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.


The Calls for Revolution in Lahore and State Censorship

Source: Dawn

We are living in fascinating times.

Never before a civil rights movement that is about something as fundamental as the demands for the recognition of the Pashtuns of the tribal areas has emerged on this scale. To add insult to the injury of the authoritarian state which does not recognize the legitimacy of the movement, the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement decided to hold their congregation in Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab, the majority ethnic province the population of which traditionally makes up most of the bureaucratic establishment that runs the Pakistani state.

While Pakistan has a long way to go in terms of democracy, few would have thought that the kind of draconian measures that were imposed during Zia’s term would still be around. Especially when another dictator Pervez Musharraf, who had started imagining himself an elected leader after his sham referendum. But after that period of euphoric media freedom the likes of which the people of Pakistan had never seen before, who would have thought that you would see absolute control of speech on TV and censored, deleted newspaper articles.

After Express Tribune censoring the articles from New York Times about blasphemy years ago and more recently Mohammad Hanif’s article criticizing the military establishment for its covert support to the Islamist militants, a new phenomenon is underway. Published newspaper articles going missing.

Renowned journalists, analysts, and columnists are being prevented from writing about the Pashtun

One such article by Khan Zaman Kakar was deleted by The News, which was later shared on his profile by Ahmed Waqas Goraya. Nobody wants to hear anyone calling the PTM a non-violent movement. Especially when the state is so responsive and cooperative to Mullahs threatening violence and rioting to fulfill their demands.

Apart from an organized defamation movement against the movement of Manzoor Pashteen, accusing it of collusion with enemy countries, the mainstream media is deliberately blocking all mention and all news.

Very few in Pakistan know that the City District Government of Lahore, working under the domain of Government of Punjab, released sewage water in the ground near Lakshmi Chowk in Lahore where the congregation had to take place. The movement workers had to get rid of the flooding on their own to make the event possible.
If this were not enough, the state resorted to arresting the leadership of the political movement ahead of the rally and after it. You could argue that it is a blatant violation of the Constitution but we can only thank our stars that the government did not shut twitter and facebook down. The crackdown on the TLYRA Protest in Islamabad on November 26 last time has shown us that the government can even go to that limit when twitter and facebook saw a temporary blackout. Sadly, our Supreme Court and judicial activist Chief Justice would remain silent on these constitutional violations.

But who will know about these constitutional violations when no one is going to learn about them? And when the press will be prevented from covering such news?

Yes, press censorship is back in full flow and the freedom of press is dead.

Any Ideas for Self-Reliance?

Nobody can deny the fact that a strong economy makes a strong country. Despite recalling Stanley Kubrick’s brutal quote that great nations have always acted like gangsters and small nations like prostitutes, I would really like to overlook all the realism, because after all the truth is that only self-reliance can help a country earn a strong place among the nations of the world.  Pakistan is quite large actually, so presuming that it could do a fairly decent job. This is why I think, like so many of the Pakistani “nationalist” parties, although I don’t share their vain fervor, that Pakistan should rely on its own resources instead of the US or other foreign aid.

Today, May 20, we received the good news that the Government of Punjab has finally taken the lead in doing so and have cancelled no less than 6 MoUs that were meant to help for health, education and solid waste management. I can’t recall myself being happier than I am right now because finally someone in Pakistan has some ideas to utilize local resources for resolving these troubling issues, which are among the greatest problem areas in Pakistan.  I appreciate that and wish the rest of the country would have such ideas as well. But is it really so?

Wait, isn’t the Government of Punjab broke? And why have they chosen the areas of health, education and solid waste management for canceling the aid agreements? Would that not have been useful instead, since they are not being able to properly offer those facilities otherwise anyway? Do the people of Punjab have good access to health services? Are the medical professionals in the province even being paid well? Why has not the Pakistani military, the defenders of the nation, ever graced the nation with cancelling the US military aid deals which we can very much do without? Even the US people would thank us for that. But why civilian aid, and why these particular areas of the economy?

