Tuesday, 31 May 2016

PAKISTAN- Curbing freedom of expression in the name of national security and State ideology

PAKISTAN- Curbing freedom of expression in the name of national security and State ideology
A Written Submission to the 32nd Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre
1. The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) would like to draw the attention of the UN Human Rights Council to the deteriorating state of freedom of expression in Pakistan. In states like Pakistan, where democracy is little more than fascism behind a fa├žade of democracy, free press is the first casualty. The Constitution and certain legislations authorize the government to curb freedom of speech on subjects that include the Constitution itself, the Armed Forces, the Judiciary, and religion. Harsh blasphemy laws have occasionally been used to suppress the media as well.

2. Pakistan has been ranked the fourth most dangerous country in the world for journalists, with a total of 115 killings since 1990, according to a report issued by International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). According to the Report, journalists in Pakistan experience official attempts to restrict critical reporting, as well as high levels of violence from both State and non-State actors. The Annual Report by Freedom Network, titled, Growing Sounds of Silence – The Year of Censorship, states that in the year 2014, 14 journalists were killed in Pakistan. But, it is the year 2015 that proved to be the year of gags on free speech, and 2016 has continued the trend. Since 2015, journalists and media houses have faced a silent but potent crackdown on dissent and freedom of expression not seen before under civilian rule. Pakistan is rated “Not Free” in the Freedom of the Press Index 2016, and is ranked 147th out of 195 countries and territories worldwide.

3. Much like 2015, in 2016 too, the State has continued to push for draconian laws to curb free speech and muzzle press and media. In 2015 it was the Pakistan Electronic Crime Bill (2015) to curb freedom of expression over the Internet and social media. On 29 October 2015, Members of the National Assembly's Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting proposed amendments to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) law. If passed, the Act would outlaw the broadcasting of any language that is counter to the “ideology” of Pakistan or the sovereignty or security of the State; incites violence or hatred; or defames or ridicules the head of State, armed forces, or the Executive, Legislative or Judicial branches of the State.

4. The State and the powerful establishment, in connivance with non-State actors, have shrunk space for free press. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), sister organization to the ALRC has been documenting several cases of denial of the right to free speech by the establishment. In 2015 AHRC issued an urgent appeal case 032-2015 on the military’s intervention in academic discourse on the subject of Balochistan. A talk scheduled at the Lahore University of Management Science on Balochistan was cancelled on the written orders of Lieutenant-General Rizwan Akhter, Director General of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI. Two prominent human rights defenders, Mama Qadeer, President of the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), and Ms. Farzana Majeed, General Secretary of the same organization, were scheduled to speak on missing persons in the Balochistan Province. A few days later when the same seminar was held at T2F, a popular meeting place in Karachi, the owner Sabeen Mahmood, a prominent social activist, was shot dead by an unknown assailant. The AHRC documented her case in UAC 052-2015 drawing the attention of the international community to the extent of the state atrocities to curb free speech.

5. The impunity enjoyed by those who attack journalists is seriously hampering press freedom in Pakistan. According a Reporters Without Borders report, the role of non-state groups — often militants such as the Islamic State group (ISIS) — is rising, in terms of perpetrating attacks against journalists. In January 2016 alone, two journalists lost their lives at the hands of unknown assailants. The office of a TV channel was also attacked with explosives in the same month, on 13 January 2016, and ISIS claimed responsibility. Incidents of threats, attacks, and killings of journalists in Pakistan are clear evidence of how critical the situation has become due to a thriving culture of impunity. Pressure and intimidation has forced journalists in Pakistan to adopt self-censorship, particularly in conflict areas.
6. The National Action plan (NAP), a counter insurgency plan by the civil military alliance that was conceived following the Peshawar Army Public School massacre, also puts curbs on free speech, though it originally meant to reduce space for hate speech; many journalists especially from Balochistan Province have found themselves threatened into silence for speaking against Baloch ethnic cleansing.

7. The youth of Pakistan is fed on a retrogressive State narrative; critical thinking is discouraged and limited; resultantly Pakistani youth are easily radicalized and prone to violence against dissenters.
8. In 2010, via the 18th Amendment, the right to information was inserted in the Constitution; the provinces were given the power to legislate on the right. Khyber Paktunkhuwa Province has so far been the only province that has enacted an effective law. In all other provinces, the enacted laws have been eyewash; they are weak on many fronts, exempting major institutions like the Army, Judiciary, and other key State departments. The resultant curb on access to information has affected the right to free press, as journalists cannot gain access to State files; it has jeopardized transparency. The increasing intolerance towards criticism and unearthing of State corruption has made it difficult for journalists to exercise their right to freedom of press and access to information.
9. It is lamentable that though Pakistani media looks free, in reality it is under attack from all sides. Journalists have to risk their lives doing their ordinary work. The growing intolerance within the society has made reporting of truth a culpable exercise. No State institution, be it the Judiciary or the Executive, tolerates criticism – a sign of immature institutions. Many journalists are facing treason charges and lower courts have issued arrest warrants without hearing them.
10. In the light of the above, ALRC asks the Human Rights Council to urge the Pakistani government to:

a. Ensure freedom of press and protection of journalists; strong democracy needs transparency and transparency is not possible without a free media. A free press supports the cause of democracy and ensures good governance through transparency.

