A brief note on Abbottabad Commission report

July 12, 2013 § 1 Comment

In the wake of Abbottabad raid on OBL‘s compound back in 2011, we saw a knee-jerk reaction in the form of nation-wide anger. The anger was not directed at a terrorist who killed thousands of innocent people and yet, was comfortably residing next to some critically significant military facilities in our beloved country – no, rather, there was a sudden surge of nationalistic jargon coming from foaming mouths who wanted America to pay for having violated our sovereignty.

Naturally, there is a possibility that OBL planted his DNA, multiple fake wives and children, a fake trail, fake couriers who maintained his link with an Al-Qaeda which, by the way, doesn’t really exist. Luckily, at least we are ready to admit that the raid by US Navy SEALS was real.

Discounting such patriotic notions and fairly intelligent conspiracy theories, the Commission which was tasked with probing into the May 2 raid, recently brought together its findings in the form of a report. Since the Commission didn’t comprise exclusively of army personnel, it’s objectivity, sanity and patriotism can be questioned. Such doubts are compounded by the fact that ‘certain elements’ barred the report from reaching the mainstream media until some obviously-traitorous whistleblower recently leaked it.

Now, the findings of the Commission are fairly startling, so you don’t have to hold them as true. For instance, the Commission has explicitly stated multiple times in the report that the May 2 raid, and the fact that OBL was present in Pakistan, were both huge failures on the part of the military as well as the civilian government.

However, the chief body which was directly working on tackling high-value targets in Pakistan is ISI. The intelligence agency didn’t share any intel on OBL with other civilian intelligence or law-enforcement agencies, which means that no one else knew what leads CIA had provided regarding the former Al-Qaeda chief. Given ISI’s exceptionally vigilant performance, then, it is no surprise that OBL was able to sneak into Pakistan back in 2005 and live in Abbottabad cantonment for years, without triggering any alarms.

In light of the evidences gathered, timelines constructed and testimonies heard, the Commission noted that it was virtually impossible for the renowned terrorist to hike around Pakistan without help from someone within the security agencies. Of course, this would be far more probable if General Hamid Gul was still serving in the military. But since he’s still the primary inspiration of many top army officers, the Commission’s analysis isn’t that far-fetched. Besides, we have seen many recent incidents where army personnel went over to the dark side over promises of Houris and cookies.

Now let’s deal with them Americans. In 2005, CIA stopped sharing intel pieces regarding OBL with ISI, simply over certain well-substantiated allegations that the agency often rats out the  intel, abetting certain high-value targets in escaping just before a strike. Such notoriety eventually lead to an ally which became increasingly disillusioned of our ‘sincerity’ in nabbing the top Al-Qaeda cadre. As a result, when the CIA finally had confirmation that OBL was comfortably lounging off his late years in a lavishly large compound in Abbottabad, the agency acted without consulting Pakistan’s military or the political government.

While the anger over violation of our borders is justified (a violation which, by the way, has been committed by hundreds, if not thousands, of Taliban since 2001), the question is: shouldn’t we be angrier over our inadequacies in tracking down the most wanted man in the whole wide world? Why aren’t our nationalistic sensitivities hurt over the fact that at one side, we minted billions of dollars from the U.S. and at the other, OBL found a safe abode in Pakistan? The Abbottabad raid was certainly an insult to us, but it must be so only because we were not the ones who nabbed OBL first.

The Commission’s report clearly points out that the greatest failure in this debacle was on the part of ISI. The agency didn’t share its OBL-related intel with any other domestic agency while the political government wasn’t informed any better, thus leaving the onus of responsibility on ISI. It’s about time for GHQ to take note of such inadequacies, root out any and all such elements which have the slightest inclination towards religious extremism, especially within ISI, and once and for all, submit to the will of the political government.

