Friday, November 13, 2009

Spying in America

The News, March 22, 2009

RIPPLE EFFECT

Spying in America

By Omar R. Quraishi

When you read a title such as the one above you normally would think of the Soviets, now Russians, the North Koreans, the Iranians or the Cubans -- but would you ever think of the Israelis? Perhaps you should.

Alternet (www.alternet.org) is an excellent internet resource for those who are interested in the latest news about America, Europe and indeed the rest of the world, something you cannot find in The New York Times, The Washington Post or Times. This past week, while trawling through the website, I came upon an excellent article -- surely the kind you will never find in the mainstream American press.

Titled 'Breaking the Taboo on Israel's spying efforts on the United States' by Christopher Ketcham (who has written for Harper's, Vanity Fair, Salon, GQ, Counterpunch and several other magazines and websites), the article breaks down several myths. And before going into some of the things he has spoken off, I would like to clarify that what he writes isn't really conspiracy theories. It is more along the lines of investigative journalism. In fact, I myself would be the last journalist in this country to speak of a Zionist conspiracy against Islam or Pakistan or believe a story of 4,000 Jewish people not showing up to work at their WTC offices on the morning of Sept 11 or blaming RAW/MOSSAD/CIA for everything bad that happens in Pakistan or the Islamic world.

According to Ketcham, Israel runs one of the "most aggressive and damaging espionage networks" targeting America. The irony is that discussion and debate in the public sphere on this is virtually zero. Asks a counterintelligence officer in the US government, Ketcham claims, and he will say that Israel is no friend of America.

Before getting into the details of spying activists that Ketcham talks about, one may ask, why there is no public debate in America on this issue. The answer can be found in the very strong hold that several Israeli lobbying groups exercise over members of the US Congress. Any government representative or senator who takes an independent view of Israel -- speaking out against its perceived interference in American politics and in shaping that country's policy agenda -- is brought to heel by these lobbying groups and by some sections of the mainstream media. The tactic usually used is to equate questioning of Israel's status in the US policy matrix with unequivocal support for the Palestinian cause, even if that may not be at all the reality. Because of this, the issue itself becomes sensitive. And because of this kind of atmosphere, a kind of 'void' is created, one where "facts should sit" but which is instead filled with "hallucinations of conspiracy theory".

The effect, according to Ketcham, is "the less the truth is addressed, the more noxious the falsity that spreads". So, in a way, the lobby not only manages to stifle any valid questioning of Israel's apparent disproportionate influence in Washington but, by doing so, it creates a situation where any attempt to debate and/or examine/scrutinise this special relationship is relegated to the realm of conspiracy theory.

The fact of the matter is that if one looks at the case of naval intelligence officer (and a Jewish American) Jonathan Pollard in detail, it will become evident that Israel's spying in America is a well-documented fact. Ketcham says that every year the FBI prepares a report for Congress on economic and industrial espionage by foreign countries and that the threat posed to America by Israeli agents is second only to that from China. He adds that in 1996 the Defence Intelligence Service, an agency within the US Defence Department, issued a warning that for Israeli intelligence services the "collection of scientific intelligence in the US" was the "third highest priority" -- after information on Israel's Arab neighbours and information on secret US policies or decisions related to Israel.

Wiretapping and bugging are routine methods adopted by intelligence agencies of practically every country. You expect the Pakistani embassy in New Delhi to be bugged by the Indians and vice versa in Islamabad. But you don't expect the Pakistanis to bug the Chinese embassy in Islamabad. This, apparently, is a norm between America and Israel, especially in US embassies in Middle Eastern countries.

To collect scientific and quasi-military intelligence, Israel has set up various enterprises and some of these instances have in fact been documented, says the writer. For example, he writes, the national Israeli airline El Al, is often the conduit of such agents into the US as has been Zim, an Israeli shipping company. Another example he mentions is an undercover operation that penetrated an American company which was providing weapons-grade uranium to the US Defence Department. As a result of this, Israeli agents managed to basically steal and take to Israel around 80 kilogrammes of uranium.

More intriguing are the claims by a best-selling author, journalist and expert on the subject, James Bamford, in his recent book The Shadow Factory. He claims that because of the way many Israeli technology firms have developed joint operations with hi-tech American firms, much of what the super-secret National Security Agency (NSA) does and collect is possibly exposed to Israeli eyes and ears as well.

Israeli firms also provide technology to major American telephone providers such as AT&T and Verizon for wiretapping. (According to one estimate, these two phone companies account for 90 per cent of all communication traffic in America.) One particular firm, Verint, headed by a former Israeli intelligence officer, is believed to provide the technology to Verizon for all its wiretapping has clients (most intelligence and police services) in at least 100 countries around the world. One of the chief concerns aired by US officials is that Verint data can be accessed from anywhere in the world by those given access to it.

Bamford claims in his book that the management of Verint, in fact of all other such Israeli firms, maintain close connections with the Israeli intelligence services and that this is limited to not just Mossad or Shin Bet (the internal security service) but also to Unit 8200 -- part of the IDF and thought to be Israel's own version of the NSA. One of Israel's biggest newspapers, Haaretz, says that the technology used by most Israeli communication companies and offered to American and other firms is based directly on technology that was developed by Unit 8200 of the Israeli army. So what is the end result? The entire US communications traffic is bugged by companies that have close links to Israeli intelligence services and, worse still, the US government has no legal oversight of these companies. Even the contracts that these companies have with the NSA are considered out of legislative bounds and kept secret because they are passed off as trade secrets, Bamford writes. He also mentions another Israeli company, NICE Systems, which, he says, is "a major eavesdropper in the US" and which keeps its government and commercial client list "very secret". NICE too was set up by former officers of Unit 8200 and showed up at least once on US counterintelligence radar. Between 2000 and 2001 CIA and FBI agents invested allegations that Israeli nationals posing as 'art students' were in fact spies. It was found out that at least one such 'art student' was a NICE employee.

Ketcham says that both the Australian and the Dutch intelligence services, since 2002, have approached the Americans with concerns over Verint. So, again, Israel's potential for spying is a matter of record. He cites a story in C'T, a respected technology and computing magazine published in The Netherlands, which said that "all tapping equipment" of the Dutch intelligence services and "half the tapping equipment" of the national police force was "insecure and is leaking information to Israel". He says that Australian lawmakers actually confronted Verint on the remote access of data to which Verint promised that it would not be done again implying that it was done nonetheless. Again, the worrying thing is that this is not the route adopted by the US Congress, which is stifled by an array of pro-Israeli lobbying groups and a culture which clamps down on any talk which debates the US-Israel relationship.

Perhaps the words of former CIA counterterrorism officer Philip Giraldi say it all: "Most of the people in the agency were very concerned about Israeli espionage and Israeli actions against US interests. Everybody was aware of it. Everybody hated it. But they wouldn't get promoted if they spoke out. Israel has a privileged position and that's the way things are. It's crazy. And everybody knows it's crazy".

The writer is Editorial Pages Editor of The News. Email: omarq@cyber.net.pk

Ruled by psychopaths

The News, March 15, 2009

RIPPLE EFFECT

Ruled by psychopaths

By Omar R. Quraishi

What is a psychopath, one may ask. According to Wikipedia (what else is one supposed to quote in a newspaper article?), it is a construct made by psychologists to describe "chronic immoral and antisocial behaviour." Perhaps one could argue that it should not be necessarily 'immoral' but 'amoral' -- as in behaviour that does not adhere to any moral norms in that it does not depend on the individual's perception of morality in society.

In many industrialised countries, psychopath is a legal term used to fight crime perpetrated by individuals who may have traits similar to those exhibited by psychopaths as defined by specific laws. Of course, the primary reason for the enactment of such laws is to treat those who have such disorders

The heading of this article may make some readers wonder who is being ruled over and who is the ruler. Once the definition of what makes a psychopath is given, it will hopefully become clear that one is referring to the Land of the Pure.

According to practitioners of psychiatry and human psychology, a psychopath is someone who finds gratification in criminal, sexual or aggressive impulses and also if he or she is unable to learn from past mistakes. There is also a strong element of lack of remorse in that the actions undertaken and executed by the individual are such that they can harm others but that the doer expresses or in fact experiences no remorse for such actions and gains satisfaction from them. Surely, these are all traits of those who have ruled over this country -- both in mufti as well as khaki lest I also fall into the dangerous trap of blaming everything on just the politicians. Those who fall in this category do not seem to learn from their mistakes, they seem to never express any regret or remorse for their misdeeds or misgovernance. And worse still, they hold delusions of grandeur with regard to the consequences of their actions -- as in policies that harm citizens and tangibly lower their quality of life but which those in power interpret as being good for the people. Hence satisfaction is gaining from implementing and enforcing them on a generally unwilling populace.

A student of the Greek philosopher Aristotle by the name of Theophrastus is said to have come up with the first description of psychopathy in a book called The Unscrupulous Man. A French psychologist in the early 19th century spoke of patients who were not mad in medical or other terms but carried on with actions that were "impulsive and self-defeating" but that they kept on carrying out such actions, fully understanding the obvious "irrationality" of their behaviour. Psychologists in the early 20th century expounded on this ideas -- some of them in the context of the system of corrections that was becoming an established institution in the west. For example, one predominant view was that such people were in fact incorrigible. Putting them in jail would not achieve much because they did not understand the dire consequences of their actions. Also because they failed to express any remorse and hence were unwilling, if not wholly unable, to learn from the past and at least not do the same, which would make them, end up again in the correctional system.

