Archive | May, 2013

TTP’s lucrative Karachi enterprise may shut down after death of Wali-ur-Rehman Mehsud

30 May

MehsudPakistani Taliban’s lucrative enterprise in Karachi will nearly vanish in the days to come after the death of its CFO, Wali-ur-Rehman Mehsud. Mehsud was killed in drone strike Wednesday in the village of Chashmapul, North Waziristan and buried the same evening. He was the man behind growing incidents of bank robberies in Karachi to provide funds for anti-Pakistan terrorist activities and fuel terrorist economy. The death of this Taliban commander would be a major blow to the extremist movement’s operations. He is also believed to be the mastermind of the September 2008 attack on the Marriott Hotel in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, in which more than 50 people were killed. He was also linked to the December 2009 attack on a CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan in which seven CIA employees were killed. He was so important for the Americans that they offered rewards of up to $5 million for information identifying his location.

Wali-ur-Rehman Mehsud raised finances for the TTP through a large and influential gang in the southern Pakistani seaport city of Karachi. The group specialized in carrying out bank robberies and kidnappings for ransom, and the money gained from those activities were used to fund TTP attacks. He was a mature strategist for TTP and was considered to be a skilled negotiator. In the event of negotiations with Pakistani state after the olive branch extended by political leadership thrown up in Pakistan’s recent elections, he was considered to be the chief negotiator. He was a former member of Fazal-ur-Rehman’s party, JUI (F) believed to be mother all militants and could become a bridge between the terrorists and the politicos. The initiation of dialogue has hit snags due to his death. It is generally believed that Americans have killed him to sabotage the intended talks.

There are others who believe that in the event of death of a strategist like Mehsud, the Taliban would be handicapped in continuing the fight and would feel compelled to go for negotiations. His death has really weakened the terrorists due to a potential squeeze on supply of cash if not in their fighting capability.

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MQM and the Makers of Pakistan; myth and reality

18 May

Iqbal-Jinnah

Hussain Saqib

MQM, a political party of Pakistan founded on ethnic lines and known for violence and hate-mongering, is now claiming to be the representative of Urdu speaking migrants from undivided India and that its members are superior humans being children of “the makers of Pakistan”. In an effort to claim political mileage, it is driving further wedge between various ethnic groups living in the country. A similar claim led to break-up of Pakistan in 1971 when the Urdu-speaking migrants to East Pakistan tried to divide the society on the basis of ethnicity and the so-called superiority of their culture and language. This is being tried in Pakistan of today by an ethnic party who claim special treatment because their ancestors made Pakistan. This is being done out of sheer desperation because a new party, PTI, has emerged to challenge the grip of hate-mongers in the port city of Karachi.

This claim has brought the debate about creation of Pakistan into a sharp focus again with some critical questions; who made Pakistan and who gave sacrifices for its establishment?

It will be in order to bring some historical facts to attention of the readers of this page.

Pakistan came into being on August 15, 1947 to become homeland to millions of Muslims living in various parts of undivided India. Geographically, it comprised of the areas home to Muslims in majority. Its separation from the Hindu majority was aimed at sparing the Muslims from hegemonic atrocities and exploitation of Muslims at the hands of extremists Hindus in majority. The vision for Pakistan was presented by poet-philosopher, Iqbal from Sialkot in Punjab. He pursued for realize his dream of a separate homeland for Muslims in the Muslim-majority areas. The political party of Muslims deliberated on it and finally adopted Pakistan Resolution in 1940 in Lahore, the cultural capital of Punjab. The resolution was tabled by Lion of Bengal, Maulvi Fazle-Haq.

The elections of 1946 were a turning point for creation of Pakistan. The Sindh Assembly adopted a resolution to become a part of Pakistan and there was referendum in NWFP (KPK of today) and Balochistan which overwhelmingly supported Pakistan. Punjab and East Bengal had already voted in support of Pakistan. All India Muslim League, the political party which fought the battle to make Pakistan was founded in 1906 in Dhakka and its first president was Nawab Salimullah. Jinnah, the Father of the Nation who actually founded Pakistan was a Gujarati whose father had settled in Karachi. Pakistan’s first prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan was born in Karnal (now in Haryana).

