Writing after a long time!

 

It has been a long time to have expressed my views on issues pertaining to political cum security situation of Pakistan in general and Quetta and Balochistan in particular.

 

Main reason being the relative peace that the country had to witness after the successful launch of Operation Zarbe Azb, that was directed at those wrong doers who used to kill people in the name of religion and hide somewhere.

 

Another reason was that I wanted to write credible things, as most of my pieces were mere collections of blames that I got to hear or generated using my upper chamber.

 

As a result, I did not write much, but a couple of blogs in 2015 with “my first ever interaction with Ismailis” being shared the most. I wrote that out of enthusiasm though.

 

Much has changed since I wrote my last in Pakistan and around. Democracy has sustained, military retained it previously enjoyed prestige. Iran reached a deal on its nuclear program with the world powers; Saudi Arabia invaded Yemen raising questions on the very basic concepts of Muslim Ummah. ISIS as a terror group has left the world stunned with its activities, seeing which world had to stand united against this menace. Iraq and Syria have been turned into trashes, where both Saudi and Iran played their game of egos.

 

2015, personally to me proved very fruitful. I completed my coursework, setting the stage for my thesis; I was selected for a dialogue between the youths of Afghanistan and Pakistan which helped me see Afghanistan from a different angle. I made a lot of friends, while there was also an increment in the number of those who would hate me now, but who cares. Spending more than a year in the federal capital has left me with an altogether different world view, now I no longer see the events I way I used to, in fact at times I laugh on my approach towards different phenomenon that I typically applied or followed.

 

Currently I am busy finalizing my research topic, with a lot of support from the August Professors, well wishers and friends who want to see me be successful and I get this feeling because of the effort or time they offer me whenever I have asked for.

 

Exposure to the law making institutions is yet another unique experience that I have just had the proceedings of the Senate and Parliament that we could only watch on Television and wish to watch live is now a matter of how I can spare time and be present to watch, while busy in performing other tasks in the Senate building. Seeing the lawmakers discuss proposed laws and exchange ideas is totally a different thing which has left me rethink of my previous position about the utility of parliament and law making procedures.

 

Anyway, I will not take much time and make you people feel bored, today’s writing was just meant to say that more might follow this one, so be ready all ….

June 19, 2014, a land mark decision by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Soon after the twin suicide bombings in Peshawer Church, Supreme Court of Pakistan took a suo moto action and came up with an unprecedented decision, never before in the history of the country where a decision was entailed with a thorough plan of action and mechanisms that could make sure the vision comes true.

11 August every year stands as a day for minorities, different events are organized in order to mark this day and witnessing the state of affairs for the minorities in Pakistan, it is imminent to expect such programs where the voiceless be given a chance to express his views. it was on this very occasion that PEAD Foundation kept up with its legacy of advocacy for the rights of minorities and organized a panel discussion titled ‘Compliance of the June 19, 2014 judgment: an assessment’”. The purpose was to analyze the performance of the Federal and the provincial governments regarding the Decision of Supreme Court of Pakistan, where establishment of a task force, special police force, National Council to play the role of a watchdog and the like methods were devised that could make sure that the decisions are implemented.

The panel discussion was chaired by Ms. Sameena Imtiaz the Executive Director of PEAD Foundation while Mr. Peter Jacob Director of Center for Social justice shed light on the performance of the government concerning the June 19, 2014 decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

The Supreme Court in its order clearly showed a road map sort of a thing, that would help the government make sure violations of the rights of the minorities are kept an eye on and checked closely and ultimately bringing to a halt, in an ideal situation. Supreme Court has directed the government to

  • the Federal Government should constitute a taskforce tasked with developing a strategy of religious tolerance;
  • Appropriate curricula be developed at school and college levels to promote a culture of religious and social tolerance.
  • the Federal Government should take appropriate steps to ensure that hate speeches in social media are discouraged and the delinquents are brought to justice under the law;
  • a National Council for minorities’ rights be constituted. The function of the said Council should inter alia be to monitor the practical realization of the rights and safeguards provided to the minorities under the Constitution and law. The Council should also be mandated to frame policy recommendations for safeguarding and protecting minorities’ rights by the Provincial and Federal Government;
  • A Special Police Force be established with professional training to protect the places of worship of minorities.
  • it is directed that the Federal Government and all Provincial Governments shall ensure the enforcement of the relevant policy directives regarding reservation of quota for minorities in all services.
  • in all cases of violation of any of the rights guaranteed under the law or desecration of the places of worship of minorities, the concerned Law Enforcing Agencies should promptly take action including the registration of criminal cases against the delinquents.

