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Category Archives: Defence and Disarmament
By Zubeida Mustafa
It was quite an extraordinary way of celebrating the 67th anniversary of Pakistan’s independence last week. Believing that they could usher in freedom/revolution by bringing their supporters out on the street, Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri succeeded only in creating polarisation and instability in a crisis-ridden country.
The two marches organised by these leaders have evoked strong reactions from political observers. A large segment of pro-democracy opinion views this show of force as an extra-parliamentary move by the opposition that could derail the democratic process and open the door for military intervention. There have also been allegations of collusion between the agitators and elements in the military. Others have defended the people’s right to protest against government excesses. The speculation of regime change has been intertwined with an ongoing discourse on the military-civilian role in politics. Continue reading
By Zubeida Mustafa
WITH the Pakistan Army’s attack on the militants in North Waziristan, a human tragedy of gargantuan proportions has been unfolded. Unsurprisingly, the government failed to anticipate the consequences of this move and did not act in time to avert a catastrophe. It has only compounded the crisis the country faces.
The latest avoidable disaster to visit us is that of the internally displaced people or IDPs — the hapless victims of Operation Zarb-i-Azb — who have been forced to leave their homes in North Waziristan. This was inevitable if Pakistan is to be saved from our self-created Frankenstein that was intended to provide the country with the questionable advantage of strategic depth. The crackdown has come, belatedly though, with no preparations for the aftermath.
As a result we have the suffering of nearly 450,000 IDPs on our conscience. This phenomenon could have been anticipated. It just required greater sensitivity from those whose responsibility it is under international humanitarian law — specifically the Geneva Convention IV, 1949 — to protect the rights of civilians displaced by hostilities in war-affected areas. Under this convention one doesn’t even have to cross an international boundary to become an IDP. And 75pc of those who have fled their homes are women and children. Continue reading
By Zubeida Mustafa
WHILE going to the Karachi Press Club to attend a press conference called by the Citizens Trust Against Crime, I noticed heavy traffic moving in the wrong direction on a one-way street. When I asked Amjad, who was driving me, about this waywardness, he succinctly commented, “Bibi, aap ko pata naheen yeh Pakistan hai. Yahan koi poochnay wala naheen.” (This is Pakistan. No one checks).
A while later this was confirmed by the CTAC, a not-for-profit trust, when speaking of infringements of the law that are common in Karachi. What is worrying is the nexus between crime and the instruments of crime. The key facilitators are unlicensed weapons, illegal vehicles and untraceable SIMs.
According to the CTAC, these three often come together “to form a lethal arrangement that breeds and promotes crimes of all shades”. Continue reading
By Zubeida Mustafa
THE dust raised by the Abbottabad Commission’s report took long to settle. Each time it seemed the matter was settled, some new issue would emerge to stir ripples of excitement.
Now it is time to sit back and reflect calmly on what happened. The fact that the report was leaked and Al Jazeera posted it on its website is nothing unusual in this age of whistleblowers and hackers. After WikiLeaks, Abbottabad seemed child’s play in this context.
Since it has been claimed that the leaked draft is not the final and authentic one, I shall not go into the nitty-gritty of who was responsible for the intelligence failure in not detecting Osama bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad and not stopping the American helicopters’ incursion into Pakistani territory in May 2011. The leaked version of the report calls on the country’s leadership — “political, military intelligence and bureaucratic” — to formally apologise to the people of Pakistan for “their dereliction of duty”. This in all probability must have been retained in one form or another in the final version. Continue reading
By Zubeida Mustafa
ON May 28, an email was circulating on the web from Dr Shershah Syed, whose services to women’s reproductive health are widely acclaimed.
