The Lesson from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Fall

Source: geo.tv

There are several lessons that could be learned from the fall of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Poor leadership, terrible strategy, abandoning allies, pride, hubris, arrogance, narcissism, myopia, and having the little foresight of the inevitable. However, the most important lesson is meant more for the Pakistani people who seem to be repeating some of the mistakes of the ill-fated triple term Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was brought to prominence during the reign of the mighty General Zia-ul-Haq, arguably the worst military dictator in Pakistan’s history. A reluctant Nawaz Sharif was introduced as the Chief Minister of Punjab, who then rose to power as the leader of establishment-backed Islamic Democratic Alliance in the 1990s against the staunchly anti-establishment liberal visionary Benazir Bhutto.

As Prime Minister Sharif got comfortable in his Jihadi, Islamist social conservative cradle, he would soon attempt to declare himself the “Emir-ul-Momineen.” Who would have thought the one who almost became the Emir-ul-Momineen cannot even qualify as a Sadik and Amin now.

However, he probably never one at heart himself. The trader and entrepreneur in him was always more loyal to productivity and money than religious mirages and made him lean toward peace with India. The secular leader in him switched the national weekly holiday to Sunday from Friday amid protests of his Islamist allies. And perhaps went further to confront the military on counter-productive measures such as the 1998 nuclear tests and certainly the disastrous Kargil War.

Of course, Sharif crossed a lot of limits and does so habitually but you don’t have to do much to fall out of favor with the bureaucratic establishment. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself made the mistake of trusting them the third time around while living dangerously throughout his term, surviving rioting protests from PTI and PAT. Of course, you cannot say that he does not realize who his enemy is but you know there is only so much you can do to save yourself or please them.

While the people do not have the luxury to do much about them either, they also consistently make the mistake of taking their ruling bureaucratic tyrants as their saviors. They also consistently make the mistake of rejoicing over their assault on their right to vote. Many of them cannot wait to completely give up all their rights to their bureaucratic overlord whose meritocracy could not have been a fitter fit for the ignorant Pakistani masses who can’t think for themselves.

Nawaz Sharif may as well be history. But the people of Pakistan need to wonder if they can afford any more lapses in their democratic process. They need to wonder if they are willing to relinquish any more of their rights to the security state.

They need to wonder how the bureaucratic machine has not even bothered to promise to deliver free education as in the 18th amendment. They need to wonder how the bureaucratic machine has looked the other way when it comes to a national health insurance program while paying their bills out of public money. They need to wonder how the bureaucratic machine has systematically dismantled the honor of their own voice.

They need to do some serious soul searching.

Because the only ones that the bureaucratic machine cares for are themselves.

And that is the biggest lesson.

 

A version of this post was published in the Dunya blogs.
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CPEC Marks the End of Free Speech in Pakistan

Source: par.com.pk

The latest provocative Dawn story about the CPEC might as well be a pack of lies but what about things unfolding right in front of our eyes. It is very hard, and almost feels immoral, to remain silent at the Interior Minister’s crusade against dissenting bloggers and social media activists. Since Zia’s period, we have not seen the Pakistani state practice such blunt and open crackdown against free speech and dissent in the countries. What are you to say of authorities who treat their own citizens, whose taxes pay for their livelihood, like the enemy?

It is deeply disappointing.

There is a reason why people are skeptical of China. The Chinese Road and Belt initiative does sound very good to the ears and who in their right mind would oppose economic cooperation beyond borders? But the reason why people find it hard to trust them is because of the political culture and ideology they practice in their country. They do not practice the freedom they have preached in this initiative. There are no Google and facebook in China and that is precisely why I am not too excited about the cross border optic fiber cable network from China border to Rawalpindi. The Chinese ideals are not shared by the Pakistani youth struggling for freedom of expression.

The Chinese cultural push in Pakistan also sounds more than just a rumor, with their political culture seems to be creeping into the country. You see, in Pakistan people like to dissent, even when it comes to the blasphemy law. They like to vote for other parties, speak ill of the people of other sects and ethnicities. And considering the totalitarian trends that are also creeping into Pakistani politics with unanimously passed constitutional amendments, it is important to remind that we are not a one party country and would never be no matter what happens. It is only sad to see that these values of the Pakistani people are not being shared by those cracking down on dissenters.

