Update on Hamid Ansari, Indian national “missing” in Pakistan

Hamid Ansari, 27, MBA, Rotarian from Mumbai... missing since Nov 2012

Hamid Ansari, 27, MBA, Rotarian from Mumbai… missing since Nov 2012

Update to case below: Hamid Ansari was produced in court, tried in a military court and awarded three years’ vigorous imprisonment starting from December 15, 2015. He has appealed to be treated not as a spy.

The police in Pakistan have confirmed that the ISI and MI have custody of Hamid Ansari, the young Indian national who has been missing in Pakistan since 2012. So will we see him produced in court as directed by the honorable judges? See my earlier post Hamid Ansari: Mumbai man missing in Pakistan (we treat each other’s citizens differently). On second thoughts, not that differently. Our security agencies treat their own citizens as badly. Plenty of examples all over both countries — Kashmir, Balochistan, Sindh, Assam, Manipur, to name some areas where such violations take place routinely. The documents below, presented to the Peshawar High Court, provide details of Hamid Nihal Ansari’s case. Continue reading

Geo under fire; owners under threat; being forced to sell shares, step down, appoint ‘approved’ people

"Mr Jeem", the animated Geo mascot: Under pressure

“Mr Jeem”, the animated Geo mascot: Under pressure

“It’s like a newspaper you’re used to getting at your doorstep every day. Suddenly one morning, the newspaper boy starts throwing it in different places every day – near the post box, behind or in the garbage can, on top of the tree, at your neighbour’s porch. That is what is happening with the cable operators taking Geo channels off their regular channel numbers and moving them to the bottom numbers and moving the numbers around.”

That is how a Geo insider describes the ‘ban’ on the channel, even after the Supreme Court, Lahore High Court and Sindh High Court termed the channels’ closure illegal and ordered their restoration. (Read the back story in my earlier article: “Pakistan’s media wars”, in Himal Southasian.

Cable operators say that they are under pressure to not restore the Geo channels (news, sports, entertainment) to their original positions. Meanwhile, companies are under pressure to not advertise with the Jang Group and Geo TV, and many have withdrawn their ads. Continue reading

“In a democracy the people are supreme, and can criticize all government agencies, which are only servants of the people”

Hamid Mir: Fighting on. AFP photo: Aamir Qureshi

Hamid Mir: Fighting on. AFP photo: Aamir Qureshi

Retired judge of the Supreme Court of India, Justice Markandey Katju, Chairman Press Council of India, emailed the following statement about the attack on Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir:

May 23, 2014: I strongly condemn the attack in Karachi on Hamid Mir, the well known Pakistani journalist, who sustained six bullet injuries in the attack. This is a direct attack on media freedom, whether it was by the Taliban or ISI or anyone else.

Though I have differed with some of the views of Mr. Hamid Mir, I believe, like Voltaire, that he has the democratic right to express his views. Continue reading

Caviar to the General

“Even if the agencies in other countries play this ‘august’ role of interrupting the democratic process in their countries, does it justify ISI’s doling out money to keep a certain political party of the people’s choice out of government? Now that’s dangerous, if the army thinks whatever happened in 1990 was justifiable and is an established way of agencies’ working around the world, it should worry every law-abiding citizen of Pakistan. If the army is insisting on being right when it dictates the democratic process, we need to worry about our future. In this case we really need to reflect what has really changed despite the army’s lip service that they don’t want to mingle in politics…” Marvi Sirmed, Caviar to the General.

‘Memogate’: The basic issue is the civil-military relationship

Asma Jahangir: Speak out for democracy

Husain Haqqani: scape-goated and threatened

Former Pakistan ambassador Husain Haqqani’s counsel Asma Jahangir sounds a sombre warning about the danger Haqqani is in from the military and intelligence agencies that are capable of picking him up and ‘twisting his limbs’ to make him say what they want to hear. Talking to Dawn TV’s Matiullah Jan in a detailed interview of Jan 1, 2012 she says that she took up the case because she found it a travesty that an individual was being condemned on the basis of a media trial without due process or representation. However, she will not represent him before the Judicial Commission that has been formed as she does not trust the process. The interview, posted in six parts (about 5-6 min each), is worth listening to in full as she makes some crucial points about the significance of this judgement to Pakistan’s politics. She sums some of these points up in this earlier brief interview with Al Jazeera English:

Continue reading

An extrajudicial murder in a Karachi park

Television reports showing a young man shot in cold blood by the Rangers in Karachi are disturbing to watch (I feel physically sick after watching it). An unidentified cameraman filmed the episode and made the footage available to TV channels – it’s online if anyone has the heart to watch it but better to read this report about the incident by AFP reporter Hasan Mansoor: Five soldiers arrested after Pakistan park killing.

