Friday, June 13, 2014
People often tell lies to protect themselves or others or, sometimes, to cover up another lie, as popular Japanese TV detective drama "Shinzanmono" famously put it. The whole world should be on high alert for Japan's manipulation of facts, which, if allowed to go unchecked, could have dangerous consequences. Two videos released on Thursday show just how distorted stories told by Japan can be. The clips clearly show two Japanese F-15 jet fighters tailing a Chinese Tu-154 over the East China Sea from 10:17 a.m. to 10:28 a.m. on Wednesday.According to the Chinese defense ministry, the fighters came as close as 30 meters from the Chinese plane on routine patrol. In the face of cast-iron facts, however, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga described the Chinese footage showing the incident as "nonsensical." On the one hand, he claimed the footage had "nothing to do at all" with the incident. On the other hand, he demanded China take down the footage showing the incident. Such self-contradicting remarks can only embarrass Japan itself, further damaging its credibility. Also on Wednesday morning, two Japanese surveillance planes entered the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone. The two J-11 jet fighters sent to identify them maintained a distance of more than 150 meters during the whole process. Japan, however, criticized the Chinese military for approaching "unusually close" to its surveillance aircraft on Wednesday, simply ignoring their own close encounter. The situation calls for clarification to both China and the international community at large. Since the end of the World War II, Japan has been a nation respected for honesty and sense of honor. The Japanese people in general have a relatively high reputation in the world. So why make these false charges, hyping up the "China threat" and generating tension? This behavior has not gone unnoticed. People still remember what happened on Sept. 18, 1931, when Japanese troops blew up a section of the railway under its control near Shenyang, then accused Chinese troops of sabotage as a pretext for attack, beginning the invasion of northeast China and 14 years of war. In a Wednesday statement, a Japanese spokesman said the nation had lodged a protest and demanded China withdraw its application to list records of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre and lifelong suffering of Chinese sex slaves on UNESCO's Memory of the World Register. When Japan's drive to amend its pacifist constitution and expand its military force are taken into account, we need to have a clear mind on Japan's real intention. We do not need a crystal ball to predict that Japan yearns to be infatuated with militarism again. It is in no country's interest to see Japan go down that path.
In the "cradle of Islam," a growing number of people are quietly declaring themselves nonbelievers
In this country known as the cradle of Islam, where religion gives legitimacy to the government and state-appointed clerics set rules for social behavior, a growing number of Saudis are privately declaring themselves atheists. The evidence is anecdotal, but persistent. “I know at least six atheists who confirmed that to me,” said Fahad AlFahad, 31, a marketing consultant and human rights activist. “Six or seven years ago, I wouldn’t even have heard one person say that. Not even a best friend would confess that to me.” A Saudi journalist in Riyadh has observed the same trend. “The idea of being irreligious and even atheist is spreading because of the contradiction between what Islamists say and what they do,” he said. The perception that atheism is no longer a taboo subject — at least two Gulf-produced television talk shows recently discussed it — may explain why the government has made talk of atheism a terrorist offense. The March 7 decree from the Ministry of Interior prohibited, among other things, “calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based.” The number of people willing to admit to friends to being atheist or to declare themselves atheist online, usually under aliases, is certainly not big enough to be a movement or threaten the government. A 2012 poll by WIN-Gallup International of about 500 Saudis found that 5 percent described themselves as “convinced atheist.” This was well below the global average of 13 percent. But the greater willingness to privately admit to being atheist reflects a general disillusionment with religion and what one Saudi called “a growing notion” that religion is being misused by authorities to control the population. This disillusionment is seen in a number of ways, ranging from ignoring clerical pronouncements to challenging and even mocking religious leaders on social media.
Farzana Iqbal is a name; a name that will continue to scream in anguish. A name that will remain etched on every brick. A name that will denounce freedom, deride human rights and mock the very existence of sanity. Above all, it is a mockery of gender equity and women rights. The gruesome incidence of Farzana’s murder is yet another ring in the chain of similar occurrences that time and again haunt us, humiliate us and reflect the lowest possible stature of human race. Regrettably, it is not just one murder that stains the sleeves of arrogance and conceit; it is the rising mound of dead bodies that slumber in silence, only screaming when waves of ghastly blood streams hit us. Child marriages, rape, honour killing, karo kari and acid burning continue to mutilate the weaker gender in our country. The stark truth is that for the Pakistani women, justice, tolerance, peace and liberality are mere strange words with no meaning. Women here lament, endure and finally die on trivial matters such as having the simple right to choose their own life partner. They die in broad daylight when animal lust chooses to quench its thirst. They die when intrinsic misogynistic society chooses to kill them. The hapless, tragic women in our country stand frail and weak, unable to defy the debauched events that end their lives. Women here fear that despite various legislations and women rights groups that vouch for their protection, the outcome is questionable, the eradication of social evil is vague. And regardless of tremendous hue and cry by social activists, burning essays by politicians and rallies by philanthropists, the dilemma prevails. All because we as a society fail to reach a solution, betray our own system, neglect and overthrow the working mechanism and ironically free the murderes and the rapists. We stand united only to witness the brutal acts of barbarism and not take a step forward to save a life. We ogle open daylight gore and walk away indifferent to the cruelty. The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) should realise how Islam empowers women, how Islam protects women and what Islam proposes the punishment mechanism. If we were to punish the murderers of Parveen the same way they murdered her, undoubtedly the similar heinous crimes will be expunged. But alas! CII’s anti-women rulings have left us all stunned. If the government in power focuses more on the 45% of Pakistan’s population, rather than putting their effort in railroads and turning Punjab into a replica of China, there would be no more Parveens to follow. If only the government wakes up and takes notices of such events immediately and punishes the predators there and then, some concrete progress would have been made. And more importantly dispel and penalize the police force that did not intervene to save a life, which could not stop murderers to take the life of an innocent woman. As per the Human Rights Commission statistics, 869 women