Monday, January 1, 2018
سعودی عرب کی ثالثی میں معاہدے کے تحت نواز شریف خود ساختہ جلاوطنی اختیار کرسکتے ہیں:برطانوی اخبار کا دعویٰ
:برطانوی اخبارنے دعویٰ کیا ہے کہ سعودی عرب کی ثالثی میں معاہدے کے تحت نواز شریف سیاست چھوڑ کر خودساختہ جلاوطنی اختیار کر سکتے ہیں، سابق وزیر اعظم پر دبا ﺅڈال کر شہباز شریف کو جاں نشین بنانے کا اعلان کرایا گیا۔ برطانوی اخبار” دی ٹائمز“ نے دعویٰ کیا ہے کہ حکمران جماعت کے سربراہ نواز شریف سیاست چھوڑ کر خود ساختہ جلاوطنی اختیار کر سکتے ہیں۔ سعودی عرب پاکستان کی اسٹیبلشمینٹ اور نوازشریف کے درمیان سمجھوتے پر ثالثی کررہاہے اور اس حوالے سے سعودی عرب میں معاملات طے پانے کا امکان ہے۔برطانوی اخبار کے مطابق نواز شریف نے سیاست چھوڑنے کی حامی بھر لی ہے۔ سابق وزیر اعظم نے دباﺅ پر مریم نواز کے بجائے شہباز شریف کو اپنا جانشین بھی نامزد کیا۔ برطانوی اخبار نے دعوی کیا کہ معاہدے کے تحت پاکستان مسلم لیگ کے سربراہ کو بدعنوانی کے الزامات کا سامنا نہیں کرنا پڑے گا۔ وہ سمجھوتے کے تحت جلاوطنی کی زندگی بھی گزارنے کیلئے تیارہیں۔ اور سیاست کو ہمیشہ کیلئے خیرباد کہ دیں گے۔
The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are home to around five million Pakistanis. Over the last four decades, many born and raised in the region were forced to migrate due to turmoil that was not of their own making.
These women, men and children must have been given all constitutional rights that flow from citizenship of a state the moment these rights were given to Pakistanis in rest of the country. That it did not happen will, and must, remain inscribed in our political history as a travesty of the highest order.
Now that the federal government, the Parliament and unelected state institutions have all recognised the need for ‘mainstreaming’ FATA, it is imperative that the issue should be resolved, as much as possible, in accordance with the wishes of the FATA residents.
Since there is no one forum that can claim to be the true representative of FATA residents, the matter needs to be resolved in consultation with various political and civil society groups that associate with the region. The two broad positions to have emerged so far are (i) FATA’s merger with Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa (KP) and, (ii) a relatively less popular position articulated at the most recent rally on the issue by the JUI-F, seeking a provincial status for the region.
Regardless of which of these positions is finally agreed upon, the need of the hour is to expedite the process of mainstreaming. FATA residents have stayed with this country for 70 years without any of the basic constitutional rights that must be available to all members of a free national community. Let us ensure that the 71st year comes with a departure from this chequered political past. For that to happen, all groups that have raised a voice on the issue — including mainstream parties as well as civil society actors like the FATA Youth Jirga — must be listened to. The final plan must incorporate all legitimate demands, particularly those that stand to benefit marginalised groups like women and economically impoverished tribes and people.
The case of Gilgit-Baltistan isn’t much different either. The people of the region have lately protested an unfair tax regime. They are also demanding their fair share of political representation in the Pakistani federation.
The representatives of the region including political leaders — some of whom have unfairly been incarcerated over the years just for demanding a fair bargain with the federation — and civil society activists must be consulted in drawing a mainstreaming plan for GB. Let’s hope 2018 will end this apartheid that we have chosen to ignore for decades.
By David Pratt
THE top American and NATO commander in Afghanistan has a colourful way of describing what is becoming a real problem.
“It’s like a balloon, we squeeze them in this area, and they’ll try to move out elsewhere,” says General John W Nicholson Jr.