The extra-judicial murder of this young man, Sarfaraz Shah, at the long, coastal Benazir Bhutto Park opposite Boat Basin (a hub of food shops and cafes) in Karachi, is a reminder of the impunity that our security forces enjoy. They claimed he had tried to rob a policeman’s family. Even if he had succeed, they had no business shooting at him. What happened to due process of law? Why aren’t the Rangers and other security people given basic human rights and legal training? Continue reading

Hameed Haroon backs HRW claims on Saleem Shahzad abduction, murder


A leading newspaper publisher in Pakistan and the president of  the nationwide newspapers body has reacted sharply  to charges by the Inter Services`Intelligence Agency (ISI) that allegations by Human Rights Watch of the intelligence agency’s involvement in the abduction and murder of  Pakistani journalist Salim Shahzad were “baseless”. Following is the full text of his statement, released to the media on June 1, 2010.
Continue reading

TED and Compassion, India-Pakistan joint defence, Zardari and conspiracies

Several links and news items I’ve been wanting to share and finally managed to compile – as well as a belated bit of good news and congratulations to Dr Hassan Abbas, a journalist and then police officer in Lahore before becoming an academic and blogger at Watandost. He has been selected for the QAU Chair at Columbia U, well deserved. He has for years been stressing the need to deal with many of the problems in Pakistan as regular law and order issues, rather than blanketed under the ‘war on terror’, and has suggested reforms to the police sector including better training, pay and equipment – see his recent police reforms paper at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU)

Meanwhile, conspiracy theorists are having a field day in Pakistan, with much unease at how some journalists are (mis) conducting themselves. I say let them fulminate and froth. We’ve had fighting words from Zardari in his latest speech, and he has come out swinging (to use Bilal Qureshi’s term) in his interview to Express TV, posted at Pkonweb

The bottom line is that Pakistan army does not want to be under civilian control – see report by Saeed Shah: ‘Pakistan’s military seen moving to undercut Zardari over his close U.S. ties

One of Zardari’s ‘faults’ in the ‘establishment’s’ eyes is his insistence that India is not the enemy. Continue reading

POLITICS-PAKISTAN: Long March – A Long View

POLITICS-PAKISTAN: Long March – A Long View

Analysis by Beena Sarwar

Lawyers and police clash in Lahore - photo by Rahat Dar

Lawyers and police clash in Lahore - photo by Rahat Dar

KARACHI, Mar 12 (IPS) – Barely a year after being elected, the Pakistan government faces a political storm involving a street agitation spearheaded by lawyers and opposition political parties allied with religious parties.

Lurking on the sidelines is an army unused to civilian command even as religious militants create havoc around the country.

None of this is new to Pakistan but many find it all the more painful given the hopes built up by last year’s general elections. On Feb 18, 2009, Pakistani voters overwhelmingly supported non-religious parties and rejected those that had been propped up by the army.

The electorate’s rejection of the religious parties and the joining hands of the late Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and her former rival Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) raised expectations of an end to political confrontation and religion-based politics – and the army moving away from politics.

These expectations followed decades of misrule and exploitation of religion for political purposes. The Pakistani establishment, at Washington’s behest, strengthened armed militancy, exploiting religious sentiments to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan during the 1980s. In the process they created ‘Jihad International’, as the late scholar Dr Eqbal Ahmad termed it.

This may now be the biggest threat facing Pakistan – and the world – since the attack on the World Trade Center on Sep. 11 2001. Since then Washington has pushed Islamabad to fight the very forces of militant Islam that both together had fostered and strengthened.

Resultantly, this country has, as Pakistanis point out, suffered the most from militant attacks.

In this situation, political instability is distracting at best and dangerous at worst. The ‘long march’ demanding the reinstatement of chief justice Iftikhar Mohammed Choudhry, spearheaded by the legal fraternity and sections of civil society, has ready allies among the right-wing political opposition.

This includes Sharif’s PML-N and the Jamaat-e-Islami, a mainstream religious party sympathetic to militant Islam, as well as others sympathetic to the Taliban, like ex-chief Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and anti-India hawk Gen. (retd.) Hamid Gul, retired bureaucrat Roedad Khan who brutally quashed political opposition during the Zia years, and cricket hero-turned politician Imran Khan, chief of the Tehrik-e-Insaaf (Movement for Justice).

