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Friday, October 28, 2011

Begum Bhutto remembered: By Kamran Shafi

When I see the carping on Twitter, and various blogs and discussion boards and what have you, complaining about the holiday to mark the passing of Begum Nusrat Bhutto; or about the government flying journalists to Larkana to cover her funeral, I am further convinced that a whole lot of young Pakistanis simply do not know this country’s tortured history.

Which is not their fault: the mass (Urdu) media, both print and electronic, instead of periodically reminding the nation of its real heroes and heroines (and their tribulations at the hands of army dictators), is much more taken up with trashing our politicians, the pet hate of the Deep State.
You might ask why I introduced the term ‘tribulation’ so early in this piece. Simply because, dear reader, Begum Nusrat Bhutto’s life after the assassination of her husband was, for many many years, one long and painful ordeal, and yes, one of great tribulation.

It began with the arrest of her husband, the former (for Zia had already carried out his coup against the elected government) elected prime minister, and president of Pakistan, on what were quite apparently trumped up charges; his release on bail; and his rearrest under Martial Law Regulations after tens of thousands of people turned out in Lahore to welcome him when he visited that city after his release.
Then came the murder trial in the Lahore High Court under the Chief ‘Justice’ himself, the malevolent Maulvi Mushtaq, an avowed and declared Bhutto enemy who refused to recuse himself even after ZAB said he had no faith in him. If the conduct of the trial was disgusting for outside observers like I, how painful must it have been for Begum Bhutto to daily see needless indignities heaped upon her husband?

One little story to do with the dastardliness of Maulvi Mushtaq. One day, as ZAB was brought out of Kot Lakhpat Jail to the police van that transported him to court, he saw that the chair he used to sit on in the back of the van had been removed. When he asked why, he was told there were ‘orders’ that he should sit on the wooden benches along the sides of the van.

ZAB refused and said in that case he would not attend court that day. Telephone calls flew back and forth, and the ‘orders’ were withdrawn. When the court assembled, Maulvi told ZAB to stand up and to keep standing for that day’s proceedings. When Bhutto protested, saying he should not be treated that way for he was, after all, a former president and prime minister, Maulvi flew into a rage and reportedly shouted: “You are a criminal; you will sit wherever you are told to sit… one more word out of you and I will have you whipped in jail!”

While he was being treated thus, his wife and daughter were also at the receiving end of the dictator’s malice. On December 16, 1977, a mere five months after her husband was removed from the elected office of prime minister, Begum Bhutto and her daughter, the much missed, much lamented Benazir, were lathi-charged by the police while they were watching the England-Pakistan Test match at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore just because the crowd raised ‘Jeay Bhutto’ slogans. Photographs of Begum Bhutto, her forehead dripping with blood, have appeared widely over the internet over the past few days.

The scandalous trial went on: Maulvi’s court sentencing ZAB to death and the Supreme Court rejecting his appeal, with four Punjabi judges convicting and three non-Punjabi judges acquitting him. Despite this split verdict and against all judicial precedence, ZAB was hanged in Rawalpindi Jail on April 4, 1979. I might add that whilst I am a Punjabi myself, it is important to speak up about the ethnic make-up of the bench.

Zia did many a monstrous thing, but one of the most monstrous was when he refused to let Begum Nusrat Bhutto and Benazir attend the last rites of their husband and father! How ‘pious’ this charlatan was can be judged from just this one act. Which Muslim will keep a person’s family from burying their own? Pakistan’s army dictators — the Commando did the same with Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif when their dear father died — and, of course, the wild hordes who beat Muammar Qaddafi to death.
The graceful Begum Bhutto took all that was thrown at her with great stoicism and courage, and in due course started an agitation which led to the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy that showed the world that the tyrant was vulnerable. If Begum Nusrat Bhutto has been named the ‘Mother of Democracy in Pakistan’, she fully deserves the title.

