State Killers for Hire?

Source: YouTube video capture

Extrajudicial killings by state entities have become a norm in Pakistan. When the supposed exceptions of the excessive force by the state will be given free passes, those will eventually become the practice.

Indeed, on the other side of the picture, the same state offers complete impunity to violent rioters when it suits its political agenda to undermine civilian politicians. But unfortunately, the draconian iron hand of the state law enforcement goes far behind this.

This weekend, a family was allegedly shot dead, including a father and a mother and their teenage daughter, in front of the younger children that accompanied them, by the Counter Terrorism Department of Punjab Police on their way to Burewala from Lahore on the motorway near Sahiwal to attend a wedding. The shooting has been termed as collateral damage by the Law Minister of Punjab in an alleged operation carried out to capture a suspected terrorist with links with the Islamic State. Even if this is true, the sanity of such an operation can be questioned, even though pretty much all the official narratives have been negated by evidence surfacing on the social media and the account of the children and eye witnesses.

This is an extraordinary occurrence in Punjab of its kind but the rest of Pakistan might not agree with it. Initially, many estimated that it could be the result of familial or tribal animosity. This may still very well be the case but the involvement of the state law enforcement changes the equation.

Does this mean that a sitting political chief in Punjab was involved in settling a personal score through state machinery? It also raises some serious question mark about the administration of the incumbent PTI who has been criticizing other parties who have remained in power to abuse police for their vested interest. The only problem is that it has probably never been used in a darker manner before.

The deceased family – Source: pakobserver,net

This situation is even more disconcerting than the Model Town massacre of the at the compound of the protesting Pakistan Awami Tehreek, which was a public affair in comparison. Regardless, even that was the use of, albeit in the name of restoring law and order over.

Either way, the factor that always gets buried in the politics of these extrajudicial killings is the lives that are ruined. Many were recalling the extrajudicial killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud in Karachi and rogue cop Rao Anwar getting a free pass. And while you don’t get to see that impact with the murder of just another young man in some remote corner of the country which includes Karachi ironically, the cruelty of the Sahiwal killing was well publicized on the local and social media. Perhaps also because of the sheer brutality of this heartless act too, which involved the shooting of parents in front of the eyes of their little children and leaving them behind.

None of us can remotely claim to understand, let alone feel, the grief of the surviving children. Google the pictures and videos of the surviving children to know what condition they were left in. But don’t, on the second thought. Even I could not stomach taking a peek at the video. It’s simply unbearable.

But this is what you get for not asking enough questions of the state authorities. And rest assured, there are still way too many people telling the outraging dissenters to hush up. Especially because this concerns the image of Pakistan.

 

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Calling for Sharia in the Capital

Source: tanzeem.org/Twitter: @syousuf71

To most people in Pakistan, there would be nothing out of the place about demanding Sharia in a country which was made in the name of faith. While a lot of people don’t even agree with the statement that Pakistan was established on the basis of faith but on the basis of the protection of the rights of a community, the distinction does not even matter considering the established narrative in Pakistan.

Throughout the Muslim majority world, you would find Islamist groups blackmailing the local population for enforcing Sharia, the Islamic law that eliminates a likelihood of establishing a fair secular social order and is widely known for persecuting women and minority groups. Granted, you might call for Sharia while also asking for the abolition of any secular order in a country alleged to be created in the name of religion but not in a democracy. Because those calls are by very definition

For the entire past week and even on the day when I write this post, the citizens can see signs from the self-proclaimed revolutionary Islamist group Tanzeem-i-Islami or Islamic Organization with inflammatory messages condemning secularism and democracy and calling for the Caliphate and enforcing theocratic Sharia.

Source: Original

There are following posts in Urdu language, which hope to incite an already tired and frustrated population to rise up against the democratic order, which barely exists in a country with a ruling bureaucratic oligarchy. Messages would barely translate to:

“Secularism will only lead to slavery and humiliation while only the Sharia can deliver.”

“Denying the ideological (theocratic) state is tantamount to ideological apostasy.”

