Category Archives: movements

WikiLeaks and Pakistan’s dysfunctional state

Raza Rumi

The WikiLeaks saga has reconfirmed the status of Pakistan as a client state. Its leadership — civilian and military — as a matter of routine, involves external actors in matters of domestic policy and power plays. We knew this all along but the semblance of documentary evidence confirms the unfortunate trends embedded in Pakistan governance systems. However, the orthodoxy that it is the West which interferes is not the full story. The inordinate influence exercised by ‘friendly’ Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, is also a sad reminder of how warped Pakistan’s way of living is.

India is the principal enemy; and our Saudi and Gulf friends wish the other neighbour, Iran, to be bombed. We are obsessed with “legitimate” security interests in Afghanistan. This is a dysfunctional state of being and has made us addicted to western aid, leveraging global great games and denying that regional cooperation is in our ultimate self-interest. Such delusional ways of looking at the world has made the state splinter and devolve authority to non-state actors, which can advance its security policies.

What is the picture that emerges from the cable-mess: A president lives in fear of being assassinated; the army chief ‘considers’ options to dismiss the elected president and then changes his mind because he “distrusts” the alternative — Nawaz Sharif — even more! The state benefits from American largesse and hates it at the same time. Civilian leaders regularly reiterate their support to the US — the second A in the power trinity of ‘Allah, America and the Army’. Sadly, nothing new. Yet, deeply disturbing. Continue reading

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Filed under lawyers movement, Left, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, movements, Pakistan, Pakistan-India Peace Process, public policy, secularism, south asia, Zardari

Asma Jahangir’s victory is a cause for celebration

Raza Rumi

Asma Jahangir’s victory in the Supreme Court Bar Association elections is a major development in the legal and judicial history of Pakistan. She is the first woman to hold this office, and a progressive rights activist as well. Her struggles against injustice, discrimination and oppression have spanned over nearly forty years and are globally acclaimed. PTH wishes her all success and hopes that she is able to fulfil the mandate for which she has been elected: To transform the apex Bar into a professional, neutral and non-partisan body and operating at a healthy distance from the judges. At last some sanity might prevail. This take by lubp is worth a read.

I took the picture on the right after the victory and Asad J with the winnersmore can be found here

We are also posting a well considered view from HRW below:

Pakistan: Prominent Rights Advocate to Lead Supreme Court Bar

Asma Jahangir’s Election an Advance for an Impartial Judiciary

(New York, October 28, 2010)—The election of a prominent human rights activist to the presidency of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan   is a victory for human rights in Pakistan and for the country’s transition to genuine civilian rule, Human Rights Watch said today. The election of Asma Jahangir on October 27, 2010, will make her the first woman to lead the country’s most influential forum for lawyers. Continue reading

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Filed under Activism, Judiciary, Justice, Lahore, Law, lawyers movement, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, movements, Pakistan, Rights

The Battle for Pakistan: Dir

Dir Manzoor Ali’s excellent paper published here

Spread over 2,040 square miles in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), Dir is fertile and picturesque, producing wheat, barley, and fruits and covered in fir, pine, and walnut trees. However, the terrain is craggy and inhospitable, and most of the population lives in the remote valleys and mountains that dot the district. Like neighboring Swat, Dir was a “princely state” until 1969, when the district was formally merged into the NWFP. Formerly a single district within the NWFP, Dir was divided into two districts — Upper and Lower Dir — in 1996.

Upper Dir is divided into five administrative units, or tehsils, called Dir, Barawal, Kohistan, Wari and Khall, while Lower Dir is divided into six: Timergarah, Balambat, Lalqila, Adenzai, Munda and Samarbagh. The population of Upper Dir is about 575,000, while the population of Lower Dir is approximately 720,000, according to a 1998 census. The districts have seven seats in the provincial assembly and two in the national assembly.

History of Dir: the forest and the treesDir and the neighboring districts of Chitral and Swat formed the NWFP’s Malakand Division, which was created in the 1970s and for the first time introduced federal governance to the area, replacing the traditional system of justice. In 1976, a legal dispute erupted between the nawab, or prince of Dir, who had previously controlled all the royalties from Dir’s forests and timber production, and the federal government, which had formed a corporation to harvest the forests. Timber merchants went on strike and killed two policemen in the Sharingal area of Dir. People in Karo, Nehag, and Usherai Darra also revolted against the state and demanded the abolition of the government’s corporation. Police and paramilitary scouts in Dir were not able to control the situation, and the Pakistani army was called in to to restore order. Later the same year, the government reduced its share of felled timber to 20 percent and ceded the rest to the traditional owners of the forests.

For the rest of this policy paper, click here.

