trial
In the name of Kashmir

Part spy thriller, part farce, Ghulam Nabi Fai’s downfall was the result of a combination of bad luck, bad judgment, hubris and greed
By Wajid Ali Syed
In a courtroom at the Eastern District Court of Virginia, a bespectacled defendant sheepishly glanced at his lawyer. Turning his attention towards the judge, he uttered, “Yes, your honour”. The defendant, Ghulam Nabi Fai, was affirming that he was guilty of all the charges against him. Sentencing was scheduled for March 9, 2012. Free on bond, he returned home to get his affairs in order. Facing a prison term, there was much to do.  

The tribesman who showed the way
Zarteef Afridi may be dead, but his consistency and commitment will live on in his legacy of peace
By Beena Sarwar
There was the letter from an anonymous writer saying he was going to hunt down and kill her. And then there was the letter from an Afridi tribesman offering to come down and protect her.  

Yeh Woh
Multani bangles

By Masud Alam
The waiter took down the order and then mumbled the word ‘water’ with a question mark. I said yes it’ll be nice to have some water too, thank you. He gave me a tired look from behind his notebook and repeated his question more explicitly: saada or mineral water? Oh, mineral please.  

followup
So far, not so good

Two years into the announcement of the Balochistan package, the constitutional glitches may have been removed but the fruits of development are yet to reach the common people
By Aoun Sahi
The long overdue Aghaaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan, announced before the parliament on November 24, 2009, is yet to win over the angry people of Balochistan despite its partial implementation. The package included six constitutional, five political, 16 administrative and 34 economic proposals. The government promised to implement all recommendations and proposals in three years.

Swati’s swap
Odd in the company of the JUI-F clerics, Azam Khan Swati may join PTI to become a top party leader in Hazara
By Rahimullah Yusufzai
It was a surprise for many when Muhammad Azam Khan Swati, who had received higher education in the US having done his LLM from the University of Houston Law College, Texas and also Doctor of Jurisprudence and worked as a successful businessman there, decided to join Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s JUI-F, a pro-Taliban and anti-US religio-political party, in 2003.  

Karachi braces for ‘tsunami’
Imran Khan is all set to woo Karachiites to his rally. Whether he would be able to change the complex political dynamics of the city is still a moot question
By Imran Maqbool
Sumaira Khan, a young pharmacist, is excited. She is anxiously looking forward to attend the first political rally of her life. But this will not be one of those political gatherings organised frequently by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in its stronghold. She is referring to the rally being arranged by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).  

 

 

 

 

trial
In the name of Kashmir
Part spy thriller, part farce, Ghulam Nabi Fai’s downfall was the result of a combination of bad luck, bad judgment, hubris and greed
By Wajid Ali Syed

In a courtroom at the Eastern District Court of Virginia, a bespectacled defendant sheepishly glanced at his lawyer. Turning his attention towards the judge, he uttered, “Yes, your honour”. The defendant, Ghulam Nabi Fai, was affirming that he was guilty of all the charges against him. Sentencing was scheduled for March 9, 2012. Free on bond, he returned home to get his affairs in order. Facing a prison term, there was much to do.

And so ended the bizarre saga of Dr Fai, executive director of the Kashmiri American Council (KAC), also known as the Kashmir Center. Born in the Bagdam district of Jammu and Kashmir, naturalised as an American citizen in 1990, Fai had admitted he had “unlawfully and knowingly conspired to falsify, conceal and cover up material facts about his association with the ISI and tax evasion by tricks, schemes and devices,” according to the court affidavit. Part spy thriller, part farce, Fai’s downfall was the result of a combination of bad luck, bad judgment, hubris and greed.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested Dr Fai on July 19, 2011. He and another naturalised American citizen, Zaheer Ahmad, who at the time of Fai’s arrest was in Pakistan, were charged with failing to register with the Justice Department as required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which mandates that agents representing the interests of foreign powers be properly identified to the American public. Fai had claimed earlier that he was working on his own, a free agent for the Kashmir cause, which he then denied after his arrest.

Talking to TNS shortly after his first court appearance, Dr Fai spoke highly of the FBI’s professionalism. He recalls that on the evening of July 18, he spotted an unmarked car in a no parking zone in front of his Fairfax, Virginia house. Suspicious, his family called the local police. A few minutes later the police arrived and inspected the parked car. The vehicle moved out of the illegal parking spot but remained in front of Fai’s residence.

