Sunday, July 5, 2015

Pakistan - Is State Security Only Threatened By ‘Save The Children’ In Balochistan?

Adnan Aamir
Once again the federal government has taken an action that is tantamount to blatant discrimination against Balochistan. International Non-Governmental Organization (INGO), ‘Save the Children’, has been asked by the federal government to close all its operations in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Security concern is, as usual, the flimsy pretext used to deprive the two western provinces of Pakistan from aid of social development sector in child care. This article will focus on closing down ‘Save the Children’ in Balochistan only.
On June 11, the federal government sealed the offices of ‘Save the Children’ in the entire country on allegations of anti-state activities. After uncertainty on this matter for a few days, the federal government allowed the NGO to resume its operations conditionally. The condition was that it would immediately shut down all its operation in “sensitive areas” of Pakistan. As a result, the Country Director of ‘Save the Children’ wrote an official letter to the Interior Ministry on June 19 and pledged to shut down all of its projects in Balochistan by the 30th.
This presents a clear case of double standards by the federal government which has one policy for Sindh and Punjab and another for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. When the federal government allowed ‘Save the Children’ to resume its operations, it implied that allegations leveled against the organization are wrong. If this is the case then why has the NGO been prevented from helping the children in Balochistan? It would be foolish to believe that it can carry out anti-state activities in Balochistan but not in Punjab or Sindh. It’s clear that the anti-Balochistan mindset prevalent in federal government is the only reason that ‘Save the Children’ has been ordered to leave Balochistan.
Closure of all of the NGO’s projects would prove to be catastrophic for Balochistan. Presently ‘Save the Children’ is employing 160 people in Balochistan and other than that 400 female teachers serving in refugee camps are also sponsored by this organization. So, shutting it down would result in economic hardships for hundreds of families in a province where unemployment rate is sky-rocketing.
‘Save the Children’ in Balochistan has provided equipment to many hospitals of the province that would have never got that equipment from government funds. ‘Save the Children’ was running the Malaria Control Program in 14 districts of Balochistan. According to data shared by sources within ‘Save the Children’, direct beneficiaries of ongoing projects of this organization in Balochistan are 381,485. At the moment funds of Rs. 1.37 billion have been allocated by this organization for its projects in Balochistan. Balochistan would lose all these benefits overnight to Sindh and Punjab just because of the paranoia of some people in Islamabad.
The need for ‘Save the Children’ is much greater in Balochistan as compared to other parts of Pakistan. In Balochistan infant mortality rate is 158 out of 1,000 and the same figure for the rest of the country is just 103. Emergency Operation Center (EOC) revealed this week that 84 percent of children in Balochistan are not immunized form preventable and fatal disease. This paints a bleak picture for child healthcare in Balochistan in the backdrop of selective ban on activities of ‘Save the Children’.
Federal government is not the only one to be blamed for this flawed decision. Administration of ‘Save the Children’ is equally responsible for putting the children in Balochistan at a grave risk. When ‘Save the Children’ was banned throughout Pakistan, the high ups of the organization used their influence to pressurize Pakistan government and persuaded it to reverse its decision. ‘Save the Children’ could have taken a stand for its projects in Balochistan and resisted the pressure of the federal government. However, they took the easy way out and announced to shut down operations in Balochistan. Senior administration at ‘Save the Children’ has proved that only thing that they care about is their jobs even if they put hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children at the risk of fatal illnesses.
This decision by ‘Save the Children’ will have repercussions for other INGOs working in Balochistan. The province would be deemed a no-go zone for any INGO and hence one by one will pull out of the province. This would add to the problems for people of Balochistan because NGOs are the third biggest source of employment after agriculture and government jobs in the province. An increase in number of unemployed youth would increase crimes in the province and the law and order situation would further deteriorate. It’s an undeniable fact that most of the projects carried out by social development sector in Balochistan are marred by massive corruption. Despite that, shutting the door of province to INGOs is not in anyone’s interests.
There is no doubt that the security of state is a top priority for everyone. However, it is mind boggling that the state’s security is only threatened by ‘Save the Children’ in Balochistan and not in Punjab. If there are any reservations about the conduct of the NGO then regulatory mechanisms can be made stringent and robust.
The flawed decision of closing operations of ‘Save the Children’ in Balochistan must be reconsidered in the best interests of the province and Pakistan. Otherwise the civil society of Balochistan has vowed to vehemently protest against the injustice.

