Tuesday, February 14, 2017


When existential threats are met with selective interest and short-term fixes, the outcomes are bound to be contentious.
A week after terrorist struck and killed 144 students and staff members at the Army Public School in Peshawar — in a televised address to the nation, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced a comprehensive strategy to defeat what many had come to believe was an existential threat to Pakistan.
Sharif called the 20-point National Action Plan (NAP) that had come about after two days of marathon meetings of heads of parliamentary parties, a ‘defining moment’ in the fight against terrorism.
“A line has been drawn,” a sombre Prime Minister told the nation. “On one side are coward terrorists and on the other side stands the whole nation.”
NAP provided for the execution of convicted terrorists, establishment of military-led speedy trial courts, action against armed militias and the strengthening and activation of the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta).
It also envisaged countering hate speech and extremist material, choking financing for terrorist and terrorist organisations, ensuring that proscribed organisations and individuals do not re-emerge, establishing a counter-terrorism force and taking steps against religious persecution.
The plan also included steps for the registration and regulation of seminaries, a ban on the glorification of terrorists in the media, Fata reforms, dismantling of the communication networks of terrorists, measures against abuse of the internet and social media for terrorism, reversing the trend of militancy, a Karachi operation to end lawlessness and to deny space to militants and extremism.
Besides, and most importantly, NAP called for steps to reconcile the dissident Baloch, ending sectarian terrorism, repatriation of Afghan refugees and revamping of the criminal justice system.
To ensure that work was taken in hand immediately and concurrently in a speedy and effective manner, the government also constituted various committees, 18 of which were to be headed by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
Twenty months after it was announced with great fanfare, most of the 20 points of the National Action Plan to counter terrorism have seen very little progress.
Progress on NAP, however, has been uneven and unsatisfactory and, in some cases, extremely slow — a fact also borne out by a public near-rebuke of the government by the military establishment.
The lack of interest on the part of the political leadership in overseeing progress on NAP was evident from the fact that Prime Minister Sharif convened a meeting of the civil and military top brass only 19 months after NAP was announced to review the matter and that too, only after the Quetta bombing that left 50 lawyers dead and caused public outcry and anger.
Among the issues that continue to show a lack of progress are tge choking of financing for terrorist and terrorist organisations, officials associated with the process say.
Led by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, the committee tasked with the goal includes Governor State Bank of Pakistan, Chairman FBR, DG FIA, Secretary Finance and DG ISI but has failed to produce any tangible results without any legal and constitutional framework.
Even the half-hearted attempt to close down Peshawar’s main currency exchange market — known for its hundi and hawala business — after persistent demands by intelligence agencies at Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Apex Committee meetings, ran into legal problems. The market has had to be re-opened soon afterwards.
Little wonder then that the demand for the American greenback in Peshawar is higher than anywhere else in the country, pushing the rate of the dollar up in the provincial capital much above elsewhere in Pakistan.
The re-emergence of proscribed organisations and individuals is perhaps one of the most contentious issues. Headed by the Minister for Interior, the committee that was to suggest steps to ensure that proscribed organisations and individuals did not re-emerge under different names did not achieve much progress either.
Fata Reforms did show some progress. A committee led by the adviser to the PM on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, has completed its task and has prepared a 51-page report recommending Fata’s merger with KP.
It has suggested a five-year transition period, allowing the government to undertake legal and administrative reforms, including scrapping the British-era Frontier Crimes Regulations, coupled with massive infrastructure development work to mainstream the area.
The reform package awaited the PM’s post-surgery return from London and has had to wait to get an appointment with him for a final presentation.
Federal officials say that the PM would not only have to approve the reform package and announce it but would also have to make the resources available to set Fata on the course to be amalgamated with mainstream Pakistan.
The repatriation of Afghan refugees is also one of the key issues which have seen slow progress (see Pakistan’s Afghan problem).
Pakistan has refused to grant further extension to the millions of documented and undocumented Afghan refugees, making it clear to Afghanistan and United Nations High Commission for Refugees, that it would not extend the December 31, 2016, deadline for the refugees to return to their homeland.
With just four months left for the expiry of the umpteenth deadline, and while there has been a somewhat unprecedented uptick in the number of refugees going back to their country, there still does not seem to be any coordinated plan to streamline, speed up and encourage the millions of still-sceptical refugees to return home.
But perhaps the most difficult and complex issue that has seen little or no tangible progress is the reconciliation process in Baluchistan. The process did kindle some hope when the former Balochistan Chief Minister, Abdul Malik met with dissident Baloch leaders in self-exile in Europe.
The initiative did not make any headway, however, apparently due to the insistence by dissident Baloch leaders that they would only speak to the military establishment. In their view, the civilian leadership lacked the necessary authority and mandate. The political process is stalemated due to a lack of political and strategic direction.
Still, government officials say, substantial progress could be made toward the reconciliation process if concerted and cohesive efforts are made to bring in hundreds of fighters holed up in the mountains, commonly known as Feraris in Balochistan, willing to surrender to the authorities.
The process of the registration and regulation of madressahs also did not make any headway in the face of stiff resistance from religio-political parties and religious bodies and the lack of consistent efforts by the federal government to coordinate the efforts with the provinces.
It is, however, the government’s failure to provide the necessary financial, legal and administrative authority to strengthen Nacta that has drawn the most criticism from almost all political parties. Government officials insist that while strengthening Nacta is essential to combat terrorism, it is not the be-all and end-all institution to fight off the menace on its own.
As one official sums up: “Leaving it to and depending on one state institution to fight the permeated cancer is erroneous. Nacta plays an important role but the kind of problem we are in requires all state institutions, federal and provincial governments to work together more closely and more effectively. It is a process and a long haul but you can’t work in fits and starts.”


