Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’

Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was originally published by NDTV on February 10, 2016. I’m pleased to cross-post the article on my blog from NDTV’s  website without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

Taj Hotel Mumbai

 

David Coleman Headley, a Pakistan-born American national who helped plot the deadly Mumbai terror attack in 2008, has testified that that he visited India seven times before the attacks to scout potential targets for his handlers in Pakistan. During the deposition, Headley repeated the statements he had made earlier in 2011 while testifying in a US court – he said that Pakistan’s main spy agency, the ISI, was involved in planning and executing the attacks which lasted for three days and left 166 people dead.

The news of David Headley’s deposition met with a rather cold response in Pakistani newspapers and electronic media. While a couple of Urdu and English newspapers carried the news, almost all the leading television channels in Pakistan gave no or very little coverage to Headley’s testimony in which he more or less repeated what he had already told a US court.

David HeadleyThere could be a couple of reasons behind the snubbing of Headley’s deposition by Pakistani media at large. One is that David Headley, formerly known as Syed Daood Gilani, was never given any significant coverage in Pakistani media even when he was being tried in a US court where he first stated that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency provided financial, military and moral support to terrorist organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Hizbul Mujahideen. Pakistan, remember, has always insisted that the ISI has no links to Lashkar-e-Taiba and has categorically denied a connection of “state actors” to the Mumbai attacks.

The other reason which might have kept Headley’s deposition out of the headlines in Pakistan is that it contained nothing new apart from the revelations made by Mr Headley during Monday’s hearing that that two failed attempts to carry out terror attacks in Mumbai were made in September and October 2008. Last but not the least, any statement directly accusing Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency ISI of planning and executing a terror attack would be deemed as anti-Pakistan material among Pakistani media and ultimately won’t see the light of day in Pakistan.

The only notable reaction came from the then interior minister of Pakistan, Rehman Malik. Talking to reporters in Islamabad, he claimed that David Headley was an agent hired by Indian intelligence agency RAW and that India itself was involved in the 26/11 attacks. While these claims would sound outrageously absurd to many readers on both sides of the border, Mr Malik could not care less about that.

While declaring David Headley a RAW agent, Rehman Malik, who now chairs a committee on interior and narcotics control in Pakistan’s Senate (the upper house of parliament), also questioned India’s intelligence failure, pointing out that the terrorist entered India repeatedly without any problems and spent two years photographing and filming potential targets.

Zaki LakhviIndia has long sought Mr Headley’s deposition in a bid to establish a direct connection between the Pakistani authorities and the deadly attacks in Mumbai. It has alleged this clearly and submitted evidence, but the Headley statements will help generate pressure on the Pakistani government to take action against those who masterminded the Mumbai attacks. Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, one of the main accused in 26/11 and a commander with the outlawed militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, was freed from jail last year. Lashkar founder Hafiz Saeed, who moves freely throughout the country, recently praised the Pathankot air base attack and warned of others like it while addressing a public rally in Muzaffarabad.

David Headley’s deposition has come at a time when Pakistan has just given a clean chit to Masood Azhar, chief of the outlawed militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad, in the Pathankot attack. According to media reports in Pakistan, the investigators termed evidence provided by India insufficient and claimed that some lower-rung members of the Jaish could be behind the terror attack on the Indian airbase last month. Earlier, Pakistan had told Delhi that cell phone numbers submitted as evidence by Indian
authorities had no record in the country.

What all this adds up to is the return of India-Pak relations to razor’s edge.

 

Source: Pak Media Virtually Blacks Out David Headley’s Revelations

Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was originally published by NDTV on January 20, 2016. I’m pleased to cross-post the article on my blog from NDTV’s  website without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

 

Bacha Khan University

 

Pakistan finds itself reeling after yet another terror attack on its soil. Heavily armed militants stormed Bacha Khan University this morning in Charsadda, about 50 kilometers from the city of Peshawar, and opened indiscriminate fire on students and staff members where they had gathered for a poetic symposium to commemorate the 28th death anniversary of renowned Pakhtoon leader and proponent of non-violence Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, popularly known as ‘Bacha Khan’.

Umar Mansoor, a commander in the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistani (TTP) and the mastermind of the attack on the Army Public School Peshawar in December 2014, first claimed the attack. But the official spokesperson for the Pakistani Taliban disowned it. More than 21 people are reported to have been killed and at least 60 others injured during a two-hour rampage; officials fear the casualties will rise. Four terrorists were shot after the security forces launched a remarkable counter-terror operation in the university’s premises in a bid to control the damage.

