My Pakistani Persons of the Year 2019: Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir

Source: Pakistan Today

Never before in the history of this country have we ever seen politicians such as Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir. The anti-establishment independent MPs from Waziristan are the standard-bearers of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movment, which fights for the civil rights of the Pashtun ethnic minority in Pakistan and against their targeted killings since they have been largely demonized and racially profiled by the Punjabi dominated military following the operations against military insurgency.

Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir aided the movement’s leader Manzoor Pashteen to articulate the viewpoint of the Pashtun people and make their grievances known nationwide despite a draconian state crackdown. They reminded the world about the non-violent and progressive political traditions of the Pashtun people and that Talibanization was an engineered phenomenon in an otherwise peaceful community.

In May 2019, they exposed the authoritarianism of the Pakistani state, when they protested the un. The military checkpoint at Kharqamar opened fire on non-violent protesters without a warning. However, both Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir were arrested following the incident, with the state institutions held to no accountability for massacring thirteen people. Ali Wazir’s detention was even more painful considering the fact that he almost lost his entire family to terrorism during the “War on Terror” days.

After months of incarceration and torture, Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir were released in Septemeber 2019. The Speaker of the ruling pro-establishment party did not deliberately issue their production orders. However, Mohsin Dawar did have the opportuntity to speak his heart out after his release, which was shamelessly censored by the State Parliament TV with an ironical segment on “Lahore’s Historical Places.”

Check that particular clip over here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=797188270711265

 

Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir have singlehandedly exposed the authoritarianism with their non-violent political resistance and have given a new dimension to parliamentary politics in a country where the debate on the Assembly floor has been almost rendered useless. Mohsin Dawar has also co-sponsored a bill proposing more representation from the tribal areas, which passed in the lower house. In a country where passing laws through Presidential ordinances has become the norm, parliamentarians like Dawar and Wazir inspire and represent not only the youth but every repressed voice in the country.

Read about my Pakistani Person of the year in 2018 here.

A Case of Two Death Sentences

Source: Public’s Radio/Fareed Khan/AP

Pakistani people are known for their strange standards of morality, and nothing puts these paradoxes in the spotlight than issues considered “sensitive” in society. In a country, dominated by military dictatorship, a verdict such as the one issued by the Special Courts on December 17 was unheard of. This Special Court made of three judges in a 2-1 decision condemned former dictator Pervez Musharraf to death. Most liberal commentators, including Amnesty International, welcomed the verdict only for the supremacy and legitimacy of the civilian constituency over military dictatorship in a country with Pakistan’s history. These liberals went to great length to condemn or disapprove of “capital punishment,” while deeming such a stand by the judiciary necessary to uphold a civilian constitution in the country and to discourage military coups.

However, one of the Special Court judges, Waqar Seth overkilled the verdict by adding the infamous paragraph 66, probably to leave his personal political statement on the verdict, if not to sabotage it willfully. The paragraph or article reads as in the following picture, in which the judge orders the fugitive or convict’s “corpse be dragged to the D-Chowk, Islamabad, Pakistan and be hanged for 03 days” if found dead. To me, reading these words in a verdict by a Pakistani court is almost comical in a dark way, but it is indeed no laughing matter. And I wholeheartedly agree with everyone who has taken offense at such a verdict, even the pro-establishment nationalists and the government, involving public hangings, which have nothing to do with the law in Pakistan. Pakistan is not Iran and the anger of such social conservative uncles should not be enabled just because they happen to have convicted an authoritarian dictator.

Source: Muhammad Rizwan Safdar

It had to take a military dictator sentenced to death to start hearing about the cruelty and injustice of capital punishment from the pro-establishment social conservatives of the country. Most of these people are the lot who talk about hanging child rapists and “traitors” in squares.  However, it is important to understand that most of these people who you would otherwise not hear from on capital punishment are social conservatives. They have nothing against the death penalty. On the other hand, another brutal verdict from our courts went without any attention when Fulbright scholar and academic Junaid Hafeez was sentenced to death on blasphemy charges after being incarcerated for nearly six years. This must have come as a devastating blow to his family which is already ostracized and has suffered great financial losses ever since Junaid was arrested for the charge. The pain and grief of his father are evident from this VOA interview. You could hardly imagine what his mother would be going through.

