Sindh Flood Victims Can’t Afford to Wait

RECENTLY, a report titled Pakistan flood emergency: Lessons from a continuing crisis was prepared by a collaborative group of over a dozen leading international and national humanitarian aid agencies.

Victims of 2010 floods in Sindh Photo credit: AFP

It is a deeply saddening reminder that some 2.5 million people affected by floods last year are still struggling to return to normal life. The miseries of these citizens are going unnoticed, having been overshadowed by the political turmoil in the country.

According to the provincial disaster management authority’s official website, no flood affectees are living in camps any more. This masks the fact that they are still in dire need of food, shelter, drinking water, sanitation facilities and medicine. Thousands remain hungry and shivering in the unprecedented cold wave. The numbers that find space on official websites do not reflect any of these very grim realities.

The hardship being suffered by those affected by the floods does not end when they evacuate the camps; in fact, they return to their places of residence with nothing with which to resume their lives. In the absence of a robust early recovery plan, those affected by disaster find themselves destitute. The social ramifications of this can be very extensive and perhaps worse than the disaster itself.

Following the floods, the official appeal for international aid was inexplicably delayed; meanwhile, the humanitarian community’s lukewarm response means that there was insufficient support for relief. The loss of 2.2 million acres of crop lands and an estimated 116,000 heads of cattle has shattered the local economy in flood-hit areas.Fe

Sowing during the Rabi season following the floods was scanty, as more than 10,000 square kilometres of land in the seven worst-hit districts remained inundated, making ploughing impossible. These districts included the most fertile and crop-intensive areas: Sanghar, Mirpurkhas, Tando Allahyar, Shaheed Benazirabad and Tando Mohammad Khan.

In a Feb 17 update, the Sindh Disaster Management Authority acknowledged that over 1,200 square kilometres remained inundated. Further compounding the situation, the provincial government was unable to provide the promised package of seed and fertiliser to farmers. Of the 70,000 tonnes of fertiliser that were promised, only 23,000 tonnes were mobilised; administrative inefficiency meant that merely 9,000 tonnes actually reached farmers.

President Asif Ali Zardari took charge of matters by communicating directly with the district administration, but the impact of this move was diluted by political manoeuvring at the local level. From relief aid to cash support, availing anything required political connections. This left the poor of the province even further marginalised. There is little doubt that this will result in these communities becoming even more food insecure. Last year, some reports found malnutrition levels amongst women and children in rural Sindh similar to those in famine-hit Africa. The government failed to mobilise the international community for sufficient resources.

Meanwhile, the economic turmoil in the Eurozone and America, the competing demands of other disaster-hit areas, the compromised credibility of the Pakistani government machinery, restrictions on the mobility of international aid workers and the ineffective media coverage resulted in sluggish inflows of aid. The UN launched a $357m appeal last September but till Feb 10, hardly half of this sum had been mobilised.

Considering that over nine million people were affected by the floods, the hoped-for sum amounted to $66 per person. This is a very modest figure when compared to the appeal for $97 per person after the floods of 2010 in Pakistan, or $481 per person after the Haiti earthquake of 2010.

What compounded the situation further in Pakistan was the fact that key sectors of humanitarian response remained anaemic, which kept thousands of flood-affected people in limbo for months on end. According to a report by the UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), the most under-resourced sectors are water sanitation and hygiene where 80 per cent of the needs remain unmet. These are followed by health, shelter and food security, where over 50 per cents of the people’s needs are unfulfilled.

Meanwhile, as most of the promises made by the government have yet to be kept, a significant amount of the sum earmarked for those affected by the 2010 floods have been diverted to other areas by the Sindh government. Of the sum allocated for the rehabilitation of flood-hit areas and communities by the Provincial Annual Development Plan, Rs8bn have been diverted to the development fund through elected representatives.

The government seems to be revisiting its priorities as an election year looms. The provincial government has chopped off some Rs4bn allocated for the construction of 40,000 houses and the provision of basic amenities in 200 flood-affected villages. This sum is now to be spent on schemes identified by elected representatives.

Such willful disregard for the plight of the flood-affected shows a lack of political commitment on the part of the provincial government. And that further hinders assistance by the international humanitarian community. The vacuum created in the absence of active governmental and international aid is being filled by faith-based groups. The penetration of extremist elements under the guise of humanitarian work is being under-estimated, and could hurt the relatively liberal social fabric that exists in Sindh.

The monsoon season is again just a few months away. Even a moderate shock this year would destroy the disaster management apparatus and ailing provincial economy that are already in a shambles. Disaster risk reduction and preparedness should be the top priority of the government, aid agencies and civil society. We need to develop early warning systems and emergency evacuation plans, repair infrastructure and start planning; the trajectory of the past year’s failures needs to be altered.

