Friday, April 11, 2014

'Injustice of Silence': Dawn - Rape in Pakistan

For Details, click here

Preserving honour through a woman’s body

By Maliha Zia Lari - Advocate High Court

The criminality of rape is a contentious matter in Pakistan. Already entrenched in social stigma, the offence is so closely correlated with cultural and political conditioning, that it is difficult to treat the issue as merely a legal one.

In actuality, the crime, it’s investigation and it’s prosecution all reflect a deeper cultural dynamic that ultimately results in how rape is addressed in Pakistan.

In a patriarchal culture such as Pakistan’s, women are viewed to be subordinate to men. They are not recognised as individuals but through their relationships, those of a mother, daughter, sister, wife. Rather, seen as a ‘commodity’ being transferred from one man’s home (her father’s) to another (her husband’s), a woman must therefore be protected to maintain her best possible form until lead-time.

This prevalent mindset stems from local traditions, values and practices across the country that perpetuate pigeon-holed roles for women as mere reproducers.

The concept of ownership and with it the ‘preservation’ of a woman is the crest of why men exert control over restrictions of space, mobility, and behaviour among other liberties.

This control is designed to ensure that a woman does not bring shame to her family. While she is contrastingly viewed as ‘fragile’, the weight of upholding her family’s honour starts the day a girl is born.

With such limited social standing, women often suffer the lack of financial benefits of their work, inevitably rendered as the ‘family’s’ money. In some cases, women are not allowed to work, in many others, they are unable to due to illiteracy, resulting in permanent economic handicap.

Consequently, women are unable to leave abusive relationships where they are consistently exploited without an avenue of long-term state support.

The core reason behind the rising incidence of rape in Pakistan lies within the confines of sexual objectification – violating a woman’s body for the ultimate dishonour.

This is evidenced by the punishments meted out by the illegal parallel systems such as jirgas and panchayats, that order the rape or stripping of womenwhen men in their family have committed an offence. Such systems are particularly dominant in southern Punjab, where the majority of rape cases are reported.

For complete article, click here

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Nature of the threat from the Punjabi Taliban

'The Punjabi Taliban' by Dr. Syed Manzar Abbas Zaidi
Centre for International and Strategic Analysis, February 2014

Executive Summary

This paper discusses the evolution of the Punjabi Taliban in context of their organizational depth in Punjab in Pakistan, and argues since they share a confluence of interests with regards to global jihadism, they are a logical ally of the Taliban & al-­‐Qaeda groups. The author argues that it was natural that they would be activated due to this confluence of interests, particularly in wake of the of Pakistani Army's military operations in the tribal areas which placed the TTP under duress. This confluence of interests-­‐ activation sequence is argued by the author in the post 2008 period with the help of examples, whereby the terrorist threat from the Punjabi Taliban has become a distinct possibility.


The discourse on Punjab has to be understood in two contexts. Punjab is not a Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA); the analogy of 'lawless badlands' which tends to be applied to FATA is far away from the truth in reference to Punjab. It is considered by many as the most progressive province of Pakistan, and boasts a number of cities which are well established metropolitan centers of modernity and liberalism. At the same time there is the 'other ' Punjab. This is the rural Punjab of the South and even adjoining major urban centers, which has traditionally been the nursery for organizations like Sipah-­‐e-­‐Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and Jaish-­‐e-­‐Muhammad (JM). These groups have sprung up from a conflict between a Shia elite and a burgeoning Sunni bourgeoisie in the city of Jhang in the case of SSP; and in the case of JM, a long standing toleration of militancy in Bahawalpur. This 'other' Punjab does not suffer from terrorist attacks as have been witnessed in cities in Punjab like Lahore and Rawalpindi, arguably because it is a sanctuary for these militants. As an Urdu proverb goes' One does not spit in the vessel in which one eats', the militants have tried not to attract attention in the South of Punjab so that they can continue to train and recruit without interference.

