Friday, 30 January 2015

Terrorism is a major threat to peace in South Asia, speech of Dr Shabir Choudhry in a conference on terrorism in Vienna on 30 Jan. 15

Terrorism is a major threat to peace in South Asia, speech of Dr Shabir Choudhry in a conference on terrorism in Vienna on 30 Jan. 15

Mr Chairman, friends and colleagues aslamo alaikam and very good afternoon.

Topic of this conference is ‘Terrorism and its impact on the region of South Asia’. Before we say anything else it is imperative that we try to define what constitutes terrorism. It is sad that despite loss of so many innocent lives, human rights violations, up till now there is no agreed definition of terrorism.
There is an old saying: one person’s freedom fighter is other person’s terrorist; and there is a lot of truth in this statement.

It is generally agreed that when people commit acts of violence with intention of killing civilians or non combatants; or take people hostage with intention of inflicting fear in public or killing them, it is referred as terrorism. The culprits are called terrorists. The motives of terrorism could be different in each case; but in each terrorist act people are killed, intimidated and rights of ordinary people are violated.

Cynics say, when jet fighters or some flying machines are employed to kill people it is not called terrorism, because that is covered under counter terrorism measures even though that also inflict fear and seriously curb civil liberties. Because all governments have obligation to protect life and liberty of all the citizens, it is generally agreed that governments whether they are democratic or undemocratic have a legitimate right to use force, kill people and violate certain human rights.

Terrorism could be further divided in to the following:
1/International (or Transnational) Terrorism;
2/ Non State Supported Terrorism;
3/ State Directed Terrorism;
4/ State Supported Terrorism.
International (or Transnational) Terrorism: Terrorism has become a ‘business’ for some; and it is no longer confined to boundaries of any one country. Terrorists have very complex international network and terrorism transcends national boundaries.  Its planning can take in one country and its execution could be in other countries thousands of miles away. This kind of terrorism attracts wider publicity and help terrorists to promote their demands and cause.
In order to combat this kind of terrorism a sincere and concerted international effort is required. 
Non State Supported Terrorism.   Terrorist groups which are highly organised with their own finance and infrastructure; and good command and control system with sophisticated system of communication. They, by and large, operate autonomously without receiving any significant support from any Government.
State Directed Terrorism. This class of terrorist groups operate as agents of a Government and act as a proxy to a government to advance interest or cause of that government or a cause which is mutually beneficial. They receive substantial intelligence, logistic and operational support from the sponsoring Government.
State Supported Terrorism.  This class of terrorist groups have somewhat independent existence with their own resources and their own agenda; but at times they receive help, support and guidance from one or more Governments.
Right of expression
Mr Chairman
Right of expression is a fundamental human right. Value of this right must be respected and protected. But is it not strange that when a Black person is insulted, he is protected under racism laws; when a Jew is insulted he is protected under anti Semitism laws; when a woman is insulted she is protected under equality laws; when a gay is insulted he is protected under homophobic laws; but when Almighty’s best creation, and last prophet Mohammed PBUH, who is followed by more than a billion people is insulted, culprits are protected under cover of Free Speech.
Free Speech should have some responsibilities as well? Right of expression should not be taken as a licence to ridicule others, especially faiths of others? Jammu Kashmir International People’s Alliance strongly believes that we should work to promote free speech with some sense of responsibility. We should oppose intolerance, extremism and terrorism. We should respect all religions and must not insult religious beliefs of other people.
However, if some people abuse right of expression and insult another religion, it does not mean that followers of that religion should behave irrationally and commit terrorism. This is against teaching of Islam and practise of Prophet Mohammed PBUH. In his life the Prophet Mohammed PBUH was insulted and even beaten up. When he came to power he forgave all of them. And those Muslims who commit terrorism are clearly going against his practise.
An Indian writer, Rakhshanda Jalil, in her article published in Indian Express on 14 January 2015, wrote that Charlie Hebdo previously published as Hara-Kiri since 1970. It was shut down by the French government for making fun of Charles de Gaulle. No one at that time protested that closing of Hara Kiri was against free speech. 1
The magazine resumed its publication in 1992 with a new name of Charlie Hebdo; and apparently claimed the right to offend Islam and Muslims, and offend with impunity. However, it must be remembered that one of Charlie Hebdo’s staff member, Maurice Sinet, was sacked in 2009 for being anti-Semitic. Sinet had mocked then President Nicolas Sarkozy’s son for marrying a Jewish heiress for her money; he was lambasted by the French intelligentsia and pressure was brought upon the newspaper’s editor to fire him since he refused to apologise. Strangely, no one protested that right of Free Speech was suppressed in France. 2

