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

Why did the US attack?

First published at SocialistWorker.org

GUNFIRE FROM NATO helicopters killed 24 Pakistani soldiers November 25 in Mohmand Province near the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan, in an attack on a military outpost that highlights the deep split between the Pakistani and U.S. governments over the war in Afghanistan.

NATO officials made contradictory claims about the attack–that it was a strategic error, but also that they had the go-ahead from the Pakistani leadership for the strike. Both of these claims were different from the original story–that NATO forces were fired on from across the Pakistani border. Accusations are also flying in Pakistan itself that there may have been communication between Pakistan and NATO forces approving the strike.

What’s impossible to believe, though, is that NATO forces–that is, the U.S. military– didn’t know that they were targeting Pakistani military installations during a two-hour-long firefight.

U.S. and NATO forces have been collaborating for a full decade over the war in Afghanistan, and it seems fantastical to suggest that NATO doesn’t know where Pakistani military outposts are located. Pakistani officials have called the attack “blatant”; American and NATO officials are still tight-lipped about specifics.

While it may take some time before the truth of the story emerges, the consequences have been dramatic for the Pakistani-American alliance, which was already ailing.

The U.S. has been regularly killing men, women and children in Pakistan through drone aircraft strikes targeting alleged Taliban fighters. The Pakistani government typically has denied knowledge of these attacks and downplayed them as tragic accidents. But by killing Pakistani soldiers in a helicopter attack, the U.S. crossed a line.

Thus, the Pakistani government reacted almost immediately to the latest deadly air strike, announcing a review of all ties with the U.S., suspension of NATO supply lines through Pakistan, and the imposition of a 15-day deadline on the U.S. to vacate the Shamsi Air Base in Baluchistan–from which the U.S. conducts its drone operations in the region.

Pakistan also withdrew from the much-touted Bonn diplomatic conference, which was supposed to bring together parties throughout the region to hammer out the details of a future Afghanistan. Pakistan’s withdrawal meant that the Taliban’s representatives didn’t appear for the conference either.

This puts American hopes for a political solution to the insurgency in Afghanistan in some jeopardy, since the close ties between the Taliban and Pakistan were supposed to help bring the Taliban to the table.

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -

THE IMPACT that this will have on NATO operations in Afghanistan is still hard to estimate. Gareth Porter, a historian and investigative journalist, claims that America’s war in Afghanistan has been “thrown into confusion,” and documents just how deep the cover-up of the details of the raid go.

Unfortunately, though, the more meticulous the accounting of NATO’s foreknowledge becomes, the more difficult it becomes to see the logic behind it. Some are already speculating that the motives for the U.S. attack include a complete destabilization of Pakistan itself.

The strikes have also, predictably, produced some substantial saber-rattling from the Pakistani military, which was already humiliated last year when the U.S. operation to assassinate Osama bin Laden demonstrated the complete failure of Pakistani military intelligence. In response to the attack, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has authorized all Pakistani soldiers to respond to any future U.S./NATO aggression with “full force,” without waiting for authorization from the high command.

Islamist organizations inside of Pakistan have also been strengthened, as anti-U.S. and NATO rallies across Pakistan were organized by a number of far-right organizations, including the banned Jamaat ud-Dawa and Jamaat-e-Islami. The cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan’s centrist Tehreek-e-Insaaf party has also been a part of many of these anti-incursion protests, but the Islamists have definitely attempted to use the anti-American sentiment generated by the strikes to their advantage.

Inside of Pakistan, though, the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has been rocked by the recent revelation that Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S., Hussain Haqqani, attempted to approach Adm. Mike Mullen to ask the U.S. to help the Pakistani government put pressure on Pakistan’s own military. In exchange, Pakistan offered support for the U.S. campaign against the Taliban’s Haqqani network, as well as the Inter Service Intelligence agency, which has longstanding connections with the Taliban on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

In making this overture to the U.S., Haqqani was most likely operating on orders from President Asif Ali Zardari, who is said to fear a military coup. However, both the ambassador and prime minister denied any knowledge of a memo in which the details of the proposed deal were spelled out.

