Leave Sindh or
In Sindh, the
summer is hotter than usual. The heat generated after the sudden appearance
of wall chalking and hoardings on the streets of Karachi and Hyderabad —
demanding a Mohajir province — is rising.
In March-April this year, a
number of provincial assembly members, particularly female MPAs of Pakistan
People’s Party, informed the Sindh chief minister about letters of threat,
asking them to leave Karachi or face dire consequences. The letters were
allegedly dispatched by an unknown organisation called Mohajir Suba Tehreek.
The Sindh government
addressed the matter casually; it directed the police to investigate the
matter and identify the culprits.
But before the police could
get cracking, the Mohajir province movement intensified. It surfaced on the
roads with a small but a well-organised demonstration in front of the Karachi
Press Club. Banners and placards demanded a separate province for Mohajirs.
Yet, the government of Sindh and Karachi administration remained a silent
The demonstration was
followed by another bigger show of strength on May 16 — this time by women,
and despite the administration’s efforts to stop it, entered
metropolitan’s red zone. These public-mobilised activities were followed by
a press conference by leaders of the so-called Mohajir Suba Tehreek in which
they demanded a separate province for Mohajirs and explained reasons for such
a demand. According to them, the Urdu speaking Mohajirs are discriminated
against in government jobs and in holding top public slots.
In the next few days,
Karachi’s thoroughfares, particularly located in Urdu speaking areas, were
flooded with huge billboards, banners and wall chalking demanding division of
Sindh. The Sindh map was shown divided into two pieces.
Similarly, in the USA some
former parliamentarians of the MQM held a press conference and demanded
formation of a Southern Sindh province. Their demand was the same as the
Mohajir Suba Tehreek, but they avoided using the word Mohajir.
The PPP was hesitant to
take any position and avoided asking the coalition partner, the MQM, to
clarify its position. A heated debate on if the coalition partner was behind
such demands continued both in social circles and media, generating anger in
the interior of Sindh.
The condemnation came from
every quarter of the province, and the Sindh government was criticised for
inaction — its inability to remove the wall chalking — yet no incident of
violence was reported till May 22, 2012.
“I think people of Sindh
showed a great level of maturity,” says Punhal Saryo, a political activist
from Hyderabad. “Demand for the division of Sindh is a matter of life and
death for the Sindhi people, yet they did not take the law into their hands.
People could have removed the banners and wall chalking on their own, at
least in cities in interior Sindh, but they waited for the government to
It was on May 22 when a
“Sindh lovers” rally, jointly organised by the Awami Tehreek of veteran
Sindhi nationalist leader Rasool Bux Palijo and People’s Aman Committee
Lyari, met an unfortunate fate. Though the government had already made all
possible arrangements, including putting containers to block roads to stop
the rally from reaching its concluding point, Karachi Press Club, private
gunmen were also on the roads to block the way of the rally.
The rally had hardly moved
a few kilometres from Lyari’s Cheel Chowk when it came under fire near Paan
Mandi. A group of gunmen directly fired on the rally killing over a dozen of
people on the spot, including two women activists. The police and other law
enforcement agencies were absent from the scene as usual.
Obviously, those who
attacked the rally and targeted the people of a specific ethnic group wanted
bloodshed as a reaction and counter reaction has been a common practice in
such matters in the past. Those who have witnessed ethnic riots in Sindh
feared the worst. Yet, the people of Sindh showed maturity and did not react
violently. A day of mourning or strike was observed throughout the province.
“Displaying Sindh map cut
into two pieces on the billboards and attack on May 22 rally was a conspiracy
to trigger civil war in Sindh,” says Dr Tipu Sultan, provincial president
of Pakistan Peace Coalition, a network of civil society organisations and
president of Pakistan Medical Association. “Thank God! It ended there.”
Those who keep a close eye
on the situation in Sindh say the conflict emanating from the movement for
Mohajir Suba has a potential of escalating into a civil war-like situation in
Sindh. “It is high time all of us intervened, otherwise the situation may
go out of hands,” suggest Jami Chandio, director of Centre for Peace and
Civil Society (CPCS), a Hyderabad-based think tank. “If activities of
Mohajir Suba Tehreek are not curtailed and incidents such as attack on
peaceful rallies are repeated, you may see a civil war in Sindh,” he
Jami Chandio says the PPP
in particular holds a greater responsibility to bring Sindh out of this
crisis. “You need to have a clear policy on these issues. It’s a matter
of life and death for the people of Sindh and this so-called reconciliation
policy cannot work in this case.”
