Renaissance of terrorism and confronting TTP – 21 Jan 2023

Despite a 20-year-long and successful campaign against them, terrorist attacks are currently making a comeback

Twenty years after being driven from power by American forces, the Taliban retook control of Afghanistan in August 2021. Pakistan continued to face intense criticism for reportedly aiding the Afghan Taliban during their conflict with the US-led coalition forces. However, by allowing all the players to participate in the debate, Pakistan ultimately played a crucial role in restoring peace to Afghanistan. Because of this, the government and people of Pakistan had great expectations that, upon the Taliban’s return to Afghanistan, they would be able to persuade the terrorist groups operating against Pakistan from Afghan territory to drop the arms and nip the scourge of terrorism in the bud. To Pakistan’s chagrin, not much has changed, and despite a 20-year-long and successful campaign against them, terrorist attacks are currently making a comeback in Pakistan. It goes without saying that accepting millions of Afghan refugees cost Pakistan almost 80,000 human deaths, economic losses of $126.79 billion since the 9/11 attacks and unimaginable socio-psychological harm and suffering brought on by mass immigration from the war-torn region.

In the ex-FATA region, the military has launched a number of military operations against terrorist organisations since 2001. The operations produced stability in the region and elsewhere in the country. While a large number of terrorists were eliminated, some were able to escape into Afghanistan. In collaboration with Indian RAW and Afghan NDS, these terrorists continue to strike Pakistani military targets and civilians living close to the border with Afghanistan. Between 3,000 and 5,000 TTP militants were present in Afghanistan as of 2019, according to the US Department of Defense.

In 2012, the Pakistani leadership gathered to discuss methods for dealing with the threat of terrorism, and in 2013, the political and military leadership in Pakistan launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb against a number of militant groups including Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jundallah, al-Qaeda, East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Haqqani network. In response to the June 8 attack on Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport, for which the TTP and the IMU claimed responsibility, the operation was initiated on June 15, 2014, in North Waziristan. The operation was a success, and Pakistan has seen a significant drop in terrorism since it began.

TTP has long considered Afghanistan to be a safe haven. The threat posed to Pakistani citizens by the resurgence of terrorism is substantial. Pakistan Army, law enforcement agencies, and Chinese and other foreigners working on development projects in Pakistan are the particular targets of the latest TTP and other organisations that NDS and RAW are launching, with their evil eyes on CPEC and other development projects. The recent conflicts between the security forces of Pakistan and Afghanistan were caused by Kabul’s persistent unwillingness to recognise the Durand Line as their shared international boundary. This denial has been a major source of friction, weakening confidence and inciting animosity.

The Taliban won’t be going anywhere, at least not anytime soon. Through their collaboration in the economy, they want to increase their political capital in the area. However, they will continue to face fresh internal and global obstacles as a result of their policies toward women, political and ethnic opposition, and terrorist networks. Depending on their attitude and internal consensus, they have an equal probability of bringing about mid- to long-term order or anarchy in the region. There may not be much Pakistan can do to influence or advise the Taliban at this point.

Pakistan must adopt such a stance toward Afghanistan that is free from antagonism or appeasement. A hostile stance might intensify the animosity between the two countries, and if the Taliban rule is successful in creating order, it could return Afghanistan to its pre-Taliban state. If the Taliban lose strength, they have the capacity to revert to being an insurgent force and begin spreading terrorism internationally. Pakistan will be the first to be impacted in the worst-case scenario.

Read more

Love-marriage couple kidnapped, woman gang-raped – 21 Jan 2023

TOBA TEK SINGH: A love-marriage couple from Okara was allegedly kidnapped by five people dressed in police uniform from a house in Faisalabad`s Chak Garh Fateh Shah on Jan 13 night.

They took them to an undisclosed place, where two of them gang-raped the woman.

The couple said they were living in the house of a friend of the groom when the gang kidnapped them.

After the gang rape, the gang dropped them off at Mushtaq Chowk on Jan 14 at 5am.

The Garh police registered an FIR on Friday against two nominated suspects. The suspects snatched two mobile phones, a golden earring, and a ring.

The Faisalabad police spokesperson said the raids were being conducted to arrest the suspects.