b. Enforce the recommendations made by the Special Working Group of Pakistan Coalition on Media Safety (PCOMS) to investigate attacks against media practitioners in Pakistan, including appointment of a special prosecutor on journalists’ safety, legal aid unit for journalists in distress, counseling unit for families of journalists killed, and a primary case investigation unit to actively pursue cases of attacks against journalists and media.

c. Make arrangements in all major cities to provide refuge and safe houses for journalists who are forced to leave their homes, so they can live and work in safer cities.

Visit our website with more features at 
www.humanrights.asia.
ALRC-CWS-32-002-2016
HRC Section: Interactive Dialogue – Agenda Item: 3
May 30, 2016
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The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) works towards the radical rethinking & fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in Asia, to ensure relief and redress for victims of human rights violations, as per Common Article 2 of the International Conventions. Sister organisation to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the ALRC is based in Hong Kong & holds general consultative status with the Economic & Social Council of the United Nations


Monday, 30 May 2016

CPEC project should empower local people

CPEC project should empower local people, 29 May 2016
Title of the Conference: How China Pakistan Economic Corridor will affect people of former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir?
The Conference was organised in Birmingham, England by Jammu Kashmir International People’s Alliance.
Mr Chairman, friends and colleagues Aslamo alaikam.
Right to development is a fundamental human right, because development is imperative for human life and for the progress of human societies. The UN General Assembly on 4 December 1986, in its Declaration on the Right to Development stated in article 1, and I quote:
The right to development is an inalienable human right by virtue of which every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized.
Article 2
The human person is the central subject of development and should be the active participant and beneficiary of the right to development. Unquote

Mr Chairman, I know there are people with nefarious agenda to promote us and this conference as anti CPEC conference. Let me make it clear publically that we are not against the CPEC. We are not against Pakistan. We are not against Pakistan’s right to development.
  
Mr Chairman
We are not against development, as pointed out earlier. However, we are against oppression, exploitation and injustice. We want to see ordinary people of Pakistan and Gilgit Baltistan benefiting from rewards of this mega project. We don’t want just some people of Pakistan and China getting richer, while ordinary people continue to suffer. If this is anti Pakistan agenda, then you might consider us as anti Pakistan.
Frankly speaking, we don’t care what others think of us. We are thinking people with ability and experience to formulate pro peace and pro people policies. We don’t accept any dictation from any quarter; and do not change our policies just because some people dislike them.
We know some people in Pakistan have so much ill gotten money that they don’t know how much they have as most of that is hidden abroad; and tragedy is their fellow citizens do not have even the basic facilities like clean water and food. Many die due to hunger and lack of medical care; yet the ruling elite wants more nuclear bombs, more missiles and more jet fighters. It looks welfare of the ordinary people is not their priority. Sad thing is, when we point this out, we are called anti Pakistan.
I know some people say that we should only limit ourselves to the problems related to Jammu and Kashmir, and must not interfere with Pakistan’s internal matter. I am not sure if this is the right policy. People of Pakistan are our brothers. If they suffer due to wrong policies of their rulers should we remain quiet? Or should we make alliance with the suffering people and formulate joint strategies to help each other because we both suffer from the wrong policies of the same ruling elite?
Mr Chairman
 
Friendship of countries is not based on love and affection, it is all to do with economic, strategic and political interests; and that is what policy makers of Pakistan need to understand. China is not investing 46 billion dollars because they love Pakistan. They are doing this for business and strategic interests; and they will get very high returns on their investment.
 
It must be pointed out that China is also investing in many other countries, including India and Iran. At present Chinese trade with Pakistan is 16 Billion dollars. Despite international sanctions against Iran up till very recently, Chinese trade with Iran is 50 billion, and they plan to increase it further.
 
China has serious border disputes with India, and they are considered as rivals as well, yet Chinese trade with India is 75 billion; and they are planning to take it up to 100 billion. Are Chinese so unwise that they will jeopardise their trade and other interests with India and Iran for the sake of Pakistan? The Pakistani policy makers need to wake up and understand dynamics of international relations and national interests of countries.
 
While Islamabad sends militants and weapons across the border to Afghanistan; New Delhi provides millions of dollars in aid to build infrastructure in Afghanistan.  India even built Afghanistan’s new Parliament at the cost of 90 million US dollars, which Mr Modi inaugurated in December 2015.
Policy makers of Islamabad must abandon their cold war policies. They need to understand that the world has changed; and new strategy is required to deal with problems of today. You can no longer rely on gun boat diplomacy. Policy of strategic depth and intimidating neighbours with guns and threats of nuclear weapons is counter - productive.
Mr Chairman
 
It should also be understood that religion is not a determining factor in international relations and friendship between the nations. Prime Minister Modi, despite all the propaganda about his anti Muslim policies, was received as the most valued guest in Saudi Arabia and awarded the highest civilian award.
 

