Tahir Dawar: State Must answer says former senator

It is almost one month since the kidnapping and subsequent murder of SP Tahir Dawar, and yet are yet to understand what really happened and why. According to former senator and PPP intellectual, Farhatullah Babar, this case has “raised some serious questions” that the Pakistani state “must answer.”

According to Babar, “The official response from the day Dawar was kidnapped on October 26 till his body was found across the border defies comprehension. It ranged from callous indifference to outright lies to political gimmickry.” There are “some two dozen intelligence agencies working separately under civil and military command structures. Under the National Action Plan (NAP) they are also supposed to work together under the same roof in the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) headed by the prime minister. It should have been possible for them to point out the existence of some foreign hand instead of waiting until the body was found. The reaction of Islamabad police was no different from its reaction to such disappearances and as if investigations were doomed to fail.”

Babar also refers to what he calls “downright comical lies. Talking to the VOA, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant Iftikhar Durrani not only flatly denied any kidnapping but even insisted that SP Dawar was already in Peshawar. When a bewildered anchor expressed surprise that this had not been reported anywhere, Durrani literally ridiculed her. He snubbed her that while sitting in Washington she believed she knew better than him. His confidence was so overpowering that it forced the anchor to retreat into silence.”

Further, when reports of the body found in Afghanistan started circulating on social media, “the official reaction was bizarre. It is photoshop, said one federal minister. The state minister for interior surpassed all; it is a matter of national security and I will not talk about it, he said. Taking the same plea, the information minister also refused to comment. None realized the implications of their words. Citing ‘national security’ implied that Dawar had been detained by security agencies for reasons of national security. Who told the ministers that his disappearance was a matter of national security? Words that once escape the lips cannot be easily recalled. Both ministers will rue their words. Their irresponsible national security mantra will have to be explained.”

Finally, when the body was finally found and brought back to Pakistan, “the policy statement bordered on ridiculous. The minister of state for interior stated on the floor of the House that the agencies failed to detect the movements of the kidnappers because none of the 1,800 security cameras installed in Islamabad had the capability to read number plates or recognize faces of commuters in the vehicles. He called for probing corruption in the purchase of security cameras as a way forward.”

According to Babar, “The perpetrators of the crime have demonstrated frightening capabilities. Besides capabilities of surveillance, kidnapping, holding the victim for almost two weeks, they had the capability to transport the victim, or his body, from Islamabad all the way into Afghanistan, crossing the Punjab, KP, tribal areas and the Pak-Afghan border. None of the scores of security check posts manned by police, paramilitary, Frontier Constabulary, Frontier Corps and the army personnel detected anything.”

Babar ends by stating: “An answer to the question ‘Who killed Dawar in Afghanistan?’ will not be found unless the question who kidnapped him in Islamabad and kept him for days is credibly answered.”

Naya Pakistan in deep crisis: Is IMF bailout not coming through?

After traveling to both Saudi Arabia and China and stating that Pakistan had no option as it needed help, it appears as though neither of Pakistan’s “deepest” and “closest” friends are going to bail out Pakistan. What is also becoming apparent is that this time round Pakistan will not find it easy to get an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout.

According to news stories, “After almost two weeks of discussions between Pakistani Finance Ministry officials and the IMF, the talks ended inconclusively on Tuesday. The two sides did resolve to carry on the process, hoping to finalize a deal sometime early next year.”

The failure to reach an agreement “partly stemmed from the IMF’s insistence that Pakistan fully disclose the terms of loans extended under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, according to a Pakistani government official. Beijing plans to invest more than $60 billion in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship Belt and Road project. The U.S.-led multilateral lender’s demand for full disclosure comes at an awkward time for Pakistan and China. The U.S. has criticized Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government for engaging in “debt-trap diplomacy” through the Belt and Road, leaving borrowers overextended and beholden to Beijing.”

Further, the IMF, “is seeking a devaluation of the Pakistani rupee as well as an increase in domestic electricity and gas tariffs, the official said. These measures are intended to reduce Pakistan’s fiscal deficit. “The IMF’s demands are tough and will eventually be unpopular with the Pakistani public,” he added.”

In a recent news story a Pakistani government official asserted: “It is very clear to us that the Americans are positioning themselves to use the IMF for pressing Pakistan for a full disclosure of conditions tied to Chinese loans. Everyone should recognize Pakistan has no shortage of friends. Our [liquid foreign currency] reserves give us a cover on imports for at least two months and we can request help from other friends, too.”

While Pakistani government is displaying false bravado and asserting that it is confident that Pakistan’s friends – from Saudi Arabia to China and others – to help the country this will not change the reality. If Pakistan needs to re-establish its credibility in global markets it will need to sign a new IMF program. “There will have to be an IMF program. There’s no doubt about that,” said Muhammad Suhail of Karachi’s Topline Securities. “Without an IMF program, loans from other multilateral institutions — like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank — will not come, and even bonds [will be difficult to issue].”

