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The military and the mullah: Priorities for the Imran Khan government

Is Pakistan simply incapable in securing terrorists or are they hand-in-glove with them?
 In less than two years since the Imran Khan government came to power in Pakistan, backed by military support, the PTI government has ceded a great amount of political space to the military. Since the start of this year in particular, the government has ensured that even though the country is over Rs 33 trillion in debt and battling an international pandemic, priority must always been given to the desires and wants of the military and the mullah.
Pakistan has struggled in dealing with the outbreak of COVID-19 ever since the first case was discovered in the country on 26 February. The government underplayed the seriousness of the virus, choosing to not evacuate its citizens from Wuhan to demonstrate to China that it supported and stood by its ally during its time of crisis. In fact, Pakistani President Arif Alvi travelled to China, at the request of Xi Jinping, during the peak of the crisis as a public display of the two countries’ friendship. In the meanwhile, pilgrims returning from the border with Iran were quarantined in the border town of Taftan in Balochistan. Thousands returning to the country from the holy city of Qom were confined in close quarters and unhygienic conditions, contributing to the further spread of the virus. The government specifically targeted Shia and Hazara neighbourhoods, prohibiting members of the community from attending work and restricting their movements. The sectarian discrimination was not confined only to the province, but at the federal level as well with two senior government ministers, who happen to be Shia, being accused of exacerbating the spread of the virus. The scapegoating of the persecuted communities during such a time is an example of the state of religious minorities in Khan’s Pakistan.

Pakistani President Arif Alvi travelled to China, at the request of Xi Jinping, during the peak of the crisis as a public display of the two countries’ friendship.

While many Muslim majority countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey have ordered the closure of mosques and religious gatherings, the Pakistani president met with religious leaders and prominent ulema to form a plan for congregational prayers during Ramazan, announcing a ‘20 point’ plan. Under this plan, put forward by the government, all mosques would remain open and religious leaders who were arrested for violating restrictions during the lockdown would be released. Vernacular Urdu newspapers which remain the main source of information amongst Pakistanis argued that COVID-19 was God’s punishment on people for the sins they have committed, while others stated that it was a conspiracy against Muslims and Islam. Khan government’s “Islam friendly” decision to open mosques on the suggestion of the ulema while ignoring the potential healthcare nightmare would pose for the public shows where the PTI government’s priorities lie.
While the spread of the coronavirus has demonstrated the government’s logistical and organisational incompetence, they have shown great skill and expertise in crushing dissent, crippling free speech and empowering militancy. There has been a longstanding tradition to label those who question the military establishment in Pakistan as traitors, “Indian agents” or anti-state elements. This practice has continued if not intensified under the Khan government. On 1 May, the body of missing journalist Sajid Hussain was discovered in Sweden two months after he went missing. Hussain, the editor of Balochistan Times had fled Pakistan in 2012 after receiving death threats on his reportage of enforced disappearances and crime in Balochistan. On the same day, Arif Wazir, a Pashtun nationalist and member of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) was shot outside his home in South Waziristan. Supporters of the government immediately launched an ugly social media campaign smearing Wazir after he succumbed to his injuries, accusing Afghanistan’s intelligence agency (NDS) of killing Wazir. It seems the establishment forgot that all this while they have blamed the NDS for fostering the PTM.

There has been a longstanding tradition to label those who question the military establishment in Pakistan as traitors, “Indian agents” or anti-state elements.

Attacks on the PTM and media have been a hallmark of the PTI government. In the runup to the general election in 2018 media organisations such as Dawn and Jang faced censorship and heavy pressure from the establishment for their coverage of Nawaz Sharif. Now, this has evolved to coverage of PTM rallies and gatherings which are banned. Senior leaders of the movement, including members of the National Assembly are routinely arrested, harassed and threatened.
Earlier this year in February, Ehsanullah Ehsan, the terrorist responsible for the attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar and the shooting of Malala Yousafzai, announced that he had escaped from prison and had managed to flee the country. Given his high-profile nature, it is not only shocking that Ehsan managed to ‘escape’, but was able to leave the country and seek refuge in Turkey. It gives rise to the age-old question: is Pakistan simply incapable in securing terrorists or are they hand-in-glove with them?

While in the past, extending the tenure of the chief of the army has been common practice, this time around the court questioned the bureaucratic process for Bajwa’s extension, while not disapproving of it all together.

