From the BBC

“The news regarding our respected chief is propaganda by our enemies,” he said.

“We know what our enemies want to achieve – it’s the joint policy of the [Pakistani intelligence service] ISI and FBI – they want our chief to come out in the open so they can achieve their target.”

A close associate of Pakistan’s most wanted man, Baitullah Mehsud, who was reportedly killed in a US drone attack, has told the BBC he is alive.

Commander Hakimullah Mehsud said reports of the Taliban leader’s death three days ago in an attack on a house in South Waziristan were “ridiculous”.

The US said on Friday it was increasingly confident its forces had managed to kill Mr Mehsud.

Neither side has provided evidence to back up their claims so far.

Pakistan’s foreign minister said on Friday he was “pretty certain” Baitullah Mehsud had been killed.

The White House described Baitullah Mehsud as "a murderous thug"

The White House described Baitullah Mehsud as "a murderous thug"

But Commander Hakimullah Mehsud – who some analysts suggest may be positioning himself to succeed Baitullah Mehsud – told the BBC the reports of his death were the work of US and Pakistani intelligence agencies.

“The news regarding our respected chief is propaganda by our enemies,” he said.

“We know what our enemies want to achieve – it’s the joint policy of the [Pakistani intelligence service] ISI and FBI – they want our chief to come out in the open so they can achieve their target.”

He said the Pakistani leader had decided to adopt the tactics of Osama bin Laden and stay silent. He said he would issue a message in the next few days.

‘Safer’

The missile fired by the US drone hit the home of the Taliban chief’s father-in-law, Malik Ikramuddin, in the Zangarha area, 15km (9 miles) north-east of Ladha, at around 0100 on Wednesday (1900 GMT Tuesday).

On Friday, another of Baitullah Mehsud’s aides told the Associated Press by telephone that his leader had been killed along with his second wife in the attack.

The White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, described Baitullah Mehsud as “a murderous thug”, saying the Pakistani people would be safer if he was dead.

“There seems to be a growing consensus among credible observers that he is indeed dead,” he told reporters.

South Waziristan is a stronghold of the Taliban chief, who declared himself leader in late 2007, grouping together some 13 factions in the northwest of the country.

Believed to command as many as 20,000 pro-Taliban militants, he came to worldwide attention in the aftermath of the 2007 Red Mosque siege in Islamabad – in which the security forces confronted and forcibly ejected militant students who were mostly loyal to him.

He has been blamed by both Pakistan and the US for a series of suicide bomb attacks in the country, as well as suicide attacks on Western forces across the border in Afghanistan

Tehrik-e- Taliban Pakistan has also denied the news of Mehsood’s death, see the story at BBC Urdu. Please also see this analysis by Haroon Rashid

Its Shameful the way Pakistani media has destroyed the Objectivity. Shame on those pro establishment pseudo secular clowns who are calling a “unconfirmed” new “Confirmed”. We dont know weather he is dead or Alive, we will only believe when we will see an evidence.

SA

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The inferno of “Rah-e-Haq” is burning humanity in Swat. Anyone who is not supporting the barbarity is being declared a “Taliban” by the pro-imperialism and pro establishment liberals. Many assumptions of these liberals are based on myths. One such myth is that Pakistan Army is fighting Taliban in Swat. Pakistan Army is just killing ordinary innocent people in Swat. Taliban were provided safe passages by Army through the clumsily conducted exodus. Some will be killed especially those who are no more loyal to Army. The Taliban have been sighted in the refugee camps of Mardan and Peshawar. Taliban phenomenon is rooted in “state” of Pakistan itself. Rubina Saigol is one of the few academics from Pakistan who has raised the fundamental question about Taliban. She has called it “Pakistan  at war with itself”

Shaheryar Ali

Rubina Saigol , [The News, 28 Feb, 2009]

Religious fundamentalist movements of all shades and hues have gripped large parts of the world and have posed a threat to the prevalent political, economic and social systems. While “fundamentalism” is a term that is used in varying contexts to denote differing realities, its origins lie in 1920s America where it was used to refer to puritanical evangelist movements. The term is sometimes used to deny history by suggesting a return to some imagined early purity or “golden period” that supposedly existed in a bygone era. Fundamentalisms have manifested themselves in virtually all kinds of cultures and societies, Christian, Muslim, Hindu or Jewish. Like anything that is not much explored or understood, fundamentalisms have given rise to certain myths that tend to seduce public imagination. The purpose of this article is to try and dismantle eight of the most common myths about Muslim fundamentalism and extremism in our part of the world by juxtaposing such myths against observable facts.

Myth: Fundamentalism is the result of mental and moral backwardness, attitudes, religion and beliefs.

Fact: Fundamentalism is about geopolitics, involving power, money, and control over territory, people and resources. If we examine the actions and pronouncements of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or the Swat Taliban – actions that include beheading, rape, murder, public display of dead bodies, public executions, suicide bombings killing scores of innocent people – it is not hard to discern that such actions have little to do with religion or a moral order. Through brutal means and barbaric methods, the Taliban have gained control over territory in Swat and Waziristan. They have forced the government to accept their power over people and resources through the Nizam-e-Adl agreement reached between the Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammdi’s Maulana Sufi Muhammad and the provincial government of the ANP. Apart from drug trafficking, the money is raised from donations received from Saudi Arabia and other countries and goes to pay Rs15,000-20,000 per month to about ten thousand militant followers of Maulana Fazlullah.

Myth: Fundamentalism in Pakistan can be traced back to the era of General Zia.