And these stand as the principles set by the Supreme Court, directives that could make sure those minorities in Pakistan can imagine living as equal citizens, enjoying a life as that of the majority group.

Mr. Peter Jacob as a researcher has developed a methodology in this regard to measure the performance of the respective governments in implementing the above mentioned orders of the Supreme Court, and the results show that it is the Federal and the KP Govts to have scored the least when it comes to the realization of the judgment, while Balochistan government stands first by scoring the most, as per the findings of the methodology used by Mr. Jacob.

He was blunt enough to say that the reasons behind the lack of progress on the outline of the Supreme Court include indecision on part of government and cabinets, non-existent policies, institutional overlaps and indifference. He advised that for speedy implementation of the SC orders, which was vital for protection of minorities rights, governments must set up inter-ministerial committees which should ensure timely compliance of SC orders.

It is high time that institutions such as PEAD Foundation, Center for Social Justice and all others that are working for rights of the minorities are approached and guaranteed full support by every individual and group that is not happy with the current situation the minorities in Pakistan are facing, as it is against the teachings of Islam, our Constitution and the basic human rights, and mishaps against them also brings bad name to our country on the international level. Realizing all these facts, pressure must be mounted on the Federal and the Provincial governments so that they could take the case and the decision of the Supreme Court seriously and implement all the recommendations/orders/directives and make the minorities believe that common citizens of Pakistan are aware and concerned about the injustices done to the countrymen, just because they do not practice the religion that the majority does.

Major Imran Reporting Sir !!!

Major Imran reporting Sir, this was the sentence i uttered when I met Lt. col Niaz Ali Changezi Deputy Director Admin at the National Defense University Islamabad.

An ever smiling face of Lt. Col Changezi met me with a smile too, though he asked that for how long I have been part of the Army, and I said that I have inherited this title from Kabul, where I had just spent 6 days while in a conference of the young generation of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

When it comes to the relations of both countries what proves the most problematic is the way people perceive each other’s government, being skeptic of the roles on either side and taking those feelings to the next generations.  And this phenomenon is not limited to a group of people but one is surprised to know that those in Three Piece Suits are also suspicious about the role of Pakistan and its security institutions, and in this respect I have some examples to refer to.

The reason my nick became “Major Saab” is the reaction by some of the renowned Afghan human rights activists and civil society members. I still remember when before putting my question to Mr. Nader Naderi where while introducing myself I told him about the institution I am enrolled in ie the National Defense University, he was quick enough to respond that your question gives a sense that in years to come you might join Pak Army and then he moved on to answer the question.

Not only that, while we were in the Pakistan embassy, one of the Afghan delegates was blunt enough to ask me as to what I was doing near their group, since he had come to know that I could understand a bit of Dari, he started to connect his perceived dots about my location, ethnicity, and NDU, but what surprised me the most was the sentence he told his delegates that if you people want to be safe from any bombings so be close to the Pakistan delegate.

The stereotype has yet another example in form of a question asked by a Civil Society activist (Sharifi) who in an open forum opined that “I hope there is no one from ISI in the Pakistani delegates” and since the ground had been set so all my friends on a lighter note looked towards me and said that, “well we don’t know about others but we have a guy from comes from the National Defense University”.

What then, Umer Farooq(one of my colleagues) started saluting and calling me Major saab.

Narrating the whole story is meant to make readers understand how deep is the feeling of hostility and stereotype that even those who claim to know a lot, at times doubt their information and become doubtful.

Not everyone at the NDU is part of the military and also ISI would not be sending agents who could get them the information they already have.

Establishment is well aware of the feelings and thoughts of Afghans towards Pakistan, but what they cannot understand are the reasons that have lead to this current state of thinking. Pakistan has always forwarded hands of friendship towards its Islamic neighbor, yet unfortunately these gestures have not been answered in a positive way. But we Pakistanis are hopeful for the future relations.

I don’t know about other friends of mine, as to what they have achieved out of the Kabul trip, but I feel like I was playing role of James Bond, by the way I still feel like I am James Bond and this will last for days to come.  While in hostel room I act as if I am an Army man, and also while roaming around I think suddenly I have become a true Soldier, that is why everywhere I tease my fellows now and when anyone asks for any souvenirs I simply say that I have become a Major is not that enough?

And for the time being “Major Saab “ has become my nick, and while meeting any Army Officer in and around NDU, I simply salute and say “ Major Imran Reporting Sir !!!”

The Changing Middle East

Middle East, the center of religio-political heritage for humans of the globe, as always, is going to see a change that will effect the whole adjoining vicinity.

