Sunday, September 16, 2018
Unprecedented Violence and Failed Reforms Signal Dangerous Political Crisis.
Who’s winning in Afghanistan?
That’s not the right question. The important one is who’s losing.
The answer: Ordinary people trying to get to work, kids in school, worshippers in their neighborhood mosque.
Thousands of Afghan civilians are losing their lives, their loved ones, or suffering devastating injuries in bombings, gunbattles, and other violence. Since January, the United Nations documented the highest number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan since it started keeping track in 2009. At least 1,692 civilians died in the first six month of 2018 and over 3,400 were injured. A quarter of these were children. Given the difficulties of collecting information from remote areas of conflict, the number is likely higher.
Suicide bombings and other insurgent attacks caused most of these deaths and injuries. The Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP), the Afghan branch of the Islamic State, has targeted voter registration centers, public gatherings, and schools, singling out Afghanistan’s Shia community for attack. At the same time, people living in areas where these groups hold sway have experienced airstrikes by US and Afghan government forces that killed and injured more than 350 civilians between January and June.
Donors who appropriately condemn insurgent attacks seldom raise any concerns about the 7 percent of civilian casualties caused by airstrikes by Afghan or US government forces. These donors are preparing for a ministerial meeting in Geneva in November that the UN has called “a crucial moment for the government and international community to demonstrate progress.”
What progress will they point to? Parliamentary elections should have taken place by then, and donors who footed the bill may say that while the elections were “flawed,” maybe the presidential ones next April will be better. Don’t count on it. With highly suspicious voter registration numbers, a flood of fake ID cards, and infighting among political elites over the spoils of power, contested elections are one symptom of Afghanistan’s governance crisis.
Here are some others: the government’s failure to prosecute violence against women and torture, and the fact that long-touted gains in terms of girls’ education and media freedom are slipping away.
Between parliamentary elections this year and the upcoming presidential vote, Afghanistan is facing not just an escalating war, but also an unprecedented political crisis, though one long foreseen. Donors need to stop checking boxes blindly and hold the government to account.
The PPP continues to consolidate its reputation as the party truly committed to empowering Pakistan’s minorities. For the Sindh government has made history by appointing the first-everChristian Advocate General, Salman Talibuddin.
This is good news all round. Especially for a community that is all too disgracefully reduced to derogatory caricatures; depicting them as never progressing beyond the role of sweepers. This is something that the Lahore Management and Waste Company (LMWC) — falling under the jurisdiction of the City District Government Lahore (CDGL), no less — has been party to. As it continues to launch public advertising campaigns requesting the citizenry not to drop rubbish on the streets over Christmas. Or Easter. Or on the occasion of the Mariambad festival. Thus the significance of Mr Talibuddin’s new post cannot be overestimated.
The PPP has, so far, lived up to its manifesto pledges of supporting minorities while strengthening their visibility in the mainstream. Such as the swearing-in to the Sindh Assembly of Tanzeela Qambrani; belonging to the Sheedi ethnic group that originally hails from Africa. A shame, then, that the PTI did not have the backbone to ultimately support its own appointment of the brilliant economist Dr Atif Mian to the Economic Advisory Council (EAC). For this gross misstep has dangerously re-ignited resentment against the Ahmadi community for daring to reject the minority non-Muslim label. Sadly, this legitimate exercise in self-determination has rendered the latter the most persecuted group in the country for the last four decades.
Thus while all of Pakistan is (hopefully) celebrating alongside the country’s Christians, it is to be remembered that there is much hard work still to be done when it comes to levelling the playing field for all minorities. The fact that it has taken some 70 years for a Christian to secure the post of Advocate-General should tell everyone everywhere the enormity of this challenge. This is not to take anything away from Mr Talibuddin. But it is to simply remind progressive Pakistanis that this is not the time to be resting on your laurels. This, after all, is just the beginning.
By I.A. Rehman
y its mishandling of the Atif Mian affair the state has exposed its soft belly to the rejuvenated extremists who are going to target it again and again, and the consequences could be extremely grave.
By HUSAIN HAQQANI
Relations with India
By Khaled Ahmed
Islamabad’s writ has disappeared from 60 per cent of Pakistan’s territory.
The new chief minister of Punjab is a sardar — read feudal lord — from South Punjab’s most abandoned part of Dera Ghazi Khan. Sardar Usman Buzdar is from Taunsa Sharif, which has no electricity. Taunsa has been the incubator of the proxy warriors Pakistan used in Afghanistan and India and produced leadership for the anti-Shia sectarian banned outfit called Sipah-e-Sahaba, honoured in the country for supplying proxy fodder.
In 1947, the British Raj bequeathed to the Muslims of India a tightly administered state. But next door Afghanistan couldn’t be called a normal state. It couldn’t prevent penetration of its territory and it couldn’t collect taxes. But the great proxy war in Afghanistan was approved by the West, fighting its decisive battle with the Soviet Union after the latter invaded Afghanistan in 1979.
Pakistan soon began imitating Afghanistan by losing its own writ. Karachi was literally taken over by terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan and Iran. It is still crippled by street crime. Today, Pakistan has a National Action Plan (NAP) “to crack down on terrorism”, and a National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA) to restore its state authority. But both remain notable for lack of success.
Although no city has been spared by terrorists, some areas of the country are seriously lacking in the state’s outreach. Terrorism that challenged the sovereign state came from many quarters, all of them related to the ideology Pakistan was wedded to. Its Taliban were fighting in Afghanistan and the Afghan Taliban were ensconced in Pakistan together with over 3 million Afghan refugees.
The tribal areas, which Pakistan wrongly left out of normal administration as some kind of tribal museum, were more infested with warriors than the rest of the country. Each tribal agency was allowed “self-rule” through warlords. Some of these satrapies were adjacent to big cities and were allowed to extract booty as the police watched.
The 2008 Khyber Agency war by terrorist Lashkar-e-Islam unfolded right under the nose of the administration in Peshawar. The Kurram Agency war proved too much for Islamabad as it spread to adjacent Aurakzai and Mohmand agencies, coming down to the settled districts of the old Frontier Province, Hangu and Kohat. Even in 2018, the Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan can get anyone killed in Peshawar on demand.
These “ungoverned” areas of Pakistan provided 40 per cent of the warriors fighting to establish a Taliban state in Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban populated cities like Quetta and Karachi. Pakistan denied hosting Arab warriors like Osama bin Laden and Aiman Al-Zawahiri, who were discovered living comfortably in Abbottabad and Karachi respectively.
In the hinterland of Sindh, the wadera (feudal lord) never allowed the police to function normally and has not accepted the writ of the state to this day. Add to this hiatus of state authority the territory of South Punjab, where the madrassa still rules and the state obeys orders. When a brave Punjab home secretary killed Malik Ishaq, the leader of Daesh-connected Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, in a police encounter in Lahore in 2017, he was chased to his house in the north and killed to scare the Punjab police out of their wits.
In May 2012, the chief justice of the Peshawar High Court stated that the writ of the Peshawar government did not run beyond 10 km. Pakistan looked like waking up when Swat valley was occupied by Pakistani Taliban in 2009. It took action, but Fazlullah, the leader of the Taliban, fled into Afghanistan. He got little Malala Yusufzai nearly killed. Pakistan couldn’t do much. All its enemies were killed by its archenemy, the US, with drones. Today, Pakistan refuses to believe that it is falling apart. And that its writ has disappeared from 60 per cent of its territory; and foreign killers are still hiding in its territory.