FP Analysis: The others

April 25, 2013

FOR PAKISTAN

On Tuesday, Aziza Mai and her two daughters living in Multan were victimized by two men who threw acid on them. There are thousands of women like Aziza Mai who live in constant fear and are often subjected to excruciating violence; their scars a constant reminder of their tragedies. Across Pakistan, in Quetta, the Hazara community was once again targeted in a bomb blast that killed 6 people. Paradoxically these helpless and cursed minorities are a force that many in Pakistan have not fully come to understand. As Pakistan hobbles towards its first democratic transfer of powers, women and minority groups have a significant role in realizing this dream.

There are a total of 36 million women in Pakistan amounting to 42% of the total voters, but they are subjected to many obstacles in the registration of their voters. The patriarchal set-up in Pakistan re-enforces female voters as offensive towards their families’ pride and status. In the last 25 years, the number of women voters with respect to male voters has been dwindling and currently approximately 10 million female voters are missing from voter lists. As for female candidates, the path is even more tough. Although it is encouraging to see Bushra Gohar, Saniya Naz, Hajiani Lanjo and Badam Zari stand up for democracy in the deeply conflicted zones of Pakistan, Gullana Bibi’s withdrawal from the race shows the gravity of security threats. Political parties have mainly had a two-sided approach on this issue. They often like to use women and other minority groups as charity cases to draw compassion from the masses but do little to empower them. Last September, the ECP proposed re-polling at stations where the female turnout was less than 10%. What would have ensured better women participation in elections was actually turned down by all political parties.

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ZoneAsia-Pk: Tsunami version 2.0

March 8, 2013

By Ahsan Waheed
ZoneAsia-Pk

Elections in Pakistan have a terrifying effect. Like a lie detector, it has been known to expose true sentiments, rivalries, morals and ruthless strategies to guarantee victories. It seems to be doing the same with Pakistan’s rising star, PTI. News about disruptive behavior and violence at PTI’s intra party elections has been popping up time and again. While rival politicians preyed on this disorder as proof of PTI’s poor management skills and experience, the civil society questioned the party’s competence in participating in elections and if elected, its ability to lead democratic processes in the country.

It wasn’t long ago when Imran Khan had taken Pakistan by storm, or in his terms, by a “tsunami”. Since then he and his party have been trying to clean the corrupt system and revolutionize democracy. So far they have introduced an economic, educational and industrial policy. They have refused to form alliances with other parties at the risk of compromising their stand against violence, corruption and inequality.

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Karachi calling

December 14, 2012

ZoneAsia-Pk

Urban violence has become a permanent affliction in Karachi. Anyone explaining the roots of this violence to you would say ‘it’s complicated’ – and that is indeed an accurate summary of the bloodshed that erupts across the city in random spurts. The plague of violence in Pakistan’s biggest city and commercial hub is multifaceted. From ethnic strife to gang wars to politically motivated crimes to just petty theft – Karachi has it all. Where does it start? And more importantly, where would it end?

This is strange because less merely 25 years, Karachi was the land of opportunity in Pakistan. Once the capital of the country, this economic hub bustled with life and activity with little thought spared to the horrors awaiting citizens a few years down the road. Fast forward to 2012, Karachi faces (in the words of Bilal Baloch) feeble security, over-population, poor public transportation and housing, weak law and order, abuse of public services by the wealthy and powerful, illegal land-grabbing and squatter settlements, pollution so pervasive that it contaminates food and water for all, ethnic divisions, sectarian divisions, meager education; in short, institutional inadequacies on a grand scale. At the same time, it is this city that allows unbridled port access to NATO, fishermen and businessmen. The city has seen the likes of Alexander the Great, Sir Charles Napier, Muhammad Bin Qasim, poets, authors, bloggers and artists. The City of Lights continues to function under such paradoxical circumstances, with violent bloodshed in one corner of the city and celebrations in another.

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Divorcing the Taliban

July 2, 2012

By Nida Afaque
ZoneAsia-Pk

The long and short of the war in Afghanistan was to eliminate terrorists and reinstall social equality for the locals so that women can have a greater say, children can acquire education and the young Afghans can find a stable source of income. The decade long war has ripped Afghanistan limb from limb; thousands of people have died, millions have incurred lifelong crippling injuries, social security is non-existent and perpetual state of chaos has taken over the nation.