Pakistan - Zardari cautions against exploitation of religion for political ends

Pakistan People’s Party Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday said that on July 5 a dictator overthrew an elected prime minister and later executed him.
“Zia decimated the constitution, privatised jihad, exploiting religion and fanned sectarianism for his own political agenda and to cement his control on the country. Decades later his ill-conceived policies still haunt us,” Zardari said.
Speaking on the 38th anniversary of the takeover of an elected government by General Ziaul Haq, Zardari said that July 5, 1977 was a dark day in the history of Pakistan. He further opined that it was the start of an era when Bonaparte’s of Pakistan put Pakistan on a road leading to disaster and self annihilation.
During the decades since the exit of the dictator the democratic forces have rebound and restored the 1973 Constitution unanimously. However, the mindset of religious extremism, privatized jihad and sectarianism which the dictator’s polices spawned continue to haunt Pakistan, he stated.
Zardari said that the masses have consistently refused to be suppressed by brute force and have always bounced back to seize their democratic rights from dictators. He further remarked that the people should collectively fight to finish the pernicious mindset of religious fanaticism and extremism.
On this day we reiterate our resolve that Pakistan will have to be a democratic, pluralistic and a moderate country in which there is no place for religious extremism, militancy and sectarianism, he said.
Zardari said that this day should be a reminder that the people of Pakistan will have to be vigilant and decide that the dictators and usurpers of people’s rights and freedoms must be punished.
The PPP co-chairman also paid homage to the martyrs of democracy. “On this day my thoughts also go to those martyrs of democracy who suffered and sacrificed during that black period of our national history”.
He also paid homage to the security forces and civilians who have laid down their lives and suffered in the fight against extremism and militants.