Punjab accounts for almost 50 percent of Pakistan’s 172 million population. There are more than 20,000 madrasahs in Pakistan, 44 percent of which are situated in Punjab. The government has banned 29 organizations and put 1,764 people on its wanted list, out of which 729 are from southern Punjab2. The linkages between both al-­‐Qaeda and the Pashtun Taliban groups to extremists in the core Pakistani provinces of Punjab and Sindh has long been documented, but so far much of the fighting within Pakistan has remained a struggle between the Pakistani government and the Pashtuns. Accordingly, the mobilization of Punjabi islamist militants may be the next phase in the militancy as a consequence of the pressure on the Taliban in Waziristan and Swat due to the Pakistani Army’s military operations in these regions.

For complete article, click here

Sunday, February 16, 2014

An initiative by the Eqbal Ahmad Centre for Public Education


GOAL: EACPE seeks to foster the use of science and reason to understand nature and society and so better enable citizens of Pakistan to participate fully in the political, social, economic, and cultural life of their society; to exercise their democratic rights and responsibilities; to value human rights, democracy and the rule of law; to promote cultural and religious diversity; to raise awareness of global issues and the natural environment; and to advance the goals of international peace and justice.

The immediate aim is to produce and promote, equally in Urdu and English, 6-10 minute videos on important social, political, and scientific issues. One new video will be uploaded every week (see website).

Interviews of prominent Pakistani scholars and commentators will be undertaken at the next step.

We welcome others to be part of this effort and will host other suitable videos.

The current video list:

1. WHY IDEOLOGY? (Nazariyyeh Ki Zaroorat?)
Many people never ask, never question. They simply believe. Could this
be because of human biology?

2. A CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS? (Tahzeebon Ka Tassadum?)
Many think that Islam and the West are at war with each other. True?
Let's have a second look.

(Ameer Aur Ghareeb Mulk -Akhir Kyon?)
Culture is critical in deciding between poverty and progress. But which aspects of culture?

4. THE DOWNSIDE OF NATIONALISM (Qaum Parasti Kay Muzir Asrat)
The world is integrated economically and yet torn apart by nationalist fervour. Why? After all, you and I had no choice in choosing our parents or country.

5. NATIONALIST MOVEMENTS ? GOOD OR BAD? (Kya Qaum Parast Tehreekon Ki Himayat Ki Jaey?)
Thousands have been killed in the separatist struggles against the central authority of various nation states in South Asia. Whose side should one be on?

6. THE BIG BANG - JUST A MYTH? (Big Bang - Mehz Aik Nazariya?)
Every culture and religion has its own version of creation. But here is the evidence that science offers.

7. WHERE IS THE CENTRE OF THE UNIVERSE? (Kainat Ka Markaz Kahan Hai?)
A student recently asked me if Mecca was where the Big Bang started from. Yes, I said, but Karachi is also the centre....

8. HOW WILL OUR UNIVERSE END? (Kainat Ka Anjam Kya Hoga?)
Until a decade ago we didn't know how everything would end. Now, we do and it's nothing to look forward to!

9. BLACK HOLES IN EUROPE? (Zameen Par Black Hole Banana Mumkin Hai?)
Citizens of France and Switzerland are very worried they will be eaten up by a black hole made at CERN. Should they be?

10. LIFE IN OUTER SPACE? (Ghair Shamsi Sayyaron Par Zindagi?)
Over 1000 extrasolar planets have been discovered and there are billions more. What is the chance of finding life?

11. SWINDLES IN SCIENCE (Science Kay Double Shah)
A car that would run only on water enthralled Pakistan. How can we save ourselves from such embarrassments in future?

12. IS AMERICA CAUSING STORMS AND EARTHQUAKES IN PAKISTAN? (Kya Pakistan Main Anay Walay Toofan Aur Zalzalay Amrika Kay Tuhfay Hain? )
People allege that America has developed the means to change weather and Pakistan is among its victims. True?