Though media reports and
some programmes on TV channels have attempted to link the demand of Mohajir
province to the creation of Seraiki province in Punjab, even Urdu speaking
intellectuals have rejected such a demand.
“Leave alone the
partition of Sindh, even suggesting it is immoral, unjust and politically
suicidal,” says Arif Hasan, a well-known urban planner and well-respected
intellectual. “Its repercussions (even without division) are horrendous for
all communities living in Sindh.”
Sindh Solidarity Conference
hosted by Sindh United Party and attended by all mainstream and nationalist
political parties on May 30 unanimously adopted a resolution against any
division of Sindh. The PPP and the MQM, two coalition partners in the
government, were not invited to the conference.
parliamentary committee, constituted by the President and headed by Makhdoom
Amin Fahim, has also completed a series of consultations in Sindh and
declared that no political party, including the MQM, wants division of Sindh.
All these expressions of
solidarity and assurances may bring the volatile atmosphere to a halt. There
is a need of proactive action instead of a lame action and expressions of
solidarity after many lives have already been lost.
The power game and battle
for controlling Karachi also need a permanent solution as many see this
Mohajir Suba Tehreek activities a pressure tactic to keep the control over
On May 25, nine
people were killed and over 30 wounded in the Nawabshah district in Sindh
when unidentified gunmen opened fire on a Swabi-bound bus travelling from
According to witnesses, the
gunmen shouted that they had avenged the May 22 attack on the Awami Tehreek
(AT) rally in Karachi while some assailants said that they had avenged the
May 22 killing of Muzaffer Bhutto, secretary general of the Jeay Sindh
Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM). Twelve people were killed and more than 30 wounded in
an armed attack on ‘Love Sindh Rally’, organised by the AT and backed by
the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the People’s Aman Committee, the Awami
National Party and other Sindhi nationalist groups, in protest against the
proposed Mohajir province.
nationalist parties have condemned the assault and termed it a conspiracy to
sabotage their peaceful struggle against the ‘division of Sindh province’
and a bid to fuel ethnic hatred in the province.
“The attack was an
attempt to overshadow the May 22 carnage in Karachi,” said Ayaz Latif
Palijo, head of the AT, alleging that the perpetrators of the bus attack were
the same who had orchestrated the recent killings in Karachi.
“We, the Sindhis, believe
in political and democratic struggle and the bus attack was a conspiracy to
fuel ethnic violence in the province,” Palijo said, adding that false
messages were spread by a Karachi-based ethno-political party through SMS,
Twitter and Facebook that Urdu speaking or Mohajirs were targeted in the bus
attack, whereas all the deceased belonged to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.
No group has claimed
responsibility for the attack, but the police have blamed the Sindhu Desh
Liberation Army (SDLA), a banned separatist group. “We have found pamphlets
of the SDLA at the crime scene in which it claimed responsibility for the
killings,” said Sardar Khan Chandio, a local senior police official. A
journalist, who had visited the crime scene, said that the blood-soaked
pamphlets found at the place carried the names of Muzaffer Bhutto and other
JSMM leaders who have died either in custody or under mysterious
“Similar pamphlets had
been found after explosions on railway tracks and outside National Bank
branches in the Nawabshah district,” Chandio said. At least 16 blasts
occurred at railway tracks at different locations in Sindh on Feb 25 that
completely suspended the railway traffic.
In the pamphlets, the
SDLA’s chief commander, Darya Khan Marri, denounced atrocities against the
Sindhi people and vowed to continue struggle until Sindh gains ‘freedom’.
He requested the Sindhis to take up arms and join the movement for
independent state of Sindh.
The pamphlets found from
the bus read: “Now we will no longer keep receiving the bodies of Sindhi
nationalist leaders. I accept responsibility for today’s attack. I tell all
the migrants in Sindh, especially Punjabis, that if they wish well for their
families and property, they should leave Sindh”.