It was not until 1941 that a canonical work was done on this issue by an American psychiatrist Hervey M Cleckly who was a professor at the Medical College of Georgia. His work, The Mask of Sanity: An Attempt to Clarify Some Issues About the So-Called Psychopathic Personality, can be found on the Internet (in pdf format at http://www.cassiopaea.org/cass/sanity_1.PdF) was groundbreaking in that much of what he wrote is used by psychiatrists today. He first came up with the idea of a "mask of sanity" or a demeanour used by psychopaths that made others think of them as perfectly normal and rational individuals. (One wonders whether this explains why so many times when a murderer is caught, those who know him/her because of living in close proximity or because of a relation express surprise at his/her actions and say that he was a 'normal' person and so on and so forth). He also called it a "mask" because it hid from other people the mental disorder of the person who was a psychopath.

Interestingly enough, psychopaths also sometimes tend to display an overdeveloped sense of narcissism. They are basically in love with themselves which is present in most people who not categorised as psychopathic but that in the latter it is found to a degree whereby it causes psychological problems. According to Freud, there is a triad at work: self-admiration, self-centeredness and self-regard.

Some of the traits found in psychopaths, as defined by psychiatrists are: Superficial charm; a very high sense of self-worth; pathological lying; ability to be manipulate others; lack of remorse or guilt; lack of empathy and failure to accept responsibility for one's actions; tendency to get bored quickly; living life as a parasite; poor behavioural control; sexual promiscuity; lack of realistic long-term goals; doing things on impulse; a high degree of irresponsibility and juvenile delinquency; displaying a "reckless disregard" for the safety of oneself or others; aggressive or violent tendencies; a high sense of entitlement; inability to distinguish right from wrong; poor judgment and failure to learn from experience and substance abuse. Of course, this is not to say that those who have all or part of these traits are necessarily psychopathic but that individuals clinically determined to be psychopaths tend to display all or most of these traits.

A well known Canadian criminal psychologist, Robert D Hare of the University of British Columbia, has said of psychopaths that they are "intra-species predators who use charm, manipulation, intimidation, sex and violence to control others and to satisfy their own selfish needs. Lacking in conscience and empathy, they take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without guilt or remorse. What is missing, in other words, are the very qualities that allow a human being to live in social harmony."

In children, three particular traits are thought to give early signs that the child may grow up to have psychopathic tendencies -- bedwetting, cruelty to animals and starting small fires (also referred to as the 'Macdonald triad' after forensic psychiatrist J M MacDonald of New Zealand – first spoke of the triad in a 1963 paper that he wrote for the American Journal of Psychiatry titled 'Threat to kill'). I have no idea about bedwetting tendencies but I have seen many many children in my life who are extremely cruel to animals and who also love to start small fires.

The writer is Editorial Pages Editor of The News. Email: omarq@cyber.net.pk

Liberty attack -- whodunit?

The News, March 8, 2009

RIPPLE EFFECT

Liberty attack -- whodunit?



By Omar R. Quraishi

Not even two hours had gone by and several TV channels had all kinds of 'experts' coming on air and giving their -- mostly half-baked and should I dare say absurd-sounding -- theories on who or what may be behind the attack in Lahore on the Sri Lankan cricket team's bus as it travelled through Liberty Market.

In most cases, and quite disturbingly so, several of the 'analysts' and 'experts' took the very dangerous line suggesting that "oh no Pakistani could ever do such a thing" and that since a country like India would benefit the most from such an incident, it may well be that the Liberty attacks were an Indian response to last year's Mumbai attacks. As always, no proof or even past circumstantial evidence of any kind was proffered to substantiate this. The TV anchors listening to such comments failed to point out the necessary caveat that such comments should be contextualised in the light of the fact that a couple of hours had just gone by and it would be difficult, if not impossible, to surmise about who the attackers may be.

The office of the Punjab director-general of public relations -- a completely useless post in any government -- was the first to throw an egg on its face when it began saying that the Sri Lankan team was not the target of trained terrorists (something that the television footage was clearly showing) but that it was caught in crossfire between two qabza groups. Strange that the members of these qabza groups looked suspiciously like Ajmal Kasab clones complete with backpacks, jackets and trainers.

Some journalists covering the incident were quick to point out that just the other day more police could be seen deployed on this route but one reason for the removal could be the Punjab government's preoccupation with PML-N activists. But what is rightly suspicious is the delay with which police reinforcements appeared on the scene given that according to most reports, the firing went on for almost half an hour. Liberty Market is one of Lahore's most central shopping areas and close to several police stations and check posts and it shouldn't have taken long for police to arrive. Of course, it may well be nothing more than cowardice that explains the delay, or there could be a sinister angle to it as well. However, this is an aspect that needs to be scrutinised thoroughly by government investigators. Also, how could so many attackers leave the scene of such an incident unchallenged? Yes, the police were under fire and yes Liberty has many exits via side streets into neighbouring residential Gulberg. But it still boggles the mind that these people managed to escape in the manner that they did.

As for the footage of the attackers, it clearly showed that they were indeed dressed like Ajmal Kasab and company. And this led one to think that perhaps Lashkar does have a motive in that it must surely be very upset with the civilian government for taking a hard line on it vis-à-vis the Mumbai attacks and possibly wanted to deeply embarrass the government. Six Lashkar-e-Taiba commanders have been arrested in connection with the Mumbai attacks and Pakistan recently indicated, after severe international pressure, that it may be prepared to prosecute them for involvement in the attack.

The incident is also a stinging reminder to all those who often criticised foreign teams such as the Australians and the South Africans for not visiting Pakistan. The preposterous argument often would have these people bring in England's return to India after the Mumbai attacks, ignoring the plain and simple fact that the situation in India is simply not what it is in Pakistan. The poor Sri Lankans have obviously learnt the hard way. But it should now be clear to everyone that no foreign team, for playing cricket or any other sport, is going to come to Pakistan in the foreseeable future. And yes, what these people need to do is to pressurise the government and the military to tackle extremism and terrorism in the country, which is clearly out of control.

These people are of course no match for those who still think that India or some foreign power is perhaps behind this attack. They only need to look as far as people like Fazlullah, Baitullah Mehsud, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, Maulvi Faqir Mohammed, Masood Azhar or groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba or Lashkar-e- Jhangvi to see that Pakistanis is in fact are very much responsible for such acts and that those orchestrating them are from very much within the country's borders. And the sooner this is realised and publicly acknowledged the better because with that the fight against terrorism and militancy is already half lost without firing a single bullet/shell/mortar. Those pushing the accord in Swat also need to re-assess their position in the light of the Liberty attacks. To say that the Taliban are not behind the attacks -- which is something that cannot be entirely ruled out in any case -- because of a current ceasefire and because of the Swat deal is to miss the point that groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and other militant outfits can and do operate independently but share an ideology and objectives that are often the same as those of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

The role of some of those who came on television was especially pernicious -- and they know who they are and we know who their backers are -- particularly the outlandish theory that the attackers had crossed over from India at the Wagha border a few days ago. One in particular took the cake. He said there was considerable 'circumstantial evidence' which included the fact that Punjab shared a border with India (surprise! surprise!) and that the attackers looked like the Mumbai terrorists. Without realising that he had put his foot in his mouth by the latter statement -- since Mumbai's attackers have been owned up by the government of Pakistan as having gone in a boat from Pakistan -- this gentleman further claimed that the attackers in fact looked like Tamils and hence they were probably Tamil Tigers.

No comment is necessary for making sense of what clearly is nonsense and a dangerously deliberate move on the part of some to obfuscate the possible true identity of the attackers. Their handlers and patrons must be feeling oh-so-happy.

The writer is Editorial Pages Editor of The News. Email: omarq@cyber.net

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Surviving in a dysfunctional state

The News, March 1, 2009

RIPPLE EFFECT

Surviving in a dysfunctional state



By Omar R. Quraishi

What do you do when you live in a country/society where standing up and doing things according to a system or the law is frowned upon and actually becomes a handicap? How many of us have waited – as any law-abiding civic-minded citizen would do – patiently in queue at a bank to pay bill or at NADRA to get our CNIC or passport only to see some people get ahead of us? This is particularly true of the immigration counter when one returns to Pakistan from overseas – perhaps it is also the first prompt reminder that we are truly back in the Land of the Pure – to find dozens of people even remotely related to an FIA constable posted at the airport getting their passports stamped first.

In fact this system, which rewards one's connections and ability to offer patronage, is evident the moment one steps out of the plane because you see all kinds of assorted flunkeys holding signs for various sahibs, generals, politicos and so on. In many cases, the sahib doesn't even have to carry his small brief case because that is what the minion is for – after all, if he can't even carry the sahib's small brief case then what use is he!

Then there are things related to one's work. How many of us are professional in their work and know the value of time? Do we call on people without a prior appointment, do we visit our relatives without at least first checking with them whether they are home and in a position and are we considerate about the disturbance being caused to other people by talking loudly or driving like a moron (something which all motorcyclists do in Karachi at least)? How many of us call business acquaintances at a time, which is clearly beyond normal office hours and expect them to talk to us and get offended if they don't?

As for waiting in line, and finding other people taking our turn, how many of us do what is right – and speak out and stop the person from doing this or at least admonish the official involved in the public dealing for not telling off the line jumper and asking him to go to the end of the line. I remember some 16 years ago, a week after I had returned from studies in the US, I had gone to pay our electricity bill. I got in line at the bank at around 9.30 am and till 11.45 my turn hadn't come. This was in 1993, when very few banks would take utility bills so the lines were often very long. As I waited and waited for my turn, this woman came and stood at the front of the line. For some reason, the public frustration, which I thought existed in ample quantity on this matter, was nowhere to be seen. Not even a single individual said even as much as "excuse me can you please wait your turn, like we have been waiting for hours!" and let this woman pass.

