‘Does Pakistan Threatening Nuclear War really help Kashmir’s Hapless People?’

It appears the Pakistani state has no idea of how to respond to what India is doing inside Kashmir and so they are going back to their default policy – threaten nuclear war.

On December 2, 2019, former diplomat Ashraf Jahangir Qazi wrote an OpEd titled ‘Whatever it takes’ where he is advocating for a nuclear strike against India in order to help resolve the Kashmir issue.

Qazi asserts that the Pakistani “government will be primarily concerned to pacify its own public opinion and counter charges of a dishonourable and shameful betrayal of the Kashmir cause which could seriously destabilise the country. It will be reduced to saving Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan itself from further Indian designs. India will massively interfere in AJK and GB to force a final settlement along or even beyond the LoC with the understanding if not approval of the US and the Western powers. China will provide diplomatic support to Pakistan while counselling ‘moderation’, the need to adopt a longer-term perspective on Kashmir, and ensuring continued territorial contiguity between Pakistan and China.”

Further, Qazi states that “Pakistan has described Kashmir as its ‘jugular vein’ without which it is incomplete and cannot survive. It has pledged its last breath and drop of blood in defence of the Kashmiri people. It has always said any stoppage of Pakistan’s waters would be a casus belli. Moreover, in the name of the freedom struggle or jihad for Kashmir the people of Pakistan have had to live in a security rather than development state. This has deprived them of the benefits of democracy, good governance, peace and development. The results of this political degeneration are today evident in the wretched daily news every day. The honest choice before the prime minister of Pakistan is stark: either he tells the nation that the costs of stopping India from perpetrating genocide in the Valley are more than Pakistan can bear and, therefore, he has no option but to ‘accept the unacceptable’ for Pakistan to survive. Or he asserts that the costs of a disgraceful betrayal of the Kashmir cause, especially after the loss of the majority of Pakistan’s population in 1971, will render the country a failed state without meaning, purpose, a moral foundation and a future worth having. Accordingly, while he is ready to go the extra mile for peace with India and to negotiate an acceptable, just and principled Kashmir settlement, he will never countenance genocide in Kashmir no matter what the cost may be.”

Finally, Qazi states, “There are no risk-free options to stop genocide, save Kashmir, and avoid war with India. Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent is meant to deter war not pursue war. But if the people of the Valley are threatened with genocide, as indeed they are, Pakistan’s deterrent must cover them. If this is rejected as wishful thinking there will be both genocide in the Valley and a slide towards war between India and Pakistan.”

As someone said, if a moderate like Qazi is saying this, one shudders at what Munir Akram is thinking!

Pakistan’s Students Rise up in Protest

Pakistan has a young population with over 65 % of its population under the age of 25 years. On Friday November 29th, many of them made their voices heard. The reaction of the government, however, has been to crack down on the movement and arrest activists. 

Thousands of students rallied in cities across the country, demanding the allocation of 5% of Pakistan’s GDP for education, an end to privatization of educational institutions, provision of basic facilities for students, and the constitution of sexual harassment committees in educational institutions.

In Islamabad the protest “included a theatrical performance by the group Lal Hartal, rousing speeches and sloganeering, and a march to D-Chowk. It was led by an alliance of leftist student organisations called the Student Action Committee (SAC), and included students from the Progressive Students Federation (PSF), the Progressive Students Collective, the Revolutionary Students Federation, the Baloch Students Organisation (BSO), and the Pashtun Student Federation.”

According to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan secretary-general Harris Khalique, “student organisations played a major role during the independence movement and the creation of Pakistan. “If you look at the movement in Pakistan, in East Pakistan and in West Pakistan between 1947 and 1971, it was student organisations which were heralding this struggle for democratic freedoms and democratic rights, students’ rights and rights to education and for fundamental freedoms,” he added. “There were a number of student organisations from the centre, left and right, and those organisations would negotiate with each other through an election process in the educational institutions.” Yet since 1984, the time of military dictator General Zia ul Haq, student unions have been banned in Pakistan,

As one of the speakers at the march, Minhajul Arfeen, asked: “The real cause of our frustration is that for 35 years, we have been told to keep quiet and study. “‘Politics isn’t your job’. If politics is so bad for us that we were kept from it for 35 years, why isn’t a single Pakistani university one of the top 200 in the world?”