Fact: Fundamentalism can be traced much further back to Imam Hanbal, Al-Ashari, Imam Ghazali (he influenced writers like Ashraf Thanvi who wrote Bahishti Zewar), Abdul Wahhab and the Darul Uloom, Deoband.

Contrary to the common perception that General Zia’s Islamisation laid the foundation of extremist and fundamentalist strands of religion, the seeds were sown much earlier. Reactionary Islamic thought goes back centuries, to the time when rationalism first appeared in Muslim lands. The Asharite revolt against the Mu’tazila rationalist thought located in Greek philosophy, Imam Ghazali’s total repudiation of Reason as a source of truth apart from Revelation, and his denunciation of the great scientists, medicine men, mathematicians and thinkers like Al-Kindi, Al-Razi, Ibn-e-Rushd and Ibn-e-Sina who introduced enlightenment within the Muslim world between the 8th and 11th centuries, are reflections of early fundamentalist reactions. In the heyday of Baghdad, the genius of these thinkers was much admired and they were highly respected during the time of Khalifa Al-Mamun. However, later Muslim rulers like Al-Mutawakkil punished them severely for injecting innovative thought in the Muslim world. It was political power that chose to ally itself with the traditionalist and conservative ulema who crushed innovative and scientific thinking in favour of obscurantism.

The 18th century Arabian thinker Abdul Wahhab, who was also protected by and aligned with the House of Saud and political power, rejected all later accretions in Islamic thought and insisted on returning to purported versions of pure Islam during its early years. The bland Wahhabi version of religion that he propounded was exported to the subcontinent through Saudi Arabian funding of religious movements in Pakistan. The much more syncretic, tolerant and non-violent versions of Sufi Islam were rejected by a highly intolerant version which came though Saudi imperialism. In the context of the subcontinent, fundamentalist thought was furthered by Maulana Maudoodi, who used his influence in the passage of the Objectives Resolution in 1949 which laid the foundation of a potentially “theocratic” state. General Zia made the Objectives Resolution a substantive part of the Constitution in 1985 through the insertion of Article 2-A. General Zia thus merely accelerated a process begun by his predecessors.

Myth: Only religious parties and sectarian outfits support or forge fundamentalism.

Fact: Fundamentalism has been supported or encouraged as much by the so-called secular elite as by religious parties to maintain class power and privilege.

The common assumption that only parties like the JUI-F, JUI-S and Jamaat-e-Islami and sectarian and Jehadi outfits like Sipah-e-Sahaba-e-Pakistan or Harkat-ul-Mujahideen support fundamentalism in Pakistan overlooks the constant capitulation to religious extremism by seemingly secular and liberal parties. Most analysts like to quote Jinnah’s August 11, 1947, speech to argue that he envisioned a secular state, but in several of his other speeches he catered to the religious lobby’s sentiments to justify the two-nation concept. In 1940 he declared: “It is extremely difficult to appreciate why our Hindu friends fail to understand the real nature of Islam and Hinduism. They are not religious in the strict sense of the word, but are, in fact, different and distinct social orders, and it is a dream that the Hindus and Muslims can ever evolve a common nationality, and this misconception of one Indian nation has troubles and will lead India to destruction if we fail to revise our notions in time. The Hindus and Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies, social customs, literatures. They neither intermarry nor inter-dine together and, indeed, they belong to two different civilisations which are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions.”

Even though Ayub Khan was considered modern and enlightened, a large number of his speeches cater to the religious lobby, in particular the ones that were designed to ensure “national integration” and emphasise Pakistani identity over ethnic and regional identities. In 1962 he declared: “Pakistan came into being on the basis of an ideology which does not believe in differences of colour, race or language. It is immaterial whether you are a Bengali or a Sindhi, a Baluchi or a Pathan or a Punjabi – we are all knit together by the bond of Islam.” The Council for Islamic Ideology was established during his rule to scrutinise laws for their conformity to religion. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, often associated with the Left and socialist thought, caved in to the demand to declare the Qadianis non-Muslims in 1974 through the Second Amendment, and later capitulated to the Nizam-e-Mustafa movement by taking certain symbolic measures towards Islamisation. The National Education Policy of 1972 declared that Islam is woven into the warp and woof of Pakistani society and would be reflected centrally in education. It was during Benazir Bhutto’s second tenure that the Taliban gained ascendancy in Afghanistan in 1996 and her government was the first to recognise their rule.

Again, it was the right-of-centre PML-N which, during Nawaz Sharif’s first tenure, instituted the death penalty (295c) for blasphemy, a law much abused by religious zealots against the Ahmadi and Christian communities. In his second tenure he introduced his infamous Shariat Bill (15th amendment) which would have effectively made him Amir-ul-Momineen, for it was designed to gain power by deciding virtue and vice and imposing it upon the country. Most recently, the ANP has entered into a desperate agreement with TNSM for Shariat in return for peace – an expensive peace which may or may not come about! Liberal, centrist and Left-oriented leaders and parties have contributed heavily to the rise of religious fanaticism in order to maintain their hold on power.

Myth: Fundamentalists want a genuine Shariah-based system of quick and affordable justice.

Fact: Fundamentalist and extremist outfits have little or no understanding of Shariah and have devised a highly convoluted version of Shariah that is rejected by a large number of serious religious scholars.