Some political circles
insist that recent subversive activities in the province show that the Sindh
separatists have also started their own struggle for the separation of
province from Pakistan, taking strength and inspiration from the Baloch
insurgent movement. However, Sindh’s political analysts and leaders are of
the view that Sindhi separatist groups have never been popular in the
“Because of bad
governance, nepotism and corruption and incompetent political cadre of the
ruling PPP, there is frustration and disappointment among Sindhi people,
especially the youth,” said Mansoor Mugheri, a senior journalist, who
monitors Sindh’s politics extensively. He said that a very few of them
might be involved in subversive activities — “Majority of them believe in
peaceful political and democratic struggle.”
The demand for the
separation of Sindh province from Pakistan has been raised time and again,
but the separatist movement has not posed a serious threat to the state of
Pakistan, political analysts believe. Low-scale insurgent attacks from the
SDLA have been reported intermittently in recent years.
The SDLA, an underground
Sindhi separatist organisation, is an offshoot of JSMM (Jeay Sindh Muttahida
Mahaz), a Sindhi nationalist political party, headed by Shafi Muhammad Burfat.
The SDLA comprises members that broke away from various factions of the Jeay
Sindh Tehreek (JST), founded by a prominent Sindhi nationalist leader G.M.
Syed. The government has banned the SDLA for its terrorist activities. The
Crime Investigation Department (CID) of Sindh police has formally included
the name of Burfat in its Red Book, according to media reports.
Although there are more
than a dozen nationalist parties in Sindh, Burfat-led JSSM is the only
nationalist group which believes in militant activities. Burfat belongs to
Taluka Sehwan, District Jamshoro, and remained a close associate of Dr Qadir
Magsi in the late 80s and early 90s. He was also co-accused in the infamous
September 30, 1988 carnage. He had left the JST as his aim was to agitate for
the rights of the Sindhi through “guerrilla warfare”. But leaders of the
party disown the attacks and even any affiliation with the SDLA. “Unlike
other Sindhi nationalist parties, the JSMM is now in very close relationship
with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM),” Mugheri said.
The JSMM leadership blamed
Pakistan’s intelligence agencies for targeting their leaders and activists
only because they struggle for their fundamental and political rights.
“Many of the JSMM’s workers have been kidnapped several months ago while
recently the bullet-riddled body of the party’s central secretary general
Muzaffer Bhutto, who went missing on Feb 24, 2011, was found at roadside in
Hyderabad on May 22,” said Iqbal Morai, a JSMM leader.
Muzaffer Bhutto was kept in
detention for 18 months, her wife Saima Bhutto had told this scribe on Feb
25, adding that he was tortured to the extent that his backbone was damaged.
He was implicated in several bomb blast cases but was later acquitted, she
Morai alleged that the
JSMM’s vice-chairman Serai Qurban Khuhawar, leader Rooplo Choliani and
central committee member Noorullah Tunio were killed in district Sanghar on
April 21, 2011 by the security agencies. Muzaffer’s brother Mumtaz Bhutto
was also killed almost one and a half years ago in an explosion in Hyderabad.
The SDLA had emerged as a
serious threat when they bombed rail tracks in different districts of Sindh
in February last year and an alleged terrorist lost his life on March 2 while
planting a bomb at a railway track located in Jumma Goth in Karachi, said a
CID official. Similarly, the law enforcement agencies had recovered the same
literature of the SDLA after a blast that occurred accidentally on March 7,
2011 in a house at Ibrahim Haideri limits where the SDLA-linked militant
Zulfiqar Kulachi was killed while two others — Ismail Abubakar and
Sardaruddin Allah Dino — were injured.
“After the death of
Kulachi and crackdown by law enforcement agencies in the light of information
received during interrogations of Abubakar and Allah Dino, the network of
SDLA was shattered. But after a year, a series of rail track blasts and
firing on the bus show that the group has again become active in the
province, especially after getting encouragement from Baloch separatist
organisations,” CID officials think.
In the wake of recent
attacks on the AT’s rally in Karachi and passenger bus in Nawabshah, the
law enforcement agencies have launched a crackdown against the supporters of
various nationalist parties. The crackdown has not been limited to Nawabshah
district as law enforcement agencies also raided Thatta, Badin, Tando
Muhammad Khan, Mirpurkhas, Dadu, Sukkur. Reportedly, more than 50 workers of
the JSMM, late Bashir Qureshi-led Jeays Sindh Qaumi Mahaz and Magsi-led Sindh
Tarraqi Pasand Party (STPP) have been detained.
