Tagged with " Pakistan Army"

What Pakistan needs to do in wake of Peshawar incident

Though extremely tragic, the Peshawar incident managed to do something that national tragedies like death of Benazir Bhutto, siege of Mehran Base and many suicide attacks couldn’t do. It made people question many long held beliefs and there emerged some dissenting voices which are questioning the way things have been run so far. It is not much, but it is encouraging. If we really want to address the issue of terrorism that is plaguing the country for a good quarter of a century, we will not only need to revamp our policies and strategies but will also have to let go of long held ideologies.

For starters, the people of Pakistan in general and the armed forces in particular need to understand that Pakistan does not face an existential threat from India. There are other smaller countries neighbouring India and they are surviving all right. Former East Pakistan and India’s eastern neighbour Bangladesh is doing extremely well despite being a much smaller Muslim country (In comparison with India) in the sub-continent. In fact, Bangladesh is outperforming Pakistan in key indicators of education, women’s contribution in GDP, maternal and child health, and value added exports. It is about time that we also divert out attention and resources from seeing India as a menace to our survival and pursue a policy of economic cooperation which will benefit everyone. Cold War real politics and support of Western allies allowed Pakistan an artificial parity with India. But the story of 21stcentury is very different. India is an economic and political power with the highest growth rate in the region. Its defence budget is three times that of Pakistan and as soon as Pakistani military understands its status and place in the new regional dynamics, the better it would be for both the region and the country.

As a country, we need to let go of our collective religious and nationalist denial. To say that Pakistanis and Muslims cannot commit such heinous acts is the denial of highest order. Musilms have a long history of turning against each other. Yazid’s army that attacked Imam Hussain’s family was Muslim, and so were Mughals who fought against Delhi Sultanate. Closer to home, the army that killed many Bangladeshi civilians in 1971 was financed out of that taxes paid by those very civilians. Why do we make this exception for Taliban and try to come up with clues that perpetrators of suicide bombings were either Indian or Israeli agents even Taliban openly admit it that they have committed those crimes and their dead bodies get buried in Bonir and Kahuta! This denial does not offer way out of the quagmire we have dug ourselves in, it only make us look moronic in front of the world.

Military power is not the only way to strengthen a country, investing in its people is the way to go in the modern world and Pakistan – with its youth boom – would do well in diverting resources towards building that future instead of fortifying its geographical boundaries against dormant threats. It must be noted that it could not keep those boundaries intact even during the cold war era.

With the formation of European Union, it has been established that we are living in a post nation state society where most threats to a country are non-national. Clinging to 1980s notion of strategic depth has brought too much grief to the country. It is about time that this idea is put to rest once and for all and a more stringent counter terrorism policy is devised against all the groups that has the capacity and inclination to use force against the country. You do not only need expensive and modern hardware to survive in 21st century, you need an understanding of changing patterns of modern society and willingness to take measures to address those new problems.

Pakistan army needs to get rid of its slogan of ‘Jihad fi Sabeel Allah’. No other Muslim country’s army has that slogan because the army’s allegiance should not be to a religion but to the country and its tax paying population. Army’s first and foremost duty is the defence of its people – both at the borders and within the country – and not the safety and security of the militant groups that are used to create ruckus in neighbouring countries.

The world thinks of Pakistan as Jihad Central. Not only Pakistan trained jihadis are fighting in Afghanistan, they are also waging the “Holy war” in Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Nigeria and elsewhere. It is in Pakistan’s national interest that we distance ourselves from this policy of jihad and concentrate on reclaiming and rebuilding the country because if we continue the way we are going, we may not even have a country to save after a while. Pakistani army has created the militant groups that are either active in other countries or are preparing themselves for acts of terrorism. The problem with these groups is that they modify and mutate with the passage of time and change of leadership, even if they were loyal to the state at one point, it is quite obvious that many of them have gone rogue and need to be dealt with as a national priority.

Wars between countries cannot be fought by ideology driven groups. States traditionally have gone to war for something tangible and then have achieved peace through dialogue and bargaining. Unfortunately, there is no bargaining with the religious ideologue. It is their way or the highway.

Take the case of extremist groups in Pakistan. They all want their version of Shariah implemented in the country and would not stop at anything else. Even when the majority of the population does not agree with their version of Islam, there is no room for dialogue or bargaining because they genuinely believe their version is unassailable and supreme and if the state opposes their decree, they go to war with the state.