The politics of withdrawal of coalition forces has seen ups and downs. The Chicago summit underscored the sincerity of the coalition forces in exiting Afghanistan. Months prior and after the summit, NATO forces have been integrating the Afghan security forces in their daily routines. NATO agreed to carry out night raids via Afghan counterparts, stop aerial attacks on Afghan residential buildings and even basic literacy camps have been set up to educate the afghan troops. A dip in Taliban attacks was also recorded.

The past few months have witnessed resurgence in violence from the Taliban. Suicide attacks, gunfire and bombs have occurred near the bases of Coalition forces and the Afghan security forces. Western embassies have not been spared the terror either. The latest attack was at a hotel in a scenic locality of Kabul on the pretext of un-Islamic activities like alcohol consumption. Soon afterwards, a cross-border attack was launched on Pakistani check-post resulting in deaths of 8 soldiers and 17 Pakistani security armed forces personnel were
beheaded after being taken hostage.

These graphic attacks have sent strong messages to coalition forces, afghan forces and even neighboring Pakistan. Taliban have been quite stubborn in working for a peace process but they did cede to form a diplomatic office in Qatar. While coalition forces have repeatedly stressed on their determination to leave the battlefield, some like the French have promised to leave even before the set date.

Unfortunately some serious blunders have been committed by them too which has turned positive reinforcements sour and send the reconciliation process many steps behind. The burning of the Holy Quran was a major incident that brought disapproval from all over the world. Shortly afterwards, a US marine allegedly suffering from PTSD killed 17 afghan civilians. But perhaps the greatest irksome moment for the Taliban are the reports from western media that their power has been weakened.

Indeed, actions speak louder than words and these graphic images are not soon to be erased from the minds of the locals. The targets of these attacks were mainly soldiers and civilians in close proximity to these soldiers, physically and/or figuratively. It is important to realize that these attacks occurred at the same time negotiations were taking place with the coalition forces. Thereby, indicating that the 10 year war has hardened the hearts of the Taliban against foreign invaders. This could also mean that the Taliban would reassert themselves and carry out the same tribal code of ethics they followed back in their term.

Another distressing point is the attitude of the Taliban regarding aid workers and volunteers. Many foreign social workers have been kidnapped for heavy ransom which some believe funds their extremist attacks. A senior British aid worker, Khalil Dale, was even killed when the ransom was not paid. For human right activists this would signal the continuation of violations against women, children and minorities.

The Taliban also symbolize a big question mark for Pakistan’s security. The porous Pak-Afghan border will continue to remain a source of skirmishes and refuge for the militants. Some intelligence reports have claimed alliances between ISI and the afghan Taliban. Assuming that it is the truth, Pakistan’s strategy to gain the Taliban’s vote has failed. TTP, which have been marked as a terrorist group by Pakistan, has been maintaining sanctuaries in Afghanistan probably with the help of the Afghan Taliban. The latter has been terrorizing locals near the border. The TTP already idolizes the Taliban for fighting foreign forces. With a history of terrorist attacks all over Pakistan, if the afghan Taliban decide to use the TTP for their purposes, Pakistan is looking at a serious threat. The Afghan Taliban could use this to harm Pakistani forces. The Afghan Taliban have also started warming up to Indian presence, a blow to their relations with Pakistan.

After these hiccups, Pakistan has to rethink its strategy for dealing with the Taliban. It has suffered immensely from being labeled as “part of the problem”. Domestic concerns are too pressing for Pakistan to be indulging in foreign battles. It’s time to end this insecurity by completely wiping out the presence of terrorists in Pakistan. Non-interventionists would recommend a strategy of negotiation. But the peace deal with the Taliban in Swat has proved how unreliable such accords can be.

The strategy of differentiating between the “good” terrorist and the “bad” terrorist can no longer continue. Discriminatory ethnic and religious movements be those of the Sipah-e-Sahaba or the Lashkar-e-Taiba will all have to end. For such a mass scale operation, foreign powers will be willing to help Pakistan achieve their common goal of regional and global peace. Furthermore, a new holistic strategy to be applicable after the operation has to be formulated, one that encompasses the presence and activities of these groups.

Such an aggressive strategy of uprooting the terrorist elements will also prove dangerous for the country’s politicians, armed forces and other law enforcement personell as always innocent civilians. It will invariably clamp down the nations’ freedom of speech and right to privacy but then nothing comes for free. Sadly, Pakistan has reached a point where a return to normalcy will cost them dearly but a radical operation like this can give it the chance to reestablish the writ of the state and get rid of the boulder blocking its economic and social prosperity.