Several reports and commentators have pointed out the flimsy evidence in the case of Junaid Hafeez. Many people believe that any court lower than the high court lack the courage to challenge the overzealous blasphemy mobs. This is not necessarily an unreasonable concern for even Sunni Muslim judges less likely to be accused of blasphemy. Rashid Rehman, a heroic lawyer, who opted to represent Junaid Hafeez as a defense attorney was murdered by the blasphemy zealots. It must be pointed out for the benefit of a novice reader who is not aware of the situation in Pakistan that killing of someone alleged to have blasphemed against the Prophet or anything remotely related to Islam is not only encouraged but is considered a great virtue of a hero. However, that does not absolve the so-called “moderate” Muslims or even liberal Muslims of their responsibility.

It is indeed these majority of moderate Muslims who allowed this new form of murderous religion known as “Barelvism” flourish in Pakistan. However, Deobandi Sunnis and Shia Muslims are also complicit in terms of their stance on blasphemy, the latter mostly out of fear, being a regular target of Sunni blasphemy zealots themselves. Even many of these liberal Muslims can be heard advocating the necessity of a blasphemy law but “minimize its misuse through reform.” Well, they have a point too, considering you cannot overturn blasphemy law overnight. But they are still pretty much okay with capital punishment for blasphemy, if not hanging them in the squares.

Ironically, many of the people advocate precisely what Judge Seth had written in paragraph 65 for the blasphemers and the “corrupt,” especially your common social conservative Sunni Whatsapp uncle, or sometimes even a PTI Shia uncle inspired by Khomeini’s revolution. Anti-democracy pro-establishment and anti-liberal social conservatives in Pakistan thrive on this narrative, especially targeted against blasphemers, “corrupt politicians,” and dissidents often labeled “traitors” by them. That is why the epithet of “traitor” stings so much as it is the treatment of their own medicine.

It is amazing how much two death sentences can reveal the hypocrisy and moral corruption of Pakistanis. There is outroar against the death penalty for a military dictator though there is a deafening silence on the sheer cruelty and barbarism with how the State of Pakistan is treating one of its gifted scholars in Junaid Hafeez. We should think twice before giving brownie points to pro-establishment liberals and conservatives in Pakistan for their “humanity.”

The Student Solidarity March: Students Across Pakistan Are Waking Up

Source: Pakistan Today

The progressives students across Pakistan did it. They were not threatened. They were not deterred. They were not intimated… by the threats of authority, by the threats of the state establishment, by the threats of their conformist parents and teachers, and by the threats of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Never in the living memory of the generations since the 70s, has such a large, broad, and vibrant secular, leftist crowd taking to the streets in Pakistan. It is the kind of student politics that I most certainly missed during my college days and was always looking for. I was looking for a platform to express my secular liberal views but were not finding any like-minded people, let alone allies around me. I am relieved to say today that so many of the young students today cannot say that. The struggle of the leftist activists in Pakistan has made its impact.

Students all across Pakistan, from Karachi and Sindh to Quetta and from Southern Punjab to Lahore and from Islamabad and Peshawar to Gilgit, students came out in great numbers. They made their presence felt and reminded the authorities of what to expect in the future.

The most beautiful part of the march was the participation of Iqbal Lala, the father of martyred secular student Mashaal Khan. Any such march is incomplete without saluting heroes such as Mashaal Khan who have become a symbol of resistance against Islamic fundamentalism and the tyrannical state of Pakistan who collectively murdered them.

 

The progressive students also revived the spirit of Bhagat Singh, an indigenous hero of the War of Independence against the British that the Islamic Republic has completely forgotten.

There still is a long, long way to go for us. This is only the beginning. Still, there were nearly not enough people coming out. Still, the numbers nowhere near matched the injustice and threats faced by the students, women, labor, and minorities in Pakistan. There is still a long way to the restoration of student unions in a country that only appreciates monolithic behavior. There is still a long way to go for improving access to education and better health, or even the right to life and dignity in most parts of Pakistan.

Most importantly, there is a long way to go before the secular left, socialists, and social democrats can become a considerable voting bloc in Pakistan. The ANP in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has always been a start but it is somehow disconnected to the left in the rest of the country.

While many liberal friends were put off by the Marxist and revolutionary slogans in the march, they must never forget the bigger secular, democratic cause, In order for the struggle of the secular left to be more effective, broader coalitions need to be built without sacrificing the principles of social democracy. We are up against the dictatorship of the military establishment and the ignorant, obscurantist tyranny of the Islamic Republic, the ignorant rule of the PTI and conservative Punjab, and the violent Islami Jamiat Talba. It is in the best interest of all center liberals, secular liberals to progressive left and socialists to unite to build a secular coalition, just like in the recent Israeli elections where Kachol Lavan appeared as a major coalition.