were victims of similar tales of miseries last year - not counting those that go unnoticed and unreported. Unfortunately, there may be more to follow. Just when we thought we have raved and ranted much on the subject, Saba Maqsood, a victim of similar fate emerged, shot twice, tied up in a sack and thrown into a canal. Saba survived, to narrate her horrific tale about the perpetrators who claimed to have done this in the name of honour killing. And how can we forget the case of Mukhtaran Mai, still fresh in our minds, who fought valiantly but could not get her rapists punished. How many more honour killings? How many more child brides living a stifling life? How many rape victims hiding in disgrace? The daring initiative taken by the Sindh Assembly in April this year to pass a bill restraining child marriages under 18 years is the beginning of hope. The other 3 provinces must enact this law too. Passionate and fervent to improve the plight of women in Pakistan, the Sindh government has taken a pledge to leave no stone unturned to eradicate rape, acid burning and honour killing from our society. To enact and implement workable solutions to ensure women rights on multitude of cases. The question however is not about rallying against broad daylight murders of women that their families support and contribute to. It is about changing the mindset of our chauvinist society. And surely it is about burying the murderers with the victims - never to rise again, never to pollute the nation and never to disparage women.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Patron-In-Chief, Pakistan Peoples Party has castigated raid on the house of former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and termed it as part of PML-N government witch-hunt against PPP and its leaders. “It is matter of shame that N government is soft on terrorists who got away with over 50,000 murders of people and comes hard-hitting on the Opposition leaders and former Prime Ministers,” he added. PPP Patron-In-Chief said former Prime Ministers Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervez Ashraf played pivotal role together with President Asif Ali Zardari in strengthening and transition of democracy. He said targeting them is tantamount to axing the very traditions of democracy these democratic leaders introduced and sacrificed themselves for the cause. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said his party won’t tolerate any victimization of its leaders and asked the government not to test our patience any more else we have the experience of fighting against the dictatorial regimes but are calm in the interest of democracy and its stability. He also advised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to keep an eye on the elements in his cabinet who want to destabilize democratic system and disrupt unity among democratic forces fighting dictatorial monsters already raising their heads.
While promising to pursue diplomacy and review other options, President Barack Obama said the United States “will do our part” to help Iraq confront the Islamic insurgents rampaging through that country. “We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq,” he said, but he and his national security advisers “will be reviewing other options.” Obama, speaking from the White House grounds, said he and his national security advisers have been meeting since yesterday to address how to help Iraq turn back the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which he said threatens not only Iraq but possible American interests as well. He said the government of Nouri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite, must exercise diplomacy and “work to set aside sectarian differences and account for legitimate differences” among all Iraqis. Though the U.S. has increased training, equipment and intelligence, the president said, Iraq “needs additional support to break the momentum.” We’re not going to allow ourselves to be dragged back into a situation,” he said.
In a show of unity earlier today, the foreign secretaries of the United States and Britain said their respective countries would work to help stabilize the situation there and push Iraq’s leaders to overcome sectarian differences and build political cohesion. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary William Hague, at a global summit in London, said on Friday that their nations would collaborate on support for Iraq’s government, under siege by militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant. Rebels, who have seized several key cities and terrified civilians and Iraqi soldiers, are bearing down on the capital city of Baghdad. "We are laser-focused on dealing with the crisis at hand," Kerry said, saying he expects President Barack Obama to make "timely decisions'' on Iraq. The United States already has increased military shipments this year, especially in the last month, and has expanded training programs in Iraq and Jordan. The State Department announced yesterday it was providing more than $12 million in emergency humanitarian aid. "But just as important as any short-term action," Kerry said, is having Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki do more to overcome sectarian differences. "This needs to be a wakeup call for all of Iraq’s leaders," Kerry said. Hague, saying Britain was "looking urgently at ways to assist" in managing the crisis, said his government, like the United States’, is working with the United Nations Security Council and is providing assistance such as counterterrorism expertise. "We will work closely with the United States and with all our allies," Hague said, emphasizing that in stabilizing the situation, "this does not mean we are planning a military intervention ourselves." Call to end violence The men were joined in the press conference by actress Angelina Jolie, co-host with Hague of the summit on ending sexual violence in conflict. The international gathering drew hundreds of participants. Jolie said she found it "heartening to see so many male leaders … here to confront taboos." Kerry drew a link between the conference focus and the Iraq crisis, where an estimated 500,000 people have been displaced as ISIL militants took over the city of Mosul earlier this week. "Ending the cycle of violence is not just a personal priority, it is a priority … of the U.S. government and its allies," he said. Kerry called ISIL, notorious for beheadings, a terrorist organization "so extreme that even al-Qaida saw fit to disassociate itself for a time." ISIL, Kerry said, poses a threat not only to Iraq and the Middle East but to Europe and the United States. ISIL plots against the West have been exposed, he said, "so there is a vital interest" in continued U.S. involvement. The U.S. has had an advisory role in Iraq since withdrawing all troops in 2011 after eight consecutive years of war there. Connection with Syria The crisis in Iraq – in which parts of the Iraqi military has collapsed and Kurds, taking advantage of the chaos, siezed control of the northeastern, oil-rich city of Kirkuk -- is "a consequence of what is happening in Syria," Kerry said. Jihadists attracted to the fight to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have created "spillover violence, a spillover humanitarian crisis." "Everybody in the Middle East needs to be concerned," Kerry said. Kerry said the United States and its allies have been working on political leadership in Iraq for several years. He suggested the crisis might goad Iraq’s Sunni and Shiite sectarian factions to come together. "This may be a moment where [they] can actually coalesce," Kerry said, "recognizing there is a threat to them as a whole."