One such example of the difference between a state ordered responsibility and an ideologue’s action is that of the murder of Salmaan Taseer. Former governor of Punjab was murdered by the police constable who was supposed to guard him. His official duty was to save Salmaan Taseer against any probable attacks but his personal ideology propelled him to disregard his official orders and murder the man he was sworn to protect. It means that when ideology trumps state’s official business, chaos ensues.

Most of us who raised voice against extremist right wing forces in the country have been labelled unpatriotic liberal fascists in the past. Some of us were killed or attacked or have received threats to life for our nonconformist views. Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti were murdered in broad day light, Raza Rumi was attacked and driven out of the country and the rest of us have been threatened to keep quiet by someone or the other. It is about time the national narrative embrace the moderate and dissenting voices and involve them in dialogue which is most necessary for a healthy society. Pakistan have been poorer for drowning down those voices in the past, it should not repeat that mistake.

Originally written for The Nation

 

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Immy K and his band of morons against Geo

Those who know me and have been reading my blog for sometime know that there is no love lost between Imran Khan and yours truly. I mock his supporters (because what else can one do with those who flaunt their stupidity), I lament the fact that some people in my family voted for his party and I mourn the collective short sightedness of my people who do not see how terrible it is to have a dim-witted man in position of power and influence.

Latest in the list of his stupidities is his self righteous fight against Geo Television Network. Before anyone get their panties in a twist, let me iterate that I am not a fan of Geo either (I have worked for the organization and know it inside out) but the witch hunt against Geo that is being spearheaded by Imran Khan and his band of morons (I refuse to call PTI a political party) at the behest of Pakistani Voldemort is rather vulgar and in incredibly bad taste.

Imran Khan accused Geo Network of three gross violations (according to him). First was telecasting a programme against Ahl-e-Bait (family of prophet) in the morning show (they aired a qawwali which is quite common at Shia weddings), one PTI parliamentarian moved a resolution against it in Punjab assembly because there is nothing more worthy of the attention of a legislator than something that was aired on a morning show targeting house wives. Second was running a campaign against Imran Khan. What Mr Khan considered a campaign against him was this tweet by The News staffer Umer Cheema about the pregnancy of a barely legal girl and a politician. It was exactly worded like this: “Pregnancy of a 21-year girl is causing sleepless nights to a leader. His political future in her hands…the most powerful lady these days” on April 29th. No politician was named in that tweet but apparently Imran Khan went to every Tv channel and said that Umer Cheema tweeted about him. The man doth protests too much, does he not? One wonders why? Umer Cheema did follow up with a couple of other teeli tweets. I bet Imran Khan was not too pleased to be called a senior citizen and I am only assuming that because Cheema again did not name anyone.

Mr Khan is also blaming Geo for getting foreign funding which is oversimplification of a contract between the channel, the government and a donor agency. Even a simpleton like Imran Khan should understand how the whole funding process works; after all, his government in KPK has taken a lot of foreign funding to run various projects in their province. No donor agency funds a private organization directly and one or more government departments are always involved.

As someone who was part of Geo when they ran the first Zara Sochiye Campaign (2006) and then worked as an independent consultant during the Education Emergency campaign (2011), I know exactly how Geo got funding for both of them. For the first Zara Sochiye Campaign (which I believe was brilliant) Geo was contacted by the government to pave the public opinion before it launched Women Protection Bill in the parliament. The fact that the said bill was passed and the number of women in Pakistani jails booked under Hudood ordinance came down drastically should be considered a success – both for the government and the channel that ran the campaign. The second Zara Sochiye campaign was paid for by DfID which Geo President Imran Aslam openly talks about in this BBC interview. It should also be noted that various government departments including Prime Minister’s Task Force for Education (it has been disbanded after the promulgation of 18th amendment and education becoming a provincial subject) facilitated the contract between DfID and Geo. The Task Force was actually housed inside the PM’s secretariat at that time so yes, the government was involved in everything. Many other TV channels that are now part of the witch hunt against Geo wanted to do that campaign. The Alif Ailan campaign which was a follow up to that earlier campaign ran on all TV channels was also foreign funded, but I don’t see anyone protesting against that. Why this duplicity?