Thank you,
Pervez Hoodbhoy

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Negotiations with Taliban: Lessons for Afghanistan & Pakistan

From Stalemate to Settlement: Lessons for Afghanistan from Historical Insurgencies That Have Been Resolved Through Negotiations
by Colin P. Clarke,  Christopher Paul, RAND, 2014

In June 2013, the Afghan Taliban opened a political office in Qatar to facilitate peace talks with the U.S. and Afghan governments. Negotiations between the United States and the group that sheltered al-Qaeda would have been unthinkable 12 years ago, but the reality is that a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan is one of several possible end games under the current U.S. withdrawal plan. Negotiating an end to an insurgency can be a long and arduous process beset by false starts and continued violence, but a comprehensive review of historical cases that ended in settlement shows that these negotiations followed a similar path that can be generalized into a "master narrative." This research examines 13 historical cases of insurgencies that were resolved through negotiated settlement in which neither side (insurgents or counterinsurgents) unambiguously prevailed. Taken together, these cases reveal that the path to negotiated settlement generally proceeds in seven steps in a common sequence. Although this resulting master narrative does not necessarily conform precisely to every conflict brought to resolution through negotiation, it can serve as an important tool to guide the progress of a similar approach to resolving the conflict in Afghanistan as U.S. forces prepare to withdraw.

Historical Insurgencies That Were Resolved Through Negotiated Settlement After a Stalemate Followed a Common Path: a "Master Narrative"

Of the 71 insurgencies resolved between 1944 and 2010, 13 ended in a negotiated settlement in which neither side (insurgents or counterinsurgents) unambiguously prevailed.

Each of these 13 cases generally proceeded from stalemate to resolution in seven steps executed in a common sequence: (1) military stalemate and war-weariness created an environment that was "ripe for resolution," (2) the government accepted the insurgents as legitimate negotiating partners, (3) the parties brokered one or more cease-fires, (4) the government and insurgents entered into official intermediate agreements, (5) the government extended a power-sharing offer to the insurgents, (6) the insurgent leadership became more moderate and willing to engage in political compromise, and (7) a third-party guarantor helped reinforce the settlement and transition.

The Master Narrative Distilled from These Historical Cases Could Guide a Negotiated Settlement to the Conflict in Afghanistan

As the United States prepares to withdraw from Afghanistan, a negotiated settlement is one of several possible end games.

The master narrative distilled from historical analysis could help guide such an approach to resolving the conflict in Afghanistan, should policymakers and Taliban leaders choose this option. It reveals what has been successful and what has been less successful in past negotiations, providing some indication of the challenges that lie ahead and what concessions the Afghan government, the Taliban, and U.S. and coalition forces may be required to make to achieve a lasting settlement.

For complete report, click here

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Afghanistan After the Drawdown - CFR Report

Afghanistan After the Drawdown
Council Special Report, Council on Foreign Relations, November 2013


Following the recent endorsement of the U.S.-Afghanistan bilateral security agreement by Afghanistan's Loya Jirga, a new CFR report outlines the composition, role, and rationale for the roughly ten thousand U.S. troops that will possibly remain in the country after the 2014 drawdown. RAND Corporation's Seth G. Jones and Keith Crane explain in a new Council Special Report how the United States should manage the complex political, security, and economic challenges that will accompany the reduction in U.S. and allied forces. They argue for a force of eight to twelve thousand troops to assist Afghan national security forces and prevent a resurgence of al-Qaeda.

"The United States has made an enormous expenditure of blood and treasure in Afghanistan since 9/11. Though not readily apparent to an American public weary of more than a decade of fighting, important gains have nevertheless been achieved to make Afghanistan a better place." The authors warn, however, that "these gains are reversible" and cite risks such as the continued expansion of al-Qaeda and affiliates, regional instability, increased radicalization in Pakistan, and a perception by allies and enemies alike that the U.S. commitment is unreliable.

