Pakistan Must Discard its ‘Good Taliban, Bad Taliban’ Narrative

MULLAH MOHAMMED OMAR

Pakistan needs to counter not just those who come out on the street in support of Taliban Inc. but also those who support them tacitly.

Thanks to The Huffington Post for inviting me to write this opinion piece, published on Dec. 17, 2014.

By Beena Sarwar

The world looks on with horror at the Pakistani Taliban’s barbaric murder of 145 children and teachers at a school in Peshawar.

Although Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has termed the Peshawar attack a national tragedy, announced three days of national mourning and promised to eradicate the terrorists, real change won’t occur unless Pakistan discards the “good Taliban, bad Taliban” narrative and moves to decisively uphold the rule of law. Continue reading

Advertisements

Pakistan army should butt out of politics: Asma Jahangir says it like it is


Clip from Crossfire in which Asma Jahangir, the indomitable Chairperson Emeritus of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, says it like it about the Pakistan armed forces, in a talk show with the  ever sensationalist Meher Bokhari, on Dunya TV on May 26, 2011. View the full programme at the PkPolitics website. The clip posted here starts Continue reading

“We Refuse to Be Held to Ransom By Terrorism”: Veena Masud, Pakistan Women’s Swimming Association

Mic announcing & diver2

Veena Masud announcing at a national swimming meet, Karachi, May 2009. Photo: Beena Sarwar

I’ve been wanting to do a report on Pakistan’ women swimmers since March 2009, when I first heard Veena Masud speak at a Szabist seminar in Karachi.

Q&A with Veena Masud below; don’t miss the Footnote at the end, includes reference to an old Shoaib Hashmi & Samina Ahmed skit.

“We Refuse to Be Held to Ransom By Terrorism”
Beena Sarwar interviews VEENA MASUD, Pakistan Women’s Swimming Association

KARACHI, Oct 29 (IPS) – Karachi-based, Trinidad-born and educated Veena Masud is a school principal who wants to see Pakistani women shine in the international sports arena.
Continue reading

Target killing of doctors; my article of 2002; Dr Sarwar on censoring Jinnah, 1991

A press release from PMA condemning the ongoing target killing of doctors in Pakistan reminded me of a piece I had written in 2002, published in the Indian Express – googled the key words and found it. Ah, Internet.

There are also new uploads in the ‘Writings’ section of the blog Dr Sarwar blog – including ‘Censoring the Quaid’, a piece Dr M. Sarwar wrote in 1991 for his fortnightly column ‘Karachi calling’ in The Frontier Post, Lahore. Particularly relevant given the Jaswant Singh and Jinnah controversy.

In its press release of August 21, 2009, the Pakistan Medical Association, Karachi strongly condemns yet another murder of Dr.Sajjad Arain in Hyderabad, killed on his way to work at Civil Hospital, Hyderabad. A similar incident had also occurred a couple of days before in Quetta when Dr.Iqbal Zaidi was killed by unidentified miscreants. “By now this easy phenomena of killing doctors has become a routine, and right to life of those who are providing soles to humanity irrespective of sex, colors, religion or beliefs, is sadly no more available to them in the country,” says PMA, demanding the immediate arrest of culprits. If stern action is not taken with in 24 hrs the doctors community will be forced to stage country wide protest by calling total shut down of health services in the country. http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/pakistanmedicalassociation

Below, my article in Indian Express, April 2002: http://www.indianexpress.com/storyOld.php?storyId=1097

Targeted doctors ask what about us as Gen fights US war against terror

Apr 19, 2002

Beena Sarwar

For some days now, Karachi has thankfully not woken up to the news of yet another medical doctor shot dead in cold blood. But as an editorial in The News (April 16) cautions, ‘The current let-up in the assassinations does not mean that the issue should be allowed to quietly die down, or overshadowed by the controversial referendum. The question of who is behind the killings and why still begs to be answered, and must be answered sooner rather than later.’

Over the last decade, almost 90 doctors, mostly Shi’ite, have been assassinated, causing widespread fear and insecurity, and leading to a veritable exodus not just of medical practitioners but also their relatives in other professions. Dr Tipu Sultan, Karachi President of the nation-wide Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), knows of at least 28 doctors who left Karachi in one week in March.