If Mr. Khan is so adamant about running campaigns against foreign funding, he should first run it against Pakistan Army because the armed forces of Pakistan get the lion’s share of all foreign funding that comes to the country. Then it is the national and provincial governments including the one run by Khan sahab’s party. Private organizations and non profits are far down this chain and get very small amounts in comparison.

People who run Geo’s editorial staff are obviously not the sharpest people around, otherwise they would not have run that 8 hour long transmission against ISI following the attack on Hamid Mir, but the witch hunt that followed them after that is worst that those 8 hours of transmission. Forget about upholding the sanctity of free speech in Pakistan, we all know that it is but a sham, but it should be noted that Geo is not a two bit organization, it probably employs more people than there are card carrying members of PTI. Going after their livelihood because some people did not like what went on during those 8 hours of transmission in this manner is downright cruel. Geo was not the best employer in the industry but it definitely was one of the better and relatively more professional ones. In case Geo is closed down, the media industry is not big enough to absorb all those people. For their sake alone if for nothing else, I hope this witch hunt is called off and their livelihoods are not compromised.

Let’s wish that sanity prevails but my cynicism tells me that it would not be the case.

May 16, 2013 - Personal    3 Comments

Losing Home …

Back in December, I was asked to contribute to the memoir section of  a special edition of  Sugar Mule – a literary magazine. The issue  is titled No Place Like Home – Borders, Boundaries, and Identity in South Asia and Diaspora.

I am glad to share that the issue is out now and I have written an account of my parents’ forced separation following the War of 1971 and independence of Bangladesh, it is called Losing Home.

Apr 27, 2013 - Media    19 Comments

The ultimate beyghairti

 

No matter what part of the world you are in, you wake up to the news of your home courtesy your smart phone. I woke up this morning and saw the FB status update of a friend who lives in Garden Karachi about a bomb blast near her home. A quick look at the news websites revealed that it was an Awami National Party (ANP) election office in Orangi Town that was bombed.  Before this, two other election offices of Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) were attacked in Karachi and other election related activities of ANP in KPK. According to Kamran Khan’s program on Geo, ANP has been attacked 10 times during 2013 election campaign in KPK and Karachi while MQM is attacked thrice, all incidences took place in Karachi. For almost all the incidences of violence against these two relatively secular parties, Tehreek-e-Talibaan Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility.

Considering that elections are just a couple of weeks away, one would think that the security apparatus of the country would be after these TTP terrorists who are not only committing heinous acts of violence against civilians engaging in perfectly legal political activity but are also obstructing the democratic process by attacking and hindering political campaign of the aforementioned political parties. These two parties are major political forces in two of the provinces of the country.

But no, the security forces of the country are busy ensuring that no one dares to utter a word against them. First victim of censorship was the newly launched Capital TV, when a former aide of Zaid Hamid, one Mr Emad Khalid committed the gustakhana act of voicing his uncensored opinion about the COAS Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, the channel was taken off the airs for a couple of days and only reopened after a written apology was submitted to PEMRA. Major newspapers did not carry this story and a quick web survey reveals that it was only some blogs and Pakistan Press Foundation’s website that carried this incident.  Curiously, elected Head of the state is the butt of all the jokes on every TV channel but no directives were ever issued by PEMRA to the TV channels to respect the august office of the head of the state.

That incident happened last week.

Earlier today, Beygairat Brigade’s third song Dhinak Dhinak was blocked by PTA. Dhinak Dhinak is a satirical song about the continued power that the top brass of army enjoys in Pakistan. Beygairat Brigade – or Shameless Brigade – is a Lahore based band which uses political and social satire in music. Their previous songs Alu Anday and Paisay ki game were not banned probably because they attacked the political leadership of the country, this time around Dhinak Dhinak focused on “Jernailan da jadu” and raised points like how the army generals never contest contest elections but always enjoy absolute power. Though the lead singer of the band, Ali Aftab Saeed was quoted in Telegraph  after the song was released online (no TV channel was willing to air it) that he has no issues with the institution of army but with the attitude of a few generals, the song was blocked by PTA on the eve of April 26th. When asked, Ali Aftab Saeed said that the band was not informed about the ban on the video by the authorities. They just found out about it when they tried to access the video on Vimeo.

Considering what happened to people who were called in for a reprimand – people like Late Syed Saleem Shehzad who succumbed to  torture endured during one such meeting – it’s may be a blessing that the video was just blocked by PTA and no one was called for a meeting.

