Pakistan should eliminate Terrorism instead of using anti-Terrorism rules to limit Human Rights

The rise of terrorism has led to a rise in anti-terrorism regulations around the world. The problem this creates is the rise in bad laws and inhuman punishments. Pakistan is no exception to this phenomenon. According to leading human rights advocate and founder member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), I.A. Rahman “The world has learnt that the majesty of law is not established by curtailing due process and raising the scale of punishments; it is established by the people’s social uplift, guarantees of employment and fair wages, and by convincing the people that no one can avoid paying for breaking the law. Instead of putting the people at risk under bad laws, the executive should make policing and prosecution efficient and honest. Along with ATA, all other laws that clip due process and prescribe inhuman punishments need to be reviewed.”

Rahman notes that last week the Supreme Court of Pakistan “laid down the urgently needed guidelines on the applicability or otherwise of the antiterrorism law and asked parliament to make some essential changes to it. The judgement also offers much food for thought to jurists, students of law and civil society who interpret the rule of law as a rational, just and humanitarian dispensation. The issue before the court was whether the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) was rightly being invoked. The landmark judgement begins with a fairly comprehensive account of terrorist movements and activities across the globe from 2 BC to the 1990s, launched to secure political, ideological or religious objectives. Students of terrorism will find it useful. The court then refers approvingly to Prof David Rapoport’s theory of four waves of terrorist movements, to emphasise the point that terrorists’ goals have been changing with time. An extract from Yuval Noah Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century follows, which reassures us that the people can defeat terrorists if they do not overreact to the theatre of terrorism and offer a balanced response.”

Further, “The court’s conclusion and direction that all actions must be judged by the objective as defined in the ATA — that an action, however grave, gruesome or horrifying, cannot be termed as terrorism if it is not committed with the design and purpose as mentioned in the law itself, and that actions taken in furtherance of personal enmity or private vendetta cannot be described as terrorism —should prevent wrongful application of the ATA. The court has suggested that the definition of terrorism in the ATA may be made simpler and succinct along with a change in the preamble and deletion from the Third Schedule of offences that have no nexus with terrorism.”

Finally, as Rahman states, “Pakistan has an unenviable record of the executive’s insatiable desire to nibble at due process with a view to denying the people their basic rights and freedoms. The history of the state’s love of brutal punishments and its tendency to address serious crime by compromising due process makes painful reading. The state’s search for deterrent punishments and its fondness for harsh laws, the level of impunity enjoyed by law-enforcement personnel and disregard for the requisites of fair trial are alienating the people from what the system of justice has become. The fact that only the poor are hanged in Pakistan or that no perpetrator of murderous attacks on the Hazara Shias has been punished has undermined respect for the justice system, which is also weakened each time a citizen falls a victim to enforced disappearance or a woman is killed to save a man’s primitive concept of honour. The number of people preferring the jirga system to the judicial process appears to have increased over the years, and now they are visible in the corridors of power too.”

Maulana’s March Divides Pakistan, Scares Imran Khan

Despite its best efforts the Imran Khan government has been unable to stop the ‘Azadi March’ led by JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rahman and supported by all the other major opposition parties – the Awami National Party, the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-N. On Friday, over 35,000 people attended the rally addressed by Rahman.

On Thursday, the protestors moved into Islamabad. Since then, the federal capital is under tight security with the government and diplomatic sector – just a few kilometers from the rally site – sealed off, roads blocked by barriers of shipping containers. Schools remain closed, public transport suspended and internet services interrupted in some areas. “Authorities in Islamabad were seen early Saturday moving more rows of massive shipping containers onto roads leading to the Red Zone. Paramilitary forces were also deployed.”

Rahman “warned of chaos if the government does not step down, but on Friday told the crowd they would decide what action to take if their two-day sit-in at the rally site failed. He said he did not want confrontation with the military. “Now this government has to go but we don’t want a collision with institutions,” he said referring to the military. “We want to see the institutions being impartial.”

The rally was also addressed by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari of PPP and Shahbaz Sharif of PMLN, even though the two parties are officially not part of the sit-in.

Bilawal B Zardari in his speech, “said that even after 70 years, transparent elections cannot be held in Pakistan, adding that his party’s polling agents were expelled from polling stations during the General Elections 2018. “Selected government puts pressure on the nation,” said the PPP chairman, adding that people are being ‘economically murdered’. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari earlier on Friday night said the people of Pakistan won’t accept any ‘selected’ or ‘puppet’ prime minister and it was time for Prime Minister Imran Khan to go home. “The people of this country won’t accept any selected or puppet premier nor are they willing to surrender to any dictator,” said Bilawal, addressing the Azadi March in Islamabad.”

The military is still ostensibly supporting the Khan government. According to DGISPR, Maj. Gen Asif Ghafoor “Chaos is not in the interest of the country … all democratic issues should be dealt with in a democratic manner.” He said the opposition should understand that the army is impartial and supports the democratically elected government, not political parties.”

Economy not in turnaround, rather it is in ICU, say economists

In recent weeks the Imran Khan government has boasted about an ‘economic turnaround.’ Economists, however, maintain that this is false and misleading and that the economy is actually in intensive care.

According to Anjum Altaf, Dean of School of Social Sciences at LUMS, the so-called economic boost “comprises declines in the current account and fiscal deficits and increases in FDI and remittances. All these are misleading indicators but one is especially egregious and contradictory. Why is the increase in remittances considered part of the economic turnaround and something that governments consider worthy of praise? The increase in remittances is an outcome of greater economic distress in Pakistan. It is a false signal reflecting economic failure, not success.”

According to Altaf, “Before patting themselves on the back for ever-increasing remittances, policymakers should think through this phenomenon with understanding and empathy. Remittances grow for two reasons: individual migrants send back more money and the stock of migrants increases as more Pakistanis emigrate. The explanation for the first component has been provided above; it reflects the economic distress inflicted on working-class families by rapid inflation in Pakistan. But what is the explanation for the increasing number of Pakistanis seeking work abroad? It is the inability of the domestic economy to generate a sufficient number of jobs paying enough to sustain families of individuals entering the labour market. It is again a reflection of economic failure, not success.”

Finally, “The Pakistani economy is in intensive care and the indicators the prime minister has cited as evidence of an economic turnaround have behaved in exactly the same manner as they have after almost each of the previous 22 or so IMF hospitalisations. The real turnaround requires the creation of decent jobs which, in turn, calls for structural reforms and a framework for economic growth. While this may take time, progressively driving remittances down by providing jobs at home should be adopted by the government’s team as a leading measure of the success of a real economic turnaround. Involuntary migration forced by economic desperation is a blight on the face of the nation, not something to celebrate.”

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.

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.”