Posts Tagged ‘Army Public School’

Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was originally published in The Nation on August 8, 2015. I’m pleased to cross-post the article on my blog from The Nation without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

PTIPakistan Tehreek Insaf parliamentarians have made their way back to Parliament after facing stiff resistance from Maulana Fazlur Rehman-led faction of the JUI and the Mutahidda Qaumi Movement after PTI’s claim, that General Elections 2013 had been systematically rigged and manipulated to rob the party of power, were put to rest by an inquiry commission headed by Chief Justice Nasir ul Mulk. Imran Khan and his party strongly believed that their mandate was stolen by the PML-N & Co and thus they were deprived a chance to come to power. Rejecting election results have been a familiar trend in Pakistan’s political arena since 1970. The parties which lose elections come up with rigging allegations and refuse to accept the results. Against the alleged rigging in the 2013 general elections, the PTI organised a long march last year which left Lahore on August 14 and reached the capital on August 16. The long march was followed by a sit-in which lasted over 126 days. The sit-in was called off when a group of terrorists attacked the Army Public School in Peshawar which left 150 dead including 132 schoolchildren.

During a year old campaign Imran Khan vehemently accused former Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry, former caretaker CM Punjab Najam Sethi, the PML-N, the ECP and returning officers of hatching a conspiracy to bring Nawaz Sharif to power by manipulating the mandate given by the people of Pakistan. However, Imran Khan lost his case before a panel comprising of three judges of the apex court which was formed to probe General Elections 2013 against rigging allegations as an indirect result of an agreement between the PML-N and the PTI.

In one of his interviews Imran Khan alleged that a brigadier of Military Intelligence was among those who rigged the general election against the PTI. When Mr Khan was asked to name that officer, he said that he will name him in his next public speech. His followers kept on waiting for the announcement of the MI’s brigadier’s name, but that never happened. The former captain hopped to other targets instead of naming the army officer. Notwithstanding repetitive demands from different quarters, Imran Khan neither named that army officer nor he dared to reiterate that claim ever again.

BBThe 1990 general elections are the only polls in Pakistan’s electoral history which were proven to have been systematically rigged and engineered according to the verdict issued by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in the Asghar Khan case. Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was the victim as ISI robbed her of power by bankrolling a group of politicians. It was proven that the military establishment created and funded a coalition known as the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) whose sole purpose was to prevent Benazir Bhutto’s PPP from winning the 1990 elections. In its short order issued on Oct 19, 2012, the apex court directed the federal government to take appropriate action under the Constitution and the law against former army chief Gen (r) Aslam Beg and former DG ISI Lt-Gen (r) Asad Durrani for their role in facilitating a group of politicians to ensure their success against the PPP in the 1990 elections. Aside from that, another former DG ISI, Lt-Gen (r) Hameed Gul openly accepted responsibility for creating IJI in an interview with renowned anchorperson Asma Shirazi back in October 2012. In his interview, Hamid Gul not only defended the creation of the IJI, but also lauded General (r) Aslam Beg’s role in creating it. In the 141-page detailed verdict authored by the then Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the Supreme Court held that unlawful orders by superior military officers or their failure to prevent unlawful actions by their subordinates were reprehensible.

The verdict also explained why the apex court had ruled that the 1990 general elections were polluted by the dishing out of millions of rupees to a particular group of politicians just to deprive the people of being represented by the representatives elected by them. The verdict also highlighted details and names of the recipients of the money dished out by the ISI as mentioned by the then DG ISI Lt-Gen (r) Asad Durrani in his affidavit filed on July 24, 1994 and the majority of my readers would know that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s name is among them. Not only that, he benefited the most from the 1990 general elections, polluted by the military establishment, and went on to become the prime minister of the country.