Lahore suicide bombing took place due to inaction by the relevant authorities of the Punjab government despite issuance of the threat alert by the National Counterterrorism Authority (NACTA) about possible attacks by terrorists.

The NACTA issued the threat alert on February 7 in its letter that was sent to the Punjab Chief Minister, Home Department and Inspector General Police.
Punjab government should have taken concrete steps to counter the threats but unfortunately they have always taken the takfiri threats for granted. Instead of taking stern action, the Punajb government’s bigwigs preferred to join hands with takfiris of banned terrorist organizations hence terrorism could not have been eliminated altogether.


Pakistan - Congrats dear govt, we aren’t celebrating Valentine’s Day today. And it’s not because of the obnoxious ban

Wishal Raheel
Congratulations to our state; nobody will be celebrating Valentine’s Day. Not because of the preposterous ban or the wrath of the mullahs. But because our hearts ache for the loss that we have had to face. Because terror, once again, has gripped the entire country. There will be no celebration of love because hate overpowers love in the land of the pure.
It didn’t come as a surprise when the Islamabad High Court prohibited Valentine's Day celebrations in public spaces and government offices across the country 'with immediate effect'. Valentine’s Day is a day that manages to attract a lot of unnecessary criticism within our country every single year. Last year, President Mamnoon Hussain, who never has an opinion on any matter of importance (literally), and fails to address the nation on the most important of occasions, managed to deliver a speech highlighting the immoral activities Valentine’s Day promotes.
The Punjab government, too, seems to be determined not to let anyone celebrate love. A pamphlet, created and distributed by the Punjab government, has been circulating on social media. Not only is this pamphlet a waste of human resources given the fact that a designer must have spent time creating it, it is also a preposterous piece of work. One point in the pamphlet that I couldn’t help but ignore was that ‘secret police teams’ have been appointed to ensure that nobody celebrates Valentine’s Day. While under any other circumstances this would have been plain obnoxious, keeping in mind the events from last night, this point manages to get one thinking about the government’s priorities.
The country is under the grip of terror once more. People are dying. Just last night two major cities of the country were attacked. These incidents didn’t come as a surprise. On 7th February, NACTA warned of a possible terrorist attack in Lahore. But our government would rather have Valentine’s Day celebrations curbed.
I saw a lot of people supporting the government’s decision to ban Valentine’s Day; if something is promoting immoral acts, it must be spoken up against. Why is it that I don’t see any of these people openly criticizing jihad now that Jamaatur Ahrar, a faction of the TTP, has taken responsibility for the blast? An extremist outfit thriving on the concept of jihad has wreaked havoc in our country and we sit here silently? If we feel the need to speak up against ‘immoral acts’ why do we not feel the need to speak up against something that has been terrorizing us for over a decade now?
The sad truth is that we, as a society, inclusive of the government, have messed up priorities. While Special Forces were being created to curb Valentine’s Day, extremists entered my city and killed civilians. Sadly, those who have their loved ones will find comfort in the fact that their loved ones are martyrs while their murderers continue planning and plotting.


