Monday, May 15, 2017
Authorities in Pakistan have unleashed a crackdown on social media activists accused of criticizing and "ridiculing" the army in their online postings.
An official announcement late Sunday said the cyber crime wing of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has been ordered to swiftly move against "elements" who are engaging in these "condemnable" activities.
"Ridiculing [the] Pakistan army or its officers on social media in the name of freedom of speech is unacceptable" and "a serious offense" under the law, it quoted Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan as warning.
Khan explained that the constitution does not permit citizens to indulge in activities that undermine the "prestige, reputation and honor" of the military institution.
The minister directed the FIA to take strict action against anyone found guilty of posting the content on social media "intentionally or unintentionally."
The crackdown comes amid sustained criticism of the military for issuing a controversial statement days before it was recanted last week. The move purportedly undermined the authority of civilian Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The civil-military rift stemmed from a controversial article in a leading English-language newspaper, Dawn, published last October that suggested the army was reluctant to crack down on Islamic militants plotting attacks against neighboring Afghanistan and India from sanctuaries on Pakistani soil.
The report outraged the military leadership at the time, pressuring the Sharif government to set up a high-powered commission to investigate the matter and identify officials responsible for leaking information about a security meeting chaired by the prime minister himself.
The commission submitted its findings late last month, prompting Sharif to oust a key foreign policy aide along with a senior information ministry bureaucrat for allegedly leaking details of the top-level meeting to the media.
Hours after the prime minister’s office announced the removals, the military "rejected" Sharif’s actions as "incomplete," refueling speculations of a showdown between the civilian and military institutions.
But the lingering crisis defused last week when the military unexpectedly announced it had resolved the "Dawn Leaks" row with the government and had retracted its statement that "rejected" Sharif’s actions as incomplete.
Opposition parties criticized the government for not making the inquiry report public while social media activists slammed the army for agreeing to maintain secrecy on the whole issue.
Pro-democracy groups, however, have declared it a rare victory for civilian leaders over army generals in a country where tensions between the two in the past have prompted military leaders to oust elected governments and impose years of dictatorial rules.
The last military coup in Pakistan was staged in October 1999 ousting Sharif’s then-elected government before he was forced into exile in Saudi Arabia along with his family.
Sharif returned to Pakistan after almost eight years, and his party won the 2013 election to return him to power for a third time in the country's troubled democratic history.
By Yasser Latif Hamdani
I hate to keep repeating myself, but repeat myself I must so long as necessary. Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam was a party founded in late 1920s. Its leading lights were people like Ataullah Shah Bukhari, Mazhar Ali Azhar and Daud Ghaznavi. Later these gentlemen were tasked by the Congress’ increasingly Machiavellian leadership under Gandhi and Nehru to divide the Muslim minority of the subcontinent along sectarian lines. Gandhi and Nehru felt that a united Muslim voice would pose political problems that would challenge their single party hegemony over the independence movement. Consequently Majlis-e-Ahrar started two major movements, at Congress’ behest. The first was the Madhe-Sahaba Movement against Shias in Lucknow with the express purpose of weakening the Muslim League. Then they initiated the anti-Ahmadi movement in Punjab by raising the issue of that sect’s right to identify as Muslim. Jinnah was wise to these machinations and swiftly ruled out any such sectarian division proclaiming that anyone who professes to be Muslim is welcome in the Muslim League be he Ahmadi or Shia or Mahdavi or what have you.
Jinnah’s public pronouncement buried the issue for a time but it came back full force after his death in form of the Anti-Ahmaddiya movement started by Majlis-e-Ahrar in 1949. This led to the 1953 Martial Law in Lahore and the disturbances which led to the downfall of Pakistan’s constitutional order. In 1974 Zulfikar Ali Bhutto sought to resolve the issue by declaring Ahmadis Non-Muslim or so he thought. 43 years later we are still reeling from the horrendous misstep by the PPP government and it has taken a life of its own. It no longer concerns Ahmadis alone though they are the most notable victims, carrying body bags every few weeks.
On 7 September 1974 Pakistan for all practical purposes ceased to exist and the state became Ahraristan. Ahrarism is the de facto ideology of this state now. Its founding father is not the anglicised Shiite lawyer Mr Jinnah who would countenance no discrimination in the name of religion. It is not even Mr Bhutto who naively imagined he was doing the country a favour by resolving the Ahmadi issue. Nor is it General Zia who was perhaps Ahrar’s most effective tool in the country. The true founder of this country in the shape that it exists now is none other than Ataullah Shah Bokhari, the firebrand Congress cleric who had denounced Pakistan as Kafiristan and proudly proclaimed that he would not allow the Muslim League to even make the P in Pakistan.