The next morning when Dr Fai was heading out to KAC office in Washington, the unmarked car blocked him while other official vehicles surrounded his car. He was arrested immediately and taken back to his house, where the FBI agents executed a search warrant. They found $8,908 in cash and seized Fai’s personal email communication.

Fai knew the US government had suspicions about the KAC’s sources of financing. In March of 2010, the Justice Department sent Fai a letter notifying him that allegations had surfaced that he was an agent, and that if he was, he was required by FARA to register with the department. In his response, Fai asserted that “KAC or I have never engaged in any activities or provided any services to any foreign entity. And KAC or I have never had written or oral agreements with Pakistan or any other foreign entity.”

A couple of months later, in June 2010, Dr Fai was stopped by the police in New York and found to have in his possession $35,000 in cash. He told the police that it received the cash from an ‘individual’ as a contribution to KAC. The record with the law enforcing agencies indicate that Fai immediately called that ‘individual’, and told him that the police searched his car and found the money. The straw donor told Fai to make up a story claiming that this was raised for the KAC at a local mosque in New York. The FBI was, however, alerted, and upon inquiry, Fai told them that the amount had been collected by that particular individual from Pakistanis and Kashmiris in the New York community and at a mosque, and he had not received any cash amount from this individual before.

Fai told TNS that he set up the KAC in the 1990s currently located at 16th Street, Suite 420. According to the Statement of Facts, filed to the court, a connection was developed between the ISI’s office handling Kashmir affairs and Dr Fai through telephone and facsimile in the year 1990 as well. By 1995, Fai was making executive decisions of kinds that were irritating for the ISI official, who is identified as Khan in court documents.

According to the court documents, Fai submitted his expenses to Khan for reimbursement that totaled just $42,981.45. Khan notified Fai that ISI took no responsibility for his unilateral decisions. In another email, Fai was told: “I once again remind you of my earlier advice that any future transaction, contracts, visits, events, etc must be forwarded to us for prior approval.” Fai responded that it is part of his strategy to make the KAC appear as a Kashmiri organisation run by Kashmiris and financed by Americans.

Over the next several years, the expenses and budgets in Fai’s annual performance documents and strategy plans ballooned. The Strategy Document for the year 2000 detailed the KAC’s budget requirements for that year to be $490,000, including $80,000 for contributions to members of Congress, $100,000 for a conference, $60,000 for seminars, $50,000 for opinion pieces to be distributed to newspapers across the country, and $30,000 to organise a Congressional trip to Kashmir. The Strategy Documents for the later years detailed budgets of $455,000 for 2001, $490,000 for 2005, and $719,000 for 2006. Each of the budgets allotted between $80,000 and $100,000 for campaign contributions to members of Congress, as well as significant sums for conferences, seminars, and trips etc.

According to the Court’s Fact Sheet, Fai wrote letters to his partner, Zaheer Ahmad, reflecting that Ahmad was to transmit approximately $314,500 to Fai in 2003, while in 2004, 2005, and 2006, the totals were $505,000, $525,000 and $447,000, respectively.

Since the 1990 election cycle, Dr Fai and Ahmad combined paid only $34,790 to political parties, committees and federal candidates. Research conducted by the Center for Response Politics, a highly respected think-tank on all matters related to the US campaign finance, shows that Fai personally made $28,790 in contributions since the 1990 election cycle. While Fai contributed money to both Republicans and Democrats, his top recipient was Republican Congressman Dan Burton, who co-chairs the Congressional Pakistan Caucus. Burton received $10,900 between the 1990 and 2010 election cycle. Congressman Burton was deeply shocked by Fai’s arrest. In a statement, he said, “If the origin of the contribution is in question, he will donate the money to the Boy Scouts of America.” Ahmad gave over $4,000 to Burton, in the form of $2,000 donations during both the 2008 and 2010 election cycle, the Center’s research revealed.

