Taking over Jaish seminary is not enough

Most reasonable people agree that Pakistan needs to act against all terrorist groups and individuals. Right now, the state of Pakistan must act against Jaish e Mohammad and its chief Masood Azhar.

The Pulwama attack was claimed by Jaish and the international community has accepted India’s demands that action be taken against Jaish and its leadership. Even the UN Security Council statement asked for action by Pakistan.

After initially denying that any group in Pakistan had anything to do with the Pulwama attack, it looks like the government is repeating its past policies of taking cosmetic steps simply to buy time and assuage the global community.

As an editorial in Dawn points out it was “unwise” of Pakistan to “allow” terror outfits “to operate in the past and efforts are needed to shut them down permanently.” There is a need to understand that “taking half-baked steps against violent actors is dangerous for Pakistan’s internal security, as well as its external relations. Now the elected leadership and the military establishment must take this campaign — as envisaged under NAP — to its logical conclusion by ensuring that non-state actors are not able to raise armed militias, and that those spewing hatred against other countries or spreading sectarian views are prosecuted.”

The announcement that action will be taken against Jamaat ud Dawa and that the madressah associated with Jaish-e-Mohammad in Bahawalpur has been taken over by the Punjab government is, however, not enough. “If the state has evidence of the outfit’s involvement in militancy it should present the facts and pursue the legal course so that JuD’s leadership can face justice. As has been witnessed for nearly two decades now, the state moves to ban militant outfits, but, in very little time they are back, up and running, with new names and the entire structure of violence intact. For example, in 2002 the Musharraf regime banned a host of jihadi and sectarian groups, yet this effort had little practical effect because with a mere change of nomenclature, the groups continued to peddle hate and violence, making a mockery of the proscription.”

Further, the state has also continued to “mainstream’ violent actors” and continues to “present them as legitimate religious scholars or relaunch the jihadi lashkars as political parties — have also failed to steer these groups away from violence and hate. For example, a sectarian party has been repeatedly allowed to take part in general elections, but its senior leaders have failed to cease spewing venom.”

Will Pakistan be staging ground for War Against Iran?

Pakistan’s establishment and the elite that supports it have long had a history of short-sighted action.

During the Cold War, Pakistan chose not to be nonaligned and instead provided an intelligence base to the United States for spying on the Soviet Union. So instead of building our economy and educating our people and staying out of wars and conflicts we preferred to rent our geo-strategic location and use that money to keep fighting against India.

Then the powers that be decided that they should involve themselves in the anti-Soviet Afghan jihad and in return obtain money and equipment from the Western bloc. Military dictator General Zia ul Haq thought this would help solve Pakistan’s Pashtun problem. Instead it created a refugee crisis, radicalized our society and built this hydra headed jihadi monster that we have been unable to get rid of. We have also not been able to educate our people or build an economy.

Now it seems that there is a similar short sightedness where people believe that Pakistan can obtain money from Saudi Arabia and the Trump administration by playing a role in Iran similar to what Pakistan did against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

As the former editor of Dawn Abbas Nasir wrote, ‘Sanity demands neutrality.’ Nasir argues that for its own sake Pakistan should remain neutral. “On more occasions than one, Prime Minister Imran Khan has been absolutely unambiguous in saying that Pakistan will not take sides in any Saudi-Iran tension and, if at all, it has a role to play that would be mediatory in nature. This situation places huge challenges on the civil-military leadership of Pakistan as it will have to steer a clear path away from trouble, while also not rubbing up the wrong way its old allies, and generous current funders, Saudi Arabia and UAE, both of whom are close to the US-Israeli position on the matter.”

Nasir notes, “existence in a region which more often than not resembles a tinderbox is fraught with perils and there can never be a justification for taking on more.” Thus Pakistan “will have to chart an independent course and ensure that as possibilities, no matter how remote, are now emerging of a possible peace deal in Afghanistan, some foreign powers’ desire to play games in Iran does not destabilise us again. This is easier said than done, but not impossible. Our policy needs to be informed by the huge price we have paid in blood for not pondering over the repercussions of some of our decisions in the past and making sure that we are not repeating our follies.”

This is a dangerous game and it will only cause us more harm.

We hope this is not happening.

Now Iran is Angry too: Why is Pakistan antagonizing every neighbor?

Why is it that every neighbor of Pakistan’s, including our Muslim neighbors, are upset with us? We tend to disclaim anything India says as ‘Hindu India’ defaming Muslim Pakistan. If that is true then why are Muslim brotherly countries like Afghanistan and Iran angry with us.

On the same day that the Pulwama terror attack took place in India, 23 members of Iran’s elite paramilitary Revolutionary Guard Corps force were killed in an explosion that attacked their bus in Khash-Zahedan sector of Sistan-Baluchistan province.

Iran has blamed the government of Pakistan and asked Pakistan to “not allow terrorists to use their border areas to organise anti-security moves against Iran.” Further, Major-General Mohammad-Ali Jafari of the Islamic Republic Guard Corps (IRGC) of Iran said “We will avenge their blood. If Pakistan doesn’t do its duties in this regard, Iran, based on the international laws, has the right to counter the adjacent threats in the neighboring countries and will punish the terrorists that are the mercenaries of regional and extra-regional intelligence services.”

