Wednesday, 28 January 2015

PAKISTAN- Anti Torture Bill presented in Senate will fail to deliver

PAKISTAN- Anti Torture Bill presented in Senate will fail to deliver
A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

On 21 January, the Senate Standing Committee on Interior and Narcotics has unanimously adopted a draft anti-torture bill. PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar moved The Torture, Custodial Death and Custodial Rape Bill, 2014, last August and the Chairman Senate referred it to the Committee. The objective of this Bill is to prevent and protect all persons from acts of torture, custodial death, and custodial rape in Pakistan. The Bill provides special protection to marginalized sections of the society like women and children. For instance, it states, "No female shall be detained to extract information regarding the whereabouts of a person accused of any offence". Only a female public servant can take a female into custody is another notable provision.

Pakistan ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) in 2010, but has failed to promulgate anti-torture legislation, and to even define torture. Torture includes the denial of basic human rights to those detained and interrogated for the purpose of extracting confessions, which is routine in Pakistan. Human rights can be rooted in a culture only when the ethical and moral foundations of that society are compatible with human rights concepts and norms. And, this is where foundational codes in Pakistan are lacking. The prevailing provisions of Pakistan Penal Code have failed to provide justice and redress to victims of custodial torture. The Constitution too does not define torture or deem it a crime.
Along with its partners in Pakistan, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has been working to develop and introduce an anti-torture legislation since 2009. A draft has been developed through a series of discussions, seminars, workshops, public meetings, and consultations with parliamentarians organized in different cities. Due care was taken to make this proposed law all encompassing so it could cover all aspects of custodial torture and minimize lacuna. Human rights activists, lawyers, and retired judges were asked for their input on the draft legislation and many of their suggestions were incorporated.
This draft legislation proposed by civil society activists and legal experts is more detailed and comprehensive in its approach and reach as opposed to the draft Bill tabled before the Senate Standing Committee. The Bill tabled has gone to the length of changing the very definition of torture in UNCAT to provide impunity to law enforcement agencies.
For instance, the definition of torture in the Senate Committee Bill does not include the concept of "omission". The civil society draft legislation, on the other hand, notes, "If an officer of the law enforcement agency fails to curb the offence of torture or abets it he too should be punished".
Also, the definition in the Senate Committee Bill states, "Torture means an act committed by any person, including a public servant". The wording is ambiguous. Perhaps the drafter does not know about the difference between torture and violence. By using the term "any person" the legislators are including a common man within the ambit of what is necessarily an act committed by state institutions and law enforcement agencies. By creating ambiguity between the two terms, the legislators have rendered the law toothless against the perpetrators of torture. Furthermore the definition of law enforcement agency has been omitted and the more generic term of public servant has been used instead.
The definition of Torture in Article 1of UNCAT is;
1.    For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions. 