I end with a personal anecdote: in the spring of 1988, after I had accepted Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s offer to work for the government as public information officer (PIO), Begum Bhutto sent for me. She recounted how she and ZAB knew my father and family and asked if I would come work for her on her staff. While I was delighted, I said, “Begum Sahiba, thank you, but the prime minister has just yesterday asked me to work for the government as PIO”. “Really” she said, and then smiled so very warmly. “Well, at least you will be with us”.

And then she started to cry. “They have been so horrible to us… you cannot imagine what they have done to us… even accusing Zulfikar of buying a personal chandelier with government money… but I have the receipts… you know, he would pay even the smallest personal bill in the PM’s House by cheque… and when I said why he was bothering writing a cheque when I had money in my bag, he would say, ‘Nusrat you don’t know them; they will say and do anything to destroy me and my name… I must have records…’”.

I am exhausted dear reader… more another time… may the Almighty give strength to those who loved her.

RIP, Begum Sahiba.
The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army, and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto

Courtesy: daily The Express Tribune, October 28th, 2011.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Benazir Bhutto’s Alleged Murder Plotter Joins PML-N, Shaikh Rasheed to Follow

By Aijaz Ahmed

Islamabad:  Pakistan Muslim League (N) proudly calls itself a principled party and claims it is against 'lotacracy' and that it always abides by the Charter of Democracy. It also uses the name of Benazir Bhutto whenever it’s leaders want the government to go on the back foot. However its double standards have been exposed as the same "principled" party has allowed an alleged plotter of Benazir Bhutto's murder and a close associate of military dictator Musharraf and the Choudhris of Gujrat to join PML-N.

It may be recalled here that Benazir Bhutto had sent an email in 2007 to her lobbyist in Washington, DC and a family friend, Mark Siegel, containing four names who according to her were plotting her murder according g to her own information. The then Director General IB Brigadier (retd) Ijaz Shah’s name was one of the four suspects nominated by BB herself.

Former IB chief, Brig. Ret. Ijaz Shah
BB’s suspicion of her murder plot was not baseless. She was indeed brutally martyred at Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi on 27th December 2007. Brigadier Ijaz shortly after the general elections in 2008 ran away from Pakistan and settled in Australia with the blessings of the man at the helm of affairs at that time and he was no other than Musharraf. As Ijaz Shah was also known as a close friend of PML-N’s arch rivals, the Choudhris of Gujrat, the party had started an aggressive campaign when PPP joined hands with the Q league. It had blamed PPP of selling out the murder of BB “Shaheed”.

The PML-N had vowed to take revenge from the murderers if and when it formed a government in the center. But all the claims, love and respect for BB has proved to be false and a mere political stunt as Ijaz Shah who returned to Lahore few weeks back after a secret settlement with Punjab government has formally joined PML-N few days back and signed the membership form of the party from Nankana Sahib, suburban town of Sheikhupura near Lahore and the place of birth of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religion and a great fighter against state repression.

No word of sorry has been tendered by the “principled” PML-N leadership to the followers of BB most of whom had started believing in Nawaz Sharif after losing their faith in Asif Zardari. The reason given by PML-N for taking such people and members of Q league in the party ranks is most interesting. Senator Pervez Rasheed while giving his reaction to a question about the talks with Q league responded positively and uttered that “we will talk with everybody willing to join us against Zardari Raj”. ‘We are in contact with PML-Q and will accept anybody except the Choudhris of Gujrat. We want to isolate them in politics and will go to any extent’, he added.
The “principled” PML-N now seems to follow the policy of lotacracy which it talked against so much at one time to stop it’s arch rival PPP from gaining majority in the Senate in March next year. Sumera Malik, a close aide of Musharraf and a cause of confrontation between Chief Justice Iftikhar Choudhry and General Musharraf has now become very close to Mian Sahib. She is going to join PML-N despite being a member from PML-Q. She earlier tried to join PPP, but her relationship with Farooq Leghari did not prove very helpful.

