By Ahmer Kureishi
Assad Hameed -- Raja Assad for his many friends and me -- was not my brother. He was everyone's brother. Is it possible that some of his brothers in law-enforcement agencies are dwelling on his murder even as I write this?
Friend in deed for friends in need
Pakistan's friends may pay Pakistan well but what price will Pakistan pay for this friendship?
By Adnan Rehmat
It's hard to be a friend of Pakistan these days -- influential international magazine covers declare it the most dangerous country in the world; its neighbours are wary of it for the harm potential it represents; few want to invest in a country that lives from loan instalment to loan instalment (fewer still have any idea where the loan money goes) and we're not even nice to the very few foreign sports teams that dare venture an adventure here.
So why is it that a new fan club of powerful international players proclaims it is the 'Friends of Pakistan'? The political world doesn't run on altruism -- it operates on the basis of interests. So what interests could possibly Britain, France, Germany, United States, China, United Arab Emirates, Canada, Turkey, Australia, Italy, Saudi Arabia, United Nations and European Union have with Pakistan? This is an odd group: two of the biggest players here are not countries; most are non-Muslim; UN and EU don't have money to hand out; and there are no neighbours here at all. If the group represents the success of Pakistan's foreign policy then it's alarming that barely a dozen of the 200 countries in the world want to formally come out of the closet and declare themselves Pakistan's friends. The presence of UN and EU is suspiciously symbolic here; neither calls any country of the world its enemy so calling Pakistan a friend is neither here nor there.
Saving the world
There can only be one general explanation: clearly Pakistan is on the brink with a high price to pay for all those who will be affected by its failures for a country-specific group to be constituted thus. This is a concerted effort to convince Pakistan that if it helps save the world from itself, the world can help save Pakistan from implosion. However, the composition of the group belies the conditionalities of the pact to help each other. In return for fighting yet another war of values (against fundamentalism, in favour of secularism) for the western world, Islamabad can expect to get a treatment different from its bitter experience of the 1980s' war against values of a different kind: against atheism and in favour of faith (how the world changes in half a lifetime!). In short, the Friends of Pakistan are friends not because they want to help Islamabad for its own sake but that they want to help themselves by not letting Pakistan hurt them more than what it already is doing by letting an anti-west strategic (if asymmetric) war bloom dangerously close to irreversible.
The first Big War embroiling virtually the entire planet of the new century and millennium, of which Pakistan has agreed to become theatre of, will not be easy or cheap and will need the country's full attention and plentiful resources and commitment. The financial and security crisis that will be its bedrock is the hydra that the Friends of Pakistan hope to slay by instituting a mechanism of coordinated international cooperation that will, purportedly, keep Islamabad focused on the task at hand. Pakistan faces formidable challenges, to put it mildly, and well-coordinated international cooperation in the shape of the Friends of Pakistan group is the answer in partnership with the government that is believed will address those challenges. The Friends have met at least three times in the last few months to devise a framework of assistance to forge a strategic partnership with Islamabad in five key areas -- stability, development, border areas, energy, and institution building.
Buying the buy-in
The group has formally recognised the threat posed by violent extremism, and pledged to help Pakistan lead the fight in the country, with the support of the international community, against the extremists. The group has acknowledged the need for Pakistan to undertake serious economic reform, and agreed to consider improved trade access for Pakistan to their markets. The group has agreed to encourage private sector involvement in Pakistan's development. The group has also agreed to form a partnership with Islamabad to develop a comprehensive and coordinated approach to the security, development, and political needs of restive Pak-Afghan border regions.
For once there's a global consensus that a democratic government, not a military dispensation in Pakistan will create the buy-in and support of the populace against the war that will be escalated in the coming months -- the economic and institutional support through a framework mechanism is an attempt to underwrite the international commitment to investing in Pakistan's economic and democratic future. This is why supporting Pakistan's democratic institutions, including the rule of law and good governance reform, is an important goal of the group.
