You have to stand guard over the development and maintenance of democracy, social justice and the equality of mankind in your own native soil. [Mohammed Ali Jinnah]

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Army officers recalled from civil departments

By Syed Irfan Raza

Source: Dawn

ISLAMABAD, Feb 11: Pakistan Army on Monday called back all its serving officers from 23 civil departments, in what is being termed here as part of a plan to improve the image of the armed forces.

“More than 300 army officers are presently working in various civil departments and majority of them have been asked to report to the General Headquarters (GHQ) immediately,” Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj-Gen Athar Abbas told Dawn here on Monday.

He said the army authorities had written a letter to the federal government asking it to relieve all serving military officers from civil departments.

The move is in line with a decision taken by the 106th Corps Commanders’ Conference on Feb 7. The conference was presided over by Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who had in an earlier statement, directed army officers to “stay away from political activities.”

The army chief’s decisions about reversal of officers from civil departments and restrictions on meeting politicians have been lauded by the civil society and all major political parties.

The induction of army officers in civil organisations has always been a controversial issue and has been questioned on different forums, including parliament.

The ISPR director general said army officers would be withdrawn in phases over a period of two to six months. “We have asked the federal government to relieve those army officials immediately who can be replaced easily,” he said. “Those who cannot be replaced at once will be called back in two to six months.”

Maj-Gen Abbas said some of the officers who were serving on sensitive posts in civil departments would continue in their present positions as the government required their services for some more time. He said such officials would return to their parent department as and when the federal government relieved them.

He said the process of army officers’ induction into the civilian departments had started under a decision taken in 1981 by former president and army chief Gen Ziaul Haq. With the passage of time, he said, the number of military officers in civil departments kept rising.

Replying to a question, he said the army officers would not be inducted into the civil departments in future.

Sources told Dawn that army officers were being called back from 23 civil departments. The highest number of 61 army officers being called back is presently working in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) which was set up by Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf soon after taking over the power on October 12, 1999. Later, the NAB became a controversial organisation, and many opposition parties openly criticised its performance and termed it a tool in the hands of the military rulers to gain political advantage.

Similarly, the sources said, 21 army officers working in the National Database Registration Authority (Nadra) and 18 in the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) had also been asked to report back to the GHQ.

Other departments from where army officers are being called back include the National Highways Authority, Azad Jammu and Kashmir Accountability Bureau, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, National Crisis Management Cell, Intelligence Bureau (IB), National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB), education departments, provincial governments, National Institute of Science, Technology and Engineering (NISTE), Customs Intelligence, Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Pakistan Steel Mills, Establishment Division and AJK PM Secretariat.

It may be mentioned that at the Corps Commanders’ Conference, Gen Kayani had stated that holding free and fair election was the sole responsibility of the Election Commission and that the “army will meet only its constitutional obligations and help the civil administration maintain law and order, as and when required”.

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The French Government's hypocrisy, Islam and Holocaust revisionism

A nice article revealing France's double standards. Here's an excerpt:

"..........Clearly, as the cases of Redeker and Faurisson show, one has the right to attack and violate the sacred beliefs of Muslims, but one has no right whatsoever to question and repudiate the Holocaust doctrine, one of the most sacred beliefs of Jewish-Zionism. The sacred belief and taboo of the Jewish people is enshrined in law in France. If you contest the Holocaust, you are prosecuted and persecuted.

However, the sacred beliefs of Muslims are not enshrined in law. If you attack Muslim beliefs, this is depicted as an expression of "freedom of speech." Once again, this is evidence of a hypocritical double
standard. I have come across another case which further bolsters my point........"
junyDada: The French Government's hypocrisy, Islam and Holocaust revisionism

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It's just a rock! It's just a bruise

Sundas Hurain, SAC Lahore

"It's just a rock, I'm fine. Don't worry." I said to my friend standing next to me, blinking from the pain, as a broken piece of a brick hit me square in my shin. We were at the capital of our country, trying to reach the house of our Chief Justice held captive by a brutal dictator. The extent of his brutality, we were just beginning to get a taste of.

This was a procession of over 1500 lawyers, students, civil society members, gathered to protest against the blatant usurpation of our judicial institution, our media, as well as our fundamental rights. There were around 150 of us who had come from Lahore to join in today's protest. Marching on to the judge's enclave, we were chanting slogans, singing songs "na mera Pakistan hay, na tera Pakistan hay; yeh uska Pakistan hay jo sadr-e-pakistan hay…" [This not my Pakistan, this is not your Pakistan; this is that person's Pakistan, who calls himself the president of Pakistan…] followed by proclamations of our struggle to get our country back. "Freedom is ours, if you don't give it to us upon asking we will take it..." Wherever you looked, you saw people who had come together, united to fight for the collective good. Stating it was enough, we will no longer be silenced. We will no longer hold back, or bow our heads low.

What for many in Islamabad had become common at protests, for us from Lahore was a first. Treatment meted to us from the police in our city is worlds apart. The recognition that the police itself is oppressed and exploited is adamant amongst the students of Lahore. A suo moto notice had to be issued by a pco-judge in Lahore to get the police to arrest us-the students. The police here was something else.