Dr Fai continued to defy his moneymen, resulting in requests for money to cover questionable expenses. One e-mail exchange between Fai and Khan reveals that Fai requested $45,000 to offset the costs that Fai had incurred at a conference that he had hosted in Uruguay. This request was denied in a reply: “Unfortunately based on the understanding given by you when we dissuaded you from the said conference, it is impossible to cater for the requested demand.” In his 2008 email message to Khan, Fai mentioned his operating budget at $741,000. Similarly, in 2009 budget details sent to Khan via email, Fai projected budgetary requirements of $738,000. In response to this inflated amount, he was notified to reduce the budget. Fai reduced it to $638,000. Even in 2010 plan, Fai was told through an email that “his requirement should be lesser than the 2009 budget.”

By 2011, these expenses reached $500,000 to $700,000 per year, totaling $3.5 million since the mid-90s. Fai began to inflate his annual budgets and embellish reports of his accomplishments in order to obtain the maximum amount of money. The documents with the court indicate that the KAC’s bank records understate the amount of money that Fai received from different channels.

The FBI started taking an interest in the KAC and Fai himself by 2007, just when Fai’s budgetary needs were elevating. The FBI was tipped off by two confidential informants, according to the Department of Justice, that they participated in a scheme to obscure the origin of money transferred by ISI to Fai. In 2010, Fai was in full swing — hosting conferences, meeting with officials and handing out campaign cash. Apparently, he had also begun to make mischief with the sizeable donations pouring into the KAC’s coffers. According to the affidavit submitted by the FBI, Ahmad began to notice certain irregularities in Fai’s receipts. In once instance, Fai had received five cheques from Ahmad totaling $39,000. Two of the cheques were not deposited in the KAC’s account; rather, they were used to pay Fai’s mortgage.

After his arrest and later in his plea agreement, Fai agreed to forfeit all interests in the property. The US government found $110,250 from his American Funds account, $16,258.76 in a Bank of America’s joint account with his wife. Only $1,193.49 were seized from an account at BB&T Bank and $6,241.07 from an account at Citibank in the name of the KAC.

Fai’s primary occupation during his last months of freedom will be a great challenge. As part of his plea agreement he agreed to file correct tax returns for the years 2005 to 2011 within 60 days, as well as his books, records and documents to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and pay all taxes, interest and penalties incurred over the period in questions. Fai faces five years on one count and another three on the second. He would have to pay at least $200,000 but not more than $400,000 to cover the tax loss.

The story of Dr Ghulam Fai never reached the level of drama of the Raymond Davis case or Memogate. The reaction to the story was somewhat muted. The volunteer activists working for the Kashmir cause had also distanced themselves from the KAC long time ago, according to activist Tahir Iqbal, who once regarded Fai as voice of Kashmiri cause. “The only thing that suffered the most is the Kashmir cause,” Tahir said, adding that “Fai not only deceived the US government but also the Kashmiris struggling for justice.”

 

The writer is Jang/Geo correspondent in Washington

   

The tribesman who showed the way
Zarteef Afridi may be dead, but his consistency and commitment will live on in his legacy of peace
By Beena Sarwar

There was the letter from an anonymous writer saying he was going to hunt down and kill her. And then there was the letter from an Afridi tribesman offering to come down and protect her.

This was in the mid-1990s. The recipient of the letters was the fiery human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir, under threat for having taken on the case of Salamat Masih, the illiterate Christian boy sentenced to death for ‘blasphemy’ for having allegedly written sacrilegious words on the walls of a village mosque.

Little would anyone have thought that the writer of the second letter, Zarteef Khan Afridi, would one day himself face death threats for his stand on human rights issues. But he would have no armed guards protecting him when he rode his motorcycle, fully exposed and vulnerable, to the school where he taught for two decades in Jamrud, Khyber Agency. He was the school’s headmaster when unidentified militants, also on motorcycles, intercepted and gunned him down on his way to the school on Dec 8, 2011.

The slightly built, clean-shaven Afridi was also Coordinator, Khyber Agency, for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), founded by Jahangir and others in 1986. His association with the HRCP began even before he offered to come down to Lahore from Khyber Agency with an armed ‘lashkar’ to protect her — an offer all the more commendable for having being made in a situation that was so fraught with risk.

The frenzy had been building up. Masked gunmen had opened fire after a court hearing in April 1994, wounding Salamat and killing Manzoor Masih, one of the co-accused in the blasphemy case. Glossy, full-colour stickers and posters cropped up all over Lahore, calling for “believers” to find and kill Jahangir. In July, a mob outside the Lahore High Court attacked her car. Luckily, she was not in the vehicle but her driver was assaulted and the car smashed. It was a few days later that that the letter vowing to hunt down and kill Jahangir was delivered to her office.