Zia must be turning in his grave on this day because he did all in his power to destroy the left from reemerging. But on this historic day, it has. Who would have thought that these visuals would be possible in the 80s.

Congratulations, progressive students of Pakistan, you have made history.

You are waking up. You are alive.

Why the Cynical Fascism of Hassan Nisar Must Be Rejected

Source: Unknown

For too long, former comrade Hassan Nisar has been spewing a bit too much hate for democracy and for the intellect of the people of Pakistan and for far too long he has been tolerated. He has been tolerated because the general public perception is that he is an intellectual. Perhaps he is, but the idea he has been propagating for years now. You do not need to take my word for it. Go and watch hours after hours of footage on YouTube and Pakistani social media and you will have some idea about what we are saying.

Of course, the secular elements in the country take a lot of pleasure in his scathing commentary on the mullahs and the religious fundamentalists. They love how he destroys the religious clerics and their approach to secular education and science.

With such opinions, at least the secularists liked to listen to him because he was a secular man. However, his recent disappointing comments about religion card has put shadows of doubt over this idea as well. To add insult to injury, his decision to paint Imran Khan as a savior ended up in great embarrassment for himself due to the dismal performance of his administration, which he has admitted himself.

Recently, the PTI government has taken upon itself to defend former dictator General Pervez Musharraf in court for the proceedings against him in the treason or Article 6 charge. The General had abrogated the Constitution in 1999 in a bloodless coup to oust Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which according to the Constitution itself is a treasonous act. In turn, Nawaz Sharif opened this case against him when he came to power.

The Report Card show from Geo TV Network which involved this subject had a discussion on democracy that quickly escalated into the following. Hassan Nisar, like always, was cynical about any hint of democracy in Pakistan.

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The full show can be watched in the following video.

Hassan Nisar’s basic thesis is that the Pakistani people must be educated first before they can be trusted with something such as democracy. While the cynic in us would tend to agree with him, it cannot be stressed enough how dangerous this line of argument is. It is a self-defeating statement more than anything else and has nothing to do with any solutions.

Hassan Nisar, just like all the defenders of the military establishment, he blames all of the current democratic and constitutional crises on the politicians. He considers any legal proceedings against former military dictators as needless and even refuses to recognize “sham” democratic institutions in Pakistan. To make matters worse for himself, he even defended Musharraf’s controversial properties dismissing it as his private affair. However, he would refuse to apply the same principle to the Sharifs, who he has been bitterly opposing for decades.

This is not just one incident but the clip in this tweet is perhaps Hassan Nisar at his worst. He is not arguing but ranting. What is worse, he was being inexcusably and unnecessarily rude to other speakers on the show. Many on twitter were blaming it on him possibly being drunk at that time but those who have listened to him for years now are familiar that his moral constipation has a far longer history and it has nothing to do with a moment of weakness.

We have been following Hassan Nisar for a very long time and obviously, his rhetoric has some basis on logic. Only for that reason, he has gathered a fan following or viewers or readers over the years. But people, especially the youth should be wary of considering him an ideal for deriving their political thought.

For too long, Pakistanis have been fed the Caliph Syndrome thanks to a quote by Umer II or Umer I about a ruler being even responsible for a calf dying by the Euphrates river. Such cynicism has only harmed both democracy and public thought in Pakistan. People expect unrealistic miracles and solutions from political leadership, looking for a Caliph, and when they fail to meet those goals, they wait for a Messiah in the shape of a military general who would have a silver bullet solution for all their woes. Of course, the dictator never works for them either but at least they were happy about the sudden “appearance” of a charismatic leader out of nowhere without any voting. Perhaps, military dictators such as Zia and Musharraf are indeed sent by Allah. It is the same principle that is being applied to the binary regime of Imran Khan and General Bajwa.

Hassan Nisar is great for social media moments and gratification of the emotions of the political cynic in Pakistan, but in terms of substance and ideology, we should surely look elsewhere.

The caustic, cynical fascism of Hassan Nisar must be rejected.

To Support Maulana’s Azadi March or Not

Source: geo.tv

Life throws some tough dilemmas your way. As if your everyday moral questions were not enough, history brought people to a crossroads which surely disturbed them in one way or the other. And sometimes the choices you make tell a lot about where you stand. Especially if they happen to be Pakistanis who are secular liberals and anti-establishment.

To support Maulana’s Azadi March or not.

