‘Ganging up on Democracy in Pakistan, Again’

Democracy once again appears to be under threat in Pakistan with a politician who seeks to become Prime Minister using abusive language against parliamentary institutions, the dismissal of the chief minister of Baluchistan, the threat of another rally with cleric Tahir ul Qadri putting together another loose coalition. This is in addition to Pakistan-US relations being under increasing stress, civil-military relations at their worst and the continued radicalization of Pakistani society.

The dismissal of an elected chief minister in Balochistan and his replacement with someone who secured less than 600 votes in the last general election is a reflection of the troubles facing Pakistan.

In a scathing editorial The Friday Times stated: “If the strategic importance of the province to the Miltablishment is obvious, so too is its tactical relevance in the current political situation. If the PMLN is to be stopped from improving its position in the Senate so that Nawaz Sharif cannot constitutionally make a comeback, then something must be done to stop the Senate elections from taking place in March before the next general elections are held some months hence. One way to do that is to precipitate a political crisis in which at least two provincial assemblies – Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa – are dissolved, posing a constitutional challenge to holding the Senate elections on time. If necessary, this may be followed by mass resignations from the National Assembly of PTI, PMLQ, PPP, MQM and assorted groups currently in the fold of the Militablishment – including a significant chunk of PMLN “sleepers”— that compels a dissolution of parliament and the installation of an interim federal government cobbled by the Election Commission and Supreme Court of Pakistan. Such an interim government could stretch for months on end until the latest Census results have been collated and constituency delimitation concluded in a “satisfactory” manner. During this period, further political engineering can take place to ensure “suitable” results — a political dispensation that excludes the person of Nawaz Sharif from power (by getting NAB courts to sentence him for corruption) and also denies any political party an outright majority in parliament that might foolishly embolden it to challenge the political hegemony of the Miltablishment, a mistake that both Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif respectively made in office and for which they are still paying the price.”

Similarly the Lahore Mall rally of PTI, PPP and Tahir ul Qadri’s PAT was “only meant to confirm the pledge of the disparate parties to stand together for the final Heave-Ho when the signal is received rather than immediately go for the Punjab government’s jugular. Balochistan, KP and the opposition parties are now all primed for the coup de grace. They are simply waiting for a nod from the Miltablishment to trigger the beginning of the end of the current political dispensation led by the PMLN.”

According to Cyril Almeida in Dawn the reason for all this is the belief “The people can’t be trusted to deliver the right result and massaging the process takes a bunch of doing.” Hence “IF you think you’re crazy and imagining things, you’re not. A moment of stability quickly yields to instability and confusion and the threat of chaos. But there’s a pattern all right. Nawaz and Maryam go quiet, the system goes quiet. Nawaz and Maryam switch the megaphone back on, the system roars back. This time it may be for good.”

Pakistani State Murders a 72-year Old Professor

 

Dr Hassan Zafar Arif, a prominent professor of Philosophy at the University of Karachi, was found dead in the back seat of an abandoned car. His body bore torture marks similar to those found on the bodies of other victims of enforced disappearances.

Dr Arif had joined MQM last year —a party that has been targeted for repression by the Pakistani state. He was arrested last year and warned to abandon the MQM, whom the Pakistani deep state deems a threat the state.

How secure can a nuclear-armed state be if it feels threatened by a 72-year old Philosophy Professor and feels compelled to torture and kill him?

The govt tried to lie and claim that Dr Arif died of natural causes even though videos circulated on social media of the dead body, showing torture marks clearly.

Are we to believe the victim tortured himself, drove to the city’s outskirts, and then sat in the backseat of his car to die a natural death?

Here is Zia ur Rehman’s article on Dr Arif, from The News:

“Dr Hasan Zafar Arif was found dead in a car in Ibrahim Hyderi on Sunday morning. After disappearing from the public eye for several years, the left-leaning intellectual and former philosophy teacher had returned to Karachi’s political scene on May 15 last year when he announced joining the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).

