VIP culture and inefficiency

BY  ArticleYAA

CROSS POST http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2015/02/23/comment/the-vip-culture-and-inefficiency/

How traffic rules are violated and public put through agony

 

According to a report by Duniya News (Feb 6, 2013) seven thousand flights were delayed, both domestic and international, during the five months prior to the report. The main reason has been owing to the VIPs boarding flights.

It may be reminded here that a woman gave birth to her baby girl in an auto-rickshaw stuck in a traffic jam when police closed roads to let President Asif Ali Zardari’s motorcade drive by during his visit to Quetta in early 2010. The President had the grace to apologise and announced a compensation of Rs500,000 for the family for the distress it went through. The baby came into this world in a rickshaw surrounded by vehicles.

Amir Latif states that VIP movement has caused traffic jams claiming lives. “Last week, a student of the University of Karachi died of an appendix rupture after being stranded in a traffic jam due to presence of General Pervez Musharraf in the city.”(Published PakTribune April 27, 2006)

According to another news report in May 2013, with the arrival of the Chinese premier, residents of the twin cities were once again at the receiving end as mobile phone services were suspended for three hours and roads were sealed.

Incidents like these abound around here. Many go unreported. Yet none of the governments in Pakistan, after having come into power, has tried to address the issue. Ambulances are also among the vehicles that are irrespective of the fact that there can be cases where the sick are being transported in a public or a private transport.

And it’s not only the patients in ambulances that suffer owing to the VIP movement but also the students going to their institutions or exams, and other people hurrying to their places of work. Each and every one is delayed, sometime for an hour or more to allow passage to the VIP.

This “VIP culture” is reflective of a deeper malaise that afflicts our country. It allows those in position special privileges at an extraordinary cost to lesser mortals. Laws applicable to the general people skip steps while being implemented on the VIPs. It pushes the ‘ordinary’ citizens in the ‘Economy Class’ of life, allowing first rights to those in the ‘First Class’. Although a certain protocol may be awarded to the government officials for security reasons, is it fair to do at the cost of a complete disregard to the civilian population? Should the roads be turned into a veritable red carpet for the VIP?

Imran Khan, after heavy criticism levelled against him for arriving at APS School with a 21-car motorcade (an allegation he denied), claimed that only six cars were used for his protocol and that he would no longer travel with heavy security protocol in the future. Six cars is not “only”, Mr Khan, for a nation like Pakistan.

Civilised nations make civilised, workable rules for their people. Such bias in the favour of certain privileged few must be deemed undemocratic.

Muhamad Faisal Ali in a report on protocol states hat 60 per cent of police wastes its energies on protocol duties. Quoting numbers can take up most part but they are mind-boggling. (Dawn Jan 02, 2012)

Then there is the allowance for mushrooming of plazas and malls with absolutely inadequate parking space causing vehicles to spill onto the roads or blocking areas used to park vehicles for such plazas. This inadequacy inevitably causes cars unable to get out due to some other vehicle blocking its way. Mehwish Ahmed, writing in Pakistan Today,says, “The area for parking vehicles, especially in metros, is constantly shrinking under pressure from the rising number of cars and bikes. People don’t have traffic sense. Traffic police and media should play their role in creating traffic sense amongst the people.” (April 11, 2011)

Then there is the issue of a lack of traffic monitoring which has become a nuisance. Most of the times, traffic lights/signals at main crossings fail to work, yet there is no one managing the crossings owing to terrible jams that ensue. Such blockage reportedly caused forty students appear late in a CSS 2015 paper of Pakistan Affairs set for 9am to 12pm. A student of mine, who was also affected, wrote to me, “Coming from Wapda Town, I had to reach BISE Lahore Lawrence Road. Due to traffic jam and no diversion given by city traffic police, I got stuck in traffic for three hours which delayed me in reaching the exam centre. As we reached late for the exam, the invigilator did not allow us to sit in the exam. The traffic police did not provide any diversion before coming up on Canal Road. They did not allow the traffic to pass from the as well. A container had stuck in the Campus Underpass which caused all this mess.”

A TV report states that the container struck in the underpass was from Swat and was being driven by one Qudratullah. One could ask if there was a signboard at a reasonable distance to let the driver know which lane he had to take. But even if there was one (the report claims there was none), was the driver literate to have read the message? Are there any rules to ensure a minimum literacy rate for drivers of such vehicles or a methodology (i.e., signs put up etc) whereby they can understand that they cannot use underpasses with heavy transport vehicles? Being an educationist, this incident has caused me deep sadness as this boy was one of the brightest in my class. I am sure there must be others that day that had much to offer to our civil services but for the inefficiency caused that day.

Should not the government make concession for these students and set another date for their paper instead of allowing them to be victimised for a delay the cause of which is now publically known? The cause is certainly not of their making and I fail to see why their future be put on stake for it. Through this space I make a special appeal to the concerned authorities to do what is just and not let the efforts of these bright candidates go to waste.

Are we trying to convey a message to our youngsters that the world in Pakistan will stop for VIP movement but no one would care if their world stops at an underpass?

Muslim lives matter

CROSS POST:  http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2015/02/16/comment/muslim-lives-matter/

All lives matter

 

Three Muslim students were shot dead in North Carolina a few days ago. Craig Stephen Hicks has been charged on three accounts with first-degree murder. Those dead are Deah Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19. Although an idea has been put forth that the killings may have been due to a dispute over parking as suggested by Chapel Hill Police in a report by The Guardian, to my lawyer mind it seems very strange that, if true, Hicks would choose not to kill one person responsible allegedly in a dispute but all three of the family. The second question this theory raises in my mind is why did he have a loaded weapon on his person in the first place? Third, why were the victims shot in the head which is as cold blooded as it gets? “To have him come in here and shoot three different innocent people in their heads — I don’t know what kind of person that is,” said Namee Barakat, the father of the male victim, Deah Shaddy Barakat.” (NYT, February 11, 20015)

However, the police had not confirmed that the shots were in the head. The same report states the victims were shot inside the apartment. “One 911 caller, at 5:11pm Tuesday, said she had heard five to 10 shots and “kids screaming”. Another, calling a minute later, said she had heard about eight shots and multiple people screaming, then a pause, and then three more shots. The victims were shot inside an apartment, according to one of the calls, and family members said the police told them they had been shot in the head.”

Todd Shea, a musician and humanitarian, founded Comprehensive Disaster Response Services (CDRS) to help the affected people of the northern region in 2005. This organisation and Shea’s personal efforts went a long way in helping the internally displaced persons. He wrote on his Facebook status on February 12, 2015, and I reproduce with his permission:

“’When his son-in-law lived alone in the condominium complex, the family never had any problems. But once his daughter moved in wearing a headscarf, that clearly identified her as Muslim, the trouble started, Abu-Salha said.’