All these forces boycotted the 2008 polls, except Sharif who rescinded his boycott decision after Bhutto convinced him that elections were the only way forward.

Long-festering tensions between the PPP and PML-N came to a head with a Supreme Court ruling of Feb 25 barring Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif from holding elected office. Bhutto’s widower, President Asif Ali Zardari is widely believed to be behind this controversial ruling.

The disgruntled Sharifs, already pushing to restore Chief Justice Choudhry, have flung themselves wholeheartedly into the long march – a move that observers do not see as entirely altruistic since their stated aims include effecting regime change.

“Sharif’s attempts to paint himself as a radical, grassroots activist are at odds with his political origins,” commented former lawyer and Australia-based analyst Mustafa Qadri, writing about the opportunity Pakistan’s politicians of all hues have wasted in their “refusal to look beyond personal power games and provincialism to develop the nation’s still embryonic democracy”.

The Sharifs gained prominence as businessmen patronised by General Zia -ul-Haq who was behind Pakistan’s “transformation from majority-Muslim nation to Islamic state with more conservative religious seminaries per capita than any other country in the world,” as Qadri put it (‘Long march to nowhere’, The Guardian, Mar 10, 2009).

The current imbroglio comes on the heels of loaded statements by Gen. (retd) Pervez Musharraf who during a visit to India last week, gave several talks and interviews in which he hinted at a possible political comeback.

Curiously Musharraf, who stepped down as president in August 2008, urged New Delhi to stop ‘bashing’ the Pakistan army and the shadowy ISI since, according to him, they were the best defence against the growth of the Taliban and militancy in Pakistan.

President Zardari has invited comparisons to Musharraf because of his government’s use of police force and mass arrests to prevent the long march, as Musharraf did after suspending Choudhry in March 2007 and imposing Emergency rule in Nov 2007.

The irony is illustrated by the recent three-hour detention of the firebrand women’s rights and political activist, Tahira Abdullah, who has been mobilising the lawyers’ movement from her home in Islamabad.

She faced police batons and tear gas in the Zia and Musharraf eras. A day before the long march began, a police contingent arrived at her house and virtually broke down her kitchen door.

However, her arrest attracted media attention, embarrassing the government into quickly ordering her release. An undeterred Abdullah immediately resumed mobilising for the agitation.

“It is sad and ironic that the PPP government has come to this,” she told IPS. “They said it was preventive detention. They can’t catch people like (Taliban leaders) Baitullah Mehsud and Maulvi Fazlullah but they send police after me, a very ordinary person.”

There is also irony in progressive, secular activists like Abdullah joining hands with the emerging right-wing coalition to achieve a shared goal, the restoration of Choudhry.

Civil society activists privately admit that otherwise their numbers are too small to reach the critical mass needed to effect political change.

“There are only a handful of us,” one of them told IPS. “And there are no more than 100,000 lawyers in the country. So we have to join hands with political forces who agree with us on this matter even if we don’t agree on other matters. We know they are using us, but we are also using them.”

Observers like the political economist and former student activist S.M. Naseem fear that this kind of mutual ‘using’ could push Pakistan further towards right-wing forces.

Disappointed by the performance of the government as well as the opposition, he holds that the lawyers’ movement has missed the opportunity of creating a new polity in the country. “They should have broadened the agenda to create a new political system,” he told IPS. “Two years for the restoration of one person (Choudhry), however, honest and bold, is a bit too much.”

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani has said that he cannot, in all conscience, oppose the long march. “We have also participated in street agitations and long marches,” he said. “How can we stop anyone else from exercising their democratic right to do so?”

This stand appears to pit him against President Zardari, holding an office strengthened by past military dictators. The President’s powers include being able to dismiss the prime minister and dissolve government – as several presidents before him have done. This is unlikely to happen now. For Zardari to take such a step would mean dismissing his own government.

Having recently obtained a majority in the Senate, the PPP can conceivably push through the constitutional amendments it proposed in May 2008 for which a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly and the Senate is required. These amendments include the removal of the 17th amendment that allows the President to dismiss government.

Moves towards reconciliation between the PPP and the PML-N continue behind the scenes, even as the long march kicks off with lawyers and political activists from various cities heading towards Islamabad to converge by Mar. 6 for a dharna (or sit-in) ‘until the Chief Justice is restored’.

Observers fear a breakout of violence even though the long march leaders have promised to keep matters peaceful.

(END/2009)

http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=46083

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