In case of Habib Jalib, he was hated by the Police and other security forces for his most active role in defending the rights of individuals whenever they are rounded up en masse during the search operations in Quetta localities.

The CCPO Quetta once disclosed that security forces will also resort to target killing if the target killing of others did not stop. Now he is claiming that police offered security to Habib Jalib who refused. Naturally, a populist leader involved in struggle for individual and collective Baloch rights will not take the policemen as guard. He was the most popular leader always leading protest processions, holding rallies, defending innocent people in courts of law, taking to task to the police and other security forces who arrested people in court of law and rubbed them fully.

Thus he was the most hated man by the police for his role. Once, the CCPO claimed that Habib Jalib is responsible for harbouring all the target killers in Quetta. “Whenever we make arrested of people (innocents) he comes to their rescue and seek their immediate release,” a top police officials told the newsmen in one of the recent press talks.


Mian Iftikhar Hussain’s son killed

According to Hoti, the 26-year-old Mian Rashid Hussain was shot by two men on a motorcycle as he walked outside his house with his cousin Amjad, who was injured in the incident. Rashid, however, died on the spot. He was Mian Iftikhar’s only son.

The body of the information minister’s son was taken to Pabbi Satellite Hospital following the incident. According to the post-mortem report, Rashid was hit multiple times – shot in four times the head and six times in the chest. Amjad, his cousin, was safe, shot only in the leg, and was taken to Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar, where, according to media officer Jamil Shah, his condition is not critical.

Investigations into the murder are under way, but family members are convinced that the incident was a targeted hit. Militants had been hurling threats at Mian Iftikhar for a while now, and it had been reported on several occasions that his name, along with most of Awami National Party (ANP)’s leaders, was on the hit list of militants. Mian Iftikhar is also the most vocal critics of the Taliban in the provincial government.

Every politician who speaks out against these beasts is threatened and they get to some of them and some of them are lucky for a while. As an example, a few days ago, Alami Majlis-e-Tahafuz-e-Khatam-e-Nabuwat threatened Federal Minister of Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti. “Shahbaz Bhatti ko bhi gustaakhi par gardan uRadain ge”. What was his crime? It was speaking out against the gunning down of the two Christian brothers in Faisalabad accused of blasphemy. Did anyone in the media speak out for him? No. Does anyone even take note of the threats until one day someone is blown up or their son is gunned down? Instead there are articles about the “ground zero mosque”, about Hillary Clinton’s statements, about fake degrees, sugar crisis, everything else under the sun. The common thread is that they are focused on easy targets – targets that won’t gun you down or write a schoolteacher a letter threatening to cut her children’s heads off.

In the meantime our politicians are being threatened, their families are killed, and life goes on.

What really struck me was a conversation i had with my mother this week where she told me that one of her friends said very seriously that Rehman Malik, Babar Awan and Zardari should be declared “Wajib ul Qatal” – ironically the discussion was in the context of the Ahmadi mosque attacks. I guess in a society shaped by extremists where debate is on their terms or not at all even “civil society” has adopted their tactics.

What’s the matter with Punjab?

I came across this great analysis by Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo on the contradictions within Punjab politics:

The anomalies of Punjab’s politics

As the representative party of the progressive, anti-imperialist forces of Pakistan, NAP emerged as the most articulate forum of the oppressed classes, communities and nationalities of Pakistan in the short span of two years since its formation in 1956 (PNP) – 1957 (NAP). As the NAP grew stronger and its programme became popular, repression by the state and criminalization of politics at the hands of the reactionary forces also became more intensive.

Every two or three years the dominant class had to invite the armed forces to crush the rising popular discontent and protect their vested interests. As Punjab had unfortunately become a strong bastion of reactionary vested interest groups and assumed their leadership, NAP could not grow into a popular all-Punjab political party. Our party comrades in Punjab had to encounter formidable obstacles while trying to organize the party. In East Pakistan and the smaller provinces of West Pakistan, the party stood on strong foundations because the party programmer reflected the people’s aspirations and needs; hence they responded positively. In Punjab, the situation was different and therefore our Punjabi comrades had to bear the brunt of state excesses on the one hand and on the other, face allegations of working against the interest of Punjab (interest of Punjabi elite, actually). The people of the other provinces, by thoughtlessly blaming Punjab and Punjabis for all their problems, also hurt the sentiments of our Punjabi comrades, One must give due credit to our Punjabi comrades for standing firm on their political and ideological commitments in the face of all these adversities and provocations.

