Tuesday, January 22, 2019
By Hussain Nadim
How do you explain to those innocent children that survived the tragedy in Sahiwal why their parents were shot dead right in front of them by the very people that are under an official oath to protect them? Is it a one-off human error — an accident or a symptom of an elite-induced governance failure? The way this case will be handled will not only serve as a litmus test of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ability and resolve to change the system that he promised in his 22 years of struggle for justice, it would also set the precedent for future governance and democracy in the country. This makes the Sahiwal incident a potential watershed moment with high stakes.
For a start, the Sahiwal tragedy is not a one-off accident, and must not be treated as such. It is a symptom of dysfunctional governance system that routinely comes to surface in the face of different tragedies. For instance, while the toxic air quality, terrorism and incidents like Sahiwal may not appear to have any commonality at the first glance, a deeper look reveals that they all share a common denominator; governance failure. This governance failure is no accident, and is a result of a deliberate resistance to reforms by the political elite that yields its power through corrupt and dysfunctional state institutions. The art of politics for the elite is, therefore, to strike a balance between keeping state institutions weak enough to allow elite power grab, while not entirely tipping them over that would force the public to come out on the streets. Incidents like Sahiwal, therefore, represent a challenge to the elite grab because of the nationwide protests and a potential boil-over that would force institutional reforms curbing the powers of the elite.
Therefore, all attempts are made to deflect any need for serious reforms. For instance, the way PM Khan’s team in Punjab has responded to the event reflects the traditional approach, used to be adopted by the PML-N and the PPP, to place the issue under the rug through contradictory statements and casting deliberate confusion over the incident to dilute its significance. This is not unexpected given the political team of the PTI that makes up the rank and file of the Punjab government is rooted in traditional colonial-style politics conditioned to respond to such matters from an elite vantage that has little empathy for the people beyond cosmetic redressal of grievance and promises of ‘swift action’. This elite apathy is not limited to the sitting government but more obvious in the petty politics of the opposition political parties over the dead bodies of Sahiwal tragedy. For the political elite, the life and death of common people have been reduced to political point scoring in their quest for power.
Therefore, the prescription offered to handle these tragic incidents are tailored-fit to shift the burden of blame away from the political elite to those lowest in the food chain that have no power or agency. For instance, the political elite calling for a swift action and accountability of CTD officials and ‘public hangings’ is nothing but a deflection from the original and deeper problem of lack of reforms. What exactly will be achieved by throwing a dozen of CTD officials that belong to lower middle-class backgrounds, and work 16 hours a day for barely Rs25,000? They simply take orders and what happened in Sahiwal reflects their poor training and deep politicisation at the hands of the same elite that is now calling for their head. Surely, they need to be held accountable so that the institution of police conducts its own internal reforms. However, it is not the CTD officials that need to be hanged, it is the current system of governance hijacked by the elite establishment that must be hanged and then revived from the scratch.
The current policing system in Pakistan is a relic of the colonial-era police that the British developed after the 1857 mutiny. The purpose of this police was not to safeguard and protect the public welfare, but to protect the British colonial interests against any agitation or public unrest. The fact that after Pakistan’s independence the praetorian oligarchy continued the same system and policing mindset explains the nature of the elite grab that has continued to infest this country over 70 years to a point where it is now boiling over.
Therefore, Imran Khan’s fight is not just against the PML-N and the PPP, it is in reality against the colonial era political-bureaucratic system of which 99% of his own party is also part of. Thus, the key test of Imran Khan lies, first, in his recognition of this challenge, and second, in his resolve to defeat this system from the inside. So far he has succeeded in beating the rigged political system of the elites to reach to the PM office using all levers of power. Hopefully, through his unorthodox approach, he is able to push through reforms that would disrupt and decolonise the political and bureaucratic culture where the power shifts from a selected elite into the hands of common citizens. Anything less, will be a cosmetic sense of ‘swift justice’ that didn’t work for the PML-N and the PPP, and will certainly not work for the PTI in the long run.
AMRITA NAYAK DUTTA
Advocate Rahim Shah, an active member of PTM and organiser of one of the events, told DawnNewsTV that a booking and payment of Rs15,000 had been made two days ago for seminars to be held on Wednesday and Thursday.
He said the aim of Wednesday's seminar was to highlight the issues faced by locals and traders at Torkham — a major border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
And Thursday's event was arranged to look back at the founding of the movement and would have marked the launch of the PTM anthem on the occasion of its foundation day, according to PTM core committee member Abdullah Nangiyal.
"I received a call from the press club informing me about the cancellation of [our] booking," said Shah, adding that the club's president, when contacted, confirmed the same.
"President Bukhar Shah Bacha told me that they have directions from higher-ups and they are compelled," the PTM member claimed while narrating his exchange with the club's president.