Islam and terrorism
Islam is a religion of peace and brotherhood. It also promotes free speech, tolerance and equality. Prophet Mohammed promoted moderation and kindness. He Said: “I do not want extremism and disenchantment to be seen in your religion (Baihaqi).”

The Qur'an declares:  "Let there be no compulsion (or coercion) in the religion (Islam). The right direction is distinctly clear from error." (Qur’an 2:256)

Almighty God says: “Whosoever kills a person without any reason (of murder or mischief in the earth); it is as though he has killed all the people. And whosoever saves a single life, it is as though he has saved all the people.” (Surah al-Maaida, 5:32)

Despite this unambiguous message of Islam, illogical acts of some misguided people not only create more problems for embattled Muslims, but they also defame Islam and its message of peace and brotherhood. British government established a Task Force in 2013 to help to formulate policies to tackle Radicalisation and Extremism. In its report the Task Force defines Islamist Extremism as:

‘An ideology which is based on distorted interpretation of Islam, which betrays Islam’s peaceful principles, and draws on the teachings of the likes of Sayyid Qutb.’  3

So one can see even the British Task Force acknowledge in its report that Islam is a religion of peace. Problem, however, emerge when some Muslims with their myopic view of the world and Islam commit acts that are contrary to the teaching of Islam. Islam teaches peace, tolerance and respect for other faiths. These misguided Muslims, on the other hand, promote intolerance, hatred and violence.

It is clear from the above that Islam and overwhelming majority of Muslims have nothing to do with terrorism; but we have to acknowledge this bitter fact that some misguided people use name of Islam to advance their agenda and defame Islam and create problems for Muslims. To blame Islam for terrorism, or to assume that these misguided people are representatives of Islam is similar to claim that the Ku Klux Klan is representative of Christianity.
Some causes of terrorism
Mr Chairman
We need to look at some causes of terrorism as well. One narrative is that extremist views and beliefs can lead people to commit terrorist actions or become accomplice. Those who support this discourse recommend that extremist views must be challenged and promoters must be apprehended.

Another narrative is that people with extremist views should not be prohibited to express 
their views, as that will build anger and frustration which could lead to violence and terrorism. Instead, they should be allowed to express their views; and they should be countered logically, and efforts should be made to engage them in dialogue and make them part of the system rather than alienate them.

This policy will help to either educate potential terrorists or neutralise them; or at least provide them with an alternative view point which runs counter to their beliefs. People who are in a position of power must make efforts to ensure that these people are not alienated and frustrated, because those who are excluded from the system are more likely to be influenced by the radicals and terrorists.

On one hand these fanatics and misguided people promote hatred and intolerance; and propagate that the West has unleashed a war on Islam; on the other hand people belonging to far right and Neoconservatives wrongly assume that it is extreme religious ideologies which create a mindset that commits terrorism. They tend to focus on acts of violence where culprits are Muslims, and conclude that Muslims and Islamic teaching is responsible for acts of terrorism.

By adopting this approach they intentionally or otherwise, leave out other forms of terrorism, and provide justification for their actions against Muslim states and Muslims. They tend to ignore other forms of terrorism, for example, political and ethnic terrorism or terrorism in general. In many places acts of terrorism have been committed where there were no religious motives, for example, in America (and in some other places too) where individuals killed school children or other people and then committed suicide.

People in this category could have some psychological problems, or they may have some personal issues with individuals or with some institutions. People could have had very rough and unfair treatment in life and he/she holds society or some sections of the society responsible for their miseries. In some cases people are deprived of fundamental human rights, and what they rightly deserve to own and enjoy. This deprivation and discriminatory treatment builds anger and frustration, which can, at times, lead people to take drastic measures to satisfy their anger.

As a result of accumulative anger and frustration, they strongly feel that culprits or those associated with them must be taught a lesson. These lone angry wolves can go to any lengths to do what they think is right. So it is not prudent to associate all kinds of terrorism with some ‘poisonous extremist ideology’ or some religious ideology.