DEMO: Scores of brick kiln workers, including women, and children, staged on Friday a protest demonstration for their demands at Shahbaz Chowk.

They marched under the leadership of Punjab Bahtta Mazdoor Union general secretaryMuhammad Shabbir, carrying banners and placards with their demands and chanting slogans against Labour Welfare Department officials and district administration for failing to implement the government`s notification requiring kiln owners to pay workers Rs1,850 per 1,000 bricks.

Workers were still paid Rs1,000, according to Sajida Perveen, Muhammad Ashfaq, and Muhammad Nawab. Theydemanded that the DC get implemented the notification.

They claimed the Bonded Labour Act of of 1992 was also being violated. They also demanded the establishment of a social security office here and the issue of social security cards to all kiln workers.

TRACED: The Samundri City police have traced the murder of a 14-year-old Christian girl whose body was recovered from a canal near Kamalia some three weeks ago.

Her father was arrested on Friday for killing her for honour.

According to the Samundri City police FIR which was registered on Dec 26, 2022, complainant Shan Masih claimed that his uncle Gul Hameed Masih went at 3am on Dec 26 along with his (Gul`s) daughter Gulnaz to take medicine for her from the Samundri THQ hospital, but both did not return, and later, Gulnaz`s body was recovered from the canal.

During investigation, it was revealed that girl`s father was hiding in a village. He confessed to the police that he had strangle d his daughter for honour and had dumped her body into the canal.

RECOVERED: Threeyear-old Amina kidnapped on Jan 14 from Chak 414GB, Jaranwala, was found outside her home on Friday.

A police official said the kidnap case was registered against two motorcyclists.

The police found a clue about the kidnappers through CCTV cameras and geofencing. When the police traced the suspects` whereabouts and raided Hasilpur on Thursday, they fled. They, however, dropped the girl at her house on Friday evening.

Read more

Four girls booked for `torture` of class fellow – 21 Jan 2023

LAHORE: The Defence police have lodged a criminal case against four girl students of a private school for allegedly torturing their class fellow.

The police acted when a video clip of the alleged torture of a girl (A) by her four class fellows went viral on social media.

The FIR was registered on the complaint of the victim`s father Imran Younis, who stated that his daughter was studying in the American International School located in BB Block of the Defence Housing Authority (DHA). He alleged that one of the four girls involved in the attack was carrying a dagger.

The group of girls dragged `A` on the ground by her hair, sat on her back and subjected her to inhuman torture, he alleged.

Imran said one of the girls was a boxer who hit his daughter in her face while another kicked her, causing injuries to her face. Another girl tried to strangulate his daughter, he said, adding that the video clip was sufficient evidence to initiate legal action against the attackers.

He said his daughter was traumatised following the attack and the video clip caused further mental torture to him and his family.

About motive of the assault on his daughter, he alleged in the FIR that the prime suspect was a drug addict, who ` had offered my daughter a dose of drug to inhale in the school, which she refused to do`.

He added that his daughter had also recorded a video of her class fellow taking drug in the school.

`Later, she (A) showed me the clip that I shared with the father of that girl (prime suspect)`, Imran said, adding that the suspects had been nurturing a grudged against his daughter since then and planned assault on her.

He further alleged in the FIR that the attackers also snatched a gold chain and a locl(et from his daughter during the attack.

He said that he also approached the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for action against those who uploaded the video clip of the assault on her daughter on social media.

Read more

Bullet-riddled body found in gunny bag – 21 Jan 2023

KARACHI: Bulletriddled body of a man was found stuffed in a gunny bag in Qayyumabad on Friday, police said.

The Korangi Industrial Area police said the body was identified as that of Mehboob Ali, 45. The corpse, which bore marks of torture, was recovered near the furniture market in C-Area.

Area police officer Gul Wali said it appeared that he had been shot dead somewhere else and later his body was thrown in the sack nearthe bus standin Qayumabad. He was also hit on the head.

A CNIC copy found from his pocket showed that the victim originally hailed from Sanghar.

The officer said his relatives in Karachi could not be traced till late in the night.

The body was shifted to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre to fulfill legal formalities.

