Saturday, December 2, 2017
This is not the first time that PTI chief Imran Khan has lashed out on Pakistani liberals, alongside exposing his absolute ignorance about what Pakistani liberals stand for. Ever since he made a conscious decision choosing his way of politics back in late 1990s, the poor guy has found himself on the wrong side of liberals. It is natural then that he would spare no opportunity to spit his deep-rooted loathe and contempt for them.
In his recent comments, Khan got carried away and started bragging about his education in the United Kingdom. He said that he had studied at the country from where ideologies like liberalism have come from. John Locke, he’s right, was a British empiricist known as the father of liberalism. But anyone who is familiar with his works would also know that he is equally important to the social contract theory, which is concerned with the question of legitimate authority of the state and its responsibility towards citizens. The social contact theorists posit that citizens surrender some of their freedoms and submit to the authority of the state (to be exercised through the decision of the majority), in exchange for the protection of their remaining rights. This might be too complicated for our simpleton politician, so put simply: pressing the state to fulfill its obligations is part and parcel of classic liberalism that originated in the country where Mr. Khan spent 20 years.
Apart from these dense academic arguments – since the average contemporary politician in Pakistan doesn’t seem to be capable of absorbing such concepts -some recent memories can be refreshed to show why Pakistani liberals often find themselves on the other end of Imran Khan’s smoking gun.
Political liberals – as opposed to social liberals who’re not much bothered about state’s regressive political and strategic policies – have been greatest critics of Pakistan’s national security paradigm as well as political adventurism of the powers-that-be and constant meddling in politics by the deep state to completely dominate the public policy and societal narratives. Unfortunately, Mr. Khan is always found appeasing the deep state on pretty much every single aspect of their strategic, political and social engineering projects.
In 2009, he took a position against the operation in Swat at a time when Mullah Fazlullah and Sufi Mohammad were playing havoc with people’s lives, closing down girls’ schools, suspending formal judicial system, persecuting religious minorities and attacking law enforcement agencies and the armed forces. Liberals had supported a decisive action against the terrorists so the people and the security forces could be spared of the daily bloodshed.
Then in 2012, Mr. Khan endorsed terrorism in Afghanistan committed by Afghan Taliban calling it holy war against what he called ‘foreign occupation forces’. In September 2013, he urged the government to allow TTP – a proscribed terrorist organisation that had mercilessly killed our jawaans apart from killing thousands of Pakistanis in hundreds of suicide bombing attacks all over the country – to open an office on Pakistan’s soil so the dialogue process could be facilitated. Little did he know that the government and the armed forces had done more than a dozen peace talks with these terrorists starting with the 2004 Shakai Peace Agreement, which had invariably ended up providing more space to the terrorist organisations by buying time to reorganise and train.
On the other hand, Mr. Khan had unequivocally supported the Zarb-e-Azb operation in 2014 that continued without any transparency. A year latter in 2015, he wholeheartedly supported Karachi operation by the Rangers and rather demanded similar operation in Lahore in August 2016. At no point did Khan express any concern about the carpet bombings in Waziristans or in Balochistan, extrajudicial killings, mutilated bodies and illegal detentions by security agencies in Karachi, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Rather, he was quite vocal in supporting a senior police officer in Karachi who is known for extra judicial killings.
Between 2007 to 2013, when the American drone programme – credited with killing several key Taliban and Al-Qaida commanders – was at its peak, Mr. Khan kept criticising these strikes. As opposed to a blanket endorsement of drone strikes – as Mr. Khan wrongly claims – liberals’ position on the programme had stressed the need for greater transparency in target identification, clarity on legality of these strikes, and guarantees for zero collateral damage.
Liberals preferred precision strikes over carpet bombings of villages (that was pretty much the case during the Khan-endorsed Zarb-e-Azb operation). In those days, terrorists residing comfortably in the mountainous region were involved in widespread incidents of bloodletting across the length and breadth of Pakistan. Liberals favoured action against these terrorists but they also sought legal cover, transparency, accountability, and protection of human rights by minimal collateral damage.
