Ghotki Riots and Medina State

Source: Screenshot/Dawn

Last week saw some of the worst anti-Hindu riots in the past months in Pakistan, and especially since India revoked Article 370 in Kashmir. So the story is that a Hindu principal of a local school in Ghotki, Northern Sindh, was accused of blasphemy by a 14-year-old student. Human rights activists Mukesh Meghwar and Kapil Dev were one of the first people to break the story on twitter along with other Hindu human rights activists on the ground in Ghotki. Gradually, the mainstream journalists starting responding to it, spreading the word.

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The fires of hate were honed by the infamous Mian Mitthoo or Pir Abdul Haq, who is known for inspiring several forced conversions targeting Hindu Girls. It is interesting to note that you will barely ever hear about a Muslim woman marrying a Hindu woman in Pakistan so it is more about enforcing the supremacy of one community. The man reportedly led the march to the school and also incited destruction in local temples. The Hindu population in the city was reduced to their homes out of security fears. Later, the Sindh government registered a case of religious bigotry against the violent mob but kept a careful distance from Mian Mitthoo himself.

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Communal mob violence is a common trait across the Indian subcontinent, if not beyond. However, the form it takes in Pakistan has been particularly facilitated by the state and government of Pakistan over the years. It was great to see people gather in the vandalized temple, assured the community of their safety, and even the police filing a report against the violent mob. However, the reality of the peace and security of the are far from being that convenient.

There is little doubt about the negative role of the State of Pakistan in general in terms of minority rights in the country. However, where the Ghokti episode turned disgusting was the reaction of Prime Minister Imran Khan to it. He continued shamelessly propagating the abstract of Medina-State, the supposed principles of the state created by Prophet Muhammad, even though there is little evidence or knowledge of what it was like other than undemocratic autocratic tribal rule that likely imposed its faith on vanquished Arabian tribes.

Furthermore, the recent propaganda against Hindu nationalism, comparing RSS and Modi with Nazism and Hitler, all over the place in Pakistan as a part of their response to the revocation of Article 370 in India. Not sure if that had exactly helped people’s views of the Hindu community and this came from an administration that claims to treat Hindus and all other minorities as “equal citizens.”

The Pakistani state has been selling these lies since its creation but never like Imran’s Khan hypocritical “Medina State” philosophy. The worst part is lying to the face of the minorities and expecting them to pledge allegiance to a communal contract which they obviously do not consider fair.

Imran Khan not only refused to acknowledge that minorities could not be safe under a theocratic state and needed a secular contract but even went one step further. He declared the Ghotki incident a conspiracy against his United Nations General Assembly Address. Let alone the filthy politics he is playing with the repressed and brutalized Hindu community in Pakistan, his own men must be behind this conspiracy against his address himself, if anyone at all, since Mian Mithoo has gotten fairly close to his party.

Imran Khan’s statement is only reflective of his megalomania and self-obsession as a messianic peacemaker on a global level. Unfortunately, to him, everything centers around him, from India-Pakistan relations, to Kashmir, and to his. This is the central thought behind his delusional and hypothetical Medina State and hypocrisy and lying are its core principles. But of course, only idiots are not according to the dear leader.

Shooting Yourself in the Foot

Source: Foreign Office/DNA India

Right after Pakistan had a hint of diplomatic upper hand over India by announcing to hand over the captured pilot Abhinandan Varadhaman as a peace gesture, it returns to petulant and self-isolating behavior again. What the ruling party obviously considers its diplomatic victory, Pakistan decides to boycott the Organization of Islamic Conference held in the UAE out of protest because Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj had been invited. Because obviously if we did not do something like that, it would not be Pakistani foreign policy.

Of course, the corrupt but the comparatively visionary President Asif Ali Zardari had some better ideas about foreign policy on the National Assembly floor.

The OIC in its tradition has given a more of a pro-Pakistan statement on the Kashmir issue but it is important to notice that the only person who was heard on both Kashmir and terrorism in India and Pakistan was Sushma Swaraj.

 

 

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Despite the relevance of the mention of terrorism at the OIC platform, Pakistan’s commitment to eradicating the menace from the region remains dubious. The way the Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has been dodging questions about the involvement of Jaish-e-Mohammed has been embarrassing, to say the least.

