Friday, September 1, 2017
India withdrew its troops to its own territory along the China-India border on Monday. The next day, it announced that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the BRICS summit in Xiamen, China in early September. Both China and India have indicated that they intend to leave the Doklam border standoff behind as soon as possible.
But some people in both countries are still indulging in a confrontational atmosphere that had lasted in the past two months. The standoff has severely affected how the two sides view each other.
A few Indian media outlets claimed a victory for New Delhi. A so-called inside story was revealed to prove that the Indian side took the upper hand. Chinese public opinion has exercised restraint and avoided irritating India that has to pull its soldiers from the Doklam area.
The fact is that the Indian troops withdrew to their own side on Monday. By so doing, India has admitted that China has sovereignty and the actual control over the Doklam area. China has also made it clear that its border troops will continue with their patrols in the area. Public opinion in India is trying its utmost to prove New Delhi's dignity, which China doesn't refute. The Chinese side was willing to see Indian soldiers withdraw without losing face.
As nationalist sentiment is surging in India, it was not an easy decision for the Modi government to withdraw the Indian troops.
Besides pressure from China, India has taken a rational approach. Therefore, we should encourage India's move, which matches China's demeanor as a great power.
This newspaper hit hard at India during the faceoff, but now we don't want to engage in an argument with the Indian media as to which side won this standoff. We just want to say that the two countries can end this crisis without having to resort to war, which is a victory for Asia.
A few Chinese perhaps are not satisfied that the crisis was settled this way. They wish the People's Liberation Army could have given India's troops a good slap. Indians have their own regrets. When the confrontation ended, China stressed its sovereignty and control over the Doklam area and did not make the open commitment that India had hoped for.
But this is perhaps the maturity of the Asian continent. US and Japanese strategists have wanted to see a long-term confrontation between China and India. While such a scenario was about to come, it eventually did not.
But this incident shows that India may act beyond the logic of international relations. As the two countries deepen their understanding, they must pay more attention to avoid any misjudgments that may lead to a new crisis.
China needs to enhance its deterrence to avoid external provocations. China has powerful comprehensive strength, while how we utilize this strength to safeguard our national interests hasn't been recognized by external forces and has to be proved in a crisis. This will add costs to China's safeguarding of its national security, so enhancing our deterrence needs to be one of our grand national plans.
By Hurmat Ali Shah
In The Real Pashtun Question, Farhat Taj dissects the internal cultural narratives and male-dominated public spaces to find the answer as to why Pashtun lands remain in the grip of extremism and why the state is able to make it the ground for its policy of strategic depth. Farhat Taj hails from Kohat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and was an Assistant Professor at Kohat University of Science and Technology. He is now based in Norway where he works as a researcher. The book presents exhaustive details of events, especially in Kurram, and the details are analyzed in a theoretical framework to arrive at conclusions.
Chapter one occupies one-third of the book and presents the Shia-Sunni conflict in Kurram in detail. The author has described the historical mode of conflict resolution between the Shia and Sunni tribes and through anecdotal as well as documented evidence has shown that there existed a goodwill and mutual trust between the Sunni and Shia tribes. For example the main mosque in Parachinar, the capital city of upper Kurram is Shia dominated as opposed to the lower Kurram where Sunnis are in majority. The Central JumaatAhle-e-Sunnat, was built on the land donated by the Shia Turi tribe and an individual from the Sunni Jaji tribe was made custodian of the mosque. The Shias in Kurram have traditionally relied on the state for protection and the political administration of the agency from the British era played an active role in intervening at the right time to resolve crises.
The political administration resolved issues among the tribes in 1961, 1972 and 1973, but things changed with the advent of the Afghan jihad. Parachinar is only 100 km away from Kabul. Kurram’s landmass extends into three important Afghanistan’s provinces: Khost, Paktia and Ningarhar. This extension is called Parrot’s beak. Just on the other side of Parachinar, in Afghanistan lies Tora Bora, the now famous mountain because of the heavy US bombardment in pursuit of Osama bin Laden. Because of the strategic location of Kurram and especially Parachinar, it was of importance for Pakistan in the Afghan Jihad. The Arab Mujahedeen brought with themselves the rabid anti-Shia ideology and found allies in the local Sunnis.
