Sunday, December 31, 2017
By Raza Rumi
The most worrying developments of 2017 were related to a reversal on the state’s commitment to fight extremism.
The foregoing year was tumultuous to say the least. Pakistan’s ruling elites – elected and unelected – reinforced old patterns of governance. After ten years of democratic transition, it seems that the gains made by the parliament have been partially reversed. At the end of 2017, we witness a resurgence of the judiciary-military combine as they continue to ‘fix’ the ‘political’ arena.
The first half of the year was consumed by the Panama case and two verdicts of the Supreme Court resulted in the ouster of (former) Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The latter was disqualified on a mere technicality and the corruption cases were referred to accountability courts. The apex court by setting questionable precedents only repeated its past behaviour. In short, the law of necessity invoked since the 1950s, rhetorically shunned time and again, continues to be used by other names.
The decision to disqualify a sitting prime minister exposed the inherent weaknesses of Pakistan’s democratic project. That Nawaz Sharif had fallen out with the establishment was an open secret, but the manner in which his third dismissal occurred was alarming for it opens the doors for judicial coups in the future. It was hoped that after Musharraf’s exit, the military had decided to take a backseat. Events of 2017 belie this theory; and it is clear that the military remains in charge not just of the security and foreign policies but also of the overall political direction of the country.
Sharif’s ouster makes the future of his party and dynasty uncertain. Even though there are indications that the establishment prefers his younger brother, it is unclear how would Nawaz factor disappear from the political field? Unless of course there is another exile planned for the former PM.
On the positive side, the national census was completed after two decades. Similarly, the health authorities successfully fought the poliovirus and marginal improvements in education enrolment were recorded
The year was not good for Pakistan’s beleaguered civil society especially for digital freedoms. The year started with the mysterious abduction of social media activists who were released after weeks of detention and had chilling tales to narrate. Their main fault was the criticism of the military but they were painted as blasphemers in the mainstream media so as to justify the entire sordid episode. The year closes with another missing activist from Lahore whose main crime has been to advocate Pakistan-India peace. The shutdown of dozens of international nongovernmental organisations in 2017 is a gloomy sign. Some of the aid groups have not been clean in the past but how can the third sector be collectively punished?
While the judiciary and the military did what they have been doing, the worst perhaps was the conduct of political elites themselves. Nawaz Sharif suddenly remembered the supremacy of the parliament after his judicial ouster. During his third tenure, Sharif rarely attended the parliamentary sessions and his indifference to the imperative of building larger political coalitions resulted in political polarisation. At the end of 2017, he has a few allies, as Imran Khan and Zardari are willing to participate in the new engineering project that will open up spaces especially in the Punjab for them in the next election.
On the external front, 2017 was more of the same with regular shouting matches with Afghanistan, India and the United States. These crucial relationships remain strained largely due to lack of political and diplomatic input in the conduct of foreign policy. The silver lining is growing economic cooperation with China, which will help Pakistan in the long run. However, there were many voices of dissent about the terms and details of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). National debate on CPEC remains one-sided and largely ill-informed with little or no input from the Parliament.
On the positive side, the national census was completed after two decades. Similarly, the health authorities successfully fought the poliovirus and marginal improvements in education enrolment were recorded. The best news from the year was that other than the stock markets fluctuating downwards, Nawaz Sharif’s succession by his loyal associate ensured policy continuity. But the political instability of 2017 and beyond would cast its shadow over the economy. This is one lesson that the permanent establishment of the country is yet to learn.
The most worrying developments of 2017 were related to a reversal on the state’s commitment to fight extremism. Throughout the year, blasphemy was used as a brazen instrument to crush dissenters. The brutal lynching of Mashal Khan happened amid this charged environment and the state cannot absolve its responsibility in aiding and abetting violent religious sentiments. Later in the year, blasphemy was used as a tool to pressurise the government. An ugly display of extremism on the streets of Islamabad for three weeks made a mockery of the so-called National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism. The year 2017 will be remembered for the de facto burial of NAP. As if establishment’s patronage to Barelvi groups was not enough, the ‘good’ jihadists were successfully inducted into electoral politics. Without disarming violent groups, their mainstreaming is suicidal; and yet this seems to be the future course.
