No Hope for the Citizens of Quetta This Independence Day

Source: AFP/Dawn

Source: AFP/Dawn

Nothing makes the idea of security from terrorist attacks more ironic than probably one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in terms of damage since 9/11 in Pakistan. The terrorists struck mercilessly in Quetta, the troubled capital of the troubled province of Baluchistan. Where the state’s strategic assets take precedence over the lives of the people, like the rest of the country, but where the distinction is more pronounced than anywhere else.

The August 8 suicide bombing on the Quetta hospital targeting and wiping out almost an entire generation of lawyers should have shaken the conscience of the nation to the core. It should be considered an attack on our way of life. In a country under constant threat of dark forces constantly trying to implement Sharia which would bring Mullah Fazlullah-like courts operational, the attack is really significant. It irreversibly harmed the secular, legal system that is very unpopular among a rapidly radicalizing local population.

As usual, the attack was all about harming Pakistan’s strategic and economic plan and the CPEC Project. The Taliban and the Islamic State accepted responsibility, but the obvious culprits to the state remain to be RAW operatives. To other demented minds in the opposition, the blame fell almost exclusively on the Prime Minister. As if he enjoys enough influence over the various complex forces to cause terrorist attacks at will. Regardless of the fact, no one seems to be mourning enough about the fact that the top legal minds of a city are no more. Imagine had this happened in Lahore or Islamabad.

This brings us to the realization of priorities when it comes to national security. Imagine the security measures that our military goes through in order to protect the most sensitive and valuable of our military installations. But what good are these military installations if not for the protection of the intellectuals of the country. Even if that does not mean anything for some people, what good is a military if not for the protection of a country’s judicial system?

No matter what happens, our people would not face up the real threat that Islamist terrorism poses. We do not realize that the threat is to the very existence of human civilization as we know it, and Islamist extremists are not going to rest unless it is destroyed and transformed into a form they consider fit. It is an anti-intellectual cult of death and misery that needs to be fought. But that is only possible if we recognize it as a real threat.

In this mental struggle of countering the problem of organized and brutal terrorism, the people of Quetta must be feeling completely helpless. There is no doubt that you cannot possibly guard or police every single square inch of a country, and doing so could itself spark outrage from the citizens. Our security forces often face harsher than necessary criticism for it. However, no one can argue that tragedies such as the August 8 bombing are a failure of those in charge of intelligence.

We may declare people pointing toward this fact as traitors, but it is not going to solve the problem of terrorism. After an experience of fighting terrorism over the decade, we must also come to terms with the fact that there is only one factor that motivates suicide bombings in this region. Shying away from these facts only makes matter worse. The murder of Quetta lawyers is not going to derail the CPEC project a single bit at this stage, but it shows that we are devoting too much security to protect infrastructure and not enough for the most valuable of our citizens.

As the rest of the nation celebrate the Independence Day, there is no hope for the hundreds of families affected from the tragedy and thousands more who have suffered losses. They know nothing is going to change in terms of the protection of their legal institutions. There is no hope of realizing that we are not really independent unless our judiciary is safe and free.

There is no hope except for the same old resilience that has helped us endure tragedy after tragedy since the waves of terrorism since the 2003 Afghanistan War.

Happy Independence Day.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

 

The Gridlock Misery

Source: Dawn/AP

Source: Dawn/AP

I don’t mind paying a good amount of bucks when it is due. Believe me, I don’t.

But not when you are doing so for absolutely stupid reasons… Or even wasting time and energy, for that matter.

September 19, 2014 was by far the most chaotic day I have ever had in recent memory. And I was not alone. Pretty much everyone who was moving between Rawalpindi and Islamabad was that day.

The day was declared to be the “Day of Deliverance” by the protesting opposition party PTI to demand the resignation of the Prime Minister. Needless to say the Prime Minister did not resign and it was just another good old PTI concert with a bigger attendance. And the federal government decided to prevent people from reaching there.

But who cares either way?

The traffic gridlock occurred all of a sudden. It was when I was moving back to my office after attending a client meeting, before which my former supervisor had informed me about the Islamabad Highway being blocked.

I was stuck for an hour on a route that should have taken less than minutes. Then ended up reaching my home after about 5 hours when it would have normally taken me 40 odd minutes. This should have cost less than a $1 and ended up paying near $10, yet walking no less than 4 kilometers.