We can only beg our higher authorities to please think about the people of Pakistan above everything else and stop crackdown on dissenters.

Ever since the CPEC has started, the government has been responding very aggressively and reactively to any criticism, without trying to understand what the concerns might be. In good conscience, you cannot possibly support that, especially when the democratically elected officials stand behind such policies. China may genuinely have a very encouraging vision of the regional economy but the questions that the local Pakistani businessmen and cultural critics have are worth listening to.

The Pakistani dissenting bloggers may criticize or insult the Pakistani armed forces all they want, at least we knew that their higher echelons appreciated finer things in life. At least they valued some freedom for themselves, some of which trickled down to us mortals. But with an authoritarian influencer in the picture, are we even going to have the little freedom that we used to enjoy? The future looks uncertain and scary.

Also, please do not mistake these lines to be a contradiction to the title of this piece. The more frightening aspect is that now the Pakistani authorities do not even fear if their reputation gets affected by openly targeting dissent. And that is precisely the effect of the CPEC.

Consider this and all the pieces to come from hereon to be heavily self-censored.

Long live Pakistan.

 

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Keep on Mounting the Pressure on India Over Kashmir

Source: BBC/Getty Images

Source: BBC/Getty Images

The last thing an Indian nationalist wants to talk to you about is Kashmir. It’s because looking the other way when it comes to Kashmir has become the defining factor for the Indian nationalist. And it’s not just Kashmir. From Parveena Ahanger to Soni Sori and Irom Sharmila, there are many voices slapping the brutality of the Indian establishment that are discounted every day.

But don’t get me wrong. This does not imply by any means that the fire inside the Indian nationalist has died. They are ready to come at you harder than ever when the question is asked, especially now with an upper hand in the national politics, but their response would be anything but about Kashmir. It may be about Baluchistan, about radical Islam, about the treatment of minority groups in Pakistan, about what sort of hell Pakistan has become. But hardly ever about the subject under discussion.

Probably the only reason for that is that other than conscientious objectors in India, only the people and the government of Pakistan realize the moral responsibility to speak out about Kashmir for the most part. Despite the allegations and/or possible militant interference. Despite being a country “inspired by terrorism.”

Even the honorable Prime Minister of India, who is the true voice of his most avid followers, had similar answers to offer on Kashmir. Nothing substantial and a lot of embarrassment.

This only goes to show the moral state of the Indian nationalist mind. But more than that, it also gives you an insight into the priority that Kashmiris hold in India. It shows how much Indian nationalists care about the people of their inseparable part, and which worsens the feeling of isolation among Kashmiris.

Source: AP/Dawn

Source: AP/Dawn

There is no doubt that the Kashmiri freedom movement has had overwhelmingly Islamist tilt since the insurgency of the 1980s, backed by the Pakistani establishment. However, since its defeat, the Indian state has not had much to offer to the Kashmiris either. It has failed to win hearts and minds, like so many other border states where Pakistan was not a factor. It’s about time the Indian people realize that the brutality of their establishment is not always about retaliation to Pakistan’s interference.

A war of words on Kashmir, as long as it remains a war of words, is always going to be a losing battle for the Indians because there really is nothing to defend there. The way to hurt an Indian fundamentalist nationalist the most is to target where it hurts the most. Their nationalistic pride.

You cannot possibly defend shooting more than a million pellets aimed right in the eyes of your people. You cannot possibly defend killing dozens of those young protesters. But the plight of the Kashmiri people is far more than just the recent unrest.

Indian Occupied Kashmir is one of the most heavily militarized regions in the world, where thousands have been killed. According to independent observers such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, rape is used as effectively an instrument of war and domination in Kashmir, as well as the impunity with which the security forces act. You don’t have to be an expert to know that Kashmiris in the valley are treated as second class citizens.

Pakistani nationalists display a similar attitude toward Baluchistan, so Prime Minister Modi’s comments about it should be the least of Pakistan’s worries. Again, it is a matter of waking up to the human rights abuses going on in your own backyard. The recent disappearance of journalist Abdul Wahid Baloch is the latest of the unanswered question marks and a very serious one too.