Zarteef’s letter arrived after eight armed men broke into Jahangir’s family house in October and beat up her brother and his wife when they found her out. The assailants ran away when the house guards opened fire. One of them arrested later admitted that the aim had been to kill Jahangir and her sister Hina Jilani.

In that atmosphere of threats and intimidation, Afridi’s letter of support was a message of hope, particularly coming as it did from an area known for its religious conservatism. It showed that even there, conservative opinion is not homogenous and there are people willing to counter retrogressive trends.

“Born in this tribal milieu, Zarteef Afridi is peculiar for his pacifism and his commitment to the cause of education. Prevented in 1982 by maternal pressure from going to Soviet Russia for a degree in engineering, he turned to teaching instead,” to quote ‘In the eye of the storm’ an essay profiling Afridi’s work, published a couple of years ago by South Asia Partnership Pakistan (SAPPk).

“When he started out as a teacher (in 1983), the Afghan jihad, funded by the West, was in full flow and young men from all over the province made their way to the battlefield to either be killed or to become utterly criminalised. (But) children under the tutelage of the idealistic Zarteef were learning of the reality of the so-called jihad. Looking back, he can proudly claim that not one of the youngsters who passed through his hands went to the fight (although) many have risen to …become college professors and medical practitioners. Some have gone abroad while others have remained in their native land and in their own ways have been useful against the tide of obscurantism.”

Although he was persuaded not to come down with armed tribesman to protect Jahangir, Zarteef Afridi continued to work for human rights. He participated in the first HRCP workshop in Peshawar conducted by the senior journalists and former newspaper editors I.A. Rehman and Hussain Naqi in 1991. The workshop trained volunteers to become correspondents to HRCP’s quarterly newsletter ‘Jehd-e-Haq’ (Fight for Rights).

Afridi was already “a practising progressive,” as Naqi puts it. “The extremists were more annoyed when he succeeded in arranging a jirga (tribal council) to oppose extremism and terrorism. He also succeeded in persuading a tribal industrialist to contribute funds for a children’s school for internally displaced refugees in camps.”

I met Zarteef Afridi at an HRCP meeting in Peshawar in 1996. All of us drove to Jamrud, where he proudly showed us the small public library he had built under the banner of the Fata Education and Welfare Society.

Since then, he catalysed 15 registered NGOs and CBOs in and around Jamrud. With a USAID endowment of Rs800,000 each, these groups focus on child rights, democracy and good governance. “In an area where women’s education did not merit much importance, Zarteef had long been a vocal proponent for it,” notes the SAPPk essay. “While he spoke for it in the hujras, he had a somewhat covert operation in progress within the homes as well. His training as an electrician and expertise in this field frequently took him into people’s homes. As he worked on their electrical appliances, he shamed the women of the household for their illiteracy. He says that over the years, this surreptitious campaign made for an increase in girls’ enrollment in schools, as well as that, it prepared older women for school.”

Zarteef Afridi’s organisation helped establish seven adult literacy centres in villages around Jamrud, for women between 17 and 65 years old. Although meant for about 30 students each, these schools cater to more than three times the number, totaling over 750 women.

In his work, Zarteef faced opposition even from his own family members. I remember him saying, “I want my daughters to marry of their own choice and not wear burqa (veil), but my wife gets angry. She says she will leave me if I encourage such ‘dishonorable’ behaviour.”

But his persistence made a dent. He ensured that no one in his family, starting with himself, received a vulvar, or bride price when marrying off their daughters. This spoke volumes for his commitment, countering the all too common hypocrisy visible in Pakistani politics, where activists who talk of human rights often stop short at practicing what they preach when it comes to their own daughters.

Zarteef Afridi was up against much bigger forces than his wife when he publicly advocated against these long-entrenched traditions. Besides countering bride price, he campaigned tirelessly for girls’ education and secular education, for women’s right to vote, and for Pakistani laws to be extended to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). He met some success in all these areas.

In August this year, President Zardari extended Pakistan’s Political Parties Act to the Fata, allowing political parties to operate there as they do elsewhere in the country. Increasing numbers of women and girls are attending school. Women voters are now visible on polling day in Jamrud.