Without going into the background of the volatile situation of the region, I would directly move on a prospect change, that every player in the game is anticipating i.e a possible Nuclear Deal between US and Iran, that will turn the already complex situation into even severe one.

This time though it is not Islam versus Judaism, or Arabs against the Jews, but a fault line withing Islam i.e Sunnis up against the Shias, or for that matter it is Arabs against the Iranians. And the stage seems to be all ready for the show with ISIS on its top, Taliban and Boko Haram declaring allegiance to Abu Bakar Al Baghdadi, while on the other hand Hizbullah and the likes have been engaged in bloody battles that were just mere warm up for the final round that is yet to be played.

Israeli Prime Minister’s speech that he made to the Congress and a subsequent Republican letter to Iran for sabotaging any Deals between US and Iran, are desperate efforts on behalf of those who do not want any deals right now. Also frequent rounds of Saudi Arabian government meeting with their allies and recent visits especially of the Prime Minister and Army Chief of Pakistan, and  Jim Kerry’s reaction to the “letter “ are clear evidence that Obama administration has finally decided to bring and end to Iranian isolation and engage it in the world and specially recognize its role in the Middle Eastern politics.

For the time being though, Arabs (Saudi Arabia) and the Jews(Israel) are on the same page, they both are against Iran been given any concessions.

Observing these events while sitting here in Islamabad makes me feel frightened, whether it will be a deal or not, in either case Pakistan will bear the consequences the most. If it is going to be a deal, Iran would get aggressive with its neighbors, and will most probably restart its revolution exports which will lead to chaos in Pakistan, as sectarian tensions are on high. Yet this does not bother me much as against the second part of this first assumption, as already Saudi Arabia and Israel and the likes are aligning against a prospect Iran, they would most probably go after the “window of opportunity” thinking of dismantling Iranian capabilities of acquiring Nuclear weapons. And if the allies do attack Iran, again it would be Pakistan that will bear the consequences at home. 20% Shia population of Pakistan has always seen towards Iran as the center of their beliefs and if they come to know that the very center of their religion is in danger then things can go in any direction. The chaos and destruction in this case will be unprecedented.

And if there was no deal at all, then the region will be dominated by Arab-Jew saga, and every now and then an Islamic militant group will rise that will promise of establishing global caliphate and help stable the status quo, benefiting all those who want things to remain the way they are.

Nonetheless, events suggest that US has made its mind regarding Iran, which it kept in isolation for more than three decades in the hope that circumstances would compel her for a compromise, and while realizing that the formula did not work US administration now decides to change the course of action in the region that could possibly secure US interests.

A prospect US-Iran deal may well be commented upon by any RUSSIAN official as saying, Iran is to US what Afghanistan was to USSR, where the later was a military failure and the former remains a diplomatic one.

Whatever may be the motives behind it, what is important that Middle East will occupy most of the airtime on the world television screen in weeks and months to come, with only a slight change in the names of the characters that will be playing the bad and the good guys.

Advocating free speech

Access to information and to the tools that make it possible for human beings to be in touch with the happenings around, has been labeled as the basic right of people in democracies around the world. Yet, one can witness barriers being installed in order to impede the flow of information from one place to another, and that too as pretence of maintenance of law and order and like things.

Sensing the need for bringing an end to this curb on speech, organizations around the world have been formed to resist governments that are against freedom of speech. While many of such movements have their base in somewhat safer places like the first world, efforts of the ones busy with their job in a country like Pakistan, is really appreciable.

Pakistan unfortunately does not enjoy a good reputation, neither in letting its masses to have access to the tools of communication nor in terms of the risks that a journalist has to take so that he could write what he observes or for that matter even sees at times.

Off the list of the watchdogs that are keeping an eye on the activities around, FREEDOM NETWORK sounds to be the most active one, and that too courtesy the range of FREEDOM OF SPEECH that it covers. FREEDOM NETWORK not only monitors right to freedom of expression but also keeps an eye on the non-media sections of society i.e. human rights group and performing arts industry, plus that the research section of the organization also carries out case studies of violation of freedom of speech.

Workshop and training sessions, where working journalists and free lancers are equipped with up-to-date tools and skills that would help them with their professional duties are the legacy of FREEDOM NETWORK. Another unique feature is organizing events that could prove fruitful in bringing close the stakeholders of free speech in any democratic society i.e. the media and the civil society.

As life of a journalist stands the most important of all, FREEDOM NETWORK has always been demanding for the safety of those who risk their lives for NEWS, and unfortunately when someone loses his life, again it is the same organization that keeps a follow up with the legal proceedings so that those left behind a journalist in his family are provided justice.