And the one person (yours truly, of course) who did protest at this blatant display of civic impropriety and utter disregard for the rules was told by the woman that "oh" he must have just come from America or something. The message being that in Pakistan no one plays by the rules. The most basic of these is to wait in line for your turn, under the simple-to-understand premise that people in public offices deal with people on a first-come-first-served basis. Also by doing so they adhere to a system that ensures that everyone's work is attended to.

**********

In a response to my column (http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=163174) on the presence of US drones on Pakistani territory I received dozens of emails and text messages. One email pointed out a blog and further commented, using the same picture that has been used in The News's report that the airstrip in question is in all probability STILL being used. The picture on the blog comes from this year and shows that three hangars – all circled -- have been built since 2006 (at that time they were not there at all or in very rudimentary form). The blogger says that the hangars are large enough to house drones. In fact, he also points out to three other triangular shapes – to the northeast of these hangars – which he says are containers used to transport drones. His blog – and for space reasons that picture can't be reprinted here – also has a satellite image of a US testing facility used by the company which manufactures the drones and it shows the same triangular objects.

Another blogger (http://geimint.blogspot.com/2009/02/image-of-week-shamsi.html) suggests that the structures in the 2009 image suggest a long-term use for the facility and also points out that the clam-shaped structure in the centre-right of the image is a common structure found at US military facilities. So are the Americans still using these facilities and is the Pakistan government still denying the obvious?

The writer is Editorial Pages Editor of The News. Email: omarq@cyber.net.pk

Caving in to obscurantism – yet again

The News, Feb 22, 2009

RIPPLE EFFECT

Caving in to obscurantism – yet again



By Omar R. Quraishi

The so-called peace deal reached between the ANP government and the leader of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi, Maulana Sufi Mohammad, in Swat is nothing more than an abject surrender to the forces of militancy and obscurantism in the country. As expected, it has ended up polarising society – many people heaving a sigh of relief that now the violence would perhaps end, while others have been dismayed by what they see as the government's surrender to the rapidly increasing wave of Talibanisation. The most obvious question that comes to mind – and it was encapsulated well by a reader of this newspaper – Bilal Habib of Washington DC – who sent in a letter where he asked the government of Pakistan that would be it agree to implement Sharia if, say, the people of Larkana or Karachi also demanded its imposition?

In addition to this I have several other questions – but is there anyone to address them?

1. The announcement by the NWFP chief minister that all 'un-Islamic laws' stood abolished forthwith was confusing to say the least because given that the 1973 Constitution carries with it the Objective Resolution, it is understood that no law can be legislated or promulgated in the country if against Islam – so what in the world was the NWFP chief minister talking about? What laws existed prior to this deal which were anti-Islamic? Could the chief minister or his press secretary kindly give details of all such laws which were against Islam and which have now been struck off the statute book?

2. What is going to happen to Mullah Fazlullah and his accomplices such as Muslim Khan and Mullah Shah Dowran. The last one was known to be particularly good at beheading people, which the Swat Taliban did in ample numbers? Will the NWFP government try all those who took part in the beheadings and orchestrated them in a court of law or does it plan to announce a general amnesty? The chief minister was asked this question at the press conference on Feb 16 in Peshawar when he made the deal public and he conveniently side-stepped it by saying that it was "too early" to say what would happen to Fazlullah and his men. This could well mean that the NWFP government is not particularly averse to the idea of pardoning these men.

3. What does the government intend on doing about punishing the murderers of Shabana and several other women who were allegedly first raped and then murdered by the militants after being labelled as prostitutes? What does it intend doing with regard to the murders of several of the ANP's own activists and relatives of ANP office-bearers who laid their lives fighting the Taliban?

4. Does the NWFP government plan to do anything about the many beheading that were carried out in some of Swat's main towns and villages? Many were members of the FC or the police and some were innocent civilians – what message is the so-called peace deal going to send to the relatives and families of those who died such ghastly deaths if the perpetrators of these atrocities are going to be pardoned?

5. What is the point in having elected representatives for any region in the country when one finds a group of armed militants going around killing people and burning schools and forcing their version of religion down the rest of the populace and instead of clamping down on them and taking them head-on, the government agrees to their demands?

6. By the same logic, if a group holding similar views was to hold a city hostage, would the government then agree to its demands as well? What is to prevent armed militants and obscurantist from doing the same thing in other parts of the country? (And who knows, they may well be planning to do this, at least in other parts of NWFP – especially other settled districts borders FATA such as Tank, Hangu, Dera Ismail Khan and Kohat.)

7. Why has Kohistan, which is part of Hazara, been included in this arrangement? Should we in the not-so-distant future see sharia being imposed in places like Mansehra, Abbotabad and Haripur – all are part of Hazara and the latter less than an hour's drive from Islamabad.

8. There have been some in the media who have used history as an argument for justifying the deal. They have said that in the past, prior to Swat's merger with Pakistan, the princely state used to have a similar system and that the arrangement now would be similar to that. Well, if that is the case, why not hold a referendum? Or have the NWFP assembly pass legislation to give legal cover to the deal? Isn't that far better than doing it because one has been pushed into a corner by rabid extremists?

9. What impression/message/signal is the NWFP government sending to the rest of the country and indeed to the militants? Will they not be emboldened by this and use similar tactics to spread their tentacles to the rest of the country?

In the end, I would like to quote a couple of people on this issue – from a mailing list. One is a well-known researcher and academic who writes in English newspapers while the other is a well-known actress/activist, who has also written in the media on and off.

First the researcher/academic: "The message being sent is that if you challenge the writ of the state, develop a private militia, engage in beheading, murder and rape, sooner or later the government will capitulate to your demands in order to procure peace. What message is going out to other groups in Punjab, Balochistan or Sindh – that all they have to do is to take up arms and the state will cave in to their demands to set up a state within a state? One wonders why a large and highly-equipped army could not control a bunch of criminals. I think that the faulty 'strategic depth' and 'bleed India with a thousand cuts' theories still guide the decisions of our establishment."

And the activist/actress wrote: "How is it possible to engage in a completely undemocratic process engendered by a 'jirga' which excludes half the population? The minister for social welfare, a woman, was not allowed to attend the proceedings of the jirga simply because she was a woman.… How can we as a nation accept a process and ultimately a result which is prejudicial and poised to further exclude women from decision-making processes which not only affect their lives but also the manner in which many of them are killed for supposed transgressions of the moral order? Is it not clear that this accord is opening the door to willingly allowing, indeed, inviting militant fundamentalism to become the dominant ideology of the state? Will it amount to legitimisation of a medieval mindset which has endorsed and committed savage acts against the populace it supposedly aims to bring into the fold of Sharia? And whose Sharia is to be imposed? What about the right of a woman to receive an education, to marry of her own accord, to divorce? Will these Sharia rights be respected under the patriarchal misogynist order of things to come?"

The writer is Editorial Pages Editor of The News. Email: omarq@cyber.net.pk

Gem of a documentary

The News, Feb 15, 2009


RIPPLE EFFECT

Gem of a documentary

By Omar R. Quraishi

Finally something to do worthwhile in Karachi with the arrival of Karafilm Festival, sorely missed because its organisers weren't able to hold it last year and the year before. Given the rigours of work and other pressing commitments, I wasn't quite able to do justice to the season pass that my wife had generously gifted me. However, there were some very good films I managed to see -- and as usual, almost all of them were documentaries.

The first one was a production for BBC Earth called Snow Leopard: Beyond the myth. It ran for 48 minutes and its production date is 2008 though much of the filming was done in 2005 because one of its protagonists, Nisar Malik, took time off from the filming to lead a for relief work after the October 2005 earthquake. The film chronicles Malik, who led the expedition, and British photographer Mark Smith's journey to Chitral (mistakenly mentioned at the beginning of the documentary of being located on the edge of the Himalayas. This is not true since the western edge of the Himalayas in Pakistan is the Nanga Parbat massif much further to the southeast) to film the legendary snow leopard.

Avid mountaineers and trekkers would surely know that the snow leopard, along with some other animals like the famed Marco Polo sheep (with its awe-inspiring horns), is a living legend in its own right and can be found, though in dwindling numbers, across the Hindu Kush, Karakoram, Pamirs of Central Asia and Afghanistan and parts of the Himalayas. The expedition managed to find a female snow leopard along with a cub close to a road leading from Chitral and filmed it for much of that winter. However, once the snows melted away, they lost sight of the two for several months. They then tried their luck in some high-altitude pastures in the district. Here all they could find was a family of marmots. This part also made for some comic relief in the documentary, thanks to Mark Smith's jokes on the lack of mobility and general laziness of that particular marmot family.

The filming was followed by a question and answer session. A couple of good questions were asked. One came from a foreigner who asked Nisar Malik why the government of Pakistan or even a private sector Pakistani entity did not get involved in this project, which could be a good chance to promote Pakistan's positive image internationally. Something like this would also clear away Pakistan's popular image as a country overrun by bearded marauders beheading European engineers and blowing up girls' schools. Nisar replied -- and quite understandably so -- with some bitterness and told the questioner that this was a question that would be better answered by Pakistanis who are in some position of authority. When asked if the documentary would be released in Pakistan he said it would be aired on the Indian Discovery channel (dubbed in Hindi) because no Pakistani channel had shown any interest. It is disturbing because it was one of the best documentaries that I have ever seen and I have seen quite a few. Also, what could be more positive than an excellently made documentary on an animal found in Pakistan which is a source of much awe, legend and imagination in the whole of the world.