In view of the above argument, terrorism should not be perceived as an issue related to any religion or a nation. It is an international problem and must be seen in a wider context. Furthermore, terrorism should not be seen as a product of Islamic culture; or that Islam is anti West and anti modernism.

Many Muslims strongly feel they are victims of inequality and unfair treatment by the West. They believe that because of their superiority in new technology and arms they victimise and exploit the Muslims around the world. At times, their frustration and sense of helplessness manifest in adopting extremism and violence.

It must be noted that more terrorist acts have been committed against Muslims rather than non Muslims; so it will be wrong to say that Muslims who commit terrorism do so because they are anti West, anti Christians or anti Jews etc. I am sure there could be other reasons why people commit terrorism. For example, some people believe that poverty, inequality and discrimination at home together with other degrading treatment could create fertile conditions in which extremism can flourish. The Western exploitation of Muslim resources and military misadventures could inflame sentiments and can encourage people to become violent.
In Western countries, violence is generally attributed to Muslim fundamentalism, fanaticism, clash of cultures and lack of education. While asserting this, they tend to forget that overwhelming majority of Muslims condemn acts of violence against innocent people. However, some people urge writers and thinkers and media people of the West to understand the rationale why some people happily sacrifice their lives.
Supporters and promoters of terrorism
No terrorist organization can exist and function in a ‘vacuum’. They heavily rely on local support which could be from powerful religious, ethnic or regional parties; or in some cases directly from a State which uses its organs to support and train these terrorists. People generally only talk about the terrorists who commit violent acts; they overlook the fact terrorists cannot be successful without a considerable support provided to them. There is someone there to provide them logistic support. Someone sitting in a safe place who plans the action; and there is someone who provides funds for such actions. There is someone who preaches violence; and incites people to commit such drastic actions which not only kill other human beings; but also seriously endanger their own lives and lives of friends, colleagues and even their own families. So, to eradicate terrorism, it is imperative that these states are identified and pressurised to stop their support for terrorists.

It must also be noted that terrorists are hungry for publicity. They need media attention to reach out to people to promote their objectives or their mission. So there could be people in media who are their hidden allies.

In some cases, some governments directly or indirectly promote extremism and terrorism. They help to set up groups which apparently provide religious teaching or provide welfare support; but their actual role is to prepare extremists and terrorists who could be used to advance the cause of that government.

Whether we like it or not, Islamic Republic of Pakistan is regarded as ‘epic centre of terrorism’. Extremism got a big boost in Pakistan during the military government of General Zia Ul Haq. Under the government patronage and with help of the American dollars and Saudi support religious schools flourished with aim of producing Jihadi warriors to fight the Soviet Russia.

New brand of Islam, which is now known as radical Islam or Wahabi Islam was promoted to advance a political agenda. Extremism and terrorism became an industry which made many people rich and powerful. These people with help of this petro dollar influence and newly acquired power dominated the civil society; and to some extent, made the government and society hostage. The ordinary people of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Jammu and Kashmir are still paying the price for this selfish and erroneous policy with their blood and suffering.

Various governments of Pakistan, for many decades, used these extremist groups to advance their agenda. These people were known as strategic assets of Pakistan. These Jihadi warriors were successfully used to keep India engaged in Jammu and Kashmir, of course, the policy resulted in death of tens of thousands of innocent people of Jammu and Kashmir; and immense suffering for the people of the divided State of Jammu and Kashmir.

These Jihadi warriors were also successfully used against the Soviet Russia in Afghanistan. Pakistan continued to call shots in Afghanistan even after the Russian withdrawal. This policy continued even when Pakistan was an ally in the war against terrorism; and many experts regarded Pakistan as a part of the problem rather than a part of the solution.

In this regard, Carlotta Gall in her book, The Wrong Enemy asserts that ‘Pakistan army plays a double game by supporting the terrorists while enjoying the status of an ally with the United States and NATO... “Pakistan, not Afghanistan, has been the true enemy.” 4

Mr Chairman
This is not to say that Pakistan has not suffered from terrorism, but problem is, despite so much suffering they have not learnt any lessons from their drastic policy. They continue to patronage or ignore some extremist groups, and their infrastructure is still intact; and they are still regarded as assets of Pakistan. Despite much publicised operation against terrorists the concept of ‘good terrorist’ and ‘bad terrorist’ still exists.

