Tag Archive | "NWFP"

Hakimullah Mehsud behind current attacks

The increase in the number of terrorist attacks in the NWFP, the Punjab and Islamabad could be due to the rise of Hakimullah Mehsud, the new leader of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

In fact, his appointment as the TTP head following Baitullah Mehsud’s death in a US drone attack on August 5 had alarmed those who knew him, had met him or followed his career as a militant. They were concerned that Hakimullah was a far more dangerous and unpredictable man than Baitullah. He was also different than Maulana Waliur Rahman, the second most important TTP commander who is considered a mature person.

In fact, some TTP supporters wished that Waliur Rahman, who in the past was associated with Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s JUI-F, would become the new chief of the organisation and steer it towards a constructive course instead of pursuing its destructive path. Waliur Rahman eventually became the head of the TTP in its South Waziristan stronghold and appears to be actively involved in the planning of the attacks by the Taliban militants across the country.

However, the force behind the suicide bombings and the more spectacular attacks by groups of militants on military and police installations could be Qari Hussain, a cousin of Hakimullah. He seems to have been given a free hand to plan and execute attacks now that Hakimullah is the TTP boss. Qari Hussain is often called Ustad-e-Fidayeen, or teacher of the suicide bombers who are admiringly referred to as Fidayeen by the militants for sacrificing their lives for a cause.

On at least three occasions in the past, Qari Hussain was pronounced dead by civil and military officials and the claim was duly published in sections of the press. But he is alive and reporters who recently interviewed Hakimullah and Waliur Rahman in Srarogha area in South Waziristan also met him. However, he as usual refused to grant an interview or be photographed.

Hakimullah, who is in his late 20s, is different than Qari Hussain, as he has been granting interviews and allowing photographers and camera crews to take his pictures. A militant who attended the ceremony where he got engaged to a girl in Orakzai Agency recalled that Hakimullah asked his men jokingly to listen to the BBC Urdu service that evening as it may broadcast news of his engagement. He thought Hakimullah felt that anything he did or said was important enough to be carried by the media. The engagement ceremony itself showed Hakimullah’s boisterous nature as his fighters used heavy weapons to fire in the air and hosted a feast to celebrate the occasion.

Hakimullah had threatened to avenge Baitullah’s death. The attacks on the military, including the one against the GHQ in Rawalpindi, could be described as part of its campaign of revenge as the TTP has been arguing that the US drones carry out the attacks in Waziristan with the cooperation of Pakistan’s security forces. But the attacks on police and other law-enforcement agencies are apparently aimed at creating demoralisation in their ranks and showing the power of the TTP and its Jihadi allies from Punjab. Then there are the terrorist strikes in public places where common people are killed and private properties are destroyed. These are designed to create fear and make the government appear helpless. Or it is possible that the suicide bombers carry out such attacks in bazaars after being stranded and unable to reach their intended targets.

{Source: The News}

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Governance reforms in education

By Ishrat Husain

The education policy announced recently envisages a big jump in the allocation of public expenditure on education from the current level of two per cent of the GDP to seven per cent over the next five years.

Many well-meaning commentators, political leaders and external agencies also believe that the problem of education deficiency in Pakistan can be attributed to the lack of funding. However memories are short and we have forgotten that a multi-donor, multi-million dollar project — the Social Action Programme in the 1990s — was a failure. It did not increase enrolment rates or achieve any other goal; in fact, it left the government with a higher debt.

We should avoid making the same mistake again and putting the economy in further jeopardy. The total expenditure on education by all tiers of government would jump by almost 50 per cent in one year if we raise it by one per cent of the GDP only. As much as Rs400bn would become available for spending in one year. Unless we pay attention to the serious governance problems facing our education sector we will end up with more ghost schools, ghost teachers, greater absenteeism, misuse of grants to private schools, inflated building contracts and other leakages and waste.

The availability of funds for education from donors is also not a constraint as almost all external donors are vying with each other to finance education projects. The duplication, overlap and competition among the suppliers of funds would add to the already poor state of governance in our schools, colleges, universities and educational administration.

Does this mean that we should not pursue the target of higher allocation for education? No, but there are some prerequisite governance reforms that have to be undertaken before the allocation is stepped up. The National Commission for Government Reforms had carried out a two-year study, field visits and consultations with stakeholders and produced practical recommendations for improving the quality of governance in the education sector. There are at least 10 critical reforms that have to be put in place.

First, there is a clear need for delineating responsibility for the provision of education among the three tiers of government. The federal government should deal with curriculum and higher education financing, standards and regulations. The provincial governments should be responsible for college education and technical and vocational training while the district governments should take charge of primary, secondary and high schools.

Second, to bring about coordination, ensure uniformity in the standards of public, private and non-profit schools, a district education board should be established in each district. The board must consist of eminent persons enjoying a good reputation and the district education officer act as the secretary of the board and implement the decisions taken by it. The detailed terms of reference of the board have been developed.

Third, like the Sindh and NWFP governments, there should be separation between management and teaching cadres in other provinces and the federal government. While the selection to the management cadre would be open to teachers with the requisite aptitude, all teachers could progress in their teaching careers to higher grades without becoming headmaster, principal or education officers.

Fourth, teachers’ cadres should be de-linked from national pay scales. Educational levels in backward districts will not improve unless the compensation package is aligned with local market conditions. If, for example, a science teacher in Musakhel has to be paid Rs15,000 per month to attract her to work in this backward district, she should be given that package.

In contrast if qualified science teachers in Karachi or Lahore are available at a salary of Rs12,000 per month, they should be paid that amount. Otherwise the present distortions — teachers appointed in backward districts are transferred to big cities because of political influence — will continue to persist.

Fifth, all teachers should be appointed from among the candidates domiciled in a district through a test conducted by the Public Service Commission on merit alone. These posts should be non-transferable. Other posts for which suitable candidates are not available locally can be filled from outside the district. The powers of recruitment, transfer, promotion and disciplinary action must reside with the district education board.