Lahore’s Trendy Elite Hijacks Faiz’s Memory

‘Bol ke lab azaad hain tere’ is no longer true or fashionable in Naya Pakistan. The recent Faiz Festival demonstrated this reality to all of us, both inside and outside of Pakistan. This Fest too appears to have gone the way of the Lahore Lit Fest and other such ‘Festivals’ whose primary purpose appears to be to give the elite of Lahore an opportunity to demonstrate to the world that all is well in Pakistan and liberal-progressive ideas are thriving, even though the reality is the exact opposite.

 

The recently concluded 4th Faiz Festival has come under a lot of flak by leading Pakistani intellectuals and artists.

 

Fayaz ul Hasan Chohan, the firebrand PTI leader and Culture and Information minister for the state of Punjab, was the chief guest at the Faiz Festival. Chohan visited Mumtaz Qadri’s shrine, the same Qadri who killed Faiz’s wife’s nephew and the son of his friend, Dr. M.D. Taseer –Salmaan Taseer, former Governor of Punjab.

 

While Chohan could speak at the festival, Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) leader and Member National Assembly (MNA) Ali Wazir, along with academics Dr Ammar Ali Jaan and Dr Taimur Rahman as well as former editor of Daily Times Rashed Rahman were barred from speaking at the Faiz International Festival. Apparently, ‘someone’ told the organizers that they could hold the festival as long as these speakers, whose names were in the program, did not speak.

 

Clearly, organizers of the Faiz festival including his family members think it is better to yield to the powers-that-be to commercialize Faiz’s name and poetry. That is a travesty in the name of the poet of resistance who faced imprisonment several times and, in 1965 and 1971, refused to oblige Pakistan’s deep state with poetry extolling the virtues of the country’s soldiers because he disagreed with the wars they were waging.  

 

In a Facebook post Dr Taimur Rahman referenced the censorship undertaken during Zia’s era:

 

““Back in the Zia period, editors published newspapers with black marks of censor on the print copy. This was their method of complying with state censorship while also protesting against these violations of democratic freedoms. In the same way, some chairs were left empty during the Faiz International Festival. These chairs marked the absence of Ali Wazir, Rashed Rahman (my father), Dr Ammar Ali Jan and myself. The four of us were prohibited from speaking at the festival. With great difficulty, I was allowed to perform but not allowed to speak.”

 

It is clear that the younger members of families of resistance poets of yesteryear does not want to struggle, while enjoying the limelight and commercial benefits of their forbearers’ name and effort. They have sought the easy way out, joined the pretense liberal elite that holds festivals, and events but is unwilling to push back on the ugly reality of Pakistan’s military-intelligence state.

 

Faiz’s children and family are content running a well-funded Faiz Foundation that sponsors made-for-TV festivals; The son of Ahmed Faraz –the poet dubbed ‘traitor’ by the Pakistan establishment — is a PTI Senator. Shibli Faraz doesn’t even flinch when PTI trolls frequently cite a couplet about seeking praise abroad while criticizing the motherland. The couplet was originally directed at Ahmed Faraz who spent most of the Zia era in exile!

 

Amongst those who pushed back against what happened at the Faiz festival –at least on Twitter — were Reema Omer, International Legal Adviser for South Asia for ICJ, Human Rights activist Marvi Sirmed, activist and sociologist Nida Kirmani and one of Pakistan’s most well-known writers, Mohammad Hanif.

 

We can do better than Rashed Rahman’s ‘Dark times ahead’ blog on this incident: “I am feeling quite chuffed while writing these lines. I want to express my thanks to the powers that be for forcing the organisers of the Faiz Festival held in Alhamra Arts Council Lahore on November 16-18, 2018 to ban my and two others’ participation in discussion panels.The mind fairly boggles what catastrophe would have ensued if all three individuals were allowed to participate.”

“The issue is not of one or two individuals. It is far broader and encompasses by now both the mainstream and social media. The former has been emasculated by heavy leaning on acceptable and unacceptable content, shrinking of government advertising by 70 percent and private by 50 percent. This has led to one TV channel closing down and many others, big and small, teetering on the brink of collapse. Managements have embarked on ‘right-sizing’ (which actually means downsizing), with hundreds of journalists across the country being thrown out of their jobs and many more on their way out or threatened with redundancy. Mainstream media outlets are also complaining of the heavy but invisible hand of the censor. Working journalists are out in protest at Press Clubs throughout the country against limits on freedom of the media and the financial crunch that is losing, and is likely to lose more, jobs in the industry.’

“In our case, the education system having been virtually reduced to degree-awarding factories without heed to the intellectual development of the system’s charges, i.e. young minds, leaves them vulnerable to the saturated news and information cycle of the internet and social media without the intellectual tools or capacity to sift right from wrong, true from false. There are by now many instances of how social media lends itself to hate speech, instigation to violence and other such anti-social trends. The answer to this conundrum is lost in the din and pace of our times, which may rightly be dubbed ‘The Age of Distraction’.”

“Revisiting the lines with which this column began, bans and severe limitations on freedom of the media and expression lead to the conclusion that we now live under a controlled democracy that the deep state wishes to micro-manage in order to dominate the national narrative by means subtle where possible, worse where necessary. Dark times indeed.”

