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In Pakistan, which has been under the baton of one army general or the other for nearly half of the 70 years since its emergence as an independent republic, a military takeover as a cure for a political crisis is never too far from the realm of possibilities. Even when the country has had its—usually trunca­ted—trysts with parliamentary democracy, the army has been loath to relinquish control over defence and foreign policy. The grip of the military and the ominous ‘deep state’ tightens when the spectre of India hoves into view—a country that occupies an inordinate amount of strategic mindspace in Pakistan, perceived as a threat and used as a constant, bitter scale of comparison. Then there is the lynchpin of India-fixation—the ‘unfinished business’ of Kashmir. The ill-will over control of the province has prompted Pakistan to trigger three wars and repeatedly foment insurgency. Weighted down by contentious history and frozen in accusations, counter-accusations, a bloody militancy and divided by one of the most heavily armed borders in the world, only its resolution can unlock the unrelenting hostility between the neighbours.

Given the primacy of Kashmir, the Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s statement on the need for looking at “political and diplomatic solutions” to deal with Kashmir has come as a beacon of hope for some in India; others scoff at it. Both parties have compelling reasons.

Opinion in the Indian foreign policy and security establishment is still divided on the reason—the strategic drift—behind Gen Bajwa’s remarks. But predictable scepticism in New Delhi notwithstanding, the statement has given many Indian opinion-makers a cause for a thoughtful pause.

The fact that this placatory signal would elicit caution was evident from the view of former MEA secretary Vivek Katju. “I don’t see anything new in Bajwa’s statement,” says he, pointing out that the need for a ‘political solution’ had been spouted by Pakistan in the past too. “But the big question was what that solution would entail.” According to Katju, this usually implied that from a maximalist point of view Pakistan would favour Kashmiri ‘self-determination’, or from a minimalist stance, a state where Pakistan will continue to play a role.

Other opinions, however, suggest a sustained look into the statement of the Pakistani army chief. “Gen Bajwa’s rem­arks ought to be studied objectively and not be disparaged or dismissed in a Pavlovian manner,” says strategic thinker C. Uday Bhaskar, anticipating the predictable reaction from hardliners. “Exploring a path towards equitable peace is a worthy objective, however much the interlocutor may be disliked or hated,” says Bhaskar.

Since his appointment as chief of the Pakistani army in November last year, Gen Bajwa has been assuring his countrymen that the army should have no place in politics. Significantly, therefore, the 57-year old soldier’s recommen­ded reading for top officers is the 2015 book by Yale political science professor Stephen I. Wilkinson, Army and Nation, where Wilkinson explores how India’s success as a flourishing democracy was based on its ability to keep its army away from politics. The book further notes how the Indian army—diverse in caste, religion and caste—is a cohesive unit whose security concerns are adequately heeded by the polity, thereby making any conflict between the two unnecessary.

Does all this automatically qualify Bajwa as a liberal or a general with foresight? Is he the leader in uniform who is longing for that elusive peace? Or is this also part of a practised charade his predecessors had played earlier in their attempt to make a virtue out of a necessity? Such questions are apt in the wake of his welcome comment on Kashmir—the one quarrel that subsumes all.

Pakistan’s ‘Defence Day’ on September 6, the occasion on which Gen Bajwa made his conciliatory remarks about resolution of the Kashmir issue, is its­elf mired in controversy. In Pakistan’s version, that was the day in 1965 when India attacked the country; India says it’s “fake military history”, for the (ultimately indecisive) war started with Pakistan’s abortive attempt to push in armed intruders into Kashmir to start a rebellion.

Consequently, Indian hawks are refusing to accord any imp­ortance to remarks made on an occasion they see as based on falsehood. They feel that Bajwa’s remarks were aimed not so much at India as at the United States and China, since both countries have in recent days been publi­cly critical of terrorist groups operating out of Pakistani soil.

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Republished with thanks

https://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/general-peacenik/299332

 

The All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) denies that former military ruler Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf offered an apology over the ‘murder’ of slain Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti. Perhaps the ex-army strongman felt that there was no need to offer an apology to begin with, or perhaps he was just being true to the image he projects — a straightforward, no-nonsense man of action.

Some people may see this attitude as his belief in the uprightness of his character; others may consider it to be an institutional legacy, but the truth is that this statement of his belies an attitude that those in power have always adopted: Iskandar Mirza, Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Bhutto, Zardari and all others before and after.

