Sunday, February 4, 2018

Pashto Music Video - Gul Panra - Da Ashiqe Da Kana

Perspective: Pakistan -- The cost of mainstreaming

Islamabad-based security analyst Amir Rana wrote in Dawn (January 28): “Banned militant groups are continuously giving Pakistan diplomatic stress. It has been discussed at various high-level national forums that these groups have become a strategic burden for the country.”

In the first week of 2018, Pakistan barred Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) of Pakistan’s infamous Wahhabi leader, Hafiz Saeed, from collecting donations. Pakistan’s financial regulatory body, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), issued a notification prohibiting the collection of donations by the JuD, the front organisation of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba, as also the around 300 educational institutions run by the JuD and the many private courts it was running in defiance of the writ of the state.

Did this happen after taking India into confidence? The Janjua-Doval Bangkok “national security” session was a “pre-scheduled meeting” and Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj was apparently aware of it. Did the two sides exchange views on what was about to happen to Saeed? The bilateral equation was at an all-time low after Prime Minister Narendra Modi thought Pakistan was plotting an electoral hijack of Gujarat from the BJP’s control. The Bangkok meeting had followed Modi’s “revelation”.

The world knew that Saeed was behind the Mumbai attacks. David Headley’s confessions had been published and the “rogue” elements had come out, offended with the Pakistan Army for “not doing enough”. Back home, the courts declared Saeed innocent of all charges of terrorism. The strongman, thought to have a private army of over 200,000 warriors on call, was too strong to even be asked to tone down his brazenly uncivilised jihadi rhetoric. He ran his own courts in several cities and the state simply accepted them because Saeed was “useful” with his big-money charity in troubled areas in Sindh and Balochistan.

Such was the moral pressure that in 2017 Saeed was confined to his house but support for him was swelling around the country. His followers and members of JuD staged protests against his confinement and no one dared point to the evidence in circulation internationally about his involvement in acts of terrorism in Kashmir and the rest of India. A recent statement of partial acceptance made by Pakistan Defence Minister Khwaja Muhammad Asif has opened the floodgates of “orchestrated” castigation against the remnants of the Sharif government.

Reports say Asif was in Germany when he committed the blasphemy of saying that “Hafiz Saeed can become a threat to society”. The world and the United Nations accuse Saeed of committing atrocities in India and Afghanistan. The UN has him on its reward list of terrorists, but in Pakistan, he is the wealthiest philanthropist alive. His reported running of private courts in Pakistan was forgiven after the man who had sneaked on him was beaten up “mysteriously” inside the Lahore High Court precincts.

The dreaded Defence of Pakistan Council, which scares anyone critical of the policies of jihad, has fired a broadside at the government Asif serves. A roll-call of those who would like the Sharif government’s term in office to end prematurely has started. The stage is being set to oust the ruling PMLN. In Balochistan, Nawaz Sharif’s party was shaken on its uncertain throne by a no-confidence motion in the Assembly and was finally overthrown.

As if in lock-step, Chief Minister of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (PK) Pervez Khattak attended a public meeting of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) containing religious personalities sanctioned by the UN for terrorism. The meeting was addressed via telephone by Saeed and PK strongman cleric, Maulana Samiul Haq — once suspected of having a hand in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto — whom the PK government not long ago rewarded with a Rs 300-million handout.

In September 2017, the Foreign Office followed up on the letter of Interior Ministry under Minister Ahsan Iqbal in answer to a query sent by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) about whether Saeed’s Milli Muslim League (MML) should be allowed to take part in the by-election. The Interior Ministry stated: “There is evidence to substantiate that Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Jamaat-ud- Dawa and Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation are affiliates and ideologically of the same hue, and [therefore] the registration of the MML is not supported.” In 2008, the UN Security Council had added JuD to the banned list under Resolution 1267 as a “supporting agent of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba”.

What has been highlighted by a lame-duck PMLN government is the negative consequence of what is called “mainstreaming” by some elements of the state: Instead of de-radicalising the declared terrorists, the process further radicalises society and undermines the power of the state under the Constitution. The “indirect” and “implied” Chinese warning at the BRICS summit in 2017 seems to have been heeded.