“Daddy, I think he hates us for who we are,” Abu-Salha said his daughter Yusor Mohammad told him.

“I don’t need any media or police or prosecutors or politicians or experts to tell me what to think and how to think and convince me whether or not this was a hate crime. The above information is all I need to come to my conclusion. These are the eyewitness statements of the compassionate, selfless and exemplary Human Beings who looked into the eyes of a terrorist who eagerly and publicly espoused a radical atheist ideology. These are the eyewitness testimonies of the Human Beings who felt the unmistakable burn of the laser-like hatred, derision and disdain this disgusting man held in his heart for anyone who believes that a higher power created us all.

“I trust their impressions a million times more than I would trust anyone else’s. Apparently Craig Stephen Hicks had disputes and run-ins with other neighbours, but it’s quite revealing that in the time and the place he picked to strike with bullets, the neighbours he aimed and fired his prized weapon at were three Muslims — three of the kindest, most gentle and full of life Human Beings one could ever have the good fortune to know and love. Their only ‘offense’ was that they were easily identifiable as the believers he so radically opposed in his incessant online rants against.

“This climate of hate and acute division — which produces the various incarnations of Demons such as Craig Stephen Hicks in our World — is being fueled… the only way to defeat them is with a revolution. Not a violent one, but a revolution of the heart — a transformation of Humanity where ALL good people who want a peaceful future for everyone’s children say NO to the sociopathic policies we allow our so-called elite to pursue and NO to hate and say YES to teaching their children empathy and not to hate ANYONE because of the colour of their skin or who they love or how they dress or where they are from or what higher power they believe in or don’t believe in. And we need to build a World for our children where money and political power and indifferent ruthlessness towards fellow Human Beings are not the most influential aspects ruling over our systems of life, justice, health, education and opportunity.

We all need to be more like Yusor, Deah and Razan and their Family. We all need to be more like Kayla Mueller and her Family. Then together we would make it out of the darkness of these dark times.”

Yahoo News states, “The killings are fuelling outrage among people who blame anti-Muslim rhetoric for hate crimes. A Muslim advocacy organisation pressed authorities to investigate possible religious bias. Many posted social media updates with the hashtags #MuslimLivesMatter.” (February 13, 2015)

Norman Baker, Minister of State for Crime Prevention, has written a beautiful document titled “Challenge it, Report it, Stop it”, a government’s hate crime action plan. The ‘ministerial foreword’ states, “Addressing anti-Muslim hatred remains a central theme and our dialogue with local communities is already underway through the roll out of a number of regional roadshows.” Well done, Minister! Acceptance of the malaise is the first step towards its remedy. (Norman Baker is a British politician who has been a Member of Parliament for Lewes in East Sussex)

“What is extremely important in a world bombarded with hate material spewed on a regular basis by media, both mainstream and non-mainstream, is an immediate assurance by the country head to address the concerns of the community wounded. Now this is the truly sad part. If Obama has not spoken because the investigation is not yet concluded, this stance is at variance with the stance taken at the Fergusan killings, way before any investigation were completed. An excerpt of his address is reproduced, “Ours is a nation of laws: of citizens who live under them and for the citizens who enforce them. So, to a community in Ferguson that is rightly hurting and looking for answers, let me call once again for us to seek some understanding rather than simply holler at each other. Let’s seek to heal rather than to wound each other.

“As Americans, we’ve got to use this moment to seek out our shared humanity that’s been laid bare by this moment. The potential of a young man and the sorrows of parents, the frustrations of a community, the ideals that we hold as one united American family.” (WSJ,August 18, 2014)

What Obama sought to do then was to reassure the affected community of the continued support of his government to apply justice and fairness. This is what was expected from the leader of a superpower that is the United States of America. Yet this expectation was met with silence — until he received flak from “the likes of Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his ‘silence’ on the Chapel Hill shootings”, reports a local newspaper on February 14th, 2014. Belated, the statement from the White House read, “No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship.”

In the meanwhile, soon after the incident, the campus of UNC, a local plaza, was flooded with thousands to express solidarity with the family. Remembrances were offered by those who knew those slain. One ended her speech with, “Muslim lives matter. All lives matter.”

I borrow the title of my piece from the speech.

Death of the liberal

CROSS POST: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2015/02/09/comment/death-of-the-liberal/

There is no such thing in Pakistan

 

Terms that label people and put them into boxes always confused me. It posed so many questions, like can people hold ‘mixed’ views? Some of the ‘liberal’ streak, others of the ‘conservative’ while some their own? This approach throws off those who can only work by putting people in neat compartments. But people are never black and white. They are better described as shades of gray.

John Perazzo, writing on being progressive and on being a leftist, quotes Ted Kennedydefining a liberal as “someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions” and “someone who cares about the welfare of the people”. But is it so? The English professor, philosopher and author Maurice Cranston states, “A liberal is a man who believes in liberty.” John Locke states that humans are in “a state of perfect freedom to order their actions as they think fit without asking leave, or depending on the will of any other man.” However living in a society with interlinked relationships and a networking between countries where relations become more complicated, is a state of perfect freedom a reality as propounded by Locke? Was it ever a reality? I am no philosopher by long shot, but painting neat boxes to fit in people throws me off. Locke’s theory is in line with the “roots” of the very word stemming from liberalis, Latin for “pertaining to be a free man”.

For a better understanding, we need to grasp that liberalism was born out of reaction to conservative philosophy that supported the absolute monarchies, and not just the monarchs but all those associated with the monarchy. For better understanding: the status quo.

Liberalism upon emergence in the beginning of the 18th century meant a belief in the rule of law, individual rights, right to private ownership and property, relatively limited role of governments in the lives of private citizens, and a strong support of laissez faire economies. By and large, these values were what defined the school of liberals. An extremely enlightening paper by Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy discussing the liberal ethics quotes Mills from On Liberty, stating, “Individuality is the same thing with development, and it is only the cultivation of individuality which produces, or can produce, well-developed human beings. What more can be said of any condition of human affairs than that it brings human beings themselves nearer to the best thing they can be? Or what worse can be said of any obstruction to good than that it prevents this? (Mill, 1963, vol 18: 267)

Can this philosophy of placing all goodness with individuals alone apply across board? Does it not rest heavily on a huge assumption that every individual will develop on the same level equally despite the unequal distribution of intellect, wisdom, wealth, education and other variables involved?

