Archive | September, 2013

An Effective Counter Terrorism Strategy

26 Sep

Having recently criticized Imran Khan’s statement regarding opening up a “Taliban Office” in Pakistan, it is important to clarify and offer an alternative solution. The usage of the term “Counter Terrorism Strategy” (hereinafter referred to as “CTS”) is increasing by the day, yet no concrete explanation of what constitutes an effective CTS has been provided. Drafting an all-encompassing CTS, tailored specifically for Pakistan, is not an easy task. The first step in doing so is through identification of the various outfits carrying out terrorist activities, inclusive of but not limited to TTP and LeJ. Classifying the aforementioned groups (and others engaging in violence against the State of Pakistan and its citizens) as terrorist organizations is pertinent for two reasons. Firstly, it draws a clear distinction between actual terrorist organizations and extremist or radical outfits. Consequently, on a second level, this would assist in demarcating distinct strategies for dealing with the two different threats to Pakistan, as the threat each group poses requires the adoption of a specific approach to deal with it.

Dealing with the extremist or radical groups is a relatively straightforward task. These are the groups that are not engaging in acts of violence but that may be inclined to do so in the future unless there are educational and legislative reforms, strong political presence and the enforcement of law and order. Extremist ideology is a consequence of inadequate education and a general lack of awareness. The State must ensure that the standard of public school education is improved (it may be a good idea for the new government to follow PTI’s education policy in KPK, with its focus on the implementation of a compulsory standard curriculum, monitoring of teacher and student attendance and so forth). In doing so, radical indoctrination and impulses will automatically subside. With regard to a strong political presence, all this really means that elected leaders from their respective constituencies must constantly engage with their voters to ensure their problems do not go unheard. Radical sentiments tend to develop where segments of society feel neglected, therefore, for politicians from each constituency to open up offices where there is constant interaction between themselves and their voters is a much-needed step in the right direction. Where legislative reforms are concerned, political parties must put aside their ideological differences to incorporate strong-worded and explicit penalties pertaining to acts of violence committed against not only the State but also civilians into already existing legislation on these issues. This strengthens the legal system in the sense that the risk of engaging in acts of violence becomes too high. Moreover, in order to guarantee all segments of society abide by the new and improved legislation, law enforcement mechanisms must be made more effective. Police salaries must increase, whilst simultaneously enhancing their training and providing them with updated equipment.

On the other end of the spectrum, a CTS dealing with actual terrorist organizations is slightly more complicated in its practical implementation. There are some basic ideas that should be given consideration. There should an explicit ban on all terrorist outfits and all those who associate or aid them should be severely punished. There cannot be negotiations with those organizations engaging in atrocious crimes against innocent civilians. The reason is simple; the State simply cannot speak to those who function outwith the constitution. However, those groups that have taken up arms in response to drone attacks, or lack of state attention to their very real everyday problems must be spoken to. Their problems must be addressed in order to ensure organizations such as TTP do not even get the opportunity to take them on board and further radicalize them. The imposition of the TTP’s version of a Shariah State is not only in violation of everything Shariah Law stands for but is also unconstitutional, in every sense of the word. The State cannot negotiate with those who want to lock up women and ensure they are not provided access to education and basic rights. There is a need for the Pakistan Military to carry out targeted strikes against these groups as their elimination is the only way forward. We cannot, however, afford another military operation as they are too costly in terms of civilian casualties.

The solution is straight forward – all it requires is a little policy formulation and commitment.

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The System

9 Sep

It is no longer about a young boy who was murdered in cold blood by a feudal brat, who bought justice favourable to him. The story is not of Shahzeb and Shahrukh Jatoi – just take a look at the bigger picture. The elite in Pakistan keep making the big bucks and it is no secret how their money ensures they are above the law. I had a friend last year who ran over a poor, little boy on Seventh Avenue. He had called me crying, genuinely distraught and devastated by what had happened. He was under the influence of alcohol when he rushed the boy to the hospital, paid for his treatments – the boy did not survive. My friend, who I haven’t spoken to in over a year had told me his life had changed forever – that a human life had been lost and he would never drink and drive again. He was on the roads drinking and driving in under a month. Its not just him – I can name a hundred boys in Islamabad alone who simply do not care and engage in this crime as matter of habit. They don’t care because they don’t realize it could be them. They don’t care because they’re blinded by their money and power. They just don’t care because its always the common man who is affected. There are a hundred Shahrukh Jatois who get away with murder, petty crimes, bribery and so forth. They get away with it not because of anything other than the system in our country. It is a system that is designed to keep the rich above the law – their interests protected, their money multiplying. The system ensures that inequality is so deeply embedded in our society that from the minute a child is born into a poor family, he will never have the same access to opportunities as a child born into a family that’s well-off.