2.    This article is without prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or may contain provisions of wider application.
For the effective law against torture it is better to adhere with the UNCAT definition.
Clause 12 of the Bill makes malafide complaint against the public servant a punishable offence, with one-year imprisonment and a fine of Pakistan Rupees 100,000; this clause is completely unjustifiable from the standpoint of a common Pakistani. The risks associated with complaining against a public servant in Pakistan are great enough. To further impose on victims the risk of being prosecuted for a malafide complaint will discourage victims from coming forward. The majority of victims of custodial torture and rape belong to the underprivileged. How can they be expected to cough up such an exorbitant amount if this Clause is used against them in a malafide manner? How will they seek help from other witnesses who would also fear prosecution in case they fail to prove the case? Furthermore, as the realities of Pakistan demonstrate, this clause will be used most by the military and police officials as another intimidation method to inhibit the filing of torture complaints. Instead of facilitating lodging of complaints, the legislators will only make them more onerous. The AHRC recommends that the said Clause 12 of the Senate Committee Bill be deleted.
Clause 14 of the Bill vests the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) with exclusive jurisdiction to investigate complaints of torture until the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) becomes functional. It is worthy to note that the NHRC Bill was passed by the National Assembly in 2012, but was not given presidential assent, and has now lapsed. The Senate Committee draft Anti-Torture Bill does not specify what is to happen once the NHRC becomes functional. The Senate Committee Bill needs to stipulate whether the NHRC will take over investigation of torture complaints exclusively (as these will certainly fall in its mandate) or whether the FIA and NHRC will both have the power to investigate torture complaints. Once the NHRC becomes functional, the Senate Committee Bill must make the respective jurisdiction of the NHRC and FIA clear. The Senate Committee Bill needs to clarify the respective jurisdictions of the FIA and the NHRC with regard to the investigation of offences, and ensure that the Rules include a comprehensive detailing of the process and standard of investigation to be followed in all cases. The Rules must also detail the standard of investigation to be followed, irrespective of which body is conducting the investigation.
It should be noted that the UN Committee Against Torture has stated in its General Comment 3, "an investigation should include as a standard measure an independent physical and psychological forensic examination as provided for in the Istanbul Protocol".
Clause 14 of Senate Committee Bill also clearly violates UNCAT which states, "Each State Party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction."
The neutrality of the investigation agency is jeopardized in Pakistan and may cause miscarriage of justice. Vesting the responsibility of investigation with the FIA, as it operates presently, will only give a cover to the perpetrator. The investigation body needs to be entirely delinked from the law enforcing institutions whose official is being implicated. Otherwise, it will only provide impunity to the perpetrators of custodial torture. The AHRC strongly recommends that the legislators make appropriate provisions for the establishment of an independent investigation commission. This commission should operate untainted by any external influence, and have as its members, representatives of civil society, retired judges, and former LEA personnel. A provision allowing for judicial enquiry, in addition to the independent commission should also be incorporated.
Next, Clause 15 of the Senate Committee Bill specifies a separate procedure for complaints against members of the armed forces and intelligence agencies. In such cases, the FIA is to inform the federal government and act according to its directions. This provision is alarming. It will shield the armed forces from any criminal proceeding in case of a complaint of torture. UNCAT provides for accountability of all law enforcement agencies on equal footing. To require the FIA to act on the advice of the federal government compromises the investigation of these cases. A similar provision was inserted in the NHRC Bill, 2012, indicating that external oversight mechanisms are not being given direct power of investigation into abuses committed by the armed forces and intelligence agencies. This clause must be deleted in the interest of the victims of torture to ensure dispensation of justice.
Clause 16 of the Bill provides for the transfer or suspension of the public servant pending investigation. The option of transfer should not be allowed. Is it appropriate for the public servant who has committed an alleged act of torture be allowed to continue operating in another locality? The AHRC recommends deleting the word transfer from Clause 16.
The AHRC also suggests that whenever the death of a person in custody occurs it must immediately be brought to the notice of the independent investigation commission for investigation.
The accountability mechanism envisaged in the Senate Committee Bill tabled is faulty. The Bill needs to elaborate on the responsibilities of the investigation body and the procedure that it must follow. The important aspects have been kept open-ended to allow the law enforcement agencies an escape route following the allegation of torture. The Bill provides no redress to the victim of torture per se. Has the Bill been rendered toothless to allow powerful agencies to perpetuate the vicious cycle of torture and injustice?
The AHRC urges legislators to review the bill with these missing provisions in mind.
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About AHRC:The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

The original sin, Marvi Sirmed

The original sin, Marvi Sirmed

Published by The Nation on Tuesday January 27, 2015
Self proclaimed mouthpieces of Pakistani military establishment never seize to surprise you with their twisting facts and moulding history to fit their narrative. Whenever one attributes the creation of terrorists groups to the Afghan Jihad strategy adopted by Pakistan, they start admonishing you for ‘going back in history’ in spite of the fact that Pakistan was ‘now a changed country’, was making amends in its previously held policies and that Afghan Jihad should not be cursed because it was the only option available to Pakistan. Really?
Although the original sin would date back to 1949 with an undesirable addition to the would-be Constitution of Pakistan, but at the strategic level, let’s fast-forward to the early 1970s when we decided to support insurgents in neighboring Afghanistan. Originally authored by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the strategy coincided with the uprising in Balochistan and was born out of Pakistan’s hyper apprehensive external affairs sensitivity.

