A photo essay meant to disrupt typical media narratives of Pakistan has sparked criticism from Pakistanis for a portrayal that some called elitist.
Christians and Hindus from North Waziristan take refuge in nearby Bannu district as operation against Taliban continues.
The town of Miranshah, in the heart of the Pakistani Taliban’s stronghold of North Waziristan in Pakistan’s largely unstable tribal areas, is probably the last place you’d expect to find a community of Christians.
And yet, for several decades, about 500 members of this Pakistani religious minority say they have been living in peace with their hardline Muslim neighbours.
"We have been living there since the partition of the subcontinent [in 1947]," says Khalid Iqbal, a Christian community organiser in Miranshah. "We live there peacefully […] the Taliban have never done anything to us. In fact, when there is an issue, they are the ones who help mediate it."
But since June 20, about 100 Christians and Hindus have been taking refuge at the Pennell High School, a missionary school established in 1865 in the district of Bannu, to escape the military offensive against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), church officials say.
Having left most of their belongings at home as they fled aircraft bombarding areas around their homes, the school and its associated church have made makeshift arrangements to house the IDPs, many of them children, in four classrooms, and on charpoys under the open air.
THERE’s no better way to say this so here goes: the terror attacks on Karachi airport were not the handiwork of Indian agents. There is a fever that needs to break if we are facing this menace in earnest, and not just with empty rage.
Who are these terrorists? And what do they want?
As Pakistan has struggled with these questions over the years, and once again plays out the same debates with nauseating monotony, I’m reminded of something I learned when observing the cognitive coping mechanisms that emerge when a bubble develops in the financial markets.
I call it bubble era psychology and it’s something I glimpsed as a television anchor during the stock market bubble of the late Musharraf years — particularly in 2007. Those with any brains knew that a bubble of epic proportions had developed in the stock market at that time, but nobody wanted to say it out loud. Only the dimmest bulbs in the chandelier — and yes, there were plenty of them — actually bought the spin about the sharply rising values being linked in some fantastic way to fundamentals.
Nobody wanted to say what everybody knew because they were having too much fun and were afraid that calling the bubble by its name would somehow jinx it all. So they all lied: to each other, to their clients, and in some cases to themselves about the reality of what was going on.
‘No impact on Pakistan’ everybody would happily declare as the fires of the global financial crisis engulfed one market after another. Money poured into the stock market in quantities never before seen even as every warning sign on the planet was flashing with dire urgency.
The power of denial and wishful thinking is something financial markets are intimately familiar with, since they always underlie the destructive energies of speculative bubbles.
Something similar is happening as I watch my fellow Pakistanis coping with, and trying to make sense of the terrorism that is engulfing our country. First of all, like most retail clients in the financial markets, they don’t have the knowledge required to make sense of the fast-changing circumstances they are caught up in.
Retail clients in financial markets made up their minds based on flimsy advice peddled by TV anchors on business shows, or the salespeople of brokerage houses, and what they hear others around them saying. Most people today are also trying to understand terrorism without any history or context, and certainly without much idea of what all has been done in other countries in their name.
As a business journalist, I used to often get people asking me investment advice in those days, and my answer was always the same: get out of the stock market. But the bubble created illusions of spectacular gains and averting one’s gaze from it was very difficult. The allure of quick riches that it held out was too powerful so of course nobody followed my advice. In the end they all got burned as the market collapsed and withdrawals were frozen.
Something similar is happening to Pakistan today as it is engulfed by terrorism. People lack the knowledge that they need to make sense of the phenomenon — even though there has been a constant roll of journalists calling out the military for pursuing the disastrous policy of cultivating and grooming jihadist militias as tools of statecraft, most people haven’t really been paying attention.
The animal spirits that drive a financial market bubble are perhaps the mirror opposites of those that keep people from seeing the problem of terrorism for what it is. Denial and wishful thinking drive the mind in both cases, but in opposite directions. Once again there is a fevered search for answers. Once again the stakes rise with time. And once again, the solution is in fact simple and straightforward: get out of the game, which in this case would mean the game of nurturing these groups as assets of statecraft.
But unlike the stock market, that kept a lock on one’s gaze with its allure, this proposition repels the gaze because of the discomfort of its implications. After all, it’s never easy to acknowledge that one has done oneself in with one’s own hand.
Many of those who were burned in the stock market bubble, for instance, refused to acknowledge that ultimately the fault as well as the money they lost, was their own. On the day the market crashed, a mob attacked the Karachi Stock Exchange and smashed the windows in blind and impotent rage.
There is a marked similarity in the kinds of coping mechanisms that I’m seeing people develop in response to the complex anxieties of a financial market bubble, and the rising tide of terrorism and militancy that is engulfing our country.
