Archive | January, 2017

Questioning the deep state

30 Jan

While the missing activists, including Salman Haider, have been returned to their families, there are a series of concerns, questions and demands for accountability that remain unheard, actively ignored or deliberately unanswered. Despite the fact that these activists have been returned, it remains true that their lives are under threat as a result of the decision taken, at the state level, perpetuated by select media personalities, to level unsubstantiated and dangerous allegations against them.

Their return may seem like the end of this chapter but that is far from the truth. God alone knows of the psychological and physical torture they endured for the duration of their illegal and unlawful detention. One begins to see more and more clearly why the State of Pakistan is yet to sign and ratify the Convention on Enforced Disappearances (CED), one of the nine core international human rights conventions. It is worth mentioning that out of these nine conventions, while Pakistan has ratified/acceded to seven, implementation and compliance under provisions of the same is appalling.

In the relief that we may feel at the return of these activists, we must ensure that we do not lose sight of the battle ahead. It is a battle we surrendered in long ago when we gave the military establishment carte blanche to abduct persons at their whim and fancy, in contravention of not only our Constitution but also our international legal obligations. It is a battle we must resume, not for ourselves but for the safety of our children who we hope to raise in a society where their fundamental Constitutional rights cannot be infringed (at least not without severe repercussions).

For how long will we shamelessly ignore the plight of families whose loved ones from FATA and Balochistan still have no idea where they are, or if they’re alive or dead? Will we continue to call ourselves a ‘resilient’ nation in the face of these crises when this word is nothing more than a blanket over pure apathy?

In the meantime, who will guarantee that the right to life of these activists will be safeguarded against radicals who were unleashed on them as a consequence of false and baseless propaganda to justify their illegal detention? Do we trust the state that violated their Constitutional rights to protect and promote those very rights now?

The names and faces change but the tactics of the deep state remain unchanged. The fact remains that this institution has no idea what their Constitutional role is or how to stay within the bounds of authority granted to them. Worse still is the naïve, ill informed and hyper-nationalist response of the general populace.

We never seem to learn from our past. We continue to remain in denial whenever any sort of genuine and legitimate criticism is leveled against the military establishment. To call it a “holy cow” is an understatement – it is effectively tantamount to blasphemy to question the deep state.

Have we become so indoctrinated that we roll over and accept all sorts of violations of the Constitution in the name of ‘national interest’? What this ‘national interest’ is has never been defined and it is within that ambiguity that the deep state thrives. It is free to pick people at random because our consciences are dead and it is far simpler to accept the “national interest” narrative than to open our eyes.

The caretakers of this ‘national interest’, however, require what any modern day propaganda machine flourishes as a consequence of: influencing the media. From Dr. Shahid Masood to Aamir Liaqat, the state has its grip on the leashes of media personalities who have huge fan followings but no sense of responsibility or ethics.

Ironic then that there was this huge uproar following Cyril-gate when the military establishment has its people all over the media, consistently feeding them information and expecting in return that their bidding be done. After all, who wouldn’t want the guarantee of security and protection from the only institution that effectively has control over whether you live or die? Perhaps, the next time you hear a television anchor telling you that he has reliable information from his ‘inside’ sources, question the source that feeds him/her the same way so many of you were so quick to pounce on Cyril and Dawn in the pursuit of “national interest”.

Anyone who dares to question is faced with dangerous labelling. While the previous trend had been to label those who questioned the deep state “traitors”, “anti-Pakistan”, we have now seen life-threatening labeling emerge, from “blasphemer” to “anti-Islam”. We have been, throughout our collective history, silenced through the weapon of fear and oppression. Very few dare to speak out and those who do are told to tread with caution, in fear of that labeling. But it is this caution that has ensured successful use of this weapon against us.

So while we try to figure out where we stand and how we move on from here, we must first have our questions answered. Why were these activists illegally detained instead of being put through due process of law, had they committed any offence (as the allegations against them suggest)? How many people within Pakistan have gone ‘missing’ and what has the state done/is the state doing to ensure they are recovered? Maybe just begin by asking why the need to make people go ‘missing’ in the first place? Is that how civilized societies operate?

Is it for the preservation of ‘national interest’ that families are separated and voices different from the rest silenced? Is this ‘national interest’ worth damaging the minds and bodies from which dissenting voices emanate – voices that strengthen the system by questioning what is wrong with it? For what have we ceded our civil and political rights and liberties? Is this ‘national interest’ or the interest of an institution whose sole purpose has been to control the narrative from day one? The answers may shake the entire foundation of our society but they are the first step in resolving this crisis.