Providing safe havens to the Mujahdeen became an existential threat to the Shias of Kurram, and they started to resist their land being used as a launching pad for jihad in Afghanistan. Then General Zia changed the demography of the agency by rehabilitating 350,000 Afghan refugees in Kurram, and this made the Shias a minority in Kurram. Later these refugees were motivated to cleanse lower Kurram of all Shias who then relocated to upper Kurram. The Shias of Kurram braved multiple assaults on their lands from the Taliban with no assistance from the security forces. A leadership vacuum was created when the elders of the agency and surrounding agencies were killed in targeted attacks and thus the conventional mode of resolving disputes was rendered ineffective. Then the establishment tried to introduce the Haqqanis as an alternate leadership for mediation.
The author has identified three main reasons for the oppression of the Shias of Kurram. First, the surrounding Sunni tribes have been eyeing the lands which belongs to Shia tribes according to ‘Kaaghazat-e-Maal’, the official land records. Second the state has manipulated this rivalry and has accommodated anti-Shia militants in the agency. Third, the dominant discourse in Pashtun society is formed by the Tablighi Jamaat which is a puritan Wahabi movement and its message often has an anti-Shia streak.
The government cannnot be absolved of its role in entrenching an extremist mindset in the Pashtun lands. In 1984,1985 and in 1990,1991 out of the Auqaaf fund, Rs. 15,969 million were given to forty-two Madrassas in the then NWFP. What gave the Taliban wider acceptance was their embodiment of much of Pashtuns’ ‘constitutive narratives’. Constitutive narratives are stories and images that shape the outlook of a community and represent core cultural values. The Taliban have taken these narratives a step further by couching them in global Islamist philosophy. The male egocentric view which the Taliban share with Pashtuns is based on badal (revenge), tarboorwali (rivalry), Siali (competition) and ghairat (honor), which form the basis of Pashtunwali. Another evil in Pashtun culture is the almost-acceptable practice of pedophilia. According to the author this emerges from the benevolent sexism which sees women and children as weak and men as superiors who take care of them. In Pashtun culture benevolent sexism feeds into the power paradigm and with sex being a taboo subject, pedophilia becomes socially acceptable. The Tablighi culture by its insistence on quietism and acceptance of ‘fate’ has encouraged society to comply with dictates such as benevolent sexism, and in the case of misogyny, this male-dominance has been sanctioned with religious and spiritual blessing.
The evils in any culture can be fought by laws implemented by the state and by social movements and by the convergence of such efforts. But unfortunately the state is not interested in reforming society through legislation. Instead the state is adamant in exploiting these very evils for its own agenda. FATA remains a lawless society as the centuries old FCR has rendered society static while in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa the state has invested heavily in Madaris and Tabligh, adding further to the religiosity which results in more extremism. KhudaiKhidmatgar led by Bacha Khan was one social reform movement with popular appeal but the British suppressed it because of its affiliation with the All India National Congress. Later the Pakistani state suppressed it because it was seen as a threat to the integrity of the country.
The book is an important addition to the scholarship on Pashtun culture and the relationship of Pashtuns to Pakistan. The anthropological research is presented in easy to digest terms and is backed by exhaustive detail which make it a must read for anyone interested in understanding the problems which have engulfed the Pashtun lands.
New data reveals Pakistan's population has ballooned by 57 percent in two decades to 207.8 million. This has not only raised concerns about the state's ability to provide for its people, but also caused a wave of anger.
Political parties in Pakistan are busy sparring over the accuracy of the recently-held census, and religious groups are preoccupied bashing America for its alleged threats to Islamabad. This leaves civil society and social scientists wondering: who will take the country's growing population's impact on security and prosperity seriously? Pakistan's population has ballooned to 207.77 million, according to provisional census results. This is a 57 percent increase since the last census nearly two decades ago. After the South Asian nation was established 70 years ago following India's partition, the region that constitutes modern-day Pakistan had a population of 33.7 million. Recently, the most explosive population growth has taken place in Pakistan's major cities, western provinces and tribal areas that border Afghanistan.
Bitterness among regions
The census results have caused a wave of anger across the country with smaller provinces lambasting the federal government in Islamabad for "rigging" the data. Squabbling politicians want to protest the census numbers because they complain their regions' real population sizes are higher. They say the government does not want to increase its funding to local authorities to reflect this. "The large share of budget is taken away by the Pakistani military," said former Finance Minister Dr. Mubashir Hasan. "The rest is taken by capitalists, feudals and bureaucrats. Unless we cut down the military budget, abolish feudalism and distribute lands, we will see nothing but a myriad of problems with this rising population," Hasan told DW. Facing realities Amidst this political wrangling, civil society groups are worried about the implications of this census that shows a 57 percent increase since in 1998.
