Wednesday, January 29, 2020
Syed Aftab Hussain HashmiJust after 13 months when it came into being, Pakistan lost a leader who labored indefatigably and often single-handedly to have an independent state for the Muslims of Northwest India. The Quaid, the only leader who owned this country like one owns his/her private property left the world without leaving a coherent and unambiguous blueprint for what shape the newborn country’s constitutional, political, and economic systems would take. After him, this country saw no such a leader who owned this country albeit anyone that followed him came with a promise of change and with an apparent resolve of outperforming his/her predecessors. I said apparently as the results over the years show that few outdone their predecessors and some did but not in the intended direction. The latest change-maker to occupy the chair is Imran Khan. Mr. Khan entered politics in 1996 when he witnessed the corruption of the ruling elite, their apathy to the issues ordinary people faced every day, the injustices that characterised the daily lives of a majority of his compatriots, the loot and plunder of the tax-payers’ money, and the legacy of the colonial institutions still intact. Hence he called his party a movement for justice in PakistanPakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, a revisionist party that would dislodge the status-quo. Initially, a lone fighter in the world of Pakistani politics where intruders are usually unwelcome, he made his presence felt in 2011 when he addressed a huge gathering at Minar-e-Pakistan. Ever since then, in fact ever since he entered politics, whatever he said and whatever he promised resonated with every that Pakistani who wished his/her country to come out of this decades-old extractive system and experience a new beginning, a new reality, and a ‘new Pakistan.’ After 22 years of hectic struggle, his and his acolytes’ prayers were answered when he took oath as PM in August 2018. There were lofty promises made in the first address. We rejoiced; we were overjoyed and our hearts brimmed with pride to listen to him for Pakistan got an informed Prime Minister. Someone who understood the real issues such as water crisis, climate change, malnutrition, the value of education, the tragedy of injustice; someone who would invest in humans, would look after the poor of this country, would see to the making of the welfare state on the pattern of the State of Medina; someone who could read without paper, who would ensure the civilian supremacy and someone who would help navigate the foreign policy of this country when it wasand isneeded the most. But that was not to be. It’s been 21 months and we have not seennot even a modicum ofwhat he had promised us. True, they ask not to expect the results overnight since it’s a ‘mess’ of the past seventy years that needs to be cleaned up. The majority of this nation understands this. However, being a citizen of this country, I may well ask what about the 90 days which were promised to us? He had, time and again, solemnly declared that all it would take just ninety days to root out corruption from this country. We know that was a ‘political statement’ as our politicians are fond of calling such far-fetched claims political statements when one reminds them of those. But we haven’t seen even the slightest movement towards the task. What about the task force on bringing the laundered money back? What about the across-the-board accountability which he had promised? I will start with my own party were his words. The current spree that he so vociferously cash upon is anything but accountability. It is not only selective and one-sided but it is a farce and let that be called vengeance and nothing more than that. Simulate, if you could, in your mind what would have been the fate of the responsible machinery if Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit was sanctioned by the government of Shahbaz Shareef in Punjab, youd see the one-sidedness of this whole exercise known as the promised accountability. We were promised the rule of law. Do nahi, aik Pakistan was the catchphrase employed to refer to a utopia where there will be equal law applied to allpoor and rich alike. But hearing the Spokesman of the PM Mr. Nadeem Afzal Chan, himself confessing that Atif, the son of Naqeebullah Mehsud, who was killed by Rao Anwarthe police officer, notorious for his encounterswon’t get justice in this system, broke us. Remember that this isn’t an ordinary analyst who opined in a TV show but someone who’s the official Spokesman of the highest authority in this country, throwing the arms before this system. Who and what is this system? As a common man, all we know is that if you are a murderer, you should be in jail serving your time. But here we see that someone who is accused of four hundred and forty-four murders roam free and is given VIP treatment. What an irony that the party was named as ‘Movement for Justice.’ The same goes for other cases such as the Salahuddin case, the Sahiwal incident, the Rahim Yar Khan Train incident, where the victims still await justice. The latest report of Transparency International, although doesnt measure actual corruption but is based on perceptions of how much the government is corrupt. First, perceptions are not always devoid of reasons. Secondly, it was these same perceptions-based reports that Mr. Khan would readily and frequently cite to indict the governments of PML(N) and PPP for being corrupt. Typically from atop the container, he would first introduce Transparency International and then list the reports to loud cheers from his supporters. But as it is said in Urdu, aayena dikhaya tou bura man gaywhen the mirror was shown to them, they termed the report biased and based on questionable data. Not to mention good governance. In the times since these assemblies are formed, there have been few or no debates at all about the core policy matters in both the houses. Laws are passed through Ordinances as if its an autocracy and not a functioning democracy. Where is participation? Where is transparency? So much for the meritocracy and the conflict of interestthe two issues he mentioned in his inaugural address that he will take great care of while awarding ministries and other positions of responsibility. Quite a few questions can be asked here too especially about some of his Special Assistants. The claims of no nepotism here look hollow. If you study him right from the start to a day before coming into power, he has, if not reneged on his promises, surely trampled on his own principles and performed far lower than his own standards he set for himself or for any other Prime Minister. How forcefully he was against giving extensions to individuals? And how forcefully he defended the extension later? Amidst all this, if he has not given up anything, it is his promises: Promises of good days where all will be well. This reminds me of a parable. Once there was a singer with a mellifluous voice. The King of the day knew about him; he was invited asked to sing for the king. The singer kept on singing and the King promised rewards: silver, gold, diamonds, and other such precious commodities. He came happily and informed his wife that the King has promised him such and such rewards. The next day he went to the Kings court and asked for the redemption of rewards. Which rewards? King inquired. Your Highness, yesterday when I sang, you promised me such rewards. I am here to take them, the singer said. No, there was no give-and-take in this. You pleased my eardrums with your voice; I made yours one with my words. Thats all, the king replied. Seems the Prime Minister is pleasing our eardrums with his lyrical speeches. To this, a friend playfully remarked that there should be two prime ministers in this country: One to talk only and one to do something. Mr. Khan is an ideal prime minister to talk about. There should be another one to act! https://dailytimes.com.pk/548382/we-need-two-prime-ministers/
By Sushant Sareen
Imran Khan is convinced that the country is headed in the right one. Since he was placed in the office of Prime Minister around eighteen months back, Imran Khan has presided over the most vindictive , vicious and vacuous government in Pakistan. The sense of drift in the affairs of state is overwhelming, and there is deep disquiet even among his sponsors – the Pakistan military establishment. After all, if you have a Prime Minister who thinks that the greatest economic achievement of any government is to maintain the Current Account Balance without bothering about either inflation, growth, galloping debt, or any other economic parameter, then you know how bad things are.
Because of the feckless governance and political mismanagement, even as Imran Khan strutted around in Davos hard-selling Pakistan as the next big thing in the global economy, back home, no one is quite buying his spiel. The new year has brought with it rumblings within the party and in the ‘establishment’, with the political air being thick with intimations of something-going-to-give-way-soon. No one is quite sure what is going to give, but there appears to be a consensus that business as usual is no longer a tenable proposition. For months now, there have been reports that the ‘selectors’ (read military establishment) are getting uneasy with the man they ‘selected’. Instead of heeding their ‘advice’ to fix things and make changes in the administration, Imran Khan has doubled down on the political non-entities he has picked to run the provinces of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
For more than a year, the military has gone along, even propped up the Imran Khan regime. Without the support of the military, the flimsy majority the prime minister enjoys in the National Assembly (cobbled together by the military) would disappear very fast. One of the ‘iron laws’ of Pakistani politics is that if the military backs a government, then even a minority can be converted into a majority; but if the military opposes a government, even a 2/3rd majority can be converted into a minority. This support, which has kept Imran Khan ensconced in the PM house, is now appearing rattled. At the very least, the military is sending signals (or if you will, putting Imran Khan on notice) that he needs to shape up by making changes in the way things are being run, not just at the centre, but also in the provinces, particularly in Punjab.