Recent interviews of a cross-section of religious scholars and thinkers in Punjab and the NWFP conducted by a team of researchers reveals the following: There is not a single serious scholar of Shariah and Islamic jurisprudence who believes that bombing and torching girls’ schools, digging out dead bodies and hanging them from trees, murdering with wild abandon and killing innocent people with suicide bombing are Islamic. Similarly, these scholars informed us that there is no known school of Islamic thought that forbids the education of women and disputes their right to work, or their freedom of movement to carry out their daily tasks. Rather, virtually every scholar or religious leader that we interviewed said education is the foremost duty of every Muslim, man or woman. There is no respected religious scholar who supports the beating of women for going out of their houses or starving children to death by disallowing women from earning a livelihood. Virtually, every scholar, belonging to various sects and schools of thought, strongly condemned the actions of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan of Baitullah Mehsood and Fazlullah’s actions in Swat as efforts to give religion a bad name.

Myth: Fundamentalism is the antithesis of imperialism and Jehadis/Taliban are fighting against imperial domination.

Fact: Fundamentalism and imperialism are deeply linked and invoke each other for their own aims; fundamentalism is itself a specific form of imperialism.

In his thoroughly researched book Jihad-e-Kashmir o Afghanistan, journalist Muhammad Amir Rana reveals the following: After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Jimmy Carter’s administration created a secret fund of $500 million to create terror outfits to fight the Soviets. Nicknamed “Operation Cyclone,” this fund was kept secret even from Congress and the American public. Subsequently, the Reagan administration and Saudi Arabia provided $3.5 billion to General Zia’s regime for the funding of madrassahs for the Afghan Jihad. Militants were trained in the Brooklyn School in New York and in Virginia by the CIA. In Pakistan they were trained by MI6 and the Inter-Services-Intelligence. Between 1979 and 1990 there was a mushroom growth of madrassahs – Jihad-related organisations grew by 100 percent and sectarian outfits multiplied at the rate of 90 percent. By 1986 the rate of increase of deeni madaris was 136 percent annually, whereas in previous times it had been a mere 3 percent. By 2002, 7,000 religious institutions were offering degrees in higher education. Currently, it is estimated that there are between 18,000 and 22,000 madrassahs operating in Pakistan, teaching over 1.5 million children. Pakistan is in fact located at the nexus of multiple and competing imperialisms representing the US (and the so-called West), Saudi Arabian Wahhabiism and Iranian forms.

Myth: Fundamentalism and related terrorism are problems of the Frontier regions/FATA/Swat.

Fact: The Largest recruitment for Afghan and Kashmir Jehad is from the Punjab followed by the NWFP, Sindh and Balochistan.

Amir Rana’s study reveals that Punjab contributes about 50 percent of the Jihadi workforce, followed by the NWFP, Sindh and Balochistan. Punjab has the largest number of deeni madaris (5459 according to a 2002 study). The NWFP, Sindh and Balochistan have 2,483, 1,935 and 769, respectively. Karachi alone accounts for about 2,000 madrassahs. Statistics collected by the ministry of education show that FATA has 135 while Islamabad alone has 77 deeni madaris. According to Rana, the great majority of militants from the Punjab were sent to fight in Kashmir by groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad, while most of the Pakhtoon and Balochi youth from the NWFP and Balochistan were sent to and killed in Afghanistan. Most belonged to the JUI-F and the TNSM (which has now entered into an agreement with the ANP government of the NWFP). A large number of organisations, such as Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Jabbar wal Islami, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Al Badr and Lashkar-e-Islam have participated in the Kashmir and Afghan Jihad getting their poor foot soldiers killed while the leaders enjoy luxurious lifestyles that include Pajeros, expensive mobile phones, large houses and frequent air travel.

Myth: Only non-state actors are involved in religion-based terrorism and fundamentalism.

Fact: State policy, in line with imperial and vested interests, has fully encouraged and supported the growth and rise of fundamentalist and sectarian outfits.

The state is fully implicated in backing, supporting and fanning the growth of extremist outfits. Pakistan’s “strategic depth” theory effectively helped keep the Taliban in power in Afghanistan, even as they killed, murdered and butchered children for playing football, women for going to the bank or school, working or lifting the lower part of the burqa to cross a river. The reign of terror had Pakistan’s official support while the rest of the world remained incredulous. The policy of “bleeding India with a thousand cuts” through infiltration in Kashmir also had state sponsorship. One look at the curriculum and teachings by Jamaat-ud-Daawa, an offshoot of Lashkar-e-Taiba, reveals the main purpose of this organisation. Their alphabet revolves around killing, murdering and jihad and their hatred is focused on Hindus. The games children play are war games designed to inspire them to lay down their lives for “holy war.” Going into the Afghan jihad in return for dollars was also a state decision.

Myth: Fundamentalist outfits have the support of local populations.

Fact: People have invariably voted in secular and liberal parties in elections.

A frequent defence in favour of religious hegemony is that the people are essentially religious and want a religious order in Pakistan. An examination of all elections held since 1970 reveals that people invariably voted for secular and liberal parties, while religious parties were promoted only by dictators: the Jamaat-e-Islami by General Zia and the MMA by Musharraf! The major winners of elections in 1970, 1977, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1997, 2002 and 2008 were the Awami League, the PPP, the PML-N, the ANP and the MQM, along with smaller nationalist parties. The religious parties failed to capture people’s imagination in a significant way in any election.

The myths that one has tried to unpack above need detailed scrutiny. As a nation we need to contemplate our choices: can we afford religious extremism with its negative obsession with controlling women as well as its anti-democracy, anti-development stance and its propensity towards violence because of its love for martyrdom, death and the next world? Or, do we need a plural democracy that can ensure fundamental rights while also accommodating and balancing the concerns of the different provinces, ethnicities, religions and genders into a just system of production and distribution.

