The recent attack on Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s shrine is another reminder of the plain truth that the Pakistani state needs to focus on its domestic crises rather than remain obsessive about external threats. The unholy conglomerate comprising al Qaeda, sectarian outfits and elements within the state has targeted Karachi’s best-known public and cultural space. This is a continuation of Islamist battles against Pakistan.
Yet, apologists remain adamant. Butchering of civilians and annihilation of a plural Sufi culture is a reaction, we are told. First, it was the US occupation of Afghanistan, then the invasion of Iraq and now drone attacks in Pakistan. True, Muslims and Pakistanis are enraged at US policies and its sheer arrogance in dealing with the region. But using anti-Americanism as an excuse to overlook the growing cancer of bigotry at home is disingenuous and dangerous for our future. Continue reading
Pakistan’s devastating floods have opened up a Pandora’s Box of governance dysfunctions and historical distortions that have plagued the polity since independence. It remains to be seen what will be the outcome of the greatest calamity in our recent history. Various estimates show that the floods have affected 18-20 million people. The death toll has crossed the figure of 2000 while 2 million houses have been damaged or destroyed. Floodwaters are receding in many areas, and though there are concerns about standing water that remains in Punjab and other areas, the worst of the current flooding is taking place in Sindh.
The disaster is still not over but the fissures within Pakistan have started to erupt and once again proving how vulnerable the state is and how fractured the Pakistani society has become. Five key crises have emerged, some old and some new. However, they point to the fact that our continuous refusal to address structural problems remains a key challenge.
Martial state syndrome: Pakistan’s history is an uninterrupted tale of direct and indirect military rule and centralisation. Each time there is a crisis there is a need to resort to the de facto, real governance paradigm: the military rule. Therefore, Altaf Hussain of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Imran Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) are not saying anything new. The perennial search for a Messiah, rooted in the religious ideology that the state and education system have cultivated, is back in full force. This time the media and other discordant voices are calling for another phase of direct military rule. Continue reading
The colossal humanitarian tragedy and the imminent economic meltdown, will now shape a new Pakistan or rather, exacerbate its predicament in the months and years to come. Pakistan’s chronic political instability, structural economic constraints and a warped national security policy are all going to be affected by the unfolding drama of the national disaster, perhaps the severest, in the country’s history. Whilst the challenges have snowballed within a short duration of ten days, the response of the Pakistani state and society underline extremely dangerous trends and make us wonder about future of the country, as we have known it for the last 63 years.
Pakistan had reverted to quasi-democratic rule after a decade of dictatorship in March 2008. Since the resumption of the electoral process in February 2008, the traditionally powerful unelected institutions, had acquired both legitimacy and unprecedented powers. The power troika of the 1990s had transformed into a quartet comprising the army, judiciary, the media and the civilian government which was represented by a ‘discredited’ president who has been a constant punching bag for the unelected institutions of the state.
PTH is starting a series of posts devoted to the Pakistan’s current crisis effects of which will be long term in nature. While millions of Pakistanis are in dire need of emergency help, our country’s political and economic instability will have ramifications for the region and the world. This is why it is extremely important to understand how several parts of Pakistan have lost decades of development and a state with weak capacities needs billions of dollars in the short term to start a major programme of rehabilitation. If Pakistani state is unable to intervene, the Taliban and other Al-Qaeda militants (and their allies in South Punjab) will find a golden opportunity to annihilate the Pakistani state, discredit constitutional governance and capture political space. Pakistanis cannot be silent victims and therefore we will speak. Pakistan has to be rescued and the international community cannot absolve itself of the responsibility towards its frontline state. Raza Rumi
AA Khalid, a regular at PTH, has written the first article for this series.
Pakistan Floods – Issues and Lessons
The weakness of the State in Pakistani politics has always been a concern but with the advent of the tragic floods it has been exemplified and magnified. In a recent Guardian article it has been observed that:
‘’Ever since Pakistan was created, the army has been the only institution capable of responding to natural disasters. One of the reasons that the military has been so politically dominant is that successive civilian governments have relied on the generals to help them deal with national crises.’’
This is not a problem contingent on which political party is in office, but rather is a comment on the inability of the State to take control and have a discernable sphere of influence and power.