The new year started with hectic political negotiations to get parliament to clear the law on giving an extension to the army chief. Ironically, what should have been a feather in the cap of the government, cementing its relations with the military, has turned out to be the biggest disrupter in Pakistani politics. The alacrity with which the two main opposition parties – PML-N and PPP – supported the army chief’s extension bill fuelled rumours of a deal between the ‘establishment’ and these parties, spooking the ruling PTI. Within days of the passing of the extension bill, the political churn started with both allies and disgruntled leaders making threatening noises.
The MQM was the first to quit the cabinet. While it did not withdraw support to the government, the act of leaving the cabinet set alarm bells ringing. After all, the new MQM, which has been bludgeoned into obedience by the military, just is not in a position to take such a big step without a nudge and wink from the real rulers of Pakistan. Even as the ruling party scrambled to woo the MQM back, another component of the ruling coalition – Grand Democratic Alliance, a motley crew of anti-PPP and pro-establishment politicians from Sindh – came up with their complaints. A third component – BNP-Mengal – has for long been threatening to withdraw the outside support it lends to the government as its demands were not being met. The BNP-M again came out with their litany of complaints.
But what really shook up the ruling party was when arguably its most important coalition partner – PMLQ – accused the PTI of violating the agreement on the basis of which it joined the coalition and gave an ultimatum to either deliver on the bargain or else the PMLQ would decide its next course of action. Without the PMLQ’s support, the PTI government in Punjab province will collapse, and will have trouble garnering a majority even in the National Assembly. Within days, the PTI leaned over backward to appease the PMLQ, and while it engaged the MQM, it has been unable to deliver on its demands because these demands on enforced disappearances of MQM workers and reopening its offices are in the hands of the military establishment.
Even as the allies were putting pressure, serious fissures erupted within the ranks of the PTI. One federal minister fired a missive to the Prime Minister questioning the functioning of the Punjab government; party MNAs from Karachi targeted a federal minister from the same city; in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa there was a virtual rebellion against the Chief Minister; in Punjab pressure started mounting to replace the sitting Chief Minister and in Balochistan the PTIs coalition partner also faced a rebellion by none other than the Speaker of the assembly.
The speed and the suddenness at which things were happening naturally raised serious questions on whether the system was on the verge of collapsing. At the very least, not just party leaders but also allies and opponents were sensing that the government was weak and vulnerable, that chinks had appeared in the armour of Imran Khan and his coterie, and so the time was ripe to make their moves and see how far they could push the envelope. However, there are also more ominous suggestions on what might be happening. Three of the four coalition allies – PMLQ, MQM and GDA – are quintessential lackeys of the military establishment. They would not dare to rattle the cage without a go-ahead from their controllers in Khakis. Therefore, if these parties were suddenly making threatening noises, then it had to be seen as a signal from the establishment to Imran Khan. In other words, the prime minister was being given a bit of a jolt to become organized and arrest the drift in governance and fix the administrative disarray that was becoming not only untenable, but also embarrassing for the military. The overtures by the military to the opposition – the spate of bails for incarcerated opposition politicians, permission to Nawaz Sharif to go abroad, easing up on the pressure on the two main opposition parties – is also being seen as the establishment weighing its options and preparing for Plan B if the current plan (Imran Khan) fails to deliver.
Despite the growing disquiet in the military, two things have worked in Imran’s favour so far. The first is Imran Khan’s anti-India, anti-Modi tirades endears him to the Pakistan ‘deep state’ like nothing else does. He knows this, and will continue to berate against India as part of his political survival strategy. The second thing that has worked is that there is still no clear candidate to replace Imran Khan either within the ruling party, or in the opposition. Even though the military is believed to be preparing for its Plan B, it doesn not seem to have a viable alternative, at least not anyone visible on the horizon. Many names are floating around, but none of them is acceptable just yet. They either do not have the stature, or they do not have the numbers or they do not entirely enjoy the trust of the deep state, and in many case none of the three attributes. While an in-house trick seems like the easiest thing to do, there is no one in PTI who can replace Imran Khan without splitting the party right down the middle. If push comes to shove, the ‘establishment’ could pick someone from either PTI or the opposition to do the job, but then the numbers game would demand support from the opposition. Essentially, that would mean some sort of national government, which sounds great in theory, but an unworkable proposition in practice.