Punjab had most of the time suffered from a deficit of popular political leadership. It had often remained under the domination of civil and military bureaucracy, feudals and mullahs. People’s movements were made ineffective or irrelevant in what is today known as West Punjab, to ensure that the source of recruitment for the armed forces was not affected.

On the other hand, Punjab was in terms of skill, enterprise, education and productive potential, far ahead of all the other provinces of Pakistan. Though East Pakistan was the majority province in terms of population, all the sources and levers of power were monopolized by Punjab – civil bureaucracy, armed forces, education, skill – all were under the command of Punjab. It was also the stronghold of feudal power. Making use of these instruments of power, the ruling elite of Punjab denied legitimate participation to others in the country’s governance. All policies and plans were drawn up by them, for them and any obstacle in their way was removed with the help of the bureaucracy and the armed forces. It has been like a cycle – some sort of toothless democratic dispensation running the country for a certain period, followed by army rule replacing it for a few years, then giving way to a civil dispensation for another few years – and so the cycle continues till today.

The arrest of Farooq Leghari

PPP has played the “corruption charges are political victimization” card often enough in its history. And there’s been plenty of reasons to sympathize with this point of view. Given its own past rhetoric on this issue, then, one must say that the disappearance, arrest and corruption charges slapped on the HEC Chairman’s younger brother Farooq Leghari show the worst sort of hypocrisy on the part of the PPP. There’s simply no other way to spin it. It’s utter shamelessness and completely indefensible.

Supporters of this government have always claimed that despite its many mistakes and its bad governance it’s the only government in Pakistan’s history that has not taken any political prisoners and refrained from political victimization of its opponents. Well, the arrest of Farooq Leghari has clearly put that one argument to rest. Who is going to be able to defend you now, PPP and on what basis?

the Punjab assembly resolution

OK, now that I’ve whined about the intelligentsia’s one sided portrayal of this whole mess, I would like to say that the Punjab assembly’s anti-media resolution is interesting in that it’s sort of a moment of truth for PML-N. Basically the PML-N of the late 90s which is represented by Senator Saifur Rehman going around raiding Jang group offices, imprisoning Hussain Haqqani, beating up Najam Sethi, etc. is up against the “modern” PML-N which stood by civil society during the long march. Unsurprisingly, PML-N has not emerged well from this moment of truth. On the other hand, it hasn’t done too badly either – I’m not sure why everyone is mocking Nawaz Sharif’s U-Turn. I don’t think ideological change is ever particularly tidy, and his messy U-Turn under pressure is certainly better than no U-Turn at all. Also another thing to remember is that the resolution was supported pretty much across the board in the house although the top leadership of all the parties are now denying it.

So we have reason to wonder given that PML-N may come to power in the federal government in the near future. It’ll be interesting to see the PML-N – a party whose leadership is derived mainly from ex-IJT types, i.e. a party with no ideological foundations for respect for the freedom of the press – handle the media’s criticism when it is in power in the centre. The question is, can they, despite a basic lack of tolerance in their political ideology, be cornered into doing the right thing by the unexpected consequences of their past opportunistic political stances? If so, that would be a wonderful thing indeed and one of the good things about having a splinter of the PML stick around long enough to actually have some sort of collective political history.

Two wolves no sheep

It’s certainly easy to conclude from the Punjab assembly’s recent anti-media resolution that our political class does not understand the concept of a free press; feels entitled to rule regardless of rules and is a bunch of mediocrities (even within their own social class – after all the smart son probably at least graduates whereas the stupid scion is pushed into politics) who are pushed to the top by an extensive network of patronage and caste/land affiliations.

All fair conclusions.