Nawaz Sharif led the IJI

Nawaz Sharif led the IJI

In the name of ‘reconciliation’ the then PPP government shied away from honouring the verdict. Free and fair elections in Pakistan will remain a distant dream as long as the culprits pointed out by the Supreme Court of Pakistan are not taken to task. The politics of reconciliation has reduced the PPP to interior Sindh only and if the party doesn’t mend its ways, it may lose its fort to the policy of reconciliation being followed by the party. The key to free and fair elections in Pakistan lies in the verdict given by the apex court in the Asghar Khan case and not in the report issued by the inquiry commission headed by Chief Justice Nasir ul Mulk. If the political parties in general and PTI and PPP in particular are sincere with democracy and wish to see free and fair elections in future, they should go to the apex court to get the verdict implemented in letter and spirit the court has issued almost three years ago. Because the same verdict says that “In upholding people’s right, this court can make all necessary directions to functionaries and institutions of the state, including the Election Commission of Pakistan, and the direction to investigate and prosecute.”

The onus is on the PTI and the PPP to pave the way for free and fair elections in 2018. If they don’t act now in the right direction, it’ll be the ruling PML-N that will make the most out of their inaction, flawed policies and ill-directed strategies. And in that case it’ll be a matter of surprise to none; if the PML-N comes to power again after the next general elections.

Source: Elections and rigging

Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was originally published in The Nation on March 11, 2015. I’m pleased to cross-post the article on my blog from The Nation without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

Albert Einstein defined the word ‘insanity’ as doing something over and over again, while expecting a different result. Apparently more insane is the way the government has shied away from implementing Pakistan’s 20-point National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism, announced by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his televised speech in the wake of the brutal terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar. While the plan looks good on paper, the situation on the ground remains worryingly dire and unchanged. The plan talks about countering hate speech and extremist material, choking financing for terrorists and terrorist organizations, ensuring against re-emergence of proscribed organizations, taking effective steps against religious persecution and dealing firmly with sectarian terrorists. The point number 3 of the plan emphasizes on the commitment to ensure that no armed militias are allowed to function in the country while points 10 and 11 talk about registration and regulation of religious seminaries and ban on glorification of terrorism and terrorist organisations through print and electronic media.

Banned outfits are not only operating under new names but their leaders and sympathisers are being given widespread coverage on both print and electronic media with due gratitude and reverence. Soon after the plan was announced the religious and politico-religious parties started giving the impression that religion was being targeted by the national action plan. Crumbling under the pressure, the government started issuing statements in flagrant contradiction to the plan. While General Secretary Wafaqul Madaris Alarbia Qari Muhammad Hanif Jalandhri vowed to defend ‘sovereignty, freedom and the Islamic education system’ of religious seminaries at any cost, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was quick to assure him that the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) government has no plan of taking action against religious seminaries and apprehensions in this regard are baseless. The federation of the religious seminaries is considered the biggest board of Deobandi school of thought having more than 18,000 religious seminaries. Thus the usefulness of the plan aimed at countering terrorism may well be summed up as doing something over and over again just for the sake of it and not even bothering about the result. Whom are we fooling? Do the authorities even realise that this ostrich-like strategy to counter terrorism is delusional, futile and ridiculously absurd.

Ironically, the government has, for the first time, admitted that close to 80 seminaries operating in Pakistan are receiving financial support from a dozen countries. The seminaries received funds of worth Rs300 million during 2013-14. In a supplementary report submitted to Senate Standing Committee on Rules of Procedure and Privileges, Punjab police is said to have disclosed that over 950 seminaries in Punjab only are receiving hundreds of millions of rupees from Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and some 14 other Muslim and non-Muslim countries. According to a newspaper report, citing Wikileaks, published in 2011, charities from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates financed a network in Pakistan that recruited children as young as eight to wage “holy war”. A US diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks said financial support estimated at $100 million a year was making its way from those Gulf Arab states to an extremist recruitment network in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