He is of course talking about the presence of fighters from Islamic State who last week claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Shi’ite cultural centre in Kabul that killed 41 people and wounded more than 80 others.
The attack was the latest in at least two dozen bombings on Shi‘ite targets in Sunni-majority Afghanistan over the past two years in a brutal campaign by IS that has killed and wounded hundreds. The IS attacks fly in the face of the reassuring message delivered by US Vice President Mike Pence, during a visit to Afghanistan just before Christmas when he claimed that victory in the country is “closer than ever before”.
“The road before you is promising, but it’s perilous. And this commander-in-chief is clear-eyed about the threats you face and the challenges that lie ahead,” Pence told troops at the US’s Bagram military base. “But today, let me assure you: President Trump has your back.”
Pence’s message though appears to have little resonance on the ground in Afghanistan, where far from being vanquished, IS is gaining ever greater military traction. It was back in 2014 that IS began to appear in what it calls Khorasan - Afghanistan, Pakistan, Central Asia, Iran and India. In attacking Shi’ite targets like those in Kabul on Thursday, its aim is to stir up sectarian hatred in the hope of undermining an already vulnerable Afghan government. The incremental growth of IS runs in tandem with the already well-established presence of the Taliban, which remains the dominant Islamist militant group operating in the country, and still controls large parts of Afghanistan.
All this is a dual strategic challenge for America’s top commander in Afghanistan General John W Nicholson Jr and the international troops under his command.
Nicholson, a 61-year-old combat veteran described by peers as a “thinker-warrior,” recently insisted that some 1400 operations and airstrikes had “removed from the battlefield” more than 1600 IS fighters since March. It was back in April that the US claimed to have killed more than 90 IS fighters after dropping an 11-ton “mother of all bombs” on a complex of tunnels and bunkers used by IS militants in Nangarhar province in the east of the country. Nicholson along with other military commanders justified the use of the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast (Moab) bomb, one of the most powerful conventional weapons in existence, as part of a robust campaign to destroy the IS Afghanistan affiliate by the end of this year. Its force, the commanders said, had been reduced to 700 fighters from 3,000, and its area of operation diminished to three districts from 11.
But as 2017 draws to a close, IS’s presence in Afghanistan appears to be strengthening not weakening.
Following Thursday’s attack in Kabul, Michael Kugelman, a well known specialist on Afghanistan and Pakistan and deputy director of the Asia Programme at the Wilson Centre, said that despite the “relentless” airstrikes, IS’s resilience in Afghanistan is now “quite worrying.”
Kugelman attributes this IS resilience in part to the Afghan terrain, which allows fighters to evade strikes. It is also, he says, a result of a “steady supply of recruits from disaffected” members of the Pakistani Taliban, as well as home-grown radicalisation.”
The analyst also highlighted the scale of the challenge facing US commanders like Nicholson. “Given that the chief US interest in South Asia is stability, the fact that you have rampant instability throughout much of Afghanistan and much of Pakistan as well suggests US interests are very much imperilled in a part of the world where, lest we forget, America has been fighting its longest-ever foreign war for the last 17 years,” Kugelman warned.
Others too have echoed his concerns, among them Russia's special presidential envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, and the Iranian Intelligence Minister, Mahmoud Alavi.
Russia estimates there may now be as many as 10,000 IS fighters in Afghanistan and their ranks are being filled by fighters fleeing Syria and Iraq. Moscow is especially worried about the presence of these fighters in northern Afghan provinces bordering Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, and says that locals have also spotted Algerian and French fighters among IS ranks in the provinces of Jowzjan and Sar-e-Pol.
Earlier this month while addressing Tehran’s Seminar on Terrorism, Extremism and Regional Security in West Asia, Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi, reiterated Moscow’s observations on IS fighters coming from Syria and Iraq. “IS has lost land, but has not surrendered its arms, and is looking for land in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia in order to, in this way, revive the idea of the Islamic caliphate,” Alavi explained.