The education system is the first aspect to examine. There are private and public schools throughout the world – the difference between, let’s say, Canada and Pakistan is that the quality of education provided in both does not and cannot fall below a decent standard. Our public schools are shameful, not only because staff has no proper training (not that it matters since they rarely show up or stick to a curriculum) but because there is a disgusting difference between what a girl in a Model’s Girl College is taught and what I was taught at Headstart School. And the sad part is that the children who go to these schools are, on the whole, more dedicated, hard working and thirsty for knowledge, unlike us private schoolers who took everything for granted. From the minute a child is placed in a public school in Pakistan, the inequality becomes manifest. I know for a fact that students in public schools in Pakistan, if groomed the way my school groomed me, would run circles around me and I just wouldn’t be able to catch up. I just had the opportunity – the elite just has the opportunity – and honestly, most of us don’t even deserve it half as much as the kids I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with from public schools. Having identified problem number one, you realize there’s a very simple solution: allocate just a little bit more to the education budget, set a general basic curriculum for all public and private schools so that the minimum standard is decent, ensure teachers are given proper training workshops and salaries, monitor staff attendance. Additionally, it is not unheard of that the government subsidize textbooks so that parents who can’t make ends meet can make sure their children at least have the opportunity to build a future. Not impossible.

Moving on… health – the rich can afford it, the poor just die. Basic medical awareness is non-existent – people in Pakistan still die due to diarrhoea, a large proportion refuses to get vaccinations against Polio. Why? Because there hasn’t been even a half-hearted effort by the State to educate people on the fact that polio drops do not prevent fertility. Polio can potentially destroy the future of upcoming generations, crippling leaders of tomorrow but no, the Mullah fills the vacuum of power left by state absence when it comes to providing basic medical information to the poor. The cost of medicine and treatments is ridiculous – those who cannot afford them are doomed to die. The poor die because the rich can afford healthcare for illnesses, basic to serious.

In addition to all this, we have a judicial system that runs on big money. I can run a poor man over today and pay his family diyat  – end of story. And God forbid if someone say one word criticizing the system, because apparently criticizing the dismal criminal justice system means you’re attacking Islam. The poor will always be tempted by settling for blood money – as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, we believe in ensuring room in our legal system for the concept of blood money not realizing that justice and equality are crucial principles in Islam, as is fair play. When a family of 10 can’t eat one slice of bread a day and have just lost their sole breadwinner, do you seriously think they wont accept a huge chunk of money? Its desperation – its the system. From day one, its the system that teaches the poor they do not have the same rights as us. They turn to religion for comfort – the religion is being manipulated by the Mullah who is being allowed a free-hand by a State that only cares about big money. Think hard – it is the system that must change.  

The actual drone war

9 Sep

The international community works not in mysterious ways, as Pakistani politicians like to believe. It engages in cooperation on the basis of broad guiding principles found in international treaties and covenants. The All Parties Conference (APC) just held decided (as a rather late reaction) to take up the issue of drones in the UNSC. If this is being hailed as a sensible decision, let’s just clarify a few misconceptions. While the Pakistani position on drones remains confused and without detailed, informed legal basis, the US Administration has carefully evolved their legal standing on the issue. We have merely used the slogans of “sovereignty,” “human rights,” and other fluffy concepts without ever understanding their legal implications.

Sovereingty has evolved drastically as a concept since the Peace of Westphalia, whether our inept politicians like to accept it or not. There have been charters and concepts that have eroded the idea of absolute sovereingty. In the 21st Century, for better or worse, there is no longer absolute sovereingty. Have the bright minds that attended the APC ever heard of humanitarian intervention or Responsibility to Protect (R2P)? Have they even read their own Constitution which technically does not even make clear whether the people of FATA have fundamental rights or not? I doubt any of our politicians can even begin to understand the implications of Article 267 of the Constitution. The Article clearly states that FATA is an area where even the Superior courts cannot exercise jurisdiction relating to certain matters. It has a series of implications that are unexplored as there is no clear judicial precedent on what exactly the status of FATA is since it is not treated in the same manner as any other region in the country.
The fact that drone strikes are carried out in an area where we’re not even sure on what our classification of that area is has given the US room to formulate a clever justification founded on concrete international law principles. And what is the Pakistani position? A little condemnation here, and a little sloganeering there. The sincerest advice one could give our politicians, who remain blisfully unaware, is to get together a legal team to formulate an actual position on drone strikes. A legal position. The UN Security Council does not care, and infact will laugh, at our representatives if they go on using words they have no understanding of. Yes, drone attacks violate our sovereignty but the US has given a justification to that – have we formulated a legal response? Or are we just going to go on and use a refuted argument. Technically, if FATA isn’t even governed under the same laws as Pakistan, the US has no problem justifying the sovereingty issue. Yes drone attacks violate human rights – but the US has also made it clear that they are in a state of war with terrorists. What this means is that the law of war governs their actions – not the law of peace. It might be a good idea to get a grip on those concepts and develop a legal justification as to why the law of peace operates. Lastly, yes drone attacks are counterproductive. Unfortunately, the international community is running out of options to deal with terrorists – if our representatives want to go and tell them “let us deal with the problem,” don’t expect the drone strikes to stop. Develop a policy and please put an end to our beloved country being made fun of on an international level.