By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
21 August 2015
Multiculturalism: An Idea Gone Sour
By Nadeem F. Paracha
Dear Hamza Ali Abbasi, Mahira Khan, Reham Bhabi And Ayyan Ali – Hi!
By Asif Nawaz
Trivialising Child Rights
By I. A. Rehman
Over to ‘Urdish’
By Zudeida Mustafa
The MQM Resigns
Syed Kamran Hashmi
Misogyny, Rape and Silence
By Zeeba T Hashmi
Another Terrorist Attack
Quagmire in Iraq
By Abdur Rahman Chowdhury
Contending With Paedophilia
By Syed Mohammad Ali
Militancy In Punjab
By Abdul Basit
Multiculturalism: An Idea Gone Sour
By Nadeem F. Paracha
Us and them
When the word ‘multiculturalism’ began echoing in the West after the collapse of communism in the late 1980s, many on the left sides of the ideological divide suspected it to be yet another expression of ‘post-modern capitalism.’
However, in 1991, when the new Soviet regime crushed an attempted coup by the defeated forces of Cold War communists, and broke the Soviet Union into pieces, many young people in developing nations did manage to find certain aspects of multiculturalism to their liking.
To them, it meant that now the West was opening up to allowing immigrants to live (in Europe and the US), according to their (the immigrants’) cultural mores, without having to entirely integrate to the mores of Western societies.
Multiculturalism peaked in the mid-2000s when it became institutionalised in various Western countries.
The idea was to demonstrate and welcome cultural diversity and draw from various cultures their finest economic, sporting and artistic attributes, and to respect (rather than suspect) their distinctiveness.
This was to be done for the benefit of the countries in which the men and women of different nations had come to settle and work.
However, some two decades after the arrival of the idea of multiculturalism in the West, it has started to be questioned, and even scoffed at for creating political and social turmoil in Western societies. So what happened?
Multiculturalism invited social, religious and cultural diversity and assured to give it respect. This part was well understood by most non-Western immigrants who had arrived to stay in Western countries and appreciated a new openness in their attitudes.
But the other aspect of multiculturalism was about forming unity through diversity, for which it required people from different religious and cultural backgrounds to wholeheartedly interact with and integrate into the overall cultural dynamics of the society that they had chosen to be a part of.
This aspect seemed to have gone missing in the attitudes of a number of men and women who have otherwise made full use of multiculturalism’s tolerant ways in countries where they have settled.
Instead of even nominally integrating into a multicultural society, many have simply used it to ghettoise themselves, refusing to learn their adopted country’s predominant language or exhibit a similar respect towards that country’s cultural norms.
It’s become a one-way traffic, in which large sections of immigrant cultures in a multicultural country ghettoise themselves, and then throw up their arms and complain how they were being discriminated against when asked to integrate. According to them, being asked to be assimilated, runs against the whole concept of multiculturalism.
Usually critics of multiculturalism simply grumble if a people from an immigrant community demonstrates this kind of behaviour.
However, things get terribly sensitive when a community uses the principles of multiculturalism to settle in Western societies but after ghettoising itself it not only begins to describe the demands for integration as an attack on its cultural mores, but sometimes even threatens to respond more vehemently.
This dilemma seems to be particularly testing in the UK. The South Asian Muslim communities in the UK, though not alone in triggering the ghettoisation fall-out of multiculturalism, seem to be one of the leading exponents of voluntary cultural segregation.
There to Stay
From the 1980s onwards, as Muslim countries across the world were flushed with petro-dollars from conservative oil-rich monarchies, they saw a surge in religious conservatism in their societies. The surge’s impact was felt by the Muslim diaspora in non-Muslim countries as well.
Consequently, during the heydays of multiculturalism, large sections of South Asian Muslim communities in Europe, US and Canada actually began using multiculturalism as a license to shun integration! They expected their cultural mores to be accepted and respected, but refused to do the same regarding the mores of their adopted countries.
For example, one often hears about how immigrant clerics in some prominent European countries are openly enticing the young Muslim Diasporas to attack symbols of ‘moral corruption’, ‘sin’ and ‘vulgarity’ in countries where this diaspora was allowed to settle and earn its livelihood.
Rather bizarrely, liberal principles ingrained in the socio-political set up of the adopted countries are being challenged and even attempted to be brought in line with the agitated diaspora’s idea of morality.
What’s more, it is also being noticed that when members of this particular South Asian community return to their own countries of origin for a visit, they scorn at the lax attitude of their countrymen towards faith and morality!
They want their surroundings to be according to what they believe is the correct path. And if they are not, then the surroundings need to be aligned with their idea of righteousness.
There are numerous young Muslims in South Asia who have what it takes to strike a constructive give-and-take deal with Western multicultural societies. And they are likely to flourish in many fields if given the chance to become a part of these societies.
But their path is being sullied by the ghettoised mindset of many of their contemporaries who, unlike them, have managed to find a spot in these countries, but are hell-bent on destroying the very idea that first gave them the chance to exhibit and live by their cultural identities in the West.
However, according to the idea of multiculturalism, this can’t be done in a vacuum or in a segregated manner. But this is the aspect of multiculturalism that does not count in their understanding of the idea.
Multiculturalism has become the new white man’s burden, and also a cultural deterrent in the hands of those who plan to devour its more tolerant and progressive notions with their zeal to impose their own skewed and myopic beliefs — ironically, expressed as ‘multiculturalism.’
The Natives Return
Years before the mid-1980s, Pakistanis who had lived in a western country and then returned home, were usually perceived to have become more informed and ‘modern’.
One way of observing this is to study how the country’s once-thriving Urdu cinema scene portrayed such Pakistanis.
For example, across the 1950s and 1960s, most Urdu films that had in their plots a character who had returned from Europe or the US, was usually portrayed as being an enlightened person who had been intellectually enriched by his stay in the West.
In those days the narrative in this context went something like this: An educated city dweller was seen to be more level-headed and less religious than a person from the rural areas. And such a city dweller was usually a Pakistani who had gone to the West for studies or work.
Then, in the 1970s, Pakistan chose its first elected government led by the left-liberal populist, Z. A. Bhutto.
Bhutto's populism was a concept of social democracy that was supposedly positioned to be more rooted in the common wisdom of the ‘masses’. It is even more interesting to note how Pakistani films treated this new phenomenon.
As the 1960s radical social youth movements in the West exhausted themselves, they became more faddish in content. These emerging fads and fashions also arrived in Pakistan.
So, whereas in the 1960s most Urdu films had celebrated the US or Europe-returned Pakistani as a bastion of enlightened modernity, in the 1970s he/she usually began being portrayed as a guitar-slinging and dope-smoking hippie!
In Urdu films during the Bhutto era, though the ‘level-headed’ US/Europe returned Pakistani was still perceived as being broadminded, many of his more socially ‘liberated’ contemporaries began being seen through the prism of the so-called ‘masses’ (rather, through the prism of the petty-bourgeoisie).