As militants from the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorist group intensify their bloody campaign in Iraq, questions are raised about their supporters. Earlier this week, Militants from the al-Qaeda-linked ISIL took over the capital of Iraq’s northern province of Nineveh. They continued their bloody rampage on Iraqi civilians in other regions but were met with heavy handed response from the Iraqi army. Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has asked the parliament to declare a state of emergency in the wake of the ISIL attacks. Takfiri groups, such as the ISIL, are reportedly coming to Iraq from neighboring Syria and Saudi Arabia to undermine security in the country. Maliki says Saudi Arabia and Qatar are responsible for the security crisis in Iraq. Meanwhile, the Syrian government says the terrorist groups in Iraq are directly linked to the Takfiri militants operating in Syria.
The 2nd death anniversary of Lollywood ghazal singer late Mehdi Hasan Khan will be observed on Friday. In Lahore, a memorial reference will be held at Al-Hamra Art Center today. Meanwhile, Lahore Arts Council will pay a musical tribute to the legend singer in a special evening on June 20 in which his son Arif Mehdi will perform.
Mehdi Hassan was born on 18 July 1927 in a village called Luna, Rajasthan in Jhunjhunu district in India into a family of traditional musicians. He was awarded KL Saigal Sangeet Shehenshah Award by the Government of India. He was honored with Tamgha-e-Imtiaz, Pride of Performance and Hilal-e-Imtiaz by the Government of Pakistan. In 1983, in the court of King Birendra he was awarded Gorkha Dakshina Bahu by the Government of Nepal. He remained a leading singer of film industry along with Ahmed Rushdi. The highest civilian honor of Pakistan is conferred on him- Nishan-e-Imtiaz In 1957, Mehdi Hassan was given the opportunity to sing on Radio Pakistan, primarily as a thumri singer, which earned him recognition within the musical fraternity. He had a passion for Urdu poetry, and therefore, he began to experiment by singing ghazals on a part-time basis. He cites radio officers Z.A. Bukhari and Rafiq Anwar as additional influences in his progression as a ghazal singer. His first song was ‘Jis ne mere dil ko dard diya’ film Susral in 1962 and popular ghazal ‘Insha ji ab kooch karo is shar me dil ko lagna kia’ made him immortal. Later Lata Mangeshkar said compliments for him that “Bhagwan talks in his throat”. In October 2010, HMV released ‘Sarhadein’ in which probably the first and last duet song ‘Tera Milana’ featuring Mehdi Hassan and Lata Mangeshkar was released. Mehdi Hassan died on 13 June 2012 after a protracted illness, in a private hospital in Karachi.
A 5.3-magnitude earthquake struck southwestern Pakistan on Friday, but officials said there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties. The epicentre was in the city of Khuzdar, in Baluchistan province, at a depth of 26 kilometres (16 miles), meteorological official Zabih Ullah told AFP. The quake, which struck late morning, was also felt in surrounding towns and districts. Pakistan straddles part of the boundary where the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, making the country susceptible to earthquakes. It was hit by a 7.6-magnitude quake on October 8, 2005 that killed more than 73,000 people and left about 3.5 million homeless, mainly in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. A 7.7-magnitude earthquake devastated several areas in southwestern Baluchistan province in September last year. It killed at least 370 people and left 100,000 homeless.
We know that Washington is very worried about Pakistan’s terrorism problem. This is clear from public statements, intelligence estimates, and travel warnings.And yet the State Department’s latest annual global terrorism report is remarkably muted in its expressions of concern about Pakistan. Generalists—and non-Pakistan specialists—may conclude that all is not so bad in the militancy-ravaged country after all. Alas, that would be the wrong conclusion. Pakistan’s terrorism problem remains very serious indeed, and the report understates this seriousness. In particular, it minimizes the threat of Pakistan’s sectarian violence, and it minimizes Pakistan’s troubled record on law enforcement responses to terrorism more generally. Minimizing the threat of sectarian violence References in the report to this form of terrorism—violence directed against Pakistani Shias, Christians, Hindus, and other religious minorities—are relatively limited in number and subdued in tone. The focus is largely on other forms of terrorism—mainly violence directed against the state. In the report’s main Pakistan section, we are told only that terrorist groups have “engaged in sectarian violence” (with a few passing references to terrorist attacks on religious minorities). The only time Pakistan’s sectarian terrorism is discussed with any great urgency anywhere in the report is in a “Key Terrorism Trends in 2013” box. Global terrorism, it says, “was increasingly fueled by sectarian motives, marking a worrisome trend, particularly in Syria, but also in Lebanon and Pakistan.” Pakistan’s sectarian terrorism is more than “worrisome;” it is downright terrifying. Religious minorities are routinely targeted at home and at work, at their centers of worship, in marketplaces and recreation centers, and on public transport. The nearly 700 sectarian killings in 2013—the year covered by the report—marked a 22 percent increase from 2012. Last year, prominent Pakistani commentators even described the anti-Shia Muslim dimensions of sectarian terrorism as “genocide.” Sectarian militancy enjoys broad reach in Pakistan. Its most vicious practitioner, the al-Qaeda-affiliated Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, has staged attacks in all four Pakistani provinces. Unlike the Pakistani Taliban, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is neither degraded by counter-militancy offensives nor undermined by internal fractures. Additionally, Pakistani public opinion demonstrates considerable support for the underlying views of sectarian extremists. In a recent poll, more than 40 percent said Shias are not Muslims. Meanwhile, the Pakistani state has institutionalized sect-based discrimination. The country’s second constitutional amendment explicitly states that Ahmadis, another minority sect of Islam, are non-Muslims. Not surprisingly, few laws protect religious minorities; instead, blasphemy laws are used to persecute and prosecute them (last summer, when a Pakistani Christian was sentenced to life in prison for denigrating the Prophet Mohammed, he became one of nearly 40 Pakistanis sentenced to death or life in prison for alleged blasphemy). For all these reasons, to simply say that terrorists “engaged in sectarian violence” misses the bigger story. Minimizing Pakistan’s troubling record on law enforcement responses There is another bigger story that the report misses: Pakistan’s ineffective state response—on a law enforcement level—to terrorism more broadly (and not just of a sectarian nature). Consider this curious comment: “Pakistan continued to arrest terrorists and initiate prosecutions throughout 2013.” This is not inaccurate; Pakistan was indeed arresting and prosecuting terrorists last year—including Malik Ishaq, the leader of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Yet the statement is misleading, because it fails to note that so many terrorists who get arrested and/or imprisoned are eventually set free. Last year, Pakistan’s government admitted that it has freed nearly 2,000 terrorists since 2007, and that more than 700 of them rejoined terrorist groups (Ishaq, in fact, was released from prison last month). Of course, other terrorists in Pakistan—including Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Hafeez Saeed—have spent little, if any, time behind bars. In 2013, Saeed spoke at public rallies and even gave an interview to the New York Times. Why is Pakistan’s justice system so lenient toward militants? The report correctly cites intimidation against witnesses, police, lawyers, and judges. Yet it neglects to mention another key factor: ideological sympathy from those inside the system. To be sure, many brave Pakistani lawyers and judges defend the most vulnerable and pursue the most dangerous. Nonetheless, this is a nation where radicalization is spreading through society like wildfire. Predictably, some legal professionals sympathize with the very militants they are meant to go after. Pakistani lawyers have garlanded Mumtaz Qadri, the man who assassinated the governor of Punjab province in 2011, during court appearances. A photograph recently circulated on Twitter purportedly shows Qadri being warmly embraced by a lawyer who is now an Islamabad High Court judge (in recent days, however, some have insisted that this lawyer in the photo is actually someone else, and not the current Islamabad judge). Another disturbing law enforcement trend not mentioned in the report is the tendency of Pakistani police officers to literally stand by as vulnerable citizens are attacked, often fatally. This happened most recently last month while a woman was bludgeoned to death by her family outside—of all places—the Lahore High Court building. And it happened last year as a marauding mob rampaged through a Christian neighborhood in Lahore, burning down homes and seizing valuables. To be fair, the report is no whitewash. It mentions uncomfortable facts, including the wide range of Pakistani terrorist organizations and their targets. It also highlights the militants from around the globe who continue to converge on Pakistan—even as media reports last year focused on Syria as the newest destination of choice for the world’s jihadists. The report levels criticism on the government in Islamabad as well—from its slow progress in implementing national security reforms and in countering terrorist financing, to its lack of action taken against the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network. Additionally, “portions of” the tribal areas and of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan provinces are described as terrorist safe havens. Still, these amount to relatively modest critiques. A Desire for Tactfulness It’s easy to explain the kid-gloves approach. The report was produced by the U.S. government’s chief diplomatic agency, which understandably prefers to speak of Pakistan as a partner and ally. Contrast this with elected officials on Capitol Hill, who in recent years have likened Pakistan to a “rat hole,” or with Defense Department leaders, who have openly described the Haqqani network as “a veritable arm of the ISI,” Pakistan’s main spy agency. The State Department has no desire to ruffle feathers in Islamabad—particularly this year, with Washington in great need of Pakistan’s cooperation as it attempts an orderly military withdrawal from Afghanistan. Not surprisingly, cooperation with Pakistan is a common theme throughout the report. The Pakistan section lists various joint counterterrorism initiatives, from efforts to safeguard the U.S. embassy and consulates in Pakistan to meetings on regional security. There’s also a separate section called “Support for Pakistan”—a feature that has made consecutive appearances in the report over the last few years. It details Washington’s military and economic collaborations with Islamabad, including a five-year civilian assistance package—authorized by Congress in 2009 and known as the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill—that expires at the end of this year. This all makes good strategic sense. Washington would be silly not to pursue cooperation with a populous, volatile, nuclear-armed nation that straddles the Middle East and Asia, and that counts Beijing and Riyadh as chief backers. Likewise, provoking Pakistan about its terrorism problem wouldn’t make for good politics. Still, given the threat that Pakistani and Pakistan-based terrorists pose to Americans and their interests abroad, a fuller and more accurate picture of Pakistan’s terrorism environment would have been useful—and particularly for generalists. In the interest of the truth, it sometimes pays to be a bit undiplomatic.