Living with terrorism in Peshawar: Anyone, anywhere, at any time, could explode

The horror on Tunisia's beaches shocked the western world by these deadly attacks are only the latest manifestation of global Islamic-inspired terrorism. Billy Briggs visits Peshawar in Pakistan where an estimated 4,000 people have been killed by terrorists since 2010. He discovers what it's like to live in the shadow of indiscriminate attacks - and the culture that gives birth to Jihadism.
Zahid Kishgan knew nothing of the bomb until he regained consciousness in hospital a few days later.
The explosion happened in a bustling market, a blast that set fire to the 32-year-old, causing horrendous injuries to his face, hands and body.
He lost his left hand and three fingers on his right but Zahid considers himself lucky as 137 innocent people were killed that day. He is at home with his mother, Khaista, and younger brother, Kamran, talking about an unfathomable act that devastated their lives.
"I don't actually remember what happened as I was hit with shrapnel from the bomb. I later learned my clothes were on fire and burned off. I lost my sight - I am blind in both eyes now," says Zahid, who spent three months seriously ill in hospital.
The attack took place around midday in Peshawar on October 9, 2009, when a suicide bomber drove into the city's famous Meena Bazaar and blew himself up. The car was packed with 330lb of explosives, wreaking carnage in a place popular with women and children who shopped for toys, clothes and jewellery.
Besides the grotesque death toll, at least 200 people were injured and as medics desperately sought survivors they were hampered for hours by raging fires. Most of the dead were charred and mutilated beyond recognition.
The victims included Zahid's brother, Zakir, who was 25 years old. "He worked in an electrician's shop at the bazaar," says Zahid, explaining that he was employed in a clothes shop nearby with Kamran.
"There was a lot of destruction with many shops destroyed and many people killed and injured," says Kamran, who miraculously survived unscathed, at least physically. As the men talk their mother sits in silence.
Her husband is dead and she cares for Zahid full time, washing and feeding her eldest son as he struggles to look after himself. With neither men earning, the family lives in dire poverty while facing the bleakest of futures.
Zahid has never been back to Meena Bazaar, which is just a few miles away from his home here in Peshawar, a sprawling dusty city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the north-west province of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan where an estimated 4,000 people have been killed by terrorists since 2010.
The security situation is desperate and our visit comes in the wake of a massacre last December when the Pakistan Taliban entered a school and slaughtered 132 children and 18 adults; mass murder that appalled the world.
There has been a wave of suicide incidents since, including the killing of 20 people in a Shia mosque in Peshawar and another bomb in Sindh province when more than 60 people, including children, were murdered during Friday prayers.
It seems that everyone we meet is affected by terrorism, including the young woman who arranged for us to interview Zahid. Saba Ismail, who is 27, runs Aware Girls, a human rights organisation she founded in 2003 with her sister Gulalai when they were teenagers.
Saba is used to death threats from Islamist extremists. She's also been falsely denounced on television as a "CIA spy" and her family have been in hiding since last spring when armed men turned up at their home in Peshawar, firing guns into the air and making threats.
"Each day, we never know when we leave our homes if we will be killed or [will] come back to our home," Saba says. "It [terrorism] is so common and it's causing so much fear in the minds and hearts of the people."
In this land of Pashtuns where she was born and raised, Saba and colleagues try to combat extremism by opposing the 90 or so militant groups who bedevil Pakistan.
These peace activists operate at grassroots, often in the face of dreadful violence, not just in this province but also in Pakistan's Federally-Administered Tribal Areas and other Taliban strongholds.
Saba's initial aim was to advance women's rights but the remit of Aware Girls has since broadened and they've recruited around 300 people for a Youth Peace Network that stretches from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa into rural parts of South Waziristan and Afghanistan, among other places.
The activists encourage inter-faith harmony and try to stop youngsters being radicalised by religious extremists but this perilous work often comes at a high cost.
In December 2011, for example, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai attended an Aware Girls programme but her efforts to promote girls' education in Swat Valley were later rewarded by the Taliban with a bullet to the head.
Saba smiles and says her friend is now a symbol of honour, adding: "Violent attacks are happening to many women in Pakistan so I was happy Malala was able to highlight the issue."
The psychological impact of terrorism is immense and Aware Girls has researched the trauma faced by thousands of people in Peshawar. According to one study, 84 per cent of survivors of bombings said they were too frightened to leave their homes while 66 per cent of families reported psychological problems.
Children were too scared to attend school due to constant suicide attacks and domestic violence was rising because men who'd lost their homes, businesses and jobs were assaulting their wives and daughters.
The economy has suffered greatly and many women - who often suffer disproportionately due to their second-class status in society - said they were living hand to mouth due to soaring prices and high unemployment.
"Terrorism has destroyed houses, properties, businesses and livelihoods. Children are frightened and weep. Women have lost hope," says Saba.
She is fearful for Pakistan's future amid what she views as the Talibanisation of her homeland. In particular, Saba opposes changes to the school curriculum that reintroduced violent jihadist content to children's textbooks.
In 2008, education officials took steps to curb the spread of Islamic extremism by introducing new books for public school pupils in one to 12 grades. Koranic verses preaching jihad were removed, as were illustrations depicting weapons or violence, to be replaced with chapters about philosophers, poets and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Pashtun identity.