Next in line is Sheikh Rasheed of Lal Haveli. He has established contacts with his former party and is all set to become a PML-N candidate from NA 55 in next general elections. He was the man who had categorically refused Begum Kulsoom Nawaz Sharif to support a pro Nawaz Movement after 12th October, 1999 and had later joined Musharraf camp. He claimed himself to be a non-official spokesman of GHQ. One can imagine what will be the situation like when he will walk with Nawaz Sharif who claims to be an anti military dictatorship. But that is surely confined to a dictatorship that removed him from the Prime Minister House. Thus the proverb, that politics has no permanent foes or friend is proved true once again and lotacracy is in the vogue again.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Split in Sindh PPP Imminent; President Offers Aitzaz An Important Position, May Play Prominent Role in Future; Nawaz-Mirza under Pressure for Alliance; Fahmida Mirza Offers to Resign

Aitzaz May Play Prominent Role in Future; How Fasih Bokhari Was Nominated as Chairman NAB?

By Aijaz Ahmed

Islamabad: There seldom comes a cooling off interval in Pakistani politics - at least not these days. With every passing moment, the temperature gets higher and the hectic moves and counter moves by the stakeholders create more and more confusion. Amidst all that, the moves by one of the players, Zulfikar Mirza may soon result in split within his own party.
On his return from Malaysia, Zulfikar Mirza dropped another bombshell; he addressed a press conference along with the leaders of the Peoples Amn Committee and announced that following in the footsteps of Imran Khan, he would carry three suitcases to London, UK, filled with evidence against Altaf Hussain of MQM. The statement of Mirza created another storm in the troubled city of Karachi and prompted MQM demands for his arrest. The rampant political crisis is destined to lead towards a final showdown within the PPP ranks as well as between the PPP and its love-hate partner the MQM.

A group of PPP dissidents from Sindh is getting united with a resolve to fight against any effort for passing the proposed Local Government Ordinance, which was first introduced by military dictator Musharraf and then reintroduced by Babar Awan known as Mr. Tughral in the political circles of Islamabad.

The move is not only to oppose the local government ordinance bill, but the built in opposition to the government-MQM alliance is also coming to the fore. The group emerging around Mirza in Sindh will ultimately gain strength, and the people in the province having sympathies with PPP will by and large go with Mirza team, says a PPP leader from the political team of the president, Zardari.

The central leadership of the party is trying its best to control the damage caused by Mirza, but for the first time in the history of the party, it appears that all the efforts by the leadership are going in vain as dissent in the party is visibly increasing.

The game does not end there; rather another innings of the long and tiring game of politics is being started again, and the umpires of the game have become, as always, the main players of the innings now. There are clear indications that the behind-the-scene players who ‘encouraged’ Mirza to go up in the arms to such an extent where he put his relationship with the president at stake are trying to bring Mirza and Nawaz Sharif closer on some point of mutual interests and that is the opposition of MQM and elimination of corruption, sources in the power circle of Islamabad have revealed.

The anti Zardari policy of Nawaz Sharif and his PML-N is the main cause of concern for Mirza, the sources said, adding that the players are trying to evolve a mutually acceptable position in this regard.

The people and the forces who matter are hectically busy in hatching a deal between the two, but hard line taken by Mirza has been an impediment so far, sources claimed. Mirza does not want to take blame of stabbing in the back his closest friend and mentor, thus he has put some hard conditions. Mirza wants Nawaz Sharif to give up his go Zardari go policy, sources maintained. Mirza also wants Nawaz Sharif and the wheelers behind the move to agree to a mutually acceptable guarantee that his friend will be allowed to complete his present tenure and that if he gets elected as president again, he will be allowed to complete that tenure as well.

On the other hand interesting political developments are taking place in the federal capital. Khursheed Shah, whose residence was used last night by PPP dissidents in Karachi to host dinner for Mirza was enjoying president’s hospitality and was discussing matters related to Sindh. Earlier Dr. Fahmida Mirza, wife of Zulfikar Mirza and Speaker of the National Assembly had offered resignation from her office citing MQM’s nasty behavior, but President strongly rejected her offer, sources maintained. He asked madam speaker to continue as she happens to be the first woman speaker of Asia.