“Zarteef was the one who campaigned for women’s right to vote at elections and he took his family females to vote,” says Husain Naqi. “Both Nasim Wali and Benazir Bhutto contested and won seats in that area where the political parties had agreed that ‘their’ women will not vote!”

Even these limited gains are anathema to the extremist and criminal forces aligned with the Taliban. Afridi is the third HRCP coordinators to be murdered during 2011. “He was surely the most consistent and committed,” says Hussain Naqi.

Zarteef Afridi may be dead, but his consistency and commitment will live on in his legacy of peace, education and human rights values, shared by his community of activists in Pakistan and around the world. The loss is great and painful, but in the long run, his sacrifice and that of others killed in this path will not be in vain.

 

 

Yeh Woh
Multani bangles
By Masud Alam

The waiter took down the order and then mumbled the word ‘water’ with a question mark. I said yes it’ll be nice to have some water too, thank you. He gave me a tired look from behind his notebook and repeated his question more explicitly: saada or mineral water? Oh, mineral please.

It is a fairly big and upmarket restaurant at the southern edge of Multan city. While looking for it I’d stopped at a crossroads to ask for directions. ‘No’ a group of five men shook their heads in unison. They’d never heard of this place. ‘It’s a big hotel,’ my driver said to them in Seraiki. ‘Oh, the big hotel is on your left a couple of hundred feet down the road’. I learnt two things in that instant. One, a restaurant is called a hotel in Seraiki, and two, in Multan the name does not matter, size does.

The city is obsessed with ‘mine is bigger’ syndrome. Its shrines are bigger and more lucrative than any other. It has the biggest brothels that have produced a record number of film stars. Its Hafiz brand of sohan halwa is so famous that thousands of businesses are competing to produce and sell the same sticky substance, with the same brand name. Its airport is biggest among the small airports in the country. It has the longest underpass and flyover in Asia — the last claim made by none other than the most famous son of Multan who also happens to be the prime minister of Pakistan and who is using all his powers to materialise the wish of truck drivers inscribed with pride and a hint of sadness on the back of their vehicles: ‘My Multan is no less a Paris’.

Indeed. The truck drivers are quite likely to mistake Multan for Paris now that majority of the development projects have been completed, and also because the pictures of Paris they’ve seen are from the time when the city was being rebuilt after the war. But the truth is Multan’s secret ambition is to become Lahore. The Lahore with its numerous underpasses, bridges and shopping malls built by Sharif brothers. After four years in office the prime minister may not have a lot to show what he’s done for the country but he has lined up flyover after flyover in Multan — some of which are inter-connected and hence the claim about the longest suspended pathway — which will stand up for years to come as potent reminders for the electorate to vote for messieurs Gillani and Sons just like the underpasses of Lahore keep getting Sharifs re-elected.

The waiter hasn’t returned. I wave at another one passing me by. ‘I asked for water a while ago, could you get me a bottle before the food please’. ‘Saada or mineral’? ‘Mineral please, thank you’. This restaurant, or hotel in local parlance, has sprawling manicured lawns, marquees, indoor dining halls, and a bustling atmosphere. Compares with any eatery in Lahore Cantt. But ask a native for advice on where to have fish and you’ll be directed to Allah Wasaya’s hotel in the old part of the city. Looking for best kulfi? Go to Allah Tawakkul of the ‘pre-flyover’ fame. Best barbecue? Services Club of course. Locals seem to be unsure if they want to stick to the old or embrace the new. So they try out the new places in hordes and recommend the traditional places to visitors.

It’s the same with shopping. Visitors are shown the way to Hussain Agaahi bazaar to buy ‘original’ Hafiz sohan halwa, embroidered shawls and shirts, ash-trays made of camel bone and lamp shades made of camel skin. You could also look for the article made popular by Noor Jehan in her song: ‘Keep your promises and get me Multani bangles’ but chances are the shop keepers will be as clueless about Multani bangles as Ali Ijaz looks when Rani makes the demand in the 80s film Ishq Samundar. Having diverted visitors to the narrow crowded streets of the old city, the locals then dress up to visit the brand new shopping malls in the cantonment area.

Still no water. I wave to a manager hovering about a table full of bear-bellied men and loads of cooked meat. He is quick to respond and suitably apologetic. ‘It’s a shame you’ve asked for water twice and you haven’t been served. I’ll have it sent right away. Saada or mineral sir?’