(The writer is a journalist
and researcher. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org )
Baara Tehni is a
board game for two that requires neither a board nor accessories and props.
All you need is someone to play with.
Both squat on the ground,
draw an 8 by 8 square with a sharp-edged stone, gather 12 pebbles and 12
pieces of twigs — hence the name ‘twelve twigs’ — and the game is on.
To an untrained brain, it seems easy, too easy perhaps. All you need to do is
keep moving your pieces forward, because you can’t move them back. A lot of
them get killed, and a few manage to get to the other end, and become kings.
They can now move in any direction hunting the opposition. The side that
loses all pieces, loses the game. Simple. Which is why they call it dumb
But it’s usually the bad
chess players who say that.
Both games require the
ability to strategise, to predict and anticipate the opponent. Distinguished
players are either good at computing possible moves, or are good at
‘sensing’ the danger and opportunity. Champions can belong to either
group, in both the games. And neither is dumber than the other.
Baara Tehni is no more a
third world game either. They are playing it in British pubs and calling it
‘draughts’, they are at it in American bars and calling it ‘checkers’
and the largest number of them is playing it online, without caring what to
call it and without knowing what language the other player speaks. Computer
and internet has enabled a squatter in Narowal to play against a Nasa
scientist without the two ever getting to know each other.
But going by the quality of
players one encounters on popular Internet Checkers websites, it’s fair to
assume there aren’t many scientists among them. To begin with, they find it
hard to choose the level of their expertise and so anyone who can handle a
mouse is found roaming in the ‘intermediate’ level and someone who has
learnt to move their pieces becomes an ‘expert’. A majority of them
couldn’t even be broadly categorised as half decent human beings, which is
probably why they are the only online gamers not allowed to chat freely.
Instead, they are given a set of words to choose from a drop-down list: Uh
oh, Oops, Ouch, Nice try, Yes, No … The limited expressions to pick from,
and the banality of their sound speaks for the kind of people, the checkers
players are taken to be.
But that doesn’t deter
many from trying to have a conversation, and taking it seriously. ‘Hello’
says your opponent. You ignore the chat and make your move. No response. You
wait, and then wait some more, until you realise the other person is sulking.
You then reply with ‘Hello’ or ‘Good luck’ and the game resumes. Or
you make a brilliant move that forces the opponent to throw in the towel, but
while they are contemplating whether or not to press the ‘resign’ button,
they’ll send a ‘Nice try’ your way. If you do not answer with a
‘Thank you’ they’ll take you for an ungrateful punk and will hold the
game up long enough for you to get bored and forfeit a winning board.
There are losers out there
who hate losing a game. So when defeat becomes inevitable they say ‘Be
right back’ and disappear for ever, or ‘Sorry I have to go now’. But
they are not gone, they are just waiting for you to leave the game, so they
can take the undeserved win. That’s how the online version works: whoever
leaves the game, or gets disconnected, loses.
Occasionally, the loser
also happens to be a computer geek, in which case they enlist technology to
make up for what they lack in skill. So you have a tough game in which you
finally start to prevail. You make your winning move and wait for the
opponent to resign. But there’s a lull on the other side. ‘You can’t
think your way out of this buster. Give up,’ you say aloud triumphantly,
patting your own back.
Buster is not thinking
though. They are feverishly manipulating the internet protocols and rigging
codes to make you lose your connection with the game server. Here you are
waiting to take a well earned win and suddenly a pop-up tells you your
connection is broken. But you haven’t missed the message the opponent sent
just before booting you out. It says: ‘How about that?’
The participants of
two grand jirgas held in May in Peshawar were unanimous — that the Fata
must be pulled out of the current crisis.
The first jirga, organised
by the Fata Grand Alliance in mid-May, demanded that the tribal areas be
declared a separate province, and that the passage of a bill by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa
Assembly to seek merger of the Fata with KP is a conspiracy to take control
of its resources. The moot termed the passage of the bill a step towards the
creation of Greater Pakhtunistan by the ruling Awami National Party (ANP).
