Politics, Karachi Style

I have a blog post on ForeignPolicy.com’s AfPak Channel on the recent violence in Karachi.

Here’s a snippet:

“The Arabian and Indo-Australian tectonic plates meet near Karachi, the Pakistani port city inhabited by at least 15 million people. But in recent weeks, Karachi has been reeling from violent seismic activity along its ethnic and political fault lines — not the collision of geological plates nearby….”

Click here to read the rest.

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Pakistan’s Army Heads into the Belly of the Beast

Here’s a link to my latest blog post at ForeignPolicy.com’s Af-Pak Channel. It’s on the Pakistan Army’s upcoming ground operations in South Waziristan.

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Help for Swat IDPs

The military operations in Swat and resulting humanitarian crisis are a test not only for the Pakistani government, but for Pakistani society as well.

In recent days, the general public and media in Pakistan have responded with great vigor to the call to support displaced residents of the Malakand Division.  For example, many in Mardan have allowed Swatis to reside in their second or third homes.  Other Swatis have found refuge in the homes of extended family.  There are acts of great generosity — reflecting the values of Pashtun and, more generally, Pakistani, culture — being made by average Pakistanis.

The major news channels have had live coverage from the IDP camps, bringing images of the victims of war to homes across Pakistan.  Pakistan’s most popular news channel, GEO News, had a telethon on Sunday night to fundraise for Swat relief.

But much more must be done.  Pakistan’s civil society needs to utilize the same level of sustained commitment it did with the earthquakes in Balochistan and Kashmir and the lawyers movement.  Hundreds of thousands have made their way to relief camps, where the provisions are inadequate.  The void must be filled Pakistani citizens — especially those who live comfortably in air conditioned homes with high ceilings and flat-panel televisions.

Inside Pakistan, there are many ways to direct funds toward displaced Swatis, including the Edhi Foundation and Mir Khalil ur Rehman Foundation.  Kalsoom Lakhani at Changing Up Pakistan has provided the names and contact information of other groups working in the region.

Pakistanis and individuals of Pakistani descent living in the United States, Canada, and Europe can help out by donating to:

[Readers can email me or post in the comments section names and websites of other organizations presently providing relief aid to Malakand Division IDPs.]

And as Pakistanis remember Malakand Division IDPs, the tens of thousands of displaced Baloch as a result of the insurgency and military operations there should not be forgotten.  Indeed, now is the time to reach out to them as well and work to heal the wounds reopened in recent years.

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The Malakand Division War Begins

The nation of Pakistan begins its greatest test in decades as Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani declared war against takfiri terrorists in the Malakand Division in a national address this evening.

Gilani called on Pakistanis to unite behind their army and government in a war to “completely eliminate” militants who have reaped havoc and death in the once tranquil greater Swat area.

The prime minister’s speech is part of an aggressive public relations campaign by the Pakistani state to rally public support for a full-fledged war against the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan in Swat.  The campaign centers around using Islam to de-legitimize the militants.

Around a week ago, a news anchor close to the military-intelligence establishment read the following Qur’anic verses — unprecedented on his program — at the end of a segment on Swat:

And when it is said to them: “Make not mischief on the earth,” they say: “We are only peacemakers.”

Verily! They are the ones who make mischief, but they perceive not.

(Surah al-Baqarah, Ayat 11 & 12)

Immediately, I realized that the verses were probably offered to him by elements of the state security apparatus and signaled the start of a campaign to take away the Islamic legitimacy of the takfiri terrorists.

Today, the Pakistani government began airing public service announcements on private and government television channels, broadcasting the same Qur’anic verses.  As the bullets and mortars fly and hundreds of thousands flee their homes, the war of ideas begins.

Islamic scholars from all backgrounds — Ahl-e Hadis, Barelvi, Deobandi, Jafri (Twelver Shia), modernist, and Islamist — including Muhammad Rafi Usmani, Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, and Khalid Masud, have come on television to speak out against the violent methodology of the militants and their campaign of terror against Pakistanis.

Generations ago, four young men told the Muslims of India: “The issue is now or never. Either we live [and establish Pakistan] or perish for ever.”

Pakistan faces the same choice today: to live or perish forever.