The term ‘liberal’ is often used as interchangeable with the leftists today. ‘Leftism’ is actually, historically, the opposite of all that liberalism stands for. Leftists sprang from France in the early 1900s. They held that the root cause of decadence in the society came from private wealth and capitalism. This became the basis of the philosophy to get rid of the capitalism existing then and replacing this failed form of thought with socialism where all are equal. This thought too, of course, is repeating the same mistake i.e., painting little boxes to fit people in with labels. Here the question that pops to the mind is: is not socialism itself rule of a certain elite to the exclusion of everyone else denying them the right to better choices and thereby negating the will to strike for a better quality in terms of material possessions and the comfort it brings?

To further the debate we must discuss the concept of conservatism.

The Oxford Dictionary puts forth an interesting defining example, “(Of surgery or medicaltreatment) intended to control rather than eliminate a condition, with existing tissuepreserved as far as possible.” It also describes a conservative as, “A person who isaverse to change and holds traditional values.” Simply put, conservatism would mean supporting the traditional in the face of forces of change that aim to change the social order. This relates to all aspects of societal and individual holdings and beliefs i.e., cultural, religious, and political. Conservatism is more prone to orthodox religious views, rejecting any deviation or non-orthodoxy. Edmund Burke, the Anglo-Irish philosopher, is widely seen as the originator of Conservatism. The theory was born as a reaction to the French Revolution and is discussed at length in his book, Reflections on the Revolution in France.

Let’s visit Pakistan with the satchel of these ideas and try painting political parties and politicians and people at large and try determining who’s who. The problem is one cannot. Liberalism or Conservatism in Pakistan generally excludes all other levels to centre around one aspect alone: religion. Though this is an important element of determination of any individual’s or party’s leaning, it is not the only one. Since increasing bars of religiosity permeating in the society, it becomes much easier to overlook the barriers that merge the difference between liberals and those supporting conservatism i.e., those of class and economic barriers.

The division between urban and rural classes of Pakistan is not only sharp, it’s increasing. Even in the urban areas, the division between the elite and the dilapidated is increasing at an alarming rate. The educated middle class has all but disappeared. It is a society in a state of flux. This leads to a greater need to develop strong policies aimed at bridging the divide. Yet, one does not see any policies aimed at dealing with the realities of the common person. If political ideologies held roots in Pakistan, we would not be witnessing politicians changing political parties. We would not witness the support for ‘status quo’ on all-inclusive levels by political parties.

This gap takes us back to the very concept of liberalism.

What we see on ground is neither conservatism nor liberalism (not to be confused with leftism) serving the people at meaningful levels. What is needed is to join hands as one nation, and work towards making Pakistan a country to be envied.

Pakistan Zindabad!

Contours of a new relationship

CROSS POST:  http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2015/02/02/comment/contours-of-a-new-relationship/

The implications of India-US getting close

 

Hugging President Barack Obama upon his arrival to India and pouring tea for him over chats, Prime Minister Narendra Modi conveyed the message strong and clear: India wants to redefine its relationship with America. What is very clear is a clear-cut decision by India, its long term close relationship with Russia notwithstanding, to move close to USA as a proactive partner in the former’s ‘pivot to Asia’.

An excerpt from the joint statement expounding the vision of both nations is very revealing: “Regional prosperity depends on security. We affirm the importance of safeguarding maritime security and ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea. We call on all parties to avoid the threat or use of force and pursue resolution of territorial and maritime disputes through all peaceful means, in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.”

Especially in the South China Sea (term) caught my eye. Let’s examine this a little further. The NYT reports, “For years, American presidents have tried to enlist India, the world’s largest democracy, in a more robust partnership, partly to offset China’s rising power. India has had a long history of suspicion and rivalry with China, which allied with New Delhi’s archenemy Pakistan during the Cold War. But it has long insisted on being an independent actor in world affairs and resisted aligning itself with the United States against its giant neighbour. Mr Modi, by contrast, seems not only willing but eager to redefine India’s relationship with the United States at a time China is on the rise economically, militarily and politically.”

India’s bold stance on this issue, in a joint statement with USA, is an alarming bell for China, with it being involved in disputes over this area with Vietnam, Philippines and Japan could mean triggering off escalation of these disputes with greater interest from Washington. This dispute has roots in history and can be traced back to 1894 Sino-Japanese war. Japan was defeated and this in turn led to claims over the islands. Its New Delhi’s coming out of shadows to take a clear stance with Washington on the issue is what is worrisome for China; their concern itself is not new. In this backdrop the use of the word ‘especially’ in the joint statement has great significance.

Interestingly, Russia’s agreement “to speed up work on a fifth-generation military aircraft,” (Reuters Jan 22, 2015) days before Obama’s visit is telling as it shows cracks in the armour. New Delhi will need to perfect its balance between Moscow and Beijing at one end and Washington on the other. Senior Programme Associate for South and Southeast Asia at Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars Michael Kugelman is quoted bySputnik as stating, “It is “unclear” how India will react in terms of how it “leads its relations with Russia”. (27/1/2015)

What did happen was that Modi stood by silently with Obama criticising Russia and Putin’s actions in Ukraine. If one recalls, India had backed Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Zachary Keck, writing for The Diplomat, stated, “Local Indian media noted that Menon’s statement about Russia’s legitimate interests in Ukraine made it the first major nation to publicly lean toward Russia. Ukraine certainly appeared to interpret India’s endorsement of Russia’s legitimate interests as far more hostile than Beijing’s position on Russia’s actions.” (March 08, 2014) Modi’s bear hugs and tea pouring notwithstanding, this is a direct put-down by Washington delivered to convey its disapproval of Russia and thereby India’s support on the stance.

India has made an effort to resolve glitches to the India-US nuclear deal of 2008. It was first introduced in a joint statement between President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on July 18, 2005. In return, per terms agreed by India, USA will allow India access to its dual-use nuclear technology. It can either reprocess potassium or enrich uranium. This potentially creates material for nuclear bombs. The Council for Foreign Relations India writes, “Proponents of the agreement argue it will bring India closer to the United States at a time when the two countries are forging a strategic relationship to pursue common interests in fighting terrorism, spreading democracy, and preventing the domination of Asia by a single power.

Ashley Tellis of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who was intimately involved in negotiating the civil nuclear agreement with India as senior adviser to the US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, said in Congressional testimony in 2005 that the deal recognises this growing relationship by engaging India, which has proven that it is not a nuclear proliferation risk. Other experts say the deal lays out the requirements for India to be recognised as a responsible steward of nuclear power. “This is part of a process of making India a more durable and reliable nuclear partner,” Schaffer says.