Sixth, the school management committees (SMCs) and/or parent-teacher associations (PTAs) should be empowered to effectively oversee the internal management of a school, i.e. keeping the school infrastructure in good shape, ensuring teachers attend school and managing other problems. Budgetary resources would have to be given to the SMCs but they would be accountable to the district education board for results.

The head-teachers/principals would be given appropriate administrative authority to carry out the day-to-day operations of the school. They would also be given powers to initiate action against recalcitrant teachers.

Seventh, the district education board should be allocated funds annually for carrying out the approved infrastructure projects, operations and maintenance and training of teachers in all schools. The training would be delivered by the provincial governments, who would also test the competency of the teachers and the learning achievements of the students on an annual basis. Funds allocated to the district boards must be audited regularly.

Eighth, children from low-income families should be given the option of going to private schools provided these schools meet prescribed eligibility criteria. These schools must be given per capita grants for the students from low-income families. The activities of the education foundations in the provinces should be expanded and supported to find other suitable means of fostering public-private partnerships.

Ninth, a decentralised and empowered education network can function efficiently only if it is monitored continuously. A management information system (MIS) should help the district boards in monitoring the performance of the schools. For example, if a primary school is producing a constant stream of pupils for enrolment in higher classes, the upgrade to elementary school could take place immediately.

Finally, all talented students from poor families and backward districts who secure admissions to private schools, professional colleges, business administration institutes and institutions of higher learning should be awarded scholarships for pursuing their studies. Eligibility criteria must be announced beforehand and advertisements placed inviting applications for scholarships.

These reforms would take some time to take root and must be initiated before the spigot of money for education is opened.

- The writer was the chairman of the National Commission for Government Reforms. -

{Source: Dawn}

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Americans foresee change in Pakistan

By Dr Shahid Masood

WASHINGTON: Americans see a change fast, but smoothly, coming in Pakistan in the wake of loss of credibility of the man at the helm, following some domestic legal developments.

After meeting top political and defence decision-makers here in the US capital, where I was invited by the National Defence University (NDU) for a two-day seminar on the anniversary of 9/11, I was told in unambiguous terms that a change in Pakistan was inevitable for US policy interests, although Washington does not intend to disrupt the system.

Several important Pakistani political players have also been conveyed the same message by the US political and defence establishment, including the MQM and recently the ANP, whose chief is travelling with President Asif Zardari in New York.

The main problem being faced by the US administration, which it may never admit publicly, is that the present set-up with Asif Ali Zardari as the de facto ruler, has no credibility at home and no ability to deliver on the promises he makes, either on the military side or on the war on terror or on governance issues.

“Zardari has also abandoned the idea of political consensus which he had started to follow in the early days after the February elections,” one official said on background. “He appears to be non-serious in government and lives in perpetual fear and insecurity, preferring to stay out of the country.”

The US side thinks that they had made a sensible move by pushing an alliance between late Benazir Bhutto and General Pervez Musharraf as this team would have provided all the ingredients of a stable and cooperative Pakistan to Washington. She would have provided the political support while Musharraf would have used his military muscle against the terrorists and extremists in a stable environment.

They say Zardari has failed to provide that environment, rather he has involved himself in day-to-day business and administrative matters while his political coalition and parliament have been left looking like dumb and dummies.

Many officials say Zardari has been asking the US administration to bail him out on too many issues and too many occasions. He has sought the US help to tame the Army, keep his alliance partners, especially the opposition of Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N in check, directly or through the Saudis on sensitive issues like Musharraf’s or cutting his own constitutional powers.

All these demands are way beyond the capacity of any US administration to deliver while Zardari has almost left everything to us to handle, an agitated official said. “If we have to handle everything, his own credibility within the country will sink and has sunk to the lowest low.”

Other officials I met were even blunter. They say the US abhors corruption, kickbacks and commissions anywhere in the world as a matter of policy.

Another official said the US would keep track of the parties or persons involved and money transaction in the Pakistan’s rental power venture. There are still no roadmaps or any modality work sheets in Washington on how a change in Pakistan would occur, but the US capital is keeping its fingers crossed as to what comes out of the NRO case pending with the Supreme Court.

The impression gathered from the words of these top Americans is that the US would not intervene if the apex court starts hearing the case. The view is that if the NRO was discussed and details of who benefited, who made what deals and how serious crimes were committed and then whitewashed, start to be revealed in the SC, the moral authority of the NRO beneficiaries would erode fatally. In this scenario, the NRO beneficiaries may themselves throw in the towel seeking a safe exit.

In several informed US and Pakistani circles I moved in for several days in Washington, the same scenario was repeated, often exactly in the same tone and sequence.

A Pakistani, who knows a lot about developments in Pakistan and the US scene, said that apart from this purely legal and domestic scene, there were four possible ways through which Zardari could exit. These ways were repeated by others who had nothing to do at all with the previous source. They are: one, impeachment; two, voluntary resignation in the wake loss of credibility; three, ‘natural’ or man-made elimination of the president, and, four, an Army coup. The impeachment and coup scenarios are considered non-starter and impossibility.

US and some Pakistani circles said that a resignation after enough dirt is thrown in the public domain when the NRO case details begin to unfold is a favourite way out, as it would not, being an outcome of the legal process, disrupt the system.

I was asked many times whether a coup is a possibility in the current situation and I always said no, but the question kept surfacing again and again.

This is probably because there was some loose talk of a shuffle in the military hierarchy by President Zardari in which Army chief General Kayani was to be replaced by some other pliant general who could ensure continuity and stability for the Zardari regime.

This scenario was shot down in Washington instantly as an impossibility, since it had information that the Pakistan Army considered a coup or intervention as a total no-go area and could have brought back another October 12, 1999 type of situation. It is so also because of the fact that Gen Kayani has established, through words and deeds, that he is all for democracy.

With all these scenarios being discussed, the growing feeling is that not much time is left for the current status quo and it will lead to a period of political turmoil in Pakistan if President Zardari continues with his ways any longer.