Doctor Sahib wrote, “Today we are celebrating the atom bomb day when we are a country where millions of children are not going to school — where millions of kids start their morning without food and will work in factories.…”
How true. While chasing the bomb, we have destroyed our people. What Dr Shershah can add is that this is also a country where one cannot escape the heart-wrenching sight of little rag-pickers rummaging through the garbage for food leftovers to ease their hunger pangs. Their emaciated bodies taunt our bomb-makers with misplaced priorities. Defence spending is expected to increase in the budget to be presented later this month. At this rate, though, there will be no one left to protect. The data given out by the health authorities of the prevalence of malnutrition and stunting in Pakistan are not exaggerated. Continue reading
By Zubeida Mustafa
IT is exactly 12 weeks to the day when Perween Rahman, director of the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) Research and Training Institute, was gunned down in Orangi when she was returning home from work.
Two months later, another activist of the OPP who ran a school, Abdul Wahid Khan, was killed outside his home. A few days later on May 18, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf leader Zahra Shahid Husain was assassinated by armed men.
These were not the only people who were victims of target killing in Karachi. Approximately 259 other people met a violent death in the city in the same period. We mourn them all. Above all, we mourn our own helplessness to save these precious lives.
Zohra Yusuf, the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, was spot on when she once commented that in Karachi a person championing a human rights cause, who dies a natural death, is indeed lucky. Continue reading
By Rifaat Hamid Ghani
ONE could well say Pakistan’s democracy suffers from a president problem. Ghulam Ishaq was adept at dismissing Parliaments. Farooq Leghari, popularly doubted for the party status he enjoyed till assuming office, let down the party, if not the public. Tarrar, unofficially renowned for carrying a briefcase, drifted through the crosscurrents of a countercoup without a hiccup. Presidents Musharraf and Zardari though are in a class by themselves; and who would you send to the top of the class? If one posed a conceptual challenge as a COAS president, the other posed a more empirical one as an active party promoter and controller.
And now, perhaps the thorniest nettle the incoming premier, Mian Nawaz Sharif, will have to grasp: Should the government he is to lead press treason charges on the former President Musharraf? Continue reading
by Rifaat Hamid Ghani
The government and the Parliament of 2008 completed a full term: a democratic first. But it could be more because interventionists have matured than because politicians demonstrated a reassuring capacity to learn on the job.
If we step outside the trite paradigm of democracy and dictatorship and the polarities of the civil and military public political interest, we might not see any polarities: Both want power and there is a competition for it. For most Pakistanis Pakistan is home, not a cow to be milked dry. They need and want their country. The touchstone for legitimacy then becomes pragmatic for them: How is the power of government being used?
If asked about the 2008-onwards use of democratically mandated power there would be more than carping complaints about law and order and safety in daily life. The common perception is the state itself is increasingly endangered by the vice and folly of the politically empowered. In 2013 despite democratic freedom a question is suppressed: Is it a myth, which local democratic experience exposes each time, that democracy is invariably the better formula? As soon as there was no self-perpetuating incentive in maintaining or reaching a consensus, political rivals needed arbitration on the caretaker PM. When mainstream parties so evidently mistrust each other’s motives and nominees they also need unusually skilled spin masters to tell the electorate why it may place faith in their candidatures and avowals. Continue reading
By Zubeida Mustafa
ACCORDING to media reports 2,500-3,000 people fell victim to violence in Karachi in 2012.Ironically, the same year in September UN member states adopted a treaty pledging to rid the world of the scourge brought upon it by the illicit manufacture, transfer and circulation of small arms and light weapons, and their excessive accumulation in many parts of the world.
They also committed to mobilising the necessary political will and resources to implement this programme. By not working for the deweaponisation of Karachi, Pakistan is moving in the opposite direction. Have we resigned ourselves to living on the edge with bullets flying around us?
The scale of violence is stunning. But what is more astounding is that the killings continue to take place in brazen disregard of the concern expressed by the Supreme Court which had taken suo motu notice of the crisis in Sept-Oct 2011. Declaring the violence to be “not ethnic alone” but “a turf war between different groups having economic, socio-politico interests to strengthen their position/aggrandisement, based on the phenomenon of tit-for-tat with political, moral and financial support or endorsement of the political parties”, the court had specified some measures to end the violence in the city. Continue reading