 

[email protected]

 

followup
So far, not so good
Two years into the announcement of the Balochistan package, the constitutional glitches may have been removed but the fruits of development are yet to reach the common people
By Aoun Sahi

The long overdue Aghaaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan, announced before the parliament on November 24, 2009, is yet to win over the angry people of Balochistan despite its partial implementation. The package included six constitutional, five political, 16 administrative and 34 economic proposals. The government promised to implement all recommendations and proposals in three years.

Two years after the announcement of the package, according to an official document of the establishment division, only 27 of the 61 proposals are yet to be implemented. Out of the six constitutional proposals, five have been implemented and one is in the final stage. Two out of five political policy actions and seven out of 16 administrative actions have been implemented. Twenty out of 34 economic actions have also been implemented, and among the remaining 14, two are in the advanced stages while 12 are awaiting implementation.

Federal Minister for Information, Firdous Ashiq Awan, had told the media on November 2 that as per the package, political dialogue has been initiated with the Baloch leaders and “steps have been taken to implement 27 Balochistan Assembly resolutions and significant progress has been made on the implementation of 20 resolutions so far”. She mentioned that the government has placed the Frontier Constabulary under the chief minister and the powers under the Customs Act to coastal guards have been withdrawn.

“Moreover, the checkposts of coastal guards beyond their territorial limits have been dismantled. Higher Education Commission had given 1200 scholarships to the Baloch youth while 600 more scholarships would be given soon,” she said, adding that 172 cases against political prisoners were withdrawn.

Baloch analysts, however, believe that both federal and provincial governments have failed to transfer the benefits of the package to common people. They say the Balochistan government is marked with powerlessness and absolute corruption. “The primary fault in the package was its development in Islamabad without consulting the local stakeholders. No nationalist party, which is the aggrieved side in the conflict, was consulted while formulating the recommendations of the package,” Malik Siraj Akbar, a US-based Baloch commentator tells TNS.

He says while the federal government took credit for announcing the Balochistan Package, it backtracked and showed no interest when it came to implementing its recommendations. “The provincial government did not have the power to deliver on the bigger promises made in the package such as the issue of the missing persons. The prime minister had promised that all the missing Baloch would return home but it never happened. On top of it, around three hundred among the missing persons were tortured and killed in, what the Amnesty International calls, a “kill and dump” policy. These killings of the missing persons totally broke the trust and the people began to disown the package,” he argues.

Nationalist political parties do not believe the government is serious in solving the problems of Balochistan. “It is true that the Baloch have been given constitutional guarantees of their rights under the 18th Amendment, but the laws still remain unimplemented. Until the rulers accept and respect ethnic diversity in the country by giving them right to their resources, the issue of Balochistan will not be resolved,” Dr Ishaq Baloch, senior vice-president of National Party, tells TNS.

Most of the 2500 jobs provided to the Baloch youth by the federation are that of primary and secondary school teachers. “They have not been accommodated in the federal departments like OGDC, PPL, PSO, PIA and banks. These petty steps would not develop a sense of ownership among the Baloch youth. They need to be brought in the mainstream,” he says.

Akbar thinks the FC has become a major problem. “It is insignificant if it is under the control of the chief minister or the federal government. What is annoying for the local people is the extra-constitutional role of the FC and its involvement in extra-judicial arrests and disappearances. The FC has become a major power centre which does not abide by the instructions of the CM. If the government takes one step further, the FC’s role pushes it two steps backwards.”

A senior official at Quetta, requesting anonymity, informs TNS that the government is yet to start most of the mega projects. “Work on three economic zones in Gwadar — Port of Singapore, Export Processing Zone and Industrial Zone — has not yet started. The Ministry of Water and Power had proposed five dams for the province — Hingol, Naulong, Winder, Pelar and Garuk, but work has not started even on one so far because there are no funds available. The federal government has also not released funds to the Higher Education Commission which has sent in a request for 600 scholarships for the Baloch students.”

He says only 341 Baloch youth were given internships under the special internship programme of the Ministry of Youth Affairs. “The programme was stopped after devolution of Youth Affairs Ministry after the 18th Amendment.”

