Friday, June 8, 2018

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#Pakistan - Zahra Baloch – an unsung hero of #Balochistan

By Faiz M Baluch
On 14 May 2018, a daughter of Balochistan along with her brother took a taxi home not knowing that it would be their last ride. She had just finished her final year exams and was going to visit her brother in Iranian occupied Balochistan when a Land Cruiser overtook their taxi and brake sharply leaving no time for the taxi to stop. Hence, the taxi collided with the back bumpers of the Land Cruiser killing all three persons on board – Zahra Baloch, her brother Attaullah Baloch and the taxi driver.
It is not clear yet what caused the Land Cruiser’s driver to brake sharply or whether it was a deliberate attempt to cause this accident with intent to kill Zahra and her brother. Iran and Pakistan are two dangerous states for Baloch people and they avail every opportunity to harm the most learned and educated youth of Balochistan. Since Zahra Baloch was politically active and had previously received warnings from Pakistani security forces, it is highly likely that her death was not just an accident.
According to close relatives of Zahra, she had a keen interest in Baloch politics since her childhood. She always wanted to do something for her nation and to be able to help them in their struggle for freedom.
She was a silent but active political worker who believes in practical work than show off like many of today’s activists or even leaders. She would go house-to-house to educate people about the freedom struggle and advise youth of her age to spend their energy on education instead of wasting it on unnecessary things.
According to Basheer Shohaaz, the elder brother of Zahra, she was different from rest of the family. She was the youngest among siblings. ‘She had grown up in middle of war [Balochistan freedom struggle] that is why her way of looking at things was different. She was a strong representative of the new Baloch generation. She was the kindest person with her innocent face and she never argued with anyone or get angry.’
In Basheer Shohaaz’s words, ‘Zahra had a pain in her heart for the Baloch nation and Balochistan. That pain had made her politically mature before her age. The pain of occupation of Baloch and Balochistan, the pain of brothers and sisters, the pain of disappearances had made her the leader of her sisters – political colleagues. After doing her school work and housework, she would sit and publish the news messages about disappearances of her brothers and abduction of Baloch women.’
The enemy [Pakistani forces] could not tolerate her peaceful political activities and they threatened her father to ‘tell your youngest daughter’ to stop publishing news messages.
When her brother told her to be careful distributing social media news messages, she replied, ‘There is nothing left for the Baloch nation. They [Pakistani forces] have done whatever they could. Now they can only kill us. If they want to kill me let them do so, I’m not better than my brothers.’
In 2017 Pakistani forces raided her house, harassed her family and abducted her father. During this raid one Pakistani army colonel ordered Zahra to hand over her mobile phone to them, she not only refused to give her phone but took a stone and broke the phone making it completely disable for the Pakistani military officials to check its contents.
Such silent soldiers of Balochistan freedom struggle should not be forgotten in fact, their struggle and hard work should be praised and used as examples for the next generations of Balochistan so they can learn real activism instead of nowadays petty politics of leg pulling and throwing dirt on each other.

#Pakistan - OP-ED #FATA’s conflict traps and peace prospects

Dr Saira Bano Orakzai

On August 26, 2016, the FATA reforms committee completed its deliberations on reforms in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which were presented to Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif in November 2016. Between December 2016 and May 2018, the people of FATA waited for implementation of these reforms. Yet, these reforms were unnecessarily delayed, making the entire process dubious and frustrating the tribal people. However, on May 25, 2018, the FATA merger bill was placed before the Parliament and was hastily passed with a two-third majority.
The FATA bill was passed with a national consensus. However, there was np consensus of the people of the concerned area. Meaning FATA was merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KP) without going through the appropriate process. Perhaps, FATA is one of the few cases in the world where a merger or annexation of territory happened on the whims and will of people living in other provinces of the state.
What is the end result of this faulty and delayed process of reforms and merger? Anger, frustration, and lack of hope became a driving force behind a movement for civil rights. Within days of the merger and passing of the interim order for FATA by the President of Pakistan, the Pakistani regime started repressing Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM).This has been the Pakistani state’s standard approach to both violent and non-violent challengers from within. This kind of repression has already backfired in the case of Balochistan. Such an approach against tribal Pashtuns would further aggravate the situation and damage Pakistan’s already tarnished image.
At this point, the state must rethink its old strategy against such movements in Pakistan. There are massive political, constitutional, social and developmental crises in the tribal areas, meaning this conflict must be resolved before it creates rift within the country that cannot be bridged and diplomatic embarrassment internationally. The way out is to rethink this ill-conceived merger and reforms.
It is important to address the grievances of PTM by establishing a peace commission. In fact, this may be the only way to ensure peace and stability in the tribal areas
Conflicts need resolution, and this can only be achieved by addressing all the contentious issues. Here the issues are consent, human rights abuses, political, social, legal and developmental issues, and environment of moving towards civil peace, which refers to the absence of violent internal conflicts. PTM’s struggle for human rights, a merger without consent and reforms with no positive movement have created a ‘conflict trap’ in FATA. In this case, a high quality of life, basic fundamental institutions to establish and enforce rule of law, provision of basic goods and services, and a greater participation reduces the likelihood of any renewed conflict.
A long history of violent conflict produces negative long term social, economic and political consequences. Hence, there is a need to rebuild infrastructure, trust and relationships. It also has a long-term health impact crisis in societies because it creates deep social and political divides. In such situations, powerful elements takeover all political culture, leaving little space for negotiations and compromise.
Constructing a reliable, legitimate and accountable institutions is what is needed, and this can be done through an interim administrative set up during the transition period. PTM, FATA youth Jirga and Aman committees all are moving in different directions. In this regard, an interim set up of a non-partisan nature can help to find a way out of this ‘conflict trap’ in the tribal areas. PTM has extended the battlefield of problems of FATA to the rest of the Pashtun areas, thus making it more difficult to negotiate. While the presence of the Taliban after so many military operations is also a source of deep concern for the future of peace in FATA.
It is thus important to address the grievances of PTM by establishing a peace commission. In fact this may be the only way to ensure peace and stability in the tribal areas. The failure of truth and reconciliation commissions in South Africa is evident and makes it impossible to establish such a commission in Pakistan. However, a Peace commission could record cases of the aggrieved families, human rights abuses and grievances during years of conflict and develop a mechanism to address such grievances.
Building an infrastructure of peace at both social, political, legal and developmental areas is critical. It should also involve a trust building commission where the residents of the tribal areas are able to register the issues which are creating trust deficit between the state and people of the area. It is also important to re-define the terms of agreement between the tribal areas and Pakistan as previously they were defined between MA Jinnah and Bannu Tribal Jirga in 1948. Sweeping consent and agreements under the carpet and creating a new social-political set up overnight with no ground work will have a long-term impact on the structure of the system and the strategic mechanism through which such a structure is supposed to work.
The controversial new interim order by the President of Pakistan also calls for the administration of justice, maintenance of peace and good governance. Instead of using the interim setup to crush dissent, the order should be considered a last opportunity for peace. A Peace which rests on a three-tier approach: peace commission, infrastructure for peace and trust building commission. In place of bureaucracy with its 71 years of tainted history in FATA, it is important to include academia, civil society, and other non-partisan individuals and groups to carry out these commissions’ functions for a period of two years. A peace through the people approach is the only feasible way out from the conflict trap in FATA.