Malir violence: At least 22 more people killed in emerging turf war

July 25, 2011

Area 14/8

At least 22 people were shot dead in pitched gunbattles that are evolving into a fight for control of Karachi city itself. But more than the actual killings was the fear that the firing spread, especially in Malir.

Additional Inspector General of Police Saud Mirza said the police was working in tandem with the Rangers and was trying its best to contain the violence from spreading to other parts of the city. “An operation against the armed groups in Malir and Landhi is expected some time later in the evening,” he said.

In many areas, however, it remained to be seen how the law enforcers would even manage to enter. The worst affected parts were Malir, Landhi, Jaffer Tayar Society and Daud Goth, among others. At least four rockets were fired in Daud Goth but no loss of life was reported.

Rangers spokesperson Major Farooq Bilal told The Express Tribune that the force was not conducting any major operation but their personnel have been deployed in sensitive areas and were holding flag marches. He said there were reports that hand grenades were used in some of the attacks. Rangers Brigadier Waseem said the armed groups were using sophisticated weapons, including machine guns, assault rifles such as the AK-47 and .222 rifles.

Armed men attacked the houses of MNA Sher Mohammad Baloch, ex-UC 7 Malir nazim Jan Mohammad and Rasheed Baloch. Six Muttahida Qaumi Movement workers, Raheel, Owais, Salahuddin, Ali Akbar, Mohammad Hussain and Irfan were gunned down in Taimuria, Kalakot and Quaidabad, respectively. An activist of the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, Noorul Islam, was killed and another man identified as Nazeer was injured in an armed attack inside Siddiq-e-Akbar Mosque in Surjani. A Mohajir Qaumi Movement-Haqiqi spokesperson said, however, that none of their people were injured or killed on Sunday.

Eleven more people, including Ikhlaq, Khalid and Kala Khan in Karimabad, Zafar, Furqan and Iqbal in Sir Syed and one each in Nabi Bux, Ghas Mandi, Liaquatabad, Baldia Town and Mobina Town were killed, while over half a dozen others were wounded. MQM activist Badar Afzal, who was injured in Malir on Friday, succumbed at Jinnah hospital.

Apart from Malir, fear and tension swept across Mawach Goth, Quaid-e-Azam Colony, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Qasba Colony, Banaras, Orangi Town, Katti Pahari. Life came to a standstill in Kharadar, Napier, Ancholi, Abbas Town where intense aerial firing was reported. A funeral procession for advocate Mukhtiar Bukhari was attacked on the Super Highway. As this unfolded, Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik arrived and chaired a meeting at Governor House. Speaking to the media at the airport earlier on, he said that no operation would be conducted in the city without consulting all mainstream political parties.

Police sources told The Express Tribune that the violence in Landhi is basically a turf war between a breakaway faction of one political party and another.

The MQM’s Wasay Jalil said the party has already tabled a deweaponisation bill in parliament and wants the authorities do something concrete. The chief minister’s adviser, Waqar Mehdi, said that six people were arrested in Baldia and the law enforcement authorities have entered Malir.

An Awami National Party spokesperson said that a huge rally was organised in Landhi to promote peace in the area, but they were fired upon. The intense firing has forced people to stay indoors. “The innocent people who are dying in this wave of violence is the responsibility of […] parties,” he said.


The Solution to Pakistan’s Problems

July 1, 2011

By Shemrez Nauman Afzal

We all know what is wrong with Pakistan. We all read the newspapers every day. We watch TV, we watch the anchors and the video clips, we listen to the radio, and with a straight face, we acknowledge that we have become immune to violence, to hatred, to inequality, to greed, and to whatever happens to Pakistan.

If you’re really not concerned or bothered about it, and would rather do something else, now is the time that you stop reading this, because it really isn’t worth your while. But if you do care, and if you do want to do something about it, but don’t know what to do or how to do it, just take a little bit of time out and listen to what I have to say. The choice is yours, but the right to know is yours as well.

Yes, there are many problems with Pakistan, and nobody knows where to start from or where to pick up. But instead of talking about what’s wrong with Pakistan, shouldn’t we be talking about how we fix it? Everyone says there’s a war being fought against us – some say it’s the Taliban, some say its America, others say it’s the mullah’s, and so on. Well, if it is a war according to that narrative, then we do need to fight a war against Pakistan’s problems, but how many wars can we fight? Do we pick up arms and fight the Taliban? Or do we join the Taliban and fight America, in Afghanistan or like Faisal Shahzad in New York? What good does protesting do if you do not get your voice heard in the end? Do numbers in the street matter when you give a speech and go home, but do not achieve anything substantive or cogent from the common platform that you all stand for and believe in?