What we call Afghan Jihad had started much before 1979 when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan started supporting Islamist groups that were opposing Daud Khan’s government in Afghanistan, as early as 1973. By that time, Pakistan had started using America’s communism-phobia as bait, eyeing the latter’s money and weapons – the lesson the US had learnt during its dealings with the Pakistan military in the 1950s and 60s. As part of this, we had offered the US in 1972 to use our ports as their bases.

In addition to repeated appeals to the US for defense support in case of a Soviet invasion, Pakistan had also started hosting Afghan insurgent leaders in Peshawar, Quetta and Islamabad. Rabbani and Hekmatyar used to be seen visited by officials and being granted enough support to continue their activities back home. In Afghanistan, Daud had seized power after a successful coup against King Zahir Shah thereby ending Zahir’s project-democracy. For his Pashtunistan ambitions and opposition of the Durand Line – the colonial border between Afghnistan and Pakistan – the Pakistani establishment was not very keen to see Daud in power.

In response to violent treatment that the Daud government meted out to the communist-leaning People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), it had to face a popular uprising. As a result of the Saur Revolution of 1978, the Daud government was uprooted while he met a violent end. Since centuries, Afghanistan’s tribal countryside had peculiar power-relations with the Center. Kabul had always held a peripheral influence in the country’s administrative control.

What PDPA did not realize was the fact that being highly decentralized in nature, Afghanistan had historically maintained that balance between Kabul and the countryside. Making the Center very strong and in its bid to aggressively pursue rapid restructuring of the state in favor of socialism, PDPA initiated social reformation considered to be ‘non-Afghan’ by the Islamist groups. Its steps like rendering bride money unlawful, limiting the influence of the clerics and above all, strong land reforms limiting the landholdings were PDPA’s unforgiveable sins.

These errors of judgment and hasty reforms created a popular uprising against PDPA government, which was by then a divided and fragmented administration under the two factions Khalq and Parcham. After fierce conflict between Noor Mohammad Tarakai, the pro-Soviet Afghan leader and Amin on the anti-Soviet side, Kremlin decided to intervene in September 1979. Prior to it, the Troika, as is evident from the Kremlin Documents, did not agree to use force in Afghanistan.

These developments after the Saur Revolution (the military coup against Daud supported by the people) had brought USSR directly in Afghanistan while Pakistan was able to drag USA, UK and Saudi money funnelled in the proxy war that followed. The US that had been taking Afghanistan lightly till then, woke up to the danger and gladly took Pakistani bait of Soviet occupation. There came the money, the weapons, the drugs, and the trade with a lot of cash that filled many coffers in Islamabad with seepage into Afghan Islamist groups. The US dreamed of bleeding the Soviet Union, writes Hussain Haqqani so correctly in his Magnificent Delusions.

Ironically, Bhutto who had come to power on his socialist credentials – or at least the narrative – became responsible for starting the Islamist project in Afghanistan that undermined socialist agenda in Afghanistan. Using the decades old bait of ‘Soviet threat’, military dictator Zia ul Haq expanded Bhutto’s Project of Islamist Afghanistan. The threat was constructed around the 19th century ‘Warm Waters Theory’ whereby it was perceived that USSR wanted to reach the warm waters of the ocean where the ports are not frozen, which made Afghan bordering areas of British India (now Pakistan) vulnerable to Soviet occupation.

Although the theory has already been rubbished by scholars who have examined Kremlin Archives opened in the late 1990s as well as Wikileaks that has made public the American thinking on the subject. Had USSR any interest in Indus waters through Pakistan, there was nothing stopping it throughout 1950s, then 60s and after. Moreover, to reach warm water ports, occupation was not the only option available to the second ‘pole’ of the bipolar world.

Even if we accept for a moment that the Afghan threat to Pakistan’s existence was real, the big question is, was it the only option to use Islamist proxies to engage the Soviet forces? When asked, senior journalist Wajahat S. Khan emphatically nodded to a strong nay. “If there were no other option but to militarily engage the USSR via proxies, Pakistan should have foreseen the cost of the blowback of the so-called jihad in its strategic calculus,” Khan said. “The proxy warfare itself could have been conducted differently. Why were certain insurgent groups backed at the expense of others? Why the emphasis on supporting Pashhtuns and Islamists, not all Afghans. That selective process left Pakistan in the unenviable position of a unfair broker of peace when the time for talking came, and as for the blowback, it hits Pakistan every day, even now.”

