Thursday, August 30, 2018

Saqi | Ajmal Khattak | Sardar Ali Takkar | ساقي | اجمل خټک | سردارعلي ټکر

Editorial: #Pakistan - No ordinary abduction - Javed Iqbal's stance that missing persons issue has been 'politicised' is most unfortunate

There can, there must, be no two views about enforced disappearances.
It is an abhorrent practice, a hallmark of some of the world’s most despotic regimes that is calculated to terrorise the people into silence. And any appearance of downplaying the gravity of this illegal act only emboldens the perpetrators.
One could argue, therefore, that retired Justice Javed Iqbal, chairman of the Commission of Inquiry on Missing Persons, took a most unfortunate stance on Tuesday while briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights. According to him, the issue of missing people “has always been politicised” and that “the situation was not as bad as it is made to sound”.
To support his contention, Mr Iqbal cited the claim of Baloch activist Mama Qadeer that 40,000 Baloch were missing, although, he said, the commission had been given no details of their disappearance; that several ostensibly missing individuals in one part of the country had been located elsewhere in Pakistan; and that a number of them may be incarcerated in Afghanistan.
The fact is, unlike an ‘ordinary’ abduction, enforced disappearances always have a political dimension. Whether Gen Pinochet in Chile from 1973 to 1990, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in present-day Egypt, or the Indian state against the Kashmiris — to cite but a few examples — it is a tactic employed by repressive governments that demand total compliance and carte blanche to operate.
Certainly, there can be a difference over the numbers of the missing, but the numbers are irrelevant: that it happens at all is an abomination.
The theatre of enforced disappearances has spread from the remote areas of Balochistan to the urban locale of the capital itself; earlier the targets were political activists and journalists; then bloggers — indeed anyone espousing progressive ideas — began to be picked up.
That means, there are multiple, credible eyewitness accounts of such abductions. Moreover, while Mr Iqbal offered various reasons why we should not be unduly concerned by these happenings, and even defended internment centres run by the security establishment, the commission headed by him has failed to hold anyone publicly accountable for disappearing citizens.
It was during Iftikhar Chaudhry’s tenure as Supreme Court chief justice that tough questions were asked of security forces personnel who, it is alleged, are significantly involved in enforced disappearances. In recent months, Chief Justice Saqib Nisar has also displayed a welcome resolve to hold state elements accountable for the crime.
Nevertheless, Mr Iqbal’s criticism before the Senate Committee of successive governments’ lethargy over the issue is valid, and the committee is correct in approving the idea of criminalising enforced disappearances.
Although the right to due process is guaranteed by the Constitution — a right manifestly violated when people are disappeared — such an action by parliament will convey an unequivocal message about where the people’s elected representatives stand on the matter.

Bilawal Bhutto condoles with family of late Ghulam Mujtaba Isran

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari visited the residence of late Ghulam Mujtaba Isran to condole with his family.

The PPP chairman met with the brother and son of the late leader.
He paid tribute to late Isran saying “Isran remained loyal to the party through thick and thin. He took part in every struggle for restoration and strengthening of democracy.
PPP Sindh President Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, MNA Khursheed Junejo, MPAs Suhail Anwar Sial, Genhwar Ali Khan Isran, President PPP Larkana chapter Abdul Fatah Bhutto, ex-MPA Mohammad Ali Bhutto also accompanied the PPP chairman.
Isran passed away earlier this month at the age of 75 following a prolonged illness.
He was born on December 11 in the year 1943 in Khairpur Joso village of Larkana District.
The veteran politician served the Sindh province four times as the Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA) after being elected in 1988, 1990, 1993 and 2013, respectively.

#Pakistan's Talibanization - New #Pakistani minister bans 'vulgar' movie billboards, critics fear rise of Islamists

Punjab’s new information minister, Islamist politician Fayaz-ul-Hasan Chohan, has announced a ban on “vulgar” movie billboards in the Pakistani province, angering those who fear the growing influence of hardliners under new Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Since Khan’s party appointed him last week, Chohan has caused a number of rows, including with his visit to the grave of a man sentenced to death for killing the governor of Punjab in 2011, and with critical remarks about Nargis, a popular Pakistani singer and actress.
“If any vulgar billboard is found at any cinema in Punjab after three days, there will be a fine in first place, and if any one didn’t comply, that cinema will be shut down,” Chohan told a public meeting in the eastern city of Lahore.
“Is there any humanity that you print half-naked women and put them on big billboards?” he said.
Khan’s election victory in July was helped by strong support from Islamist parties. Chohan joined Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Justice Movement from the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan.
“It’s pure moral policing,” the left-leaning politician and rights activist Ammar Rashid said on Twitter.

#OurProphetOurHonour - Netherlands - #Dutch cartoon contest and protests in #Pakistan: All for show?

Geert Wilders' competition as well as demands behind rallies in Pakistan only exist for attention, two analysts argue.
An announcement by Geert Wilders, a far-right Dutch opposition leader, to hold a competition for cartoons depicting Islam's Prophet Muhammad has led to protests in Pakistan, where the far-right Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) threatened to blockade Islamabad unless the country severs diplomatic relations with the Netherlands.
Physical depictions of God or the Prophet Muhammad are forbidden in Islam, and the TLP says the competition amounts to "blasphemy".
Late on Thursday, Wilders cancelled the event, citing security concerns.
According to Sehar Tariq, a counter violent extremism researcher based in Islamabad, and Stijn van Kessel, a political scientist based in London, the reason behind the announcement by Wilders' Freedom Party and the TLP's demands is the same: attention.
Both parties have not been as successful recently as they had hoped, so generating controversy is a perfect opportunity to rile up their far-right base.
Al Jazeera spoke to both experts and asked them to explain the situation both Wilders and the TLP are in.