Read more

Two transgenders stopped from boarding flight due to `x` gender – 21 Jan 2023

KARACHl: Two transgender rights activists were denied flying by a foreign airline due to their `x` gender on Friday.

Shahzadi Rai and Zehrish, the two transgender rights activists at the Gender Interactive Alliance, got their air tickets cancelled by Flydubai when they were about to take the flight to Kathmandu via the United Arab Emirates for their annual meeting there.

Soon after, Shahzadi Rai took to social media to highlight the issue, which took place at Karachi Airport.

`Transgender persons are part of the mainstream in other countries but Flydubai don`t allow x-gender cards for travelling, which is transphobic behaviour by the airline. If they don`t allow travel on their planes then why even issue us tickets,` Shahzadi questioned while sharing her ticket issued by the airline.

`Shame on Flydubai for not letting khwaja siras fly on their airlines,` said another transgender who goes by the Twitter handle of @sanakhusri.

Yet another transgender activist, Hina Baloch who goes by the handle of @surkhina on Twitter said: `Today ShahzadiRai was barred from boarding flydubai flight KHI-DXBKTM. This is hijraphobia and we urge the Pakistan Foreign Office to look into this matter ASAP.

It was only an hour before the incident where the transgender activists` tickets were cancelled that Shahzadi Rai had posted a happy photo of herself at the airport with the caption: `The goal is to die with memories, not dreams.` Sadly this dream of travelling by air turned into a bad memory.

The airline in question, Flydubai, did not make any statement to the media regarding the incident until going to print.

Read more

Travesty of justice – 21 Jan 2023

The traditional council, or ‘jirga’, is known by different names in different languages in Pakistan – ‘faislo’ in Sindh and ‘panchayat’ in Punjab.

The word ‘jirga’ is derived from the Mongolian word ‘tsarak’ which means round circle. It is generally attributed to the Pashto language. In our Dardic languages like Torwali, Shina, Khowar, etc, the alternative words for jirga are ‘yerak’, ‘biyak’ and ‘mahraka’.

Whatever the name, this tradition has existed in every society since ancient times. Initially, a jirga would usually be called during wars between tribes and nations. Over the years, the jirga took on the responsibility of administration, law and order, and justice in the Yaghistani, acephalous, societies.

Can a jirga be used as an alternative to dispute resolution? The example of the decades-old conflict between the two villages of Swat Utror and Kalam is instructive in this case. When a bloody clash broke out between the people of Kalam and Utror on July 10, 2021 the law-enforcement agencies asked the local political leaders to find a way out. One is not sure if any of these leaders told the provincial or regional heads of these institutions that the main responsibility of maintaining law and order was theirs.

Kalam and Utror are two tourist valleys in the upper Swat valley inhabited by the Dardic people who speak the Gawri language. These two main villages have been in conflict over land and forest distribution in the area since the state era in Swat. These conflicts turn into fierce feuds quite frequently. They have a dispute over a beautiful highland pasture, Desaan, on the western hills between Kalam and Utror. Similarly, they have disputes over other pastures in the two valleys. After the fierce fighting between the people of Kalam and Utror on July 10, 2021, the commissioner of Malakand division invited the parties to his office instead of taking action against those who opened fire and killed people.

In a private conversation, the then RPO/DIG Malakand division said that the chief minister did not want strict action against the people because it was peak tourist season and any police operation in the area might discourage tourists from coming to these places.

On the other hand, many political leaders and elders from different parts of Swat went to Utror and Kalam and held countless jirgas. Also, men from other areas of Swat and elders from the villages of Thal, Kalkot and Lamuti in the Upper Dir district came to the region to hold a long series of jirga meetings with people nominated by the district administration. A series of meetings continued through the year 2022 before the floods in August. These jirgas did not resolve the issue either. They have, nonetheless, stopped the parties from resorting to more armed conflicts.

In some cases, where people of both sides took the law in their hands, jirgas failed to control them. For example, when the people of Kalam stopped trucks of food items to be taken to Utror in August 2021, it was the police, not the jirga, that controlled the situation and let the trucks go to Utror.