Obviously, whoever is behind these murders wants to make an impact: a doctor killed demands media attention, and creates far-reaching ripples, given each doctor’s contact with hundreds of patients and their families; their very public dealing makes them vulnerable.

Assassins turn up at a targeted doctor’s clinic, and ask for him by name to identify him, as in the case of Dr Rashid Mehdi, 39 on February 12. He was shot dead, leaving behind a young wife, also a doctor, a little son, and a five-day-old daughter.

The pattern includes armed motorcyclists intercepting a doctor’s car and shooting him at point blank, as in the case of Kidney Centre nephrologist Dr Alay Safdar Zaidi, killed on his way to work on March 4. Dr Zaidi had returned to Pakistan a year and a half ago, leaving a thriving practice in the States to come back and make a difference here.

His daughter, aged six, and son, only three, are now among the dozens of other children whose fathers were similarly assassinated, despite not being affiliated with any religious or political party or even holding aggressively Shia views.

In one instance, the assailants used a car to force a doctor’s car to a stop. Dr Jafar Naqvi of the philanthropically run Kidney Centre was saved by his driver’s reflexes.

Dr Naqvi, saved by taking refuge in a private house, is now virtually confined to his own house, with round-the-clock police protection.

Most victims are Shi’ite, but they include some Sunnis too, like Dr Fayyaz Karim, 44, shot on Feb 4 as he left a mosque after offering his prayers. His wife, Dr Farahnaz Karim, says bitterly that it’s commendable that the Government is helping Americans wipe out terrorism. ‘‘But what of the terrorists in our midst who are killing our own countrymen?’’

The killings have forced an organised response from doctors, with the PMA calling several strikes (including a six-hour country-wide hunger strike) during which doctors at hospitals and clinics across the country provide only emergency cover. ‘‘This is not the answer,’’ concedes Dr Asghar Mirza, editor of the PMA’s Urdu journal Nabs. ‘‘But how else do we express our rage and fear?’’

When the PMA met the Sindh Governor last month, police officials suggested a ban on motorcycle pillion riding, and arms training and protection to threatened doctors. ‘‘This is not the answer either,’’ says prominent psychiatrist Dr Haroon Ahmed. ‘‘They are trying to use us to push through their own agenda.’’ He argues, like others, that administrative steps alone are not the answer.

‘‘The Government must restore civil and political liberties so that alternative opinions are given space, and tolerance and respect promoted,’’ demanded the Pakistan Peace Coalition (PPC) at a nation-wide protest on April 5 against violence in the name of religion. ‘‘This will likely provide a necessary challenge to extremism, as well as temper the urge for many frustrated elements to resort to reactionary violence.’’

Political parties in Karachi, including major players like the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), joined the protest on the invitation of the Joint Action Committee for Peace Karachi (JAC), an umbrella group for activist groups, and also a PPC member. A March 20 meeting agreed that ‘‘The killings of doctors, lawyers, judges and other sections of society are aimed at instigating fear and retaliation’’ and that the root cause of the problem must be addressed. This includes ‘‘the forces of reaction and regression’’, including the intelligence agencies, which have gained strength since Pakistan’s involvement in the Afghan war.

The point is reiterated by PPC: ‘‘It is time that the intelligence agencies start protecting citizens from extremist violence rather than harass citizens and activists for their political activities and agitation. The revamping and reorientation of the intelligences agencies is yet another promise that the Government has made and is failing to keep.’’

Meanwhile, ‘‘it is individuals and groups who are fighting for their basic rights that are being targeted by the state, often under the anti-terrorist legislation’’.

Gen Musharraf’s actions against religious extremists since 9/11 are criticised as tokenism. ‘‘Some have been arrested, but why have cases not been registered against them?’’ questions PPP Central Information Secretary Taj Haider. ‘‘Because the Pakistan army’s and the agencies’ role in the matter will be exposed. This permanent axis is dangerous for democracy in Pakistan.’’

Even the police privately acknowledge this axis. ‘‘These extremists have been very useful to the Government, which might need their services again,’’ says an official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He acknowledges that at least some elements of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) still protect the militants they nurtured, trained and armed over the years.

