Monday, June 12, 2017

Repercussions of the escalating Qatar-Gulf conflict

By Lal Khan

The Qatari elite could opt for Turkey’s support, as Erdogan is inclined towards the Muslim Brotherhood and having a military base in Qatar.
On June 5th, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain and others announced severing diplomatic relations with Qatar and cutting of air, sea and land links. The seemingly irrelevant alliance Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) suddenly seems to be perilously splintering. Wednesday’s attack on Iran’s national parliament and shrine of Ayatollah Khomeini has been blamed on Saudi Arabia by the Iranian hawks. The rivalry between the Saudi monarchy and the Iranian mullah aristocracy this has morphed into an acute crisis very few had envisaged.
There is panic buying in Qatari bazaars as 40 percent of the food supplies to Qatar get transported via the land route through Saudi Arabia. Qatari nationals have been ordered to leave Saudi Arabia. Qatar’s 1,000-strong military force in the coalition attacking Yemen has also been expelled from this ‘Islamic’ military alliance. The Saudis and Emiratis have accused Qatar of “embracing sectarian Islamic terrorist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, Daesh (ISIS), and Al-Qaeda and supporting Iranian-backed terrorist groups in the Saudi province of Qatif and in Bahrain.”
The Qatari monarchy has been challenging the Saudi domination in the region. Qatar is the world’s second-largest exporter of natural gas and will host the football World Cup in 2022. It also finances and hosts the Al Jazeera, the internationally prominent media network that broadcasts the views of Arab dissidents of the Egyptian and GCC regimes. However it shuns the voices of the Qatari dissidents. In the last decade Qatar eclipsed Saudi Arabia as a regional arbiter to resolve disputes, hosting warring factions from Afghanistan, Sudan, Lebanon, and facilitating the Palestinians’ reconciliation talks.
Qatar, Kuwait and Oman are the three GCC states that still maintain relations with Iran. This irks the other monarchies. Qatari support for the Muslim Brotherhood rivals the Saudi and Emirati sponsored Salafists in Egypt further sours the relations. Large financial aid from the Qatari monarchs supported Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood regime that came into power after the ebbing of the 2011 uprising in Egypt. However when the second revolutionary upsurge rattled the led Al-Ikhwan regime the military took power with the Saudi support.
The Qatari elite could opt for Turkey’s support, as Erdogan is inclined towards the Muslim Brotherhood and having a military base in Qatar The Saudis organised a grandiose reception for Trump inviting leaders from 55 Muslim countries to Riyadh as a venerated audience for his speech. They also doled out massive arms contracts for the US military industrial complex. Trump’s foreign policy advisers are presumably in favour of the UAE ruler’s quest for America to move its military base from Qatar to the Emirati Sheikhdom for years.
The Qatari elite could opt for Turkey’s support, as Erdogan is inclined towards the Muslim Brotherhood and having a military base in Qatar. However, Erdogan might not dare to confront the Al Sauds at this delicate juncture. Iran also has a defence pact with Qatar that obligates it to defend the Sheikhdom in the event of a Saudi attack. The clerical regime is also offering Qatar food supplies. Saudi bullying can further move Qatar into Iranian arms.
This will escalate the dangers of a military conflict between the two major theocratic Islamic sectarian rival powers on the opposite shores of the Persian Gulf. Such a conflict can trigger huge rise in oil prices generating a much deeper slump of the world capitalist economy. Kuwait’s Emir, Sheikh Sabah has been shuttling to capitals of the adversary regional regimes to defuse an escalating crisis but with no real progress. Trump initially tweeted supporting the Saudi actions: “Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!” However the Washington bureaucracy toned him down. Just the following day Trump offered his services as a mediator between the feuding Arab monarchs.
This burgeoning crisis is the outcome of the severe economic crisis that has hit the economies of these rich Gulf States with the collapse of the oil prices in the last few years and their existence is threatened by mass internal revolts. They cannot afford to dole out goodies to their tiny populations anymore.
The new generation of these despotic monarchical rulers are going berserk with the notion of increasing their power through sponsoring proxies of Islamic terror. Treachery is the new of diplomacy among these Gulf royalties. The imperialists dissected the Middle East into these tiny statelets with very little populations and massive reserves of oil and gas during the First World War and in its aftermath. Ever since the European and the US imperialists have plundered and subjugated these Gulf States through these puppet monarchies. Now these regimes are teetering on the brink.
The Arab revolt of 2011 shook these autocracies. The terrorist reaction that is devastating the region was fomented by these regimes in connivance of the imperialists. This policy has backfired as the rogue terrorist outfits are menacing their own royal masters.
But this situation can turn into its opposite. The masses in the Arab world shall rise again. The new upsurge can go the whole hog. Such a revolutionary resurgence of the youth and toilers can overthrow these reactionary and obscenely rich sheikhdoms, obliterating the imperialist lines drawn to divide the Levant and unite the Arab and other peoples of the region into a voluntary socialist federation of the Middle East.