“His move was surprising for many of his colleagues as well as the people who knew him personally because he had joined the MQM at a time when the Rangers were leading a crackdown against the party and, more importantly, after former party leaders Mustafa Kamal and Anis Qaimkhani had formed the Pak Sarzameen Party, prompting mass defections.

“I joined the MQM for two reasons,” Dr Hasan had told this scribe after joining the party at the Karachi Press Club. “Firstly, the party has been facing state repression, and secondly, for achieving the rights of the residents of Karachi. As a socialist, I feel it is the right time to join the party.”

After joining the MQM, he brought in some of his leftist colleagues – such as Sathi Ishaq Advocate, a key Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader in Karachi, and Momin Khan Momin, former president of the National Students Federation – and started delivering lectures to the party’s cadres on global, national and organisational issues.”

No one is safe in Pakistan: The War on Dissent Continues

According to New York Times, “It has been open season on journalists and critics of Pakistan’s military for years now. Disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, intimidation — all have been brought to bear, and in the vast majority of cases, no one has ever been brought to justice.”

After Saleem Shehzad, Hamid Mir, Raza Rumi and Umar Cheema, recently it was Taha Siddiqui. “Mr. Siddiqui is a 2014 winner of the Albert Londres Prix award, the French equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize, and has written articles for several international publications, including The New York Times. He has also been become known as a frequent critic of the military on social media. “It is public knowledge that the military establishment is annoyed with Taha’s Twitter activity,” said Iqbal Khattack, the Pakistan representative for Reporters Sans Frontieres. “What has happened is worrisome, but not surprising.”

According to Reporters without Borders 2017 World Press Freedom Index, Pakistan ranks 139 out of 180 countries. According to NYT “The threats to journalists and dissidents don’t end with the security agencies. Militants on both sides of the insurgency in Baluchistan Province, for instance, including sectarian groups who mainly fight on the military’s side of the conflict, are known for some of the most brazen attacks. In the past year, another avenue of threat has been opened up. Under a sweeping new cybercrimes law passed last January, the authorities have also begun warning or prosecuting journalists and online activists. And that same month, at least five activists known for internet posts critical of the military suddenly disappeared. Four have since been returned and live in exile abroad. Civil rights advocates, as well as people directly targeted by the authorities, have described actions under the new cybercrime law that included harassment, intimidation, and detention without access to lawyers or family members. In a few cases, physical abuse of those in custody was reported.”

Another PM complains of ‘State within a state’ in Pakistan

Another PM complains of ‘State within a state’ in Pakistan

January 9, 2018

It seems that Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, is now speaking out about the role of Pakistan’s ‘state within state’ –the ubiquitous and widely detested intelligence services. The PM believes that the intelligence agencies are behind the recent political upheaval in war-torn Balochistan that has resulted in the resignation of the provincial Chief Minister, Sanaullah Zehri.

According to Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty  “Abbasi told Pakistan’s independent Capital TV on January 10 that in an effort to find out what prompted PML-N lawmakers to move against a coalition administration headed by a leader from their party, he discovered many had not acted on their own volition. “People told me about being pressured by intelligence agencies. Some people told me about receiving phone calls [from intelligence operatives],” Abbasi said. “Someone said they saw people [lawmakers] confined to compounds where vehicles of the FC (Frontier Corps) were parked,” he added while naming a paramilitary organization that is tasked with border security, counterterrorism and aiding the government with law and order in Balochistan.”

Here is the link to PM Abbasi’s interview in Urdu.

The PM’s remarks come almost 9 years after an earlier Prime Minister had expressed similar sentiments.

In May 2009, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani had stated that a “state within a state” would not be allowed.