This did not mean that the Pakistani society had shifted to the right. It was just that the urban liberal tenor of the Ayub Khan dictatorship (1958-1969) had mutated (through Bhutto) into becoming a more populist (‘Awami’) notion.
Thus, Pakistani films of the 1970s came up with a new narrative in this context that now suggested that it was fine to be liberal, as long as one remained in contact with the traditions of his/her ancestral and folksy surroundings.
That’s why, whereas the Europe-returned Pakistani hippie was portrayed as a bumbling hippie buffoon in most 1970s Urdu films, an urban Pakistani who was equally liberal but managed to slip in a dialogue or two about ‘eastern values,’ became an admirable aspiration.
The 1970s were also a time when a larger number of Pakistanis began traveling abroad.
The only difference this time was that whereas most Pakistanis used to travel to Europe or the US for work and studies in the 1950s and 1960s, many now began moving to the oil-rich Middle-Eastern countries (mostly for work) from the mid-1970s onwards.
Up until about the late 1970s, Pakistan was a lot more pluralistic and ‘modernised’ than most Arab countries. So, for example, Pakistanis going to these countries were actually going to places that were squarely under the yoke of puritanical monarchies and autocratic regimes whose states — though rich — were still in the process of being ‘modernised’.
Soon, these Pakistanis began sending impressive amounts of money to their families back home, triggering the emergence of a prosperous new urban middle-class in Pakistan.
The process that saw these Pakistanis being exposed to the stands of the faith practiced by Arab populations. Also, after enjoying a sense of their rising economic statuses back home, all this generated a whole new component of Pakistanis, who now began relating their former (more folksy) religious and social dispositions as something associated with low economic status.
This is, at least one reason why from 1980 onwards, a large number of urban middle and lower-middle class Pakistanis began sliding towards various shades of puritanism. This puritanism became like a badge exhibiting their economic advancement.
The process was also hastened by the policies of a staunchly conservative regime that had grabbed power through a coup in July 1977.
A successful middle-class Pakistani in the 1980s became to denote an educated urbanite who was a trader, businessman, banker or white-collar employee, but who, at the same time, was now more likely to observe religious rituals and attire than not.
Two decades later (especially after 9/11), Pakistanis living in the West too, began to go through a similar transformation.
No more were West-returned Pakistanis being associated with cultural modernism.
And interestingly, though this transformation had been more gradual and slower among the middle and lower middle-classes within Pakistan, it became more pronounced within the Pakistani diaspora in the Middle-East, Europe and the US.
This was mainly accelerated by the popularity of travelling preachers catering squarely to South Asian Muslims living in the West.
Anecdotes abound about how the offspring of Pakistanis who had been living like ‘true Muslims’ in Europe and the US from the 1980s onwards were shocked to discover that Pakistan was not the kind of a republic they had imagined it to be.
This is an intriguing development. West-returned Pakistanis are now perceived (or rather perceive themselves) to be 'better Muslims’ than those living in Pakistan. That’s how they like to distinguish themselves.
Had Pakistani cinema been thriving today, I’m sure the films would’ve now been portraying the new West-returned Pakistani not as a ‘modernist’ or a hippie buffoon, but as a shocked Muslim wagging a righteous finger at his countrymen and advising them to repent — in an American/British accent, of course.
Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.com
Dear Hamza Ali Abbasi, Mahira Khan, Reham Bhabi and Ayyan Ali – Hi!
By Asif Nawaz
August 20, 2015
Open letters are the new ‘in’ thing. Everyone, while not busy taking selfies or engaging in internet wars, is writing them. Unlike personal letters that are addressed to and only read by the person intended, these have a universal appeal. Hence, I decided to write a few of my own, a series of them in fact.
Here is the first one:
To Hamza Ali Abbasi from an Online Jihadi
Hazrat Hamza Ali Abbasi Sahib,
My heart sank when I saw the trailer of your upcoming movie, Jawani Phir Nahin Ani. And it sank even further to the bottom of the very pool you were seen emerging from, staring lustfully at bikini-clad women, being just as skimpily clothed yourself. Now, before you get any wrong ideas, let me clear the air that I’m not (God forbid) one of those liberals who believe in the shameful idea of living and letting live. My indignation with you stems out of our commonality; I’m just as holier-than-thou, morally superior and self-righteous as you are, and I write this letter to you in good spirit.
All I’m saying is that whatever you do in your personal life is your own business (in stark contrast to Ayesha Omar and Maria Wasti), but just be a little cautious while filming something millions of young, unpolluted minds are going to see.
My other complaint with you lies in your desertion of the police force and joining this ‘dirty’ industry. I mean, you could have easily stayed in the law enforcement agencies and checked Nikahnamas (marriage contracts) of those engaging in utterly deplorable acts like chatting and sitting together in public spaces, and polluting innocent minds. I bet you’d have loved to give such debauch people a good thrashing! You would have been another Maya Khan in the making, Sir!
But I must confess, you undid some of the damage by starring in Waar and playing a good Muslim and Pakistani. Speaking of Waar, here is another woe – why English? The language of the infidels! And why have a sister who not only dares to leave her home to work alongside men (touches ears) but even dons western clothes?
Also, it would have been a lot better if you were to fight some Indians or Americans in that film in place of killing your fellow Muslims. But then again, your Facebook statuses tell me there’s only so much you can do, and I guess it’s not easy working in an industry filled with sinners that you totally and appropriately hate. There are the gay designers you hate but still have to wear their clothes, the Besharam item number girls you hate but still have to romance, the venomous friends you love but who get you to film exposing scenes you hate, the Indian content you hate but your claim-to-fame serial started with an Indian song. How do you manage all this pressure? And hence, my letter of faith to you.
I’m sure you’ll soon start your exalted campaign of cleansing this industry of all the filth. Also, if I may, why don’t you do a programme of your own next Ramazan? What better celebrity than you for this noble cause? With you in the lead, we ought to be hearing good news again!
Your Brother In Faith (And Hypocrisy)
To Mahira Khan from a Film Critic
My Dearest Mahira Khan,
I hope this letter finds you in as pink a health as your cheeks in the songs of Bin Roye. Unfolding my grievances, my wait for a pass to Bin Roye’s premiere never saw the sun’s supreme glory and I was brazenly denied entry to the venue. Had this been any other film critic, your film would get a bashing so intense that it would echo in all the Indian cinema halls where your film finally got the green light to be screened. Okay, pardon my sarcasm – I wrote a review for your film for one of the leading English dailies and gave it a whooping five stars, all because of you. I even wrote a review of your upcoming movie Raees and submitted it, only to receive some very cold looks (and words) from my editor, that fat ingrate! I was then told to submit it later since Raees’s release is still about a year away.