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Filed under movements, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan

Hashtnagar – a land, forgotten

Ammar Aziz, is a Lahore based film-maker, writer and a left-Wing activist. His article raises extremely important issues in this narrative. We wih to revive the debates on peasantry struggles and Ammar’s exclusive post for PTH is more than welcome. We hope that there will be a robust discussion on the issues raised here. Raza Rumi

My film thesis research has recently made me visit a piece of land that, despite its significant historical importance , has been brutally ignored in the pages of history. Surrounded by Afghan border, conservative feudal culture and tribal areas that have been in media attention in the recent past due to Taliban, that area is none other then Hashtnagar which stands as its own example in the history of class struggle in Pakistan . Consisting of a cluster of eight villages, Hashtnagar is  one of the two divisions of Charsadah district in Pakhtoon Khawah (NWFP) and is one of the province’s most fertile lands known for its sugar cane production. The element of militant armed Socialist struggle differentiates Hashtnagar from the rest of the leftist movements in Pakistan.

Weaving red flags at the roof tops, Socialist symbols painted on the walls, portraits of revolutionary figures, left wing cultural activism and, above all, the daily life of the  peasants and workers reflect the liberation that can be felt in the whole ambiance of the area. This liberation is the outcome of the socialist struggle of many decades that has played an important role in shaping the lives and minds of the native people.

To understand this revolutionary change, it is important to have a brief overview of the history of peasant’s struggle in NWFP Continue reading

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Filed under Left, Marxism, movements, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan, Politics, poverty, Society

The Rise and Fall of the Maoist Movement in Pakistan

We are publishing this insightful paper authored by Ishtiaq Ahmed. This paper was written as part of a theme ‘More than Maoism: Rural Dislocation in South Asia’ under the aegis of ISAS, National University of Singapore. In many ways, documentation of the Left movements is an important area that has not been researched and documented. This is why Dr Ahmed’s contribution is so important. Raza Rumi

Abstract

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Maoist ideas gained considerable popularity and influence in left politics and the labour movement, and made an impact on Pakistani mainstream politics, which was out of proportion to the Maoists’  political strength in the overall balance of power. Neither class structure nor the ideological and political composition of the state apparatus warranted any such advantage to Maoism. Clues to it are to be found in the peculiar power game over security and influence going on at that time between several states in that region and, perhaps, more crucially in the internal political situation surrounding the rise to power of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (1971-77).  His fall from power, the coming into power of an Islamist regime under General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (1977-88), and the Afghan jihad spelled disaster for leftist politics. In the 1980s, Maoism faded into oblivion.

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Continue reading

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Filed under Imperialism, movements, Pakistan, Politics, poverty, south asia, violence

PTH Exclusive: Interview with J. Jawwad Khawaja

Posted by Raza Rumi

We are grateful to Babar Mirza who has translated an interview given by Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja to Sohail Waraich in June 2007 which is recorded in Waraich’s book ‘Adlia ke Arooj-o-Zawaal ki Kahani’. The interview is a must read for all those who are interested in Pakistan’s politics and institutions. A biographical note is also available for those who wish to know more about the life and times of J. Khawaja. The latter resigned when J. Iftikhar Chauhdry was illegally deposed by the Musharraf regime. Later, he was part of the lawyers and judges movement and he was re-inducted into the Supreme Court after J. Chauhdry was restored as the Chief Justice in 2009. The interview also explains why Justice Khawaja took oath unde the 2000 PCO during the Musharraf regime.

Just as in any other part of the world, Punjab too has its share of stigma. Leaders from other provinces and many historians allege that the people of Punjab are not brave or courageous. Only time will establish the truth or falsehood of this allegation, but, in the recent judicial crisis, only one judge in Pakistan resigned from his office and that judge was a Punjabi from the Lahore High Court, Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja. Perhaps this was why Sindhi nationalist Rasool Bux Paleejo had to admit that Punjab’s strong stance in the judicial crisis had compensated for her many misgivings in the past. The Punjabi judges who decided to reinstate Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry have further helped clear the judiciary of many an allegation and perhaps the mistakes made by Punjabi judges in the past would now be remedied. Bold and fearless though the role of judiciary has been, the first drop of rain was Justice Khawaja and that will always remain to his credit.