The point made by Khan here is quite valid. The Pakistani-supported insurgents, commonly called Peshawar Seven, were all Sunni groups. There was sort of a coalition of other predominantly Shia groups – the Tehran Eight – supported by Iran. This selective support to Sunni, Pakhtun part of Afghan insurgency ultimately alienated all other communities in Afghanistan, who still cringe at the mere mention of Pakistan. Making it ethnic and sectarian brought radical and violent effects to Pakistan. Harboring the insurgents on the soil of Pakistan landed us in the quagmire of never-ending violence and insurgency. Giving it religious color by calling it ‘Jihad’ and bringing umpteen foreign groups including Arab terrorists (although for the US, UK and KSA they were freedom fighters at the time), destroyed the prospects of a peaceful Pakistan for a very long time.

It is still possible to reverse it. The reversal is only possible if we recognize the root cause honestly and with sincerity of purpose. If the establishment is still trying to justify its wrong-doings through its big-mouthed proxies on Pakistani media and among the intelligentsia, then one is obliged to conclude that nothing has changed in official policy. Treating the symptoms while leaving out, rather justifying the cause, is not going to take us anywhere. If you still say the Afghan Jihad was a righteous and justified cause, pardon me for saying it, but you are lying through your teeth when you say you don’t believe in good or bad Taliban.

 In my last column that appeared on January 20, an Urdu couplet of Mir Taqi Mir was mistakenly attributed to Mirza Ghalib. Please accept my apologies for the glaring mistake and thanks to all the readers who made the correction.

Marvi Sirmed
Ordinary woman in Pakistan 

I can’t stand puritans even if they are feminists. Love to be a feminist coz it frightens arch males. For every alpha male in this world, there is one little, fat Marvi Sirmed!

Monday, 26 January 2015

Obama pledges 4 billion for India in loans and investments

Obama pledges 4 billion for India in loans and investments
·         * Two countries agree to a 10-year framework to boost defense ties * Strike deals on cooperation that include joint production of drone aircraft, equipment for C-130s  January 27, 2015 Daily Times

NEW DELHI: US President Barack Obama ended a landmark day in India on Monday with a pledge of $4 billion in investments and loans, seeking to release what he called the “untapped potential” of a business and strategic partnership between the world’s largest democracies.

Earlier in the day, at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Obama was the first US president to attend India’s annual Republic Day parade, a show of military might that has been associated with Cold War anti-Americanism. It rained as troops, tanks and cultural floats filed through the heart of New Delhi, but excitement nevertheless ran high over Obama’s visit, which began on Sunday with a clutch of deals to unlock billions of dollars in nuclear trade and to deepen defense ties. Both sides hope to build enough momentum to forge a relationship that will help balance China’s rise by catapulting democratic India into the league of major world powers.

The leaders talked on first name terms, recorded a radio program together and spent hours speaking at different events, but despite the bonhomie, Obama and Modi reminded business leaders, including the head of PepsiCo, that trade ties were still fragile. India accounts for only 2 percent of US imports and one percent of its exports, Obama said. While annual bilateral trade had reached $100 billion, that is less than a fifth of US trade with China. “We are moving in the right direction ... That said, we also know that the US-India relationship is defined by so much untapped potential,” Obama told the Indian and US business leaders. “Everyone here will agree, we’ve got to do better.”

Modi said US investment in India had doubled in the past four months and vowed to do more to slash the country’s notorious red tape and make it one of the world’s easiest places for business. Obama said that US Export-Import Bank would finance $1 billion in exports of ‘Made-in-America’ products. The US Overseas Private Investment Corporation will lend $1 billion to small- and medium-sized enterprises in rural areas of India. Regarding renewable energy, a key focus for Modi, $2 billion will be committed by the US Trade and Development Agency for renewable energy, Obama said. Most significant was an agreement on issues that, despite a groundbreaking 2006 pact, had stopped US companies from setting up nuclear reactors in India and had become one of the major irritants in bilateral relations. 