Amnesty International issued an appeal on behalf of the students and activists “The Pakistani authorities must immediately end their crackdown on peaceful student protests, Amnesty International said today. The human rights organization’s call came after the Pakistani police have filed criminal charges against activists who have supported the ‘Student Solidarity March’ and the arbitrary detention of Alamgir Wazir, one of the protestors. The crackdown comes in the wake of peaceful student solidarity marches across Pakistan, demanding the right to form student unions and calling for an end to the harassment of students among other concerns. Alamgir Wazir was detained from the Punjab University campus in Lahore on 30 November 2019, and his whereabouts are still not known. He is the nephew of Ali Wazir, a parliamentarian and leader of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, a non-violent movement calling for an end to enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations against Pakistan’s Pashtun ethnic minority. The other four activists named in the police report – Ammar Ali Jan, Farooq Tariq, Muhammad Shabbir, Kamil Khan, and Iqbal Lala – are at risk of imminent arrest. Ammar Ali Jan, Farooq Tariq, Muhammad Shabbir and Kamil Khan are political activists. Iqbal Lala is the father of the late Mashal Khan, a student who was killed at his university after fellow students falsely accused him of committing blasphemy. The five activists have been charged with ‘sedition’, ‘maintenance of public order’, ‘nuisance’, and ‘continuation nuisance’ – draconian clauses in the penal code which trace their origins to British colonial rule. They have also been charged with the violation of the ‘Punjab Sound Systems (Regulation) Act’ – a non-bailable offence that can be punished by six months imprisonment and/or a fine.”

‘SC’s Conditional Verdict Further Embarrasses Gen Bajwa’

On November 28, 2019, the Supreme Court of Pakistan delivered an order announcing that Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa will remain the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) for another six months. “A three-member bench — comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Mian Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah — announced the much-anticipated verdict after being assured by the government that parliament will pass legislation within six months. According to the short order, the federal government “has presented this court with a recent summary approved by the president on the advice of the prime minister along with a notification dated 28.11.2019 which shows that General Qamar Javed Bajwa has been appointed as COAS under Article 243(4)(b) of the Constitution with effect from 28.11.2019”. “The current appointment of General Qamar Javed Bajwa as COAS shall be subject to the said legislation and shall continue for a period of six months from today, whereafter the new legislation shall determine his tenure and other terms and conditions of service,” read the court order.”

As Babar Sattar pointed out on twitter: “SC’s order today hasn’t diminished but bolstered perception of legal exceptionalism that attaches to Army Chief: SC could’ve ruled his reappointment legal/valid or illegal/invalid but not that opportunity be afforded to validate an invalid appointment in larger national interest. Did CJP take up the issue of reappointment at the 11th hour (on Mr Rahi’s petition!) to tutor govt on summary writing skills or to fix procedural lapses? If no legal power exists to reappoint Army Chief at this point, under what law has SC granted him legal cover for 6-months?”

Further, as Sattar notes, “Superior Courts issue quo warranto petitions everyday. They never rule that an appointment is invalid but govt can have it revalidated at its leisure. What principle of law guided SC today other than rule of necessity that ordinary laws don’t apply to someone as powerful as COAS? How can SC direct parliament to legislate on any issue (much less to validate extension of an individual)? Also under what principle must Army Chief’s term be specified by Parliament (& not subsidiary legislation/rules) as terms of office are defined by rules under many laws. This case would be legally relevant if it helped lay down objective criteria for grant of extension to anyone holding powerful office of COAS (no one’s mentioned Air/Navy/CJCSC!) to establish that law wouldn’t allow a powerful incumbent to grant himself extension through proxies. CJP may have entrenched the perception he set out to dispel i.e. same treatment is meted out to the weak & powerful under law. This sorry episode has made everyone in PK (especially those sitting atop big institutions) look small & desperate for power & survival.”

Finally, as Sattar states, “So what’s new? Govt can now wait for CJP’s retirement (or not) & file a review of today’s order to the extent it requires an Act of Parliament & add a simple rule approved by Cabinet providing for a 3 (or 4/5) yr term for COAS to avoid debate in Parliament & negotiation with opposition parties. But opposition might wish to renew its allegiance to Army Chief & his indispensability for PK’s survival, in which case Act of Parliament it can be. Shorn of moral compunction & past the embarrassment of demanding extension, coercion in play could get more stringent. So brace up! Art 243 provides for appointment of COAS (which is Service of Pakistan under Art 260). Art 240 says conditions of service be regulated by Act of Parliament under which rule-making power is delegated to Govt to specify details such as tenure etc. No constitutional amendment needed.”

As analyst and commentator, Khurram Hussain wrote in Dawn, ‘Time to stand down.’ “This is a good time to remember that institutions are more important than individuals. Leaders come and go, but what matters ultimately is what they leave behind. Those who lead with an eye to their legacy, and a sense of service to the institution to which they belong — whether an organisation or a movement or a profession — are the ones more likely to leave behind a legacy that others can build upon. Those who lead with a sense of their own indispensability and entitlement will leave behind legacies that their successors will have to battle with, rather than build upon.”

As Hussain noted, “There is more to the institution of the military than its might and its prestige. As a leading institution in the country it has to show the way to others as well, and curate its legacy and its place in the country’s power structure. After Wednesday’s hearing in the court, there is little doubt that this higher purpose, before which all chiefs should submit, will best be served by standing down.”