“No apologies” should be our national motto.

Back in the days when Ayub Khan defeated Fatima Jinnah in a scandalous election that saw the only unifying political figure of the time resigned to the backwaters of Pakistan’s politics, Khan was sure — thanks in no parts to pious bureaucrats like Qudrat ullah Shahab — that he was the ‘chosen one’.

He owed us an apology for dismantling the democratic matrix in Pakistan for all ages to come.

Before the partition of Pakistan, when our ‘dark skinned’ brothers were still with us, we treated them with an attitude that was both racist and contemptuous. History has much to say about it.

When a proposal to build public washroom facilities in the then East Pakistan was put forth, one of the decision-makers noted the futility of the cause, saying the same could be achieved with banana leaves.

Not only was the comment racist to the core, there was a sheer lack of concern for ground realities. The elder brothers then left us, with a bloody struggle that made Faiz Ahmed Faiz yearn for rains heavy enough to wash out all the bloodstains.

But an apology was never tendered.

When Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto nationalised all industries, including educational institutions like FC college, that resulted in a sharp decline of educational standards, not to mention the collapse of several of those nationalised industries, he did not apologise to us.

He left with no words of solace to those who were affected by ‘Islamic Socialism’ or to the nation that bore the brunt of his decisions.

Ziaul Haq may be forgiven for what he did during the ‘Black September’ affair in Jordan. Presumably he was just following orders. But when he became the order, he introduced a cottage industry of international jihadis in our homeland, oblivious of its implications to the society.

Thirty years later, we are still reaping the crimson crop of his ‘expedient’ harvest.

Ziaul Haq owed me an apology. He owed this nation an apology.

During the 80s when the Kalabagh Dam was a reality, select politicians decided to play a game of ‘Who wants to be a Nationalist?’

Just like when younger sisters in a house are languishing for marriage proposals, while the eldest one blocks the way, no other major hydro-electric project could come into play.

It’s difficult to pin the blame on any one person, but ultimately the onus falls on all governments: from Benazir Bhutto’s to Nawaz Sharif’s, for failing to provide a solution — any solution — for Pakistan’s national energy policy. Those who burn tires on the roads in protest against load shedding deserve an apology. An apology which never came and probably never will.

Musharraf, you think you were the best thing that happened to Pakistan. So much so that you almost believed that you and Pakistan are inseparable. No wonder ‘Pakistan first’ was your favourite slogan.

Your partial commitment to the war on terror, your clumsy handling of the Lal Masjid build-up and a hideous incrimination of an equally doubtful character like Iftikhar Chaudhry have left deep scars in the present memory of Pakistan.

The fact that you came up with the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) and a sham referendum to extend your rule (not unlike Ziaul Haq) makes it hard to attribute any genuineness to you for the words you speak.

The Bugti killing is yet another incident which may have some merit in the eyes of decisions-makers, but time proved that ultimately it was the soothing hand of democracy that may quell the rebellion.

The list is inexhaustible. From military coups to failed policies, from political murders to systematic suppression of minorities, there is a long list of acts for which national leaders owe us apologies.

Funny thing about history is that it repeats itself, especially for those who don’t learn from it.

Perhaps of all the crimes in our history, the one we have been most guilty of is failing to retrospect.

Perhaps what this country really needs is an apology.

 

Source: http://www.dawn.com/news/1230065/from-bhutto-to-zia-to-musharraf-no-apologies-should-be-our-national-motto

With a focus on inculcating – in the society at large – peaceful ideas to resolve conflicts, the Sustainable Peace and Development Organisation (SPADO) in collaboration with the National Centre for Dispute Resolution (NCRD) on Tuesday organised a workshop for community elders, religious leaders, political activists and police residing in the city’s troubled neighbourhoods.

The workshop, tiled ‘Strengthening Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism in Karachi’, was aimed at making people aware of various tactics of mediation in order to decrease the number of and the severity of disputes in the areas; residents of Hazrat Bilal Colony, Gulzar Colony and Sharafi Goth also participated in the workshop.

Referring to the country’s growing intolerance, NCRD’s chief operating officer Ebrahim Saifuddin said, “Cases of domestic violence, property and monetary issues have been on the rise in lower-income neighbourhoods of the metropolis.” With a lack of awareness about arbitration among the residents, the situations usually tend to get unmanageable, the officer added.