The Dhinak Dhinak video came back online after a few hours of ban. May be it was the cheeky message at the end of the video where the band asked their fans to not like the song – “No need to like the video, we will be dead any way” – that saved them.

Beygairat Brigade is probably happy that their song is back for the world to see (I am told that it is still blocked by some ISPs), investors of Capital TV must have sighed with relief when their channel went on air after the hiatus of two days. People will soon forget about these imagined or real slights on the forces that don’t want to be named or discussed objectively, but what people will never forget is the ultimate beyghairti which is letting the TTP terrorists roam free and attack the forces that dare to raise voice against them. This is what future generations of Pakistanis will remember about our times and we will be considered the ultimate beygherats who not only let these terrorists burn down our cities, many amongst us found justifications for their acts and provided them political cover and the security forces failed to do their only job which provision of security for its people. If this is not beyghairti, then nothing is.

Dec 13, 2012 - published work    1 Comment

All is fair — when there is money to be made

The lives of the minority groups have been under attack in Pakistan for quite some time. Whether they are ethnic minority groups or sectarian, linguistic minorities or religious ones, everyone lives in the Land of Pure at their own risk, as the state has refused to shoulder the responsibility of protecting its citizens. Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus, Shias and Hazaras have all been killed in the past and are still being killed. The latest is that now their properties are also under attack.

Last week, two such incidents have been reported. In Karachi, the Military Estate Office assisted a private builder in the demolition of a Hindu temple and adjacent houses in Soldier Bazaar on the pretext that the Hindu community has encroached upon land which does not belong to them. In Lahore, 15 gunmen attacked an Ahmadi graveyard in Model Town and desecrated more than 120 graves in the process. The community has been under attack for quite some time now but the mass desecration of graves with shattered tombstones and dug-up graves was a first. The watchman and caretakers were also tortured when they resisted this barbarity against the dead. According to the Asian Human Rights website, the attackers identified themselves as members of a banned religious organisation.

Let us examine the case of the Hindu temple in Karachi first. The temple predates independence and hence, it cannot be a case of encroachment. Secondly, under what law did the directorate of military land and cantonments act to demolish a property in an area that is not even under its jurisdiction? If anything, that piece of land belongs to the Evacuee Property Trust Board which has nothing to do with the directorate of military lands and cantonments. On top of it all, the Sindh High Court had issued a stay order against the demolition of the temple. The fact that no action has been taken against the directorate of military land and cantonments in the past one week points out that some of us are indeed more equal than the others.

It should also be noted that these incidents are slightly different from the regular run-of-the-mill attacks on minorities. Apart from the regular dose of hatred against a particular community, greed for land — which is a limited resource — is at the heart of these incidents. A 99-year lease is the longest possible term of a lease of real property under historic common law. In Karachi, a lot of land that was leased for the 99-year period is either up for renewal or will be soon. Those who deal in real estate have been eyeing the highly prized commercial plots in the densely-populated areas of old Karachi with anticipation. There is an insane amount of money to be made off these properties and if a few people, especially those belonging to minority communities are made homeless, they know that it will not amount to much other than a few headlines in the newspapers.

The desecration of the Ahmadi cemetery is a similar story. Had they been in a Muslim graveyard, desecration of those graves on the grounds that non-Muslims were buried in an area reserved for Muslims would have made some kind of perverse sense (not that I am condoning that behaviour) but to go on and attack a place reserved for the dead of a certain community reeks of plans to take over that property for financial gains.

