New Red Indian in Deutsche Welle on Zardari’s speech to the UN

Asif Ali Zardari has denounced an anti-Islam film in his address to the UN General Assembly and called for an international ban on it. Analysts say that the Pakistani president’s demand is hypocritical.

On Tuesday, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari began his General Assembly speech by denouncing the US-made anti-Islam film “Innocence of Muslims” and asked world leaders to ban the controversial movie and other “hate material” against the Prophet of Islam.

The low-budget movie sparked violent protests in many Muslim countries. Apart from protests in the Middle East, Islamic parties in many South Asian countries held rallies to speak out against the video and the US government.

In Pakistan, the ruling Pakistan People’s Party’s government – led by President Zardari – announced an official holiday on Friday, September 21, to show solidarity with the Prophet of Islam and to protest against the film. At least 19 people were killed during these protests as violent mobs set public property on fire, also torching a church in the northern city of Mardan, and various US establishments.

Read more here

New Red Indian interviewed by Deutsche Welle on the prime ministerial crisis in Pakistan

Pakistan’s lower house of parliament has elected Raja Pervez Ashraf as the country’s new prime minister, after the Supreme Court disqualified former Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani over contempt charges earlier this week.

Pakistan has a new prime minister. Raja Pervez Ashraf, who served as information technology minister until the Supreme Court dismissed former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Tuesday, got the majority of votes in the lower house of parliament, the National Assembly.

Ashraf’s appointment comes at a time of intense political crisis in Pakistan.

In a controversial verdict on Tuesday, the Pakistani Supreme Court disqualified Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani from holding office, following a contempt conviction two months ago.

In April, the court found Gilani guilty in a contempt case after he refused to write a letter to the Swiss government to re-open graft cases against Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, which the Swiss authorities had shelved in 2008. The incumbent PPP government says the cases are ”politically motivated” and cannot be re-opened while Zardari remains head of state and enjoys presidential immunity.

The PPP disputed Tuesday’s decision, saying that the prime minister could only be dismissed by parliament. Despite its reservations against the verdict, the PPP decided to accept the court’s ruling in country’s “best interest.”

Challenges for the new premier

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani (R) waves to his supporters upon arrival at the Supreme CourtGilani lost his seat in parliament after being disqualified by the court

Snehal Shingavi, a Pakistan expert at the University of Texas, Austin, told DW that Ashraf’s appointment as Pakistan’s new prime minister would not resolve the protracted political and institutional crisis in Pakistan and Prime Minister Ashraf would probably meet the same fate as his predecessor.

“The PPP’s strategy is to keep putting up candidates that will get shot down by the judiciary so that it can blame the courts for the political impasse,” Shingavi said.

Shingavi believed that Ashraf had a very tough job ahead. “There are at least three problems he faces: First, the judiciary will demand that he bring charges against Zardari, and the PPP cannot afford to allow that to happen; Second, the opposition parties, Tehreek-e-Insaaf and the Pakistan Muslim League (of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif) are clamoring for new elections; And third, the population is becoming increasingly agitated over the economic crisis the country is still facing.”

He said the bitter feud between judiciary and executive was likely to continue despite the election of new prime minister.

The clash of institutions

Pakistan's Supreme Court's Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed ChaudhryChaudhry enjoys popular support, experts say

Many people in Pakistan view the current predicament as a clash of institutions. Supporters of the PPP are of the view that the judiciary, backed by Pakistan’s ubiquitous army and the ISI, are trying to undermine the supremacy of parliament and civilian democracy.

On Thursday, Makhdoom Shahabuddin, who had been the PPP’s first choice for prime minister, received a big setback when a military-backed anti-narcotics court issued his arrest warrant over a drugs scam.

Some observers say that the warrant against Shahabuddin is politically motivated, and is part of the ongoing tug of war between judiciary and parliament.

“I am certain that the warrant has political motives, otherwise it would have been brought against him sooner. But it is also the case that the PPP is full of political figures that have done illegal things and used their political power to cover those practices. Both the PPP and its enemies use their political resources in very opportunistic ways,” said Shingavi.