He opined that people needed to resolve such issues on a community level rather than getting FIRs registered against each other.

Aazia Rafiq, SPADO programme manager said the organisation had so far trained at least 75 people in three phases. “They can now play an effective role in decreasing conflicts and disputes at the grass-roots level,” she said.

Workshops had also been carried out in Sultanabad, Hijrat Colony and Pak Jamhoriya Colony.

A participant of the workshop and a prayer leader of a local mosque in Bilal Colony, Maulana Faizur Rehman Abid, said most of the disputes in his locality, which comprised of Pashtun, Hazara, Punjabi, Sindhi, Bengali and Baloch communities, were mostly about family matters such as marriages, disputes over land and small businesses.

“Only people belonging to tribal areas prefer resolving their problems, financial or family issues, through the Jirga system since they don’t prefer going to police stations and courts,” he said.

Source:  http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-4-350549-Call-for-resolving-conflicts-through-mediation

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has once again been deprived of their fundamental religious freedoms and universal civic rights. For the ongoing local body elections, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has made an addition to their guidelines, instructing registration officers and other staff to enter Ahmadi votes separately in the Initial Electoral List. Through instruction number 12, the ECP has mandated that Ahmadi votes will be entered separately in the register under the notation ‘FOR AHMADIS’.

After learning of this instruction, the Ahmadiyya Community has, in a strong protest, announced its disassociation from the 2015 local body elections in Pakistan. The Community has protested and communicated their outrage to the government and the ECP in the form of letters and in formal meetings about the usurpation of their right to vote on the basis of religion. However, the government has not responded positively.

Ahmadis in Pakistan are thereby deprived of their fundamental democratic right to vote. It is strange that Muslim, Sikhs, Hindus, and Christians are included in one electoral roll and only Ahmadis have to register in a separate list. Ahmadis can only vote if they accept being non-Muslim and disassociate themselves from their beloved Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

The government’s always seeks to appease Islamic fundamentalists and extremists by taking unconstitutional action against the Ahmadiyya Community to show that the government is very much Islamist.

The Ahmadiyya Community was declared non-Muslim in Pakistan in 1974. Furthermore, in 1984, an ordinance was promulgated to criminalize their attempt to pass of as Muslims or engage in Islamic worship or practices, or use Islamic terminology everyday life, to the extent that Ahmadis could not greet anyone using the Islamic salutation of Assalmoálikum, i.e. peace be upon you.

The ECP has specially added a column of religion in the voter registration form, though general elections are held on a joint electorate basis. Ahmadis have to sign a declaration showing their disconnection with the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in order to register themselves as voters. Moreover, only one general voters list was prepared for the joint electorate, but in 2002 and 2008 a separate list was prepared only for Ahmadis, the latter under notification dated 17 January 2007 (No. F1 (6) / 2001 – Cord).

According to this notification, names of all Pakistani citizens, whether they are Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, or other religious minorities, are entered in one single list, while only Ahmadis are entered in a separate list. Religious hatred and discrimination is thus overt. It is an open attempt to single out and marginalise a particular religious group, the Ahmadis, from the national mainstream, and make them toothless politically.

This discrimination is against the sayings of the Father of the Nation, revered Quad-i-Azam, and contradicts the rights guaranteed in the Constitution of Pakistan. Moreover, it is against the spirit of the joint electorate and in clear violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

General Musharraf in 2002, instead of introducing a Joint Electoral System, required voters to sign a declaration concerning belief about the absolute and unqualified finality of the Prophet-hood of Muhammad (PBUH) and those who refused to sign the certificate were to be deleted from the joint electoral rolls and added to a supplementary list of voters as non-Muslims. This form includes a warning that violation will be punished with imprisonment.

These devious and unacceptable procedures have usurped the fundamental civic rights of Ahmadis and for decades now they cannot stand as candidates for any election, national, provincial, or even district. Ahmadis have no representation even in the town councils of their own town Rabwah, where they make up 95 per cent of the population.

The irony is that Article 20 of Pakistan’s Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and Pakistan is also a signatory to the UN Charter of Human Rights, which makes it obligatory for the government to safeguard the fundamental rights of all without any discrimination based on religion, faith, or belief.

Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has repeatedly drawn the attention of the world to such flagrant violations of civic rights in Pakistan. Once again, the AHRC urges the international community, NGOs, and civil society to push the Government of Pakistan to respect the fundamentals of democracy and restore the voting rights of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, removing all of the conditions that denigrate their faith and practice.

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The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) works towards the radical rethinking and fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in order to protect and promote human rights in Asia. Established in 1984, the Hong Kong based organisation is a Laureate of the Right Livelihood Award, 2014.

 

The granting of the General System of Preference (GSP+) status to Pakistan, applicable from 1 January 2014, has done little to improve the condition of labourers in Pakistan, while industrialists continue to disregard minimum wage rule and industrial safety standards. The history of industrial accidents in the country is rife with examples of preventable accidents. Sadly, another industrial accident occurred on 4 November 2015, when a four storey plastic bag manufacturing factory at the Sundar Industrial Estate near Lahore in Punjab Province collapsed, killing 40 workers and injuring dozens; 33 others are reported missing.

Injured survivors have said the factory owner, who was adding a new floor to the building, ignored advice from his contractor, and pleas from his workers, to stop construction, after cracks in the walls appeared, following a powerful earthquake last week, which killed 400 people.

No part of the four-storey building has remained standing after the collapse, and hundreds of rescue workers have been carefully picking through piles of concrete and bricks to locate survivors.

Media reports quote one of the survivors who witnessed cracks first appearing in the structure moments before the collapse:

“Suddenly, I saw cracks appearing in the pillars. I immediately drew the owner’s attention towards the cracks. He was watching them when the roof collapsed and I saw him being crushed by a heap of concrete that led to his death.”

Most of the workers employed at the factory are aged between 14 and 25; there have also been reports stating children as young as 12 had been working in the factory, in violation of the Employment of Children Act, 1991. According to reports on social media, some of the workers working in the factory were being paid a daily wage of only Rupees 200, i.e. well below the minimum wage.

Managed by the Punjab Industrial Estates Development and Management Company, the Sundar Industrial Estate had reportedly attracted investment to the tune of Rs. 40 Billion between 2009 and December 2014. The industrial area soon became over populated, with factories being erected without any regard to quality of structure, which has resulted in the 4 November incident.

Pakistan’s construction sector suffers from poor oversight and developers frequently flout building codes. Factory owners also generally avoid investment in fire extinguishing equipment in order to save costs, at the expense of the lives of workers.

In 2012, two industrial accidents simultaneously occurred in two of the largest cities of Pakistan. These took place on 11 September 2012, claiming the lives of 284 poor workers.

One took place in Baldia Town Karachi at the Ali Enterprises Factory. Due to the factory catching fire, 259 workers, including women and youth died, trapped inside the locked premises. This remains the worst industrial disaster in history of Pakistan. On the very same day a factory fire killed 25 workers inside a shoemaking factory, located at Gulshan-e-Ravi area in Lahore. The Lahore factory caught fire when sparks from a faulty electricity generator had flown into a pile of chemicals stored in the vicinity of the unit.

Industrial working conditions in Punjab have deteriorated ever since the abolition of labour inspection around seven years ago. Inspection was stopped following an executive order issued under the provision of the Punjab Industrial Policy, 2003, which aimed at “developing an industry and business friendly environment” to attract fresh investment.

The abolition of labour inspection is a violation of the Constitution and Federal labour laws and amounts to infringement of the fundamental rights of industrial workers. It is also a violation of the International Labour Organization’s C-81 labour inspection convention that provides for labour inspection for effective implementation of labour laws.

Criminal negligence of government departments in implementing building laws is a matter of grave concern. According to experts, industrial accidents are always preventable; this is a basic theme of any health, safety and environment (HSE) program. Accidents occur when industrial safety is compromised in the design, procedures, processes, or due to human behaviour. Prevention of industrial accidents requires active participation of the three most important stakeholders in the industrial development of any country, i.e. the state, the industrialist, and the trade union. Each must play their part to ensure that the chances of accidents are minimized.

The AHRC urges government to enforce a robust regulatory mechanism where factory owners are forced to abide by employee health and safety regulations.

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The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) works towards the radical rethinking and fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in order to protect and promote human rights in Asia. Established in 1984, the Hong Kong based organisation is a Laureate of the Right Livelihood Award, 2014.

 

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