The community which bore the brunt of creation of Pakistan was Punjabi Muslims who were killed in hundreds of thousands while they were on their way to their new homeland. The Sikh violence was unleashed mostly in Punjab targeting Punjabi Muslims. According to historical data, a huge population exchange occurred between the two newly formed states in the aftermath of partition. About 14.5 million people crossed the borders, including 8,226,000 Muslims who came to Pakistan from India. About 5.5 million settled in Punjab and around 1.5 million settled in Sindh. Most of those migrants who settled in Punjab, Pakistan came from the neighboring Indian regions of PunjabHaryana and Himachal Pradesh while others were from Jammu and Kashmir and Rajasthan. On the other hand, most of those migrants who arrived in Sindh were primarily of Urdu-speaking background (termed the Muhajir people) and came from the northern and central urban centers of India, such as Uttar PradeshBihar,  and Madhya Pradesh. However a limited number of Muhajirs also arrived by air and on ships. Later in 1950s, the majority of Urdu speaking refugees who migrated after the independence were settled in the port city of Karachi in southern Sindh and in the metropolitan cities of Hyderabad, Sukkur, Nawabshah and Mirpurkhas. In addition, some Urdu-speakers settled in the cities of Punjab, mainly in Lahore, Multan, Bahawalpur and Rawalpindi. The number of migrants in Sindh was placed at over 540,000 of whom two-third were urban.

The Urdu-speaking minority which had the advantage of being better educated entrenched themselves in civil services and media. They worked hard to strengthen the perception that they alone were makers of Pakistan insulting the collective mandate of Punjab, East Bengal, Sindh, NWFP and Balochistan and the sacrifices of millions who lost their lives and belongings in Punjab. Their claim that they are descendants of the makers of Pakistan is only laughable in the face of historical facts.

In late 70s, Pakistan Television, the only channel of those days, serialized a drama Manzil, based on a novel Tahira written by Inyatullah. The story of the novel revolved around Punjabi families who struggled for creation of Pakistan and suffered hugely. Munno Bhai, who wrote the script disassociated himself from the production because he was under pressure not to highlight the sacrifices of Punjabis. The story was distorted by the newly hired writer. So much was the influence of Urdu-speaking media people.

While Urdu-speaking Muslims did play their role and offered supreme sacrifices, it would be a travesty of history to claim immunity from law on hate mongering and terrorism in the name of noble and great Urdu-speaking leaders of Pakistan Movement. It is an insult to their greatness.

Mr Sharif is between a rock and a hard place

14 May

NSPakistan is going to have a new government in Islamabad and a third-term prime minister installed in less than two weeks. It is almost the same time that the new Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang will visit Pakistan on May 22 and 23, 2013 as a part of efforts to further strengthen bilateral ties between the two nations. Li Keqiang, who became prime minister in March, will be visiting Islamabad on his first foreign trip since assuming office. The Chinese premier is expected to meet the incoming Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, as well as President Zardari during his trip.

China and Pakistan call each other ‘all-weather friends’ and their close ties have for decades been underpinned by a desire to hedge against US influence across the region.

The incoming prime minister will face the challenging task of balancing his government’s relationship with China viz-a-viz the United States of America. He has already assured the Americans that he would work with them to rid the region of the menace of terrorism. In order to please the Americans, he has already criticized two decisions of the outgoing Zardari government; handing over management of Gwadar Deep Sea Port to China and Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline. While China may be the direct beneficiary of managing Gwadar Port to strengthen its String of Pearls strategy, it is also a potential beneficiary of the pipeline crossing Pakistani territory. It may be difficult for the new leadership to explain to its visiting friend as to how the bilateral relations would be strengthened if these two decisions were reversed.