They need to understand that they cannot win a war against extremism and terrorism by being selective; or by just trimming branches of terrorism while the whole tree is left intact. They need to seriously look at their policy regarding religious schools and regulate them.

Apart from that the government needs to look at role of some English medium schools as well, because some militant outfits have established English medium schools to equip their ‘students’ with the modern technology that they can use it to advance their agenda.
Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former Ambassador to the US, in his article, Our Jihad Addiction makes very serious observation, he wrote and I quote:

Pakistan’s jihadists are already exercising virtual veto over Pakistan’s relations with India. The Mumbai attack proved Lashkar-e-Taiba’s ability to undermine the initiatives of a civilian government for normalization of India-Pakistan relations. They could, in future, force the Pakistani military’s hand in a similar manner...Over the decades, Pakistan has managed to evade crises and failure status primarily because the international community has bailed it out. But now the rest of the world sees Pakistan as Jihad Central. Camps nestled in the tribal areas have trained and equipped militants who have gone on to fight in the name of Allah in different regions of the world. Foreign fighters trained in Pakistan have reportedly been in action in Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Mali, Nigeria and China’s Xinjiang region. It is no longer possible to keep Pakistani jihadists as a strategic reserve “only to cause damage to India.”  Unquote 5  

Another Pakistani writer and famous journalist Marvi Simed, in her daring article, Death of Dissent, questions Pakistani establishment’s intentions with regard to war on terrorism, she wrote, and I quote:

‘When are the arrests going to be made for Haqqani network leaders? Has the Quetta Shura been abandoned from Pakistan’s soil? Have they been ousted from Para Chinar and Kurram? If not, are they going to be arrested? Is a new military offensive in the offing in Kurram? With thick clouds on the current military operation and without any independent reporting on it, one wonders what method the Army implies to identify those killed in aerial strikes as terrorists? How come there is no collateral damage, which was trumpeted out of proportion in the case of (much more precise) drone strikes?’  Unquote 6

Mr Chairman
I want to conclude by saying that the Pakistani establishment and government must realise that their wrong policies of promoting extremism and terrorism have come back to haunt them. You cannot nurture forces of extremism and violence, and hope that they will not harm them, especially when these extremists have an agenda of their own. I want to conclude by a quote of Khawaja Asif, Pakistani Minister of Defence, who On 16 December 2014,  said: “There is absolutely no doubt about it, that the Taliban the extremists are the biggest threat to the peace in this region, to the peace in Pakistan to the existence of Pakistan”. 7

If Pakistani government and establishment do not change their erroneous policy of playing a ‘good cop and bad cop’, while apparently fighting terrorism and extremism, they will miserably fail in fight against terrorism; and Pakistan will suffer immensely. This wrong policy will not only result in more bloodshed, but it will seriously endanger future of Pakistan. END

2.    Ibid
3.    HM Government, Tackling Extremism in UK: Report from the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Tackling Radicalisation and Extremism, December 2013, Pages 1-2

5.     Our Jihad addiction -, Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the U.S., is Director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute. Jan 10-17, 2015, issue.
6.      The Nation, Tuesday Jan 20, 2015

Resolution passed in JKIPA Conference

Resolution passed in JKIPA Conference

This conference on terrorism organised by Jammu Kashmir International People’s Alliance in Vienna on 30 January 2015 unanimously declares, that terrorism, religious intolerance and extremism are major threats to peace and fundamental human rights of people; therefore, terrorism, religious intolerance and extremism must be opposed by all governments, political and civil society organisations.

The Conference further declares that all civilised countries must take stringent action against those countries that use terrorism and extremism as a foreign policy weapon to advance their agenda; and we feel the government of Pakistan is among those governments which have deliberately and consistently supported terrorism and extremism that has resulted in death of tens of thousands of innocent people, especially in State of Jammu and Kashmir, this Conference requests the international community to apply pressure on Pakistan to stop its dubious policy of a good terrorist and a bad terrorist and let people of the Jammu and Kashmir and the region live in peace.