The report specifies two main missions for the remaining U.S. troops and maintains that the commitment should not be open-ended. A majority should be assigned to train, advise, and assist Afghan national and local forces. Smaller numbers of troops should be tasked specifically with conducting strikes against terrorists by killing or capturing high-value targets, working with high-end Afghan forces in Taliban-controlled areas, and using unmanned aerial vehicles to conduct intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and occasional strike missions.

The authors also assert that focusing on regional dynamics is essential to Afghan stability. The United States should rely less on Pakistan to help in accomplishing its goals in Afghanistan, while tying U.S. military assistance to Islamabad to its efforts to combat militant groups.

Jones and Crane make additional recommendations to support the diminished U.S. military presence beginning in 2014:

1. foster a realistic peace process that includes supporting Afghan government–led discussions with the Taliban over prisoner exchange, local cease-fires, and reintegration of combatants
encourage multiethnic coalitions during the 2014 presidential elections
2. work with international donors to sustain funding levels for Afghan education, health, and infrastructure
3. support regional economic integration, including the transit of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline through Afghan territory, as well as détente between India and Pakistan.

For complete report, click here

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Mysteries of the China - Pakistan Border

Murder on the Roof of the World
My travels along the China-Pakistan border

On June 22, 2013, murder occurred on the “roof of the world.” Ten mountaineers were killed at the foot of Nanga Parbat—the world’s ninth-tallest peak, located in Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region on the border with China where some of the world’s tallest mountain ranges converge. The victims included American, Chinese, Lithuanian, Nepali, Pakistani, Slovakian, and Ukrainian nationals, and the audacious attack shattered a rare sense of calm in Pakistan’s northernmost corner, bewildering locals. Members of the Pakistani Taliban doggedly scaled the heights to the mountaineers’ camp at an altitude of 15,000 feet and stormed the tents in the dead of night dressed as paramilitary police. One media outlet’s coverage flashed a haunting image of vulnerability: an orange tent on the mountain slopes bathed in moonlight.

Five days later, I boarded a plane to Gilgit-Baltistan.

I had set out to complete a journey I began 10 years ago: to traverse the mighty Karakoram Highway (KKH) connecting China and Pakistan. A decade earlier, I had traveled along the 800 mile-long KKH from Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous region to the border with Pakistan. My travels became my college thesis—an analysis of the relationship between China, Pakistan, and Xinjiang’s restive Uighur Muslims in light of the traffic of militancy, drugs, and arms from Pakistan to Xinjiang. I argued that the KKH, a symbol of Chinese-Pakistani friendship, had proven to be both a blessing and a curse.

Now I set out to complete the journey from the Pakistani side in a week-long trip by plane, car, and boat. Once again, I discovered how lofty international relations and local communities intersect on the KKH—from tales of a “new Great Game” between China and America and infrastructure woes along the Pak-China Economic Corridor, to remarkable strides for women’s empowerment and development in communities keen to plug into China’s prosperity. I wound my way up through a land of glaciers, ibex, and snow leopards to the Khunjerab Pass at 14,000 feet—one of the world’s highest international border crossings. All the while, I was shadowed by the murder on the roof of the world.


I began my journey in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. I was lucky. The flight to Gilgit is frequently canceled due to inclement weather; travelers can be stranded in the purgatory of Islamabad for days on end. As the plane taxied and took off past military hangars, a reminder of the ever-fuzzy line between Pakistan’s civilian and military realms, the pilot pointed out the breathtaking convergence of three towering ranges that swiftly surrounded us: the Karakoram, the Hindu Kush, and the Himalayas. White knuckles gripping the seat, I alternated between awe and fear as the pilot deftly maneuvered among them, buffeted by unrelenting winds. As the plane reached cruising altitude, the pilot proceeded to outline the blood-stained route below: Abbottabad (where Navy SEALs killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011), Mansehra (where seven people were killed when gunmen attacked the office of an NGO in 2010), Babusar (where 22 Shiite Muslims were pulled off buses and shot in a sectarian hail of bullets in 2012), and Nanga Parbat, in its gory majesty.