Obama’s visit offered the first breakthrough over the logjam between the two regarding the nuclear deal. According to a report, “The US has agreed to withdraw the tracking clause in India-US nuclear deal.” (Debobrat Ghose for F India on Jan 25, 2015)

Pakistan, predictably, has reacted by stating it had “taken careful note of statements made and agreements reached” in New Delhi.” (Wall Street Journal) It goes on to state Pakistan must not face discrimination by USA in enactment of deals between both neighbours. Pakistan has also decided to raise concerns about Indian hand in the terrorism on Pakistani soil, especially in Balochistan, reports a local daily. Though this concern may be genuine, the timing brings the genuineness in question. This is something Pakistan should have done with all the information at its disposal way before and not when pinched.

A local daily states, “The Pakistan government recently shared a ‘dossier’ with the US on the Indian involvement in terrorist acts here. The security official said it included some strong evidence of the Indian involvement in Dec 16 Peshawar school carnage which left 149 schoolchildren and teachers dead. The attack was claimed by the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).” (January 29, 2015)

What Pakistan desperately needs from its leaders are strategies aimed to bring Pakistan out of the corner due to the mismanagement of both local and foreign policies (or lack of them) that it finds itself in.

The King is dead

CROSS POST: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2015/01/26/comment/the-king-is-dead/

ArticleYAABY

Long live the King!

 

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud dies. RIP. Ailing Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud takes over as the King of Saudi Arabia. Long Live the King!

His Highness Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, 79, has been the Governor for Riyadh for five decades, give or take. People speak well of him as managing “the delicate balance of clerical, tribal and princely interests that determine Saudi policy, while maintaining good relations with the West,” as notes Pakistan Today in a report on January 22, 2015.

If some people are holding their cumulative breaths for any monumental changes in the days to come, relax, breathe in and breathe out. Nothing is changing in a hurry. Some things will not. This includes a strong anti-Iran stance, a partnership with USA that is based on mutual security interests and its commitment to ensure a strong and stable oil market.

USA and Saudi Arabia go back a long way. Till 1945, to be exact, when the late King Abdullah’s father Abdulaziz bin Saud met with President Roosevelt and reached a mutually beneficial understanding of Saudi Arabia being the supplier of regular oil whereas the USA would ensure security for the Kingdom. An understanding that has weathered decades since.

Saudi Arabia is uncomfortable with USA’s recent overtures to Iran. Saudi Arabia may be fearful of an American administration that allows softening towards Iran’s nuclear programme. Of course Saudi Arabia would not want Shi’ite Iran go nuclear. Michael Crowley, writing for Times, says, “In recent months, the American approach to three regional hotspots – Iran, Syria and Egypt – has shaken the US-Saudi relationship to its core. Obama’s diplomacy with Tehran, the hated Shi’ite Muslim enemy of devoutly Sunni Saudi Arabia, has alarmed Riyadh no less than it has Jerusalem. Obama’s failure to follow through on his threat of military strikes on Syria last year inflamed worries about Washington’s willingness to use force in the region. And Saudi leaders deride Obama’s criticisms of the Egyptian generals who seized power last summer and are cracking down on their rivals. Throw in America’s growing energy independence, shrinking military budget and talk of a strategic shift toward Asia, and Saudi Arabia is wondering whether it can still rely on Washington’s longtime security guarantees or if it needs to form new alliances – and perhaps go nuclear itself.” (Published March 27, 2014)

The same article also shares, “The Saudis see Iran’s hand in stirring up the Shi’ites of Yemen and neighbouring Bahrain, where Saudi forces helped quash Arab Spring protests in 2011. A US diplomatic cable leaked in Obama’s first term revealed that as far back as April 2008, Abdullah implored American officials to launch a strike on Iran’s nuclear programme. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s top buyers of American arms. In late 2011, the US inked a $29.4 billion sale of F-15 fighters to the Kingdom, and last October – just as Saudi grousing about Obama’s Syria policy was peaking – the Pentagon announced an $11 billion deal to sell cruise missiles and bunker-buster bombs to the Saudis and the neighbouring United Arab Emirates. Those and other American-supplied arms, including Apache and Black Hawk helicopters, come with teams of US trainers and technicians who help keep the governments in close touch.”

In years to come Saudi Arabia will face many issues because times change and communications are fast, geographical barriers notwithstanding. These include greater female empowerment and job availability for young Saudis. According to a report in Al-Monitor, there are shortages of water, energy and housing that need to be dealt with in due course of time.

Saudi Arabia maintained the quantum of oil production in a hope that it will maintain its market share and it will be the high cost of oil producers in the west who will lose their market share as a result of falling oil prices. Resultantly, prices of oil have fallen drastically.

Saudi Arabia’s policy on oil is not likely to change in short term. On January 6, 2015, news flashed, “Saudi Arabia’s heir apparent Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz said that his country would stay the course as it dealt with the “new developments” that had appeared on the oil market – an oblique reference to the recent price collapse.” (Argus News)

Saudi Arabia may stick to this course of action as a lesson taught to them by history. Back in early 1980s, prices of oil crashed. Saudi Arabia cut back on its production of oil in order to arrest the falling prices based on the theory of supply and demand. However, this did not happen and the prices still fell. What did happen then was that Saudi Arabia lost its market share to other oil producing nations. Understandably, Saudi Arabia would want to avoid making the same mistake again.

A report at CNBC states, “While the short-term plan is likely to attempt to hurt frackers, Iran and Russia via an over-supplied market, the longer-term implications are for oil supply policies that are more hostile towards western consumers. In addition, the appetite for bringing the proxy war to Iran and other Shi’ite factions in the region will rise, which will result in a return of the geopolitical risk premium in the years ahead.” (January 22, 2015)

Decisions on Saudi oil policy is made by a Supreme Petroleum Council. The Council is headed by the King and members comprise of ministers, leaders of the industry and members of the royal family. With a reported 46 per cent of Saudi Arabia’s GDP coming from oil revenue, any decision relating to the subject has to be made very, very seriously.

“I think (Salman) will continue with Abdullah’s reforms. He realises the importance of this. He’s not conservative in person but he values the opinion of the conservative constituency of the country,” said Jamal Khashoggi, head of a news channel owned by a Saudi prince, states Reuters. (Jan 23, 2015)

Candlelight vigils?

ArticleYAABY

CROSS POST: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2015/01/19/comment/candlelight-vigils/

Tweeple Hina Safi tweeted, “Candlelight vigils replacing Quran Khwani bara-e-esaal-e-sawab since social media boom.” This caught my eye. True that candlelight vigils trend has picked up. Pictures of the vigils flood the social media when held in Pakistan.