Keeping into consideration the importance of communication FREEDOM NETWORK spends a bulk of resources on its outreach with public at large. Keeping an updated world wide web http://www.fnpk.org/  always provides a fresh look into the state of affairs of freedom of expression, handouts and periodic publications also enjoy a special place, where it is made sure that people come to know about the situation of free speech and also how the organization is doing with its obligations.

As is an infant democracy it is a must that Pakistani society be provided with each and every pre-requisites that could make sure it fully develops into an adult democracy, and for that it is a must that people be free to express themselves and also have access to every information and source where from they could acquire information. BAN is no solution, rather it is a problem in itself, Pakistan is a product of a political struggle and it cannot be sustained by curbing peoples’ tongue and minds. All those forces or elements who try to create impediments in the way of flow of information are doing a disservice to the country and every that person or institution must be applauded for its efforts that take the risk and fight those negative characters who want to have a complete control on the eyes and ears of the masses, and try to turn people into living dead creatures.

Emraan Manzur

@emmimanzur

Mullah and Military, deteriorating relations.

It were the happenings around Pakistan, that compelled the then Military-backed by the International establishment- to use Islam as a tool that could not only serve international purpose but also cater for the ideological needs of the country.

Advent of General Zial ul Haq is no accident at all. A coup was all necessary to topple a stubborn Bhutto, who would talk of the common people and the interest of Pakistan. Events that led to the third time stepping in of Army were taking place in the neighboring countries.

Iran was looking forward to an Islamic revolution, while Afghanistan was about to test Socialism, and either, if successful, would have created lots of problems for the establishment in Pakistan. Already the neighbors being India (Secular), China (Communist), Pakistan could not afford to see prosperous and peaceful Socialist and moderate Islamic state to its West and South-West.

Fortunately enough, the international community, also saw these developments against its interests. And what followed, remains in the dark pages of history.

The year is 1979, when USSR attacks Kabul, a call for waging Jihad against Communism was given, that helped draw Dracula from every Muslim country to Afghanistan. And at the very same time Ayatullah Khomeini lands in Tehran with his Islamic Revolution, which posed serious threats to the hegemony of Saudi Arabia in the Middle East. Seeing it, a propaganda campaign was soon launched, calling the Islamic Revolution as a Shia revolution and also expelling Shiasm out of the sphere of Islam, and a Jihad against Shias were launched too.

All this was being done under the supervision of his Excellency General Zia ul Haq.

Capitalistic bloc wanted a hindrance in the way of the progress being made by USSR, while Saudi Arabia did not want Liberal Islam to prevail outside the boundaries of Iran, and Pakistan and its men in uniform were best suited to serve this cause.

And Pakistan Army, called the non-state actors in aid to this holy mission.

Excessive use of Islamic teachings bore results, which has brought bad name to that “beard”. Episodes of brutality, attributed to those in charge of the JIHAD, are not concealed. JIHADIS were given a free hand to do as it pleased them, no checks and balances.

This was the honey moon period of the relations, where both sides served a purpose that was more or less common to each stakeholder. Pakistani establishment wanted to stop communism, while JIHADIS wanted JANNAT.

But as things do not remain constant, same applies to the interests of nations. Pakistan, in a bid to stop changes in its neighboring to affect it internally, used forces to curtail events from advancing in its borders, while lost its credibility in the international arena. Not only that, it even could not succeed in achieving its goal that it had set itself.

Afghanistan, that Pakistan wanted to have as its colony, just saw a peaceful transition of power. And now Pakistan openly states about not having any favorites there. And Iran, that was labeled Infidel state, resisted all the international pressures, and now is negotiating its nuclear program on its own terms with the P5+1. India, arch rival, has an economy that is making leaps and bounds progress. China just sets up Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and is looking forward to make the dream of BRICS come true.

And where does Pakistan stand in this time span of three decades?

Most number of Polio cases, third in the list of countries hit by terror the most, low GDP, growing poverty, intolerance on peak in societies, extremists dictating rules.

All these must have been realized by the top military leadership. They have come to know that nexus with Islamic militants and extremist political groups is no longer going to serve the cause of Pakistan. Already this connection has brought much damage and continuing with this partnership, are nothing but more chaos, disturbance and lots of other problems, both domestically and internationally.

Zarb-e-Azb, which took many by surprise, had to be launched. As the terrorists had turned the country into a banana republic, where not only they killed people but also were taken live on National News Channels to forward their viewpoint as what made them carry out a particular act of barbarism.