The sudden emergence of a top MQM delegation in Washington for talks with the policy makers, officials and think tanks of Washington has also raised many questions as the official Pakistani diplomatic channels were totally cut off and I gather that this was done at the insistence of the US side more than the MQM leadership.

Not even a courtesy meeting between Governor Ishratul Ebad and Ambassador Husain Haqqani was held until four days after the arrival of the MQM delegation and meetings with top strategists, including Bruce Riedel, John Negroponte, Richard Boucher, and current State Department officials, including Richard Holbrooke.

A similar exercise has now been planned with the ANP chief while he will be here in the presidential entourage.

What happened in these meetings is known only to the MQM leaders and the US side but the tone and tenor of MQM in the coming weeks and days will give the first hints of whether the course of the PPP-MQM alliance is changing in stormy waters in the middle of the sea. How the ANP reacts is also to be seen but already Asfandyar Wali is said to be very happy with the praise for his party’s governance in the NWFP by US officials as well as the promises to give them direct financial aid. With the MQM and the ANP almost on board, I will be eagerly waiting for the first signs of the new US strategy unfolding in the days and weeks to come.

{Source: The News}

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Eid discord attains another peak

Editorial: The News

Predictably, Eid has caused a split among the clerical community in Pakistan again, but this year a dangerous political element has been added to it. The ulema of Peshawar have celebrated Eid on Sunday while the rest of the country was fasting, an event looked upon with great distaste by Muslims all over the world. In fact the belief is that on Eid only Satan keeps the fast. The NWFP government joined its ulema in making the rest of the country look like the followers of Satan.

The crisis of this Eid has been compounded by the fact that the NWFP government put the country on notice beforehand that it was bound by the “unofficial” moon-sighting of a Peshawar mosque Masjid Qasim Khan, and would defer to the verdict of the ulema of Saudi Arabia who usually issue the edict of Eid a day in advance of the Pakistani Eid. Promptly, the Peshawar mosque ulema declared that moon had been sighted in 44 places in the province on Saturday. The federal Ruet-e-Hilal Committee led by Mufti Munibur Rehman had not even convened yet; and the Mufti lost no time in condemning the NWFP decision to celebrate Eid separately from the rest of the country.

There is a political odour to all this. Despite the ANP government’s decision to unite the territory of the Pashtuns under one Eid separate from the rest of Pakistan, it ended up dividing the ethnic community. The people of FATA, not a part of the NWFP, claimed sightings and celebrated Eid on Sunday, but the Malakand Division, the tribal area inside the province comprising one-fourth of the province’s territory, maintained its tradition of going with the Islamabad committee under Mufti Munibur Rehman. Yet there were unpleasant incidents of some villages breaking away from this pattern too. There is another entire division of Hazara where Eid is not linked to the Peshawar clerics.

The decision of the NWFP government to follow the Peshawar clerics has not produced the desired result, if the result desired was the creation of a “Pakhtunkhwa unity”. An intra-clerical division in the province occurred when the old MMA parties, the Jama’at-e Islami and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), split over the Eid moon. Retired Jama’at chief Qazi Hussain Ahmad decided to go along with the Masjid Qasim Khan verdict; Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the JUI condemned the Peshawar verdict and caused his district, Dera Ismail Khan, to refuse the Sunday Eid. It is yet to be seen whether Qazi Sahib’s decision will cause a split within the Lahore-based Jama’at led by a Karachi-based firebrand amir.

Mufti Munibur Rehman has come out of the scrap a winner if you can look at the quarrel as a game. Some years ago he was physically assaulted by the NWFP ulema during a meeting of the moon-sighting committee. His position was becoming weaker by the day as the Deobandi dominance in Pakistan grew apace. He was under threat from the followers of Al Qaeda in Karachi and was condemned by many Pashtun ulema for having issued a fatwa against suicide-bombing. The NWFP government’s decision to side with the Peshawar ulema has produced unintended results. More lethally, it may have split the population of Balochistan too because of the decision of Maulana Fazlur Rehman to disagree.

Muslims are more literalist today than in the past. Their reluctance to rely on science has split them globally and, in Pakistan’s case, at the national level. Muslim scientists say they can give a mathematically perfect date of appearance of the Shawwal moon many years in advance. They say Muslim calendars can actually lay down the Eid days accurately. But no one listens to them: the rule is to see the moon with the bare eye. Saudi Arabia might have accepted the scientific view on the quiet, resulting in the strange phenomenon of Pakistan fasting on the day when the entire Arab world and the Muslims of Europe and America were celebrating Eid.

As time passes the thin line of the first-day crescent may not be visible at all because of the pollution that goes up daily and covers the evening sky. We may actually be left quarrelling with each other over something that we can longer see, and not because it is not there.

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Custody killing of religious scholars in NWFP?

PESHAWAR: Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl) has accused the NWFP government of killing scores of religious scholars and demanded the release of 120 activists of the party forthwith.

Speaking at a news conference after a meeting of the provincial executive council and district heads of the party, JUI-F Provincial President Maulana Gul Naseeb Khan alleged a number of non-militant religious scholars had been arrested during the military operation in Malakand Division and several of them were killed in custody.

He alleged that the spokesman for banned Tanzim Nifaz Shariat-e-Mohammadi Ameer Izzat Khan, Maulana Mohammad Alam, Maulana Fazle Haq, Maulana Liaqat, Maulana Mohammad Ameen and Maulana Mohammad Yaqub had been killed after their arrest.

He said that 10-15 religious seminaries and mosques were destroyed during the operation, while more than 120 activists of the JUI and religious scholars were still under detention. He said the government should immediately announce reconstruction of the demolished seminaries and mosques. The government should also release all the detained “innocent” people. The JUI-F leader condemned the military operation in the settled districts of the Frontier and adjacent tribal belt and said the use of force could not be a solution to any problem.