Dollars and sense
The group is meeting in the next few days in Tokyo, Japan to put some dollar figures to these commitments to enable Pakistan to get into top gear to earn this economic lifeline. Until then, however, it is not clear if the Friends will pledge help for five years or ten, which sort of makes one think if one really makes friends for pre-determined periods of time. And also how much in dollars and cents will this 'friendship' be weighted for? Before one reflects on this, it is difficult not to consider why for once the US is not insisting it is Friend #1 of Pakistan. The US does not want to be Pakistan's only friend now for a reason. There is safety in numbers and there are a number of countries that want to safeguard their interests. It helps that it will also cost them less if they pooled together to help Pakistan. The last time the US was Pakistan's 'close' friend, it was for the duration of the jihad (when it wasn't such a dirty word) in Afghanistan in the 1980s (to build the warring capacity of the same groups it now seeks to annihilate). After the Washington victory -- arguably the largest covert CIA operation in history -- with no small help from Pakistan, the US not just abandoned Islamabad abruptly without helping it bring the theatre of conflict to a closure but in fact quickly imposed crippling military and economic sanctions on it and in a decidedly unfriendly action, not only didn't give Pakistan the F-16s it had paid for but also refused to return the money, deciding to instead pay in kind -- wheat! Is this what you do to a friend? So Pakistan for the same services on commission wants better guarantees and bigger bucks.
Paying the price
What constitutes 'big bucks' for the 'help Pakistan' agreement being stitched together? The Asia Society think-tank said in a special report recently that Pakistan needs up to $50 billion over the next five years to avoid an economic meltdown that risks turning the country over to militants and considers it a bargain to prevent nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands and thereafter the world's worst nightmare coming true. Pakistan, surprisingly, is asking for only $30 billion in aid over 10 years raising the spectre of selling itself cheap yet again. The group hasn't given a price it considers is fair for this friendship but has broadly hinted that they will do what it takes to help Pakistan to undertake serious economic reform and facilitate improved trade access for Pakistan to their markets. They have also agreed to encourage private sector involvement in Pakistan's development.
Pakistan has had a terrible price to pay for the first US-led war in the region in the 1980s. April 17 in Tokyo will show if the world can pay the price of another US-led war in the region in the 2000s that it wants to win at all costs. If the price is right, Pakistan will prove to be a friend in deed for its friends in need. But the question is: its friends may pay Pakistan well but what price will Pakistan pay for this friendship?
Many social and religious dynamics are involved in the awareness and use of contraceptives
By Naila Inayat
The Afghan girl who caught worldwide attention after she appeared on the cover of National Geographic magazine epitomised regression for many. Back in college I remember a creative exercise on her photograph. What amazing adjectives we came up with on the negative effects of war on human body and psyche. Today as I sit with the 27-year-old Shabnam and her six children at a slum near Liaqatabad, Lahore the image of that Afghan girl bears little importance.
"I was 17 when I got married and since then I have been listening to these fancy slogans like bachay du hee achay (two children are the best option). For us this need remains unmet to this date," she tells TNS. "We don't have the money and the resources to plan our family even if we want to."
Shabnam is not alone. Many couples living in various slums around Lahore face similar problems.
"I came to know about family planning through a neighbour. I started taking pills without telling my husband or consulting a doctor. For a year or so things remained under control after which I became unwell and decided to stop taking the pills," said 24-year-old Aminah.
As I walk towards 23-year-old Humnah she gives me a strange look saying "I'm not interested in talking about contraception because the last time I did my husband fought with me saying that any contraceptive technique will affect his masculinity. He neither agrees on using condoms nor approves of me taking pills because he thinks I will lose fertility -- this happened with his friend's wife though."
According to the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey 2006-7 (PDHS) the use of contraception has tripled since the 1980s, but has levelled off in recent years. Since 2003, the use of condoms and female sterilisation has increased, while use of injectables IUDs (intrauterine devices) and pills has decreased slightly.
"The census was to be conducted in 2008 but it was postponed, however PDHS has given enough information to at least increase our concerns," says MNA Dr Attiya Inayatullah. "There is zero political will from the government. You can pour in money in the education sector or talk big about law and order but the fact remains that national development in any country is closely linked with controlled population."
At the 1994 United Nations International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, the then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto emphasised the right to family planning.
The idea of every child conceived being nurtured, loved and supported is utopian for 27-year-old Hajra and her husband Aslam. "I want contraceptive security and know all about its significance but the problem is with the services. The health worker, whenever he visits our locale, sits all day long counting the goods and bads of using contraception," says Hajra. Her husband thinks "it is odd that a male worker sits with my wife telling her about contraception. Frankly I don't like this idea but what we have little choice because we have to keep a check on the number of children."