However, the province's government - led by former cricket star Imran Khan's Pakistan Movement for Justice (PTI) and its coalition partner, the Jamaat-e Islami (JI) party - reversed these progressive measures to pacify their conservative Islamist supporters, much to the horror of liberal educators who warned this move could radicalise more young people.
Saba shows me a current textbook and translates the Urdu text. "The book is taught to children in ninth grade," she says. "Page nine focuses on what the Koran says about beheading non-believers in verse 12 of Surah Al Anfal.
It says, 'I am with you, so strengthen those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.' This is the type of thing 10-years-olds are being taught at school."
Saba's concerns are shared by Professor Khadim Hussain, of the Baccha Khan Trust Educational Foundation and author of The Militant Discourse - Religious Militancy In Pakistan, published in 2013.
At his office in Peshawar, he tells me extremism pervades every level of society. "It is almost everywhere and in every mind, in fact. If I am a teacher and I ask what an infidel is, pupils say, 'Everybody who is not a Muslim is an infidel.'
So, a 12-year-old is motivated to kill a person who commits blasphemy because he'll be glorified ... and war is glorified ... your enemy is everyone who is not a Muslim so virtually the whole of the world is your enemy. This is a time bomb. We live here assuming that anyone, anywhere, at any time, could explode. This is the way we live."
Both Professor Hussein and Aware Girls say education is key to countering jihadist propaganda, the former having started 14 schools that teach pluralism and democracy since 2007, the latter hosting regular meetings of Aware Girls' Youth Peace Network.
The following day I am invited to attend an event in Peshawar involving 30 people from as far afield as Chitraal in the north of Pakistan, South Waziristan and Afghanistan. The meeting discusses the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is hosted by Saba's elder sister, Gulalai, a fearless and rebellious 29-year-old who often eschews a veil for a black leather jacket.
She talks about freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial while the attendees speak about witnessing the wickedness of Islamist extremists, stories of mob justice and lynchings and of people disappearing and of Hindus and Christians being forced to convert to Islam under pain of death.
They also share ideas for promoting peace: a campaign to ban the sale of toy guns to children in bazaars; an initiative working with bankers and money changers to stop the flow of foreign money to militants; counselling children who witness suicide attacks; a campaign at the University of Malakand for female students to be allowed to wear colourful headscarves instead of black.
One of the delegates is Jawad Ullahkhan, who's been involved with Aware Girls for two years. Ullahkan, 21, is from Mingora, the largest city in Swat district, and since attending meetings he's recruited 15 people to help him.
They try to prevent radicalisation through theatre and by engaging with students from extremist madrassas to challenge stereotypes and bigotry. However, Jawad says that at least one peace activist or journalist is killed every month in Mingora, not just by militants but also the Pakistan Army. He tells me about the first time he saw a decapitated corpse.
"The Taliban would bring their victims to a place we called Blood Choke [Green Square] and behead them. They would leave them there for days. The first time I saw a body strung up I could not believe it. I remember I was walking towards Blood Choke listening to music. I had my hood up so nobody would see my earphones, as the Taliban had banned music. I was in shock for days as I had never seen such things. It was so cruel. I can still smell the blood."
As he relates the story, Jawad's eyes widen as if he's back in that moment, his fear almost tangible. He seems deeply affected by the experience as does a policeman I meet the following day when he talks about being kidnapped by the Taliban.
Tilal Mohammad is a head constable in Mardan district but in 2007 he was seconded to a prison in Swat Valley. He was abducted along with a colleague as he returned from a market one afternoon.
"Four people attacked us. They covered our faces with bags and grabbed us, hit us and captured us. They took us to a house and discussed what they should do with us. The Taliban told us we were apostates and non-Muslims who had arrested their friends. They said they would slaughter us."
As Tilal sat with his hands tied behind his back and a sack over his head, he was sure they'd cut off his head. To compound his terror, Tilal's mind cast up visions of headless corpses he'd seen in local streets. But the next day both men were stunned to hear they could leave unharmed.
"In the morning many villagers came and they negotiated with the Taliban for our release," Tilal explains.
"The Taliban agreed and said they would do so only because local people had requested this. The Taliban told us we should resign and never be seen in the district again."
Tilal spent two months at home recovering from his ordeal and although traumatised he eventually returned to policing.
Other Pakistanis we meet are equally stoic, including Sadiq Khan from South Waziristan, whose wife and two sons - one aged 17, the other 10 - were blown up by the Taliban last November.
They died along with 50 other people when a suicide bomber struck at a border crossing with India. A huge bear of a man, Sadiq lifts up his shirt and shows me a 14-inch scar on his stomach, caused by shrapnel from the blast.
He explains that his family were on a day trip after he returned from a spell working in Dubai. The man exploded the bomb as spectators were leaving a flag-lowering ceremony that takes places each day at dusk. "After hearing this terrible news my 80-year-old father, Hamid, died of a heart attack three days later," Sadiq says.
Meanwhile, across the city, Zahid Kishgan has to cope with nightmares and the constant pain from fragments of metal from the Meena Bazaar bomb still lodged in his face and body.
What does he think of the people who did this?
"I become very afraid. I would like counselling and help. If that person had been arrested by the government then I would have shown the world. I would have given him punishment as revenge. I would have taught him a lesson. But I cannot do anything."