US President Barack Obama (R) with former Pakistani PM Yusuf Raza Gilani in SeoulThe US is worried about the deepening political crisis in Pakistan

Experts have also criticized the Supreme Court for dislodging an elected prime minister and said that Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry was trying to undermine the nascent democratic setup in Pakistan.

Emrys Schoemaker, a communication analyst and researcher at the London School of Economics, told DW that the consequences of Gilani’s removal by the court were “political.”

“The main question is whether the timing of Gilani’s removal was right? Should the courts act in the country’s best interests and get involved in politics, or should they be neutral? It appears that the court is merely dealing with cases in its docket, yet clearly the consequences of its actions are highly political,” Schoemaker said.

Regional implications

Experts say the US is closely observing nuclear-armed Pakistan’s deepening political crisis.

“Pakistan’s history is marred with these kinds of political crises. The international community does not trust us. The regional situation is very complex. The recent political developments in Pakistan cannot be looked at in isolation,” Zaman Khan, a Lahore-based activist, told DW.

Observers are of the view that the current turmoil in Pakistan’s domestic politics is likely to affect Pakistan’s relations with its neighbors and the West, in particular the United States. US-Pakistani ties have been at their nadir since a US air attack on a border post killed 24 Pakistani soldiers late last year; there have been no signs that relations will improve soon.

Author: Shamil Shams Editor: Sarah Berning

Review: Kashmir: The Case for Freedom (Tariq Ali, et al)

In the summer of 2010, protests erupted throughout Kashmir, the predominantly Muslim part of what India claims to be its northernmost state, Jammu and Kashmir (Kashmiris have always asserted their independence from India).  Throngs of young men and women defiantly hurled rocks at Indian security forces and set tires on fire to prevent armored vehicles from entering into neighborhoods.  Their chants were bold—“Go, India, Go!” and “Azadi (Independence) for Kashmir” and “Quit Kashmir” (the last being a reference to the slogan of the Indian movement against British colonialism: Quit India).  The rare media outfits that did cover the protests began calling the movement, the Kashmiri Intifada, drawing explicit comparison to the other longstanding occupation in Palestine.  For fear of having international opinion turned against it, the Indian government quickly clamped down on all media coverage of the resistance in Kashmir and opened its playbook to its favorite page: the rock-throwers in Kashmir were quickly dubbed Islamic terrorists.

At the same time, the repression in Kashmir against the population was brutal.  Protests were met with shootings, lathi (baton) charges, the firing of tear gas, curfews, mass arrests, shootings, disappearances, and torture.  The viciousness of the crackdown has its basis in the suspension of any legal oversight or consequence for the Indian security apparatus; since 1990, Kashmir has come under the purview of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which allows, among other things, any soldier or officer to fire upon any group of five or more people or anyone suspected of having a weapon, arrest anyone without a warrant and conduct home invasions. It also gives military personnel full immunity from prosecution for their actions.  Additionally, Kashmir is also one of the most heavily policed and militarized places in the world, with estimates of Indian security forces in the region at well over 700,000 (the Government of India refuses to release official numbers).  It bears underlining that the population of Kashmir is approximately 5.5 million, which means that there is one security personnel for every eight Kashmiris, a ratio which beggars Mubarak’s Egypt.  The carte blanche given to the police and military and the constant rhetoric of Islamic insurgency have proven to be a deadly and humiliating mix for ordinary Kashmiri civilians.  In one shocking video that was uploaded to youtube, Indian soldiers were seen parading young Kashmiri men naked through their village en route to a military camp.

Kashmir: The Case for Freedom, with contributions by Tariq Ali, Hilal Bhatt, Angana Chatterji, Pankaj Mishra and Arundhati Roy and selections of poems by the 16th-century Kashmiri poet, Habbah Khatun, comes at an important time, as new political and economic realities put the resistance of the Kashmiri people back on the map of global protest.  The book is essentially a handbook for human rights activists across the world, who have seen the protest movement in Kashmir grow but who have been left confused by the obfuscations which pass for journalism and the lies which are official politics in India, Pakistan, and the United States.  The overwhelming conclusion that any reader can come to after reading the book is the simple and straightforward one that Arundhati Roy arrives at: “Does any government have the right to take away people’s liberty with military force?  India needs azadi from Kashmir just as much—if not more—than Kashmir needs azadi from India.”