This too, proved to be a bit complicated to be understood by our simpleton politician as is evident from his recent statement.
In the recent sit-in in Islamabad, Pakistani liberals wanted the state to fulfill the social contract that it has with law-abiding and peaceful citizens to safeguard their lives, property and rights to movement and peaceful living. All of these were being threatened by the violent mob that beat up policemen, media and passersby, alongside burning down whatever was coming their way. Someone needs schooling in liberal values and state’s responsibility.
Leaders of different politico-religious parties have expressed severe concerns over a deadly terrorist attack at Peshawar Agriculture Training Institute (PTI) and raised questions about the tall claims of the high-ups regarding the ongoing military actions against terrorists in tribal areas.
Former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) information minister and Awami National Party Central Secretary General Mian Iftikhar Hussain showed resentment over failure of law enforcement and secret agencies to foil such attempts before their occurrence.
“Unless discriminatory policies regarding military action against terrorists are not given up, no one can get rid of this menace,” Mian Iftikhar remarked recalling that “the government had evolved the National Action Plan (NAP) in December 2014”. He added that unfortunately, no one in the government went for implementation of NAP, which according to him could help in the eradication of terror and militancy as well.
KP Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) President Engineer Humayun Khan also urged the government to revisit its internal and external policies in the light of growing threats of terror. The PPP leader said that the ongoing terror was a part of the proxy war being waged by a few big powers in the region.
He also urged the government to realise its responsibilities for pulling the country and people out of this game.
KP PPP Women Wing President Nighat Yasmeen Aurakzai questioned how it was possible for the security forces to eradicate terrorism from its roots when the KP government and PTI Chairman Imran Khan were paying millions of rupees to Maulana Samiul Haq.
In a related development, high-level meetings took place for discussing ways for combating the latest trend of violence. KP Inspector General of Police Salahuddin Mehsud chaired a meeting on Saturday which discussed stock of proposals and made several decisions in this regard.
KP Governor Iqbal Zafar Jaghra also chaired the apex committee meeting which was also attended by Peshawar corps commander and KP chief minister.
Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal had also visited Peshawar earlier and enquired about health of injured at the hospital. Both KP governor and the interior minister also chaired a high-level meeting to review the law and order situation in the province and Federally Administrative Tribal Areas (FATA) as well.
Iraq is on top of the list with a GTI score of 10 on 10 followed by Afghanistan, Nigeria and Syria.
Pakistan being ranked fifth is the country’s best result in a decade. Since 2007, Pakistan has ranked as at least fourth on the worst country for terrorism index and was ranked second on six occasions.
The GTI is based on data from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) which is considered to be the most comprehensive global data set on terrorist activity and has now codified over 170,000 terrorist incidents. For the second year in a row, the report shows a global decline in the number of deaths from terrorist attacks. In 2016, 25,673 people were affected which is a 22 per cent improvement from the peak in 2014. “Terrorism has fallen significantly in the epicentres of Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, which are four of the five countries most affected by terrorism”, stated the report.
However, some disturbing trends were observed. While overall terrorism has fallen it has spread out more than the previous years with more countries being affected. “More countries experienced at least one death from terrorism. This is more than at any time in the past 17 years and reflects an increase from 65 countries in 2015 to 77 in 2016,” claimed the report.
While 79 countries improved, 58 countries deteriorated. Some countries, including Nigeria and Pakistan saw large improvements. The overall index, however, “has deteriorated because the countries that deteriorated did so by a much larger degree than those that improved. ”
The report also highlights how unevenly spread terrorism remains globally. Central America and the Caribbean continues to be the least affected region where only 12 deaths were recorded in 2016 – this accounts for less than 0.4 per cent of all terrorism deaths. On the other hand, 94 per cent of all terrorist deaths in 2016 are located in the Middle-East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, according to the report’s findings.