Obama in India, editorial Daily Times

Obama in India, editorial Daily Times
27 January 2015
The much hyped US President Barack Obama’s visit to India on Prime Minister’s Narendra Modi’s invitation has yielded breakthroughs in some stalled areas, iterations of intent in others and some unspoken but important implications vis-à-vis Pakistan’s role in the region and Islamabad’s relationship with New Delhi.

First and foremost, the roadblocks in the path of finalisation of the 2008 civil nuclear trade deal have been overcome. Two in particular were jamming the works in this regard. Both sides made concessions, the US by giving up its demand to track nuclear materials supplied to see where they are used and where they end up finally, India in no longer insisting on nuclear suppliers’ liability in case something goes wrong.

The former should be seen in the backdrop of India’s diversion of civil nuclear materials in the past to build a bomb, sparking off the nuclear arms race in the subcontinent. Whatever assurances were forthcoming in this regard seem to have satisfied Washington.

Of course the development will displease Pakistan, being seen as discriminatory. Obama committed during discussions with Modi to support India’s bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council (UNSC). Without denying the need for reform of the UNSC, India becoming a permanent member will permanently put paid to any resolution of the Kashmir issue, since India will then be in a position to veto any attempt to raise it in the UNSC.

India and the US have voiced their hopes for an enduring strategic partnership, a development that will put the final seal on India’s abandonment of its traditional non-aligned status. The development obviously carries implications for Pakistan too, not the least whether US willingness to supply weapons and allow some defence equipment to be manufactured in India will tip the strategic balance in South Asia in favour of New Delhi.
Like the elephant in the room, there were either no references or only passing ones to Pakistan in the joint statement. The non-reference was in relation to the US and India’s intent to expand connectivity, maritime, air and overland, in the region, including Central Asia. The last, to be reached overland, the only affordable option, implies transit through Pakistan, which may still be some distance away given that Pakistan-India frictions have so far not allowed Kabul’s desired transit trade with India through Pakistan.
The only way Washington and New Delhi can achieve their heart’s desire vis-à-vis Central Asia is if Pakistan is on board, and that implies at the very least the restart of the dialogue between Pakistan and India. Desirable as such a restart is, and historically necessary, it is crucially dependent on Pakistan being able to satisfy both Washington and New Delhi regarding past (Mumbai 2008), present (conflict on the LoC), and future (proxy jihadi groups operating in Afghanistan and Kashmir) activities of terrorist groups from Pakistan’s soil.

While acknowledging and encouraging recent developments of Pakistan showing intent to take on all hues of terrorists on its soil without discrimination, the dead weight of past suspicion will take consistency and constancy to be finally cleared. Therein lies the key to Pakistan’s own future, its ties with neighbours in the region and further away, and its reaping the dividend of peace and stability through connectivity, trade and investment that could prove a transformatory development for Pakistan, the region and the world, not to mention normalising relations and ushering in cooperation across the board with India. But there may still be miles to go before all this can be taken for granted.

One indicator of present realities as opposed to dreams of a better future is the visit of COAS General Raheel Sharif to China at the exact moment Obama and Modi were hugging each other in New Delhi. Ordinarily such a visit might not have raised any eyebrows. Nor did the statements from Beijing go beyond the familiar ritual of solidarity, friendship and mutual support. However, it is the timing that could be intended as a message to Washington that its attempts to get cosier with New Delhi could be offset by Islamabad’s enhanced reliance on, and support from, Beijing.

Whether this is a correct interpretation or not, the fact remains that the US sees India with an eye to close cooperation across the board for the future, while viewing Pakistan with a jaundiced eye to the past. Pakistan’s paralysed diplomacy is reduced to platitudes about US influence persuading India to return to dialogue. Beyond that, Islamabad appears to have no strategy to cope with the fast changing dynamic of relations between the US and India. *

Pakistan’s paradigm shift too good to be true, Dr Mohammad Taqi

Pakistan’s paradigm shift too good to be true, Dr Mohammad Taqi
January 22, 2015

The Pakistan-Haqqani ties date back to the mid-1970s, long before any Soviets, the US, mujahideen, Taliban or al Qaeda popped onto the scene, and are unlikely to be severed so abruptly

Pakistan’s national security paradigm has changed, or so they say. Perhaps my Afghan readers, who would be the major beneficiaries of such a tectonic shift, may be able to appreciate the above quoted Persian verse, in which the classic poet Anvari says: “O my Lord, am I seeing this all while I am awake or is it a dream? Such bounties for this poor soul after such prolonged misery!”