Mr Modi was also received as a distinguished guest in Iran when he visited Tehran to sign a mega project with Afghanistan and Iran, which is known as India, Afghanistan and Iran Transport Corridor. Some people call this project alternative to CPEC which will give India direct access to Central Asia by -passing Pakistan. Wall Street Journal quoted Mr Modi saying that we should:

“Carve out new routes for peace and prosperity.. Afghanistan will get an assured, effective and a more friendly route to trade with the rest of the world”. He further said this deal could “alter the course of history of this region” and help India, Afghanistan and Iran “to eventually build what we all desire and deserve—a friendly and healthy neighbourhood.” 1
It must be noted that Pakistani security establishment regard India as arch enemy, hence tension and armed skirmishes between the both countries. It is sad that Pakistan’s relations with both Muslim neighbours Iran and Afghanistan are strained; however, they both are friendly with India, which proves my point that religion is not the determining factor in international relations.
Pakistani policy makers also need to understand that the nature of global engagement has changed over the past decades, and they can no longer continue with the thinking of cold war era. In the political environment of today international ties and friendship requires trust and sincere cooperation, and not suspicion and dominance.
Under the deal with Iran, New Delhi will invest $200 million to develop two terminals and five berths at Chabahar; and an additional $300 million will be available for the port and development of related infrastructure.
The corridor from Chabahar will run to Zaranj, an Afghan border town already connected by a 135-mile, Indian-built highway to Delaram, to the northeast.
Also India is a part of the International North-South Transport Corridor, which plans to link India and Iran to Central Asia and Russia.
India also wants a regional connectivity, as Mr. Modi wants to boost the country’s economy. It has moved forward on a deal to facilitate the movement of goods, vehicles and people across borders between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal.
On the issue of Chabahar project Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said: Chabahar and Gwadar will complement each other rather than compete. The two would be “sister ports.”
I am not sure if the real rulers of Pakistan, the men in uniform will go along with this thinking; and allow any civilian government to have friendly relations with India and Afghanistan.
The point I want to emphasis is that regional cooperation, trade and friendship is imperative if nations want to have peace, economic prosperity and welfare of the people in mind. The policy of confrontation, extremism, hatred and terrorism could only add to our problems; and could alienate us.
In conclusion, Mr Chairman,
I don’t have much time to explain the prevailing situation in Gilgit Baltistan. However, it will be pertinent to tell that no society can progress by keeping female population away from schools and colleges.
 
Diamer district of Gilgit Baltistan has population of over 100,000. A leading Pakistani English daily, Express Tribune reported that in the entire Diamer District only 4 girls go to middle school. 2
 

Daily Nation, a leading Pakistani English newspaper reported that dropout rate of female students in the Gilgit-Baltistan was 8%. The main reasons for this dropout was poverty, travel distance, mismanagement in schools, higher student teacher ratio, lack of security, and lack of basic facilities like toilets. 3

 

A recent educational report found that:

·         In Gilgit Baltistan, more than half of the children have no access to schools, and majority of them are girls.

·         Schools affected by the floods of 2010 and 2012 are still not repaired or reconstructed.

·         Furthermore, 70% of government schools are in a dangerous condition and lack basic facilities such as furniture, bathrooms, security walls, electricity or clean running water.
Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, Sun Weidong on Saturday said that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a mutually beneficial giant initiative for China and Pakistan, would immensely help latter to materialize its dream of becoming an ‘Asian Tiger’.
If Pakistan wants to become an ‘Asian Tiger’ that is for them to decide. However, I want Pakistan to become a democratic and a stable country which is at peace with itself and its neighbours. I want Pakistan to provide justice and equality to all citizens of Pakistan. I want Pakistan to provide fundamental human rights to all citizens of the former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir; and must not regard them as a conquered people.
I want to say that we want the development to take place, provided it does not:
1.    Change the nature of the Kashmir dispute;
2.    Affect the legal and constitutional status of Gilgit Baltistan;
3.    Legal status of State Subject Ordinance;
In addition to the above I want assurance that:
4.    The CPEC will empower the local people in Gilgit Baltistan?
5.    The local people will be part of decision making at some level?
6.    They will be consulted on advantages and disadvantages of this mega project?
7.    The CPEC will economically benefit the local people?
8.    The project will advance their educational, professional and technical skills?
9.    A link would be provided that regions of Baltistan and Azad Kashmir should also benefit from this mega project.
All the above demands are fundamental to human development and part of the United Nations Charter and various Agreements and Covenants on human rights. Pakistan as a country is a signatory to these Agreements; and if they provide us all the above they will be only fulfilling their obligations.