Notwithstanding the brave individual journalists and their contributions in Pakistan, the overall conduct of media industry remained questionable. Many television anchors aided the manufacturing of multiple crises, promoted one-sided narratives, and their abandonment of ethics was disturbing to say the least. The removal of PEMRA chairman by a court order in December was another ominous sign for the former was trying to regulate some of the errant TV channels. At the end of the day, the corporate media backed by powers-that-be, won.
The year ahead presents a variety of challenges. Foremost among these is securing a peaceful transition of power from one elected government to another after 2018 election. Transparent and fair electoral process is a key requirement to facilitate the third, rule-based transfer of power in a decade. To achieve that, the political elites will have to reconsider their tunnel-vision politics, shun the establishment-led engineering, and unite against extra-constitutional steps such as a government of technocrats.
She had been in constant struggle against the dark forces of obscurantism right from the beginning. Even when she was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan after winning general elections in 1988, in the aftermath of the death of General Zia, she faced conspiracies at the hands of the then top generals who created IJI for trying to block her path to power by distributing money among her opponents ( the case against the retired generals in this regard is still pending in the Supreme Court after long years). The guardians of Jihadist Project of 1980s regarded her as their arch ideological foe because she supported democracy, equality and peaceful coexistence. She had to pay a heavy price for her struggle. She remained behind the bars for many years and was also forced to live in exile for long years.
But it was more than a narrow political struggle between two ideologies in Pakistan. There was a gender dimension and an international aspect to this struggle. The fierce traditional patriarchy reinforced by religious obscurantism couldn’t accept a woman as leader of the country, even when she was elected by popular vote. Ridiculous questions were raised about the capacity of a woman to perform her duties as a national leader. When the remnants of Zia couldn’t stop her from getting elected as the Prime Minister, they hatched conspiracies to overthrow her. It wasn’t just the ISI, led by General Hamid Gul, that choreographed these intrigues against her government, but the Arab monarchies and Wahabi ideologues were equally active for keeping her out of power. For them, the election of a charismatic women politician as national leader in an important Muslim country like Pakistan can give ideas to the people in their own countries. They generously poured money to block her path in elections, but when they realized that she was too popular and strong to be stopped by political intrigues, they decided to physically eliminate her. In 2007, the question of Taliban project was also important. Although General Musharraf was supposed to be an ally of US in its war on terror, practically, Taliban had not only regrouped in their sanctuaries in Pakistan by this time but they were also allowed to start a new round of war in Afghanistan. It was SMBB’s considered opinion that Project Taliban was as harmful for Pakistan as it was for Afghanistan. She believed that instead of becoming a launching pad for Taliban, Pakistan should cooperate with the elected government in Afghanistan for eliminating terrorism.
I knew Benazir Bhutto because we worked together in an alliance of political parties known as People’s Democratic Alliance ( PDA) in 1990s. I met her the last time in Lahore a week before her murder and had a detailed discussion with her on political and security situation in the country and in the region. I had been sent to her by my party’s leadership to exchange notes with her about the emerging political scenarios. I benefited immensely from her political insights and felt assured that finally Pakistan has a leader with a clear vision, who will steer the country out of the quagmire of extremism & terrorism and take it towards a peaceful and democratic future. I vividly remember her words when I stood up to say goodbye to her at the end of our meeting. She said, “Mr. Khattak, isn’t it very sad that we have to still discuss the same problem that we used to discuss many years ago because they stand unresolved?” Little did I know that it would be our last meeting.
There is a lot of hue and cry about General Musharraf’s latest interview in which he has opined that “rogue elements” from within the establishment might have had a role in SMBB’s murder. It’s true that the former army generals, as part of permanent ruling elite, enjoy impunity in disclosing state secrets or distorting the facts. But in this case, the former dictator doesn’t seem to be wide off the mark. Rogue or not so rogue, there have been elements within the security establishment who worked against SMBB , and in fact, against all progressive and democratic forces. The busted Operation Midnight Jackal and formation of IJI are matters on record. The UN inquiry report on BB’s murder has also given broad hints to this effect. Even today, the tail wagging the dog comes to mind when one seriously evaluates the role of Jihadist elements in formation of security and foreign policies of the country, the pious noises of our leaders in contradicting it notwithstanding.
