, PTI leader Shafqat Mehmood said his party had supported the establishment of military courts to drive out terrorists from the country, but had opposed any changes in the Constitution. “The PTI was for the changes in the PAA as the party believed the desired results could be achieved that way.” However, having seen a broad agreement among all political parties over the bill for changes in the constitution, “we were left with no choice but to stand with everybody else”.