    Article 8 on Right to Development reads and I quote:
1.     States should undertake, at the national level, all necessary measures for the realization of the right to development and shall ensure, inter alia, equality of opportunity for all in their access to basic resources, education, health services, food, housing, employment and the fair distribution of income.  Effective measures should be undertaken to ensure that women have an active role in the development process.  Appropriate economic and social reforms should be carried out with a view to eradicating all social injustices. Unquote.

Mr Chairman, I hope common sense prevails and pro people and pro peace policies would be made which will strengthen peace and stability; and the ordinary people would also benefit from fruits of the CPEC. I would not like people of Gilgit Baltistan only selling eggs and fixing tyres of those who would travel from China to Gawadar.
References:
1.    India, Afghanistan and Iran sign deal for Transport Corridor, by NIHARIKA MANDHANA May 23, 2016, Wall Street Journal. http://www.wsj.com/articles/india-afghanistan-and-iran-sign-deal-for-transport-corridor-1464022867
2.    Express Tribune, 25 May 2015
3.    Education Department report of Gilgit Baltistan 2011


Thursday, 26 May 2016

Meet the Taliban’s New Mullah Same as the Taliban’s Old Mullah

BY DAN DE LUCE     MAY 25, 2016
The rise of Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada shows that the Taliban’s old guard is still holding the reins of power -- and deciding the future of the Afghan war.

The new head of the Taliban isn’t new to the Taliban. Instead of choosing among rivals from a younger generation of militants, the group has turned to a member of the old guard, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, to take the reins of the insurgency.

The militants moved quickly to elevate Akhundzada, who was given his new post just four days after their former chief, Mullah Akhtar ­Mohammad Mansour, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province.

Two members of the Taliban’s young guard were seen as potential replacements: Sirajuddin Haqqani, the hardline head of the insurgency’s military operations, and Mohammad Yaqob, the son of the group’s reclusive founder, Mullah Mohammed Omar. They were instead appointed as his deputies.

Naming either Haqqani or Yaqob as chief could have aggravated fissures in the group, which faced internal divisions in 2015 after the Taliban acknowledged that Mullah Omar, its longtime leader, had been dead for nearly two years.

Instead, the Taliban chose a relatively obscure veteran of the insurgency who has worked under senior leaders in the Taliban for more than two decades.

When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, Akhundzada helped mete out the group’s brutal idea of justice as a cleric and top-ranking judge. Under the Taliban’s longtime chief, Mullah Mohammad Omar, Akhundzada regularly issued fatwas justifying suicide bombings and other Taliban atrocities, and presided over shadow courts in areas under the insurgency’s sway.

Akhundzada represents a compromise choice for the Taliban. He enjoys widespread respect inside the group as a religious scholar but poses no clear threat to other powerful figures — he comes to the job without having commanded military operations or served in a leadership post, experts said.

“His selection makes sense from the perspective of the Taliban. His religious background would make him a top candidate to unify a very fragmented organization,” said Michael Kugelman, a senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center and Foreign Policy contributor.

Indeed, rather than a break with the past, Akhundzada’s selection signals continuity for the insurgency, which has seized upon the drawdown of U.S.-led forces to strike hard at the Afghan government over the past year, including a series of lethal bombings in the capital Kabul.

“Not much is going to change. I don’t imagine that this new leader will come marching into peace negotiations,” Kugelman said. “I see no reason why he would want to break with the policy of his former boss, which was to avoid talks like the plague.”

Omar’s successor, Mansour, was opposed in some quarters of the insurgency from the outset, partly because he had helped keep Omar’s death a secret.

Some Taliban members from the large Noorzai tribe in the Kandahar region harbored acute resentment of Mansour and rejected his authority. Akhundzada is himself a Noorzai, and his selection could be aimed in part at bringing militants from his tribe back into the fold, said Seth Jones, a former advisor to U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan.

His roots in the Pashtun heartland of the insurgency in Kandahar, and the political skills he has honed during his long tenure among senior ranks of the Taliban, could be crucial to his survival, Jones said.

“Any good insurgency is first a political organization that has a political vision, and the military arm is a tool to realize the political vision,” Jones said. “So it makes sense for the Taliban to choose a strong religious figure.”
Akhundzada will need all the political acumen he can muster to keep a lid on the divisions inside the insurgency, to counter the threat posed by former Taliban fighters who have pledged loyalty to the Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan and to manage relations with the group’s patrons in Pakistan, experts said.

But to assert his authority initially, the new chief will need to push for major assaults on the battlefield and more deadly terror attacks in Kabul to demonstrate the strength of the insurgency despite the loss of its leader in the American drone raid, experts said.

“The first thing he has to do is to avenge the death of Mansour,” said Barnett Rubin, a former senior U.S. diplomat with years of experience in Afghanistan. “He can’t even contemplate any peace talks until he has avenged Mansour’s death.”
Only hours after the Taliban announced its new leader on Wednesday, it claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed at least 10 people and wounded four Afghans, in an attack that targeted a bus carrying employees from a court west of Kabul.