Adnan Rasheed, a former officer of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), who now heads a lethal fidayeen unit of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has turned out to be the possible mastermind of the June 8 fidayeen attack at Jinnah Airport in Karachi. Preliminary investigations into the audacious fidayeen attack have given broad hints that the man at the helm of the bloody raid was Adnan Rasheed, the mastermind of a 2003 assassination attempt on General Pervez Musharraf in Rawalpindi. Adnan was freed in an unprecedented jailbreak episode on April 15, 2012 when around 200 Taliban militants armed with guns, grenades and rockets attacked the high-security Central Jail of Bannu and released 384 prisoners. TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan subsequently declared on April 20, 2012 that the operation was mainly aimed at freeing Adnan. Ehsanullah added that the Taliban had been working on the jailbreak plan for several months and they were in touch with Adnan Rasheed and some other prisoners in the Bannu Central Jail. Interestingly, despite being an al-Qaeda linked convicted terrorist, Adnan was allowed to get married in the jail in 2010 and become father of a daughter. Coming from Chota Lahor village of the Swabi district, Adnan had joined the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) in 1997, before being arrested for his role in an attempt to assassinate Pervez Musharraf in Rawalpindi on December 14, 2003. He was subsequently awarded death sentence by a Field General Court Martial (FGCM) on October 3, 2005 at Chaklala Base of PAF along with six other Air Force men. However, after being convicted, Adnan was shifted to the Bannu Central Jail from Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi due to inexplicable reasons, only to be freed by the TTP in a jail break operation. He has already been elevated as the chief operational commander of a lethal fidayeen unit of TTP – Ansarul Aseer or the Helpers of the Prisoners whose stated mission is to secure freedom for imprisoned jehadis by conducting jail break operations. In a video-taped message released on March 25, 2013, Adnan Rasheed had threatened to assassinate Pervez Musharraf, adding that he has already constituted a death squad which would hunt down the former dictator for having ordered the 2007 Lal Masjid massacre. The TTP has already claimed credit for the Karachi Airport assault, saying it was meant to avenge the November 2013 death of their former ameer Hakeemullah Mehsud in a US drone attack. The fidayeen attack was executed by ten heavily armed Taliban fighters, including some Uzbek nationals belonging to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which has become an integral part of the TTP due to the unique guerrilla skills of its militants. All 10 Taliban fighters and other 18 people, including 11 security personnel and four airport workers, were killed during the fighting which lasted for at least six hours. While Pakistani officials claimed that the Taliban sought to destroy the airplanes at the terminal, TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said the Taliban had planned to hijack the aircrafts and use them for hitting targets at another place. Another TTP leader said the Karachi airport was considered to be one of the most secured installation in the country and the June 8 attack gives a very clear message to the civilian and khaki leadership that no place in Pakistan, no matter how secure it is, was beyond the reach of the Taliban. “We had included engineers and skilled people in the squad that stormed the airport. They knew how to operate a plane after hijacking it,” the TTP leader claimed. This gives credence to the perspective of the investigating agencies that the airport operation and the hijacking plans were the brain child of Adnan Rasheed, being a former PAF officer. Since his release, he has led several guerrilla operations – the most significant being the July 30 2013 Dera Ismail Khan jail break raid in which 275 most wanted militants were freed. Ansarul Aseer mostly consists of the fighters belonging to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. According to the inquiry report of the Dera Ismail Khan Jail break operation (which was shelved), the raid was akin to having taken over the entire town. The report said that over two dozen TTP militants, accompanied by several more from Uzbekistan and other places, managed to travel all the way from South Waziristan to D.I. Khan. Once there, they set up pickets at 10 strategic locations around the prison, cutting off security and law enforcement personnel’s access to the area. Shockingly, most of these pickets were located not far from the police and military checkpoints. The militants blew the prison’s gates open with rocket-propelled grenades and over the next 45 minutes conducted a methodical search of the cells and barracks, freeing prisoners and even identifying and executing four members of a minority sect. Having done so, they dispersed; some headed back to South Waziristan, others melted into the city. Almost a month before conducting this raid, Adnan Rasheed had claimed in a rare interview that he was indoctrinated by a covert jehadi group which recruits officers from the three military services and utilises them to wage jehad along with the Taliban. The interview was published in May 2013 issue of an English-language jehadi magazine “Azan” which was launched by the Taliban elements, primarily to cater to the educated Muslims. Adnan claimed in his rare interview that his first jehadi inclination emerged when the Indians were compelled to release Maulana Masood Azhar [after the hijacking of an Indian plane in 2000]. He said he was about to travel to Germany for higher education when the 9/11 attacks took place and his colleagues in the PAF persuaded him to pursue the jehadi path. Narrating in a first-hand witness account, Adnan Rasheed said he joined a clandestine jehadi group functioning in the Pakistan Air Force under the name Idara Tul Pakistan, or the institution of Pakistan. The group’s mission, according to him, was to recruit jehadis from all three wings of the Pakistani military - Army, Navy and the Air Force. Adnan Rasheed also noted how he was led by senior military officers to believe that the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) founder Maulana Masood Azhar was appointed the ameer of the Pakistani Taliban by Mullah Mohammad Omar, the fugitive ameer of the Afghan Taliban. Adnan narrated how his boss granted him four months’ leave to get training at a Jaish training camp in Mansehra district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and how he finally came to know that Masood Azhar was never appointed the ameer of Pakistani Taliban by Mullah Omar. “Allah Almighty opened my eyes when the Jaish-e-Muhammad split into two factions – Maulana Masood Azhar’s Khudamul Islam and Haji Abdul Jabbar’s Jamaatul Furqan. It dawned upon me that Masood and Jabbar had been working under the command of an intelligence agency. So, I went to my ameer of Idara Tul Pakistan, Dr. Y and told him that, “Brother we are wronged! There is no difference between us and the Jaish-e-Muhammad. We are soldiers in uniform and they are soldiers without uniform. Dr. Y told me that the Shura of Idara Tul Pakistan had appointed me ameer for the Pakistan Air Force… We later decided to divide our Idara into three branches - administration, intelligence and combat. The administration branch was to do two jobs - recruitment and fund raising; the intelligence branch was to do espionage while the combat branch was to ‘hit and run’. The Idara strongly suggested that no one in uniform would take part in any mission inside Pakistan; rather it would recruit civilian jehadis for this job and they would be assisted with weapons, money and intelligence”. “We were joined by seven civilian brothers and one of them was appointed their ameer. In September 2003, in a bid to meet Mullah Mohammad Omar, I, along with the civilian brothers, travelled to South Waziristan to fight in Baghar area of Angoor Adda against the Americans. But when we reached there, the Pakistan Army had already conducted its first operation against the Mujahideen under the command of Major General Faisal Alvi (who was subsequently killed by Commander Ilyas Kashmiri of Brigade 313 in Rawalpindi). Brothers Abdul Rahman (a Canadian national) and Hassan Mehsoon (a Chinese national) were martyred in this operation. While returning to Peshawar, I decided to take a U-Turn against the Pakistan Army to avenge the killing of my jehadi brothers. As I met the ameer of the Idara Tul Pakistan, Dr Y, (May Allah release him), we decided to wage jehad against Pakistan”, Adnan concluded while narrating in detail how he became a jehadi.