My misery (as a matter of fact, I had probably never walked that far to my home from the route that I took that day), which I enjoyed a little due to the surreal scenes, was nothing to that of hundreds of families stranded in a mega traffic jam that probably lasted all night. Probably some people had to get to the hospital and others wanted to just reach their apolitical, private destinations for their apolitical, private lives and chores.

In other words, it was chaos. The doomsday scenario. Somewhat close to the kind of surreal apocalyptic scenes you watch in a Roland Emmerich film. But thankfully, nowhere near in destruction. Which probably proves that most people are civil.

Or probably that traffic problems occur all over the world, from New York City to Dhaka. But not really, when you don’t have to have them.

It is another example of government making a mess of people’s lives.

It is yet another example of complete disregard of the rights of the citizens.

Yet another example of exceeding bureaucratic powers over people’s lives.

No, the chaos was certainly not because people are disorganized, unruly, or ungovernable barbarians.

It was because the government was preventing them to function freely, probably with the intention of their greater good, as is always the case.

Are you not sick of the idea of know-it-all, all-controlling government?

Why No One Noticed This Historic Day for Pakistan

Source: Dawn.com

General Pervez Musharraf – Source: Dawn.com

March 31, 2014 will remain to be a historic day for Pakistan as a democracy.

Call it political point scoring or obsession with political correctness, but for the first time ever, a special civil court has indicted a former Army General for high treason for abrogating the Constitution.

He has been indicted for the November 2007 emergency, even though I guess his bigger crime was the October 1999 coup d’etat.

However, there is no sense of jubilation among the people of Pakistan. There is a good reason for that.

From the beginning, the Pakistani government establishment has undermined the importance of the Constitution in people’s eyes. And they have very much succeeded in it too.

This is why every time there is an imminent need to suspend people’s rights to save the State, nobody raises a brow. And this is why the violators get away with it every time, destroying the democratic system of government.

And no, I have absolutely no interest in people declaring President Musharraf a “traitor”. Neither do I support the barbaric law of capital punishment for treason.

But I am interested in seeing people who break the law brought to justice. I am interested to see some fair and equal treatment, especially when hundreds of thousands are rotting in prisons for acts that are arguably not even crimes.

Even if the secularists of Pakistan accept the Constitution of Pakistan for its own merits, it should serve as an inviolable social contract for the citizens.

Not only should the Constitution be respected, but it should not be suspended under any circumstances to protect the fundamental rights of the people. And any amendment whatsoever must be channeled through the legislative branch under the supervision of the Supreme Court.

It is this attitude that has left people not offering a lot of weight to the Constitution as far as the protection of their rights is concerned. And this is precisely why they have largely been left unaware of their fundamental rights.

However, clearly this is not a day of victory or celebration for most Pakistani people. To many of them, this is just another piece of daily news. Inconsequential, because they know that the military will ultimately come to the rescue of the General.

Probably the real historic day would only arrive when the people of Pakistan actually start believing in their fundamental rights as given in the Constitution. And standing up for them too.

But it’s encouraging to see that we are making progress.

Legitimizing the Drone

Source: thenewstribe.com

Source: thenewstribe.com

Would you believe that the drone is a divisive issue? But what isn’t.

A recent Amnesty International report with a rather emotional title was widely hailed by anti-drone activists, and locally by staunch anti-war parties such as the PTI. However, at the same time the report was criticized by people who think the weapon was doing a great job in firing terrorists. The accuracy of the report has also been questioned, although by some who have a history of defending drone strikes.

Obviously, you cannot expect the US government to concede that drones violate international law. However, I believe that when international human rights watchdogs are disapproving of drones and if the UN considers their use a violation of international law, there is no real need to go out of your way to defend the US drone campaign. Amusingly, a lot of commentators have been doing precisely that to justify the US government and military.

This does not mean that they do not have valid reasons to do that. Drone warfare is not any worse than conventional warfare, except for the fact that it is a constant threat looming on the heads of certain civilian populations, where militants are present. I think relatively safer populations cannot understand how a threatened population may see drone strikes.

The usual response to criticism of drones is that jet bombing kills more if not the equal number of people, can be as terrible for the people suffering the bombing and human rights, and that conventional bombing is more erratic than the drones. All these points are valid.

Whoever is opposing drones but advocating jet or artillery fire is not understanding the benefit of the technology. Pakistani nationalists opposing drones because they violate the sovereignty of the country is merely a nationalistic political viewpoint and has nothing to do with the human loss.