The military has also further extended its reach into matters of civil governance, with the Pakistan army overseeing all the coordination between federal and provincial governments in tackling COVID-19. The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), the government’s lead agency in tackling the virus is being led by the Commander of the Army’s Air Defence Command as the military continues to directly intensify its role in matters of policy. Last year after increasing pressure from China over delays in the completion of key CPEC projects, the army took control of the CPEC Authority body with Lt. Gen Asim Bajwa being appointed the chairman of the body in November. The body was given vast powers to summon any information related to CPEC activities and impose penalties on those who fail to do so. Bajwa who earlier served as the Director-General for the Inter-Services Public Relations or the military media wing was also recently appointed as the Prime Minister’s special assistant on information and broadcasting. The timing of the appointment is interesting to note, as the government faces increasing criticism over its tackling of COVID-19; Bajwa’s appointment can be viewed as an effort for the Khan government to make amends with the military.
Towards the end of last year, the government found itself in an unprecedented face-off with the Supreme Court as the top court temporarily halted the extension of Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Bajwa’s term. While in the past, extending the tenure of the chief of the army has been common practice, this time around the court questioned the bureaucratic process for Bajwa’s extension, while not disapproving of it altogether. Through careful wording, the chief justice directed the PTI government to pass legislation formalizing the extension, which it hurried to do, granting General Bajwa another three-year extension. This goes to show that in Pakistan, civilian institutions continue to strengthen the military at their own expense, not learning their lesson, that the major causes of instability in its past have come from the overcentralized rule and strong men at the center. Today, Imran Khan remains beholden to the military and bound to the mullah stronger than ever before.

#COVID-19: Harbinger of cold warfare and significance of Free #Balochistan

By Shahdad Baloch
The world is changing around us. As we move into an era where the political, military and economic dominance of the West is coming under pressure, the sense of uncertainty is unsettling and the reason is West’s soft corner for China. Xi Jinping in 2013 strongly suggested that China is planning for the future. Despite the traumas and difficulties, the challenges and problems, seem to be birthing pains-signs of a new world emerging before West.
The reason is West pondering on where the next threat might come from, how to deal with religious extremism, how to negotiate with states like Iran and Pakistan and how to build relations with the anti-west and hypocrite states and their people, how to settle terms with those states who are disregarding international law. West has confused itself with such aforementioned issues whereas; China is stretching its muscles across Asia, Europe and the world. Beijing with its policy of economic grants to underdeveloped states and technology to the western world is covertly driving its derisive desires of being a global leader of the world.
Amid the setback of COVID-19 the age of the west, in particular, is at a crossroads, if not at an end. According to a report by the Ministry of Defence in London, the world is going through a period of turbulence and transformation. Among the challenges to be faced in the coming decades, it declared, are the reality of climate change, rapid population growth, resources scarcity, the resurgence in ideology and shift in power from west to east.
The West’s growing preoccupation with China before COVID-19 is not surprising, China has been at the forefront of Telecom revolution, much of this has been built by Huawei and ZTE, companies with a close link to the People’s Liberation Army of china the aim of which is long term regional stability and mineral wealth in Central Asia and Balochistan for which China is granting billions of dollars to Pakistan in the name of CPEC. Concern about these telecoms companies was enough to prompt US congressional hearings which concluded that Huawei and ZTE cannot be trusted on the basis that they are too close to Chinese state influence and thus pose a security threat to the United States.
To attain global leadership China is creeping with a fast pace by investing 43 billion Dollars to build railroads that will pass through Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, the Balkans and Siberia to Moscow, Berlin and Paris and new routes link Beijing with almost the world. There is even talk of a tunnel under Bering Strait that will allow trains to pass from China through Alaska and Canada and into the continental United States. The Chinese government is building networks carefully and deliberately to connect to minerals, energy sources and access to cities and harbours and oceans.
Once China succeeded in getting its economic imperialism done, no country would be spared from its military doctrine of controlling the affairs of the world. History is evident that every imperial power gets its start from economic control of the world and ended to military might. China is busting its spleen with enormous pace because of the reason that west has been indulged in mere issues of protecting human rights violation and building of inter-personal relations with those nations which hates west the most. The example of which is fanatic states like Pakistan and Iran.
Western Human Rights Organisations have never held accountable Pakistan, Iran and China for Human Rights violations in laters occupied territories of Balochistan and the former detained province of Xingjian-the Uyghur Muslims-which was once part of east Turkmenistan.
Concurrently, West’s perception against China is at the stake owing to COVID-19, which brought catastrophe to the United States and Western world just because of negligence did by china that could be a turning point for West perspective about China. It would have taken decades for the Western world to understand China global ambitions but COVID-19 has probably brought cold warfare between the West and China. What mistakes the British did in their heydays are now birthing pains for the Western world.
Firstly, the division of Balochistan in 1839 among Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan rendered the West as friendless in the region. Secondly, the creation of Pakistan by the British is proving to be a major tool of a mass-producing factory for replicating anti-West rhetoric, which is a crucial ally of China against the United States and the Western world. The COVID-19 has already created a World War like situation countries with a fragile economy, rising death tools and reshuffling of allies are accelerating change in the paradigm of power politics globally.
China with its technology is replacing the domination of Western civilisation. This clash of civilisation may trigger the cold warfare amid COVID-19 because of the realisation that the West is getting in a short span of time. Any race of technology among the West, America and China desire for a crucial ally, strategic location and global market, China has sorted out its new allies and markets but America and West have yet to do.
The Baloch nation has always remained pro-West and America, with its territories occupied by Pakistan and Iran, but both fanatic states have suppressed Baloch nation beneath the nose of the West and United States. COVID-19 has rendered Pakistan as an optionless country that would soon succumb the mineral-rich Balochistan to China against the will of the Baloch nation. Not only Baloch nation suffer under Sino-Pak occupation but the Western world, India and the United States will be deprived of adjoining oceans seas, central Asian market and Asia almost.
Today COVID-19 is serving China’s interests because under the heat of this virus China is increasing its labours number at Gwadar to bring speedy construction for the Silk Road thereby retaining its hegemony in Makuran Balochistan coastal belt. All this is happening when Chinese birth COVID-19 has brought catastrophe to Western and American economy. Beijing is intended to replace global health institutions by building its own parallel governance institutions. According to Axios reports, Chinese think tanks are already floating the idea of “Beijing led global health organisations that would rival WHO” but the outbreak of COVID,-19 has underscored China’s place in an increasingly interconnected world. Now it depends on the Western world that what approach it takes to purge the menace created by china in global politics.
Besides, for durable peace and tranquillity, the Western powers coupled with the United States has to look to nations like Balochistan which is thriving for regaining its freedom since the first day of occupation. COVID-19 has left a lesson for the entire world that the globe cannot be left on the mercy of China and its allies like Pakistan and Iran but the region needs reshuffling where it’s incumbent for Balochistan to be a free state.