Sehar Tariq, counter violent extremism analyst, based in Islamabad. She is also the country representative for the United States Institute of Peace (USIP).
Sehar TariqThe Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan didn't do as well at the polls as they had hoped, I think, and so this helps to bring them back to political relevance in Pakistan, and it keeps their voter base engaged. They are a single-issue party, so this is great for them, that such an event has emerged in the Netherlands.
They can use this to keep the base engaged. Without [events like Wilders' cartoon competition], they risk becoming irrelevant. This is a reminder that "Hey! We are here, and we are watching and are ready to fight on the issue of blasphemy".
So I think this protest mobilises and re-energises their voter base, which might have been feeling slightly despondent on their electoral performance. They did well by an objective standard, for a brand new party, but not based on their own standards for success, perhaps.
[The TLP won only two provincial assembly seats in Pakistan’s general election on July 25, but bagged 2.2 million votes nationwide, making it the fifth-most-popular political party in the country.]
Al Jazeera: Does holding this protest, therefore, allow them to burnish their credentials as so-called defenders of the faith?
Tariq: Absolutely. That [being defenders of the faith] is how they have set themselves up. [TLP chief] Khadim Hussain Rizvi is a preacher, and for them to generate international news with this, it not only establishes his credentials as a defender of the faith but also as someone who can stand up to the West.
That really resonates with his voter base… He is seen as a knight in shining armour, so to speak, of a Muslim world that faces the onslaught of Islamophobia by the West.
Al Jazeera: Is there an element here of both sides of the far-right getting exactly what they want?
Tariq: Absolutely. Khadim Hussain Rizvi needs someone to be Islamophobic or blasphemous for him to continue to say blasphemy is a relevant topic. If there is no blasphemy, what is he going to do? On the other hand, someone like Wilders needs someone who is out on the streets, baying for blood, so he can point to them, too.
It is kind of a symbiotic and mutually beneficial relationship. They both feed off the worst stereotypes of each other.
The worst thing is that in the media eye, this catches attention and gets amplified by both sides. It also then skews international discourse into this paradigm of a ‘clash of civilisations’.
Al Jazeera: TLP won the fifth-most number of votes in the general election - how significant is that, and what next for them?
Tariq: They are genuinely tapping into a local sentiment, and there is also a global shift happening. They have won two provincial seats. To me, the scary part is that they are the fifth-most popular political party in this country - that speaks to a societal shift that is happening in Pakistan.
What they are doing today [with the protest], is likely to help them in the upcoming local government elections, even more so than perhaps their performance in the general elections.
Right now they are a single-issue party, but I do see them, in terms of what next, expanding their list of issues - soon they will find that there may not be enough events around blasphemy to create a ruckus. Where does it go next? Non-Muslims? Minorities? Women? If they want to stay relevant, they will have to evolve into other areas.
Al Jazeera: How much of this is about religion and freedom of expression, and how much about gaining political prominence and power?
Tariq: It's entirely about political prominence and power. Wilders is a long-time politician, he has a history. These guys are new to politics, but they have had a long-standing commitment to religious propagation. It is not fair to say that none of this has to do with religion - being very cynical, the people at the top may not, but their constituents definitely do care about these issues.
It's like an "our way of life" vs "their way of life", that's the clash, and what is the ideal way of life? It's not just that they are doing it to get to political power - it's that they know if political power is defined by these issues, then they will be in power.

Stijn van Kessel, lecturer at the Queen Mary University of London, is specialised in populism, Euroscepticism and ideology, voters, members and electoral performance of (far-right) populist parties.
Al Jazeera: How does the cartoon competition benefit Wilders and his Freedom Party?
Stijn van Kessel: As far as Wilders is concerned, he seeks to generate attention by means of this contest. He is not truly interested in a cartoon contest but this is a way for him to generate media attention; he hopes that will eventually translate to votes.
And what a number of recent studies have shown is that when the media focuses on a certain number of themes, people will consider this theme to be more important.
So, in turn, that benefits parties that mobilise on the basis of this theme.
In an indirect way, media attention does create support. However, Wilders is not the only person focusing on these themes any more.
Al Jazeera: Is Wilders actually getting what he wants out of this then?
Van Kessel: That remains to be seen. Obviously, he is getting media attention, and that was probably his immediate goal.
However, you see that his star is waning somewhat, or he at least finds it hard to attain the attention he once did, partially because he has a competitor on the far-right, the Forum for Democracy (FvD).
Both parties, Wilders' Freedom Party and the FvD both attract culturally conservative voters, they both stress the issue of Islam, they're both eurosceptic.
However, FvD interestingly attracts also younger voters, it tries to appeal more to people who are higher educated.
So in that sense, you see that younger people vote for FvD, not for Wilders.
Al Jazeera: Do the competition and the protests play into each other's hands?
Van Kessel: I can't comment on the Pakistani part of the story because I know too little, but what is clear is that Wilders is doing this for domestic use.
What you see happening now, the protests in Pakistan, only helps him gain media attention in the Netherlands, thus becoming the centre of attention for his potential voters.
But Wilders seems a little bit over the hill, although I wouldn't count him out, but because there's so much political competition [on the right] I don't know if this will boost his support again.
Al Jazeera: How much of this is about religion and freedom of expression, and how much about gaining political prominence and power?
Van Kessel: Obviously I can't look into the head of Wilders, but this is simply a tactic to increase media attention.
If you're in the news, it gives emphasis to the issues and the parties, and he hopes that will increase public support for his political project.