President not only confined himself to reject the resignation of the speaker, but also showed some positive gestures for Mirza. Rehman Malik and Babar Awan have been kept away from the presidency since last two days. Both Awan and Rehman Malik were not invited to the recent PPP Core Committee at Aiwan e Saddar.

It is also revealed that in the last three and half years there was no single incident where president did not consult with Mr. Awan on some important legal matters. It was after the new blast of Mr. Mirza that President did not take a legal opinion from Mr. Awan. Rather Farooq H Naik was consulted on legal and constitutional implication of Supreme Court decision on Karachi.

Another political development was dinner hosted for Aitzaz Ahsan by President after almost six months. Bushra Aitzaz was present in the dinner. Aitzaz was offered an important position but he declined. He is said to be interested to become next Chairman of Senate. It was Aitzaz Ahsan who suggested to the president to appoint Fasih Bokhari as Chairman NAB and the president within no time accepted his suggestion that gives indication of improving relations between the President and Mr. Aitzaz and people may see the legal wizard playing vital role in near future.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

G. M. Syed: Sindh's Tolerant Past & Sufism; Traitor Saves the Day by Nadeem F. Paracha

G. M. Syed (January 17, 1904 - April 25, 1995)
It is believed that Sindh, since it’s always been ‘the land of Sufis’, has shown the most resilience to the advent of various events over the decades that have turned Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa into becoming hotbeds of radical, exhibitionistic Islam. This is a very convincing thesis and if one travels across this province one cannot but help notice rather earthly, folk strains of liberalism among the majority of its people.

Yes, but whereas we are told that this is due to Sindh’s tolerant, Sufi past, very few remember that this historical narrative (about Sindhi history and culture) was not exactly constructed hundreds of years ago. Instead, this narrative, that today has kept much of Sindh at bay from puritan forms of the faith, was actually built by a controversial man who was also labelled by the establishment and the religious parties as a ‘traitor’. His name was G M Syed.

In the late 1950s, Syed was a leading part of the left-wing National Awami Party (NAP), a political expression of Sindhi, Baloch, Pashtun and Bengali nationalists opposed to the conservative West Pakistan dominated ruling elite. NAP was banned by the Ayub Khan dictatorship in 1959, and till its revival in 1962, Syed decided to lead a cultural Sindhi nationalist movement. In 1966 when he was released from jail, he did not rejoin NAP and instead formed a cultural organisation called Bazm-i-Sufia-i-Sindh.

The Bazm also boasted some other famous Sindhi scholars, who set out to create an elaborate historical, intellectual and political narrative of Sindhi culture and history, presenting it as distinct, yet based on pluralistic values. This definition ran counter to what had officially been propagated by Pakistan’s military-civilian elite as ‘Pakistani culture’.

The Bazm also tried to prove that the Islam practised by Sindhis was very different from the version that was being ‘enforced by the Pakistani state and the ruling elite’. Bazm scholars maintained that Sindh had always been the land of mystics (Sufis) and Sindhis have had a history of being extremely tolerant of Hindus and other faiths. The Bazm and Syed were clearly proposing that Sindh and the Sindhis could not be integrated by the state of Pakistan due to the stark cultural differences that they had with what became known as ‘Pakistan ideology’ (a term first used by the Jamat-i-Islami in 1967).

The Bazm went a step further when it published a controversial study in late 1966 which stated that Raja Dahir (the 8th century Hindu ruler of pre-Islamic Sindh) was actually a hero to many Sindhis and that Muhammad bin Qasim (the Arab Muslim commander who defeated Dahir and conquered Sindh) was regarded as a usurper. The ruling establishment (being dominated at the time by the Ayub led military regime) and the religious parties at once denounced Syed and the Bazm as traitors.