I was towards the front of the procession, when we saw smoke, and ran backwards thinking it was tear gas. Soon we realized it was fire trucks positioned to hose down protestors with cold water in this chilly weather. They kept hitting us with cold, high pressure water in vain. When it became evident that we would keep going nevertheless, the police started shelling us with tear gas. Most of us smelled CS gas for the first time as we ran backwards experiencing its excruciating effects. A friend had held my hand and almost dragged me along as we ran backwards. Don't breathe. Don't fall. Don't stop. I kept repeating to myself as my throat, eyes, and nose lit on fire. I ran as far back as possible. The spoiled, protected and sheltered girl that I was, nothing even close to this viciousness had touched me before.

It was a surreal feeling as I stood on the very periphery, panting through my scratched throat and rubbing my burning eyes. This was only the beginning. I saw people coming back, drenched. Saw an Auntie who had fallen in a puddle. Saw a girl about my age screaming at the top of her lungs at the police meant to protect us, the people. I found myself craving to be up there, at the front, with my fellows, facing the onslaught. I did not come here as an audience to watch the show from the sidelines, a voice from deep within asserted. And I advanced. Whilst screaming GO MUSHARRAF GO at the top of my lungs. Who was where, who was who; nothing mattered.

While everyone was trying to regroup, some other girls and I started chanting louder than we had ever known our voices to reach, "LATHI GOLI KI SARKAAR, NAHI CHALAY GI NAHI CHALAY GI; YEH DEHSHET GARDI KI SARKAAR, NAHI CHALAY GI NAHI CHALAY GI" [this government of brute force and coercion, we do not accept we do not accept; this terrorist government, we do not accept we do not accept] and we marched. Amidst tear gas, amidst burning and itching throats, amidst pelting stones; nothing was going to stop us.

It was a battle field. It was us the people against them the colonizers—our military state. A broken piece of a brick hit me, I shrugged it off. A much bigger brick hit the girl next to me on her hip and left her limping for a while, she didn't stop. There were lawyers who would come in front of us whenever stones would be thrown our way. Yes, many of our serving police specifically targeted the women. We went on. There were students who would pick up the falling gas bombs spewing the poisonous gas, run to the police as close as possible and drop it back on them. Many would come back staggering almost falling from the effects of the gases, whom we would have to hold up and give salt to, and back they would go to do more.

The police would retreat as tear gas bombs hit them, and the people would cheer and dance. Then many more would be thrown at us, and back to work for all of us. For over two hours the police could not advance on us.

As the situation intensified, so did our chants. "Musharraf ka jo yaar hay, ghaddar hay ghaddar hay; biknay ke liye jo tayyar hay, ghaddar hay ghaddar hay. YEH POLICE BHI GHADDAR HAY, YEH POLICE BHI GHADDAR HAY, YEH POLICE BHI GHADDAR HAY" [Whoever is a friend to Musharraf, is a traitor, is a traitor; whoever is a willing to sell out, is a traitor, is a traitor. This Police is traitor, this police is a traitor, this police is a traitor]. Ultimately the police stormed us. A certain police officer who was especially targeting women ran after me full force. I took cover inside a house to save myself. Never have I run so fast in my life. Many were beaten up, some had to be hospitalized.

Today was more than just another protest. In the midst of raw emotions, hurt limbs and hoarse throats, the only thing that mattered was the wrong being done to us. Indignant, and offended at this treatment; our protest very much was for human dignity. And more than anything else, the sensitivity that this now offended dignity of ours cannot even compare to the years of torment and subhuman treatment that most of our people in this country have endured. Well no more. Passivity that translates into consent and complicity, never again!