Despite those troubling questions, let us be optimists instead of cynics. I really expect them to find a way out. Although they have little idea that acquiring additional loans is as disastrous to self-reliance as are the aid grants, but I still expect the Government of Punjab to mobilize local resources to arrange for funds for the needful area of health, education and solid waste management. The presentation of the federal and provincial budgets is just around the corner anyway. I hope they come up with something better than the “Sasti Roti Scheme“.

Now correct me if I am wrong, but this only looks like a political statement and nothing realistic. Don’t feel excited, Pakistani people, it is the same old story. But we can still change our minds if the Punjab Government can offer an alternative plan of financing the public service projects that the US aid was supposed to cover. Yes, we want to hear some solid financing plans and not just political slogans of “breaking the beggar’s bowl”. Well, guess what. The “beggar’s bowl” has not been broken, because the beggar is still there. Either admit that you are a nation that needs aid, especially from the United States, for building its infrastructure and providing basic necessities to its citizens, or stop with the self-reliance nonsense if you are not able to offer the people what they deserve, if you really want to offer them that, that is.

But isn’t it hopeless to expect any sense from a country which allocates only 0.7% of its GDP on health, which is only 0.26% of the budget expenditure (Rs. 7.3 b) and barely over 1% of the budget expenditure on education (Rs. 34.5 b). Check the Budget in Brief 2010-11. So does the United States Congress recommend us to compile and approve our fiscal plans? I don’t think so. We do that ourselves and these are the priorities we have for our people. That is all we can spend on their health and education. And the fact that a 12% increase is proposed in military spending this year (Rs. 495 b from Rs. 442 b, roughly 16% of the budget expenditure in 2010-11), only adds insult to injury. Don’t believe me, check this out. It may not be too accurate, but tells the story.

Also see how Pakistan ranks among the countries of the world as far as the expenses on defense, health and education are concerned. Not even in the top 100 in the education list. Maybe there is a problem with the people who are running the country, instead of with foreign aid.

Percentages never lie because they show what your priorities are, despite your volume.

OK, enough with the criticism. Let’s talk about the plans for arranging some revenue. Federal subject or provincial subject, how about taxing the rich? Even the United States, the country which supposedly violated our sovereignty is concerned about the way we collect our taxes. I mean, come on, at least they are honest, even if they violate your sovereignty every now and then. So would you tax the richest in Pakistan for generating more revenue? Do let us know if you can, because that principle is very much contrary to whatever you believe in? But there hardly is any other way of achieving sovereignty and self-reliance, is there?

The fact of the matter is that every politician or public figure should be required to present a feasible alternative financial plan whenever they are talking about self-reliance or taking steps like canceling aid agreements for civilian use, or else they should shut up or stop fooling the general public with the ideas of self-reliance and national sovereignty because their standard of living will suffer for their politics. Yes, accepting foreign aid and loans makes you vulnerable as a country, but in order to be self-reliant and independent, you need to have an income and a way to finance all your expenditure.

Alright, maybe I’m only as creative as Imran Khan in my ideals for nationalistic economic freedom, such as tax collection. Any ideas for Self-Reliance anybody? Anything concrete? Maybe it’s only good in theory.

Was our self-reliance not violated when we accepted the Chinese offer for aid and soft term loans? I’d say no to that as well, because it compromises your self-reliance. And what about those 50 JF-17 jets that we want to receive before too long? Defense, cool, but can we afford that? Pakistan faces a power shortfall of 6,000 MWs as I write these lines. Where did we get that kind of cash from?  Or is China “granting us those jets”, like aid.

Maybe we could sell those jets to buy furnace oil for our power generators, or even better to increase the health and education budget for the children of FATA, KP, Punjab, Sindh, and Balochistan.

We, the People, don’t give a shit about jets which will never be used to improve our lives.