The term vigil comes from Latin meaning wakefulness. There is a purpose to this focused wakefulness and historically is associated with many things like on the eve of a religious feast or event for the purpose of praying, rituals. When a Jew passes away, a vigil is kept over the body and prayers recited till burial. Likewise, Easter Vigils held on Holy Saturday is an example as is the Midnight Mass held at Christmas Eve. Reading about this interesting yearly event, I came across an interesting passage in a piece I would like to share with the readers, “In the early history of the Church, vigils were held before every feast for the purpose of preparing for the feast itself. Mass would be held in the evening, followed by a period of prayer and contemplation. Solemn services were then held the next morning. As more feasts arose, the number of vigils kept was decreased. In the current Roman calendar, there are six Masses designated as vigils to proceed the feasts the next day: vigils for Easter, Christmas, Pentecost, Ascension, Nativity of St John the Baptist, and the Feasts of Saints Peter and Paul. Vigil Masses are so designated because their propers and readings differ from the Masses for those feasts themselves, while remaining tied to the feasts. Vigil Masses therefore differ from normal anticipated Masses, which are the same as the Mass taking place the next day, but held the preceding evening.”

What I understood was: vigils are not a ritual to stay awake but tied in with praying for an event, usually holy. The current trend however is to hold candlelight vigils for causes. In 1983, The International Candlelight Memorial was established. It’s not just an organisation for holding vigils as some may mistakenly be led to believe, but aims also to work towards increasing public awareness through social mobility campaigns about HIV and AIDS.

Fox News in January 2015 reported on its site, “A family and community attending a candlelight prayer vigil on Saturday for a missing toddler were desperate for leads in his search.” The term ‘prayer vigil’ caught my eye. It assumedly was not just random people holding candles but purposely keeping awake for praying for the child’s return. The report says, “Everyone held candles and stood around a display of candles set up in the shape of a heart. The purpose of the vigil was to pray Drummond was safe. People who attended also wanted to remind the community they were keeping their promise to continue to search for Drummond until he was found and brought home. Even though police had no hard leads on Drummond’s missing person’s case, his family was optimistic their diligent searching and praying would bring some leads to solve the case.”

The increasing number of candlelight vigils point towards a growing conscientious civil society, some say. But does it? Though it is true that greater engagement of civil society members into creating awareness of issues can lead to better governance as we have witnessed in some recent cases in Pakistan, it remains a fact that the civil society remains a pond in the societal framework. The ripples have not spread to include the less educated, the less income group forming the major segment of Pakistan. It has also failed to include smaller cities and rural villages, restricting any vigils or acts of civil society to educated, English speaking, large urban residing Pakistanis.

My view is supported by a report by AFP that states, “Progressives remain a relatively small minority, confined to the educated upper and middle-classes — a fact bemoaned by Nasir. He contrasted the crowds of hundreds at ‘Reclaim’ rallies with the estimated 1.6 million Parisians who took to the streets to condemn the deadly attack on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

“Pakistan is desensitised. But in Paris, millions came out. That has brought those 12 lives to the centre of attention for the entire world,” he said. Muhammad Jibran Nasir, a 27-year-old lawyer who has played a key role in organising demonstrations, said he and others felt they could no longer stand by following the brutal killings of schoolchildren in the country’s northwest on December 16.” (January 17, 2015)

Kiran Nazish writing for The Diplomat, commenting on Pakistan’s civil society, writes, “The criticism by the liberal English media has always existed but the Peshawar attack on a school by the Taliban, which killed more than 140 people, mostly children, swung the country’s civil society into a new urgency to protest. In big cities there have been demonstrations and vigils outside press clubs, and government buildings, many of them calling out terrorism and asking the government to go after the so-called “good” Taliban it formerly embraced over the past decade.” (January 08, 2015)

The question that arises here is, as we have seen, historically, the vigils are held not just with the purpose to create awareness but also pray. Barring an odd instance or two, candlelight vigils held have been restricted to protesting against a killing, or many, or a political cause. There have been incidents of civil society mishandling a TV team outside the Press Club in Peshawar. This was a sad reflection on the cause and cascading negativity.

Carrie Grosvenor reflecting on the meaning of a candlelight service writes in a blog post, “Candlelight services are generally held at night and are intended to be a way for groups of people, large or small, to quietly reflect, pray together, or simply show support for one another. Any candlelight service can involve prayers, even those not based on religious contexts.”

If we want to offer respect and/or support for a cause, group of people, or deceased, the least we can do is to do it right. Requesting attendees to bring their prayer beads, asking all to recite the kalima or durood shareef in case of missing people, deceased and other similar situations will offer respect and gift to those prayed for. This will add to the purpose of a candlelight vigil that I support as a graceful form of raising awareness about the issue.

Groom thy leader

Democracy is much more than mere elections

 

This article is inspired by editorial of a local newspaper I read and a piece by I A Rehman.The editorial closes with, “Simply, without intra-party democracy there can be no real democratic decisions. When the leader is the party, when the leader is for life and when the leader decides who else gets what position, it is difficult to have spirited debate or meaningful dissent. Can the constitutional constraints and intra-party realities be changed though?” On the same day, writing in the same newspaper, Rehman says, “The absence of party activists from the political scene is not a recent phenomenon. Apart from a couple of minor outfits and quasi-religious militant organisations the so-called mainstream parties hardly qualify as thoroughly organised and functional political parties. The cost being paid by the country for this fundamental deficiency in the polity is absolutely unaffordable.”

It reminded me of some suggestions I had made in a piece many years ago. I was not so popular then and it was dismissed as being out of sync with reality. Sad! Those more in sync with reality many years down the road reach the same conclusion.

The National Democratic Institute (NDI) in 2008 published a comprehensive paper titled “The Minimum Standards for the Democratic Functioning of Political Parties”. I strongly recommend our parliamentarians to read it. It sets out beautifully doable standards that I touch upon here before sharing my suggestions tailored to our specific conditions many years ago.

First, party rules should define membership eligibility requirements and spell out members’ rights, roles and responsibilities. Clear membership rules can help facilitate such participation, particularly participation in the selection of candidates and the designation of leaders.

Second, party statutes can clarify lines of communication, authority and accountability between party’s various layers. When a party has multiple organisational levels and multiple governing organs, its statutes should designate the highest authority in the party. In some cases, the highest authority may vary according to the policy area.

Third, party statutes should anticipate conflicts and should provide frameworks for not only fostering but also for containing, healthy internal debate. These frameworks should include an independent appeals body within the party in cases where party members or party representatives are expelled from the party, or from the party’s legislative caucus. Having an independent appeals body within the party not only leads to more considered decisions, but also makes it more difficult for local or national party factions to use expulsion mechanisms to entrench their power or to settle personal scores.