(The writer is an independent researcher specialising in social development. Email: rubinasaigol@hotmail.com)

Shaheryar Ali

Martyr Shabana

Martyr Shabana

Shabana’s bullet ridden body was found slumped on ground in the centre of Mingora’s green square, strewn with money, CD recording of her performances and photographs from her albums. Shabana was a traditional singer and dancing girl from Swat. She was brutally murdered for defying the ban imposed by Taliban. A Taliban leader later appeared on the FM Radio [which our most professional Army with one of the best technical skills, failed to block and claimed it was impossible to do so and which resulted in satirical responses from rival Indian Army as well as from distinguished physicist Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy] and claimed the responsibility for her murder and warned that the Taliban will not tolerate any “un Islamic vices”

This all started when, enlightened and progressive General Pervez Musharraf , who than enjoyed the support of Judiciary [Honourable Justice Iftikhar including], the “civil” society, liberal Imran Khan, gave the province of NWFP to Mullahs of MMA , who in return passed the 17 amendment and legalized Musharraf’s coup. The conscientious judges followed suit.  Molana Fazul-ur Rehman and Qazi Hussein Ahmad enjoyed the fruits of governance for years and later became voices of democracy along with conscientious judges, civil society and of course Imran Khan! The 5 year rule of MMA in NWFP [Pakhtoonkhawa] resulted in banning of music, destruction of arts including the commercial Arts. The thugs of Jamate Islami blackened the feminine figures on the billboards in Peshawar. The traditional bazaars where music instruments were made and sold and where the artists and artisans lived were targeted by police and moral bigots who forced most of these people to flee the province. When MMA left, the province was in the hands of Taliban and Shabana got murdered.

A lot was written in foreign press, Shabana couldn’t finds even a two column10 space in our “free media”, just like that poor Pushto singer who was murdered in Peshawar a few days back. The girl was not even named! Only one who lamented Shabana was “buri auart”, that communist and Indian agent Kishwar Naheed. A representative of second wave feminism, who is now expressing the 3rd wave sensitivities, Naheed was part of the pro-communist Afro-Asian writers association with Faiz Ahmad Faiz. A living witness to the progressive movement and the tradition of resistance literature and Art, Naheed’s response to the times of Jihad has been a collection of poetry which has been titled Wehshat aur barrod mein lipti hue shairi”. ‘Poetry wrapped in explosives and barbarism. The poetry is the expression of a true artist living in the age of Jihad and Crusade! The moral relativism demonstrated by most of newly emerged pro-imperialist liberals by their silence on crimes of United States imperialism in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia and Pashtunkhawa, is not to be seen in this work by a great progressive. Whilst the focus of the book remains the Islamist barbarism, one finds echoes of Guantanamo bay, Fallujah and Sarajevo as well. The book includes touching poems on lost comrades like Ahmad Fraz, Benazir Bhutto and Edward Said.

Buddha crying in Swat

Buddha crying in Swat

Hundreds of years old historic statues of Lord Buddha were also wrapped in explosives and were blown. This monstrous attack on Pashtun history and cultural identity also took place during General Pervez Musharff’s golden rule. September 2007, the giant Buddha in Swat dating from 2nd century BC, was attacked twice in 20 days. The Taliban worked in broad day light putting dynamite with help of drill machines. The BBC, Hindustand Times, Dawn and Daily Times reported and highlighted the issue, but nothing was done and Taliban, re attacked it after 20 days. There was hardly any news in Urdu press; no protests were seen in any city of Pakistan. The free media channels of Pakistan also showed a complete apathy. Now Taliban are blowing humans in Swat. The attack of Taliban on statues and silent collaboration of MMA government scarred the artists especially those who earned their living craving Buddha sculptures which were popular amongst tourists.

The Seriaki speaking Pashtun city, Dera Ismail Khan, also known as DI Khan, the fusion of seraiki and Pushto civilization gave the city a unique status. A cultural hub, it was once known as “Dera Phulla’n da Sehra” [Dera is garland of flowers!]. After destruction of Jhang , this city has seen the curse of Jihad! Hundreds of people have been murdered. For years now target killing of Shia population and progressive artists and intellectuals is going on. Silence is the criminal response of Pakistan. The facts are buried in media grand meta-narrative of “sectarian violence”. There is no sectarian violence in DI Khan, there is no rift or collusion between any two sects which are living together for hundreds of years. What’s going on is an Anti-Shia holocaust by Jihadis: Target killing of intellectuals, writers and artists.

Philosopher, poet and linguist, author of 22 books Jamshaid Nayab , was tortured and his bullet ridden body was thrown in front of his house in DI Khan. The Molana praised the act of killing Kaffirs like him in the Friday sermon. Mr Nayab was an intellectual par excellence, a refined poet who authored books of history of western philosophy, on languages and civilization. He belonged to progressive tradition of intellectuals. He was member of the Communist Party of Pakistan. The left wing intellectuals and political activists have been the main target of Jihadi/Taliban forces in Pakistan. More than 450 socialists/Marxist/nationalists political activists have been murdered in Swat and Pashtunkhawa Most activists of PPP and ANP who have been murdered in Pashtunkhawa were those who belonged to socialists/Marxist wings within these parties. It must be noted 98% of  attacks and murders of political activists by Taliban are on 3 parties PPP, ANP and CPP  [all left wing parties]Many of these activists were poets and artists as well or main organizers of art and cultural activities in their regions. Great Urdu poet Mohsin Naqvi also fell a victim to these Jihadi forces in the 90s. His crimes were multifold, being a poet [Koran explicitly condemns poets and poetry in Chapters of Poets], was Shia , was progressive and socialist and supported PPP. He also famously wrote a poem on Benazir Bhutto. The poem has acquired a mythical status “Ya Allah Ya Rasool—–Benazir Beqasoor”