Shah announced that the group would go ahead and hold their event outside the press club in protest.
Meanwhile, as senior members of the press club also expressed concern over the sudden notice given by the club to PTM members, the newly elected general secretary of the club, Zafar Iqbal, attempted to provide a clarification for the move.
He said the cancellation of both events was simply due to the fact that the only hall at the venue was undergoing renovation work.
"There is no pressure from any side to ban any event," Iqbal said, dismissing any notion to the contrary.
A prominent Pashtun rights activist has been presented in a Pakistani court after being arrested on charges of rioting and inciting hatred at a protest demonstration, rights activists say.
Alamzeb Mehsud, 26, was arrested in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, on Monday evening, video footage taken by activists from the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) showed.
Mehsud's vehicle was intercepted by police on a busy thoroughfare, with armed police officers forcing him to disembark and be taken into custody, the footage showed. An unidentified man, wearing plain clothes, was seen waving a pistol at Mehsud in the footage.
"He was presented in court today [Tuesday] and the court has ordered he be kept in police custody for four days," said Mohsin Dawar, a PTM leader and member of parliament.
Since early 2018, the PTM has organised dozens of mass protests against rights abuses allegedly committed by the Pakistani military in its war against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and its allies.
The country has been battling the Pakistan Taliban, an umbrella organisation of armed groups targeting the state and aiming to enforce a strict interpretation of Islamic law, since 2007.A series of military operations since 2014 has seen the group displaced from its erstwhile headquarters in the country's northwest and pushed into neighbouring Afghanistan.Violence has dropped drastically, although sporadic large casualty attacks targeting civilians and security forces still occur.
The PTM and other rights groups allege the military has carried out a campaign of thousands of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings as part of its war against the TTP. Mehsud, a founding member of the group, has been instrumental in gathering data on missing persons and victims of landmines in the northwest tribal districts, where the military's fight was focused on Tuesday, images from his court appearance showed Mehsud in handcuffs, his face hooded. He has been charged under anti-terrorism laws with inciting a riot, defamation and "promoting enmity between different groups", according to the police report filed on his arrest.
On the weekend, Mehsud had addressed a PTM-organised rally of hundreds of protesters in Karachi, repeating the group's calls for justice to be done for victims of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.
By Arifa Noor
IT takes an outsider to point out the anger within us. Last week, a former US ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, spoke at an event, arguing that our anger prevents us from telling the good story about Pakistan to the world.
It reminded me of an interaction that took place nearly 20 years ago. Back in 2000, a soft-spoken Indian professor from Delhi had asked why the Pakistani people were always so pessimistic about their country — present and future — despite the fact that till the 1990s, Pakistan had always enjoyed better social and economic indicators (including a higher growth rate) than India. It was a question I had no answer to. The hostile questions about Kargil and military rule were easier to answer during that trip to India than this gentle insight and a sense of bewilderment about our state of being.
But since that morning in New Delhi, there have been so many moments when the professor’s question has come back to mind. Countless memories that came spilling out echoed what former ambassador Munter said. Some as clear as the question asked by the Indian professor; some a little less sharp. But each one testifies to our despair, anger or lack of confidence in what is known as Pakistan.
We have been living in an age of anger, decades before Pankaj Mishra wrote about it.
Being denied a voice, there is little left to do but express rage at the state, what it has come to stand for and to also conclude that there can be little hope for the future. (Pakistan has not just been at the crossroads ever since I can remember, it has also forever been in danger of being torn apart).
The rage has gotten worse post-2008, for the hope that accompanied the transition then has turned bitter. We thought that the worst was over, that ‘true’ democracy had returned to Pakistan and politicians would now rule — fixing all that had gone wrong. The 10 years of exile and powerlessness had also given the politicos a sheen of competence and maturity. But it was yet another shab gazida sahar (night-bitten dawn).
Ten years later, the anger has grown for it seems that decision making was never transferred. But because the hope this time was greater, so has the rage been too. And perhaps because the urban middle class fought for this transition in greater numbers than before, the disappointment is greater. They are angry for they cannot see the change they had fought for or protested against. The judiciary turned out to have feet of clay. The military didn’t really share as much as they had promised. And the politicians didn’t deliver the reform or show any inclination for democratic norms once in power. And we continue to rail, against all of them or the one we had placed most hope in, or the one we hated most.
In addition, the rage has turned into hatred of the institution that has disappointed us the most. Indeed, the anger is expressed with malicious glee at times: the Sahiwal incident is a case in point, as was the controversial statement by a former high court judge, Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, or any terrorist attack which reveals chinks in the armour of the security forces. And, of course, the various JITs revealing the shenanigans of our political ruling class.
It is as if we have no option but to express our rage, so all energy is poured into it.
But expressing outrage, however cathartic it may be, is not a strategy, which is what Cameron Munter was trying to say.