Until the state abandons its policy of favouring some militant groups that seek to target countries in the region and until it curbs hate speech the fight against militancy will remain elusive.

This was stated by Senator Farhatullah Babar while taking part in discussion on the National Action Plan (NAP) on a motion moved by PPP Senator Sehar Kamran in the Senate today.
Questioning the policy of blocking UN move to impose sanctions against the head of a banned militant outfit he said that such diabolical policies raised serious questions about our intentions and policies.
He said that activists challenging state narrative on militancy and national security are silenced through a vicious hate campaign on social and electronic media. Today hate speech flourishes while
dissent with state narrative is not only silenced but also punished covertly without recourse to law, he said adding ‘this is a new and most disturbing trend’.
The government must come out clean on the priorities it has in the fight against militancy. Are we going to fight only those militants who are targeting our citizens or are we also going to fight also those whose target is across the borders, he asked?

Execution Leaflets Bring New ISIS Terror Fear to Pakistan


High in a remote, mountainous region of Pakistan, fearful residents have found leaflets containing ISIS propaganda that threaten attacks against their communities.
The sheets feature the black flag of ISIS, alongside pictures of an execution and armed militants waving automatic rifles as they parade through streets, thought to be in Iraq or Syria.
It's not clear who distributed the leaflets in the Kurram tribal area, and their origin cannot be independently verified by NBC News.
Pakistan's government says ISIS has no real organizational presence in the country, and the papers may have been produced by lone sympathizers rather than the group's more central elements.
Image: ISIS propaganda leaflet distributed in Pakistan
An ISIS propaganda leaflet distributed in Pakistan. Hussain Ali
However, American officials warned last year that ISIS is attempting to establish a foothold across the border with Afghanistan, and the group has claimed responsibility for several deadly attacks.
The leaflets' appearance has worried recipients that the influence of the militant group is spreading into new areas.
"We found these pamphlets in the morning," Amjad Hussain, 46, a tribesman in the town of Sadda, told NBC News. "I believe the militants came to our village in the night and distributed the pamphlets."
Another tribesman, Javed Hussain, 43, said that even though their hostile region has been targeted by other militant groups in the past, the specter of ISIS was more threatening still.
"The whole world knows about ISIS and its cruelties," he said, an illustration of just how effective the organization's propaganda machine is at spreading fear across the globe.
The text is in Pashto, a language spoken in some parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. It warns Shiite Muslims, who make up most of the population, that they are now targets for ISIS, which practices an extreme version of Sunni Islam.
"We are going to launch attacks against the Shiite community ... by the help of Allah, we will soon clear these areas of infidels," said the leaflets, which were sent to NBC News by local tribesman Hussain Ali.
It also claimed that ISIS was "in contact with our fellow mujahideen" — an Arabic term meaning "holy warriors" — and that they would help coordinate these attacks on Shiites.
ISIS has teamed up with local Pakistani militants in the past. In October, the group cooperated with a radical organization called Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in an assault on a police academy in the city of Quetta that left 63 people dead.
Pakistani soldiers stand guard at a checkpoint in Parachinar, capital of the Kurram tribal district, on Jan. 22. Basit Gilani / AFP-Getty Images
More than 300 miles north, Kurram is no stranger to violence, with groups linked with al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban carrying out attacks in recent years. The latest of these came last month when the Pakistani Taliban claimed a bomb blast that killed 30 people at a fruit and vegetable market in Parachinar, the province's main administrative town.
But there's no evidence ISIS has ever planned to carry out an attack in Kurram — until now.
In response to the leaflets, locals held a meeting Thursday and demanded the country's security forces come up with a strategy to nip the potential threat in the bud.
"This is very, very serious threats to our community," local resident Akbar Hussain said. "We demanded of the government and military authorities to put strict security measures on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border so the terrorists can't enter Pakistan and kill our innocent people."
This threat is made worse, he said, because the security forces have confiscated weapons from local villagers in an attempt to curb violence in this restive region.
"Our border with Afghanistan is long and porous," Hussain added. "The terrorists can enter anywhere if proper security measures are not made."
Ikramullah Khan, the top administrative official from Kurram province, said he was aware of the leaflets and the case was being investigated.
Officials from Pakistan's government and military declined to comment when contacted by NBC News.
Pakistan's government officially denies that ISIS has any meaningful presence in the country, although it does admit the group enjoys sympathizers and supporters. 