Mr Sharif has openly criticized Pakistan Army’s Kargil adventure and promised to constitute an Inquiry Commission. He has also promised to share the findings of this Commission with India, a potential move which has already been severely criticized. People believe that Mr Sharif has gone “too far” to appease Indians, perceived in Pakistan as enemy number one. It would be difficult for the PM to face his Chinese counterpart and support a similar recent adventure of PLA in Ladakh. Chinese forces have not only encamped inside the LAC in Indian territory (read: occupied Indian territory), it has no plans to withdraw from this location. The Kargil was almost similar to Ladakh and if Mr Sharif does not approve of Kargil, he should also condemn or at least disapprove of Chinese adventure.

There are going to be interesting developments. It would not be possible to appease Americans and Indians and simultaneously strengthen Sino-Pak relationship.

Courtesy: ALLVOICES 

 

Elections-2013; don’t shrug off rigging allegations

13 May

rigPakistan’s Elections 2013 were unique in all respects; the youth was enthusiastic to the scale not seen heretofore, voters were very much committed to cast their votes without contestants’ logistical support and there was a festive mood all around. The polls were fun with families very much a part of the festivities. The spirit of changing the fate through ballot was no doubt infused by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. A new political culture has taken over where rallies were held and votes cast in relative peace and calm. Everyone was politically motivated to use his force of ballot to make a new Pakistan.

Pakistan’s history is replete with ugly incidents of violence by the goons of political parties in rallies and at polling stations. This did not happen exactly like the past for the violence was perpetrated by the terrorists opposed to democracy and not the parties. There was no wide-spread rigging like the one witnessed in 1977 and afterwards. The Election Commission (ECP) had made fool-proof arrangements for the voters to locate their polling stations without much hassle, via mobile text service. There was a Code of Conduct and the watchful media.

The elections have thrown up a mandate of sorts; PML (N) in Center and Punjab, PTI in violence-ridden KPK, PPPP in Sindh and a hotchpotch of various parties in Balochistan. All the parties in power till March 2013 were routed. The voters spoke loudly.

However, the party holding power in Karachi consider responsible for all the violence in that city has continued to hold its grip on the city. And this has happened through the power of muscles and not the ballot as it is generally perceived by a cross-section of voters. There are complaints of wide rigging in order to keep the city under the thumb of one party.

The allegations may or may not be correct but there are some interesting incidents; the polling at nearly all constituencies could not start before noon, one candidate a convert from PPPP to MQM got record 170,000 votes in a period of three hours’ polling and the when the affected parties staged a protest rally next day, the chief of MQM threated violence and secessions if his party’s “mandate” was challenged. These very facts alone make the integrity of the entire polling exercise in Karachi very questionable. The MQM chief’s reaction shows that everything was not normal; there was some game being played somewhere. The protest rally against MQM electoral victory is significant in the sense that no party in Karachi had the courage to challenge the party in the past, and if this was being done now, it was the real change.

Anything said about the city of Karachi would never sound exaggeration to those who have been living under fear in that city. The TV footages only substantiate what people think of who is the boss in that city.

The complaints of rigging in Lahore also should be taken seriously if the transparency of electoral exercise is to be ensured. The complaints are generally about a constituency where one of the stalwarts of the winning party has won the election. There will be no harm to investigate.

Remember, PTI has emerged as a force to reckon with, it is a breath of fresh air in the stinking air of Pakistani politics. This is the party which has given hope to millions. It has mobilized voters to exercise their right. If the truth is not brought out and those millions disappointed, it will cost the system very dearly.