In both cases, denial and wishful thinking have driven sentiment. And where the fevered pursuit of illusory profits only paved the way to ruin in the case of the financial market bubble, the same sentiments in the pursuit of an illusory peace with the militants will pave the way for far larger devastation.
So, my dear Pakistanis, now that we’re facing a threat to our survival far graver than anything the financial markets could throw at us, here’s a little more plain truth: get out of this game of using terror groups as assets.
Stop telling yourself and others around you comfortable little lies. These monsters are of our own creation, a story that has been so amply told by now that it leaves one a little staggered to encounter those who still need to have it explained to them.
Only we hold the key to ridding ourselves of this menace. A few more years of this madness, and there may not be many windows left for the mob to smash when the fever breaks and reality crashes ashore.
The writer is a business journalist based in Karachi.
Please sign this petition from the Asian Human Rights Commission
I’ve been seeing a little bit here and there on tumblr about the Pakistani-American cardiologist that was murdered earlier this week during a trip to Pakistan to provide free medical services to needy people. I haven’t seen anyone link a petition yet, so I thought I’d help out.
He was killed solely because he was an Ahmadi Muslim, a persecuted religious minority forced to “live under something really resembling an apartheid-like system subject to severe legal restrictions,” according to the chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. If you want to read more about the case, you can do so here: http://www.humanrights.asia/news/urgent-appeals/AHRC-UAC-079-2014
And please take a moment to sign this petition that will be sent to Pakistani government officials:
I’ve seen a lot of coverage about the latest tragedies in America, but this event is a vital aspect of Pakistan’s treatment of minorities.
I’ve unfortunately not seen a single post on tumblr regarding this incident, hence I felt this forum would be the perfect place to spread the word and start a discussion. Thank you.
In an apparent honour killing, a 25-year-old pregnant woman was on Tuesday brutally beaten and stoned to death outside the high court in Lahore by her father and brothers for marrying the man of her choice.
Police said Farzana Parveen, resident of Faisalabad, had married Mohammad Iqbal of Jaranwala a few months ago against the wishes of her family.
The incident happened as the couple reached the court premises to record Farzana’s statement to defend her husband against allegations by her family that he kidnapped her and forced her to marry him.
Initially, the family members fired shots in the air and tried to snatch her from Iqbal.
After failing in their attempt, nearly 20 members of her family, including her father and brothers, attacked the couple with sticks and bricks before a crowd of onlookers in front of the high court of Lahore, said police official Naseem Butt.
Farzana, who was three-months pregnant, died while her husband managed to escape.
Police arrested Farzana’s father but her brothers fled from the scene, The News International reported.
Police on information reaching the spot sent the body for autopsy and registered a case on complaint of the victim’s husband.
Around 900 women were killed in Pakistan last by their families in honour killings, according to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a private organisation.
Hindus from Pakistan often travel to India on one-month pilgrim visas, purportedly to visit the innumerable Hindu holy places and shrines around the country. But since 2011, the number of Pakistani Hindus refusing to leave at the end of their stay has increased dramatically in response to the easing of visa regulations by the Indian government, which has announced that Hindus from Pakistan can get long term visas if they follow certain rules.
Refugees, who may arrive in groups as large as 100 or more, claim they deserve asylum or refugee status or Indian citizenship because their families are not safe in Pakistan. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the country saw a 22 percent rise in religious violence last year, with 687 people killed in more than 200 attacks.
Krishan Mal, 37, who arrived in India last September, says that an “environment of hostility” toward non-Muslims exists in Pakistan, and that discrimination is particularly focused on Hindus.
“We are not free to practice our faith,” he said, adding that Hindu temples are routinely destroyed so they are forced “to worship in hiding, fearing attacks”.
Hindus cannot hold festivals yet “we are forced to observe their holy month of Ramadan”, Mal said. “Even schools teach subjects related to Islam.”
But religious freedom is meaningless unless Pakistani Hindus are given legal status and allowed to hold legitimate jobs so that they can provide adequately for their families, said Ram Das, a college graduate who came to India in 2011. Like most other asylum seekers from Pakistan, despite his education, Das now makes his living as a lowly street vendor.
“Wherever we go to look for better jobs, they ask for identity cards and when we show them our Pakistan passports, they refuse us straight away,” he said.
"We are neither Pakistanis nor Indians,” Das said, adding that the Indian government is not responding to their repeated applications for asylum or refugee status. “We get our visas extended, but how long can we go on like that? At least give us refugee status.”
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar suspended half a dozen senior police officials on Friday after Sikh demonstrators stormed through the gates of the Parliament House in a massive breach of security in the high-security Red Zone of the federal capital.
While the joint opposition in the Senate was in the middle of a press conference the voice of angry protesters could be heard inside the premises. The leader of the opposition continued his speech but the slogans rose to a crescendo. Soon after, the protesters broke through the main gate amid teargas shelling to protest the alleged desecration of their holy books and temples in Sindh.