Here it is important to remind that apostasy or “irtidad” is an offense in traditional Islam that apostates, or those converting out of Islam, should be put to death. Many Western liberal Muslims will deny such a rule even exists but it is the majority consensus in the Sunni or orthodox sect of the religion and you often hear antithetical critics quote it during debates. Now, equating the denial of the theocratic basis of the creation of Pakistan to a charged word like apostasy is clearly a threat.

There are many more messages like this which you can find throughout the length of some of the most modern sectors in Islamabad. The Tanzeem,  founded by the late Dr. Israr Ahmed and led by Hafiz Aakif Saeed, calls it the “Strengthening Pakistan Campaign” and cites Jinnah’s irrational quotes about the religious law as the basis for their faith in a theocratic version of the Ideology of Pakistan. And clearly, they are no fans of democracy as their very message displayed as the cover image for this blog reads that the idea of the rule of people is counter to the monotheistic beliefs of the sole right of worship of Allah or God.

If you go through their statements, they essentially present the Ideology of Pakistan as an article of faith, as if disagreeing with it, as the likes of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad did, would qualify you for apostasy. This is the promotion of an extremely dangerous idea in a nation which has already been blinded beyond control in terms of their approval of violence for blasphemy.

In a democracy, extremist entities such as anti-democratic theocrats and Islamists can exist and possibly practice their politics. Another instance is the Neo-Nazis in the Western democracies. However, when their ideas are so clearly undemocratic that they lead toward the harm of the people and the democratic system of law that threatens the very fundamental rights and liberties that offer them the chance to thrive, it is going beyond that acceptable line.

But never do you ever see such extremist groups becoming active electorally and come even close to representing the people in the legislature to affect the law and the constitution, unless that nation wants to give an opening for it to become Nazi Germany or Islamic Revolutionary Iran.

Some progressive and conservative liberals actually advocate actively pushing back these groups because they are a threat to democracy and fundamental rights in whatever capacity they exist. However, it is important to respect the principle on sheer emotion. Nevertheless, it is time to think about seriously banning such an organization when they start threatening democracy by taking their hate speech to the mainstream and by threatening to take electoral seats away from democrats just because they enjoy the sympathy of theocrats in the public.

Tanzeem-e-Islami is doing its job. I don’t wish them all the best but I do respect that they are taking their message across peacefully, even though a very violent and brutal message. However. what I am astounded at is the Government of Pakistan, the ever-present bane of our existence. A Government that openly asks for people to report social media posts for blasphemy, but would take zero action against an organization that is openly talking about enforcing theocracy and eliminating democratic freedoms, the very freedom it is exercising to take away their freedoms paradoxically.

In such a scenario, you can’t help but think that indeed Pakistan was formed for establishing a theocracy and is ruled by people who want such a policy to be enforced, even including the elected democrats.

President Trump: An Ally for Dissenting Citizens and Minorities in Pakistan and Muslim Majority Countries?

Source: CNN

We know that our liberal friends in the West, especially in the United States, are particularly embarrassed by President Donald Trump and so should they be. But what if these liberals were more embarrassed and ashamed of the lack of assertiveness in terms of moral support offered to the dissenting citizens in Muslim majority countries?

What is refreshing about President Trump for the dissidents in countries such as Pakistan and Iran, as well as other majority countries, is the hard line he is taking to make them review the human rights and religious freedom violations. Trump has just put Pakistan on a special watchlist for the violations of freedom of religion. The designation was made by Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State. Before this, Pakistan was classified as a country of particular concern, a group also including countries such as Saudi Arabia, China, North Korea, and Iran. While some political entities and commentators are trying to portray this action as diplomatic insensitivity, it makes the point the minorities there are trying to make and just what everyone is ignoring. Furthermore, it can be argued that the new classification more accurately describes the plight of the minorities in the country and probably countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia should be put on the special watchlist too.

The administration’s moral support of the people of Iran must also be acknowledged, though that is usually true for any US administration. While the watchlists have been present in previous administrations as well but you rarely ever saw such stern statements, the focus on calling out these regimes for their suppression in such terms is important for at least holding them accountable at least at some level. And not sure if it exactly spells third world war.