“More than 300 prominent Balochi families continue to live in self-exile, including Suleman Dawood, Brahamdagh Bugti and Hairbyar Marri. We need to bring them back to the province to give confidence to the Baloch youth,” the official says.

PPP central leader and MNA from Balochistan, Dr Ayatullah Durrani, says that the basic philosophy of the package was to introduce constitutional amendments which empowered Balochistan as a province to take its decision. “When we say we have achieved 80 per cent of the package, it means we have introduced new laws and amended old ones to empower the province. The real problem was unfriendly laws and bureaucratic hitches; we have succeeded in solving these two issues and the development will come as a byproduct of these constitutional amendments.”

Durrani is convinced that his government has curtailed the role of the military in the province. “The military is not setting up cantonments in the province; instead it is constructing schools and giving jobs to the Baloch youth. The issue of FC will also be solved soon,” he concludes.

 

 

Swati’s swap
Odd in the company of the JUI-F clerics, Azam Khan Swati may join PTI to become a top party leader in Hazara
By Rahimullah Yusufzai

It was a surprise for many when Muhammad Azam Khan Swati, who had received higher education in the US having done his LLM from the University of Houston Law College, Texas and also Doctor of Jurisprudence and worked as a successful businessman there, decided to join Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s JUI-F, a pro-Taliban and anti-US religio-political party, in 2003.

Eight years later, it didn’t come as a surprise when Swati quit the JUI-F and also resigned from the Senate. It was widely believed he was a misfit in the JUI-F and had to go. Swati, who felt comfortable wearing Western clothes, spoke English and was good enough to serve as federal minister of science and technology, seemed odd in the company of the JUI-F clerics.

The separation hasn’t been ugly as happens so often in Pakistani politics. Swati didn’t criticise the JUI-F and its leadership while resigning from the basic membership of the party. He claimed having written to the party a month before quitting that he was resigning from the Senate because its resolutions and decisions were being ignored and it was a waste of time sitting in a parliament that had failed to serve the people and save democracy. He admitted having received a show-cause notice from the JUI-F and it was then that he felt it was time to say goodbye to the party.

The party leaders too didn’t react bitterly, though its central general secretary Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri said Swati had been issued show-cause notices due to indiscipline and violation of party’s policies and the JUI-F Mansehra district head Syed Hidayatullah Shah pointed out that Senator Swati left because he failed to secure a promise of party ticket for again contesting the Senate election. Swati countered by arguing that this issue was never discussed in party meetings and that he had won the Senate election as an independent and not on the JUI-F ticket.

Swati’s six-year term as Senator was supposed to end in March 2012. It was his second term as a member of the Senate as he was first elected Senator in 2003. At the time he had resigned as the District Nazim of his native Mansehra in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s Hazara division after serving for one and a half years to be able to contest the Senate polls. He obtained impressive votes on both occasions in the tough Senate polls in which money was freely used by wealthy candidates to buy lawmakers’ votes. Swati, who declared his assets to be Rs1.6 billion as required by law to the Election Commission while contesting the Senate polls, was also accused of buying votes but he denied the accusation. These assets certainly made him one of the richest MPs in the country.

Swati returned to Pakistan from the US, where he made his dollars in real estate and as a fuel distributor for oil giants and wholesale businessman, to try his luck in politics and also do business. His family’s influence and money enabled him to achieve a meteoric rise as a politician.

During the Pervez Musharraf regime, he contested the first local government elections and became the Mansehra Nazim. To his credit, it was observed that he didn’t take any salary and official transport and instead paid from his own pocket. He also financed some social welfare and development projects and played a role in setting up the Hazara University in Mansehra.

Swati’s resignation put his younger brother Laiq Muhammad Khan, the MNA from rural Mansehra, in trouble as he was elected in a by-election on the JUI-F ticket. Though he hasn’t resigned and has pledged loyalty to the JUI-F and was even preparing to organise Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s public meeting in Mansehra, it appears he won’t be staying with the party for the long haul. It is possible that he would remain a JUI-F member until the next general election and then join his brother in the latter’s new party. And that party at the moment seems to be Imran Khan’s PTI.