Imamia Masjid Peshawar

Imamia Masjid Peshawar

Aside from the “routine” targeted killings, Pakistan has witnessed five major terrorist attacks after the ghastly attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar that left 148 people, including more than 100 children, dead. Pakistan’s beleaguered Shia community was the target of four out of the five attacks. A powerful blast rattled an Imambargah, in a densely populated area of Rawalpindi on January 9, killing at least eight people and wounding at least 16 others. At the time of the blast, an Eid Miladun Nabi (PBUH) congregation was being observed at the Imambargah. On January 30, at least 62 Shias were killed and 55 others wounded in an explosion during Friday prayers at a packed Shia mosque in Sindh province’s Shikarpur district; the deadliest sectarian attack to hit the country in recent times. While in the 3rd attack 22 Shias were martyred when the Taliban stormed a Shia mosque in the Hayatabad area of Peshawar on February 13. And only a day after a deadly attack outside the Police Lines in Lahore, a lone suicide bomber killed three persons at an Imambargah in Islamabad but failed to enter the main prayer hall or detonate his explosive vest thanks to the fact that the suicide vest partially exploded or else there would have been many more casualties. Each of these devastating terrorist attacks was followed by the same old hollow promises of not sparing those involved in the ghastly attack, tall claims of weeding out terrorism and good-for-nothing statements like ‘terrorists can’t weaken the government’s resolve to combat terrorism by such cowardly attacks’. Needless to say that none of the aforementioned responses, repeated for the umpteenth time, ever translated into something meaningful and thus the systematic killing of the members of Pakistan’s Shia community continues with absolute impunity.

Karbala-e-Moalla Imambargah, Shikarpur

Karbala-e-Moalla Imambargah, Shikarpur

While the blast in Rawalpindi was followed by equivocal statements condemning the attack and hollow promises by the government officials to get the killers, the aftermath of the Shikarpur blast took a relatively different turn when civil society members including women and children staged a sit-in outside the Chief Minister House in Karachi to press the authorities to take action against banned organizations. The protesters called upon the government for the immediate implementation of their four key demands: List and name all the banned organisations on media, close the offices of all these banned organisations, remove their flags and their graffiti, take action against the Karachi head of the ASWJ, formerly known as Sipah e Sahaba, Aurangzeb Farooqi and take away his police protocol and lastly, those injured in the Shikarpur blast be transferred from Larkana and Shikarpur to Karachi for further treatment at the government’s expense.

Civil Scoiety Sit-In

Civil Society Sit-In

It’s quite absurd that while CM Sindh was chairing the meetings to review progress on the implementation of the National Action Plan, a group of civil society members had to stage a sit-in outside his residence to demand precisely what the very same plan talks about since the aforementioned demands are in absolute harmony with the points 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11 and 18 of the National Action Plan. Quite preposterously, the peaceful protesters and members of the civil society ended up behind the bars while the goons of the outlawed Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat (ASWJ) were allowed to hold a public rally.
The ongoing spate of targeted terrorist attacks is an indictment of years of flawed policies, opportunist patronage politics and strategic frivolity. And quite deplorably I don’t see that changing anytime soon. We are reaping a harvest of blood as the bodies of our loved ones keep piling up around us. Things look grim and gloomy to me. The PML-N government’s lack of seriousness about curbing religious persecution can be gauged from the fact that on the recommendation of the Punjab Police, Punjab Government recently issued stipend of worth Rs75000 to Malik Ishaq who had told an Urdu daily in 1997 that he was involved in the killing of 102 Shias.

The state of Pakistan still lacks clarity on extremism and the capacity to fight it. Let alone combating terrorism, the authorities are not even showing any intent to fight this menace. The government needs to realise that no plan is any good if you do not have the nerve to carry out the plan. Instead of hiding behind flimsy excuses, the civil and military leadership needs to set its priorities straight and clarify if they really want to combat the existential threat to Pakistan posed by extremists, before these ruthless terrorists impose their own partisan, barbaric, draconian and un-Islamic views on all of us.

In the longer run, the state needs to protect not only the communities’ physical spaces but also combat the extremists on the intellectual front. Although the proliferation of extremists is an immediate threat, there is also a pressing need to establish an anti-extremism and anti-terrorism narrative. Those at the helm of affairs will have to ensure that there is no discrimination between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban and the war against terrorism will continue till the last terrorist is eliminated. If the authorities are serious about eliminating terrorism, this is the time they will have to walk the talk. And if they don’t, the much publicised ‘National Action Plan’ (NAP) for countering terrorism and extremism will go down as ‘No Action Plan’ in the history of this country which, according to a report by Global Terrorism Index, currently ranks third in the most terrorism affected countries of the world.

Source: Recapitulating ‘No Action Plan