By Ritu Mahendru
Friday, April 12, 2019
By Gurmeet Kanwal
The army has effectively ensured that Pakistan’s fledgling democracy is not allowed to take root.After India’s counter-terrorism air strikes at Balakot in February 2019 and the reactions that these evoked in the National Assembly, Pakistan appears to be headed towards an unpredictable denouement. Accused by India, Iran and Afghanistan of using terrorism as an instrument of State policy,Pakistan has been isolated in the region. With a seemingly uncontrollable insurgency in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK, erstwhile North West Frontier Province), a simmering freedom movement in Balochistan, growing unrest in Gilgit-Baltistan and rampant urban terrorism, the internal security environment is precariously unstable.
Pakistan’s economy is in a shambles: the funds are low, the debts are high, exports have dwindled to a trickle and the Pakistani currency has fallen to an all-time low of 140 rupees to a dollar. Pakistan has for long been dependent on the United States’ largesse to meet its obligations for the repayment of its burgeoning debt. However, due to its intransigence in extending its cooperation in the war against the Afghan Taliban, that source has dried up and Imran Khan, the beleaguered Prime Minister and chairman of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, has had to run to China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for help.
Pakistan’s deep state — the army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) — has also been facing insurmountable challenges. The army’s counter-insurgency operations in KPK and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have been floundering; its military camps have been repeatedly attacked with some attackers coming from within the rank and file; its relations with the US and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies have plummeted to an all-time low; defence preparedness is sub-optimal; and, the morale of the rank and file is low. The only saving grace is that a pliable prime minister, with whom the army’s senior leadership is not at loggerheads, is now holding office. The military jackboot has ridden roughshod over Pakistan’s polity for most of the country’s history since its independence. While Generals Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Zia ul Haq and Pervez Musharraf ruled directly as Presidents or Chief Martial Law administrators, the other army chiefs achieved perfection in the fine art of backseat driving. The army repeatedly took over the reins of administration under the guise of the “doctrine of necessity” and, in complete disregard of international norms of jurisprudence, Pakistan’s Supreme Court mostly played along. The army has effectively ensured that Pakistan’s fledgling democracy is not allowed to take deep root. The origins of authoritarianism can be traced back to General Ayub Khan, who promoted the idea of “guided” or “controlled” democracy. The concept of the Troika emerged later as a power sharing arrangement between the president, the prime minister and the chief of the army staff (COAS). The “political militarism” of the Pakistan army imposed severe constraints on the institutionalisation of democratic norms in the civil society.
Some key national policies have always been dictated by the army. The army determines Pakistan’s national security threats and challenges and decides how to deal with them. Pakistan’s policies on Afghanistan and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) are guided by the army and the rapprochement process with India cannot proceed without its concurrence. The army controls Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme and the related research and development. The civilian government has no role to play in formulating the doctrine for nuclear deterrence, the force structures, the targeting policies and the command and control. The army chief decides the annual defence expenditure and all defence procurements. He also controls all senior-level promotions and appointments; the government merely rubber stamps the decisions.
In order to weaken India, as also to further China’s agenda to reduce India’s influence in Asia, the Pakistan army has adopted a carefully calculated strategy to bleed India through a thousand cuts. This has been given effect overtly through irregular warfare manifested in the Razakar and Mujahid invasion of Kashmir in 1947-48 and Operation Gibraltar in 1965; and, the Kargil intrusions of 1999. A proxy war has been waged through ISI-sponsored militancy and terrorism in J&K since 1989-90 and in other parts of India. In the 1980s, Pakistan had encouraged and supported Sikh terrorist organisations in their misplaced venture to seek the creation of an independent state of Khalistan.
The ISI provides operational, intelligence, communication, training, financial and material support to fundamentalist terrorist organisations like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) to wage war against India. Similarly, it provides substantial intelligence and material support to various Taliban factions like the North Waziristan-based Haqqani Network to operate in Afghanistan against the elected regime and against NATO forces. The ISI plays the destabilisation card despite the fact that Pakistan is a major non-NATO ally, as evidenced in the killing of Osama bin Laden in the army cantonment of Abbottabad, where he had been housed by the ISI for almost five years.
Realisation must dawn on the army that it has let down the country. Pakistan cannot survive as a coherent nation state unless the army gives up four things: driving the country’s national security and foreign policies from the backseat; seeking strategic depth in Afghanistan; attempting to destabilise India through its proxy war; and meddling in politics. The army must pull itself up by the bootstraps and substantively enhance its capacity to conduct effective counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations. In the national interest, the army must give up being a State within a State and accept civilian control, even if it does so with bad grace.
The recent conversion of two girls from Hinduism to Islam in Sindh has once again compelled the country to explore the possibilities of enacting a law to prevent forced conversions. But it is an uphill task, reports Mehmal SarfrazPakistan’s lawmakers are slowly realising that until such time that a law is enacted on conversions and strictly implemented, it will be an uphill task to put a stop to forced conversions.