There are many secular leftists who have simply rejected the idea of a Maulana vehicle being an ideal platform for the promotion of democracy. The likes of the Awami Workers Party and Jibran Nasir, who are always proactive on social issues, chose not to support the march because of the religious card, bigotry against Ahmedis, and the exclusion of women from the platform, something which Marvi Sirmed also pointed out.

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Most of the pro-establishment and/or pro-status quo or pro-Imran Khan liberals completely reject the notion of the Azadi March because it is being led by a religious party or because of the “religious card.” The religious card here particularly being focus on preserving the finality of Prophethood or Khatm-e-Nabuwat, a fancy name of the anti-Ahmedi movement in Pakistan, and against attempts to amend the blasphemy law. Many of these critics agree that anti-establishment liberals are compromising their principles by cheering for Maulana’s march.

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Other anti-establishment center-left and right liberals, especially those sympathetic to the current cause of PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif and the emerging anti-establishment leadership of Maryam Nawaz, are not playing so safe. They are fully behind the march and even taking jabs at those sitting out citing the religious card, including the pro-establishment liberals who are subtly supporting the Imran Khan administration.

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The politically incorrect Gul Bukhari is, of course, all for the march and disappointment at the PML-N for their half-hearted support.

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The PTM has distanced itself from the march citing its impact of perpetuating an “obsolete system of government,” albeit supporting their right to protest. PML-N and PPP, meanwhile, are partially participating and avoiding the march for some mysterious reasons only known to them.

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Many anti-establishment seculars tend to agree but acknowledge at the back of their minds that some kind of resistance needs to be offered to the current government.

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There have been no shortages of false comparisons with the Khomeini-led revolution in Iran to discredit the march and even dismissals mentioning that it is no Hong Kong or Beirut protest. Indeed this march is neither. But surely, it has been facing a media blackout which has become the characteristic of the Bajwa-Imran regime. These visuals were nowhere to be seen on national TV.

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As of today, the Awami National Party, which is as secular a party as they come in Pakistan, Another secular nationalist party Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP) of Mehmood Khan Achakzai had joined the march right from the start in Karachi on October 27.

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The Maulana’s caravans might enter Islamabad any hour now and the procession which was supposed to happen today has been delayed until Friday afternoon prayers, partially because of the Rahimyar Khan train tragedy.

It is clear that Maulana’s party does not see this march as a mission to enforce Sharia in the country, as much as some people trying to make it sound like that. It is indeed not directed against the military but it does channel some of the frustration of the public against the Imran Khan administration, if not against the Bajwa-Imran regime. It may occasionally mention the selectors but it is surely not against them.

So are you supporting the March too? I am not “supporting” a Mulllah’s party either but I sure as well don’t mind it is happening. And pretty much agree with all its objectives other than “protecting the Islamic provisions of the constitution.” If the capital can be paralyzed for the good part of the year for discrediting a legitimately elected government and for rigging allegations for four constituencies, it can surely be shut down for locking up the entire opposition and almost killing a three-times elected Prime Minister. And the latter is my biggest reason to march against the current administration.

The only problem is that the agenda of this march barely mentions that.

The Televised Slow Killing of Another National Leader

Source: samaa,tv

Pakistan has a history of getting rid of its democratically elected leaders in a manner that is both torturous to them and to their supporters. From Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to Akbar Bugti and from Murtaza Bhutto to Benazir Bhutto, there is a long history of the Pakistani deep state establishment influencing the demise of popular leaders. These days, another national leader is being killed slowly and his demise is being televised all across the nation. The only three times Prime Minister in the history of the country, Mian Nawaz Sharif.

The government has been resorting to the petty measures of denying the former Prime Minister proper medical care for several weeks, as promised in Imran Khan’s speech in a Washington D. C. rally, until his situation brought him on the verge of death. He was denied bail repeatedly despite recommendations from his doctors. A patient of heart disease, his level of blood platelets fell to a critical level. Even his kidneys are said to be affected of late and he has been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. Foul play is not being dismissed as an explanation for his condition.

On the other hand, President Asif Ali Zardari is also being held despite his worsening condition in terms of his cardiac health. His family is being prevented to see him. Former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is being held on frivolous allegations by NAB and was kept with the death row prisoners. The controversial and corrupt National Accountability Bureau, which was perhaps established to target political victims, remains to be the central body behind the inhuman treatment of national leaders who have not abrogated the constitution or committed treason, unlike their leniency for the former dictator Pervez Musharraf.

