Thursday, August 9, 2018
In the north most part of Pakistan, Darel and Tangir are two most beautiful valleys. These valleys are in the Diamer district of Gligit-Baltistan just on the banks of river Indus. They are abundant with beautiful flora and fauna and have mesmerizing snow-capped mountains and waterfalls. In recent days these scenic places full of serenity have seen a barbaric act of terrorism and extremism, yet again. This time 13 schools were burnt in these valleys, and this has become a part of the routine in Diamer.
The local people came out on roads to protest against the torching of schools, and there were some arrests made later, but still, the more significant questions are: Why these places have been the target of such acts of extremism repeatedly? What steps have been taken by the administration of GB and local administration to keep a check on these ‘unidentified’ elements? Why are the people opposed to girls education or education in general? These were the question that I had in mind when I went to the remote valleys of Danrel and Tangir initially as a tourist and later as a person who wanted to bring education in Diamer , Darel and Tangir specifically. During my stay from 2011 to 2013, I had frequently visited the place since these valleys were my favourite places to be with a scenic view and hospitable people.
The first time I visited the valleys was in 2011. This was the time when the sectarian clashes were at a peak in GB. GB has been a hotbed of communal elements where countless innocent people have lost their lives to the communal clashes. The city of Chilas, known to the travellers of KKH, in this regard is notoriously known for the rugged and rocky landscape with the Indus flowing right next to it. It is perhaps the warmest part of the GB and infamous for extremist tendencies which have been there for decades.
On one side of the Indus river is Chilas, the central city of Diamer district, and on the opposite side of Chilas are the Darel and Tangir Valleys. One has to cross a newly built bridge that connects KKH with Darel and Tangir. The banks of Indus and the roads that lead to these valleys are also famous for the Buddhist stupa and centuries-old rock carvings. A rare historic site frequently visited by the tourists and travelers on KKH.
The roads, as generally assumed by the people, are not just rocky tracks leading to the valleys but well-built roads that were made during the Musharraf era. These roads, two different ones, lead to Darel and Tangir. High mountains dissect both the valleys.
People residing in Darek and Tangir rely on pasture grazing animals and timber. Much of their income is dependent on woodwork and forest. The buying and selling of wood is the primary source of income for the well-to-do families; the rest are small shop owners and shepherds. The area is generally poverty stricken with very few opportunities for work. The young men, usually, live in distant lands in Pakistan to earn a decent livelihood and support their families back in the valley. There is virtually no adequate system of education in these valleys. Most of the schools are ghost schools. Some of these schools might have furniture and buildings, but they stand as a symbol of neglect by the government. The question that comes to one’s mind after visiting other parts of GB and then Diamer is that why Diamer lags behind in the general education trend in GB which has been improving over the years? There are several answers and aspect to this question. It is partly because of the culture, religious orientation, government’s neglect and states incompetency.
Gilgit-Baltistan has been the victim of sectarianism which took deep roots in the 1980’s. Though there were incidents of sectarian clashes but not to the extent to which it reached in the 1980’s. The general public in GB considers the Zia era as the era in which the clashes were patronized by the political elites for their political benefits. Since then Diamer has been the hotbed of the extremist elements. These elements and groups are well known to the public and the successive local administrations. It is to be kept in mind that GB is full of religious and ethnic diversity which has been its biggest strength and its weakness as well. The diversity has been exploited by the powers to be over the years for their agendas in the area. Chilas, its self, has been the place where sectarian clashes have claimed the life of many since the 1980’s.
The menace of sectarianism added with states neglect of the area has given the space to those elements which escaped the military operation in Swat. Diamer district in the Darel and Tangir Valleys are situated right next to swat. These elements have found support and sympathy from few people in Darel and Tangir. The local administration has turned a blind eye to the issue. That is partly because of the incompetence of the administration of GB government and partly because of the neglect of the central government. There is an absence of any workable policy or work plan to eradicate extremism from the area. There are significant elements which have been the sympathizers and supporters of the TTP and Mullah Fazllullah. They have been able to find refuge in the valleys. There have been several intelligence-based operations carried out in the area, but still, the germs are there. To eliminate the mindset that promotes extremism and terrorism strong governance is needed.