"If the state does not perform its duty with regard to the provision of basic amenities then the situation will be catastrophic," Farooq Tariq, a Lahore-based activist, told DW. "More than 67 percent of people are already living without concrete roofs, 35 percent of peasants are landless and over 60 million are living in poverty," he added. With Pakistan spending just 0.9 percent of its GDP on health, and 2.6 percent on education, Tariq fears poverty will increase even more in the coming decades. Conscious of the regional bitterness and wave of protests the recent census has triggered, Dr. Mehdi Hasan, a renowned intellectual and author, warns the results will only compound the country's existing challenges. "More than 20 million children are out of schools, and then another 43 percent of the students drop out before passing their fifth grade," Hasan told DW. "[You can] expect millions more that will be added to this figure with the rising population."
Pakistan's current deficit is already alarmingly high and the country's exports are dwindling. Despite the government's borrowing binge over the last four years, the South Asian country is still grappling with a deteriorating economic situation. Economist Zia Uddin says: "With this trend of the rising population, our debts, which are already close to $70 billion (58 billion euros), are set to rise." Uddin says that Pakistan's tax-to-GDP ratio at 4 percent is the lowest in the region. Uddin warns of economic trouble ahead, saying, "Our resources are so meagre that they were not enough even before this census." National security Many analysts predict the country's biggest challenge of the coming decades will be ensuring national security in the face of an exploding population. Analyst Ahsan Raza believes this rapid population growth and the reality of meagre resources will likely strengthen religious and extremist forces in Pakistan.
"We already have around 79,000 registered and unregistered seminaries across the country where poor people with a large family have been putting their kids," Raza told DW. These seminaries, also known as madrassas, provide free food and lodging to its students, making it an attractive option for impoverished communities. However, Raza warns that these madrassas will mushroom across remote regions of the country to compensate for the state's inability to provide for a growing population. "More people will send their children to religious seminaries, which means that you will have more religious intolerance, sectarianism and extremism," he explained, "which ultimately further complicates the security situation." Cities are also not immune to the potential rise in religious extremism, with already more than 30,000 religious schools in urban centers. Raza said, "They teach mathematics, physics, and other science subjects (but) go and visit these schools and you will feel as if you are in a madrassa."
There is a fear that religious groups and organizations will continue to step in where the state fails to provide for its growing population, and as Raza surmises, there will be "more jihadi and sectarian warriors in the coming decades that will not only target alleged infidels but the liberal and secular-minded people of the country."
An anti-terrorism court on Thursday acquitted five men - accused of being Taliban - who had been blamed for being involved in the 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, and branded former military ruler General (r) Pervez Musharraf a fugitive in the murder trial.
The verdicts are the first to be issued since Benazir Bhutto, the first female prime minister of a Muslim country, was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack nearly a decade ago, sparking street violence and plunging Pakistan into months of political turmoil.
The judge also found two police officers guilty of "mishandling the crime scene", the court official said, making them the only people to have been convicted over the assassination.
Saud Aziz, who was the police chief in Rawalpindi at the time of Bhutto's assassination, and former Rawal Town SP Khurram Shahzad were sentenced to 17 years each and ordered to pay a fine of Rs 0.5 million each.
Khurram Shahzad was accused of hosing down the crime scene less than two hours after the killing - an act the United Nations described in a report as "fundamentally inconsistent with Pakistani police practice".
Saud Aziz was accused of both giving Shahzad permission to hose down the scene, and of refusing multiple times to allow an autopsy of Bhutto's body to go ahead.
The two former police officials had earlier been granted bail and were present in court at the time the verdict was announced. According to the verdict, the former policemen had been awarded 10 years in prison under Section 119 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and seven years under Section 201 of the PPC.
Former president and military ruler Musharraf is alleged to have been part of a broad conspiracy to have his political rival killed before elections. He has denied the allegation. He was charged with murder, criminal conspiracy for murder and facilitation for murder in 2013, in an unprecedented move against an ex-army chief, challenging beliefs the military is immune from prosecution.
But he has been in self-exile in Dubai ever since a travel ban was lifted three years later.
The anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi ruled he had "absconded", a court official told reporters outside, saying it had also ordered the confiscation of his property. The judge acquitted five men who had been accused of being Taliban militants involved in the conspiracy to kill Bhutto on December 27, 2007.
They were set to walk free nearly 10 years after they were first arrested, though a defence lawyer said it was not yet clear when they would be released.
"My clients were held for nine years and eight months for nothing," Malik Jawad Khalid, the lawyer for three of the men - Rafaqat Hussain, Husnain Gul and Sher Zaman - told AFP. Musharraf's government blamed the assassination on Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, who denied any involvement. He was killed in a US drone attack in 2009.
In 2010, the UN report accused Musharraf's government of failing to give Bhutto adequate protection and said her death could have been prevented.
#BenazirBhutto - The most shocking political assassination of the past decade remains an utter mystery
By Pamela Constable
Bhutto’s slaying nearly a decade ago, on Dec. 27, 2007, spawned an international investigation, numerous arrests and an array of conspiracy theories, but it was never solved. Now, even after a Pakistani anti-terrorism court finally delivered its verdict Thursday, the killing appears destined to remain a mystery.
The court, which heard the case inside a high-security prison, found two police officials guilty of failing to provide security for Bhutto and improperly handling the crime scene; both were sentenced to lengthy prison terms. Among other unexplained acts, they quickly ordered the immediate area hosed down, thereby destroying potential evidence.
The judges also declared Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the former military ruler now living in exile in London, an “offender” and “absconder” in the case. Musharraf was implicated in the killing by supporters of Bhutto, who claimed he feared her political comeback and was intent on remaining in power. He repeatedly denied those claims but refused to testify in the case and was forced to step down within months of her death.
But the court acquitted five men arrested as suspects in the murder. All were allegedly members of the Pakistani Taliban movement and had been held in prison for nearly a decade on charges of plotting and facilitating the crime. The judges said there was insufficient evidence to convict them, rejecting the official prosecution’s argument that she was the victim of an insurgent plot.
Some commentators expressed deep disappointment in the verdict, suggesting it was a product of political dealmaking and reflected poorly on the independence of Pakistan’s judicial system. Rashid Rizvi, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, commented that the court ruling was “as much a conspiracy as her murder was.”
Farhatullah Babar, a Pakistan People’s Party senator and longtime close aide to Bhutto, called the verdict a “victory for al-Qaeda.” A leading newspaper called the outcome “a disgrace to the memory of one of the country’s greatest leaders.”
But although Bhutto was seen as a democratic inspiration to many as the longtime leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, she was also a controversial and combative figure from a family with a history of violent tragedy, political plotting, internal feuds and military repression. Her father, onetime socialist prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was imprisoned and hanged in 1979 by military dictator Mohammed Zia ul-Haq. Her brother Shahnawaz was killed in France in 1985. Another brother Murtaza, a political firebrand, was killed in a gun battle with police in 1996, and some family members blamed Benazir.
And just over two months before her death, Bhutto had survived a massive bombing in Karachi amid at a huge public throng that had come to welcome her back after eight years in exile; the explosion killed 136 people. Musharraf declared a state of emergency and put her under house arrest; shortly after it was lifted she decided to hold an election rally in a park in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.
She had just made a speech and was waving from the sunroof of her SUV, surrounded by aides, when shots rang out and a bomb exploded. Reeling, she fell and hit her head on the vehicle and later died of head injuries on the way to a hospital.
One of the most bizarre aspects of the brazen daytime assassination was that Bhutto’s own family never seemed interested in discovering the truth. Her widower, Asif Ali Zardari, who was away at the time, refused to allow an autopsy. Elected president a few months later on a sympathy vote, he called for an investigation by the United Nations, but his government barely cooperated with investigators. In a scathing report, U.N. officials said Pakistani authorities had made no serious attempt to solve the crime, that their own efforts were “severely hampered” by intelligence agencies and that the Pakistani police were hesitant to pursue the case, in part out of fear of higher-ups. The central message of the report was that no one in authority cared about the facts, only about how to spin them.
After the long-awaited verdict was announced Thursday, there was no immediate comment from Zardari, who has been embroiled in a protracted legal battle dating back to the Musharraf era. At the time, he was charged with various acts of corruption, including acquiring assets through illegal means. Several days ago, a full decade later, he was acquitted on some of those charges in an accountability court.
