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Monday, September 21, 2020
Pakistan Press on Pakistan’s Majoritarian Assertion, Menace of Rape and Afghan Taliban: New Age Islam's Selection, 21 September 2020
By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
21 September 2020
• Pakistan’s Violent majoritarian assertion
•The Taliban sanctions
By Muhammad Amir Rana
•Putting an end to rape
By Farwa Naqvi
•Don’t burn your fingers in Gilgit and Baltistan
By Dr Syed Nazir Gilani
• Sindh, a victim of political tyranny
By Salman Ali
Pakistan’s Violent Majoritarian Assertion
By Umair Javed
21 Sep 2020
THE phrase ‘sectarian tensions’ used to describe events over the last few weeks, and trends stretching back a few months, is highly misleading. It depicts a situation of contention between two groups, with no indication of their respective demographic and political heft. In essence, it masks the fact that the various organisations (and the societal segments they claim to speak for) purportedly engaged in creating this tension are extremely unequal. A better term in this instance, as in nearly every instance of ‘sectarian tension’ in Pakistan’s political history, is ‘majoritarian assertion’ — ie the dangerous politics that emerges from the combination of misplaced insecurity on part of a majority, ideological absolutism, and furthering of individual and/ or institutional ambition. In this case, that of hard-right Barelvi and Deobandi leaders and organisations.
While writing this, one can pre-empt the scepticism bound to emerge over the use of the term ‘majoritarianism’. Many argue that the vast majority of those who belong to dominant sects have no such desire for absolutism fuelled by insecurity; that inter-sect relations are, even today, largely stable, if not cordial; and that what was seen in Islamabad this past week is merely the workings of a lunatic fringe.
The unfortunate part of these well-intentioned arguments is that they miss out on how conflict is often loosely related to mass sentiment. Conflict, or violent assertion in this case, can emerge simply on the ‘claim’ of representing public sentiment, regardless of the accuracy of that claim. So when people point out that those labelling others as heretics or worse are simply a lunatic fringe, they ignore the historical damage caused by such fringes in Pakistan’s own past.
It is worth remembering that the movement to declare Ahmadis as non-Muslims under law was championed by relatively small, tightly organised Islamist groups, who pushed public and political discourse towards their stated goals. And with a PPP government eager to burnish its own credentials and appease them for expedient purposes, the actual numbers mattered far less in the final reckoning.
What are the factors behind this violent assertion, and what aspects of the current political dispensation continue to enable it?
This chapter from Pakistan’s history, and the Islamisation of the Penal Code that followed in the subsequent decade (again for expedient purposes championed by the state) should serve as a constant reminder that mass sentiment is an extremely imprecise gauge of political possibilities.
There is also a concurrent need to interrogate the roots of this current upsurge in violent assertion. What are the factors behind it, and what aspects of the current political dispensation continue to enable it?
Given the sordid history of state involvement in using religious groups for political purposes, the possibly orchestrated nature of this current trend cannot be ruled out. However, unlike say the Faizabad dharna in the past, there is little to suggest (so far) that there are clear-cut political goals that could be achieved by an orchestration of this nature. This premise also ascribes limited autonomy to religious groups and endless agency to the state, both of which we know to be untrue in the recent past.
Other standard explanations seem to work better in this case. For many decades, and increasingly more so in the last two, competition within the majority sect between adherents of Deobandi and Barelvi organisations has become far more active. This is partly because of the reinvention of the Barelvi movement from a historically rural shrine elite-led phenomenon to a new mass urban madressah-based one, with a proliferation of associated organisations. The most obvious example of this is the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, but in most urban centres, one can encounter any number of smaller neighbourhood-based organisations of a similar nature competing with others for followers and donations.
This showcasing of their ‘brand’ in competition within the larger field of Islamist organisations has come at the cost of minority sects, who are propped up as the conspiring enemy to engender identity formation, polarisation, and entrenched feelings of victimhood. If one pays attention to the abhorrent rhetoric on display in recent days, the process of framing identity as one of a majority under attack by a minority remains extremely prevalent.