Certainly we cannot see an overnight shift in policies, yet indicators suggest that Pakistani establishment has decided to part ways with religious extremists and militants (with an exception in the case of Balochistan). The harsh treatment meted out to the JIHADIS of yester years, can be cited as an example of how they will be dealt with in future if they do not abstain from their activities.

Though belated, yet a welcome action.

Pakistan must pursue international relations, using its foreign office, instead of relying onto Non-State Actors. Whatever grievances there are, must be communicated through proper channel and not proxies. Those in charge must follow standard rules of procedure, realizing they are also part of the civilized world community.

Emraan Manzur

Why no action against LeJ?

Lashkaray Jhangvee, a Terror outfit of Deobandi Sect of Islam that was established in 1990s by Haqq Nawaz Jhangvee in District Jhang Punjab, with an aim of eradicating Shiites(another sect of Islam) from Pakistan.

 

What then, they started their activities by targeted killings of key Shia Clergies in and around Punjab that slowly and steadily reached the port city of Karachi till late 90s. LeJ was also used in Afghanistan and Kashmir, and by USE I mean that the Pakistani military establishment took them to both the areas mentioned. Where they killed scores of people and served as free mercenaries for forwarding the agendas set.

 

And all this did not happen in haste, LeJ is a gift for the Shias of Pakistan who in 1985 defied the radical steps of the then military dictator Zia ul Haq, Zia introduced a must payment of Zakat for all Pakistanis to which the Shias reacted and started demonstrations, followed by the exemption to their name. But none knew how military establishment would answer to this, and it was the very time when an artificial voice was raised for imposition of Caliphate in the country, and for this matter Anjumanay Sipahey Sahaba( Army of Prophet’s Companions) was brought forth that started political and militant activities to harass and threaten especially the Shias who had resisted imposition of Zakat on them.

 

By the way transition of Anjumanay Sipahe Sahaba(ASS) from Punjab to the rest of the country is an interesting case in itself. It was directly moved to Karachi, for the fears of economic loss due to consistent killings in Punjab, “and as the new millennium started the battle ground was moved to Quetta, Balochistan”.

 

Balochistan makes almost 43% of the total area of Pakistan, mainly habitant of Baloch and Pashtun with Hazaras mainly living in the provincial capital Quetta. Balochistan, as per the opinion put forward by Baloch, did not become part of Pakistan with the consent of the people of the area rather Pakistan army took over through its operations. While books on Pakistan Studies or Pakistan Affairs say something else, but fact of the matter is that since its establishment the relations of Pakistan with the Baloch have not been an ideal one.

When it comes to Balochistan, one can only imagine military operations, be it of the Military Dictators or the one conducted under the auspices of Zulfiqar Bhutto.

Baloch in their very nature are secular, but the game that establishment played this time (starting in Gen. Musharraf regime in 2000s) was the most difficult to cope with for the Baloch separatists. Lashkaray Jhangvee (establishment’s child) again came to the help of the Ideological Homeland, and this time its task was to change Baloch separatism notorious.

 

And Hazaras’ role was that of the scapegoat, LeJ by design started targeting Hazaras in Baloch dominant areas of Quetta. Not only that but also the key players of LeJ came up to the screen with the names of their tribes following them, obfuscating the true aim of targeting Hazaras, as Punjabis were targeted by Balochistan Liberation Army, it became difficult earlier on as to what could be the true excuse for the execution of Hazaras. But time and the events that followed made it clear for those who could read between the lines, that LeJ once again served the “Land of the Pures” voluntarily, that helped it quench its thirst for blood too.

 

Lashkaray Jhangvee is almost a Brigade or for that matter a Special Unit, just like US Navy Seals, that knows no laws or ethics while operating.

 Every big act of BLA is followed by a brutal terror attack of LeJ on Hazaras.

 

And Pakistan forwards a memo to the United Nations naming unrest in Balochistan nothing more than a religious or sectarian conflict.

 

That is the reason why after all Pakistan protests against LeJ could not make the govt take action against LeJ, last year on Jan 10, 2013, Hazaras were guaranteed of an action against LeJ but later on Baloch separatists were hunted and killed.

Why would government go against it baby, or right hand, that fulfills Covert Objectives with such boldness?

 

It was the only reason in consideration that I tried to convey to my people when again on 22nd Jan 2014 they decided for a sit-in following a deadly suicide attack on a bus carrying pilgrims from Iran, I told them it is useless to demonstrate as Establishment will not allow government to act against LeJ hideouts in and around Quetta city.

State terrorism everywhere in the world is the result of running a State as an End, either comply by what is being said or ordered or be ready for getting killed. LeJ has proved itself to be an asset for the establishment, and anyone asking for an action is be-fooling himself.

 

Emraan Manzur