Trump is also noticeable in the manner he is assertively putting pressure on Pakistan for repercussions for supporting terrorist groups. This did not start with him though as the Obama administration has been continually reminding Pakistan to correct its course.

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The “irresponsible tweet” by Trump initiated a corps commander meeting and a seriously irresponsible series of tweets from Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif which gave an impression that only the United States had stakes in the war on terror, that Pakistan was forced to participate and would otherwise have no problem with terrorists as was evident by Islamabad’s support of Mullah Omer’s terrorist regime. Also, our Foreign Minister was tactful enough to tweet these statements in Urdu language addressing the United States stating that they should not ask what Pakistan has done because a dictator had entered their war, resulting in bloodshed in Pakistan and allowed 57,800 attacks on Afghanistan, offered passage for their military logistics and had several civilian and military casualties.

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He preferred to tackle the more factually dubious parts of Trump’s tweet in English. Pretty smart.

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And our ISPR responded in perhaps as worse a manner saying that they will not do more for anyone. To quote The Express Tribune, ““We have fought an imposed and imported war twice in Pakistan, and now we cannot do any more for anyone,” said the Director-General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) in his opening remarks at the news conference.”

Can anyone explain what the fuck that means in response to simple requests of taking action against safe havens for terrorists? There is not much to say when the official diplomatic response to the United States is the following petulant statement.

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It is amusing to see how the Trump tweet has gotten under the skin of Pakistani government officials. This begs the question is if you could really trust Donald Trump as an ally? Does he really take the hardline out of the liberal goodness in his heart or does he simply take such action out of sheer hate and contempt for the “lesser nations?” Unfortunately, the true answer is who the hell really cares?

This actually brings you to the sad and cruel reality of finding liberal dissenting forces apparently having to find allies, if only temporary ones, in the bigots among the Western conservatives and some of the religious fundamentalists on the other side. You can never trust them and you probably can never really be friends with them in the long term, perhaps only the secular conservatives among them. However, it is still better than finding no sympathizer or active ally in sight.

All that we can hope is that saner, more enlightened, leaders can offer better alliances to dissidents in Muslim majority and other authoritarian countries.

We would take one from any party.

The Mystery of Openly Operating Banned Religious (Terrorist) Organizations in Pakistan

Source: The Nation

Source: The Nation

What does the banning of a religious organization really mean?

What is the point of announcing their addition to the list of condemned organizations when there are hardly any curbs on their activities?

It is easy to criticize the Government of Pakistan in this regard, but hardly anyone accounts for the complex problems they have to deal with.

Even if we say that these problems are of their own making, it does not eliminate the need to consider the difficulty of the task at the hands of the government.

They simply just cannot take these banned organizations away from the public.

Or maybe they can.

But this goes to show the sheer force of the religious political groups prevalent, and growing, in Pakistan. A force that is so enormous that even the government of Pakistan and the military are afraid of it. Nobody wants a religious uprising to deal with.

This is what happens when you declare a war against an ideological enemy without convincing the people of your country against it.

It would be understandable to see the anger of the members of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa if their political activities were to become illegal.

Furthermore, the likes of ASWJ would also be seen protesting on the roads if such a decree pertaining to their organization would come into effect.

Of course, we cannot even imagine the day when political parties such as the JI, JUI, ST and MWM are prevented from running in the elections.

But apart from that, it is hard to oppose organizations that you consider heroic.

This is why when it comes to narrative about the local Jihadist organizations, charity must begin at home.

But has there been any active effort to confront such narrative, which is only affirmed on occasions such as the Kashmir Solidarity Day? An otherwise seemingly harmless holiday observed to show moral support for the oppressed Kashmiri people, mixed with vows to liberate them from their oppressors.

Again, from a nationalistic viewpoint, attacking India for any such purposes sounds pretty fair. However, the sad part is that this narrative provides a lot of fodder for these banned militant outfits to feed on.

