Sunday, June 26, 2016

Pakistan has failed when it comes to trade with China

Pakistan has been unable to fully tap and utilise the concessions granted by China under the China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement (CPFTA) and only used 3.3% of the total tariff lines, said a review of the first phase of CPFTA.
According to official sources, the Ministry of Commerce is reviewing the first phase of the CPFTA, which revealed that Pakistan could only export in 253 tariff lines out of the total 7550, where average export value was $500.
“Pakistan mainly exported raw materials and intermediate products such as cotton yarn, woven fabric and grey fabric while value-added products were completely missing,” they said. “This is why Pakistan has not benefitted from the CPFTA. Some of the value-added products like garments are included in the concessionary regime.”
The officials said that Pakistan shared its concern regarding the insufficient utilisation of concession and competition faced by the local industries due to cheap imports from China. They said it was agreed that the tariff reduction modalities of the second phase would be designed in a way to accommodate all the genuine concerns of both countries adequately.
Pakistan and China are already negotiating for the second phase of Pak-China FTA since 2011, however, Minister for Commerce Khurram Dastgir recently said that the negotiations had been halted as Pakistani businessmen were protectionists and Chinese wanted more liberalisation.
The CPFTA on trade in goods was signed on November 24 2006 and implemented on July 7, 2007. The FTA on trade in services was signed on February 21, 2009 and in operational since October 10, 2009.
Under the Trade and Service Agreement, Pakistan will open the first banking channel of Habib Bank Limited in China by the end of this year and the Chinese authorities have already given the approval by relaxing the reserve limit from $20 billion to $15 billion.
Bilateral trade volume, which amounted to $4 billion in 2006-7, reached an all-time at $12 billion in 2014-15. Pakistan’s exports jumped to $2.1 billion in 2014-15 from $575 million in 2006-07. Correspondingly, China’s exports to Pakistan increased to $10.1 billion in 2014-15 from $3.5 billion in 2006-07.
Pakistan’s major exports to China are cotton yarn/fabric, rice, raw hides and skins, crude vegetable material, chemical material, fish and fish preparations and crude mineral. Major imports from China are machinery (all sorts) and its parts, fertiliser manufactured, chemical element, yarn and thread of synthetic fibre, iron and steels, chemical material and product, vegetable and synthetic textile fibre, road vehicles and their parts, non-ferrous metals, tyres and tubes of rubber.

Another assassination in Pakistan, new determination to 'keep on keepin' on'

By Beena Sarwar
“They’ve shot dead Amjad Sabri” — the first words I heard on Wednesday morning marked news of yet another assassination in my beloved Karachi, still “home” despite living in the Boston area since 2011.
Sabri was one of the world’s most famous exponents of the devotional music known as Qawwali. On Wednesday, two gunmen intercepted his car and shot him dead at close range in the crowded locality near his house.
At a television studio nearby, another devotional singer, young Farhan Ali Waris, was waiting for Sabri to join him for a recording when he heard the news. As he headed home, his armed guards fired at assailants targeting their car. Waris escaped unhurt.
Sabri’s murder appears to be a continuation of the trend of killing Shia and Ahmadi doctors for their faith. But the list of those targeted in Pakistan is a long one, not restricted to Ahmadis, a sect that Pakistan’s parliament declared as non-Muslim in a Constitutional amendment in 1974, or Shias, considered as apostates by the extremist militants who have been on a killing spree in the country particularly over the last few years.
Actually it’s anyone they consider deviant or a threat to their extremist ideology in some way. Militants have also targeted Christians, Hindus, civilians at bazaars, hospital emergency rooms, universities, schools, mosques, funerals and of course "liberals," as my old friend Quatrina Hosein, a former newspaper editor based in Islamabad commented in a Facebook post.
I asked if I could quote her and her response was chilling: “It doesn’t matter. I know I will be killed in this war.”
In her post, Quatrina asked when Pakistan will “face the reality that extremism is woven into the fabric of our existence? Are you as shocked when an Ahmedi doctor is killed, as you were when 150 children were massacred in school? Do you grieve by numbers or by identities? Why do you buy into crap like Malala was a foreign agent? Wake up! The killers are extremist Sunnis.
"They want their brand of Islam at gunpoint, bombpoint, acidpoint. Stop absorbing the shocks. Each death is a virus that enters the body. It mutates. Its indigenous. Ours. It's killing us from within while we run around moaning ‘this is not Islam.’ Each and every person who doesn’t buy their brand is a target. Each and every one. We have let it reach this point because we have been digesting the poison a little bit every day.
"‘Won’t happen to me’ mentality got us here. News alert: Your body is now toxic. The only difference is level of immunity.”
I totally agree with her. In fact, the title of a report I wrote a couple of years ago on the target killing of Ahmedis was: Poison in the body politic, published in The News on Sunday (the weekly paper I started that I consider my first baby).
It is not surprising that musicians are being targeted. There have been other such killings in the past also, of folk and women singers in cities in northwest Pakistan closer to the Afghanistan border, a conflict area.
But Amjad Sabri was not just a "musician" and he was killed not in a small town in the war zone but in bustling Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, its business center and major seaport.
Another angle to this murder is the lack of rule of law and what happens when law enforcement agencies’ “energies are focused on political victimization instead of going after hard core criminals,” as another journalist friend Afia Salam in Karachi says.
Sabri was one of the most famous of Pakistan’s qawwals, exponent of a genre the extremist Saudi-inspired Wahabi mentality terms Qawwali as “haram” or forbidden by Islam. The mentality is typified by “fasadis‬,” creators of discord, to use a more accurate term for the criminals who call themselves “jihadis” or Islamic holy warriors.
It was a journalist friend in Delhi, an observing Muslim indignant at the hijacking of Islam, who suggested this term — let’s use fasadi instead of jihadi when referring to these groups that murder innocents and engage in violence in the name of Islam.
Not surprisingly, the Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for Sabri’s murder.
Sabri was one of the most visible and popular symbols of the Qawwali — part of the uniquely South Asian syncretic Sufi culture through which Islam spread in the region. This form of devotional music transcends religion and touches hearts belonging to all faiths — see this video of a Hebrew Qawwali in praise of Ali, the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson, at an Israel Sufi festival. 
At its best, Qawwali in any language is uplifting, inspiring, transformative.
“Tragic days for the world … a woman murdered here for her humanitarian causes and a man murdered there for his cultural traditions,” comments an old school friend from Karachi, a former classical dancer now working as a psychological counselor in London. “Nothing is sacred and no one is safe.”
“Outraged!!! Artists and creativity are under attack!!! And creativity is as important as literacy! So it’s an attack on education and our culture. Civil society really has to come out against this by celebrating him and our art and culture! In their face! This can’t be taken lying down … media needs to be galvanized and messaging for social inclusion and tolerance needs to be cranked up!” messaged another friend from Karachi who works with a non-profit and is himself an amateur singer devoted particularly to Qawwali.
I can’t help thinking at this time also of another dear friend, Sabeen Mahmud — she loved Qawwali passionately. In April 2015, a young man shot her dead, for her "liberal values," he said later.
At such times, it is all the more critical to keep hopelessness at bay. Despair is not an option.
Amjad Sabri and Sabeen Mahmud are only two of Pakistan’s over 50,000 civilian casualties of this war. The casualties include another 10,000 members of the armed forces. The love, inclusion and tolerance they personified rises above the hatred and violence of the fasadis.
It's an ongoing battle.
We just have to, as my friend the anti-nuclear activist Joseph Gerson in Boston says, "keep on keepin’ on.”