Music is a inseparable part of Pakhtoon culture and tradition. Pakhtoons have never lived without music and dance! For the first time such a thing is happening. The shrine of greatest Pashtu poet and Sufi, Rehman Baba was blown up by the Taliban. Rehman Baba had played a central role in building Pashtun identity, language and tradition. A humanist his poetry teaches peace, love and tolerance. He was known as “Nightingale of Pashtunkawa”. Barbarism didn’t spare the most sacred place of the Pashtun Culture. Hundreds of music centers and shops have been destroyed. Years back , great revolutionary and Marxist academic Eqbal Ahmad vested Kandahar of Taliban. He saw a graveyard of Pashtun culture and tradition. The living Kandahar of coffee houses, story tellers and musicians was no where to be seen. He wrote his impressions in form an article which was titled “Land without Music”. Now Pakistan is becoming the Land without Music.

To be continued

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

PAKISTAN: Fingers point towards the armed forces for the murder of journalist Musa Khankhel

The world was reminded of the tragic paradoxes that take place daily in Pakistan, when a young journalist was kidnapped and executed last month while covering a march for peace. Mr. Musa Khankhel, journalist and correspondent of Geo Television disappeared on February 18, while covering a procession led by Maulana Sufi Mohammad, a religious leader in Swat, in the NWF province. The procession was to celebrate a peace agreement with the government which would see Islamic Sharia laws implemented in the valley. He was 28 years old and had been threatened several times by government security forces for his steadfast independent reporting. He had also been kidnapped and tortured twice before by security forces. As a journalist he was not popular among militant groups either, including the Taliban and the group lead by Maulana Soofi Mohammad, Tehrik Nifa-1Shariat Mohammadi (TNSM).

After his body had turned up in the Matta sub district, the government, TNSM and the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) announced the formation of probe committees into his death. No one laid claim to the murder. The government assigned the Inspector General of police in the province to investigate the incident, but neither he nor Maulana’s committee has reported any findings so far. Only the probe committee of PFUJ appears to have started a concrete investigation, and Mr. Mohammad Riaz, the chief of the PFUJ committee, has visited the area. He reports that the atmosphere there is tense and few civilians are willing to discuss Khankhel’s death; they are scared of harassment from both the sides, the militants and the security forces. The latter are known to brutally and often arbitrarily mete out punishment in the more remote parts of the country, and disappearances here are not uncommon. There are also no police in the area. Without committed government intervention – a high judicial commission – to probe the killings, Riaz says, it will not be possible to unearth the ‘truth’. Information gathered by the AHRC points, increasingly, at Pakistan’s wayward security forces for the murder.

On the day he was murdered, friends and relatives say that Khankhel mentioned hearing that ‘today one journalist may be killed’, through sources in the security agencies stationed in the war zone. Because of this he told prominent senior journalist and anchor person, Mr. Hamid Mir, to be extremely careful, should he choose to visit the area. Mir remembers Khankel telling him: ‘you will watch the scenes of destruction in civilian residential areas of Kabal. You will show live destroyed homes and mosques, and people will equate your coverage with the bombing of Gaza by Israelis. You will become a security risk and they will kill you in the name of national interest. And the blame will be placed at Taliban’s door.’ Tragically, Khankel had not realised that he was the journalist in question.

Khankhel had survived two assassination attempts last year, both times, he said, by the security forces. In November he was kidnapped and tortured for two days in custody, and was told that should he continue his investigations, his family members would be killed. He later told Mir, his colleague, that ‘some elements in the security forces want to eliminate me physically, due to my reporting’. The journalist’s younger brother, Essa Khankhel, also a journalist, told the AHRC that his brother had managed to record a death threat from one security officer in the past.

The AHRC has learned that the day before his assassination, Khankhel was stopped and threatened by security persons at a press conference held by Mr. Bashir Bilour, the senior minister of the NWF Province. Bilour was giving a briefing on the peace pact between the provincial government and TNSM. One Major Farooq, of Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), exchanged harsh words with Khankhel, and he was told to be careful when dealing with the armed forces.

Reports from eye witnesses in the area, particularly shopkeepers from Matta (the sub-district in Swat from where he was abducted) have pointed out that there were a good number of security personnel around when Khankhel was taken. In Matta, Musa had visited a few shops and proceeded to a spot along the route of the procession. He was trying to hail a taxi when three persons carried him forcefully away.

Provincial government ministers, including the spokespersons of Taliban Pakistan and TNSM, are all denying responsibility, and claiming that a ‘third force’ was involved. This ‘third force’, ministers concede quietly, means the armed forces. A top office bearer of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists has observed that when the Taliban kills, they claim it openly. Hamid Mir has written several articles suggesting that his colleague was the target of the army.

In the past year four journalists have been reportedly killed by the security forces in the Swat, twenty over the last two year period. Journalists, particularly reporting in the war torn NWFP on its destroyed houses, schools and hospitals, observe that security forces are generally hostile toward them, and each reporter has experiencing problems during investigations, some receiving death threats. The motive, as explained by the journalists, is to keep the reporters out of the area. Journalist Mr. Hameedullah’s house was bombed on his return to his village on 5 January, 2009. They and other residents had been forced to evacuate the area on 28 December, when the army launched an offensive against the Taliban.

Although there are conflicting reports about Khankhel’s killing; most of the reports point in the same direction. After the ‘war on terror’, the impunity enjoyed by security agencies saw a dramatic rise in cases of torture, abduction, disappearance and the murder of government opponents. There are more than 4000 persons disappeared for their resistance to military operations in different part in the country, and the AHRC last year determined the existence of 52 clandestine detention centres. Still, ‘unknown’ actors are publicly blamed for many of the area’s most violent crimes.