Should Russian estimates of 10,000 IS fighters prove accurate then it marks a substantial increase on US initial estimates of 3,000 which it then claimed had been reduced to as few as 700 because of its counter-terrorism operations.
In its latest report published this month entitled ‘Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan’, the US Defence Department while still insisting that IS was ‘weakened’, acknowledged that the group “will most likely continue to plan and execute high profile attacks in populated areas.” Last Thursday’s attack in Kabul is a case in point and again underscores IS’s deliberate strategy of stoking sectarian conflict. Since early 2016, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has documented a sharp increase in the number of attacks on Shi’ite civilians and places of worship.
The Taliban, which is more concerned with how its violence is perceived by the public, generally abstains from targeting mosques or other gatherings of Shi’ite Muslims. As 2017 closes Washington will perhaps have to think again about what lies ahead in Afghanistan. US officials estimate the number of troops in the country could reach nearly 16,000 by early next year almost double the number stationed there when former President Barack Obama left office.
This coming year too in July, Afghanistan will see parliamentary elections and almost certainly violence will escalate dramatically between now and then. With the Taliban already well ensconced in swathes of the country and IS seemingly digging in for a long war of attrition, Afghanistan and its long suffering people look set to be in for an even more difficult and bloody year ahead.
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah on Monday slammed the government for hiking the prices of petroleum products , terming the increase failure of its policies.
Speaking to the media, Shah lamented that the latest increase in fuel prices will trouble already hard-pressed public. He said the government had shifted the burden of internal and external borrowings onto the public.
Shah laughed off the government’s claims of having shored up foreign reserves, questioning the veracity of such claims. The government had already been collecting illegitimate taxes on the petroleum products and the recent increase would unleash a storm of inflation in the country, the opposition leader said.
The PPP will not allow the government to oppress the people and will expose its hollow claims. He demanded that the old prices of the petroleum products should immediately be restored.
A day earlier, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi approved an increase in the prices of petroleum products on the recommendation of Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA).
By Syed Arfeen
Since the disqualification of former Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif in July this year, his party has been under tremendous pressure on various fronts. But in the last couple of months, the leadership found itself in especially hot water.
First, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN)-led government capitulated to the demands of a small group of Islamists staging a sit-in in the capital. The federal law minister, Zahid Hamid was forced to resign and now there are demands for the resignation of the provincial law minister of Punjab, and long-time Sharif aide, Rana Sanaullah. Likewise, the pressure is building for Shahbaz Sharif, the younger brother of the former prime minister, to resign his post as chief minister of Punjab province.
Political-cum-religious leader Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri recently demanded that the chief minister and law minister of Punjab step down from their positions by December 31 due to the Model Town judicial commission report. The report questioned the actions of police during a 2014 “anti-encroachment operation,” which saw workers from a political party gunned down.
The various political parties of Pakistan have always used religion and sectarianism to attain their political goals, especially during elections, as these forces have a decisive number of votes in almost every constituency of the country. Heedless of any criticism, political organizations have not only continued their policy of appeasement toward such elements but sometimes encouraged the sectarian fault lines too.
However, the religious and sectarian players are now seeking their own political power, as revealed recently in two by-elections in Lahore and Peshawar.
“If they [the Islamist political parties] use political experience, as it seems to be in the case of encouraging Qadri, then these groups will be backed by one political party, will be used against the government in power and that means weakening the state,” explained Dr. Rasul Bakhsh Rais, a professor of political science at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). According to Rais, it would take “a general agreement among political parties … to counter these groups,” thereby “allowing legitimate authority to function.”
The present troubles facing Pakistan’s government started on October 2 with the Election Bill 2017. A clause in the bill relating to a candidate’s belief in the finality of the prophet-hood of Prophet Muhammad was replaced with the words “I believe” instead of “I solemnly swear.” Two days later, on October 4, the government conceded that the change was a “clerical mistake” and the next day the amendment was restored to its original form.
