JUI ‘Azadi March’ Threatens Selected Govt

After years of using dharnas to combat corruption and protest against the then ruling parties, Imran Khan’s PTI led government looks weak and silly in opposing a dharna led by the JUI of Fazlur Rehman.

On October 31st, the Azadi March organised by Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) is scheduled to enter Islambad. The party will organize rallies in cities around the country on October 27 and then all those rallies are scheduled to enter Islamabad together on October 31.

Other opposition parties, including the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) have announced support for the march. On Friday, the PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-N) announced its support for the JUI march. Shahbaz Sharif announced “that a massive rally will be held in Islamabad on October 31 to present a joint list of demands by the opposition. “Despite the support that Imran Khan enjoys, he has failed the country and is placing the burden of his failures on the shoulders of our institutions,” said Sharif, as he addressed a press conference in Lahore. “If even the most far gone of governments had received just 25 per cent of the support he has received, then Pakistan would have been soaring high in the skies of progress,” he continued.”

The government’s response has been to argue that not only was the march anti-government and hurt the country’s image. Foreign Minister Qureshi “referred to the PTI’s own sit-in in the federal capital in 2014 and said that such moves rarely meet with success. “If someone thinks that with governments can be sent packing with sit-ins, they are wrong. We have a 126-day experience of this. We are not novices,” he said. “It is not that we fear them [the JUI-F march participants], I must stress on that,” he added. He urged Fazl to come to the negotiating table, assuring that “we are ready to listen to it [JUI-F’s concerns] and if a reasonable solution emerges, we will accord that a priority”. “Pakistan is now fighting the Kashmir cause at international fora so a unified stance must be presented on it.”

According to Babar Sattar “There is nothing that the Maulana is threatening to do that the PTI and PAT and then the TLP, supported by the PTI, didn’t do before. So talk of immorality of the JUI-F’s purpose or the threat it poses to the state or to public interest or the abuse of madressah students or the need to use force to thwart the protest march is all rather rich coming from the PTI.”

Further, “The PTI’s diatribe against the JUI-F dharna, and efforts to employ the law to scuttle it is certainly seeped in hypocrisy. The PAT brought to the fore this anarchist style of politicking in the recent past. But it was the PTI that effectively patented it in 2014, used it to paralyse the PML-N’s government and drain legitimacy out of it. It sought approval and legitimacy from the ‘umpire’. It supported the TLP dharna and employed bigotry as the tool to hammer the last nail in the PML-N government’s coffin prior to Election 2018. And it succeeded.”

Further, “Our state doesn’t pay heed to the genuine grievances of those who speak softly. It takes note and responds only to those with the ability to create nuisance. We have a polity driven by the logic of force and not legitimacy or moral authority. Our state has nurtured a society also driven by schadenfreude and not concepts of right and wrong backed by principle. IK might be reaping what he sowed, but Maulana’s politics and those supporting it, including

the PML-N and PPP, are only reinforcing the predatory character of our state and society.”

The final irony is that JUI hardly represents liberal democracy, embraces religious bigotry against Ahmadis and Shias and is engaging in religion-based politics just like PTI. But in Pakistan’s intrigue-based politics, that is how civilian governments, even those selected by the military, are threatened.

‘Staying on FATF Grey List is hardly cause for celebration.’

Instead of seeking to get off terror watch lists, Imran Khan’s Naya Pakistan is celebrating that Pakistan has remained on the FATF Grey list. Till some years back, the government’s efforts were aimed at getting Pakistan off the FATF, not celebrating staying on the list!

At the latest meeting of the UN mandated Financial Action Task Force (FATF) held on Friday October 18, it was announced that Pakistan would remain on the grey list till February 2020.

“The task force directed Islamabad to take more measures for complete elimination of terror financing and money laundering while expressing serious concerns over the lack of progress in addressing terror financing risks. “The FATF strongly urges Pakistan to swiftly complete its full action plan by February 2020,” it said in its statement. “Otherwise, should significant and sustainable progress not be made across the full range of its action plan by the next Plenary, the FATF will take action.”

Further, FATF expressed “serious concerns with the overall lack of progress by Pakistan to address its TF risks, including remaining deficiencies in demonstrating a sufficient understanding of Pakistan’s transnational TF risks, and more broadly, Pakistan’s failure to complete its action plan in line with the agreed timelines and in light of the TF risks emanating from the jurisdiction,” the statement read. “To date, Pakistan has only largely addressed five of 27 action items, with varying levels of progress made on the rest of the action plan. “The FATF strongly urges Pakistan to swiftly complete its full action plan by February 2020.”

Instead of being concerned about remaining on the grey list and the fear of being added to the blacklist, Pakistan’s leaders and business elite appear to believe in the Pakistan army’s ability to resolve their problems. On October 2nd, General Bajwa informed the group of business leaders who met him that “he was confident that Pakistan would stave off the blacklist and be shifted from the current ‘grey’ to the normal category in the next review.”

Naya Pakistan slips on Global Competitiveness Rankings!

According to the latest Global Competitiveness Index released on October 9, Pakistan has slipped from 107 to 110 rank out of 141 countries. This is the second consecutive year that Pakistan has continued to slide” in 2017, Pakistan stood at 106, it fell to 107 in 2018 and in 2019 it stands at 110.

