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."

Pakistan's Islamic council should be abolished for encouraging violence against women, opposition says

The Pakistan government’s official religious council is fuelling violence against women with its misogynistic recommendations and must be immediately abolished, senators warned on Friday.

The unprecedented high-level attack on the influential Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) by opposition leaders came as the husband ofZeenat Rafiq, victim of the country’s latest gruesome “honour killing” in Lahore this week, vowed to bring his wife’s attackers to justice.
Zeenat, 18, was burnt alive after she married Hasan Khan, a motorcycle mechanic, against the wishes of her family. Her mother has been arrested over her death. 
Hasan Khan at his home in Lahore earlier this week 
Hasan Khan at his home in Lahore earlier this week  CREDIT: AP
She is one of hundreds of women killed every year in Pakistan - often by their own family members - for violating the country's conservative norms regarding love and marriage.
Mr Khan told the Telegraph that he would devote the rest of his life fighting for justice for his late wife, whom he had loved since they were both children.
“I demand justice for my wife. This is the aim of my life,” he said.
The CII, a constitutional body which advises on religious law andwomen’s role in society, has been accused of encouraging violence against women with its frequently controversial legal recommendations.
For instance, it has suggested that husbands should be allowed to "lightly" beat their wives if they turn down sex, and that the minimum marriage age be lowered to nine for girls if there are “visible signs of puberty”.
Although non-binding, the CII’s advice remains influential in fiercely conservative Pakistan.
Schoolteacher Maria Sadaqat Abbasi was drenched in petrol and set alight after refusing a marriage proposal
Schoolteacher Maria Sadaqat Abbasi was drenched in petrol and set alight after refusing a marriage proposal
Senate opposition leader Aitzaz Ahsan said on Friday that recommendations made by the CII allowing violence against women had “contributed to crimes against women with impunity”.
Farhatullah Babar, another opposition leader, called for the validity of the council’s continued existence and its submission of annual reports to parliament to be examined.
“The CII is biased against women and has lost its relevance as well as constitutional basis," he said.
Leaders also criticised the government for allocating Rs100 million (£665,000) annually in funding for the CII.
The CII’s role was initially raised on Friday by senate chairman Mian Raza Rabbani, who linked its influence to Ms Rafiq’s murder.
According to the post-mortem report released on Friday morning, Zeenat, 18, was partially strangled before being burnt alive as she drew her final breaths.
Pakistani teenager survives attempted honour killingPlay!01:56
Zeenat's mother Parveen has stated that she had burnt her daughter to death and shown no remorse for the crime.
But a police official told The Telegraph that was “not possible” that the 50-year-old woman could have committed the act alone. Police on Friday were searching Zeenat Rafique brother, who is believed to have absconded.
Mr Khan said he believed other people must have been involved in her death. “Zeenat's mother is not only the culprit of the heinous crime," he told the Telegraph. 
Zeenat had fled her family after they beat her when she first told them she had fallen in love, he said, but she had later been tricked into returning.
“Her other family members lured her home on the promise of a proper wedding reception. Instead of a reception they killed her brutally.”

Former President Asif Ali Zardari Asks US To 'Trust' Pakistan

Former president Asif Ali Zardari has asked the US to "trust" and "mend ties" with Pakistan to defeat terrorism, amid tension between the two countries over an American drone strike that killed the Afghan Taliban chief in Baluchistan.

Mr Zardari, who served as president from 2008 to 2013, also challenged those US Congressmen who doubt the intention of Pakistan and its role and commitment to take action against the dreaded Haqqani network, which is blamed for a number of attacks against American interests in Afghanistan.

"I would challenge any faction in Congress that holds this view to come to Pakistan and bear witness to our solidarity and resolve," Mr Zardari wrote in an article in Chicago Tribune.

He said in order to defeat terrorism the US and Pakistan should raise the trust level and mend ties.

"Doubters should know that Pakistan has lost nearly 5,000 troops and many thousands of civilians in this fight. These losses were sustained in offensives against terrorist networks in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas - a long-time US priority," The Nation quoted him as saying in the article.

The Pakistan People's Party leader also criticised the US for blocking the sale of eight F-16 jets to Pakistan and said the decision will be counter-productive and self-defeating.

The US Congress has blocked funding for the jets citing Pakistan's unsatisfactory actions against the Haqqani network.

Mr Zardari said the US must play its role along with Pakistan to combat terrorism. "Pakistan is ready and willing to continue its role at the front lines of the war against terrorism. But the US has a part to play in assuring our ability to fight and win on the battlefield."

His comments came amid tension between Pakistan and the US following the May 21 drone strike that killed Mullah Akhtar Mansour deep inside Pakistan.

Prime Minister's Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz yesterday told a high-level US delegation in Islamabad that the drone attack "was not only a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and breach of the principles of the United Nation's Charter, but has also vitiated bilateral ties".

Pakistan-US ties are sliding down due to differences over handling of peace process in Afghanistan and US' growing defence ties with India, especially its support to India's membership for the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

Mr Zardari said as the talks between the delegation and the Pakistani government continue, the US should reaffirm sale of fighter aircraft and with it faith in an indispensable partnership in defence of civilisation.

He said the war against terrorism has not only cost Pakistan human lives but has also taken the country towards economic crisis.

"Three decades of war has also meant slower economic growth and foreign direct investment than that of other developing countries whose borders are not active war zones. These are among the hidden opportunity costs of our commitment to fighting terrorism," he wrote.