Despite the Foreign Minister and the DG ISPR denying time and time again refusing and embarrassing himself about the presence of terrorist groups that initiate attacks from the Pakistani territory, Pakistan finally decided to take action against certain groups including the brother of Maulana Masood Azhar of Jaish-e-Mohammed.

If indeed the Jaish-e-Mohammed was not behind the Pulawama attack and had not taken responsibility, then surely the timing of these attacks is curious. Of course, these could be considered to be among the “any measures to deescalate the situation” as promised by Foreign Minister Qureshi. But what exactly prompted the Government to take this action all of a sudden is interesting. Perhaps it is the upcoming deadline for the FATF grey list review in May.

Of course, the PML-N supporters had a field day with the government taking action against Islamist militant outfits, something that was a part of the controversial Dawn Leaks which became the bone of contention between the military establishment and Nawaz Sharif administration. Former Pakistani Ambassador Hussain Haqqani, often accused of treason back home, had his own words to offer about it.

Others like Pakistani journalists targeted by the local agencies were not buying any of Pakistan’s claims and shared this clip that was critical of releasing the captured Indian pilot Abhinandan. It is abundantly clear through evidence examined by the international media that the Indian claim of targeting a terrorist training camp in Balakot was a gross exaggeration but it is difficult to argue that groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed have not been spawning and thriving in Pakistan.
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The Pakistani government and security establishment should finally get serious in substantially dealing with these Islamist militant groups if they care about the people of Pakistan. The UN Security Council is all set to vote on Jaish-e-Mohammed and if China does not come to Pakistan’s rescue again, more than just diplomatic isolation and embarrassment will become Pakistan’s fate.

We do not expect the Pakistani security establishment to have any regard for our relations with India, which is causing misery to millions in the Indian subcontinent, or even to care for the financial losses its citizens will suffer, but at least they must watch their own interest. They will probably not care as much for the common citizen but greater diplomatic isolation on terrorism with India’s stronger case will not bode well for the financial and economic future of the country. It is something that is going to impact their own ability to attract finances to a fiscally challenged country.

The new regime focusing on the tourism of the country should not forget how any subsequent developments can hurt the country on that front.

The Launching Ceremony of 16 Days of Activism Against Violence Against Women and Girls

Source: UNWOMEN/DilSeJoKehtiHai

Source: UNWOMEN/DilSeJoKehtiHai

On November 28, 2012, the launching ceremony of 16 days of Activism Against Violence Against Women and Girls was held in Islamabad by UNWOMEN and the Ministry of Human Rights. I happened to cover the event on social media with a team led by Tazeen Javed and including Shiraz Hassan and Usama Khilji, under the directions of Faisal Kapadia. The event was a part of the UNiTE campaign initiated by the UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon in 2008 that is meant to spread awareness against gender-based violence. The campaign itself aims to raise awareness of the issue, particualarly among men.

Several government figures participated in the event, including Begum Shehnaz Wazir Ali, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on Human Rights, Shaigan Sharif Malik, the Secretary Ministry of Human Rights, Ghazala Gola, the Baluchistan Minister for Minorities and Women’s Development, Sitara Ayaz, the Khyber Pakhtunkwa Minster for Social Welfare, Farzana Yakub, the AJK Minister for Social Welfare and Women’s Development and Dr. Nafisa Shah, the Head of the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus. All of them reiterated the government’s commitment to bring the necessary social change to end violence against women and girls through legislation and its implementation.

The main focus of the event this time around was social media. The campaign has its social media face in “Dil Se Jo Kehti Hai“, which has its own facebook page and twitter account. In that relation, Natasha Kemal and Farieha Aziz presented how social media can be effectively used to report incidents of violence against women and girls and how it is an effective tool to reach the policymakers. They also emphasized its role and relevance to activism and how it can make a difference. The event also featured a brief exclusive screening of Samar Minallah’s documentary “We Are All Malalas!” about education of girls in Swat.

UNWomen OIC Lena Lindberg and the UN Resident Coordinator Timmo Pakkala also spoke at the event. They found it heartening to see all the Pakistani government officials participating in the event and showing their commitment to end violence against women and girls. In the end, a group discussion was held to brainstorm ideas for mobilizing social change. While everyone was pretty clear about the legislation, the experts were more or less at a loss on how to actually bring about the social change that they want to see. Sorry if that sounds like an oversimplification.

And then again, there was the usual obsession with correcting people’s and media’s morals as per their ideals which I find so widespread among activists and which really puts me off most of the time.