Talking about your films, why are you so insistent upon playing love interests of men you can so conveniently play the daughter of? I might not know a lot about film-making, the closest I got to the task was recording my daughter’s birthday on my phone (but the trick in our business is never to leak secrets; when I’m clueless about a film, I just put in a lot of complicated English words that the masses cannot comprehend and usually say something nasty about things like ‘cinematography’ and put in a line or two like ‘the script doesn’t have enough glue to keep it together’), but I know well enough to advise you against working with historical (literally speaking) men.
To be honest, I don’t even watch many films. My landing in this profession was an obscene follow up to my rejection as an investigative journalist. But hey, I’m not complaining. For you see, unlike investigative journalists, I never get any hate mail. Okay, to be honest, I don’t get any mail at all. But that’s alright.
Also, since you’re in touch with Shah Rukh Khan, could you please tell him not to take up roles that depict him as a lover in his 20’s? It’s funny. Also, tell him to never to take off his shirt. That’s funnier.
And next time you’re making a movie, make sure you’re putting in a fullDhuaandaar (fiery) item number. That’s all we film critics care about. I gave Bol a sad one and a half star only, simply because of that amateur Mujra in the film.
Remember, for when you’re in India, we will be watching you closely. To be honest, that’s about the only time we Pakistani critics do watch our celebrities closely – when they are in India! Also, excuse me as I take my leave and rush off to watch Bajrangi Bhaijaan because, then again, these are the only kinds of films we actually watch and understand!
A Critic Waiting For an Invite to Ho Mann Jahaan
To Reham Khan from an Insafian
Respected Reham Bhabi,
It gives me immense pleasure to write to you since you aren’t only our leader’s impeccable choice, but also the most popular national Bhabhi of our country – second only to Sania bhabi. I could have written this letter directly to your husband, the great Khan, but he doesn’t really pay heed to others’ words, even (or especially) if they happen to be his voters.
First of all, please congratulate Khan Sahib on winning the 1992 World Cup, for that’s the juncture where we seem to be stuck at – and which serves as a fulcrum for all our political debates. Winning the cup might have been team effort but he, and we, prefer to make it sound like a one-man story. Also congratulate him on the success story of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital which stands as an emblem of all his leadership qualities. Now, haters may say running a hospital and a country are two different things but he, and we, beg to differ. Speaking of haters, it’s so shameful to see those low lives disrespecting a woman and making a pointless deal about your (lack of) degree. We, on the other hand, maintain a more austere code of conduct.
Yes, we might attack a leading politician’s daughter with elopement jokes but that’s solely in national interest. Talking about the nation, the last time I checked, Mr Khan was reiterating his beliefs about a dialogue with the Taliban. Now, haters may say that such statements, especially when the army is carrying out serious operations against them, may be demoralising and destructible but he, and we, think otherwise. But then, what else can you expect from people who can hire fake people to act as fake parents to fake Shaheed children while our leader went to Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar? And who also look down upon our revolutionary dharna as being economically damaging? Ask DJ Butt about the economy bit! Our leader (and we) believes the dharna to be nothing less than a French Revolution in the making, only better.
Oh, and the most important thing! Your husband is very knowledgeable, with all those fancy quotes from dead people on Twitter. He, and we, believe him to be Pakistan’s Nelson Mandela, only better.
Also while you’re at it, can you please remind him that a place called Hazara also exists in Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa (K-P)? I’m not complaining, in the spirit of a true ‘Insafian’, but the presence of your husband’s government was only felt in the region when he threatened to throw the doctors out of the hospitals! What a furore it caused amongst those poor things, ha!
Oh, it has just started raining. And when it rains, the very decrepit roads of Abbottabad, the city I hail from, become deep ponds in a matter of minutes. But our leader, and we, believe what happens in K-P, stays in K-P (except for Peshawar’s beautification pictures which go up on Facebook)! What many don’t understand is that rain is a blessing in disguise. All of us just wait for Lahore’s underpasses to fill with water so we can crack Venice jokes!
Anyway, I’m off to post something offensive against some lifafa journalists, all in the name of national interest, of course!
Your Dewar From Naya Pakistan
To Ayyan Ali from a Senior Journalist
Dear Beauty (Jail) Queen,
Let me start with an honest confession: I don’t really know who you are. You were completely non-existent for me a couple of months ago – before you got caught at the airport and all hell let loose. Yes, even though you did a few mobile company commercials, occasionally throwing your husband around but those did nothing to change your non-existent status. Yes, yes, I’ve heard that you are some top model or something, but what sort of a top model takes selfies with Waqar Zaka? I mean, sure, I have to admit that your selfie gave Komal Rizvi a run for her money, but really?!
Anyway, you might be wondering about the purpose of this open letter. Well, I don’t have any other way to contact you and something’s been piquing me so much that I just had to get it out of my system. It was nauseating to see my community treat you so harshly while you were in jail. A lot of stupid, reckless attention was given to you irrationally – and no one asked you any real questions.
Along the way, there also came reports of a murder associated with your case, but when my community had your attire and Adiala jail’s other inmates’ happiness to talk about, it deserved to be ignored. The social media’s dealing was just as absurd – each hearing of yours invited a number of status updates, drooping even to the level of posting heinous ultrasound pictures. I, as a senior journalist of this country, was overwhelmingly appalled by all this. I’m all for the freedom of the media but nothing is above the upholding of morals and professionalism. And I’m a sucker for accurate reporting – I just have to be direct and clear – no matter how much my questions offend my victim/guest.
Therefore, I write this letter to you to apologise for what my media community did to you. I will write another open letter to a leading film star of this country and his channel for airing your old interview this Eid – these people will do anything for ratings. Also, despite the excessive coverage, not one reporter asked you anything of importance. Not one! But I have one question – please answer honestly:
Are you actually related to Iman Ali?
Surely, the common surname and the rhyming first names cannot just be an uncanny coincidence? Also, may I have her mobile number? Thank you!
A Senior Journalist And Analyst, Ex-CEO Of An Obsolete Group
Asif Nawaz is a medical student based in Abbottabad who writes for US and The News.
Trivialising Child Rights
By I. A. Rehman
August 21st, 2015
THE latest report submitted by the government of Pakistan to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is a poor apology for not doing enough for the country’s children.
The government is required to submit to the UNCRC a report every four years describing what has been done by way of compliance with the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), especially with recommendations made by the committee on its earlier reports.
This is the fifth periodic report to the committee. It was drafted some time in 2013 and is scheduled to be examined by the UN committee in the coming October. The period covered is January 2008 to March 2013.
The UN committee’s request for the submission of a core document has again been ignored.
And the report is almost wholly devoted to meeting the demands made by the committee in 2009.
Two points about this report may be noted. First, the report was to be submitted by Dec 11, 2012, and the delay in its submission is considerably less than usual. Secondly, as against the prescribed limit of 120 pages, this report does not exceed 85, despite the use of a fairly large font for the text. However, the committee’s request for the submission of a core document, containing basic information about the country, has again been ignored.