The jirga tradition is partisan and usually the parties involved try to woo or bribe the mediators. None of the mediators can tell the truth and if somebody does, he is regarded as an ally of the opposite party. In my meeting with a local political and community leader from Kalam, he said that the conflict had been active since 1957 and often resulted in armed fighting between the people. He further said that since July 2021 there had been many rounds of jirgas with support from the administration, and yet the issue could not be resolved because of the non-serious attitude of the jirga people. When asked whether the jirgas played politics, he shared that they were very political and partisan.

In late July 2021, a jirga was held at a mosque in Bahrain, Swat related to the Kalam-Utror conflict. An influential chief of Kalam told me that the jirga was against the people of Kalam. In the jirga, some people had condemned the blockade of the road to Utror by certain people of Kalam. The same is true for political aspirants who usually exploit such situations to gain votes. However, these people cannot take just decisions because of their political affiliations.

During this conflict and the arbitration by the jirga, it was observed that even though the majority of the youth no longer wanted to have this archaic justice system, older citizens were in favour of these councils mostly because these people have the final say in them. Social activists deem these jirgas useless and a waste of time. They demand that state institutions to follow the law. The same view was also shared by the current assistant commissioner of sub-division/tehsil Bahrain, who is responsible for monitoring the situation.

In a recent report prepared on the issue, assistant commissioner Ishaq Ahmad Khan has said that even though FIRs are registered against the accused responsible for disrupting the law-and-order situation, no arrest is made. This results in the weak writ of state in the area.

Jirgas are often used to resolve feuds and disputes between families where the archaic notion of ‘honour’ is hurt. This includes cases where girls and boys marry without the consent of their families. In its 2017 report, ‘Women, violence and Jirgas: Consensus in Impunity in Pakistan’, the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) highlights multiple cases of honour killing and lynching across Pakistan, involving jirga, panchayat and faislo. Jirga orders transgress the basic human rights of women in all these cases.

A few examples from the report are enough to learn the inhumanity of such traditional mechanism of dispensing justice in modern times: ‘‘In June 2011, where on jirga orders, a middle-aged woman, Shehnaz Bibi, was dragged out of her home and forced to parade naked on the street as punishment for an alleged crime of her son.

“In 2015, a jirga in the Darel Valley of Diamir district decreed that women would not be allowed to vote in elections, disenfranchising over 12,000 women voters in the constituency. The jirga included religious leaders and candidates of political parties from the area.

“In 2014, 11-year-old Amna was married to a man three times her age as compensation for her uncle having raped a girl in Grilagan, [Bahrain Swat] in northwest Pakistan. Amna was married off to the brother of the girl who had been raped. She was one of the two girls from the rapist’s family given to the aggrieved family through a jirga decision. The other girl, Zulhaj, spoke to the media saying she had accepted her fate.

“In 2013, Rubina, a 12-year-old girl appealed to the chief justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court to provide her safety since she was being forced by a jirga to marry an older man in Doog Darra in Upper Dir district.

“In 2002, in Mianwali, Punjab, the nawab of Kalabagh played a vital role in the decision of handing over eight girls as compensation to resolve an age-old dispute.

“In 2006, five minor girls were to be handed as compensation to the rival party in Kashmore, Sindh. The decision was made with the connivance of a parliamentarian and the district nazim. Both victims were rescued by the suo-motu action of the Supreme Court of Pakistan”.

Given these examples and the case of the Utror-Kalam conflict, it can be concluded that jirgas have not only failed in their reconciliation efforts but have also violated human rights.

Giving a jirga or a panchayat the role of dispute resolution is an aberration of our constitution and rationalization for the inefficiency of our justice system.

The writer heads an independent organisation dealing with education and development in Swat. He can be reached at:

Read more

Jinnah`s citizens – 21 Jan 2023

HISTORIANS have aptly noted that Jinnah kept his notion of Pakistan ambiguous -more promised homeland and less concrete reality, a tactical manoeuvre that ensured its clarion call would appeal to the broadest segment of the Muslim polity. In speeches, he made liberal use of Islamic imagery and motif, describing his fledgling country as a `State`, a `Muslim State`, and at least once, even as the `premier Islamic State`.