This competition to claim more resources, power, greater ‘prestige’ within the field of Islamist politics, and appear ‘truer’ to the faith is not going away anytime soon. These organisations are reasonably well-rooted and have cultivated sustained followings, even if they constitute a relatively small segment of the population. Any prescriptive policy that wants to limit the potential damage here would need a strategy beyond just wishing them away. Such a strategy would have to put the role of mainstream political parties front and centre.
Unfortunately, the three major parties, the PPP, PML-N, and PTI, have been more than happy to draw on such groups for expedient gain. All three have cultivated electoral alliances with hard-line Sunni groups, they’ve shared political stages with their leaders to burnish their own pious credentials, and instrumentalised their rhetoric to damage their opponents. In recent days, the ruling party’s coalition partner in Punjab, the PML-Q, played an immensely negative role in the current wave of violent assertion by championing divisive legislation in the province. Through it, its leaders have been able to further resuscitate their political careers, while bearing no punishment for the societal radicalisation it is contributing towards.
The dispiriting bit is that mainstream political parties are also, theoretically speaking, the only force that can prevent these issues from spiralling out of control — not just because they control the levers of government at various tiers, but also because as organisations they’re the only ones with possible reach in society. The dangerous nature of recent events demands that the three major mainstream parties close ranks on this particular issue, limit the escalation of violent rhetoric, and enforce the constitutional protections offered to all citizens. Failure to do so will only lead to further violence, as has so often been the case in the past.
Umair Javed teaches politics and sociology at Lums.
THE initiation of the intra-Afghan dialogue in Doha has raised optimism about achieving political reconciliation in Afghanistan. The stakeholders are apparently aware that this could be a patchy and lengthy process, and that they may need to review their positions from time to time during the whole discourse.
One critical issue, which has factored in both the US-Taliban deal as well as the commencement of intra-Afghan dialogue, is the Afghan Taliban’s relationship with foreign militants in Afghanistan. There are indications that the Taliban have begun a review process to address this concern of Afghan and external stakeholders.
Former Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan, who escaped from custody a few months ago, surprised many last week with a tweet in which he claimed that an Afghan Taliban delegation was negotiating new terms with the TTP for the latter’s stay in Afghanistan. According to him, the Taliban have come up with 27 rules for foreign militant groups, including Al Qaeda, Islamic State (IS) and the TTP. These conditions also include not using Afghan territory against any other country.
Ehsan also claimed that the Afghan Taliban have made it mandatory for foreign militants to register themselves with full identification with them. Foreign militants have also been asked to pledge to not recruit new fighters, stay in the places designated by the Taliban, and inform the latter about their movements.
One critical issue remains the Taliban’s relationship with foreign militants in Afghanistan.
The TTP has reportedly rejected these terms, but both sides have decided to continue talks.
Though independent sources have not verified the claim, it is understandable why the Afghan Taliban would issue such instructions to foreign militants. They made a commitment in the Doha deal, reached on Feb 29, that they would not allow any terrorist individual or group to use Afghan soil against the US and its allies.
The foreign militants issue will certainly come under discussion in the intra-Afghan dialogue at some point, and the Afghan Taliban may share some plans, including granting foreign militants citizenship if they commit to living there peacefully. The Taliban’s recent conditions for foreign militants also seem to indicate this may be a possibility. Such a proposal echoes the Dayton Accords, 1995, between Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia. At the time of the agreement, the total number of foreign fighters in Bosnia — who had entered the country from 1992 to 1994 and fought along with the Bosnian civil defence forces — was estimated to be as many as 5,000. Many fighters were integrated as a separate battalion within the Bosnian Armed Forces. These fighters were required to leave the Balkans under the Dayton Agreement’s terms, but the majority stayed there and a third were granted Bosnian citizenship.
It is not certain if the Taliban’s potential offer would work for all foreign militants — the TTP’s accepting to stay peacefully under the Afghan Taliban’s patronage is especially highly doubtful — but the experiment produced mixed results in Bosnia, and only a few had continued their militant activities. After 9/11, pressure on the Bosnian authorities increased; as a result, more than 1,000 citizenships were revoked.