Tuesday, 24 May 2016

A Tactical Shift in the Terror War, Abdul Salam Khan

The death of Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor  in a U.S. drone strike was, first and foremost, an impressive achievement not only not the part of the U.S. Special Operations Command and the U.S. intelligence community, but also on the part of President Obama, who gave his personal approval for the elimination of the top Taliban leader. But while welcome, the operation’s import remains uncertain, and all sorts of intriguing mysteries surround it.
Mansour was killed in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, making him the first Taliban leader killed in that region by U.S. forces. As Long War Journal noted, 390 of 391 previously reported U.S. drone strikes took place in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, with North Waziristan being the top center of U.S. drone operations. U.S. commanders have long agitated for permission to go after Taliban commanders who are affiliated with the Quetta Shura based in Baluchistan, but permission has never been forthcoming in the past because Washington did not want to alienate Islamabad. The Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency has a close relationship with the Taliban, and their leaders were previously seen to be out-of-bounds for U.S. attacks within Pakistan; the Pakistani government only allowed the U.S. to go after al-Qaeda leaders, Pakistani Taliban, and Haqqani Network leaders in the tribal areas.
A key question that remains to be answered is whether the operation against Mullah Mansour took place with or without Pakistani permission. If the Pakistanis did not sign off, it is a bit surprising that they are not loudly protesting an infringement of their sovereignty — and it is all the more to Obama’s credit that he risked a strike that would be sure to alienate our “allies” in Pakistan. If on the other hand, the Pakistanis were aware of this operation and approved it, that raises the intriguing question of why?
There are reports that Mullah Mansour was averse to peace talks with Afghanistan, and that in resisting talks he incurred Pakistani ire. It’s possible that the Pakistanis felt he was being too independent, and OK’d his elimination for that reason.
But there is no reason to think that with Mullah Mansour gone, the Taliban will suddenly renounce their armed struggle, which has been making so much headway recently, particularly in southern Afghanistan. Indeed, Mansour’s death could easily lead toe the ascension of his No. 2, Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is already the Taliban’s top military commander.
The son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, an extremist warlord who has been fighting nonstop against one government after another in Kabul since the 1980s, Sirajuddin is not exactly known as a moderate. Indeed, the Haqqanis have developed a reputation as the most skilled and depraved terrorists in the entire Taliban — and that is saying something. The Haqqanis are said to be responsible for most of the high-profile atrocities carried out in Kabul. They also are said to have close links to the ISI, which raises the intriguing possibility that the ISI helped to eliminate Mansour so as to make way for their fair-headed boy, in much the same way that mafia dons will finger rivals to the authorities so as to take over their turf.
Whether Sirajuddin Haqqani or someone else inherits Mullah Mansour’s post — and other rivals include Mullah Omar’s oldest son — the probability is that the new leader of the Taliban will need to show success on the battlefield in order to consolidate the various factions of the Taliban behind his leadership. That, certainly, is the strategy that Mansour followed after taking over for Mullah Omar, and it suggests that there will be no respite anytime soon from the Taliban offensive.
The irony of this situation is that, while the top Taliban leader has been killed in Pakistan, his brethren enjoy virtual immunity from American air strikes inside Afghanistan itself, where in theory the U.S. should be much freer to take action with the approval of the government in Kabul. Yet that’s not the case. As General David Petraeus and Michael O’Hanlon noted in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday, the U.S. retains considerable air power in Afghanistan but “existing U.S. and NATO policy generally allows them to strike targets on the ground only when hostile forces can be identified as al Qaeda or ISIS loyalists, when they pose an imminent threat to NATO personnel, or, reportedly, when a strategic collapse is imminent. The rules of engagement mean that the indigenous Afghan and Pakistani Taliban generally get a pass.”
That’s right: The U.S can attack a Taliban leader in Pakistan but not in Afghanistan under most circumstances. That’s a crazy situation which is entirely the result of the illogical rules promulgated by the Obama White House. If Obama is serious about beating back the Taliban offensive that has gathered momentum since his ill-advised troop drawdown, he will need to relax the rules on targeting Taliban forces wherever they may be found. That means not only in Baluchistan but also, critically, in Afghanistan itself.
If the Mullah Mansour is not a one-off operation, and if Obama approves a wider air campaign, Afghan forces, with U.S. help, can take advantage of a period of disorientation and confusion in the Taliban ranks to make real gains against the group. If Obama maintains the current, restrictive rules of engagement, then this will be a wasted opportunity and the Taliban will be back to business as usual as soon as a successor to Mansour is appointed.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Shias have overtaken Christians and Hindus as targets, Fatima Bhutto (it means Jihad against Minorities will continue in Pakistan)

Shias have overtaken Christians and Hindus as targets, Fatima Bhutto (it means Jihad against Minorities will continue in Pakistan)
NEW DELHI: Saying Shias have overtaken Hindus and Christians as targets of sectarian killings, Fatima Bhutto has said that Pakistan has become a country of ghosts.