As usual the report contains quite a few disclosures. For instance, look at the following paragraph:
“Full realisation of children’s rights in accordance with the CRC requires significant resources. Taking cognisance of this, the government had declared 2013 as the Year of Child Rights in which massive awareness raising programmes will be undertaken with the view to create awareness in the society. The government has also appointed a commissioner for child rights protection in 2013.”
One wonders what Pakistan representative will tells the committee about the campaign that had been planned for 2013!
The issue of children’s sexual exploitation and abuse, which has become the focus of public debate following the Kasur scandal, figured prominently in the committee’s concluding comments of 2009. The committee had recommended the adoption of legislation in which the offence of abuse was defined, both rural and urban populations were covered, and: “the committee also recommends that cases of abuse of children, including sexual abuse, be properly investigated and that perpetrators be duly prosecuted. Measures should also be taken to provide victims with support services for their physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration, in a gender sensitive manner.”
The government’s response is quite interesting: “Though all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse is a serious crime/offence in Pakistan, there is room to improve laws and their implementation. In this regard, some CSOs (civil society organisations) have conducted assessment for understanding the extent, scope and root causes of child sexual abuse and exploitation. ... CSOs and government departments jointly help and support victim children and families in all matters while pursuing their cases in courts. Simultaneously, numerous consultative sessions for police and judicial officers have been organised by the CSOs.”
The adoption of the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) Act in 2012 is mentioned as one of the steps taken by the government to strengthen children’s human rights. What excuse will be offered for not making the NCHR functional till the middle of 2015? The adoption of laws is mentioned as the extension of protection to children without any reference to results achieved.
The committee had made some clear recommendations about preventing the use of children in armed conflicts. The report says the issue is the “use of children by extremists” and asserts “the law enforcement operation carried out by the law enforcement agencies cannot be termed as [a] conflict situation. The government is making utmost efforts to prevent instances of [the] use of children by terrorists and extremist groups. Punitive action is being taken against those who use children for terrorist activities.” No explanation is offered for not ratifying the protocol to the CRC on the subject. The protocol is not even mentioned.
The committee had asked for the strict regulation of madrasas, concrete action to eliminate the teaching of religious or sectarian intolerance, the protection of children from maltreatment in madrasas, and the prevention of recruitment of students by armed groups.
The government says: “Pakistan has improved the registration of Madressahs. ... The federal government has prioritised the improvement and monitoring of these institutions” and adds an amazing defence of the madrasas:
“However, more efforts are needed for effective monitoring of Madressahs, which are large in number and present in every nook and corner of the country, including rural and far flung areas. A large number of [Madressahs] are firmly embedded in the fabric of society and culture as they respond to an important community need and enjoy community ownership and participation; madrasas enjoy respect and confidence of the parents and elders. However, the government shall continue with its programmes to reform Madressahs and madrasa education.”
This column does not have the space that is needed to take notice of all the gems of drafting, excuses for not performing well, evasion of questions and use of sheer untruths. A paper presented at a recent seminar in Islamabad listed 29 recommendations made in 2005 and repeated in 2009, out of which 12 remain unimplemented. That requires a considerable degree of indifference to the rights of children.
The reports to the committee on the rights of the child may be the principal instrument for judging the level of the government’s investment in the country’s future; another important indicator is the promises Pakistan made during the Universal Periodic Review in 2012. Many of these promises remain unfulfilled.
It is perhaps time the government of Pakistan realised that a national plan to ensure respect for the rights of the child is as important, if not more, as the NAP to fight terrorism. The elimination of terrorists will not automatically make children literate and knowledgeable, but proper education of the youth will surely increase the nation’s capacity to fight terrorism, and perhaps more efficiently too.
Over to ‘Urdish’
By Zudeida Mustafa
August 21st, 2015
LANGUAGE continues to be an enigma in Pakistan. For the umpteenth time education is being ‘reformed’ in this country. Federal Minister of Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal has now announced that ‘Urdish’ will be used as the medium of education in the country.
This is the first time Urdish (not Urlish) is being introduced officially. According to the minister, this initiative will rid the country of the “English medium-Urdu medium controversy that has damaged education standards and adversely affected the growth of young minds.”
Explaining the connotations of Urdish as a medium, the minister said that English terminologies of science and technology would be blended with the Urdu narratives rather than adopting Urdu translations. No one has really quarrelled with that; many English words have become so integrated into Urdu that they are generally familiar and it would create problems to introduce newly coined convoluted Urdu terms. I always use the word television when I speak of the idiot box in Urdu as I don’t know of an Urdu equivalent. But I do protest when the Urdu word ‘Awam’ is substituted by the word ‘commoners’.
When children are denied their own language, they never learn to think.
However, if the minister believes such gimmickry will satisfy those who clamour for English, he is wrong. Moreover, the introduction of Urdish will not boost students’ academic achievements or teach them civic responsibility and respect for diversity and tolerance, as the minister seems to believe.
That said, the three other initiatives Mr Iqbal promised simultaneously could change the education scene if implemented honestly and in earnest. They are: altering the curricula, reforming the examination system while making it transparent, and training the teachers. These as well as the language issue lie at the crux of the education crisis in Pakistan today.
It is shocking that even very intelligent and highly educated educationists fail to understand the direct relevance of language to academic standards.
Primary education is the base of all education. If it is flawed it will be difficult for it to sustain the weightier structure of higher education. Since ours is not a child-centric society we tend to ignore the needs of children when they start school. We also tend to confuse the use of a language as a medium of instruction and the teaching of one as a second language.
Our ignorance and politicisation of language issues has led to mass confusion and also resulted in the unnecessary controversy that the minister referred to. Young children instructed in their mother tongue have a better understanding of what they are taught which facilitates their cognitive development. Moreover language is the vehicle for thought and when children are denied their own language, they never learn to think.
It is time we re-thought our aspiration to use English as the medium in school, something that the minister has tried to gloss over with his idea of Urdish. We need to shed the myth that by using English as the medium we can kill two birds with one stone: teach children English as well as the subject being taught. In reality they learn neither.
If these arguments make no sense, the basic facts should be more convincing. There is empirical evidence that a preponderant majority of teachers in Pakistan are not proficient in English. When the Punjab government tried to introduce English as the medium of instruction in 2013, it had to rescind its orders a few months later. The teachers actually pleaded with the authorities to spare them this torture as English was not their forte.
As it is, teachers also need to be trained in pedagogy and the subjects they are teaching. Burdening them with English as well is a recipe for disaster. Why not make a beginning in our own languages?
That doesn’t mean that children don’t need to learn the basics of English as a second language. That can be taken care of by training only the required number of teachers as English language teachers who should know the modern methods of language teaching.