There are many who’d love to blame the West for the whole thing. Such comical manifestations of our idiotic notions of national sovereignty are merely a reflection of an ostrich burying its head in the sand. As long as we remain in the vile shade of denial and refuse to take care of our own backyard, the international community is not going to stand by and wait for us to devise solutions for a problem that has a huge global impact. And for that, the ball is in GHQ’s court.

Killed over a jug of juice

June 28, 2013 § 3 Comments

justice

Three years ago, two brothers were beaten to death by a mob in Sialkot. The video went viral on the internet and the society, at large, was outraged at the incident. Justice, although delayed, was eventually served only because the social media took up the cause and forced the mainstream media to attend to the heinous incident.

A similar incident has taken place at Multan, except that this time, the perpetuators of the murders are powerful feudals. According to ground reports, Javed aged 9 and Jameel, aged 13, were forcefully taken from their parents in Kotla Rahm Ali Shah. Faheem Abbas Shah, the feudal overlord in the area, took the kids to his home in Multan, to act as servants. The parents wanted their kids to study but Faheem thought domestic work was far more lucrative a career.

Following their ‘hiring’, the kids were not allowed to meet their parents for many subsequent months. On Thursday afternoon, June 6, Jameel poured himself a glass of juice from the fridge and broke the glass pitcher in the process. Faheem’s wife, Hina Gilani, was so enraged over the ‘brazen’ trangression of a slave that she beat him bad and then slammed the jug against his head.

Jameel started bleeding but retreated to the rooftop, which was his only refuge. In the blistering heat of Multan, he continued to hemorrhage while Hina Gilani and her family didn’t provide any medical assistance. When the 9-year old brother Javed saw the critical condition of his brother, he rushed to his ‘owners’, crying and pleading to seek help for Jameel. Naturally irked by the ‘irritating’ kid, Hina beat him as well. The kid ran back and sat by his dying kid on the hot, cement rooftop.

By next morning, Jameel was dead. Hina called up her husband, Faheem, telling him of the inconvenience. Another elder brother of the two kids, Saeed, was also a personal assistant of Faheem. He was told that his brother had incurred food poisoning and they needed to go see him. On the way, Faheem told Saeed that Jameel had died. Once the duo reached Multan, Jameel’s body was lugged into Faheem’s car and taken back to the village. Meanwhile, the 9-year-old Javed was so traumatized and dehydrated that he fainted and was taken to the local hospital and admitted. He stayed in a very critical condition for a long time before reviving consciousness.

Back at the village, Faheem barred the local imam from viewing or washing Jameel’s body, so as to keep the wounds on his body discreet. He instructed another person, Maulvi Shafi, to wash the body instead. However, when Shafi uncovered the boy, he was shocked to see the bruises on the body and the sharp shards of glass in the boy’s skull. He immediately asked for an autopsy but was told to shut up. In view of the profuse bleeding from the head, it had to be dressed even just ahead of the burial.

When probed by Shafi and others, Faheem claimed that the wound was due to a head sore and that, while his body was being transported, the kids’ head hit the window of the car, causing the bleeding. According to him, Jameel had already died of typhoid back at Multan. The devastated father of the two dead kids, Hameed, has filed an FIR against Hina Gilani and Faheem, under article 302 and 356. However, the DCO of Multan, Gulzar Shah as well as the Commissioner of the city are distantly related to the perpetuators. This is precisely why Hameed is currently under an immense pressure by the authorities and attempts are being made to persuade him to back off.

The big question for us, the spectating, silent nobodies is: are our sensitivies stirred only when we see at graphic videos of tortures and murders? And are the Suo Motu’s limited only to hyper-sensationalized news reports? What about the mainstream media houses, many of which have shied away from even reporting the incident? Does the atrocities committed in the backwaters of our urbane playgrounds unimportant and insignificant, even when they involve the most inhumane acts?

After the Jatoi case, many jumped to the defense of the feudal system, citing how it’s unfair to generalize a single instance over an entire faction. This is the second of the innumerable such incidents, many of which go unreported. And this is indeed a reflection of the feudal mindset which involves taking tenants as slaves, treating the poor as scum and disposing of them whenever the need be.

