Sunday, October 8, 2017
An Post has issued a one euro stamp featuring the face of Che Guevara, a leading figure in the Cuban Revolution of the 1950s and 1960s.
The stamp, which features a famous image of Guevara by Dublin artist Jim Fitzpatrick, commemorates the 50th anniversary of the revolutionary’s death on October 9th, 1967.
Born in Argentina, Guevara helped Fidel Castro overthrow the US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista.
His father was Ernesto Guevara Lynch, a civil engineer of Irish descent.
A quote from Ernesto, “in my son’s veins flowed the blood of Irish rebels”, features on a First Day Cover envelope to accompany the stamp.
Designed by Red&Grey, the stamp is based on Mr Fitzpatrick’s artwork, which appears on t-shirts, posters, badges and clothing worldwide and is now rated among the world’s top 10 most iconic images.
It is available from main post offices, from the stamp counters at Dublin’s GPO or online at irishstamps.ie.
By CARLOS VALDEZ AND ANDREA RODRIGUEZ
A little band of guerrillas had been on the run through rugged, mountainous terrain, struggling unsuccessfully to build support among the indigenous people of rural Bolivia as a step toward a global socialist revolution.
Finally, on Oct. 8, 1967, the army ran them down. A day afterward — apparently at the behest of the CIA — an army sergeant shot to death their leader: Ernesto "Che" Guevara.
Fifty years later, the mountain village where he was killed and the nearby town where he was buried have become shrines to a sort of socialist saint, a man whose death helped cement his image as an enduring symbol of revolt. Some there even pray to him — an outcome that likely would have outraged the iconoclastic atheist.
Thousands of activists and sympathizers from many countries poured into La Higuera and Vallegrande this week for ceremonies to commemorate Guevara led by the country's leftist president, Evo Morales, who laid flowers at a bust of the fallen guerrilla in the village on Sunday.
In Cuba, President Raul Castro — one of Guevara's old comrades-in-arms — oversaw a memorial ceremony at the large mausoleum constructed to hold the revolutionary's remains, though the main speaker was the man many believe may replace him, Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel. "The colossal example of Che endures and multiplies day by day," said Diaz-Canel, who added warnings that the United States, Guevara's chief foe, had demonstrated "a marked interest in a political and economic reconquest" of Cuba.
Guevara was the very personification of the communist dream of spreading revolution around the world.
The Argentine-born physician was radicalized by a youthful trip through South America, witnessed the CIA-backed overthrow of a leftist president in Guatemala and ran across exiled Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro while working as a photographer in Mexico.
Despite an often-debilitating asthma, he turned himself into one of the most important fighters of Castro's Cuban revolution, winning the climactic battlefield victory in the city of Santa Clara that prompted dictator Fulgencio Batista to flee the country. In the aftermath of that triumph, Guevara commanded the Havana military fortress of La Cabana, where hundreds of men accused of crimes under the Batista regime were put to death.
Castro then made Guevara into an unlikely financial bureaucrat, naming him to head Cuba's Central Bank and later the Ministry of Industry. He was famous for working long hours, and then turning up for volunteer work in the sugar fields.
But he felt the call to spread socialism to other nations. He left Cuba in 1964 to help rebels in the Congo, renouncing his Cuban citizenship but relying on Cuban aid. The mission was a flop and he had to pull out a year later.
Back in Cuba, Guevara secretly organized another revolution, this time in Bolivia. But his band there, which included several Cubans, failed to find the sort of popular support that Castro had won in Cuba during his revolution. Bolivia's army tracked Che down and killed him.
An oddly Christ-like photo of the slain Guevara emerged and helped build the image of him as a martyr. An even more famous photo of the living Che, seeming to gaze into the future, has become an icon of rebellion on t-shirts, tattoos and key rings — sometimes to the consternation of Guevara's socialist allies, who disapprove of the way it has become commercialized.
One of Guevara's younger brothers, Juan Martin Guevara, said the causes he fought for remain important.