ANP and the ghosts of Marshal and Bacha Khan

By Zaigham khan

A war can result in many consequences. Perhaps no result can be more dreadful than turning into a mirror image of your own enemy. According to Michael Prescot: “When you fight someone, you take on that person’s qualities. You become that person. You become your enemy. And your enemy wins because now there’s another one of him in the world”.
The JIT report on Mashal Khan’s brutal lynching shows how the ANP has acquired the attributes of its worst enemies, including the Taliban it fought against so valiantly. To put things in perspective, let me set the ideals against the reality.
The ANP traces its origin to the Khudai Khidmatgar Movement of Bacha Khan. Erland Jansson, a Swedish scholar, identified four key messages from the life of Bacha Khan: intense Pakhtun nationalism, moral and social reform, non-violence and Islam. Bacha Khan created his magic through a unique fusion of these four elements that many may find irreconcilable today. For some, the Pakhtun culture and non-violence are irreconcilable while for many others Islam and non-violence do not sit comfortably. Bacha Khan proved both wrong, not theoretically but through his own example and the practices of hundreds of thousands of his followers.
Identity politics is, perhaps, one of the easiest and the most lucrative professions in the world. It usually starts and ends with laying all internal problems at someone else’s door and blaming them for all the ills in the world. This is what Carl Jung calls projection. A reformer, on the other hand, takes the opposite route. He identifies the devil within and invites the group to look not only outwards but inwards as well. There is hardly any wonder that some of the greatest men in history were killed by their own people. Gandhi, for example, was killed by Hindu extremists because they felt that he was siding with Muslim and Pakistan.
Bacha Khan’s life and struggle is strongly linked to the Pakhtun identity. For him, the Pakhtuns were not just a national or cultural group, but also a moral community. He aimed to reform Pakhtun society while leading a non-violent battle against the colonial masters. These qualities of Bacha Khan and his movement set him apart from most ethno-nationalist organisations in Pakistan and the wider world.
Rather than owning their devils and aiming to reform their people, ethno-nationalist groups often try to defend even the worst attributes of their tribe. They could even defend “cultural practices” like honour killing. In 2008, a leading Baloch chieftain and the leader of Balochistan Nationalist Party (BNP-A), Senator Mir Israrullah Zehri, defended in the Senate the burying alive of five Baloch women in the name of “Baloch customary laws and traditions”. In 1999, Ajmal Khattak, an ANP stalwart, had defended in the Senate the honour killing of a girl named Saima Sarwar. During that session, some senators from Fata had even physically attacked Iqbal Haider, the law minister, for speaking against the murder.
The defining feature of the ethno-nationalists in Pakistan is perhaps the destruction of education and educational system. Failing to garner widespread support, they focus on educational institutions and their student wings. The reason is obvious. Uprooted from their families and ancestral homes, the young men and women at that age are in search of identities and find some solace and comradeship in ethnic groups. However, the ethnic-nationalist groups cleverly use their ethnic affiliation to destroy their futures for their own political gains. We have seen it happening wherever ethno-nationalist groups have found an anchor at educational institutions in Pakistan.
For years, I argued that the ANP was different owing to Bacha Khan’s emphasis on education. The ANP has proved me wrong – totally and utterly wrong. I apologise to all my friends and readers who were convinced by my earlier arguments.
