Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are calling former first lady Barbara Bush a remarkable woman with "grit and grace, brains and beauty."
بھی برباد ہوتا ہے چنانچہ حکومت نے اسلام کوٹ میں ائیرپورٹ بنا دیا‘ اسلام کوٹ میں سردست صرف چارٹر فلائیٹس اترتی ہیں لیکن یہاں سے عنقریب شنگھائی کےلئے ڈائریکٹ فلائیٹ بھی شروع ہو جائے گی‘ یہ ائیرپورٹ صحرا کے عین درمیان میں ہے‘ رن وے پر اترتے اور اڑتے وقت دور دور تک آبادی کا نام و نشان نظر نہیں آتا‘ یہ اس لحاظ سے ایک منفرد ائیرپورٹ ہے‘ تھرکول کی سائیٹ یہاں سے 45 منٹ کے فاصلے پر ہے‘ بلاول بھٹو اپنے جہاز پر اسلام کوٹ اترے‘ ان کا بلیک ہیلی کاپٹر ان کے آنے سے پہلے وہاں پہنچ چکا تھا‘ ہم ان کے ساتھ 15 منٹ میں سائیٹ پر پہنچ گئے‘ ہمارے دائیں بائیں اور آگے پیچھے دور دور تک صحرا تھا‘ تھر پاکستان کا پست ترین علاقہ ہے‘ زمین نشیب میں ہے‘ یہ علاقہ صحرا ہونے کے باوجود صحرا نہیں لگتا‘ بارشوں کے موسم میں پورا علاقہ سبز ہو جاتا ہے‘ آبادیاں دور دور ہیں اور چھوٹے چھوٹے دیہات پر مشتمل ہیں‘ 60فیصد ہندو اور 40فیصد مسلمان ہیں‘ گرمیوں میں درجہ حرارت 45 ڈگری تک چلا جاتا ہے‘ پانی اور روزگار کی شدید کمی ہے‘ افلاس بھی ہے اور جہالت بھی‘ لوگ گٹکا کھاتے ہیں اور کچی شراب پیتے ہیں‘ سینکڑوں لوگ ہر سال
On Sunday, two Christian community members were killed and five injured as gunmen unleashed fire near a church in Quetta’s Esa Nagri locality. The victims were coming out of the church following Sunday service.
This is the second attack on the community within the span of a fortnight, after a Christian family was shot dead on Easter Monday on Shahzaman Road. Sunday’s firing is the third attack on the community in four months after eight were killed in a suicide attack on Bethel Memorial Methodist Church a week before Christmas.
All three of the attacks, including the one on Monday, have been claimed by ISIS – the group whose presence has been routinely dismissed by our security agencies.
There indeed are question marks over the group’s operational involvement in the attacks that it has claimed in Pakistan – including last year’s Sehwan bombing, which was the deadliest attack since the APS massacre – and it is a fact that the group does not provide evidence for its assertions, but that is precisely what makes it uniquely perilous.
Despite having been pulverised in the Middle East, ISIS remains the biggest jihadist umbrella around the globe, and anyone from lone radical Islamists to splintered militant groups are gravitating towards the Islamic State – at least the brand, if not the operational core.
However, for Pakistan in particular the threat might be closer to home than we would like to believe, for Islamic State’s Khorasan faction has existed for over three years, and unlike ISIS core, is yet to flee any of its hubs. A Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) security report for 2017 has not only maintained that there is ISIS presence in Pakistan – especially in Balochistan and northern Sindh – it has also warned against the group’s expansion.
This expansion does not require jihadists from the Middle East to penetrate Pakistan, all the group needs is for local aspirants to pay allegiance to it – that is how ISIS has been growing in the country, and continues to do so.
That is how ISIS Khorasan has doubled its attacks in Afghanistan, where no one remotely interested in removing the group would claim that it does not exist.
But it is the group’s continued manoeuvres in Pakistan – specifically Balochistan, and even more specifically Quetta – that need to be countered by our security forces, and help reduce the frequency of terror incidents over there just as they have managed in most other parts of the country.