Fourth, parties benefit from having clear rules about the regular selection (and possible de-selection) of party leaders and party candidates. Clear rules help to channel and encourage competition among politicians and among advocates of rival policy alternatives. Many parties have developed mechanisms of intra-party democracy that give party members a meaningful role in these important decisions.

Five, party officials and party employees should adhere to party rules for making decisions, including selection decisions for candidates and leaders. Procedural frameworks can only contribute to a party’s long-term stability if those within the party agree to abide by the stated rules.

Six, political parties should keep sound and proper financial records which serve to generate confidence, enhance credibility and encourage contributions to finance party operations. In addition, officeholders and party units need to be internally accountable for party finances within their domains. Parties should take responsibility for their officeholders and other leaders who abuse their positions for personal gain. If party representatives are convicted of such offenses, their parties should disown them, not seek to minimise the crime. Even in the absence of convictions, parties which overlook credible charges of corruption within their ranks may harm their own long-term goals, as well as damage overall support for democracy, because doing so sends the message that self-interest is the parties’ primary political aim.

The paper offers in-depth rationale about all the basic points stated above and is worth a read.

Democracy is a wonderful thing. Sans democracy within ranks of political parties themselves, it a sham. Strong party structure based on sustainable policies, encouraging party members’ development and grooming with a commitment to clearly spell out party goals is a must. If democracy does not exist in party ranks, how can the party claim to sustain democracy in the country?

Here is what needs to be reviewed and corrected is the Political Parties’ Act. Laws made but ignored on implementation level are not worth the paper they are written on. Extracts from my paper, updated and added upon, to address the political parties’ structure formation are shared herewith.

First, do we need a lifetime chairperson? What democracy we ape to follow, does this? No sirs, we need to ensure that there are in-house party elections every three years. I am sure all parties have their share of good, sincere people. Let them come forward. Let there be a healthy competition for slots based on merit, not on excess use of buttering ‘the’ party leader.

Two, we see a repetition of the same faces on party tickets, or their children taking up the mantle without any credentials but for the name they carry. Such steps further weaken the democratic intuitions. We need to ensure that no one contests for the in-house party seat more than twice. Likewise, no one should be allowed to contest for national and provincial assemblies more than twice.

Three, mechanisms for in-house accountability must be put in place and party core leadership must be responsible for misdeeds of their party members. Likewise, prime minister must be elected twice only. In USA, a country on the forefront of democracy, restricts its presidents to serving a maximum number of two terms by virtue of the Twenty Second Amendment. A reproduction, “No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.”

A lack of the above factors briefly touched upon gives birth to a dictatorship of another kind. Democracy is much more than mere elections.

Cornel Ronald West, an American scholar and public intellectual, rightly says, “Of course, the aim of a constitutional democracy is to safeguard the rights of the minority and avoid the tyranny of the majority.”

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9.

Speedy trial courts

Why they are legal in a judicial system

 

Amid the hullaballoo emanating from certain quarters trashing speedy trial courts as a step against democracy, the prime minister announced the ambit of work for these courts. Quoting from a local daily, “Only terrorism cases to be sent to speedy trial courts… All institutions will carefully scrutinise cases before prosecution in the special military tribunals.”

The focus of all those opposing the setting up these courts should be upon dealing with terrorism. If special courts are set up to facilitate this goal, then why such opposition? If those opposing try to do a bit of research and reading, they will find out that even the Constitution of USA vide the Sixth Amendment offers the following provision:

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

Speedy trial is a right of those being tried criminally and bails may not be granted or if granted restrict the movement of the accused.

The history of speedy trials dates back to ancient times as a liberty of the accused. According to a paper on speedy trial:

“The right to a speedy trial is an ancient liberty. During the reign of HENRY II (1154–1189), the English Crown promulgated the Assize of Clarendon, a legal code comprised of 22 articles, one of which promised speedy justice to all litigants. In 1215 the Magna Carta prohibited the king from delaying justice to any person in the realm. Several of the charters of the American colonies protected the right to a speedy trial, as did most of the constitutions of the original 13 states.”

According to John J Bradley “Most jurisdictions in the US have defined ‘speedy trial’ to be within 75 days of the person’s arrest. This constitutional guarantee is for the protection of both the defendant and society, since persons in jail must be supported at considerable public expense and if a guilty person is mistakenly released, they may commit other crimes.” (February 26, 2013)

According to the Cornell University Law School on Sixth Amendment, “The right to a speedy trial may be derived from a provision of Magna Carta and it was a right so interpreted by Coke.” (Reference to Coke: “We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either justice or right.” Ch 40 of the 1215 Magna Carta, a portion of ch 29 of the 1225 reissue. Klopfer v North Carolina, 386 US 213, 223–24 (1967))

It is no secret the cases in the courts can run for years without reaching a closing. Mail Online India reports, “A 37-year-old criminal case pending trial before a Delhi court recently drew the attention of the nation towards inordinate judicial delays with the accused approaching the Supreme Court seeking a quietus to the protracted trial.

But what went unnoticed is the fact that the court refused to acknowledge paucity of judges, huge pendency, inefficient administration and other systemic faults as factors impinging upon the fundamental right to a speedy trial. It goes without saying that a person cannot be allowed to take advantage of his own wrong but to penalise him for the fault of another defies logic.”(Published August 12, 2014)

What we need to address is to correct the fault lines within our judicial system.

The Michigan Law Review in its paper published in 2013 titled “Speedy Trial as a Viable Challenge to Chronic Underfunding in Indigent-Defense Systems” by Emily Rose, states, “In Barker v Wingo, the Court, warning that the speedy trial right is “amorphous,” “slippery,” and “necessarily relative”, rejected a fixed time period for determining a violation of speedy trial and adopted instead a flexible “balancing test, in which the conduct of both the prosecution and the defendant are weighed” on an ad hoc basis. Rather than focusing only on a set length of time, a proper balancing test was required to include (1) the length of delay, (2) the reason for delay, (3) the defendant’s assertion of his right, and (4) prejudice to the defendant. No single factor is necessary or sufficient for finding a deprivation of speedy trial, and other circumstances may still be relevant. And yet court rulings since Barker show that the test may effectively be used to challenge many of the delays common to indigent criminal cases.”

Let’s discuss these benchmarks a little further. The first benchmark is delay of time. If there is a delay of inordinate time it becomes “presumptively prejudicial”, commented upon in theUnited States vs Thaxton case as follows, “As the United States Supreme Court has explained, this latter inquiry is significant to the speedy trial analysis because the presumption that pretrial delay has prejudiced the accused intensifies over time. It is important that trial courts not limit their consideration of the lengthiness of the pretrial delay to the threshold question of presumptive prejudice and remember to count it again as one of four criteria to be weighed in the balancing process at the second stage of the Barker–Doggett analysis.”