During the Q & A session, Nisar Malik also said something along the lines that he did not believe everything he said in the film. A pity that no one asked him what exactly these 'things' were. He said that Sir David Attenborough's -- the documentary's narrator -- had done more or less a voice-over and had not in fact accompanied the team to Chitral.

If Sherry Rehman is reading this, or if someone in her ministry is for that matter, they should give this documentary a close look -- dub it into Urdu and show it on PTV -- so that Pakistanis can know something worthwhile about their own country. If PTV is not interested, some of the private channels should consider it. And if they are wondering about corporate interest, it can be marketed in a manner that such interest could be generated.

For those interesting in the film, the available option is Internet. It can be found in six parts on the following link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKm7Dmpt6Us. And those who know about downloading shows through P2P (peer-to-peer) sites -- popularly known as torrents -- they can try downloading the torrent for the documentary at www.mininova.org/tor/1848821

***************

The appointment of Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles as Britain's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan reminded me of the time when I read his name in a list of MI6 officers leaked on the Internet by a former British intelligence officer. Just to be sure, I went back to the link http://cryptome.info/mi6-list2.htm and found that Sir Sherard indeed was listed as an MI6 officer. The full entry, along with date and location of postings is as follows: Sherard Louis Cowper-Coles: dob 1955; 80 Cairo, 87 Washington, 97 Paris, 01 Tel Aviv, 03 Riyadh. In Tel Aviv and Riyadh, Sir Sherard served as Britain's ambassador. The list was not so recent because it did not include his time as British ambassador to Pakistan. Interestingly enough, the same site also listed the current British high commissioner to Pakistan, Robert Brinkley, as one of Her Majesty's ambassadors who happens to be a MI6 officer.

The writer is Editorial Pages Editor of The News. Email: omarq@cyber.net.pk

Gem of a documentary

The News, Feb 15, 2009


RIPPLE EFFECT

Gem of a documentary

By Omar R. Quraishi

Finally something to do worthwhile in Karachi with the arrival of Karafilm Festival, sorely missed because its organisers weren't able to hold it last year and the year before. Given the rigours of work and other pressing commitments, I wasn't quite able to do justice to the season pass that my wife had generously gifted me. However, there were some very good films I managed to see -- and as usual, almost all of them were documentaries.

The first one was a production for BBC Earth called Snow Leopard: Beyond the myth. It ran for 48 minutes and its production date is 2008 though much of the filming was done in 2005 because one of its protagonists, Nisar Malik, took time off from the filming to lead a for relief work after the October 2005 earthquake. The film chronicles Malik, who led the expedition, and British photographer Mark Smith's journey to Chitral (mistakenly mentioned at the beginning of the documentary of being located on the edge of the Himalayas. This is not true since the western edge of the Himalayas in Pakistan is the Nanga Parbat massif much further to the southeast) to film the legendary snow leopard.

Avid mountaineers and trekkers would surely know that the snow leopard, along with some other animals like the famed Marco Polo sheep (with its awe-inspiring horns), is a living legend in its own right and can be found, though in dwindling numbers, across the Hindu Kush, Karakoram, Pamirs of Central Asia and Afghanistan and parts of the Himalayas. The expedition managed to find a female snow leopard along with a cub close to a road leading from Chitral and filmed it for much of that winter. However, once the snows melted away, they lost sight of the two for several months. They then tried their luck in some high-altitude pastures in the district. Here all they could find was a family of marmots. This part also made for some comic relief in the documentary, thanks to Mark Smith's jokes on the lack of mobility and general laziness of that particular marmot family.

The filming was followed by a question and answer session. A couple of good questions were asked. One came from a foreigner who asked Nisar Malik why the government of Pakistan or even a private sector Pakistani entity did not get involved in this project, which could be a good chance to promote Pakistan's positive image internationally. Something like this would also clear away Pakistan's popular image as a country overrun by bearded marauders beheading European engineers and blowing up girls' schools. Nisar replied -- and quite understandably so -- with some bitterness and told the questioner that this was a question that would be better answered by Pakistanis who are in some position of authority. When asked if the documentary would be released in Pakistan he said it would be aired on the Indian Discovery channel (dubbed in Hindi) because no Pakistani channel had shown any interest. It is disturbing because it was one of the best documentaries that I have ever seen and I have seen quite a few. Also, what could be more positive than an excellently made documentary on an animal found in Pakistan which is a source of much awe, legend and imagination in the whole of the world.

During the Q & A session, Nisar Malik also said something along the lines that he did not believe everything he said in the film. A pity that no one asked him what exactly these 'things' were. He said that Sir David Attenborough's -- the documentary's narrator -- had done more or less a voice-over and had not in fact accompanied the team to Chitral.

If Sherry Rehman is reading this, or if someone in her ministry is for that matter, they should give this documentary a close look -- dub it into Urdu and show it on PTV -- so that Pakistanis can know something worthwhile about their own country. If PTV is not interested, some of the private channels should consider it. And if they are wondering about corporate interest, it can be marketed in a manner that such interest could be generated.

For those interesting in the film, the available option is Internet. It can be found in six parts on the following link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKm7Dmpt6Us. And those who know about downloading shows through P2P (peer-to-peer) sites -- popularly known as torrents -- they can try downloading the torrent for the documentary at www.mininova.org/tor/1848821

***************

The appointment of Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles as Britain's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan reminded me of the time when I read his name in a list of MI6 officers leaked on the Internet by a former British intelligence officer. Just to be sure, I went back to the link http://cryptome.info/mi6-list2.htm and found that Sir Sherard indeed was listed as an MI6 officer. The full entry, along with date and location of postings is as follows: Sherard Louis Cowper-Coles: dob 1955; 80 Cairo, 87 Washington, 97 Paris, 01 Tel Aviv, 03 Riyadh. In Tel Aviv and Riyadh, Sir Sherard served as Britain's ambassador. The list was not so recent because it did not include his time as British ambassador to Pakistan. Interestingly enough, the same site also listed the current British high commissioner to Pakistan, Robert Brinkley, as one of Her Majesty's ambassadors who happens to be a MI6 officer.

The writer is Editorial Pages Editor of The News. Email: omarq@cyber.net.pk

Our very own serial killers

The News, Feb 8, 2009

RIPPLE EFFECT

Our very own serial killers



By Omar R. Quraishi

The picture that you will find accompanying this week's column was sent to me by a reader. He says he is from Swat and knows someone who took this and wanted it published in a newspaper. (And given the number of such beheadings that have taken place there it was only a matter of time that someone would actually take a picture and send it to the media). The reason for publishing something like this would be to probably stir people revulsion and hatred for those who are involved in such atrocities.

The man who sent me the picture also sent a couple of others showing similar scenes. Those pictures were far gorier and probably could not be published – much less seen. However, if you notice this particular picture, you will find that there are ordinary people (and by that I mean men and boys because women and girls apparently are no longer to be found on the streets of Swat) walking by this beheaded body of the man. The body is hanging upside down from the side of an electricity pole and I am told that this was taken in Matta. Some readers may feel disoriented but that is because the poor man's head has been placed between his feet, on his groin as if to further desecrate his dead body.

The fear among the local population is such that no one dare even take down the body and give it a proper burial. One cannot even imagine the psychological damage that such wanton acts must be having on the local people especially children who are growing up witnessing this monstrosity.

These are the kind of images I would have expected to see in a museum for serial killers in the US, since America is often considered to be the land where the term originated and which, for some reason, has had the most recorded cases of serial murders. But it seems that Fazlullah and his men – one should actually them beasts or, as a letter-writer recently said in this newspaper, "handmaidens of the Devil" – have outdone any serial killer that ever lived. Three of the most notorious serial killers in history ought to be mentioned here for our Taliban may well be on their way to outdo them.

The first is Liu Peng Li, recorded by Chinese historian to be a cousin of Emperor Jing of the Han Dynasty (156-141 BC). Liu was made king of a local region and was known to be "arrogant and cruel." It is said that he and dozens of his slaves (most of whom were criminals hiding from the law) would go out on what were called 'marauding expeditions.' During such 'expeditions' people were murdered for 'pleasure' and their belongings were looted by Liu and his slaves. Since this happened so many centuries ago, the exact number of victims is uncertain. Chinese historians say that Liu and his horde of slaves killed at least a hundred people. The killings caused much fear in the local population and people either shifted to safer provinces or simply stopped going out of the house. Liu stopped only when the son of one of the victim's complained to Emperor Jing who banished Liu to another county.

Next we have Gilles de Rais (1404-1440), who was a French nobleman and soldier and even served alongside Joan of Arc. The number of his victims is between 80-200 – most of them being children who were raped after being inflicted with mortal blows. Rais was finally caught and executed for his crimes. During the course of his trial – conducted by an ecclesiastical court – that he preyed upon chidren who came to his castle in search of food. According to a Wikipedia entry the transcript of the prosecution included testimony from many parents of the missing children and contained descriptions of murders so graphic that some portions were ordered to be excluded from the record. However, some portions survived including the testimony of one of de Rais's accomplices.