-Source: The News-

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Pashtun Nationalism - by Dr Manzur Ejaz

By Dr Manzur Ejaz
Most of the time, secular Pashtun nationalists have highlighted their economic deprivation. But if the Pashtuns’ share in the army, the bureaucracy and the economy in Pakistan is higher than the proportion of their population, such an argument becomes a very hard sell.

In response to my last column (“Competing in Afghanistan”, Daily Times, August 12), a reader raised a very interesting question: what are prospects of secular Pashtun nationalism if the present turmoil across the Durand Line subsides? Although it is very difficult to make any forecasts in such a complicated and fluid situation, it appears that there are more chances that the existing state boundaries will continue to exist for a long time to come than otherwise.

Historically, secular Pashtun nationalism was much stronger in the first two decades of Pakistan’s existence. During that period, Pashtunistan was a real issue for Pakistani rulers, and hostility between Islamabad and Kabul were quite high. Afghanistan was probably the only country that voted against Pakistan’s entry into the United Nations. Both Afghanistan and Pakistan were involved in supporting low-level subversive activities against each other.

It has been reported by multiple sources that during the Bhutto period, the first religious subversive group led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was organised, funded and trained by the PPP government. The rise of Socialist parties in Kabul and General Zia-ul Haq in Pakistan, the Soviet invasion and the heavy US involvement changed all the parameters. The secular forces in Afghanistan, nationalist or otherwise, were cleansed by rising religious groups. Therefore, secular Pakistani Pashtun nationalists had no counterparts in Afghanistan to link up with.

Nationalistic fervour among secular Pakistani Pashtuns had started showing weakness when the Awami National Party decided to join hands with Pakistan National Alliance or Qaumi Ittihad to oust Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government. The late Dr Feroz Ahmed published a very insightful article in his Urdu magazine, Pakistan Forum, identifying the reasons for the fading of Pashtun nationalism, symbolised by Nasim Wali Khan joining hands with conservative centralist forces.

It was in the late 70s when Dr Ahmed had argued that integration of the economy of the NWFP had caused the erosion of Pashtun nationalism, as increasing economic interest within Pakistan had taken away its material basis. Dr Ahmed’s incisive analysis was based on the early phase of emerging Pashtun economic interests in Pakistan. Since then, his observation has been verified by the further intensification of Pashtun migration to Punjab and Karachi. Besides the mammoth movement of labour, Pashtun entrepreneurs started dominating certain sectors like transportation in most big cities of Pakistan.

The rise of the Taliban and other extremist religious forces and the ensuing destruction further accelerated the migration of secular-minded Pashtuns to other cities of Pakistan or abroad. It is true that despite this demographic shift, secular political parties like the ANP and the PPP won the last elections. However, a closer look reveals that successful secular parties in the NWFP hardly have any inclination towards Pashtun nationalism beyond renaming the province. However, a small section of intelligentsia still carries the nationalistic aspirations and sees an opening for redrawing the boundaries on the basis of ethnicity.

It is argued that even the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan is an expression of Pashtun nationalism in a certain way. This time around, Afghan Pashtuns have deployed religion to keep maintain their domination in Kabul against the non-Pashtun Northern Alliance, which has made significant gains. This argument is further supported by pointing out the absence of Talibanisation in the non-Pashtuns areas of Afghanistan.

The Pakistani Pashtun Taliban have acted quite differently from their Afghan brethren. While the Afghan Taliban adopted a policy of non-intervention in Pakistan or even in Northern Afghanistan, the Pakistani Pashtun Taliban manifested their aspiration to change the state and indeed the entire ideological make-up of Pakistan. In other words, the Pakistani Pashtun Taliban have acted as a centralist rather than a separatist ideological force, notwithstanding their temporary takeover of certain tribal areas. This shows how much Pashtun nationalism has weakened over the last thirty years.

Pashtun nationalism, religious or secular, has not shown typical characteristics of separatism. For example, the suppression of mother tongue is used by nationalists all around the world to highlight their exclusivity. Even secular Pashtuns have not shown this tendency. As a matter of fact, the NWFP and Balochistan led the way in adopting Urdu as their provincial language after the 1970 elections. During the entire political career of secular politicians from the NWFP and Balochistan, the language issue has never been highlighted.

Most of the time, secular Pashtun nationalists have highlighted their economic deprivation. But if the Pashtuns’ share in the army, the bureaucracy and the economy in Pakistan is higher than the proportion of their population, such an argument becomes a very hard sell. If the common Pashtun finds it more profitable to stay within Pakistan, the secular nationalist elite will remain an ineffective marginalised force. The future of secular Pashtun nationalism will also depend on the development of the state of Pakistan.

The writer can be reached at [email protected]

-Source: Daily Times-

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The future after Baitullah


By Kamila Hyat

There have been many who have celebrated the death of Baitullah Mehsud – the man who had come to symbolise militancy and destruction in Pakistan. He will forever be associated with the suicide bombings that shook our cities, killed thousands and changed our urban landscape.

Evidence has also come in that the ‘highly-disciplined’ band of fighters he was said to have led may not have been quite so disciplined after all. Indeed they seem to be little more than an unruly rabble. One, and indeed possibly two, of those contesting for leadership after Mehsud’s death has apparently been killed in a shoot-out at the meeting called to nominate his successor. For these tribesmen too, power, it seems, means everything and the so-called service to Islam little. The failure to find a new leader for the Tehrik-e-Taliban seems to be one reason why associates of Baitullah continue to raise doubts over his death. The fact that nobody believes what the government says means there has been an unwillingness to accept the versions coming in from Islamabad – though this time around they do seem to be accurate.

Several questions now arise. Is the death of Baitullah Mehsud – the man code-named ‘Nasrat’ — truly an immense blow to militancy? Will it now simply shrivel away and die – or is this an entirely unrealistic scenario? The events that have immediately followed the death of Baitullah indicate that his TTP is now a fractured body. It has been badly crippled by the loss of the leader who glued it together. But the key still is whether this can be capitalised on by authorities.

