Sunday, November 4, 2018

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#Pakistan - The will to counter extremism

Amir Rana

COUNTERING extremism is not an easy job, but the state’s lack of resolve makes it even more complex and challenging. The resolve to stand up to extremism should draw its strength from the Constitution and the socio-ideological constructs of state and society. Mere rhetoric or a statement — such as the one issued by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday — cannot manufacture that much-needed and much-awaited resolve unless the state is willing to review the social contract.
Recent state-led and independent policy discourses on countering extremism have emphasised addressing the key question of religion, which is integral to the issue of identity in Pakistan. The state has outsourced both religious and national identity narratives to different religious actors, who use them to expand their influence in society.
The state believes that religion can unite the nation and can create a cohesive society. However, religious actors exploit this notion to promote their own goals and motives, which are largely embedded in their sectarian and religious strands. That is why religiously motivated outfits, including their political wings, have not only failed the state’s ideological project but have also undermined the common good of society. The common good stands for a community’s sustainability — for the good of all, including its weakest and most ­vulnerable members.
More than religious groups’ exploitation of the ideological design of the state, it was the state’s insistence to keep using them to achieve its different purposes that has created this dilemma. In the process, the state outsourced this national project even to sectarian groups, with their own lethal hate agendas. This attitude expanded the threshold of tolerance for hardliner religious groups among almost all institutions, from political ­parties to security institutions.
State appeasement only provides oxygen to extremist groups, increasing their bargaining power.
This is the main reason for Pakistan’s higher level of tolerance for extremism and extremists compared with other Muslim countries, ranging from Indonesia, Bangladesh and Central Asian states to Turkey. In these countries, religious groups cannot hold the system hostage or control the national narrative. These states invest in religious scholarship, and do not promote certain religious groups.
Pakistan is also caught up in the fallacy that it can manage and control extremist groups, despite the bitter experiences of the past. Extremism cannot be managed to keep it at a certain level, not by any means.
There is historical evidence to suggest that the appeasing attitude of the state only provides oxygen to extremist groups and increases their bargaining power to increase their influence. The banned sectarian group Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan can be taken as an example; at times it enjoyed the state’s appeasement because of the changing sectarian outlook of the region and internal political designs of the establishment. The group had political ambitions, too, and remained part of the provincial government in Punjab in the early 1990s. A single vote of the SSP head helped Gen Musharraf instal a regime-backed government in 2002. The SSP founders were famous for their furious sectarian speeches. It later gave birth to many violent groups, including the deadliest sectarian terrorist group, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, which is still a big ­security challenge for the country.
The rise of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan has many similarities with the SSP. For one, both capitalised on the mosques and madressahs of their sects, and their leaderships brought sectarian narratives and slogans into the public domain and generated broader appeals for their agendas.
Apart from many other similarities in their strategies and tactics, the TLP has taken a more sensitive issue to exploit, and touched upon new heights of hatred against state institutions. The SSP’s angry elements had outlets available in the 1990s for followers to join, such as in the form of militant organisations in Afghanistan and Kashmir. But this isn’t the case for the TLP’s young, emotionally charged cadre, which can increase the risk of them causing social unrest and indulging in mob violence in the country.
At the inception phase of the TLP, a few commentators and analysts had projected the group as an antidote to the SSP and other radical groups belonging to the Deobandi school of thought. Though the TLP is a product of multiple factors — including the Barelvis’ exclusion from the state’s jihad project and their so-called moderate image during the war against terrorism — if there was ever any design behind promoting the group to counter other radical forces, then it has proven counterproductive. It could have even more severe implications for the country’s security.
One threat cannot be countered by creating another; studies show extremism is a process, which is easy to start but difficult to end. The participation of the TLP and other radical groups in the 2018 general election gave them more confidence; it was evident that, after a certain period, such groups would start asserting themselves.
The government has to adopt a clear policy against all hatemongering and extremist groups in the country, and take legal and administrative measures to restrict their activities. The government can consult all the policy documents on countering violent extremism that have been produced during the last few years. The previous government was reluctant to implement these policies, but the changing nature of the threat requires immediate action.
Pakistan has developed its credentials as a Muslim nation in the world and is not facing any major identity issue. All state institutions have to realise that extremist religious groups cannot add anything new to the relationship between state and society. Pakistan already has a comprehensive social contract in the form of its Constitution, which needs to be made functional in all state and social affairs. Most importantly, the state should strengthen scholarship on religion rather than supporting and strengthening certain extremist religious groups.

