Tuesday, June 11, 2019

#Pakistan’s Tribal Areas Are Still Waiting for Justice as Army Tightens Grip

By Ben Farmer
With the Pakistani military’s crackdown on protesters in the northwestern tribal belt in recent days, the security forces have asserted themselves as the true masters of justice in the region.
Commanders have said that an alternative antiterrorism court system will be used to prosecute leaders of an ethnic Pashtun protest movement that witnesses insist has stayed peaceful. Roads have been closed, and a curfew imposed.But this is the year things were supposed to be different in the tribal belt, which has waited for something other than summary justice for decades and was promised it would finally happen.
Pakistan voted last year to merge those borderlands, once known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, into the country’s political and legal mainstream. At a stroke, the move assigned the region’s five million residents — the vast majority of them from the ethnic Pashtun minority — the same constitutional rights as other Pakistanis, including access to the national civilian justice system.
Before, it had been run under a harsh frontier code set up long ago by British colonial masters, who put each tribal region under the near-complete power of a single governor. Residents were denied basic rights like access to lawyers or normal trials, and collective punishment for the crimes of an individual was common.
Manzoor Pashteen, the leader of the Pashtun civil rights movement, known as the P.T.M., said that the recent campaign by the security forces had made a lie of last year’s abolition of the old colonial justice code.
“It is very obvious now that FATA and its administrative strings are still in the hands of the army,” he said, using the old acronym for the tribal areas. “In the current authoritarian governance of the army, we don’t think justice could prevail.”
There had been some signs of change. Last month, in one interim court set up in a federal building on the outskirts of the city of Peshawar, even some people waiting their turn to face prosecution under the new system dared to hope things would go better for them.
“Under the old system, we were put in jail and ignored,” said Hajji Amir Khan, a trader in his mid-40s awaiting a court date in Khyber District on charges of smuggling hashish. “I would not be given the chance to be heard by any court.”
Mr. Khan said he had been framed by the police after refusing to pay a bribe. But still, he said, “I am hopeful that I will get relief in this system.”
Many of those hopes were dashed over the past two weeks, when the army began moving more aggressively against the P.T.M. The movement is centered in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, which now includes the former tribal areas.The P.T.M. has for the past year been a thorn in the side of the military, accusing the security forces of extrajudicial killings, of whisking away dissidents to secret jails and of other abuses.The army, which accuses the movement of being controlled by Afghan and Indian intelligence agencies, has grown increasingly infuriated. And the Pakistani news media, under heavy intimidation from the authorities, has largely stayed quiet about the topic altogether.
Tension boiled over on May 26, when the security forces shot into a crowd of protesters in the North Waziristan tribal area as they traveled to a sit-in, leaving at least 13 dead, members of the movement said. P.T.M. activists and witnesses said the demonstrators were unarmed. The authorities say that demonstrators opened fire first, hurting several officers, though video clips of the demonstration have not shown that.
Two senior supporters of the P.T.M. who are also members of Parliament, Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir, remain in custody, as do several members of the group. Smaller demonstrations have broken out across the region, but some have been squelched, including one on Monday in Peshawar, in which protesters said that the security forces used batons to drive off demonstrators at a peaceful sit-in. And last week, four soldiers were killed in a roadside bombing in North Waziristan, once a militant stronghold.
The unrest has led the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government to ask for the postponement of the first-ever provincial elections in the newly merged areas. The poll had been scheduled for July 2.
The crackdown follows many warnings by rights advocates that any promise of civil protections would be in vain, given the military’s increasing grasp on power in the country.
“The experience of the last few days has exposed the oppressive control of the army in total violation of the laws and the Constitution,” said Afrasiab Khattak, a former senator and a campaigner for Pashtun rights.For years, residents of the tribal areas have complained of being caught between the brutality of the militant groups that sheltered there, including the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda, and the military.
Supporters of the P.T.M. gathered in Karachi last year to demand the return of missing loved ones.CreditShahzaib Akber/EPA, via Shutterstock The Pakistani military frequently conducted operations against militants in those regions, often at the request of the United States and its allies struggling over the border in Afghanistan. One of the most extensive of those offensives, centered on Waziristan in 2014, was hailed by Pakistanis for nearly completely stamping out a domestic terrorism campaign by the Pakistani Taliban that had scourged the country since 2008.
But it also dislocated hundreds of thousands of residents of the tribal areas. And many aspects of de facto martial law in the region created simmering outrage among the Pashtun population there that eventually gave birth to the P.T.M. last year.As the movement gained momentum, Pakistan’s military began accommodating some of its demands, such as reducing the number of checkpoints in North and South Waziristan, easing aggressive searches, relaxing curfews and starting demining programs.But many in the tribal regions say the security forces never truly relinquished control. And even with the tribal areas’ merger with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the advent of the national civilian justice system, local officials say a slow start on funding those institutions has left the security forces with even more authority.“We, the people of the tribal area, were promised by the Pakistani government that after the merger, police and courts would be dealing with the law and order situation and disputes resolution,” said Malik Nasrullah Khan Wazir, a prominent tribal chief from North Waziristan. “But so far, very little has happened in this regard. In the rest of Pakistan, civil law enforcement agencies are supposed to maintain the law and order situation. But in tribal areas, we have been left at the mercy of the army.”
More than a century of government neglect and two decades of fallout from military operations are unlikely to be undone quickly. But some sort of progress is critical, local officials say.
Nizamuddin Salarzai, a politician in Bajaur District who is running in provincial elections this year, said, “The tribal people are being dragged through yet another phase of governance nightmare.”
“Militaries aren’t trained either for policing or dispensation of justice,” he added. “The absence of both judiciary and properly trained and empowered police after the military operations has brought the military and the public in direct contact with each other on a daily basis — hence creating frictions.”