And yet, he had long maintained that `religion is strictly a matter between God and man`, not to mention his emphatic declaration that `Pakistan is not to be a theocratic state to be ruled by priests with a divine mission`. But then, with his sudden and untimely demise, the very ambiguity that had sustained the movement for the country`s independence, became the cause of a crisis of identity that continues to this day.

Thankfully though, Jinnah left us something very crucial before his passing a candid peek into his vision of what a `citizen` was to mean.

Addressing the Constituent Assembly on Aug 11, 1947, he reminded its members that they were now `a sovereign legislative body`, and that before them lay an onerous task drafting the future constitution. With this in mind, he then stated, in no uncertain terms, that moving forward, the religion of any individual would have `nothing to do with the business of the State`, that they were starting with the fundamental principle that they were `all citizens and equal citizens of one State`, so that one day, the `angularities of the majority and the minority` would, in a political sense, `vanish` This was to be Jinnah`s citizen equal in status, and therefore, equal in rights and privileges.

In February 1948, he would reiterate this exact sentiment in a radio broadcast, plainly declaring that `we have many non-Muslims Hindus, Christians and Parsis but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens`. However, a year later, when the same Constituent Assembly passed the Objectives Resolution, it relinquished its sovereignty to divine authority and stated that while the principle of `equality` would be fully observed, it would be applied only `as enunciatedby Islam`. This qualifier is monumental, for it implies that the concept of `equality` prescribed in Islam is in some manner dif ferent from the everyday meaning of the term.

Context is needed to understand this seismic shift in orientation. Jinnah`s repeated insistence on equality of citizens had created considerable furore among sections of the ulema, led chiefly by Maulana Maududi of Jamaat-i-Islami and Ataullah Shah Bukhari of Majlis-i-Ahrar.

Although they had previously decried the very movement for Pakistan, once the country had been established, they decided not only to migrate to it but to also take an active role in its political affairs, launching vigorous campaigns for a constitutional framework based on a conformist version of Sharia.

For Jinnah (and his modernist compatriots), equality of status appears to have been a natural and rational corollary of citizenship in a democratic state especially one that embodied, in his own words, the `essential principles of Islam` For Maududi and Shah Bukhari, this had always been a heretical position, since it came into sharp conflict with the traditional interpretations they favoured, which treated non-Muslims, not as equal citizens, but as a separate class altogether: the ahl-i-zimma or zimmis, who, while being eligible for protection upon payment of jizya (or military participation in lieu thereof), remained subject to numerous structural restrictions, including a strict bar on holding key (most say any) positions of authority.

The real bone of contention thus, was whether the ahl-i-zimma could be reconceptualised in light of a social contract based on democratic participation. Jinnah obviously thought they could, but simply did not get his way. This explains why Sris Chandra Chattopadhya, the East Bengal-based leader of the then-opposition, would remark that what he heard in the Objectives Resolution was `not the voice of the great creator of Pakistan`, but that `of the ulemas of the land`. He chastised the majority for backstabbing Jinnah `so soon after his demise` by `virtually [declaring] a State religion`, and argued that `sovereignty must rest with people and not with anyone else`, for in acountry `where different religions live`, the state must `respect all religions: no smiling face for one and askance look for another`.

Fearing that the Resolution would condemn non-Muslims to a `perpetual state of inferiority`, Chattopadhya pleaded for an alternative that was identical to the one offered by Jinnah: `Let us form ourselves as members of one nation. Let us eliminate the complexes of majority and minority. Let us treat citizens of Pakistan as members of one family and frame such a constitution as may not break this tie, so that all communities may stand shoulder to shoulder on equal footing in time of need and danger.` By introducing the `religious question`, he warned, `the differences between the majority and the minority are being perpetuated, for how long, nobody knows`.

Time vindicated Chattopadhya, and in quick succession. By 1950, a disillusioned Jogendra Nath Mandal, reportedly the only non-Muslim to vote in favour of the Resolution resigned from the law ministry and migrated back to India, where he died a political outcast. By 1953, anti-Ahmadi protests erupted in Punjab, triggering our very first martial law, and paving the way for their excommunication in 1974. Today, we have three distinct classes of citizens: the first-class Muslim, the second-class non-Muslim, and the third-class Ahmadi (one is forced to say third-class for they face additional legal strictures compared to second-class non-Muslims).