The Conference also strongly protests against Pakistani government for introducing Military Courts and Pakistan Protection Ordinance in areas of State of Jammu and Kashmir that do not legally belong to Pakistan. We fear that Pakistani law enforcing authorities will use the Pakistan Protection Ordinance and Military Courts against innocent people of Pakistani Occupied Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan who struggle for their fundamental human rights and peacefully oppose Pakistani designs in the region. END

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

PAKISTAN- Anti Torture Bill presented in Senate will fail to deliver

PAKISTAN- Anti Torture Bill presented in Senate will fail to deliver
A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

On 21 January, the Senate Standing Committee on Interior and Narcotics has unanimously adopted a draft anti-torture bill. PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar moved The Torture, Custodial Death and Custodial Rape Bill, 2014, last August and the Chairman Senate referred it to the Committee. The objective of this Bill is to prevent and protect all persons from acts of torture, custodial death, and custodial rape in Pakistan. The Bill provides special protection to marginalized sections of the society like women and children. For instance, it states, "No female shall be detained to extract information regarding the whereabouts of a person accused of any offence". Only a female public servant can take a female into custody is another notable provision.

Pakistan ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) in 2010, but has failed to promulgate anti-torture legislation, and to even define torture. Torture includes the denial of basic human rights to those detained and interrogated for the purpose of extracting confessions, which is routine in Pakistan. Human rights can be rooted in a culture only when the ethical and moral foundations of that society are compatible with human rights concepts and norms. And, this is where foundational codes in Pakistan are lacking. The prevailing provisions of Pakistan Penal Code have failed to provide justice and redress to victims of custodial torture. The Constitution too does not define torture or deem it a crime.
Along with its partners in Pakistan, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has been working to develop and introduce an anti-torture legislation since 2009. A draft has been developed through a series of discussions, seminars, workshops, public meetings, and consultations with parliamentarians organized in different cities. Due care was taken to make this proposed law all encompassing so it could cover all aspects of custodial torture and minimize lacuna. Human rights activists, lawyers, and retired judges were asked for their input on the draft legislation and many of their suggestions were incorporated.
This draft legislation proposed by civil society activists and legal experts is more detailed and comprehensive in its approach and reach as opposed to the draft Bill tabled before the Senate Standing Committee. The Bill tabled has gone to the length of changing the very definition of torture in UNCAT to provide impunity to law enforcement agencies.
For instance, the definition of torture in the Senate Committee Bill does not include the concept of "omission". The civil society draft legislation, on the other hand, notes, "If an officer of the law enforcement agency fails to curb the offence of torture or abets it he too should be punished".
Also, the definition in the Senate Committee Bill states, "Torture means an act committed by any person, including a public servant". The wording is ambiguous. Perhaps the drafter does not know about the difference between torture and violence. By using the term "any person" the legislators are including a common man within the ambit of what is necessarily an act committed by state institutions and law enforcement agencies. By creating ambiguity between the two terms, the legislators have rendered the law toothless against the perpetrators of torture. Furthermore the definition of law enforcement agency has been omitted and the more generic term of public servant has been used instead.
The definition of Torture in Article 1of UNCAT is;
1.    For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions. 