Kashmir has long tradition of religious syncretism, cultural innovation, and political resistance, but an equally long legacy of feudal, colonial, and now sub-imperial conquest.  The crux of the contemporary problem stems from the opportunistic way that the independence and partition of the Indian subcontinent was carried out and the vicious way that those terms are enforced on the population.  When British rule was established in Kashmir in 1846, Kashmir (recently conquered by the Sikh invader Ranjit Singh in 1819) was sold off to Dogra royalty (the Hindu rulers of neighboring Jammu) for 7.5 million rupees, 6 pairs of shawl goats, and 3 shawls (under the absurd Treaty of Amritsar).  Dogra rule was economically ruinous for the population who were reduced to a condition of absurd poverty; the few young people who could, escaped to other places in India, where they were radicalized and returned to raise slogans of freedom, justice, and land reform.  Before the partition of India, the dominant politics of the movement for Kashmiri independence, led by Sheikh Abdullah, were a heady mix of socialism and nationalism, not political Islam as is often claimed by more contemporary analysts.

When the British left India, the 565 prince states which had maintained a degree of political autonomy through treaties with the British were given the choice of acceding either to India or Pakistan or remaining independent.  Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, still hadn’t decided; leaders of the Muslim League were attempting to woo him to Pakistan, while his Hindu sympathies seemed to incline him in favor of India.  Leaders in Pakistan decided not to wait and planned an invasion.  Hari Singh, worried about being deposed militarily, quickly negotiated an accession to India in exchange for military support.  But under the terms of the agreement, Kashmir was to be allowed a referendum to determine the will of the people on the question of accession.  Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, despite publicly proclaiming his support for the plebiscite (as Arundhati Roy’s excellent collection of excerpts of his speeches shows), ultimately reneged on his promise.  The Indian army was able to repel the Pakistani invaders only up to a point; the current Line of Control which divides Kashmir more or less marks the results of that confrontation.  Since then, Kashmir has become a pawn in the cynical and deadly game between India and Pakistan.  India uses Kashmir to claim that it is a democratic society (but does so by rigging elections, importing pliable Hindu rulers, imprisoning elected leaders, brutally oppressing the population), while Pakistan claims that it is interested in Kashmiri independence (despite having flooded the Valley with guns and an intolerant variant of Islam and denying independence to its other occupied territory, Balochistan).

The book makes two important contributions to our understanding of what has happened in Kashmir since that point.  The first has to do with the form of the resistance, which has shifted over the years from secular nationalism to Islamist politics and back again.  The period between the 1940s and the early 1980s was dominated by the secular, nationalist forces in Kashmir organized under Sheikh Abdullah who initially sought some kind of compromise with the Indian state for greater autonomy within a larger federation.  When even democratic dialogue broke down and India reneged on promises, a few groups (like the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front) broke away from the dominant nationalist coalition and began waging a guerrilla struggle.  At the same time, Pakistan flush with arms and militants it was recruiting and training for the American-sponsored resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, began both recruiting Kashmir youth to jihadi outfits and began to send Islamist groups into Kashmir as well as providing weapons and training to secular groups as well (though they eventually stopped backing these groups all together).  The devastating effects of that policy on ordinary Kashmiris are documented in Hilal Bhatt’s personal essay in the collection.  But by the late 1990s, Islamist organizations had exhausted whatever appeal they may have had as their social policies came into conflict with Kashmiri ideologies and their inability to produce a military solution meant that ordinary Kashmiris were the ones suffering for the barbaric Indian crackdown that followed those terrorist activities.  The last decade of resistance has been characterized by secular, democratic opposition to the policies of the Indian state, a reality which goes against all of the mainstream propaganda that Kashmir is another front in the war on terror.