Pakistan's religious extremists - ''No appeasement''

That the Pakistani state has capitulated twice before religious extremists in less than a year speaks of the crisis of national identity that our future generations will have to deal with. Over the decades, clerics of all varieties have been allowed to expand their political and social power. Now this power is mediated through mosques, madrassas and the capacity to mobilise young men on the streets. The politicians have patronised such elements over the years to maximise their electoral gains. In the absence of properly organised grassroots political party structures religious groups are quickly filling in the vacuum.
Days after the government representatives signed an agreement with the leaders of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), the tension continues. In fact, the government appears to be a divided house. The Prime Minister has been busy with an important trip to China and therefore absent in the midst of a serious crisis. The cabinet ministers appear to have viewpoints. The minister for Human Rights posted on Twitter that appeasement of bigotry was not the right course. The minister for Information says that the agreement was fire fighting. Cases have been registered against clerics who abused the military and issued fatwas on judges. The representatives of the Punjab government have a different approach to the appeasement. Sections of media sympathetic to the government are projecting this as a victory for PTI. In short, there is absence of a cohesive strategy and a clear departure from what PM Imran Khan had promised last week.
It is a truism that states should avoid bloodshed; and find ways to resolve conflicts that can quickly escalate. At the same time, the writ of the state matters and those who declare sitting judges of the highest court of land as wajib-ul-qatl (worthy of murder) and incite mutiny within the ranks of the Army need to be dealt with an iron hand. The leaders of TLP must not be allowed to keep the country hostage. Perhaps the starting point would be that those elements of the state that were busy in appeasing them (including cash transfers) in 2017 must retreat and stop supporting these groups. Secondly, there can be no compromise on the sanctity of our national institutions. Those who incite murder of judges must be prosecuted as per the law. Otherwise it would be clear that the state uses law only for its advantages such as booking former (and out of favour) prime ministers and journalists for treason or punish bloggers who criticize security institutions. Thirdly, the registration of FIRs against ‘miscreants’ is meaningless as they are viewed as instruments of bargain. Effective prosecution of these cases and speedy trials must be held to give a clear message that flouting the law has serious consequences.
We hope that the PTI government will set a new direction for the country and not cave in like the parties that it criticises ad nauseam. If it does not act in a different manner, the promise of tabdeeliwill remain a hollow slogan.

#Pakistan's mob violence ‘in the defense of religion - Standing up to the zealots