To me, the JIT report asks only one simple question: what do this party and its scoundrels have in common with Bacha Khan and his message? The reports hints at three deadly tendencies within “the most secular and liberal party” in Pakistan: religious extremism, violence and corruption.
According to the report, Mashal Khan was murdered in line with a plot allegedly hatched by Sabir Mayar, the president of the Pakhtun Student’s Federation (PSF), and Ajmal Khan, the president of the employees at the Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan – also affiliated with the ANP. According to the report, Mayar viewed Khan’s stance against activities on campus to be a threat to the PSF. In a way, it was a pre-meditated murder committed by an organisation that used religious extremism as a tool.
The ANP, during its tenure in KP, built seven universities. Mashal Khan’s case has shown how the party stuffed these universities with its incompetent loyalists at all levels. Once this is done to an independent organisation like a university, it becomes almost impossible to reform it. According to many observers, this is the position with all the new ‘ANP universities’.
It appears that, like the MQM, the ANP has also followed the technique devised by the JI to permanently “own” a campus. Like Punjab University, the control has been achieved through two means: by stuffing the university with loyalists and through violence by the student group. Once this control is achieved, these gangs can do anything to perpetuate their absolute control because, in the absence of merit, they feel perpetually insecure. According to the report, Mashal was murdered because he was seen as a challenge to this absolute control over the campus.
What the JIT does not mention is the shenanigans of the party leaders after Mashal Khan’s murder. Mardan is a district firmly under the control of the ANP. This district belongs to the extended clan of the Wali family – the Nouveau riche, newly-minted Hotis. In other words, it is the Nawabshah of the ANP. In this district, Amir Haider Hoti, the former chief minister of KP, issued Rs1.3 billion for the renovation and the rehabilitation of around 5,620 mosques and madressahs. When a committee of the KP Assembly started investigation into corruption allegations over this generous support, Hoti announced that 10,000 more mosques and madressahs would be constructed if he was elected once again.
ANP’s district nazim, Himayatullah Mayar, not only made statements against Mashal Khan, but also exerted his influence to save the accused. He refused to visit Mashal Khan’s home for fateha. Members of the ANP and the JUI-F in the district assembly shot down a PTI move to offer fateha for Mashal Khan. Later, the ANP settled the issue by sending a notice to Mayar and asking him to apologise.
Asfandyar Wali Khan never visited Mashal’s house for fateha and, on the day of his Chehlum, he chose to hold a public meeting in Karachi while the district head of the party and Amir Haider Hoti sneaked away to London to maintain distance from the incident. The ANP has found its only defence in the involvement of a PTI councillor in the case. However, no intuitional linkage of the murder can be made with the PTI while the ANP’s fingerprints are all over the body of Mashal Khan. Imran Khan was, in fact, the first politician to condemn the murder and he took a bold stance on the issue from the very beginning, despite his close association with religious parties.
I suggest that Asfandyar Wali Khan should spend 40 days meditating at the shrine of Bacha Khan in Jalalabad. He owes it to the wise, old man because his politics depends on being the custodian to this shrine. I have no doubt that he will receive some guidance from his grandfather through a dream.