Bacha Khan UniversityThe investigations into the terror attack are underway, but we must not avert our eyes from the fact that the attack was the result of yet another intelligence failure and a major security lapse, especially when only three days ago, rumors of security threats to educational institutions triggered the closure of schools in the same region.

In many ways, today’s attack was reminiscent of the gruesome December 2014 terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar which left over 140 dead – most of them children. The message behind today’s attack is the same. 13 months ago, they targeted a school being run by the Pakistan Army that is actively combating terrorists and eliminating their hideouts in North Waziristan. Today, they attacked a university named after Bacha Khan, the man who laid down the foundations of the politics of the secular Awami National Party that has rendered a number of sacrifices for standing up against the Taliban. The message given by the terrorists is loud and clear: standing up to them has a price, and more often than not, you have to pay that with your blood.

More than the identity of the outfit that has claimed the attack on Bacha Khan University, the people of Pakistan in general and those at the helm of affairs in the country in particular need to counter the mindset of the terrorists and the ideology they preach in the name of Islam. These terrorists are afraid of education. They are afraid of the power of knowledge. The very same mindset and the very same group targeted Malala Yousafzai in October 2012, attacked the Army Public School in December 2014 and stormed a university today, apart from  deadly attacks on polio vaccination teams across the country.

Despite the ongoing operation against the hardcore militants in the tribal areas of Pakistan, the TTP’s ability to strike in the settled areas of the country should be a matter of concern for Pakistan’s civil and military leadership. The rot is surely deep and Pakistan is passing through extraordinary circumstances which demand extraordinary measures. While it is obvious that it’ll take significant amount of time to eliminate terror from Pakistan, the more worrying part is that the state of Pakistan has shown no clear intent or political will to counter the mindset that has been a major hurdle in developing a counter-terrorism narrative in the country.

After the horrific terror attack on Army Public School that jolted Pakistan’s civil and military leadership, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced a comprehensive roadmap to counter terrorism in his 20-point agenda known as National Action Plan.

While the plan looked good on paper, the situation on the ground remains disturbingly awful and unchanged. The plan talked about countering hate speeches and extremist material, choking funding for terrorists and terrorist organizations and dismantling communication networks of terrorist organizations. Point 3 of the plan stressed the commitment to ensuring that no armed militias are allowed to function in Pakistan, while points 10 and 11 talked about the registration and regulation of religious seminaries and a ban on the glorification of terrorism and terrorist organizations through print and electronic media.

Ground realities suggest that little has changed since then – so much so that the incumbent government itself has accepted that the progress on National Action Plan has been unsatisfactory.

Manohar ParrikarThere is another aspect of the attack and that directly affects the already fragile and vulnerable relations between Pakistan and India. Hardliners in Pakistan are linking today’s terrorist attack to a statement given by Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar after the Pathankot terror attack in which he said that “Those who harmed us will feel the pain”. Former interior minister of Pakistan Rehman Malik went as far as to blame Indian intelligence agency RAW for this latest attack on Pakistani soil. The two reckless statements mentioned above underscore the need to show restraint and maturity in the face of adversity. The authorities on either side of the border need to realize that they should not play into the hands of the terrorists.

As far as Pakistani authorities are concerned, they need to focus on the security threats to Pakistan posed by militants who not long ago enjoyed state patronage, and show the intent to take on terrorists without making any discrimination.

Source: How We In Pakistan See Today’s University Attack

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Joint Statement

The External Affairs Ministers of India, Smt. Sushma Swaraj led the Indian delegation to the fifth Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process in Islamabad on December 8-9, 2015. She called on the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and held discussions with Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Mr. Sartaj Aziz.

The EAM and the Adviser condemned terrorism and resolved to cooperate to eliminate it. They noted the successful talks on terrorism and security related issues in Bangkok by the two NSAs and decided that the NSAs will continue to address all issues connected to terrorism. The Indian side was assured of the steps being taken to expedite the early conclusion of the Mumbai trial.

Both sides, accordingly, agreed to a Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue and directed the Foreign Secretaries to work out the modalities and schedule of the meetings under the Dialogue including Peace and Security, CBMs, Jammu & Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, Wullar Barrage/Tulbul Navigation Project, Economic and Commercial Cooperation, Counter-terrorism, Narcotics Control and Humanitarian issues, People to People exchanges and Religious Tourism.