According to the report, 2016 was the third consecutive year in which Pakistan recorded fewer deaths related to terrorism.
“In 2016, there were 956 deaths from terrorism; the lowest number in a decade. This is a 12 per cent decrease from the previous year and a 59 per cent decline from the peak in 2013”, states the report.
The report attributes the improvements, in part to the Pakistan Army’s Zarb-a-Azb military operation which started in mid-2014 in the northwestern region. Officials claim that over 3,500 militants have been killed since the launch of the offensive with authorities vowing to intensify operations both in the border regions and across the country.
“Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan was responsible for 283 deaths in 2016, which accounted for 30 per cent of total deaths from terrorism that year. However it should be noted that 30 per cent of all deaths are not claimed by any group,” stated the report. Most deaths resulted from suicide bombing, largest of which targeted Christians celebrating Easter Sunday at Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore and killed 79 people.
The report quantifies deaths by other militant groups active in Pakistan. The ISIL-affiliated Khorasan Chapter of the Islamic State was responsible for 16 per cent of deaths in Pakistan. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, continued to be active in Pakistan in 2016 and accounted for 11 per cent of deaths. Moreover, at least seven different Baloch separatist groups in the southwest undertook attacks in 2016 which resulted in 61 deaths from 60 separate attacks.
The report also states that Pakistan is suffering an economic impact of terrorism. The economic impact of terrorism is calculated using IEP’s cost of violence methodology and for Pakistan in 2016, it was 2.8 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Is Pakistan on auto-pilot? With the government obsessed with Sharif’s future, the country’s most pressing issues remain unresolved
By Farhan Bokhari
The end of a three-week protest in Islamabad last Monday lifted a practical siege of the Pakistani capital and the prospect of growing paralysis surrounding some of the country’s major cities. The manner in which the protest mounted and eventually ended badly exposed the credibility of a government whose credentials were already in tatters.
To sum up, Pakistan’s emerging prospects remain in disarray as the country remains adrift under the rule of a government whose single-minded obsession is just the future of its controversial leader. Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League — Nawaz (PML-N), who was ousted in July this year, remains defiant of Pakistan’s top judicial institutions as he continues to dispute the Supreme Court verdict that led to his departure.
In the process of defending Sharif, however, the PML-N, which continues to rule Pakistan under Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi who succeeded Sharif, has effectively become a ‘Nawaz bachao tehreek’ or save Nawaz movement.
Tragically for Pakistan, the end result has been that whatever little work of national significance was done by the ruling structure prior to Sharif’s departure, has since been put on hold. Consequently, Pakistan has been placed on an auto-pilot mode with little evidence in sight of a robust effort to resolve the most pressing issues.
The sense of paralysis comes at a time of critical importance in the country’s history. The forthcoming parliamentary elections due next summer will mark yet another milestone in the country’s democratic journey. And yet, that journey has already become stifled with a drift away from the most pressing issues.
On Friday came yet another powerful reminder of the security challenges confronting Pakistan when 12 people were killed in a terrorist attack targeting an agricultural office in Peshawar. The ‘burqa’-clad terrorists stormed the building, disregarding whatever few security arrangements that were in place. The use of the ‘burqa’ by the well-armed and apparently well-trained terrorists suggested the variety of ways in which militants have learnt to penetrate well-fortified locations. The attack once again renewed the need for mobilising the nation to take on terrorists, beyond the work already done by the security services. Clearly, the security challenge for Pakistan will eventually be tackled through a two-dimensional approach. First, the work done by the security services has already begun to make a difference. With the Pakistan army locked in a comprehensive clean-up operation against terrorists, the number of terrorist attacks has already declined compared to just a few years ago.
Second, a more permanent solution to this challenge lies with building a badly-needed national consensus against terrorism. Beyond the ground regained by the army and other branches of the security services, it is essential to mobilise members of communities across the board towards the common cause of ensuring a more secure Pakistan.