Language also has a social dimension that impinges on the employment sector. We are made to believe that English is good, Urdu/indigenous languages are bad. This is not true. The quality of education depends on the quality of teaching, textbooks and, above all, how much a child is motivated. The argument that we do not have books in our own languages smacks of ignorance. Textbooks are developed in response to demands. If this approach is adopted, by the time children complete their schooling, the small percentage of children who opt for higher/technical education could build on their basic knowledge of English to become bilingual. The others would still find productive jobs that do not require expertise in English. We must shed our bias against our own languages.
Zudeida Mustafa is the author of The Tyranny of Language in Education: The Problem and its Solution.
The MQM Resigns
Syed Kamran Hashmi
August 21, 2015
Even if you consider him to be enemy number one or detest him as an arch-terrorist more dangerous than Osama bin Laden, you can still appreciate the political acumen of the self-exiled leader of the MQM, Altaf Hussain, who has run the organisation alone via a microphone, a loudspeaker and a telephone for over two decades; a remarkable achievement on its own, especially where everyone from a military general to a cricketer wants to lead his own party.
Trust me, wannabe’s within his close associates and beyond have done everything possible to dethrone Altaf Hussain and/or to split the party into smaller factions, rendering it ineffective. For instance, in the 1990s, following the golden principle of divide and rule, ‘well wishers’ sponsored MQM Haqiqi to damage Mr Hussain’s popularity. However, did the implanted leaders accomplish anything except igniting a violent power struggle within the organisation? Hundreds of workers died because of the intra-party ‘civil war’ during that time. If ‘friends’ had any idea about the structure of the party or its hierarchy, they would have never made that mistake. Presumptuous about the mastery of their knowledge, they handpicked leaders who bore no leadership skills and carried zero personal charisma, guaranteeing their failure. Ask yourself: after 23 years in politics, do you remember their names or can you identify their faces? In future too, no one can lead a united and powerful MQM until Altaf Hussain himself wants to be replaced and voluntarily passes on his legacy to someone else. The question is if he ever will or will let the party decay and putrefy like a dead animal.
Let me leave that discussion for now and explain what I mean by the political astuteness of Mr Hussain. Till last week, most of us thought that the troubled leader had run out of all choices. The federal government was not willing to budge from its position on the operation, the Rangers were committed to continuing their action against violence and the provincial government ditched it even when the MQM was an ally. Who should Altaf Hussain turn to in this crisis? How can he persuade the authorities to listen to the complaints of his workers? He called a strike to shut down the city but that appeal had to be dropped after the direct intervention of the Rangers. Then he attempted to grab international attention by writing letters to the world community, pointing out how his party workers had been mistreated and how the Urdu-speaking community had been marginalised. That strategy backfired as well; it made him look like a traitor.
Should he have unleashed a series of public protests in response? Seems like a good choice on paper but on the ground its risks overweigh the benefits. First, he had to explain who he was protesting against, a challenge since the people do not storm the streets against the federal government, as we all know; instead, they come out against forces that are behind the scenes, which may turn violent, leading to the loss of innocent lives and further bloodshed. We all remember what happened last year in Model Town when the police killed dozens of workers belonging to the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT). The party would fail to organise an impressive show as many of its leaders are hiding from law enforcement agencies.
So, what could help him protect his workers and avoid further embarrassment? Turning towards the Supreme Court (SC). Sure, it would create the stir on television of a legal battle but the chances of any success in the apex court stand low particularly after its decision in favour of military courts.
Pushed against the wall, Altaf Hussain pulled out the ‘resignation card’ from his pocket and shocked everyone. No, it was not a wishy-washy, drenched-in-conspiracy resignation from the National Assembly like that of the PTI, which plotted to save its government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa while simultaneously destabilising the federal government led by the PML-N. Altaf Hussain meant business. The MQM had 24 seats in the National Assembly, 51 in the Sindh Assembly and seven in the Senate — a total of 82. It would resign from all of them at the same time. Compare that with the hypocritical resignations of the PTI that had 46 provincial assembly seats in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which it would not give up, 29 in Punjab that it planned to hold onto and it had won four in Sindh, which it would not endanger.
In the beginning, the speaker of the National Assembly accepted the resignations but there was a problem. Everyone knew that if the MQM departed from the assembly, first a genuine representation of the people of Karachi would be lost. Then, in the by-elections, the PTI would scavenge whatever was left to gobble up Karachi. With that, the National Assembly, which already tilts in favour of Punjab, would be further inclined towards Punjab-based political parties, a sign of non-functional democracy. Furthermore, with those extra seats in hand, the PTI could destabilise the democratic process much more than it did last year. Who could take that risk?
That is why a committee headed by Maulana Fazlur Rehman was formulated to broker a deal with the MQM, a victory for Mr Hussain to stay relevant and assertive. Some analysts believe Mr Hussain only needs a little face saving and would agree with a minimum amount of concessions and reassurances. However, he has played his cards carefully. If he is not given what he wants and his members pull out of the assembly, the Urdu-speaking community will stick behind him even more in the coming elections (plural). The reason? They will try to preserve their ethnic identity first. In addition, this will strengthen their belief that all members of parliament do not hold the same significance. There are some who have to be kept in the assembly by bending all the rules and then there are others who are dispensable like plastic dinner plates.
Syed Kamran Hashmi is a US-based freelance columnist
Misogyny, Rape and Silence
By Zeeba T Hashmi
August 21, 2015
Pakistan is a land of diversities with many lifestyles, customs and traditions stemming from the ancient agrarian roots of this land, which have remained integral in forming a human psyche that cannot escape the notion of honour deeply internalised in our societal thought. This stringent traditional honour is the result of the material dominance and prestige associated with it, which weighs heavily on interlinking women with honour through their sheer objectification. In our brainwashed, subliminal minds, women are not considered individual persons. Women are the ones made to be bear the brunt of exploitation and suffering, and are denied their right to consent. The motive for the objectification of women is to keep property within the family or exchange them in marriage, like cattle, to settle their material disputes. Any attempt to uncover the ugly designs against women are obstructed and silenced in lieu of protecting the ‘honour’ of the concerned family.
Inhibited values demeaning the position of women seems to trickle down in society, which internalises misogynist attitudes, something even the most liberal among the lot are not fully able to escape. The impact becomes double-edged when we witness the complete handicap of a sense of justice: of equality and equitable rights on the whole. In a situation that blames the victim and justifies the acts of the perpetrators, even to the extent of romanticising them, it makes for a doomed nation where the aggressor remains scot-free and the afflicted remain at the mercy of their masters, sans confrontation.