Pakistan - Blast kills one, injures 15 in Quetta

An explosion killed one person and injured another 15, including three women and two children, around Quetta's Bacha Khan Chowk area Sunday evening.
The bomb blast smashed windows of nearby shops and plazas and also damaged vehicles parked nearby.
According to Quetta Capital City Police Officer Razzak Cheema, the bomb, which went off with a loud explosion, was planted in a motorcycle parked in the area.
The injured were rushed to Civil Hospital Quetta where emergency was imposed to provide urgent treatment to those injured in the explosion.
Bacha Khan Chowk is a business center located in the heart of Balochistan's capital city. The area was at its busiest when the blast occurred.
Shopping centers and shops in the area were closed and traffic suspended after the blast.
Police and Frontier Corps officials reached the site and an investigation into the incident is underway.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
Incidents of targeted killing in Quetta have picked up recently. Two people belonging to the Shia Hazara community were gunned down on May 27.
The two were sitting in their cloth shop in a shopping plaza in MeCongi road area when they were shot dead. Another person was injured in the attack.
In another attack on June 7, unknown assailants killed five people belonging to the Hazara community in Bacha Khan Chowk. Police sources had said suspected militants opened fire at two shops near Bacha Khan Chowk, killing four people on the spot while one passed away at the hospital.
On June 11, four policemen were killed in an attack on their van in Quetta's Pashtoonabad area.
Authorities have been conducting raids in the city to arrest militants and put a check on acts of violence that have haunted Quetta for a while now.

Pakistan - Where is NAP?

A three-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC) hearing the case on Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) has taken the government to task for its failure to seriously implement the National Action Plan (NAP). The honourable judges characterised the NAP as a big joke devised to deceive the masses. The SC asked for a report from the federation and provinces by July 22 on the total number of registered NGOs (which we hope includes madrassas), details of their foreign and domestic funding, audit of their accounts and action taken against them. In the context of the NAP, the court ordered filing of the details of the budget allocated to the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) and other institutions for the war on terror. Further, the court wanted to know how many NGOs have so far been banned, the accounts of how many have been frozen and cases registered against them. These questions go to the heart of the widespread concern at the seeming maze into which the NAP has become entwined. It may be recalled that the NAP was supposed to, amongst other things, make NACTA the overall coordinating agency for all anti-terrorist campaigns; set up a Joint Intelligence Committee comprising civil and military agencies; ban all terror groups and prevent their reinvention under a different name (as has been happening since Musharraf’s time); stop religious extremism in all its manifestations; protect the minorities; reform and regularise the madrassas; block foreign financing of extremist groups, and carry out reforms in the criminal justice system. The mere listing of these tasks reads as an indictment of the government for its failure to even start taking steps towards, let alone completing these tasks mandated by the political parties meeting in an All Parties Conference (APC) early this year after the Army Public School, Peshawar attack in which our schoolchildren were horrifically massacred. The political consensus of the APC had the backing of the military, already engaged in Operation Zarb-e-Azb in the tribal areas.