The second is reason for delay. The prosecution may delay trial to suit itself or the defendant may do the same to simply buy time. Both do not exist in speedy trial courts.

The third is time and manner in which the defendant asserts the right. In the case above quoted i.e., United States vs Thaxton, the judgement says, ““The trial court recognised that the failure to assert the speedy trial right weighs heavily against the defendant. Although Thaxton complained of the pre-indictment delay, the trial court’s order noted that Thaxton had not asserted his right to a speedy trial throughout that period of time. The record reflects that Thaxton did not assert his right to a speedy trial motion for discharge and acquittal on February 15, 2010, which was almost 16 months after his arrest.”

The fourth is the degree of prejudice accruing to the defendant which the delay caused. Ruling in the Barker case clearly lays down, “That prejudice should be assessed in light of the interests that speedy trial is intended to protect: (1) preventing oppressive pretrial incarceration, (2) minimising the accused’s anxiety and concern, and (3) limiting the possibility that the defence will be impaired. The clock begins running against the government after “arrest, indictment, or other official accusation” triggers it.” (Emily Rose in the Michigan Law Review in its paper published in 2013 titled “Speedy Trial as a Viable Challenge to Chronic Underfunding in Indigent-Defense Systems”)

So those who oppose the speedy trial courts do so in my opinion without knowledge. Legal or otherwise.

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9.

Why hate transgenders…

…when they can become valuable members of our society

 

I have often wondered why it is that generally there is hatred for ‘transgenders’ in Pakistan. The term means different things to different people. At a very basic level it means being born a male or a female but then realizing he or she does not subscribe completely to the gender they belong to, that it does not reflect the person that they are. Katy Steinmetz,writing for TIME magazine, says, “Referring to someone as ‘a transgender’ can sound about as odd as saying, ‘Look, a gay!’ It turns a descriptive adjective into a defining noun and can make the subject sound distant and foreign, like they’re something else first and a person second.” According to BBC News, “In India, a common term used to describe transgender people, transsexuals, cross-dressers, eunuchs and transvestites is hijra.” (15 April, 2014)

Law Prof K L Bhatia in his piece discussing the constitutional and legal status of transgenders writes, “Transgender is an umbrella term used for a wide range of identities and experiences including persons whose gender identity or gender expression or gender behaviour does not conform to their biological sex — male or female. They are described as ‘third gender’ as an institution that includes and comprises of hijras or eunuchs ornapunsaka or tritiya prakriti or kothis or aravanis or jogappas, etc. Either of the expressions used for third gender denote absence of procreative capability. TGC also includes persons who intend to undergo sex reassignment surgery (SRS) or have undergone SRS to align their biological sex with their gender identity in order to become male or female. SRS are generally called transsexual persons. Besides, there are persons who like to cross-dress in clothing of opposite gender, viz, transvestites.” (August 20, 2014)

Gender non-conformists have existed through the annals of history. Transgenders have been regarded highly throughout the history of the subcontinent. There was nary a court without transgenders appointed in the women quarters. They served as advisors, watchmen, generals and messengers. In an interesting piece on transgenders, a lane in the Mehrauli’s bazaar houses, Hijron ka Khanqah, with some 50 graves claimed to be those of prominent transgenders over time.

Transgenders were appointed in different capacities since the Ottoman Empire, as were they in Safavid and Mamluk eras. Grants were awarded to them, both in the form of land and cash. If one recalls, in Tuzk-e-Babri, the autobiography by Mughal Emperor Baber, there is a longing for a young teenage boy.

Over time, in particular in the era of British rule, the culture of transgenders was stigmatised as it was simply not understood by the alien rulers. Instead of appreciating differences and supporting cohabitation of different hues, the transgender community was marginalised and treated like a pariah where once they were equal contributing members to the society. Nabiha Meher concurs with this view when she writes a blog piece, “The British rulers in India stripped the hijras of the laws that granted them the protection they received under Muslim rulers and regarded them as a menace to society.” (Hijras – The Third Sex)

This raises a question in my mind. With the tranasgender community marginalised, are we not taking away their right to be contributing members of a healthy society? Nowhere does it indicate that their gender non-conformity conflicts with their ability to work as engineers, doctors, pilots, designers, so on and so forth. By ostracising a community on many levels are we creating an effective minority? Will this serve us in evolving a well-knitted community moving forward together to achieve prosperity?

In an interesting piece in NYT, “In a bid for a solution — and some publicity — the Clifton board borrowed a creative idea that alleviated tax woes in neighbouring India: It hired a team of transgendered tax collectors to go door to door to embarrass the rich until they paid. The TGs have collected $100,000 in about nine months, 10 times the cost of the programme.” (July 18, 2010)

The reality of the average transgender is exposed in a sad piece, Being Transgender in Pakistan” in an interview with one such member of this community, Ashee Butt. The writer says, “Like many from her community who are abandoned by their families at an early age, Ashee sought refuge with a local hijra guru who taught her to sing and dance. These gurus act as father figures for the hijras, who are referred to locally as the guru’s ‘chailas’, or‘followers’, and together they form intimate communities that protect and fend for each other in good and bad times.

For the hijras in Pakistan, dance and song is the only way to earn a respectable living as their presence is considered auspicious on wedding and childbirth celebrations. However, they are not treated as equals unanimously by the conservative and liberal sections of Pakistani society. They live in secluded communities with their own kind, often in extreme poverty. Most are uneducated as the notion of a transgender child being brought up in a normal household and studying in a mainstream school is not an acceptable reality. As a result they often end up on the streets dressed in flashy clothes, faces caked with make-up, begging at traffic signals during the day and selling sex during the night.” (June 5, 2013)

In April 2011, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled that hijras should be allowed to choose an alternative sex when they apply for their national identity cards. According to a local newspaper report, “The court directed NADRA to expedite efforts for issuance of National Identity Cards (NICs) to eunuchs, besides registering them as shemales. The court observed that eunuchs are Pakistani citizens, but they are deprived of various rights, including the right of having NICs.” It further stated, “NADRA in December 2010 had agreed to add a third option under the gender category in identity card forms. It had said the application forms for NICs would contain the third option of ‘Khawaja Sara’ (transgender) along with ‘male’ and ‘female’.” (April 26, 2011)

State must be proactive in not only securing the rights of the transgender community but also offering positions that allow them a decent living, helping them to become well-adjusted members of the society.

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9.