He couldn’t stop the League in 1947 but his successors claimed the country as their own. They are the ultimate victors. Even liberals have to follow suit. Consequently you find professors from Stockholm and free-lance journalists from New Jersey hiding behind anti-Ahmaddiya propaganda to justify their often unsubstantiated attacks on Pakistan itself. In Pakistan you can abuse Pakistan, Jinnah and everything under the sun, so long as you also abuse Ahmadis. This is why a fraud like Agha Shorish Kashmiri is a respected literary figure in Pakistan.
People often speak about Saudi influence. Saudis have definitely been influential since the 1970s in Pakistan using their oil money to fund rabid clerics. However it is the cancer of Ahrarism that has seeped in so deep that has enabled Pakistan’s steady decline into the abyss. This comes with consequences. Consider the new piece of legislation introduced in the Senate, which calls for making fines and punishments for violation of Ehteram-e-Ramadan Ordinance (ERO) 1981. To begin with ERO is a gross violation not just of fundamental right of religious freedom but vitiates the very spirit of Islam, which is encapsulated in the clear injunction of the Holy Quran that “there is no compulsion in religion”. Yet it is quite a popular thing to trample on religious liberty of the citizens of Pakistan provided it is done in the name of Islam. Unfortunately there is no judge in all of Pakistan who has it in himself to strike down a blatantly unconstitutional and un-Islamic law like the ERO. Consequently Non-Muslims in Pakistan must silently suffer for the crime of being born in a Muslim majority country. They must reconcile themselves with the fact that politicians and the military alike will continue to use religion for their own ends and they will continue to live as, at best, second class citizens of this benighted country.
Another manifestation of Ahrarism is the palpable anti-Shia feeling amongst the Sunni majority in the country. If Iran threatens Pakistan over border disputes or sectarian groups operating with impunity in Balochistan, Shias are expected to denounce Iran and prove their loyalty to Pakistan. The decision to allow an Ex-Army Chief to head up the predominantly Sunni alliance was also part of this sordid saga. Who do they think they were fooling when they claimed that it was a Pan-Islamic alliance and that Iran would be cajoled into joining it? Let us call a spade a spade. It is a Sunni alliance aimed at Shias and Pakistan, home to second largest Shia population in the world, has foolishly decided to join it. What a shame for a country whose founding father was a Shia.
Well such is the nature of international sectarian Muslim politics today. My advice to Pakistanis is that if you choose to continue to tread this perilous path, at the very least you can petition the government to change the name of the country to Ahraristan. That would be truly reflective of the reality of Pakistan today.
Calling for good ties with neighbouring countries, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari said on Sunday that though the situation was not that good in the region when they were in power. “We kept cordial relations with neighbouring states... Relations with Afghanistan were excellent and there was peace with India during our time,” Zardari said addressing party leaders and workers at a luncheon hosted by Arbab Alamgir.
“Our neighbours should be our friends. The PPP wants friendly ties with all neighbouring states. We will not let the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government sow discord with neighbouring countries, he said.
Zardari remarked, “Prime Miniter Nawaz Sharif has the same thought process as the Americans when it comes to waging wars, but we will not let this [war with neighbours] happen.”
The PPP co-chairperson said that they could not properly campaign for the last general elections in 2013.
He said, “This time we will take our campaign to every town and house of the country. The PML-N will not succeed in forming a government again in Punjab.
The PPP won’t allow rigging in the next general elections. The PPP workers would be sitting in front of polling booths and would leave only after receiving results. The rulers would not be able to steal the mandate again through rigging.”
He was of the view that the government has failed to stabilise the economy on the one hand while on other it was relentlessly printing currency notes. “The rulers believe that the ‘Mughal era’ would continue,” Zardari said, adding that this won’t happen.
He said that immature people could not see that flames were raging in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). “People of this province have suffered a lot. And now, even their national identity cards are being blocked... they are being imprisoned.”
After coming to power, he said, his party would release the blocked CNICs of all the internally displaced persons that have created problems for Pakhtuns. “Also, Pakhtuns are being asked why they are there in Punjab, in Balochistan, in Islamabad. It is the Sindh province where Pakhtuns are welcomed, and I am proud that Karachi is the biggest city of Pakhtuns now.”