Across Waziristan, from where tens of thousands of people have fled over the last decade – the largest number since 2005 — there is cautious optimism that there could now be a gradual return to stability. Shop owners who have suffered economic losses as a result of the fighting hope things will slowly improve; Waziristan’s intellectuals, writers and other critics of the Taliban believe now they may one day be able to venture back into an area where their lives had not been safe for years. This will happen though only if advantage can be taken of the situation that now prevails in Waziristan. The people of the area need to be offered a new focus and a new vision for the future. They need to be co-opted into the state and not relegated to a life on its fringes in a place where feudal elements still hold sway and guns represent power. While tribal ‘tradition’ has been much romanticised, indeed since colonial times, the fact is that it is in practice often brutal and grossly unjust, favouring the influential over the most vulnerable. People need to be offered hope of employment, development, education and opportunity if they are to escape such lives. The failure to grant them what should be basic rights is one reason for the growth of militancy.

According to the NWFP government’s Bureau of Statistics, only 29 per cent of men and three per cent of women in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are literate. This is the lowest literacy rate for females anywhere in the world, and means that in fact almost no woman in the area has received any schooling. Only 540 doctors and 116 nurses serve a population of over three million people. There are only 33 hospitals and 1,654 beds for the sick. In these figures lies an explanation of exactly what has gone amiss in these territories and how the state of Pakistan has wronged the people who live here.

Rather ironically, Islamabad, which has for months vocally ‘condemned’ the US drone strikes in its territory, as part of a ploy that fooled no one at all, now says it had a role in the attack that killed Baitullah. This seems to be an attempt to quickly grab a slice of the cake – before all the credit for taking out the country’s top militant leader, on the basis of incredibly accurate intelligence, goes to Washington. Over the last few weeks Washington had indeed altered its previously lukewarm stance on Baitullah Mehsud, and ruled he was a man who had to be targeted. Pakistan must now persuade its ally that there is yet more to be done in Waziristan. Aid needs to pour into FATA and other northern areas. At the end of July the US Senate Foreign Relations sub-committee on the IDP crisis in Pakistan heard an unusually well-informed account from a Pakistani journalist currently pursuing an academic degree in the US on what needed to be done in the conflict-hit areas of NWFP to overcome the militant threat. The focus on employment, education and economic development was apt. The same priorities apply to FATA. We must hope the Pakistan government will review this testimony and persuade its US allies of what needs to happen now. Time is crucial. Desperate people are also impatient ones, and any delay at this point will mean full advantage has not been taken of the post-Baitullah scenario.

There are other realties too that now need to be faced up to. Attempts to veil them have continued for far too long. Baitullah Mehsud, the long-haired militant whose images have only now begun to appear in the mainstream media, was a creation of our own establishment. He had been brought in less than five years ago as a rival to Abdullah Mehsud. While it is possible he grew into a Frankenstein, beyond the control of his own minders, rumour has it that even now there were attempts on to reach a peace settlement in Waziristan and avoid the need for a military operation. To be fair to the Pakistan army however, it may simply have been waiting till Swat was secured and more units could be pulled out from there. Anything less than a full-fledged operation was after all hardly likely to work in Waziristan, a place where forces have in the past suffered heavy losses. At the same time, losing Swat again would be a disaster. But all this does not change the fact that the militias now being battled were a creation of our own agencies. Some are still reluctant to abandon them. But it is essential that this policy be set aside and a new one aimed at saving our country from militancy put in place.

The death of Baitullah makes it easier to move towards this. To do so effectively we must avoid creating new militant factions to battle those that have moved out of agency orbit or attempt to strike deals with commanders. Instead we require a people-centric strategy, placing the needs of people as the broad base standing at the bottom of the pyramid atop which we construct our plans for the future.

The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor. Email: [email protected]

-Source: The News-

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Taliban burn 14 schools in Buner


PESHAWAR - Taliban militants have blown up at least nine schools, one basic health unit, a warehouse of a private construction company and a policeman’s house in Chagharzai area of Buner district. Militants also torched five educational institutions in Shangla. The local people and officials at Daggar, headquarter of Buner, informed Tuesday that Taliban destroyed nine schools in scattered areas along with a basic health unit at Topi on late Monday night. The destroyed schools included both for girls and boys. So far no one has claimed responsibility for destruction of these schools and a health unit.

The NWFP Senior Minister Bashir Ahmed Bilour has confirmed the destruction of schools in Chagharzai area. He said that militants had also set the house of a police head constable on fire in the area.

It may be mentioned here that a large number of Taliban militants have assembled in scattered areas of Chagharzai, Buner, in the wake of military action against them in Swat, Shangla and Dir areas and are making attempts to consolidate their positions. Chagharzai connects Swat and Buner with Shangla, Mansehra and Batagram districts. Thousands of people from Chagharzai area have abandoned their houses and shifted to safer places. The district administration has established a camp for these internally displaced persons in Swari area but the affected people are unhappy with the arrangements.

Online adds: Militants also set five schools on fire in Shangla on Tuesday, a private TV channel reported.

Before and after the military operation Rah-e-Rast, the militants have destroyed and torched over 366 schools in District Swat, Buner and Dir. 238 schools have been torched in Swat, 36 in Buner and the rest in district Dir. 205 schools of girls and 15 of boys are among the torched and destroyed schools.

-Source: The Nation-

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Return of the native, is for real?

By Anjum Niaz

Hear the young.

‘We moved to America from Akora Khattak, NWFP, when I was seven years old. I’m 22 now. It was relatively easy adapting to the environment here because we moved into an area in Jersey City, New Jersey which is called ‘Pakistani Colony’. It was easy on the eyes seeing ‘aunties’ in shalwar kameez walking around the area we lived in. Going to school though was a different story altogether. Being that we lived in the inner city urban area, it wasn’t easy getting along with people who would often ridicule our accent and dress style. But as time went on, I became a product of the city.

