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Global terrorism — myth and reality

A new report by the Institute for Economics and Peace, an international think tank based in Australia, brings to light some hard data on global terrorism. During November 2015, a series of terror attacks in Beirut, Paris, Nigeria and Mali reignited the debate on the global ‘challenge’ of terrorism. In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, another coalition is being gathered to bomb Syria to eradicate the Daesh or Islamic State (IS). It is unclear if a militaristic response would yield results in Syria, given the complexity and competing interests of Middle Eastern actors, Russia and the West. In fact, the lack of a multilateral approach has only served to benefit the IS in the recent past.

The Global Terrorism Index (GTI) report confirms that terrorism, globally, is on the rise. Since 2001, there has been a five-fold rise in terrorism. The year 2014 was deadliest with 14,000 terrorist attacks in 93 countries, leaving 32,000 dead. The number of terror victims was 80 per cent more than in 2013. At the same time, countries that battled 500 or more terrorist attacks have seen a staggering increase by 120 per cent since 2013.

The other startling fact, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace, is that Boko Haram, the Nigerian militant group, was the biggest killer in 2014, and not the IS. During the last year, 6,644 deaths attributed to Boko Haram signified an increase of over 300 per cent compared to the deaths occurring in 2013. The IS was the second-most lethal group as it killed 6,073 people. Tactics used by Boko Haram are deadlier as it indiscriminately targets private citizens in its attacks. […]

The verse of freedom

In a powerful exploration of resistance poetry in indigenous languages, I discovered marginalized poets challenging mainstream Pakistani identity in moving verse.

 PoetsFaiz Ahmad Faiz

Much has been said about the literary and artistic revolution of Pakistan. Undoubtedly Pakistani writers, artists and musicians are now recognised globally for their work which engages with the world and brings forth perspectives which alter the unidimensional image of the country. At home, the new wave of literary and creative output is celebrated each year at the Karachi and Lahore literature festivals which have emerged as major venues for conversation and showcasing of what is being produced in the mainstream.

Away from the spotlight of international media and TV channels, Pakistan’s regional poets and writers are waging a far more perilous battle by engaging with their subaltern, marginalised audiences in the local idiom, thereby putting themselves at risk. The days of Faiz and Jalib are not over as we often moan. Instead they have deepened and regionalised. Our region has had a rich, ongoing folk tradition and it continues in myriad forms and expressions now. In India, Bangladesh and Pakistan poets and artists continue to challenge power and injustice. More so in Pakistan where instability, extremism and uncertainty have impacted people in a profound manner for the past few decades.


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

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

Mullahs, mullahs everywhere

Raza Rumi

It is a test for the state and the political parties of Pakistan as to how they can deal with a narrative that is fast capturing political space as well as prime time on TV.


Mullahs, mullahs everywhere

Last week on a television show I had a chance to interact with Maulana Sami ul Haq while he was in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This was the day when the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had announced a month-long ceasefire (March 1). Maulana was ecstatic about the news and offered a bagful of platitudes on how important was the so-called ‘peace process’ and negotiating with the terrorists. When I asked him that despite the peace talks, outfits close to TTP had carried out dozens of attacks killing soldiers and civilians the Maulana’s mood changed. In a fit of anger he accused me of ‘sabotaging’ the process and before he could take the argument forward by calling me an agent of Hanood-Yahood, my guest – another Maulana – Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi intervened and rescued me from a live declaration of being an enemy of the peace.

The false and utterly bizarre packaging of accepting terrorists within our fold as ‘peace-agents’ has assumed a life of its own. Appeasement or terrorist outfits is turning into a mainstream political ideology. The right wing parties – bearded and non-bearded – are busy selling the merchandise that Pakistani state had earlier branded as means to bolster ‘national security’. Militant groups aiming to liberate Kashmir are legitimate, those planning to fight the imperial US and NATO are ‘good’ and the foreigners operating from Pakistani soil are ‘guests’ of proud Pakhtuns, we are told. Any divergence from these labels is akin to being unpatriotic, parroting the United States and feeding on dollars as the charismatic Imran Khan has said time and again. […]

March 14th, 2014|Pakistan, Published in The Friday Times, terrorism|2 Comments

On the Controversial US Drones’ Program in Pakistan

Raza Rumi

tft-42-p-8-a Mustafa Qadri with a copy of the new Amnesty International

Amnesty International’s recent publication, “Will I be Next? US Drone Strikes in Pakistan” has spurred a global debate on the use of drone strikes in Pakistan. The report invited some critical responses on issues of accuracy and objectivity but overall it has informed the ongoing debates. In Pakistan, it has been used by different lobbies to advocate their stance through selective interpretation. Raza Rumi spoke to Amnesty’s Pakistan Researcher Mustafa Qadri on some of these issues and concerns.

What are the most critical findings of Amnesty’s recent report?

In some of the cases we have documented extensively, the US appears to have committed unlawful killings in breach of international law. Some of these killings, particularly the targeting of so-called ‘rescuers’, may even constitute war crimes or extra-judicial executions. This includes the killing of 18 laborers in the impoverished village of Zowi Sidgi around Magreb time on 6 July 2012. In another case, a drone strike killed 67 year old grandmother Manana Bibi in front of her grandchildren. Those responsible for these killings must be brought to justice. The US must come clean and acknowledge this secretive program, fully disclose the number of documented deaths, how many they view as non-combatants, how they arrived at these figures, how they assess that a person is a combatant and therefore will be targeted, and fully disclose the legal basis for the program, including the US Department of Justice Legal Memo that is purportedly the cornerstone of its legality. I believe this is only possible if the program and the cases we and others have documented are investigated by a genuinely independent and impartial body. It should not be left to the Obama Administration and the US Congress and Senate committees, which are supposed to provide oversight of the targeted killing programs, because they have failed to adequately do this.