That was Aslam, a supporting husband but there are people like Saleem in this slum who think contraception is not only un-Islamic but also badly affects women's health. "My wife Naseem was taking pills for about six months but then she became unwell and the doctor in our locality told us that this is because of the pills. And our local khateeb also advised us to stop taking these precautions as we will end up in hell," he says naively.
Federal Minister for Population Welfare Dr Fardous Ashiq Awan also agrees that we need to be "sensitive about our socio-cultural dynamics. You cannot expect a male worker to talk openly about contraception especially in underdeveloped areas. Initially the workers had all contraceptive tools in their kits including condoms, injectables or the pills."
"The biggest problem that my ministry faces is the availability of contraceptives. The contraceptives are available with some projects of the Ministry of Health, like Green Star, who get their funding through USAID. I believe that the population welfare ministry should control the availability of contraceptives. There is no point in health workers going door-to-door without having the proper equipment in their tool kit."
NGOs, Fardous feels, get all the financial assistance and when it comes to deliverance or responsibility the blame is borne by the government. "The policy is there but there is disparity between its implementation and paper-work. We need to define the roles of the provinces and the centre. I want to de-federalise the entire setup," she said.
While discussing the key findings of PDHS at the USAID sponsored TACMIL Health Project, it was identified that family planning mechanisms increase with women's education. Women with more than secondary education are almost twice as likely to use a modern method. The figures also change dramatically with wealth -- 43 percent women in the wealthiest households use a contraceptive method compared to only 16 percent in the poorest households. Public sources such as government hospitals, Reproductive Health Services Centre (RHSC) health/family welfare centres and Lady Health Workers currently provide contraceptives to about half of current users, while 30 percent are facilitated by private hospitals.
End of the line
By Shoaib Hashmi
It started at dawn. Around six o'clock, the police recruits were beginning to start the day's proceedings in the building devoted to them. A bunch of about a dozen miscreants who, it later appeared, had come three days before found their way in and proceeded to throw dozens of hand-grenades at the inmates then they proceeded to shoot any one moving. They took over the ground and first floor taking hostages. The authorities gathered police, rangers and the army and took over the top floor.
It was obvious to anyone that this was the end of the line for the terrorists with no available exists. Eventually, by twos and threes, they started killing themselves. By five o'clock the people on the roof started raising slogans of triumph and firing in the air. It seemed that all the terrorists had surrendered, and in about half an hour it had all ended with all the terrorists taken in.
It was a triumphal moment for the authorities although all were aware that it was at the cost of a few dozen lives at either end. The reaction was most peculiar. In small pockets, but across the board, the universal reaction was, "This is totally unacceptable, and we won't stand for it!" For years we have stood on the side-walk and watched the goings-on in Delhi and Mumbai, not to mention Iraq, with the whispered prayer "There, but for the grace of God, go we'. Suddenly it is at our doorstep!
We were still mulling over that, trying to decide what to do when all the TV channels put on a most peculiar clip. It was of a young girl who was suspected of carrying on an affair with a young man and some people decided to take matters into their own hands and punish her by publicly flogging her. Nobody knows the truth of the matter, nor even where the incident took place or when but the reaction was quite the opposite of what anyone might have suspected.
The next day a whole wave of revulsion passed through the country, and between four and five thousand people took out a procession condemning the barbarous act and making clear that this kind of summary procedure was quite unacceptable, to be echoed by processions all over the country. And that is where we stand now. Opinion is divided across the board all over the country but it seems the kind of rough justice advocated by the militants is not acceptable to everyone. And they are coming out to say so.
Change of guard
The hard-line position of Syed Munawar Hassan, JI's newly elected amir, may further estrange the party from mainstream politics
By Dr Arif Azad
Jamat-i-Islami, like all ideologically rigid and disciplined political parties, has displayed stability and longevity as far as the office of its amir is concerned. In its 67-year-life the party has seen only three amirs -- Abul Ala Maududi, the founder (1941-72), Mian Tufail Mohammad (1972-87) and Qazi Hussain Ahmed (1987-2008). The attention generated by the election of the new amir (leader) is, therefore, no surprise.