The second has to do with the staggering scale of violence that the Indian state perpetrates against the Kashmiri population (the condition of the Pakistani administered section while poor, is not nearly as bloody).  As Angana Chatterji puts it, “Kashmir is a landscape of internment, where resistance is deemed ‘insurgent’ by state institutions.”  [Chatterji and her husband, Richard Shapiro, have been targeted by the Indian government for their views on Kashmir and were both recently fired from their jobs at the California Institute of Integral Studies, in part, for their outspoken political advocacy.]  Part of the reason that Kashmir is so brutally repressed is because the Indian state is now governed by an ideology which requires the fiction of a massive security threat in order to justify exorbitant expenditures on its military and police forces.  This fiction is propped up, as Chatterji argues, by an ideology which amalgamates Hindu chauvinism, neoliberalism, and authoritarian statecraft.  The result has been the wholesale criminalization of even the mildest form of public protest.  Most recently, the police filed sedition charges against Jammu and Kashmir Board of School Education for showing a man in blue carrying a stick under the Urdu letter “zoi” for “zaalim” (oppressor).  The police have charged everyone affiliated with the book with criminal conspiracy, defamation, and provocation with the intent to breach peace, since the innocuous depiction was assumed to be a police officer.  In another instance, an English professor, Noor Mohammad Bhat, was thrown in jail for administering a “provocative” examination assignment.

Despite making the case for an independent Kashmir and offering a brilliant indictment of the Indian government’s claim to being the largest democracy on the planet, the book falls short on one important point, namely in pointing out a strategy by which that independence can come about if armed struggle, mass protest, and even political compromise have all failed in turn.  The unfortunate reality in Kashmir is that it is extremely similar to Palestine, where the indigenous populations lack the necessary social force to repel the violence of occupation forces and then are forced into taking part in the opportunistic diplomacy of larger states around them.  But like Palestine, the Kashmiris have allies in both Pakistan and India who have no interest in the occupation of Kashmir, in fact whose lives would immediately be improved if both Pakistan and India were to stop spending Himalayan sums on security personnel and instead spend money on eradicating poverty.  The Indian and Pakistani working classes have common enemies—their own states—and the end to the occupation in Kashmir will only be the result of their unified struggle.  This though is only the slightest of criticisms; the spirit if not the explicit argument of the Arab Spring runs throughout this entire book.

[Special thanks to Huma Dar for suggestions and edits.]

Self-determination for Balochistan

Last week, three Republicans (Dana Rohrabacher, Louie Gohmert, and Steve King) sponsored a bill “recognizing Baluchistan’s right to self-determination.” This sparked widespread condemnation by the Pakistani ruling and military class (who saw the maneuver as meddling in internal politics) and enthusiastic support from several voices in Balochistan (who saw the resolution and the hearings that preceded it as evidence that their case was finally getting a hearing in the west). The problem is that the Balochi right to self-determination is being caught in the same ambush which trapped the Kurds in Iraq: the weakness of their position vis-à-vis Pakistan is forcing them into a compromise with American imperialism, which has already shown itself no great ally of national liberation struggles.

The Obama administration and leading Republicans were quick to distance themselves from the resolution; the establishment line continues to be that Pakistan is more important as an ally than as an enemy. David Dreier (R-CA) spoke to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani to assure him that the US is fully behind the national integrity of Pakistan. All mention of the Pakistani government’s role in the horrors in Balochistan was quickly swept under the rug. At the same time, the bill is the latest salvo in the Pakistan-bashing which has been commonplace in the US as an explanation for the Afghan quagmire, the seemingly endless sources of Islamists, and the like; Rohrabacher’s bill is part of a small but vocal line of thought which sees the break-up of Pakistan as important to the “war on terror” and the coming conflict with Iran.

The fight between Christine Fair and Rohrabacher reveals some of the thinking that is behind this resolution. The real injustices done to the Baloch people are being used as sticks with which the Pakistani establishment will be humbled. In fact, offhand comments by members of Rohrabacher’s staff were picked up by the Pakistani press; one of them was overheard saying that the resolution was an opportunity to “stick it to the Pakistanis.” One suspects, too, that the decision to support the Baloch cause was opportunistic; there has been so little debate and discussion about the longstanding grievances of the Balochis in the US.