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Pakistan - Fight for women’s rights - Remembering February 12, 1983

Thirty-four years after it first mobilised women against a law reducing their citizenship status, Women’s Action Forum reaffirms its resolve to fight for women’s rights.
It was February 12, 1983. Around 400 women gathered at Regal Chowk Lahore to protest against the proposed Law of Evidence which equated the testimony of two women with that of one Muslim male in a court of law. At a call given by Pakistan Women Lawyers’ Association, WAF mobilised women belonging to different ages, classes, religions, sects and ethnicities to march to the Lahore High Court with a petition against the proposed law which would in effect reduce their citizenship status to half that of Muslim men.
It was one of a series of draconian laws passed since the military takeover of July1977, a period during which a facile Islamisation ideology was adopted to provide legitimacy to an illegal military regime.
On the cool February morning, hundreds of indignant and defiant women carrying placards, banners and flags chanted slogans against the oppressive regime, and waited anxiously to march to the halls of justice. The police cordoned off the area to prevent the advance of the crowd to the High Court. The legendary poet of the people, Habib Jalib, ever a fighter against dictatorship, arrived on the scene with a moving poem about the equality and rights of women. As he recited his poetry about women no longer willing to remain in chains, about women demanding freedom and equality, he was pounced upon by the police who began a sudden baton charge.
Stirred by the moment of resistance — the moment of speaking out and breaking the silence — the women began to move like the waves of an angry sea buffeted by the winds of change. Passion and determination, induced by years of suppression at the hands of a ruthless dictator, led them to break the police cordon. A virtual battle with the police followed. Wielding their batons with the full weight of state power behind them, policemen and policewomen fell upon the resolute crowd and showered the women with official strokes.
Undaunted, the women fought back with bare hands, shoes and batons wrested from the police during scuffles. Many were injured, some arrested while others were rushed to nearby hospitals for treatment. It was the first time in the history of the country that nerve gas was used on a women’s peaceful demonstration. State repression intensified the anger and the determination to break the cordon erected to prevent the women from seeking justice.
The proliferation of donor-driven NGOs in the 1990s took some of the steam out of the autonomous and self-financed movement, nevertheless WAF remains deeply committed to the agenda of challenging patriarchy
Supportive lawyers and friends of the movement cheered from the sides while eager journalists captured the historical moment on camera. The next day the event was splashed all over every newspaper in the country. International media too picked it up, and there were write-ups about the repressive regime and its courageous opponents in other countries.
Six years of Pakistan’s most oppressive, brutal, obscurantist and bigoted dictatorship had led to intense frustration among all those who believed in democracy, justice and equality.
Today, 34 years after that day of defiance, women are compelled to reflect on the significance of the watershed event and subsequent history. While celebrating and remembering the day of resistance against an oppressive regime is important, troublesome thoughts plague the minds of many. Despite the myriad countrywide struggles for the political, economic and social rights of women, not much has changed.
WAF: 2015. — Photo by Naseem ur Rehman
WAF: 2015. — Photo by Naseem ur Rehman
In terms of political rights, women still do not have even 33 per cent of the seats in the local, national and provincial legislatures; political parties are still reluctant to award tickets to women candidates; in several areas, women are not allowed to vote in elections, and the pacts to prevent them are often signed by both religious and relatively more secular parties.