The slow and peaceful process of the amir's election at Masoora, the party's headquarter, was accompanied by the political lineaments of the new leader and the impact on the future of the party. Questions like how the new leader, Munawar Hassan, will be different from the previous ones are also on the table.
While the first two amirs were said to be rigid in their ideological positions, the mould was broken with the election of Qazi Hussain Ahmed. Qazi sought to open up the party to the youth by expanding beyond the disciplined and trained cadres of Jamat. He also shouldered the responsibility of washing party clean of its association with Gen Zia-ul-Haq's widely despised legacy. This led to the formation of Pasban and Shababi-Milli mainly to change the party's rigid image and recruit members with no previous associations with the party's student wing Islami-Jamiat-i-Tulaba (IJT), the main recruiting ground for the JI. More significantly, these satellite organisations made appeal to the new members on the basis of a social justice platform which ran against the ideological tenor of the party.
Not surprisingly, this populist shift did not go down well with the old guard obsessed with holding on to ideological purity in the JI's ranks. The upshot was Tehrik-I-Islami, a breakaway group by veteran Jamat leader, Naeem Siddiqi. Therefore, when Qazi Hussain Ahmed, the outgoing amir, indicated his intention not to seek another term in office, the speculations regarding the identity of the next contenders started.
Three candidates were ruled out by the countrywide membership to stand for the election of the amir. Here credit to JI is in order for adopting democratic path to elect the new leader. The candidates included Syed Munawar Hassan, secretary general of the party, Liaqat Baloch, ex-nazim –i-ala of IJT, and Sirajul Haq, an ex- minister in MMA government in NWFP.
Munawar Hassan won the election with more than 51 per cent of the cast votes (more than 12,000 out of a total of more than 23,000). Siraj-ul-Haq came in second with more than 8000 votes. The win also shows the battle of ideas between ideologically rigid old guard and politically flexible, new age leadership of JI. Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Liaqat Baloch and Siraj-ul-Haq could be included in the new age leadership, well versed in the art of pragmatic politics honed in parliamentary positions.
While in the past, the general secretary of the party usually got an easy ride with minimal opposition, Siraj-ul-Haq's tally of votes shows that a solid chunk of membership opposes the old guard of the party set in rigid ideological mould. It would be fair to assume that Munawar Hassan mirrors the rigid position of the old guard.
A lot in Munawar Hassan's biography suggest his intellectual and political inflexibility. He started off his political career with the leftist student grouping, National Student Federation, which he soon left to join the IJT, with the zeal of a born-again Islamic ideologue. This set him up for a typical career route in the Jamat's hierarchy, making his way to secretary general of the party through various stints as IJT's top office bearer and amir of Karachi's JI.
Munawar Hassan, an urbanite to the core, hails from Delhi and lives in Karachi. His intellectual development took place at research academy run by the Jamat where he nourished his ideological purism. With little experience of parliamentary politics, except a brief spell in the 1977 parliament, Munawar has retained his political and ideological purism by staying away from practical politics. (This sets him apart from Liaqat Baloch and Siraj-ul-Haq who have been tempered by rough and tumble of parliamentary politics).
Munawar's interviews have strengthened the image of his leadership style as rigid, inflexible and doctrinaire. True to his reputation, he dusted off old well-known position of JI and reiterated them in his interviews. These positions are not likely to comfort those seeking to continue on reformist trajectory within the JI.
Hassan has also praised Taliban rule as an ideal period in Islamic history besides characterising India as an unnatural state. He has also pledged to help the culture of jihad grow and lend a hand to Islamic movements and believes al-Qaeda to be a figment of western imagination. He has repeatedly cast aspersions on Mian Nawaz Sharif's politics while criticised and singled out US as the cause of all our problems.
Cumulatively, his views add up to an already existing image of the new amir as ideologically pure and hard-line in political convictions .It seems the trend of ideological openness started by Qazi Hussain Ahmed, despite its limited success, is going to be back-pedalled by the new amir. The era of back-to-basics in ideological politics appears to be back in play with Munawar Hassan's elevation as the new amir.
