Friday, November 30, 2012

I am a Pakistani

By Mansoor Ali Khan 

Hi, I am a Pakistani. I am a Muslim first (because I have been told this since the day I was born and my teachers also told me that this is the reason I got this country) and then I am a Pakistani. Until I reached college, I had no idea what a Sunni or a Shia was until I saw some of my friends in college say the prayers differently. I was also informed that my country considers Ahmedis as ‘kafirs’, I found it quite strange as they looked just like me because Kafirs in my opinion were always supposed to be white skinned. When I turned 18 I was told that now I am eligible to get a NIC card and subsequently a driving license also, I found this quite strange because I had been driving the car for the last 2 years without any one stopping me. Then the elections came, I kept hearing from the streets the slogans of ‘Jiye Bhutto’, I asked my parents who was Bhutto and they said he was a great leader and his daughter is now contesting the elections and we will all vote for her.

When I asked if she would turn out to be as good as Bhutto, I was silenced. Then came Kargil, my friends told me that any moment now Pakistan would turn out to be the victor against the enemy called ‘India’. After some time I heard that an Army general had taken over the government, I thought maybe this was because we won the war? 9/11 happened and I was told that either I am with the US or against it. I had heard that people always wanted to go to this country and live the rest of their lives there but if I was against or with it, I didn’t know as I had never been there. Then I saw people getting killed on the streets through bombs and terrorist activities. When I asked who they are, some said they are extremist who are angry at the US occupation of Afghanistan (but why are they targeting me?) then some said they are US conspirators (I asked again, why target me?) then someone said they are the secret agencies (I said if they are the secret agencies then they aren’t any good in keeping it a secret).

Then one day, I heard Bhutto’s daughter had been killed in an attack and I saw people crying and condemning it. I also saw many who had been her staunch opponents when she was alive, they were also terrified. They started praising her; I was surprised at how people can be so passionate about someone who has passed away.  Then someone told me that her son will now be head of the party and he has also taken the name ‘Bhutto’, the same question came in my mind if he would be as good as his mother. I wanted to talk to him but I was told he only talks to foreign press and party meetings. I started waiting for the day when he will rule me.

Then I saw my cricket hero, Imran Khan in Lahore. He had such huge fan following. He used the word ‘Tsunami’ again and again. He said all are welcome to join in. I was surprised at the direction of Tsunami because the influx of politicians seemed like a Tsunami indeed. Imran said no to drones – talks with Taliban. I asked who will punish the killers who destroyed my home, I was abused and threatened and told I am an American agent. Yeah the same America, which had threatened me with ‘with us or against us’ question.

Someone then told me to think about nothing else and vote for the party which created Pakistan – Pakistan Muslim League, but I had only one problem even though I checked the history books I could not find the word Nawaz in 1947. May be I was looking in the wrong era. I saw this party distributing laptops among youngsters, I liked it but when I asked about the lady who was distributing these laptops, they told me she is Nawaz’s daughter. I asked is she a minister, they said no, I asked is she a MNA or MPA?, they said no, then I asked who is she? They said she is Nawaz’s daughter. I kept quite.

Today, I feel like I am in a room full of slogans, accusations, counter-accusations. I just want all this noise to stop. I want to put both my hands on my ears and shout ‘SHUT UP’.

I am a Pakistani, I am no one else. I am only a Pakistani.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pakistan Police: The unsung heroes

 By Murtaza Haider

A big fat thank you is in order. In fact 200 million thank yous would be more appropriate. With millions of Shias marching on the streets in Pakistan, and with hundreds of suicide bombers, mostly radicalised Pushtun militants, ready to target Shias, Pakistan’s police and intelligence agencies have done a commendable job of limiting death and destruction during Muharram.

Earlier this week Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, offered 200 million rupees to anyone offering details of the whereabouts of the Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan. While Mr. Malik has offered reward for information about the Taliban leadership, it is the police in Pakistan who have offered their lives while battling terrorism across the country. Over the years, several police have died while guarding mosques and processions. During the first 10 days of Muharram, the police guarded processions and imambargahs, and managed barricades, thus keeping the suicide bombers at bay.

This is not to trivialise the murder of over 30-plus Shias who died in the first 10 days of Muharram in target suicide bombings in Pakistan.  The victims’ families and the communities that they came from have indeed suffered tremendous grief and irreparable loss. But with literally millions on the march on the streets in Pakistan it is next to impossible to have no loss of life when the Taliban militants have vowed to attack and kill Shias.

It is common in Pakistan to blame the police for all ills of the society. Many naively believe that Pakistan will be transformed if the Police were to be free of corruption. Stories of police excesses often surface that attract further criticism. The higher judiciary also calls in senior police officers to the Court where the officers face strong criticism by the senior members of the bench. While the police are criticised for their failure, I wonder why they are not praised when the police excel in achieving the nearly impossible goals set by the public and the politicians.

Take the processions in Muharram as an example. During the first 10 days of Muharram, millions of Shias are on the streets marching during day and night. There are literally hundreds of entry points to cities in Pakistan, which makes it impossible to prevent the militants from entering Pakistan’s major cities. At the same time, some militants are already based in cities and hence, monitoring their movements is even harder because they do not cross the security parameters established around the cities. In such circumstances, the only protection between those marching in the processions and the suicide bombers are the police.

