On Pakistan

One year after: On the endangered freedoms in Pakistan

10 April 2015

Car fired uponIt has been a year as I wrote here since I was almost assassinated. I have already posted the tribute to Mustafa who died in the March 2014 attack. Here are a  few other stories that were published recently.

It has been a year since I lost a close associate, an employee, a friend. After I miraculously escaped a carefully planned dénouement, there was much to celebrate: the chance to live, the experience of having defied death. But this living has come with a death at its very centre. Young Mustafa, who had still to experience life, was deprived of that. What can it be called? An accident? An assassination? Crossfire? Or the sheer randomness of death?..”

The Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) wrote this last week: A year after Raza Rumi attack, little change for Pakistan’s beleaguered press

Rumi says he still receives threats. “After I criticized the violent ideologies of extremist groups, two different Twitter users responded, threatening that a fatwa would soon be issued calling for my death,” he told me, citing just one example of a response to tweets he had posted. “Near the end of July, when I highlighted 10 problems with current day Pakistan, including its laws that discriminate against religious minorities, I received the following message: ‘My sources telling me they’ll reply of] each tweet with bullet, 10 tweets so far and 10 bullets.’ “

For now, Rumi plans to stay in the U.S. “I am terrified of what might happen if I return to Pakistan,” he told me.

Car bulletAnnie Zaman at Global Voices Pakistani Journalist and Blogger Remains in Exile, One Year After Violent Attack

Rumi longs every day to go back and walk freely on the streets of Lahore, but at the same time he is terrified of what might happen if he returns. And he is regularly reminded of the threats in Pakistan. “Other journalists, my friends, and my family have all warned me that they believe I will be tortured or killed if I return.” Albeit from afar, Rumi continues his fight against extremism and to promote an open, tolerant society.

Daily O published this story: Why Pakistan is the most dangerous country for journalists The country is still as unsafe as it was a year ago, when Raza Rumi was attacked.

A year on, living in the US, some may think Raza is leading a life of comfort. But that’s far from the truth. He told me last week, “It has taken me some time to register that my life is not the same. Impacted by trauma, I have continued with my work minus the broadcast bit.” When I asked him why he is afraid, he said he was “petrified that someone may just get hurt on my account and for the time being I cannot take the risk until the state dismantles the militant networks and assures people like me of protection and that freedom of expression is allowed without bullets reaching you”.

I can understand his anguish, but feel terrible that people like Raza have to leave the country. He certainly was more than a conventional journalist. He was affiliated with think tanks, managed one for some time, a public intellectual and someone who was heavily engaged with youth activists across the country.

I am grateful to Abdul Majeed Abid for this lovely piece – much of which is overly generous –

“Why don’t English-language journalists say the same things on the national media as they write in their columns or say at literary festivals?” In his usual self-effacing style, Khaled sahib responded: “It is a difficult task. You should remember what happened when a colleague started saying the same things on the national media that he was writing for TFT. He was shot at and had to flee the country to save his life.”

car attackedKhaled sahib was, of course, referring to my friend, elder brother, and mentor, Raza Ahmad Rumi. “He’s j
ust the wrong kind of Pakistani – the kind that is killed nowadays,” to quote Raza’s childhood friend, Ali Dayan Hasan.”Abdul piece is entitled The Wrong Kind of Pakistani – last year Ali Dayan wrote a long essay with the similar title which more than about me is the larger state of my country:

The tragedy is that the “moderate,” the empowered and the affluent, are brazenly, smugly complicit in the mass cull of people and voices. The insurmountable obscenity is the ease with which the “respectable” can move from offering you cups of tea to rejoicing in the hateful, dehumanizing gaze of the killer upon you. It is the dead-end where blaming the victim is an act of compassion.

If you condemn targeted killings of Shias, goes the logic, then you must surely be Shia yourself. If you are not, you are a suicidal attention-seeker. You deserve even less sympathy than the Shia who could not help being killed because unlike him, you asked for it.

Raza Rumi asked for it.

Alas, this is how it is. As I keep on saying, things will change. They can’t remain the same. Inshallah.

after attack 2 After the attack

A definitive history of Pakistan

13 January 2015

Pakistan’s best-known historian, Ayesha Jalal, is back with a new book: The Struggle For Pakistan: A Muslim Homeland and Global Politics. This book essentially synthesises much of Jalal’s earlier work that by all accounts is rich and comprehensive. In short, the new book presents an overview of Pakistan’s progression as a national security state, a lop-sided federation to its current existential woes fuelled by state-sponsored Islamisation. Jalal acknowledges that the country’s Islamic identity was not enough to hold it together and the continued cycles of military rule turned it into a polity that cannot provide full citizenship rights to all Pakistanis.

This emphasis on citizenship is an important perspective that Jalal has brought forth to a global reader, who views the country as an epicentre of terror and blowing itself as a jihadi state. As the premier scholar on the country’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Jalal refers to the origins of Pakistan as a “truncated … moth-eaten and mutilated state” in the most peculiar circumstances of 1940s and the breakdown of power-sharing schemes that were deliberated in that decade. Lord Mountbatten’s ominous sentence marked the start: “As far as Pakistan is concerned, we are putting up a tent. We can do no more.” And even today in many parts of the country, the tent exists without a responsive state structure. Sixty-seven years later, Pakistan is a country of 200 million people with no local governments that can assure accountable services (including security) to its citizens.