Poverty might be at the core of the issue, but there has been no serious effort made by the GB administration or by the centre to reach out to the people and tell them about the benefits that they might get if they get an education. Madrassahs are rampant which offer lodging and food and stipend at times. However, the affiliations, funding, and curriculum of these madrassahs are seldom checked by the authorities. There have been no schools or necessary health facilities for the people in the valley. Those who are in some capacity are seen with skepticism by the locals. Once when I visited the areas and brought books, copies, and stationery for the local kids, one local young man asked me “is this part of an international conspiracy that you want our kids to read and get educated?” I wasn’t shocked because this isn’t what people living on mountain peaks think about education, people feel the same in other remote parts of Pakistan that I have visited. Who makes them think all this? Why has nobody told them what education is? Nonetheless, my answer was, ‘If your children are educated they’ll be able to have better opportunities in life. Why would ‘international’ conspirators want you to get educated and have a better future?’. He listened to me and nodded.
It is high time that the government should focus on coming up with area wise policy for the education in GB in general and Diamer in particular. Special teams should be made to educate people about the benefits that education will bring. Involve people who have a direct interest in the area. The GB government, education department and local administration should be set accountable for the education in the area. As far as the security is concerned, if we can allocate 15000 security personnel to protect the CPEC then deploying few more to protect our children and their future in Darel and Tangir on the banks of CPEC route shouldn’t be much of an issue. The security of the people and the future of our children must be ensured.
By Adnan Naseemullah and Pradeep Chhibber
Five years ago, Pakistan celebrated its first peaceful transition between two civilian governments. By contrast, its July election has greatly disappointed many observers.
The former cricket player and celebrity Imran Khan will be the next prime minister, defeating the head of the former ruling party, Nawaz Sharif and his party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. But the military allegedly played an outsize role in the election by preventing the PML-N and other parties from campaigning effectively. Before the election, Nawaz Sharif was dismissed as prime minister and imprisoned on corruption charges that many see as politically motivated.
And yet even with allegations of widespread manipulation before the election, Khan, the candidate presumably preferred by the military, won only an ambiguous victory. His party, the PTI, won 116 of 270 seats contested. That is 21 short of the full majority needed to form a noncoalition government. Sharif’s still-powerful PML-N and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which came in third, won 64 and 43 seats, respectively. This ambivalent result reflects four different visions of governance among the Pakistani electorate.
1. Voting for patronage
The supporters of the PML-N and similar political parties see government’s central role as distributing discretionary resources, or patronage, to their constituent populations. Patronage in Pakistan comes in different varieties. Politicians can influence bureaucrats to approve loans for tractors or tube wells, to build roads or repair irrigation canals, to settle disputes on property or contracts, or to provide licenses or government contracts for potentially lucrative commercial activities.
In the wealthy agricultural areas and industrial towns of northern and central Punjab, the demographic center of the country, politicians from the PML-N, the PTI and smaller parties compete for key groups’ support by promising to deliver such spoils. In the poorer and more rural areas of southern Punjab and Sindh, the PPP competes on patronage delivery with the newly formed Grand Democratic Alliance and political notables that have joined the PTI. The PML-N won 52 of 98 competitive contests in central and northern Punjab, while the PPP won 33 of 37 seats in rural Sindh. That is because each of the two parties has a strong record of delivering patronage to its base.
2. Voting against corruption
Throughout the country, but especially in urban areas, voters see the government as primarily the guarantor of public ethics and fairness. Those voting for transparency and accountability support Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, which for 20 years has crusaded against corruption in Pakistani politics and society.
Many Pakistanis, particularly young urbanites with ties abroad, see Pakistan as sclerotic, weighed down by corrupt interests and dynastic politics. Many voted to create a government that could dissolve the structures that constrain those who are young and ambitious but not “connected.” This politics calls to mind Narendra Modi’s appeal to millions of Indian voters who feel their path in life blocked by corruption in government and society.