With regard to economic rights and equality, women still earn far less than men at various levels of the economy and constitute the bulk of the informal (casual, contractual, temporary and part-time) labour across the country. They often have little control over their earnings and land even when they do own it. Women seldom receive even the legally-sanctioned half share of family land or property.
With reference to social and cultural rights, women continue to be subjected to violence by the family, community and the state. They are murdered in the name of ‘honour’; bought, sold or otherwise exchanged in transactions between men, and their bodies and minds (deemed to be the property of male kin and the community or nation) are controlled by others. In spite of Article 25 (2) of the constitution which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender, women receive less education and health, and their freedoms, including those of speech, expression and movement are curtailed by families and communities.
The Women Action Forum (WAF), which played an important role in galvanising large numbers in the February 12, 1983 demonstration, is perhaps still the most articulate and politically radical women’s group in Pakistan
To date, discriminatory laws such as the Hudood Ordinances, Law of Evidence and Qisas and Diyat laws remain intact, protected by the infamous 8th amendment which was not changed even by the 18th amendment due to the pressure of the religious lobby.
Women’s rights invariably become the bargaining chips when political parties capitulate to the demands of the religious right wing in return for other measures.
From time to time, the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), constituted by a military dictator in 1962 as an advisory body, seeks reversal of the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance of 1961. And the Federal Shariat Court, constituted by another dictator and inserted into the constitution through Chapter 3 A, announced the reversal of the few gains made by women in the Women Protection Act of 2006. The few strides forward by women with regard to the legal structure are constantly contested and resisted by the conservative right.
The women’s movement has to constantly be vigilant and resist the attempts by various arms of the state to push them back. The latest example of this is the National Assembly’s passage of the bill legalising Jirgas and Panchayats, notorious for their judgments against women’s rights.
Permanent resistance and continuous vigilant activism are needed to ensure that all measures designed to reduce women’s rights are contested and prevented.
In spite of the constant and severe backlash, women have managed to get significant legislation passed against sexual harassment in the workplace; anti-women practices such as forced marriage, abduction and depriving women of their share in property; the establishment of the National and Provincial Commissions on the status of women through an act of parliament. This is due to sheer determination and persistence by the women’s movement over decades of struggle since the formation of Pakistan.
The Women Action Forum (WAF), which played an important role in galvanising large numbers in the February 12, 1983 demonstration, is perhaps still the most articulate and politically radical women’s group in Pakistan and has chapters in Karachi, Hyderabad, Islamabad, Peshawar and Lahore. Its membership is open to women who stand for its charter which includes the demand for a secular state, and it believes in non-hierarchical decision-making. Entirely voluntary and steadfast in not taking funds from donor agencies, government, and multinational enterprises, it depends entirely on the political commitment of its membership.
The proliferation of donor-driven NGOs in the 1990s took some of the steam out of the autonomous and self-financed movement, nevertheless WAF remains deeply committed to the agenda of challenging patriarchy wherever and whenever it manifests itself.
On this day, WAF reaffirms its resolve to fight all steps taken to curb women’s rights, while remaining actively committed to social, economic and political transformation towards a society based on justice and equality.