Video Report - Bilawal Bhutto's reaction on budget 2019-20 - #بجٹ_آئی_ایم_ایف_کا

بلاول اسپیکر قومی اسمبلی سے باضابطہ استعفیٰ کا مطالبہ

چیئرمین پاکستان پیپلزپارٹی بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے اسپیکر قومی اسمبلی سے باضابطہ استعفیٰ کا مطالبہ کردیا۔
ایک بیان میں چیئرمین پی پی کا کہنا ہے کہ آئی ایم ایف کے تجویز کردہ بجٹ کے نفاذ کا خوف درست ثابت ہوچکا، کٹھ پتلی حکومت حق حکمرانی کھو چکی ہے۔
بلاول بھٹو نے کہا کہ کٹھ پتلی حکومت عوام دوست بجٹ پیش کرنے میں مکمل طور پر ناکام ہوچکی ہے، حکومت نے بیرون ملک سے مسلط کردہ کردہ بجٹ پیش کیا۔
چیئرمین پی پی نے مزید کہا کہ کٹھ پتلی حکومت اخلاقیات کا جنازہ نکال کر اپنے وجود کو برقرار رکھنے کا سیاسی جواز تک کھوچکی ہے۔

Chairman PPP demands resignation of Speaker, says fears of IMF dictated budget come true, puppet government had no justification to rule

Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar Spokesperson to Chairman PPP Mr Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has issued the following statement today.
“Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had decided along with other opposition parties to attend the National Assembly and listen to the budget speech with due attention today. This decision was taken despite the fact that the it was likely to be a IMF-imposed budget and despite witch hunting and a reign of terror let lose by the puppet government against the opposition leaders in the name of accountability. Chairman PPP was even ready to applaud the government if the budget turned out to be people friendly and provided the much needed relief to the people groaning under poverty, inflation and unemployment.
Copies of the budget speech were not provided to the opposition members and so the Chairman PPP had to sit to listen as the speech unfolded. When the part about taxation came the Chairman PPP was horrified that instead of providing relief a tsunami of taxes had been unleashed on the hapless people. It was clear that as a result of new taxation measures a number of enterprises  will find it difficult to do business and inflation and unemployment will further increase. The worst fears that it was going to be an IMF-dictated budget had come true.
The Spokesperson said that Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari recalled that the government had made promises of providing 10 million jobs and five million houses but the taxation measures were not anywhere near to achieving the promised objectives. He also recalled that the Speaker National Assembly had failed to take notice of the attack on female members of the House recently.
Furthermore, production orders had not been issued for the elected members of the House from North and South Waziristan districts in KP province, from Benazirabad in Sindh and from Lahore to come to the House. Depriving them of the opportunity to represent their respective constituents at a time when plan for resource allocations and other measures was being presented in the National Parliament the Speaker has failed to act as a neutral custodian of the House, Senator Mustafa Khokhar quoted the Chairman PPP as saying.
Deeply concerned about the inability of the Speaker National Assembly to be a non partisan custodian of the House the Chairman PPP has reiterated his demand that the Speaker step down from his office as Speaker, Mustafa Khjokhar said.
Chairman PPP also is also gravely disappointed with the sheer ineptness and incompetence of the puppet government in preparing a people friendly budget and in taking a foreign dictated budget hook line and sinker. Chairman PPP further believes that the puppet government had totally lost even a shred of moral and political justification to continue in office that it may have had until now, the Spokesperson said
Chairman PPP demands once again that production orders be issued for former President Asif Ali Zardari and MNAs Ali Wazir, Mohsin Dawar and Khawaja Saad Rafique, the Spokesperson said.