As a result of this sentiment in Pakistan, the PTI won 42 of 76 seats in urban constituencies, with these seats accounting for a third of Khan’s plurality. The party also won 15 of 21 seats in the largest city, Karachi, because a paramilitary campaign against urban violence and organized crime challenged the entrenched and notoriously corrupt political machine of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, allowing other parties to compete there without fear of intimidation.
Interestingly, the parties that are normally thought of as the most moralistic, the Islamic parties of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal coalition, received 12 seats. Historically, these parties have not had much electoral success, focusing rather on the politics of protest. Meanwhile, despite Khan’s colorful personal life, he is seen as a symbol of political purity.
The combination of Khan’s stance against corruption and his support from nondemocratic forces seems hypocritical. But anti-corruption politics in South Asia and elsewhere has an undemocratic streak. Certainly, there is little evidence that PTI supporters have objected to the military’s outsize role in the party’s victory, because Khan and the military are, for now, allied against the dynasties that have dominated Pakistani politics.
3. Voting for security
Attacks by the Taliban in Pakistan for more than a decade now have heightened the salience of security for some voters. The military’s successful execution of a counterinsurgency campaign has met with broad public approval. The new protective role for the military and the legitimacy of the security state may have translated into provisional support for Khan’s PTI, which many believe is allied with the military. In the regions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, which have been hit hardest by the insurgency, the PTI won 36 of 51 seats.
4. Voting against the elite
Last, those who are the most marginal in Pakistani society — excluded minorities, tribal groups, landless laborers — vote because this is the only way they can have collective power over, and receive recognition from, the elite who control the government. Political scientists Amit Ahuja and Pradeep Chhibber have argued that in India, the most downtrodden are voting not for any particular policy but against being ignored and forgotten. That explains the South Asian phenomenon of anti-incumbency, in which voters in this category routinely reject those in power.
The inconclusive results of the 2018 election may be attributable to this last group of voters. They voted against the then-ruling PPP in 2013; they have now voted against the PML-N after its five years in charge. They might turn on the PTI in the future.
These elections are thus not just a function of the intervention of the military but also of the conflicting ideas and visions of Pakistanis toward their state. If we dismiss the powerful signals that 50 million Pakistanis are sending by their votes, we lose any sense of the political realities facing citizens in many developing countries where a more meaningful democratic politics is still distant.
By Gul Bukhari
Pakistan's military, which helped Khan win the election, could one day pose the most serious threat to his premiership.
Two weeks after claiming victory in Pakistan's July 25 election, Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) on Monday announced that it secured the necessary majority in parliament to form a coalition government. However, the controversy surrounding the election has not yet subsided, and the legitimacy of any future PTI-led coalition government is still questionable.
Before the election, Pakistan's powerful security establishment was accused of meddling in politics to pave the way for its favourite candidate, Imran Khan, to win. And events before the poll - arrests of several prominent members of the PML-N on corruption charges; the sentencing of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to prison less than three weeks before the poll and the sentencing of another top PML-N leader, Hanif Abbasi, to life in prison on drug smuggling charges just four days before the election - were seen by many as definitive proof that the establishment was targeting Khan's opponents.
On Election Day, these accusations escalated from "possible attempts to influence the electoral process" to straightforward allegations of rigging, with at least six political parties alleging their representatives were not allowed to witness the counting process led by military personnel and other election officials, as mandated by law, and that the final counts were not properly documented. Also, there were questions surrounding the Results Transfer System (RTS), which had allegedly collapsed on election night, delaying the announcement of official results. Later, it has been revealed that the system had never collapsed, but the Election Commission simply - and suspiciously - ordered its employees to stop using the system.
Recount battles are still ongoing in several constituencies across Pakistan. The PML-N and other opposition parties already regained several seats as result of these efforts, and they vow to continue fighting until they reclaim all the votes they believe were stolen from them.
An opposition alliance
Moreover, on August 2, prominent opposition parties in Pakistan announced their decision to form a "Grand Alliance" and to protest inside and outside the parliament against the "rigged and manipulated" elections. The alliance includes Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's PPP, jailed former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's PML-N, the alliance of religious parties known as the MMA, Awami National Party, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, National Party Balochistan and Qaumi Watan Party. The alliance also announced that it will attempt to form its own coalition.