پاکستان پیپلزپارٹی کے چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری کی سادگی کے ساتھ نوڈیرو ہاؤس، لاڑکانہ میں عید، شہدائے جمہوریت کے مزارات پر بھی حاضری

: پاکستان پیپلزپارٹی کے چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے کہا ہے کہ عید کے موقع پر قوم کے لئے قربانی دینے والوں کی جدوجہد کو ضرور یاد رکھیں، آج ہم طیارہ حادثے کے المناک واقعے کی یادوں کے ساتھ عید منارہے ہیں، اس عید کو اپنے شہداء کے نام کریں، چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے مزید کہا کہ اس عید کو ان ڈاکٹرز، نرسوں اور پیرامیڈیکل اسٹاف کے نام کرنا چاہئیے جو کرونا وائرس کے خلاف جدوجہد کررہے ہیں، اس موقع پر پاکستان پیپلزپارٹی کے چیئرمین کا کہنا تھا کہ زندگی سے بڑھ کر کوئی قیمتی اثاثہ نہیں، سماجی فاصلہ رکھ کر زندگیوں کو محفوظ بنایا جاسکتا ہے، چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے ان خیالات کا نوڈیرو ہاؤس میں سادگی کے ساتھ عید مناتے ہوئے کیا، اس موقع پر چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے سماجی فاصلے کے اصول و ضوابط کو ملحوظ خاطر رکھتے ہوئے گڑھی خدا بخش میں شہدائے جمہوریت کے مزارات پر حاضری دی،
 چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے عید کے موقع پر شہید ذوالفقار علی بھٹو، مادر جمہوریت بیگم نصرت بھٹو، شہید بے نظیر بھٹو، شہید میر شاہنواز بھٹو اور شہید میر مرتضی بھٹو کے مزارات پر حاضری دی اور پھول چڑھائے، اس موقع پر چیئرمین بلاول بھٹو زرداری نے شہدائے جمہوریت کے درجات کی بلندی کے ئے 
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