So probably the state should think twice before giving the narrative around this holiday its blessing. Surely, the holiday can be observed without any belligerent calls to Jihad.

But the general impression remains that a good number of masses in Pakistan views Islamist militant organizations positively and accept their active role in politics.

Merely playing to the galleries would not be sufficient for the federal and provincial governments. Simply adding these militant outfits to the list of “banned organizations” to create an impression on Western powers would not work.

An ideological awakening and education of the masses are required to ensure a gradual social change.

Or at least for the government to be able to enforce the bans that it proposes.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Serving the Servants

It is often said that Pakistan was created for Muslims. This statement should be amended to replace the word Muslims with Muslim government servants.

And for a good reason. Because government servants, especially the ones in the military and some particular departments of the civil bureaucracy (of course, some government servants are more equal than others), get the facilities from the state that even most millionaires in the country cannot dream of.

I know Pakistan is not the only country in the world in which such practice is prevalent. As a matter of fact, there would be very few countries in which government servants are not being offered special treatment of some sort. But then again, in many of those countries, the people are offered as good facilities as the ones the government servants are availing.

We, the people of Pakistan, have been taught since childhood, most probably by the same government servants, that Pakistan was meant to be an Islamic welfare state. So what exactly does a welfare state do? It provides for the welfare of the general public. Very few signs of that in Pakistan.

The military and certain civil bureaucrats get guaranteed free medical and healthcare insurance and facilities, almost-free, if not free, housing from the state and many many more perks.

Then there is this perception of government servants being superior to common people or civilians. Though not politically correct, you can hardly consider this perception false, as in every way, power, authority, security protocol, preferred treatment and luxury, these government servants, and their friends among civilians, seem way superior to other ordinary people.

This is why middle class children like me are strictly instructed to become a government servant. So that I can be granted entry into the echelons of power, luxury and authority, and not to forget, money, that the rich and lucrative powerhouses of government service offer. Doesn’t everyone want to live an exclusivist dream? Sour grapes for someone who would try and fail, but even if I got there, I would have only become guilty of doing the same which I criticize. But then again, is there something to feel guilty about at all?

Perhaps not. Perhaps there is nothing wrong with enjoying the perks that come with a certain professional position. But what indeed is wrong is being neglectful of the responsibilities towards the people that those offices sanction. What indeed seems inappropriate to me is the way these personnel are trained to treat “common people”, who they are actually supposed to answer to and serve, and who are actually paying for their lifestyle.

Not only have I been in contact with such people at one time in my life or another, but I have even seen the world from their viewpoint. They are welcomed into their training academies with the realization that they are the best among the people they have been chosen from, and certainly have a reason to be proud of themselves. Or at least have a right to consider themselves superior to their former equals.

Of course, there is no doubt that these personnel work very hard for their country and deserve all the care they get. My point is not really to deny them of their pleasures, but to at least provide just a fraction of that to the general public, who like it or not, are paying for their housing authorities, medical facilities, education, foreign tours and even their salaries.

It certainly does become frightening when people start making a distinction between the state and the people. Because after all, there is a distinction. Through very elementary observations, you would find that there is hardly anything in common between the state and the people, in which the former plays the captor, while the latter, the enslaved.

I am not even morally pissed off at the rightful arrogance of these able and qualified professionals. First of all, it’s meaningless to object to it, and secondly, a third person could possibly extract little to no pleasure to take their special attention away. All I am asking for is free health and education for the general public of Pakistan.

If a little girl living in Lodhran or Badin needs a surgery for a transplant, why cannot the state pay for that, if it can pay for the surgery of an army officer’s child?

Why is that the domain of the corrupt and incompetent politicians?

A Government of Idiots (Pakistani Idiot of the Year 2012)

Ghulam Bilour (Source: AFP/ET)

So how low a government made up of supposedly progressive parties can go just to win cheap voter sympathy and public support?

I can quote analysts like Ayesha Siddiqa that there are hardly any secular forces in Pakistan. She is absolutely right, because those who are secular are virtually non-existent and are overwhelmed by the center and right forces.