First published in The Express Tribune

Mar 31, 2012 - published work    3 Comments

The lost generation


Though Bara is a town in Khyber Agency, it is quite close to Peshawar and those who can afford to send their children to schools and colleges in Peshawar tend to prefer that. Quite a lot of them used to commute daily between their homes in Bara and schools & colleges in Peshawar. 
Not anymore.
Bara is under siege; army and paramilitary forces have launched an operation against the infamous Mangal Bagh and his banned Lashkar-e-Islam in the area. All roads are blocked and no means of transportation are available. Those who are stuck in the area find it very hard to get out. Among those trapped in the town amidst army offensive are children who were appearing for their high school board examination this year.
Earlier this month a few students managed to come to Peshawar for their matriculation exams, braving both the curfew and bullets being sprayed from all sides. The students from Bara started their papers an hour later than their local peers. It was a miracle that they managed to make it to the examination hall at all, but when they requested their invigilators for extra time to make up for their late arrival because of curfew and cross firing they were denied. Luckily a reporter was present and pleaded their case and they were given some extra time.
This incident reveals two hard hitting realities of our society. First is that we do not listen to our children. They were the ones who first suffered the trauma of living under the influence of a terrorist like Mangal Bagh, then an army operation in their area and the death of their loved ones as a result of the cross fire  between the armed forces and the militants. They experienced the tragedy first hand but the teacher did not pay any heed to their pleas. It took an adult, in this case the journalist who intervened on behalf of those children, to get through to the teacher to make him understand their plight.
Second is that the teacher who should’ve been more considerate and sympathetic towards those children has perhaps lost his compassion because he gets to hear such stories or even more terrible ones every day which has toughened his outlook.  
Horrific as it may sound these children were not the worst sufferers of the conflict, there are thousands who are living as IDPs in various parts of the province and their access to education is limited at best in camps for IDPs.
It is not just the children living in areas under the army operation or in the IDP camps that suffer. Even the host communities in the areas where the IDP camps are set up suffer because a lot of times these camps are set up in public schools or near public schools and their teachers are engaged in the camp work. In the areas which were previously under militants or army operation, the schools are open but many are damaged and some are without teachers who have permanently fled the area.
The worst victims of the armed conflict are the children and the most damaging impact is on education infrastructure. The roads and bridges can be rebuilt but the time and opportunities for the children in conflict zones are lost forever. It has not only hindered the economic growth of the area for now, it reinforces future poverty of such children and holds back their progress as individuals, as a community and inevitably as a country.

First published in Express Tribune, this is the unedited version

Feb 3, 2012 - published work, terrorism    5 Comments

All you wanted to know about Difa-e-Pakistan Council but were too afraid to ask


One cannot be faulted for assuming that Difa-e-Pakistan Council comprise of officials of defence ministry, four star generals and decorated admirals who wish to ponder over the defense needs of the country and make major strategic decisions. To find out that it is actually a motley crew of 40 odd religious parties, banned terrorist outfits like Jamaatud Dawa (JuD), a few other political has beens like Sheikh Rasheed and Ijaz-ul-Haq, and the former spy master Hameed Gul among others can be shocking. To figure out what it stands for can be even more astounding. Let’s try and figure it out by asking a few questions. 

So what does this Council stands for? According to Hafiz Saeed of the JuD, it is a coalition with the aim to “defend Pakistan”. What do they actually do apart from claiming to defend the country? Not much besides holding rallies in different cities and threatening the government of dire consequences if their demands are not met. 

What are those dire consequences? Chaos, anarchy and suicide bombings. But don’t we have them – anarchy, chaos and suicide bombings – already? Yeah, but they have promised to upscale the operations if their demands are not met.

And what are those demands? For starters, they want the parliament to not restore NATO supply lines. But those supply lines have always been open and were blocked only a few weeks back, why this sudden realization that it undermines the sovereignty of the country? Well, it is better late than never, isn’t it?  
What else do they want, surely they cannot spend millions of rupees on all those public gatherings to seek that government does not restore the Nato supply lines? The ultimate goal is to severe all diplomatic, cultural, political and economic ties with United States of America. Errr, can our country survive this ultimate isolation? Most probably not, but the Council would surely like the government to try that. Is it Just USA that they want to do away with or has any other country faced a similar wrath? They hate India just as much and are angry with the government for awarding them Most Favoured Nation status.

But by regularizing trade with India, the government will not only discourage cross border smuggling of goods but will also benefit from taxes and duties levied on the imports which can be used for public welfare, surely that cannot be bad? Difa-e-Pakistan Council is not concerned with public good, According to its chairman, “the council’s sole agenda was to ensure the integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan.”

What legitimacy do they have, if any, to demand all that? Between the 40 parties and organizations of Difa-e-Pakistan council, only JUI-F is in the parliament and they too have only 8 seats. One can surely figure out their legitimacy by their underwhelming electoral performance. They, of course, would like to think otherwise. According to Maulana Sami-ul Haq, Chairman Difa-e-Pakistan Council, their gatheringsare a clear message to US and it is a referendum for the government of Pakistan to immediately reconsider relations and foreign policy for US and its allies.