Amid the Byzantine intrigues, Imran Khan is digging in his heels. He has already let it be known that he will not roll over and play dead and if things get out of hand. He will dissolve the National Assembly, a prospect that is unpalatable to most political players. What is more, he has tried to quell the rebellion in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by sacking three very powerful ministers. While this was a signal to both his party and his allies, he has doubled down on his support for the Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and declared that there is no question of replacing him. According to Imran Khan, if Buzdar is replaced then it will lead to a game of musical chairs in all of the provinces, and that is just not acceptable. Nevertheless, this is not going to go down well with the ‘establishment’. While the military is unlikely to wield the guillotine immediately, it will probably have started to sharpen the knives. If the drift in governance is not arrested over the next few months, patience will run out, as will the lease of life given to the Imran Khan government.
By IMAD ZAFARAnyone who takes the risk of challenging the policies of the deep state in Pakistan is destined to be called a traitor. The arrest of Manzoor Pashteen, the leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, is not a surprise. Pashteen was arrested in Peshawar on Monday and sent to prison on judicial remand for 14 days. The charge against him is sedition, and it has been stated in the First Investigation Report (FIR) that in a speech in Dera Ghazi Khan, Punjab province, on January 18 he threatened the state by saying he does not believe in the constitution of Pakistan. This FIR itself is a mockery of the state and its brutal use of force and the judicial system to its advantage, as the constitution has been abrogated four times by military dictators but they never were sent to jail for not believing in the constitution and subverting it. Pashteen’s arrest was always in the cards, but one wonders how the invisible forces can even think that by his arrest they will suppress the movement for Pashtun rights, or that he will change his views in prison. So far we have seen that unlike the major political parties such as the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which faltered when put to the test, the PTM has successfully stood up to the state without compromising. The demands of this ethnic-Pashtun movement are simple and in accordance with the constitution, calling for the arrest of “encounter specialist” Rao Anwar, asking the authorities not to adopt the policy of “good Taliban and bad Taliban,” and giving the people of the tribal areas equal economic opportunity. Life for the less-developed areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan is entirely different from urban Pakistan, so naturally the youth of these areas when they protest for their rights are bitter and have a lack of trust in the state. The state needs to act, and it needs to make sure that the genuine concerns of the PTM are addressed, but it seems that the state has not learned the very basic lesson that it is its duty to be answerable to those citizens who have a sense of deprivation due to government policies.Arresting citizens who demand their rights and portraying them as traitors to the people of urban Pakistan who have no clue of what exactly is going on in the tribal belts of KP and Balochistan will only increase the divide within the masses. Unlike the other political movements like the PPP, which showed defiance against the dictatorship of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq but then returned to power after making a deal with the military establishment, and the recent U-turn by the PML-N from the politics of resistance to the politics of dealmaking, Pashteen and his movement have no compromise in their genes. This is mainly because the PTM is purely focused on the fundamental rights of Pashtuns and it demands that the state work under the ambit of the constitution. It has no objective to attain power, and that makes it entirely different from all the other major political parties. In fact, two of its prominent leaders, Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar, were also arrested last year but they faced up to the oppression and did not surrender.It it not rocket science that our government needs to understand the concept of democracy and the role of a modern and civilized state in the light of the 21st century. The colonial mindset of the era of British rule is outdated and won’t work any more. The government needs to decide now whether it wants to remain an authoritarian state where the actual power lies with a group that is armed and uses accusations of treason to exploit the masses or whether it is ready to change this style of governing and let the masses take ownership of the state by freeing them from the fear of enforced disappearances, treason charges, and prison if they raise their voices for their fundamental rights. If the state wants to continue its dogmatic approach and rule with fear and