Bilawal Bhutto hints at street agitation against Nawaz

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has hinted at launching street agitation against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, should the government kept dilly-dallying on the terms of reference or the formation of probe commission to find out the truth about Panama Leaks.
During a meeting with the party’s opposition leader in the National Assembly and chief whip, Syed Khursheed Shah, at Bilawal House here Saturday, he made it clear that Nawaz Sharif will have to answer questions about his family’s involvement in allegations of money laundering, tax evasion and money transfers abroad.
Bilawal said, the PPP wanted across the board accountability, including of the Prime Minister. No one will be allowed to go scot free for white collar crime or corruption charges until he or she proved him or herself innocent of the charges against him or her, “he said. Bilawal- Khurshid shah meeting on Saturday dispels the rumours that the two leaders had different stance on Panama issue or that Khursheed Shah was soft on Nawaz Sharif.
Meanwhile, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah called on PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari at Bilawal House and briefed him about the law and order situation and the provincial budget on Saturday.
Bilawal Bhutto, on the occasion, stressed that law and order situation should be the first priority of the government and any loopholes in the security of the citizens may be plugged and police and other law enforcing agencies may be put into more vigilant gear to stop the terrorists and other criminal elements to harm the society.
He said that war against terrorism was going on all over the country thus incident of terrorism in Karachi including the killing of renowned Qawwal Amjad Sabri and kidnapping of Awais Shah were not mere a law and order issue.
Speaking on this occasion, Shah said that adequate resources are being provided for maintenance of law and order and operation against terrorism being funded from the provincial resources.
Qaim Ali Shah said that lack of cooperation in the fields of finances and law enforcing was causing difficulties for the provincial government to cope the situation but pledged that PPP government in Sindh would try its best to pool all its resources to defeat terrorism and their sponsors with the cooperation of law enforcing machines.