But bringing up Baluchistan as a response to a question about Kashmir and vice versa is only indicative of the lack of interest in even addressing the issue at hand. Such arguments can be expected from twitter trolls, not from the leadership of a country. Though sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference.

Source: Ahmad Kakar/new-pakistan.com

Source: Ahmad Kakar/new-pakistan.com

But it is bad news for the Pakistani dove who wants unconditional peace with India. Modi’s comment potentially offer legitimacy to the argument that Pakistani establishment and nationalists have been making for years. This is particularly counterproductive as the focus toward Taliban and Islamist militants could shift back to India as the primary enemy. But that is not India’s problem. It is Pakistan’s problem, and unfortunately, the warmongers on both sides enable each other.

What the Indian nationalist fails to understand is that not everyone is interested in Kashmir defecting to Pakistan. Not everyone is even interested in the independence of Kashmir, even though these suggestions may seem to be the only relief to the troubled Kashmiri people.

Despite the history, if the Indian government and military start treating Kashmiris with a little more respect, the entire rhetoric about the Kashmir issue could disappear. But the fact remains that neither Kashmiris, nor the rest of the Indians have a remote understanding of each other’s viewpoint and have little in common. The cultural divide between the two makes the problem even worse.

However, whenever the Pakistani stance would move forward to actively support militancy in Kashmir, particularly through Islamist militants, the entire moral side of the argument is sabotaged. It only takes the world’s attention away from India’s brutal treatment of who are supposed to be their own citizens. This is where the support and freedom given to the likes of Hafiz Saeed must be discontinued.

Let’s keep mounting pressure on India when it comes to Kashmir. But it would only work effectively when we officially remain confined to a war of words.

A version of this post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Would You Shoot at Gullu Butt?

Source: Dawn

Source: Dawn

He is the new cultural icon.

He is at the center of political satire and social media humor. He even has a game app to his name now.

He is Gullu Butt.

Now while people have started loving this character, don’t forget who he really is. Gullu Butt is a dangerous, irresponsible criminal who should do his time.

But the question remains.

Would you shoot at Gullu Butt?

Surely not with the intention to kill him, but certainly to harm him.

Ideally, just to incapacitate him from wreaking further havoc and damaging private property.

OK, probably not the car smashing revolutionary hero, but probably someone with more lethal designs such as arson.

Or probably someone looking to commit more dangerous crimes which could arguably lead to injuries and, in some cases, lost lives.

Source: Reporter's Diary

Source: Reporter’s Diary

Now leave Gullu Butt’s cuteness aside and consider our usual, probably equally cute, religious and political rioters who burn colonies to the ground. Consider these innocuous looking protesters for example, who raided the Joseph colony for a righteous cause.

All in the name of angry protest. All in the apparent name of freedom of association and religion.

Source: Express Tribune

Source: Express Tribune

So just like the Punjab police were spectators in the background when Gullu was smashing windshields of unattended vehicles, they were spectators when these folks burned homes of several families.

The Punjab police were also apparently helpless when they were witnessing the stoning to death of that woman Farzana Parveen outside the Lahore High Court.

For an even darker possibility, these rioters could become mass murderers when they act in the Indian state of Gujarat and all the police does is to stare at arson sites helplessly.

So would you shoot at Gullu Butt? I know not everyone. Or perhaps it depends.

But shoot or not, the fact remains that when the hands of security personnel are tied, the private citizens will need to act to protect themselves and their property.

It would be a lot easier to shoot at these several Gullu Butts if they would not have such a public face.

It could not only help protect private property but also save innocent people.

While shooting rioters sound authoritarian and draconian, it is arguably the next best thing to do for a private citizen at least. Especially when the protectors of their security would do nothing to ensure it.

When protesters turn into criminals, they should be treated as the latter.

I Brought You Flowers… and Got Arrested

Source: siasat.pk

Source: siasat.pk/Express News

What will become of you in a country in which people are arrested for bringing someone flowers.

Maybe I am exaggerating the horrific nature of their crime, because these men happened to have been standing outside a college exclusively for girls for the probable intention of harassment. You guessed it, on the demonic, capitalistic occasion of Valentine’s Day.

But that is not the point, because hey, moral policing on Valentine’s Day is nothing new. Moral policing and big government measures for all the wrong reasons have been a feature of the current administration.