A bill in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa
Assembly recently sought the merger of the seven tribal agencies and six
Frontier Regions of the Fata with the province so the tribal areas can be
There is feeling that the
current status of the Fata is one of the major reasons for its basic
problems, including illiteracy, terrorism and lack of basic facilities.
The Political Parties Act
was extended to the tribal areas only recently.
The administrative control
of the Fata rests with the federal government while the KP government posts
tribal bureaucrats. The complex structure of the administration is apparent
from the fact that provincial commissioners head the political agents who are
not the employees of the province. The provincial home secretary also looks
after the affairs of the Fata though the Fata Secretariat has its own
Most of the areas in the
Fata lack educational and health facilities, development infrastructure,
means of communication, clean water and the right to elect their leaders. The
Fata has MNAs and senators elected from the areas, but there is no provincial
assembly nor there is a proper structure of local bodies governments like
other parts of the country.
The chief executive of the
Fata, the Governor Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, sits in Peshawar and also looks after
the affairs of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Besides, not only the civil
secretariat for the Fata is located in Peshawar but the political agents of
almost all the tribal agencies have their offices in the settled districts,
out of their area of jurisdiction.
During the tribal jirga
held in Peshawar, a number of incumbent and former parliamentarians,
chieftains and elders, including Hamidullah Jan, Senator Haji Khan, Senator
Hilal Rehman, Malik Rasheed Ahmad, Zafar Baig Betani, Ayaz Wazir, Gohar Ali
Afridi and Brig (retd) Said Nazeer, stressed for a solution to all the
miseries of the tribesmen and to bring it at par with the settled districts
of the country.
The speakers complained
that the people of the Fata were used against Soviet Union, British India and
America. They said they are still being used and the rulers of Pakistan have
deprived the brave and patriotic tribal people of their fundamental human
rights. They stressed for preserving the culture of tribal people, the
independent status for the area and revival of the jirga system.
The demands by the jirga
included introducing the local government system, establishment of the Fata
Council and a separate judicial system.
Apart from corruption, the
jirga said the presence of non-tribesmen in the tribal bureaucracy is one of
the reasons the government departments have failed to find any solution to
the problems being faced by the Fata.
The establishment of an
industrial zone in the Fata, a new economic system and end to drone attacks
and military operations in the tribal areas was also part of the demands made
by the jirga.
The senior Pakhtun
nationalist, Afzal Khan Lala, called another jirga in Peshawar, inviting
people not only from KP and the Fata but from Afghanistan, Balochistan and
the rest of the world. The two-day moot was held on May 29-30 at Nishtar
The Pakhtun intelligentsia
from all over the world participated in the moot and stressed for joint
efforts to end the so-called war on terror being fought on their soil. “The
event was organised for the noble cause of uniting Pakhtuns to find a
solution to their problems,” said Afzal Khan.
Apart from senior
leadership of the Awami National Party, the Pakistan People’s Party, the
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, the
Jamat-e-Islami, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid,
hundreds of intellectuals, policy makers, members of think tanks, lawyers and
people from different walks of life attended the jirga.
The Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf
and the Pakistan People’s Party-Sherpao did not attend the jirga.
Chief Minister Ameer Haider
Hoti, addressing the jirga, said there would be different approaches of
different political groups towards the issue but they want all the political
forces to unite to find a solution to the miseries of the Pakhtun nation. He
supported reforms in the tribal areas to end their deprivation but stressed
the reforms should be made only as per the wishes of the tribesmen.
“For a permanent end to
the troubles of Pakhtuns in Pakistan and Afghanistan, not only the
governments but the people of the two countries need to play an important
role,” Hoti told the jirga.
The leaders of other
political parties lauded the initiative taken by Afzal Khan Lala, saying it
will prove to be a milestone in finding a solution to the longstanding issues
faced by the Pakhtun nation.
“Despite being a peaceful
nation, Pakhtuns and Afghans always remained victims of foreign conspiracies.
This is not for the last few decades but for the last hundreds of years,”
said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the KP Information Minister, informing the jirga
that the recent wave of terrorism has claimed the lives of over 750 staunch
workers and office-bearers of the ANP alone.