The seeming paralysis of the government in carrying out the tasks outlined in the 20 points of the NAP may be explained by reference to the possibility that its heart is not in the job. Let us not forget that soon after it came to power in 2013, the government sought to negotiate with the terrorists of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). It was the TTP that brought those negotiations to an inglorious end by its attack on Karachi airport, which became the trigger for Operation Zarb-e-Azb. To the possible factor of sympathy for the terrorists may be added fear and, last but not least, incompetence. Where the will is lacking on the civil side, the military can rightfully claim success in its operations in the tribal areas. Operations Khyber-I and Khyber-II have concluded successfully with the redoubtable Tirah Valley all but controlled, while Operation Zarb-e-Azb has seen the army occupy the heights in the Shawal Valley, a position that gives it the ability to carry out aerial and ground operations to clean up the remnants of the terrorists in the area. COAS General Raheel Sharif’s visit to the area was meant to congratulate the troops, raise their morale further and see that the temporary displaced persons’ return and rehabilitation programme launched in North Waziristan is taken to its logical conclusion. General Raheel made no bones while addressing the troops that the military’s operations will continue until Pakistan is made terror-free. He was very clear that this campaign must be conducted without discrimination to arrest the terrorists and their facilitators, abettors and financiers, irrespective of the cost. The COAS was also very appreciative of the special integrated teams carrying out intelligence-based operations across the urban areas of the country, which had severed the links between the terrorist sanctuaries in remote areas and their sleeper cells in the cities. While there is little room for complacency in this regard and there is still some distance to be travelled to the final goal, the military has come through with flying colours, in sharp contrast to the slow, ineffective efforts of the government. What this does is provide ammunition to the critics of democratically elected governments and the democratic system per se to argue that the country should simply be handed over to the military. Pakistan has enough experience of the downside of such ‘solutions’ to remain wary of such suggestions. Nor does the military leadership pay heed to such foolish prattle. However, this does not absolve the government of its duty and responsibility to first explain what is holding it back from implementing the NAP and then actually carry out the task in practice. 

Pakistan - The quest for identity

Afrasiab Khattak
Many states that emerged after the end of colonial rule in the 20th century had to face the challenge of acquiring a new national identity. The problem was aggravated by a number of factors. First and foremost was the arbitrary and callous nature of the new state frontiers imposed by the colonial masters in total disregard to the historical and national aspirations of people of former colonies. The colonial powers, while physically leaving their former colonies, still nurtured strong designs for creating a world order that was to be dominated by them and that could cater for their ideological, political and economic interests and keep their rivals at bay. So they had their own vested interests that mostly determined their policy in carving out state frontiers rather than the demands of the national liberation movements. Secondly the ambitious leaders of the newly emerging states, acting quite subjectively, assumed that their states are ready-made modern national states just like the states of their former European masters. They didn’t realize that they have yet to undergo the process of nation building that modern European nations have evolved through over the centuries, something that could be achieved only through historical development and not by administrative order or mere coercion. They failed to appreciate the reality, that yes they had a state of their own, but they had to build a nation for the new state through a historical process of development. This is what landed many newly born states into internal conflicts.

The most sensitive and delicate question was handling of the cultural, ethnic and national diversity existing in these societies from hundreds of years. Now this diversity could not evaporate into thin air by the proclamation of independence by the new states as it had strong roots in the history of these societies. The most sensible and rational way of dealing with this diversity would have been to draw it towards unity by recognizing, respecting and celebrating it, in other words looking for unity in diversity. But in many cases the issue was mishandled by denying the diversity thus negatively provoking it. Ethnic and cultural repression by the bigger and predominant nationality in a state has invariably led to the worsening of the situation by strengthening centrifugal forces.

For Pakistan the challenge of national identity was more severe because of its peculiar situation. Pakistan is a completely new state without history of statehood with a deep sense of insecurity as some of the neighboring states challenged its existence. Consequently the policies based on paranoia were bound to lead to unintended consequences. The early demise of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah led to a vacuum which could not be filled by Muslim League as the political party didn’t have strong and popular roots in the areas that were included in Pakistan, except East Bengal as demonstrated by the election results of 1945. The feudal leadership with a strong dependence on civil and military bureaucracy lacked the vision for nation building projects. This failure was fully reflected in the checkered history of constitution making in the country. The Urdu speaking ideologues of the new state originating mostly from Central India could not relate themselves to the local cultures and history. They rejected the cultural and historical realities of the society that constituted Pakistan insisting that Muslim nationhood can take care of every thing. Initially this idea found resonance with Punjabi intelligentsia that was traumatized by the bloody partition of the Punjab on a communal basis. This led to an effort by the Mohajir/Punjabi elites to bulldoze ethnocultural diversity by an enforced uniformity that was bound to be counter-productive. East Pakistan (Bengal) that was the population wise biggest province and had to its credit the most important role in creating the new state became the first casualty of this policy. The Bengalis were shocked to discover that even though they had been the only province of Pakistan that had clearly favored the creation of Pakistan in the crucial election of 1945 and also being the majority population in the country, their language Bengali was not recognized as a national language. On February 21, 1952 state security forces opened fire on a Bengali students’ demonstration in Dacca who were demanding the status of national language for Bengali. A number of students were killed in firing (February 21 is now celebrated every year as International Mother Tongue’s Day by UNESCO in memory of this incident). This was the beginning of the movement for a separate country Bangladesh. Diabolical “ constitutional” schemes like One Unit and Parity further reinforced the trend leading to the tragic events of 1971.
The aforementioned policy of enforced uniformity had extremely negative consequences for religious minorities as well, as it negates pluralism in all its forms. It became a basis for the intolerance that led to extreme marginalization of religious minorities. Male domination and aggressive patriarchy is also an important dimension of this uniformity denying women rights. This is a major factor for our “reverse journey” in terms of implementation of women’s rights. Contraction of socio-cultural mobility of women has been at the core of this religious narrow mindedness.