Does any of it make any sense at all? Not really, but then our politics has never been about logic, finding solutions and peace and harmony. It has always been about rhetoric, confusion, demagoguery and posturing and Difa-e-Pakistan Council is doing one hell of a job of it. 

First published in The Express Tribune

Mansoor Ijaz: International Man of Mystery

Move over Austin Powers, here is the new International Man of Mystery

Mansoor Ijaz has been declared the most envied man in Pakistan according to the latest survey. The poll was conducted among married urban men aged 28-46 and they all agree that Mansoor Ijaz is indeed the luckiest of them all. Contrary to popular understanding, it is not his status as an ‘international man of mystery’ or his perfectly slicked-back-hair that has made men envious all over the country; it is his newfound role as an actor in a dubious music video.

Mansoor Ijaz has been known as an international businessman, a self appointed negotiator and broker of sorts, but ever since a video has resurfaced featuring the chief accuser of the memogate scandal as an actor, people have changed their opinion about him. “I thought he was a small-time troublemaker looking for glory, but who needs glory when you get to commentate for a naked female wrestling match,” said a Karachi-based banker, Ali. His colleague Saad agreed with him, gave a thumbs-up for Mansoor Ijaz and said, “Way to go man!”
A businessman from Lahore, who wishes to stay anonymous, thinks Mansoor Ijaz’s wife is the coolest woman on the planet. “OMG! There is a woman out there who wants her husband to partake in such activities and was there by his side all the way through. She is definitely a keeper.”

For most Pakistanis, the popularity of the video and envy for Mansoor Ijaz stems from the novelty of seeing a man who looks like themselves in a raunchy video with white women. “We always thought that it is the white dudes or the black guys who get to go to places like that, with Mansoor Ijaz in that video, it has given us the courage that we too can do stuff like that in future. All we need is a visa for Europe and some contacts on the other side,” said two high school best friends from an elite Rawalpindi school.

Mansoor Ijaz’s video has also created quite a stir in the lawyers’ community. Many lawyers have come forward wanting to represent him thinking it would give them an opportunity to experience his lifestyle. Mansoor Ijaz’s current lawyer has vowed to stay with him through thick and thin for the same reason. However, it is still not known if the businessman, ladies wrestling commentator and international man of mystery is in the market for a new lawyer.

It is not just the adult men who seem impressed by the memo man. It has been learned through reliable sources that high school kids who showed no interest in English language previously, now want to know the meaning of the words such as ‘tumbling’ and ‘nasty’. One kid even asked his mom if he can name his kitten ‘Double D’. It is not known, yet, if the mother relented.

A local video director is also considering using Mansoor Ijaz to do his music video, however, he does not know if he can afford the rich businessman. He has been told to approach him through his wife, after all, he only relented on his wife’s insistence the first time around.

Due to the success of the “Stupidisco” song in Pakistan, Junior Jack, the video producer, is considering hiring other Pakistanis for his future videos. Sources close to him have revealed that he has shortlisted Sheikh Rasheed and Shah Mehmood Qureshi amongst others to star in his next video.

First published in The Express Tribune

PS: Before anyone asks me about the validity of the survey (as they have done on the ET website) let me state that it is satire and everything is fictional except for Mansoor Ijaz, his wife, the music video and the writer. 

Jan 6, 2012 - published work, TTP, USA, Waziristan    7 Comments

More equal than others in death

In the wake of the cross-border Nato attack in November that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in Salala, the whole country was up in arms against the aggression of the allied forces. From the political parties to lawyers associations, from banned militant outfits to student organisations, from the head of the armed forces to the aunties in drawing room; everyone thought it fitting to lambast the US — especially since most people cannot really distinguish between the US and Nato — for attacking Pakistan’s sovereignty, its land and its people. As if protest of the people living in the country was not enough, Altaf Bhai decided to join in the condemnation of NATO forces all the way from London.

A few weeks later, 15 Frontier Constabulary personnel who were captured in Tank on December 23rd were taken to Waziristan by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and killed after a dozen days. Unlike the deaths in Salala, no one is mourning the loss of lives of these 15 men because we do not cry at the atrocities committed by our so called strategic assets – the TTP – who not only claim these deaths with impunity, they justify it as an act of revenge.  We only lament, or maybe we are pushed into lamenting for those who are killed by foreigners – be it individuals (victims of Raymond Davis) or troops (victims of Salala bombings in November) to get maximum political and material leverage out of it. It’s a slur on national integrity if soldiers die in cross border skirmishes, but if the strategic assets – or more likely the strategic liabilities – murder a group of soldiers in cold blood, it only merits a brief press release with no mention of the names of those who died. 