#Pakistan - #GulBukhari - Censorship And Abductions

On late Tuesday night, Gul Bukhari, a long time columnist for The Nation, was on her way to the Waqt TV studio on Queen’s Road for a talk show when the vehicle she was travelling in was intercepted by unknown persons. She was subsequently abducted on Sherpao Bridge in Lahore’s Cantonment area, and her disappearance caused a flurry of panic on social media that this might account for another instance of intimidation of journalists. She has since been returned to her home, yet the fear that this incident caused still remains.
It is important to note that Gul Bukhari has been a strong critic of judicial and executive overreach and had been one of the few voices to give emphatic coverage to the controversial PTM. Her work had marked her as a contentious figure by the establishment.
This abduction also comes in the aftermath of the highly revealing DG ISPR conference held yesterday, where the DG disclosed that the army would be monitoring a list of activists and politicians who posted “anti-state” content on social media, a list which included reasonable and well-known journalists such as Matiullah Jan and Umar Cheema. With this backdrop of the establishment’s displeasure with journalists in mind, it is clear that the perpetrators behind Gul Bukhari’s abduction had the intention of censoring her criticism against the state’s actions, and her advocacy of the PTM.
Indeed, this abduction marks the most blatant attempt at violation of freedom of speech, yet unfortunately it is not the only one today. Broadcast Journalist Asad Kharral was beaten up by masked men in Lahore, apparently in another censorship tactic. These attacks today, with the backdrop of the formidable warning against journalists issued by the DG ISPR, set a foreboding undertone that more such incidents will also unfurl against dissenting voices.
Only, perhaps the warning this time may not work. Gul Bukhari’s abduction has prompted a strong response from civil society, where for the first time, influential political and authority figures have condemned the attempt at censorship. Leaders from across the political spectrum, ranging from Maryam Nawaz to Bilawal Bhutto to Shireen Mazari, have criticised the treatment of Gul Bukhari and the intimidation tactics to silence her. The slides at the ISPR’s conference showcasing problematic journalists and the ensuing instances of violence against media personalities, may have taken things too far, and the backlash from civil society should hopefully deter such further use of intimidation tactics.

#Pakistan - #PPP NA-246 Bilawal all set to contest first-ever election on July 25

Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto on Thursday submitted his nomination papers for NA-246 to contest the upcoming general elections.
The PPP chairman reached the city courts along with party leaders and workers where he submitted the nomination papers to the returning officer. The constituency is located in the PPP stronghold of Lyari.
While talking to media on the occasion, Bilawal said the PPP will take forward Bhutto’s vision and that it will be a great source of happiness for him to serve the Pakistani nation. He said that he wants to serve the city where he was born. “After a long time, there would be a ‘Bhutto’ in parliament,” he said, adding that he is now formally stepping into the parliamentary politics. “Having a Bhutto in mainstream politics will strengthen Pakistan’s defence also,” he said, adding, “Only a Bhutto can defend democracy.”
Later, the PPP chairman made an impromptu visit to Lyari where he was greeted by people chanting slogans like ‘Wazir-e-Azam Bilawal’. Speaking to workers, he said that the upcoming election is a huge test for jiyalas and the democratic workers. He urged the supporters to gear up their preparation to ensure victory of the PPP candidates across the country.
Bilawal is expected to submit his nomination papers for NA-200 Larkana on Friday (today). He will be arriving in Larkana along with his sister Aseefa Bhutto and aunt Faryal Talpur.
The 29-year-old launched his political career in 2012, five years after the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.