But there are political parties like the ANP who claim to believe in non-violence and secular values, apart from the undying support of a number of their members to Peshawar’s (in)famous declaring-Eid-in-advance Masjid Qasim. Hey, I support their right to celebrate Eid the way they want.

I was very disappointed to see ANP’s very own Ghulam Bilour, who by far is the worst performing minister in the cabinet considering the shambles that the Railways is in, offering a bounty of $ 100,000 to anyone who kills the maker of the blasphemous film “Innocence of Muslims“.

I mean, really?

Before we even go into questioning the moral and legal authority of the minister, who maintains that he has offered the bounty in “personal capacity”, the greatest question to ask is this.

How is Mr. Bilour still holding his office and why the Government of Pakistan and the Awami National Party have not taken any action against the statement?

However, I do respect how he has responded to the news of the Taliban removing his name from their hit list. He was largely ambivalent, saying he could also die of a heart attack.

Nevertheless, I can hardly fathom the incalculable damage that he has done to the reputation of the country around the world. Not that it was very good already, but with such leaders at the helm, who needs enemies?

Source: AFP/ET

The government and the ANP should have taken strict action and should have called for the resignation of Bilour, if they could not agree to sack him. But despite all the clarifications, Bilour is still in charge of the Railways, a department which his administration has pulverized quite literally.

The statement was sensibly rejected by the incumbent Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, but let’s not offer him a clean sheet for that.

It was PM Ashraf’s absurd decision to observe the ridiculous holiday of “Yom-e-Ishq-e-Rasool” on Friday, September 21, 2012, which was an open invitation to the extremists of the country to unleash their wrath on the infrastructure and assets of the cities in Pakistan. The day ended with the loss of billions of rupees with more than 15 death and several injuries.

Source: AP/Dawn

It might sound a little harsh for someone who has lost his wife in such a cruel manner, but you really need to start acting like a head of state when you become one. I am really sorry to say but President Zardari looks like a complete idiot each time he places Benazir Bhutto’s portrait on the rostrum at the UN General Assembly. It was not his first appearance there this year. He has been at it before with the same portrait-displaying obnoxious exhibitionism.

Source: Wall Street Journal

His idiocy was also matched well by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holding up a ridiculous chart which was supposed to tell the world why they have been all a bunch of idiots for not bombing Iran already. The bomb chart was brutally mocked by Israelis and non-Israelis alike shortly afterwards.

Both these props would have worked perfectly for both these gentlemen nevertheless.

What I personally found disgraceful about President Zardari’s speech was calling for an international blasphemy law or some kind of rules allowing UN to take action against alleged blasphemers. While this would sound perfectly sensible to Muslims around the world, I find it to be just another effort to extend censorship measures and to curtail freedom of speech. The Pakistani government, one which claims to uphold democratic and progressive values, has itself banned youtube over the film controversy and should keep its censorship advice for the world to itself.

I have been wondering why not start declaring the Pakistani idiot of the year from now on. We have our winner for the year 2012 already.

His Excellency Ghulam Bilour of ANP.

I can safely put my money on no one surpassing him in the last quarter.

Look, Don’t Smoke!

Isn’t this image absolutely charming?

How do you feel looking at it?

Really makes you feel disgusted, doesn’t it? That is precisely what it is meant to do.

One of the greatest trouble with lawmakers is that they make laws for a living.

This pretty much means trouble for everyone else. You know, for people.

This is probably the most repulsive post that I have ever added and I want it to give precisely the kind of feeling that anyone looking at this image would have if it appeared on something that they consumed on a regular basis.

It appears on every cigarette pack in Pakistan. Required by law.

Just take a look at this picture. Why would anyone in their right mind would place such disgusting and horrific pictures on a commodity meant to be consumed.

Alright, before some of you start with all the self-righteous health rhetoric, I know that tobacco is a cancer risk factor. So are several other things like alcohol and maybe mobile phone electromagnetic microwaves and nuclear radiation. Well we hear about it all, don’t ask me for scientific evidence. You are supposed to follow what they recommend.