The writer is the chief executive of Strengthening Participatory

Literature Festival takes Karachi by Storm

Karachi literature festival (credit:

Karachi, Feb. 12: Saturday morning saw enthusiasts from across the spectrum – fiction lovers, political aficionados and history fans, all congregating in Carlton Hotel and filling up the main garden for the event launch even before the sessions kicked off.

And the audience wasn’t disappointed. Keynote speaker, historian and writer William Dalrymple, proved to be an engrossing presenter, discussing his upcoming work, The Return of a King, on the first Afghan war held in 1839. Dalrymple shared an excerpt on how 18,000 troops sent by the British marched off to Kandahar with only one managing to come back home alive.

The author also shed some light into the sheer effort that goes into writing a historical book, saying that he had spent hours sifting through documents in the state archives in Lahore’s Anarkali.
“That place is not being used by anyone,” said Dalrymple.

Some well-placed one-liners earned hearty laughs from the crowd, but the speech took a graver tone when he described the brutal way the troops were killed by the Afghans, drawing gasps from the audience.

Dalrymple also knew how to keep the mood upbeat: “From this, Bush and Blair can get history lessons,” he joked. “Americans know that their game is over but politicians deny. It is the last stage for America. Next it will be China,” he said, as he left the stage to a loud round of applause.

The podium was shared by US Ambassador Cameron Munter’s wife, Dr Marilyn Wyatt, who started off by sharing her personal reading experiences. Referring to how reading was an essential activity for her, she added: “Imagine how life is for those for whom reading does not exist”.

Wyatt said that the US embassy, in collaboration with the Oxford University Press (OUP), had set up a stall for a campaign, ‘Donate a book so a child can read,’ at the festival. The embassy also plans to set up libraries in ten schools around the city.

Country Director for the British Council, David Martin, also placed fiction outside of the subcontinent in the spotlight, highlighting that this was a ‘special year’ as the 200th anniversary of literature icon Charles Dickens was being commemorated.

Founding member of the KLF, Asif Farrukhi, emphasised the inclusionary vision of the festival. Referring to a poem by Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska, he quoted the line “the eagerness to see things from all sides,” saying it symbolised the spirit of the festival.

Most importantly, perhaps, was a focus on diversity, which was visible in the wide range of genres and languages visible in the session titles and who’s who list of participants. Ameena Saiyid, managing director of OUP, said that sessions in English, Seraiki, Sindhi, French and German would be held to highlight the vibrant nature of linguistics on display. In October, she added, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa would have its own literary event to look forward to when a children’s literature festival will be held in Peshawar.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 12th, 2012.

PMA Demands Creation of Federal Drug Regulatory Authority

Punjab Institute of Cardiology (Credit:

Karachi, Feb. 7: Acknowledging corruption and malpractice in the registration and pricing of drugs at federal level since the creation of Pakistan, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) on Monday insisted on establishment of a federal authority to regulate medicines in the country.

PMA office-bearers at a news conference at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) said that after the recent drug-related deaths in Punjab, no doctor knew what they were prescribing to their patients in the name of medicines available in the county, and claimed that the entire population of the country was in danger.

“Over 57,000 drugs have been registered in Pakistan, of which 6,000 in the last two years alone. There is no other country in the world where such a large number of drugs have been registered. We the doctors believe that we don’t need such a large number of drugs in the country,” the PMA Central President, Prof Tipu Sultan, said.

He acknowledged that medicines were approved and registered by taking money in Pakistan at the federal level, but said like every civilized country, Pakistan, too, needed to have a central drug regulatory authority which should be less corrupt.

Prof Sultan claimed that medicine markets and pharmacies were full of counterfeits and spurious medicines in the country and added that over 50 percent medicines being sold in pharmacies in the smaller cities of the country were spurious.

“In order to regulate all these issues, we call for a strong, competent and honest central drug regulatory authority instead of having such authorities at the provincial level,” he said and claimed that creation of provincial drug regulatory authorities would create many problems.

“Availability, pricing and inter-provincial smuggling of drugs would be some of the major issues if medicines are to be regulated at the provincial level,” he claimed.

To a query, the PMA president said they were in favour of provincial autonomy but believed that some subjects like medical education and its regulatory body, the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) and the Drug Regulatory Authority were established at the federal level.

PMA Secretary-General, Dr Mirza Ali Azhar, said on the occasion that after the 18th Constitutional Amendment, the government had failed to develop and maintain the procedure for registration, testing and verification of newly introduced drugs in the market.

“Because of this negligence, all provinces are facing a situation which is causing immense problems and difficulties for both patients and physicians, resulting in loss of precious lives,” he maintained.

He demanded immediate withdrawal of all the drugs that did not meet the criteria of the World Health Organization (WHO) and development of a strong mechanism to deal with natural and manmade emergencies like the Lahore drug deaths.

The PMA office-bearers also deplored that there was no scientific lab competent enough in the country to analyze drugs, compelling the authorities to send the suspicious drugs to the London School of Pharmacy for testing.