This is hardly promising for a party struggling to craft people-friendly identity in a fast changing world. His hard-line position may further estrange the party from mainstream political parties. His background in the turbulent politics of Karachi may also pit JI against MQM as shown by his strident demand to investigate events around May 12 massacre. JI has entered another interesting yet uncertain phase, which is going to be closely followed beyond Mansoora.
Dr Arif Azad is a policy analyst based in Islamabad. firstname.lastname@example.org
A friend remembers Assad Hameed, a journalist recently murdered in Rawalpindi
By Ahmer Kureishi
Assad Hameed -- Raja Assad for his many friends and me -- was not my brother. He was everyone's brother. Is it possible that some of his brothers in law-enforcement agencies are dwelling on his murder even as I write this?
He was killed at his doorstep as he returned from work on the evening of March 26, 2009. What was he thinking when it caught up with him? Did he think of his mother and two-year-old daughter he was so attached to? What did he feel when he realised he will never see his child again, that she will grow up in a chaotic, lawless world without him? Did he agonise over the sheer impossibility of it? She was feet away from him, right behind that door, in the arms of her mother, who was probably aware of the stopping car expecting anything. They were so close, yet he would never expose his fears to them. Did he at all see it coming? Is it possible he saw it coming for days, maybe weeks, months, or years?
Assad brought to journalism a law degree. He was a colleague at Online, the news service, for a brief period after which he moved on to cover the crime beat for the start-up Sun newspaper. But the friendship we found in those fleeting days lasted till his death.
Assad -- a journalist to the core and one of the more prominent journalists of the city -- was killed in cold blood and nothing seems to be coming of it. Call it hasty, false allegation and I will agree with you, prove me wrong and I will be thankful. But honestly, I do not see anything coming of this assassination. Have we not seen investigation into the murder of so many journalists get nowhere?
Where, for instance, has the investigation into the killing (March 22, 2008) of Tariq Malik Javed gone? What has become of the murder (February 18, 2008) of Musa Khankhel? Where has the probe into the murder (October 31, 2006) of Malik Muhammad Ismail gone?
The circumstances of these murders vary. Assad was gunned down at his doorstep; Javed was apparently killed by robbers; Khankhel was picked up from the middle of a crowd while reporting live at the peace rally of Sufi Muhammad and his bullet-riddled body was found by the wayside hours later; Malik Ismail was bludgeoned to death with a blunt weapon, his hands tied, according to the autopsy report.
On the face of it, all these murders are unrelated, and yet, there is one thing common -- all these murders seem to be going unpunished. Nor are these the only journalists to have been killed in recent times. In 2008 alone, nine journalists had been killed, four were kidnapped and two went missing, according to a recent HRCP report.
The Committee to Protect Journalists stated on March 23, 2009 that the already murderous conditions for the press in Pakistan deteriorated further in the past year, as it released its newly updated Impunity Index -- a list of countries where journalists are killed regularly while the governments fail to solve the issue. Nor are journalists the only people whose murders are going unpunished. Politicians, lawyers, social workers, doctors, diplomats, citizens, soldiers, policemen… the list is endless. The only pattern discernable is that in our country, people are being killed with impunity.
It is possible that I am oversimplifying, but I think this 'culture of murder' is a product of the mentality that the use of force can solve problems. At the root of all murder -- be it 'wholesale murder' by organised mobs, target killing by 'unknown assailants,' deliberate murder over a land dispute or impetuous killing over a verbal altercation -- is this murderous mentality that could not but flourish in a society bereft of rule of law and only in such a society.
We have made some progress towards rule of law in recent times. But have we moved back far enough from the brink to make it to safety? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, let the powerful among us remember that in a lawless society, no privilege is guaranteed. A society conditioned to condone any murder will condone any murder, there will be no exceptions. Nothing. Nothing will protect any of us unless the law protects all of us.
Should we fail to avenge
We fall, sure as death, one
Sure as you have fallen,
Dancing in Dhaka II
By Omar R Quraishi
Continued from last week
Someone who has lived most of his life in Karachi, it was interesting to watch the social dynamics of another large South Asian city. My previous trips to New Delhi, Mumbai and Dhaka were equally interesting. This is not to say that the city doesn't have its fair share of ugliness and problems but it was different from Karachi and Lahore in many ways.