As I walked out of the hotel conference hall with a smoking Shiraz Hassan under the steel grey rainy skies of Islamabad, I simply hoped that the Senate would let all the reasonable legislation protecting the rights of women pass and that we could find a way to break down the walls of social conservatism, which is the real enemy of men and women of Pakistan more than any moral degradation or anything else.

Thoughts on November Gaza Strikes and the Middle East Conflict

Source: AP/Washington Post

You can’t expect people to act rationally or logically when they are being bombed, Israeli or Palestinian. If you think they do, then you know very little about humans. Though there are people out there who are paid to do so.

That’s why I think it’d take really smart people to handle the fragile Middle East situation. This is why I am worried that the Israeli policies could actually harm the Jewish people, even though they are designed to protect them, or offer the perception of protecting them.

Using force as a deterrent is probably a necessity there, especially in the early years when the memory of antisemitic fascist regimes was still fresh. It is relevant even today, but considering that Gaza does not enjoy that luxury would make you very concerned about their security too.

I believe the people living on the both sides have the same fears and desires. But thinking again from the Israeli perspective, I would be very concerned as an Israeli citiizen or diplomat about the image of the nation around the world. I know a lot of Israelis would prefer better security over a better world image. Who wouldn’t? I would too. Anyone would.

But this is something for the leaders to think about because it concerns the future. Unless we are hellbent to enact the Biblical or Hadith Apocalypse.

People often mention the wounded and the killed Israeli and Palestinian children and the propaganda about them. It’s not a question of whether a Jewish child dies or an Arab child dies. The question to ask is whether we would want a child to live in such a hostile environment.

Seriously, I would do whatever I can to prevent a child from living in a warzone (ideally anyone but why add more misery by forcing new people to suffer by shoving them into this world, though true in any other situation too). But can I, or can we? No.

If the Hamas regime is irresponsible, which I am convinced that they are, to the point that their policies don’t really reflect any sympathy for the security of their own people (if you ignore the fact that they are badly repressed by the Israelis), then what could be better ways to deal with them?

To a cynic, maybe build global consensus before bombing Gaza City. To a more rational person, maybe Israel and the US should stop blocking full Palestinian membership in the UN like civilized nations and lift the Gaza blockade and grant their states completely autonomous status like soveirgn countries and maybe give them a chance to prove their civilty once again.

But still if Palestinians are sensible, they would know that the intifadas are largely a lost cause today because the rest of the Arab world would rather really support Israel over them any time. Then again, is it a coincidence that the Palestinian resistance looks towards Iran? The enemy of your enemy is your friend.

I do think the Palestinian leaders could have done a lot more to ensure peace and are largely responsible for a lot of deaths over the years (Not because they should have as per their principles but because they lack political resources to fight Israel). But that’s politics. If only they were not obsessed with Jerusalem. Not that the Israelis are not.

The growing West Bank settlements and the policy of gradual Palestinian deprivation may have worked well for the Israeli occupation, but make a very poor case for Israeli peace efforts. In any case you would really want the violence to stop regardless of the political consequences. But in politics, land and power are more precious than life. Then again, there is liberty.

But the recent November strikes on Gaza have made an impact in some other way. The international community and media noticing the cruelty of the Israeli attack on Gaza this time for a change is significant. The image of the BBC photojournalist as posted above has shaken the West. Accussations of biased media coverage from both sides do not change the facts and the misery that both the affected people go through.

Therefore, both Israelis and Palestinians need to learn their lessons fast. Good luck to both of them for peace.

I know it almost sounds superficial, especially after these words echoing the conference halls on the conclusion of countless meaningless accords, but just in the memory of Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, let us agree to stop the madness and say:

Shalom. Salaam. Peace.

Then again, it’s not important. Is it?

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.

I Wish the Adults Never Grew Up

Just stumbled on this youtube video of Severn Suzuki, a 12 year old, speaking at the 1992 UN Earth Summit and destroys whatever sense of responsibility adults around the world are proud of.

I thought that it belonged here somehow with my respects to the speaker.

I hope this video will help you redefine your view of the concept of civilization.

I wish the adults never grew up.

Why United Nations Security Council is the Part of the Problem

Source: cbc.ca

I believe this is pretty much the right time to write about the problem of the United Nations Security Council, though I am sure many such opportunities have come in the past as well. It is just when most of the people in the world are outraged at something that happened at this diplomatic forum and which offers some relief to the writer of being spared of potential accusations of being anti-American, anti-UN or anti-democracy. The criticism in the post has nothing in particular to do with either entities.

Recently, a resolution was presented in the Security Council to support an Arab League plan to facilitate a political transition in Syria, that is, to throw the dictator Bashar Al-Asssad out of power following the brutal action of his regime against civilian protesters. The Syrian government denies the charge of course. Russia and China were the only countries out of the 15 member Security Council that voted against the resolution and vetoed it.

There are perfectly plausible explanations for why Russia and China did that, primarily because of the political influence that Russians enjoy in Syria since the Cold War decades and that both the countries fear a military action on Syria in the future. The rest of the world has been largely critical of the veto. Even Pakistan and India voted in the favor of the resolution, but they usually do so anyway. Not that their opinion matters much. I have overheard on twitter that the Indian ambassador at Damascus has had some explaining to do.

The United Nations Security Council, in its permanent members, denote the truly representative conference-mode diplomacy forum of the world. All the people that matter. But if that statement were true, it would be a pity that countries such as India, Japan, Germany and Brazil are not permanent members, and yes, why leave out Saudi Arabia and Iran? OK, maybe not Saudi Arabia. But as a matter of fact, given the functional practices of the forum, it is imperative that no more members should be added to the permanent-member club. Unless, you want to lessen the political influence of a particular party or make the organization further ineffective. Reminding you that the primary function of the organization is peace-keeping around the world and dealing with security crises.

But apart from the nuts and bolts of the organization, let us reflect on a controversial article of the UN Charter. The power of veto exercised by the permanent members of the Security Council. While the United Nations and the powers of the world, and sadly even the not-so-powers of the world, are perfectly fine with the way the Security Council works, I find it a violation of the very spirit of the UN charter, such as the Article 2. While the United Nations Security Council works perfectly on the principles of politics, for you cannot complain as you were taught “Might is Right” in elementary school, but I am not sure if such provisions for a UN organization is even compatible with the United Nations Charter, which holds every nation to be sovereign equals.

Legally it would be, but does that make any sense on the basis of the principles on which the United Nations was created? Don’t get me wrong, I am 100% for the United Nations, which is precisely why I am raising this point because it is we who have to make the United Nations work. The point simply is that there should be one vote for one nation. That is equality and that is justice. If you want to make the United Nations work on the brutal principles of Machiavellian politics, then I support the veto vote all out, but if you talk about human rights, then I am not sure how that helps the cause.

But despite everything, why in the world are there permanent members of the United Nations Security Council in the first place and why are there just five of them? Why just United States, France, United Kingdom, China and Russia? I guess every nation that asks the question that it should become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council is rightful in asking that. It is just that not every nation in asking that question. We all know why these particularly countries are permanent members and not others, but the point is why everyone else accepts that.

The United States, the greatest donor and one of the architects of the United Nations, has been critical of China and Russia and probably rightly so. Ambassador Rice expressed her disgust over the veto. While China and Russia are wrong, they are not doing anything different to what the United States has been doing in the past. Protecting their interests over human rights. Hardly any major power is an exception to this case.

May I remind the readers of this post that United States was the only country that shamelessly defended the brutal onslaught of the Israeli armed forces on the Gaza Strip in 2006, voted against the new Israeli settlements in 2011 and has vetoed several other times. Actually, I acknowledge and support the right of the United States to prevent any UN Resolutions from passing against Israel that undermine its right to defend itself, but then I would expect the United States to remain consistent and make human rights a priority everywhere, no matter who the offending party is. If they are truly upset about the Russian and Chinese veto, I hope the United States will never veto a UN Security Council Resolution ever again.

I am disgusted to hear politicians complaining about human rights violations when they make them happen everyday and support it but I would not mind if a few of them prevent a few human rights violations in selected parts of the world. Therefore, I would like to see either the United Nations Security Council abolished with its current structure or at least a reform to the way it works. At least, the veto powers should be repealed and voting on issues should be carried out in the United Nations General Assembly where every nation will have its say and every nation will have 1 vote. For those who think this will harm the instant action problem as in the League of Nations, simply take action with a majority or a two-third majority vote.

Keep the United Nations Security Council like the way it is and more people will lose faith in the United Nations everyday.

Thankfully, I will never be one of them.