Pakistan and the Yemen Conflict

This is not an inter-State clash. There is no imminent threat to the territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia. Let’s call a spade a spade, especially if it is a dirty, rotten, gutter cleaning spade. This is a sectarian conflict between the two largest sects of Muslims; Shias and Sunnis. This is not a battle between good and evil. There are no heroes in this war, only villains and victims. This is a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran . While Saudi Arabia has only recently come out in the open with regard to its support to Yemeni government, Iran continues to deny it’s support to the Houthis.

The Shia-Sunni conflict is not novel. It was probably the first tactic that shot to the heads of Islamophobs when deciding how to neutralize the threat a united Muslim world could pose. Yes, it was a conspiracy to divide, neuter and rule. But instead of blaming the conspirators, dividers and inciters, we need to reflect on why it is so easy to divide, incite and conspire against Muslims.

The Yemen crisis has almost blown out into a Muslim world war, with a coalition force of around ten Muslim states mounting an offensive against Houthi rebels in Yemen on one side, and a still somewhat covert support to the Houthi forces from Iran. The United States of course is a non-Muslim party to the conflict, but that participation may be attributed to its uncontrollable attraction to conflicts and wars, especially if either or both sides to the conflict are Muslims.

The Yemeni sinkhole conflict has already pulled Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, Iran and Saudi Arabia in to its dark depths. One country, however, strolls at the edges. Pakistan has yet to decide what role it will play in this Muslim world war. The government – which only seems able to give statements – has said that they have not yet taken a decision to send troops to Saudi Arabia or consequently Yemen. It has also been iterated that the territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia will be protected at all costs. This second part of the statement is wise, too wise to have come from this government, and it’s not a secret where seemingly wise statements and policies are coming from.

It is common perception that this is now Saudi Arabia’s war. The leaders of the ruling party; PMLN, were rescued by Saudis after the 1999 Musharraf coup, through a long denied but ultimately admitted deal. Saudis babysat and pampered them through their political exile. Leaders of PMLN and some other political parties also have personal financial interests in Saudi Arabia. How the political leadership is itching to run to the Saudi whistle is imaginable. But Saudis are not asking for politicians, they are asking for the Army. Rumor has it that the Army chief decides what the Army does, in practice of course. Apparently now the Army chief also decides what politicians do, but that is just hearsay. Although his advice does seem to fall on very attentive ears attached to some very obedient bodies.

Political leaders have repeatedly asked for an all parties conference (APC) – something that has become a norm, bypassing a democratically elected Parliament – to decide Pakistan’s role in the Yemen conflict. But has the decision already been taken by the “decision takers”? Have the “boots” decided to not offer boots on Yemeni grounds? The statement read out – not given – by the Defense Minister to protect Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity at all costs, is meaningful. It says we will protect your borders for you, but we will not invade any borders for you. The statement is wise and so is the decision.

Pakistan should not be an ally in any offensive against Yemen’s territory. Not just because Yemen too is a friendly State, or because Pakistan cannot afford to be a part of another conflict, but also because participation in an overt international Shia-Sunni conflict may fuel sectarian violence on our own soil. Internationally, this sectarian rift is bound to grow deeper as a result of this clash. It is thus best to stay out of it and work for a peaceful mediation between parties. Having said that, our decades old strong religious and economic ties with Saudi Arabia also need to be catered for. It is to honor those ties that Pakistan has ensured the Saudis of full support in case of any aggression aimed at its borders.

It is times like these which will make us cherish the prevailing democratic coup in Pakistan. While a handful of political decision takers and policy makers play with their, sort of make believe, APCs, sessions and one on ones, the decisions are being taken elsewhere in a forum seemingly more far sighted and free from individual and personal interests. This however is, of course, just hearsay.