“They are everywhere, the victims and the perpetrators both,” she wrote in The Hindu on Friday.
Ismailis, she said, were a peaceful community of Muslims who shared a closeness with the country’s Shia minority and are thus victimised. “Seventy per cent of Pakistan’s Muslims are Sunni. And in this predominantly Muslim country, it is no longer Hindus or Christians who face the largest threat of violence from orthodox and radicalised groups but Shias,” Ms Bhutto said.

Also read: 'Goodbye, my son!' — After spate of attacks, Shias flee Pakistan
“We cannot look at the dead too long — only long enough to check that what ended their lives will not end our own. Fatal lists swing wildly from the specific to general. Are you Hazara? Are you Shia? Are you an Ahmadi? Any of the above will get you killed.”

Implicitly slamming the murder of bloggers in Bangladesh, she said: “Soon, are you a liberal? Supporters of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf party, young Pakistanis living inside and outside the country, already troll the Internet attacking anyone vaguely critical of their values... Every journalist that criticises their party is a ‘lifafa journo’, implying the only reason to raise a bad word against them would be money, rather than common sense.

“Soon, like in Bangladesh, you will be asked: Are you a writer?
“There is violence everywhere here — in threats and in action. Everywhere.”

Every province that suffers the horrendous attacks suffers amnesia too. “Sindh’s phenomenally corrupt government mounted a defence against its sin of not protecting the 43 dead — terror happens all over the country, the chief minister said, it happens in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab too.”
Ms Bhutto noted that Pakistan had ended its moratorium on the death penalty in December. In the last six months, it has hanged over 100 people on death row. Of the 8,000 prisoners on death row in Pakistan, more than 1,000 have exhausted all their appeals.

“This was the response after the brutal Peshawar school attack: kill death row convicts and we will be safer. But since then, we have only had more blood.”
Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2015
http://www.dawn.com/news/1182276



Monday, 16 May 2016

Multi Party Conference urges to make amendments in AJK Interim Act 1974 for independent, fair & transparent elections

Multi Party Conference urges to make amendments in AJK Interim Act 1974 for independent, fair & transparent elections
Posted By: Sabah Newson: May 15, 2016In: Kashmir
ISLAMABAD, May 15 (SABAH): Multi-Party Conference organized by United Kashmir Peoples National Party and Awami Workers party urged to make amendments in AJK Interim Act 1974 for independent, fair and transparent elections
The present AJK Interim Constitution Act 1974 is unjust law which is giving all authorities to the Kashmir Affairs Ministry, Kashmir Council and to the direct appointed lent officers from Pakistan instead to appoint from AJK Government. However the fact is that this Interim Act was imposed by the government of Pakistan without AJK people consent. AJK is governed through the Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Kashmir Council headed by Prime Minister of Pakistan. Pakistan officials dominate the Kashmir Council and that the Chief Secretary, the Inspector-General of Police, the Accountant-General and the Finance Secretary are all from Pakistan. 1974 Interim Constitutional act forbids any political activity that is not in accordance with the doctrine of Jammu and Kashmir accession with Pakistan.
However the People of Kashmir have right to elect their representatives democratically but theses representatives cannot exercise the powers getting from masses. All powers are consolidated with Kashmir Council which is governed from Pakistan. Even the united nations have declared the Kashmir as a disputed territory between India and Pakistan. According to the UN resolution, the people of Kashmir have special status. Pakistan is also openly supporting their right of self determination which is unlimited right to express freely.
The situation is very much contradictory with all pledges, commitments made by the Pakistan on different international forums.
The Nationalists political parties and progressive individuals, who believe the restoration of complete independent state of Jammu and Kashmir, are not allowed to take part in election process under this Act. The section 4(7-(2)) of this Intrim Act is restricting any person to participate in political activity who does not believe accession with Pakistan. This section is completely violates the right of self determination and fundamental human rights of AJK people. Without getting changes in this Act, people of Kashmir cannot get their political, social and economical rights.
On the topic “The Incoming Election of AJK Assembly Under Act 1974 And The Rights of Peoples of Azad Jammu Kashmir” United Kashmir Peoples National Party and Awami Worker Party by organizing jointly a Multiparty Conference on 15 May 2016 , urged to amendments in Interim Constitution Act 1974. Leading prominent lawyer and President AWP Abid Hassan Minto said that present laws implemented in AJK and Gilgit Baltistan, are not representing the right of people of Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. The people of both regions are still facing colonial system and are not entertaining their democratic rights, he added.
Central spokesperson of AWP and organizer of the Conference, Nisar Shah Advocate said that present Act 1974 covers only AJK while there is need to restore the historical unification of both territories of AJK and Gilgit Baltistan by forming new constitutional assembly along with democratic constitution which represent and guarantee the basic rights of the people of Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan in real sense. By presiding the conference Vice chairperson of UKPNP Naila Khanin said that government of Pakistan should fulfill its commitments towards the issue of AJK and restore the rights of the people of AJK and Gilgit Baltistan.
Justice Abdul Majeed Malik, Sardar Khalid Ibrahim, Professor MRK Khaliq, Professor Saeed Asad, Sabir Kashmiri, Tahir Shah, Yaseen Anjum, Abdul Majeed Kanjoo, Dr. Yahya Ahmed spoke at the occasion. JK Liberation League, JK National AWami Party, JK Liberation Front, JK National Party, Blawaristan National Front, Gilgit Baltistan Action Committee, JK Peoples Party, PPP Jammu Kashmir, All Parties National Allience Blawaristan National Movement and other human rights organizations represented in the conference.
At the end all participants unanimously passed a resolution:
* Immediately Eliminate section 4(7(2)) of Interim Act 1974 to allow all nationalist political parties and individuals to contest incoming elections,
* By removing Kashmir Affairs ministry and Kshmir Council, call back all appointed officers from Pakistan,
* Establish market on local level for trading between Indian and Pakistani Kashmir and trade must be through local traders,
* Consider reservations and get representation of people of Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan on Pak-China CPEC before its implementation.
* Free AWP leader Baba Jaan, Iftikhar Hussain alog with other political leaders and end all false cases on them.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