What were the difficulties in gathering data? How did you secure access to the victims and the area? Did Pakistan state cooperate or hinder the efforts?

Securing data is extremely difficult in FATA because of the secretive US program, the lawless and remote nature of the area, and the active control and suppression of accurate testimony by local actors including the Taliban, Al Qaeda linked groups and Pakistani security authorities. This issue is so politicised that it is difficult to take claims on face value. That’s why our research is based on extensive, discreet research from multiple eyewitnesses interviewed on three separate occasions by separate investigators who have worked with us in the past – not just on drones, but abuses by the Taliban and others, abuses against women and so on. We corroborated eyewitness testimony against satellite imagery, photographs, video, and analysis of missile fragments by experts. […]

December 7th, 2013|Published in The Friday Times, terrorism|2 Comments

How the Future of South Asia Can Change!

By Raza Rumi

Since Pakistan’s inception, its relationship with India has been mired by insecurity, hostility, suspicion and mistrust. Independence in 1947 was followed by conflict over the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The Kashmir dispute eventually led to the 1965 war, and that episode was subsequently followed by the Tashkent Declaration. Yet, the Tashkent Declaration was a short-lived attempt at forging amiable ties between both States as six years later, amid political and ethnic turmoil in Pakistan, in 1971 a second war took place.  East Pakistan had declared independence, and West Pakistan lost its Eastern arm, partly due to Indian intervention in what was largely seen as an internal matter, in Pakistan. Pakistan blamed India for facilitating Bangladeshi nationalists and their quest for independence after being politically and ethnically discriminated. Despite Bangladesh gaining independence, enmity between the two States ratcheted up further, as India flexed its muscles and tested its nuclear weapons capability in 1974, and again in 1998. In response, Pakistan conducted its own nuclear weapons tests in 1998, which subsequently heightened tensions in the already volatile relationship between both countries.

The relationship between the United States and Pakistan have largely been viewed through a contextual global prism since the country’s inception in 1947. The US was one of the first countries to set up diplomatic ties with Pakistan, yet relations soured with the advent of the Cold War which shaped the former to pursue a relationship with Pakistan, as a balancing power against China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Economic aid provided to Pakistan has been largely, military in nature and Pakistan continues to remain as an important Non-North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally today.

After 1970, with the election of the leftist Pakistan People’s Party government, the already transactional relationship found itself in troubled waters, due to outright condemna-tion of war atrocities committed by the Pakistan military during the Bangladesh Liberation War. The relationship took another turn in the 1980s, after the Soviet coup in Afghanistan, and saw the US, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Zia-ul Haq-led government cooperate to curb the Soviet expansion in Afghanistan, a view to helping Afghan insurgents stave off the USSR.

Yet in the 1990s, Pakistan’s acquisition of nuclear weapons led to economic and military sanctions from the US, which were later lifted, after the US-led war on terror in 9/11, as the US sought the country as a vital ally in the War on Terror, given its geographical proximity to the restive country. Unlike Pakistan, whose military and economic security concerns necessitated and alignment with Russia or China, India sought no such alliance, and was in fact one of the pioneers of the Non-Aligned Movement. However, India’s implementation of socialist policies led it to form a cooperative relationship with the USSR, which frayed its relations with the US. […]

November 6th, 2013|SouthAsia|3 Comments

Pakistan, Taliban and Karzai

My piece for ANN (link) where I argue how Pakistan’s Prime Minister is struggling to taking charge of the country’s security policies, away from the security forces, and turning around its economy. Pakistan in real terms has no choice but to facilitate a peace process given the likelihood of more instability after 2014.


Afghan President Hamed Karzai’s visit to Pakistan has ended without concrete outcomes. However, in terms of building trust with Pakistan and negotiating the future of Afghanistan this was a significant development. The impending pullout of NATO/ISAF combat troops from Afghanistan and forthcoming presidential elections in April 2014 require the nebulous peace process to be accelerated. The Afghan government accuses Pakistan of letting the Taleban use its soil for attacks against the country and Pakistan denies this charge adding that its leverage with the Afghan Taleban is limited and exaggerated by all concerned parties.New allies? Hamed Karzai didn't visit Pakistan in one and a half years. During the trip on 26 and 27 August he met Pakistan's new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for the first time. They spontaneously added another morning of talks to the agenda. This, at least, was a good sign. Photo: Borneobulletin

During the parleys between Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Karzai the issue of the Afghan Taleban’s former second-in-command Mulla Baradar and facilitating a direct contact between the Afghan Taleban and the Afghan High Peace Council must have been discussed. The press conference held by both leaders comprised statements of good intentions but avoided specific references to the issues discussed and agreements made.

Predictably, Nawaz Sharif mentioned trade and energy related matters and was upbeat about the completion of ongoing projects. The real issue – getting the Taleban on the negotiating table – was missing in the public statement. Historically, Pakistan’s regional security policy is an exclusive domain of its powerful military and premier intelligence outfit, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. While Karzai is close to completing his term and is concerned about his legacy and holding a peaceful transition, Sharif is gradually moving towards setting the institutional frameworks right. The national security committee is being revamped and Sharif is keen to take charge of the complex policy environment.


August 29th, 2013|Afghanistan, Pakistan, Politics, terrorism|3 Comments