Meanwhile, the silence of his supporters and the people of Punjab for a man who has done so much in their service has been deafeningly loud. What is perhaps even worse is the attitude of his brother and current Opposition Leader and former Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and the party leaders in his camp who remain silent on his dismal condition. These leaders, which include Former Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and Former Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, are still rooting for making up with the military and finding a way back into the cozy corridors of power that the Punjab politicians are so used to.

So leaders such as Ahsan Iqbal can bother to hold Kashmir Rallies to please the national security establishment but they will not take it to the streets for the health and safety of his leader. All he could ask for was prayers for his leader on the deathbed, with passively outraging about the brutal measures of the current administration. The PML-N loyalists should never forget how these leaders have behaved in these circumstances when Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz Sharif are being incarcerated for political reasons.

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But more than anything, it is the callousness and the indifference of the people of Punjab which hurts the most. They have betrayed yet another political leader who stood up for democracy and civilian supremacy in Pakistan. You would expect that there would be streets erupting with protestors in solidarity with Nawaz Sharif, angry at the kind of abuse he is being subjected to in the prison by the Punjab government.

Had Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman not announced his “Azadi March” against the government, the agenda of which does not even mention the political arrests of the opposition leadership, there would be no protests against the current government. The secular opposition is disappointing who would not even come out on the streets with their leadership on the verge of death and for ceding space to Islamist parties such as the JUI-F.

Nawaz Sharif’s situation has become stable since the scare on October 22 but he is still on his deathbed. Maryam had said much earlier that the government will be responsible if anything happened to Nawaz Sharif. But she can add her uncle’s name and her party leadership to the list of his killers.

The courts finally granted him temporary bail as a desperate measure. His daughter Maryam is still being prevented to see him. And people like Firdaus Ashiq Awan are still making fun of someone struggling for his life.

This is the price of public service in Pakistan.

Imran Khan and PTI: Fascist and Proud of It

Source: Economic Times

Every time you think Imran Khan cannot get any worse to shock people with his worldview, he goes on to outdo himself. If his hilariously idiotic Medina State rhetoric were not enough, he further embarrassed himself on his recent visit to China.

In his own words, he paid a tribute to the authoritarian Communist regime in China by offering a fresh glimpse into what kind of Medina State he envisions for Pakistan.

Wish I could follow President Xi’s example and put 500 corrupt people in Pakistan in jail.

This is not fiction and it is the kind of statement that his liberal defenders would otherwise attribute his detractors to have come up with. However, many people obsessed with him often forget that it is precisely reckless rhetoric like this which has helped him mobilize the worst of the urban middle-class vote in the country. People who are fed on the false narratives of ARY News and DG ISPR are the ones who will actually cheer for this visionary comment made by their handsome Messiah. Presenting yet another ignorant address by the self-proclaimed statesman.

Imran Khan represents the fascist mindset of the authoritarianism that conservative Pakistanis represent who idealize the Iranian revolution and people hanging in public squares but only demand selective accountability for civilian leadership. These slave-minded people across the nation, but particularly concentrated in Punjab, Karachi, and urban Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been fed this narrative for decades by the military. They either believe that the military should be in power or their puppet leaders like Imran, who many of them also see as a divinely sanctioned Messiah.

I hope his Nawaz Sharif-hating liberal defenders in the urban centers of Pakistan would be thrilled with the “improvements” and “reforms” he has in mind for the judicial and political system in Pakistan. He is already acting on it. Perhaps, this fascism is what his farcical Medina State is all about.

Not only does he ignore the plight of the Uighur Muslims in China, he further proves his idiocy and authoritarian leaning by minimizing the democratic struggle of the people of Hong Kong while he sheds  crocodile tears for the people of Kashmir. Well, who’s not surprised.

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Clearly, a leader who made such an outcry for years about the treatment of detainees in Guantanamo Bay by the US military must feel offended by this. Especially because it concerns the “Muslim Ummah” he claims to champion the rights of. Will he discuss the plight of the Uighurs in the new propaganda channel that is supposed to address Islamophobia that he plans to launch with fellow fascists Erdogan and Mahathir Muhammad? Or has he been conveniently skipping this part of the news just like his party followers live in a parallel universe?

Unfortunately, this shameless leader which many urban conservative nationalists sympathizing with the military establishment, which is corrupt and incompetent in its own right, proves to be a disgrace for the nation time and time again. But he truly represents the ugly worldview of his regressive nationalist conservative followers.

Imran Khan and PTI, along with their malicious voters, are fascists and they are proud of it.

We must call them out and ridicule them for it.