 Justice Khawaja is a very private person. He shies away from the world of fame. Perhaps this is why he did not give any interview or try to gain prominence after his resignation. Had any other judge resigned in similar circumstances, he would have justifiably lead protests, presided over meetings or at least given interviews to newspapers and television channels. But the reclusive nature of Justice Khawaja kept him away from all that. He felt the reference against the chief justice to be a burden on his conscience and resigned to free himself from that burden.  Continue reading

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Filed under Activism, Judiciary, Justice, Law, lawyers movement, movements, Pakistan

Pakistan’s South Punjab: politics of marginalisation

Raza Rumi

The discourse on South Punjab conceals the grassroots social movements and the clamouring for a linguistic identity in the region

The conundrum of South Punjab remains a major challenge for analysts, policy makers and above all the people of this marginalized region. Socio-economic data testifies to the impoverishment and the deprivation that exists in the region. Add to this the iniquitous land distribution and utter lack of economic opportunities for the local population. Despite the rhetoric of the establishment, the region has been neglected through decades of “modern” development in northern and central Punjab. The bulk of public resources were invested in Lahore, Rawalpindi and other urban centers of the North. Industrialisation, growth of private education facilities and the rise of the middle class are phenomena that have eluded the dusty environs of South Punjab.

The result is clear: the electoral patterns show support for redistributive agendas and which are deemed as pro-peasantry. In recent years, southern Punjab has also witnessed two conflictual yet interrelated trends. First, the rise of Islamism through a network of sectarian madrassas which train militants and mercenaries alike; and scattered yet influential social movements around the issues of linguistic identity and livelihoods. How does one make sense of these contradictions?
It is well known that the Wahhabi-Salafi ideologies backed by potent financing networks have played a major role in turning this impoverished region into a nursery for militant Islamism that targets the plural Sufi culture embedded in the cultural mores of the local inhabitants; and act as a bastion for the Taliban network across the country. There is insurmountable evidence to this effect and those who are not willing to confront this brutal reality are living in a state of denial. Since the Zia years, the state is no longer a neutral arbiter and it promotes a particular brand of Islamic ideology. It is also clear that a sophisticated regime of economic incentives addresses lack of public entitlements and a non-responsive state apparatus.

However, we have also witnessed that the peasants in Okara and Khanewal have valiantly resisted appropriation of land by security agencies and have set a momentum of challenging the state’s land policy. Similarly, issues related to water distribution and resettlement due to mega projects sponsored by International Financial Institutions (IFIs), have also come into public light due to the political mobilization that has been taking place in D G Khan, Muzaffargarh, Layyah and elsewhere. It is a separate matter that such stories do not receive adequate attention in the media which is owned by rich, powerful barons whose interests are integrally linked to an extractive state. As pointed by a leading activist, Mushtaq Gadi, the discourse on South Punjab willfully ignores the authentic voices from the grassroots that revolve around livelihood struggles and the quest for a regional identity.

Another dimension of the regional turmoil pertains to the growing movement for linguistic identity. The Saraiki language and its submerged identity is now a rallying point for most living in the southern most districts of the region. This movement for cultural expression has gained momentum with increased calls for a separate province and the fact that the disputed status of Bahawalpur State has been raised by politicians from the region is a case in point. The state of affairs, reported rather cautiously in the mainstream media, points to the fact that political elites are now forced willy-nilly to subscribe to the idea of a separate province. Else, they are likely to be rejected at the next general elections.

In fact, the decades’ long denial of rights and entitlements and a politico-cultural identity act as great catalysts for breeding militancy. If one were to add the economic deprivation and endemic poverty to the list then the situation is quite alarming. No wonder we are seeing history unfold in front of our eyes. The nexus between poverty and militancy is problematic but certainly undeniable. FATA and other parts of Pakistan have shown us how a poor majority finds ‘opportunity’ in the game of terrorist networks and their well oiled financing machines. South Punjab is no exception.

Pakistani state will have to think beyond its mantras of national security and ‘foreign hand’ and accept that its policies have led to the explosive situation in South Punjab. At the same time, this region is not Swat or a FATA agency that can be bombarded with troops and drones. Also, it is important to note that at the people’s level, Talibanisation has yet to take root. There is hardly any evidence to suggest that there is popular support for the Taliban agenda. A relevant book entitled, Probing the Jihadi Mindset , Sohail Abbas (2007) that looks at the profiles of over 500 jihadis shows that participation of South Punjabis in the ‘Jihad project’ is minimal.

What next? First, major investments in public works and programmes that enhance employment and livelihoods in the region must be the focus of the state. Second, a comprehensive madrassa reform should take place concurrently that should quite logically start with the registration, documentation and curricula standardization. Third, networks that finance militancy should also be traced and tackled. The issue of a separate province or an autonomous region within the monolith Punjab province will need to be confronted sooner than later. Brushing it under the carpet will not help.

If the political elites have settled issues such as renaming NWFP, provincial autonomy and NFC then why can’t this issue be resolved within the democratic framework?
FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE FRIDAY TIMES
Raza Rumi is a development professional and a writer based in Lahore. He blogs at http://www.razarumi.com

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Filed under Al Qaeda, Justice, movements, Pakistan, Politics, public policy, Punjab, Punjabi, Rights, Society, south asia, Taliban, Terrorism