On the occasion, they demanded that no president or prime minister or any government official should go abroad for medical treatment.

The Taliban Within


Pakistani liberals derided host Maya Khan’s behavior on Twitter and Facebook, comparing it to the kind of moral policing practiced by the Taliban, and started an online petition asking Samaa TV to end this ”irresponsible programming” and apologize.

The company responded Saturday in a letter sent to reporters saying it had decided to fire Khan and her team and cancel her show because she refused to issue an unconditional apology for the Jan. 17 program.

Samaa TV’s decision marked an unusual victory for Pakistan’s beleaguered liberal minority, which has become more marginalized as the country has shifted to the right and whose members have been killed by extremists for standing up for what they believe.

Critics of the program also praised the company’s decision as a positive example of self-regulation by Pakistan’s freewheeling TV industry, which was liberalized in 2000 and has mushroomed from one state-run channel to more than 80 independent ones.

Some shows have been praised for serving the public good by holding powerful officials to account, but many others have been criticized for doing anything that will get ratings, including pandering to populist sentiments at the expense of privacy and sometimes truth.

”Samaa management has set a good example that some others need to follow,” said prominent human rights activist and journalist Hussain Naqi.

During the program in question, Khan and around a dozen other men and women chased down young couples in a seaside park in the southern city of Karachi. Several couples raced away from the group. One young man put on a motorcycle helmet to hide his identity, while his female friend covered her face with a veil.

Khan finally accosted one couple sitting on a bench and pestered them with questions about whether they were married and whether their parents knew they were there. The man said the couple was engaged and asked Khan to shut off her cameras and microphone. She lied and said they were off.

”What is the difference between this kind of media vigilantism and that demonstrated by the Taliban?” said Mahnaz Rahman, a director at the Aurat Foundation, an organization that fights for women’s rights in Pakistan.

Following Khan’s program, one headline in a local paper called the host and the other women who appeared on the show ”Vigil-aunties,” referring to the South Asian term ”aunty” for a bossy older woman.

A petition posted online that criticized Khan’s behavior as ”highly intrusive, invasive and potentially irresponsible” and demanded an official apology attracted more than 5,000 signatures.

Khan reportedly rejected the criticism at first but eventually issued on apology on TV to anyone she may have offended, saying ”it was not my objective to make you cry or hurt you.”

This fell short of the apology that Khan’s bosses demanded, according to a letter written by the chairman of Samaa TV, Zafar Siddiqi. It said Khan and her team would receive termination notices on Jan. 30 and her show would be canceled.

Siddiqi said the company did not ”absolve such behavior irrespective of ratings the show was getting.”

Scores of Pakistanis on Twitter praised Samaa TV’s decision.

”Journalists must never forget the dividing line between public interest & private freedom,” tweeted Najam Sethi, a prominent Pakistani journalist.


Pakistan’s Political Drama Begs the Question:
What’s Next ?

FOR some years, Pakistan has been in the crosshairs of change, a change that is not acceptable to some, not enough for others, and too late for still others.

And that perhaps lies at the heart of our current political imbroglio political and state grandees are not ready to understand the true dynamics of change. If they do grudgingly, it`s from their own perspective, that is, at the cost of `rivals` whether these be persons, institutions or interests.

The mother of all changes, which has set off the process of the formation of a new power structure, lies in the spectacular constitutional reforms that the present parliament, for all its shortcomings, has brought about. The reforms have reset the configuration of powers.

Within parliament, the powers have slid to the National Assembly and Senate, leaving the traditionally pro establishment president toothless. Within the centre-province symmetry, the provinces have received more financial and administrative powers, hence the intensifying demand for more provinces. The elites seem more interested in finding new avenues of authority, away from the ramparts of a receding power that once rested in the powerful capital.

Within the state-society grid, it is society that has gained thanks to a host of new constitutional tools, particularly Article 19 A that has shattered the red-tapism to keep the public and media off the rulers` shenanigans. Article 25 A has given a new tool to civil society, rights campaigners and the common man to get the state, if need be through a vibrant judicial forum, to discharge its constitutional duty of ensuring free education to all children between five to 16 years of age.

Within civil-military relations, a democratic and constitutional dispensation has emerged as the consensus form of government. All organs of state are bound by constitutionalism. Hence, the chief justice reiterates his resolve to uphold democracy, notwithstanding the perceived failure of the government to deliver.

Even at the height of civil military tensions, the army chief vouches for constitution, which is clearly a healthy aberration from the past. The ever-divided political leadership is also united on it.

Given all these positive indicators, how come democracy continues to be in peril, and why are new theories being churned out as an alternative to `failed` democracy? It is because the constitutional changes are inherently disruptive; they many not necessarily augur well for all the actors of state and society. Often, some powers are pruned, and others, strengthened; some offices shed power while others gain authority, as dictated by the new constitutional order and the prevailing political culture.