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Fighting Cannonballs with Pebbles

The latest in political scandals falls slightly short of an actual scandal. An audio clip of a conversation between Chairman Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf and Mr. Arif Alvi has landed on television screens after doing the rounds on social media. Seemingly desperate for an Imran Khan scandal, media and a certain “victimized” political party jumped on this opportunity and tried to make the most of it. Several web sites and channels have dubbed the conversation “shocking”, “revealing” and “the real face of PTI”.

I for one fail to find any shocking or revealing aspect to the audio recording. In this one minute conversation you can hear Khan and Alvi talking about the PTV attack and some sort of joint press statement by PTI and MQM. MQM has taken this opportunity to malign PTI and avenge Khan’s anti-MQM stance in its ongoing “victimization”.

Since the audio is easily available and has been played repeatedly on tv channels, I will not reproduce it here. Following are a few aspects of the tape that I deem noteworthy;

  1. First off Mr. Arif Alvi, or anyone in the PTI ranks need not call this tape a fake. It only sheds doubt on any credible defense or rebuttal to allegations springing out of this audio. Imran Khan’s tone and words are obviously consistent throughout the conversation so it is difficult to believe that these were actually two or more different conversations edited and presented as one.
  2. In first bit of the conversation Mr. Alvi is heard informing Imran Khan of the attack on PTV and shutting down of its transmission. It is not clear if he is talking about PTI or PAT workers or if it was a joint effort. He doesn’t say “we have…” or “our people have..”, words that would have been incriminating. He is just informing his party Chairman on what has happened. What’s clear is that this might as well have been the first time Imran was informed of the PTV attack, reducing the probability of him or PTI having planned this move to attack a State institution.
  3. Next comes Imran’s reaction, where he appreciates the action as it is bound to put pressure on the government and Prime Minister to resign. Shocking? No way. Imran Khan had not taken his workers to sit in at D-Chowk to enjoy the weather or be in a better position to eavesdrop on Parliament. His march, the sit-in and everything he was doing were to put pressure on the government and PM. The conversation does not prove that it was PTI or Khan who were behind the attack on PTV, it only proves how Khan saw it as beneficial to his cause, which was to create pressure. To refresh our very short term memories I would like to remind the readers that this blunder by Khan got its due coverage on the media when Khan first appeared on his container to victoriously announce the taking over of PTV and only later, after being wisely advised on how he should not be condoning an attack on a State building, condemned the attack and asked his party workers, if any, to withdraw. So his reaction in the “revealing” phone call does not reveal anything really. He had condoned the attack publicly when it was happening, was grilled for it, and then retracted. So what is so shocking or revealing about the same reaction in a private conversation he probably had before condoning the attack publicly and retracting later?
  4. Then comes the foul word “probably” used for the sitting Prime Minister. Again this was a private conversation not meant for the public. Khan or Alvi were obviously not aware that they were bugged and being recorded. Khan was right in the middle of a very rigorous move against the government, the Prime Minister in particular. During that tug of war he used a foul word for an adversary in a private conversation. Shocking? Revealing? Think again.
    One can only imagine what words were being used for Imran Khan by Ministers or PMLn leaders in private gatherings, meetings and conversations. Some words used for PTI women publicly, implied far worse meaning than what Khan used in his conversation with Alvi.
  5. The last part of the conversation is about some press release that had been agreed on by PTI and MQM and was awaiting final approval from MQM chief. Now this could be anything from a joint statement against the government or MQM joining the PTI protest to MQM refusing to support government in the joint session of Parliament. From Khan’s keenness on trying to contact MQM again before the joint session, it is probable that the negotiations were to take MQM on board against the government, something that obviously did not materialize. Again, not very revealing. PTI had extended an open invitation to all political parties to join its move against PMLN government. If anything, this recording reveals that MQM was at least considering the offer.

In the wake of revealing statements by Saulat Mirza and Uzair Baloch, this was a poor attempt at bringing PTI into the ambit of shocking scandals. But it seems the attempt was too meager. You cannot reply to cannon balls with pebbles.

Taken to the Cleaners.