For instance, while there has been a significant plummet in terror incidents in Punjab over the past year or so, in Quetta alone there have been 13 terror attacks – of varying scales and damage – since the start of 2018. Five of these have been claimed by ISIS or have the group’s suspected involvement.
There is a clear pattern in ISIS-orchestrated killings. They are clearly targeting religious minorities, which includes both non-Muslims, and minority sects within Islam.
In addition to the three attacks targeting the Christians, two have been on the Hazara Shia community. ISIS’ first ever attack in Pakistan killed targeted an Ismaili bus near Karachi’s Safoora Chowrangi in May 2015. The Sehwan attack too was on a Sufi shrine, deemed heretic by ISIS’ radical Salafist brand of Islam. Similarly, more recent ISIS manoeuvres in Quetta have been roadside firing attacks, including the Hazara killings in March and earlier this month. The same is true for both the attacks on the Christian community this month.
It is evident that ISIS is exploiting the vacuum along the Af-Pak border, and in Balochistan, to launch its trademark attacks, which are usually aimed towards religious minorities. Instead of denying their presence in the country, the state needs to come up with a counter-terror plan – and narrative – to get rid of the group both militarily and ideologically.
To be sure, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa faces many challenges due the militancy fault line on which the province rests. Yet is seems that after five years in power, the PTI has not performed as well as had been expected on the education front.
In fact, the All Primary Teachers Association (APTA) is planning a province-wide protest against the local set-up’s formula regarding teacher promotions as well as the interference of non-governmental organisations in drawing up education policies. At the heart of the matter are accusations that the KP government, having tabled an education bill in consultation with the APTA, went on to add new clauses and had it approved ‘unilaterally’.
The APTA maintains that it had signed off on four points, including the giving of an unconditional time scale to teachers. Yet it stresses that the KP government is pushing for promotion to be dependent on eight years uninterrupted teaching of a particular grade. The APTA argues that no teachers fulfil this condition.
The PTI-led government has responded by directing all district education officers (DEOs) to monitor attendance records across the public education sector. Teachers are expected to prove 90 percent on this front while students are afforded more leeway, being granted 82 percent on a month-by-month basis. Failure on this front will result in relevant DEOs forfeiting one day’s salary for every month attendance targets are not met.
This is unfortunate. Public school teachers need to be invested in across the country. For recent reports find that the government system is failing students; with many not being taught essential skills. Indeed, in KP, some 51 percent of girls are out of school. Thus what is needed is an overhauling of the entire provincial education system. A good place to start would be the rescinding of the Rs277 million earmarked for a controversial madrassa and investing this amount in the public education sector; with a view to bringing all seminary students into the mainstream. This should not be too hard given that PTI chief Imran Khan has announced that the KP government is all set to boycott the upcoming budget for FY 2018-19, given that it is about to complete its five-year tenure and therefore lacks any sort of mandate going forward.
Yet in the interim, the KP government and the APTA need to sit down together. For the prospect of some 86,000 primary school teachers effectively going on strike to protest what they describe as the local leadership’s non-serious attitude public education does not speak well of the PTI-led government’s record on this front.
By ignoring the genuine grievances of the Pakhtun, Baloch and Muhajirs in Pakistan, the establishment is repeating the same mistakes it made that led to the dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971.
There has been a complete blackout of the Pakhtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) in the Pakistani media. The PTM, one of the largest movements in the country’s history, is a culmination of the efforts of ordinary people as opposed to a mass demonstration organized by any political party. Young activist, Manzoor Pashteen, is the latest victim of engineered social media campaigns, accusing him of being a ‘traitor’ and ‘blasphemer’. In fact, social media accounts, of Internet bots and those masquerading as journalists, have consistently strived to discredit and slander the PTM by trying to link it to Indian intelligence agencies (an age-old tactic of quelling dissent in the land of the pure).
By ignoring the genuine grievances of the Pakhtun, Baloch and Muhajirs in Pakistan, the security establishment is repeating the same mistakes it made that led to the dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971. The rhetoric that was proudly used as a propaganda tool back then is similarly being adopted now. Instead of this rhetoric and anti-state labelling, the solution to this conflict is rather straightforward, considering the basic nature of the demands of the PTM, namely ending enforced disappearances (which are already illegal under the Constitution) and safeguarding the rights of the Pakhtun as equal citizens of Pakistan.