Pakistan: Asif Zardari dismayed over allocation of public funds to a privately owned seminary close to militant Taliban

 Former President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed concern and dismay over the allocation of 300 million rupees out of public funds to a privately owned seminary in Nowshera known for its links with militant Taliban.
This is nothing but legitimization of militancy and militant Taliban that will undermine the nation’s resolve to fight militants to the finish, he said in a statement today.
Spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the former President was deeply concerned over the use of public funds for legitimizing a private seminary known for promoting private jehad project.
The resources should have been spent on human development instead of on a seminary whose claim to fame lies in its promotion of militant Islam and the world view of Islamic militants.
That it should have happened around the time when a group of the militant Taliban reportedly claimed responsibility for the target killing of Sabri Qawwal in Karachi makes it all the more poignant, he said.
He said that the head of the Darul Uloom Haqqania in Nowshera is an acknowledged sympathizer and undeclared spokesperson of the Taliban.
During the government-TTP talks in 2014 the Taliban actually named the head of the seminary to negotiate on their behalf, he said. It is also widely known that a number of militant Taliban leaders have been students of this seminary.
He said that in the wake of killing of Mullah Mansoor Akhtar in Balochistan recently it appeared that some elements were reviving the jehadi project.
Explaining this, he said that recently conservative religious parties led by a proscribed organization held congregations in Islamabad protesting mansoor’s death. Now a privately owned pro-Taliban madrassah has been given 300 million..
Although the National Action Plan calls for disallowing banned outfits from resurrecting yet they have resurrected and openly promoting their militant agenda with impunity, he said and asked “is the revival of the jehadi project by design or by default?”

Rotary International Delegation called on the Rotary Ambassador for Pakistan Aseefa Bhutto

Rotary International Delegation called on the Rotary Ambassador for Pakistan Aseefa Bhutto Zardari and apprised her about the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and role of various stake-holders in it here on Sunday at Bilawal House.
On this occasion Rotary International Chairman, Polio plus Committee vice Chair the Rotary Foundation Michael Mc Govern, Ms. Carol Pandak, and Ms. Judith Diment and National Chair of Rotary International Aziz Memon ،Sindh government’s representatives Shahnaz Wazir Ali, Ahmed Bux Narejo (Secretary Health), Agha Ashfaq Khan (Project Director EPI, Health Department) were also present.
Talking to the delegation, Aseefa Bhutto Zardari stressed that all the stake-holders should join hands to make Pakistan a polio free and healthier nation.
The delegation was briefed that globally 18 new Polio cases have been confirmed from two endemic countries, 12 cases from Pakistan and 6 from Afghanistan. In the Sindh province of Pakistan, 4 cases have emerged in 2016; two from Shikarpur, one from Jacobabad and one from Karachi, while seven cases have been confirmed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and one case in Balochistan.
Aseefa Bhutto Zardari appreciated the role of Rotary International and welcomed its cooperation in the worldwide campaign against polio virus.
She also said that strong partnership between Rotary and Pakistan can succeed in polio eradication and “A healthier Pakistan is in the best interest of not only one but of all the political parties of the country”.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto speech on 63rd birth anniversary of Benazir Bhutto

Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari's speech on... by PPPOfficial