This is not a dysfunctional government. If it were just that we would be lucky. Being dysfunctional implies room for improvement – the stalled engine being made to work. What we have is something beyond that: a government fast losing the ability of even going through the motions of functioning. For all the leadership that there is, Pakistan is on auto-pilot, at the mercy of the elements. There’s no hand on the wheel. If we aren’t getting this, we have a problem on our hands. Fires burning across the horizon, ministers waffling, and the prime minister invisible…in this situation what does the prime minister’s office do? It releases a pro forma letter sent to the Indian prime minister, thanking him for his hospitality, but giving the impression that this letter is some kind of a great initiative. And such is the wit and wisdom of our media that newspapers carry this back-page news under banner headlines. The state of Pakistan is under assault from within. We know the story…we sowed the wind and are now reaping the whirlwind. The attack on Karachi airport should rightly make us sit up…make us realise the gravity of our circumstances. But in war things happen, catastrophes occur. Other nations have faced much harder times than we are facing. Look at Afghanistan, a country destroyed by war, so much of its population displaced. Iraq destroyed and in the throes of a virtual civil war, the forces of radical Islam on the march, Mosul falling to them, desertions in the Iraqi army on the rise. Syria, another country torn apart by civil war, over a hundred and fifty thousand people dead, millions of Syrians displaced from their homes. But bad as situations may be, where leadership is absent things get much worse. There are many things responsible for Afghanistan’s plight but none more serious than the lack of national leadership. The government there, despite the trillion dollars the United States has poured into the country in the name of development and the creation of the Afghan National Army, is no match for the Taliban. There is no worthwhile leadership in Iraq…which is why the country is virtually disintegrating. But in Syria, denounce Bashar al-Assad as much as we may, he is holding on, he and his family has not fled Damascus despite the severe fighting reaching the Syrian capital itself. Denounce him by all means but give him some marks for courage and resolve. Whose idea of a hero is Field Marshal Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi of Egypt? He is as much a tin-pot version of the genre as our own contribution to it, Field Marshal Ayub Khan. Still, the fact remains that the Egyptian military decided on a course of action and are going through with it. We can agree or disagree with their decision to remove the elected president and crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood. But once having made up their minds they are going about it without ifs and buts…without the waiting-for-Godot sequence which has been our hallmark. Indeed, we seem to be living in a strange twilight state: to begin with, not recognising the danger we face, closing our eyes and burying our heads in the sand; and then forever vacillating between sporadic action and sublime inaction. Drones were the one thing forcing the Taliban to keep their heads down in Fata. But drones we demonised on grounds of violated sovereignty, reducing the entire spectrum of the war to this one issue. The six months’ lull broken by a drone attack two days ago gave the Taliban a breather and allowed them to recharge their batteries. Our rhetoric about wounded sovereignty remained just that…rhetoric. But the drone narrative is just one part of the puzzle. We aren’t clear in our minds about what to do. The Taliban are clear, which works to their advantage. No wonder they exercise the initiative while we are left struggling to respond to their moves. It’s not that they are more powerful than the state of Pakistan. But psychological factors tip the scales in their favour. The government has a singular agenda: one or two road projects, the Pindi-Islamabad metro-bus, and endless MOUs with Chinese companies. That there may be a war going on in which innocent people are dying and soldiers and officers laying down their lives seems lost on this team. Incompetence of this magnitude wouldn’t matter in normal times. Governments come and go, and the sun still rises and life goes on. But what will it take for us to realise that these are not normal times? What is happening in Iraq is a preview of what soon will be happening in Afghanistan. And the enemy within is getting more emboldened and his reach is extending. Our ability to respond to this challenge, on the other hand, is shrinking, for no reason more glaring than the withering of leadership. This is not a meltdown of the state but it is a meltdown of leadership. And there’s nothing to fill the empty space. Some facts are hard to swallow but we do ourselves no service by ignoring them. If Vladimir Putin had not been around, if Russia had still been led by a disaster like Yeltsin, the west would have got away with its Ukrainian adventure and Russia would have been further diminished. Putin’s leadership saved the day for his country. If Bashar al-Assad had not stood his ground his fate would have been similar to Muammar Qaddafi’s. Much of the Egyptian intelligentsia and much of the middle class thought that Morsi and the Brotherhood were leading Egypt to chaos. So the military’s intervention was backed by significant sections of the population. Pakistan desperately needs leadership, or its plight becomes more precarious. Ideally, this should come from within the bosom of democracy. If somehow, through a transformation of whose nature we yet do not know, the elected leadership can bring itself to show vigour and a measure of elan there would be nothing like it. But we face a problem. India brings a sparkle to the PM’s eyes. Pakistan’s crisis of survival leaves him cold. Or he doesn’t seem to understand what is at stake. When some leadership is called for he becomes H G Wells’ Invisible Man. This war has not been sprung on Nawaz Sharif. It has not been conjured up out of thin air just to torment him. It’s been around for a decade and it was there when he was being elected. He had time enough to think about it. But the ruling party has no plan. The ruling party in fact is irrelevant…the term is just a figure of speech. Ruling the country is not a party but a small family-centred clique and cabal. While good at many things such as business affairs, etc, this cabal is proving singularly inept where Pakistan’s larger problems are concerned. So the old question, which Lenin put in a path-breaking pamphlet before the Russian Revolution: What is to be done? How do we master Pakistan’s leadership crisis? How do we cut through the fog and give a clear direction to the military and, at the same time, galvanise the nation and slowly attune it to the fact that this is going to be a long haul and that things are going to get much worse – with more spectacular attacks such as the one on Karachi airport – before they start getting better? A war cabinet….yes, we need one desperately. But who will head it? The same metro-bus managers? The mind boggles. Who’ll sit in that cabinet? The same waffling ministers who can’t get their lines straight? The heart shudders. We are in a mess and knoweth not our true condition.