In a reference to PM Nawaz and Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Zardari said they used to say that they will change their names if they could not end power loadshedding within months. “So, today, I ask the world what we should name them [as they have failed to fulfil their promise]”.
About Fata’s future status, the former president said that the PPP has decided that tribal areas must be merged with the KP.
“Rights should be given to tribal youth and women, the same rights that have been given to residents of other provinces,” he said.
Zardair said that if they were given the opportunity they will give Fata people their rights. He said that he as president had appointed KP governor from Fata because he wanted to remove the sense of deprivation.
He announced that if they came to power the PPP would double the Benazir Income Support Programme cards in KP. “The PPP had given Pakhtuns their identity and it will protect their rights in the future also.”
The PPP leader said, “We dreamt of the CPEC for KP and Balochistan. Unfortunately, it has been diverted to Islamabad and Punjab.” He said that his party would fulfil its dream by bringing it back from Islamabad to the province.
Coming hard on PTI chief Imran Khan, the former president said Imran was neither a Pakhtun nor has he any interest in the solution of Pakhtun’s problems. He said that Imran Khan could have changed the fate of Pakhtuns if he was sincere with them and interested in doing so.
Former president Asif Ali Zardari on Sunday said that metro buses and trains would
Former President Asif Ali Zardari has said that the government was not sincere in implementing FATA reforms package and challenged the government to prove its sincerity.
He was addressing a representative gathering of hundreds of tribal people drawn from all tribal agencies and Frontier Regions in Tehkal in Peshawar today on the third day of his tour of provincial metropolis.
It took nine months for the cabinet to approve the so called reforms package on March 2. Now on the eve of budget Bills have been introduced in the National Assembly without bringing them to the attention of opposition or tribal people let alone seeking a broad based consensus on them, he said. He said that the government will now pretend to pass the Bills hurriedly and blame the opposition for delay if it raised questioned whether the so called Riwaj Bill was re-incarnation of the hated Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) under a different name.
Spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar quoted the President as saying that the amendment Bill brought by the government today was a gimmick to score political brownies on the eve of 2017 budget.
Zardari said that the PPP had flung open the door of reforms in FATA in 2011 and will carry forward the reform process once it gets into power after the elections.
A fundamental issue in mainstreaming FATA is the resistance of vested interests including bureaucracy which is loathe to loosen its iron grip on tribal areas, he said. What is needed is to break the nexus between bureaucratic complex and Presidency to continue hold on tribal areas. Once this was done all other issues whether merger in KPK, local governments and extending jurisdiction of superior courts will automatically follow he said. He said that as President he transferred Presidential powers to the Parliament and opened up the reforms process in FATA. What is needed now is to transfer the Presidential powers with regard to FATA to Parliament as well to move forward, he said.
This indeed is the PPP agenda and the Party will do it when it comes into power. The present government which believes in concentration of power is neither capable nor willing to do so, he said.
The office of President should not be the lord of tribal areas concentrating all legislative and executive powers in the hands of Presidency and its agent the Governor KPK. This is a colonial structure to keep the tribal people under tight control and this structure must be demolished, he said. The legislative powers in respect of FATA should be transferred to the Parliament from the President and the genuinely elected representatives allowed participation and self governance, he said.
It is a fallacy to argue that the tribal people cannot be subjected to the laws of Pakistan. The tribal people across the border are governed under the laws of Kabul and there is no conflict with the Riwaj of the tribes.
A large number of people from all tribal agencies live in settled districts of KPK and other parts of Pakistan and have no problem living with the laws of Pakistan. They also live and work in ME where the laws are even more stringent but neither their riwaj nor the traditional jirga has stood in the way.
He said that the committees of parliament and media be allowed to visit tribal areas to tear apart the shroud of secrecy that has been deliberately woven around FATA by the vested interests.
He said that the PPP government had increased the PSDP for FATA from 3 billion to 19 billion rupees, made changes in the FCR disallowing arrest of women and children in the name of collective responsibility, allowed all political parties to function in tribal areas.
He lamented that the PPP plans for Medical College Bajaur, IT University in Kurram , University in Kohat and a cadet college in every Agency was shelved by the present government.
Zardari said that the Party will continue to struggle for the merger of tribal areas in KPK, extending the jurisdiction of high court and supreme court to the tribal areas and for doing away with the notorious FCR.
The tribal jals was also addressed by PPP FATA president Akhunzada Chattan and party heads of all tribal agencies.