OP-ED The dynamic political scene confirms a fast changing Pakistani society

Raza Rumi
New media have also introduced a modern version of political assembly and Nawaz Sharif's daughter Maryam has cleverly exploited this.
The disqualification of Nawaz Sharif through a controversial court verdict was the easier task. Reining in his support and ousting him from the political arena has been altogether tougher. There are fundamental shifts that have occurred in Pakistani society that partially explain why this is happening. The principle contradiction, to borrow an outworn phrase, in Pakistan’s political history has been the permanent and dominant post-colonial state inhibiting and even thwarting the space for representative institutions. Since the 1950s this has been a regular feature of political contests and their varied outcomes. The four military coups, hanged, ousted or murdered politicians and shaping of anti-democracy public narratives have, time and again, illustrated this syndrome.
Since the last coup launched by the General Musharraf-led junta, Pakistan has undergone distinctive changes thereby dispersing the power held by civil-military bureaucracy. Ironically, many of these power-shifts started to shape up under the Musharraf regime. The expansion of Pakistan’s economy especially the service sector and increased remittances, among others, led to unprecedented growth in middle-class households. Estimates point out that 42 percent of the country’s population comprises upper- and middle-classes, with roughly 38 percent falling in the middle-class category. This shift is nothing less than tectonic and exhibits itself in the political noise. While middle-class politics is not always progressive, it’s quest for increased voice and preservation of its class interests — ‘anticorruption’, functional services and good governance especially property rights — is increasingly being articulated through the contests between the PMLN and PTI and the media industry itself.
Encouraged by charged public rallies Nawaz Sharif has been relentless in pitching himself as the new anti-establishment figure. For the first time in post-1971 history, Sharif-directed anti-establishment mood finds traction in military’s bastion; the Punjab
Since the anti-Musharraf movement spearheaded by lawyers and later judges, the judiciary is a far more empowered player in the power-matrix. For now it may appear to be in alignment with the military’s worldview, the absolute dominance of the latter is a story of the past. This is why constitutional suspensions and deviations are no longer easy to implement. Getting Sharif out was not that simple either. It took many years and finally was only able to happen when the judiciary was willing to oust him on technical grounds. Such intra-state contests are enablers of a less authoritarian environment that has historically defined Pakistan’s political scene. Even though the judges have not harmed any of the military’s vital interests, the very fact that they decreed against the gerrymandering by the military-intelligence establishment in the Asghar Khan case and indicted a former Army chief — Musharraf — indicate new beginnings that cannot be ignored. The hold of Pakistan’s military over politics and shaping the country’s discourses will not go away for some time to come but its monopoly over power is diminishing. This space is what enables Sharif to strike back.
The formation of new elites during the last two decades or so is also noteworthy. Property tycoons such as Malik Riaz and Aleem Khan — and their numerous local variants — typify crony capitalism, and their involvement in political affairs has grown exponentially. Political parties, as well as both the military and media benefit from this new money; thereby increasing their leverage over the system. While these new elites are subsidiaries of the ‘old’ order, not necessarily democratic, their involvement further distributes power and dilutes the historic dominance of the civil-military bureaucracy and their ‘old’ allies.
The expansion of the media industry since the early 2000s is a well-known story. Its sustenance is also linked to increased middle-class power. The advertising revenues have also been on the up. In 2015-2016, the total revenues were Rs. 76.2 billion ($727 million). Half of this supported television channels while the rest was divided among print, outdoor, radio and digital media. Perhaps more remarkable has been the rise of new media technologies altering the nature of public conversations. While TV was more pliant, Sharif supporters — led by his daughter — took to social media to vent their anger at his disqualification. Such has been the campaign that senior judges had to resort to public defence of their decisions, which resulted in stirring up more controversy while appearing on the back foot. New media are also divisive and polarising but they have been able to push the boundaries of traditional media. Public anger over Zainab, the missing bloggers, Mashal Khan’s murder was articulated through social media forcing the government to act.
The traditional establishment is also wary of the growing power of new media. The latter’s reach is expanding each day through cellular technology and the public conversations within Pakistan are more global than ever. On balance, this has been a boost for democratic expression and displaying that no matter how regressive political beliefs of urban social media users are, they are unwilling to compromise when it comes to freedom of expression. The state’s consistent crackdown on dissent aired by new media only indicates that this is a threat. New media have also introduced a modern version of political assembly and Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam has cleverly exploited this.