‘When I came home, we spoke Pushto with our parents but speaking English was the norm between my brother and I. Although we would behave, dress and eat like our friends outside the house, when we came home it was a totally different story. Our parents refused to accept such behaviour at home and made sure our Pakistaniat was never corrupted. They made sure we visited Pakistan every other year and spent some time with our family there. As for an interest in journalism, it is partly inherited, although initially resisted.

‘My father is also a journalist (Bureau Chief Online News Agency). CNN would always be on in our house and I grew sick of it, but my father would always take me to any function in which a politician from Pakistan was present. I got to interact with Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif (visited him in his kings palace in Saudi Arabia) and Imran Khan among others. Soon I realised this is the crowd I wanted to be amongst. Watching my father ask critical questions of such people and drawing his interviewees’ ire was awesome for me. He is the inspiration behind my desire to become a journalist. But I was a finance student before going to college and at the same time, Pakistani TV channels started beaming in our homes around 2004-05.

‘The 2005 earthquake was also a turning point. Seeing my people in such peril was very painful. The Pakistani channels’ work instilled in me a drive and I managed to raise $20,000 from friends, family and people at work. Pakistani channels helped me learn more about Pakistan than I could in a classroom. I now know who Iskandar Mirza, Ayub Khan, Z. A. Bhutto, Zia, Maj. Amir are. The way the American media exposes politicians and forces them to resign is something we need.

‘Pakistani media has however educated the public and is actually bringing about a social change. That change is what is forcing me to move back to Pakistan rather than living here in the US. Because if we can, through the media, break the silent nexus between the status quo, which includes bureaucrats, generals and politicians among others. We can become a great country.’

The above is Farrukh Salim’s dream. ‘Although Pakistan is mired in such unfortunate circumstances, it is at the crossroads and I believe its future is bright. Young people like myself need to go back and invest in our country,’ says the fresh BA. ‘That investment is based solely on bringing about a social change.’ Salim studied journalism in one of New Jersey’s most prestigious schools, the Rutgers University. ‘We must take part in politics, protest and be heard. . . In fact, it is the media and the judiciary which have instilled a new jazba in Pakistanis to take this country away from the thugs who rule it.’

He blames his father’s generation for the decay in Pakistan. ‘I personally think an entire generation is at fault. My father’s generation let a leader like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto get hanged. The nexus between the generals, politicians and the bureaucrats is to blame.’ Salim delivers his punch line: ‘The attitude of most young Pakistanis here in America is to do something for Pakistan, their hearts weep for what’s happening back home; however most settle for sending dollars to their family, nothing more. My beef with other young Pakistanis here is that, even though they care, it isn’t enough. They must be active politically and go back!’

Farrukh Salim hopes to head home soon. Godspeed.

Ambreen Rahman has a similar viewpoint. She’s a biomedical engineer from School of Engineering and Applied Science, Columbia University.

If you don’t know what biomedical engineering means; I don’t know either. Her impressive resume throws some light. It tells me that she’s ‘Developing a novel pressure single-mode sensor to probe inner-cochlear mechanics (2008-2009); has analysed brain tissue due to applied strain and sheer to study effects of brain injury; has studied the role of two genes in the development of a functioning kidney and urology system; and studied development of catalysis to promote fuel cell research as an alternative energy source.’ She’s the recipient of ‘William J. Clinton Foundation Global Initiative University student commitment award — 2008 & 2009’ for her work in the 2005 earthquake in Azad Kashmir. She’s also the founder of Green Roshni, a nonprofit enterprise that delivers renewable energy and sustainable products to rural markets.

How do you view Pakistan’s dire state sitting here?

‘I feel that it is depressing, but also a wealth of opportunities exist. I feel that there’s a huge disconnect between people even within Pakistan. For a developing country like Pakistan, we need to acknowledge the pressing issues — poverty, crime, education, discrimination, women’s rights — in our everyday life and not just take it as ‘culture’. For me, I feel that Pakistan is ‘the new land of opportunity’ for resilient people who can speak both Western and Eastern languages, can navigate the bureaucracy and attitudes to realise significant societal change.’

Who is responsible for the decline in Pakistan?

The citizens, arrogance, attitudes.

How can young people like yourself help your country?

Visit not for your own family or recreational purposes but to serve in underprivileged communities. Volunteer. Donate your time. I took time away from college to work as and volunteer in Pakistan in a remote charity hospital in Azad Kashmir.

What’s the attitude of most of your Pakistani friends here in the US towards Pakistan?

I’m not sure if I’m the best judge of that, but mostly apathetic. Most people like to stay in their bubble or in comfortable suburbs of Pakistan when they do visit, enjoying the food, shopping etc but hardly ever noticing or taking initiative on pressing issues.

Ambreen returns to Pakistan next month.

Meanwhile the press in US drones on about ‘Beer summit’ and why President Obama wore such ‘awful jeans’ when he hosted the black professor from Harvard and the white cop Sergeant Crowley who arrested the professor. To balance the colour combo (two blacks and two whites), Obama invited his vice president, Joe Biden.

‘Americans are losing jobs but the media here has nothing better to discuss than beer brands consumed at the White House. God help America!’ comments an elderly woman patient at a doctor’s clinic. I nod in agreement.


-Source: DAWN-

Posted in Diaspora, FeaturedComments (0)

The Taliban and music

By Zubeida Mustafa

In her latest book, The Case for God, Karen Armstrong describes music as ‘the limit of reason.’ She finds it inseparable from religious expression when religion is at ‘its best.’ We do not get the best demonstration of this connection in the Taliban brand of Islam. The faith practised by the Sufis, however, shows an intrinsic link between the two.

No count has been kept of the video shops destroyed by the Taliban in the course of their offensive against Pakistani culture. Music has had its detractors in plenty and the MMA government, foisted on the NWFP by Musharraf, had declared music to be a vice in 2002.