Sarabjit Singh exposed the ugly face of Indian establishment

7 May

Kali_mata_by_eniqma2000 (1)Attack on Sarabjit Singh by fellow inmates inside Pakistani prison was the most condemnable act. He was a prisoner execution on established charges of terrorism and espionage. He was responsible for killing 14 innocent Pakistanis in bomb blasts in 1990. Pakistani government was in no mood to execute him but could not be pardoned either because the law does not allow pardoning of such terrorists. But he was entitled to security within jail premises which the authorities failed to provide. Other hardened criminals attacked him, injured him and he could not survive because of the nature of his injuries. His death disturbed many in India, for obvious reasons and in Pakistan.

The treatment given him on his cremation was envy of many; his corpse was given hero’s welcome with state funeral and official mourning. This clearly indicated that his mission to Pakistan was very valuable to the government of India and also the Indian establishment.

It has now been revealed by Indian media that Sarabjit Singh had come to Pakistan for an operation managed by a senior Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) official, who later became the external intelligence agency’s chief as well. Quoting intelligence sources, it was reported that Sarabjit was an Indian spy in Pakistan. He managed to accomplish the task given to him but was caught while trying to flee. A former intelligence official, who dealt with Sarabjit’s case, said the operation executed by Sarabjit didn’t serve any tactical purpose but still the agency had executed many such missions in Pakistan in the early and mid-90s.

The intelligence sources admitted that some of the operations executed by the RAW during the period were totally mindless. Spies like Sarabjit and their family have paid huge cost for it. Sometimes, the agency officials executed operations out of personal bravado that they can get ‘something’ done in Pakistan. Sources also point out that the agency is yet to evolve a policy for paying spies like Sarabjit or their families when they caught in the enemy land. However, Sarabjit’s politically shrewd sister ensured that he was properly compensated.

Pakistani government had earlier released two RAW operatives, Kashmir Singh and Surjeet Singh under the pressure from pro-India lobby comprising a segment of media and civil society. They had entered Pakistan for espionage and enlistment of local agents for RAW. Those released admitted that Sarabjit’s case was different as he was involved in terrorist activities.

The case of Sarabjit has made one thing very clear; Indian government and RAW are state-sponsors of terrorism inside Pakistan for the last many decades. The current spate of terrorism in Pakistan is also sponsored by RAW through Afghan intelligence agency. The Baloch terrorists receive money directly from RAW whereas the TTP receives Indian assistance through Afghanistan.

 

 

Supreme Court; Pakistan’s emerging power center

5 May

SCPakistan’s balance of political power is shifting; the armed forces which once reigned with the aid and assistance of the establishment are on the retreat. The politicians due to their sheer incompetence, greed, lack of scruples and hereditary succession have never been able to deliver. The vacuum of leadership is naturally filled by Pakistan’s apex judiciary with the help of media and the legal fraternity. These are the two institutions to which the present judiciary owes its restoration and its power.

Technically speaking, the Supreme Court of Pakistan is the highest court of the country having appellate, declaratory and advisory jurisdiction. It is one of the three pillars of the State others being Legislature, the law-making institution and the Executive, the institution responsible for delivering services to the people. With the passage of time, the roles of the three institutions have been so corrupted that the concept of separation of powers given in the Constitution has become irrelevant and the lines drawn between the roles and functions of the three institutions has blurred.

The members of legislature are no more enthusiastic about making laws to improve the lot of common man. They are more interested in their share of development funds in hundreds of millions. Pakistan is probably the only country where the entire outlay on development is distributed amongst the legislators. They use their share for “development” and “uplift” of their respective constituencies. Another role they perform is sitting on the standing committees, technically for legislative oversight of government departments. The only oversight they pursue vigorously, of course through blackmailing the senior bureaucracy, is recruitment of their constituents by the ministries under their oversight in violation of all rules of merit. The first source of corrupt practices, thus, is the legislative bodies.

The Executive branch is no better than the Legislature.  It is the placement bureau for providing cushy jobs to cronies in government corporations and deciding on major contracts. This branch is headed by the prime minister and an army of cabinet minister, both senior and junior, and a bunch of parliamentary secretaries. Under the political dispensation, it has always failed in management of economy. The burden of debt that each successive government leaves behind is phenomenal. It utterly fails in delivering services, providing security and managing the foreign relations. Major reason behind the failure of political government is that there is no criterion for selecting the ministers. No minister has adequate knowledge of the affairs of a ministry he is supposed to guide and lead.