However, it will be hard for the TTP to accept the Afghan Taliban’s conditions, as the group would not want to abandon its stance against Pakistan. Meanwhile, the TTP might try to relocate its infrastructure in Pakistan. However, there is very little probability that it would be able to hold any territory inside Pakistan for long or run its operations effectively on the ground. If it changes its strategies and splits the group into small circles and cells, it could sustain terror operations for a while, but in the long run its organisational structure will weaken and internal differences will ultimately create a crisis within the rank and file. In that case, sectarian groups could take more prominent leadership roles.
The second option the TTP will consider is to operate as a proxy of nations hostile to Pakistan. In that case, it would stay in Afghanistan, but maintaining its relationship with the Afghan Taliban would become complex. The TTP’s nexus with IS in Afghanistan could become a probability, but both have a history of accusing each other of being proxies of their enemies. Even their nexus would not create a big impact, as IS is a weak organisation and not in a position to provide any financial, politico-ideological or operational support to the TTP.
From the TTP’s angle, the least promising option would be to accept a possible surrender-and-reconciliation option offered by Pakistan; the Afghan Taliban could help such a deal. The chances of such a deal are, however, very bleak, as the TTP’s leadership has not accepted such offers even in the past. Nonetheless, the Afghanistan situation has brought the TTP at a crossroads once again. On the one hand, its leadership is trying to unify its factions to fight against Pakistan, and on the other it has the fear of losing the patronage of the Afghan Taliban.
Al Qaeda’s case is different. It may show more flexibility to the Taliban conditions. During the Doha talks between the US and Taliban, reports appeared that the Taliban had consulted Al Qaeda’s leadership before signing the deal. It is not possible that the US would not be aware of it. The US, Afghanistan and Nato countries will not have serious concerns if Al Qaeda’s leadership guarantees that it is going to live peacefully in Afghanistan. The recent statement by the Al Qaeda chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri, issued on Sept 11, 2020, did not mention the US and Afghan Taliban deal. Analysts perceive it in the context of increasing pressure on the group by the Taliban. Secondly, Al Qaeda’s leadership wants to remain calm unless they find another place to relocate. Al Qaeda will not try to sabotage the peace process in Afghanistan and will hope that the Taliban come to power, which may change all the equations for the group again.
\In the face of the high-profile gang-rape a few days ago, different cultural, societal, institutional, and ideological debates surfaced. These have always been imbibed in Pakistan’s national thought but as responses to such heinous criminal atrocity, these were not only unsuitable but also basically perpetuate the culture of rape.
Men took on to habitually mansplain women and the nation about rape and rape punishment on every platform: be it parliament, talk-shows, or social media. It is quite amusing and infuriating (simultaneously) to see TV panels full of men with little to none female representation discussing women’s issues and how to cope with them. A popular quick-fix was incorporated into the Twitter trend ‘Hang The Rapist’ and men of the nation decided that this will be the punishment for criminals. Our prime minister, after many days of the crime, showed up on a TV show and joined the bandwagon suggesting chemical castration as a better idea according to him.
The punishment of gang-rape is a death sentence already but the demand in recent days has been for the hanging of the rapist publically. This, of course, has nothing to do with women and what they would deem appropriate, but no one asked or cares about how women feel and what women want.
This tendency of getting excited about the idea of public hanging serves masculine tendencies of aggression. On one side, aggression is directed towards a woman and on the other, it is redirected onto an xyz rapist. Both are for male amusement. The fact that they deem women incapable of deciding for themselves is one of the supreme causes of the problem of rampant sexual crimes in the country.
Which brings us to: why men rape. Castration suggests that they do it because they have a sexual organ and if you rid them of it, they will be put to rest. However, rape doesn’t stem out of sexual needs but out of the need for power and control. In nations, the culture of misogyny and toxic masculinity breeds rape culture. Rape is just a symptom of the disease called patriarchy, misogyny, and toxic masculinity.
The major factor behind sexual assault or gender assault is inherent misogyny. Women only exist in two forms for such men, either man is the owner of a woman or a woman is a sexual object. If she is not your property, as a stranger then she is a sexual object. And when she is your property, you have all rights over her, even sexual ones. Think of incestuous rape which accounts for 82 percent of rape cases in Pakistan and remember these are highly underreported statistics. These men who rape deem women as inferiors, and even less than humans; hence by raping them, they put women into their place they have decided for them in their perception. This is why rapists have zero percent empathy for the victim because empathy is due to humans, not objects.