I know smoking can possibly cause mouth cancer, lung cancer, heart disease, hypertension and whatnot. Pretty much everyone knows that by now, but I seriously think somebody really needs to draw a line.

Before I continue, and before you make any judgments about my views, I would like to give the irritating disclaimer that I do not support smoking in public places and that there is no harm in enforcing laws that protect the rights of people who want a smoking-free environment, whether for security, health or comfort and convenience. However, smoking, or consuming any other drug for that matter, is a choice that every adult must be free to make.

Of course it gives you a different feeling altogether if you see this image like it is presented on a cigarette pack. It simply offers you a completely different perspective of it. Doesn’t it?

Well, for someone who smokes, the feeling is just like seeing this image on something else that they consume. Such as, say a bottle of juice, or a loaf of bread or just about anything you could think of. I know it sort of sounds sickening to everyone else, but hey, stand in their shoes for a second.

I understand that the requirement of printing such repulsive images on cigarette packs are supposed to make people stop. But is anyone stopping because of these images? Not sure. I hope at least some would have.

However, it only goes to show how sick is the reasoning and thought process behind putting such hideous images on commodities of consumption. It is also unscientific and exaggerated because not everyone who smokes ends up with the condition portrayed in the image above and other conditions that are portrayed around the world.

The idiotic law which created this eye-candy image was probably Statutory Order 1219(I)/2008 dated 25 September 2008, as per Wikipedia. I can’t find the precise Gazette of Pakistan copy online.

Tomorrow, July 1, 2012, marks the third birthday of this lovely image.

Here, take a look at some more perversions from all around Asia.

Well. congratulations dear lawmakers, you have really eradicated every trace of smoking from the world. I hope that makes you feel very good about yourselves.

Speaking of Pakistan, well. we already know how much health is a priority for Pakistani legislators. But I won’t use their lack of enthusiasm about providing healthcare facilities to the public as an argument against this law. That would be wrong.

I would just like to request the honorable parliament members to reconsider the choice of warning images. I am perfectly fine with the text. And I agree smoking must be discouraged through education and awareness.

Actually, I am pretty thankful to them actually for not having tobacco banned already because we seem to be gradually moving towards that direction and it is horrifying. I am really thankful to the legislators for still allowing the people access to the drug that they are so badly hooked to.

Also, I am also thankful to them for meticulously and religiously increasing the duty on cigarette packs in the fiscal budget every year. It particularly helps the poor people who have absolutely no access to the kind of drugs that they can afford. Expensive, imported, duty-free and high quality alcohol, for example. It really helps their way of living, ensuring a healthier, more pious, more fulfilling and a much happier life.

I was wondering that they could also consider printing warnings on a bottle of Coke, which must cause diseases in the long run in its own right, or maybe on the packaging of a Big Mac, or maybe on the favorite and most acceptable source of drugs for Pakistanis, tea.

Yeah, they should also print warnings on tea packs. It contains caffeine, the most widely accepted and silently loud drug in the business. It is an addiction after all.

But I am sure caffeine must have a lot of health benefits.

Alright, alright, I accept. We should have at least some sort of graphical representation of the consequences of smoking on a cigarette pack. Not every smoker can read, right?

So by that rationale, please also print images and graphical representations of all the side effects caused by every prescription drug used for whatever purpose. Not everyone can read the name of the drug.

So that people should know what this “substance” could possibly do to them.

I know smoking is bad, evil. Prescriptions drugs are great, necessary, healing.

But hey, a drug is a drug. Disease is disease. Horrible consequences are horrible consequences.

Why ignore them for one substance and cry about them for others?

Why not inform people about them by printing photographs of them all over the place?

People really need to know, isn’t it? And what is a better medium of conveying information than images? Especially those who don’t even know how to read the brand name of their cigarettes or how to pronounce or even spell the deliberately confusing name of their prescription drugs.

It’s a service to humanity indeed.

(This post is dedicated to Faine Greenwood)