'Shutting down' terror camps is an old Pakistan trick, don’t fall for it

Abhijit Iyer-Mitra

The FATF threats have produced a temporary shutting down and freezing for terror infrastructure, but all that has been done is reversible. There is not a single irreversible action here.

If the news is to be believed then the crippling economic pressure that has seen the Pakistani Rupee crash to 151 to the Dollar, a severe balance of payments and liquidity crisis, China withholding aid, and pressure from the Financial Action Terror Force (FATF) have forced the Pakistanis to seemingly abandon their terror infrastructure. Sadly once we start unpacking the details, we find that this may just be another merry-go-round that the Pakistanis have taken us for.
The last time Pakistan was under such intense pressure was in 2001. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks the United States threatened to “bomb them into the Stone Age” if they didn’t comply with US demands. Initial US demands in return for the lifting of sanctions (owing to General Musharraf’s coup) involved not just abandoning the Taliban but also abandoning the terror infrastructure used against India.
Initially Pakistan seemed to comply. However in December 2001 it launched its most audacious attack against India, sending terrorists to attack Parliament. India, we can say with the benefit of hindsight, reacted exactly the way Pakistan wanted: A massive military build-up that seemed to threaten an all-out war. The Indian calculus was that Pakistan was on its knees, the Pakistani calculus was that it could use the Indian threat to soften the US’ demands.
What happened then was that even though Musharraf gave a conciliatory speech saying terror would be abandoned, in private he convinced the Americans that these “auxiliaries” were needed against the “Indian threat”. This was hardly surprising as in November the same year, the US had allowed a dozen Pakistani C-130 aircraft to evacuate hundreds of foreign fighters from Kunduz, even though many of them could have been involved in the 9/11 attacks just two months prior.
Fast forward 18 years to 2019, the situation is less dire.
First: Pakistan doesn’t face an existential threat the way it did in 2001 on two fronts. Moreover as many Pakistanis like to boast ‘80-90% of Pakistan runs on an informal economy’ and the elites anyway have a pied-de-terre in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, London or the US, where they can easily ride out the storm. Unlike in 2001 when the US was enraged and would have gone after dual Pakistani citizens in other countries, today that threat doesn’t exist.
Second: when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to a $6 billion bailout, we can be almost certain, that the behind the scenes negotiations would have more to do with political benefits for the European and US governments rather than political benefits to India. After all, why would Europe spend $6 billion to end terror in India, when they have more pressing concerns such as Afghanistan?
Third: At some time between 2007 to 2009 China’s leadership decided firmly that Pakistan was too valuable an ally in destabilising the region. On one hand it decided to go the whole hog in cracking down on any form of religiosity in its Muslim Uighur population, but also now extending to the integrated Hui.
On the other it committed itself to happily allowing Pakistan to play the Islamic terrorist pyromaniac card, something that bogged the US down in Afghanistan, costing over a trillion dollars with nothing to show for. China is definitely not holding back funds because it is upset with Pakistani-sponsored terrorism. China is holding back funds over what it perceives as Pakistani obstructionism and deceit in the completion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Increasingly landowners are holding the CPEC infrastructure products to ransom, demanding more and more money and making the initial costs rise. Despite their public rhetoric, Pakistani elites fear the Chinese who unlike the pliable woolly-headed, messiah complex Americans, don’t swallow their regurgitated sob stories. In fact in most private interactions Pakistani’s are adamant that they will not get into a Chinese debt trap and will not let the CPEC be completed in the hope China will just throw its hands up and leave in desperation writing off the sunk costs.
Fourth: The FATF threats have produced a temporary shutting down and freezing for terror infrastructure, but all that has been done is reversible. There is not a single irreversible action here. Essentially just enough make up to fool the FATF and get a breather.
Cumulatively, it may seem to Indians that the camel’s back is broken, but separating the threads we realise Pakistan is doing what it has always excelled at — atomic balancing of disparate elements to its advantage. The danger is that if Pakistan sees these disparate entities coordinate and present an existential threat a la 2001, Pakistan will react as it did in 2001: It will launch some audacious attack on India, designed to solicit a fierce Indian response, fierce enough to force its other debtors to back off for fear of either nuclear war or nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. Basically if anyone thinks Pakistan has ‘turned a new leaf’, shame on you because you’ve been fooled for the bazillionth time.