 

Islamabad

December 9, 2015

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

Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was originally published in the Express Tribune on February 18, 2015. I’m pleased to cross-post the article on my blog from the Express Tribune without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

Ibtihaj and Rida

It’s been more than a year since the pictures of a pretty little girl with her cute younger brother went viral on the social media. In one of the pictures, they could be seen sitting on each side of a snowman with their faces beaming with happiness and innocence; in another they could be seen in their school uniform with their tongues sticking out in a playful gesture. The tale behind these pictures was shockingly heartrending. These pictures were of 11-year-old Muhammad Ibtihaj and his 12-year-old sister Rida Fatima. Ibtihaj and his family members were returning home from the Iranian city of Taftan after a pilgrimage when a powerful explosion ripped through their bus – carrying 51 pilgrims – when it reached the Dringarh area of the Mastung district. Ibtihaj was injured in the attack but this was not the worst. In the blink of an eye, his entire world had come crashing down. His sister Umm-e-Farwa, 19, his mother and grandmother had been killed in the attack along with 25 other pilgrims by the murderous sectarian group, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), also known as the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat (ASWJ). His beloved sister and best friend Rida was lying lifeless in a pool of blood. After a 48-hour-long sit-in, in the wake of government assurances that the elements behind the attack would be brought to book, the victims were laid to rest in the Bahisht-e-Zehra graveyard that is running out of space faster than the other cemeteries in Quetta.

 

Ibtihaj & Rida

Ibtihaj and Rida

 

Ibtihaj is now 12. He has recovered from his injuries but not from the loss of his loved ones. At this tender age, he has been led to worry about issues which children of his age normally don’t have to. He is concerned about his security. He is worried about his future in a city, Quetta, where being a Hazara makes one the softest target of Pakistan’s homegrown terrorist group, the LeJ/ASWJ. He wonders why the state has so miserably failed to combat the group that killed hundreds of Hazara community members with impunity for the last so many years. He mulls over the question of why the government does not act against a group that has carried out hundreds of terrorist attacks. He says that he has rested his case against those who have been patronising the terrorist group that killed his sisters, mother, grandmother and hundreds of his community members.

The ongoing spate of targeted terrorist attacks in Balochistan, particularly in Quetta, was led by Usman Saifullah Kurd, who was recently killed in a clash with paramilitary troops. He was the operational commander of the Balochistan chapter of the LeJ/ASWJ. While Kurd had head money of Rs2.5 million on him, his deputy, Dawood Badini, carries head money of Rs2 million.  Both Kurd and Badini were sentenced to death for masterminding two terrorist attacks in Quetta which killed 65 people, predominantly Hazaras.

After Kurd and Badini were arrested some years ago, sectarian attacks had almost come to a halt in Quetta. But, in 2008, under darkly mysterious circumstances, both the convicted terrorists managed to break away from the jail located in Quetta cantonment’s high-security zone, where no one can even enter without prior permission. According to a report, 758 Shias have been killed in 478 terrorist attacks. Of these, 338 belonged to the Hazara community while 420 belonged to other ethnicities. A Human Rights Watch report, released in 2013, said the LeJ operated with “virtual impunity across Pakistan, as law enforcement officials either turn a blind eye or appear helpless to prevent attacks”.

Things have turned worse for Ibtihaj’s father after the deadly attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar. He feels that his son is exposed to greater danger, particularly in a city where they live in fear 24 hours a day. He now fears the consequences if someone entered his son’s school. “Ibtihaj is a Hazara boy. If anyone came to attack the students, the Hazaras would be killed first,” he says. He is concerned about his son’s future. He says that even if the government would give Ibtihaj a scholarship to study at a university here in Quetta, the institution would be located in a no-go area for Hazaras, an area where they will be identified from miles away and shot dead.

Mehrin

Mehrin Kausar

Among the Mastung blast injured, who were admitted to a hospital in Karachi, Mehrin Kauser, a zoology student at the Women University Quetta, could have come back to her university by now had the university management not terminated the pick-and-drop facility that was available to her prior to the attack. A clearly dejected Mehrin, who refused to see herself as a victim of that brazen attack in which she lost her sister and mother, told me that she had to discontinue her education because going to university poses a serious threat to her life. If it was the ghastly bombing that took her mother and sister away, it was the state of Pakistan that denied her the right to educate herself. Mehrin is the face of quite a few Hazara students who had to discontinue their studies due to the precarious security situation in a city where their distinct features mark them out as easy targets. This very fact is symptomatic of the state and society’s broader failure. Both the civilian and military leaderships and each and every person holding key positions in the state and security apparatus at least owe an apology to Mehrin and dozens of other students who had to discontinue their education because the authorities have failed to provide them with a conducive security environment.