Tragically however, little has been done by way of ensuring a societal change. Part of the challenge must relate to the ways in which basic human needs such as education and health care are provided to the mainstream population. This is vital to not only deal with fundamental needs, but also to encourage a popular participation in national issues.
But as the government remains obsessed with the future of Sharif, causes such as revamping of government health-care facilities or revitalising academic institutions have suffered further. These essential segments were already the targets of neglect even when the ruling structure was thought to be performing at its best.
Pakistan’s experience with Sharif as the country’s top leader also badly exposed the way he has remained detached from mainstream issues. Whenever he or a member of his family suffered a medical ailment, their first reaction would be to head to the United Kingdom for treatment. This detachment from Pakistan’s mainstream tragically runs across the board and includes key players of different political parties. With the exception of Imran Khan — the former cricketer-turned-politician who built the Lahore-based Shaukat Khanum memorial cancer hospital dedicated to his late mother — it is hard to find another politician with a similar claim.
Similarly, some of the more promising world-class educational institutions include the Lahore-based Lahore University of Management Sciences, pioneered by Syed Babar Ali, the well-respected businessman, the Karachi-based Aga Khan University, pioneered under the leadership of prince Karim Aga Khan, leader of the world’s Esmaili community, or Karachi’s Habib University, backed by the Karachi-based Habib family with interests in business, finance and industry. Yet, there is little to mention by way of a similar world-class and internationally-recognised initiative evolved under the guidance of a political figure. The absence of such a legacy in higher education clearly highlights the disconnect between vital human needs and the interest of the political class. As Pakistan struggles with its day-to-day challenges, it is clear that the country’s elected leaders have little interest to emerge as visionaries and chart a more promising future.
The recent protests in Islamabad have indeed brought a timely focus on the degree of disquiet across Pakistani society that deserves to be tackled urgently. Left unattended, the disquiet can easily turn into chaos and possibly a prolonged crisis in a country that urgently needs to settle down.
By Farah Jan
The winners: hardline Islamists. The loser: Pakistan’s democracy.
Since November 8, Pakistan’s capital Islamabad has been in the grip of a group of zealous protesters belonging to the Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah political party. The protests have now resulted in the resignation of the federal minster of law and many deaths. The protesters camped out at an arterial intersection in Islamabad, disrupting local transportation and civilian affairs.
The government’s initial response was indecisive. The authorities placed shipping containers and barb wire to contain the protest, but were reluctant to use force against the protesters themselves. After three weeks of blockades by the protesters, the High Court of Islamabad acted and ordered the government to clear the main transportation route by deploying the police and paramilitary force.
Matters took an ugly turn when nearly 8,000 police and paramilitary personnel failed to clear the protesters, and since then demonstrations have spread to all the major cities in Pakistan. On November 25, the Ministry of Interior requested the army to be deployed in Islamabad to assist the civil authorities in maintaining law and order. By that point, the protesters had already torched private and public property, and educational institutions had been closed in the capital and in the major cities of Pakistan for two days.The turmoil followed an amendment to the oath of office for candidates of the National and Provincial Assembly, which changed the words “I believe” to “I solemnly swear” in regard to affirming Muhammad as the final prophet, or Khatm-e- Naboowat. The news of the error was fodder for the media. Within days, the government declared it to be a clerical mistake and reverted to the previous version. At the floor of the National Assembly, the Minster for Law Zahid Hamid swiftly declared, “The government cannot even think of deleting this provision. The oath-taking form for the candidate has been made simple but the provision regarding Khatm-e-Naboowat has not been changed at all.”
Who Benefits from the Turmoil?
Pakistani politics has multiple players with differing agendas. The most powerful of them all is Pakistan’s military, followed by the judiciary, the mullahs, and the media. The political parties in Pakistan must walk a fine line and be careful not to step on the wrong toes. A weak position toward India or a debate on blasphemy laws can end a politician’s career (or even life) and torpedo a political party’s prospects for the next elections.