There have been extrajudicial killings of the Pakhtun and Baloch for decades now and there has been no real change on ground vis-à-vis the security establishment’s policy towards these marginalised and oppressed groups. Now that these people have finally had enough and are demanding that they be treated with dignity, the State has decided to ignore their voices by deflecting from its own excesses.
Let us not forget that the only transition from one democratic government to another took place as recently as the year 2013. The establishment is not going to let go of its power and influence without a fight — even if their methods of warfare push the country into a civil war
As if this situation wasn’t alarming enough, another pot is bubbling just waiting to explode. The Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) sit-in in Lahore ended after over a week with complete capitulation of the state apparatus to the organisation’s fascist designs. Their leader, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, is a proclaimed offender with whom the Pakistani military concluded a ‘peace agreement’ just a few months ago, after his party’s 21-day-sit-in in the federal capital. That a handful of the TLP activists, here and there, are able to bring the whole country to a standstill give the impression that Rizvi is being used to destabilise the civil government on the alleged pretext of blasphemy.
While all this has been going on, a media channel allegedly sympathetic to recently disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif got taken off air, while both the government and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) denied having ordered that censorship.
One wonders if this is all part of the ‘Bajwa doctrine’ — the ‘off-the-record’ briefing by the Chief of Army Staff to a select group of media personnel on the supposed threats faced by Pakistan, and how the military intended to protect the judiciary against any threats.
It is no secret that the security establishment in Pakistan has been a sacred cow, above any and all criticism, immune from accountability by elected institutions, and the self-styled custodian of Pakistan’s ‘national’ interests. As per this narrative, journalists, academics, intellectuals or anyone even remotely critical of the establishment’s disastrous policies (in supporting extremists, destabilising democracy, etc.) has been abducted at random, tortured, murdered, or has simply ‘disappeared’.
Of course, such awareness needs to be systematically crippled through new and improved propaganda tactics, including but not limited to extending support to the judiciary. The military-judiciary nexus is, however, not a novel partnership in Pakistan. After all, previously judges in Pakistan have even taken oath under military dictators.
But someone on the outside (or even those who continue to buy the security-centric narrative) may wonder: what is all this chaos being fuelled for? The answer lies in a bird’s eye view of two things: budget allocations and corporate interests. The army in Pakistan has numerous business interests, including in fertilizer, cement, property development, banking, dairy, poultry and the list goes on. On top of their private commercial activity, they are also allocated massive shares of Pakistan’s budget without any debate.
Let us not forget that the only transition from one democratic government to another took place as recently as the year 2013. The establishment is not going to let go of its power and influence without a fight — even if their methods of warfare push the country into a civil war. But the question Pakistanis should be asking right now is not whether they fear a civil war but whether they are willing yet again to choose chaos in the long-term for a false sense of order in the short-term?
#PashtunTahafuzMovement - ‘Our First Mistake Will Be Our Last’: Pakistani Rights Movement Defies Army
By MEHER AHMAD
Counting hundreds of thousands of supporters in just its third month, the Pashtun movement has wielded the pictures and names of dead family members — along with the chant “What kind of freedom is this?” — as an indictment of unchecked military authority. From its start, the movement has been haunted by the question of how long the security forces would tolerate it before cracking down.
That time may be coming, many fear.
Despite its largest rally yet, a demonstration of tens of thousands in the northern city of Peshawar on April 8, the movement has labored under an only rarely interrupted media blackout. Interviews with editors and reporters at several outlets detailed pressure to avoid covering the Pashtun movement as an unmistakable sign that both the demonstrators and the press are facing a new level of threat from the military.
The country’s army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, ominously suggested at a public event last week that “engineered protests” threatened to reverse counterterrorism efforts by the military in recent years.
That military campaign, centered on operations against the Pakistani Taliban and some other militants in the country’s northwestern region — where most of the country’s Pashtuns live — has been credited with a drastic drop in terrorist attacks. It has greatly bolstered the military’s popularity, and tipped the balance of authority over the country’s institutions toward the army.