For complete article, click here

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Why Pakistan Lost Bengalis - Some Insights

Knowing Thyself
By Saroop Ijaz, The Express Tribune, December 21, 2013

The State of Pakistan wants the 16th of December to pass silently and quickly every year. Theexecution of Abdul Quader Molla made this extraordinarily difficult this time around. Enough has been said on the execution and its implications, and saying any further will be surplus to requirements. However, not nearly enough has ever been said about 1971. There is some talk every year, lament mostly, meticulously avoiding the specifics. The attempt sometimes it seems is to make the fall of Dhaka look like a natural catastrophe, beyond the locus of human and state control. Let bygones be bygones, Bangladesh is a sovereign nation and the vile Yahya Khan lives in eternal infamy, where he belongs. By all means, however, let’s trace our steps a little and briefly revisit the statements made by the architect of the “decade of prosperity” (according to our textbooks), Field Marshal Ayub Khan.

Ayub’s ghost-written, and unironically titled book, Friends, not Masters, says about the Bengalis as “ … (having) all the inhibitions of downtrodden races and have not yet found it possible to adjust psychologically to the requirement of the new born freedom”. In his diary, he further writes that the East Pakistanis have the desire “to isolate themselves from West Pakistan and revert to Hindu language and culture”. He felt that it was because of the reason that the Bengalis had “no culture and language of their own”. Aside, from the obvious point of the gallant Field Marshal being ignorant, bigoted and a racist, there is something else. The Sandhurst-trained Field Marshal sought to emulate the “Masters” in taking upon himself the mantle to pass condescending, conclusive statements about the natives. Lord Macaulay’s observation on the matter was that the Bengalis were “feeble” people … trampled upon by men of bolder and hardy breeds” and whose “mind is weak … for the purposes of manly resistance”. Repulsive thoughts by two racists, are they not? Yet, we wonder, what went wrong in East Pakistan?

For complete article, click here

Shahbag Square will haunt us By Yaqoob Khan Bangash - Express Tribune
Chaudhry Nisar Ali is in the Wrong - By Nasim Zehra, Newsweek
Anti-Pakistan protests continue in Bangladesh - Daily Times

Dead Reckoning by Sarmila Bose - review: Guardian
Bangladesh and 1971 Syndrome - Moonis Ahmer: Dawn
Bangladesh Islamist Abdul Kader Mullah hanged for war crimes: BBC

Saturday, December 21, 2013

'Policy Seminar on Counterterrorism Strategy' - Pakistan Senate's Defense Committee - November 2013

‘Law Enforcement Model’ and ‘mutual coordination among LEAs’ are tools towards counter terrorism'

Associated Press of Pakistan, November 25, 2013

ISLAMABAD: Law Enforcement Model and mutual coordination among Law Enforcement Agencies are the fundamental tools towards countering the prevailing challenge of terrorism. Institutional policy support and relatively effective judicial practices must be brought together to resolve counter terrorism strategy mechanism. This was said by the speakers at the seminar on “Counter Strategy: What is to be done” which held today at Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Studies (PIPS)”.

The policy seminar, organized by Senate Defence Committee was addressed by various think tanks, policy makers, diplomats and academia. In his welcoming address, Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed Chairman Senate Defence Committee said Pakistan was going through a phase where all the stakeholders have to have collective inputs towards the solution. Referring to Sri Lankan long war against Tamil Tigers, he said Pakistan can get benefit from the experience of a nation who fought with the menace of terrorism with determination and willpower. Professor Dr. Hassan Abbas, National Defence University Washington DC, in his presentation highlighted the key points of the required strategy mechanism in the given circumstances Pakistan is facing. He introduced a ‘Law Enforcement Model L(EM)’ according to which understanding to the nature of prevailing challenge, strong policing and effective and strong coordination among the LEA’ are the focal areas to be worked out. Dr. Hassan, while appreciating the great sacrifices laid by the security agencies said Pakistan had a policy framework and intensive commitment to counter terrorism. However he noted there was lack of institutional policy support and structural division of LEAs at execution levels. He suggested for the key role be given to the LEAs with backup of military forces and punishment & imprisonment culture. 