We end this post with these words by Dr Mohammad Taqi

Don’t give in to mob rule, say Pakistanis

Pakistanis must stand up and not give in to individuals like Pir Afzal Qadri or Khadim Hussain Rizvi and groups like Tehreek e Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). This is the message that leading Pakistani activists and intellectuals are trying to put out.

In his latest column Pervez Hoodbhoy states: “Pakistan must firmly reject the rule of religiously charged mobs. Instead it should aspire towards becoming part of civilised, cosmopolitan world society. Surrender is not an option.”

 

Hoodbhoy refers to the “inflammatory video filmed just after the Aasia Bibi verdict” that  “received well over five million views. Therein you can watch the TLP leadership calling for the murder of the three Supreme Court judges who dismissed blasphemy charges against Aasia; hear that officers of the Pakistan Army should revolt against COAS Gen Qamar Bajwa; see the country’s prime minister being called a “yehudi bacha” (‘Jewish child’); and listen to the call for overthrowing the PTI government.”

 

As Hoodbhoy rightly points out: “Had a call for murder and mutiny been made by any other members of Pakistani society, unimaginable punishment would have been meted out. Similarly for other countries: in the United States instigators of bloody insurrection would be locked up for years; in Iran or Saudi Arabia they would be hanged or beheaded; and in China they would mysteriously disappear. And in India? Similar, I suppose. A similar open call for murder and mutiny by other Pakistanis would meet extreme punishment. But we in Pakistan are apparently nicer, kinder people. Our normally voluble, judiciary suddenly lost its voice. Unlike with errant politicians, the Supreme Court did not dock TLP leaders for contempt of court. The ever-vigilant ISPR also somehow missed hearing the call for mutiny against the army’s top leadership. Instead, it pleaded for “an amicable and peaceful resolution” of the Aasia Bibi matter because it “does not want the army dragged into the matter”. And the prime minister? Against the ‘enemies of the state’ his fighting words and body style initially drew wide approbation. Some liberals bravely termed this Imran’s finest hour. But the hour lasted an hour and no more; what started with a roar ended with a whimper. The TLP’s flaccid half-apology was accepted, ignoring the lives lost and property damaged by the rioters.”

 

Further, “The state’s reluctance to confront clerical power makes its earlier promises ring hollow. Take, for instance, madressah reform. Forgotten is the anti-terrorism National Action Plan that called for financial audits of madressahs, uncovering funding sources, curriculum expansion and revision, and monitoring of activities. That’s a dead duck. Try auditing TLP-associated madressahs.”

 

The question that Pakistan’s security establishment “must now ask itself hard questions: has its mainstreaming of religious extremism gone too far? Can extremists actually be moderated by bringing them into the political fold? On the political chessboard, was it a good move to try balance ‘hard’ Deobandi power with ‘soft’ Barelvi power?”

Police Officer Kidnapped in Pakistan, Killed in Afghanistan: The Murky World of ISI’s ‘Good Taliban’

On October 27, Mr Tahir Khan Dawar, Superintendent of Police (Peshawar), left his house in Islamabad for a walk but never returned till his body was handed over by Afghan authorities to their Pakistani counterparts at Torkham crossing on Thursday November 15.
Tahir Dawar hails from North Waziristan and “was promoted as acting SP a couple of months ago. He had served as DSP in different areas of Peshawar and also worked in the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). The Pakistan Provincial Police Services Officers Association expressed concern over Tahir Dawar’s mysterious disappearance, but nobody else has highlighted the issue.”
Since end October Mr Khan’s family and elders of North Waziristan tribal district had demanded that “The government should recover the missing police officer within five days otherwise the residents of North Waziristan district will organise sit-ins protest in Islamabad and Peshawar simultaneously.”
In early November Dawar’s family and elders of Dawar tribe “set a five-day deadline during a press conference at the Peshawar Press Club a few days back. His family members and elders of his Dawar tribe addressed the press conference along with his two daughters, who were holding pictures of their father in their hands and demanding his safe recovery.”
As pointed out by news reports: “The police and the government are facing criticism for failing to recover its officer, who in turn was responsible as a cop for the security of the people. Tahir Dawar had gone to Islamabad on October 26. None of his guards was accompanying him. He had dinner at his home in the federal capital and then went out alone at around 7pm, officials said. His cellphone was found switched off at around 8pm.”
Finally, on Wednesday November 13, news reports broke out about the murder of Mr Dawar inside Afghanistan. “After the news of Mr. Dawar’s death broke out on the evening of 13 November 2018, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Pakistan in Kabul immediately contacted Afghan authorities for confirmation of the news and handing over of the body of the deceased to Pakistan. The Ambassador of Pakistan had asked the Afghan government to immediately send the mortal remains foregoing routine formalities.
According to an ISPR release, “The brutal murder of SP Tahir in Afghanistan is highly condemnable. We have lost a brave police officer. Tahir Dawar’s abduction, move to Afghanistan, murder and follow up behaviour of Afghan authorities raise questions which indicate involvement or resources more than a terrorist organisation in Afghanistan. While investigations by Pakistani authorities are in process, we reiterate that Afghan security forces to cooperate in border fencing and bilateral border security coordination to deny use of Afghan territory against Pakistan.”