Thursday, February 22, 2018

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Pakistan’s ‘Pashtun Spring’ pits human rights demands against War on Terror politics

After years of tension and exclusion, it seems Pakistan’s Pashtuns – the country’s second-largest ethnic group – have had enough. In January, a large crowd began protesting after 27-year-old shopkeeper Naqibullah Mehsud was shot dead by a police officer in Karachi.
The protesters marched from Khyber Patunkhwa province to Islamabad, where they staged a sit-in protest in front of the National Press Club. Although the sit-in has ended, protests have erupted elsewhere in Pakistan, and the movement has variously become known as the Pashtun Long March and the Pashtun Spring.
The protesters are demanding the arrest and punishment of Rao Anwar, the police officer who killed Naqibullah. They are further demanding an end to what they call state-imposed terrorism and militarism justified by War on Terror rhetoric. Other demands include the clearing of landmines in the tribal areas, and the return of missing people who have been taken into custody by Pakistani security forces.
These demands are expressed in the language of human rights, and have received the support of leading Pakistani politicians, including opposition leader Bilawal Bhutto.
is an organic movement,spontaneous reaction to killing of shaheed Naqeebullah Mehsud.Its grown to encompass broad based & genuine concerns of the people.I hope we can live up to expectations & provide justice. For a system based on injustice cannot last long.
Pakistani authorities claimed that Naqibullah was a member of the Pakistani Taliban. The claim was later dropped. According to Human Rights Watch, extrajudicial killings by Pakistani police are widespread, especially among marginalised groups. These include Pashtuns, more than 1m of whom are Afghan refugees.

Across the border

Pakistan’s prime minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, has reportedlypromised to use all available means to secure Rao Anwar’s arrest. He also vowed to build a college to be named after Naqibullah Mehsud, and clear South Waziristan of landmines.

The size and public visibility of the protest is unprecedented, but calls for Pashtun rights are not new. One protest leader, Manzoor Ahmad Pashteen from South Waziristan, is a co-founder of the Mehsud Tahafuz Movement (Mehsud Protection Movement). This movement has fought for the rights of the Pashtun Mehsud tribe in South Waziristan since 2013.
Around 25m Pashtuns live in Pakistan and around 11m in Afghanistan. In 1893, British India imposed the Durand Line, a 2,640km border between Afghanistan and today’s Pakistan. The line bolstered British territorial control on its side of the line, which divides historical Pashtun areas. Afghanistan has never officially acknowledged this border.
Whereas Pashtuns are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, they are economically and politically marginalised in Pakistan. The tribal area they inhabit there borders Afghanistan to the west, and it has become a major front in the War on Terror. Pakistan routinely associates Pashtuns and Afghan refugees with the Taliban and Islamist terrorism.

Us and them

The protests have come along just as Pakistan and Afghanistan’s relationship is deteriorating. In 2016, chafing at Afghanistan’s deepening relationship with India, Pakistan deported more than 500,000 Afghans. Conversely, when Afghan officials discuss the Pashtun protest, they often resort to nationalist language.
Ahmad Shah Katawazai, defence liaison at the Afghan embassy in the US, has called for Pakistani Pashtun areas to be incorporated wholesale into Afghanistan. As he writes in American newspaper The Hill:
The government and people of Afghanistan have consistently asked for the territory to be re-incorporated into Afghanistan. People who live along the Durand Line don’t consider it to be a border.
Both Pakistan and Afghanistan have tried to frame their respective approaches to the protest as beneficial for the War on Terror. Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, has supported the protest as a citizen struggle against terrorism and fundamentalism.
I fully support the historical in Pakistan. The main purpose of which is to mobilize citizens against fundamentalism and terrorism in the region.
The protesters have a tough road ahead. They have to navigate between human rights demands, Afghanistan-Pakistan relations, and the politics of the War on Terror. Yet it is undeniable that the protests are in themselves a victory of sorts for this marginalised group. As the columnist Raza Rumi writes in Pakistan’s Daily Times:
The Pashtun long march and its ten-day long protest in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad testifies to how the marginalised are negotiating the contradictions of today’s Pakistan … The people of [Federally Administered Tribal Areas] continue to be treated as second-class citizens and all talk of ‘reform’ founders at expediency of the civil-military elites … Youngsters from tribal areas are less willing to engage with the state structures as their elders have done in the past. Ethnicity-based politics will remain a reality and it needs to be accepted by powers-that-be. Democratisation, howsoever flawed it might be, enables reconciliation of multiple political and social identities.
It seems that for Pakistan’s Pashtuns, the odds of change for the better could finally be shifting in their favour.