Tribesmen attending the
jirga hoped the meeting would be helpful in finding a solution to the tribal
problems. “The tribesmen have suffered a lot due to everyday bombings,
suicide attacks, military operations and other developments in the region for
the last many years. Such events can bring the people of the tribal areas
into the mainstream by introducing reforms,” said Ilyas Afridi, a tribesman
from Khyber Agency.
Senator Mian Raza
Rabbani was the chairperson of the special Parliamentary Committee on
Constitutional Reform (PCCR) which deliberated the urgently required
devolution of powers along with certain other institutional changes. In the
passage of the famous 18th Amendment, Rabbani’s contribution to the
development of federalism in Pakistan is unmatched and the book “A
Biography of Pakistani Federalism: Unity in Diversity” only reaffirms his
commitment to federalism and provincial autonomy as well as to the diversity
of the various peoples of Pakistan.
A major portion of the book
is allocated to the impact of the 18th Amendment and its sequel in the form
of 19th Amendment on the constitution but it also discusses the contours and
history of evolution of federalism in Pakistan.
While tracing the roots of
federalism in pre-partition India, the author suggests that Muslim struggle
to assert their rights and later for a separate state might have been an
important factor in introducing constitutional federalism in India. While one
may not necessarily entirely agree with his view of pre-partition
Hindu-Muslim politics, he convincingly argues that Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali
Jinnah wanted a federal state for a long time. The first two points included
in his 1929 constitutional formula (popularly known as “the 14 points”)
for resolving differences between the two communities prescribed that “the
form of the future constitution should be federal with the residuary powers
vested in the provinces”, and that “A uniform measure of autonomy shall
be granted to all provinces”. (Pages 25, 33).
The author argues that the
Muslim leaders of united India wanted a federal form of state. And though the
Lahore Resolution of 1940 categorically rejected the Government of India Act,
1935, as a solution to communal problems of India, the author traces the
roots of federalism in the united India to the 1935 Act which he sees as the
first step toward federalism in India. This may sound convincing as the 1935
Act for the first time introduced an All-India Federation and granted some
autonomy to the constituent units. In order to support his assertion, the
author further refers to that part of the Lahore Resolution where it declares
that the answer to the constitutional crisis lay in grouping together Muslim
majority areas “to constitute independent States in which the constituent
units shall be autonomous and sovereign”.
This is an apt rejoinder to
the oft-repeated argument against decentralisation, devolution, and
provincial autonomy that since Pakistan was created as an Islamic state,
there could be only one centre of power and all centrifugal forces had to be
In fact, it won’t be
wrong to argue that for over six decades the politics of Pakistan has
revolved around the federal question. The anti-democratic forces favoured a
state where the provinces had little autonomy. Any scheme that could prevent
the state from becoming a democratic federation constituting autonomous units
was tried. The abolition of provinces in the western part of the original
state and creation of one unit in 1955, the imposition of martial laws, and
the state’s antagonistic role against the most populous province i.e. East
Bengal, and later against the least populous province, Balochistan.
The 1973 constitution for
the first time moved away from the Government of India Act and clearly
recognised Pakistan as a federation in its substantive part. The 1973
constitution was accepted by the less populous provinces, partly because it
accommodated them somewhat better than the 1956 constitution and partly
because it was offered as a precursor to the grant of more autonomy. However,
first lack of political maturity and then martial laws came in the way.
The 18th Amendment has
introduced over 100 changes to the constitution, with the biggest impact
being on the relations between the federation and provinces. The 18th
Amendment not only meets the federating units’ demand for abolition of the
Concurrent Legislative List, it also allows the units some say in respect of
a few matters that have so far been in the Federal List; for instance,
census, major ports, use of the police force belonging to one province in
another province and duty on property. The change proposed in Article 172
makes the federating units joint and co-equal owners with the federal
government of mineral, oil and gas within the provinces or the territorial
waters adjacent thereto. Previously, the ownership of these resources vested
in the federal government alone.
The story of the 18th
Amendment and its sequel in the form of 19th Amendment is a story of the art
of the possible: political compromises and accommodation; not only with
political opponents but also toward institutional opposition within the state
structure even when the ideological make-up of personalities dictated
The adoption of the 18th
Amendment in 2010 by all shades of opinion in the parliament was nothing
short of a miracle. It not only marks a giant stride towards realising the
promise of the 1973 constitution, in several respects, it surpasses the 1973
consensus. Senator Rabbani argues that states are strengthened when they
acknowledge and accept pluralism and diversity. His main contention is that
in acknowledging provinces as equal partners lies the way forward for an
ethnically diverse Pakistan.
