Martial Law in Sindh: Is Army Creating Another Balochistan?

martial law

Let’s start by being honest about one thing: An increasing part of the country is under martial law. Fata is clearly under martial law. Balochistan is under martial law. And over the weekend the last layer of paint peeled off and revealed that Sindh is for all intents and purposes under martial law, too. Pakistan Rangers writ has been extended, and it will continue to be extended. Governor’s Rule has been ruled out for the time being, but this is merely a formality that allows us to pretend that the obvious de facto reality is actually something else.

This is the point where you are saying, “Yes, but Karachi was out of control! It was taken over by terrorists and mafias and the people were living in constant fear! Something had to be done!” Okay, I am not disagreeing with any of that. Karachi has long had problems including being believed to be the home of many al Qaeda safe houses, an accusation that has only been reinforced with the deaths of al Qaeda terrorists in shoot outs with law enforcement agencies. There is also the widely accepted claim that Mullah Omar died while being cared for in a Karachi hospital, though agencies are less ready to accept that one due to the obvious implications for our claim not to be actively helping the Taliban.

So, yes, something needed to be done in Karachi. But what has been done? Has Army cracked down hard on jihadi networks in Karachi? No. Actually, Pakistan Rangers have raided 90 multiple times and continue arresting, detaining, and threatening MQM leaders and workers (though the party continues to stubbornly hang on to life). Predictably, PPP finds itself in the cross hairs now too with arrest warrants issued for former Prime Minister Gilani, Makhdoom Amin Fahim and others. Chairman Higher Education Council Sindh Dr Asim Hussain has even been charged with terrorism! Is it any coincidence that he is a close confidante of Asif Zardari?

In response, Zardari has accused Nawaz of bringing back politics of revenge from the 1990s, which Pervaiz Rashid has obviously denied. Zardari is no fool, however it is likely that the scenario is much less a PMLN strategy than a GHQ strategy. In elections, it will be PTI that probably gains more from a battered MQM and PPP than Noon-league, and Nawaz may only be spared for the moment because Army’s focus is on Sindh and not Punjab.

This is also where things get very, very dangerous. Aside from the obvious problems with a military taking out targeted operations against political parties in a supposed ‘democracy’, there is the regional issue that is obvious to everyone not wearing khaki coloured lenses. After all, It was the Punjab Home Minister who was killed in a terrorist attack. It was the Punjab Law Minister who is a known associate of the leader of a banned organisation. And yet there has not even been any similar military operations in Punjab. Now let us ask, how well has martial law been greeted in Fata and Balochistan? Sindhis already resent the Punjabi attitude that treats them like illiterate backwards serfs, and now there are boots on the ground that give that tension a visible reality. Army’s heavy handedness has never won over a people whether Pashtun, Baloch, or Bengali. What do they expect to happen in Sindh?

Reality Check

zardari-speech

PPP may have faded in recent polls, but party co-Chairman Asif Zardari brought the party firmly back into the spotlight with a fiery speech that lashed out at the security establishment for overstepping its domain. If Zardari’s rhetoric was over the top, it has been outdone by hyperventilating media responses terming the speech as ‘declaring war on the military‘. I think a reality check is needed. Ejaz Haider noted that, with the current Rangers operations expanding in Sindh, “Zardari finds himself in a bind. He could act meek or throw down the gauntlet”. Zardari is many things, but “meek” is not one of his better known traits. Even though, he spent five years as President taking all manner of attacks against his party and himself. Only now is he really lashing out. Whether or not this is a wise political strategy only time will tell, but underestimating the PPP co-Chairman has never been a good bet. This time may be no different.

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Recipe for Failure

guns

Wednesday’s terrorist attack at Imambargah Qasr-e-Sakina is the fourth terrorist attack since the past 8 weeks, three of which have targeted Shia worshipers killing almost 100 innocents and injuring dozens more. It is impossible to continue ignoring the devil in the room which is the rise in sectarian killing. Still the country is not divided along sectarian lines, but could that be on the brink of changing?

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PTI, JUD using crises to grow their own power at the expense of the state

plaque commemorating PTI  funding of Jamaat-ud-Dawa wing FIF

Four years ago, historic floods devastated Pakistan. The government immediately launched an effort to raise money to provide relief for affectees, with President Zardari stepping up and donating over Rs.300 millions of his own money to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. The government admitted being overwhelmed by the unprecedented natural disaster, but efforts to help those suffering the most were hindered when ambitious politicians chose to use the event for their own personal agendas. Imran Khan led the pack in this move, telling the international community that Pakistan’s government was too corrupt and that they should donate their money to his own personal foundation. In doing so, the PTI chief was able to build his own personal stature, but at the cost of undermining the state itself.

Imran Khan wasn’t the only one who took this cynical attitude towards suffering, however. Also there was jihadi leader Hafiz Saeed who used his newly formed front group “Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation” to distribute relief goods. Like PTI, Hafiz Saeed uses “humanitarian relief” work as a cover for promoting extremism.

In Pakistan, Jamaat ud-Dawa and the FIF continue to operate quite openly and Hafiz Khalid Waleed said the group was using its flood relief camps to preach its version of Islam.

“We think that a Muslim has to live according to his religion in order to become a good human being. Thank God, we do preach to them, and it has its effects, and they are converted. To us, this is social work, too.”

Today, PTI and Jamaat-ud-Dawa are working hand in hand in Sindh, where Imran Khan is desperate to get a political foothold. By providing humanitarian relief, PTI and JUD are able to win the “hearts and minds” of the people there, turning them against their own government and making them more sympathetic to the PTI’s and JUD’s agendas.

This may be a cynical political ploy by PTI and JUD, but the real responsibility comes back to the state. If the state was providing adequate relief to affected people, there would not be a ‘vacuum’ for other groups to step into and take over the role of the state. By failing to provide for the people, the state is undermining its own legitimacy and fueling its own demise.

What Happens After North Waziristan?

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As airstrikes continue to pound militant compounds in North Waziristan, media reports that a full scale military operation is finally in the works targeting militants in the region. Such an operation is necessary, but it is not sufficient to root out the problem of extremist violence in the country. Just as the 2009 operation in South Waziristan did not end terrorism, neither will a successful operation that only takes place in North Waziristan today.

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