For starters, I saw, as in Mumbai or New Delhi, far more women on the streets, walking, and going about their daily lives. This is clearly different from most Pakistani cities where levels of conservatism have become so high that to see a woman walking in normal (read without a naqab or a hijab) attire has become an exception rather than a rule.
I am reminded as I write this, just how much of a misogynistic society Pakistan is or has become because well over 10 years ago, while hiking in the Nathiagali Hills and taking the pipeline walk (from Donga Gali to Ayubia -- brilliant for those who don't like steep walks -- and brilliant in any case) I remember seeing signs on trees lining the Ayubia chairlift which said that it was incumbent upon everyone to cut a woman's hair if she was wearing it long and without a hijab! Again, the qualifier is that while women in Dhaka or the rest of Bangladesh may have many problems particular to them, they are not so discriminated that their physical presence on the streets or their right to work for a living or travel outside their homes, become points of conflict and discrimination.
I saw some sense of civic responsibility at the time of commuting like dozens waiting in a long queue for buses at some of Dhaka's busiest thoroughfares -- something I don't ever imagine seeing in Pakistan. Then, there were the homeless in Dhaka -- apparently in millions because roughly 40 percent of the city's estimated 12 million population live in shanties. And Dhaka's shanties pale in comparison to Karachi's shanties. Here the houses are brick-built, have water, gas and electricity connection (all generally illegal, though the tenant pays for it to the 'owner') and some amenities of a modern life such as television and cable and are also available.
In Dhaka, several times I saw people living under large inverted plastic bags, used as a shelter, and children and babies sleeping by the roadside. These people usually live near a nullah or a sewer which is then used as a washing sink, kitchen sink, bathroom and bathing area all rolled into one. The city has several lakes and nullahs. Just like Karachi, these are veritable reservoirs of raw sewage, industrial pollution and what not. Most have shanties situated on their banks accessed by the 'residents' via boats. Given that it rains a hell of a lot in Dhaka (around 1900 millimetres every year) this kind of living is suicidal. But then these people don't have any other choice, presumably.
One thing to Dhaka's advantage is its version of rickshaw which, I was told by my mother, were also found in Karachi but not anymore. Man-driven and with no roof, I found it the best low-cost way to explore whatever of the city I could in the time that I had in the evenings. Apparently the city has several hundred thousand of these and the several rickshaw 'drivers' (perhaps peddlars would be a better word) that I met all understood English, Hindi or Urdu to negotiate a decent fare and get me where I wanted to go.
During my visit, the local newspapers were covering the incident about some Bangladeshi paramilitary soldiers who had revolted and killed dozens of their superiors. The papers were all claiming a possible militant link reporting that the deputy head of the Jamaat-e-Islami had been questioned for a possible role in inciting the soldiers against their superiors. This, local people said, is a new development in that the religious element is not as strong in the country as say in Pakistan and that people do not, unlike in Pakistan, wear their faith on their sleeve or go about exhibiting it in a manner as to portray one as superior and more pious than others. Of the thousands of women that I saw walking the streets of Dhaka in the several days I did walkabouts, a small percentage covered their head or face. But I was told that this was a recent, and growing, phenomenon. Most people, however, do not think that Bangladesh would become another Pakistan any time soon.
At the conference itself, there were several ministers in attendance in various sessions. All, including the finance minister, came on time and stayed through till the end of their session, paid attention and at least tried to engage with the audience. I am not sure if this would ever be the case in Pakistan. Of course, there was talk of the War of Liberation -- from us that is -- and while I sympathised completely given that West Pakistan had completely dominated and tried to relegate East Pakistan to a subservient position when the two were united under one flag. I could hardly empathise with the older lot for going on and on about the struggle, especially since I was just a few months old when it happened.
Back at Zia International Airport, while checking-in, I was reminded of the unpleasantness that one sometimes faces when one travels in the company of people with green passports. A group of young men were arguing with the polite PIA ticketing officer over a penalty they had all been asked to pay for not reconfirming their seats. One man, their leader I suppose, called his relatives in Lahore and Sialkot and complained and complained. Another man waiting right behind them, and just in front of me, told them that they should speak to someone in charge to get a 'discount'. This went on for almost 40 minutes till the men agreed to pay the fine and realised that they weren't in Pakistan -- land of shortcuts and having one's way.
The writer is Editorial Pages Editor of The News. Email: email@example.com