For the last five years, we dragged Senator Rehman Malik through the mud over every such case. It is time Chaudhry Nisar, the new Interior Minister of Pakistan, started doing his job and took notice of this terrible tragedy. It is also time for the Chief Justice to forego the notions of ‘greater good’ and ensure justice is meted out even to those who hail from the lowest rungs of the society.
Three years ago, it took a shocking video of the mob-lynching of boys in Sialkot to awaken the humanity and invoke our outrage. Will the plight of this boy be ignored in the absence of bloody pictures and graphic details?

The journey has only started for PTI

May 14, 2013 § 8 Comments

pti

The elections are mostly over and the final verdicts are pouring in, sealing a decisive victory for PML-N and sufficient seats to put PTI down as a significant opposition player. Where lion-bearers are very joyous, vowing to bring back the glory days of Pakistan, PTI supporters look utterly saddened and dejected.

However, now is not the time to pout or be sad. Now is also not the time to deny the fact that PTI did not get a sweeping majority. Rather, it is time to gracefully admit defeat, hail the 30+ odd seats that PTI has secured and learn a few critical lessons from the voting season.

What PTI achieved?

PTI has emerged as a political force to reckon with. At the same time, Imran Khan can be given the absolute credit for prompting the youth of this nation to become an active part of the political process. I was a part of the D-chowk jalsa on May 9; I actively engaged in political discussions with others of my age group – and the sheer hope and optimism they expressed and the renewed vigor of nationalism that twinkled in their eyes and in their conversations, was absolutely awe-inspiring.

This was the first time in Pakistan’s history that such a huge portion of youth has gone out on the streets, stood in lines for hours and cast their votes. This is also the first time in this country’s history that expat Pakistanis have flew back in such huge numbers to stamp the ballot paper.

Finally, PTI is currently the second-largest political party in Pakistan. The struggle that started 17 years ago, at the hands of a single man with no hopes but a rock-solid ambition, has now turned into a huge force. This is the time for celebration of a really good start, not that of disappointment.

What PTI needs to work on

However, it is also time for the party to look inwards and discern its short-comings. The chief among these is the fact that PTI has turned out to be a party that is primarily focused on the urban middle-class youth. This objection is true to a certain extent – the detachment of the party from rural pockets is what decisively turned the tables against it in Punjab. Then there’s also the issue that PTI didn’t really do any ground-level mobilization in Sindh or Baluchistan – both are critically important for this country and are becoming increasingly so. PTI needs to reach out to the population at large and go beyond urban dwellings.

Secondly, PTI must use the next five years to mature itself as well as its supporters. There are those amidst PTI who refuse to discern the critical importance of democracy and tend to undermine it at times. There are also such who tend to dwell on the negative, call the mandate of others a fraud or useless and similar other bold statements – PTI leadership needs to communicate to their young, hot-headed, yet politically active voters, that such ideas are terribly adverse to the democratic process in Pakistan at large.

Youth in Pakistan is here to stay and will form a majority of the population until 2052 or so. And this youth vote will become an increasingly dominant phenomenon in the coming years. Although this youth seems to have kicked into the political arena, it is undergoing disorientation. One can understand that to carry out a huge election campaign, you need to have a foe you can cite as a failure. So PTI’s criticism levelled towards PMLN was an election strategy.

But elections are over – a huge populace, comprising of the youth, is waiting for Khan to show them the way now. This path must not be that of hatred, intolerance or destructive criticism. It is high time for PTI to rally the youth around someone more grand and more inclusive – namely, nationalism. I have seen the hopes in the eyes of those who have been utterly disappointed in their country; I have seen the so-called mummy daddy kids stand on streets for hours, in blistering rain and under rains. This passion, this fervor must be used to fuel a nationalism and reinstate our pride in being Pakistanis.