Each and every terrorist act brings with it a feeling of deja vu. TV channels run tickers showcasing the statements from different individuals/groups condemning the terrorist act as well as highlighting their concerns over the agonising trend of the inexorable march of terrorism penetrating our society. Government officials burst on television screens with false promises of apprehending those behind such acts of brutality. An inquiry is promptly ordered to probe the incident and this is where the case is closed effectively. The more the number of casualties swells in such an attack, the more air time it gets on media and then the incident sinks into oblivion. We have fast turned into an insensitive crowd that is immune to human tragedies. We have forgotten about the victims of the countless terrorist attacks our country has had to face and, as I conclude this column, I learn that not only are they forgotten; they are being abandoned as well.

Source: Forgotten and abandoned

Coffins of Dr Haider and his son Murtaza.

Coffins of Dr Haider and his son Murtaza Haider.

Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was originally published in Daily Times on July 25, 2013. I’m pleased to cross-post the article on my blog from Daily Times without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

A nation’s holistic building is not confined to parliament and constitution but the people of a country at large, for whom the constitution is made, parliament functions and lays the foundations of a nation. In other words, the citizens, majority as well as minority, form the very basis of a nation and then comes the judiciary, legislature and executive, which function juxtaposing all cohesively, and most importantly, to safeguard the fundamental rights of the people. The first and foremost priority of a state, where democracy is given an opportunity to flourish, should be to provide security to its own citizens. Religious, gender and linguistic differences need to be dealt with with tolerance and such differences should not be pandered to by the state, be it a secular or a theocratic state in nature. Pakistan being a theocratic state and Islam being the state religion, differences of faith and religious school of thought should not be encouraged as a weapon to fanatics to enable fanaticism further to wage war over tolerance and sanity prevailing amongst most of the countrymen.

Demarcation of religious lines cannot and should not infringe upon the security of the nationals. Shias in Pakistan have to face the purge of a religious demarcation that is ethically illogical and irrational by all means and ends attached to it. Such religious demarcations emanate from the school of thought that considers all those who do not adhere to them as infidels. Who is an infidel is a question that is hard to answer by mortals who interpret religious teachings keeping their ideology closest to being pious. Dr Ali Haider was one, according to the ‘Takfiri’ terrorists who cannot stand anyone apart from the ones following their ideology.

Pakistan lost an efficient surgeon who used to give away free contact lenses worth millions of rupees in eye camps every year. Pakistan lost a credible medical practitioner who made his name because his superior skills, unparallelled experience and humane hands had restored the sight of countless eyes. The killers did not just kill him. The12-year-old Murtaza, full of innocence and smiles, was shot too for being the son of a Shia doctor. They were killed to accomplish the Takfiri mission of ‘eliminating’ the Shia community from Pakistan. The country faced a bigger loss by losing a serviceman of humanity who treated many Pakistanis irrespective of their faith, but he was killed because of his faith.

IMG-20130219-00226

It has been over five months when four unidentified gunmen, riding on two motorcycles, sprayed the vehicle of Dr Haider with gunfire near Forman Christian College while he was en route to drop his son to his school. Dr Haider escaped the first hail of bullets as he accelerated his vehicle. The attackers, however, chased him down at a traffic signal on Canal Bank Road and opened fire at his car, killing him and his son. While the Punjab Police and some other officials tried their best to cast doubts on the motives of Dr Haider’s murderers, his elderly father Dr Zafar Haider knew why his son and grandson were butchered. “My son has been killed for being a Shia and a dedicated follower of the Holy Prophet (PBUH),” the grieving doctor told the media.

At the funeral of Dr Haider when I embraced his father, who was visibly doddering due to old age, I could not find a single word to offer my condolences to him. While Dr Haider and his son were being laid to rest, amid echoes of mournful cries, tears and people still in a state of shock, Dr Zafar was lost in deep thoughts sitting next to their graves. Tough to say what was going through his mind but I think he must have been thinking if this was the reward of serving humanity for two generations. The story of Dr Ali Haider and his son might have been over for most of us but definitely not for his bereaved family and it never will be. As the sun sets and sadness rages in Dr Haider’s widow’s heart, she screams out the same question every evening, “What wrong did we do to anyone?” I cannot begin to imagine the pain of the woman who lost her husband and her son in the blink of an eye.

Five days later the Sharif brothers ordered the arrest of the killers of Dr Haider and his son while addressing the media outside the slain doctor’s residence. Nawaz Sharif assured the media that Shahbaz Sharif was personally monitoring the case and was being kept up to date by the police force. He added that instructions had been given to the police to find those responsible immediately. But to no one’s surprise, the killers are still at large.

The four men who opened fire on Dr Haider’s vehicle are not the only killers of the renowned surgeon and his son. It is a mindset that produces hundreds of such killers in religious seminaries where they are taught that killing an infidel, read a Shia, will lead them to paradise. The irony is that it is no secret and yet the authorities have turned a blind eye to these hate-mongers wreaking havoc and killing off entire Shia families.