‘Army Chief Extension: Why does everything in Pakistan Become a Circus?’

On November 26, 2019, the Supreme Court of Pakistan suspended the notification issued by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government giving Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa a three-year extension. Gen. Bajwa, among others, was also given notice to appear before the Supreme Court.

Reena Omer Legal Advisor, South Asia, International Commission of Jurists, tweeted from the hearing that: “Justice Shah questions whether Cabinet decision to grant extension made after due application of mind. Chief Justice Asif Khosa asks how Govt can predict “emergency” situation will continue for 3 yrs i.e. duration of extension.” She also pointed out that the Supreme Court in its order gave the following rationale: “Notably, in addition to reasoning behind extension + procedure adopted by Govt, Court will also look at whether any law allows COAS tenure to be extended at all.” And Omer pointed out “revision of rules is subject to judicial review, incl. on the ground of mala fide. SC can therefore question intention behind cabinet’s decision to amend Rule 255 and whether it is just to serve one person.”

Babar Sattar, well-known lawyer and analyst, said aloud on Twitter what many Pakistanis are thinking: “Shouldn’t Gen. Bajwa hang his boots & walk into the sunset instead of explaining in full public view why there is no one in next tier leadership of this professional army able to take over & do a swell job of running it? Shouldn’t he think of his legacy as CJP is thinking of his?” In a long thread of tweets Sattar argued: “Supreme Court’s decision suspending Chief of Army Staff’s extension notification is surprising only because it is deemed that ordinary rules & principles of law applicable to public servants don’t apply to army chief being above the law (No one would bat an eyelid if order suspended Secretary’s extension). It is settled law that public servants can’t be rehired or granted extensions except in truly extraordinary situations to be justified in reasoning of the summary moved for extension, which reasoning is then justiciable by courts. This principle is squarely applicable to COAS. It is settled law that summaries shouldn’t suffer procedural defects (should be approved by competent authority) & no one has arbitrary authority to dispense state patronage & offer contracts at whim (such as in this case where the PM has offered another 3-yr term to the COAS). With SCs suspension order, Govt & COAS will need to justify the emergency that required a 3-yr extension & in the process they’ll embarrass themselves & the army, which as an institution has exemplary training & promotion system & thus an effective & functional succession system. Everyone knows this extension is no necessity (even if we can’t easily write about it in print media) & that extensions are looked down on in the army as its professionalism demands as part of soldier’s job to prepare & train successors & hand over command when the time comes. PM wanted our justice system to treat powerful & weak alike. Some wishes do come true? CJP responded by saying only law is powerful. This is what judicial outcomes look like with law at work. Shouldn’t PM thank CJP for a practical demonstration of equality in our justice system?”

According to an Indian analyst who follows Pakistan, Tara Kartha, three key things to bear in mind are: “There is the someone who moved the Peshawar High Court against the extension of the General on the grounds that he is a Qadiani. Alongside is the inevitable speculation on possible unhappiness within the Pakistan Army at the turn of events. Powerful families who usually have a foot in the government and in the army are furious.”

No one is indispensable. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan has showed that the extension of Gen Bajwa was without any legal basis. So then the question to be asked is: Why was it granted?

There are those who say that even Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s march was to expedite the notification of COAS Bajwa’s extension. The Imran Khan government’s incompetence in the extension saga is evident.

General Bajwa should learn the lesson that this is what happens when you depend on and prop up incompetent people!

The Ghaddar-making factory: from Faiz to Arooj

Last week the annual Faiz Festival was held in the Alhamra compound in Lahore. Instead of the focus being on Faiz and the festival, the news stories centered around a group of young people who sang the famous song of Ramprasad Bismil “sarfaroshi ki tamanaa ab hamaray dil mai hai.” Unfortunately, the paranoid state machinery has converted an innocent commitment to idealism into anti-state behavior.

As Babar Sattar wrote in a recent piece titled ‘Pakistan on Repeat.’ “When it is not hilarious how insecure the state that lords over us is, it’s actually really sad.” Further, “In 1951, Faiz was seen as a threat and in 2019 Arooj Aurangzeb singing Faiz’s poetry is seen as a threat. It seems almost lost on the state that we will remain stuck in this soap opera on repeat unless we allow folks to come up with new story lines. The purpose of education is to create thinking minds, to investigate reality, as it exists, to question and critique assumptions underlying sustenance of such reality with a view to changing it for the better. And here we are castigating university students for being inspired by the idea of an equal world. There is consensus across Pakistan that things aren’t as they should be. That we haven’t created a polity that treats citizens fairly or dispenses justice to haves and have-nots alike. That our people have tremendous potential that remains locked up. And yet we are terrified of our youth getting together over a weekend signing poems and rehashing old ideas. The parents of Arooj Aurangzeb and her fellows seen in the video should be proud of themselves for raising children who refuse to yield to the shackles designed to stifle critical thought.”