But this did not stop Syed. He asked the Bazm to create a student wing, the Sindhi Students Cultural Council, that held seminars and lectures across Sindh and imparted the Bazm’s radically revisionist history of Sindh amongst young Sindhis. At the start of the students and workers movement against the Ayub dictatorship in late 1967, the Bazm become part of the Sindh United Front (SUF) — an organisation of Sindhi nationalists that wanted to step in and play their role in the movement. Syed wanted to use the chaos resulting from the movement to bid for Sindh’s separation from Pakistan.

But since by 1968 the movement was revolving around Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (a Sindhi) and his Pakistan People’s Party, G M Syed advised the SUF to incorporate in its ranks those who were not only against Ayub but also against Bhutto. Syed feared that Bhutto would become the biggest hindrance to Sindhi separatism. He was right. Though the Bazm withered away in the early 1970s, its works and ideas have continued to inspire various Sindhi nationalist organisations and the youth.

It is ironic that from 1972 under Bhutto’s rule, his regime heavily borrowed the more moderate aspects of Syed and the Bazm’s Sindhi nationalist thesis and it was during Bhutto’s regime (1972-77) that Sindh began being (officially) called the ‘land of Sufis.’

In another twist of irony, not only is it still called that in Pakistan’s history text books, but is accepted as that by none other than Altaf Hussain’s Mohajir-centric, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and many Punjabi politicians. Also, it is this (once denounced) narrative and its widespread proliferation across the decades in Sindh that has kept the province relatively safe from the kind of puritan radicalisation that Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkha have been witnessing ever since the Zia dictatorship, from the 1980s onwards.

One is not sure what the Sindhis thought about Dahir or Qasim before the 1960s, but it is true that ever since the 1970s, Muhammad Bin Qasim is not so hot as a historical entity in Sindh as he is elsewhere in Pakistan — a fact that, for example, greatly tormented the pro-Jamat-i-Islami ‘historical novelist’ Naseem Hijazi, who had spend a good part of his career turning various Arab commanders into pious supermen.
 Courtesy: daily Dawn

APC: civil façade of foreign policy — Farhat Taj

Both Nawaz Sharif and Mahmood Achakzai deserve credit for making their views heard to the APC participants dominated by pro-establishment political parties. Their voices, although not part of the ‘unanimous’ resolution, were echoed by the media

Since the recent attack on the US embassy in Kabul by the Haqqani network Taliban, Pakistan came under immense US pressure, including veiled threats of attack, for its links with the Haqqani Taliban with bases in Pakistan. Pakistan’s military, which runs the country’s foreign policy on Afghanistan, rejected all the statements from the US but still needed the country’s civil political leadership to stand by it to offset US pressure. Hence an All-Parties Conference (APC) was held by the PPP-led government to create a façade of civil ownership of the military-run policy in Afghanistan.

The text of the 13-point ‘unanimously’ approved resolution of all parties’ heads seems hardly anything more than a script from the ISPR. The text is mostly rhetorical without referring to the terror sanctuaries in Pakistan pointed out not only by the US but many people within Pakistan. The text, as expected, rejects US allegations about the ISI’s links with the Haqqani network.

A striking statement in the text is this: “Pakistan must initiate dialogue with a view to negotiating peace with our own people in the tribal areas [FATA] and a proper mechanism for this be put in place.” This is also the oft-repeated position of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Imran Khan, who always projects the Taliban as synonymous with the Pakhtuns. What is the justification of giving such a prominent mention in the resolution to the position of the unrepresentative PTI while totally ignoring the scepticism of the twice elected prime minster of Pakistan and leader of an elected PML-N, Mr Nawaz Sharif? Mr Sharif asked the military leaders present in the conference that there must be a ‘reason’ why the whole world is holding Pakistan responsible for terrorism, a direct reference to the generals’ links with terrorist organisations.