There is no question as to how the takfiri terrorists will respond.  The will begin hitting Pakistani cities tomorrow.  The battlefield will not be contained to the Malakand Division.

But as for the Pakistani people, we will learn of their decision — and fate — soon.

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What’s India Doing Inside Pakistan?

Christine Fair, Foreign Affairs Roundtable, “What’s the Problem With Pakistan?”

“Having visited the Indian mission in Zahedan, Iran, I can assure you they are not issuing visas as the main activity! Moreover, India has run operations from its mission in Mazar (through which it supported the Northern Alliance) and is likely doing so from the other consulates it has reopened in Jalalabad and Qandahar along the border. Indian officials have told me privately that they are pumping money into Baluchistan. Kabul has encouraged India to engage in provocative activities such as using the Border Roads Organization to build sensitive parts of the Ring Road and use the Indo-Tibetan police force for security. It is also building schools on a sensitive part of the border in Kunar–across from Bajaur.”

Laura Rozen, ForeignPolicy.com, “Can the intel community defuse India-Pakistan tensions?”

While the U.S. media has frequently reported on Pakistani ties to jihadi elements launching attacks in Afghanistan, it has less often mentioned that India supports insurgent forces attacking Pakistan, the former [U.S.] intelligence official said. “The Indians are up to their necks in supporting the Taliban against the Pakistani government in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” the former intelligence official who served in both countries said. “The same anti-Pakistani forces in Afghanistan also shooting at American soldiers are getting support from India. India should close its diplomatic establishments in Afghanistan and get the Christ out of there.”

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Taliban Whipping of Girl Roundly Condemned

The Taliban whipping video has been broadcast on Pakistani television channels, generating a great deal of outrage inside Pakistan. Both the prime minister and president have condemned the act.

Surprisingly, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry took suo moto notice on the case. He has summoned several leading bureaucrats to present themselves before an eight-member bench on April 6th.

As I wrote last month at World Politics Review:

“[The rule of law movement] provides an opportunity to strengthen the Pakistani state, improve the judicial system’s responsiveness, and resist creeping Talibanization….

“…Islamabad must now curb the spread of social Talibanization elsewhere by demonstrating that civil justice can also be speedy and effective. It should leverage the popular, national demand for the rule of civil law by bolstering the reform of the judicial system and ensuring the judiciary’s independence.”

Kudos to Samar Minallah, sister of lawyers movement leader Athar Minallah, for bringing this crime to light.

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Speedy Injustice: Swat Taliban Beat a 17-Year-Old Girl

Watch the video at the bottom.

There is no trial. No due process. No evidence or witnesses as required by Islamic legal procedure. Just a band of angry young men whipping a young girl.  Accused of adultery, a more likely explanation is that a false allegation was made against her by a Pakistani Taliban warlord whose advances/courtship she spurned.  Does anyone seriously think a woman would try to commit adultery in Taliban-controlled Swat? That’s like a person causing him or herself to bleed in shark-infested water.

An entire region is in the hands of an uneducated and barbaric band of men between the ages of 15 and 35.

This is a terrorist frat party — not a liberation movement.

They call themselves Taliban, or the students, but most have spent barely a few years in school — if any. Most of these men are illiterate. The number of people they have killed outnumbers the books they’ve read. Fazlullah, who claims to be a maulana or religious scholar, worked at an amusement park and spent a maximum of a couple of years at a seminary. That does not qualify him for anything, let alone calling himself a maulana. He is a loser with a gun, holding thousands hostage — the equivalent of making one of those Columbine kids governor of Colorado.

They deem themselves Islamic, but they kill the innocent and violate every agreement they make. Their spokesmen, such as Muslim Khan and Maulvi Umar, routinely lie to the media.

They call themselves Pashtuns, and non-Pashtuns exhibit a deference to their acts, explaining them away with Pashtunwali concepts like badal (revenge) and nang (honor). But they, most often, are the initiators of violence. What of the right of the innocent they’ve targeted to enact revenge on them? No — these men are beyond reproach. And as for izzat and mishertob, there is no honor, no fealty to tribe, in killing and decapitating one’s tribal elders.

They call themselves freedom fighters, but no one has occupied Swat but them. They themselves are the occupiers. They take over the homes and property of others. They have caused tens of thousands to flee. Those who have remained or returned live in a Taliban-run open air prison.