After the decades of the death and destruction it unleashed, the Jalaluddin Haqqani terrorist network, run currently by his son Sirajuddin Haqqani, has reportedly been banned by Pakistan. Additionally, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed’s Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD), which effectively is the political front for the proscribed terrorist group Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), has ostensibly been banned too. Amen to that! There, however, is a slight problem before one goes to town on the news: it is not official and might actually not become official for several weeks or, perhaps, ever.

The US State Department’s spokesperson, Ms Marie Harf, was quick to celebrate what is more of a rumour or feeler at this stage. In her January 15, 2015 news briefing, Ms Harf said: “So we welcome reports that the government of Pakistan plans to outlaw the Haqqani network, I think 10 or 11 additional organisations linked to violent extremism. This is an important step toward eliminating terrorist activity in Pakistan. Obviously, the Secretary (of State, John Kerry) was just there and had a wide-ranging conversation with the Pakistanis about counterterrorism, certainly...and obviously had many conversations with Prime Minister Sharif and others.” The reports that the State Department was welcoming cite unnamed Pakistani officials and are mute on what exactly such a ban would mean in practical terms. Without actually going after the leadership and operational commanders of the Haqqani network, any ban would mean diddlysquat. Where due diligence was in order, the State Department spokesperson jumped the gun.

We have argued in this column since the start of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan last summer that not a single Haqqani network ringleader has been captured or killed there while their cadres have been relocated to the adjoining Kurram and Orakzai agencies. There is no evidence to suggest that this has changed since the rumours of the ban have been going around.

The Haqqani network cadres continue to lay low and its leadership remains at large. Addressing a media briefing jointly with Secretary John Kerry over a week ago, the prime minister’s national security advisor, Mr Sartaj Aziz, said, “As far as the Haqqani network is concerned, since after the North Waziristan operation their infrastructure is totally destroyed. Our commitment to Afghanistan not to allow our territory to be used against any country would not have been possible unless we had undertaken this operation in North Waziristan.”

Mr Aziz skilfully skirted the question about whether there has been or will be any direct action against the Haqqanis. That all the Haqqani network operatives have gone scot-free raises serious doubts about whether the Pakistani security establishment would actually take on the Haqqanis, who have been its oldest jihadist asset. The Pakistan-Haqqani ties date back to the mid-1970s, long before any Soviets, the US, mujahideen, Taliban or al Qaeda popped onto the scene, and are unlikely to be severed so abruptly. The same goes for the JuD, which truly is the top-drawer ‘good’ jihadist outfit that hardly ever bucks its handlers.

Despite the US’s jubilation about the paradigm shift, we have been there, done that. In the immediate post-9/11 phase, the military dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, had banned a slew of jihadist organisations, ostensibly frozen their funds and jailed some of their leaders too. Similar to the current announcement via news reports, of a potential ban, the JuD’s forbearer, i.e. the Markaz Dawa-wal-Irshad was given enough lead time by the Musharraf regime to change its name to JuD in December 2001.

Similarly, the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network melted away, rather than facing international forces, and were retracted into Pakistan to regroup. It was a matter of time before they resurfaced in Afghanistan in 2004. Musharraf had even promulgated the deeni madaris (religious seminaries) Voluntary Registration and Regulation Ordinance in June 2002, which was not much different from the madrassa reforms being touted by the present government. What is so exciting about the current mantra of change then? We are led to believe that the security establishment has learnt its lesson, jettisoned its good/bad jihadist distinction and taken a fresh start under new management.

The present Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Raheel Sharif, certainly comes across as a sober person compared to General Pervez Musharraf and a much more proactive one than General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. However, if his recent talk at the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) London is anything to go by, General Sharif seems no less India-centric than his predecessors. That the COAS zeroed-in on Pakistan’s dispute with India over Kashmir in his talk is understandable but the way the Line of Control (LoC) has lit up since he assumed office is a matter of concern. The Kashmir-oriented jihadists like Maulana Masud Azhar and Hafiz Saeed have become increasingly vocal and visible over the last several months, which raises the question whether Pakistan intends to decommission these India-oriented jihadists anytime soon. The answer is a cautiously pessimistic no. And therein lies the rub. One can reform and regulate the madrassas all one wants but so long as there is a demand for the jihadists, they will keep churning out more.