Since then music has been treated as an enemy. It has been targeted regularly. The campaign first began in the form of attacks on shops and music centres. Then musicians, those gentle artists who soothe the soul, were threatened and they either fled or gave up their art. Some had to pay with their life.

It all seems bizarre, given the clear connection between the rhyme and rhythm of music and the harmony in the working of nature. It begins with the unborn child’s first exposure to the rhythm of his mother’s heartbeat.

Even the Taliban probably know that music casts a spell on the listeners. It was amusing to read on the Freemuse website (www.freemuse.org) — an independent Copenhagen-based organisation called the World Forum on Music and Censorship — that the Taliban who claim to be averse to all forms of musical expression were at one stage promoting ‘jihadi’ hymns to lure young men to their cause.

After having robbed the people in the north of the much-celebrated Pakhtun folk culture, which was enriched with song and dance, the Taliban reportedly reverted to what comes naturally to the natives of that region — music. According to a Freemuse report, every Taliban group had its own production house with staff to hire youth with melodious voices to render the jihadi songs that were duly recorded on cassettes and sold in large numbers.

Every religion has its share of poetry and music that keep its adherents spellbound. On a recent visit to Bhitshah, the resting place of Shah Abdul Latif, the Sufi saint of Sindh of the Shah jo Risalo fame, what fascinated me most were the fakirs who played the tanboro and chanted the great poet’s verses in the courtyard of the shrine throughout the night. They have been doing that without a break for over two centuries, I was told. The music was overpowering.

Isn’t that the case with qawwalis too? Or for that matter qirat rendered by a good qari? Palestinian activist Ghada Karmi who has spent a lifetime in London and could not be more secular in her outlook was full of praise for the gentleman at the Karachi University who recited Quranic verses before her lecture when she visited Pakistan in 2003.

There has always been a link between man and music. S.M. Shahid, who learnt classical music for 20 years at the feet of his ustad, the late Wilayat Ali Khan, discovered this connection when his handicapped grandchild began to respond to music in a remarkable way. Thanks to his musical intellect he can recognise the beats — he claps at ever summ (starting point of a taal — a rhythmic and cyclic arrangement of beats). Music enchants him and he concentrates on the beats.

This does not surprise those who have studied music and are involved with children. Afshan Ahmad now a Montessori directress quotes Maria Montessori, the Italian educationist and anthropologist, when she points out that ‘rhythmic movements’ which song and dance involve have a positive neurological effect on a child.

Afshan made her debut in the world of music as a child when she appeared on PTV’s Saaray Dost Humaray to entertain children with her melodies and teach them their lessons by singing nursery rhymes that were unforgettable. Afshan uses music cleverly in her school to soothe and calm a rowdy child.

So why does music have so many enemies? Freemuse was in fact set up to advocate freedom of expression for musicians and composers worldwide. It was born in the first world conference on music and censorship in 1998 in Copenhagen and has about 200 members today, mostly professionals from diverse fields and countries and including musicians, journalists, researchers, record industry professionals and human rights activists. They examine and document a wide variety of abuses to create awareness and fight censorship.

The website notes, ‘Imagine the world without music. Or imagine a world where we are told what to play, what to sing and even what we may listen to in the privacy of our homes. That world already exists in more countries than you might imagine.’

Why the need for censorship? The link between music and politics is now widely recognised. In the US, jazz, a creation of the Creoles of New Orleans, came to reflect the aspirations of the African Americans and in the 1960s was the battle cry of the civil rights movement. That explains why pro-status quo forces fear music. It can turn into a form of social protest.

But one thing reassuring is that music cannot be suppressed as Salman Ahmad, the founder of the rock music band Junoon, and now UN’s goodwill ambassador, points out. ‘For years Gen Ziaul Haq tried to suppress music but it bounced back no sooner than he had gone.’

Now Salman wants to use his talent to promote peace by bonding people culturally. He went to the Kashmir Valley last year and attracted a massive crowd to his concert in spite of death threats from the militants. He is working on a musical event at the UN Assembly in September to raise funds for the IDPs. Their trauma can be eased by reviving the vibrant Pakhtun music that the Taliban virtually destroyed.

[email protected]

-Source: DAWN-

Posted in FeaturedComments (0)

Sindh, NWFP more corrupt than Punjab, Balochistan

KARACHI - Corruption in the provinces of Punjab and Balochistan has declined but increased in Sindh and the NWFP during the recent years, according to a recent survey conducted by the Transparency International.

A press release issued by Transparency International Pakistan (TIP) said that the survey carried out in June/July 2009 in the four provinces to collect data regarding the citizens’ perception about level of corruption in the country.

“Compared to 2006, the Sindh province has surpassed Punjab as the most corrupt province. Corruption in the NWFP has increased by 13 percent, Sindh by 5 percent while in Punjab corruption decreased by 9 percent and Balochistan by 10 percent in 2009,” the survey indicated.

On the National Reconciliation Ordinance - 2007 (NRO), TI Pakistan has already said on 7th October 2007 that this ordinance was against the fundamental rights of the citizens and was a negation of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) ratified by Pakistan in August 2007. This Ordinance has not only damaged the Pakistan’s image but still eroding the credibility of the political parties.

“No sitting member of Parliament or a provincial assembly shall be arrested without taking into consideration the recommendations of Special Parliamentary Committee on Ethics or Special Committee of the Provincial Assembly on Ethics, before which the entire material and evidence shall be placed by the chairman NAB,” read a provision of the NRO.

The National Assembly has formed 41 committees, but since last 17 months, the Special Parliamentary Committee on Ethics or Special Committee of the Provincial Assembly on Ethics have not been formed, which is harming the image of political parties in general, the survey observed.

-Source: The Nation-

Posted in NewsComments (0)

Mystery of Taliban funds

Editorial Daily Times

The US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mr Richard Holbrooke, says that Taliban militants are receiving more funding from their sympathisers abroad than from Afghanistan’s illegal drug trade. This statement contradicts the sole Pakistani source that has been forthcoming on the subject: Governor NWFP Mr Owais Ghani thinks that the Taliban in FATA and other tribal areas are spending a budget of Rs 14 billion annually, and the money comes, primarily, from drugs smuggling from Afghanistan.