Thus, constitutional change carries both the force of the past and the promise of the future. It is, therefore, a synthesis. But the synthesis follows an antithetic process, destroying all the barriers that come in its way.

Whether the destruction is peaceful or bloody depends on three factors. One, the socio-political environment, internal and extraneous; two, the relative strength of the resistance to the change that is long due and cannot be resisted any longer; and finally the catalysts of change, be it the political leadership, rights campaigners, judges, or common citizens like Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian peddler whose self immolation triggered the `Arab Spring` Moreover, the change must conform to socio-political demands. In western societies political change was invariably preceded by economic and social transformation. By the 19th century, new capitalist and working classes had emerged to supplant the landed gentry allied with an omnipotent monarch.

Also, a culture of the sciences, technology, humanist literature and modern social, political and ecclesiastical approaches had long prepared the ground for modern democratic welfare polity. Yet, the change was not necessarily peaceful. The West confronted a number of revolutions, regicides and global conflagrations before a universal consensus on democratic polity was achieved.

On the contrary, in much of the colonial world, radical independence movements led by maverick leaders initially substituted the colonial powers. But most of these newly independent countries had authoritarian or totalitarian regimes.

A rather long and painful process of democratisation saw the removal of these regimes under a secondor third-generation leadership. The democratic trajectory of Latin America, East Asia and East Europe saw this trend during the last decade of the 20th century. And now much of Africa, the Middle East and South Asia are treading this path, though with varying degrees of success.

What is common to both East and the West is the observation that only a successful democracy is sustainable. Europe was plunged into the most horrendous world wars when democracy and newfound internationalism failed to mend social and political fissures. The rise of fascism and Nazism in Europe was the result of democratic failures as well as the industrial propertied classes` quest for protection Our propensity for allying with authoritarianism owes to the fact that while the powerful landed, business and bureaucratic elites are duly catered to by an undemocratic system, the overwhelming majority of lower and marginalised classes, the real repository of political power, have been over and again neglected by democratic and civilian rulers.

No wonder, the elite`s emphasis is more on governance, which means political stability and certainty of the law. Less stress is laid on social reforms, which means redistribution of wealth and power. The existing constitutional reforms, accompanied by judicial activism, have once again brought the possibility of `socio-political change`. But alas, the lacklustre performance of the democratic government has once again put this change in perils, and hence its own survival.

The writer is a lawyer.

National Assembly Votes in Autonomous Women’s Commission

Women demonstrators (Credit:
SUCH are the paradoxes in Pakistan’s politics, that at a time our politicians are locked in a grim power struggle in Islamabad, the same gentlemen joined hands to pass unanimously the women’s commission bill last Thursday.

Whether this show of unity on a matter concerning women should be interpreted as an act of chivalry or a demonstration of ‘woman power’, it will be widely welcomed. One must, however, admit that it was the clout of the women’s caucus and the determination of the speaker — also a woman — to get the treasury and opposition benches to forge a consensus that ultimately carried the day. The bill is expected to have a smooth sailing in the Senate.

This certainly has been an uphill struggle. When the commission was set up in July 2000, it was widely felt that its mandate was too weak to allow it to function as an effective body. This view was confirmed in July 2001 when Aurat Foundation and Shirkat Gah organised an international conference where representatives from abroad briefed the participants about the powers wielded by similar bodies in their countries.

It became increasingly clear that the announcement made with great fanfare by Gen Musharraf was no more than a gimmick.

The National Commission on the Status of Women (NSCW) lacked the capacity to bring about the emancipation of women and the elimination of discrimination against them.

Hence it was demanded that the powers and independence of the women’s commission should be enhanced to optimise its performance. The participants of the Islamabad conference also called for greater transparency and accountability in the commission’s selection and working.

It took more than a decade and a lot of hard work and advocacy to get the government to consider a change in the status quo.

The new body with the simple nomenclature of the National Commission for Women will certainly have more teeth in some respects as compared to its predecessor. It will be autonomous with the power to raise its own finances. Its composition will be more representative. Thus a bipartisan parliamentary committee will give a list of nominees from which the prime minister will select the members.

The prime minister will appoint the chairperson with the agreement of the leader of the opposition. This would hopefully ensure that the working of the commission is not hamstrung by inter-party conflict. Autonomy should allow the commission to bypass the red tape of bureaucracy and proceed to take up issues it feels are urgent.

The bill adopted by the National Assembly is significant in another way. The commission has been empowered to take up complaints of violations of women’s rights and even hold an enquiry into the matter if it is not being attended to. It can also inspect jails to check on female prisoners. In effect it will have the powers of a civil court. The ordinance of 2000 did not grant this power to the NCSW which could only monitor such violations and individual grievances, and then undertake initiatives for better management of justice and social services through the concerned forums.