Despite this, in the first week of November, the religious group Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR) Rizvi faction was not satisfied. The TLYR announced its supporters would march toward the federal capital to issues their six-point demands. On November 6, the rally reached Islamabad and blocked Faizabad Interchange, which connects the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The Punjab government was accused of facilitating the march to Islamabad, thus shifting the mess to the central government.
On November 24, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) issued a show-cause notice for contempt of court to Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal while hearing an application by the residents of the area facing disturbances due to the sit-in. Taking refuge in an IHC order to clear the roads, the district administration issued a last warning to TLYR supporters to end their protest but it was ignored and an police operation was launched the next morning.
As the operation was underway, the military weighed in. A Pakistan Army spokesman issued a statement saying that Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa telephoned Prime Minister Shahid Khakhan Abbasi with a suggestion “to handle the Islamabad dharna (sit-in) peacefully and avoiding violence from both sides as it is not in national interest” [sic]. After a few hours the botched clearance operation was suspended; six people had been killed and hundreds were injured, including law enforcement.
On November 27, the 21-day long sit-in ended after the intervention of the Pakistan Army. An agreement was signed between the federal government and the TLYR; interestingly, the director general of counter-intelligence with Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Major General Faiz Hameed, was also a signatory of the accord. In fact, according to the draft, the Army chief was the arbitrator of the deal.
The decision of federal government to accept the demands of TLYR was widely criticized by various sections of society. Some analysts termed it a blow to a state, as the government had bowed its head to lawbreakers. Meanwhile, a video widely circulated on social media and later aired at different news channels showing the officer in charge of the aborted clearance operation, the director-general of the Punjab Rangers, distributing 1,000 rupees ($9) to protesters at the end of sit-in.
Also on November 27, the IHC voiced its displeasure with the government deal with TLYR. Justice Shoukat Siddiqui noted that the court “has serious reservations on the terms of the agreement and mannerism in which it arrived.” He explained:
Besides a number of serious objections on the terms of agreement, most alarming is that Major General Faiz Hameed put signature as one through whom the agreement was arrived at. It is also very strange that efforts of General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff, have been acknowledged… Prima facie, role assumed by the top leadership of army is besides the Constitution and law of land. Armed forces, being part of the executive of the country, cannot travel beyond its mandate bestowed upon it by the organic law of the country i.e. Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
The dismissal of the sit-in gave some relief to the federal government but the provincial government of Punjab soon came under fire once again. On December 5, the Lahore High Court (LHC) ordered that an inquiry report into the Model Town incident be made public. In the June 17, 2014 incident at Model Town Lahore, 14 people were killed and scores injured during a police crackdown to remove barricades outside the headquarters of Minhaj-ul-Quran International (MQI). The one-member inquiry commission did not completely hold responsible anyone but observed, “The operation planned and designed under the chairmanship of the then Law Minister (Rana Sanaullah) resulted in gruesome killings that could have easily been avoided.”
Adding more problems to the provincial government, another religious group headed by former PMLN supporter, Pir Hameeduddin Sialvi, demanded the resignation of the provincial law minister on November. Sanaullah was accused of blasphemy for having allegedly made remarks in favor of the Ahmadi community. During the gathering on December 10, two members of the National Assembly (Lower House) and three members of the Provincial Assembly handed in their resignations.
Recently, Tahir-ul-Qadri, the head of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) and Minhaj-ul-Quran International (MQI), asked his followers to be ready for the mother of all sit-ins. Almost all the opposition political parties of the country showed their support for Qadri’s plan to make a significant move against the present regime. The former President of Pakistan and co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Asif Ali Zardari, met with the PAT chief, while the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Imran Khan, also pledged his support to PAT for the protest.
In light of the inquiry into the Model Town incident of 2014, Qadri is now demanding the resignation of Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab.