Pakistan tight-lipped on Saudi Arabia troop mission


Details sketchy on deployment of more than 1,000 soldiers on 'train and advise' mission in the kingdom.

Pakistan's government has refused to share details on the deployment of a contingent of more than a thousand soldiers to Saudi Arabia, prompting concerns that the troops could support the kingdom's ongoing military campaign in Yemen.
The Pakistani government and military both deny that the troops, whose deployment was announced last week, would operate outside the borders of Saudi Arabia.
On Monday, Khurram Dastgir-Khan, Pakistani defence minister, told the country's senate that the troops would operate in a "train and advise" capacity.
"The contingent, once deputed in Saudi Arabia, will perform its training and advisory mission while remaining within the geographical boundaries of the kingdom," he said.
The minister's briefing to the Senate was met, however, with dissatisfaction from Raza Rabbani, the Senate chairman, who said it failed to provide basic details on the troops' role in the Gulf kingdom.
"This is shedding no light on the decision that has been taken by the prime minister. I am sorry, but this statement is inadequate," Rabbani said.
The new deployment would be an addition to an existing force of 1,600 troops currently stationed in Saudi Arabia, and would be governed under a 1982 agreement between the two countries on military cooperation.
The agreement allows for Pakistani troops to train their Saudi counterparts, as well as to support internal security missions.
Since 1967, Pakistan has trained more than 8,200 Saudi armed forces personnel, and the two sides have also held several joint military exercises.
In 2015, Saudi Arabia requested a number of allies to support the military intervention in Yemen, where the country launched operations to support forces loyal to Yemen's UN-recognised President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi against a Houthi rebellion.
The conflict has since escalated to a full-scale war, with the UN aid chief terming it "the world's worst humanitarian disaster for 50 years".
In April 2015, Pakistan's parliament passed a joint resolution urging dialogue to end the conflict, and saying Pakistani troops could only be deployed if they were being used to defend the territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia or Islam's holy sites in Mecca and Medina.
"The apprehension that our troops will become somehow entangled in the war in Yemen is incorrect. It is a very clear rules of engagement … a strict and clear declaration has been made that the current deputation and the additional deputation will be within the remit of the 1982 protocol," Dastgir-Khan, the defence minister, told the Senate earlier this week.

Walking a tightrope

Analysts caution that the increased engagement could further pull Pakistan into tensions between Saudi Arabia and regional rival Iran.
"The timing and circumstances of the deployment has raised many questions," said Zahid Hussain, an Islamabad-based security analyst.
"The government of Pakistan is not willing to come out in detail about it, and that makes things much more suspicious."
Defence Minister Dastgir-Khan refused to provide details to the Senate on the exact location of the military's deployment, and what kinds of training would be imparted.
"Even if it is for training purposes, the numbers are quite large. There are already some troops there [...] 2,600 soldiers is quite a significant number."
In a statement announcing the deployment last week, Pakistan's military also said that it would "not be employed outside [Saudi Arabia]".
Hussain said that while it is unlikely the troops will be engaged outside of Saudi Arabia's borders, they will likely provide help with internal security, substituting for Saudi troops that are involved elsewhere.
James Dorsey, a Singapore-based academic and journalist who has studied Saudi-Pakistan relations for decades, agreed with that assessment.
"Despite fears in Pakistan that the latest troop deployment will suck Pakistan into the Yemen quagmire, it is highly unlikely that they will be directly involved in the hostilities," he said.
"Obviously, by training Saudi forces, Pakistani troops would have an indirect association."
Dorsey said the latest deployment appears to be aimed at compensating for Pakistan's earlier refusal to send troops to Yemen.
The deployment should be seen, he said, as part of Pakistan's diplomatic tightrope act, as it aims to balance the tensions between major ally Saudi Arabia and southwestern neighbour Iran.
"It also part of a balancing act that increasingly resembles a tightrope as conflicts and disputes in the Gulf mushroom," he said.
"Pakistan is in a delicate position when it comes to both the Saudi-Iranian rivalry and the Saudi-UAE-Qatar dispute. Depending on whether and how these conflicts escalate Pakistan could find itself in an ever tighter position."