In fact, a big and influential group of politicians from not only Mansehra but also rest of Hazara division has held talks with Imran Khan for joining his party. Among them are stated to be former MNA and District Nazim Sardar Mohammad Yousaf, whose son Shahjehan Yousaf is presently a PML-Q minister of state, lawmaker Wajeehuzzaman and former MPA Zareen Gul. The PTI is on its way to becoming an important player in Hazara politics and a challenger to the PML-N and PML-Q that have been until now dominant in the area. If Swati joins the PTI he would surely be among the top party leaders in Hazara. 

 

 

Karachi braces for ‘tsunami’
Imran Khan is all set to woo Karachiites to his rally. Whether he would be able to change the complex political dynamics of the city is still a moot question
By Imran Maqbool

Sumaira Khan, a young pharmacist, is excited. She is anxiously looking forward to attend the first political rally of her life. But this will not be one of those political gatherings organised frequently by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in its stronghold. She is referring to the rally being arranged by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

“Imran Khan stands for change and we, the young professionals and students, also want change. We are fed up with this rotten political system which is getting us nowhere,” Sumaira says, adding she, along with her friends and family, will attend the PTI’s public gathering scheduled for December 25.

The fact is that PTI’s massive gathering in Lahore in late October has evoked sentiments for change in the general public, especially in the younger generation. These sentiments are also creeping into the country’s biggest metropolis as Sumaira is not the only one who is planning to participate in the PTI’s upcoming rally. University and college students are eager to listen firsthand what Imran Khan has to offer and to show their support and express solidarity with slogans of change.

“We need a new beginning and I think Imran Khan is the only one who can deliver,” says Umair Ahmed, a student of the Karachi University.

Asher Sultan, another KU student, says “Karachi needs an alternative political force.”

MQM has enjoyed near political monopoly over the city since the 1980s. It might be for this reason that there is not much fanfare, in terms of banners, hoardings, publicity camps which Karachi is used to in case of the MQM gatherings in the past. A week ahead of the PTI rally, only a few hoardings have been mounted.

Another reason might be the confusion whether the Sindh government would allow the PTI to hold this planned rally at the Jinnah Foundation ground near the Quaid-e-Azam mausoleum on the Christmas Day. The PTI officials say they have sought permission from the provincial government for the rally, which is also essential given the security concerns, but the Sindh government remained reluctant until Wednesday before granting the permission.

The minority Christian community has also objected to the rally schedule as it is being planned on a Christmas. Nazir Bhatti, president of the Pakistan Christian Congress, has reportedly sent a written request to the Sindh government requesting it not to allow the PTI as on Christmas Day Sindhi Christians perform religious rituals and pay visits to their friends and relatives with additional get-together celebrations which may be disturbed due to this rally.

“Different Christian organisations from all over Pakistan in general and from Karachi in particular have appealed to Imran Khan to postpone the rally,” Bhatti has reportedly written in his request to the Sindh governor and the chief minister.

Naeem-ul-Haque, provincial head of the PTI, however, says that the Sindh government has allowed them to go-ahead with the rally as scheduled. “The Sindh government has given us the permission...they have also agreed to provide us full security for the event,” he says, adding he is confident that it will be a massive rally in which hundreds of thousands of people will participate.

“In our conservative estimate, some 300,000 to 400,000 people will attend this rally for national unity and you may see even bigger turnout,” Haque says confidently.

He says that PTI has removed the concerns of all quarters including the Christian community. “Imran Khan has talked to them….now they don’t have any reservations as far as the rally is concerned,” he adds.

Faisal Sabzwari, a prominent leader of the MQM, says that his party has no objections to the PTI rally. “The MQM wants healthy political culture to flourish — every political party of the country has a right to hold political rallies anywhere in the country and the PTI is also a political party of Pakistan,” he says, adding the MQM will always welcome other political players who want to do something good for the country.

Sabzwari dispels the impression that if the PTI is able to put together an impressive show in Karachi it will dent the MQM’s vote bank. “MQM has always been able to get support of voters on the basis of its performance and principles and we will continue to do so in future. The MQM does not feel any threat from the PTI as far as its vote bank is concerned.”

It seems that the stage is set in Karachi for Imran Khan’s ‘tsunami’. As the day for the rally draws closer, the momentum might build up even further. It is likely that Khan will be able to woo Karachiites in huge numbers, but the likelihood that the tsunami of change will also sweep Karachi on the election day, whenever it comes, seems far fetched considering the complex political dynamics of Karachi.

 

The writer is a senior staff member. [email protected]

 

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