Both Afghanistan and Pakistan should realise the danger of letting terrorists go scot-free.
There is much for Pakistan and Afghanistan to learn from the developments unfolding in Iraq. Foreign militants driven by fanaticism have captured yet another Iraqi city after Mosul, which fell on Tuesday, and are marching posthaste towards Baghdad, the country’s capital. The way two divisions of US-trained Iraqi troops vanished without putting up a credible defence at Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, must lead Kabul to draw the right lessons. Iraqi security forces which collapsed were trained for 10 years by the US occupation army at the expense of billions of dollars. The militants are being led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) which is an anti Shia outfit and intends to foist upon the country a medieval Sunni Islamic Caliphate. Thanks the assistance provided to some of these groups by the US and the Gulf states, they now threaten the integrity of Iraq and Syria. The extremism is in the long run likely to consume the Gulf states themselves and make the US pay a heavy price for encouraging the trend. Pakistan and Afghanistan also face an existential threat from the militant and sectarian groups. It is high time governments on both sides realised the danger. Providing shelter to these groups in the hope that they would act as the host country’s proxies is like playing with fire. These groups have their own agenda of imposing a reactionary medieval system with the force of arms. Those hoping to reform them through talks are living in a world of fantasy. The events in Iraq are likely to provide encouragement to the Afghan Taliban and their Pakistani counterparts. Both are likely to join hands after the departure of the foreign troops. The only way to maintain peace and bring prosperity in the region is for Pakistan and Afghanistan to jointly hunt out the militants and focus on promoting mutual economic and social cooperation.
By Syed Kamran Hashmi Although I disagree with name calling, and find it counterproductive in the political discourse, I can understand those angry people who have lost their loved ones who say there are two wings of the Taliban: the violent and the apologetic — the latter referring to Imran Khan
Why does Imran Khan disapprove of a large-scale army operation in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)? Some of his opponents claim that he has a natural alliance with the Waziris because of his ethnic background. But ethnicity must not be discussed here: it is too subjective to evaluate and too controversial to expound any further. I cannot believe any national leader of his stature would make political decisions based on heritage, even though I do believe, if such emotions are not subdued, they could cloud objective analysis. Let us see how they have influenced the founder of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI). First, Imran’s narrative is partial and fragmentary, without substance. Mostly, he alludes to the irresponsible statements made by a retired general of dubious reputation. Then, he cites some out of context paragraphs from a book and refers to a few patchy segments of his conversations with an old foreign diplomat. All of them, as you have guessed, are anecdotes not real evidence. On top of that, claiming to know the tribal areas very well, and being the only politician who has travelled through the Agencies, Imran is convinced that the Waziris — who provide the bulk of fighters to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — are invincible just like General Musharraf who had a similar opinion of the US after 9/11. And exactly like the General who used to frighten us with the power of the US, the former Captain has accepted the defeat of the Pakistani nation at the hands of the terrorists as he keeps on scaring people with the history of ‘Waziri warriors’ who have never capitulated to foreign forces and fought the British for decades till the partition of India. As we examine his narrative further, we find more similarities between Khan’s rhetoric and the policies devised by General Musharraf, except that the General’s policies were underpinned by more wisdom than Khan’s out-of-fear polemic. At least he was intelligent enough to cave in to the most powerful country of the world that had a mandate from the UN to attack Afghanistan. On the other hand, if we were left to the whims of the former cricketer, regrettably, we would be at the mercy of thugs, common criminals, murderers, warlords, gang leaders, banned religious organisations and some pimps with a maximum education of no more than middle school. Khan also boasts about the courage and determination of the Waziris. He speaks of their pride in tribal traditions (Pakhtoonwali) and their perseverance to stay independent as if he is not talking about the poorest, one of the most underdeveloped areas of the world with the lowest literacy rate (17 percent). Nor does it seem like he is talking about a society with living standards from the nineteenth century without any modern resources, nor about a place where terrorists (criminals) from all over the world have found sanctuaries. Instead, it looks like he is discussing supermen, men of steel who have never been defeated or overpowered, demigods who can commit no crime and do nothing wrong, even when they have held the state of Pakistan and its 190 million people hostage with their suicide bombers and cowardly attacks on civilians. The situation gets even trickier when his opponents hear him criticise the indiscriminate killing of civilians without condemning the perpetrators, despite his loud claims that he does. They also hear then, after a brief condemnation, Khan’s rationalisations of those barbaric acts. For sure, it sends an encouraging signal to the terrorists who feel elated as his explanations achieve both of their objectives: gaining popular support through a powerful narrative, and sending a message of terror across the nation.Although I disagree with name calling, and find it counterproductive in the political discourse, I can understand those angry people who have lost their loved ones who say there are two wings of the Taliban: the violent and the apologetic — the latter referring to Imran Khan. The former kills people and the latter provides a justification for the massacre. The former attacks them in movie theatres and the latter tells the world that the victims were watching porn and sexually explicit material. The former butchers them in mosques and the latter calls it a response to drone strikes. The former sever the heads of army personnel and the latter calls it retaliation against