Elsewhere it has been noted that the problem of the international response has been marred by perceptions of Pakistan that have been focused and limited to violence. In another Guardian article:
‘’ Compare and contrast: within days of the 2004 tsunami, £100m had poured into Oxfam, the Red Cross and other charities, and by February 2005 when the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) closed its appeal, the total stood at £300m. The Haiti earthquake appeal closed with donations of £101m. The DEC total for the Pakistan floods appeal has just reached £10m. .’’ Continue reading
The Wikileaks’ damning half-truths pertain to the anti-war movement within the US. This has caused embarrassment to the US war architects and stirred the military industrial complex and its cousin, the corporate and embedded media. Similarly, what has been said about the role of Pakistan and its globally famed Inter Services Agency (ISI) is not something that is really a revelation and is more or less an open secret. Three important questions need to be considered before Wikileaks can be taken seriously.
Do field reports from individual sources, especially disgruntled, anti-Pakistan Afghan nationals constitute ‘evidence’? No. Is there sufficient evidence to substantiate the startling sensational pieces of information? Perhaps not. Is the Pakistan-ISI role central in the Taliban insurgency within Afghanistan? No clear answers can be determined due to the complexity of the Taliban resistance and the involvement of multiple players.<!–more–>
The ‘leaks’ identify that Pakistan, India and Iran are fully involved in the Afghan drama and singling out the ISI is not the whole truth regardless of whatever the western media says. Afghanistan is an occupied and fragmented country, far more layered than the simplified views from Washington, Islamabad or New Delhi. Continue reading
The worst has happened. Data Darbar, which defined the contours of peaceful Islam for a millennium, has been desecrated in Lahore. Its markets have been attacked and its minorities live in fear after the Ahmadi massacre. Last year, the petrified traders of Lahore’s Hall Road burnt objectionable CDs after receiving threats from extremists. A year later, low-intensity blasts took place in the crowded Hall Road — a market for electronics and kosher and non-kosher DVDs. This week, two internet cafes were targeted in densely populated areas of Lahore and some time back Peeru’s was also bombed. Reports have suggested that the cafes had received threats from unidentifiable numbers asking them to stop their businesses as they were turning into hubs of ‘immoral activities’. Just because no one died there, media attention has been patchy. A younger female colleague told me how tailors are hesitant to take orders for sleeveless shirts and other designs that may offend the purist dress code. The militants are employing tactics of social control used in Swat. It cannot be brushed under the carpet anymore.
Prior to 1947, Lahore was a cosmopolitan city with a discrete culture of inter-faith harmony, with a reputation for the best education and socio-cultural movements. After its provincialisation, the resilient city re-emerged as a vibrant centre of progressive politics, avant-garde art and extraordinary literature. Since the 1980s, Lahore is a city with formidable infrastructure and boasts of great public spaces, especially parks. The innate openness and tolerance of this metropolis could not be subjugated by growing extremism. Continue reading
It is a matter of public record that the founder of Pakistan had stated that Indo-Pakistan relationship will resemble that of the USA and Canada. Even before the Partition, Jinnah in a 1946 press conference stated, “the two states (Pakistan and India)… will be friends and will go to each other’s rescue in case of danger and will be able to say ‘hands off’ to other nations. We shall then have a Munroe doctrine more solid than America…” This vision along with other pronouncements by Jinnah is buried in the debris of Pakistan’s national security paranoia. The spectre of India and its ‘hegemonic designs’ to use an oft-quoted phrase remain central to Pakistan’s security paradigm.
The unwavering view on India is what explains the context for the discussion paper entitled, The Sun in the Sky: The Relationship between Pakistan’s ISI and Afghan Insurgents -authored by Matt Waldman from the prestigious platform of the London School of Economics. Pakistan’s real power-centre, its security and intelligence apparatus are a self-sustaining reality. Other than the financing, of which plenty comes from the Western Capitals, there is a solid national opinion behind the xenophobic worldview carefully cultivated by a decades’ long well coordinated state policy. The centre of this argument is the ‘Indian threat’ and any conception of Pakistan’s security is linked to the evil designs of the powerful ‘enemy’ across the border. Continue reading