Valentine’s Day, Birthdays, Cricket, Music, Pants And Phones Are Haram‏

February 16, 2013 § 10 Comments

So you think Valentine’s Day is haram and shouldn’t be celebrated? If so, it is very likely that you also condone forcefully stopping people from celebrating it. From the fiery patriot-cum-pan-Muslim-cum-anti-West-cum-pro-vague-notions-of-glory crowd, we have seen many exclamations against the Valentine’s Day in the last few days.
To these passionate Muslim patriots, I have a few queries, merely out of curiosity: are birthdays halal or haram? I’m confused since they weren’t celebrated 1400 years ago. Is music halal? If yes, which one – the one Junaid Jamshed produces now or the one he produced a few years ago? Is cricket halal because according to the awesome scholar of Muslim world, Dr. Israr Khalifa, cricket should be banned because it incites immodest sentiments in the viewers and waste their time.
Are western dresses halal? Are cars, computers, products made by the capitalist-Western world halal because I am concerned – they take billions from us to their pockets which help them buy nukes, eat pork and a lot of other haram stuff. So perhaps the phone you are using, the laptop you preach people on, the tablet on which you speak Islam on Twitter, all of them send money away to Kafir companies for haram purposes. I shudder even to think about it.
That is not the end of it. TV is itself haram, most authentic hadiths will tell you. So is loudspeaker, if we are to believe the Mullahs of days gone by. Photos are haram and thus, photo studios should be haram. Identities must be limited to thumb prints perhaps – a Muslim country must have no place for the haram practice of photography. It is safe to state that 90% of our lifestyles today are haram in the light of orthodox Islam.
The big question is: what should we do. Should we start telling each other what sorry bunch of kafirs we are, start criticizing each other’s western dresses, houses, cars and laptops, demanding that government arrest everyone who is clean-shaven or wearing pants, and call on terrorist Islamist organizations to kill those who indulge in such Kafir practices (yes some ‘peaceful’ believers did that on Twitter on Valentine’s day – this was their ‘peaceful’ protest against a few people waving banners).
Should we put death bounties on each other’s heads because quite frankly, I can call you a non-believer for any of the aforementioned practices and find the excuse to chop your head, courtesy the freelancer Mullahs which are a dozen a dime in our land of pure.
Or should we let it be; stick with our notions, try to tell others what we think is right and listen to what they hold as true; argue peacefully, without calling for each other’s deaths, without slitting throats, without giving death threats, without branding each other Kafir, without jeopardizing each other’s lives on tiny issues.
Should we do this as a civilized nation, live and let live, be tolerant and accept all mindsets without letting anyone violate the basic human rights – or should we become the rabid dogs that rip each other’s throats and turn this nation into a pit of madmen?
The choice is yours.

The flawed argument in favor of reserved seats for women

December 18, 2012 § 11 Comments

Imran Khan recently kicked up yet another melee in Pakistan’s media when he declared that he would have women contest elections rather than enter the National Assembly on reserved seats. Before weighing the plausibility of the argument, many were quick to jump the bandwagon of unqualified criticism simply because it was Khan who said so.

For the uninformed, women in Pakistan’s National Assembly currently have 60 reserved seats. How exactly are these seats filled in? Well, since the seats are allocated to each political party based on their proportion in the legislature, the said political parties have the sole authority to figure out who will fills these seats.

The result is simply that the wives, daughters, sisters, relatives of the bigwigs of each political party smugly position themselves on these seats, clamouring out about women rights yet being utterly incompetent to launch the least effort to that end. Seats are allocated purely on political connections with nary a thought spared to any merit or qualification.

There are plenty who dished out a tab bit intelligent criticism to Khan’s proposition by stating that letting women contest elections is nearly impossible in a conservative country like Pakistan. The argument is quite valid and yet it is utterly inadequate to reach the conclusion that the reserved seats shouldn’t be tampered with.