Be that as it may, SMBB was a political leader and some of her decisions would remain questionable in historical evaluation. First and foremost would be her decision to accept power on the condition of the establishment in 1988. It resulted in legitimizing the controlled democracy that is at the core of political crises even today. Similarly, failure in shaping strong constitutional machinery for conducting across the board accountability is another question about her political legacy. But then, she wasn’t alone in all this. All other political parties also decided to support the deficient and corrupt system contrived by General Zia instead of challenging it. Signing the Charter of Democracy ( COD) in 2006 was an effort at correcting the mistake. As experience has shown, it had mixed results. Political parties have to go a long way in reforming themselves before they could reform the state and society. But there is no doubt that SMBB’s struggle will remain a source of inspiration for the coming generations.
Concerns are being voiced in Pakistan about how a few radical groups with proven terror ties have been allowed to re-brand themselves as political parties.
Taj Haider, one of the prominent and founding members of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which has been in power five times since 1970, told VOA the country is again seeing the trend of extremist groups camouflaging themselves to enter into politics.
“Religion and politics cannot go hand in hand, but unfortunately this is our new reality. We have seen the recent by-elections in Lahore and Peshawar where militant-turned-political parties were able to mobilize people and gather votes,” Haider said. “And these so-called new political parties, with proven terror records, look determined to contest the upcoming elections in 2018.”
In a recent high-level party meeting presided by PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of Pakistan’s slain Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the government was sharply criticized on its inability to forcefully implement the National Action Plan and bar proscribed groups from entering the political sphere. The National Action Plan is a 20-point strategy devised to combat extremism in 2015 that clearly states no banned groups can operate in the country by changing their names or identity.
Analysts say many other political parties are also agitated and wary about the recent political dynamic that has allowed radicalized groups to enter the political arena.
“The government has repeatedly said it will not allow the hardliners to enter into politics, but the reality is different, these parties are going into masses,” Rasul Baksh Raees, a prominent analyst from Pakistan told VOA. “As long as these proscribed groups stick to their extreme ideologies and violence, they will be a danger to the society and democracy itsel PPP's acute criticism came as Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), inaugurated the office of his newly launched political party Milli Muslim League (MML) in the eastern city of Lahore.
Pakistan’s Election Commission rejected MML’s party registration application in October, citing its link to Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a U.S. designated terror-sponsoring organization.
But MML looks determined to contest the upcoming state and provincial elections. The party has several offices, has launched a website, and has a social media team spreading its messages through Facebook and Twitter. Pakistan's government has repeatedly emphasized it will not tolerate any political party with a proven record of promoting violence and terrorism to use democracy and political means to spread their extreme ideologies. But critics still say the government is not doing enough to stop radical groups from entering politics. “Look what happened in Lahore’s recent by-election and who can forget the power show by extremists on the roads of Islamabad. The government was totally helpless,” Raees said.
During the Lahore election in September, a MML backed independent candidate secured the fourth position in the race. The by-election was also contested by Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TeL), another extremist religious party created to carry-on Mumtaz Qadri's mission, the bodyguard who killed Punjab's Governor Salman Taseer in 2011 after he had demanded reforms in the controversial blasphemy law. Mumtaz Qadri was later sentenced to death.
In November, thousands of followers of the Islamist group Tehreek-e-Labaik blocked Islamabad roads for weeks and demanded the resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamid, after accusing him of blasphemy. The government eventually surrendered to hardliners’ demands after Pakistan’s military played the role of mediator.
The experts say the emerging trend of politicizing militancy is a danger to democracy. They also point out the sectarian and hardline rationale will further complicate the situation in the country that has been trying to combat terrorism for more than a decade.
“Imagine when these hardliners, through political parties, will spread their extreme views on the grassroots level. What will be the future of this country?” Raees said. But some politicians dismiss the blending of radicalized groups into politics. Haider believes the people of Pakistan can differentiate between politicians and extremists and will not allow militant-turned-politicians to thrive.
“If you look at the past, the religious parties including the Jamaat-i-Islami [an old religious party], despite having a huge following, were never able to clean sweep or get majority in the electoral process of the country,” said Haider.
“Even now, with all these efforts, I believe Milli Muslim League or Tehreek-e-Labaik will not be able to pull large numbers during the general elections. Religious or sectarian votes are scattered in the country and can't be unified and will not help these newly established political parties to win a prominent number of seats.” https://www.voanews.com/a/radical-political-groups-raise-concern-in-pakistan/4186579.html
Saturday, December 30, 2017
This remnant of the colonial era focuses only on the aspect that suicide is forbidden in the Islamic faith, hence those attempting it must be punished. However, there is more to a suicide attempt than just the mere wish to end life. A history of depression and other mental illnesses force the person to take such a step and our laws completely ignore this aspect. It is therefore extremely necessary that the Pakistan Penal Code 1860 and the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898 is revised in light of the new information.