A 2003 biography of the serial-killer by French writer and playwright Jean Benedetti documents morbid details of his crimes (almost as much as the picture from Matta). It says that a child would not be killed immediately but gradually and only after first being pampered and dressed in the finest of clothes and given a good meal. Only after that would the child learn of the fate awaiting him\her. The biographer says that this was a particular source of pleasure for de Rais. The biography also quotes the killer's own confession at the trial where he said that when the children were dead he would have their bodies cut open and 'delight' at the sight of their inner organs or that when a child lay dying he would sit on its stomach and laugh, while watching it die.

The third and the last is Hungarian aristocrat Elizabeth Bathory (1560-1614) whose exact number of murders is not known but historians believe it to be in hundreds. A countess, Bathory was accused of torturing and killing hundreds of girls and young women in her castle in present-day Slovakia. She was accused of killing over 600 victims but was convicted for only 80 murders. A legend relates that she would bathe in the blood of her victims – in an attempt to ward off aging.

One wonders, a few decades into the future, or perhaps in the next century, what will wikipedia have on serial killers from this part of the world.

The writer is Editorial Pages Editor of The News.

Email: omarq@cyber.net.pk

The Taliban among us

The News, Feb 1, 2009

RIPPLE EFFECT

The Taliban among us



By Omar R. Quraishi

Much is being said and written about the tyrannical Taliban rule in Swat. This newspaper has been inundated with letters from people who live there, who have lived there, who know people who live there and from people who know people who used to live there, on the terrible situation in the region.

Understandably, many of the letter-writers are angry and frustrated. Frustrated at the promises of the government and angered at what many say is clear complicity by some institutions of the state in the violence wreaked by the Taliban. They quote information minister Sherry Rehman's recent remarks to the press including a statement to the effect that the government will not allow the Taliban to stop girls from going to school. Also just today (this column was written on Jan 28) we received a furious letter from a resident of Peshawar who had written in response to a statement by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani that his government would not allow Taliban courts in Swat. In all such letters the writers point out that the ministers and the prime minister better start doing something concrete and refrain from statements which don't make sense. After all, they rightly argue, it's not like the Taliban are asking for the government's permission to set up 'Taliban courts.'

We have also received a number of letters from people who question the strategy, or the lack of it, adopted by the military in its operations in Swat. One correspondent said that the case of Pir Samiullah aptly illustrated what many people thought: the Taliban and the ISI are two sides of the same coin. After all, it was not too long ago that the Taliban were used as proxies by the military establishment as part of the controversial and often-discredited doctrine of strategic depth, vis-à-vis Afghanistan. The correspondent – and one cannot but agree with his assessment – saw similarities between what the Taliban did in Afghanistan in the 1990s and what the Swat Taliban are doing now: banning female education, stopping them from leaving the home without a burqa and a male family member, killing and/or maiming nationalist and secular elements, attacking the state's physical infrastructure and so on. The correspondent argued that there must be some level of tacit complicity between the Taliban and their former(?) handlers.

Obviously, no proof can be given for this by a laypersons other than circumstantial evidence like how come the Taliban kidnap, kill, behead and then hang dead bodies in Swat overnight during a night curfew? Or that how can a few thousand Taliban control a region with such impunity despite the presence of four brigades of the powerful Pakistan Army? In this context, one correspondent letter-writer wrote that he asked a serving army major why the military did not come to the aid of civilians being targeted by the militants. He was informed that the military's strategy was to target terrorist/militant hideouts only on explicit orders.

Then there are those who criticise the general public and particularly the religious leaders for not speaking against Taliban atrocities. In this regard, I would like to quote Waleed Khan, resident of Peshawar, whose letter was published in this newspaper on Jan 28. He wrote: "There are many people who expect our religious leaders to condemn the Taliban and their brutalities. But they ignore the fact that this will be difficult for the ulema because the Taliban are their own people. And lest I be accused of giving a bad name to our religious leaders, please read the following facts. Sufi Mohammad of the TNSM was initially a member of the JI, which he left to start the TNSM. Similarly Haroon Rasheed (a JI MNA from Bajaur Agency) resigned after a seminary of his friend Maulana Faqir Muhammad of the TTP was bombed. The madrassah was allegedly training teenagers to become suicide bombers.

"Previously whenever a rift would happen in the Taliban ranks in South or North Waziristan, JUI leaders would play a role in bringing about reconciliation – this is a matter of public record. Also, it is known that Hafiz Saeed of the now-banned JuD played a role in settling an intra-Taliban dispute in Mohmand Agency. Our religious parties do not want the Taliban to be weakened, for in them they find their best allies. To expect them to condemn them is to expect too much."

The examples drive home the point that as far as ideology is concerned there isn't much that separates most of our mainstream religious parties from the Taliban. Both want the imposition of Sharia, or at least their version of it, and both do not hesitate from using force to shove their rigid interpretation of faith on the rest of the population. The extent to which their tactics are successful depends where they operate – and hence in a place like Lahore or Karachi, they don't meet with much success, i.e. the religious parties. In Lahore and in Karachi, nonetheless, there are many people – not even members of religious parties – who agree in principle and ideologically with what the Taliban want. They may disagree with the tactics being used but how many ordinary Pakistanis have spoken out unequivocally against suicide bombings or even against the atrocities being committed in Swat or parts of FATA on a daily basis by the extremists?

Does that mean that the bulk of ordinary Pakistanis are just plain lazy and don't care what happens in the rest of the country. Or perhaps that they are too busy trying to make ends meet and feed their families. Or is it that they secretly sympathise with the Taliban, given the way the latter couch their so-called 'struggle' i.e. to impose Islamic rule. If there are indeed many among us who agree and sympathise with the Taliban and their desire to impose Islamic rule then the Taliban may be far stronger than we think.

The writer is Editorial Pages Editor of The News.

Email: omarq@cyber.net

Why are the courts silent over the missing?

The News, Jan 25, 2009


RIPPLE EFFECT

Why are the courts silent over the missing?



By Omar R. Quraishi

I often get mails from Amina Masood Janjua -- who is the wife of Masood Janjua, missing for dozens of months, and according to her, picked up by the intelligence agencies during the time of General Musharraf. Hers is one of many cases of disappearances of dozens of Pakistani citizens during the previous government, otherwise known as the missing persons' scandal.

Mrs Janjua has written letters to even Barack Obama -- though one wonders whether they ever managed to make it to him -- and says that her US visa was revoked some weeks ago minutes before she was to board a plane from Geneva to New York, where she had gone to speak on the missing persons' scandal. No reason was given for this -- it never is -- but it probably had to do with the fact that many of the people picked up during Musharraf's regime were detained because of their alleged involvement in the war on terror. In the case of Masood Janjua, the government has yet to inform a court of law of his whereabouts. His wife however is convinced that he is in the custody of the intelligence agencies because she says that one former detainee, who was also held incommunicado but eventually released, said that he had seen him in a military prison. In addition, she says, her husband was contacted by an army officer for questioning and soon after he

disappeared.

While Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry was the chief justice, he took it upon himself to hear such cases. Several people who had been held incommunicado were released because of the efforts of the Supreme Court under him to keep asking the government to do more. For instance, when the hearings began initially, one saw the usual passing of the buck. The interior ministry was made the respondent and when its representative did show up he told the court that the people who had disappeared were not in the custody of any law-enforcement agency under the ministry's jurisdiction -- meaning the police and paramilitary forces. The ministry officials were asked by the court that who then should be held responsible and whether the missing were in the custody of the military, to which they replied that the intelligence agencies did not come under the interior ministry's purview and that the ministry could not direct officials of military intelligence agencies to appear before the court.

At least then -- not sure about now -- the court could see through these tactics and the fact that they were a blatant violation of one of the cardinal rights guaranteed to citizens under the constitution and by the law -- the writ of habeas corpus -- and kept on asking the government for answers. This eventually bore fruit -- though not personally for Mrs Janjua. Several of those who had disappeared turned up at their homes, dropped off quietly by their captors while some were produced before the court. Then there is the case of Saud Memon, said to be a well-off businessman and a major financier of the militant group whose members were allegedly involved in Daniel Pearl's murder (the house where the reporter was kept and eventually killed, police claim, was owned by this man). He was reported missing for almost four years and was eventually produced when the Supreme Court began taking interest in cases of the missing. He was brought in a wheelchair, and according to newspaper reports, he weighed a mere 80 pounds had lost his memory and could not recognize his own family members. He had earlier been released and left on some street by his captors in terrible health. He died a few days later.

Now it may well be that the allegation against him may have been true but the government should have produced him before a court of law, charged him for it, and given him a chance to defend himself. That should have been done with all those who were picked up and that surely needs to be done now as well -- since many of those who were picked up -- like Amina Masood Janjua's husband -- are still missing and their

families are looking for them.

*******

Here is an email that I got in response to my column of last week on Swat. It was written by a doctor who is from Swat and does not wish to disclose his identity. It is worth reprinting in full, without censoring, because it may well reflect the opinion that people of the region have about the rest of the country and of its institutions. It goes like this: "The people of Swat have a rich history and cultural values to their credit. They are law-abiding and peace-loving people. They had their own government, which catered to all their social needs like any other social welfare state. Violence was unknown to them and the valley was called a paradise of the East for good reason. After its merger with Pakistan, it lost many things and gained all the ills of Pakistan's pro-militancy strategy. Our government's policies have nothing to do with public opinion. They are run by a few generals and their puppets. They only care for their personal interests with an utter disregard for the sons of the soil. "Now we, Pakhtuns, are the chosen victims of this policy, no less than the Jews were the victims of Holocaust. It is now an open secret that Taliban regiment is the semi-official wing of the Pakistan army. It is, as they claim, their strategic asset. They are paid by the ISI to terrorise and kill the social and political activists at home and to bleed Pakistan's neighbours to the east and the west. The modus-operandi of the fake operation in Swat indicates that Taliban regiment and the Punjab regiment are in fact Siamese twins --joined at the hip. We no more love Pakistan and its army. They have turned our paradise into hell."