Two years later in December 2011 Premier Gilani again repeated similar yet stronger words:

“In one of the most audacious speeches by a sitting prime minister in recent memory, Yousaf Raza Gilani on Thursday unexpectedly let loose a barrage of accusations and reservations against the country’s all-powerful military establishment. First at an exhibition, and later on the floor of the National Assembly, Gilani not only voiced concerns over ‘conspiracies being hatched against the incumbent government,’ he questioned the credibility of the armed forces over the Osama bin Laden (OBL) debacle that resulted in questions being asked on the global stage about Pakistan’s sincerity in battling terrorism. The premier, in a direct reference, hit out at the military establishment, and said that a “state within [a] state will not be acceptable,” referring to the military’s dominance in the country’s affairs. The premier set out to clear that there are no sacred cows, and that the intelligence agencies cannot absolve themselves in the OBL debacle. “We are being asked by the judicial [Abbottabad] commission about issuance of visas (to Americans). But I want to ask how Osama bin Laden lived here for the past six years? On what type of visa was he living here,” Gilani asked. Up next, he took on his own admission of weakness – the defence ministry’s response to the Supreme Court wherein it claimed that military’s operational matters do not come under its domain. “If they say they are not under the ministry of defence, then we should get out of this slavery,” Gilani said. “Then this parliament has no importance, this system has no importance, then you are not sovereign.” After pathos, Gilani resorted to logos. “They are being paid from the state exchequer, from your revenue and from your taxes. All institutions are subservient to parliament, and we have made them accountable to parliament”, the premier said. His conclusion was terse. “If somebody thinks they are not under the government, they are mistaken. They are under the government and they shall remain under the government, because we are the elected representatives of the people of Pakistan.” Gilani reiterated past events where, he said, the government stood by the armed forces at the bleakest of hours – over a storm of American pressure after the OBL raid, the Nato attack at border posts on November 26, 2011 and the 2008 Mumbai attacks. “The democratic government has always emboldened and motivated the image of security forces on all issues,” the premier said. Realising the sacrifices of our soldiers for the cause of the country, the government raised their salaries by a hundred per cent, he added. The ire was directed not just at the military, though. Gilani also addressed the judiciary, reminding the judges that he ordered their release moments after his election as prime minister, and his government reinstated them to their offices later.”

Human Rights abuse in Baluchistan gets international attention

The growing human rights abuse in Baluchistan is finally getting international attention.

In end November 2017, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) had slammed the recent spate of enforced disappearances involving Baloch students and activists in Karachi. HRCP demanded that these student activists and human rights defenders be accorded due process if they are suspected of any crime, or be immediately released by the security forces that have detained them.

According to a Human Rights Watch report titled “We Can Torture, Kill, or Keep You for Years” Balochistan has suffered from “the practice of enforced disappearances, in which the authorities or their agents take people into custody and then deny all responsibility or knowledge of their fate or whereabouts.”

As of 2016, according to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, over 1,000 bodies of political activists have been found in Balochistan. According to the Voice of Missing Baloch the number of missing is over 19000.

The US Department of State Human Rights Reports for 2015 and 2016 both have spoken of “politically motivated killings of Baloch nationalists in Balochistan” and “There were kidnappings and forced disappearances of persons from various backgrounds in nearly all areas of the country. Some police and security forces reportedly held prisoners incommunicado and refused to disclose their location.”

In the last few months, flyers and advertisements asking for a ‘Free Balochistan’ were displayed in taxi cabs in Geneva and London. On each of those occasions the Government of Pakistan threatened to break off ties if the country in question  – Switzerland and United Kingdom – did not take immediate action and remove those posters. There were also street protests across Pakistan led primarily by Islamist parties and groups.

When this billboard went up in the heart of New York city on December 27, at Times Square, many Pakistanis had this to say:

When questioned by many on social media – especially Twitter – about the authenticity of the poster, Bhawal Mengal, Baloch human rights activist and member of World Baloch organization had this to say

Perhaps, Pakistani authorities should try and end the atrocities and abuses in Balochistan rather than focus on just protesting publicly about these abuses.