Some senators instantly made a run for it, abandoning the press conference, after which the demonstrators took over the dais while security officials surrounded them.
They held placards inscribed with slogans against the desecration of their holy book in rural Sindh. They said their religious sanctity had been violated as many as seven times during the last few years. The most recent of the incidents being the desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib in Mirpur Mathelo, district Ghotki. They demanded justice from the government.
When the attention of the house was drawn to what was happening outside, Senate Chairman Nayyar Hussain Bukhari asked the leader of the house in the Senate to direct the interior ministry to conduct an inquiry and submit a report by Monday.
Senator Heman Dass told the house that he had submitted a call-attention notice on this issue but he was not allowed to speak. The Senate chairman maintained that nobody was allowed to force entry into the Parliament House premises.
The gates were closed for more than two-and-a-hours while PML-N Senator Zafar Ali Shah and MNA Dr Darshan Punshi as well as Senator Amajeet of the Awami National Party negotiated with members of the Sikh community.
The demonstrators ended their protest around 3pm after presenting their demands to the parliamentarians and receiving an assurance that their demands would be addressed.
“Our first demand is that our holy book should not be kept in a state of disrespect at temples and it should be returned to the Gurdwaras for proper care,” said Sardar Mahesh Singh, who led a 15-member delegation of Sikh leaders. “Our second demand is that the culprits should be identified, charges should be pressed against them and they should be arrested.”
Separately, speaking to the media, IGP Islamabad Aftab Cheema conceded that it was a security lapse for which the police was to be blamed. He also admitted that despite repeated calls by SHO Bhara Kahu Sattar Shah, no steps were taken to stop the protesters. Asked why they could not stop the protesters, the police officials said they kept on waiting for orders from the top officials but none came.
Police officials suspended
Taking notice of the incident, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar suspended SP National Assembly Habibullah Niazi, DSP Secretariat Fida Hussain, DSP National Assembly Khalid Virk, DSP Bani Gala Safeer Shah, SHO Bhara Kahu Sattar Shah and SHO Secretariat Abdur Rehman for the security lapse. He also ordered these officers be immediately charge-sheeted.
During a meeting Friday evening, the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration and police officials told Nisar that the protesters were violating the route assigned to them. The Sikh demonstrators were supposed to hold a demonstration outside the National Press Club but they moved towards the Parliament House when the police were busy keeping an eye on the PTI protest.
Earlier, ICT administration officials had said the Sikh demonstrators did not have any permission to protest in the capital whatsoever.
Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif will be attending Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony on May 26. The two leaders will hold a bilateral meeting on May 27.
A fistful of ashes of legendary Indian journalist and author Khushwant Singh have been brought to his birthplace in Pakistan’s Punjab province to fulfil his desire to be -reunited with his roots-.
Such a great news. :)
Hamid Mir was shot three times by gunmen in a car and on two motorcycles near Karachi’s airport, his network Geo News — a CNN affiliate — reported.
Shahid Hayat, the police chief for Karachi, said bullets struck Mir’s intestines, leg and pelvic area. Dr. Aamir Hussain told Geo News that Mir then underwent a successful operation at a private hospital.
Amir Mir — the targeted news anchor’s brother and a journalist himself — said Hamid Mir believed ISI, Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency, and specifically its leader Lt. Gen. Zaheerul Islam, had plans to assassinate him.
Yet the Pakistani military public relations agency ISPR said that “raising allegations against ISI or the head of ISI without any basis is highly regrettable and misleading.”
In the same statement, a spokesman for that agency condemned the attack and “prayed for (Mir’s) well-being and quick recovery.”
The United States condemned the shooting, calling it the latest in a series of worrisome attacks on journalists in Pakistan.
"…Attacks like these should be a wake-up call to all who value democracy in Pakistan," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
"We wish Hamid Mir a speedy recovery and urge the Government of Pakistan to bring all those responsible for these attacks on the media to justice."
A former newspaper reporter and editor, Hamid Mir writes columns and hosts a political talk show on Geo News. His guests have included members of Pakistan’s ruling government and the opposition. Mir is also writing a book on Osama bin Laden, the late al Qaeda leader whose escape from the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan he extensively reported on.
Two Pakistani governments — once in 2007 and again in 2008 — banned him from appearing on Pakistani television.
Pointing to a late March attack against a Pakistani journalist, an official with the Committee to Protect Journalists called the targeting of Mir “an indicator that the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has not been able to reverse the country’s appalling record of violence against journalists, despite pledges to do so.”
"Police must act swiftly and decisively in this and all cases that have been building up for years in Pakistan," said Bob Dietz, the journalism advocacy group’s Asia program coordinator. "And the country’s media must use their capabilities to pursue their own investigations, as well as pressure the government to take action."