Mental health issues are severely ignored in the country and that lack of discussion is also reflected in the country’s legislature. There is a growing number of people affected by mental health issues, especially in the urban centres of the country. The lack of facilities and medical professionals to attend to the growing number of patients, the growing number of suicide attempts should not be a surprise. The fact that the entire population only has 400 psychiatrists and only a few mental health facilities to their aid should be a cause of concern.
The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has also supported the amendment. Chairman Professor Dr Qibla Ayaz informed the Senate Standing Committee that even though suicide is forbidden in Islam, these cases need to be treated with seriousness. Medical examinations should be carried out to check whether or not the person suffers from depression or other mental health problems, and proper rehabilitation centres must be set up to provide help to these people.
This is a huge step towards creating awareness regarding mental health issues. The fact that our legislators are seeing beyond the surface and understanding the nuances of human life, must be appreciated. However, we are quite familiar with prompt legislations and lack of action. Only time will tell how this one will materialise.
The woman has also complained that area police are unwilling to register her complaint and start investigations in the matter. The Inspector General of the Punjab Police and the Faisalabad DPO need to take immediate action.
Panchayats and jirgas continue their criminal acts, targeting women and making a mockery of rule of law. In Pakistan, the institution of marriage has been mired in endless problems, including forced and under-age marriages and domestic violence. In the last few years, the governments in centre and provinces have tried to introduce new laws. The law through which legal age for girls’ marriage was to be increased from 16 to 18 years has been met with criticism in the Senate standing committee and from the controversial Council of Islamic Ideology. Similarly, a law against domestic violence passed in the Punjab last year drew backlash from the clerics. The end result has been that the law remains in force, but it hasn’t been implemented in accordance with the spirit that accompanied it initially.
The continued presence of panchayats in the social fabric signifies the deep-seated nature of abhorrence for women’s liberty. It is also a reminder of how rule of law and justice remain non-existent for countless Pakistani women. For these women, life altering decisions have been left in the hands of men who believe they have a right to decide a woman’s fate. Free-will, a fundamental human right, is controlled at any cost possible.
The government must ensure that those who perpetuate such crimes are brought to justice. This incident is a clear result of a lack of strong pro-women laws, which are often prevented from being approved and implemented due to the lack of coherent policy objectives.
Moreover, this incident is also a reminder of the fact that our criminal justice system remains inaccessible for the marginalised segments.
We hope that Faisalabad incident serves as an eye opener for the authorities. They must muster up courage needed to crack down on this patriarchal custom that denies Pakistani women their constitutionally guaranteed rights and routinely puts their lives and health in jeopardy.
After 'Crown Prince' Shehbaz Sharif landed in holy lands, Nawaz Sharif poised to follow suit.
Five months after his disqualification, Nawaz Sharif has packed his bags again for Saudi Arabia while his younger brother Shehbaz Sharif, who left for the holy lands on Wednesday, is already there. Pakistan is abuzz again with the news of another Saudi Arabia backed NRO, while the last NRO was implemented 17-years ago in the same month.
According to sources, Sharifs were trying to get Saudis involved well before the Supreme Court verdict came out on July 28 this year and the efforts were expedited after the verdict. “Only Saudis and Chinese have the leverage to involve the security establishment, so it was natural to involve the Saudis who have been not so happy with the PML-N government since the Yemen and later Qatar crisis. The king was giving a cold shoulder so finally the new crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman was approached,” says Islamabad’s diplomatic grapevine.
The events were dramatic. On Wednesday, a special plane sent by Saudi government came to fly Shehbaz Sharif to the kingdom. Sources say Shehbaz was able to get the audience of powerful crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman soon after his arrival. Next morning on Thursday, National Security Advisor Gen (retd) Nasir Janjua, known as Rawalpindi’s man in Islamabad, made an unusual five-hour plus meeting with the ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. When the House of Sharifs was approached about the meeting, they tried to hush it up but did not issue any denial while all TV channels aired the report on Thursday in their prime-time bulletins, and Friday papers published it on the front page. With PML-N barely five months away from hitting the twilight zone, what is the Saudi visit all about? It is the question all the pundits in the capital are occupied with for now. Why an NRO now?