In respect of the commission’s power of reviewing and monitoring the laws, policies and programmes of the government in the light of their implications for gender equality, empowerment of women, political participation and representation, the new law upholds the provision of the previous ordinance. It can also recommend repeal, amendment or new legislation as its predecessor could do. As before, it is authorised to sponsor research and maintain a database on gender issues as well as recommend the signing or ratification of international instruments.

The catch in all these provisions is that the commission can only make recommendations. It has no power to enforce its own views. When Justice Majida Razvi was the chairperson of the NCSW she had the Hudood Ordinances reviewed and the commission very strongly recommended their repeal. Her appeal fell on deaf ears. It was only later that the injustice inflicted on women by the Hudood Ordinances was neutralised by adopting the Women’s Protection Law of 2006. Will an autonomous commission have more powers of implementation? Most unlikely.

India’s National Commission for Women has been described as a strong body and yet one of its former members, Syeda Hameed, writes in her book They Hang, “The stories I tell are, of course, stories of women abused and violated by men wielding brute power. But they are also about the National Commission for Women, the nation’s apex body for women vested with the power to summon the highest functionaries of the land and seek redress — yet it remains ineffective for the most part … Perhaps it was ignorable or ignorance combined with indifference, but the truth of the matter is that the commission’s reports and jurisdiction are not binding on anyone, and its jurisdiction stops at its front door.”

Our commission can expect no better treatment from the male-dominated administration. But there is still hope. If the chairperson is an active and experienced person as the incumbent (Anis Haroon) is, she can use her office to draw public attention to the issue that needs to be addressed.

Working in close liaison with women parliamentarians the National Commission for Women can make an impact on the laws.

In other words the battle has to go on. But every victory helps create greater awareness and should be used in the campaign to mobilise women at the grass-roots. That is where lies the strength of the women’s movement wherever it may be.

Reprinted from

HRW Terms 2011 Disastrous for Human Rights in Pakistan

Human RIghts Watch (
New York, Jan 23 – Pakistan’s fledgling democratic government, under increasing pressure from the military, appeased extremist groups, ignored army abuses, and failed to hold those responsible for serious abuses accountable in 2011, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2012. Targeted killings and other attacks on civilians by the Taliban and sectarian and ethnic militant groups, as well as killings of journalists, were commonplace during the year.

Security deteriorated dramatically throughout the country as the result of suicide bombings by the Taliban and affiliated groups, which targeted civilians and public spaces, including marketplaces and religious processions. There was a dramatic increase in targeted killings in the southwestern province of Balochistan, while 800 people were killed in often politically motivated violence in Karachi. Law enforcement authorities made little attempt to resolve enforced disappearances of terrorism suspects and opponents of the military.

“The past year was disastrous for human rights in Pakistan,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Bombs killed hundreds of civilians, advocates of religious tolerance were assassinated, and the military undermined democratic institutions. From Karachi to Quetta, Pakistan is teetering on the edge of becoming a military-run Potemkin democracy.”

In its 676-page report, Human Rights Watch assessed progress on human rights during the past year in more than 90 countries, including popular uprisings in the Arab world that few would have imagined. Given the violent forces resisting the “Arab Spring,” the international community has an important role to play in assisting the formation of rights-respecting democracies in the region, Human Rights Watch said in the report.

In Pakistan, persecution and discrimination under cover of law against religious minorities and other vulnerable groups reached a zenith in 2011, Human Rights Watch said. Freedom of belief and expression came under severe threat as Islamist militant groups murdered Punjab’s governor, Salmaan Taseer, and the federal minorities’ minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, over their public support for amending the country’s often abused blasphemy law. The government notably failed to provide protection to people threatened by extremists or hold the extremists accountable. Taseer’s self-confessed killer, Mumtaz Qadri, was convicted of murder, but the presiding judge had to flee the country amid fears for his safety.

Extremist groups exploited the government’s passivity by intimidating minorities and with an upsurge in blasphemy allegations and cases, Human Rights Watch said. Religious minorities, Muslims, children, and mentally disabled people have all been charged under the blasphemy law, which violates the right to freedom of conscience and religion under international law.

“Government appeasement of extremist groups who fomented Taseer and Bhatti’s murders has led to a rash of blasphemy allegations and well-justified fear for those who question the use of the blasphemy law,” Adams said. “The Pakistan government needs to summon the courage to stand up to extremists and hold those responsible for violence and threats to account.”

Journalists, particularly those covering counterterrorism issues or who are perceived to be taking public positions against the military, faced unprecedented threats. At least ten journalists were killed in Pakistan during the year. A climate of fear pervaded efforts by the media to cover the military, and militant groups with the result that journalists rarely report on human rights abuses by the military in counterterrorism operations. The Taliban and other armed groups regularly threatened media outlets over their coverage.