A Tribute to Benazir Bhutto

Wajid Shamsul Hasan

“Our suffering and pain has been enormous. One day the season will change and the tide will turn and Inshallah it will be soon,” were Benazir Bhutto’s words on her 50th birthday in 2003. It took almost five years for season to change and the tide to turn but Bibi had to give her blood for it. She knew hounds were after her and “something terrible was waiting for her” and yet she returned to Pakistan.
“My people are waiting for me to free them from dictatorship”
“You could still lead them from London or Dubai,” I suggested.
Her response was a firm NO. “They will feel let down” and then she added, “Come, come Wajid Bhai, don’t you think it is better to die for the cause you have lived and struggled all your life for rather than be run over by a double-decker crossing the road”. Indeed, like father like daughter.
Until then and 2007 President General Pervez Musharraf had absolute power backed to the hilt by his foreign masters. He saw in her return to Pakistan an end to his rule and return of democracy. As such he was determined not to let her come back. He would not, at any cost, let her participate in elections whenever held. Obviously he knew the moment she would announce her return home, it would usher in dynamics of change and sound a death knell to his dictatorship.
Bhutto’s was a non-negotiable commitment with the people –to return to Pakistan, to fight to her last—to uproot dictatorship to usher in democracy and to scotch the hydra-headed threat to Pakistan’s existence posed by growing terrorism, sectarianism and bigotry. Long dictatorial rules one after the other, had inflicted enormous domestic problems on Pakistan and its people. She was also conscious of multifaceted external issues that were sure to have serious consequences for Pakistan and rest of the world too as are being now manifested in its regional and global ramifications.
She had believed that democracy was never really given a chance to grow or nurture by the powerful establishment that had directly ruled the country for over 30 years and rest of the time pulled the strings from behind the façade of democracy to make the government of the day dance to martial music. Indeed, Pakistan continues to reap the bitter harvest until today, of the seeds sowed by General Ziaul Haq and General Pervez Musharraf.
The results of long suppression of democracy have had profound institutional consequences. Parliament is there but a non-serious government has made it almost dysfunctional. The present government instead of further consolidating a vendetta-free democratic culture of tolerance left as a legacy by the previous Zardari government has been creating an atmosphere justifiable for extra-constitutional intervention. It was Parliament that protected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif when his chips were absolutely down during the Dharnas of 2014.
I had forecast that the battle of ToRs over Panama Gate scandal would end in an exercise in futility. It seems imminent that the matter would go to the street and it would, advertently or inadvertently, prove to be fatalistic for the system or gravely undermine it. Political parties and their leaders are already demonised. Most deplorable is the case of Dr Asim Hussain who is being apparently made to sing. May be a time would come when he would be forced to claim that he robbed Somnath’s temple.
Analysts believe that all the happenings in and around would make be a happier occasion than October 12, 1999 when people had distributed good riddance sweets. The on-going politicking by unidentified spooks for undermining the political parties, creation of splinter groups—are from the book of standard procedures for change in civilian government readily available in Aabpara.
GPM sought to strengthen himself on the crutches of religious parties and by running with the American hares and hunting with the Taliban hounds. It was the perseverance of Bhutto and her sacrifice in blood that made elections inevitable early 2008 that paved the way for democratic change and GPM’s ignominious exit.
Unfortunately, democracy has remained on roller coaster mould and it has not happened the way she had wished for. While the establishment played wily games as usual from behind the scene as manifested in Memogate conspiracy, the then Supreme Court Chief Justice, kicked out by GPM, restored by PPP government—had his own agenda or personal scores to settle in destabilising the fragile democratic dispensation to keep it for five years on tenterhooks.
The decision by ex-president Zardari to sustain Benazir Bhutto’s vision in Charter of Democracy as a panacea to political ills and his historic decision to further empower the provinces through 18th Amendment, have weakened the overbearing existence of the Centre and the powerful establishment. Despite the fact that machinations are on to strike back at 18th amendment by both Takhte Lahore and Takhte Rawalpindi—emergence of yet another centre of power is indeed landmark achievement in consolidating the federal structure with maximum autonomy to the provinces.
While poor people in the country wish Bhutto were alive today to solve their multifaceted problems inflicting their lives—be it high prices, perpetual load-shedding, deterioration in law-and-order, galloping unemployment—the most to long for her are women, children and minorities. Overly abused women and oppressed minorities—would have found her standing with them against male chauvinism and oppressive bigotry of the religious extremists who continue to bask under the overt and covert patronage of the government and the establishment.
As a tribute to her on the occasion of her birth anniversary, PPP leadership must get down to stock taking of its pluses and minuses. It must realise that the odds it faces today are extremely onerous. With Benazir Bhutto not around, to surmount them would be challenging. It would require extra ordinary effort and rare qualities of leadership. It must understand that the present government and the establishment--though sleeping in different beds, have the same dream to decimate PPP further as a political force.
Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto and PPP President Asif Zardari must have a common strategy to address immediately problems of the abused women, children and minorities. The number of women burnt to death recently in Punjab is alarming, sexual abuse of children, rape of girls and victimisation of minorities—are multiplying. And the irony of horrid scenario is that neither the Punjab government is bothered nor is the Federal Interior Minister—remotely concerned.
It was a cherished dream of Benazir Bhutto to revert Pakistan to its founder Quaid-e-Azam Mohamed Ali Jinnah’s vision of a secular, liberal and progressive country and to SZAB’s egalitarian society. Being a young man Bilawal would do well in returning PPP to its original left-of-the-centre ideological moorings. Success at that would be the best tribute to the memories of the departed leaders.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Pashto Music - Sardar Ali Takkar سم قامت دوست محمد کامل

Pakistan - Kalash teenager's Forced conversion - A tale of bigotry

Not without reason is Pakistan considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world for minorities. Hidden underneath the more publicised and shocking incidents of massacres and mob lynchings are incidents of ordinary bigotry. A general sense of superiority and entitlement in the majority, discrimination in educational institutions and workplaces are so common that they by their very prevalence have gained a high degree of acceptance. This low-level bigotry keeps intercommunity tensions simmering constantly and all it takes is one spark for the situation to boil over and turn into yet another massacre, burning or lynching. The Kalash people of Chitral, a tiny minority of a few thousand individuals, have become the most recent victims of mob mentality that took over their Muslim neighbours due to a single but crucially important incident.
On June 16, a teenage Kalash girl, who had recently converted to Islam and moved in with a Muslim family, returned home, stating that she was forced to convert to Islam. However, it was assumed by the local Muslim community that she had been taken back by force. A clash resulted when a large group of Muslims gathered around the home of a neighbour where the girl was present. The local police eventually intervened in order to disperse the crowd and prevent bloodshed. A clear message has been sent to the Kalash community and other minorities in this country: forced conversion is a one-way street and there is no going back. As they slowly dwindle in numbers by moving to safe havens abroad or merging with the majority either by choice or by force, our religious minorities continue to be made to feel increasingly isolated and unsafe. From the law enforcement agencies that are slow to take action against religiously-motivated hate crimes, to clerics who are quick to call for action against ‘blasphemers’ and a public that is at best indifferent to the suffering in their midst, there appears to be little recourse available to our minorities when made to suffer indignities such as the one witnessed in the Chitral incident.