Liberties of consent for women are determined by class structure, especially when it comes to matters of love and sexual freedom, though many women sadly keep it concealed for fear of punishment and social embarrassment. Patriarchal values can be blamed for such victimisation of women. This can be seen by how the once matriarchal society of the ‘red light’ community of Heera Mandi in Lahore has been taken over by middlemen who use their might to take control of women and exploit them. Worse, these exploited women cannot approach the gates of the courts for redress of their grievances of rape and money exploitation for if they do so, they can be indicted under the Hudood laws. They remain helpless, weak and without protection in a business that is considered illegal. Nor are they allowed to leave this tradition at will because of heavy intimidation from their dealers and lack of their rehabilitation into mainstream society.
The mention of rape in Pakistan is considered a taboo that needs to be hushed up. Besides a prominent religious and political leader of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) telling women on live television that they should keep their mouths shut about their rape, conspiracies to keep rape a silent act are there to protect patriarchy. Misogyny continues to manifest itself by keeping the vulnerable in control and also to threaten with horrific consequences all those who try to defy what are considered to be social ‘norms’ and ‘cultural values’. Some politicians and influentials, even those who portray themselves as adherents of modern values, protect vehemently the traditional misogynistic mindset and are diehard proponents of keeping women away from decision making roles.
There are specific status quos that are arbitrarily protected by the state to keep the crimes of the powerful unpunished. The recent scandal of the Kasur child abuse case shows how politicians and the powerful have tried to hush up the matter by linking it to a land dispute and how the villagers were intimidated and threatened against speaking up on the issue. If we go back to 2005, a similar case was recorded in Azad Kashmir when three army personnel were accused by the villagers of the rape of a minor girl but the villagers were coerced by the military to take their complaint back, the whole matter was silenced and no news could surface in Pakistan, despite the fact that it got reported by the BBC. If the mystery over why the voices of the relatives of the minor girl were hushed up raises suspicion and doubts over the validity of this incident, then the crimes of the army in 1971 where thousands of women were raped cannot be cornered. To this day, those rape victims are still denied justice due to a pact Bangladesh signed with Pakistan to keep Pakistan’s military out of international courts. With the unaccountable status given to the powerful, the same has historically transcended into all levels of society, where the authoritative feed on the agony of the weak to satiate their lust for power.
Submission to injustice means victory of the oppressors: victory of protecting their status quo and those who benefit directly through such endorsements. An indoctrination of such submission to systematic aggression under the excuse of religion, culture or the tribal justice system should be deemed criminal. However, there is some hope as people are becoming more democratically aware of the issues that directly concern them but it needs some time to reach the level of maturity needed to curb such attitudes that have subconsciously harmed women. At present, those differing in terms of beliefs, gender or sexual orientations are criticised, publicly humiliated, socially ostracised and even murdered. Though misogyny in a patriarchal society is starkly obvious, it goes away without much intrigue as it has been heavily entrenched as part of our society. It is like a love struck wonder: you cannot see the flaw in love unless you come out of it. This is our Stockholm syndrome.
Zeeba T Hashmi is a freelance columnist and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Another Terrorist Attack
August 21, 2015
Terrorism, with its many elements of sabotage, religious fundamentalism, foreign infiltration and sectarian violence, has kept us hostage for over a decade, not only costing thousands of lives of civilians, also security personnel and government dignitaries but has also kept us deprived of economic progress. Although such terrorist attacks have subsided in recent months, which are a good omen for all of us, we as nation cannot afford to be complacent as our enemy is still present though it has lost its way after the persistent and valiant efforts of our security agencies. In yet another unfortunate incident Punjab’s interior minister, Shuja Khanzada, was martyred with many others in a bomb blast in Attock. He was every active against militants due to which he received many threats to his life but he continued his struggle and spearheaded the campaign against such anti-state groups.
He was born in Attock in 1943 and served in the army for some years, also participating in the 1971 war. He got elected from PP 16 in Attock on a PML-N ticket. Being an active member of the Punjab government he worked diligently to lead the campaign against terrorism, especially sectarian elements and religious fundamentalists. His martyrdom is yet another sad chapter in our long struggle in the war on terror. All our political leaders and even army chief have strongly condemned the dastardly attack, which actually seemed to be aimed at a civilian gathering. The nation has just celebrated its Independence Day, the most auspicious occasion in our history.
This year we have much happy news to celebrate. After years of political turmoil and uncertainty, stability has gained its roots, which is indispensable for our prosperity, giving a boost to our dismal growth, which has been held back owing to many reasons. Terrorism and poor law and order were the main obstacles keeping us hostage for over a decade. Our financial hub of Karachi was the worst affected with the heinous crimes of target killing, sectarian strife, extortion, abduction for ransom, land grabbing etc.
The most neglected province of Balochistan has been bleeding. Acts of sabotage and target killing virtually made this province ungovernable with very little ray of hope as those who have resources managed to migrate leaving the underprivileged in tears and agony. Every city in the country was victim to suicide bombers and bomb blasts, leaving the whole nation in shambles. We had the shameful record of the largest number of suicide attacks in the world. The results were clear as we were regarded as a failed nation with flight of capital and investment, increasing unemployment and dismal economic growth with an uncertain future.
However, this time the whole nation celebrated Independence Day with unprecedented fervour and zeal to indicate that we are all united to liberate ourselves from the shackles of terrorism and isolate those who do not have any agenda but the pursuance of their nefarious designs of sabotage and killing innocent people in the name of religion. Our military leadership is proactive in pursuing the terrorists by eliminating their hideouts in one of the most successful operations against guerrilla warfare.
The Supreme Court (SC) has given legal cover to military courts in its unprecedented judgment dispelling the perceived perception that the apex court has reservations against the formation of these speedy trial courts, which are considered indispensable in punishing hardened criminals who were otherwise taking advantage of the loopholes in the traditional prosecution system. It must be recalled that such an attempt to form military courts could not get legitimate support from the superior judiciary earlier but this time around the verdict of the apex court was in line with the aspirations of the public and was therefore widely hailed to give much needed impetus to the fight against terrorism, and to strengthen our resolve in curbing this menace from our beloved homeland.
The existence of military courts will prove vital in bringing hardened terrorists to book. Although terrorist networks in the country have been uprooted in many parts of the country their ideology is yet to be defeated. There are many soft corners for such terrorist groups in South Punjab, which is a very backward area in terms of literacy and also development. The Punjab government has been criticised for not taking stiff action against such groups for what is called political expediency but the recent police encounter in which the leadership of a banned sectarian outfit was killed was considered significant in this regard on how the provincial government has now changed direction to take determined action against all hate mongers and fundamental groups that have established networks in different areas. Probably the terrorist attack that cost the life of the provincial interior minister was revenge by such groups, which also acts as a reminder for all of us that these groups have still the capacity to execute their plans through such targeted attacks. A more proactive role of intelligence agencies is needed to pre-empt such attacks in the future, which are usually carried out to demoralise the nation.