2.    This article is without prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or may contain provisions of wider application.
For the effective law against torture it is better to adhere with the UNCAT definition.
Clause 12 of the Bill makes malafide complaint against the public servant a punishable offence, with one-year imprisonment and a fine of Pakistan Rupees 100,000; this clause is completely unjustifiable from the standpoint of a common Pakistani. The risks associated with complaining against a public servant in Pakistan are great enough. To further impose on victims the risk of being prosecuted for a malafide complaint will discourage victims from coming forward. The majority of victims of custodial torture and rape belong to the underprivileged. How can they be expected to cough up such an exorbitant amount if this Clause is used against them in a malafide manner? How will they seek help from other witnesses who would also fear prosecution in case they fail to prove the case? Furthermore, as the realities of Pakistan demonstrate, this clause will be used most by the military and police officials as another intimidation method to inhibit the filing of torture complaints. Instead of facilitating lodging of complaints, the legislators will only make them more onerous. The AHRC recommends that the said Clause 12 of the Senate Committee Bill be deleted.
Clause 14 of the Bill vests the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) with exclusive jurisdiction to investigate complaints of torture until the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) becomes functional. It is worthy to note that the NHRC Bill was passed by the National Assembly in 2012, but was not given presidential assent, and has now lapsed. The Senate Committee draft Anti-Torture Bill does not specify what is to happen once the NHRC becomes functional. The Senate Committee Bill needs to stipulate whether the NHRC will take over investigation of torture complaints exclusively (as these will certainly fall in its mandate) or whether the FIA and NHRC will both have the power to investigate torture complaints. Once the NHRC becomes functional, the Senate Committee Bill must make the respective jurisdiction of the NHRC and FIA clear. The Senate Committee Bill needs to clarify the respective jurisdictions of the FIA and the NHRC with regard to the investigation of offences, and ensure that the Rules include a comprehensive detailing of the process and standard of investigation to be followed in all cases. The Rules must also detail the standard of investigation to be followed, irrespective of which body is conducting the investigation.
It should be noted that the UN Committee Against Torture has stated in its General Comment 3, "an investigation should include as a standard measure an independent physical and psychological forensic examination as provided for in the Istanbul Protocol".
Clause 14 of Senate Committee Bill also clearly violates UNCAT which states, "Each State Party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction."
The neutrality of the investigation agency is jeopardized in Pakistan and may cause miscarriage of justice. Vesting the responsibility of investigation with the FIA, as it operates presently, will only give a cover to the perpetrator. The investigation body needs to be entirely delinked from the law enforcing institutions whose official is being implicated. Otherwise, it will only provide impunity to the perpetrators of custodial torture. The AHRC strongly recommends that the legislators make appropriate provisions for the establishment of an independent investigation commission. This commission should operate untainted by any external influence, and have as its members, representatives of civil society, retired judges, and former LEA personnel. A provision allowing for judicial enquiry, in addition to the independent commission should also be incorporated.
Next, Clause 15 of the Senate Committee Bill specifies a separate procedure for complaints against members of the armed forces and intelligence agencies. In such cases, the FIA is to inform the federal government and act according to its directions. This provision is alarming. It will shield the armed forces from any criminal proceeding in case of a complaint of torture. UNCAT provides for accountability of all law enforcement agencies on equal footing. To require the FIA to act on the advice of the federal government compromises the investigation of these cases. A similar provision was inserted in the NHRC Bill, 2012, indicating that external oversight mechanisms are not being given direct power of investigation into abuses committed by the armed forces and intelligence agencies. This clause must be deleted in the interest of the victims of torture to ensure dispensation of justice.
Clause 16 of the Bill provides for the transfer or suspension of the public servant pending investigation. The option of transfer should not be allowed. Is it appropriate for the public servant who has committed an alleged act of torture be allowed to continue operating in another locality? The AHRC recommends deleting the word transfer from Clause 16.
The AHRC also suggests that whenever the death of a person in custody occurs it must immediately be brought to the notice of the independent investigation commission for investigation.
The accountability mechanism envisaged in the Senate Committee Bill tabled is faulty. The Bill needs to elaborate on the responsibilities of the investigation body and the procedure that it must follow. The important aspects have been kept open-ended to allow the law enforcement agencies an escape route following the allegation of torture. The Bill provides no redress to the victim of torture per se. Has the Bill been rendered toothless to allow powerful agencies to perpetuate the vicious cycle of torture and injustice?
The AHRC urges legislators to review the bill with these missing provisions in mind.
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About AHRC:The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

The original sin, Marvi Sirmed

The original sin, Marvi Sirmed

Published by The Nation on Tuesday January 27, 2015
Self proclaimed mouthpieces of Pakistani military establishment never seize to surprise you with their twisting facts and moulding history to fit their narrative. Whenever one attributes the creation of terrorists groups to the Afghan Jihad strategy adopted by Pakistan, they start admonishing you for ‘going back in history’ in spite of the fact that Pakistan was ‘now a changed country’, was making amends in its previously held policies and that Afghan Jihad should not be cursed because it was the only option available to Pakistan. Really?
Although the original sin would date back to 1949 with an undesirable addition to the would-be Constitution of Pakistan, but at the strategic level, let’s fast-forward to the early 1970s when we decided to support insurgents in neighboring Afghanistan. Originally authored by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the strategy coincided with the uprising in Balochistan and was born out of Pakistan’s hyper apprehensive external affairs sensitivity.