Incitement in the name of religion is a dangerous tool to use.
Dear All,
Pakistan has lived most of its short life in the shadow of threats of violence from religious extremists. The so called 1953 ‘riots’ set a pattern for rabble rousing that continues to this day. Instigated by Majlis-Ahrar-e-Islam and Majlis-e-Tahaffuz-e-Khatme Nabuwwat, the 1953 riots set the tone for this sort of protest: simply label somebody as a heretic or denier of the Prophet (pbuh), and declare them “deserving of death”, thereby glorifying their killers as heroes who are “fulfilling a religious duty.”
That particular campaign of violence and hate resulted in the first imposition of martial law in the country. It also provided the religious right with an effective rallying cry and focal point: violent action against those who are perceived to be a danger to the faith or a denier of the Prophet. It served to unite various religious parties in their anti-secular efforts. Jamaat-e-Islami’s Maulana Abul Ala Maududi, the author of Qadyani Masla (The Ahmadi Problem) and responsible for various inflammatory press statements was tried and sentenced to death, although this was later changed to a life sentence.
The same was the case with Maulana Abdus Sattar Niazi. Despite these sentences and the military crackdown and subsequent enquiry into the riots, the incident provided religious parties with the confidence that if they were able to rally a mob fuelled by religious fervour and zealotry, the state would have to capitulate to their demands in some part.
Over the decades this sort of mob violence ‘in the defence of religion’ has continued and been mostly successful even if pointless and destructive. The year after the publication of The Satanic Verses by the novelist Salman Rushdie, a mob tried to attack the American Centre in Islamabad. Five people were killed in the firing. Although, the violent protest followed the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini against Rushdie, it is worth noting that the book was actually published in Britain the year before, when General Ziaul Haq was in power in Pakistan. The violence however, took place just a few months into Benazir Bhutto’s government and there were reports that allegedly a number of protestors were bussed in from Rawalpindi and facilitated by military officers.
That elements of the military establishment have periodically used religious rabble rousing to destabilise civilian governments and democratically elected politicians is now fairly well-documented. However, this patronage which has been used to destabilise other countries in the region as well as its own civilian governments has often proved detrimental to the handlers of such militant cadres. The Red Mosque siege was an example of such a Frankenstein monster spinning out of control and challenging a military ruler, General Musharraf. The TTP’s attacks on GHQ and other military targets are similar examples.
The government must establish the writ of the state and make clear that those who try to undermine the rule of law will have to face consequences.
Prime Minister Imran Khan took a brave and clear stand last week when he stated unequivocally that the actions of those threatening the Supreme Court judges who had decided the appeal in a blasphemy case would not be tolerated. It is worth noting that this was the same group that last November held the PML-N government hostage and forced the resignation of the law minister, again by playing the ‘Ahmadi card’. After that protest ended senior army military officers were filmed distributing money to the protestors, patting them on the back and calling them “our children”. The same group, TLP, was later able to contest elections and gain seats in parliament, something which many analysts describe as a deliberate ‘mainstreaming’.
But last week the group overstepped their limits and issued appeals to army personnel to support the new protest and go against the army chief because of his ‘Ahmadi connections’. This is perceived to be one of the main reasons why the PTI government first blacked out media coverage of the statements and then took a strong line against the protestors. Whatever the reason, it was a brave and timely step to take. And one that hopefully will not be reversed or undermined.
The government must establish the writ of the State and make clear that those who try to undermine the rule of law will have to face consequences. But it cannot do that unless the patronage of the rabble rousers and their networks is discontinued.
Let’s see if the PTI government’s actions live up to PM’s words.

Best wishes,

#AasiaBibi - Husband Of #Pakistan’s Asia Bibi Pleads For Asylum

The husband of a Pakistani Christian woman recently acquitted of blasphemy after eight years on death row has pleaded for asylum from Western countries, saying his family was in great danger in Pakistan.

“I am requesting [U.S.] President Donald Trump to help us to leave [the country], and I am requesting the prime minister of the U.K. help us and as far as possible grant us freedom,” Asia Bibi’s husband said in a video message, news agencies reported on November 4.
The husband, Ashiq Masih, also called on Canadian leaders for help.
Bibi, a 54-year-old mother of four, was sentenced to death in 2010 for allegedly insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad — a charge she has denied.
The case has attracted global attention, and several countries have offered Bibi asylum.
The Supreme Court overturned Bibi’s conviction on October 30, sparking three days of violent, nationwide protests by hard-line Islamists demanding Bibi’s execution.
The demonstrations mostly ended on November 2 after the government agreed to impose a travel ban on Bibi and to allow her case to be reviewed.
The government is now facing criticism for making a deal with the radical Tehrik-e Labaik Pakistan party (TLP) and for failing to take action against the leaders of the protests.
However, the Interior Ministry has promised to register cases against “all those miscreants who under the guise of peaceful protests caused destruction to property and harmed unarmed citizens.”
Criminal cases have been registered against hundreds of demonstrators and protest organizers, Dawn newspaper reported on November 4.
Senior police officer Nayab Haider said that more than 150 people were arrested on charges of arson, vandalism, and violence during the demonstrations. He said that police were using video clips to identify those involved in assaults, torching property and vehicles, and blocking highways.
A government official estimated that the protesters caused around $1.2 billion in damages.
On November 4 in the southern port city of Karachi, some 2,000 supporters of an Islamic party held a protest march against Bibi’s acquittal but they remained peaceful.
Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan, and the mere rumor of committing the crime can incite lynching.
Approximately 40 people are believed to be on death row or serving a life sentence in Pakistan for blasphemy, according to a 2018 report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Lesson in history: - Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari: Appeasement to 'avoid bloodshed' never works

Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari on Sunday deplored the indifference people show in studying history as she took to Twitter to comment on the situation that arose after the Supreme Court orders in Asia Bibi case.
Using IstandwithSupreme Court hashtag, the senior leader of the ruling party gave an example from the history of Europe which clearly showed that the policy of appeasement never worked and couldn't prevent Nazis from wreaking havoc in the future.
"It is unfortunate we don't study history - appeasement historically never works as Chamberlain's Munich appeasement towards Nazis showed. Appeasement to avoid "bloodshed" in a war-weary Europe led to massive bloodshed & destruction in the form of WW II," she wrote on Twitter while referring to the role of former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in signing of a pact that allowed Germany in 1938 to annex  part of Czechoslovakia in  1938.
The agreement, however, couldn't stop Nazis from starting war in future.
The minister further said appeasement to "avoid bloodshed" sends a dangerous message to non-state actors and undermines the very concept of democratic peaceful protest.
"The State has to enforce Rule of Law, Constitution & stand by state institutions esp when they are targeted. #IStandWithSupremeCourt"
She, however, reposed confidence in Prime MInister Imran Khan who she thinks can deliver on his commitment to Rule of Law, Constitution and defence of state institutions.

#AasiaBibi - Husband of Freed #Pakistani #Christian Woman Pleads for Asylum

 The husband of a Pakistani Christian woman acquitted after spending eight years on death row on blasphemy charges has appealed to President Trump for refuge, citing danger to the family’s lives.
Ashiq Masih, the husband of Asia Bibi, whose case has outraged Christians worldwide and been a source of division within Pakistan, also appealed to Britain and Canada for assistance.
The appeal came as the police said they had arrested more than 150 people on charges of arson, vandalism and violence during the protests that erupted after Ms. Bibi’s acquittal. A senior police officer, Nayab Haider, said on Sunday that officers were using video to identify others involved in committing assaults, torching property and vehicles, and blocking highways, The Associated Press said.
The Islamist party Tehreek-e-Labaik blocked major roads in Pakistan’s biggest cities for three days, calling for the killing of the Supreme Court judges who acquitted Ms. Bibi on Wednesday, and terming Prime Minister Imran Khan and the country’s army chief enemies of Islam.
Tehreek-e-Labaik called off the protests late Friday after striking a deal with the government that could see the authorities moving to put Ms. Bibi on an “exit control list” barring her from leaving the country and opening a review of the verdict.
“I am requesting the president of the United States, Donald Trump, to help us exit from Pakistan,” Mr. Masih said in a video recorded by the British Pakistani Christian Association and seen by Reuters.
“I also request the prime minister of the United Kingdom to help us,” he said. “I also request the prime minister of Canada.” He also requested help on behalf of his brother Joseph Nadeem, who has assisted with Ms. Bibi’s case.
The United States Embassy and the high commissions of Britain and Canada in Islamabad did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the video.
On Saturday, Ms. Bibi’s lawyer Saiful Mulook told Reuters that he had left Pakistan, fearing for his life and the safety of his family.
Ms. Bibi was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 after being accused of making derogatory remarks about Islam when neighbors objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim. She has denied having committed any blasphemy.
Her case caught the attention of Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab Province. He was assassinated by his bodyguard in 2011, after waging a public campaign to save Ms. Bibi’s life and to change the blasphemy laws — a move that angered his bodyguard. Tehreek-e-Labaik was founded out of a movement to support Mr. Taseer’s assassin, who was hanged in 2016.
The federal minister for minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, was also killed after calling for Ms. Bibi’s release.
Ms. Bibi’s location is unknown, but Tehreek-e-Labaik has warned the authorities not to take her out of the country.
“There will be a war if they send Asia out of country,” the party’s leader, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, said after the deal with the government was reached.
Islamist parties have characterized Ms. Bibi’s release as Pakistan’s government caving into Western demands.