In my view, yes women contesting elections still seems a remote possibility. However, things are on their way to change with ECP pushing for a greater number of party tickets given to woman candidates. Meanwhile, what we CAN do is to ensure that at least the women who find their way to NA on reserved seats merit some minimum qualification.

Just like I would never vote Hamza Shahbaz for being Shahbaz Sharif‘s son, I wouldn’t want a woman to represent Pakistani women simply because she is the wife of an eminent politician. Is that principally wrong? No. Is that too much to ask or somehow impossible? Absolutely not. So why the mindless ruckus then?

Rather than expending their energies in rabidly attempting to defend the reserved seats, I would suggest that the women rights activists can do a far better job if they tried to coordinate with the authorities and somehow devise some kind of minimum qualifications for the women who get to be appointed on the reserved seats. A proven record of working for women, some political insight into policy-making for the said gender – anything tangible that may make sense for a person who gets to be on one of those reserved seats. And I really don’t think that is too much to ask for.

PPP apologists and intellectual dishonesty

December 12, 2012 § 8 Comments

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Most of the times I read an op-ed about PPP in an English daily, it’s almost bilious – especially if it’s meant to eulogize the party. Normally this is how the course of such articles go: high words fly, lofty ideals are cited, arbitrary versions of historic incidents are recounted with more than a tinge of bias, grand titles and appellations are quietly slipped into what is pitched as a balanced opinion piece and the masses are told, yet again, that in PPP is embodied the ultimate saviour of this nation.

I have often read such pieces and tolerated them, hoping year after year that the party that is so revered by the liberals of this country may perhaps someday live up to those expectations. But the last five years have been an abysmal disappointment, even when I know well the adage about history repeating itself.

Let’s, for once, be honest. PPP is not a liberal party. It has never been a liberal party. It is a political party that is as opportunist as PML-N, ANP, MQM, PTI or JI. From Zulfiqar Bhutto’s decision to render Ahmedis infidels to PPP’s cowardly silence over Salman Taseer’s murder, I utterly fail to see how this party is any different from others who play to the gallery and use populist rhetoric to score points. PPP has proved liberal at times, yes, but only when it was most convenient. And the same goes for all other political parties. I simply fail to see how one is any better than the other.

The liberal coterie has long lambasted PML-N for its electoral alliance with extremist organizations such as SSP. However, I don’t hear no caustic words from the jayalas-in-guise over PPP’s decision to form an electoral alliance with Sunni Ittehad Council. Let me remind those with poor memory retention powers that SIC is the same party which openly hailed and eulogized Salman Taseer’s murderer, Mumtaz Qadri, and campaigned for him all over the country.

What is even worse is that the fiercest apologies for PPP emanate from those who profess in being rationalists and unbiased analysts. Time after time, they would defend the feudal culture that breeds in the very lap of PPP, the dynastic politics that is the hallmark of the party and the other follies that are silently glossed over with what can best be termed as intellectual dishonesty. They would tell you how PPP has passed a bill in the assembly which will finally bring deliverance to such women who are victims of domestic abuse – yet they wouldn’t tell how the bill has zero practical value due to an utter lack of implementation and serves merely to earn PPP precious political points. They would tell you how PPP is committed to the elimination of all kinds of religious extremists – yet won’t say as to why the party would take the likes of Maulana Fazlur Rehman under its fold every now and then.

Recently, many of these ‘intellectuals’ have taken to defending the up and coming ‘heir’ to the party’s ‘throne’ – Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. I have nothing against Bilawal – he may be a bright, young man for all I know. But what I do know for certain is the fact that to this day, he hasn’t played any political role in Pakistan, has spent little time in his homeland, and feels a lot more comfortable speaking English than Urdu. The primary, and sole, merit for a politician is the work he has done, or not done, for the people – not the family he hails from.

How does one pre-qualify Bilawal as a great politician when he doesn’t have a day’s worth of actual political experience? If he contests elections, enters practical politics, bags some worthy achievements, I’d be more than happy to vote a youthful leader. But until he has done that, I fail to see how can one extol him without being dishonest.

I have no grudges against PPP except that it is the one party that was not based on religious claptrap or stifling ideological premises. Yet, it has failed to deliver what many had hoped it would. And in doing so, it has stooped to the prevalent mediocrity of the political arena.

How is Abdul Qadir Gilani’s win a victory for democracy?

July 21, 2012 § 2 Comments

(Cross-posted from ET Blogs)

Yesterday the by-elections on NA-151 were held in Multan. This was the very seat from which Yousaf Raza Gilani was removed as the Prime Minister. Ever since PPP was elected and Gilani was appointed as the Prime Minister, Gilani’s sons, Abdul Qadir Gilani and Ali Musa Gilani have been doing exceptionally well. We found a few hints of this in the ephedrine case in which Musa Gilani is currently implicated.

But I digress.

So, in the by-elections Abdul Qadir Gilani scored a win. No surprises there – the Gilanis are a Pir family with a huge number of followers and a lot of influence in Multan.

What was surprising for me was that our very dear Twitter liberatti started cheering for PPP the instant news came in of AQ Gilani’s success! They started hailing this as the victory of democracy, the voice of the masses, the apt answer to the judiciary’s ‘aggression’ and what not. Naturally I was amused, but not so much at the hollow grandeur of these words as at the very stance taken by many friends and colleagues.

As it is, a lot from our liberal coterie tend to support PPP for some very obscure reasons. They term it the ‘true face of democracy’, the party which has sacrificed a lot for the sake of democracy, the only party with a liberal manifesto and the list goes on.

I personally hold most of this to be plain untrue.

Whereas PPP may have made a lot of efforts towards the restoration of democracy and for its continuity, for which I sincerely commend the party, it is still far from being a truly democratic party.

Abdul Qadir Gilani’s win is case in point.

Hereditary and family politics has become a sad norm within PPP. With is shocking is that this is getting support from people rather than critique.

Log on to Twitter for a second and you’d see hoards of tweets stating how AQ Gilani has proved democracy is the true winner. Really? The son of a Pir (a religious equivalent of a typical feudal) who was able to swoop the seat of the Pir once he was disposed, is a victory of democracy? Either there’s something very wrong with this argument or I’ve had all my definitions wrong.

My only contention in all this is that many liberals – some of whom I deeply revere and respect – have become more of a reactionary force. In trying to belittle PTI, oppose Imran Khan and somehow ridicule the party, they are trying to justify a whole lot of equally despicable evils. For instance, a gentleman on Twitter was found stating something like:

Since grapes are sour, PTI fans would now say that voters in NA-151 were illiterate.

Through such sarcastic remarks, he thus effectively discarded what is a very valid argument. You can take that from someone who has lived in Multan for the last 15 years.

AQ Gilani’s vote bank indeed comprises of a lot of tenants and such people who are directly favoured, affected or controlled by his family. This has been true for feudals and for Pirs, but suddenly it’s no longer true for Gilani because, well, he is opposing PTI and his win could be rubbed into the judiciary’s face.

Then there is the regular argument of putting PPP’s (on-paper) liberal stance against PTI, PML-N and others. My question to all of those who do this is:

Wasn’t Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto the one who branded Ahmedis as non-Muslims and initiated a vicious cycle that still continues to this day?

And exactly what liberal policies have PPP been able to enact practically throughout its three governments? Merely passing bills in the parliament is barely an achievement.

Moreover, the way our present government has handled all issues, from the energy crisis to inflation, I have absolutely no love lost for this government, but yes I would really want to see it complete its term and continue the democratic process.

Having said as much, I would also want others to justify the rhetoric of PPP being the best ever political party. This is a claim which needs to be propped up on facts and achievements and not mere words.

Published originally on Express Tribune Blogs.

Image Courtesy: ET Blogs

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