What is noticeable in the incident is that in Pakistan you can get arrested when you are not even breaking the law, apparently.

The incident occurred in Faisalabad when dozens of male youths were arrested by the Punjab police for standing outside a girl’s college and allegedly “making noise“, whatever that means. It can even be argued that the noise was harassment and that they infringed on the institution, but I am not too sure if the latter really was the case.

The police can be rightfully called as a security measure, but why would they proceed to arrest them without any reported wrongdoing? In a news report I watched, the police officer was just having the question of them standing there. Whatever happened to the right of assembly?

The news report even mentioned special security arrangement in hotels and restaurants to prevent any wrongdoing or immoral activities. What in the world does that mean?

I mean, are all  those security measures related to a “festival”? Then why are weddings not raided?

The arrest was probably a preemptive measure to prevent possible or further harassment. Yes, it seems that pre-crime is not science fiction anymore. But of course, arrest on harassment would make complete sense.

Alright, I concede that the act of giving Valentine’s Day cards and flowers to someone (like that) is arguably cheesy and inappropriate, but it is not really the kind of offense that someone should be locked up for.

But I do want to give the police the benefit of the doubt and would like to think that they responded to the complaint of the college officials, but still the boys were not apparently breaking any law. The police could have guarded the scene if they thought the security situation was unsatisfactory.

But without a second thought, the police only ended up ruining their public record of a number of people for nothing at all, especially because they probably arrested some people who were there to pick up their relatives. Rest assure, these were more of raids than anything else.

And of course no one cares about the mental agony and harassment that they went through before they would be released. That is just not a priority for a nation obsessed with false sexual moral righteousness.

But what is alarming is that in a country where the police can just arrest people without a reasonable cause, a warrant or even without an instance of crime, what would be the status of those perceived to be rebels or enemies of the state?

The issue of Baloch “missing persons” is often brought up, but how can you expect suspected rebels to be treated fairly, and hey just about anyone can be a suspected rebel anywhere in the country, when citizens with no such credentials are treated so harshly.

And it does not even matter if the citizen knows their rights because the cop would only respond to reason with overwhelming slaps on the back of the head. The trademark policing maneuver in the country.

But nevertheless, it seems that Pakistani citizens must only leave their homes with a copy of the fundamental rights in the Constitution and the penal code with them to prove to the police when and why they can arrest them.

But perhaps the problem lies with the Constitution itself, in which Article 10 lacks much clarity and speaks very loosely about the “detention” of a citizen. This pretty much encourages the prevalent detention on suspicion practice of the law enforcers.

The Article 10 of the Constitution of Pakistan states:

No person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed, as soon as may be, of the grounds for such arrest, nor shall he be denied the right to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.

But more importantly, the Article 14 states:

(1) The dignity of man and, subject to law, the privacy of home, shall be inviolable.

(2) No person shall be subjected to torture for the purpose of extracting evidence.

Obviously the Constitution comes with countless caveats when it comes to the inviolability of the “dignity of man” and the “privacy of home”. Without the requirement of showing a prior lawful document pertaining to the cause, the articles could even arguably be in conflict with each other.

The provisions are somewhat vague and fail to convey a clear idea of a more precise guideline to prevent abuse of authority. Not that we can be sure that the police all over Pakistan would still read and follow it anyway.

But in comparison, the following is how the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads, which is an inseparable part of the Bill of Rights.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

As opposed to the apparently compulsive right of detention provided for by the Pakistani constitution, the Fourth Amendment is very specific on the line it draws between the liberty of the citizen and the authority of the state.

It even goes to the length of requiring the mention of specifics in the warrant to make the search or seizure lawful. In comparison, Article 10 of the Constitution of Pakistan does not even mention the word “warrant“, correct me if I am wrong.

US Senators like Rand Paul (R-KY) are even suing the President of the United States for violating the Fourth Amendment rights over unwarranted NSA surveillance. Whether you agree with it or not, this is the extent of empowerment that the Constitution accords to the citizens in the United States.

But as long as liberty of the law abiding and peaceful citizens of Pakistan is continued to be abused at the subjective will of the law enforcers of the land, it is hard to trust its government to be democratic.