But let’s not stop our analysis there, who will analyze the other side of this conflict. Here’s someone giving it a shot:

The media and civil society represent the new urban middle classes that are better educated, more articulate, progressive and deeply interested in moving Pakistan forward. They represent essentially a modernist vision of Pakistan in espousing the cause of true democracy through rule of law, accountability and constitutionalism. I am not sure if we can say the same about the dominant section of the traditional ruling classes which regularly get elected.

To this, I’m afraid my only reply is… LOL.

Let’s read the latest from our new urban middle class, educated, articulate, progressive and deeply interested in moving Pakistan forward, in the shape of Rauf Klasra:

It has now been revealed that the District Coordination Officers (DCOs) were used to make all MPAs of the Punjab Assembly reach Lahore to attend a special session of the assembly on Thursday. Even the name of MPA Sanullah Mastikhel, who is now being made the scapegoat by the top guns of the PML-N, was chosen by none other than CM Punjab Shahbaz Sharif to present the resolution in the provincial assembly.

Moreover, two foreign countries were also taken into confidence on the crackdown plan against the media. This inside story was revealed to The News by one of the top insiders of the PML-N, who was an integral part of the plot to target the media. According to him, even harsher measures against the media were in the offing but the move backfired.

After the passage of the resolution, the next plan was to stop official advertisements to the media and to issue all official advertisments only on the Internet in addition to asking the federal government to bring in more stringent laws to tighten the noose around the uncontrolled media through the PEMRA.

What are we to make of this? What motivates the likes of Rauf Klasra to write this utter nonsense, day in and day out? Do Rauf Klasra’s children know who pays to put the food on their table and their various plots multiplying from one month to the next? Is it, as the good professor would have us believe a strong civic sense, a dedication to accountability, constitutionalism and progressivism? And if not, why whitewash this utter bilge as a symbol of some kind of progress?

Some other questions that come to mind are… why now. Why did the judiciary begin hearing long-delayed petitions regarding educational qualifications? Why not in the period between 2002 – 2010 when the higher judiciary hasn’t been able to even settle the issue of Madrasa sanads for about 7 years.

At that time the controversy related to sanads of religious seminaries possessed by dozens of legislators remained in the field, but was not finally adjudicated by the apex court. An election tribunal presided over by Justice Tariq Pervez Khan of the Peshawar High Court on June 30, 2003 accepted an election petition filed by a contesting candidate Iftikhar Gillani against an MNA of Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal, Mufti Ibrar Sultan. The tribunal disqualified the MNA, ordered re-polling in that constituency and declared that the sanad of a religious seminary was not equivalent to graduation.

Mufti Ibrar filed an appeal before the Supreme Court which suspended the order of the tribunal and allowed him to continue till final disposal of the appeal. The appeal remained pending for over four years when the assemblies were dissolved in 2007 after completion of its five-year term and fresh polls were held in Feb 2008. The said controversy is still continuing as there are several such legislators who possess sanad of different seminaries.

Why this sudden burst of conscience? Are we really not supposed to look beyond empty-headed analyses of two sides – a progressive democratic and generally lovely civil society and the “old guard” political class? I’m not going to defend the Punjab Assembly’s anti-media resolution. But I’m not going to launder the anti-democratic civil society either. I don’t know why even ostensibly intelligent people feel the need to view the world as the good guys vs. the bad guys. The best we can hope for is a negotiated status quo between a bunch of crooks, liars and cheats who would all stab the other in the back if the system allowed the loopholes to do it. But who am I kidding – this is the Pakistani intellectual class – proudly whining about the status quo; caricaturizing its opponents until it’s impossible to work with them; and collapsing the system since at least 1906.