The fact that the House of Sharifs is embroiled in a big legal mess after July 28 is known to everybody. The accountability court is supposed to deliver verdicts against Nawaz Sharif, his daughter, son-in-law and a close relative, Ishaq Dar, just before the elections. Sharifs have been saying it loud and clear that they have been victimised by the nexus of the judiciary and the security establishment. So why would they get any favour from Saudis who have a good relationship with the Pakistani security establishment?
Pakistan is under heavy pressure from the US mainly on Afghanistan and India. The pressure continues to mount. Despite all efforts, no major dent in the ruling PML-N’s popularity has occurred as anticipated. PPP, to a greater extent, remains discredited as young Bilawal has yet to take over, let alone leading it to a major victory. Imran Khan remains number two in the province that matters. Because of his mercurial manners he can only be trusted to harm somebody but can’t be trusted to rule the country. That is the environment the Sharifs consider conducive enough to make a deal with the establishment, as they believe that the devil you know is better than an angel you don’t, say PML-N insiders.
The main question remains what would happen to the angry theatrics of Nawaz Sharif and the mercurial Maryam Nawaz Sharif who have been hitting hard since much before the July 28 verdict, and have never gone cold since then?
They will have to calm down till elections are held to make this deal work. That doesn’t mean that they would not talk about the ‘injustice’ meted out to them. That would continue but it would be calibrated and mellowed out to bearable levels, believe the insiders.
How would they get out of the cases against them and the verdicts already announced? It is Pakistan. Remember what Gen Musharraf admitted on national TV about who got him released by putting pressure on whom? Did you hear even a peep about it? Having said that, any last-minute situation can undo the whole thing as there are too many national, regional, and international variables in this high stake gamble, warn many analysts.
India reacted with anger after photos of the Palestinian ambassador to Pakistan, Walid Abu Ali, sharing the stage with Hafiz Saeed and addressing the rally in Rawalpindi were circulated on social media on Friday.
عوامی نیشنل پارٹی کے مرکزی صدر اسفندیار ولی خان نے کہا ہے کہ عمران نوازشریف کو پارٹی عہدے سے ہٹانا چاہتے ہیں، اپنے اے ٹی ایم کونہیں،عمران خان کا اے ٹی ایم خراب ہو چکا ہے،عمران خان عائشہ گلالئی کے الزامات کا جواب دیں،عمران کے موبائل ڈیٹا سے دودھ کا دودھ پانی کاپانی ہوجائے گا،عمران خان اپنا بلیک بیری تحقیقاتی اداروں کے حوالے کریں،تحریک انصاف نے ناچ گانے کی سیاست متعارف کی، پی ٹی آئی کے وزرا اور ارکان نے اپنے وزیر اعلیٰ پر کرپشن کا الزام لگایا،عمران خان نے اپنے ڈر سے احتساب کمیشن کو بند رکھا ہے،سی پیک منصوبے سے پختونخوا کے وزیر اعلیٰ مطمئن ہیں مگر اسپیکر نہیں ،سی پیک کا وعدہ نواز شریف نے کیا ، مگر پورا نہیں کیا،وعدے کے باوجود فاٹا کو پختونخوا میں ضم نہیں کیا گیا،وزیر اعظم سے درخواست ہے کہ نواز دور کے وعدے پورے کرے، اپنی زندگی میں نواز شریف جیسی جھوٹی حکومت نہیں دیکھی،وہ میونسپل پارک چارسدہ میں پی کے 17کے ورکرز کنونشن سے خطاب کر رہے تھے ۔ ورکر کنونشن سے پارٹی کے ضلعی صدر بیرسٹر ارشد عبداللہ نے بھی خطاب کیا۔انہوں نے مزید کہا کہ جب تک چین پاکستان اور افغانستان کے درمیان ضامن نہیں بنتا دونوں ممالک میں تعلقات بہتر ہونگےنہ دہشت گردی ختم ہو گی۔ جماعت اسلامی اور جمعیت علمائے اسلام پانچ سال تک صوبائی اور مرکزی حکومتوں سے مراعات لیتی رہی مگر انتخابات کا سن کر دونوں پارٹیاں نفاذ اسلام کے نام پر دوبارہ اتحادی بن گئیں۔ سپریم کورٹ نے عمران خان کے اے ٹی ایم کو نااہل قرار دیا مگر موصوف مانتے نہیں۔ اسفندیار ولی خان نے کہا کہ پاکستان ایک ناز ک دور سے گزر رہا ہے مگر بد قسمتی سے ہمیں تاریخ کی بد ترین حکومت ملی ہے جس کے جھوٹ اور وعدہ خلافی کی دنیا میں مثال نہیں ملتی۔ سی پیک میں نوا ز شریف نے خیبر پختونخوا اور فاٹا کو اپنا حق دینے کا وعدہ کیا مگر بعد میں مکر گئے۔ فاٹا کو سی پیک میں نظر انداز کرکے فاٹا میں معدنیات اور تجارت کو ناقابل تلافی نقصان پہنچایا گیا جبکہ خیبر پختونخوا کے بیشتر حصوں کو بھی سی پیک سے محروم کیا گیا۔ وزیر اعلی پر ویز خٹک سی پیک سے مطمئن ہیں مگر اسپیکر اسد قیصر سی پیک کے خلاف عدالتوں میں مقدمات لڑ رہے ہیں۔
Awami National Party (ANP) President Asfandyar Wali Khan has said that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has forgotten all his promises made with the people of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) for the merger with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).