To specify a ‘third force’ and name it only in private, pays no tribute to the memory of Musa Khankhel, and to his family. Investigations into the torture and deaths of other journalists have sputtered and failed. Courage and an iron political will is needed from the government to tackle this blight in Pakistan: a corrupt, wayward and arbitrarily violent security force that has only been encouraged, rather than reined in, over the years. A high powered judicial commission must be formed to probe the murder, uncover the truth about the involvement of security agencies in the death of journalists, and to bring the perpetrators to justice. It must be shown that no one in Pakistan is above the law, in any part of the country.

# # #

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

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Asian Human Rights Commission
19/F, Go-Up Commercial Building,
998 Canton Road, Kowloon, Hongkong S.A.R.
Tel: +(852) – 2698-6339 Fax: +(852) – 2698-6367

Shaheryar Ali

My memories and understanding of  Taliban come from Eqbal Ahmad’s paper “Land Without Music” . Ahmad has truly captured the horror of post Taliban Kandahar. Taliban are forcing a culture which is totally alien to Pakhtoon tradition. A tradition which is rich in Art and Music. With War on Terror the misguided liberals and modernists who are nohthing but United State’s  drum beaters have spoken about “barbaric tribalism”, “backwardness” and “religios fanaticism of Pakhtoons. With this a new stereotype of Pakhtoon is being  built in Pakistan and in the world, a bearded suicide bomber who is a savage. Pakhtoons are fighting at two fronts. This lovely song in Pushto is one such act of people’s resistance.  A mix crowd of young Pakhtoon boys and girls singing and enjoying is defying the Talibani ban on Music and also exprssing the cultural side of Pakhtoons. I dont understand a single word of Pushto but i enjoyed this song immensely, it was like a breath of fresh air. The joy on the faces of the crowd , their participation , the interaction of boys and girls. The song is a treat to watch

shalome1

Shaheryar Ali

We live in strange times when it is easy to hate and difficult to love. The spirit of enlightenment, the goddess of liberty is now under attack in Universities of France herself. We live in the age of “Late Capitalism”, this is the age of rampant capitalism, the age of extreme alienation. With the extreme alienation things start loosing their “corporeal beings”, concrete ideas take the form of ghostly phantoms, and reality seems to merge with fantasy. The expression of this phenomenon can be seen everywhere, Salman Rushdie’s most original protest against colonialism, the hegemonic dualities created by the immigrant experience, the identity crisis, the de-humanizing experience of disillusionment from both cultures, the old and new, the very division of self brought about by modernism, through colonialism and immigration, the lament and cry of pain and anguish became the object of hostility of those for whom it was done. The ghostly or hallucinatory expression termed as “magical realism” represent this epochal phenomenon in literature.

Extreme fluidity of the narrative, the interplay of contradictory streams of meaning, the nauseous experience of existence in the hostile universe is not the monopoly of literary giants; rather it has become an everyday experience of life. The monstrous war between two illegitimate children of Capitalist imperialism Zionism and Islamic fundamentalism is one of such events. While some want us to believe that heartless fascists, the prophets of Gaza are champions of progressive cause others wants us to believe that the blood thirsty child killers , the Zionists are fighting the war for the very survival humanity against the forces of darkness. The people are being killed. They are victims of this age of confusion. The Islamic Republic, just like the Zionist state was a “liberal” act of British imperialism to provide the national homeland to “Muslims” in India. The “ideological” state has been one of the most loyal allies of United State’s imperialism rivaled only by its distant cousins Israel and Egypt. The Pakistani middle classes who take these ideological fallacies of state quite seriously have got a new hero in recent times, Adolf Hiter. Angered by the scenes of Zionist barbarism in Gaza and fuelled by the anti-Semitic rhetoric of Pakistani Islamist and Liberal dominated media the middle classes are chattering about the “great vision” of Adolf Hitler in his recognition of “Jewish evil” and his great efforts to save humanity from it.

The Jewish evils of course being the good old theories of Jews controlling “all the banks” and “state institutions” of USA etc.: their inherent “racism”, “their intolerance”, “their non acceptance of our great holy prophet” etc. In this discourse Pakistan and Islam becomes the “greatest, best and most tolerant and humanist ideologies and state which ever existed in this cosmos. The ideological paradise of the Islamic Republic in which the Pakistani middle and chattering classes live and play the eternal victim of every thing which exists in this universe ; Big bad India, USA, Jews all the cunning, evil enemies who want to destroy humanist and tolerant Pakistan, the “divine land”, the “land of the pure”. We who are the critics of Islamic Republic occasionally remind the chattering classes about the things which don’t fit in their “ideological paradise”, things lost in the “collective amnesia” of divine state and Pure of pure. We are so much threatened by perceived “Indian hegemony” that we find our selves permanently scarred by “Gandhi, the Movie” but we don’t bother 3 million Bengalis butchered by us and thousands of Bengali women raped by our macho Jawans

“Where are the Pakistani Jews?” I just ask this question. The picture you see above is that of “Magain Shalome Synagogue”. The synagogue was built by the small but vibrant Jewish community of Karachi in 1898. The Jews of Karachi enjoyed tolerance and acceptability as British subjects in India. In 1936 one of the leaders of the Jewish community, Abraham Reuban became the first “Jewish councilor” of the city corporation. The city also had a number of “support organizations” like “Young Man’s Jewish Association”, the “Karachi Bene Israel Relief Fund” and “Karachi Jewish Syndicate”. In 1947, Jinnah got his laboratory of Islam and for Pakistani Jews the clock started ticking. As the people, who have been victim of tyranny for thousands of years Jews knew the warning signs. Partition of India on religious lines and formation of a “Laboratory of Islam” was a bad omen. The Pakistani Aliya had started. Jews started leaving for India and Iran. The “night of broken glass” for Pakistani Jews was a night in 1948 when State of Israel was proclaimed. Karachi which was home to Jews for decades suddenly became hostile. The anti Jew pogroms started. The mob attacked and torched the “Magain Shalome” synagogue. Every thing was broken, the windows, the ornaments. The Mujahids also desecrated the Holy Ark and Bible.

