Thursday, May 10, 2012
By HUSAIN HAQQANION the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death last week, Pakistan was the only Muslim country in which hundreds of demonstrators gathered to show solidarity with the dead terrorist figurehead. Yet rather than asking tough questions about how Bin Laden had managed to live unmolested in Pakistan for years, the Pakistani Supreme Court instead chose to punish the prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, by charging him with contempt for failing to carry out the court’s own partisan agenda — in this case, pressuring the Swiss government to reopen a decades-old corruption investigation of President Asif Ali Zardari. (Never mind that Swiss officials say they are unlikely to revisit the charges.) In handing down the decision, one justice chose to paraphrase the Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran. He held forth in a long appeal to religious-nationalist sentiment that began with the line, “Pity the nation that achieves nationhood in the name of a religion but pays little heed to truth, righteousness and accountability, which are the essence of every religion.” That a Supreme Court justice would cite poetry instead of law while sentencing an elected leader on questionable charges reflects Pakistan’s deep state of denial about its true national priorities at a time when the country is threatened by religious extremism and terrorism. Today, Pakistan is polarized between those who envision a modern, pluralist country and those who condone violence against minorities and terrorism in the name of Islam. Many are caught in the middle; they support the pluralist vision but dislike the politicians espousing it. Meanwhile, an elephant in the room remains. We still don’t know who enabled Bin Laden to live freely in Pakistan. Documents found on computers in his compound offer no direct evidence of support from Pakistan’s government, army or intelligence services. But even if Bin Laden relied on a private support network, our courts should be focused on identifying, arresting and prosecuting the individuals who helped him. Unfortunately, their priorities seem to lie elsewhere. In Pakistan, most of the debate about Bin Laden has centered on how and why America violated Pakistan’s sovereignty by unilaterally carrying out an operation to kill him. There has been little discussion about whether the presence of the world’s most-wanted terrorist in a garrison town filled with army officers was itself a threat to the sovereignty and security of Pakistan. Pakistanis are right to see themselves as victims of terrorism and to be offended by American unilateralism in dealing with it. Last year alone, 4,447 people were killed in 476 major terrorist attacks. Over the last decade, thousands of soldiers and law enforcement officers have died fighting terrorists — both homegrown, and those inspired by Al Qaeda’s nihilist ideology. But if anything, the reaction should be to gear up and fight jihadist ideology and those who perpetrate terrorist acts in its name; they remain the gravest threat to Pakistan’s stability. Instead, our national discourse has been hijacked by those seeking to deflect attention from militant Islamic extremism. The national mind-set that condones this sort of extremism was cultivated and encouraged under the military dictatorships of Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq from 1977 to 1988 and Gen. Pervez Musharraf from 1999 to 2008. A whole generation of Pakistanis has grown up with textbooks that conflate Pakistani nationalism with Islamist exclusivism. Anti-Western sentiment and a sense of collective victimhood were cultivated as a substitute for serious debate on social or economic policy. Militant groups were given free rein, originally with American support, to resist the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and later became an instrument of Pakistani regional influence there and in Indian-occupied Kashmir. Pakistan’s return to democracy, after the elections of 2008, offered hope. But the elected government has since been hobbled by domestic political infighting and judicial activism on every issue except extremism and terrorism. Before Mr. Musharraf was ousted, a populist lawyers’ movement successfully challenged his firing of Supreme Court justices. The lawyers’ willingness to confront Mr. Musharraf in his last days raised hopes of a new era. But over the last four years, the Court has spent most of its energy trying to dislodge the government by insisting on reopening cases of alleged corruption from the 1990s. During the same period, no significant terrorist leader has been convicted, and many have been set free by judges who overtly sympathize with their ideology. This has happened because the lawyers’ movement split into two factions after Mr. Musharraf’s fall: those emphasizing the rule of law and those seeking to use the judiciary as a rival to elected leaders. Asma Jahangir, who helped lead the lawyers’ movement, has become a critic of the courts, accusing them of overstepping their constitutional mandate and falling under the influence of the security establishment. And Aitzaz Ahsan, who represented the Supreme Court’s chief justice during the lawyers’ showdown with Mr. Musharraf, is now Prime Minister Gilani’s lawyer in the contempt-of-court case — a clear indication of the political realignment that has taken place. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s raucous media, whose hard-won freedom is crucial for the success of democracy, has done little to help generate support for eliminating extremism and fighting terrorism. The Supreme Court, conservative opposition parties and the news media insist that confronting alleged incompetence and corruption in the current government is more important than turning Pakistan away from Islamist radicalism. While fighting Pakistan’s endemic corruption is vital, the media and judiciary have helped redirect attention away from the threat of jihadist ideology by constantly targeting the governing party — a convenient situation for the intelligence services, which would prefer to keep the spotlight on the civilian government rather than on the militant groups they have historically supported. Convicting the dozens of terrorists released by Pakistani courts should be a greater priority for the country’s judiciary than scoring points against the elected executive branch. And the Pakistani media should be more focused on asking why those deemed terrorists internationally are celebrated as heroes at home. Until their priorities shift, the empty pronouncements of our leaders against terrorism and the sacrifices of our soldiers in battle with militants will not suffice to change the nation’s course.