What we call Afghan Jihad had started much before 1979 when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan started supporting Islamist groups that were opposing Daud Khan’s government in Afghanistan, as early as 1973. By that time, Pakistan had started using America’s communism-phobia as bait, eyeing the latter’s money and weapons – the lesson the US had learnt during its dealings with the Pakistan military in the 1950s and 60s. As part of this, we had offered the US in 1972 to use our ports as their bases.

In addition to repeated appeals to the US for defense support in case of a Soviet invasion, Pakistan had also started hosting Afghan insurgent leaders in Peshawar, Quetta and Islamabad. Rabbani and Hekmatyar used to be seen visited by officials and being granted enough support to continue their activities back home. In Afghanistan, Daud had seized power after a successful coup against King Zahir Shah thereby ending Zahir’s project-democracy. For his Pashtunistan ambitions and opposition of the Durand Line – the colonial border between Afghnistan and Pakistan – the Pakistani establishment was not very keen to see Daud in power.

In response to violent treatment that the Daud government meted out to the communist-leaning People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), it had to face a popular uprising. As a result of the Saur Revolution of 1978, the Daud government was uprooted while he met a violent end. Since centuries, Afghanistan’s tribal countryside had peculiar power-relations with the Center. Kabul had always held a peripheral influence in the country’s administrative control.

What PDPA did not realize was the fact that being highly decentralized in nature, Afghanistan had historically maintained that balance between Kabul and the countryside. Making the Center very strong and in its bid to aggressively pursue rapid restructuring of the state in favor of socialism, PDPA initiated social reformation considered to be ‘non-Afghan’ by the Islamist groups. Its steps like rendering bride money unlawful, limiting the influence of the clerics and above all, strong land reforms limiting the landholdings were PDPA’s unforgiveable sins.

These errors of judgment and hasty reforms created a popular uprising against PDPA government, which was by then a divided and fragmented administration under the two factions Khalq and Parcham. After fierce conflict between Noor Mohammad Tarakai, the pro-Soviet Afghan leader and Amin on the anti-Soviet side, Kremlin decided to intervene in September 1979. Prior to it, the Troika, as is evident from the Kremlin Documents, did not agree to use force in Afghanistan.

These developments after the Saur Revolution (the military coup against Daud supported by the people) had brought USSR directly in Afghanistan while Pakistan was able to drag USA, UK and Saudi money funnelled in the proxy war that followed. The US that had been taking Afghanistan lightly till then, woke up to the danger and gladly took Pakistani bait of Soviet occupation. There came the money, the weapons, the drugs, and the trade with a lot of cash that filled many coffers in Islamabad with seepage into Afghan Islamist groups. The US dreamed of bleeding the Soviet Union, writes Hussain Haqqani so correctly in his Magnificent Delusions.

Ironically, Bhutto who had come to power on his socialist credentials – or at least the narrative – became responsible for starting the Islamist project in Afghanistan that undermined socialist agenda in Afghanistan. Using the decades old bait of ‘Soviet threat’, military dictator Zia ul Haq expanded Bhutto’s Project of Islamist Afghanistan. The threat was constructed around the 19th century ‘Warm Waters Theory’ whereby it was perceived that USSR wanted to reach the warm waters of the ocean where the ports are not frozen, which made Afghan bordering areas of British India (now Pakistan) vulnerable to Soviet occupation.

Although the theory has already been rubbished by scholars who have examined Kremlin Archives opened in the late 1990s as well as Wikileaks that has made public the American thinking on the subject. Had USSR any interest in Indus waters through Pakistan, there was nothing stopping it throughout 1950s, then 60s and after. Moreover, to reach warm water ports, occupation was not the only option available to the second ‘pole’ of the bipolar world.

Even if we accept for a moment that the Afghan threat to Pakistan’s existence was real, the big question is, was it the only option to use Islamist proxies to engage the Soviet forces? When asked, senior journalist Wajahat S. Khan emphatically nodded to a strong nay. “If there were no other option but to militarily engage the USSR via proxies, Pakistan should have foreseen the cost of the blowback of the so-called jihad in its strategic calculus,” Khan said. “The proxy warfare itself could have been conducted differently. Why were certain insurgent groups backed at the expense of others? Why the emphasis on supporting Pashhtuns and Islamists, not all Afghans. That selective process left Pakistan in the unenviable position of a unfair broker of peace when the time for talking came, and as for the blowback, it hits Pakistan every day, even now.”