On the 10th of Muharram in Rawalpindi, the police had established three cordons around the processions where everyone crossing the parameter was searched by the police and their identity cards were checked and recorded. Those crossing the pickets had to walk hundreds of meters before they were able to reach the processions. The police and a large number of Shia volunteers were the barrier between the processions and the would-be suicide bombers. The hard work by the police and the civilian intelligence agencies, who kept the usual suspects of all sectarian persuasions in check, prevented massive loss of life during Muharram.

While we grieve the loss of life of civilians and those from Pakistan’s armed forces, we have not been as sympathetic to the sacrifices of hundreds of police who have been brutally murdered by the Taliban in the past few years. Targeted attacks by the militants have caused the death of hundreds of police in Pakistan, but no one is willing to recognise their sacrifice or sing their praise.

Based out of the tribal areas of Pakistan, the Taliban are able to attack targets in Pakistan’s large urban centers. In October, the militants attacked and killed six police, including a senior superintendent of police Kurshid Khan, in Matani near Peshawar. Earlier in July, masked gunmen in Lahore killed nine police cadets, who were on training in Lahore from Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. Ehsanullah Ehsan, the Taliban’s spokesman with a 200 million rupees bounty, claimed responsibility for attacking the cadets. In March 2009, the Taliban, then led by Baitullah Mehsud attacked the Manawan Police Academy in Lahore killing 12 police.

The police are not random victims of  militant violence in Pakistan. Often the Taliban have raided police check posts and abducted police whom they have killed in cold blood. The grisly footage released by the Taliban in July 2011 captured the assassination of 15 policemen who were lined up with their hands tied behind their back. A Taliban Mullah, with his face covered, declared in Pushto that the Police were “the enemies of Allah’s religion and have left Islam. Allah orders to kill such people.” Moments later a firing squad shoots the 15 policemen who were abducted earlier by the Taliban in a raid in Dir.

Given how terrorism has evolved in urban Pakistan it is likely that the police, and not the armed forces, will be able to curb this menace. Unlike the armed forces, whose training is based on protecting the border while being on a lookout for external threats, the police instead are trained to, and are experienced in, coping with the treats from within. It is rather odd to see that the establishment in Pakistan has equipped the armed forces to deal with the external threats; it has kept the police ill-equipped for decades even when the nation has started to implode from the threats posed by the militants, who were born and raised in Pakistan.

It is the time to recognize that Pakistan’s enemies lie within. If we continue to scapegoat and blame foreign elements, we will continue to prepare against external threats. What is needed is to bolster Pakistan’s internal defense mechanisms. This would require us to invest in police, civil defense, and civilian intelligence agencies.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Top Indian Myths about Pakistan

Myth 1.
Pakistan lost all 3 wars with India.

Pakistan and India have fought 3 wars - 1948, 1965 and 1971.

Barring 1971 (which occurred while a civil war, assisted by India, was raging in East Pakistan), no war has resulted in a decisive 'victory' for either side.

Myth 2.
Pakistan fights through proxies

Well, this is true. Pakistan has supported Kashmiri Freedom fighters in Indian Occupied Kashmir, and did support the Mujahideen (with US and Saudi support) and later the Taliban.

However, this allegation by Indians completely overlooks India's own long association with proxy groups.

  1. Supported proxies that destabilized East Pakistan for many years leading into 1971
  2. Supported the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) - a terrorist organization in Sri Lanka
  3. Supported the Northern Alliance - a group of warlords and criminals in Afghanistan
  4. Supported Baluch insurgents in Pakistan

Myth 3.
India has never committed aggression against Pakistan, or any other country.

This is clearly not the case as seen below

  1. Support for insurgents in East Pakistan leding into 1971 and the ensuing war
  2. Support for the LTTE (a terrorist organization in Sri Lanka) against the Sri Lankan State
  3. The invasion of Siachen in 1984 in clear violation of the Simla Accord
  4. Support for the Baluch insurgency

Myth 4.
Pakistan spends 70% (or more, depending upon the Indian) of its budget on Defense.

Pakistan's defence budget for 2009 was about 4.4 billion USD. With a GDP of about 160 billion USD and a budget of 33 billion USD, that works out to be about 2.75% of GDP and 13.3% of the total budget.

This compares with an Indian defence budget of about 26 billion that is 14.4% of the total budget and about 2.3% - so what's the big deal with Pakistan's defence budget?

Myth 5.
Pakistani politics is dominated by Kashmir

This argument goes along the lines of 'the Army/leadership makes sure that the only thing Pakistanis are aware of is Kashmir, and in this way distracts them from socio-economic issues and avoids investing in development'.

No doubt most Pakistanis are aware of Kashmir, but the fact that we have cutthroat national politics, with political parties that have significant ideological differences, it is absurd to suggest that the only issue mentioned during stump speeches is 'Kashmir'.

Most of the PR and advertisements run by Pakistani political parties in fact focus on providing development and bringing about prosperity, not Kashmir. Most politicians talk about providing, jobs, investment etc. and most Pakistanis vote on that basis - even when voting on biraadri lines since they believe 'their guy' will provide them with economic opportunity/favors.

The political process in Pakistan remains largely driven by issues that are important to most people elsewhere in the world - jobs, inflation, development etc.

Monday, November 5, 2012

South Asia Investor Review: India-Pakistan Missile Gap, India's "Indigenous" T...

South Asia Investor Review: India-Pakistan Missile Gap, India's "Indigenous" T...: A Times of India report last year claimed that "Pakistan has surged well ahead of India in the missile arena". It also lamented that "the o...