Unfortunately our ruling elites have not only failed to learn any lesson from the debacle of East Pakistan but they have redoubled their efforts for imposing religious extremism as policy for nation building after 1977. They haven’t hesitated from co-opting extremist Deobandi/Wahabi sectarian ideologies to bulldoze ethnic and cultural diversity. Huge investment of dollars and petro-dollars in propagation of religious extremism during Afghan war has played havoc with our society. Talibanization of Pakhtunkhwa, FATA and now Balochistan and Sindh is clear evidence of this phenomena. Our official history books are devoid of any information about great civilizations of this soil like Indus Valley, Gandahara and Mehargarh. Even the tolerant Islamic traditions of Sufism that travelled to South Asia from Central Asia through the areas that constitute Pakistan do not find any mention in history books. The result is the rise of religious extremism and militancy that has the potential for destroying us as a state and society.

One doesn’t have to be a prophet to predict that failure in implementing National Action Plan and in reimagining our national identity to become a normal, democratic and peaceful state can land us on the trajectory of Iraq, Libya and Syria leading to international isolation and internal implosion. The so called IS is the product of misguided state policies in the Middle East and it will be foolish to expect different results from the similarly misguided policies.

Pakistan : (#PTI) Losing credibility

Once again the impulsive nature of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan has created an embarrassing situation for the party. The PTI has split into two groups and its central leadership is busy clearing up the mess created by their outspoken chief who has now said that the allegations of 35 punctures was merely political talk. A debate was triggered when PTI leader Dr Arif Alivi through his twitter account underscored the need for tendering an apology over making false allegations against then caretaker chief minister Najam Sethi for his alleged involvement in fixing 35 punctures while other top leaders of the PTI including Nadeemul Haq and Jehangir Tareen termed it Alvi’s personal view and added that instead of 35, 71 punctures were fixed. The controversy regarding 35 punctures first started through social media in 2014, when a PTI leader tweeted on the matter. The tweet alleged that Najam Sethi called Nawaz Sharif on the night of May 13, 2013, and told him that he had fixed 35 punctures. That meant he had allegedly rigged elections in 35 Punjab constituencies. It prompted Imran Khan to launch an onslaught of allegations and character assassination against Mr Sethi without confirming the authenticity of the story that was based on hearsay.

If the allegation of 35 punctures was merely political talk, then what is the credibility of other claims made by Imran Khan regarding alleged rigging in the 2013 elections? The sudden u-turn of Imran Khan has bewildered his supporters, who are uncertain what to do now. How can a politician like Imran Khan lead a nation when he banks on false accusations for achieving political motives? Where are the ethics and moral values of the PTI? Who will trust the PTI after such irresponsible statements? The contradictory nature of Imran Khan’s policies and his impulsive nature have made his credibility doubtful and the result is that his party has been facing a gradual downslide as well as isolation from the public at large.