Drone technology is superior, indeed. But if the UN and other international and nonpartisan bodies are maintaining that US drone strikes violate international law, there is no sense in persisting with the support of an illegal device of war.

However, this does not mean that the use of this particular technology is condemned, even though it is a violation of people’s privacy and safety in any case. I do not see the reports criticizing drones and the civilian deaths caused by them as an attack on the technology, but one on the political force controlling these drones.

The drone can be legitimized. The US should stop carrying out drone strikes unilaterally and, since the technology is so accurate and helps minimize losses, the United Nations Security Council should be authorizing and supervising drone strikes when and where needed.

This does not necessarily have to require the US giving up the drone technology to the UNSC, but the UN body would only supervise the US strikes, as in UN Peacekeeping Missions. In this way, drone strikes would at least not violate the international law and the instances of possible abuse can be minimized. Critics may question the feasibility of this proposal, but the viewpoint of defending violation of international law is unreasonable.

Maybe all the criticism on the drone strikes is more about the distrust of the invader, instead of the weapon.

It’s not the drone that kills, but the people behind it.

To Our Generals…

General Kazi and General Zafar (Source: youtube)

The recent days have seen some unusual events. Generals in the dock. That is unusual in a country where generals call all the shots, and who along with the civil bureaucracy are a part of an establishment that makes sure that everything remains in “safe hands”.

I would not really go into a lot of details as far as the background is concerned, but in a nutshell the Supreme Court is trying General Baig and Maj. Gen. Durrani for the Asghar Khan-ISI-IJI case, but even more importantly or maybe not, three retired generals Lt. Gen. Javed Ashraf Kazi, Lt. Gen. Saeed-uz-Zafar and Maj. Gen. Hassan Butt are being questioned by the NAB for the Royal Palm Railways Real Estate Lease scam. Earlier three retired generals were being interrogated by the military in the NLC scam.

Now there is nothing wrong and unusual with committing a mistake, knowingly or unknowingly, and being tried for it. It’s actually business as usual, isn’t it? But there is something special about these gentlemen. Of all these generals, the ones interrogated by NAB in the Railways Real Estate case stole the limelight recently. What is even more inflammatory is that this is a case initiated by the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee of the bloody civilians.

Of course conidering how vigilant our media is, the correspondents from all sorts of news channels ganged around the generals and started asking all sorts of inconvenient questions that are asked of people under scrutiny. Well the most noteworthy part was the way the generals responded to the media. Gen. Kazi told the reporter to “shut up“, while Lt Gen Saeed-uz-Zafar sarcastically and derogatively bestowed his advice to the nation to vote for the transgender leader Almas Bobby for the next elections, even though I would actually like to see them in the legislature. It is hard to say what is the relevance of that recommendation to his case.

Well of course you would not expect them to be used to be questioned like that but nevertheless their response is pretty significant. I don’t really have much to say about it as the rest of the nation and the media are covering it pretty comprehensively anyway. However, I have just one point to add.  I at least want the educated members of the society reading these lines to memorize this event and never forget it.

Now I don’t have any youtube video links at hand right now because the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has blocked youtube over the presence of the trailer of a blasphemous film and for many other obscurantist reasons. How convenient. So you can’t expect media groups to upload these videos on the youtube, though they should anyway. I will surely upload this blog later and share it again to include those video links whenever available, but I have found one from Sama TV News. However, I am sure all those Pakistanis who closely follow the news would have witnesssed these significant comments by our able generals.

What these generals fail to realize is that they are actually telling the entire nation to shut up. Furthermore, while I personally don’t mind seeing transgender MPs in Pakistan, let it be clear that the statement from the honorable General was an insult not only to the civilian leadership of the country but to the nation as well. I wish I could actually recruit transgenders as generals given the kind of people running the Pakistani military.

Given the almost apartheid-like discrimination in the area of civil and military services and facilities, it is no surprise how our generals view the general public that they so proudly claim to defend. Oh wait, it’s the country. And then statements are issued by the military that certain people are conspiring to destroy their morale. Perhaps, but how about some tolerance for reasonable criticism?

I would be be prepared for much more criticism than this if I were undertaking that much responsibility. And there is no need to remind the world of the events in history that demand them to take responsibility.

But thanks for shutting us up, again.

Never forget…