The Charlatan saviour, by Gul Bukhari

The Charlatan saviour, by Gul Bukhari
What a sorry tale the Panama Leaks make: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government and party tries to land the Supreme Court with an impossibly open ended mandate to investigate cases of corruption that may include thousands of people; the opposition parties want to make the investigations Sharif specific. The clear picture emerging is that everyone denies corruption, alleges it on everyone else, wants everyone else to be investigated, but not themselves. Clearly, it appears too many people have too many things to hide.
The Prime Minister has so far been unwilling or unable to answer some of the simplest questions arising from the Panama Leaks fiasco, and he and his family, party and cabinet have remained busy in pointing at others’ offshore companies and/ or bank loan defaults and/or other instances of shady financial dealings, insisting that all others also be investigated by any commission that is formed. The attempt to form a commission with an unbelievably wide mandate, under a law that renders such commissions as toothless, is not currying any favours with PMLN voters.
Conversely, businessmen, opposition leaders from the PPP, PTI, judges and generals have not escaped Panama, but none is giving transparent answers or explanations of their own dealings that they expect of the Prime Minister – taking refuge in the fact that they are not in as high a public office as their target. This too is disingenuous at best.
What has become clear, however, is that very few stakeholders are untainted, and therefore it is very unlikely that anything positive or constructive, like the beginning of honest accountability, will emerge anytime soon from this scandal.
Having said the above, there is one player who needs special focus at this time: Mr. Imran Khan. His, once again, was the loudest and holiest than thou voice, that led the current charge against the ruling family in an attempt to de-seat the government. This is not the first time Mr. Khan has attempted taking the moral high ground and establishing himself as the only ‘honest’ politician on the face of Pakistan. It must be mentioned here, by the way, that the gent has never spoken of the instances of massive corruption within the armed forces. For twenty years he has focused on establishing himself as the anti-Christ to the ‘politicians’ of Pakistan. And his credulous supporters have largely bought his narrative, and accepted the idea of his being the alternative to all other politicians and political parties, because of the moral, financial and intellectual probity Mr. Khan has convinced them he is the sole paragon of.
Unfortunately, however, yet again Mr. Khan has been discovered to be no different to those he paints as evil, corrupt, thieves, morally and intellectually bankrupt. The instances substantiating this are far too many – but I shall attempt to outline a few: I remember in the 1990s Mr. Khan began his political career with his slogan against ‘VIP culture’. The Aitchison and Oxford educated resident of a palatial Zaman Park property was railing against politicians of being guilty of living in luxury, indulging in VIP culture and being too distant from the masses – from the VIP lounge of Lahore airport. When a journalist reminded him of where he was conducting his presser from, Mr. Khan became speechless for what seemed an interminable time, before sheepishly uttering, ‘aainda nahi karoon ga’ (I will not do this again). This, from the wannabe leader who reviled elitism, but was too elitist to be even registered as a voter when he contested elections for the very first time, and had to face the embarrassment of not even being able to vote for himself. The desire to project himself as very different from who he really is was manifest from his first ever book, in which he declared he would marry a good, Pakistani, Muslim Pathan woman of his mother’s choosing, and then went on to wed Jemima Goldsmith.
Mr. Khan has recently made the laughable claim in one of his innumerable jalsa’s that he was the only politician jailed by former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf, taking the falsifying of recent history to previously unconquered heights. The gentleman remained a sitting member of Pervez Musharraf’s ‘democratic regime’ till the two fell out over the number of seats Musharraf was willing to allow him (according to the general) – nor was Imran Khan ever jailed by the dictator. But he is wont to portray himself as the true and only champion of truth and democracy – no matter how many little porkies he needs to tell to do so.
The one man no one can dispute as being controversial or untruthful, the iconic social worker Mr. Abul Sattar Edhi, is on record as having disclosed to DAWN newsgroup, ‘Once, I was approached by General Hamid Gul, Imran Khan and few intelligence officials, who were conspiring to overthrow Benazir Bhutto’s second government and wanted me to get involved….. eventually, I was made to feel threatened enough to temporarily leave the country.’’ His interviews to different news groups also have him on record as having been threatened with kidnapping by this same group of people. But Mr. Khan continues to projected himself as the true democrat, after having been a part of the deep state’s plot to overthrow Bhutto’s democratically elected government.