Granted, this video is not necessarily an indication of the Swat courts run by Fazlullah’s father-in-law, Sufi Muhammad of the Tehreek-e Nifaaz-e Shariat-e Muhammadi.  The video might have been recorded before the Swat peace deal; the injustice is likely perpetrated by vigilantes associated with Fazlullah.

That is not to say Sufi is a civil libertarian. But Fazlullah’s Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan – Swat, quite clearly, is a band of thugs.  Religion is used to obfuscate their criminal reality. Evidence of this is despite having all their major demands met, they remain indulged and invested in thuggery. They are looters, murderers, and destroyers. They have no creative capacity. They do not save or improve lives — despite the fact that one of the primary maqasid (objectives) of the shariah they routinely speak of is to protect the lives of human beings.

Right now, in Lower and Upper Dir, they are precipitating the breakdown of law and order by engaging in kidnapping and murder.

In Shangla, they just illegally took over an emerald mine.

Back in Swat, these self-described proponents of Islamic justice did not like a ruling made by the state sanctioned Islamic court; it wasn’t in their favor.  So what did they do?  They tried to go around the system to their warlord, Fazlullah, and get him to make his own decree.  

But Fazlullah is no judge.  He is a criminal. He, not this young girl, should whipped. In fact, he should be struck with the same whip used against this girl. And then, with that same whip, he should be hung to death at Rawalpindi’s Adiala Prison.

These men provide Pakistan not strategic depth, but strategic death.

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Prime Minister Malala Yusufzai

Watch this video.  It will be difficult to get Ziauddin Yusufzai and his daughter, Malala, out of your mind.  Learning of their story inspires hope and produces anguish at the same time.

I hope the young, brave girl follows her father’s wishes and becomes a politician.  Pakistan would be well-served by a Prime Minister Malala Yusufzai — not an underachieving brat of a discredited politician.

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Balochistan Earthquake Relief

The Balochistan province of Pakistan was hit by a strong earthquake this morning.  The death toll, currently at around 200, is expected to rise.  Over 15,000 are homeless.  Night temperatures in the area approach freezing.

The hardest hit city, Ziarat, was home to Quaid-e Azam in his last months.  The structure of his summer residence, according to Aaj News’ local correspondent, is in a precarious condition.

Readers in Pakistan likely have access to local organizations to which funds can be wired or offered in cash.  But for those outside of Pakistan, particularly in the United States, some reputable aid agencies include Edhi Foundation and Islamic Relief.

Prior to making a donation, please do you own due diligence about the organization.


Additional aid organizations (hat tip OPEN) -

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Attack on Prime Minister Gilani’s Convoy; U.S. Enters South Waziristan, Pakistan

The vehicle of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was reportedly attacked today by at least one gunman.  Two shots were fired and hit what seems to be the driver’s side of his vehicle.  It does not appear that the bullets penetrated the bullet-proof glass.  Gilani, who was en route to his residence from Islamabad airport, was unharmed.

Also, today U.S. forces entered Pakistani soil in a ground attack on Angor Ada, South Waziristan — a previous target of multiple Predator drone missile strikes.

Today’s raid was on the home of a local tribesman, Payo Jan Wazir.  According to a local resident, ten persons in the home were killed, including three women and two children.  An additional five civilians were killed.  Therefore, according to local reports, ten out of the fifteen killed were civilians.

BBC Urdu reports that 20 persons were killed in the attack.  The news service adds that, according to locals, the attacks from three gunship helicopters occured at approximately 3AM local time.  They state that Pakistani security forces are stationed only 300 meters (984 feet) away.

The raid was presumably launched to kill or apprehend a high-value target.  Another report suggests that U.S. forces were engaged in hot pursuit of militants that crossed into Pakistan from Afghanistan.

Some reports claim that U.S. (and possibly Afghan) special forces operated on the ground as well.

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Arif Rafiq, a Washington, DC-based consultant on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. [About]

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Arif Rafiq regularly appears on the John Batchelor Show Friday nights from 09:30-10:00pm Eastern Time. Tune your dial to 770AM in New York or 630AM in DC. The show appears on affiliates in other cities. Listen live online at WABCRadio.com.
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