"The inequality today is greater than when he fought, the economic concentration is much greater. What he fought for is still present," the brother said in Buenos Aires. "He would be in the same place that he always was, confronting it."
By Raza Rumi
The current efforts appear to be another attempt to continue the strategic goals vis-a-vis India and cut Nawaz Sharif, the errant boy, down to size.
The powers-that-be are all set to undertake a new experiment — mainstreaming of militants into national politics. This is yet another rushed plan that is being pushed without an open debate and a comprehensive strategy that ordinarily would require input from the Parliament and the civil society. If history is any guide, a decade later, the state might reluctantly acknowledge that it made yet another mistake.
The so-called ‘policy’ was first confirmed by a retired military general and some leaders of the ruling party and picked up by local and international press. Later, the usual denials were issued but succeeding events proved that the efforts were afoot to implement this mainstreaming experiment. Milli Muslim League (MML), a new ‘political party’ backed by Hafiz Saeed fielded an unofficial candidate in the NA 120 by-election in Lahore. Another extremist outfit -—Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan — fielded its candidate in the election who secured more than 6 percent of votes. The key election plank of this group was to glorify killer Mumtaz Qadri and called him a ‘martyr’.
Another jihadist leader Fazlur Rehman Khalil has indicated that he is also working on creating his own political party. Both Hafiz Saeed and Khalil are designated as international terrorists by the United States. Under Indian pressure, the US has already put a $10 million bounty on Saeed’s head.
Without developing an effective disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) strategy, the current move will only radicalize the society further Pakistan Army’s spokesman recently confirmed that there was a plan to develop a ‘constructive’ role for these groups. It’s official now.
The implementation of this mainstreaming plan was accelerated within a fortnight of Nawaz Sharif’s ouster on July 28. Media reports and statements of Sharif’s aides suggest that this plan was presented to the former Prime Minister who rejected it. Sharif’s successor may have agreed to it but civilian assent is a mere formality given how the security policy is crafted and implemented in Pakistan.
Three factors are at work here. First, there is growing international pressure for the Pakistani state to distance itself and curb the private jihad enterprises that have mushroomed in the last three decades. The Americans and Indians are now joined by China that gave a clear signal through the BRICS declaration a few weeks ago. Second, the security establishment has been grappling with this issue since Operation Zarb e Azab started. They have effectively fought the Pakistani Taliban but evidently are in a fix about the future of the erstwhile proxies. Third and perhaps more immediate in the current context is how to cut Nawaz Sharif’s vote-base — -that traditionally included the conservative groups — to size. Nawaz’s gradual shift to the centre has annoyed the Barelvi-Islamist voter.
This is not a new plan. In the 1980s, the establishment used similar schemes to undercut the popular support of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Sectarian and ethnic groups were facilitated and even armed. The country paid a price. Today when credit is taken to clean-up Karachi, no mention is made as to how armed groups in the country’s largest metropolis emerged and why. The electoral manifestation of 80’s formula emerged with the formation of Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) when all the shades of rightwing groups were merged to defeat the PPP. Ironically, Nawaz Sharif was a participant in that political engineering. Three decades later, the tables have turned. Now as Imran Khan’s confidantes Sheikh Rasheed and actor Hamza Ali Abbasi’s statements suggest: the old formula wine might be served in new bottles.
The difference between IJI and the (emerging) coalition of 2017-2018 is that the latter includes groups that are armed. Without developing an effective disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration (DDR) strategy, the current move will only radicalise the society further. As we witnessed during recent Lahore by-election and its aftermath, militants-based parties mobilised in the name of ‘blasphemy.’ Even more ludicrous are the calls to punish Nawaz Sharif for hanging Mumtaz Qadri thereby confirming that, when all is said and done, the state apparatus uses this law for its own benefit. Such pandering has had pernicious consequences. For instance, the regular mob lynching in the country over allegations of blasphemy.