As Praveen Swami recently reported, the Pakistani military has long conducted a dirty war in Balochistan: assassinations, rape, collective punishment, disappearances. Since the establishment of Pakistan, there has been a dominant strain of Baloch politics which sought independence from Pakistan; there is also a strain which has been coopted into the establishment of Pakistan which prefers unity over independence. The Baloch Liberation Army is only the most recent formation under which the Baloch organized themselves to fight the Pakistani military.

Almost immediately, the Pakistani government cut a deal with Baloch leaders who were living in exile, presumably so that they could both pacify restive Balochis and re-establish connections to erstwhile allies. A package of economic reforms was also announced for Balochistan:

INCENTIVES: The meeting decided that the federal government will release Rs4 billion to the Water and Power Development Authority on account of its share of subsidy for farmers of Balochistan.

A total of 15,000 graduates and post-graduates from the province will be given jobs under the prime minister’s Internship Programme.

They will work as schoolteachers and get a stipend of Rs15,000 per month.

About 2,400 federal government jobs will be filled on merit with the assistance of members of the National Assembly and Senate from Balochistan.

The meeting decided to award one-step promotion to any officer coming to Islamabad from the province on deputation.

It also decided to double the number of beneficiaries of the Benazir Income Support Programme to 750,000.

The strength of Federal Levies Force will be raised from 3,500 to 6,500 through fresh recruitment.

The meeting decided to increase the number of brilliant students from Balochistan to 500 from 150 for providing free education to them with effect from the next academic year and to create an endowment fund of Rs5 billion to sustain the programme.

The Capital Development Authority will allot plots to the Balochistan government for construction of two hostels for students and officers in Islamabad.

The Frontier Corps will not be move in any district without the permission of the deputy commissioner and will not set up any check-post without the approval of the chief minister.

Confident that it has the ear of the west, the Baloch Republican Party rejected the package and praised the Republican congressmen for their support. While American imperialist interest and Balochi national interest may move in similar directions for a while, they will necessarily diverge as Balochistan is asked to be the military-base-of-the-month (which is the only way, it seems, that independence happens with American backing) against Iran and Pakistan. This is not the preferred option for the American ruling class, but it’s hard to imagine that either Santorum or Romney doesn’t start picking up this line in the debates very soon.

The Committee of Progressive Pakistani-Canadians gets the analysis right, I think:

While any publicity about the discrimination and violence faced by Sindhis and the Baloch is to be welcomed long experience, more recently confirmed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and now in Syria shows that US and western concerns about human rights violations are merely a fig leaf to provide a cover for the naked pursuit of their own selfish imperial interests.

The Pakistani state’s unjust and ruthless treatment of the Baloch, even when their elected leadership accepted the constitutional framework adopted during Z.A. Bhutto’s government in 1973 in good faith as a step toward equitable relations, is the direct cause of the desire among many Baloch to seek independence; as are repeated ‘actions’ by the military in the rise of the Baloch armed resistance movement – reminiscent of the Mukti Bahini (Liberation Army) in East Pakistan’s war of independence.

Friend and comrade in Pakistan released!

I received the following from Farooq Tariq of the Labor Party of Pakistan:
Thank you for your immediate response on the arrest of Ammar Ali Jan, general secretary Labour Party Pakistan Lahore. He was taken to a court by Kot Lakhpat police this morning. On hearing the arguments, the judge ordered to release him on bail bond of Rupees 30,000. Rabia Shahzadi advocate and member of Lahore LPP committee represented Ammar Ali jan in the court.

Ammar was picked up by CIA police yesterday afternoon. they dodged him to come along to Liberty police station where he was handed over to Kot lakhpat police.

Today, we had tremendous response to our message on SPN and facebook. We also sent an sms to all our contacts.

Asma Jehanghir former president Supreme Court Bar Association called me to offer her help in the court. She also advised how to go further on this issue.

Thank you Asma for this timely advice and offer of legal help.

