Watching the watchdog

27 August 2014

“Democracy is like an infertile woman that cannot produce anything”, thundered a popular columnist (a real opinion-maker) at the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent in North America (APPNA) convention held in Washington, DC. A few women participants objected, but overall, the trashing of ‘democracy’ back home in Pakistan was applauded by many a successful professionals present in the audience. Later, at another event I heard the view by a speaker that Muslims and democracy are incompatible. These are not isolated sentences. A worldview that Pakistan’s Urdu media has cultivated considers democracy a colonial legacy that the British left. A few go to the extent of arguing that in an Islamic Republic a Caliphate is the only option.

Another columnist recently wrote how our democratic and constitutional system is the “rotten dress which protects certain segments of society” and now the time had come to decide if we could live with an ‘itchy’ body [politic]. Considering that half of Pakistan’s existence has been under the rule of a narrow group of civil-military bureaucracy, it is difficult to argue how can even a most imperfect democracy not be more inclusive? (more…)

Exodus from Pakistan’s troubled north presents risks, opportunities

27 June 2014

By Raza Rumi, Special to CNN



Pakistan’s much-awaited military offensive in North Waziristan was launched more than a week ago, and followed an attack on Karachi airport that left at least 36 people dead.

Due to the strategic calculations of the Pakistani state, North Waziristan has steadily fallen into the hands of motley militant networks, and has become a mountainous zone for the Pakistani Taliban to recruit, regroup and launch attacks against the country.

The Pakistani Army conducted a similar operation in the Swat Valley in 2009, not too far from the tribal areas, that has been a relative success in reclaiming territory. It is unclear which direction the latest operation will go. But a major humanitarian crisis is brewing in the wake of the new offensive.

As of Wednesday, the government had registered over 450,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) who have been fleeing the area in view of the aerial bombardments and warnings by military authorities. There are fears the figures could be much higher. (more…)

My Name is Khan and I am not a Terrorist: IDP’s of North Waziristan

26 June 2014

Here are some of my tweets shedding light on the plight of IDP’s of North Waziristan and the long forgotten miseries of FATA.

Pakistan is not afraid of Modi’s win

19 May 2014

Finally, the verdict is out. The Indian electorate has given a clear message by electing Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) precisely in this order. The 16th general election in the neighbouring state was contested around the issues of governance, corruption and development. The dismal performance of the Congress’s second term was compounded by a leadership crisis, the diarchic model of governance and highly mediatised incidence of corruption scandals. Mr Manmohan Singh, despite his personal reputation, seemed helpless and at times, directionless. Modi seems to have fully benefited from the public disenchantment with coalition politics and a decade of Congress rule. India is now ruled by a right-wing party with a thumping majority. Unlike the earlier terms, the BJP is in a position to form the government on its own and the opposition has been virtually reduced to naught. (more…)

The search for a new security paradigm

29 September 2013

Latest for The Friday Times

Recently, Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, elaborated on the losses incurred by the country in fighting terrorism, while making a policy statement in the Parliament. He cited 3,700 major terrorist incidents that took place from 2005 to 2007 across the country, which resulted in 3,500 casualties. The Minister added that during the period 2008-2012, 8,514 incidents of terrorism claimed the lives of 9,600 people, leaving another 25,000 injured. An estimate (by South Asia Terrorism Portal) suggests that since 2003, Pakistan has lost over 22,838 innocent lives.

Financially, Pakistan, has suffered losses around $100 billion according to different reports. The actual figure may be lower but given the destruction and loss of livelihoods this may just be close to the actual figures. This devastating estimate spans twelve years since 9/11 and Pakistan’s subsequent support to US efforts in Afghanistan.

In the recent years, the lack of a detailed, viable counter-terrorism policy by Pakistan has often been called into question. Successive governments have failed to adequately deliver on security concerns, while the military still exists in a stasis about terrorists in Afghanistan or local, radicalized organizations such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba or the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi – outfits that were deemed vital to Pakistan’s geopolitical concerns.

As Ayesha Siddiqa has noted, “Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy in Afghanistan is rife with inherent contradictions, caught between an inclination to fight militant forces and yet having to partner with some to strengthen its future bargaining position” (The Washington Quarterly, Winter 2011). Therefore it can be deduced that Pakistan’s juggling of its multitude of concerns – a future in Afghanistan that offsets India’s efforts in the country, a stable relationship with the US and the geostrategic significance of Kashmir – all play into the state’s muddled foreign policy framework.


New security paradigm

27 August 2013

Pakistanis have been informed that there will be a new security paradigm that would drive the policy and strategy of the federal and provincial governments in countering terrorism and extremism. This is good news for Pakistanis given the high levels of insecurity as well as repeated attacks on the state and its key institutions. Nearly 50,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives in the last decade including thousands of security personnel. While the ruling party underplayed the issue of terrorism during its election campaign, two months in power have demonstrated that governing Pakistan without a redefined national security paradigm will not be possible. Sixty terror attacks in first two months could shake any government let alone a civilian administration that enjoys support in the parliament.

One of the key features of the National Security Policy (NSP) will be the establishment of a Joint Intelligence Secretariat, which will comprise all civilian and military intelligence agencies, with the primary job of coordinating intelligence operations and sources of information. The Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar has assured that the secretariat will start working within six to seven months.

The NSP will also establish a Counterterrorism Rapid Deployment Force at the Federal level, which will eventually be replicated at the provincial levels. Staffed with serving and retired military personnel, this force will be 500 strong and over time shall increase to 2000 serving personnel, with the primary job of securing and responding quickly to terror threats.

The lame duck institution, National Counterterrorism Authority (NACTA) is being envisaged to act as a focal point of the new security policy. Increasing its capacity and making it fully operational has rightly been identified as one of the first few steps.

The NSP will also be divided into two broad sections: one that deals with internal threats and another that deals with foreign threats. The draft NSP also aim to deweaponize Quetta, while at the same time providing police in Balochistan with over 5000 SMGs and the requisite training to use them in fighting terrorist and sectarian elements.


Trial and errors of Musharraf: Trying a former army chief marks the beginning of a new chapter in Pakistan

23 August 2013

Here’s something I wrote on Musharraf for The Economic Times


Pakistan’s former president and army chief Pervez Musharraf has been indicted by court in the Benazir Bhutto murder case on three charges of murder, conspiracy to murder and facilitation of murder.

Predictably, Musharraf has denied all these charges. This is a major shift in Pakistani politics, which has been dominated by generals, their invincibility and utter lack of accountability.

Earlier dictators such as Field Marshal Ayub Khan, General Yahya Khan and General Zia ul Haq, who arguably did much more damage to the country, enjoyed an unstated immunity.

Zia died in a plane crash but Ayub and Yahya were never questioned or summoned by the courts.

It is to the credit of Pakistan’s democratisation, its relatively free media and an assertive judiciary that an otherwise untouchable army chief is being held accountable for not just Benazir’s murder.


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