Rape is a depiction of power, dominance, anger, revenge all wrapped up in sexuality. Some men in patriarchal cultures rape women out of revenge because women are deemed as property, and the honour of men and families is placed in a woman’s privates.
All such instances show only one thing – the denial of woman’s agency, autonomy (also sexual), and humanity! Same is the case with the third sex. This is why only this is the antidote to rape. When you give a woman her rights given to her by the religion and the constitution, see a woman as an equal human being and not as an inferior being for your amusement or for power and control by dominating sexually, you halt rape culture. The objectification and sexualization of women aid the rape culture to stand upright. Harassment needs to be seen from women’s perspective. It may be men’s idea of fun but normalization of these ideas and habits transform into a culture of rape. Until there is a change in how men perceive a woman, no punishment is capable of terminating the rape culture.
The conviction rate of rapists is less than three percent so with this level of impunity before looking at the punishment, the system needs reforms on every level of the procedure. We need sensitive and empathetic women officials free of rape apology, victim-blaming, and shaming to provide investigative services. The police reforms that we were promised are needed badly. Even in this recent case, the role of the police has been highly questionable.
A major part totally missing in the process is the mental, psychological, and emotional help for the survivor. Judicial reforms are most desperately needed to eradicate the major factor of impunity for the abuser. Rape cases go on for years on end while the abuser is out on bail and the survivor is threatened and traumatized to forgive by police, the judiciary and family alike; also, given the high cost of legal help, cases go on for years.
The fact that there can be a compromise on such a crime is immensely problematic in itself. Many survivors kill themselves not due to the primary crime but because of the devastating aftermath that follows. It is impertinent to mention the ruthless attitude of authorities towards a traumatized human who is questioned again and again for details that are too heart-shattering for the survivor to speak about repeatedly.
Lastly, chemical castration is in no way a solution. After castrating, when the abuser is sent back into society and that too without years of psychological treatment, he will come out far more violent and this time with a purpose. A misogynistic man who has been castrated because of a woman will be many times more violent towards women than ever before. Rape is not prevented by castration.
Let’s just face it; there are no shortcuts or quick fixes to societal pandemics. As much as men would like to jeer as spectators on the sort of act of aggression they suggest such as public hanging, they need to be silent, step aside and let women come forward with their voices, and listen to understand and empathize. This is about women’s safety and only they know where and what kind of change is needed because they face harassment on a daily basis. As stated in the beginning, stop mansplaining and gaslighting women about what they need. They know their needs, rights, and voice them every day. If you wish to help end the rape culture, you need to change patriarchy and replace it with equality and misogyny with empathy. The ones who are not actively participating in the prevalence of such culture are supporting it passively by allowing it. I say: to ignore it is to allow it and to allow it is to accept it.
Sexual assault is not a natural disaster that just happens out of nowhere. A man rapes a woman or a transgender person or a child or even a male. And he rapes because the patriarchy, misogyny and culture of rape facilitate him. His intent is further strengthened and encouraged by impunity and the loopholes in the procedures respectively.
Rapes cannot be prevented without killing the rape culture and its sources. Hence, there are only three steps that help this issue. First, an end of the rape culture by an end of its sources. Second, reforms, reforms, reforms and third, prevalence of law and order, and implementation.
Farwa Naqvi is pursuing a psychotherapy license, and working in the media.
There is a burning smell in the air that present PTI Government in Pakistan has plans to embrace Gilgit and Baltistan as a fifth province or as a ‘provisional fifth province’ of Pakistan. The reasons advanced are that people here have been left behind in the enjoyment of their rights and in enjoying the progress made in various disciplines of life in Pakistan.
There are retired people from Azad Kashmir and their likes from GB who have been doing stealth exercises behind the backs of their own people and are encouraging various circles in Islamabad that it is ideal to bring GB into the territorial fold of Pakistan.They are suggesting that it could be done by amending article 257 of the Constitution of Pakistan.