Quagmire in Iraq
By Abdur Rahman Chowdhury
August 21, 2015
Jeb Bush, one of the Republican presidential hopefuls and brother of former President George Bush, accused President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of abandoning Iraq too early. Bush believed troops were withdrawn from Iraq before the mission was accomplished. The Bush brothers are not held in high esteem but on this issue it was difficult to dismiss the narration. Though Obama’s decision of retrenchment of troops resonated with the people, his advisers entrusted to oversee the drawdown failed to put in place an alternative plan to respond to any eventuality in the future.
Obama came to office with an unflinching pledge to terminate the unjust wars that his predecessor began. The war in Iraq cost the US treasury about $ 770 billion, killed 4,400 troops and severely wounded 32,000, many of whom would never fully recover. About a million Iraqis were killed and more than six million were displaced. Infrastructure worth billions of dollars was destroyed and Iraq will possibly never return to its pre-war level of peace and tranquillity. A sovereign and independent country was invaded with no lawful authority, which consequently destabilised the region. In my previous articles on Iraq I had demanded that those responsible for the invasion should stand trial for the crime against humanity.
Obama redeemed his electoral pledge by bringing the Iraq war to a close. As a senator he voted against the bill authorising the invasion in 2002. He rightly warned that the war would lead to unintended consequences with unlimited damages to both the aggressor and the victim of aggression. The economic meltdown followed by the collapse of the housing market in the US was an outcome of excessive spending for the wars simultaneously conducted in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The de-induction of troops was negotiated with the Iraqi government, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He was opposed to granting immunity to the US’s residual troops stationed in Iraq. The Pentagon was uncomfortable with leaving behind troops in a foreign country without immunity. Consequently, the troops were withdrawn by 2013 without having a contingency plan. The senior officials of the State Department, led by Hillary Clinton, and the Department of Defence, led by Leon Panetta, cannot absolve the responsibility of the crisis that unfolded in Iraq following the draw-down of the troops. They were unable to comprehend the forebodings caused by 10 years of insurgency driven by sectarian violence. Within a few months Iraq began descending into sectarian riots.
The ill-advised de-bathification launched by the provisional administration of Paul Brammer resulted in the termination of large number of troops and commanding officers from active service. In the civil service, mid-level officers were installed as heads of departments while erstwhile senior officers were retained as subordinates causing anomalies in the administration. The chain of command, as a consequence, broke down, and defection and desertion ensued. The vacuum thus created was filled by people chosen not on merit but on sectarian consideration. Ideal ground was thus prepared for the growth of sectarian hatred and insurgency in the country. Muktada al-Sadr, the head of the Shia Mehdi group, and Ayatollah Sistani, the septuagenarian Shia cleric fell prey to sectarianism and escalated the insurgency.
Successive governments in Baghdad failed to assert their positions and instead followed the path dictated by the Shia clerics. Maliki’s government lost sight of the dividends of united Iraq and alienated the Sunnis and the Kurds, the two major communities in the country. Sectarian killings and revenge led to a bloodbath in the southern and central regions of Iraq. A Sunni cleric visiting the US in early June narrated stories of gruesome murders still taking place in the heart of Baghdad.
All these happened during the watch of the Obama administration, which did not realise that the mayhem was a prelude to greater catastrophe. Maliki’s government should have been strictly warned about the foreboding in wait and held fully responsible for its pursuit of a sectarian policy. Sunnis were marginalised to the extent that they were shown the exit door. Sunni tribes in Amber, Diyala, Tikrit and Hilla, which had helped expel al Qaeda, were subsequently betrayed by the Iraqi government. The Sunni youth and deserters, being humiliated and debarred from joining the army did not have to wait too long. They were welcomed by Islamic State (IS), which emerged from almost nowhere in the summer of 2014. IS championed the cause of Sunnis and captured one third of the central region. The government’s forces rapidly collapsed and retreated.
Maliki resigned and Haider al-Abadi became the Prime Minister (PM) with promises of reconciliation and reintegration but his words have not yet been translated into actions. Government departments, including the judiciary and military, are accused of corruption. About 55,000 troops are on the pay roll but do not exist. Meanwhile, the mayhem continues. On August 13, a deadly bomb blast in a Shia neighbourhood in Baghdad killed 60 and wounded a few dozens. Despite yearlong airstrikes against IS positions and over 3,000 US troops training and advising the Iraqi army, Iraq has struggled to retake lost territories.
Ten years of killings, abductions and destruction have wrecked social bondage and created deep divisions in society. It is doubtful whether serious efforts for reconciliation will heal these wounds and prevent the ultimate vivisection of the country along sectarian lines. In Washington, an official remarked that “partition might be the only solution”. Abadi condemned the remark and said that “Iraqis are making sacrifices in order to strengthen the unity of their country and defend it”. The State Department reiterated its commitment to Iraq’s integration and said that “we believe a unified Iraq is important for the stability of the region”.
Abadi reshuffled his cabinet last week but there is still no paradigm of reconciliation. In the absence of whole-hearted efforts from the political leaderships in Baghdad, Iraq will inexorably march towards disintegration. An independent Kurdish homeland in northern Iraq will serve as an incentive to the 15 million Kurds in Turkey who have been at war with Ankara for many years. Turkey will oppose a sovereign Kurdish state on its border. Saudi Arabia will not welcome the creation of another Shia country to its south-eastern border, adjacent to Dahlan region, home to a predominantly Shia population. The oil fields in Iraq are located in such a pattern that it would be extremely difficult to arrange a fair share of the revenue amongst the partners. A fragmented Iraq might turn into a battlefield for proxy wars.
What is the way out? Those who wash their hands off by advising that Iraqis should sort out their own mess are trying to rewrite history. The mess was not created by Iraqis in the first place. The international community should come forward and work out a formula in concert with regional powers. Lack of action will be the recipe for a bigger catastrophe in this volatile region.
Abdur Rahman Chowdhury is a former official of the United Nations
Contending With Paedophilia
By Syed Mohammad Ali
August 21, 2015
During these past few days, the disturbing problem of child sexual abuse has been brought to the fore of public attention through the media expose of atrocious instances of paedophilia, initially in Kasur, which has in turn led to other cases being identified in Rahim Yar Khan, Chiniot and Jhang.
The particulars of these incidents vary. They range from a 14-year-old furniture shop worker in Rahim Yar Khan being kidnapped and raped, and then being driven to suicide after being taunted by the police which refused to help him, according to the boy’s father. In Chiniot and Jhang, young boys were abused and videos of this abuse recorded. The scale of what happened in Kasur, however, is most horrific. Around 280 children are estimated to have been abused by a ring of paedophiles in Hussain Khan Wala village in Kasur, who recorded this abuse, and used it to blackmail the families of their victims else they would upload the video footage online or sell it in the form of CDs. The fact that videos of this child abuse were not only being sold online, but also circulated in the form of CDs indicates that there is an active market for paedophile materials within our country.