The writer is Editorial Pages Editor of The News.

Email: omarq@cyber.net.pk

Why are we silent on Swat?

The News, Jan 18, 2009

RIPPLE EFFECT

Why are we silent on Swat?



By Omar R. Quraishi

If you ask this question from those who live in the once pristine valley, they will laugh (or perhaps cry) at you for being so ignorant about the goings-on in your own country. Indeed, in recent weeks the letters section of this newspaper has carried several pieces, many of them from residents of Swat or those who grew up there. The tone is bitter and frustrated and that is completely understandable given what is going in the district.

The residents say that the rest of the country seems to have forgotten about this tragedy in their very own land and seem preoccupied with other things. They say that they have been caught between the veritable devil and the deep blue sea -- as in the Taliban extremists and government security forces. They say that they are not able to fight the Taliban and that anybody who even remotely tries to resist is branded an agent of the government or of America and marked for death. In fact, as the letters and other correspondence suggest the number of people killed in this manner is at least between five and ten every day just for some parts of the valley.

In this context, Zubair Torwali, a social activist and resident of the valley has already written in the editorial pages of this newspaper that the main thoroughfare of the valley's main town of Mingora, called 'Grain Chowk' has been rechristened 'Khooni Chowk' -- because every day at least a couple of dead bodies, of the alleged collaborators are hung from it. He also wrote that many people were terrified of the FM radio broadcasts of the Taliban because these contained the names of those deemed as 'agents' of the government and hence marked for the ultimate punishment. Also, in case readers missed Hamid Mir's gripping article which appeared in this newspaper's editorial pages on Jan 13, the story of the female teacher who only wanted to provide for her children -- her husband had died some years back -- is heart-rending. Fearing that she would lose her job because of the ban on female education, she continued working and even approached the local leader of a madrassah to speak to the militants on her behalf, through some of his former students. The mufti tried all he could but it turned out to be in vain because the woman, Mir wrote, was labelled a prostitute by the militants and killed! Where was the government in all of this and where is it now, caring for and looking after her children now that this brave woman is dead? If anyone needs to be called a martyr or a shaheed it is this woman -- and I keep calling her 'woman' because I don't even know her name. Those who live in the valley have also raised this other matter -- and quite rightly so -- that how come Pakistanis have been protesting against the mayhem and murder in Gaza but do not seem to be doing much when the same thing happens in their own country. As Mr Torwali said,

The situation is in fact worse in Swat because in Gaza the Palestinians at least know who the aggressors are and that they are not from among them -- whereas in Swat the people are caught between the Taliban and the government security forces and do not know who is their friend or their enemy. Besides, the level of brutalization and the violence wreaked on the population, especially by the militants is more, or at least the same, as that done by the Israelis on the Palestinians.

The residents say that the situation is so bad now that the writ of the government seems completely absent. One needs to ask the government why this is the case and whether any of the forces deployed in Swat have been withdrawn and/or redeployed to our eastern border. Also, just till a couple of months ago, officials were giving an encouraging assessment of the fight against the militants in Swat saying that the army was pushing the militants and enabling the government to re-establish its writ over the district. So one has to ask that what happened from that time and now, or where these official assessments of the situation given at that time rosier than the reality? And if that is the case, then why was the assessment so far off the mark?

Those who don't live in Swat need to then ask themselves that why do they not feel the same empathy and/or sympathy for the people of Swat that they feel for the people of Gaza. Why are they not doing anything to pressure the government to act and do something to improve the lives of the people of valley? How would we all like it if we were perennially living in curfew, if there was the military on the one side and fanatical extremists, not hesitant to cut our ears, hands or even behead us, just because we disagreed with what they were doing and wanted to stand up and live our life according to our own code and values? How many women reading this would ever want to live in a place where they could venture out of their homes on their own, go to work or attend school or college only under threat of death?

The woman mentioned by Hamid Mir surely cannot be alone in her predicament. There must be dozens, probably hundreds of such women, whose lives -- and those of their children as well -- have already been placed in jeopardy by the extremists? Would we allow this to happen if it were our children?

The writer is Editorial Pages Editor of The News.

Email: omarq@cyber.net.pk

Hating/loving India

The News, Jan 4, 2009


RIPPLE EFFECT

Hating/loving India

By Omar R. Quraishi

People in this country have a love-hate relationship with India. Amir Khan, Shahrukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan are idolized in Pakistan and the justification – perhaps subconsciously – that they are Muslim. But also admired are people like Sunil Gavaskar, probably because in his commentary on cricket matches he is seen by many Pakistanis as being even-handed. The same goes for someone like Ravi Shastri though less for Navjot Sidhu (who is just plain annoying) and even less for Kapil Dev or Harsha Bhogle.

Then there is the more recent phenomenon of Pakistani cricketers going to play 20/20 cricket in India and doing very well and making a lot of money in the process. In fact, when the Mumbai attacks happened, a couple of them such as Kamran Akmal and Sohail Tanvir, were in Mumbai -- since a T20 tournament was about to begin in early December. According to some reports in the Indian media, it is unlikely that these Pakistani players are going to be playing in any Indian T20 team any time soon --presumably the owners do not want to take the risk of making a costly investment and then seeing it backfire, given the volatile nature of subcontinental sports crowds.

Besides, sports people, many Pakistani musicians and actors have also ventured to India in recent years, lured understandably by its vast market and the fact that the language to a great extent is the same. The musicians have been helped by the fact that India's own contemporary music industry is pretty much non-existent and is dictated more by what's being commissioned by Bollywood music directors than by a mass audience. This is why perhaps in recent years Pakistani bands like Strings and musicians like Atif Aslam and Adnan Sami Khan have achieved major commercial success in India. The latter is in fact a British citizen and has renounced his Pakistani nationality, applying for an Indian one in the process. However, it remains to be seen what happens to his application in the post-Mumbai situation.

For his part though, Adnan Sami has of late become a punching bag (no pun intended, of course) for some in Pakistan who have angrily denounced his decision to renounce his Pakistani citizenship. This comes after the Mumbai attacks and after reports in some Indian newspapers that Adnan Sami was being harassed by certain elements that are either part of or allied with the Hindu right in Mumbai who were demanding that Bollywood directors stop hiring him for playback singing -- since, despite being a British passport holder, he was of Pakistani origin. It remains to be seen what happens to Adnan Sami's case but that of several other musicians is obviously clear for now – their vast market potential in India has come to naught, for now at least. And maybe that is what explains someone like Atif Aslam or Ali Azmat holding a concert in Karachi recently – because after all being professional musicians they have to earn their living.



At the same time, there is a growing chorus, especially seen in the many letters that for instance this newspaper has been receiving since the Mumbai attacks, that people should stop watching Indian television channels and cinemas in Karachi and Lahore and other urban centres should stop showing Indian movies. The reason given is that since Pakistani musicians, artists, actors and even cricketers are apparently no longer welcome in India we should reciprocate in kind and stop watching their shows and movies. This reasoning and logic is however unmistakably flawed because it assumes that Pakistanis who watch Indian movies or television shows not for their own recreation and enjoyment but solely so that the Indian television networks and their Indian sponsors can earn money! Surely, nobody in their right mind would want to watch Dostana merely so that the Indian producer of that film gets his or her money back but because the film got good reviews. This is precisely why similar kinds of campaigns in the past to boycott western goods and services, such as after the invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan and driven by the same misplaced sense of patriotism and narrow-mindedness, have never really worked.

If people love their country then the sensible approach in such a situation is not to provoke the other side into a confrontation that is sure to greatly damage both sides --and this meaning death and destruction on a massive scale --but to calm nerves and tempers and refrain from doing anything that may be perceived as jingoistic. To those who consider such a reaction as a sign of weakness, the answer is that avoiding a war which will kill thousands, if not more, and push back both opponents by decades if not centuries and impoverish millions more is not a sign of weakness or illogic -- it is in fact a sign of having acted with wisdom and courage, especially since the latter is something that is often needed to go against the grain and do something that runs contrary to popular opinion.

In fact, this is the time that we also need to be wary of those (and there are many of them in our midst) who want to use such instances/occasions to act as our moral police --telling us what we should and should not be doing, watching, eating, wearing and so on. In fact that is another reason why war must be avoided because it provides a good staging platform among the particularly conservative, reactionary and retrogressive elements in societies to expand and strengthen their tentacles, especially since hating India (and of course America and other states and societies) is part of their larger project and allows them to come in a position where they are able to impose their ideology, their views and their worldview on the whole population (no wonder the Taliban are so eager to fight along side the Pakistan army in case of war with India!).



The writer is Editorial Pages Editor of The News.

Email: omarq@cyber.net.pk

Where the hell is the law?

The News, Dec 28, 2008

RIPPLE EFFECT

Where the hell is the law?



By Omar R. Quraishi

I can’t help but notice this garish building which has slowly but surely come in front of my apartment complex in Bath Island. It is quite an irony that the area which contains the main residential enclave for government officials has perhaps the highest rate of building violations in a city known for not exactly enforcing the law when it comes to zoning and construction regulations.