Pakistan - Another Blasphemy Victim

An Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) on Saturday sentenced a man to death for sharing blasphemous content about Islam on social media, a government prosecutor said – the first such prosecution in the country. There is scant detail on the case beyond the fact that the accused was a 30 year old Shia from Bahawalpur. Little can be said on the case beyond the observation that the punishment for what is essentially a victimless crime is disproportionately and inhumanely high – death for a few misguided sentences on social media, with no chance for rehabilitation or apology.
The shifting of this ‘crime’ to the online sphere has created its own set of complications which make the application of this already onerous law all the more problematic. Over the course of the past few years – particularly during the US election – social media has become a hotbed of misleading and blatantly false misinformation.
It is very easy to fake content online an attribute it to someone else.
As we saw in the aftermath of the Mashal Khan lynching, efforts were made to posthumously create and post blasphemous content in the name of Mashal Khan to justify the murder – a charge that was mercifully debunked. Not every investigation will be conducted under such high scrutiny and not every investigator in the Pakistani police is equipped to differentiate between the real and the doctored.
Under a law where the criminal act is so loosely defined and the punishment so final, not being able to distinguish between misinformation and the actions of a person is another – cruel – wrinkle in the equation.
The incident also raises question on the priorities of our government and police department. The Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) carried out the investigation and the arrest; a department that was created to combat real terrorism and terrorists is instead sitting in its office scouring the internet for blasphemy. The last successful arrest and prosecution of a major terrorist by the CTD escapes memory, in fact for the most part it has given over this responsibility to the army, but it can spend time and resources arresting non-threats.
With the incident of Mashal Khan so recent in our memories this prosecution serves only to remind us that what happened in Mardan is not only the fault of a few conniving students and employees, but the byproduct of a larger system that says “death to the blasphemer”. It is difficult to condemn people who kill in the name of blasphemy when the state is doing the same.

Pakistani Christian dies,Muslim doctor refused medical treatment - Life and death of a worker