force, then the fate of traveling in blind circles will continue for Pakistan. However, if the state is ready to devise a new social contract with its citizens based on mutual respect and equal opportunities and status for every citizen, then the chances are that Pakistan can get out of this quagmire of self-inflicted problems. For argument’s sake, let’s accept that the establishment’s charges are true and the PTM is being funded by external hands to destabilize the tribal belt in Pakistan. The question remains, what has the establishment done to stop young Pashtun minds from becoming tools of these alleged foreign elements? Is it not the duty of the establishment that indirectly rules the country to think of the tribal belt and Pashtun youth as collateral damage of the war in Afghanistan and to address their problems? If the PTM is really funded by external hands and Manzoor Pashteen is a traitor, then why is the state afraid to start a dialogue with him in the presence of intellectuals and people from the media? If Pashteen is a traitor, he will have no ground to stand on. But Pashteen is not ready to accept the hegemony of the military establishment in state affairs, and he is saying what even the likes of Nawaz Sharif, Asif Zardari and Asfandyar Ali Khan don’t dare to say. He is making his voice heard in every nook and corner of the country despite being banned from the mainstream media. The reason is that there are millions who are not Pashtuns but who like Pashteen and his supporters are unhappy over the role of the establishment in the affairs of state. Only a meaningful dialogue can break the ice between the state and the PTM – and not only the PTM, but the state needs to start a dialogue with the masses through the intellectuals instead of the power-hungry political elite, as the current breed of politicians do not represent the true voices of the masses and are only interested in their own vested interests. It is time for the state to start a dialogue with the youth of PTM, and the government institutions should work under the ambit of the constitution, as ruling with fear and by brainwashing the masses will only produce more slaves. And more and more youth deprived of the opportunities to live, to grow and to get equal opportunities will join movements like the PTM. If the barrel of the gun could guarantee the future of a country, the Soviet Union could not have collapsed, and the debacle of East Pakistan could never have happened. It is a social contract that allows civic liberties, freedom and equal rights to the citizens that guarantee smooth sailing and the survival of a federation. https://www.asiatimes.com/2020/01/opinion/arrest-of-pashtun-leader-and-need-for-new-social-contract/
By Laura Cesaretti
There is a struggle that stretches from Afghanistan’s capital Kabul to the southern Pakistani city of Quetta. It is the struggle of the Pashtuns, the largest tribe of Afghanistan and Pakistan’s borderlands.
Women participating in large crowds and at times even leading protests is indeed unusual for traditional Pashtuns. It breaks the social taboos of females appearing in public. The bravery of those who decide to come out has been received with both fascination and criticism.This is, however, also a sign of the diversity of the PTM. Islamists and secular nationalists have put differences aside and stand together against the injustice and pain they share. This newly awakening recalls the ancient unity of Pashtunwali, the Pashtun people’s traditional set of values and behavioral guidance.The Pashtun way of life, as the code is also known, is shaped throughout the history of an extreme egalitarian society, and melted easily with the form of Islam that characterized the region.Indeed, the Islamization policy that Pakistan’s military dictator Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq enforced in the late 1970s significantly changed the social structure of the Pashtun lands. Zia-ul-Haq tried to implement an Islamic unity against the ethnic bond that unites Pashtuns. While he succeeded in transforming the local approach toward religion, the ties of the Pashtun tribes across the Durand Line remained strong.
Social Resistance Across Borders
Rather than a divide, the porous Afghan-Pakistani border is a space of interactions and exchanges. These territories are characterized by extreme mobility, with ties of love, economic support, and indeed a shared struggle against oppression. However, the motive driving Pashtun’s social resistance on the two sides of the border is different.
In Afghanistan, the struggle against injustice mainly comes from operations conducted by the U.S.-led coalition. Communities bound by centuries of tribal code lost trust among each other, and villages became coves of spies. People sold neighbors for revenge, and thousands of Pashtun men disappeared, were murdered, tortured, or send to secret prisons without trials.
The situation is different in Pakistan. The history of anti-colonialism enforced a strong and structured political consciousness that guided a struggle against both insurgency radicalism and state-imposed violence.