It is pertinent to mention that both the PAT and PTI previously marched against the PMLN government in August 2014 over claims of election rigging.
Commenting on the recent meetings between Qadri and the PTI and PPP leadership, the president of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT), Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, explained, “Tahir-ul-Qadri has dedicated workers who can endure a rough street agitation for days and weeks. They may not be an electoral force but are an effective street force, which both PPP and PTI want to use for their ends and against PMLN.”
According to Rais, “These groups emerged because of religious sentimentality… and actually [the] government’s own weaknesses, by not handling them right on time and not allowing the police and local administration to take action against these leaders and their followers [but] rather strengthening them and empower them.”
“That’s why you see more sit-ins in the making because they think government is not going take action,” Rais added. “So, it is not their power — it is basically the weakness of the government.”
The sit-ins and demands by religious groups are only part of a trend seeing Islamists move directly into Pakistani politics. Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLYR) was formed out of a conglomerate of three groups previously known as the Tehreek-i-Rehai Mumtaz Qadri (Movement for the Release of Mumtaz Qadri) since 2013. Qadri assassinated the governor of Punjab, Salaman Taseer, over blasphemy accusations. Qadri was hanged on February 29, 2016; after his death, the movement was renamed Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah. The TLYR recently decided to step into electoral politics as Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLY) and registered itself with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on September 28, 2017.
Also this year, on August 7, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) openly entered into Pakistan’s mainstream politics with a political front, the Milli Muslim League (MML). Earlier this month, JuD chief Hafiz Saeed also announced he would participate in the next elections. The MML’s application to register with the ECP was dismissed by the election watchdog on October 11, as the JuD is on Pakistan’s terrorist watch list as well as being designated a terrorist front by the United Nations.
Muhammad Amir Rana, the director of the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS), sees the emergence of new religious alliances in the upcoming general election of 2018.
One reason for the popularity of these religious groups is that their leaders are considered closer to their supporters than the traditional political parties. In Pakistan, political leaders are not seen as giving much thought to the common man. This leaves faith in the government on shaky ground.
According to PILDAT’s 2016 Assessment of the Quality of Democracy in Pakistan, the “quality of democracy in Pakistan” in 2016 was rated at 46 percent, 4 percentage points lower than its score of 50 percent in 2015. That continues a worrisome trend: “Instead of a steady transition towards improvement, democracy scores in Pakistan year after year since 2013 show a somewhat tumultuous trend,” dropping from a high of 54 percent in 2013.
The different yearly reports of PILDAT also highlight that the parliamentarian taking less time to attend the assembly proceedings. Perhaps the biggest problem with regards to especially the National Assembly is that it continues to be sidelined as a forum for debate, discussion, and resolution of pressing national issues. Consider the issue of the Panama Leaks, which largely played out in the streets and then in the Supreme Court, rather being addressed inside the Parliament.
According to Mehboob, the president of PILDAT, the parliamentarians and parties in general are not interested in attending assembly proceedings. They are more interested in serving the individual interests of their constituents, because voters do not give any credit for attendance in the house.
“Political parties in power are interested only to the extent of passing laws drafted by them, including the finance bill or budget. They are not interested in real debate and serious input by parliamentarians. Opposition parties are also interested only in point scoring and humiliating the ruling party,” Mehboob explained.
The religious parties that are not in the parliament, like the JuD and PAT, have good organizational structure but in the past, their agendas haven’t impressed the masses. Conversely, groups like TLYR have emotional and religious appeal and, despite their weak organizational infrastructure, they can change the results in a few constituencies.
“The increasing influence of radical groups is a serious concern for major segments of the society… it seems their mainstreaming will increase pressure on mainstream parties,” Rana explained.
Some experts believe that religious parties have no future in democratic politics and hold the government accountable for not taking stern measures against those groups’ propaganda and hate speech. Leaders on the state terror watch list are still allowed to travel freely and organize sit-ins, misusing the freedom of speech and loudspeakers.