#Pakistan - *معاشرہ جہالت کی کیسی کیسی قیمت ادا کرتا ہے-*

جج نے مصری صدر انور سادات کے قاتل سے پوچھا:
تو نے سادات کو کیوں قتل کیا؟
قاتل : کیونکہ وہ سیکولر تھا۔ 
جج : یہ سیکولر کیا ہوتا ہے؟
قاتل : مجھے نہیں پتہ۔
مشہور مصری ادیب نجیب محفوظ پر قاتلانہ حملہ کرنے والے 
ملزم سے جج نے پوچھا:
تو نے نجیب کو کیوں چھرا گھونپا؟
مجرم : کیونکہ وہ ایک دہشت گرد ہے۔ 
اور اس نے دہشت گردی کو شہ دیتی کتاب
" رواية اولاد حارتنا" لکھی ہے۔ 
جج : کیا تو نے رواية اولاد حارتنا پڑھی ہے؟
مجرم : نہیں۔
جج نے مشہور کاتب فرج فودة کو مارنے والے 
تین مجرموں میں سے ایک سے پوچھا:
تو نے فرج کو کیوں قتل کیا:
قاتل : کیونکہ وہ کافر تھا۔ 
جج : تجھے کیسے پتہ چلا کہ وہ کافر تھا؟
قاتل : اس کی کتابوں سے۔
جج : تجھے اس کی کونسی کتاب سے پتہ چلا کہ وہ کافر تھا۔ 
قاتل : میں اس کی کتابیں نہیں پڑھتا۔ 
جج : تم اس کی کتابیں کیوں نہیں پڑھتے؟
قاتل : کیونکہ میں لکھنا پڑھنا نہیں جانتا۔

Bilawal Bhutto - “What steps have been taken to maintain law and order, to protect our Judges, to protect #AasiaBibi?

Is There a State Named Pakistan?

Imagine a state, where a couple of thousand rogues come on the streets, and their leader openly calls for the murder of Supreme Court judges. And instead of initiating any action, the state begs for negotiations with the criminals.
Imagine an army, where a leader of the thugs instigates the top brass to topple the army chief and take control. And instead of reiterating its commitment, to come in aid of civilian authority to maintain law and order, the army spokesperson begs not to involve the army and distances itself from the crisis situation.
Imagine a government, under whose nose, hooligans in disguise of Islamists damage public and private property, block main highways, attack citizens and burn vehicles. And the government, instead of enforcing its writ, begs for negotiations.
Imagine a state, where the Supreme Court judges, the army top brass and government ministers, instead of taking action against the scoundrels, start offering explanations proving their love for the Prophet of Islam. I recall, when four bloggers were picked up by an intelligence agency for ridiculing the army. And they were tortured for 22 days. Today, the mullah is openly abusing the army but the intelligence outfit has conveniently disappeared.
I recall, when Faisal Raza Abidi was arrested for using inappropriate words for Supreme Court judges. Today, the mullahs are carrying banners calling for the murder of Supreme Court judges. And the police, rangers and army are nowhere to be seen. I recall, when a 69 year old man named Nawaz Sharif arrived at Lahore airport with his daughter, the entire aircraft was encircled by Rangers. Today, the common man’s life is threatened and his property is being destroyed in almost every city. And the same rangers are nowhere to be seen.
The tough stance which Imran Khan took during his speech was very heartening to every enlightened and law-abiding citizen of the country, and provided an opportunity to the state to deal with the menace of the mullah with an iron hand. Many in this country applauded it and were of the opinion that first time in the history of this country, the chief executive, the army chief the Supreme Court, the treasury and the opposition were on one page. However, the euphoria was short lived.
The country, at the moment is burning. But the state is nowhere to be seen. Ministers are mum, judges have disappeared and army says it should not be dragged into this conflict. How safe is the common man in this state, where the most powerful men, with and without uniform, have completely vanished from sight leaving the citizens' life and property at the mercy of fanatic scoundrels.
So far, a country named Pakistan exists on the map of the world. But as I write, is there a state named Pakistan?