In recent months, the governing party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), has been dealt not one but multiple major blows. These range from the disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on corruption charges to the current blockade of the capital by religious extremists over a clerical mistake. Sharif and his PML-N remained strong despite the Supreme Court’s decision and his disqualification. This was evident from the support displayed at his rallies and the result of the special elections, in which Sharif’s wife was elected by a large majority to his National Assembly seat.
With elections on the horizon, Sharif’s opponents are aiming to weaken him further. To diminish and cripple support for the PML-N, political opponents will use the clerical error of Khatm-e- Naboowat against the governing party. The issue of blasphemy remains highly controversial and evokes passionate responses from all sectors of Pakistani society. Blasphemy accusations and the resulting mob violence have spared neither politicians nor civilians. The blasphemy charge is a black hole, and only time will tell if Sharif’s party recovers from it.
The leader of Tehreek-i-Labaik, Khadim Rizvi, accused the minister for law of committing blasphemy and demanded his resignation. On Sunday, the law minister resigned after his home was attacked and fears were raised that the protests would spread to other cities of Pakistan. The fact that the minister resigned is a further sign of the strength of the zealots and the failure of the government’s writ. This demonstrates the impossibility of a dialogue or debate on Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Any politician that has dared to speak against it or advocated for changing it has faced death, with the killer being celebrated as a hero.
Sharif’s main opponent, the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, further strengthened the position of the protesters when he called for the Law Minister to step down. Khan also asked for the resignation of the prime minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi of the PML-N. Khan aspires to become the next prime minister of Pakistan after next year’s elections, but for that he must walk the tightrope of pleasing two completely opposite groups — the liberal elites of the major cities and the conservative religious elements of rural Pakistan. In Pakistan’s northwest province, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Khan’s party sent signals to hardliners by adding chapters to KP textbooks that glorify men who murder blasphemers. These pro-Islamic steps were greatly praised by the likes of Maulana Sami, also known as the father of the Taliban. Sami has been critical of the PML-N government and contends that “the country had been besieged by enemies and there was a need for a united struggle to face the current situation.”
The army has till now cared about its public perception and advised the government to resolve the crisis peacefully with the agitators. In a top-level meeting with Abbasi, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the chief of army staff, and Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar, the director general of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the participants decided that the army would not be used to launch an operation against the protesters. As Bajwa said, “We can’t use force against our own people,” although previously Pakistan’s security forces have not hesitated to do just that. The army’s current position places it in a comfortable position to control and mediate between all the actors involved, while keeping its public perception intact.
In the early morning of the November 28, it was the army chief who brokered a deal between the government and the protesters. As per the agreement, the law minister would resign, and within 30 days the government would punish those responsible for the blasphemous error. It was a clear victory for the hardliners and a setback to the forces of democracy in Pakistan.
The actors that gained from this turmoil are the religious hardliners. This includes the leader of Tehreek-i-Labaik, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, a foul-mouthed cleric who holds strong opposition toward any changes to Pakistan’s parochial blasphemy laws. Rizvi rose to prominence in recent months when his party’s candidate performed better than expected and finished third in the by-elections, after Sharif and the PTI candidate. Rizvi is known for openly inciting violence and ridiculing state institutions and the judiciary.
The resignation of the law minister is a victory for the hardliners. It confirms the impossibility of changing the blasphemy laws that have targeted minorities and in this instance have been used as a tool to remove a federal minister. This communicates to any politician or political party not to dabble with laws pertaining to religion or blasphemy.
Allowing the protest to continue for three weeks was a mistake on the government’s end, but caving in to the demands of angry clerics will have long-term repercussions. For starters, it has emasculated democracy by weakening the governing party. The army’s hesitation to use force against the agitators illustrates either a crack in its armor, since it suggests that the army feels threatened by the zealots, or that the all-powerful military institution hopes to weaken the PML-N before the next elections. The long-term consequences of such strategies will have lasting impact on the generations to come.