The building that I live in has four stories so it’s probably not so illegal, but this new building which is in the last stages of construction has eight stories and I can bet a million rupees that much of the construction is a violation of the Karachi Building Control Authority’s code. Also, to make matters worse – though this is apparently the norm in Karachi – it’s not as if the construction ceases in the evening. At midnight, or sometimes even at two or three in the morning, I would hear the sound of a dumper bring cement or a truck depositing bricks and this would last for well over an hour.

In a civilized country, this kind of ridiculous nonsense would never be allowed by the municipal authorities and perhaps for that very reason residents in neighbouring buildings would be – in case of such a noise disturbance – quick to call the police. Here, however, it is completely a different story. Most residents wouldn’t say anything and the handful that would, were made to feel as if they were doing something wrong or crazy. For instance, just the other day, after parking my car at around 12.30 am I was heading towards the building’s gate when I heard loud music coming from a car parked on the other side of the road – right in front of the under-construction building. I walked over and asked the man standing outside – he must have been in his 20s – why in the world he was listening to such loud music past midnight, and that too on the open road around several flats – and his answer was that when else was he supposed to hear it! Needless to say, it was with great difficulty that I was able to rein in my very strong urge to give this man a tight slap. At least this did have the requisite effect and the moron (what else do you call such a person) did switch off the loud music.

Of course, one doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out just why the building bye-laws are so brazenly flouted. The KBCA looks the other way although how a building constructed in such an obviously illegal manner gets past its scrutiny is difficult to understand, unless one considers the fact that in all likelihood the builder must be paying off someone in the authority to look the other way. Also, if I may add, every day I see a mobile of the Boat Basin police station come to the building site. A constable gets out, goes inside and comes back out after a few minutes – sometimes the foreman himself goes to the mobile. As it turns out, the police mobile comes every day – more or less – to get its bribe money; so that the building work can go on uninterrupted. Also, a tea khoka has encroached on the sidewalk right in front of the building and instead of being asked to shift elsewhere is patronised by the local police.

This isn’t all. There are several other newly-constructed or under-construction buildings in Bath Island which are clearly illegal but the law surely isn’t something that their builder cares or worries about. And talking about the issue of construction brings one’s attention also to another matter that has been in the news of late. Many of Karachi’s streets and neighbourhoods have over the years built barriers – apparently to keep out thieves and criminals. However, over time these barriers have evolved into a kind of system where the local residents keep out unwanted desirables and also to exclude useful people such as scavengers and raddi-wallahs. Personally I would be against having to visit a friend somewhere and be asked for my identity card and satisfy the – often needless – curiosity of the guard at the barrier. The issue whether these barriers should be removed or not has become a debate of sorts and let’s see what happens. However, readers may – or may not – be interested in knowing that the street in Defence Phase V where the speaker of the National Assembly and her spouse, Sindh’s home minister, have a house has been barricaded on both sides.

******

A male colleague who is single was complaining the other day about how as a single male individual he is denied entry to some of Karachi’s best-known shopping malls. Even the hip and happening Cineplex does the same as do several cafes – in fact I was subjected to just this kind of discrimination when I decided to take out an old school friend and now a banker in Dubai, to late-night coffee. We were refused entry by Espresso because we were not ‘a family’. How odd! As for the shopping malls, one friend managed to get in one after convincing the guards that he had gone there to exchange something he had bought from the bookstore – and he had.

******

Something worth quoting – got this from a newsgroup mailing list. It’s by Yusuf Nazar, someone who writes in the papers quite regularly. It’s on the current tensions with India: "The jingoism is bad and destructive. The main issue is that many people are scared or shy of talking about the role of our military leadership and the role in the context of its close relationship with the Pentagon and the CIA. The connection is too old, too deep and too murky to be denied or ignored. MMA stands for Mullah, Military and America. Why do we just discuss the Mullah bit... Amir Kasab is just a foot soldier. These columnists cannot write the whole story. Which militant organization in Pakistan does not or did not have connection with the agencies? Name one! We want to discuss the soldiers but are too chicken to talk about their generals?"

The writer is Editorial Pages Editor of The News.

Email: omarq@cyber.net.pk

The JuD and ordinary Pakistanis

The News, Dec 21, 2008

RIPPLE EFFECT

The JuD and ordinary Pakistanis



By Omar R. Quraishi

In case readers didn't know -- and there is an acute shortage of facts on this issue -- the Lashkar-e-Taiba was banned by the Pakistan government in 2002. This happened following an attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001 by what India later claimed were members of the LeT and the Jaish-e-Mohammad. One calls it a claim because the people who were later prosecuted and convicted of the attack have always claimed their innocence and sections of the Indian media and many Indian rights groups and activists have themselves said that the cases against these people were weak at best.

However, this is not to say that the LeT or for that matter its affiliate the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) are completely innocent of the terrorist acts that they have been accused of. And again, since facts are in short supply when one discusses such issues, one will take recourse to the organisation's website -- which carries several commentaries post Mumbai.

For instance, in a post dated Dec 11, the JuD website says that 'Saffron terrorist groups' belonging to the Sangh Parivar were behind the recent Mumbai attacks. It said that a 'Hindu suicide squad' called the 'Atma Ghataki Pathak' was trained by a former three-star general (who served as the GOC of the Indian Army's western command) Premnath Hoon, who had after retirement become the head of the Shiv Sena's military wing. It also blamed this 'suicide squad' for the attack on the Sabarmati Express in 2002 -- which then led to the Gujarat riots and massacre. It also says that a retired colonel of the Indian Army by the name of Jayant Chitale and an accomplice were in fact arrested in Nov 2002 for running a 'training camp' for suicide attackers but were 'later released at the intervention of RAW'. It claims that the attacks had several aims, one of which was to eliminate Hemant Karkare, the Indian police official who was investigating involvement by elements of the Sangh Parivar and military officers allied with them in the Samjhota Express bombing and the Malegaon blasts. The JuD post also claimed that Karkare has previously been posted the Indian embassy in Vienna as an undercover officer for RAW and that this was meant to indicate that he knew of the agency's inner workings.

Although the JuD would have said all this on its website to throw off the blame that has come on it and the LeT for involvement in the Mumbai attacks, the fact is even within the Indian media there remains confusion as to how Karkare actually died. While it is now presented that he died, along with two other officers, outside a hospital, several websites, including CNN-IBN, still have news reports saying that he was killed in an encounter with the attacks outside the Taj hotel. However, Ajmal Kasab's confession suggests that Karkare was killed outside the Cama Hospital.

Other posts included one dated Nov 14, 2006, and titled 'Woman: The honouring of Islam and the humiliation of West'. The article was obsessed with showing readers how superior Islam is to other religions and how superior Muslim societies are with respect to the rights of women compared to other communities. It gives numerous examples -- and one isn't sure of their veracity -- from the west and 'ancient India' to show that in Islam, women have rights like in no other community, society or faith. Consider the following from the said article and readers can judge for themselves whether women by and large are in such a predicament in the west: "As for contemporary woman in Europe, America and other industrial nations, she is a creature which is degraded and abused for commercial purposes. She is a feature of advertising campaigns and things have reached a stage where she takes off her clothes in order to advertise products on posters, and sells and displays her body according to systems devised by men, so that she is no more than an object of pleasure for them in every place... When she becomes old and cannot give any more, society -- individuals and institutions -- forsakes her and she lives alone in her house or in a mental hospital." Clearly, 'traditions' like karo kari, vani, swara and watta satta and the ways in which women's rights were suppressed under the Hudood Laws and the status of women in Pakistan today are all issues conveniently ignored.

Regrettably, this tendency to act superior than the rest of the world, ignore one's own warts and what not and to blame the rest of the world for all that ills the Islamic world is something that is found in many ordinary Pakistanis as well. Whether they have been influenced by organisations such as the JuD or whether the organisations have been influenced by the society that they have grown up in is not the issue but rather that the value system and worldview of the JuD and the LeT is in fact something that a lot of Pakistanis share -- particularly the view that a Hindu/Zionist/American conspiracy of sorts has been put in motion to annihilate the Muslim world. Another post is devoted to Mother's Day, or rather to equating it more or less with paganism. In fact, another post is on how Muslims should beware of doing actions that make them equal to kaafirs -- such as celebrating their holy days and festivals. Also, it is clearly mentioned that non-Muslims are kaafirs and should not be even befriended.

Clearly, the JuD promotes hatred and intolerance and this is surely not something that Pakistanis -- or in fact anyone regardless of their nationality -- would condone or encourage. This is also not to say that most Pakistanis are active supporters of the JuD but by the organisations own admission it serves thousands of poor people every day spending millions in the process -- so surely this money comes from somewhere. Having said that, it would be fair to say that an increasing proportion of Pakistanis agree with some of the things that are written on the JuD website and hence the sharp reaction perhaps to the ban placed on it.

To say that the JuD is involved in charitable work and hence a ban on it is wrong is to miss the point. It is a pretty much like saying that the Shiv Sena or the RSS is involved in charitable work and in helping the poor -- which they claim that they do in fact -- and hence that somehow mitigates the hatred and intolerance that they preach. If we want to ask for a ban on the RSS, the Shiv Sena or the Bajrang Dal -- or at least remind others that India has such extremists groups and outfits in its own midst -- then we also need to acknowledge that we too have (more than) our fair share of such organisations and that the biggest sufferers and victims of their excesses and indoctrination have been our own people.

The writer is Editorial Pages Editor of The News.