Invasion of terror

By Babar Sattar
The debate on Pakistan's security policy that lists the country's available options as refusing to function as America's foot soldier in the war on terror versus willingly fighting America's war in our tribal areas is simplistic and misleading. There is no gainsaying that Pakistan needs to fight its own fight against extremism. But that must be distinguished from the US war on terror in Afghanistan, the paramount objective of which is to attack and decapitate Al-Qaeda and Taliban in a manner that they are unable to execute attack on western soil. And if the war strategy results in destabilizing Pakistan or delaying the possibility of peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, that could be acceptable damage for the United States. Pakistan's war on extremism, on the contrary, needs to focus on curbing the drift of portions of its own population to extremist ideologies that manifest themselves in the form of indiscriminate violence, undermine the life and liberties of moderate citizens and threaten the writ of the state.
The Bush Administration's war strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan's tribal areas is not working. The Musharraf regime has been a loyal ally to the Bush Administration, but the alliance has had a deleterious impact on Pakistan's internal security situation. The actions of the militants against the state and the citizens of Pakistan are immoral and completely unjustifiable. But in allying itself closely with the US, the Pakistani state and the armed forces have come to be seen as stooges of the west, which have cost them their credibility and moral authority as agents and representatives of the people of Pakistan. Pakistan must realize that its slavish pursuit of the US diktat vis-à-vis the war on terror has become an obstacle in the way of waging an effective war against extremism within Pakistan.
As a matter of foreign policy, Pakistan needs to distance itself from the US war on terror. So long as the Pakistani state, its armed forces and law enforcing agencies are fighting what is largely perceived as an alien war, there will be no popular support for such an effort. But redefining the foreign policy will have to be accompanied with (i) de-legitimization of the role played by jihadi outfits in our security policy and military strategy, (ii) reform of the decision-making mechanisms that produce such policies, (iii) overhaul of the state political structure that supports vital policies that have no popular mandate and denies minority groups a stake in the system, and (iv) addressing the brand of thinking and ideology that justifies violence and suicide attacks against fellow Muslims in the name of Islam.
Ashley Tellis -- senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace -- recently made a statement before a US congressional subcommittee wherein Pakistan's current approach toward extremist groups was elaborated, among other things. In our present context, at least this portion of the statement merits to be quoted at length: "As things stand today, it is possible to identify five distinct extremist groups that ought to be the legitimate target of Pakistani law enforcement and military operations: (i) sectarian groups, such as the Sunni Sipah-e-Sahaba and the Shia Tehrik-e-Jafria, which are engaged in violence within Pakistan; (ii) anti-Indian terrorist groups that operate with Pakistani military and ISI support, such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Jaish-e-Mohammed, and the Harkat ul-Mujahideen; (iii) the Pakistani 'Taliban' groups, consisting of the extremist outfits in the FATA, led by individuals such as Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan, Maulana Faqir Muhammad and Maulana Qazi Fazlullah of the Tehrik-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammad, and Mangal Bagh Afridi of the Lashkar-e-Islami in the Khyber Agency; (iv) the original Taliban movement and especially its Kandahari leadership centred around Mullah Mohammad Omar and believed to be now resident in Quetta; and, finally, (v) Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, meaning the non-South Asian terrorists currently ensconced in the FATA region.
"Since September 2001, President Musharraf has pursued a highly differentiated counterterrorism policy that has involved treating each of these targets differently. He systematically suppressed mainly those domestic terrorist groups like the Sunni Sipah-e- Sahaba and the Shia Tehrik-e-Jafria that had engaged in bloody internal sectarian violence but, more importantly, had subverted critical state objectives. By contrast, he largely ignored the terrorist outfits operating against India in Kashmir and elsewhere: although he has controlled their infiltration into Kashmir in recent years, this restraint has not extended to either abandoning or eliminating them in the manner witnessed, for example, in the case of the more virulent anti-national sectarian entities operating within Pakistan. Fearful of Washington's disfavour, Musharraf has attacked Al-Qaeda resolutely, if not always effectively. Although the Pakistani Taliban did not exist as realistic threats in 2001, Musharraf has also combated them vigorously and as best he can. Musharraf has approached the original Taliban in a manner more akin to the Kashmiri terrorists and has avoided targeting them comprehensively; he has especially overlooked their leadership now resident in and around Quetta."
If this information and analysis is accurate, it identifies a crucial flaw in our security planning: the patrons of our security policy continue to believe that militant groups can be recruited and relied upon to realize the state's strategic goals and further that they can be clustered in neat compartments and accorded disparate treatment. There are at least three fatal flaws in this mode of thinking. One, experience suggests that the jihadi project was misconceived since its inception: non-state actors harnessed in the name of religion might function as effective tools for a while, but they eventually acquire a mind of their own and cannot be decommissioned or reprogrammed when the goals or the strategy of the state change.
Two, in the contemporary world there is zero tolerance for non-state actors. Thus in theory it might make sense to keep the possibility of our erstwhile foreign policy vis-à-vis Kashmir and Afghanistan (with a role of 'mujahideen') alive, nurturing or tolerating any dormant jihadi cells can only have disastrous consequences for the country. Three, the possibility of connections between various militant groups cannot be ruled out even when they are pursuing different goals. For the underlying narrow-minded religious ideology used to induct and brainwash these zealots, that preaches violence and relies on hate mongering, is a shared heritage of all such groups.
While Pakistan has been the frontline state in the war on terror, there is not one popular political entity in the country that backs this war, not even the king's league. We have had a parliament for the past five years, that has had no role in devising Pakistan's policy vis-à-vis the biggest strategic and internal security challenge facing the country. In 2006 the whole world was debating whether reconciliation and peace deals with the local tribes was a good idea, except Pakistan's 'sovereign' parliament. The consequence of a one-man decision-making arrangement is that our armed forces are fighting a war that is neither supported by the nation nor regarded as just. There is no political party that has had to publicly defend this war and thus there is not even an informed debate in the country regarding its pros and cons and the alternatives that Pakistan could pursue.
Winning the war against extremism is not going to be easy. Once we begin to think about our problem of extremism in isolation from the war on terror, there are some tough decisions we must make: we must abandon our jihadi enterprise; we must undertake madressah reform boldly and deliberately; and we must provide security, freedom and public space to the intellectuals and scholars who are capable of challenging bigoted ideologies pandered in the name of religion and confront the ideological roots of violence. But none of this can happen so long as our security policy continues to be made by a handful of individuals who are neither representative of the popular will nor accountable to it. We thus need to start by ensuring that the country pursues a security and foreign policy that is backed by popular mandate. And to that end we need to make our parliament relevant once again.