To a certain extent I sympathize with those who would analyze this intellectual class. While the dysfunctions of the political class are numerous and easy to both enumerate and explain (feudalism, patronage, British colonialism), the language to explain the permanent anti-status-quo itch of the urbanites is somehow more difficult to explain. What makes a Rauf Klasra tick? Apart from the plots in Islamabad — Is it just love for a “strong ruler”? A latent desire for Khilafat? A desire to compete with the Western world which is disproportionate to our institutional capacity? (something similar to the impulse that led them to support ‘proxy war’ with India). Their own negligible numbers which makes democracy, though appealing in principle, undesirable in practice? Who knows. Certainly within this class exist those who are genuinely disgusted with the broken down and corrupt political system with no other hidden motivations beyond that. But even within this sub-class what explains the willful blindness to the motivations of their not so progressive fellow travelers? If you are forever jumping onto the bandwagon of movements that then turn out to be dominated by a right-wing discourse, should you not begin to question your own assumptions?

enlightened moderation in Egypt

Everyone should go read this blog post on the Egyptian blog “Rantings of a Sandmonkey”. It’s not for the faint of heart, but go read it anyway.

banned organizations and their splinter groups

This article by Muhammad Amir Rana makes a very important point about splinter groups of older banned organizations. It reminds me of a statement by Ahmed Ludhianvi of SSP where he called Lashkar-e-Jhangvi a violent group that had nothing to do with Sipah-e-Sahaba. In the old days one would be tempted to consider that to be largely motivated by deniability rather than genuine differences, but there seems to be good reason to believe that that viewpoint is wrong. I wonder if all this pressure on Sipah-e-Sahaba and its alliance with PML-N is somewhat misguided in the sense that Sipah-e-Sahaba is probably not in control of the actions of groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

Furthermore, the militant landscape of Pakistan has become considerably more complex than it was when the first ban was ordered. Banning a few organisations is unlikely to serve the purpose anymore. The groups involved in terrorist activities across Pakistan are largely splinter groups of banned organisations, in addition to a few new groups that have emerged recently. The banned organisations, which were once strategic assets of the state, have nurtured the narrative of destruction. Although their emphasis was initially on ridding the people of Kashmir, Afghanistan or elsewhere in the world of tyrannical rule, review of their literature and objective statements lays bare their sectarian motives and ambitions for achieving an ultra-orthodox theocracy in Pakistan.

However, realisation of those ambitions was the ‘secondary agenda’ of militant organisations, once they had achieved their objectives in Kashmir and Afghanistan. The splinter groups, however, have taken those secondary agendas, prioritised them and started pursuing them through violent means, which has, throughout, been the militants’ singular means to pursue their objectives. These splinters have cut off ties with the banned parent organisations, declaring them puppets of official agencies, and have developed coordination with the Taliban and al Qaeda militants based largely in the lawless tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

In this context, nothing suggests that the latest ban will achieve anything more than the previous bans.

Another point to remember is David Headley’s statement about the falling moral capital of established organizations like the LeT:

“I am just telling you that the companies in your competition they have started handling themselves in a far better way that is why they all are running in losses profit-wise and market-wise. There are continuous losses and it does not seem that they will recover. In these conditions it looks that there will be bankruptcy in approximately six months, my estimate within . . . six to twelve months is that our companies will be done the way things are going on.”

Just what are we going to do when people like Ahmed Ludhianvi or Hafiz Saeed no longer have any moral standing in the Islamist movement within the country? Something to think about, for sure.

“Liberating” women

I read this interesting article in the Tribune about the Burka ban and I left this enormous comment there in the comments section which I thought I’d copy here. Let me clarify, I am not or have not ever been a Kemalist – this is more of an open question:

Here’s a question addressed to the author of this article

you claim that liberating women is not a matter of symbolic wars over their manner of dress. Well said. But then you state that liberating women is a matter of providing positive opportunities like economic freedom, etc. So by saying that you are admitting that there is some objective standard of “freedom” along which these women must indeed be liberated and by doing so you choose to not take away rights but to grant opportunities.

Now the uncomfortable question – since you have already admitted an objective standard of freedom on which these women (muslim) are lacking what if these women subscribe to a philosophy that makes their freedom that much more difficult to attain. i.e. a philosophy that glorifies their role at home as procreator (or “princess” as the Jamaat likes to say), that encourages them to dress in ways that make participation in the economy impossible, etc. What if a survey is done which shows that in families with about the same economic opportunities, those that hold this retrogressive philosophy have significantly less “women’s freedom” (remember, you implicitly admitted that this can be measured)

What justification do you have for not acting in ways to discourage this this philosophy at that point? Is it just some boundary regarding individual rights defined in Europe in the 18th century that you are not willing to cross?

to clarify: does anyone believe that realistically ‘liberation’ in religiously conservative societies like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia can be achieved merely by simple granting of opportunities or would there have to be some kind of limitation of freedom of religion rights?