On the 30th of last month it was déjà vu in Hazara Town. At least 28 Shia from the Hazara community lost their lives while over 60 others sustained wounds when a suicide bomber blew himself up near an Imambargah in Aliabad area of Hazara Town, a Shia Hazara neighbourhood of Quetta. In another ghastly attack in February this year, a massive bomb ripped though a busy market in the same town, killing at least 90 people and injuring nearly 200. Having ignored the Alamdar Road tragedy in January and other various incidents of Shia killings, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry took suo motu notice of the Hazara Town massacre in February which, unlike other cases, sank into oblivion in no time. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) claimed the aforementioned attacks but to date no action has been taken against the outfit that has blatantly taken responsibility for the mass killings of Shias in Balochistan and elsewhere. Let alone a crackdown on the LeJ, the PML-N government seems too reluctant to express its will to act against Ludhianvi and company. Thus, government only has token condemnations to offer after such massacres.

In the May 11 general elections, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had prohibited candidates from seeking votes in the name of religion or sects but it miserably failed to get its own directives implemented as candidates of the MDM, Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat-i-Ulema-e-Islam flouted the directives. No action, however, was taken by the ECP against the said outfits. People like ASWJ chief Ahmad Ludhianvi and ASWJ Karachi chief Aurangzeb Farooqi not only contested elections but also spoke publicly about their intentions to make life miserable for the Shia community.

As long as the funding of organisations like SSP/ASWJ, spreading hatred against other sects, is not curbed and the deep state does not stop pandering to such elements, the carnage will continue. The Pakistan army, LEAs, civil authorities and intelligence agencies need to come clean on this very sensitive issue. The see-no-evil policy about Shia killings in Pakistan can yield horrific consequences. And to begin with a zero tolerance crackdown on outfits like LeJ would suffice — no ifs, ands or buts about it.

Source: VIEW : Remembering Dr Haider — Ali Salman Alvi

Some of history’s greatest statesmen have spoken there. On July 12, 2013, the Assembly listened  spellbound to a 16-year-old schoolgirl. These are Malala’s words:

Malal Yousafzai delivering a speech at the U.N. Headquarters in NY.

Malal Yousafzai delivering a speech at the U.N. Headquarters in NY.

Honourable UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-moon, respected president of the General Assembly Vuk Jeremic, honourable UN envoy for global education Mr Gordon Brown, respected elders and my dear brothers and sisters: Assalam u Alaikum.

Today is it an honour for me to be speaking again after a long time. Being here with such honourable people is a great moment in my life and it is an honour for me that today I am wearing a shawl of the late Benazir Bhutto. I don’t know where to begin my speech. I don’t know what people would be expecting me to say, but first of all thank you to God for whom we all are equal and thank you to every person who has prayed for my fast recovery and new life. I cannot believe how much love people have shown me. I have received thousands of good-wish cards and gifts from all over the world. Thank you to all of them. Thank you to the children whose innocent words encouraged me. Thank you to my elders whose prayers strengthened me. I would like to thank my nurses, doctors and the staff of the hospitals in Pakistan and the UK and the UAE government who have helped me to get better and recover my strength.

I fully support UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his Global Education First Initiative and the work of UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown and the respectful president of the UN General Assembly Vuk Jeremic. I thank them for the leadership they continue to give. They continue to inspire all of us to action. Dear brothers and sisters, do remember one thing: Malala Day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights.

There are hundreds of human rights activists and social workers who are not only speaking for their rights, but who are struggling to achieve their goal of peace, education and equality. Thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists and millions have been injured. I am just one of them. So here I stand, one girl among many. I speak not for myself, but so those without a voice can be heard. Those who have fought for their rights. Their right to live in peace. Their right to be treated with dignity. Their right to equality of opportunity. Their right to be educated.

Dear friends, on 9 October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends, too. They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed. And out of that silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions. But nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born. I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. And my dreams are the same. Dear sisters and brothers, I am not against anyone. Neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I am here to speak for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all the terrorists and extremists. I do not even hate the Talib who shot me.

Even if there was a gun in my hand and he was standing in front of me, I would not shoot him. This is the compassion I have learned from Muhammad, the prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha. This the legacy of change I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

This is the philosophy of nonviolence that I have learned from Gandhi, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa. And this is the forgiveness that I have learned from my father and from my mother. This is what my soul is telling me: be peaceful and love everyone.