This index “provides a detailed map of the factors and attributes that drive productivity, growth and human development in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. With an overall ranking of 110, Pakistan was at 107 for institutions; 105 for infrastructure; 131 for ICT adoption; 116 for macroeconomic stability; 115 for health; 125 for skills; 126 for product market; 120 for labour market; 99 for financial system; 29 for market size; 52 for business dynamism; and 79 for innovation capacity.”

Even in South Asia, Pakistan’s rank is the lowest with India at 68, Sri Lanka at 84, Bangladesh at 105, and Nepal at 108.

Baluchistan Report says province is being shortchanged

On September 28, a blast in Balochistan killed three people, including an opposition political leader, Maulana Mohamad Hanif, Deputy Secretary General of the opposition party Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F). The political neglect of Balochistan at a time when the province continues to face repression by the deep state is the subject of the latest fact finding report released by the The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

Titled Balochistan: Neglected Still, the report points out: “Incidents of enforced disappearance continue: in most cases, victims’ families say they are afraid of communicating their cases to the authorities. A disconcerting trend is that of women being ‘disappeared’ in certain areas, such as Dera Bugti and Awaran.”

Yet as HRCP notes “these cases tend not to be reported or recorded. HRCP’s investigation also reveals that hundreds of coal mines are being operated by people who possess neither the financial resources nor the technological skills to provide for operational safety or deal with emergencies. The mission found that security agencies impose an unofficial security charge on per ton production from coal mines, which mine owners and labour unions alike have deemed extortion. HRCP believes that the level of the Frontier Corps’ presence in Balochistan and its degree of control undermines provincial government and civilian administration. The unwarranted involvement and permanent presence of security personnel in educational institutions like Balochistan University must also end.”

Finally HRCP “strongly feels that the provincial government and civilian administration must run the affairs of the province without any undue interference. In addition, a law that criminalises enforced disappearances, punishes the perpetrators and compensates victims’ families must be enacted expeditiously.”

If Imran Khan Conquered the UN, as his fans say, why is Pakistan changing its UN ambassador?

If one is to believe the Pakistani mainstream media, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party the PTI and its social media machinery, then Mr Khan’s recent UNGA trip was a huge success. If that were so then why is it that within 72 hours of Khan’s UNGA speech, his government has changed Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi. On Friday soon after Khan’s UNGA speech two of his cabinet members – Fawad Chaudhry and Naeem ul Haque – tweeted praises of Amb Lodhi.

Establishment Hawk

Yet on Monday September 30, Lodhi was replaced by a former Ambassador of Pakistan to the United Nations, Munir Akram. A career foreign service officer, Akram is considered a hawk and a strong supporter of Pakistan’s military -intelligence establishment.

Akram is a prolific OpEd writer and if one glances through his Opeds in Dawn the image appears of someone who is hawkish on India, anti-US, pro-China and believes Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are its only savior.

Girlfriend Beater as ambassador hardly advances Pakistan’s case

However, for the global and American audience, Akram is better known as the “girlfriend beater” Ambassador of Pakistan to the UN who  

According to a New York Times report from 2003 titled ‘U.S. Asks Pakistan to Lift U.N. Envoy’s Immunity After a Violent Quarrel,’ “The State Department has asked Pakistan to withdraw the diplomatic immunity of its envoy here, Munir Akram, after New York City prosecutors sought to bring misdemeanor assault charges against him as a result of a quarrel with a woman, United States and New York City officials said today. Marjorie Tiven, the city commissioner in charge of United Nations issues, wrote to the United States Mission here on Dec. 26 requesting that the envoy’s immunity be removed, according to Edward Skyler, the mayor’s spokesman. Mr. Skyler said the Manhattan district attorney’s office had advised city officials that it was prepared to prosecute if Mr. Akram’s immunity was lifted. Pakistan has not yet informed the United States of any decision.”

The incident dates to “On Dec. 10 at 1:36 a.m., the New York City police were summoned by an emergency 911 call to a residence at 47 East 92nd Street in Manhattan, police officials said. Marijana Mihic, 35, told the 911 operator that a man whom she identified as her husband had smashed her head into a wall and that her arm hurt, according to the police dispatcher’s notes of the conversation. She said the man had hit her before. ”Female caller states husband has diplomatic immunity,” the dispatcher noted. When police officers arrived, Ms. Mihic said that Mr. Akram was her ”boyfriend” and that after an argument with him she had tried to leave. ”He prevented her from leaving, he grabbed her and she fell,” said Lt. Brian Burke, a police spokesman. The police officers at the scene reported that Ms. Mihic had a bruise on her head, he said. Mr. Akram, who is 57, was at the residence when the police arrived and identified himself as an ambassador.”

In the end “A spokesman for the Pakistani Mission said today that Mr. Akram and his friend had reconciled. ”The ambassador and his friend both strongly believe that there is no basis for any legal action in this matter,” said Mansoor Suhail, the spokesman. ”And they have both communicated that belief to the concerned authorities.”

As a Pakistani columnist and analyst Khurram Hussain tweeted, all did not go well during Khan’s US trip for the Ambassador to be removed with such haste!