Scores of Ammar friends and party activists were at the police station along with leaders of Progressive Youth Front. It was here when Ammar along with local youth led a demonstration in 2010 against continues power cuts. He was arrested at the time along with five others. This successful blokade of the main road led to a complete victory at the time and WAPDA has to buy a new transformer from private company on urgent basis to provide the electricity for the whole area.

On our demand, Saad Rafique member national parliament intervened in support of the youth and forced police to release all of arrested one. However, police arrested Ammar on the charges that were dropped at the time.

Labour Party Pakistan Lahore will organise a protest demonstration against this arrest and has called an emergency meeting to discuss the issue.

Friend and Comrade arrested in Pakistan

If solidarity actions are possible from abroad, I will post details here.
Ammar Labour Party

LAHORE - Labour Party Pakistan (LPP) Lahore general secretary, Progressive Youth Front (PYF) organiser and Beaconhouse National University (BNU) teacher Ammar Ali Jaan was arrested by CIA personnel from Ghora Chowk around noon and placed in the Kot Lakhpat police lockup for being an absconder in a road blocking case registered in 2010.
According to sources, Ammar left home around 12pm and stopped at the Ghora Chowk petrol pump where four-five police officers asked him for ID, and began to check his vehicle. The police officers reportedly claimed that his chasis number was incorrect and he would have to come to the police station. Once taken to the CIA office Liberty Police Station, he was told that he had been arrested for an outstanding FIR against him at the Kot Lakhpat police station. He was later taken to the Kot Lakhpat police station where he was put in lockup.
Speaking to Pakistan Today, Kot Lakhpat police Naib Muharar Abid said Ammar Ali was an absconder in FIR 555/10 registered on August 10 2010 under sections 147, 149, 353, 186, 290, 291 of the Pakistan Penal Code, for blocking a road. He said that Ammar was arrested by the investigations wing. However, asked to clarify why CIA police were involved, Abid said, “Anyone can arrest an absconder.”
Investigating Officer Zulfiqar Ahmed could not be reached.
LPP has called for protest outside the police station in the morning.

Afghan/Pakistani left coming together

From DAWN Newspaper

AfPak left-wing parties to work together for peace

LAHORE, Dec 21: Left-wing parties of Pakistan and Afghanistan have got together for the first time and agreed on working jointly for regional peace and progress. They have rejected any military solution to the problems of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The consensus was developed at a two-day consultation of Leftists from both countries on `Regional Political Context and its Impact on Pakistan and Afghanistan` here on Wednesday.They pledged to devote all their energies to building concrete alternatives to the false choice between Nato and the Taliban. They sought the right to self-determination for Afghanistan as well as adequate and relevant mechanisms to support and sustain it.

The participants belonged to the Awami Party, Pakistan Workers Party, Labour Party Pakistan, Solidarity Party Afghanistan, Afghanistan Revolutionary Organization, Afghanistan Labour Revolutionary Organization and the event was sponsored by the Swedish Left Party.

Alleging that in both neighbouring states the progressive forces had been pushed to the wall through controlled democracies, they set their aim at working together to resist Nato strikes and standing up as a “third option” to bring peace and make progress on both sides of the Durand Line.

Swedish Left Party representative Ann Carin Landstorm said they supported the dialogue to strengthen left-wing progressive movements and parties. She called for a joint and meaningful peace revolution in the region with the moral support of her party.

She welcomed the gathering after devastating periods of history in the region that led to anarchy, chaos and terrorism instrumented by international imperialistic powers.

Afghanistan Revolutionary Organization`s Faridoun Aryan, Afghanistan Labour Revolutionary Organisation president Arif Afghani and Abdul Qadir Ranto and Nasir Shah of Solidarity Party Afghanistan called for peace in their country and condemned the US-led Nato invasion. They urged the Left to get united on a single platform and resist this regime with sincere efforts.

They called for better relations with Pakistani left-wing parties and expediting the efforts to resist the “war on terror”.

Dr Lal Khan, Jamil Umar, Abdul Qadir Ranto and Farooq Tariq of the Labour Party Pakistan also spoke. — Staff Reporter