Dear sisters and brothers, we realise the importance of light when we see darkness. We realise the importance of our voice when we are silenced. In the same way, when we were in Swat, the north of Pakistan, we realised the importance of pens and books when we saw the guns. The wise saying, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” It is true. The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them. This is why they killed 14 innocent students in the recent attack in Quetta. And that is why they kill female teachers. That is why they are blasting schools every day because they were and they are afraid of change and equality that we will bring to our society. And I remember that there was a boy in our school who was asked by a journalist: “Why are the Taliban against education?”He answered very simply by pointing to his book, he said: “A Talib doesn’t know what is written inside this book.”

They think that God is a tiny, little conservative being who would point guns at people’s heads just for going to school. These terrorists are misusing the name of Islam for their own personal benefit. Pakistan is a peace-loving, democratic country. Pashtuns want education for their daughters and sons. Islam is a religion of peace, humanity and brotherhood. It is the duty and responsibility to get education for each child, that is what it says. Peace is a necessity for education. In many parts of the world, especially Pakistan and Afghanistan, terrorism, war and conflicts stop children from going to schools. We are really tired of these wars. Women and children are suffering in many ways in many parts of the world.

In India, innocent and poor children are victims of child labour. Many schools have been destroyed in Nigeria. People in Afghanistan have been affected by extremism. Young girls have to do domestic child labour and are forced to get married at an early age. Poverty, ignorance, injustice, racism and the deprivation of basic rights are the main problems, faced by both men and women.

Today, I am focusing on women’s rights and girls’ education because they are suffering the most. There was a time when women activists asked men to stand up for their rights. But this time we will do it by ourselves. I am not telling men to step away from speaking for women’s rights, but I am focusing on women to be independent and fight for themselves. So dear sisters and brothers, now it’s time to speak up. So today, we call upon the world leaders to change their strategic policies in favour of peace and prosperity. We call upon the world leaders that all of these deals must protect women and children’s rights. A deal that goes against the rights of women is unacceptable.

We call upon all governments to ensure free, compulsory education all over the world for every child. We call upon all the governments to fight against terrorism and violence. To protect children from brutality and harm. We call upon the developed nations to support the expansion of education opportunities for girls in the developing world. We call upon all communities to be tolerant, to reject prejudice based on caste, creed, sect, colour, religion or agenda to ensure freedom and equality for women so they can flourish. We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back. We call upon our sisters around the world to be brave, to embrace the strength within themselves and realise their full potential.

Dear brothers and sisters, we want schools and education for every child’s bright future. We will continue our journey to our destination of peace and education. No one can stop us. We will speak up for our rights and we will bring change to our voice. We believe in the power and the strength of our words. Our words can change the whole world because we are all together, united for the cause of education. And if we want to achieve our goal, then let us empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.

Dear brothers and sisters, we must not forget that millions of people are suffering from poverty and injustice and ignorance. We must not forget that millions of children are out of their schools. We must not forget that our sisters and brothers are waiting for a bright, peaceful future.

So let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism, let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first. Thank you.

SourceThe full text: Malala Yousafzai delivers defiant riposte to Taliban militants with speech to the UN General Assembly

The fall of Dhaka

Lt. Gen. Niazi of Pakistan Army signing the surrender instrument in Dhaka on December 16, 1971. The surrender was made to Lt. Gen. Aurora, GOC-in-C, Eastern Command. Vice Admiral N. Krishnan, Air Marshal H.C. Dewan, Lt. Gen. Sagat Singh, Maj. Gen. J.F.R. Jacob are also seen in the picture.

Text of the Instrument

The Pakistan Eastern Military High Command agree to surrender all Pakistan Armed Forces in East Pakistan to Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora— General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Indian Army and the Mukti Bahiniin Bangladesh erstwhile Eastern Pakistan. This surrender includes all Pakistan land, Air Force and Naval forces as also all equipment, property paramilitary forces and civilians armed forces. These forces will lay down their arms and surrender everything at the places where they are currently located to the nearest regular troops under the command of Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora.

The Pakistan Eastern High Command shall come under the orders of Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora as soon as this instrument has been signed. Disobedience of orders will be regarded as a breach of the surrender terms and will be dealt with in accordance with the accepted laws and usages of war. The decision of Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora will be final, should any doubt arise as to the meaning or interpretation of the surrender terms.

Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora gives a solemn assurance that personnel who surrender will be treated with dignity and respect that soldiers are entitled to in accordance with the provisions of the Geneva Conventionsand guarantees the safety and well-being of all Pakistan military and paramilitary forces who surrender. Protection will be provided to foreign nationals, ethnic minorities and personnel of Pakistan origin by the forces under the command of Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora.

