‘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!

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.”

Pashtun Rights activist Idris Khattak forcibly disappeared

On Wednesday November 13th, Pashtun human rights defender and political activist Muhammad Idris Khattak was kidnapped by unidentified men when he was on his way from Akora Khattak village to Swabi. According to Dawn, “four unidentified men stopped the activist’s car at Swabi Motorway Interchange and kidnapped him.”

Amnesty International issued an appeal to the government of Pakistan on behalf of Mr Khattak “Muhammad Idris Khattak, a Pakistani human rights defender and independent researcher, is feared to have been subjected to an enforced disappearance. No one has seen him since the evening of 13 November when he was taken by men in plain clothes on a motorway between Islamabad and Peshawar. His whereabouts and fate remain unknown to his family. Amnesty International fears that Khattak could be at risk of torture, ill-treatment or worse – as suffered by other victims of enforced disappearance in Pakistan. Khattak is also a patient of diabetes and needs daily medication.”

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) also issued a strong statement. “The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has strong reason to believe that this abduction is a possible enforced disappearance, given that the family say there is no evidence of kidnapping for ransom. Mr Khattak has worked with eminent human rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and is known for his progressive political views while associated with the National Party. If indeed there are grounds for his detention, these must be established with strict recourse to due process. That the state has not responded to this incident is cause for concern because it reflects indifference towards the grave problem of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention, and little respect for the due process of law. HRCP urges the police to cooperate fully with Mr Khattak’s family to trace his whereabouts, and demands that the state take due notice of the incident.”

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.”