Amnesty International - #Pakistan: #QuettaAttack #HazaraCommunity #Hazara community must be protected
Responding to the horrific bombing of an open-air marketplace in a neighbourhood where many members of Shi’a Hazara community live in Quetta that killed at least 16 people and wounded several others on the morning of 12 April 2019, Amnesty International’s Deputy South Asia Director, Omar Waraich, said:
This horrific loss of life is a painful reminder of the threats that Quetta’s Hazara community continues to face.
“This horrific loss of life is a painful reminder of the threats that Quetta’s Hazara community continues to face. Targeted for their religion by sectarian armed groups, they have suffered many such tragedies over several years. Each time, there are promises that more will be done to protect them, and each time those promises have failed to materialize.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government has made important commitments to protect all religious groups in the country. Those commitments must translate now into policies to effectively protect the Hazaras of Quetta, ending more than a decade of bloodshed that has scarred their community.”
#Quetta #QuettaBlast #QuettaBleeds #QuettaAttack - Bilawal Bhutto Zardari “Condemn the terrorist attack in #Quetta.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman
At least 20 people were killed and over 48 others were injured in a suicide attack targeting members of the minority Shia Hazara community in Quetta’s Hazarganji market on Friday.
The attack claimed the lives of nine Hazara and one Frontier Corps (FC) soldier who was deputed for the community’s security, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Abdul Razzaq Cheema told reporters. The 10 others who lost their lives included shopkeepers, businessmen and citizens working or residing in the area. Four FC soldiers were among the injured.
DIG Cheema said the blast targeted the Hazara ethnic community.
However, Balochistan Home Minister Ziaullah Langove, who held a press conference later in the day, said that the blast was not targeting “a specific community”.
“Our guess is that no specific community was targeted. Marri Baloch and FC personnel were among those killed as well. The numbers of the Hazara community were just greater,” Langove said.
He also described the blast as a suicide attack.
Qadir Nayil, a Hazara community leader, asked the government for provision of better protection.
“Once again our people were the target and once again we will have to bury our dear ones,” he said.
“We demand more security from the government and all those involved in today’s act of terrorism should be found and punished.”
Following the explosion, a high-level meeting chaired by Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal reviewed the security measures.
It was decided in the meeting that the affected families will be given immediate financial assistance and that the provincial government will bear the treatment cost of those injured.
Furthermore, it was decided that closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras will be immediately installed at the Hazarganji market and other public places. Action on terrorists’ hideouts and against their leaders will also be boosted, the caucus affirmed.
The Hazarganji neighbourhood has been witness to similar attacks in the past. Hazara shopkeepers are known to stock vegetables and fruits from the Hazarganji bazaar to sell at their own shops. They are provided a security escort to and from Hazarganji since they are constantly under threat of attack.
The attack came after a lull of at least a year in attacks against Hazaras, though there have been isolated shootings.
PROTESTS IN QUETTA:
Following the bomb blast, the Hazara community, Shia organisations and civil society issued a call of protest in Quetta and Karachi.
In Quetta, the protesters held a sit-in near the western by-pass in the morning which had not ended by the time the copy went to the press.
The participants said the government had failed to protect them in spite of a number of major attacks targetting the community in addition to target killings. They said they won’t end their sit-in until the government provided them justice.
After the attack, Hazara rights activist Jalila Haider, on his Twitter handle, said they would protest outside Quetta Press Club against the persecution and would march towards Islamabad if needed.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari wrote on Twitter: “Condemn the terrorist attack in Quetta. The government must stop dragging its feet & take action to counter violent extremism. Thoughts and prayers with the families of the victims.”
Balochistan Governor Amanullah Khan Yasinzai, Chief Minister Mir Jam Kamal Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar also condemned the attack in the strongest words.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which also injured at least 30 people. But Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a banned militant Sunni group, has often carried out attacks against Hazaras in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan Province.
For years, the Hazaras have lived in a state of perpetual fear in Quetta, and promises made by successive governments have failed to ensure their safety.
While terrorist attacks have declined significantly in the past year across the country, Friday’s attack was a grim reminder that the Hazaras continue to remain vulnerable to militant violence and that the security provided to them remains inadequate.A senior police official said the bomb went off in a sack of potatoes, and that the victims included shopkeepers and customers at the vegetable market. One paramilitary soldier was also killed in the blast.
The police ruled out a suicide bombing and said they were investigating whether a remote control or a timed device had set off the bomb.
Abdul Razzaq Cheema, a senior police official, said that people belonging to the Hazara group come daily in a convoy to the vegetable market from Hazara Town, a walled enclave on the outskirts of Quetta, and that they are provided with security. The bomb that went off Friday morning ignited when vegetables were being loaded during the early market rush. The attack was widely condemned by government officials and rights groups.
“This horrific loss of life is a painful reminder of the threats that Quetta’s Hazara community continues to face,” Amnesty International said in a statement. “Each time, there are promises that more will be done to protect them, and each time those promises have failed to materialize.”