Equality of status (and the non-discrimination it guarantees) stands at the core of contemporary understandings of international human rights which is why our country very rightly and very eagerly (although a bit selectively) champions it on international forums. For these moral protestations to have any force, however, must those very ideas not first be applied at home? Jinnah`s citizens need not be a dream of morrows past. As inheritors of their Constitution, the people of Pakistan are wholly empowered to resuscitate his ideals, or, in the spirit of true constitutionalism, formulate their own. • The writer is a barrister.

Read more

Poll credibility – 21 Jan 2023

THE first major test of the current Election Commission, in fact the entire nation, is less than 90 days away. With the dissolution of the provincial assemblies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the countdown has begun on the constitutional requirement of electing new assemblies.

While the consultations for the two provincial caretaker governments and the election schedule continue, the ECP was finally able to hold the second phase of local government elections in Sindh on Jan 15. This phase included the highly sensitive Karachi and Hyderabad divisions where LG polls were overdue by two and a half years and kept on being postponed.

Even for the latest polling date, there were repeated demands for postponement initially from the MQM-P and later the PPPled Sindh government. The MQM-P had some genuine complaints about the asymmetrical size of the union committees but ECP and the courts weren`t convinced to further defer the polls. Hence, a bitter MQM-P opted to boycott the election by lodging strong complaints against the Sindh government and ECP.

Contrary to predictions of violence on polling day, it was a largely peaceful day and polling was orderly. The compilation and consolidation of results by the presiding and returning officers, however, attracted loud protests especially by JI and PTI. Strong protests are not necessarily a manifestation of the lack of integrity of elections, as we discovered during the noisy PTI dharna in 2014 followed by the verdict of the judicial commission headed by the then chief justice that the 2013 poll results were a fair manifestation of public opinion, thus rejecting PTI`s allegation.

However, the commission did point out several weaknesses in the electoral system for the ECP and other stakeholders to address.

The controversy over the Karachi LG poll has erupted quite close to the upcoming general elections and if not properly and efficiently handled, may adversely affect the credibility of the current ECP.

Despite the baggage of rigging in several past elections, largely by powerful institutions, the ECP has lately done some solid repair work to fix its credibility since the induction of the new CEC and four other members. Taking a position in support of ballot secrecy in the 2021 Senate election in accordance with the Constitution, despite apparently strong pressure from within and outside the apex court, was a rare demonstration of independence.

Declaring the Dasl(a by-election void in February 2021, identifying and prosecuting the culprits among the senior ranks ofthe civil administration responsible for one of the most blatant efforts to steal an election in recent times, securing the court`s endorsement for holding re-election which further confirmed the earlier ECP finding of manipulation of the byelection, are some of the landmark achievements of the ECP which had arguably been under-appreciated.

Giving a well-researched fact-finding report in the PTI prohibited funding case after a delay of over eight years by previous ECPs was also a significant achievement. The successful conduct of 20 Punjab Assembly by-elections in a highly charged environment in July 2022 and withstanding multiple pressures as most results went against the PML-N the ruling party at the centre and in Punjab at that time added to the ECP`s credibility as did the successful conduct of LG polls in Balochistan, KP and Sindh, despite multiple litigation and foot-dragging by the provincial governments. The repeated postponement of the LG elections in Punjaband Islamabad, despite the ECP`s tenacity, is, however, a sad chapter in our electoral history.

With unprecedented levels of political polarisation and strong but largely unjustified criticism of the ECPby one of the biggest political parties, the PTI, the conduct of the next two sets of general elections will be a huge challenge.

Meticulous regulation of political finances, guarding election day operations against the undue political influence of recently dissolved provincial governments through the polling staff largely consisting of provincial government employees, maintaining an even-handed and dispassionate approach despite provocations by one party or the other, quick disposal of objections raised during the Sindh by-elections, and last but not the least, upgrading its public communication are some of the huge challenges confronting the ECP. It is not just the ECP but all stakeholders, including the governments both political and caretaker -law-enforcement agencies and all political parties who have to fulfil their share of the responsibility if the next election has to be made credible.• The writer is president of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development And Transparency. Twitter: @ABMPildat

Read more