Mr Holbrooke says: “More money is coming from the Gulf than is coming from the drug trade to the Taliban”. He didn’t say it but he must mean: Iran, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq. He is clearly relying on what NATO military officials in Afghanistan think: the Taliban raise USD60-100 million a year from the trade in illegal narcotics. He says: “What I believe happens is that the Taliban fund local operations in the Pashtun belt out of drug money, but the overall effort gets massive amounts of money from outside Afghanistan”.

He thinks the governments in the Gulf are not involved, but that sympathisers from all over the world are — “with the bulk of it appearing to come from the Gulf”. When a Pakistani representative says the Taliban are getting drug money there are layers of meaning in it. First of all, it is a matter of record that during the Taliban rule in Afghanistan, the militia had successfully curbed poppy cultivation in many parts of the country under their control. The arrival of the Americans in Afghanistan has strengthened the warlords and their “business” of poppy cultivation in the country. What is also on record is the fact that the family of the Afghan president Mr Karzai is involved in the drug trade.

The fact is that the insurgency is very likely to have multiple sources of funding, not just one. Not even one source which caters to the bulk of funds being used to sustain the insurgency and terrorist operations across the region. It is difficult to estimate how much of the money is coming from what source. What makes eminent sense though is to have more than one channel to ensure that the supply doesn’t dry out if one particular source is detected.

Also, we may be forgetting Al Qaeda in all this. Al Qaeda has its old “gold stream” coming into Pakistan and Afghanistan from the UAE in general and Dubai in particular. It started with the purchase of gold and diamonds all over the world — Aafiya Siddiqi was allegedly a part of that network — and then converting them into whatever currency was needed in the area of operation. The half a million dollars supposed to have been spent on the 9/11 operation had allegedly gone to the US from Dubai via Pakistan. Carrying large amounts of currency on flights to and from the UAE is more dangerous than carrying gold. And the institution of hawala is not dead yet.

One cannot ignore the “income” the Taliban count on through criminal activities. Not only do they allow criminal groups to kidnap people for huge ransoms, they levy their own taxes and “protection money” in the areas where they have replaced the writ of the state. And that includes Peshawar itself where the Governor NWFP has his residence. One reason the “emirate” took shape under Baitullah Mehsud was the need to create his own source of revenue through taxing the transporters of the area. Warlord Fazlullah was tolerated by the Taliban and Al Qaeda even when he became “excessive” — which finally led to his ouster from Swat — because he had a good source of revenue from the state-owned emerald mines he had taken over.

Opposition to the Taliban among the local influential groups in Pakistan has grown because of the need of the Taliban to extort money from them to make up the funds for the purchase of weapons and explosives, paying off its foot-soldiers and compensating the families of the “martyr” Taliban.

Posted in Daily Times, EditorialsComments (0)


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Talk Shows

  • DUNYA TODAY with Dr. Moeed Pirzada: Nov 5
    November 6, 2009 | 8:00 am

    President Zardari’s future, NRO, Presidency and Pakland Estate issue. Guests: Senator S M Zafar (PML-Q), Fouzia Wahab (PPP) and Javed Hashmi (PML-N)

  • JIRGA with Saleem Safi on Geo: Nov 5
    November 6, 2009 | 7:15 am

    How justified and kosher is Taliban war in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Guests: Qazi Hussain Ahmed (JI), Ijaz Qadri, Prof. Sajid Mir, Allama Muhammad Ameen, Allama Muhammad Ahmed, Dr. Muhammad Farooq Khan, Dr. Khalid Masood

  • BOLTA PAKISTAN on Aaj Tv: Nov 5
    November 6, 2009 | 7:00 am

    Chances of Obama friend Md Mian Soomro becoming President and Ch Aitzaz Ahsan’s meeting with Zardari; Rice Crop Crisis. Guests: Ch Aitzaz Ahsan

  • LATE EDITION with Asma Shirazi: Nov 5
    November 6, 2009 | 4:46 am

    Exclusive interview with Ch Ahmed Mukhtar (Defense Minister PPP) on proof of Indian involvement in the northwest, army’s displeasure on Kerry-Lugar Bill, Haqanni’s role, Balochistan, Status of Wazir and Mehsud tribes

  • POINT BLANK with Mubasher Lucman: Nov 5
    November 6, 2009 | 4:25 am

    Bank of Punjab episode and Harsh Steel Mills scandal. Guests: Rana Sanaullah (PUnjab Law Minister PML-N), Talib Rizvi (attorney of Hamish Khan absconding President of Bank of Punjab).

    November 6, 2009 | 4:16 am

    Eight Managers of Eelctronic Media establish self-control and self-regulation on TV coverages. Guests: Azhar Abbas, Brig. (R) Mahmood Shah (Analyst), Hamid Nasir Chatta (PMl-Q) and Syed Shahid Hussain

  • LIVE WITH TALAT on Aaj Tv: Nov 5
    November 6, 2009 | 4:07 am

    Eight Top electronic media managers of private TV channels establish voluntarily based self-control, slef-regulation on reporting.

  • KAL TAK with Javed Choudhry: Nov 5
    November 6, 2009 | 3:29 am

    Withdrawal of MQM and JUI-F support to PPP on NRO has destabilized government and its majority support. Guests: Syed Naveed Qamar (PPP), Maulana Fazlur Rehman (JUI-F), Imran Khan (PTI)

  • OFF THE RECORD with Kashif Abbasi: Nov 5
    November 6, 2009 | 3:18 am

    Recent govt campaign against Electronic Media and attempts to control them. Guests: Nadeem Afzal (PPP), Nusrat Javed (AAJ TV), Fouzia Wahab (PPP), Dr. Shahid Masood (Geo) and Ahsan Iqbal (PML-N)

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