Moreover, the Pakistani establishment’s arrangement with new Afghan President Mr Ashraf Ghani also seems geared more towards neutralising the perceived Indian influence in Afghanistan than actually finding a permanent solution to the menace of terrorism.

The Pakistani establishment is conveying that it has successfully pried away Mr Ghani from India and now Pakistan will help secure peace in Afghanistan. Never mind that by inference then, there was war and terrorism in Afghanistan thus far because Pakistan did not approve of its relationship with India. Mr Ghani is on a clock at home. He will have to show tangible results in the next three months before the whole shebang falls apart. So far, the Pakistani security establishment has not induced a single Afghan Taliban leader from the Quetta or the Peshawar Shura to make peace with Mr Ghani’s administration, which will tell whether Pakistan’s strategic calculus has truly undergone a paradigm shift or we are just daydreaming. As the Americanism goes: if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. The onus is on Pakistan to prove the bona fides of its claim.

The writer can be reached at and he tweets @mazdaki

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Islamic State’s emergence in Afghanistan following US withdrawal, by Jan Agha Iqbal

Islamic State’s emergence in Afghanistan following US withdrawal, by Jan Agha Iqbal          24 January 2015
IS Leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, in his speech called “Volcanoes of Jihad” on November 13, last year said: “Glad tidings, O Muslims, for we give you good news by announcing the expansion of the Islamic State to new lands”. This demonstrates the expansionist theory of the Islamic State (IS), which outperformed all other extremist rivals in the region including Al-Qaeda and Al-Nusra front in the battlefield as well as in brutality and violence.
One and a half months later, President Obama marked the formal end of US combat in Afghanistan, and said that the longest US war ever was now history.
However, it was not history to terrorists. Not only they have not yet announced the end of their combat mission but also stepped up their coordinated and brutal attacks. Moreover, as the US moves out of Afghanistan, IS steps in to take control of insurgency against Afghanistan, as potential central command for all terrorist groups.
There are many speculations about the creation, speedy growth and financial and military strength of ISIS. However, there is little doubt that systematic support to extremist ideology by some in Gulf countries, and Pakistan in addition to rivalries between regional as well as international players in the region has contributed to the rise of this militant group.
Under these circumstances, can the US and its allies declare mission accomplished and trust that Afghanistan and for this purpose Pakistan, would not become the bases for terrorists to attack the West?
Premature US withdrawal and its impacts
Many political and military pundits had warned against the premature US withdrawal, leaving behind an undefeated and triumphant enemy. As a result, the desperate efforts by the US and the Afghan government to bring Taliban to serious negotiations remained unattended. This also vindicates the fact that the group with new energy and hope is determined to wait out the United States and seize power.
Moreover, supporters of Taliban and Hekmatyar Group have been gaining grounds inside the government without giving any concessions including renouncing violence, breaking with Al-Qaeda and accepting the constitution.
While the people in Afghanistan, particularly the vulnerable groups, have always been wary of the outcome of any peace deal with the hardliner terrorists, the rush to exit by Obama administration as many argue, has further rendered the US in a weaker position to negotiate.
In this case, the most appropriate exit strategy for the US would have been to leave the country after building stronger security institutions and economic foundations. It is only through strong Afghan security forces and sustained economy that the war against terrorists could be won.
Pakistan Army’s support of Taliban remains unabated
Carlotta Gall in her book, The Wrong Enemy argues that Pakistan army plays a double game by supporting the terrorists while enjoying the status of an ally with the United States and NATO. She states, “Pakistan, not Afghanistan, has been the true enemy.”

After the end of US war in Afghanistan the government of Pakistan and Pakistani religious groups including Maulana Fazlurrahman’s (the spiritual father of Taliban) Jamiat Ulema e Islam, and Jamaat Islami Pakistan, came to the open by giving interviews to defend Taliban and their jihad against Afghanistan which resulted in more suicide attacks. It would be no surprise if leaders of these two parties have already pledged their allegiance to IS leader in secret following the footsteps of Tehreek-e-Khilafat, and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi parties.