Not only was the Kasur paedophile ring able to operate with impunity over the past several years, the manner in which this incident was initially handled also offered little consolation. After the families of some of the victims finally came forward to file a police report, a local MPA apparently used his influence over the police to secure the release of one of the culprits. Even after the Kasur scandal came into the media limelight, a high-level inquiry committee formed by the Punjab government stated that child abuse allegations were instigated by a local land dispute. Under the glare of public attention, however, another joint investigation team involving different arms of the state has been formed. The chief minister of Punjab and the prime minter have since issued statements that exemplary punishment will be given to the culprits found guilty of sexually abusing children. Other political parties have also jumped into the fray. The PTI has resolved to take up the Kasur incident in the provincial and national assemblies.
The problem of sexual abuse of children is, however, not confined to Kasur or the other above-mentioned districts in Punjab alone. Paedophilia is far more prevalent in our society. Last year, Britain’s Channel 4 aired the documentary “Pakistan’s hidden shame” highlighting the rampant paedophilia in Peshawar. According to a compilation of newspaper reports by Sahil, an NGO working on the issue of child sexual abuse, over 3,500 cases of sexual abuse of children under the age of 18 were reported across Pakistan in 2014 alone. These are only cases which were reported in the newspapers.
The number of children vulnerable to sexual abuse is too many to recount, including runaway street children, those working as domestic servants or elsewhere in the informal sector. The Kasur scandal has at least drawn attention to a very serious problem, denying or ignoring which does not make it go away, but in fact works to the advantage of paedophiles.
Merely punishing a handful of culprits involved in the Kasur scandal or the other recently reported child sexual abuse cases will not be enough. Policymakers must pay heed to the advice of child rights advocates who are calling for much broader measures such as inclusion of child pornography provisions within our penal code and having a separate procedure for registering child sexual abuse cases. There is a need to fully implement the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2000, give priority to creation of local child protection centres, and to ensure passage of the Domestic Workers Bill. Another relevant measure needed to create a more enabling environment for safeguarding children from sexual abuse is inclusion of self-protection materials in school curriculum.
Militancy in Punjab
By Abdul Basit
August 21, 2015
The suicide attack on the Punjab Home Minister Col (r) Shuja Khanzada, in the backdrop of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) Chief Malik Ishaq’s killing, indicates the magnitude of the problem the security forces will have to deal with when counter-terrorism operations are expanded to Punjab.
The attack is a grim reminder to the ‘naysayers’ of the militant problem in Punjab that the terrorist infrastructure is not only thriving in the south but is spilling over to northern parts of the province as well.
The attack on Shuja Khanzada is instructive in many ways. First, it is a verdict against claims substantive gains against terrorism. The attack exposes the gaps in our current counterterrorism strategy. Undoubtedly, there is a visible decline in terrorist violence across Pakistan. However, it is more absence of violence (in the short term) rather than restoration of peace (in the long term). Subsequently, the gains made in Operation Zarb-e-Azb are fragile and reversible. So, a revision of the current counterterrorism plan is required with an aim of converting tactical victories into strategic gains.
Second, the attack shows that the operational capabilities of various militant organisations are still intact. Through their sleeper cells the militant groups still possess the capability of carrying out large-scale militant attacks in Pakistan. The amount of planning and preparation that went into the attack on Shuja Khanzada shows that militant organisations are still in business.
Once again, it seems the militants have weathered another counterterrorism operation after absorbing the initial setbacks. Now they are in the process of regrouping and reorganisation. The timing of this regrouping and reorganisation process is extremely critical. It is taking place against the backdrop of the Pakistan Army’s announcement that Operation Zarb-e-Azb has entered its final phase. This reduces the efficacy of our counterterrorism operations to swatting flies: as long as you swat, the flies stay away, but the moment you stop they return.
Third, so far the focus of the ongoing counterterrorism operations under the 20-point National Action Plan (NAP) has been Karachi, Balochistan and Fata but it is actually Punjab where the real source of militancy and terrorism lies. Punjab is the ideological sanctuary and recruitment ground for different extremist organisations. According to data from the interior ministry, there are around 57 militant organisations of different stripes and colours operating in and out of Punjab. The majority of the militant leaders and ideologues of Kashmiri jihadi organisations and sectarian outfits are products of radical madrasas in Punjab.
Four, the attack on Shuja Khanzada was believed to have been the handiwork of the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and LeJ.
This trend is nothing new as most of the high-profile terrorist attacks in mainland Pakistan – including the assault on the military headquarters in Rawalpindi, the Marriot Hotel attack in Islamabad, and the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore – were carried out by the nexus of the Pakistani Taliban, Al-Qaeda and Punjab-based militant organisations. Moreover, the nexus between Jaish-e-Muhammad, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Pakistani Taliban is an open secret.
From a policy point of view, it is important to ponder over how to break or weaken the nexus of various militant organisations in Pakistan. This nexus cannot be broken without revisiting our policy of the so-called ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban. As long as there are good Taliban there will always be bad Taliban because the line between the two is very thin.
The bad Taliban draw the legitimacy of their existence from the good Taliban. It is the good-Taliban that provides the bad-Taliban with the space to re-group, re-organise and return to the centre stage. Both entities exist side-by-side, share same ideology, similar worldviews, and use the same training facilities and same recruitment methods. Their only difference lies in different theatres of conflict and targets. Some focus on Afghanistan and India while others hit targets in Pakistan.
The policy of using militant proxies for foreign policy purposes worked for us in the 1980s and 1990s because of a less complicated militant landscape and clarity of issues. It was somewhat possible to forward foreign policy interests in the garb of Islamism. However, post 9/11 Islamism has superseded nationalism with the emergence of new actors like Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS).
In such a complicated environment continuing with the same old policies is not only counter-productive, but foolhardy as well. Such policies have resulted in three negative fallouts for Pakistan: i) negative image regionally and internationally as enablers of terrorism; ii) increase of terrorist violence inside the country; and iii) providing other militant groups to coexist with, and benefit from, the space afforded to the so-called good Taliban.
Finally, to make meaningful headways against extremism and terrorism our approach has to go beyond operational aspects of this phenomenon. Pakistan requires a paradigm shift instead of doctrinal adjustments in its counterterrorism policies to achieve sustainable peace internally and externally. As Operation Zarb-e-Azb enters its final phase, along with focusing on militant networks in Punjab attention should also be paid to countering terrorist financing and ideological aspects of extremist challenge. A militant group can survive without sanctuaries but its elimination becomes certain if it is discredited ideologically and its financial sources are choked.
It is true that the real battle of freeing Pakistani from the clutches of extremism and terrorism will have to be fought in Punjab. So the war against home-grown terrorism cannot be taken to its logical conclusion without indiscriminately dismantling the militant networks in Punjab.
Abdul Basit is an associate research fellow at the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR) of the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore. Email: email@example.com
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