The fact that Pakistan is
pluralistic and diverse society needs to be reflected in our constitution.
The diversity of Pakistan should be seen as a source of federal strength
rather than as a weakness. The Eighteenth Constitutional Amendment is only
the first step toward that end.
Three weeks after
the killing of Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011, the embarrassed Pakistani
intelligence agencies picked up 48-year-old Dr Shakil Afridi for, assumingly,
helping Central Investigation Agency in getting close to OBL through some
planned vaccination campaigns.
Dr Afridi, now sentenced
for 33 years for helping certain militant groups a few years ago, remained
“missing” since May 23, 2011. The government and agencies neither
announced his detention nor charged him with anything.
The doctor, who has become
a bone of contention between Pakistan and the United States, is waiting for
his fate in a risky Peshawar jail where a large number of Islamic militants
are housed. These militants consider OBL a hero of Islam and a true fighter.
The US has sought Dr
Afridi’s release and warned Pakistan of cutting its aid if the accused is
not freed, contending that he is a hero, not a traitor. Pakistan, however,
views the doctor as a spy.
Many experts believe Dr
Afridi’s sentence, which is widely condemned by the United States on
various forums, is the last bargaining chip for Pakistan in the damaged
“For many, he is a hero,
but certain elements want to present him as a traitor,” his brother Jamil
Afridi tells TNS. “He is being made a scapegoat and the whole family is
under stress and feels threatened due to such designed campaigns.”
Adding a new twist to the
episode last week, Dr Afridi has been accused of collaborating with Islamist
militants. The Assistant Political Agent of Khyber Agency, under the tribal
rules, has sentenced him for 33 years on charges of militancy, and not
because of his role in helping the CIA trace the Al Qaeda leader and
‘conspiring’ against the state. He is accused of aiding Lashkar-e-Islam,
a militant group based in the tribal region of Khyber Agency, led by Mangal
According to the verdict,
Dr Afridi, once Khyber Agency’s chief surgeon, gave Lashkar-e-Islam medical
and financial support and allowed the militant group’s commanders to use
his offices at a Khyber hospital to plan attacks against security forces.
The family of Dr Afridi,
through a panel of five lawyers, has challenged the verdict before Frontier
Corps Commissioner, terming it baseless. “Dr Afridi has no links with
militants and his sentence is also illegal as political agent cannot award
such a sentence,” Samiullah Afridi, one of the lawyers from the panel tells
“Ironically, he has been
accused of aiding the group of militants which kidnapped Dr Afridi for ransom
and he was released after paying one million rupees for which the family took
loans and his wife sold her jewellery,” his brother tells TNS.
Human Rights Commission of
Pakistan (HRCP) has also demanded that the doctor must get a fair trial.
“The trial of Dr Afridi falls well short of the due process on many counts.
The core principle of natural justice has been ignored and Dr Afridi has been
denied due legal assistance,” the commission says.
Born in a small village
amid mango orchards in district Khanewal of south Punjab, Dr Afridi moved to
Peshawar for his medical education. The village, also known as village of
Pathans, houses Afridi tribe families with around 5,000 people. The village
was established in 1920 after the First World War. The British rulers, later,
started allotting pieces of land to its local soldiers here.
His father, who died two
years ago, was a former Frontier Corps solider and was allotted some land
here where he started farming. Dr Afridi’s mother died three years ago. No
one from his immediate family, including him and his brothers and sisters,
are in America or have dual nationality. One of his uncles was also class
fellow of former president of Pakistan, late Ghulam Ishaq Khan.
Dr Afridi has two sons and
one daughter. The eldest son, around 17, was admitted in Kohat Cedet College.
Dr Afridi had been in government service since early 90s. He had served in
Khyber agency as agency surgeon from 1993 and used to work with NGOs on
Almost half a dozen of the
Afridi family has been serving in Pakistan Army and Pakistan Air Force since
1947, while many are civil servants. “We are sons of the soil and loyal to
this country. We are from this soil and not immigrants. We love our country
and our old generations have served it,” his brother says, adding, “We
want justice and fair trial.”