It is significant that while the doctors’ killings are labeled as sectarian because those targeted mostly belong to a particular sect, there is no sectarianism or religious intolerance at the grassroots level.

‘‘The incidents of apparently religiously-motivated violence, like the attack on the Islamabad church or the murder of Daniel Pearl, are planned and executed by individual miscreants with no popular support or public sanction,’’ says The News editorial.

‘Except for one incident in Rahim Yar Khan (instigated by economic reasons), Hindus in Pakistan have not been attacked in retaliation for the carnage of Muslims in Gujarat, as opposed to 1992, when the razing of the Babri Masjid was countered by attacks on Hindu temples in Pakistan (then too, the nexus of vested interests like property developers and ‘‘religious’’ leaders had teamed up to reap the benefits).

Religious parties have never gained more than 3 per cent of the assembly seats in Pakistan, unlike in next door India, where a religious party has actually been voted in, with disastrous results for an avowedly secular polity.’

Former mayor of Karachi and MQM leader Farooq Sattar argues against calling these killings sectarian: ‘‘Let’s not play into the hands of vested interests by calling them that.’’

Dr Sattar urges the easing of regional tensions as a step towards resolving national problems. ‘‘Sixty per cent of India’s trade is with Islamic countries, as compared to only 5 per cent of Pakistan’s, the remaining 95 per cent of our trade is with Western countries.’’

‘‘These issues (violence in the name of religion) are not Pakistan’s alone, they also exist in India and Bangladesh, all of South Asia,’’ argues Sabihudin Ghausi, the outspoken President of the Karachi Press Club and a senior economic reporter.

‘‘We can’t remain isolated from the region, we have to have ties with India, with Bangladesh, and the other South Asian countries.’’

(Beena Sarwar is a senior journalist working with The News)

Zardari: two articles and a comment

Meant to do this earlier but didn’t get around to it – two interesting articles about Zardari and a comment

July 12, 2009 ‘The advent of Asif Zardari’ by Kunwar Idris http://tinyurl.com/ksbydc

Shaheryar Azhar posted this to his group The Forum with the comment: “A very good article. This moderator to the dismay of some forum members has not focused on the ‘governance’ issue in Pakistan ever since the departure of the Musharraf government. This, of course, was by design.

“We must first decisively emerge victorious in our civil war – as long as Zardari’s government is doing a credible job on this front they deserve our full support. There will, however, come a time when we will shift our complete focus on ‘governance’, ‘corruption, ‘efficiency’ etc.-type make-or-break issues. Here we must acknowledge that what is different from the 90’s is not just more maturity being shown by the politicians or the existence of the Charter of Democracy or the working coalitions in all the four provinces or much greater consensus amongst politicians of consequence on key national issues – all of which individually and collectively is the big and surprise story of 2008 and 2009 but the existence of two empowered institutions, which were conspicuously missing then – independent judiciary and media. So rest assured, there will be time (soon inshalla) when our focus will shift laser-like to the bread-and-butter issues.

“There is one big caveat: as always military dictatorship, including military manipulation from the background will always be fought against. In Pakistan what is true is the following: Corrupt democracy anytime over any kind of military dictatorship.”

A follow up article at – http://tinyurl.com/m6zuva

July 15, 2009, ‘Meeting the president’, by Sayed Naseer Ahmad, Dawn:

“Never before had a head of state invited so many retired bureaucrats and asked them to speak their mind on national issues. The mere fact that several dozen retired bureaucrats, who could no longer influence decision-making, were invited to the presidency for a frank discussion showed that the incumbent valued good counsel.

“…Zardari said he thought that the militants and extremists had emerged on the national scene not because the civil bureaucracy was weak. In fact, they had been deliberately created and nurtured with the help of the international community as an instrument of policy in the 1980s. He then went on to advise the former bureaucrats to be “truthful to ourselves and make a candid admission of the realities”.”

`Pakistan: Chaos unto Order?’ and ‘syllabus of hate’

1. `Pakistan: Chaos unto Order?’ by Haris Gazdar in EPW (Economic & Political Weekly, June 6, 2009 vol XLIV no 23).