Burying 141 souls

ArticleYAAThe Pakistani government must address social, judicial, and economic issues of thecommon man, or military action will remain a temporary measure at best

 

“Pakistan produces people of extraordinary bravery. But no nation should ever require its citizens to be that brave.” –Nadeem Aslam (tweeted by Mirza Waheed on 16 December, 2014)

December 16th is a tragic day in the history of Pakistan. It ate up over one hundred and forty small souls but it gives a feeling of déjà vu, an echo from 2004 when Chechen rebels’ attack on a school led to a similar tragedy. On that fateful day in Russia, over thirty armed individuals stormed a school taking hostage over one thousand people. The hostages were not only members of the school staff but also parents of the children, gathered to celebrate ushering in a new academic year. Although many died in the initial onslaught, most were held at the school gymnasium. The siege ended on the third day at the cost of the lives of 186 children among the 334 killed. The savage attack was spearheaded by Riyadus-Salikhin, a Chechen liberation group.

On 16 December, 2014, all hell broke loose when militants from Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) attacked a school in Peshawar costing lives of over one hundred and forty people. These include one hundred and thirty two children. TTP has claimed responsibility for the attack. A friend Syed Masud-ul-Hasan wrote an email, part of which I reproduce:

“Following are some of the bitter facts:

Military operation was delayed by our government for more than a year, which gave time to TTP to entrench itself in FATA.

So-called peace talks and ceasefire gave them enough time to spread their tentacles across Pakistan.

Most of the under trial terrorists are let off by courts due to insufficient evidence.

Government has done well by deciding to execute the death penalties already awarded to the terrorists. Prolonged and indefinite delays in execution of these punishments had given the feeling as if the government was following a policy of appeasement towards the terrorists.” (December 17, 2014)

Foreign Policy says that the group has been hammered both by the Pakistani military and defections from within its ranks. And now it has united Pakistanis of all backgrounds and beliefs in revulsion… Over the past year, the TTP has been reduced to a shell of its former self. Like a bloodied, weakened beast, the TTP lashed out viciously on Tuesday. In attacking the school, the TTP chose the softest targets in a military cantonment. Some, though not all, of the children came from military families. And so the TTP — indifferent to the blood of thousands of innocents on its own hands — has anointed itself as the avenger of its own collateral damage suffered at the hands of the Pakistani army.

According to a piece on this heinous crime in Washington Post, “The attackers’ sole aim was to murder as many youngsters as possible. It was the bloodiest terrorist attack in Pakistan since 2007, one that was meant to derail modest but real progress by the army and government in fighting extremism. The relative good news on a terrible day was that the attack was a reflection of the Taliban’s declining fortunes in Pakistan — not its ascendancy.” (December 16, 2014)

Whether ascending or descending, terrorist attacks of any nature that tear through the hearts of any human, are simply unacceptable. Can the families, parents and siblings of the young children torn away from their loved ones in the massacre that took place, rejoice that the deaths caused are an act of desperation by the Taliban in the face of their declining power?

In a beautiful paper Donald Winchester writes, “In effect, blaming terror and violence on religion, as many today are too eager to do, is both dangerously reductive and shirks responsibility for the world. The cause for terror and violence lies somewhere within our inner nature. The apostle James explained this in his epistle, the earliest of the apostolic letters: “Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.” (James 4:1–2, The Message, Bible).” (Published in summer 2007 Issue of Vision)

Bakir Oweida, a journalist who has worked as managing editor and written for several Arab publications, in his article published in Al-Arabiya English writes that the war on terror on Afghan soil led to greater terrorism as the extremist militants were hunted by security bodies in many countries, including their own. “Instead of working hard to offer the returning fighters the best possible rehabilitation, including jobs and places in colleges, institutes and universities, they were left to fend for themselves, and it was no wonder that they were ready to respond happily to bin Laden’s call for “jihad”. (September 6, 2014) He has hit bull’s eye by saying this.

Will extremism and extremist tendencies die if a certain genre of extremists is knocked off? Alternatively, will they simply go dormant to re-emerge as a new faction, a new organisation yet again? Extremism knows no boundaries; it is not specific to a particular religion either.

Many countries have faced extremism and dealt with it in light of their local ground realities. Red Brigade Movement in Italy, for example, started collapsing when the authorities offered reduction in sentences of convicted terrorists offering information on the organisation. West Germany’s tactic in dealing with the Red Army Faction was creation of crack anti-terrorist reaction unit with the ability to be present anywhere within its borders within an hour. They were equipped with special vehicles and high-speed helicopters. It also increased the ambit of police powers from increasing check points to search buildings if suspected of holding terrorists.

Israel, in order to counter terrorism, strengthened its networking for gathering intelligence reports. Powers given to Mossad to maintain exhaustive information on terrorist organisations and suspect terrorists is incredible. Israel, besides micro-checking of every traveller on its flights, uses the technique of ‘profiling’. “Every passenger is checked through Interpol to determine if he or she has a criminal record. Passengers travelling from certain countries are more closely scrutinised. Arabs and certain foreigners are often subjected to intense questioning and more detailed searches, while most Israeli Jews proceed to board the planes.” (Website for Constitutional Rights Freedom)

Military action is mandatory to reduce militarism by extremists. Unfortunately, it cannot pull out extremism from its roots. A small number of terrorists may inflict a colossal loss on the lives of citizens of a nation and its psyche. This is not about numbers. This is about defining short term (military) strategy with long term strategy.

The government has put to execution the death penalties already awarded to the terrorists. However, this alone does not take away the responsibility from the government to review and redefine its policies toward terrorism. While determining upon the policy, the existence of foreign involvement and funding must be kept in mind. This linkage becomes successful with the cooperation of local misguided elements. To elucidate the point, The New YorkTimes reported in October 2013 that the Afghan government wanted to develop a shadowy alliance with Islamist militants which became the latest flashpoint between Afghanistan and US. The plan involved Afghan intelligence trying to walk with Pakistani Taliban to find a trump card in a regional power game. Tipped off, US Special Forces intercepted an Afghan convoy ushering a Senior Pakistani Taliban militant Latif Mehsud to Kabul for secret talks.

According to a WikiLeaks report quoted by Rediff.com “On December 15-16, 2009, Treasury Department Acting Assistant Secretary of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis Howard Mendelsohn, along with GRPO officers and Treasury analysts, met with senior officials from the United Arab Emirates State Security Department and Dubai’s General Department of State Security to discuss suspected Taliban-related financial activity in the UAE. GDSS officials noted that it believed India had also supported Pakistani Taliban and Pashtun separatists.”

The Pakistan government must also address the social, judicial, and economic issues of the common man. Unless and until this is done with honesty, military action will remain a temporary measure at best.

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9.

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