Nearly a decade since Benazir Bhutto’s tragic assassination, an anti-terrorism court has delivered its questionable verdict in a case that was controversially investigated and prosecuted.
Five suspects accused of involvement in the planning and execution of the attack on Bhutto in Rawalpindi on Dec 27, 2007, have been acquitted; two senior police officers responsible for protecting her on that fateful day and, later, securing the site of the attack for evidentiary purposes have been convicted; and former military dictator and then president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf has been declared an absconder in the case.
It is a thoroughly unsatisfactory conclusion to a case that raised more questions than it purported to answer.
While criticism has been directed at the court, the problem originated with a weak prosecution.
The possibility that the state may appeal the verdict should be considered seriously, and this time the state should assemble a stronger case that is scrupulously backed up by evidence and the law.
The Bhutto assassination consisted of a number of tragedies wrapped into a single traumatic episode.
Surely, a broken criminal judicial and policing system must bear a great deal of the blame for the failure to identify and punish the architects of the former prime minister’s assassination.
Similarly, the Musharraf regime ought to be held accountable for appearing to use Bhutto’s security as a negotiating tool in the political deal-making that was being attempted at the time. But there is another inescapable fact: the PPP won power in 2008, manoeuvred Mr Musharraf out of office and then proceeded to do virtually nothing to try and identify and hold accountable the perpetrators of Bhutto’s murder.
The party and its sympathisers argue that the responsibility to sustain a nascent transition to democracy forced the PPP government to make unpleasant choices. While that may be true — the Asif Zardari-led PPP was under pressure on many fronts — it is also the case that the PPP itself opted to relegate the murder of its iconic leader to the bottom of its list of governance priorities.
Notions of self-survival and having to make unpleasant compromises tend to characterise politicians’ accounts of their time in office. But Bhutto was no ordinary leader and her death should never have been treated as merely another dark chapter in the history of a country that has seen many such incidents.
The PPP government owed it to the nation, its own party and its assassinated leader to identify and prosecute those responsible for her death. The laments of PPP leaders today may be real, but so was their conscious decision to turn their back on their slain leader for the sake of power and public office.
It is a heartbreaking disgrace to the memory of one of the country’s greatest leaders.
The ten year long Benazir Bhutto murder case has come spluttering to an end, and consistent with its botched, influenced and erratic trial process the judgment is equally fragmented. Two police officers – accused of hosing down the crime scene and otherwise impeding investigation – have been handed town 17 year sentences for negligence. The main accused, former President Pervez Musharraf has been declared a ‘fugitive’ and the seizure of his properties ordered. The five Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) suspects have curiously all been released.
The differing fate of all the parties in this trial only goes to show how partial the process was. The judge hearing the trial was changed eight times and the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) special prosecutor gunned down in 2013 – despite this, and perhaps because of this, the court granted Pervez Musharraf bail, and eventually he was even taken off the Exit Control List, paving his way to a well appointed exile. The court declaring him a fugitive and issuing arrest warrant in his name is a futile exercise now, it might as well scream at the wind to bring him back. Convicting him is a separate issue, the state agencies and the justice system could not even make the former military dictator face trial. A the moment there is nothing to doubt the legal basis on which this sentence was handed out, but as an exercise of the rule of law, this case has been appalling.
Billawal Bhutto is correct in condemning the outcome as “disappointing and unacceptable”; justice was not done. However he must know that a large part of this trial was conducted while Pakistan People’s Party was in power, with his father – and Benazir’s husband – at the helm. If the prosecution was influenced and intimidated, or the police failed to lay down the basic investigative framework on which the prosecution would be built, then it is also the fault of his party.
Of course, the trial may be over, but the case will probably still continue. The option to appeal the release of the five TTP suspects is being mulled, and Musharraf’s case still hangs in the balance. The convictions for the two police officers have only confirmed the existence of foul play.
The former dictator has boasted about his bravery and his willing to come back and face trial but all that seems like bluster at the moment. Declaring him a fugitive may generate pressure on him, but it seems unlikely it will make him return. Instead we would be listening to a declared fugitive’s comments on national television and interviews to foreign publications.
The pressure on the government to muzzle Pervez Musharraf – the way it did Altaf Hussain – will only grow larger. In the absence of providing a free and fair trial, it is the least they can do.