Tension in Pakistan town over conversion of Kalasha girl to Islam

The conversion to Islam of a 14-year-old girl from Kalasha community, Pakistan’s smallest religious minority, has sparked clashes between majority Muslims and a few thousand remaining members of the animist tribe.
Nestled in the picturesque Chitral valley, the Kalasha people, who follow an ancient animistic religion and number only around 3,000, had claimed that the teenage girl was lured to convert to Islam.
However, a district official on Friday said that the girl has recorded her statement before the court that she converted out of her own free will.
On Thursday, clashes were reported between Muslims and the Kalasha people after the girl returned back to her family amid reports that she was lured and coerced to convert to Islam.
According to eye witnesses, a mob of few hundred Muslim men attacked a house in the Kalash tribe’s valley of Bumburate in the northern district of Chitral after the girl returned and police had to fire tear gas to disperse the crowd.
Chitral Deputy Commissioner Usama Waraich said that the situation was now under control and the issue has been resolved as both local Muslims and Kalasha people have agreed to respect the girl’s decision.
However, some elders of the Kalasha community still claim that the girl was forcefully converted and demand an impartial probe into the matter.

Pakistan - Consul General of the United States in Karachi Brian Heath called on Bilawal Bhutto

Consul General of the United States in Karachi Brian Heath called on Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party at Bilawal House today.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and the US Consul General exchanged views on matters of mutual interests and discussed the cordial relations between two countries.

Pakistan’s major foreign policy challenge

By Dr Qaisar Rashid

Pakistan seems to have taken to heart the grievances reflecting reduction in its perceived size regionally and internationally

In 2016, the major foreign policy challenge Pakistan is beset with is reduction in its conceptual size, both regionally and internationally. The challenge is emanating from certain grievances that can be divided into three parts. The first part is against India, the second part against the US and the third part against the world.
Against India, Pakistan’s first grievance is that India is overplaying the terrorism card, as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi did on June 8 while addressing the US Congress, and by doing so India has superimposed the issue of Mumbai attacks that took place in 2008 — blamed on non-state actors of Pakistan — on the issue of Kashmir lingering on since 1947. Second, India has made a deliberate attempt to counterbalance the port of Gwadar strategically by helping Iran financially develop its port of Chabahar, also located in the Gulf of Oman. Third, India has penetrated Afghanistan’s economy at the expense of Pakistan by investing in Afghanistan’s reconstruction. Fourth, on May 15, India has tipped the regional balance of ballistic-missile power in its favour by successfully test-firing its anti-ballistic missile in the Indian Ocean. Collectively, India has made efforts to dwarf Pakistan regionally, and it has been encircling Pakistan from the southwest.
Against the US, Pakistan’s first grievance is that the US does not respect Pakistan’s sovereignty, and misses no chance to violate it, especially by resorting to drone strikes. Second, the US has not yet appreciated the sacrifices given by Pakistan’s soldiers, officers and civilians in making the military operation Zarb-e-Azb against the Taliban as part of war on terror successful. Third, by killing the head of the Afghan Taliban Mullah Akhtar Mansur in Balochistan on May 21, the US has sabotaged Pakistan’s efforts to promote peace talks between the Afghan Taliban — many of whom have taken refuge in Pakistan — and the Kabul government, sponsored by the world. Fourth, the US deliberately avoids drone strikes on the head of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Mullah Fazalullah who has sought refuge in Afghanistan, and who controls the hordes of terrorists wreaking havoc on Pakistan. Fifth, the US has disturbed the balance of power in South Asia by offering defence cooperation facility to India. Sixth, the US has supported India in the nuclear sphere and not Pakistan. Collectively, the US has enhanced the vulnerability of Pakistan.
Against the world, Pakistan’s first grievance is that the world values Pakistan’s relevance in the region just in the context of Afghanistan. Second, the world has not yet sympathised with Pakistan on the discovery of Kulbhushan Yadav, a serving Indian naval officer, caught in March in Balochistan on spying charges. Collectively, the world has left Pakistan on its own.
The package of these salient grievances poses a major foreign policy challenge to Pakistan. The thread common in these grievances is that these are related more to the military half than the diplomatic or civilian half of Pakistan. The military half seems to have overwhelmed the diplomatic half as far as Pakistan’s foreign policy and the ensuing challenges are concerned. To put it straight, either the foreign office is irrelevant or it is dysfunctional. It is apparent that Pakistan seems to have taken to heart the grievances reflecting reduction in its perceived size regionally and internationally. The worst side of the argument is that, in response to these grievances, Pakistan is in the process of imposing isolation on itself, instead of reaching out to India, the US and the world. These grievances seem to have exhausted the nerves of Pakistan, which has now taken refuge in the lap of China.
In response to the drone strike of May 21, on June 9, China had to ask the “international community to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The statement exuding solemn intent issued by China is replete with six serious implications. First, Pakistan is not an independent country that has to bank on external help to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Second, after more than 60 years of its formation, Pakistan has not reached the stage of maturity from where it can make other countries — whether they be India or the US — listen to it. Third, Pakistan’s relations with the US are now onward less bilateral and more multilateral subject to China’s approval. Fourth, in case of the next drone strike or any interference from across the Afghanistan border — or any other border — interpreted as the violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity would be tantamount to provoking China directly into the consequent attrition or confrontation. Fifth, Pakistan has brought China to counter the US and its international allies in the region. Sixth, Pakistan is no more tolerant to the war on terror spearheaded by the US and backed by the world at large. This is a very serious turn of events.
In principle, Pakistan should not have asked China to issue such a statement, or China should not have jumped into the foray, as this was a hide-and-seek game going on for the past 12 years — exposing often the complicity of Pakistanis despite all hue and cry — and was taking the last breath. Afghanistan is a complex war theatre, and the Pak-Afghan border is quite intriguing to understand and equally difficult to predict. Whereas the statement foists permanence, the ground situation is in a state of flux. On June 11, a 14-minute audiotape of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri has surfaced online pledging allegiance to the new leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Haibat ullah. It means that al-Zawahri is alive and can be found sooner or later. On June 12, Pakistan and Afghanistan exchanged fire at Torkham border. Hence, today, Pakistan’s major foreign policy challenge is how to avoid confrontation with the US and its allies, even if India is excluded from the list of US allies. The civilian half of Pakistan must interfere in this development and make arrangements to retract the statement.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Pakistan - Reversal of NAP?