Pakistan’s insecurity is rooted in that phase when it was widely projected that it may just collapse under the burden of its inherent contradictions. Over 40 million Muslims stayed in India; its two wings were 1,000 miles apart and the task of creating a nation-state was even more onerous given the diversity — ethnic, linguistic and religious — of the new state. Nearly 25 per cent of Pakistanis in 1947 were non-Muslims (today only four to five per cent are). The perennial debate on Pakistan’s national identity has not ended. (more…)

Reclaiming One’s Voice

17 July 2014

 

 

Raza Rumi cuts through the high decibel terrorism rhetoric to voice some ground realities of Pakistan, all this while braving attempts on his life.

 Quetta

 

A few months back, I had to leave my country simply to ensure that I would not be left dead. The price of public positions is hard. Perhaps I had ruffled too many feathers or was simply unlucky to have caught the attention of those who tried to kill me. I am trying to make sense of things that may have fallen apart for me. But have they? I keep trying at making sense of my country, the one I belong to and the one I love immensely.

Nuclear state. An Islamic Republic. A Failed state? Endless labels and categories have been accorded to what Pakistan represents today to the world at large. Some facts speak for themselves but perceptions are deceptive as they start morphing into realities. Pakistan is also a resilient country and inspires me to fight the odds, the demons that have to be defeated and the endless list of things that need to be done.

Contrary to what most diagnose, Pakistan’s trajectory was not inevitable. The country’s founder, almost a demonic figure in India, attempted to set a direction in his August 11 speech by recognising that religion could mobilise people and politics but cannot be an instrument for governance. “We are starting with this fundamental principle,” said Jinnah, “that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.” The famous words followed: “…in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.” Critics say it was too late. Others think this was the only way to shape statecraft when a new state had come into being. Perhaps all of this is irrelevant now. Sixty seven years later, Pakistan is hardly the country it was geographically or otherwise in 1947.

(more…)

Exodus from Pakistan’s troubled north presents risks, opportunities

27 June 2014

By Raza Rumi, Special to CNN

Polio

 

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…)

Farzana’s honour killing is a national shame

28 May 2014

My outrage – sadly limited to social media on the brutal stone age murder of a pregnant woman in Pakistan’s ostensibly ‘developed’ city

Looking back at General Kayani’s Tenure

2 December 2013

Raza Rumi

General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani retired after leading Pakistan’s most powerful institution for six years. As a close confidante and successor of former president General Musharraf, General Kayani ensured policy continuity and facilitated the return of the army into the barracks. Histenures were eventful yet, turbulent and thus, he leaves behind a chequered legacy. Before his extension in 2010, Kayani led successful operations in Swat and the tribal areas against extremists, and save a few instances, did support the democratic transition. In 2008, he ordered all serving military officials in civil departments to relinquish charge. Despite these commendable measures, the military firmly set and managed foreign and security policies, and faced little or no challenge from the civilian rulers. In fact, following the 2008 Mumbai attacks, former president Asif Ali Zardari and his prime minister(s) gave up the management of the security policy, which had serious ramifications for Pakistan’s governance and economy.

During 2008-2013, a weak democracy beset by civil-military schisms defined Pakistan’s governance. The military strongly resisted attempts by the civilian government to reform the country’s premier intelligence agency, the ISI. A campaign was orchestrated, which moulded public opinion against the Kerry-Lugar-Berman (KLB) bill in 2009. The KLB bill was projected as an assault on Pakistan’s ‘national interest’). An unprecedented reaction through an ISPR press release (bypassing the ministry of defence) was given to the civilian authorities when the military aired its reservations about the KLB bill. The latter marked a significant shift in Pakistan-US relations: for the first time, an attempt was made by the Obama Administration to engage with the civilian government. Earlier, US relations with Pakistan were mediated through military cooperation, which bred domestic perceptions that the US always backed military dictators in the country. The establishment identified the orchestrator of the KLB bill as Husain Haqqani, our then ambassador in Washington. (more…)

Murder in the capital

26 November 2013

By Raza Rumi

Nasiruddin Haqqani’s assassination is a significant move in a game of chess and nerves

tft-40-p-4-a

A photographer takes picture of the spot where Nasiruddin Haqqani, a senior leader of the feared militant Haqqani network, was assassinated at an Afghan bakery in the Bhara Kahu area on the outskirts of Islamabad


Pakistan’s media had to turn its attention to the visible-invisible world of good Taliban when the news of a high profile assassination hit social media. A key member of the controversial Haqqani network was assassinated in a quiet corner of Pakistan’s capital. The slain Nasiruddin was the brother of Siraj Uddin Haqqani and a son of Jalaluddin, a key figure of the Afghan jihad against the Soviets in the 1980s. Haqqani group or better known as a ‘network’ is reportedly close to Pakistan’s security establishment. Pakistan’s alleged patronage and protection to Haqqanis has been one of the major causes for trust deficit between Pakistan, US and Afghan authorities. It may have jeopardized counterterrorism efforts over the last decade.

“He was the financier and emissary of the Haqqani network”

Nasiruddin Haqqani was known as the financier and emissary of the Haqqani network and unlike his brother and his father, kept a low profile. News stories circulating in the mainstream media consider his death to be perpetrated by ‘unknown assailants.’ The aims can inevitably be linked to demoralizing or undermining the network, which has been at the core of Pakistan’s security policy vis-à-vis Afghanistan. In the aftermath of HakeemUllah Mehsud’s death in a US drone strike in the village of Dande Darpa Khel of North Waziristan the Afghan Taliban’s overt support to the Pakistani Taliban or the Tehreek e Taliban I Pakistan (TTP) emerged as a clear signal of how the two branches of the same ideology reinforce each other. Haqqani network, according to several reports, though separate was not too averse to TTP either. (more…)

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