Time to Think about Child Abuse, not just clamor for Public Hangings

The brutal rape and murder of an 8-year old have led to demands for public hanging of killers and rapists as if that is the solution to such crimes. If military courts are the answer to terrorism, and lynching the answer to blasphemy then surely public hanging will help cleanse Pakistani society.

No one wants to stop and think that according to reports by Pakistani civil society organizations, on average 11 children were abused per day. In 2016, 4139 cases of sexual abuse were reported by Pakistan’s newspapers, a ten percent increase over 2015. And this is only those that were reported! And of course, no wants to discuss the root causes of these crimes.

Instead as Cyril Almeida points out the ‘outrage machine’ is “on fire and in overdrive.” And so “the rage — total rage — once activated was only going to go in ever more dangerous, more unhinged directions. APS brought hangings back. So this time it had to be a hanging plus. Hang him in the street outside her home. Hang him in a public square. The biggest one you can find. Hang him in a stadium. The biggest one you can find. Build a new stadium if there isn’t one big enough.”

Raza Rumi, asks why “a tragedy that should have been a wake up call for the country and how we raise children at homes, schools and madaris” has instead “turned into a sordid game for political elites and a rating contest for mainstream electronic media. Once again, a historic opportunity for reform has been squandered.”

Here is more from Rumi’s piece

“When Zainab’s story came into public light, every Pakistani was horrified especially those who are parenting young children. That sexual abuse of children is a part of people’s lives came as an ugly reminder. Celebrities opened up in public arenas recounting the horrors of being abused as children. Earlier, the Kasur child pornography scandal shook the public in a similar fashion but nothing came out of it in terms of setting things right. One hoped that with the outrage and protest over Zainab’s murder things would turn out to be different. But they didn’t.”

“From 2011 to 2016 a total of 19,508 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in the country. This is where the media could have played a constructive role. Instead, mainstream media covered the Zainab story while ignoring all ethics of journalism. Zainab’s parents were blamed for their negligence, his brother was scolded for not protecting his sister and the list goes on. A bereaved family found itself in the midst of rating sharks coping with an uninvited onslaught. The images of dead Zainab have only brutalised us and not helped the cause for child protection.”


Has Pakistan’s Establishment Lost it?

The Pakistani establishment seems to have gone berserk. At a time when the country is facing both domestic and international crises, the establishment is squandering its energy chasing journalists, bloggers, social activists, and others within the country instead of trying to united the nation.
Pakistan’s problems are severe. Opposition parties are once again threatening a country-wide strike, democratic institutions are under threat, and there is widespread social unrest. Terror attacks inside Afghanistan are on the rise, the United States continues to mount pressure on Pakistan to act against terrorist groups, and Pakistan’s relations with India are worse than ever. But still the establishment appears to be more interested in clamping down on dissent than in seeking solutions to real problems.
The latest exercise in futility is the lodging of FIRs against former Ambassador and well-known author, Husain Haqqani. Forget that international law prevents bringing Haqqani back to Pakistan to face fabricated charges of ‘treason’ or ‘waging war against the army.’ Ignore that most of the world finds allegations of treason in 2018, based on Haqqani’s books published in 2005 and 2013 patently absurd. Is Husain Haqqani really so much of a threat that Pakistan’s ‘miltablishment’ should prioritize threatening him with new legal proceedings over the country’s other problems?
On Sunday January 20, three FIRs were lodged against Haqqani in Kohat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, at Cantonment and Bilitang police stations by Momin, Muhammad Asghar and Shamsul Haq. The complainants, all previously unknown individuals,  alleged that Haqqani’s words and writings had caused irreparable loss to the
country and defamed it.
Haqqani’s response to this was “How weak must the Pakistan army be, if an individual’s articles and books amount to waging war against it.” He said he planned to treat the registering of criminal cases against him as “just a media gimmick” as “No one in the rest of the world will treat them as legitimate either.” The former ambassador pointed out that the Supreme Court never decided the so-called ‘Memogate’ after considerable media noise.
“Pakistan has serious problems and those who do not like my research and solutions should publish theirs,” he pointed out. “A constant hyper-patriotic media circus at home will not change the impact of my ideas all over the world.”
In an editorial The Daily Times noted the absurdity of the charges against Husain Haqqani.
“As a matter of fact, Haqqani’s views, no matter how strongly expressed, do not fall under the category of hate speech. Criticism of the armed forces is often met with severe allegations and this is evident from the way space for dissenters is fast shrinking in this country. Regardless of one’s agreement or disagreement with Haqqani, it must be said clearly and loudly that there is nothing wrong, legally and constitutionally, with critical remarks about the armed forces. The latter is an institution of the state, and just like any other its performance has to be assessed with a critical eye. That is the only way to ensure that it continues to serve its constitutional duties effectively.”
Here is the rest of the editorial:
“Last Sunday, former Ambassador Husain Haqqani was nominated in FIRs in three different police stations of Kohat, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The charges brought against him included ‘hate speech’ and writing books and articles against the armed forces and the ‘sovereignty of Pakistan’. Earlier, the former envoy had been a target of a malicious campaign on electronic and social media, where he was accused of portraying Pakistan in an unfavourable light. That the US State Department does not hold a very high opinion of our authorities is fairly obvious given that it has been seeking indiscriminate action against extremists and we have yet to write off certain networks, lashkars and jaishs. By pointing out these facts, and by expressing his opinions on the matter, Husain Haqqani is in fact doing Pakistan a favour, since the extremist outfits that remain the bone of contention in the matter are no well-wishers of the country and its people. One may disagree with what Haqqani writes but he is well within his rights to express his views and to recollect his memories from the days when he was serving the country. Many retired diplomats have written about their experiences, often to the dismay of successive Pakistani governments. FIRs over such frivolous charges and non-issues should not be entertained by the authorities concerned. There are plenty of real issues needing their attention.”

‘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.”