On December 24, 2014 an All Parties Conference attended by political parties in the government and opposition as well as leadership of the Army had finally approved a 20 points National Action Plan (NAP) to defeat terrorism and extremism in the country. Coming after the massacre of school children in Peshawar on December 16, 2014 the plan enjoyed full and unconditional support from all segments of population of the country. This was supposed to be a milestone in the history of a country that had lived in denial of the existence of terrorism for long years. The plan seemed to be relatively comprehensive and ambitious compared to the half hearted and ad hoc measures adopted in the past. It created hope inside the country and also abroad that finally Pakistan has mustered political will to eliminate the menace of terrorism once and for all and is on the course to become a normal country.
But when it came to implementation it gradually became clear that it was basically more of the same. Apart from taking some partial steps against some individuals and organisations the government and state authorities confined themselves in the war against terror to high rhetoric without any substance. The only clause of NAP implemented with almost unholy haste was amending the Constitution and Army Act to provide for the creation of military courts to try civilians accused of committing terrorist offenses. The state started dragging its feet on implementing all other clauses such as registering and reforming religious seminaries, disallowing proscribed organisations to operate under other names, banning hate speech, acting against terror networks in the Punjab, mainstreaming FATA etc.
Interestingly both civilian and military institutions tried to blame the other for the non-implementation of the NAP. While the civilians could grumble only in private about the deep state’s connections with some notorious terror outfits hindering action against them, the khakis publicly blamed bad governance of civilian, particularly in the Punjab, being responsible for the failure of state’s campaign against terror. Operation Zarb-e-Azb that destroyed terrorist infrastructure in Tochi Vally, North Waristan and pushed most terrorists into Afghanistan for a new fight against the Afghan state, came handy in creating the impression of a continued state campaign against terror despite the non-implementation of NAP.
Then came May 2016. Renowned English poet of the 20th century T S Eliot had dubbed April as the cruelest month due to a number of happenings attributed to at the start of World War I, but for Pakistan May has become such a month. In May 2011 US military helicopters entered Abbotabad in Pakistan and killed OBL before flying back to their basis in Afghanistan. After a deep shock and prolonged paralysis a commission was appointed by a parliamentary resolution to look into those events and pinpoint reasons for the failure of state. The commission took a long time in writing the report but then its contents didn’t see the light of the day as the report was never made public. No lessons learnt. So there is little surprise that we had to relive that history on May 20, 2016 when US drone strike took out Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour. For 24 hours there was complete silence and paralysis of the entire state machinery. After that incoherent noises started emerging in bits and pieces. This time round with military part having upper hand in the affairs of state and civilian government under political siege the question of probe into the whole thing or apportioning of responsibility was not even raised. Violation of sovereignty was the only conclusion drawn and the presence of Afghan Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan were totally ignored. Interestingly the killing of a Taliban leader was also called a disruption of the peace process, totally obfuscating the fact that the slain leader was determined to continue the war till the very end.
But the more ominous development came after that. In a public gathering of all supporters of the “Jihadi” project, the erstwhile Defense of Pakistan Council, a platform for providing support to militant activities in Pakistan and neighbouring countries was revived. Ironically the aforementioned function was hosted by the proscribed organisation JuD. This platform was originally created in 1999 as Defense of Afghanistan Council, as an expression of solidarity with Afghan Taliban, when they had come under increasing international pressure for extraditing OBL from Afghanistan. The participants of the revival ceremony minced no words about their militant designs. It practically means Pakistan is back to square one. It is ready to publicly allow activities that are regarded terrorist activities by the rest of the world (and also banned under Pakistani NAP) but interpreted as a “Jihadi Project” by the extremist circles in the country. It practically represents the reversal of NAP in unambiguous terms. This ominous development has taken place without approval of the parliament or any decision by the federal or provincial cabinets. Even the army convened civil-military huddle at the GHQ took place later. It seems the deep state is not answerable to any one. Question is, how after all these developments, some one from Pakistan can be complaining that the world is not recognising our sacrifices in the war on terror when we ourselves have totally disregarded them? Are we surprised to see the growing international isolation of the country? But instead of putting our own house in order our security establishment is still hiding behind conspiracy theories.
In normal state systems counter intelligence operatives look for enemies, diplomats look for friends and political leadership looks for partners in the world for mutual cooperation. In our case our entire system is geared to look for enemies. Are we surprised to find them in abundance and what are going to do with them? It is hardly a new thing to say that the myopic policy of using terror as instrument of foreign policy is not only counterproductive but disastrous for Pakistan. Is the death of more than 60,000 Pakistanis (absolute majority of them Pashtuns ), millions of IDPs in FATA and Pakhtunkhwa, billions and billions of rupees in material losses and dangerous isolation of the country is not sufficient proof of the bankruptcy of the aforementioned policy? What is the deep state waiting for?