Asif Ali Zardari’s decision to side with MQM in its battle is politically prudent. He yet again proves his political acumen and foresightedness. He is the first, of all political party heads, to realize that the operation against MQM foretells the fate of other players in Karachi, Sindh and the entire Pakistan.

Holding the “enemy” back at the gates is the only way to preserve the questionable fashions of other political players in Karachi. Unfortunately for MQM, it is them who were at the gates at the time of invasion, it is them who now guard these gates and they are falling, desperate for reinforcements. If MQM henchmen can be convinced or motivated to spill the beans on their masters, what’s to stop the PPP beans from being spilt too. The culture of mafia politics in Karachi is not exclusive to MQM. An operation against militants that began with MQM will not stop with just them.

It might just be a little too late for Mr. Z. Shrewd as his decision is, it may not be enough to stop the overwhelming force backing the operation. It would be wiser to wait your turn than to expedite the inevitable and bear unnecessary bruises.

The decision will however make other political parties see what Zardari sees. It will not be surprising to see these leaders follow suit and stand up in defense of MQM’s “democratic” rights. Leaders of parties from other parts of Pakistan from Punjab, Balochistan and KPK may be the last to see what is coming. They may cheer the Karachi clean up and put the cleaners on a high moral and constitutional pedestal. Only when the cleaning starts elsewhere, will they too attempt to take shelter behind democracy and constitution.

What really matters however is where the masses stand. The masses want a cleansed Pakistan, no question about it. But they have been victims of their own gullibility in the past, it has proven to be the most effective weapon to divide, delude and defeat them. Rest assured the weapon will be used again. Are we ready?

Lynching Lahore: On our way to the Darkest Ages

Last month Jordanian Air force was engaged in aerial bombardment of ISIS targets in Syria. One of the jets piloted by an unfortunate Jordanian officer crashed and the pilot was captured alive by ISIS. The gruesome video of his execution outraged the entire world. He was burnt alive while trapped in a cage.

The world was already familiar with ISIS and their brutal, inhumane acts against humanity. The pilot was obviously engaged in attacks on the ISIS and was captured during one such attack. His was one of the jets responsible for the loss of life and property borne by ISIS. ISIS was at war and the pilot was the enemy. His capture from a plane’s rubble that dropped from the sky after bombarding them was proof of his “guilt” as regards ISIS. It was already common knowledge that international conventions on war prisoners or human rights have no place in the ISIS’s mind. The execution enraged the world but did not surprise them. It was not an act unbecoming of ISIS, it was an act unbecoming of normal human beings.

Two churches were targets of terrorist attacks in the Youhannabad area of Lahore. An enraged mob got hold of allegedly suspected terrorists involved in these attacks. There was no way of being sure of their guilt as they were not heard or interrogated, let alone tried in a court. They were tortured, killed and set on fire. The mob did not know for sure if they were the enemies and follow up investigations reveal they probably weren’t. The only apparent proof of the victim’s guilt were their proximity with the place of attack and their appearance; not even close to a proof by any stretch of imagination. I assure you, none of the people in the mob belonged to ISIS. They were normal, average people. They did not just match ISIS in its cruelty, they went a step further. They did this to men who were only deemed guilty and then to cross all human boundaries, several members of the mob continued to record and take pictures of the burning bodies. In an edited video of the incident one can see twenty or even more people standing and recording the inhumanity. It was not an act unbecoming of the ISIS, it was an act unbecoming of normal human beings. Not only did they have it in them to torture another human being to death and burn him alive, they had the guts to video tape it for future viewing and sharing pleasures.

They were enraged at the killing of their peers and fellows, they were frustrated by the lack of State action, insecure, cornered and victimized. All of that has nothing to do with what they did. The Christian couple lynched and burnt alive by a mob, again in Lahore, was not killed by people who were frustrated by lack of State action, insecure, cornered or victimized. They were killed because they were weak and outnumbered and the mob was in a position that enabled it to do what it did. The victims of both these incidents were innocent in all probability, but they were weak against the power of a mob; the collective inhumanity.