The community still tried to live with the illusion of “Jinnah’s words”, “you are free to go to your temples and your mosques—” , the anti Jewish pogroms and anti-Semitic rhetoric intensified with the Arab , Israeli wars, the synagogue remained the point of hatred of the mob. 1948, 1956 and 1967 were the periods where small Bene Israeli community of Pakistan faced the rage and hatred. The Magain Shalome resurrected itself after every fire till nobody was left to pray. Those who called themselves anti-Zionists pushed Jews from every land which was their home, pushing them to look for their mythical homeland, The Zion. Peshawar had a Jewish community as well, with two synagogues. Along with Bene Israeli community, “Bukharin Jews” also called Peshawar their home. Now none is left. A whole community vanished , along with their language, culture, art and most important their ‘stories”. I once read a novel which had a haunting line, “You scratch a Jew and you will get a story”. I have now no one to ask too; all that is left are few graves and Stars of David on certain buildings in both cities. The Magain Shalome Synagogue was finally demolished in 1980 when Fascist General Zia ul Haq was ruler of Pakistan to make a shopping plaza. The Jews from Karachi now live in Ramle, Israel. They have made a “Magain Shalome” there. 200 or so Jews still live in Karachi; they have disguised themselves as “Parsies”.

Such are the fascist societies where people are forced to live as some one who they are not, weather Jews or Homosexuals.

Picture: Naveed Riaz Karachi

Magain Shalome was built by Shalome Solomon Umberdeker and his son Gershone Solomon; Karachi’s last synagogue was demolished in 1980

Shaheryar Ali

Pakistan is not a democracy; it’s a country in democratic transition. After a long military rule, the oligarchy which has been ruling this country since day one has agreed to share some power with politicians. This arrangement is being hailed as “democracy” in Pakistan and which is also being blamed for every thing, from incompetence to corruption, two of the most frequently used charges which have been used by oligarchy to take power directly in their hands. Whilst corporatization of media is being hailed as “freedom of media”, aestheticization of radicalism is going on, the anti-establishment slogans of democratic forces are being converted into mantras chanted by every one from Jamate Islami to General Hameed Gul, and no one bothers to understand what the values of oligarchy were and what the values of democratic forces in Pakistan were.

With a country in democratic transition, we often forget that policies of post-colonial states especially those like Pakistan which had taken Neo-fascist turn some time in their history [Zia era], cannot be reversed in few months. It needs a structural reform within the state itself. With a few months of PPP-ANP coalition such a structural reform has not yet occurred. Attempts to do such reform have been severely criticized by dominant classes in Pakistan and hence have to be abandoned. Attempts by PPP to bring ISI under political control were converted into a scandal by corporate media and its allies. Similar campaign is going on with the Pakhtoonkhawa issue where Right wing has openly come up in arms against government. These two issues represent the core issues when it comes to challenge the oligarchy. ISI has been blamed by almost all political forces in Pakistan for its attempts to control democracy and for spreading Jihad. [Jamate Islami and PML-N joined this anti-ISI campaign during Musharraf era, once he has gone both of them have again joined the so called “patriotic camp” as opposed to Socialists and Nationalists who were historically considered Indian agents and security risks].

Mumbai attacks have once again exposed this paradox in Pakistan. In the name of Patriotism, public opinion in Pakistan is again being mobilized in favor of certain values of oligarchy. Every where we are listening to media , liberal and right wing  intellectuals condemning “blame game” and “India’s knee jerk reaction” against Pakistan. We are being reminded of the geographical remoteness of Fareed Kot and other “holes” in Indian propaganda. In all this patriotic discourse, what we are forgetting is that it’s Pakistan not India which has more at stake. The first victim of this sort of patriotism, which subscribes to values of Oligarchy and its State and not to the values of people, will be democracy in Pakistan and this time the state may not recover from its consequences. When Mr Manmohan Singh talks about “certain elements within Pakistan” being responsible for the attacks we are fast to condemn it. But are we that naive or suffering from collective amnesia. Have we forgotten that our agencies along with CIA supported insurgency in a country against a government which we recognized as legal government and had diplomatic ties with. For all the period of Afghan Jihad, our government at all international forums shamelessly maintained that Pakistan is “not interfering” in Afghanistan and our support is strictly moral and humanitarian in nature. Then any one who tried to warn oligarchy against it was termed as a “soviet agent” or “RAW agent”.
Did our denial do us any good? Today we are facing the consequences of our denials. The holy warriors we created with help of USA are now the greatest security threat our nation has ever faced.
Now lets come to India, we for the last 50 years or more are saying again and again at every international and national forum that Pakistan’s support to Kashmiri cause is “strictly moral, political and humanitarian”. Who are we trying to fool? India, the world or our selves? Have we not seen in our colleges and universities “Kashmir chalo” and “Jihad e Kashmir” programmes of Jamate Islami  and  Lashker e Toiba etc. Have we forgotten the money boxes at our departmental stores to fund “Kashmir Jihad”. Or have we forgotten the slogans of “ Sabilina Sabilina Al-Jihad Al-Jihad”. Have we forgotten the press conferences of Sallahuhdin of Hizab ul Mujaideen. Have we forgotten the CDs and DVDs of Kashmiri mujahideen , the messages of mothers that “if I had another son ill send him to Kashmir as well”. Was all this very far back? Most of these organizations were allowed to operate by different names in General Musharraf’s time but were they were destroyed? Have Mureedke and Mansoora been shut down? Hafiz Saeed and Molana Masood Azhar serving time in prisons?.