Extract: The Pakistani military finally appears to have embraced the war against jihadi militancy as its own. If so, an
important shift in perception and policy has taken place. Past experience, however, demands caution before coming to any hasty conclusions.
Comment by Shaheryar Azhar in the Forum: “this is an excellent article – cuts through the fog of confusion. Those who have denied it can perhaps now understand what the big deal was about the ‘deal’ bravely made by both parties –
PPP and General Musharraf, which is what put into motion where we are now. Million dollar question remains whether overtime there will remain the political will that will be crucially required on a sustained basis within the military, politicians and the general public to fight this to the bitter end?”

PakTeaHouse link: http://tinyurl.com/gazdar-epw

2. `Awaiting changes to a syllabus of hate’ by Nirupama Subramanian, Islamabad correspondent for The Hindu, June 09, 2009

Extract: In April, the federal Cabinet put off approving the draft indefinitely, …until the Education Ministry makes the policy “more comprehensive, covering every aspect of education sector which needs improvement along with an
implementable work plan.” But no urgency is visible in the Ministry to get cracking on this task. Another concern is that the Education Minister is not known for his progressive views, especially on gender issues.

http://tinyurl.com/syll-hate

PAKISTAN’S INTERNALLY DISPLACED: Distribution is key. Plus: Women’s voices from camps in Mardan

In this post: Update by Naeem Sadiq,report from Mardan camps by Bushra Khaliq and an appeal by the Muslim Canadian Congress

1. Email from Naeem Sadiq:

There are numerous reports pouring in that highlight the scale  and the severity of the crisis and trauma being faced by the displaced persons of Malakand.  Just received a very frantic and moving phone call from a friend in Mardan.  He is a part of a team consisting of six outstanding  young engineers,  who took leave from their jobs, collected funds and rations and drove down to the camps in Mardan.  He was overwhelmed by  what he saw, and his version corroborates with the reports of  many other independent reporters, who have reported on similar lines.  If one can summarize the situation as it stands today.

  1. The scale of displacement  (any thing between 2 and 2.5 million people) is so large and its associated demands of  accommodation, food, health, and other basic needs so great in volume and spread that it is  simply beyond this government to handle.
  2. Some 80-90 percent of  the displaced persons are sheltered at places other than the formal camps set up by the government. These are those who received no support and are facing the greatest hardship.
  3. The few who are accommodated in camps have started to receive basic  support and services.
  4. The condition of the  large majority sheltered  in schools, hujras or accommodated by locals in their small homes is absolutely pathetic.  The focus of aid and attention needs to be urgently  shifted to this category.
  5. There is enough food and support material that is forthcoming.  Its distribution and management is inefficient and unfair.  Some of this stuff is already on sale in the local market.
  6. The visits of VIPs are unwelcome and a cause of great nuisance.  The VIPs are only interested in photographs and  media coverage.  They stop the traffic,  and the entire camp management shifts its focus from its basic job to showing the VIPs  a miniscule portion of the relief effort . (while the real problem lies elsewhere.)
  7. Unless we shift our attention to the 80% displaced persons who  have received no aid so far, we shall  not just loose this battle of hearts and minds but also breed anger and hostility amongst a very large population.
  8. The logistics of such a large scale requires very high professional management skills. Political speeches  and slogans run out of their shelf life in the first few days. We need to request  professors from places like LUMS and IBA to go down to Mardan and put into practice what they typically teach their students. The multinational companies could be requested to volunteer  their top managers for professional management of each location.

Pakistan has a challenge whose dimension is larger than what we have ever been exposed to. This challenge needs every citizen and group to come together.  If we fail, we would fail not because there was not enough food or blankets, but because we did not know how to manage a distribution system with efficiency, fairness and dignity.

Naeem’s response to my question about contact details to post out with his note, where people can donate or volunteer: “There are dozens , if not hundreds of agencies and groups who are collecting funds and other relief goods. SUNGI (Omar Asghar Khan’s foundation), Edhi, and almost all political parties, and religious groups are in the field.  Then there are indvidual groups (such as the team of six engineers I mentioned),  Dr. Awab and his team, Hissar Foundation and many others not known to me who are doing extremely good job.  Distribution is the key issue.”