But despite the opposition's efforts, Khan's PTI was first to reach the finish line. It announced that it secured a majority in the parliament and is expected to form a coalition in the coming days. The way it secured a parliamentary majority, however, is also being questioned by many. It has been claimed that members of the security establishment pressured and/or offered serious money to some independent candidates to support the PTI.
Despite serious questions surrounding his electoral victory, it appears Khan is now fully ready to take the wheel of his country. The road ahead, however, remains bumpy and uncertain.
A fragile coalition
First of all Khan's PTI will rely on the support of several former foes to form a coalition.
The Karachi based MQM, for example, will be in the ruling coalition, but cracks already started to appear between the two parties.
PTI Karachi head Firdous Shamim Naqvi said: "The alliance with MQM is not our choice, but we have made the alliance because of the compulsion to acquire simple majority in National Assembly to form the government."
"We have not backtracked from our earlier position," he added. "MQM has ruined Karachi and it has faced defeat in the general elections because of the poor performance of its mayor in Karachi."
Khan tried to save the situation by condemning Naqvi's statement, yet he failed to convince many as he had personally accused MQM leaders of threatening PTI workers and even killing activists only five short years ago.
The PML-Q, another group Khan and his party have a problematic history with, will also be part of the PTI-led coalition. Khan previously called the PML-Q members "murderers" and "the biggest dacoits in Punjab".
Khan built a political career on viciously attacking his political rivals. Moreover, he has been encouraging his followers to pile vile abuse on anyone who criticized his politics for the last five years. Now he found himself in a grave situation where he needs the support of those he had abused and insulted in the past to rule Pakistan. With a powerful and seasoned coalition on opposition benches, it remains to be seen how long Khan's unlikely coalition will stand before deep-rooted disagreements between its members start to resurface.
What next for Khan and the military?
The military, which is widely seen as having helped him win the election, will likely pose the biggest threat to Khan's premiership.
Many expect Khan to assert his authority and start acting independently from the military after officially becoming Pakistan's prime minister. Of course, such an attempt will land him in trouble with the security establishment, and most certainly bring an early end to his stint as Pakistan's prime minister. If Khan refuses to toe the line, removing him from office will be no trouble for the military. With a simple nod to the MQM or the PMLQ, the military can easily instigate the collapse of his coalition government. Or he could be disqualified from office on the grounds of dishonesty, corruption or some other real or made up accusation.
Khan may not even need to take a major stand against military strongmen to upset them. The military can decide to topple his government at any minute, even if he follows their instructions to the letter. None of the 17 prime ministers of Pakistan managed to serve a full term - the security establishment found a reason to overthrow even the most pliant, docile prime ministers such as Zafarullah Khan Jamali and Muhammad Khan Junejo in the past. So it is unlikely that Khan's honeymoon period with the military will last long.
Continuation of pro-military, isolationist stances
In the last five years, Khan ran a divisive and aggressive campaign, adopting pro-military and isolationist stances and pandering to the religious far-right.
He attacked former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for attempting to improve Pakistan's relations with India, and countered his efforts to reign in on Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of 2008 Mumbai attacks. He also supported the military throughout the Dawn Leaks scandal, which disclosed that the former PM Sharif had ordered the military to cease its support for hardline groups.
Khan also appears to support the Afghan Taliban. His provincial government, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, granted $300,000 to the madrassa (Islamic religious school) of Sami-ul Haq, who is widely known as "the father of the Taliban" (in return Haq has formed an alliance with the PTI).
Only time will tell whether Khan will abandon these dangerous, isolationist and pro-military stances - as he indicated in his victory speech - and dare take constructive action to help elevate Pakistan's international standing, improve its relations with its neighbours and save it from financial ruin. Unfortunately what is fairly certain is that if he does, his fate will be the same as all the other prime ministers of Pakistan. And after making bitter enemies of almost all prominent political forces in the parliament, there is scant hope that anyone will come to his help if and when he finds himself in trouble.