Saleeem Shahzad, a reporter for the Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online and for Adnkronos International, the Italian news agency, disappeared from central Islamabad on the evening of May 29. He had received repeated and direct threats from the military’s abusive Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. Shahzad’s body, bearing visible signs of torture, was discovered two days later near Mandi Bahauddin, 130 kilometers southeast of the capital.

Following an international and domestic furor caused by the killing, a judicial commission was formed within days to investigate allegations of ISI complicity. In August, Human Rights Watch testified before the commission. The commission released its findings in January 2012, but failed to identify the perpetrators or exhaustively investigate the role of the ISI, which remains the principal suspect.

Despite widespread allegations of ISI and military involvement in coercion, abduction, torture, and killings of perceived opponents, including journalists, no military personnel have ever been held accountable for such abuses.

“Unless Shahzad’s murderers are identified and held accountable, media freedoms will decline even further in Pakistan as journalists operate in fear for their lives,” Adams said. “The government needs to bring charges wherever the trail leads, including to the ISI.”

The southern port city of Karachi experienced an exceptionally high level of violence during the year, with 800 people killed, Human Rights Watch said. The killings were carried out by armed groups backed by all the political parties with a presence in the city. The Muttaheda Qaumi Movement (MQM), Karachi’s largest political party, with heavily armed cadres and a well-documented history of human rights abuse and political violence, was widely viewed as the major perpetrator of targeted killings. The Awami National Party and ruling Pakistan People’s Party-backed Aman (Peace) Committee killed MQM activists.

Relations between Pakistan and the United States, long Pakistan’s most significant ally and its largest donor of humanitarian and military assistance, deteriorated markedly in 2011. Factors fueling the diplomatic crisis included the killing of two men by a CIA contractor at a Lahore traffic junction; the withholding of US$800 million in military aid to Pakistan; Pakistan’s alleged support for militants from the “Haqqani network,” a group that US officials accused of targeting the US Embassy and NATO troops in Afghanistan; the alleged harboring by Pakistan of Osama bin Laden and his killing by the US; and the November 26 killing during military operations of 24 Pakistani troops on the Afghan border by NATO forces.

The United States carried out about 75 aerial drone strikes during 2011 on suspected al Qaeda and Taliban members near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. These strikes resulted in claims of large numbers of civilian casualties, but lack of access to the conflict areas has prevented independent verification.

“Little is known about who is killed in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan and under what circumstances,” Adams said. “So long as the US resists public accountability for CIA drone strikes, the agency should not be conducting targeted killings.”

In November, Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, was forced by the Pakistani military to resign his position after allegations that he was responsible for a secret memo delivered to senior US military officials seeking support for Pakistani civilian control of national security policy. Haqqani is now blocked from leaving Pakistan and has publicly expressed fear for his life. His lawyer, the prominent human rights defender and former UN human rights envoy Asma Jahangir, has expressed similar concerns and raised serious reservations about a lack of due process in the legal proceedings against Haqqani.

“The military has gained increasing control of state institutions to the detriment of the rights of the Pakistani people,” Adams said. “Civilian officials are now afraid to oppose the military on any key issues, making it increasingly difficult for the government tackle past and present rights violations by the military.”

Court Revives Investigation on ISI Money for Politicians

Air Marshal (Retd) Asghar Khan
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday fixed February 29 to hear the petition filed by Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Asghar Khan 16 years ago pertaining to Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) distributing money among politicians.

Meanwhile, the former ISI chief Gen. (Retd) Durrani submitted an affidavit confirming the accusation.

The petition has called upon the apex court to punish the politicians and political groups who have been receiving pots of money from the agency.

Various politicians had demanded the petition to be heard.

Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan, in 1996, wrote a letter to then chief justice Nasim Hasan Shah against former army chief Mirza Aslam Baig, former ISI chief Lt-General (retd) Asad Durrani and Younis Habib of Habib and Mehran Banks, relating to the disbursement of public money and its misuse for political purposes.

Aboard the Democracy Train Excerpt  (P. 27)

Elections Were the Tip of the Iceberg

As a guest of the interim Prime Minister Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, I had witnessed how state funds and propaganda were used to defeat Benazir.  But I was still an onlooker, without inside knowledge of what had transpired in the inner circles. Then still an inexperienced reporter, I couldn’t guess how the establishment defeated the PPP, which, right or wrong, had the support of the masses.

In 1996, some clues emerged.  Retired Air Marshal Asghar Khan filed a case in the Supreme Court, alleging that the powerful secret service wing of the army – the ISI – had rigged the 1990 election. Based on Asghar Khan’s petition, former ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Asad Durrani took the stand in the Supreme Court and provided an affidavit that the army had indeed distributed Pkr 140 million (USD 1.6 million) to anti-PPP candidates, only a few months before the October 1990 election.