The point made by Khan here is quite valid. The Pakistani-supported insurgents, commonly called Peshawar Seven, were all Sunni groups. There was sort of a coalition of other predominantly Shia groups – the Tehran Eight – supported by Iran. This selective support to Sunni, Pakhtun part of Afghan insurgency ultimately alienated all other communities in Afghanistan, who still cringe at the mere mention of Pakistan. Making it ethnic and sectarian brought radical and violent effects to Pakistan. Harboring the insurgents on the soil of Pakistan landed us in the quagmire of never-ending violence and insurgency. Giving it religious color by calling it ‘Jihad’ and bringing umpteen foreign groups including Arab terrorists (although for the US, UK and KSA they were freedom fighters at the time), destroyed the prospects of a peaceful Pakistan for a very long time.

It is still possible to reverse it. The reversal is only possible if we recognize the root cause honestly and with sincerity of purpose. If the establishment is still trying to justify its wrong-doings through its big-mouthed proxies on Pakistani media and among the intelligentsia, then one is obliged to conclude that nothing has changed in official policy. Treating the symptoms while leaving out, rather justifying the cause, is not going to take us anywhere. If you still say the Afghan Jihad was a righteous and justified cause, pardon me for saying it, but you are lying through your teeth when you say you don’t believe in good or bad Taliban.

 In my last column that appeared on January 20, an Urdu couplet of Mir Taqi Mir was mistakenly attributed to Mirza Ghalib. Please accept my apologies for the glaring mistake and thanks to all the readers who made the correction.

Marvi Sirmed
Ordinary woman in Pakistan 

I can’t stand puritans even if they are feminists. Love to be a feminist coz it frightens arch males. For every alpha male in this world, there is one little, fat Marvi Sirmed!

Monday, 26 January 2015

Obama pledges 4 billion for India in loans and investments

Obama pledges 4 billion for India in loans and investments
·         * Two countries agree to a 10-year framework to boost defense ties * Strike deals on cooperation that include joint production of drone aircraft, equipment for C-130s  January 27, 2015 Daily Times

NEW DELHI: US President Barack Obama ended a landmark day in India on Monday with a pledge of $4 billion in investments and loans, seeking to release what he called the “untapped potential” of a business and strategic partnership between the world’s largest democracies.

Earlier in the day, at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Obama was the first US president to attend India’s annual Republic Day parade, a show of military might that has been associated with Cold War anti-Americanism. It rained as troops, tanks and cultural floats filed through the heart of New Delhi, but excitement nevertheless ran high over Obama’s visit, which began on Sunday with a clutch of deals to unlock billions of dollars in nuclear trade and to deepen defense ties. Both sides hope to build enough momentum to forge a relationship that will help balance China’s rise by catapulting democratic India into the league of major world powers.

The leaders talked on first name terms, recorded a radio program together and spent hours speaking at different events, but despite the bonhomie, Obama and Modi reminded business leaders, including the head of PepsiCo, that trade ties were still fragile. India accounts for only 2 percent of US imports and one percent of its exports, Obama said. While annual bilateral trade had reached $100 billion, that is less than a fifth of US trade with China. “We are moving in the right direction ... That said, we also know that the US-India relationship is defined by so much untapped potential,” Obama told the Indian and US business leaders. “Everyone here will agree, we’ve got to do better.”

Modi said US investment in India had doubled in the past four months and vowed to do more to slash the country’s notorious red tape and make it one of the world’s easiest places for business. Obama said that US Export-Import Bank would finance $1 billion in exports of ‘Made-in-America’ products. The US Overseas Private Investment Corporation will lend $1 billion to small- and medium-sized enterprises in rural areas of India. Regarding renewable energy, a key focus for Modi, $2 billion will be committed by the US Trade and Development Agency for renewable energy, Obama said. Most significant was an agreement on issues that, despite a groundbreaking 2006 pact, had stopped US companies from setting up nuclear reactors in India and had become one of the major irritants in bilateral relations.