“Nawaz Sharif is a liar. I have never seen such a person in my whole life. He has forgotten all those promises he made with the people of Fata,” said Asfandyar while addressing a party worker’s convention in PK-17, Charsadda on Friday.
The ANP president said that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government was still using delaying tactics in freeing the people of Fata from the clutches of the colonial-era laws.
“At the behest of only two persons – Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Mehmood Khan Achakzai – the PML-N government is delaying giving the people of Fata their basic rights,” he said.
Asfandyar said Fata and K-P had been ignored in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) despite tall claims, adding, “Sharif promised me that only the people of Fata will have right over their resources but like his other promises, it has also been ignored.”
About the revival of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), he said, “The two main parties of the alliance – the Jamaat-e-Islam and the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam-Fazl – are at loggerheads over Fata reforms, but they are trying to show the public that they are on the same page.”
Criticising both the parties, the ANP president said that they had benefited for five years at the Centre and in K-P, but when they realised that the ruling parties [PML-N and PTI] had no future, “they are again using the name of Islam to deceive the public”.
He said that his party would contest the general elections 2018 alone and ruled out any alliance with other political parties.
Even though Asfandyar appreciated his party’s alliance with the PPP during the previous government for ‘phenomenal’ developmental work in the province, he made it clear that the ANP would contest the elections alone. About Pak-Afghan relations, Asfandyar said, “China should play an active role in bringing both countries closer to each other.”
On President Donald Trump’s new policy for Asia, Asfandyar said, “There will be bloodshed in Afghanistan.”
Once again Asfandyar rejected Trump’s decision of making Jerusalem the capital of Israel.
“We have a spiritual affiliation with the people of Palestine as the wife of Bacha Khan is also buried there. This is also a reason that the ANP will never accept Trump’s announcement of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” he said.
He accused PTI chief Imran Khan of introducing political indecency in the country. “For him [Imran] everyone is a thief in Pakistan and he is the only angel in the politics. He has even closed the K-P Ehtisaab Commission,” said the ANP leader. “Even Imran’s own ministers are accusing the K-P government of corruption.”
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Saturday said he supports FATA Youth Jirga and its movement to merge the tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
The PPP scion added, in a video released, that his party has always struggled for the rights of the people from the tribal areas.
"Pakistan Peoples Party has always struggled for the rights of the people from the tribal areas and I support the movement to merge FATA with KP and stand with the FATA Youth Jirga and always will," said the PPP chairman.
In the video, Bilawal further says that Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto made sincere efforts to merge the tribals areas and Benazir Bhutto made PPP's special FATA committee.
"She even went to the Supreme court to get the tribal people their rights."
Earlier in December, the FATA Supreme Council held a meeting with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and presented its stance to maintain a separate identity.
The matter of FATA's merger with KP was left unresolved after the meeting. However, the tribal areas' supreme council and the government agreed to continue deliberations on the matter.
The issue of FATA's merger with KP is one of the pending matters for the incumbent government and has dominated the political discourse of the country in recent weeks.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman has conditionally agreed to support the proposal of FATA's merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and said that further consultations for the FATA Reforms Bill will continue to be held.
“We will continue to hold discussions with the government over FATA Reforms Bill,” Rehman had said, adding that additional meetings with the military leadership will not be required.
"We presented our stance to them which was to gain the approval of the FATA supreme council," he said.