The PTI in its initial years had posed itself as the saviour of the nation but due to consistently changing stances over different issues, including the current one by its founder, has evoked for Imran the label ‘U-turn Khan’. The masses are really getting disappointed with the politics of the PTI. Imran and his PTI colleagus need to learn: Your tongue can either be your friend or enemy to the expressions of your feelings, so keep a tight rein over it. Dr Alvi has taken an honest stance and the party leadership should stand by it instead of telling more lies to the nation.

Pakistan - PIG Zia’s monsters continue to hound Pakistan even today

Dictatorial forces continue to hound Pakistan in different garbs and crush the dreams of the founding fathers, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said Saturday in a message marking 38 years since the military overthrow of Pakistan’s first democratic government.
"Dictator's eggs have grown into full monsters of terrorism, extremism, dictatorial mindset, intolerance and poverty. This is what tin-pot dictator Zia had inflicted on the country and Pakistan is continuously reeling under miseries," said Bilawal in a statement on the eve of July 5.
Exactly 38 years ago on 5th July 1977, the military regime of General Zia ul Haq overthrew the democratically-elected government of PPP founder Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
PPP Chairman Bilawal said his maternal grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had “collected the pieces of a shattered Pakistan in 1971, gave it a Constitution, laid foundations of country’s biggest industrial units like Pakistan Steel, Heavy Mechanical Complex etc. He founded the nuclear programme to make the defence of Pakistan invincible, introduced one-man one-vote, land reforms and several other historic projects to put the country on sound tracks.
“However, he was overthrown in the darkness of night by a dictator to put Pakistan on a regressive path and uproot democracy to deprive the people’s right to rule themselves,” he said.
Bilawal vowed that the PPP would continue its mission for “an egalitarian and democratic Pakistan despite conspiracies” against it.
“July 5, 1977 shall remain a Black Day when aspirations of the people of Pakistan were murdered and the country’s democratic forces were subjected to worst human rights violations through hanging, jails and lashes,” he said.

But Torch of Democracy continues to shine with blood and sweats of the martyrs of the long struggle for restoration of true democracy, he added.

Bilawal Bhutto message on July 5th

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party has alerted the patriotic people of Pakistan that the eggs laid down by the Dictator Zia have grown into full monsters and are targeting Pakistan from all sides to tear down the dreams of founders of this country.
“Dictator’s eggs have grown into full monsters of terrorism, extremism, dictatorial mindset, intolerance and poverty. This is what tin-pot dictator Zia had inflicted on the country and Pakistan is continuously reeling under miseries,” Bilawal Bhutto Zardari stated this in his message on the eve of July 5 the day when 38 years ago, country’s first democratically-elected Prime Minister Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was overthrown by military regime of General Zia.
PPP Chairman said Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto collected the pieces of a shattered Pakistan in 1971, gave it a Constitution, laid foundations of country’s biggest industrial units like Pakistan Steel, Heavy Mechanical Complex etc. He founded the nuclear programme to make the defence of Pakistan invincible, introduced one-man one-vote, land reforms and several other historic projects to put the country on sound tracks. However, he was overthrown in the darkness of night by a dictator to put Pakistan on a regressive path and uproot democracy to deprive the people’s right to rule themselves.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that dictatorial forces continue to hound the people of Pakistan in different incarnations and garbs and dreams of the founding fathers are being crushed under the personal whims. However, the PPP being the torch-bearer of the ideology of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto shall continue its mission for an egalitarian and democratic Pakistan despite conspiracies against it.
He said July 5, 1977 shall remain a Black Day when aspirations of the people of Pakistan were murdered and country’s democratic forces were subjected to worst human rights violations through hanging, jails and lashes. But Torch of Democracy continues to shine with blood and sweats of the martyrs of the long struggle for restoration of true democracy, he added.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari pledged that PPP will continue to play the role of a binding chain among all the federating units at whatever more price and all the conspiracies to squeeze it would be foiled with the support of Jiyalas and the common men. He said that philosophy of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto “”You can imprison a man, but not an idea. You can exile a man, but not an idea. You can kill a man, but not an idea” shall always be pursued by the leadership and workers of Pakistan Peoples Party.

Sardar Ali Takkar - جنت او دُنیا-غنی خان