People in all the three parts of Jammu and Kashmir and in the Diaspora are disturbed. PPP Azad Kashmir, Muslim Conference Azad Kashmir, JKLF, JKCHR, Kashmiri scholars and some other activists have expressed their deep concern and have advised the Government to suspend its plans and respect the integrity of the State. The action would bring Pakistan at par with Indian actions of 5 August 2019, would be a violation of UN Resolutions on the future of the State, would be a departure from Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir and above all would be considered as a betrayal by the people who have sacrificed a generation of their loved ones. Pakistan would lose trust of the people of the State and there would be unfolding challenges in the courts, at the UN and it would dislodge the Pakistani constituency in Kashmir.
Government of Azad Kashmir would not have made an agreement with the Government of Pakistan in April 1949, to temporarily take over the administrative control of GB. The agreement is in place and AJK continues to have a de jure right to question about the conditions in GB
The immediate domestic challenge would be under the April 1949 Karachi Agreement. The challenge would enlarge and people would invoke protection under UN Security Council Resolutions at various forums. It would be a recipe for disaster. India would surreptitiously creep in to pitch the people of Jammu and Kashmir against Pakistan, here and abroad. Even if India does not fish in the troubled waters, it would exact a quid pro quo. The people of Jammu and Kashmir would not allow the integrity of the State to be violated in this manner.
The argument that the people of GB are left behind and the process would lift them, has no merit. Why did AJK and Pakistan Governments leave them behind from April 1949, when Government of Pakistan entered into an agreement with the Government of Azad Kashmir and took over the administration of these areas? Azad Kashmir and Pakistan are bound to provide a good governance as a responsibility assumed under UNCIP Resolutions. In the absence of Pakistan’s overseeing the Governments in Azad Kashmir and GB, the UN Commission would have supervised the two administrations. Under UN Commission’s surveillance these areas would have developed as Switzerland during the last 71 years.
It would be an admission by Pakistan that it has failed to discharge its duties assumed under UNCIP Resolutions in AJK and GB. It is a dereliction of duty and Pakistan could be flagged at the UN and at other forums for failing to honour its duties. Human Rights and progress in GB should have remained concurrent to the corresponding progress made in AJK and Pakistan. If we have failed, we have accrued a criminal liability. We would be confirming the Emma Nicholson’s report adopted by the European Parliament in April 2007 that these areas have been treated like a colony.
There is an argument that elders of the area have acceded to Pakistan and this view is pushed through by a half-baked legal opinion of a retired judge from Azad Kashmir. If that were true Government of Azad Kashmir would not have made an agreement with the Government of Pakistan in April 1949, to temporarily take over the administrative control of GB. The agreement is in place and AJK continues to have a de jure right to question about the conditions in GB. Azad Kashmir High Court has also ruled on the transfer of GB into the administration of Azad Kashmir. Supreme Court of Azad Kashmir has offered a relief against the transfer at this point. The argument relied upon is like a bull in a China shop.
United Nations Resolutions are very clear on GB as a part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. To understand the title of the GB one need not research any hard but make a reference to Lease of Gilgit – an agreement signed between the Maharaja of Jammu Kashmir and the British Crown on 26 March 1935 under which The Viceroy and Governor General of India “assumed the Civil and Military administration of so much of the Wazarat of Gilgit Province of the State of Jammu and Kashmir…but not withstanding anything in this agreement the said territory shall continue to be included within the dominions of His Highness the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir”. The agreement was for sixty years and comprises of five articles. And if we have a faith that we shall be able to exact a UN supervised referendum, GB is an important vote bank.
The collapse of Kashmir policy started from November 1965. It began to gather strength in late 1990s. In August 1996 JKCHR lodged an eight-page protest with the President of Pakistan and questioned the merits of his Kashmir policy. Unfortunately, he introduced his 4-points and coerced Hurriet to leave their constitutional discipline and board his wagon to sell the 4-point formula. President Musharraf skipped self-determination from his speech made at the 61st session of UN GA in September 2006 and Pakistan again skipped self-determination at the 62nd session of UN GA in October 2007. President Musharraf told NDTV in December 2006 that “Pakistan is also ready to give up its old demand for a plebiscite in Kashmir and will also forget all the UN resolutions under the 4-point solution”. Musharraf formula is history but we have decided to burn our fingers in Gilgit and Baltistan.