Email: omarq@cyber.net.pk

Scams 'r' us

The News, Dec 14, 2008

RIPPLE EFFECT

Scams 'r' us



By Omar R. Quraishi

I remember the time when I was in university in America and a friend of mine who just happened to be Pakistani told me how he and his friend made a couple of hundred dollars from the airline that they flew from Pakistan on. The scam, because that's what it was, was that they complained to the airline, upon reaching JKF in New York that their luggage had been lost. They managed to do this because once their luggage, a suitcase, came through baggage claim and one of their friends who had come to the airport to receive them quietly took it away.

This was in the early 1990s and there was no real strict checking of luggage at most American airports, certainly not in the way that happens now where disembarking passengers are asked to show receipts and tags for luggage that they take with them once they leave the terminal. The unsuspecting airline, according to its policy of providing compensation to passengers for lost luggage, paid $200 dollars to my friend who was more than happy.

Then there was this other time, where a group of friends from Pakistan, in true desi style, used and abused the generous provisions of a local electronics store for customers. Many stores in America have what is called a one-month money back guarantee especially for household electronic items. This means that buy a television set or a DVD player,and use it up to month, during which time it may be returned to the vendor for a full refund. It will make eminent sense to readers why such a scheme would never be advertised in Pakistan because it would be abused to the fullest which is what my group of friends living and studying in Boston at that time did. Four of them were living together and one would 'buy' a TV, one a VCR, another a stereo system and another something else. Just before the month would run out, they would go to the store and return the item that they had 'bought' for a full cash refund. They would then start all over again, though going to a different store, or even from the same one, but 'buying' a different item each time.

Coming to the present, there are scams all around us and in most of them we are at the extreme receiving end, because we happen to be customers who do nothing about this exploitation. For instance, take some thing that I have to experience almost every other day as someone who used a car fitted with a CNG cylinder.

Now anyone who has a car which runs on CNG will know that unlike filling petrol, where the station attendant can programme the exact amount to be filled in rupees or in litres, CNG pumps for some reason do not have this technology. The result is that even if the bill comes to Rs254.30, the amount is rounded off to the next rupee. And if you point this out to the CNG pump staff, they make you feel as if you are some kind of scrooge who is haggling over less than a rupee. However, the matter is of principles and not a rupee or something because one's money should be hard earned and it bothers one when one is forced to pay more than what a service costs. Had their been some kind of resistance from CNG vehicle owners I remember reading a good blog post on it but surely we need something more CNG station owners would be at least be made aware of public anger on this and could be asked to adopt a policy of rounding it off to the highest rupee only if the residual amount is less than 50 paisas (for example if the bill is Rs234.34 the customer should be made to pay Rs234 but if it is Rs234.52 s/he should pay Rs235).

And lest people think this is a piddling sum, come to think of the number of times a vehicle fills CNG in the country each day and even if the average residual is say 30 paisa (which means customers are paying on average 30 paisa per transaction) that can add to up quite a hefty amount in the pockets of CNG station owners. If they cannot agree to this, they should install the same kind of electronics that petrol stations have which enable the fuel supply to stop when the programme amount in rupees is reached.

Besides this, another scam that one faces every day and really does nothing about is the charged parking scam in Karachi, especially in the business district and affluent commercial areas such as Clifton. In the latter, those who have residential flats in the area were approached by parking 'contractors' (thugs or extortionists is more like it) and asked to pay Rs1500 per month for parking charges (this could translate into a windfall of several million rupees a month). Quite understandably many of the residents are more than a bit peeved by this outrageous demand. Of course, many should have thought of this when they bought flats in buildings where the builders never provided the promised parking space. But that is unfortunately the norm in Karachi -- perhaps even in other cities of Pakistan -- and even if there is underground parking or a floor reserved for parking in a building, a commercial or a semi-commercial area, it is used by the shop proprietors as a makeshift godown and storage area -- so hell to the resident who wants to have space to park his or her car.

Even in Karachi's commercial areas, the charged parking scams thrive, courtesy lax municipal oversight or perhaps outright collusion by the authorities which grant these contracts. For instance, right by my office on the city's main business artery are situated two large parking lots -- one of them shares a wall with the Supreme Court's Karachi registry. However, what has happened in recent days is that because of high demand for space, the contractor and his staff would use the road --M R Kayani Road -- to park vehicles. The result is that now the road is used for charged parking as a default where as the parking charges are to be levied only if one parks a car inside the lots. Since hundreds of cars are being parked on M R Kayani road every day -- and at the rate of Rs20 a car -- this turns out to several thousand rupees in profit everyday -- at no cost to the contractor. How can the Karachi city authority, the Karachi and Clifton Cantonment boards allow this to happen -- unless, as many would suspect, they are in on it?



The writer is Editorial Pages Editor of The News.

Email: omarq@cyber.net.pk

Attack on GHQ – some questions

The News, Oct 25, 2009

RIPPLE EFFECT

Attack on GHQ – some questions



By Omar R Quraishi

The attack on GHQ on Oct 10 has left dozens of questions unanswered. For the benefit of readers, some of these are (in no order of importance but written down as each comes to mind):

From where did the men who allegedly carried out the attack get hold of the military uniforms that they were wearing? Can any Tom, Dick and Harry go to a store in a cantonment area and purchase a military uniform? Most countries in the developed world have stringent checks on civilians obtaining military and/or police uniforms. Are any such checks in place in Pakistan?

From where did the attackers get hold of military plates and insignia for the car that they were travelling in as they approached the GHQ main gate? Most published reports of the attack, quoting officials, say that the Suzuki hi-roof in which the attackers approached the checkpost had a military number-plate and also that a raid carried out by the secretariat police at a house on the outskirts of Rawalpindi, in Awan Town, netted several items of interest including military signs and insignias. What is the authenticity of these items and if they are indeed genuine, how did the attacks come to possess them? Is it possible for civilians or for former soldiers to get hold of such materials from military stores? What checks, if any, are in place to prevent such material from getting into the wrong hands?

The alleged ring-leader Aqeel, alias Dr Usman, had been arrested (first pointed out in a letter in this newspaper on Oct 14) by the Secretariat police in Islamabad in late 2008 for suspected involvement in the attack on the Marriott hotel. He had been arrested, according to several newspaper reports published on Oct 25, 2008, along with three other suspects and this was told by investigation officer Altaf Khattak to a local anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi on Oct 24, 2008. The question to ask here is that why was Dr Usman released at that time? Assuming that he was released for lack of evidence, was anything done to rectify that fault in the investigation process. Perhaps, most importantly, once he was released, was any effort made by the civilian and/or military intelligence apparatus to keep him under surveillance and if that wasn't done, what was the reason for that?

The alleged mastermind, Dr Usman, served as a nursing assistant in the Army Medical Corps, and he reportedly left the military in 2004 and joined a militant outfit. How was his time as an active duty soldier spent, given that right after leaving the military he joined a jihadi outfit? It has also been reported that the organisation he joined was affiliated with Ilyas Kashmiri -- killed some weeks back in a drone attack in Waziristan -- but who Hamid Mir claimed had served earlier in the military as an SSG commando. Though ISPR did not deny this, eventually a retired colonel, who was in the SSG, by the name of Colonel Imam, wrote a letter to this newspaper saying that Kashmiri had never served in the military. If one's memory is correct, Col Imam is the same former military official who has been accused of helping the Taliban post-retirement and was some months ago the subject of a detailed interview in a British newspaper.

The fact that the alleged mastermind -- presently in custody and severely injured -- has been acknowledged by security officials as being a member of the Jaish-e-Mohammad and that he has close links with other jihadi outfits seems well established by now. Why then are pro-establishment commentators or others known for links and/or sympathies with the establishment trying to suggest that somehow the Americans or the Indians are involved in the attack? How can the Jaish possibly be involved with anything to do with India? Wasn't it the Jaish which was founded after Maulana Masood Azhar was released from an Indian jail, as a result of the hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight 814 on Dec 24, 1999? How could the Indians -- though they secretly wouldn't have been all that upset over the attack on GHQ -- possibly do business with the Jaish or any of their affiliated outfits after this? As for the Americans being allegedly involved, as is being advocated by the usual gang of conspiracy theorists, isn't there presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan often cited as the primary reason by the Taliban and other extremists for waging "jihad" in this reason?

How on earth, then, could the Jaish, or other jihadi outfits work with the Americans and private US mercenaries such as DynCorp? (Of course, this doesn't take away from the fact that DynCorp may well already be in Pakistan as part of a security detail to provide protection to American or other foreign diplomats.) This type of argument was often given -- also by the same elements -- with regard to Baitullah and even in some cases with the Swat Taliban. Those who wish to define the concept of national interest for all Pakistanis -- though they have no real constitutional authority to do so -- usually raise the American/Indian/Israeli bogey whenever things with the Taliban/al Qaeda/jihadis begin to get out of hand and the state itself comes under sustained attack. Again this doesn't discount the possibility that both India and Israel may well prefer a weak Pakistan but what one is trying to suggest is that past history and experience suggests that the attackers are very much homegrown. And hence the question that why are these elements so keen on making a link with a foreign hand when security and government officials themselves have said that jihadis are involved and that the ring-leader is a former member of the JeM? Even if some government officials have tried to bring in the so-called 'foreign hand' and linked it with the GHQ attack, that has been done later, after a couple of days had passed, and without offering even the slightest bit of evidence.

In that regard, the question that comes to mind is that why do we want to blame the rest of the world for ills and problems which are quite clearly of our own making? And that if we haven't been able to realize that after an attack on the headquarters of the Pakistan Army when will we ever search for the actual perpetrators of such terrorist acts?

The writer is Editorial Pages Editor of The News. Email: omarq@cyber.net.pk