Seema Baloch, former High Commissioner of Pakistan to Sri Lanka delivered her findings of successful experience by Sri Lankan government in countering Tamil Tigers. She said Sri Lanka had experience international pressure and also hostile support to Tamil Tigers, but they remained committed and dedicated to get rid of the terrorists. However she maintained that Pakistan’s case was different to that of Sri Lankan. But still she urged for the unanimity, political will and clarity of the objective. Tariq Pervez, ex Chairman National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), shared his experience regarding effectiveness and the weakness of NACTA. He suggested that political influences must be eradicated from the organization and sole authority should be given to the Prime Minister. Senators, Haji Adeel, Afrazyab Khattak, Tahir Mashadi, Generals (R) Asad Durani, Talat Masood and former foreign Secretary Akram Zaki also spoke on the occasion. The seminar was attended by a number of diplomats, journalists, think tanks and academia. APP/ Hamza

Speakers call for clear policy against terrorism, extremism - Associated Press of Pakistan, November 25, 2013

Thursday, December 12, 2013

'The Genuis of Mandela' - A Glimpse of Tributes to the Great Leader

The Genius of Mandela
By I.A. Rehman, Dawn, December 12, 2013

MOST of those paying tributes to Nelson Mandela are focusing on his qualities that they themselves hold precious and thus they present a variety of portraits. But he was a greater person than the aggregate of his qualities and achievements.

No comment on Mandela’s life is complete without reference to his 27 years in prison, his release and his becoming the first black president of South Africa. But there was much in his life, between these milestones, that should be of interest to students of politics and social change.

When the 46-year-old Mandela told the court in 1964 of “his ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunity”, an ideal for which he was prepared to die, he mentioned his ideal and not the means. For he was changing from a hardline champion of the use of force into a man of peace. It may be useful to recall Mandela’s years as a militant revolutionary, or as a “terrorist” as Mrs Thatcher and other priests of reaction called him.
The African National Congress (ANC), Mandela’s political alma mater, was wedded to non-violence. Mandela argued that after the failure of a prolonged non-violent struggle a change of tactics was necessary.

For complete article, click here

Barack Obama's moving tribute to Nelson Mandela - The Telegraph
Nelson Mandela death: Queen leads tributes - BBC
Five Nelson Mandela tributes that will change how you think - The Washington Post

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sharif in the Wonderland

From New York Times

Obama and Sharif Meeting Signals Action Must Follow Words
Alex Ortolani,
Asia Society, October 24, 2013

In a meeting at the White House yesterday, U.S. President Barack Obama and Pakistan's relatively new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reportedly discussed a wide range of topics, including the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, India-Pakistan relations, and U.S. drone strikes.

While a positive step forward in a recently strained relationship, the meeting highlighted a continued sticking point over military cooperation on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, says Asia Society Senior Advisor Hassan Abbas, author of the forthcoming book The Taliban Revival: Violence and Extremism on the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier.

"The U.S. drone strike policy is increasingly becoming a divisive issue between the two states, and this is likely to continue till Pakistan takes effective counterterrorism steps on its Pushtun frontier," Abbas told Asia Blog.

Abbas also noted that the U.S. will take a wait-and-see approach to Sharif to ensure he can bring stability to a country that voted in his civilian government this May.

"The U.S. wants to give sufficient time to Sharif to settle down and show he believes in the principle that continuation of democracy in Pakistan is the best way to strengthen and stabilize the country," Abbas said.

A day before the meeting between Obama and Sharif, the U.S. released $1.6 billion in military and economic assistance to Pakistan it had suspended after disagreements about the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Abbas told the BBC ahead of the meeting that the release of the aid was a "positive development" that showed relations between the two countries are improving.

Listen to Abbas's October 23 Newshour interview about the meeting here (interview begins at 42:30).