Historically, the corrective action was always taken by the establishment comprising armed forces, intelligence agencies, bureaucracy and the judiciary. With the advent of the era of terrorism, the armed forces are busy fighting the terrorists and fighting for their own image. The terrorists have somehow successfully divided the nation into pro and anti-terrorism factions depriving the country of any opportunity to form a consensus to fight the menace of terrorism.

This leaves the field open to some other institution to fill in the leadership vacuum. Pakistan’s apex judiciary has assumed the role of savior of the last resort without much difficulty. The judiciary which had always provided constitutional justifications for military takeover have finally decided to take over the reign of civilian power themselves.

The judiciary, particularly the subordinate judiciary is known for massive corruption. To correct the image, the apex judiciary picks up high-profile cases and rules the roost with the help of the media which now claims to be the fourth pillar of the state. Its image is built by a section of media and its writ is established through hooliganism of lawyers.  Lawyers gang up on almost everything and turned into gangsters every time their interests, genuine or otherwise come under threat. An eye-opening report of the Washington Post clearly shows how these self-proclaimed custodians of rule of law take law into their own hands. Their hooliganism conveniently escapes the notice of the activist apex court that tends to take notice of almost everything happening under the sky.

The courts and particularly a large section of legal fraternity, have pronounced sympathies for the insurgents and terrorists. This is where the differences between the court and the government of Musharraf started to grow. Every terrorist invariably gets released by the courts, even those in the custody of intelligence agencies for interrogation. The court’s insistence to follow the due process of law for separatists and terrorists has given it a commanding position over the establishment. The assassin who killed Punjab Governor Taseer was garlanded by the legal fraternity including some of the senior pro-Taliban lawyers who were subsequently elevated to judicial offices.

The real issue is that while every institution of the State is subject to some sort of accountability, the apex courts have no effective mechanism in place to keep an eye on the judges. The accountability institution of superior judiciary is the Supreme Judicial Council as given in the Constitution. Even this body was made irrelevant by the apex court itself when its chief judge was to appear before the Council in 2007. It was then made as a power tussle between the Executive and the Judiciary and the top judges ruled the Council to stop its proceedings.

The power tussle started when the court tried to establish its supremacy through judicial activism in cases like missing persons and privatization of Steel Mills in 2007. According to Black’s Law Dictionary  judicial activism is a “philosophy of judicial decision-making whereby judges allow their personal views about public policy, among other factors, to guide their decisions.” Political science professor Bradley Canon has posited six dimensions along which judges may be perceived as activist:  majoritarianism, interpretive stability, interpretive fidelity, substance/democratic process, specificity of policy, and availability of an alternate policymaker. David Strauss has argued that judicial activism can be narrowly defined as one or more of three possible actions: overturning laws as unconstitutional, overturning judicial precedent, and ruling against a preferred interpretation of the constitution.

This was something which the governments were not used to. Governments normally view that  judicial activism usurps the power of the elected branches of government or appointed agencies, damaging the rule of law and democracy. Defenders of judicial activism say that in many cases it is a legitimate form of judicial review, and that the interpretation of the law must change with changing times.

In order to assert its authority, the court started taking suo moto notices and in some cases gave land mark decisions which strengthened the confidence of citizens in the court. Suo moto, according to legal dictionary, generally refers to a situation wherein a judge acts without request by either party to the action before the court. Under normal proceedings before a court, a judge’s role is to direct the proceedings and act on motions filed. When a party to a court case wants the judge to rule on an issue or make a decision regarding something pertinent to the case, he files a motion with the court. The opposing party then has an opportunity to respond to the motion before the judge rules on it. In some cases, a judge acts suo moto, meaning without one of the parties’ asking her to do so. One common example of when a judge may act in this way is when she decides that she does not have personal or subject matter jurisdiction over the case before him or her. In other words, the judge decides that she does not have the legal authority to preside over the case. In that case, the judge may make a motion, without either party asking him or her to do so, moving the case to another jurisdiction or dismissing the case for lack of jurisdiction.