Pakistan’s policy of destabilizing Afghanistan has reached an undeniable level. To ensure a fundamental change in its policy the US needs to be persistent in its pressurizing Pakistan to sincerely stop supporting terrorists. This should include suspension of military aid and imposition of economic sanctions as a state sponsoring terrorism.
IS and its growing influence in Khorasan
The symbolic importance of Khorasan which refers to Afghanistan and parts of countries neighboring it, lies in few unauthentic sayings attributed to Prophet Muhammad, “Black flags will come from Khorasan, nothing shall turn them back until they are planted in Jerusalem”.
IS claims to have recruited 10,000 to 12,000 members in tribal areas on the Afghan-Pakistan border. According to some, Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost was recently named as the Islamic State-appointed governor of Khorasan.
Pamphlets distributed in Pakistani city of Peshawar invited citizens of both Afghanistan and Pakistan to pledge allegiance to Islamic States’ caliph. In Afghanistan, though there have been reports of clashes between Taliban fighters and ISIS militants but many among the Taliban and Al-Qaeda either have pledged to IS openly or clandestinely or plan to do so. In southern Zabul and Helmand provinces Mullah Abdul Rauf, a former Taliban commander has begun recruiting fighters for IS while in Kunar and Farah the Group has established training camps. Similarly in the Northern Afghanistan reports about their activities in many provinces have surfaced.
In Pakistan, a group of militants pledged their allegiance by beheading a man in an online video. These pledges continue throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Al-Qaeda and Taliban may have some rivalries with IS, but the proximity between their ideology, goals and methodologies and tactics will bring them all under the black flag of IS.
Apart from being far more superior in strategic planning, resources, fighting and brutality, IS has also three distinct features that may help its acceptance in Afghanistan. First, it does not consider itself an extension of Al-Qaeda and Taliban which makes it attractive to those Afghans particularly in the north who were not part of Taliban and Al-Qaeda; second, it does not have allegiance to Pakistan’s military establishment; and third, unlike Taliban and Al-Qaeda it has started to reach different ethnic groups all over Afghanistan.
These factors along with government’s failure to secure peace stability, and deliver justice and economic opportunities will further create fertile ground for the increase of IS’s influence in Afghanistan.
IS, a common threat and a unifying factor
The rapid growth of new extremism in the form of IS in the region has surprisingly been downplayed by the government in Afghanistan. This approach will further aggravate the situation by allowing the group to make inroads and gain ground. This may not change the dynamics of the conflict, as some believe, but will definitely take the insurgency to a higher level with lesser or zero influence from Pakistan army.
In that case one may seriously question the impact of the peace talks with Taliban in the presence of IS militants on the ground.
For obvious reasons, IS poses serious threat to the security and stability of Afghanistan and Pakistan alike. This will improve the chances of both countries to stand together against a common enemy. Keeping in view the expansionist ideology of the group, China, Central Asian countries, Russia and even India could be part of a regional alliance against the ambitions and ideology of extremists.
If not preempted, the situation of Iraq and partly of Syria will repeat itself in Afghanistan as well as in Pakistan.
Setting the house in order
The Afghans must set their house in order as well. Ethnic balancing within the framework of unity government should remain a priority and a source of strength. Similarly the government should spare no effort to deliver peace and security, eliminate corruption in all its forms and manifestations and build self-sustaining financial institutions. In order for these improvements to take place, ample time and enough resources should be allocated.
Supporting Afghanistan’s unity government is the only option available for the U.S. and international community to achieve stability. Working under tremendous pressure from new rivalries, ethnic and political divisions, with a weak and dependent economy, and newly rebuilt security forces, makes the government in dire need of long-term commitment, support and assistance by the US and NATO.
To those who believe keeping more US forces for a longer period will help the government forces keep control of the country, this war is far from over yet.
*Mr. Jan Agha Iqbal is a former diplomat and analyst. He has served as representative of Afghanistan to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) as well as head of department in the same organization. Mr. Iqbal is an expert of diplomacy and international relations.