Shahid Ahmed Afridi
FRONTIER POSTSending an sneering message to President Barack Obama, Congressman Walter Jones has criticized a deal between the Afghan government and China's National Petroleum Corp that allows China to be the first foreign country to access Afghanistan's oil and natural gas reserves in Sari Pul and Faryab, an area known as Amu Darya River Basin. Flurry of action is on to grapple the natural resources of the entire region. A large natural reservoir has been identified not only in Afghanistan but in the FATA region as well. In the past, ungoverned space of the FATA provided the bases for all types of illegal businesses, including drugs and weapons smuggling. Mild alteration of the old erroneous policy of FATA management is in motion but we are still slow on getting our act together. FATA's evolving socio-economic landscape needs deliberate overview and rumination. The geological surveys of 85 per cent of the tribal belt have revealed immense prospects of mineral exploration. So far, 19 different minerals' deposits have been identified in tribal areas which include; copper, manganese, chromites, iron ore, lead, barite, soapstone, coal, gypsum, limestone, marble, dolomite, feldspar, quartz, silica san, bentonite, marl, emerald and graphite. Mohmand Agency has the largest deposits of marble followed by the adjacent Bajaur Agency. More coal mines are likely to be found in Orakzai Agency, FR Kohat and FR Peshawar region. Only in Shinkai (North Waziristan), an estimated 27,000 million tones of copper reserves exist. If this industry is given proper government attention and the projects designed are properly implemented, they can provide job opportunities to several thousands of individual living here. To streamline the mineral business activity and to develop this industry on the modern lines "The Mineral Development and Trading Organization" is suggested to be formed. There are positive signs of large amount of chromites in NWA. Saidgai, Gharmalai, Dosalli and Mohmad Khan Khel areas have been identified as hotbeds of chromites. A plan has been mapped out to establish Mineral Trading Yard (MTY) at Bannu, machinery pool at Miran Shah; and Ore testing laboratory in Bannu. After consultation with Fata secretariat, there is a plan to purchase 200 acres of land for the purpose. The potential of mineral sector could be better exploited if mineral based industries are set up there. Moreover, without involving the private sector, appropriate technology cannot be made available for exploration and development of minerals. Due to lack of technical know-how tribesmen have been using outmoded methods of mineral extraction. Surface mining with hand tools is resorted to, which is primitive and results in lot of wastage. Mine workers are untrained, work under no safety facilities and have no or very limited machinery like excavator and drills machines. Most of the mines are not connected with roads and tracks, even in the areas where roads/tracks exist; it still needs link tracks up to the mine location. With no revenue department; the agency does not have any land ownership record. Resultantly, a lease is obtained and is used at numerous places with collective ownership. This also results in frequent disputes between tribes and sub-tribes over the mines ownership issue. In many areas crude forms of explosive are used in a non-technical way resulting in loss of large quantities of minerals besides eroding their value. There is a need to improve the productivity of mines and quality of the human resource through intensive trainings specially for blasting and use of modern methods. Establishment of mineral community welfare centre should be established in every agency and FR. However, with its meagre resources, the government cannot allocate the required funds for mineral exploration and development. If there is semblance of hope that life may get better in FATA, it is through the setting of mineral sector and the trade routes to central Asia, Eastern Europe and Russian federation. Let's get away with the concept of close door FATA instead invite the foreigners to explore the minerals, Chinese can be tempted to step in. Can we render fool proof security? Will foreign presence in FATA jeopardize Pakistan's security? Questions arise. Nonetheless, one thing is clear; the creeping prosperity in region would incite tribesmen to hold the pen instead of gun.
By Ravi Agrawal, CNNThe winners of last Sunday’s elections in Greece and Franc
Daily TimesPakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader, Mian Nawaz Sharif’s current visit to Sindh still appears to be a futile political stunt as his current activities would neither be beneficial for the party nor would they be able to create any problem for the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). The PML-N chief was in Garhi Khero, a town of district Jacobabad on Tuesday, which was severely affected in 2010’s floods. On the second day, Wednesday, he arrived in Ratodero, the native town of former caretaker chief minister, Mumtaz Bhutto and the current constituency of PPP representatives. The personalities and tribes who organised Nawaz’s public meetings were political opponents of the ruling PPP however they never really challenged the PPP candidates in last general elections. The public participation in both meetings was not significant despite the fact that huddling people in the rural areas of Sindh had never been a problem for the local landlords and influential personalities. During the Ratodero meeting, Mumtaz Bhutto announced merger of her party, Sindh National Party (SNF) with the PML-N, however, the SNF could not clinch any seat in the past general elections. Instead, both leaders invited severe criticism from various circles. Bhutto, for joining a party which had openly supported the controversial Kalabagh Dam project and Nawaz, for inducting a nationalist politician and a person who had been opposing the construction of Kalabagh Dam. On the other hand, the ruling PPP has intensified efforts to induct political personalities in the party. Interestingly, most of those joining the PPP have been affiliated with the PML-N directly in the past. They include former federal minister Asghar Shah and provincial minister Syed Murad Ali Shah from Naushehro Feroze and Liaquat Jatoi-led Awami Alliance leaders from Dadu. It is learnt that former federal minister from Kashmore, Sardar Salim Jan Mazari, who had been with the PML-N, has also decided to join the PPP on May 11. Many of the political analysts are surprised to see a number of politicians joining a party during its last year in the government as this practice is against the political fads. According to political analysts, Nawaz would need to muster support from the politically influential families of Sindh, including Shirazis of Thatta, Jatois of Shikarpur and Mahers of Ghotki if he really wanted to pose a political threat to the ruling PPP. But it seems as if these politically influential families are still reluctant to decide their future course of action and instead have decided to wait and see which way the tide turns.