the invasion in Afghanistan and Iraq by the US. The former kills politicians and the latter calls them corrupt and robbers, people who have plundered the wealth of the nation. And the former destroys schools and the latter calls them western, secular and anti-Islamic to begin with. In short, while the war of words is led by the latter, the war against the people, their families and children is championed by the former.Imran should realise how the victims of terror perceive his partial views. They hold him accountable for indirectly aiding the terrorists by enabling them to build a viable political platform, which has caused enormous problems in combating terrorism and rooting it out from the country. Some of them are certain that once the talks have failed, if there was a decision in favour of a military operation, the PTI will claim that we have not given a fair chance to the dialogue process, that the demands of the terrorists are reasonable, that the US was the real enemy responsible for the failure of dialogue, that the liberals were fascists and that the Waziris were patriotic Pakistanis who liberated Kashmir for us in 1948. In response, what I want to tell PTI is that they may have been quoting an accurate history of the Waziris in defeating all the military powers that attacked them, including the US, but they have never fought a battle with an enraged nation before. And if there is an army action now in Waziristan, it will not just be the military that will be fighting the war it will be the Pakistani nation standing behind their soldiers to bring the perpetrators to justice.
The International Day against Child Labour, which falls on June 12 every year, is commemorated in Pakistan and across the world with a special theme of drawing attention to the role of social protection in keeping children from labour and increasing their school enrolment. The International Labour Organisation (ILO), ahead of the Day against Child Labour, has called on governments across the world to honour their international commitments, in particular ILO Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour, ILO Convention No. 183 on the minimum age for employment, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The roots of International Day against Child Labour can be traced to the year 2002 when the ILO decided to select June 12 as a day to focus on the plight of child labourers and pressure policymakers and labour officers into eradicating child labour. Pakistan is one of the several countries that urgently need to take notice of this day. Protection against child labour is difficult to attain due to weak enforcement of laws. In addition, there also seems to be an utter lack of concern by the authorities whose responsibility it is to ensure that child rights are protected. According to the National Child Labour Survey 2013, approximately 3.3 million children below 14 years are working as labour in Pakistan. This includes both boys and girls — boys form 73 percent and the girls 27 percent of the child labour. It is not that Pakistan does not have laws against child labour. It is, again, a problem of implementation and enforcement. We have several laws in place such as the Factories Act of 1934, which prohibits any child younger than 14 to work in a factory. Even if a child does take up employment after meeting the age requirement, he or she first has to be deemed physically fit for work: “A certifying surgeon shall, on the application of any child or adolescent who wishes to work in a factory, examine such person and ascertain his fitness for such work.” Furthermore, the Bonded Labour System Abolition Act says no children shall work between 7:00 pm and 8:00 am, yet we frequently see children chasing after cars urging people sitting inside to purchase flower bracelets and garlands at all hours of the day. The abuse of these laws is committed by people in several industries but also by those who are aware of the child labour factor in society. Unless there is a major crackdown by the government, the courts and NGOs against child labour on those violating child rights, it will be an extremely tricky task to eliminate child labour in Pakistan.
MUCH before the terrorists stormed Karachi airport late Sunday night, a debate had been going on about the level of militants’ penetration of the metropolis. On one end were proponents (such as the MQM) of the idea that a TTP takeover of Karachi was imminent. On the other end the sceptics claimed that this was little more than ethnic scaremongering. But in the aftermath of the airport assault, the debate has gained critical importance. It appears that while Karachi may not quite be on the point of falling to extremist militants, ignoring the threat further can have devastating consequences. Karachi is a melting pot of languages, cultures and ethnicities, where it is relatively easy for the potential militant to melt away into the urban sprawl, attaching himself to tribal or ethnic affiliates. Perhaps this is why in the years since 9/11, several terrorist cells have been busted in the city. Some high-profile Al Qaeda and Lashkar-i-Jhangvi militants have been apprehended from the metropolis. Hence the disturbing possibility that operatives of the outlawed TTP are lying in wait for an opportune moment to strike is not one that should be dismissed easily. Militants from the tribal areas and KP have practically disabled the ANP in Karachi. Instead of the secular Pakhtun nationalists, in many of the city’s peripheral areas with large Pakhtun populations it is the TTP that calls the shots. Furthermore, with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan officially claiming the airport assault, a new, equally ruthless and determined player has been added to the militancy mix in Karachi. While Uzbek militants were believed to be involved in 2011’s Mehran base attack, their claim of responsibility reflects a new confidence in now publicly owning strikes. Unfortunately, although the militants have been consolidating their positions in Karachi, the security apparatus appears to have buried its head in the sand. What is worse is the blame game between the Sindh and federal governments over the airport debacle that reflects poorly on both administrations. Both Sindh and the centre are equally to blame. While Islamabad deserves to be censured for a massive intelligence failure, the Sindh government also had its eyes closed. From here on, the intelligence apparatus will need to do a much better job of keeping track of militant activities in Karachi. Despite its difficulties, this is a challenge the state has to accept. Otherwise, we will ignore the militant threat at our own peril.