Signed at Ramna Course in Dacca, Bangladesh erstwhile East-Pakistan at 1701Hrs (6:01pm PST) on the Sixteenth day of December, 1971, by J.S. Aurora (Commander, Joint Command of India and Bangladesh forces) and A.A.K. Niazi (Pakistan) on behalf of Commander, Eastern Command, Pakistan.

Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora

Commander of Joint Command of Indian Army (Indian Eastern Command) and Mukti Bahini (Liberation Forces of Bangladesh) in the Eastern Theater.

Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi
Unified Commander of Pakistan Eastern High Command

Vice-Admiral Mohammad Shariff
Commander of Pakistan Eastern Naval Command.

Vice Admiral R.N. Krishna
Commander, Eastern Navy Command

Air Vice Marshal Patrick D. Callaghan
Commander of Eastern Air Force Command, Pakistan Air Force

Lieutenant-General Jacob Farj Rafael Jacob
Chief of Staff, Indian Eastern Command

After the 2011 Hazara Town shooting Lashkar e Jhangvi exclusively talked about Hazara Town shooting in one of their night letters distributed in Quetta by LeJ Balochistan Unit. Please find the English translation of the letter as following.

Lashkar e Jhangvi Pakistan

Balochistan Unit.

All Shias are liable to be killed. We will rid Pakistan of [this] impure people. Pakistan means land of the pure, and the Shi’ites have no right to live here. We have the decrees and signatures of the revered clerics in which the Shias have been declared infidel (kaafir). Just as our fighters have waged a successful jihad against the Shia-Hazaras in Afghanistan and buthchered them, our mission [in Pakistan] is the abolition of this impure sect and people, the Shias and the Shia-Hazaras, from every city, every town, every village, every nook and corner of Pakistan. Like in the past, [our] successful Jihad against the Hazaras in Pakistan and, in particular, in Quetta is ongoing and will continue [in the future].

We will make Pakistan their graveyard — their houses will be destroyed by bombs and suicide bombers. We will only rest when we fly the flag of true Islam on this land. Our fighters and suicide bombers have [already] successfully operated in Parachinar, and are awaiting orders to operate across Pakistan. Jihad against the Shia-Hazaras has now become our duty. Our suicide bombers have successfully operated in Hazara Town on May 6, 2011 (referring to a massacre of Hazara people on May 6, 2011 in Hazara Town, Quetta city of Pakistan which left 8 dead and at least 15 wounded) and now our next target is your houses in Alamdar Road.

As long as our innocent friends aren’t freed [from incarceration], we will continue our operations.

The Chief,

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Pakistan

LeJ threat letter

Scanned copy of the threat letter distributed by Lashkar e Jhangvi Balochistan Unit

Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was published in Daily Times on November 17, 2012. I’m pleased to cross-post the article on my blog from Daily Times without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

Fanaticism has been kept in the mainstream by those for whom it is a game to extract money out of organisations after rampant looting and killing. People then think of only an exodus as a means of survival, hence leaving behind the land to be ruled by those who have a singular aim to grab power by means of terrorism. Swat, with high mountains, green meadows and clear lakes, once known as the Switzerland of the region, where winter sports and tourism were a normal trend, is now marred by the chilling account of the barbarous and bloodied persecution of those who tried to defy the Taliban. Vested interests of ‘some’ with terrorism have destroyed the region as a business hub, which in turn has cracked the backbone of the economy of Pakistan and has left the state with no tourism. Hundreds of the inhabitants of Swat region were massacred by the Taliban and their misery only came to an end when the government launched a major military operation in 2009, despite facing opposition from the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf and religious parties.

The fanatical bent of the human mind always opposes any kind of progressive, scientific education since it will inevitably make the succeeding generations question their diktat, which will consequently topple their kingdom of regressive dogmatism complemented by terror logistics. Religion galvanises people, but misinterpreted religious sermons galvanises the ignorant and uneducated. These people form the vote/power bank of such voices, because due to ignorance their sermons sell; therefore, education is only opposed by fanatics. More than 800 school buildings have been blown up in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA to date and the campaign is not over yet. The silence of religious parties in Pakistan over this destruction is quite meaningful, which clandestinely endorses the militants’ argument that educating girls is in breach of the teachings of Islam. Islam does not ask its followers to keep girls uneducated. In fact, it holds education for girls as obligatory as for boys. Malala Yousafzai, who stood for the principles of peace and education, thus jeopardising the hegemony of these thugs, was an obstacle in their greater plan of destabilising Pakistan further.