It has also led to the feeling that many of the country’s Pashtun population centers have been under functional occupation by the security forces. Using an alternative system of military counterterrorism courts along with an extensive network of covert jails, security and intelligence officers wield life or death power — often instantly — over the Pakistani region known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, a leftover from the British colonial system.
The new Pashtun rights movement — which is known by the initials P.T.M., from words that translate as Pashtun Protection Movement — is the product of years of outrage over the security forces’ power. It caught spark after the killing of a small group of Pashtun men, including an aspiring model named Naqeebullah Mehsud who was originally from the tribal areas, by police officers in Karachi in January. The officers have been accused of staging a fake shootout to cover up an extrajudicial killing spree.
Under the leadership of a young activist, Manzoor Pashteen, 26, the P.T.M. has evoked deep emotion from Pashtuns in Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as overseas.
Mr. Pashteen and his allies say that Pashtuns, who make up about 15 percent of Pakistan’s population of some 204 million, have endured countless human rights violations, from disappearances to forced evictions. At rallies, women clutch pictures of sons they say were hauled off by security officials, never to be seen again.
Mr. Pashteen says that from the start, the movement has faced hostility from the military and its agencies, and is increasingly the subject of propaganda and social media campaigns engineered by supporters of the security forces.
“We’ve spent these two months enduring accusation after accusation, that we’re foreign agents and working on behalf of some other group,” he said Monday in an interview. “All we can do is try to take the moral high ground. We know our first mistake will be our last.”
Another leader of the movement, Mohsin Dawar, was equally stark about the risks of open protest against the military: “Speaking about the army like this in Pakistan is suicide.”
At the protest in Peshawar on April 8, Mr. Pashteen condemned the military and its agents as “oppressors” and called for the end of curfews and army checkpoints in the tribal areas.
Though the demonstration drew tens of thousands of Pashtun marchers from all over the country, its coverage on local television news media was next to absent, and only a smattering of Pakistani newspapers covered the event.
Then, three columns about the movement that were published by The News International, one of Pakistan’s biggest English-language news outlets, disappeared Sunday from its website not long after being posted.
Interviews with newspaper editors and writers — many of whom spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of the military’s reaction — portrayed an atmosphere in which reporting on the Pashtun movement was widely being seen as a red line for the country’s security establishment.
The journalists described the main factors in keeping the movement out of the news as a combination of direct warnings from military officials or their go-betweens and self-censorship in order to avoid being shut down.
In recent weeks, the country’s biggest news channel, Geo TV, has been run off the air by cable operators who are broadly seen here as under threat from a military establishment that has increasingly been flexing its authority over civilian institutions.
“A lot of this is self-censorship, but you can’t ask individual journalists to be crusaders for free expression,” said Saroop Ijaz, a representative for the advocacy group Human Rights Watch in Pakistan. “Now that the state has demonstrated its power against Geo, you have a chilling effect. They’ve set a precedent for blatant censorship.”
Khan Zaman Kakar, an anthropologist and P.T.M. activist, was among those whose column was abruptly removed from The News International. “My column went to print in the Sunday paper, then disappeared from the site around midday,” he said. “Then I received a call from my editor saying it wasn’t a technical issue.”
Mr. Kakar said he could read between the lines and wasn’t surprised that his column was censored: “I knew when I submitted it that it touches an issue the state does not want.”
Many journalists described coming under immense pressure to keep the Pashtun movement out of the headlines.
“What’s happening now is far more detailed and micromanaged as compared with the past,” said Talat Hussein, a senior broadcast journalist and talk-show host. “It makes the current crackdown deadly and disturbing,” he added, because there are no avenues for recourse.
Mr. Dawar, one of the movement’s lead activists, said the censorship was sad, but not surprising. “We were actually surprised that the columns ran in the first place,” he said. “Most publications are reluctant to cover any issues against the military.”
He said social media had allowed the movement to gain supporters, as well as sympathetic international audiences. “Electronic media, print media — we don’t need them. The entire world is seeing it, and seeing it live,” Mr. Dawar said.
The movement’s founders are counting on the idea that the world is watching as they continue to defy the military.
“We have no option but to continue,” Mr. Pashteen said. “We are on the last possible option.”