The victims of Waziristan will also not be grieved because there were no officers and gentlemen amongst them. They were ordinary soldiers; and we do not mourn the deaths of mere soldiers who die in the line of duty by their compatriots. 

Did any political party called for protest against this act of barbarism? No.

Have we seen the footage of flag covered coffins set in manicured gardens for all to pay respect to the dead on the tv to fan the public anger? No.

Has there been funeral prayers for the victims of Waziristan where who‘s who of the country offered condolences and vowed to avenge their deaths? No.

Did lawyers boycott their activities? No, it was business as usual for them. 
Were distressed family members, wailing mothers and fathers with slumped shoulders interviewed to fan public outrage against this barbaric act? No.

Did anyone ask the TTP for qisas for the families of the 15 victims? No.

Were there any TV anchors frothing at the mouth, dishing out sermons dripping with moral outrage calling people to stand up against the effrontery of TTP? No, the debate on TV was about memogate and contempt of court notices dished out to PPP leadership. We sure have our priorities right. 
 
Why bother, when there is no financial compensation to be had, where no effigy-burning rallies can be organized for political gains, and no other nation is to be blamed. It is known that some animals are more equal than others in the animal farm called Pakistan, but what is now being learned is that some animals are more equal in death as well.

First published in The Express Tribune, this is the unedited version.

Nov 30, 2011 - USA    8 Comments

Anyone protesting outside the GHQ?


Sometime last week one of my former students asked me to help her with a protest in front of US Consulate in Karachi against the latest NATO attack on Pakistani soil killing 24 soldiers. Now don’t get me wrong, I am as fond of protesting against the injustices as the next person, but I have serious questions about the whole brouhaha that surrounds the latest development. 

For starters, NATO has been violating our borders for quite some time now and quite a huge number of Pakistani citizens have died but no one barring the leadership of Jamat-e-Islami and Tehrik-e-Insaaf uttered a single word against those deaths. The victims of drone attacks were called collateral damage. Pakistan army’s silence was especially baffling considering it is their responsibility to defend the borders and its citizens, but ISPR never issued any statement over the serious death toll that occurred due to drone attacks – even when a baraat (wedding procession) was attacked. If the wikileaks’ released cables are to be believed (and there is no reason we should not believe them), it is evident that instead of protesting against the drone attacks, the army actually requestedthe US government for greater drone back up to support their own military operations on the ground. What I find most surprising is that such duplicitous policy of the armed forces did not result in country wide protests against them. Apart from the five usual suspects who decry military’s role in country’s foreign and domestic policy, no one took much notice of it. If inviting another military to attack your own soil without disclosing it is not the betrayal of highest order and a seditious act, then what is?
I am just as saddened by the deaths of 24 army men as anyone who has respect for human life, but the lives that we have lost in Pakistan as the result of the same military’s tacit acceptance of drone attacks by another country and its oppressionin Baluchistandemand the same empathy and compassion, if not more. I hardly see it anywhere.

Instead of protesting in front of US embassy (chances are that we will be stopped from doing so by our own law enforcement agencies) we need to indulge in a little introspection and ask the following questions: 

– What provoked this attack? According to reports, cross border skirmishes and exchange of rocket fire between Pakistani and NATO forces in not something new. According to NYTreport, there have been 55 ground-to-ground rockets fired between Pakistan and NATO forces.
– What was Pakistan air force doing? The attack apparently went on for an hour. They were nowhere to defend our borders. What’s the point of spending a bulk of the tax payers’ and foreign aid money on the armed forces when they cannot quickly come to defense of the troops under attack by the foreign forces? 

I am horrified at the US nonchalance and the super cavalier response from their government – it took President Obama a good three days to offer condolence and express regret at the loss of 24 lives – but I do not see any point in protesting in front of the US consulate. I would, however, love to stand with those who want to protest in front of GHQ, taking them to task for their repeated incompetence and many treacherous acts. 

PS: How can anyone take these protests seriously when Jamaat-ud-dawa activists dupe children into participating in anti-US rallies by conning their parents into believing that they would be attending a science fair?

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