The anti-PPP candidates banded in the IJI comprised feudal, Islamic and ethnic parties that resolutely opposed Benazir’s populist rule. Subsequently, we learnt that the care-taker President Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, who had stayed mum while Chip probed him – had actually taken PKR 5 million (USD 59,000) from the ISI. Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif – who was ushered in by the military to succeed Benazir as prime minister – was revealed to have received PKR 3.5 million (USD 41,000) from the spy agencies.

Apparently, the army was so scared that Benazir would be elected back into power that their IJI coalition distributed state funds among various interest groups to prevent her return.

As I covered national politics, Asghar Khan talked to me in earnest, as though I was a player rather than a reporter. Then in coalition with the PPP, he told me that Benazir and Nawaz ought to unite to repeal Article 58-2(b). This was the constitutional clause introduced by Gen. Zia ul Haq that allowed presidents like Ghulam Ishaq Khan to dissolve the assembly.

Although, I shared Asghar Khan’s desire for principled politics, it surprised me that he seemed clueless about Benazir’s approach of doing whatever it took to return to power.

Néw Media Protests Demonstrate Impact on US Congress

Google Protest

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18 — Online protests on Wednesday quickly cut into Congressional support for online antipiracy measures as lawmakers abandoned and rethought their backing for legislation that pitted new media interests against some of the most powerful old-line commercial interests in Washington.

A freshman senator, Marco Rubio of Florida, a rising Republican star, was first Wednesday morning with his announcement that he would no longer back antipiracy legislation he had co-sponsored. Senator John Cornyn, the Texas Republican who heads the campaign operation for his party, quickly followed suit and urged Congress to take more time to study the measure, which had been set for a test vote next week.

By Wednesday afternoon, Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah and one of the Senate bill’s original co-sponsors, called it “simply not ready for prime time” and withdrew his support.

Their decisions came after some Web pages shut down Wednesday to protest two separate bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act. The Stop Online Piracy Act was written by Representative Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Senator Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, drafted the Protect Intellectual Property Act.

Protests organized in the real world drew far less attention. A rally convened in Midtown Manhattan outside the offices of Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand, who co-sponsored some of the proposed legislation, drew a few hundred protesters.

Members of Congress, many of whom are grappling with the issues posed by the explosion in new media and social Web sites, appeared caught off guard by the enmity toward what had been a relatively obscure piece of legislation to many of them. The Senate’s high-tech expertise was mocked in 2006 after the chairman of the Commerce Committee, Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, called the Internet “not a big truck” but a “series of tubes” — an observation enshrined in the Net Hall of Shame.

In reaction to the pending legislation, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia went dark. Google’s home page had a black banner across it that led to information blasting the bills.

Such new-media lobbying was having an impact.

“As a senator from Florida, a state with a large presence of artists, creators and businesses connected to the creation of intellectual property, I have a strong interest in stopping online piracy that costs Florida jobs,” Mr. Rubio wrote on his Facebook page. “However, we must do this while simultaneously promoting an open, dynamic Internet environment that is ripe for innovation and promotes new technologies.”

Mr. Rubio has outsize influence for a junior senator entering his second year in Congress. He is considered a top contender for the vice presidential ticket of his party’s White House nominee this year, and is being groomed by the Republican leadership to be the face of his party with Hispanics and beyond.

Mr. Cornyn posted on his Facebook page that it was “better to get this done right rather than fast and wrong. Stealing content is theft, plain and simple, but concerns about unintended damage to the Internet and innovation in the tech sector require a more thoughtful balance, which will take more time.”

The moves on Capitol Hill came after the White House over the weekend also backed off the legislative effort.

“While we believe that online piracy by foreign Web sites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet,” White House officials said.

With the growing reservations, a bill that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously and without controversy may be in serious trouble. Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader and Democrat of Nevada, has scheduled a procedural vote on the Leahy version for early next week, but unless negotiators can alter it to satisfy the outraged online world, no one expects it to get 60 votes.

“I encourage Senator Reid to abandon his plan to rush the bill to the floor,” Mr. Rubio wrote on Facebook. “Instead, we should take more time to address the concerns raised by all sides, and come up with new legislation that addresses Internet piracy while protecting free and open access to the Internet.”

Indeed, a senior Senate Republican leadership aide said the Senate version of the bill was dead in its current form, and bipartisan negotiations had begun to revise it considerably. Senators from both parties want to address the Internet piracy issue, but they acknowledged that concerns raised by Google and its online partners would have to be addressed.

At issue is how the bills deal with “DNS filtering.” Web site addresses are converted by the Internet’s domain name server system from typed words into computer language to bring a user to a specific Web site.

The Congressional bills would allow the Justice Department to seek injunctions to prevent domestic Internet service providers from translating the names of suspected pirate sites; the legislation would also require search engines such as Google not to display suspected sites on search results. In effect, the bills would make search engines the enforcers of a law they oppose.