Dr Syed Nazir Gilani is President of London based Jammu and Kashmir Council for Human Rights – NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations
Province Sindh is confronted by a plethora of chronic problems. Rapid population growth, extreme poverty, poor governance and most importantly poor law and order situation have devastated the peaceful and progressive Sindhi society.
It is a painful and sheer reality that our rulers and bureaucrats are unable to understand that this axiomatic truth of human resource management and good governance that without improving good governance it will not be possible to stabilise the alarming population growth rate and eradicate extreme poverty from the resources-rich province.
Indeed, Sindh is not poor, it is an enviably resources-rich province in Pakistan but it has been a victim of politics of successive past rulers and even the present one to keep its people poor because the poor and illiterate people can easily be exploited to perpetuate the feudal framework or aristocracy, plutocracy or ‘waderacracy’ in Sindh province. That is what actually happening in Sindh.
As I am living in Sindh from past few years, let me explain for my readers what I feel here, this province is beset with a lot of problems. Agriculture, the main source of livelihood of Sindhi people and their spiritual love, has been greatly destroyed by the feudal lords. Kidnapping for ransom is rising in various parts of the province particularly in Khairpur, Jacobabad, Kashmore, Dadu and some other interior areas.
In Sindh out of 12 million children, 6.7 million are out of school. 52 percent of these out of school children are girls. Meanwhile, 47 percent of government primary schools have to get by with only one teacher
People are abducted as desired by the Pirs&Waderas moreover, despite the legislation enacted to protect and promote women’s rights in recent years, violence against women has escalated in Sindh. In a day several women are killed in the name of honour, but nothing concrete has been done by the government. Brainless breed of bureaucrats and technocrats who are selfish to the core, rule the roost in the province today. Bribery is the norm, both, in the public and private offices. Corruption is pervasive. It has even become a symbol of status. Crime is everywhere in the province. It seems that the hardened criminals are given ‘permits’ to commit crime anywhere they feel like in the province. The courts want to give speedy justice but they suffer both from the workload and shortage of resources including the manpower, material and money. This is Sindh for us. I have just portrayed a tiny picture of Province Sindh.
However, if we talk about the education, the children of Sindh are facing many problems because of the poor education system in the province. In Sindh out of 12 million children, 6.7 million are out of school. 52 percent of these out of school children are girls. Meanwhile, 47 percent of government primary schools have to get by with only one teacher. Along with this, 50 percent of children enrolled in primary schools in Sindh drop out before finishing their primary schooling. Moreover, 27 percent of government primary schools in Sindh function only with one classroom. Throughout Sindh, 71 percent government primary school buildings are in a pathetic condition. In addition, 66 percent of schools in Sindh are without electricity, 53 percent of schools cannot provide students and staff with drinking water facilities, 49 percent of schools do not have toilets and 44 percent are without boundary walls.
The so-called feudal leaders have utterly disappointed all and sundry. The law and order in upper and lower Sindh regions have gone out of hand. People are left at the mercy of dacoits. These errant rulers have never shown their commitment to bring peace, progress and prosperity in Sindh.
Importantly, within the above-mentioned districts of Sindh Hindu girls are kidnapped, forcibly converted and married to Muslims, the police, government and courts all turn a blind eye. The media is often silent on the problem of forced conversion and issues related to women. Many cases in which influential locals and religious leaders are involved go unreported because of pressure put on the media not to report the stories. As I am part of this media fraternity, I know these local reporters are often afraid to investigate the existence or prevalence of forced conversions, honour killings or any other issue related to women due to fear of attack, especially when influential members of the local community are involved.
However, in recent times few officials who are appointed on merit and have passed competitive examinations and are setting extraordinary examples in all fields. Hereby, I want to acknowledge Senior Superintendent of Police-SSP UmerTufail who has contributed every effort for maintaining law and order and rule of law in northern Sindh particularly Khairpur and Ghotki. These both districts were on the top in crime but these mentioned police officials took concrete actions and made lives easy for the public. Moreover, many women rights activities in Interior Sindh stood up in favour of women rights particularly Saira Ahmed a renowned social activist working on women, peace and security.
While concluding, I appeal to CM Sindh Murad Ali Shah and Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, to look after Sindh and the Sindhis.
Salman Ali is a social and political activist based in Lahore. He has done his Maters and MPhil in Communication Studies.