Malala spoke about education and a secular Pakistan, which is the biggest thorn in the side of their business agenda of terrorism, and that is the reason why she was added to a Taliban hit list in 2011 and, subsequently, attacked in 2012. After an abhorrent campaign run by Islamist goons on social media, casting all sorts of doubts on the assassination attempt on Malala, their full of hot air leader, Fazlur Rehman stamped his approval upon the lamest of conspiracy theories about the 15-year-old who is undergoing medical treatment after surviving miraculously in the attack.

Almost four weeks after Malala and her two friends, Shazia and Kainat, came under attack by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in her hometown, Swat, the eponymous chief of his own faction of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, Maulana Fazlur Rehman termed the assassination attempt a drama. Addressing the ‘Islam Zindabad Conference’ in Karak, he said, “Pictures shown on social media have shown the whole character as suspicious because there was no sign of injury after the bandage on her head was removed.” This meant that Malala had not received any injury in her head since there was no sign of one after the bandage on her head was removed.

A couple of weeks ago, in the op-ed pages of a national English daily, a similar article with the title, “Shame on You, Mr Khan” was published in which the writer had bashed the chief of the PTI, Imran Khan, for being a ‘coward’ on account of his statement he gave in a television programme. While condemning the attack on Malala, Khan had said that his party had local affiliates and supporters in the restive areas of Pakistan, of the likes of Waziristan and FATA, and thus he could not give statements against the Taliban because that would make them [supporters] the Taliban’s targets. The column went viral on the social media, so much so that Hamid Mir invited Khan to his show and grilled him about that column and throughout the programme, he kept repeating the title of the aforementioned show. While I agree that Khan’s statement was not a brave one, I am taken aback to see that none of the writers have penned down any criticism on Fazlur Rehman for his despicable statement. Or maybe Mir should invite the maulana to his programme only to fire a barrage of ‘Shame on you, Fazlur Rehman’ for the sake of fairness, if not for anything else. The whole world of some of the writers would have come crashing down around them had such a statement, similar to Rehman’s, come from Imran Khan. Just because Khan listens to all the criticism directed towards him should not become license for his unabated bashing.

I am not surprised to see a group of politically ignorant people celebrating ‘Aafia Day’ on November 10 as a rebuttal of the Malala Day declared by the UN on the same day. Trying to compare apples and oranges, Maulana Fazlur Rehman went on to compare the case of Malala with the case of Aafia Siddiqui in an attempt to cash in on the sentiment of the public associated with Islam, since using religion and anti-Americanism always works wonders in Pakistan, bearing in mind people’s sentiments. Maulana Rehman said, “While everyone was outraged over the attack on Malala Yousufzai, there was silence on the issue of Aafia Siddiqui.” Malala became a victim of a fanatic’s bullet, which wanted to silence her struggle for awareness, whereas Aafia Siddiqui wanted to make many victims.

Let me make it very clear that the two cases cannot and should not be compared. Aafia Siddiqui, 40, was convicted by a US court for attempted murder, armed assault and other charges; Malala Yousafzai, 15, on the other hand, stood against extremism and terrorism, vowing for peace and girls’ education in a time when the Taliban were bombing schools in Swat to deter girls from going to school. During the five years of her disappearance, Declan Walsh, who was The Guardian’s correspondent for Pakistan and Afghanistan from 2004 to 2011, reported that Aafia visited her uncle, Shamsul Hasan Farooqi, and pleaded with him to smuggle her into Afghanistan into the hands of the Taliban, insisting that she would be safe with them. Aafia’s first husband, Amjad Mohammed Khan, an anaesthesiologist, has already disclosed that after the September 11 attacks, Aafia pressed him to go on jihad to Afghanistan and work as a medic for the Mujahideen.

Malala epitomises bravery and peace in the face of terror and barbarity. Her courage has won the hearts of hundreds and thousands of people across the globe. As the government of Pakistan plans to honour Malala by opening special schools in her name for poor children, the world calls for a Nobel Peace Prize for the 15-year-old. She, now, has the support of more than 124,000 people who have signed an online petition asking the Nobel Foundation to nominate her for the prestigious award. Forlornly, there was no Malala Yousafzai moment in Pakistan. The attack on Malala could have been a turning point in the war of our survival but it was not to be. Conspiracy theories got the better of the bitter reality, commandeering vulnerable minds. Here’s hoping Malala would recover soon and resume the fight against bigotry, extremism and oppression. Here’s hoping that Kainat and Shazia pursue education with a rejuvenated resolve. It is high time we stood for all the Malalas who are deprived of education and basic human rights to strive for a better, progressive and tolerant Pakistan.

Source: VIEW : Guillotine of intolerance and guile of hypocrisy — Ali Salman Alvi