Further, Jafari said “Inasmuch as the Government of Pakistan knows the location of these elements that are dangerous to Islam and should be accountable for the crimes the terrorist have committed, it is expected that they do their duty with seriousness and not allow the terrorists to use their border areas to organise anti-security moves against Iran.”

This is not the first time that Iran has accused Pakistan-based terrorist groups of attacks and this is also not the first time that Iran has threatened to take action.

At a time when Pakistan needs all the friends it can get, maybe it is time we took a deep breath and eliminated all terror groups that operate inside our country.

Pakistan must eliminate Terrorism for its own sake, starting with Jaish e Muhammad

We at New Pakistan have always stood for a stable and peaceful Pakistan at peace with its neighbors. We have always believed that Pakistan needs to eliminate terrorism, the ideology, the individuals and the groups responsible for it, from within its borders.

The recent terrorist attack at Pulwama when an Indian paramilitary force convoy was attacked by a suicide bomber belonging to the Pakistan-based jihadi group Jaish e Muhammad does not augur well for Pakistan. Every time a terror incident occurs in our neighborhood – Afghanistan, India, Iran – it always ends up being traced back to Pakistan.

According to BBC News “Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), a Pakistan-based group, has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing on 14 February in Indian-administered Kashmir. At least 46 soldiers died, making it the deadliest single attack against Indian forces in the region since 1989. JeM spokesman Muhammad Hassan spoke of “dozens of [Indian] forces’ vehicles” destroyed in the attack, when the bomber rammed a convoy in a vehicle filled with explosives.”

Jaish e Muhammad (Army of Mohammad) was founded by Pakistan-based Muslim cleric Maulana Masood Azhar in 1999 soon after he and two other terrorists were set free in exchange for the crew and passengers of an Indian Airlines plane hijacked and flown to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. JeM has been responsible for many attacks in the recent past including the October 2001attack on the state assembly in Srinagar in Indian administered Kashmir, theDecember 2001 attack on the Indian parliament (along with the other Kashmiri jihadi group Lashkar e Taiba), and the 2016 attack on an airbase in Pathankot in Indian Punjab.

Pakistan may officially deny that it has anything to do with the terror attack but the fact that terror groups based inside Pakistan are able to carry out such attacks and still continue to have safe havens within Pakistan is something that it cannot escape responsibility from. As former U.S. Secretary of StateHilary Clinton stated ““You can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbors. You know, eventually those snakes are going to turn on whoever has them in the backyard.”

The global condemnation of the terror attack inside Indian administered Kashmir including from countries that are our allies – Saudi Arabia, UAE, China- should send a message to Pakistan. As long as Pakistan allows Jaish e Muhammad to exist, Pakistan will remain a target for abuse and be increasingly isolated globally.

Anniversary of Pakistan’s Human Rights Icon, Asma Jahangir

One year ago, Pakistan lost one of its leading advocates of human rights and civilian supremacy, noted Supreme Court advocate and founding member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Asma Jahangir. At a time when Pakistanis continue to face the onslaught of the deep state and the media, civil society activists, and academics face constant threats to their rights, Asma Jahangir’s loss is felt deeply.

In a statement released by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), which she co-founded in 1987, “Today, more than ever, the human rights movement in Pakistan needs a collective conscience. Undoubtedly, were Asma Jahangir still with us, she would have continued to speak up against curbs on freedom of assembly, freedom of movement and freedom of expression. She would have demanded accountability for extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. She would have defended the vulnerable and marginalised – women, children, peasants and workers, bonded labour, religious and ethnic minorities, and the transgender community. She would have criticised any electoral mismanagement and judicial hyper-activism, but defended the need for democracy and an independent judiciary. And in so doing, she would be speaking for all those who believe in the inalienability of fundamental rights and freedoms. Over the last year, HRCP has carried this work forward despite the vacuum left by Ms Jahangir. Her imprint remains on the institution she co-founded and the numerous human rights workers she trained. HRCP’s governing body and its staff across the country are committed to continuing Asma Jahangir’s work, and will always remember her spirit and steel. As she herself once quipped, “Human rights is not a job, it is a way of life.” For HRCP, this still holds true.”

An editorial in Dawn stated that Ms Jahangir was “one of the bravest daughters of Pakistan,” “redoubtable defender of human rights and democratic values, champion of the downtrodden, and fierce opponent of repressive forces.” Ms Jahangir “had been schooled in the politics of resistance very early; as a young woman she took on Gen Yahya Khan’s martial law regime in order to have her activist father released from prison. She was a thorn in the side of the next military dictator too, fighting on the streets and in the courts his myriad misogynistic edicts and violations of people’s rights, violations that characterise the ascendancy of anti-democratic forces.”

Further, “it was her sense of justice that must continue to inspire all those who seek a more equitable society. Individual freedoms, she believed, must be protected at all costs. She was undeterred by labels of being a traitor to her religion and her country, the usual emotive tropes so beloved of bigots and hyper-nationalists. When the National Assembly, to its enduring shame, listened in silence while the then prime minister’s son-in-law launched into vile invective against a persecuted religious minority, it was Asma who denounced him for his hate speech. It was also Asma who represented MQM supremo Altaf Hussain after the Lahore High Court banned the media from covering the party’s activities. In so doing, she was defending a basic tenet of democracy — freedom of speech — that everyone, including the MQM, is entitled to no matter what their politics. On that principle she would not compromise, even while faced with angry denunciations from a section of her own fraternity. Asma spoke truth to power, and we must continue her legacy.”