Building Pakistan’s Future

Mumtaz Qadri MosqueFew things tell as much about a society than the physical space itself. America’s Statue of Liberty, London’s grand palaces, the pyramids of Egypt, the canals of Amsterdam – each of these gives a glimpse into the heart and soul of the society. In Pakistan, too, our architecture tells our story. You cannot know Pakistan without knowing Lahore Fort, Shalimar Bagh, Islamia College, and Mazar-e-Quaid. Architectural landscapes change along with societies, though, and what we are building today is a glimpse into where we are headed tomorrow.

In Pakistan, the future we are building is usually discussed in terms of transportation infrastructure. Whether the controversial Orange Line Train in Lahore, or game changer CPEC, we are told stories about development that will usher in a bright future for the country. However, these are not the only projects taking place, and they may not even be the most important ones.

Jamia Hafsa, the infamous Lal Masjid madrasseh whose students swore allegiance to Daesh, has been granted 20 kanals plot in Sector H 11-4 Islamabad for construction of new facilities.

Across the capital, Faisal Mosque is getting competition from a newer construction – the mosque built to honour the convicted murderer Mumtaz Qadri. This mosque has proven so popular that it has raised funds to double its size.

Religious extremists are not the only ones expanding their space in the country. There has also been an rapid growth of building by DHA, one of the Army’s construction companies. DHA has even spread outside of its usual areas, announcing new developments in Balochistan also.

While religious extremists and the military expand their presence across the architectural landscape of the nation, secular political offices are being bulldozed. This is not a defence of Altaf Hussain, but nobody suggested bulldozing PMA Kakul when a COAS was charged with treason.

Projects like Orange Line Train and CPEC will make it easier to travel and transport both in major urban areas and across the nation. But it is what is being built for people to travel to that that will define our future.

Islamic State is expanding to Islamic Republic of Pakistan

ISIS wall chalking in Quetta

Recent articles published in the US media are giving the impression that Islamic State, with a global Jihadi appeal, is struggling hard to get a foothold in Pakistan but the authors of these articles are either downplaying the tell tale signs or the articles lack the necessary framework in which emerging terror organizations flourish.

As the Taliban lose steam as a result of the death of their supreme leader Mullah Muhammad Omar and splintering and internal fighting, stage is set for a new group to take over. A cursory look at the metamorphosis of Jihadi organizations in Pakistan and Afghanistan over the past two decades indicate that they are getting deadlier, sophisticated and high tech savvy with every passing year; from Mujahideen groups willing to negotiate to Taliban willing to blow up and finally to Islamic State willing to behead innocent people. This is a worrying development not only for the South Asian region but for the entire world as well.

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What is missing from fight against terrorists

Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif has declared that 2016 will be the year when terrorism is eliminated from Pakistan. This is something that the entire nation hopes and prays for, but if it is to come true there will need to be a significant change in counter-terrorism operations.

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Tashfeen Malik and the Missing India Dossiers

Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen MalikOverseas Pakistanis are in the headlines, but not for positive reasons. Authorities have identified Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik as the terrorists responsible for murdering 14 innocents this week before being killed in an encounter with US police. Farook was an American citizen of Pakistani descent. His parents moved from Pakistan to the US, but after the troubled marriage fell apart, his father returned to Karachi. Tashfeen Malik is from Karor Lal Esan, but lived most of her life in Saudi Arabia until returning to Pakistan to enroll in Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan. The two met using an internet matchmaking site and the two were married in Saudi Arabia before returning to United States.

Media has reported a connection between Tashfeen Malik and Lal Masjid even claiming  photos of her with Maulana Abdul Aziz. Pakistani security agencies have been investigating Malik’s family in Karor and have found connections with militants, but people who know the family are telling that her family members are involved in sectarian activities.

What is of particular interest however is that all of this detailed information has been presented in just a few days after the attack was carried out, and it has been shared openly with the media. Compare this to the infamous dossiers on Indian involvement in terrorism that were highlighted by all media groups before Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi delivered them to the UN and Prime Minister Sharif gave copies to American President Barack Obama. What has become of these?

Sartaj Aziz did say that the dossiers contained no material evidence, and only “contained the “pattern and narrative” of Indian involvement”. It is not clear what this means, but many believe the dossiers only contain news clippings and statements, not hard proofs. The actual contents are not known, but what is known is that there has been no response from either the UN or the Americans. Whatever was given, it did not leave much of a mark.

What do these two stories have in common? Though it may seem little, the truth is that it may be a lot. The dossiers are looking like something that was presented for the benefit of Pakistani audience, not international leaders. They were created to support the national narrative that terrorism and extremism are not a problem of Pakistan but are the result of foreign elements. Unlike government’s dossiers, the evidence against Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik is becoming more and more clear and impossible to deny. Once again, it is pointing to extremist and terrorist elements in Pakistan that are spreading to foreign countries, not in the opposite direction.

Many are worried that Western countries will react strongly against Muslims after the attacks in Paris and California. However the first thing we need to do is stop trying to cover up and ignore the problem of extremism in our own country. It is these extremist elements that are putting majority of peace loving Muslims at greatest risk both here and in the West.

Selective Outrage and Selective Justice

Pakistan Rangers raid nine zero

In the past two posts, I have already looked at how the justice system allows cases to hang over the heads of politicians for decades without ever coming to any resolution while speedily dispatching cases against extremist elements (usually in the form of acquittal). I have also discussed the way that evidence is handled, namely that there can never be too little against politicians and never enough against militants. Today, I want to take a look at another piece of the puzzle which is the selective way that justice is meted in the first place.

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