For instance, on March 17, when addressing a Friday sermon, Dr. Muhammad Ashraf Asif Jalali Jalali of TLYR accused then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of committing blasphemy. He said called Sharif’s speech at a Holi gathering “a dangerous assault on religion.” However, no action was taken against him for this attack on the sitting prime minister. Today he is heading the TLYR faction and the state is fulfilling all his demands.
To return Pakistan’s democracy to stability, “Not only political parties but also the parliament, military, police, bureaucracy — they will have to come on one page,” Rais said. The “rule of law has to be established, no matter who captures [the] streets.”
“If we will not do this … I don’t think then Pakistan will be governable,” Rais warned.
By KATHY GANNON
President Donald Trump slammed Pakistan for ‘lies & deceit’ in a New Year’s Day tweet that said Islamabad had played U.S. leaders for ‘fools.’
President Donald Trump slammed Pakistan for ‘lies & deceit’ in a New Year’s Day tweet that said Islamabad had played U.S. leaders for ‘fools.’
‘No more,’ Trump tweeted.
Trump in his tweet said the U.S. had given Pakistan $33 billion in the last 15 years, yet Afghanistan and the U.S. have long accused Pakistan of providing safe havens for militants. Meanwhile, Pakistan had no official comment but Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif tweeted that his government was preparing a response that ‘will let the world know the truth.’
Pakistan’s Urdu language Geo Television quoted Asif as saying: “We have already said ‘no more’ to America, so Trump’s ‘no more’ has no importance. We are ready to give all account for every single penny to America in public.” Asif said Trump’s tweet was borne out of frustration and that the United States should pursue dialogue with Afghanistan’s insurgents rather than military force.
“America is frustrated over defeat in Afghanistan. America should take the path of dialogue instead of using military might in Afghanistan,” Asif was quoted as saying.
The Afghan Ambassador to the U.S. Hamdullah Mohib welcomed Trump’s tweet.
“A promising message to Afghans who have suffered at the hands of terrorists based in Pakistan for far too long,” Mohib tweeted.
The uneasy relationship between the United States and Pakistan has been on a downward spiral since the 2011 U.S. operation that located and killed Osama bin Laden in the military garrison town of Abbottabad. Trump ratcheted up the pressure last year when he announced his Afghan strategy that called out Pakistan for harboring Afghan Taliban insurgents warning it would have to end.
Vice President Mike Pence in a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Dec. 22 said the U.S. administration was putting Pakistan on notice to end its support for Taliban insurgents, a comment that generated a chorus of criticism from the Pakistani civilian and military establishment, which has denied harboring Afghan militants.
In a news conference last Thursday the Pakistani military spokesman, Gen. Asif Ghafoor said Pakistan wouldn’t bow to coercion.
“What kind of friends are we that we are being given notices?” he asked at the news conference.
Much of the money Pakistan has received from the U.S. has been through its Coalition Support Funds which gives money to its coalition partners in Afghanistan and Iraq. Pakistan has been one of the largest recipients.
“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools,” Trump tweeted. “They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”
Ghafoor denied that Pakistan allowed training camps or organizational headquarters on its territory.
“We have started the construction of forts and posts on the Afghan border for effective border management — what more does the U.S. and Afghanistan want from us?” Ghafoor was quoted by the English-language Dawn newspaper as saying at the news conference.
Yet Afghanistan and the U.S. have long accused Pakistan of providing safe havens and Pakistan’s former adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz had previously publicly stated that Afghan militants have been living for decades in Pakistan. The Taliban are believed to run several leadership councils out of Pakistan, in southwestern Quetta and northwestern Peshawar, two cities on the border with Afghanistan
Meanwhile, Pakistan has accused Afghanistan of harboring its militants and has sent a list of wanted terrorist to the Afghan government demanding they be returned. Kabul too sent a list of wanted insurgents to Islamabad as well as locations of training camps.