Response to Naeem’s note by Imran Ali posted to the May 12th Group: “Your analysis is on the dot sir. I took a week off to be there. No preparation too many agencies and no coordination. Sir I also found that water and electricity are huge problems, as is the total disillusionment with Pakistan army and government. Taliban are condemned as villain no 2 but a very distant second. There are many heroic assistance efforts but they are not coordinated. Phones communication and coordination are the problem. The operation must finish in two months otherwise it will overwhelm us. The army is confident that it will.”

2. WOMEN’S VOICES – REPORT FROM CAMPS IN MARDAN

Bushra Khaliq, General Secretary, Women Workers Help Line, Lahore, who  visited three of camps set up in Mardan, housing some 32,725 persons, mostly from the working class.  Their findings in a nutshell, in their words:

  • Religious norms & oppressive tribal values lock women inside tents
  • More than 100 pregnant mothers in Sheikh Yasin camp at mercy of God
  • Filthy joint toilets may cause spread diseases among IDPs
  • Taliban, Army and US, all three adding woes to women of Swat

Most of the people they spoke to were against both Americans and Taliban. They believe that the army operation was launched under US pressure  and that the Army is not sincere in crushing the Taliban. They want some deadline regarding the end of the operation as they want to return home at the earliest.

Every family has been provided with a tent but life is miserable for them in the sizzling heat (over 40 degree Celsius) – a situation made worse by no electricity coupled with poor amenities. There were few dispensaries – Diarrhea, dysentery, skin diseases, eye sores, throat infection are widespread “due to the consumption of unsafe drinking water, smell from filthy toilets and inappropriate food, etc…. Every body has a story to tell but (most) pathetic are the stories of women inside these tents.”

“The good thing is that small children are duly engaged in educational activities. Unicef is providing primary educational service to these children, including school bags and books. Since government schools are closed in Mardan, and teachers were free so these govt school teachers have offered their services to teach children in tent schools.”

Full text of message plus pix at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/socialist_pakistan_news/message/15146

3. Note from Muslim Canadian Congress – Pls pass on to friends & family in Canada

May 19, 2009

MCC condemns Taliban onslaught in Pakistan;
Growing humanitarian crisis needs Canada’s attention

www.muslimcanadiancongress.org

(couldn’t find this note on their website but it was posted to me by someone in Canada)

TORONTO – The Muslim Canadian Congress (MCC) has expressed its deep concern with the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Pakistan where the country’s army is battling the Taliban insurgency. The MCC welcomes the long overdue initiative of the Pakistan Armed Forces to restore the writ of the
democratically elected government. However, the displacement of more than a million people as a result of the Taliban insurgency is becoming a humanitarian crisis, that needs to be tackled on an urgent basis by the international community before these camps become recruiting grounds for the next generation of the Taliban.

The MCC has urged the Canadian Government to take the lead in providing aid to the internally displaced persons (IDPs). If Western governments do not step in with humanitarian aid to these IDPs, the vacuum will be filled by Islamist groups who have already started setting up offices inside these
camps.

Regarding the current relief efforts, MCC president, Hasan Mahmud, has expressed reservations about some of the donations that are being contributed towards the relief efforts for the displaced citizens of Swat by Islamist groups in Canada.

“After the devastating effects of the 2005 earthquake in Northern Pakistan, Islamist charities like the Jamaat Dawa and others operated by Jamaat-e-Islami exploited a tragedy to collect funds which were then used to further their extremist ideology and provide more fodder to the vast network of militias operating under the Deobandi-Wahabi banner.”

A similar initiative by Pakistan’s right-wing political parties (Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamaat Dawa) is currently underway. These groups and individuals raise funds for humanitarian purposes in Pakistan and abroad, as well as seek to portray Taliban as a group that is redressing social and judicial grievances. Despite these portrayals, we have seen nothing but destruction of Pushtoon culture, barbaric massacres of opponents and the Pushtoon Shia population, destruction of educational institutions and imposition of medieval barbarism on hapless population in all areas where Taliban held sway.

Canadians should be wary that their humanitarian donations are strictly allocated to the Red Cross and UN and not to Islamist organizations and individuals like the above mentioned, whose subsidiaries are using it to fund militants that are attacking Canadian troops in the neighbouring country of Afghanistan.

For further information, please call Hasan Mahmud, President of the MCC at
(416) 742-5975

%d bloggers like this: