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.

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.

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.

The Show

May 21, 2012 § 8 Comments

The show started around 10. The room wore a very neat look with the curtains being freshly washed and couches from the adjacent room placed next to the sofas. The arrivals comprised of an elderly woman and two young girls, welcomed very warmly by Ashraf and his wife, Atifa. There was a clear demarcation of positions on the either side of the table. To its left were seated the guests and to its right, the hosts. The latter wore forced smiles which did little to hide the tense anticipation gnawing on their faces and sunk into the worn-out seats like pleading, grateful entities. After formal exchange of pleasantries, the conversation entered into the regular second round – that of questions and answers. The questions were thrown with a keen fervor coupled with a thick air of complacency and answered with meek smiles by the other side. Intermittently, now and then silence would creep in and throats were cleared.

‘So what is your daughter’s age again?’ the elderly woman asked in a shrill voice, partly natural and partly due to her try at sounding high-pitched.

‘She’ll turn thirty this year’, a subtle tone of apologetic reassurance crept into the Atifa’s voice.

‘Ahem’, throat clearing. Silence. Then the creak of the door opening.

The object of their interest was here. Clad in a blue dress and wearing lipstick, Nazia entered the room. Being the fourth time in the same month, she had thought the estrangement of the whole setting would be fleeting now. Yet, her face was embarrassed and eyes lowered as she pushed the cart set with the refreshments. A pineapple cream cake, cookies, pizza and halwa. Quite an extravaganza it was.

‘With the grey sprouting through her hair, she looks much older than thirty’ the woman muttered just loud enough to be heard through the room. Helping herself with the cake, her gaze lingered ominously at Nazia. Taking in her face, then shoulders, it slipped lower, thoroughly scanning her in all.

‘I don’t like her teeth when she smiles. They look so big’ the two girls bantered, whispering among themselves.

‘And look at her nose. It seems like the flaring nostrils of a dragon. Natiq likes sleek, pointed noses’ the second of them commented.

‘My son is very well-educated and he has a fine job’ stuffing herself with yet another helping of cookies, the lady announced, though in a by-the-way manner. The hosts nodded fervently presenting their agreement of whatever she uttered. ‘And of course being an educated family, we are against dowry. However, Natiq wants to live honorably in a separate house with his wife. You agree, don’t you?’ her insinuation was well picked by the hosts who suddenly had aghast looks on their faces which looked almost comical with their plastic smiles still intact.

The show dragged on for yet another hour. Nazia was thoroughly noted. According to Natiq’s mother, her upper lip was slightly detached and gave her a strange look with her rather large teeth. And her nose too, duly pointed by her daughters, was a no-no. Plus, although she had thoroughly applied mascara, her eyes looked quite small.

As soon as the clock struck 12, the mother clasped her hands together and stood up.

‘Well, that’s all. I’ve to visit a few other houses in the neighborhood. We’ll let you know of our decision within a week’ her daughter conveniently picked the last cookie on the way out. Nazia retreated back into her room, needing some time to ‘recover’ till the next installment of the show was to commence. Every time, she would end with soft sobs interred deep into her pillow.

Ashraf and his wife sat in silent contemplation, wondering a car certainly would’ve cost less, it being the demand made on the last show.

‘I don’t like her. Rejected!’ the woman exclaimed as she walked with her girls to the next house.

And thus the show culminated. For now.

Jamat-ud-Dawa – Pakistan kay ‘Khudai Faujdar’

January 5, 2012 § 10 Comments

Most of you would have seen slogans seething with hatred plastered across the walls all around Lahore and most highways of Punjab. As soon as Pakistan and India relations began to improve, obscure coalitions and unheard-of groups have suddenly jumped the bandwagon of anti-India sentiment. And the credit of it all goes to our very own group of Khudai Faujdars – Jamad-ud-Dawa (JuD).

Whereas most militant outfits have gone extinct or at least covert in their operations in a post-911 Pakistan, JuD continues to enjoy full liberty despite being a banned organization. It arranges rallies, has a huge area in Muredke as its headquarters and its leaders continue to spew venom and hatred in their Friday sermons and speeches at rallies. Support for JuD’s activities has certainly waned among common masses but apparently, ISI is not really ready to part from its chief proxy-war gurus of Kashmir insurgency.

And that can be easily seen in this recent tide of ‘apparent’ opposition to Pakistan-India relations. I say apparent because while a huge majority of Pakistan either doesn’t give a shit about what pacts are signed with India, so engrossed they are in their own local political and economic issues, the insignificant cretins who number in thousands continue to litter the walls all across Punjab to make an impact. And whether or not ISI is directly backing this ‘project’ is unimportant. The fact is that JuD’s rise to power has been hugely funded and assisted by ISI and our Arab patrons who, after doling out millions in their lavish harems, come to Pakistan to cleanse their sins off by funding Jihadi fighters. And they have a particular fondness for JuD since it conforms to the most rigid, fanatic interpretation of Islam, Wahabbism, a love it shares with Saudi Arabia in particular.

The current peace process with India doesn’t sit well with our military. Military wants to be regarded as the most important entity in Pakistan, a status it has achieved through perpetuating war, rigging political process and influencing media. And it doesn’t want to let go of this status, since that may also mean budgetary cuts once everyone is finally sure that we are in peacetime, quite contrary to what army will have us believe. And so, as soon as an important milestone is achieved in peace process with India, suddenly one of the political hubs of Pakistan is ‘charged’ with anti-India sentiment. However, the turn-out at these rallies pretty much shows what strength an extremist organization has, even in a country riddled with religious fervor – numbered in thousands and most of them being the jihadi members of the organizations, shipped from all parts of Pakistan, they carry little significant anymore. But the depressing fact is that the state machinery is doing nothing to curb them and rather, in many ways, assists them.

Slogans like ‘Bharat se rishta kia – nafrat ka, intiqam ka’ pretty much shows the philosophy which is at the heart of JuD. The most interesting part is that JuD claims politicians are politicking over Pak-India relations and says that they should rather consider India an enemy while the fact is that JuD has long done its own politics over corpses, wearing thousands of youth it has gotten killed in Kashmir as a medal to acquire moral legitimacy and financial assistance. It cites these thousands of deaths with pride and without the slightest remorse even when these deaths have come about to yield absolutely nothing, zilch! And it naturally wreathes in agony as soon as something hints a normalization of Pak-India relations since that means JuD gets to lose its bread and butter and will no longer be able to drive its sales-pitch to a common Pakistani.

The unfortunate fact is that the federal government, despite having initiated the peace process itself, and PML-N chief having spoken publicly about his support for positive relations with India, don’t find the moral courage to openly denounce JuD’s activities or to ban its leaders. This has to change or we run the risk of non-state elements disrupting the entire peace process, like they have times and again in the past.

Imran Khan – to vote for or not?

November 3, 2011 § 46 Comments

To vote:

• There’s no doubt in the fact that he has magnetized the youth, especially the urban youth, to abandon the comfort of their homes and move forward from mere words; Imran Khan brought them to the streets and no matter how or what he is, he at least unfolded a new chapter in our youth’s political activism which is a dire need today.

• On a neutral stand-point, Imran Khan is someone who hasn’t been tested yet. Despite all the talk about Imran Khan being the ‘suicide’ option, even worse than status quo, the fact remains that so far, Imran Khan has never been found involved in any corruption charges. And the feats he has achieved in the past, from leading Pakistan to a run for World Cup to establishing the hospital and a university, all these clearly tell that here is a man who wants a social change and who has tried to bring it as far as he could. So, after all give and take, Imran is still someone who one seeks out as a possibly better option. In short, his past record shows him a man who is honest and incorruptible.

• Imran Khan does not come from a political background or hasn’t been launched by one of the major political parties and then took his own stage. He’s self-made, in so far as his political achievements are concerned.

• Imran Khan is a face well-known internationally. He is a person who knows how to speak well, how to get his point across and how to adjust to different kinds of audiences. Just ask yourself, who would the world take more seriously when addressing at UN General AssemblyMian Nawaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari, Altaf Hussain (just saying) or Imran Khan? Plus, his British connections may let him sale relatively smoother in the rough waters of foreign diplomacy. That, of course is an assumption but a fair comparison lends it weight.

• Not only youth but a number of intellectuals, media personnel and a constituency of literate populace sides with him. While you will see men shipped from rural regions and ‘patwaris’ are the gatherings of both PPP and PML-N, the jalsa at Minar-e-Pakistan had people from all walks of life, most of the politically conscious, at least in comparison to the voters of PPP and PML-N.

• Thus far, Imran Khan hasn’t pitched in any ethnic-centric, region-centric or any other exclusive rhetoric. He claims to be fighting for elimination of corruption, all over Pakistan. Whatever the manifesto of PTI encompasses, it speaks for the entire Pakistan. And that is manifest in both the words and actions of PTI thus far.

• Imran Khan talked about women rights, about educating Pakistan and similar other objectives which pretty much constitute much of what’s wrong with Pakistan today.

Not to vote:

• The chief problem that I find with Imran Khan is his anti-US rhetoric and pro-Taliban stance. Of course he hasn’t openly supported Taliban like JI and others, he has never spoken against him. He speaks of talking to Taliban by ending war or terror and thus restoring peace but all this is a highly impractical as well as illogical. Taliban are not ready for talks, their Shriah-aimed ambitions are not regional but universal and they are not to be told to ‘give up’ their demands just like that. A recent proof to that can be found in the example of the fate Rabbani met in Afghanistan.

• Another great concern is about the personnel his party has been embracing. From Hamid Gul to Jamat-e-Islami rightists, his party has well catered to all sorts of members without disagreeing with their ideology. PTI has also been indiscriminate towards accepting such politicians who have abandoned other ships or were kicked out, some of them even on corruption charges. So whereas yes, Imran Khan comes clean on the issue of corruption, his party seems to be taking a somewhat relaxed stance towards it.

• The worst, of all things leveled against Imran Khan, is his alleged involvement with the deep state or what we know as military establishment. There has been talk of agencies supporting his cause and Imran’s tacit approval of army’s actions since he never talked against the army or it’s exploitations in Pakistan. And this allegation gains much currency when one sees that right now, PTI is only hurting PML-N’s vote-bank, the only party in the political arena who aims to bring army to accountability. Naturally, the logical path for army is to support Kaptaan and that is understandable – but Kaptaan’s support for army is what perplexes many since corruption simply can never be eliminated from Pakistan until army, too, is brought under accountability.

• Recently, PTI arranged a demonstration in Peshawar where it blocked roads to barr NATO tankers from going across. According to media reports, the demonstration was attended by a number of extremist right-wing parties. Also, on the way back, Imran stopped by at the Maulana Sami-ul-Haq’s seminary, the great madressah which has the ‘honor’ of having first launched Taliban who were students there. This is not to hand-pick a single example and lambaste PTI over it – rather, this is simply a proof to the aforementioned assertion that Imran Khan seems to sport pro-Taliban sentiments – now whether these sentiments arise purely out of his anti-US strategy or are these a result of some military minds working to shape PTI’s orientation, one cannot say. But those are the facts.

While that pretty much sums the chief features of both sides of the mirror, let me add that I haven’t absolutely ticked off Imran Khan. He has made his presence known and he may well have a political future, perhaps a significant one. What makes me wonder is that in recent days, in fact within a week of his jalsa, a number of intellectuals have been won over by him – they are optimistic, liberal, humanists and they see a hope in him. My sole hope with Imran Khan, however, is that the mistakes he has made thus far and the errors he has committed in the estimation and ideology of the Taliban and other right-wingers is a result of his naiveté and political immaturity, further bolstered by the ‘patronage’ of JI hawks and exploited (?) by the military establishment. One can only hope that once the liberal coterie abandons its distanced criticism and joins the flock, Imran Khan may have a chance of bettering his views and consequently, his policies. I, personally, think he will be the last man to concede to the implementation of Shriah.

11eleven – celebrating global diversity

October 24, 2011 § 8 Comments

It was the dream of a girl – a dream to work for global peace in whatever ways she can. And that gave birth to a unique idea, that of celebrating global diversity through a project that shall encompass the entire globe. When Danielle Lauren came up with an idea, it was the idea of one person. But as she started working on it, with the conviction that the world really is a beautiful mixture of cultures and a realization of this beauty can bring us all together, she was able to bring together an international team of bloggers, social activists, translators and web designers. Today, her idea is on the very brink of realization.

11eleven project is a unique venture in that it tries to show us a different dimension of globalization – a face that is not menacing or threatening but one that depicts how the world is connected together in a conglomeration of different cultures and languages, each of them equally beautiful and enchanting. On a single day, Nov 11, 2011, the day when the date is to be spelled as 11/11/11, bloggers, photographers, film-makers, tweeters and social activists will come together on a platform to share their ideas; their views of how the world looks like from where they see it; what beauty the sounds spill from where they hear it; what truth the words which they pen contains; and finally, how this mosaic of inter-twining perspectives brings out the true connection that we all share, no matter where we are placed on a map.

The ‘about’ section on the official website well sums up the idea behind this project:

“We want to plant a seed of compassion in the world and allow people all over the planet to gain a perspective of this crazy rock that we all live on. Are people from different parts of the world really that different? Different cultures may have different traditions, but we’re pretty sure a teacher inMadagascaris trying to achieve the same as a teacher in theUSA, or a Muslim father wants the same for his children as a Jewish father! We want this to be used as a time capsule for people to look back on and see how the world was in 2011. We’re looking for truthful stories from people around the globe that will give us a clear idea of how it is to live where you do, something that news channels or other programs miss out on.”

The best part about the project is that if you wish to participate in it, you are not constrained by language barriers. Write in whatever language you may deem fit, be it English, Urdu, Punjabi or any of the thousands of other languages. The team at 11eleven claims that it has a team of international translators that is all set to handle this multitude and craft it into a semblance of a single, global narrative.

With a few days to the project, thousands of people are already on the list, actively participating in the project and furthering the word. 11eleven has partnered with a number of international not-for-profit organizations such as Global Voices to let the world know about it. You also stand a chance for your artwork to be introduced to a global audience through a number of publications such as Marie Claire Magazine.

The topics for the submissions are: Beginnings; Make A Wish; Play; Courage; Routine; Beauty; Water; Darkness; Faith; Heartbreak and Love. You will have one day, Nov 11, 2011, complete with its 24 hours to submit artworks from any of the categories about the topics listed above. The bloggers are to blog about “How I wish the world will be in 100 years”.

I feel particularly excited about this event because in it, I see a chance of showing the world what Pakistan truly is – that behind the glaring headlines of terrorists attacks and war against terrorism, we are people just like any other people; that we share similar joys, sorrows, similar routines, similar love for art and a similar compassion for humanity like any other in the world; that Pakistan is as culturally rich as any other region in the world. I believe that here, now, is an opportunity for us to tell the world who we really are and weave our colors in an international narrative. And to say out loud that we are a nation that loves peace and humanity.


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