Umerkot, the gateway of Umrano Desert, adjacent to Thar Desert in eastern Sindh, is a dirty old town. But these days it looks even dirtier, as sanitary workers are on strike. Their protest is regarding doctors who have been accused of criminal negligence for refusing medical treatment to one of their co-workers, Irfan Masih.
According to Irfan’s family, doctors at the local hospital refused to treat Irfan, 35, after he fell unconscious while cleaning a manhole, on the pretext that they were fasting and couldn’t treat a patient covered in sewerage sludge.
“For a doctor, all humans should be equal. But they refused to treat my son since they thought he was filthy,” says Irshad Masih, Irfan Masih’s bereft mother. She was mourning her son along with a large crowd that had gathered to grieve with her in the courtyard of a small house in the Christian Colony of Umerkot.
On June 1 Yaqoob Masih, an employee of Municipal Committee Umerkot, fainted after descending into a choked manhole without a safety kit. Irfan, along with Shaukat Masih, another sanitary worker, went into the manhole to rescue Yaqoob. Even as they were descending, they were afraid as the memory of losing a colleague in a similar situation in 2014 haunted them.
“On the morning of June 1, my brother and his co-workers were sitting in the office, when municipal officials asked them to open a clogged manhole on main Chhor Cantt Road. They were told they would be fired if they refused to do the job,” says Pervaiz Masih, Irfan’s cousin, adding that Irfan and his colleagues asked the municipal staff to provide them appropriate machinery to avoid manual scavenging and endangering their lives. “But the officials forced them to open the manhole. They were not given a safety kit.”
In both government and private sectors across the country, it is the Christian community that is engaged in sanitation, this stands true for Umerkot as well. Although there is a significant Hindu and Muslim community living in Umerkot, no one from these communities is involved in sanitary work, these jobs are left for the Christian community. Sanitary workers are made to perform their duties without safety gear and equipment, endangering their lives due to the risk of inhaling poisonous gases.
In both government and private sectors across the country, it is the Christian community that is engaged in sanitation, this stands true for Umerkot as well. Sanitary workers are made to perform their duties without safety gear and equipment, endangering their lives due to the risk of inhaling poisonous gases.
Yaqoob was the first one to be hit by the poisonous gases trapped inside the manhole. After Irfan and his colleagues went in to rescue Yaqoob, tragically, the rope being used to pull them out, broke. All three men fell in.
The three of them were rushed to the hospital where doctors allegedly refused to treat them until the sludge on their bodies was cleaned. Irfan could not survive the delay and passed. The two others were referred to a private hospital in Karachi, where local municipal administration has been paying for their expensive treatment.
“He was the only bread earner in our family. What if the one covered in filth was the doctor’s own son? Would he have asked him to be cleaned before treatment? They hate us. No one even sits with us,” regrets Irshad, Irfan’s mother. Irfan’s father, Nazeer Masih, feels as bitter. “Politicians came only after the media reported his death widely.”
Umerkot police has registered a case against the MS Civil Hospital Umerkot, Dr Jam Kumbher and three other doctors. However, all of them have been granted bail. They all deny asking Masih family to clean Irfan before treatment, but a video circulating on social media shows the Masih family cleaning the body of the fainted sanitary worker, Irfan, at the hospital.
The Sindh government has announced a compensation of Rs1 million and a job to someone from the family of Irfan Masih. “I need justice. Doctors must be punished so that in future no one refuses treatment to a sewer cleaner,” says Irfan’s mother.
Meanwhile, the hospital authorities have submitted an application to register cases against Irfan’s 13 co-workers who protested against his death under the terrorism act. “They brought batons and acid to attack us,” claims Dr Jam Kumbher.
A majority of residents of the Christian Colony, where Irfan Masih used to live, are sanitary workers. Residents are attached with the Catholic Church of Kunri, a town in Umerkot district. Kunri was developed by the Municipal Committee Umerkot for Christians; at the start it was a settlement of 15 residential quarters, but over the years, it has grown and today it comprises no less than 40 households.
Umerkot is the birthplace of Mughal emperor Akbar, the pioneer of Hindu-Muslim harmony in South Asia. Though the social fabric between Muslims and non-Muslims is still strong, and this can be seen in the way they invite each other to weddings and arrange food depending on their dietary requirements; yet in recent years, relations between the communities have begun to alter. This recent incident, therefore, has made the locals question if this was an individual act or a reflection of the changing mindset.
In the past, Muslims refrained from slaughtering cows out of respect for the Hindu belief. Now a butcher shop selling cow meat has surfaced in the main market.
Back in the day Hindus looked after Imambargahs and managed Muharram processions; this is no longer the case. Earlier, Hindus ran shops and conducted businesses in the city but now Muslims too have entered the market and are competing, causing friction between the two communities.
A member of the National Assembly representing Pakistan Tehreek-e- Insaaf, Lal Malhi, says that in Umerkot a dispute over business or property always turns nasty and becomes an issue about religion. According to Malhi, Muslims think that a Hindu opponent can be forced to withdraw their case because of their vulnerable position.
Of the 386,000 voters registered in Umerkot, 49 per cent are Hindus and yet most of political parties are nominating Muslim candidates.

Aitzaz Ahsan believes JIT’s inquiry behind closed doors benefit PM

Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) senior leader Aitzaz Ahsan on Monday said that Joint Investigation Team (JIT)’s inquiry behind closed doors would eventually benefit Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Panama probe, ARY News reported.
Demanding to make JIT’s inquiry public, Ahsan dispelled an impression that the matter would have an adverse impact on national politics while talking to media persons outside Lahore High Court.
He accused the government of trying to make the Panamagate investigation controversial. “We are demanding the open inquiry from day one as we believe the investigation behind the closed doors would ultimately benefit the main accused in Panama Leaks scandal”, he asserted. The PPP leader also condemned the harassment of Awami Muslim League (AML) Chief Sheikh Rasheed outside the National Assembly building by the ruling party worker.
“Rasheed was harassed and attacked outside the legislature by design”, he said.
It is worth mentioning here that several leaders of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) have expressed their concerns on the JIT members’ behaviour towards the Sharif family members and other officials during the interrogation. Previously, the premier’s son had filed a plea in the apex court for his reservation on two members of the JIT besides a complaint lodged by PM Nawaz Sharif’s cousin Tariq Shafi over maltreatment by the probing team.