#Pakistan - All parties should respect SC verdict - Zardari

Former president Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday said that all the parties should respect the Supreme Court verdict that disqualified former premier Nawaz Sharif as the head of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.
Zardari said it was the duty of everyone to respect the top court’s decision. He said confrontation with institutions of the state would be counterproductive, undermine democracy and must be avoided.
Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court disqualified Nawaz Sharif as president of the ruling PML-N in its verdict regarding petitions against Election Act, 2017.
The apex court ruled that a person who did not qualify on Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution could also not head any political party.
“Ineligible person cannot hold the office of party presidency,” the court said.
The court also annulled all decisions made by Nawaz Sharif as the party chief.
Last month, the sc had accepted petitions for hearing against the Election Act, 2017.
These petitions were submitted by the Awami Muslim League, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the Pakistan People’s Party, other political parties and groups of lawyers. The approval of Electoral Reforms Bill 2017 had paved way for Nawaz Sharif to become president of the PML-N after he was disqualified as the prime minister in July last year.
It was passed from both houses of the parliament despite the bone of contention being its Section 203, which allowed the former PM to hold office as the PML-N president. Reacting to the sc verdict, Nawaz Sharif complained that “hands of a state institution have reached parliament’s collar.” However, Zardari said it was unfortunate that “Nawaz Sharif chose to tread the path of confrontation.” The PPP co-chairman also vowed that the party would continue to protect and promote democracy and constitutionalism. Separately, addressing a gathering of party workers, Zardari said in the next general elections the PPP tickets would be awarded to the candidates who had the confidence of the party workers.

He said that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto were proud of their Jiyalas (diehard workers) and he also cherished Jiyalas of the party.
“Jiyalas offered sacrifices for the party and its leadership,” he said, instructing party workers to start working for the next elections as the party was destined to form governments in the centre and the provinces.
Zardari said that politics was the name of serving people and resolving their problems and hardships.
“Bhutto had said that the political heaven is under the feet of the people. PPP leadership has never believed in political revenge,” he added.
Zardari asked workers to spread the message of the PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to every corner of Pakistan. Meanwhile, politicians from the Federally-Administrated Tribal Areas called on Zardari on Wednesday and announced joining the PPP. Former independent candidates from Mohmand Agency NA-36 Shah Sawar Khan and from Bajaur Agency NA-44 Muhammad Hasseb Khan were among those who joined the PPP, a party statement said.
President PPP Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Humayun Khan, Behramand Tangi, Senator Sardar Ali Khan, Dr Farooq Afzal, Fazal Hadi and Imtiaz Khan were also present on the occasion. Zardari welcomed the new entrants in the party and said that the Fata was neglected in the past by the anti-PPP elements, and the “PPP target is to make [the] Fata a part of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.”

Want to address judicial reforms issue but doubt Nawaz’s intentions: Bilawal

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto on Wednesday said his party is willing to address the issue of judicial reforms but has doubts regarding the intentions of the ruling party. 
“There are issues we want to address about judicial reforms, but Nawaz’s intentions are not right. He doesn’t want judicial reforms, he wants a judiciary of the PML-N,” Bilawal said while speaking to media.
Bilawal said this following his statement that “it is inappropriate to threaten to revoke a legislation that hasn’t even passed yet. It’s inappropriate to say we will reject it when you haven’t heard the case”.

نوازشریف عدلیہ اور پارلیمنٹ میں محاذآرائی چاہتے ہیں، بلاول

پاکستان پیپلزپارٹی کے چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری کاکہنا ہےکہ نوازشریف پروپیگنڈے کے استاد رہے ہیں وہ عدلیہ اور پارلیمنٹ میں محاذ آرائی چاہتے ہیں، وہ چاہتے ہیں آئینی بحران اور سسٹم میں گڑبڑ ہو لیکن ہم پر امید ہیں کہ نظام میں کوئی مسئلہ نہیں ہوگا۔
لاہور میں میڈیا سے گفتگو کرتے ہوئے بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے کہا کہ نوازشریف کو احتساب کی عادت نہیں، انہیں پاناما کا نہیں بلکہ 30 سال کا حساب دینا ہے۔
انہوں نے کہا کہ نوازشریف ڈرامے بازی میں ماہر ہیں، انہوں نے ہائی جیکنگ اور سپریم کورٹ پر بھی حملہ کرکے ڈرامے بازی کی، نوازشریف کیا سمجھتے ہیں کہ عوام بے وقوف ہیں۔
چیئرمین پی پی کا کہنا تھا کہ ہم نے پچھلے چار سال دیکھا، جب نوازشریف وزیراعظم تھے تو اس وقت ووٹ اور پارلیمنٹ کی کیا حیثیت رکھی، اب وہ پارلیمنٹ کی بات کررہے ہیں لیکن عوام سب جانتے ہیں، عوام انہیں الیکشن میں بھرپور شکست دیں گے، انہیں عدالتوں اور عوام کی طرف سے بھی سزا ملے گی۔
بلاول بھٹو کا کہنا تھا کہ احتساب ہوگا اور پانچ سال کا جواب دینا پڑے گا، نوازشریف کے ساتھ مشرف کو بھی جواب دہ ہونا چاہیے، سب کے لیے 
ایک قانون ہونا چاہیے۔