لاہور دھماکہ: آپریشن غازی کے نام سے لال مسجد کے خو ارج ملک پر حملہ آور ہیں – زید حامد

پاکستان کے دفاع تجزیہ کار زید زمان حامد نے لاہور بم دھماکہ کے خلاف مائیکرو بلاگ کی ویب سائٹ ٹوئیٹر پر اپنا ردعمل ظاہر کرتے ہوئے کہا کہ پاکستان کے خلاف خوارج کی اس نئی جنگی مہم کو ”آپریشن غازی“ کا نام دیا گیا ہے کہ جو لال مسجد کے ناپاک خارجی عبدالرشید غازی کے نام سے منسوب ہے، انہوںنے کہاکہ سب سے پہلے حملے پاک افغان سرحد پر واقع تین پاکستانی فوجی چوکیوں پر کیے گئے۔ آج دوسرا حملہ پنجاب اسمبلی کے سامنے کیا گیا ہے اور دوسری جانب تحریک طالبان پاکستان، جماعت الاحرار اور لشکر جھنگوی پچھلے ہفتے سے پاکستان کے خلاف ایک نئی جنگ کا آغاز کرچکے ہیں۔
زید حامد کا کہنا تھا کہ اس نئی جنگی حکمت عملی کے تحت پورے پاکستان میں شدید حملے شروع کیے جائیں گے، عدالتوں، وکلا، سیاسی جماعتوں، میڈیا اور مسلح افواج سب ہدف ہیں،انہوںنے کہا اس میں کوئی شبہ نہیں ہے کہ ان حرام خور سیاستدانوں نےنیشنل ایکشن پلان اور فوجی عدالتوں کو مکمل فیل کرا دیا ہے، اب قوم کا خون بہے گا، فوجی عدالتوں سے جن خوارج کو سزائے موت دی گئی ان کو ہائیکورٹ اور سپریم کورٹ نے روک دیا اور عاصمہ جہانگیر خوارج کی وکیل ہیں۔
انہوںنے لکھا کہ اس سے زیادہ اذیت ناک اور عبرتناک بات کیا ہوسکتی ہے کہ پاکستان کی حکومت، سینیٹ، کابینہ اور پارلیمان میں غدار اور دہشت گرد بیٹھے ہیں، فوج کی پوری قیادت تبدیل ہوئی ہے، اور نئی قیادت کو میدان جنگ کی کمان سنبھالنے میں وقت لگ رہا ہے۔ خوارج یہ کمزوری دیکھ چکے ہیں، جن کی ذمہ داری تھی کہ ملک کی عزت اور آبرو کا دفاع کرتے، وہی ننگِ ملت و ننگِ قوم، وطن فروش و ضمیر فروش آج حکمران ہیں، خوارج کے ”آپریشن غازی“ کا ہدف سوائے خوارج کے حمایتیوں کے اب ہرکوئی ہے، خوارج کھل کر لال مسجد کے دہشت گردوں کے انتقام میں ملک پر جنگ مسلط کررہے ہیں، اور وزارت داخلہ مولوی عبدالعزیز کا دفاع کررہی ہے

Pakistan - Valentine’s Day war: The country where it’s illegal to celebrate the international day of love

A PAKISTANI court has issued a ruling against observing Valentine’s Day in public places across the country.
The Islamabad High Court ordered local media not to publicise anything related to the day, petitioner Abdul Waheed said. Majid Bhatti, a lawyer at the IHC, confirmed that the court order covered the entire country.
Valentine’s Day draws mixed responses from people every year with many voicing objections, citing religious teachings.
Last year, President Mamnoon Hussain had urged people not to observe Valentine’s Day because it was not a Muslim, but a Western tradition.
“Valentine’s Day has no connection with our culture and it should be avoided,” the president had said.
Waheed said had asked the court to issue orders against the promotion of Valentine’s Day because he believed print and electronic media had been presenting the day as if it was part of local culture.
Private TV channels will be banned from airing special content in relation to Valentine’s Day.