Saturday, June 23, 2018
In countries where military figures still hold the reins of power through fear, such as Egypt or Thailand, public criticism of the regime comes mainly from abroad. In recent days, for example, the United Nations has accused Venezuela’s security forces of hundreds of arbitrary killings. It also demanded Myanmar’s Army be held accountable for mass violence against the minority Rohingya. In Pakistan, people are so afraid of speaking against the military or its intelligence services that they often use code, such as tapping one’s shoulder to indicate decorative brass or by referring to “the establishment.” While the country has a facade of democracy, the top generals keep a tight hold on politics, the media, and dissent.
Yet that fear may be starting to break.
Since January, Pakistan has seen the rapid rise of a group of young people who rely on peaceful tactics to protest military abuses against ethnic minorities, especially the second-largest group, Pashtuns. In the country’s 70-year history, no group has so openly challenged the military’s grip like the Pashtun Protection Movement, known by its Urdu initials, PTM. Its courage, nonviolence, and appeal to constitutional rights have begun to inspire millions of others far beyond Pakistan’s minorities to speak out.
“The impact of the PTM movement is reflected in how it has triggered a wider debate surrounding the role of the military in politics and citizen rights,” according to journalists Sarah Eleazar and Sher Ali Khan in a CNN report. The PTM’s main demand is for an accounting of thousands of missing persons either held or killed by the military during its 15-year campaign against the Taliban and other military groups in the country’s remote regions. At PTM rallies, mothers hold up pictures of their missing loved ones, a powerful image that may have helped prevent violent repression of the group.
Leading this civil rights movement is Manzoor Pashteen, a 24-year-old tribal leader and trained veterinarian who has witnessed many of the military’s atrocities. He has been likened to a 20th-century pacifist Muslim, Abdul Ghaffar Khan. Widely known as Bacha Khan, Abdul Ghaffar Khan was a close friend of Mohandas Gandhi in the nonviolent struggle for independence from the British Raj. Mr. Pashteen has been harassed by security forces to keep him from making public appearances or using social media. The suppression only serves to show how worried the top brass is about this movement’s purely peaceful struggle and its appeal to conscience.
As Gandhi himself said of the use of moral action against abusive power: “We should meet abuse by forbearance. Human nature is so constituted that if we take absolutely no notice of anger or abuse, the person indulging in it will soon weary of it and stop.”
Will the PTM succeed in freeing Pakistan’s stunted democracy? In a study of insurgencies from 1900 to 2006, scholars Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan found that campaigns of nonviolent resistance were more than twice as effective as their violent counterparts.
At the least, PTM provides a model of domestic dissent for other countries living under the thumb of a military. Nonviolent protest based on basic rights can expose and often defeat the violence that props up a regime. Peace has its own natural following.
At an event held here at the Willesden Green Pakistan Community Centre to celebrate Benazir Bhutto’s birthday, Sanam Bhutto joined London-based leaders of the PPP and offered full support to Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
Benazir Bhutto's younger sister Sanam Bhutto urged voters to vote for her nephew in the upcoming elections.
"You must vote for Bilawal if you want Pakistan to progress in the right direction," Sanam Bhutto said, adding that Bilawal offered hope and was the right choice to lead Pakistan and to put the country in the right direction.
Sanam Bhutto expressed her well-wishes for Begum Kulsoom Nawaz and prayed that she could get well soon.
The event was also attended by former federal minister Dr Asim Hussain, who is in London for the cancer treatment of his wife Zareen.
Separately, on the weekend, Sanam Bhutto’s daughter Azadeh Hussain tied the knot in a private ceremony here. The event was private but some pictures and videos were released by a few selected guests.
Bilawal and sisters Aseefa and Bakhtawar arrived especially from Pakistan to be at the wedding. Tariq Islam, Benazir’s cousin, six Sindhi families, Wajid Shamsul Hasan and Benazir’s close friend Victoria Schofield also attended the wedding.
A video of the wedding ceremony surfaced on social media featuring Asifa, Bakhtawar and Bilawal.
Bilawal had arrived in London on Friday, a day after Nawaz Sharif landed in London and learnt that Begum Kulsoom Nawaz had suffered a cardiac arrest.
The wedding took place on Saturday and it was hoped that Bilawal Bhutto will pay a visit to the hospital but he sent his best wishes on social media and didn’t attend the hospital.
“Bilawal Bhutto Zardari wanted to visit the hospital in person. He discussed the idea with Asif Ali Zardari but couldn’t get a go ahead,” said a trusted PPP source adding: “Bilawal couldn’t get the security clearance for the visit”.