Being in a mob reduces the chances of getting caught or blamed for an act in your individual capacity. It presents an immediate validation and approval of your actions by your peers. Such validation and improbability of retribution unleashes the animal within us otherwise kept in check by law and social disapproval. These incidents are a glimpse into our society’s inner selves. They show us where we stand on the ladder of personal growth and social evolution. We don’t seem to be anywhere on the ladder, we seem to be digging our way into the ground. Committing the act because you were able to is one thing, recording and saving it forever is beyond vile.

The reasons for this growing sadistic face of our society?
1. Absolute non-existence of rule of law which leads to unchecked human behavior reverting it to barbarity and animalistic trends.

2. Stooping social morality and consequent rise in approval for social vices. Corruption, for instance, is not as frowned upon as it was twenty years ago.

3. Our all seeing media that focuses most of its airtime on all the negativities in our society. Highlights the ills and ignores any good. This is in turn making us lose hope in humanity in general and our society in particular. Media’s access to the masses and its influence ensures that we see each other through its eyes, and what we see is grim.

Unconstitutional Election of Chairman Senate.

The ongoing debate on whether elections to the office of Chairman and Deputy Chairman Senate can be held without the four members from FATA needs to be decided conclusively by our Supreme Court which is entrusted with the duty and responsibility of interpreting the Constitution. The words “duly constituted” used in Article 60 of the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973, are of paramount significance while deciding this controversial issue.

By way of Articles 54 and 59 our Constitution has given representation to six distinct territories in Parliament, these being Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, FATA and the Federal Capital. While said representation is based on population for National Assembly, in the Senate it is based on equal representation for all provinces in addition to eight seats for FATA and four for Federal Capital.

The constitution of senate is governed by Article 59(1) whereby clauses (a) to (f) provide for six essential elements to comprise a duly constituted Senate;

1.                     14 general seats from all four provinces.
2.                    8 seats from FATA.
3.                    2 general, 1 technocrat and 1 woman from capital.
4.                    4 women seats from all four provinces.
5.                    4 technocrats from all four provinces.
6.                    1 non-Muslim seat for each of the four provinces.

Since for the purposes of perpetual existence, elections to the senate are held every three years, elections are held to half the total membership of Senate. Thereby in effect reducing the numbers provided for in clauses (a) to (f) of Article 59(1), to half for each such election.

The word “duly” in normal parlance would mean: after fulfilling all essential requisites. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, it means: ” In due or proper form or manner ; according to legal requirements..”

Since the Constitution has, by way of Article 59(1), provided for six distinct requisite elements for Senate, a Senate constituted in the absence of any one of these requisites should not qualify as a “duly constituted” Senate.

It should be noted that members of Senate from FATA have not resigned or otherwise been disqualified. Four members have retired after due completion of their term. Consequently it is essential to elect four new members from FATA, as per the Constitution, to fill the vacated seats in Senate.

It may also be noted that in Article 53(1) for election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of National Assembly and Article 108 for election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of Provincial Assemblies the law makers have used the words: “After a general election..” and have not made the elections of Speakers and Deputy Speakers conditional upon a duly constituted National or Provincial Assembly. Therefore Speakers and Deputy Speakers of National and Provincial Assemblies may be elected even if membership of the respective houses is incomplete.

Senate, on the other hand, is the upper house of Parliament, it is the supreme legislative organ of the State. Unlike National and Provincial Assemblies, the Senate is a perpetually existing house which cannot be dissolved. The use of words: “After the Senate has been duly constituted…” instead of “after the Senate elections..” cannot be deemed meaningless and unintentional. It is therefore, in my opinion, essential to elect members from FATA to duly constitute the Senate, and thus an election to the office of Chairman and Deputy Chairman without election of members from FATA would be unconstitutional.