Pakistan's honor Killings - Blood does not cleanse honor


Why does the honor of a man or a family always lie with woman?

What exactly is honor killing?
It is when the offender (93% of the times a woman) has committed such a grievous crime that her family or community can no longer see other people eye to eye. They no longer can show their face in public unless the lost honor has been restored.
The most popular way to reclaim that honor is usually by killing the culprit. Yes, by killing. Apparently murder is an honorable thing do for such people as “blood cleanses honor.”
What are the things that could lead to honor killing?
A few months back, a brother stabbed his sister multiple times and left her to bleed and eventually (and painfully) die on the steps of their house. It took over 2 hours for her to breathe her last, while her brother waited patiently scrolling through his cellphone.  Her crime was that she had spoken to a man on her cellphone. The brother is in jail now, but hey at least he went with his honor restored.
A man killed his wife the night they were married because he was suspicious that she was not a virgin.
A Saudi cleric also killed his daughter in an extremely brutal way a few years ago under the same suspicion. He used wires and an iron rod in violent and sick ways to find out whether she was a virgin or not. She was left with a crushed skull, broken back, broken ribs, broken left arm, burns and bruises so severe, that she fell into into a coma for 4 months, which then led to death.
She was 5 years old.
But hey, at least when he goes to parties (which he does because he is a free man), he can go with both pockets full of intact honor.
A girl eloped with a boy last month because her family refused to let them marry. A group of 13 wise elders (Jirga) sentenced the teenaged girl who had helped them escape to be burnt to death in a car the runaway girl had once sat in.  Both sentences were carried out. They would have probably killed the ones who had run away too had they not been arrested.
Last week a girl who had married someone of her own choice (love marriage) was tricked into coming home by her family. Then her own mother with the help of her son beat her, strangled her, tied her to a cot and lit her on fire. The neighbors heard her screams and tried to save her but were not allowed to enter the home. When asked about her actions, the mother said, “I have no regrets.” Honor is such a strong possession, that it even turns mothers into savages.
Sometimes it is other non-family members who feel they have to restore their honor too. A few weeks ago an 18 year school teacher was beaten, drenched in petrol and then set on fire by 4 men. Why? She had refused a marriage proposal.  How would they face everyone knowing a mere girl had had the audacity to say No!
“All is fair in honor” seems to be their motto. And they do love setting people on fire too.
There were 1,100 reported cases of honor killing in Pakistan alone in the year 2015, and as the CII has given the go ahead that it is okay to beat wives, the number is clearly and steadily rising. Violence is acceptably on the increase against women.
Just yesterday, a member of Pakistani senate Hafiz Hamdullah who is also a religious Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) leader told Marvi Sirmed during a disagreement that she was a “whore” and he would take her and her mother’s pants down. He later on went on to try to assault and punch her as well but was stopped and taken away by security.
Many people took his side including women, who said she was a ‘rude person’ anyway, while others wished that she had in fact received the punches.
No, such violence against women is not restricted to just our country or Saudi Arabia. There are on average a 1,000 honor killings in India as well, and for the same reasons too.
Last week a video went viral where a father and an uncle were stabbing a girl to death for marrying a man they did not approve of. A cow had to rush in for the rescue and attacked the culprits. Some say it was to save her calf, but either ways, even the cow knew that you can’t kill your own blood.
For an HBO TV show a few months back, a journalist asked an Afghani MP about marital rape. His nonchalant reply was simply that maybe he should have her nose cut.
A little 10 year old child was raped by a Mullah in a local mosque after her Quran class. She would have died from the injuries she had sustained due to the horrific rape had it not been for the shelter, “Women for Afghan Women”. Her family however believed that by being raped, she had bought shame to their family and must be killed by drowning her in the river. In spite of this, she was taken from the shelter and handed over to them. The police simply asked them “not to kill her.” Whether she lives or not, it is not known.
Until 1980, a law that allowed honor killing was part of the Italian penal code. It was only taken out after a lot of campaigning. In Brazil, men could be acquitted for murdering their wives up until 1991.
Such laws that promote violence against women seem to be there since time started. It was there in Assyrian law codes dating back to 6000 BCE and even the codes of Hammurabi.
Under Roman law, the head of the family, the father had the power to decide who could live and be put to death in their family. Fathers who failed to punish women who had taken away their honor, were then persecuted instead by their peers. It was the same with the Ching dynasty in China, fathers and husbands alike had the right to kill daughters they deemed to have dishonored them.
Kanun of Lekë Dukagjini or simply Kanun was a legal code in olden Albania which stated that women who committed adultery shamed their families and should be killed (as well as blood revenge.) This was formally recognized as the law of the land until the Second World War. To this date, it still continues in some parts though it is now more related to blood revenge.
Why does the honor of a man or a family always lie with woman?
What does this special woman possess that no one else does? That the mere fact that she spoke to a man violently shakes the walls of purity in the community. The fact that she made the choice to marry a person of her own liking changes all the faces of her family to that of beasts?
In yesterday’s incident, had a man replied back to Hafiz Mandullah on TV, he probably would have continued arguing and then eventually shut up, but as it was a woman who replied to him with a similar tone, his honor fell 80 feet under the ground and he had to retrieve it by hitting her.
They are all mistaken, every time they try to restore their honor with violence, it only sinks even lower. To such a point, where even if they tried to dig themselves out, they would only fall deeper.
It is the not the woman who brings shame, it is the person who murders her, who cuts her nose, who slashes her face, who punishes her violently who has brought shame.
"Blood does not cleanse honor"