Very recently, in the Islamabad jalsa on the 24th of April, Mr. Khan remained at pains to establish to his audience as to why he had entered politics despite having been given more than enough by Allah – and spent the better part of an hour establishing his ‘eeman’ (faith & piety), his accountability to God, and his mission to do good for poor Pakistanis being plundered and looted by ‘crocodiles’ (read: the likes of ex-President Zardari and PM Nawaz Sharif whose families had been found to have offshore companies, whom he has alleged to be corrupt and tax thieves for years).Like a preacher, he exhorted his audience to answerability to God – he was yet again claiming loftiness and nobility of purpose as reasons for entering politics, the dirtiest game in town, without so much as a nod to the actual origins of his entry into politics: General Hamid Gul and the intelligence agencies’ plan to overthrow Benazir Bhutto. He went on to allude to different prophets who battled ‘zulm’ (terror/cruelty/subjugation), in order to paint himself and his followers as those who are following in the path of the prophets fighting against the injustices and subjugation of Kafirs, Romans and Jews (present day Zardaris and Sharifs).Unfortunately, within two weeks of said jalsa broke the story of Mr. Khan’s own offshore company in which he had held his London property (and possibly other incomes and assets) up to the point of sale in 2003 to evade taxes. Unfortunate too, was his less than a month old commandment: ‘Only reason ppl open offshore accts through Panama is to either hide wealth, esp ill-gotten wealth, or to evade tax or both.
’The gent landed in London only the day before yesterday and had to face the press. And his ‘explanation’ was that it was his ‘right’ (haq) to evade British taxes, not being a British citizen – not withstanding the fact that his income was of British origin as was his property located in the same country. But being a non citizen of a country of which he enjoyed all facilities paid for by other peoples’ taxes, he felt quite justified in not paying his own fair share. Similar is the story of his Banigala property on the outskirsts of Islamabad, which was transferred to him from a ‘benami’ account, once again a tax evasion and hidden wealth indicator. Hilariously, Mr. Khan did not even disclose his offshore company in his filing to the ECP in 2002, before selling off the assets contained within it.
The only conclusion that can be drawn is that by comparison, Mr. Khan defrauded public ex-chequers (of at least two different countries) to the extent his own circumstances and reach allowed. Others may have done so to the tune of millions or billions. But the difference in scale and his lack of opportunities does not make him more moral, ethical or upright of character than those he accuses. The others may have committed corruption on a grand scale, but poor Mr. Khan has had to be content with doing singers and tent providers out of their due; whilst others travel in their own planes and helicopters, Mr. Khan has had to make do with travelling in planes and helicopters of those accused of defaulting on loans and massive land grabbing – the very same type of tainted characters he once swore never to allow in his party.
Of courage and intellectual honesty, would it be suffice to mention that Mr. Khan is on record as having stated in an interview in India that he cannot name the Taliban as perpetrators of senseless violence in Pakistan, for that would imperil his physical existence in Pakistan? The self evident leadership, vision and courage laid bare by this statement beg the question as to how he claims superiority of conviction, honesty and messianic zeal over his adversaries.
His claims of fraudulent elections and stolen mandate of 2013 and 2014 also lie in tatters, exposed not only by various election tribunals, the Election Commission of Pakistan, and Supreme Court judges, but also by results of repeated by-elections across the length and breadth of Pakistan (under His Umpire’s supervision). Mr. Khan’s dishonest allegations of rigging by opponents lay exposed with the center stage unfolding, in slow motion, of his conspiracy to find a short-cut to become Prime Minister, by hook or by crook, with the aid of a certain Pasha and his cohort of four generals. Here lay exposed once again, Mr. Khan’s claims to moral, ethical and democratic superiority; here lay the tatters of his ‘Islamic’ credentials: of not lying, cheating, or catching the nearest way; of earning one’s due with hard work.
In short, this is no apology for the PML-N or any other political party, or character; this is simply an illustrated assertion of why Mr. Khan is not who he claims to be; of why he is no reasonable alternative to the status quo; of why he is perhaps the worst alternative the people could choose (or have chosen for them). Alters and pedestals he has chosen to place himself on are mere straws that cannot even stand up to scrutiny, leave aside serious blows. Mr. Khan is the least qualified to propose himself as the saviour he purports to be.