Moreover, it is immensely surprising that the PTI’s position was recorded in the resolution but there is nothing in the text that reflects the view of Mahmood Khan Achakzai, leader of the Pakhtun nationalist party, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), who reportedly told the ISI chief at the APC that “there will be peace in Afghanistan within a month, provided the ISI stopped exporting terrorism into that country”. PkMAP, unlike PTI, has a representation in the Senate of Pakistan and has a longstanding firmly held position whereby it asserts that the ISI is responsible for terrorism in Afghanistan and FATA. It is remarkable to note that the ‘unanimously’ passed resolution does not accommodate the point of view of this party that has lost several political workers, who were anti-Taliban, in targeted killings in FATA. The party leaders hold the ISI responsible for their killings.

Both Nawaz Sharif and Mahmood Achakzai deserve credit for making their views heard to the APC participants dominated by pro-establishment political parties. Their voices, although not part of the ‘unanimous’ resolution, were echoed by the media, putting a question mark on the ‘unanimous’ status of the resolution.

A strange position not concurring with the longstanding position on Pakistan’s Afghan policy of the other Pakhtun nationalist party, the Awami National Party (ANP), was adopted by its leader, Asfandyar Wali, in the APC. It is pertinent to mention that the ANP issued an official statement on September 23, 2011 in the context of the growing tension between Pakistan and the US. The statement, while expressing concerns over US threats to Pakistan, “calls for an all out effort by the government (of Pakistan) to root out such (terrorist) groups, their supply lines and infrastructure (on Pakistani soil)”. The statement declares such effort as “an inescapable and urgent need of evolving a clear strategy for dealing with terror outfits (in Pakistan)”. The statement was totally ignored by the Pakistan media in line with its track record of suppressing the Pakhtun nationalist standpoint.

A few days later, ANP’s provincial leader, Afrasiab Khattak, expressed a similar view as in the official statement in a TV interview, also referred to in Dr Taqi’s column, ‘US-Pakistan relations: a rocky road ahead’ (Daily Times, September 29, 2011). By taking almost a U-turn a few days later the ANP-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly passed a unanimous resolution condemning US threats without any reference to the terror sanctuaries, including the Haqqani network, in Pakistan. A couple of days later, Asfandyar Wali Khan participated in the APC without making his party’s longstanding position on the Afghan policy heard and quietly toeing the establishment’s line.

This leaves one to wonder what the real position of the ANP is on the current US-Pakistan tension on the Haqqani Taliban. The ANP, which has sacrificed the blood of hundreds of its workers for the party’s anti-Taliban stance, must show the courage to publicly explain which of the two texts — the APC resolution or the party official statement — really represent the real party position.

In the current political scenario in Pakistan, it looks like the ANP position is oscillating between blackmailing the military establishment of Pakistan with the party’s nationalist position on Afghanistan and collaboration with the establishment provided it accommodated the party in the ruling alliance of Pakistan as a junior partner. Even under the leadership of Begum Nasim Wali Khan — many believe the party organisation suffered under her leadership — the ANP never compromised in publicly asserting its longstanding position on the Afghan policy of Pakistan, the position that asserts that the establishment’s strategic depth policy is responsible for the violence and instability in Afghanistan. The ANP today seem to be suffering from such a compromised leadership that the party has never seen in the past.

Notwithstanding Achakzai’s straightforward comment to the ISI chief, both he and Asfandyar Wali have to explain how they can accept the point in the resolution mentioned earlier in this column. Do the two leaders not know that the militants in FATA are the Punjabi Taliban and international terrorists linked with al Qaeda, who have committed atrocities on the tribal people, including the tribal political workers of the ANP and PkMAP? Do they not know that the ISI, not the tribal people, brought these terrorists to FATA? Do they not know that local communities in FATA view the local Pakhtun Taliban, a fringe element of the tribal society, as murderers and anti-social elements who need to face justice?

The two nationalist leaders should have boycotted the APC for inclusion of such a misguiding statement in the resolution. One must appreciate the Baloch nationalist leaders for boycotting the APC in response to the state crimes against the Baloch people. Alas the Pakhtun leadership is too compromised to take such a courageous stance on their people.

The writer is the author of Taliban and Anti-Taliban
Courtesy: daily Times