Similarly, within the religious discourse the idea that jihad can only be declared and waged by the state, has gained currency in the wake of counter-narratives to terrorists’ propaganda. The jihadists, if they are not demobilised, will take this discourse into the mainstream. Such narratives will also intensify political competition between political actors as to who is more loyal to Islamic causes. Nothing sells like religion in our part of the world. The case of India’s religious nationalism testifies that it is not religion-specific phenomena but a function of post-colonial societies adjusting to issues of identity, neo-liberalism and modernity.
If mainstreaming is the way forward then de-mobilisation and de-weaponsation are its crucial pre-requisites. These steps must precede the reintegration of militants in the political system. Security apparatus of the state has to publicly and verifiably distance from all political activities of the militant groups. The militant groups, under the supervision of a national commission should demobilise their cadres, and deweaponise them.
Experiences from DDR in Africa and parts of Latin America have underscored that reintegrationonly works when it is framed through an organic political process. This is where the role of Pakistan’s Parliament becomes even more important. Pakistan is not a post-conflict state in tatters. It has functioning political institutions, howsoever stymied they might be. The key issue here is that the military cannot do this alone. It would require the support and input from political parties, civil society, academia (not just those who work in its ambit) and find ways that the process mainstreaming takes place within the constitutional framework.
Sadly, so far there are no signs that such an inclusive national debate is occurring. Instead, the current mainstreaming appears to be another attempt to continue the strategic goals vis-a-vis India and cut Nawaz Sharif, the errant boy, down to size. This is why the media must monitor it and urge more transparency as the process unfolds in the months to come.
Dr Asim Hussain’s statements upon his return to Pakistan speak volumes for the Peoples Party’s new political position.
The under-trial PPP leader had gone to London after the Apex court ordered removal of his name from the ECL. On arrival at Karachi airport on Friday, Asim warned former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif against criticising the establishment.
Not too long ago, PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari had to go on self-exile following a fiery speech he delivered in 2015. Zardari had referred to Dr Asim’s case as an example of political victimisation of the PPP. But after returning to the country last year, the PPP co-chairman went into the appeasement mode.
Ever since the Panama Papers scandal broke out and the matter went to the Supreme Court, the PPP has refrained from standing up with the ruling party, the way it did in 2014 at the time of PTI and PAT dharnas in Islamabad. Perhaps, this is because the PPP has realised that the politics of reconciliation was not working — especially in Punjab.
PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari often mentions that the party is in a revival phase and he refers to the party as ‘new PPP’. It turns out that the new PPP isn’t too new after all. The party has been unable to come up with any concrete policy prescriptions for the country’s numerous problems. It has yet to offer any ground-breaking solutions to issues like extremism, macroeconomic woes and socio-economic development needs.
It seems that the PPP has started to think that reviving the party is only possible if the leadership refrains from angering the powers-that-be, come what may. Whether or not this new strategy will help the party regain its lost ground in Punjab remains to be seen.
A more certain path to revival would have been improvement of the performance of the party’s government in Sindh province. In the past nine years, the provincial government’s performance has remained disappointing to say the least. Most importantly, if PPP improves itself on that front, it won’t need to compromise on its ideological principles to gain political mileage.
On a late September evening at a tea stall in Lyari, one of the poorest and until recently one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in Karachi, a small group of Pakistan People’s Party members were discussing the verdict of a special Pakistani court on the murder of Benazir Bhutto.
Their former party chief and the first female prime minister of an Islamic state was killed on December 27, 2007 outside a large electoral gathering of her supporters in Rawalpindi when a gunman shot her and set off a bomb. At least 24 other people were killed and several more were injured.
After nearly ten years of repeated investigation by Pakistan’s chaotic judicial system and a distinct lack of interest from the government, on August 31 an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi declared Pervez Musharraf, the country’s former president and army chief to be a fugitive from justice in the Bhutto assassination case. The court also acquitted five suspected members of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, a Pakistani terror group, of all charges of conspiring to murder Bhutto.