And is there any explanation (beyond looking at things from the typically agreed upon Enlightenment values of freedom of speech, etc) that one would consider the right to freedom of religion as absolute, trumping even the desire to improve society? A parallel example is the issue of right to property – many advocates of socialism and land reform do not consider the right to property as absolute if it adversely affects the structure of society. Can we not consider a religious philosophy that seriously hinders 50% of its society from achieving “freedom” as as harmful as land-ownership patterns that create large chunks of landless and economically disadvantaged?

And finally one more parallel is the idea of herd immunity that gives our doctors the right to go around poking needles into our children’s arms because the decisions of those parents who refuse immunization adversely affect the whole of society’s immunity. If women as a whole want to be free (and just looking at a street scene in Pakistan where the few women that are present are invariable covered in a chador and walking hastily from point to point looking neither left nor right one can emphatically say that they are not free), should we not be allowed to infringe on the religious freedom of the puritans in order to change the structure of society so we can exercise our individual rights to be free?

A reminder about the strange case of Faisal Alvi

It’s interesting to note that the Major Haroon charged (and now acquitted) with the murder of Maj Gen Faisal Alvi is also mentioned in the Headley complaint and also that the police investigation of Major Haroon matches the FBI’s investigation in the same matter

Police in his investigation report had alleged that Ilyas Kashmiri, an activist of a banned religious outfit, planned and financed the killing that was executed by Major (retired) Haroon Ashiq who had links with Lashker-i-Taiba with the help of two other men.

From the FBI complaint, here’s an email Headley wrote shortly following Maj Gen Faisal Alvi’s death:

Planning for MMP. send me info about it on other mail I gave starting with [the first four letters of one of Headley’s email accounts] if you don’t have it i will mail you from it. . . . How is your friend Harry. Did you check the lady naipaul link.3 . . .
Ok take care

Here’s the FBI agent’s explanatory note regarding this email:

Lady Naipaul is a Pakistani journalist and the wife of the late Lord V. S. Naipaul, a Nobel prize winning author. Lady Naipaul also is the sister of Amir Faisal Alvi, the former Pakistani General killed in November 2008, allegedly by a group that included Major Haroon. Although Pakistani press reports reflect that Haroon was arrested by Pakistani police on or about February 24, 2009 in connection with General Alvi’s murder, it is noteworthy that this email reference to Individual A’s “friend Harry” in the context of “the Lady Naipaul link” occurred in late December 2008, shortly after General Alvi’s murder and well before public reports of Haroon’s involvement in the murder, and police action against Haroon. I understand “Harry” to be a reference to Haroon.

If you will recall, Faisal Alvi was killed shortly after sending a letter to General Kayani threatening to expose a matter involving some senior officials of the Pakistani army, widely believed to have been their ties with the Taliban. (according to a report by Cary Schofield following his death).

Alavi believed he had been forced out because he was openly critical of deals that senior generals had done with the Taliban. He disparaged them for their failure to fight the war on terror wholeheartedly and for allowing Taliban forces based in Pakistan to operate with impunity against British and other Nato troops across the border in Afghanistan.

So to recap – General Alvi writes to General Kayani threatening to expose the involvement of top military officials with the Taliban. He’s murdered. Now either one can conclude that General Alvi’s letter to General Kayani was intercepted or that General Kayani himself revealed the contents of Faisal Alvi’s letter to his killers or possibly ordered the killing himself. Shortly after that, David Headley and his Lashkar contact discuss the matter over email referring to Major Haroon Ashiq who will almost a year later be arrested for the murder of Faisal Alvi. Then on June 13, Major Haroon and another co-accused are acquitted from the murder by Rawalpindi Anti-Terrorism Court II.