Examining Pakistan's 'honor killings' scourge

The recent burning to death of a teenage girl by her own mother has once again turned the spotlight on the issue of so-called "honor killings" in the country. What are the reasons behind the prevalence of this practice?
Pakistan Protest Steinigung einer schwangeren Frau
In the eastern city of Lahore this week, 18-year-old Zeenat Rafiq was doused with kerosene and set ablaze by her mother Parveen Rafiq, because the young girl had defied her family to marry a man she was in love with.
While the case sparked nationwide outrage, such killings are not uncommon in Pakistan. Last year alone, nearly 1,100 women were killed in the country by their relatives for "dishonoring" families and allegedly violating cultural values on love and marriage, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), a non-governmental organization.
The case of Zeenat Rafiq is the latest in a series of such incidents over the past several months. In the Punjab province, a 19-year-old school teacher named Maria Bibi was set on fire last week for refusing to marry a man twice her age.
A month earlier, police arrested 13 members of a local tribal council in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province for allegedly strangling a 17-year-old girl and setting her on fire for helping a friend elope with her lover.
A rise in reporting
"There has been an increase in the reporting of these crimes to police and the media in recent years," says Tahira Abdullah, a Pakistani human rights activist, adding that this is raising awareness in society about the problem.
At the same time, she told DW, the country is becoming increasingly polarized, with moderate forces losing ground and religious extremists having a bigger say in shaping the nation's politics and laws.
Although the nation's parliament passed a law against honor killings in 2004, it has so far been poorly implemented, say critics.
Furthermore, activists point out that even with better implementation, the law itself will not be enough to prevent such crimes. "Laws cannot do much until there's a positive change in society's attitude toward women," Samar Minullah a social activist and filmmaker, told DW.
Nevertheless, there is a need for strengthening the existing law against honor killings, Abdullah stressed, pointing out that at present most of these cases are not pursued in court. This has led to such crimes being committed with impunity, believe rights advocates.
"The state has to become the guardian of the victims in such cases and ensure stringent punishments for the perpetrators," Abdullah said.
Role of media and religious bodies
The activist also blames the nation's media of partly reinforcing anti-women social attitudes, by portraying women as submissive individuals in their television programming. "In their reporting, the media inadvertently often glorifies the killers," she noted.
Abdullah says there also needs to be reporting on positive stories, citing a father who left his village, property and family in order to protect his daughter from being killed in the name of honor. "A message must be sent to society that there is no honor in killing," she underlined.
Minullah also blames the Islamic Republic's religious parties and Muslim scholars for not doing enough to put an end to such killings.
Pakistan's top clerical body, the Council of Islamic Ideology, has taken controversial stances in recent months, saying that a husband should be allowed to "lightly beat" his wife and declaring a women's protection legislation "un-Islamic."
"We don't talk about women's rights in mosques and how important it is to treat women with equal respect. While the latest CII recommendations concern women's rights, no one from the CII or any other religious body has ever come forward and condemned crimes committed against women," Minullah said.
An ongoing struggle
Abdullah admits it is not easy to change societal attitudes toward women in Pakistan. But she and other activists vow to carry on with their struggle to eradicate the violent practice, notwithstanding the fatwas and threats they receive.
Zaman Khan, head of the complaint cell at HRCP, criticizes the nation's government for not prioritizing women's rights, noting its failure to appoint a chairperson for the National Commission on Status of Women - one of the most important government bodies on women rights - for the past six months.
Khan, however, remains optimistic about women's empowerment in the country.
"I believe that ultimately the women will win, there is a very slow and quite revolution taking place in Pakistan; women from all economic backgrounds are coming out and working. When a woman is economically empowered, it is difficult to suppress her."