Yes. We need to fight a war against all of Pakistan’s problems. One war that we need to fight is against apathy. And that is the biggest war we must fight. Why do we not care? We must care. If we feel sad or depressed, then we must do something about it so that it does not keep happening to us; call it survival if not altruism. We cannot sit idly by and watch our nation spiral down into further depths of chaos and anarchy. But what do we do? Do we join the police or army? Or do we join the Taliban and Al Qaeda? Do we join those who are protesting every day out in the streets, on one issue or the other? We might think of all of this, in the comfort of our drawing room, and then just move to the TV or read something on the internet. Or go out to have a cup of coffee, meet with friends, drive around, do something interesting, get tired, go to sleep, and live another day.

If you are still reading this right now, know that you are responsible for this country’s problems if you don’t do anything about it. Whenever you stop acting like a citizen of Pakistan, you do this country so much harm that it becomes hopeless for other citizens of Pakistan to live or survive. And there is a way to make amends for it. There is a way to actually undo the wrongs, the mistakes, the grievances of the past sixty-three years.

If Pakistan is your country, if you really feel for it beyond an national identity card or a passport, then own up to it – to its mistakes and to its greatness. Become its engine of change. Bring positive and meaningful change, and stop waiting for it. Stop being concerned – start being responsible. And it’s not that difficult, and if you really are worried about Pakistan and want to help change it for the better, then you won’t have to change much yourself – you will just have to become, for lack of a better term, more productive. And others who are already being responsible, or want to be responsible, will join you. If you don’t believe me, you should listen to Allama Muhammad Iqbal who said har fard hai millat ke muqaddar ka sitara; each citizen is the shining star of the nation’s destiny.

So stop cribbing about hopelessness and despair. Stop being apathetic. BE the change you want to see. Bring positive and meaningful change through democratic means, and silence all those here and abroad who say that Pakistan is a failed state. It does not matter who you vote for, as long as you vote and make your voice heard. Your political opinion does not matter in your drawing room – and contrary to popular opinion, it may matter even less on your blog – but on the ballot paper, your political opinion is your exercise in charting out the destiny of your country. It is both your privilege and your responsibility – in a democracy, the citizens rule, but if the citizens are not responsible or capable to rule, then the system falls apart. And we all see that it has.

Despite our better judgment, we have made this mistake again, and again, and again. This has happened in all elections that Pakistan has experienced – most of them have been labeled as rigged, while the one in 2008 had high hopes, but ended up with results that also accounted for 46% bogus votes in the final tally. The citizens of Pakistan are capable to rule themselves – if they were not, sovereignty would have no point in our country, and some already believe it doesn’t – but in order to properly exercise this capability, the citizens of Pakistan must be responsible about electing their leaders and representatives. To do this, they must vote responsibly – because someone who has come to power without your vote (whether it is a general or a politician) will not be accountable to you in any way. Pakistan must prepare for elections in late 2012, or early 2013. Or even before that. The timing of the election matters very little – what matters is the result, and what matters even more is that if it reflects the general will of the people of Pakistan. How must Pakistan prepare for this? By being aware about the political system of the country and of the political options available in any given electoral situation. Since education has suffered immensely in Pakistan, even electoral knowledge in the voting populating is found wanting. Constituents must responsibly elect their representatives, and they must know how to be responsible during election campaigns as well as during voting procedures. Bringing change by the ballot is the only chance Pakistan has; change by the bullet is something the residents of Swat would repeatedly warn you about.

It is time for you to become responsible; responsible about Pakistan, responsible about its problems, responsible about what you can do about it, responsible about actually doing something about it, and by doing so, encouraging others to be responsible in the smallest ways that they can. Once we are able to understand how to convert our concerns and depressions into innovative ideas and solutions, we can share these small solutions to help our communities deal with bigger problems. For Pakistan right now, community mobilization is the most important element of recovering a national and local ethos that is becoming victim to suspicion, mistrust, and other social impediments. Communities must become aware of their living environments, and they must responsibly handle the problems that they and their neighbors face. This cannot happen in a day, but for it to succeed, it must continue to happen every day, and you must do your part for your community even if others don’t. And when it is time for you to decide who gets to govern us and determine the future of our country, make sure you vote, and vote responsibly.

The future of Pakistan depends on it.



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