Seven TTP militants accused of involvement in the murder have been killed in military operations since 2007. The head of the outfit, Baitullah Mehsud, was killed in a drone strike in South Waziristan in August 2009.
The court also sentenced two high-ranking police officers, Khurram Shahzad and Saud Aziz, to 17 years in prison for negligence for failing to properly guard Bhutto. Shahzad hosed down the crime scene with water in less than two hours after the attack while Aziz refused repeatedly to allow a postmortem on the prime minister's body.
“I am not satisfied with the court decree. There is no clue on who killed Bhutto. The court released all the suspected militants and only punished two police officers,” said Muhammad Ali, one of the supporters of the PPP, a Pakistani liberal political party.
“It shows that no one is serious about bringing the real killers of Bhutto to justice and the government just wants to get rid of the case.”
Two months before Bhuttos’ killing, on October 18, 2007, at least 130 people, most of them also from Lyari neighbourhood, were killed when two bombs exploded in the crowd celebrating Bhutto's return to Pakistan after eight years of self-imposed exile in Dubai and London. Mr Ali was there and was slightly injured. Bhutto was unhurt.
Most party workers, like Mr Ali - indeed, many Pakistanis - are disappointed with the court verdict, as it explains nothing.
Conspiracy theories abound: was it the TTP chief Mehsud? Was the suicide bomber a TTP member? Was it Musharraf? Was the lax security the fault of Pervez Ilahi, chief minister of Punjab at the time, or Bhutto's own bodyguards? Pakistanis love conspiracy theories, says Owais Tohid, an Islamabad-based journalist who interviewed Bhutto twice after her return to Pakistan. “We as people still love to believe that America must be behind 9/11 or military dictator General Ziaul Haq's plane was blown into pieces by America's CIA or Bin laden is still alive.”
Yet from anti-terrorism courts to Scotland Yard detectives to a United Nations fact-finding mission, no one has produced anything concrete on Bhutto’s killers.
Bhutto’s children were also disappointed. Her son Bilawal, who now leads the party after graduating from Oxord University (like his mother) called the August 31 verdict “unacceptable” on Twitter and said he would "explore legal options.” His sister Aseefa said: “10 years later and we still await justice. Abettors punished but those truly guilty of my mother’s murder roam free.”
Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto’s husband and former president challenged the acquittal of five TTP suspects in Lahore High Court. He also objected to the 17-year prison terms for the two police officers and questioned why a case against Musharraf was separated from the Bhutto assassination case. Musharraf, who came to power in a nonviolent coup in 1999, was charged in 2014 with high treason. He spent some time under house arrest but left the country in 2016 on the pretext of needing medical treatment. Sixty-eight witnesses gave evidence in the murder trial, but legal analysts say the case lacked credibility throughout.
“The Bhutto investigation seemed to be a deliberate sabotage to not allow the investigation to lead to the logical conclusion, which in my opinion led to Musharraf and his cronies,” said Saroop Ijaz, a Lahore-based lawyer and researcher for Human Rights Watch. “The anti-terrorism court’s judgment is a farce, it fails to hold anyone directly accountable and lacks legal reasoning and moral courage.”
The court found the two police officers guilty of aiding and abetting and destroying evidence but no one guilty of the actual murder. “This is without precedent and shameful. The Benazir Bhutto trial was about holding the powerful responsible [Musharraf] and closure for hundreds of millions of Pakistanis and the investigation and the court has failed on both counts,” Mr Ijaz said. “A cataclysmic event in the country’s history appears to have ended with a whimper in court,” was the verdict of Dawn, Pakistan’s leading English newspaper. Musharraf’s political party, the All Pakistan Muslim League, also protested against the court verdict and said it would challenge it.
“Previously, it was informed that Musharraf’s case had been separated from the main case, but the decision reflected that it was given in haste, which is totally contradictory to the charges, evidences and statement in the case,” said secretary-general Dr Mohammad Amjad.