Have we forgotten Kargil as well? Didn’t it happen when Pakistan had a “democratic government.” Isn’t it a fact that the then Prime minister who was chief executive of Pakistan , with far more powers than PM Gilani, to this  day maintains that he was “not aware” of this operation at all. Have we forgotten as well that once again we maintained that those at the Kargil peaks were “Mujahideen” fighting Indian occupation, and than we accepted it was our regular Army troops and we had the audacity of giving our martyrs “Nishan e Haider”, those very officers whose corpses we were reluctant to accept a few days back. Have we forgotten all that? Have we forgotten that Right wing till few days back was calling to hang General Musharraf, for Kargil operation? So what great revolutionary reform Pakistan has done in her security establishment that they are now completely following political authority? What have been done to counter the Fatwas telling us about the great gifts in paradise for engaging in “Ghizwa e Hind”. Have some of our political parties and patriotic generals offered Toba for their ambition of putting “green flag” of Red Fort. Have we really forgotten all this?

Our great patriots through out 1990s kept vehemently denying reports in Indian and United States press regarding nuclear proliferation. We also kept denouncing Pervez Hoodbhoy , Munno Bhai and others who pointed fingers at Dr AQ Khan. Then one day whole world knew. Did our denials help? We had to bring “Mohsin e Pakistan” on TV to confess to his crimes. Now our patriots want us to believe that “only AQ Khan” was involved. Iqbal’s Merd e Momin use to load tonnes of equipment himself on planes and than use to fly it himself. Have we ever looked at our denials?
With this track record is it fair to blame India for a “knee jerk reaction”?

If we don’t have such “elements” in Pakistan, who are we fighting in FATA? Who are we fighting in Swat? If Pakistan does not have such elements then who is blowing these bombs in Pakistan? Or have Osama Bin Ladin, Bait ullah Mehsood and Mullah Omar signed a decree that India is not their target? Or have they declared Kashmiri Jihad invalid? Let’s take this argument that India is our professed enemy and threat to our state [Which Zardari denied in his interview], so she blames us for every thing. Who is killing Chinese persons in Pakistan? People’s Republic of China has similar complaints. Russia, Iran and Central Asian Republics all have at one time or another blamed these “elements within Pakistan”. So is every one our enemy? Is this paranoid and schizoid mentality with overt narcissism an expression of Patriotism?

The result of all these denials and non critical approach toward every declaration of oligarchy as patriotic values Pakistan’s very existence is now at stake. We find a strange pleasure in reminding ourselves that there are 17 insurgencies going on in India. Though we never bother to know about these insurgencies, most of them are Maoist insurgencies, which have very different character than Islamist insurgency [we can look at Nepal to see how these insurgencies work, how politics is always the base of such insurgency or one can read Eqbal Ahmad’s studies on Vietnam and Algerian resistance and Left wing guerrilla warfare to differentiate it from Islamist terrorism] or let it be A, B or C insurgency. We have 4 provinces, and we have insurgencies in 2. The third one is in midst of ethnic conflict between Mohajir and Pathan and a possible Mohajir-Sindhi conflict. Punjab has a deep conflict with Sariaki region, which is strongly becoming hub of religious extremism. Many suicide bombers belong to Saraiki South Punjab. Ghazi Brothers of Red Mosque also belonged to southern Punjab.

Furthermore, Linguistic chauvinism of Pakistani establishment has resulted in deep conflicts in all nationalities of Pakistan, Bengali, Sindhi, Baluchi and Pakhtoon. The Oligarchy’s refusal to resolve the Nationalist Question has pushed Pakistan to the limit. The disillusioned Pakhtoon Nationalists are joining ranks of Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Asfand Yar Khan is loosing legitimacy fast in Pakhtoonkhawa because nothing promised to him has been delivered yet. On the other hand a vicious campaign by Oligarchy against ANP is going on. Targeting Pakhtoon population in Karachi by a party with close ties to GHQ is yet another pressure tactic to discredit and break Asfand Yar Khan. How long ANP can withstand the rapidly growing deep resentment in Pakhtoon population living across both sides of Durand Line and keep insisting on doing politics of federation, [ANP opposed other nationalist parties position of converting Pakistan into a loose confederation of nationalities and  on this issue didn’t joined PONAM. It kept supporting a strong federal system with genuine provincial autonomy] is a matter I leave to history. But if ANP stopped federal politics it will be a tragedy similar to Awami League’s.

The same is happening in South Punjab. Baluchistan is already at a very advance level of chaos. One only has to observe what happened in Baluchistan on the death anniversary of  Shaheed Ballaj Murree to see the real situation. Mir Raisani’s puppet government has no legitimacy within the Baluch population. Oligarchy’s policy of divide and rule when it comes to national question has pushed Pakistan on verge of collapse.

With Karachi riots time has come that we should stop looking at others “knee jerk” reactions and first put our own house in order. For us this is an existential question. We need to reform our state structure; resolve the National question; redefine our provinces and undertake constitutional reform to make Pakistan a secular democracy. Ritualistic chanting of progressive slogans and cursing mullahs will not do us any good. We need to see what the progressive values were and who is behind the Mullah