Congressional negotiators are looking at radical revisions to the DNS provisions, but lawmakers may decide the resulting legislation is too neutered to pursue, aides from both parties say.

Support for the legislation on Capitol Hill eroded throughout the day. Another Republican co-sponsor of the Senate bill, Roy Blunt of Missouri, withdrew his support in the early afternoon. Other senators who issued concerns about the legislation as written included Republican Senators Mark Kirk of Illinois and Jim DeMint of South Carolina. Senator Scott Brown, Republican of Massachusetts, had said on Tuesday that he would vote against the measure.

Mr. DeMint called the proposed legislation “misguided bills that will cause more harm than good.”

“In seeking to protect intellectual property rights, we must ensure that we do not undermine free speech, threaten economic growth, or impose burdensome regulations,” he said in a statement.

The media industry has been pushing for a legislative response to online piracy for some time. Groups like the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America, as well as giants like News Corporation, are practiced at old-time lobbying — hiring big-name Washington personalities like the former senator Christopher J. Dodd and contributing to campaign funds.

Mr. Dodd, who is now chairman and chief executive of the motion picture association, forcefully denounced the shutdowns in a statement issued on Tuesday.

“Only days after the White House and chief sponsors of the legislation responded to the major concern expressed by opponents and then called for all parties to work cooperatively together, some technology business interests are resorting to stunts that punish their users or turn them into their corporate pawns, rather than coming to the table to find solutions to a problem that all now seem to agree is very real and damaging,” he said.

In the Tea Party era of grass-roots muscle, though, the old school was taken to school, Congressional aides and media lobbyists agree.

“The problem for the content industry is they just don’t know how to mobilize people,” said John P. Feehery, a former Republican leadership aide and executive at the motion picture lobby. “They have a small group of content makers, a few unions, whereas the Internet world, the social media world especially, has a tremendous reach. They can reach people in ways we never dreamed of before.

“This has been a real learning experience for the content world,” Mr. Feehery added.

Commission Fails to Pin Responsibility in Journalist Murder Case

Karachi, Jan 14: That the judicial commission’s report on Saleem Shahzad’s murder is inconclusive should not be surprising, experts say. Its shortcoming lies in its very foundation – the formation of a ‘judicial panel’ to investigate a murder.

The judicial commission’s failure to point out the murderers of journalist Saleem Shahzad was expected, said Coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Asia Programme Bob Dietz.

“I know a lot of journalists had pressed for the judicial panel, but the report now clearly shows that it hasn’t been able to serve its purpose of pointing out the murderers,” Dietz said while speaking to The Express Tribune via phone.

The judicial panel shouldn’t have been tasked with uncovering the murderers of Saleem, simply because this required expertise that they didn’t possess to begin with, Dietz said.

“This is basically the job of the police who are trained to investigate murder cases. In fact it is only because of the inability of the police and the government to uncover the truth that the panel was entrusted with this job,” he said.

Dietz suggested the case should have been investigated by a panel similar to the one that had been formed in the aftermath of Daniel Pearl’s murder in Karachi. “In Daniel’s case, real police work was done by experts in their fields. This led to the arrest of several suspects and eventually some of them were sentenced and sent to jails.”

When asked what was the way forward if the police investigators were vary of probing into a case that allegedly involved senior intelligence agency officials, Dietz proposed that then the media itself would have to do the job of exposing the murderers.

Senior Analyst Mazhar Abbas said he found the report “interesting” and recommended all journalists to go through it “from an academic point of view.”

Abbas pointed out a number of missing links in the commission’s report. For example, he says, the IGP Islamabad’s testimony has not been included in the report to clarify the important point about how Saleem’s vehicle was able to move out of Islamabad all the way to Jhelum without anyone in the police taking notice: “When Saleem was reported kidnapped, did the police pass on a message on their wireless control system about the disappearance?”

Also, he said, that while the commission leaves the door open about the motive and people involved in the incident, it is clear that normally militant groups claim responsibility for their attacks.

“If even for the sake of argument we assume that the Ilyas Kashmiri group was behind the murder [as stated as one of possibilities in the report], then what was stopping them from claiming the attack on Saleem,” he asked.

Pulitzer prize winning author Dexter Filkins, who had written an article in The New Yorker about Shahzad’s death titled “The Journalist and the Spies”, stood by the revelations he had made in his article.

In his piece, Filkins not only connected the dots between Shehzad’s death and militant commander Ilyas Kashmiri’s killing in a drone attack, but also spoke of senior American officials, who alleged that the orders to kill Shahzad came directly from the top army brass.

When asked to comment on the commission’s report, Dexter said in an email: “I’m going to let my article speak for itself.”

ISI’s Brigadier Zahid Mehmood Khan, in his written testimony to the commission mentioned in the report, had lambasted Filkins for his piece.

Published in The Express Tribune with the International Herald Tribune, January 14th, 2012.