Encouraged by charged public rallies, Nawaz Sharif has been relentless in pitching himself as the new anti-establishment figure. Sceptics argue that this posturing might change the moment that the military brokers a deal of sorts. But in this contest, a new phase of politics is unfolding. For the first time in post-1971 history, Sharif-directed anti-establishment mood is finding traction in military’s bastion; the Punjab. Sharif did not even shy away from citing the case of Shaikh Mujeeb who led East Pakistan into a war of liberation. While Sharif’s position may be opportunistic, it is important for a Punjabi leader to remind his constituents that Mujeeb was not a villain but a ‘patriotic’ victim-gone-astray due to the military’s excessive interference in national politics.
The major opposition parties despite their willingness to play the post-Sharif engineering game seem unprepared to participate in an extra-constitutional future. A long-term caretaker government to fix corruption and democratic ills therefore faces the uncertain endorsement by Supreme Court and the opposition parties. Even the hydra-headed media will not be fully on board. The largest private television channel is not in sync with the military-judiciary establishment. Short of total censorship, this will not work.
Finally, the increased pressure by the United States, Afghan government and, by extension India, have slowed down the final phases of the get-Nawaz-out-again project. This was not entirely unexpected but President Trump’s January tweet and aid-cuts have created a little more wiggle-room for Sharif’s brand of politics. For instance, he feels vindicated by what was reported on civil-military discord via the infamous Dawn Leaks.
As an experienced player of power politics, Sharif knows all of this and that’s why his tone has grown belligerent with time. The Supreme Court has responded by accelerating contempt proceedings but even here the Court is on a weak footing. For it has to punish the clerics who abused judges and do something about the former dictator who has avoided his trial thus far.
In short, the country is changing faster than many had predicted. This has opened up newer possibilities for democratic contest and rebalancing of political power. Nawaz Sharif may be out for now but it is not going to be a smooth ride for his opponents either.

#Pakistan - Sharif brothers ridiculed institutions: Kaira

 Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Qamar Zaman Kaira remarked on Sunday that political opponents Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif ridiculed state institutions.
Addressing party workers at Lahore’s Badami Bagh, Kaira said that Nawaz had earlier said that he will accept the verdict of the Supreme Court but later criticised it.
“Sharif brothers have ridiculed the institutions of the state,” he said, adding that Nawaz should be prepared to go to Adiala Jail [Rawalpindi].
“The Sharif brothers used to level corruption allegations against PPP, now the courts have declared the entire family as thieves,” he remarked.
The PPP leader claimed that the party leaders were held accountable before the courts during the tenure of former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf.
He also warned Nawaz that the true ‘heirs’ of Lahore have arrived. “Mian Sahab [Nawaz Sharif], the heirs of Lahore are here,” he said, adding that the party will hold a rally at Mochi Gate tomorrow (Monday) in light of the Kashmir Day.
Kaira remarked that Kashmiris also made many sacrifices for the independence of Pakistan.
“The People of Pakistan are standing with Kashmiris,” he added. “Both India and United States have launched an attack on Pakistan.”

#Pakistan - Bilawal Bhutto calls world bodies to probe India’s use of chemical weapons, pellet guns in Held Kashmir

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the people of Kashmir are undergoing worst form of aggression from the occupying Indian forces in the Held Kashmir and urged the United Nations and the world community to investigate the reports of use of chemical weapons and pellet guns against the Kashmiris.

In his message on the eve of Kashmiri Day, the PPP Chairman said that Kashmiris have been waging a peaceful movement for their legitimate right to self-determination since seventy years losing thousands of innocent lives and impairing and maiming of large number of population.
He pointed out that it was Prime Minister Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto who declared February 5 as Kashmir Day to fillip the issue of Held Kashmir and pay tribute to those Kashmiris, who embraced martyrdom and offered sacrifices during the untiring struggle.

The Special Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir, also formed by ex-Prime Minister Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto in her second unfinished tenure will be mobilised and activated to its full potential after PPP wins the general elections2018, he added.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that he was third generation of the PPP’s founder leaders, which continues to extend all possible moral and diplomatic to legitimate movement of Kashmiris for their inalienable right to self-determination. Both former Chairpersons of the PPP and Prime Ministers always presented case of Kashmiris aggressively on international forum, he added.
PPP Chairman pledged that all moves by the Modi government to put the issue of Kashmir on backburner would be foiled through highlighting the worst violations of human rights of the people of Held Kashmir at global level.

“Our dedication and commitment to the cause of the people of Kashmir will remain as vocal, vibrant and forthcoming as was during times of martyred Bhuttos,” he reiterated.