The court has virtually taken over the business of governance itself due to incompetent and greedy public representatives. It has undoubtedly provided relief to countless and has challenged the hegemony of power centers. In the process, it is becoming a power center itself. But without a defined scope of activism and a proper mechanism of accountability, the court is headed on a dangerous trajectory. The lack of notice of lawyers’ hooliganism and conclusion of the case of Arsalan Iftikhar in a non-transparent manner suggest that the court needs to tread very carefully.

Related stories:

Judges in their own cause?

CJ’s foot soldiers draw battle lines against Pakistan Army

Death of a terrorist in jail brawl and unwarranted over-reaction of media

2 May

Sarabjit_bnew1_02052013

Sarabjit Singh, a terror convict and a RAW agent, has finally succumbed to head injuries sustained by him during a brawl with other prisoners in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail. He was awarded death penalty for killing 14 Pakistanis is terrorist attacks but he got an extended lease of life due to legal hitches which is commonplace in Anglo-Saxon law inherited by both India and Pakistan from their colonial masters. Two Indian spies, Kashmir Singh and Surjeet Singh released from Pakistani jails on humanitarian grounds also confirmed in their interaction with the media that Sarabjit, a RAW agent, was involved in terror activities inside Pakistan. This incident has taken place in Punjab jail when Sethi is the CM, in common perception a more Indian than Indians themselves.

Incidentally, Pakistani law does not allow presidential pardon for terrorists otherwise Sarabjit would have been a free man long ago.

A glance at Indian newspapers would reveal that Sarabjit’s death is the story of the year. The front pages of almost every newspaper contain screaming headlines and he is being made out a hero. Hero he was; for Indians because he was used by Indian establishment to destabilize Pakistan through a series of bomb blasts. But the most inexplicable reaction has come from the Pakistani government, the media and the so-called civil society. They have condemned his death and rightly so because every prisoner has a right to security within the jail premises. Period. No jail authority can prevent prisoners’ scuffle and it is very common even in the American jails.

The so-called liberals and a section of media are rightly upset because they have to follow the line of Indian media and Indian establishment to establish their liberal credentials which they have always been doing. The funniest reaction, however, has come from Pakistani Foreign Office which is virtually begging Indians not to take this issue seriously and hoping against hope that Pakistani prisoner in Indian jails would not be affected by this incident. Pakistani Foreign Office also hopes that this incident would not affect the relations of the two countries.

Pakistani, Kashmiri and Muslim prisoners in Indian jails are treated in a most inhuman way. A Pakistani soldier who spent four decades in Indian jail returned home with his tongue cut. But this was not made an issue by Pakistani media and even the government.

The inmates brawl is more frequent in Indian jails than anywhere in the world. The prisoner who has been convicted of terrorism becomes an object of hate. Only last year a terror suspect Mohammad Qateel Siddiqui, 27, was found murdered inside the high security Yerawada Jail of Pune. He was found strangled, allegedly after a heated brawl with two other inmates, Alok Bhalerao and Sharad Mohol. Siddiqui was arrested by the Delhi police in December 2011 for his alleged involvement in various attacks, including the bombing of the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore in April 2010 and the blasts at the Jamia Masjid in Delhi in 2010.

Pakistani government and the media should introspect for a moment; is this issue worth media attention it is being given. Forget about your Indian counterparts; they would try to extract maximum advantage out of this issue and browbeat you. Don’t forget; Indians needed this issue at this moment because they wanted to distract the attention of their people from a more serious issue of Chinese incursion into Ladakh, an area which Indians claim to be theirs.