More than 500 tribal elders had held a grand jirga on December 14 and rejected the possible merger of FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The elders, hailing from the tribal areas, were of the opinion that FATA should be given the status of a separate province. Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa had also recently assured delegations from FATA that the Pakistan Army fully supports mainstreaming of the region in line with aspirations of tribal brothers.
General Bajwa had said he valued the views of the tribal delegations regarding the future of FATA. He added that achievements through sacrifices of brave residents of FATA are being consolidated while the country transitions from relative stability to enduring peace.
The recommendations to bring the tribal areas at par with the rest of the country were approved by the federal cabinet on March 2 but the matter has been delayed since then.
The KP Assembly had adopted a resolution on December 14, 2016 in favour of merging FATA with KP with the aim of rehabilitating and reconstructing the infrastructure including roads, communications, power lines, water supply, education and health facilities.
Friday, December 29, 2017
"Islamic State" has once again chosen to target Shiites in its latest Kabul bombings that killed at least 40 people. Experts say the group is trying to create sectarian rifts in the country and use them to its advantage.
Afghan officials first acknowledged Islamic State (IS) as a security threat as early as 2015. IS, officials claimed at the time, was confined only to the eastern Nangarhar province, where it controlled most parts of the Achin district.
The government subsequently launched military operations in the area and declared victory against the militant group in March 2016. In August of the same year, Washington and Kabul confirmed that Hafiz Saeed Khan, IS's regional chief for the group's so-called Khurasan branch, which includes Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of Central Asian countries, had been killed in a US drone strike.
The Pentagon confirmed in July 2017 that Abu Sayed, head of the IS terror group in Afghanistan, had been killed in a US airstrike in Kunar province. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Sayed's death was a significant blow to IS.
Clashes with the Taliban, a much stronger and older Islamist group in Afghanistan, also hindered IS's progress in the war-torn country. Due to these reasons, Afghan officials were hopeful that IS would not be able to establish itself in their country.
But things haven't turned out exactly the way the Afghan government had hoped for. IS fighters continue to launch deadly attacks in the country.
The group claimed the Thursday suicide bomb attacks in the capital, Kabul, which killed at least 40 people and wounded over 30. The target of the assault was a public gathering at a Shiite cultural center.
It was not the first time that Islamic State, a largely Sunni militant group, targeted Afghan Shiites. Afghanistan's Shiite minority has witnessed several attacks in 2017. Hundreds of people have been killed in attacks on their mosques and religious ceremonies. Among them were three attacks on Shiite mosques in Kabul in August, September and October.
Kabul-based security analyst Wahid Muzhdah believes the jihadist group is trying to create sectarian rifts in Afghanistan.
"IS is facing a huge challenge from the Taliban, who are a potent militant force in the country," Muzhdah told DW.
"To establish itself in Afghanistan, IS needs support from local extremist Sunni groups. IS is targeting Shiites to distinguish itself from the Taliban," Muzhdah added.
Afghan security experts fear IS could divide the country along sectarian lines. Muzhdah, however, believes it won't be an easy task for the jihadist group.
"After each IS attack on Afghan Shiites, religious leaders from all Islamic sects have come forward in support of the victims," he said. "But if the government doesn't do anything to stop such attacks, the sectarian split could deepen," Muzhdah warned.
From Middle East to South Asia
The IS focus on Afghanistan was quite inevitable after the group suffered heavy losses in Syria and Iraq in 2017. After IS's defeat in Iraq, experts had warned that a large number of its fighters could move into Afghanistan and Pakistan from the Middle East.
"As a result of setbacks in Iraq and Syria, we will most likely experience a major influx of IS fighters into Afghanistan and Pakistan looking for new areas of operations," Siegfried O. Wolf, a South Asia expert at the University of Heidelberg, told DW.
IS presence in Afghanistan is no longer confined to Nangarhar province. According to new reports, the group has increased activities in other parts of Afghanistan as well, including the relatively safe northern regions.
IS or IS-linked attacks have also spiked in Pakistan. Experts say the group could get support from Pakistan-based militant outfits that are against Shiites and the Iranian influence in their country.
Afghan authorities have repeatedly accused Islamabad of supporting the Taliban and other militant groups and sending them into Afghanistan to destabilize the government. Experts say that although Pakistan does not consider IS an ally or a group which can fulfill its strategic interests in the region, things could change in the future as the hardline Saudi Wahhabi ideology could be a binding factor.