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WHAT THIS entire episode has revealed are the fault lines in both the Pakistani and the American strategies for long-term security in the region. Neither country seems to have a workable strategy for Afghanistan. The fact that they are working at cross-purposes only compounds what would be a farcical game of realpolitik if there weren’t so many deadly consequences. The U.S. drone attacks have already killed hundreds of civilians.

In Pakistan, there has long been a debate about the relationship between U.S. interests in the region and Pakistan’s regional ambitions. The weakness of the civilian government has meant that it has to rely heavily on U.S. aid for both its military and development strategies. This has meant that American interests have tended to dominate over Pakistani interests when it comes government policy.

At the same time, the close ties between industrialists in Pakistan and the Pakistani military means that the ruling class always has an alternative to dealing with the elected government. The military’s long-term objectives are not the same as the civilian government’s, especially since it sees an Afghanistan led by Hamid Karzai as potentially too close to India.

The Pakistan military under former Gen. Pervez Musharraf–who seized power in a coup–was willing to do the American’s bidding. But after Musharraf was forced from office by large protests in Pakistan and pressure from Washington, the U.S. shifted its largesse to the civilian government.

However, civilian governments in Pakistan have always been a junior partner to the military, which has spent more time out of the barracks running the country than not. Currently, political forces close to the military once again sense their advantage. It would be hard not to imagine a plan for replacing the Zardari government. Rumors of a military or a judicial coup are already filling the news channels in Pakistan.

This contradiction inside of Pakistan is worsened by the contradiction in U.S. foreign policy in the region. On the one hand, the American empire relies on Pakistan for intelligence and resources in the war on terror. But everything that the war requires to succeed puts Pakistan directly in the path of Washington’s fire. It is not simply militants crossing the border that worries NATO, but also the ability of Pakistan’s military to influence forces inside Afghanistan.

As a result, two factions have emerged within the U.S. foreign policy establishment with respect to Pakistan. The first, which believes that Pakistan is “too nuclear to fail,” believes that constructive engagement with the civilian government is a necessary part of U.S. foreign policy. The second, now most vocally represented by Sen. John McCain, sees Pakistan as part of the problem and wants to ratchet up the rhetoric about taking action. Calls for this will likely be a major part of the Republican presidential campaign in the U.S.

More importantly, though, what has come to the fore is the absurdity of U.S. and NATO designs inside of Afghanistan and the total venality of the leadership in Pakistan. The war in Afghanistan necessarily produces “collateral damage” in Pakistan. Thus the Pakistani elite can fatten their bellies, in large part due to U.S. aid, while their own population is bombed by U.S. forces.

The toll of a continued U.S. occupation of Afghanistan for ordinary people throughout the region is immense.

Unknown and Unmarked Graves of Kashmir

PRESS NOTE: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Srinagar, August 29, 2011

INTERNATIONAL PEOPLE’S TRIBUNAL ON
HUMAN RIGHTS AND JUSTICE IN INDIAN-ADMINISTERED KASHMIR (IPTK)
http://www.kashmirprocess.org

together with the
Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons

Re.: Response to SHRC’s Report on Unknown and Unmarked Graves of Kashmir

From:
Dr. Angana Chatterji, Convener IPTK and Professor, Anthropology, California Institute of Integral Studies
Advocate Parvez Imroz, Convener IPTK and Founder, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society
Gautam Navlakha, Convener IPTK and Editorial Consultant, Economic and Political Weekly
Zahir-Ud-Din, Convener IPTK and Vice-President, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society
Advocate Mihir Desai, Legal Counsel IPTK and Lawyer, Mumbai High Court and Supreme Court of India
Khurram Parvez, Liaison IPTK and Programme Coordinator, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society
and the Executive Council, Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons

Queries may be directed to:
Khurram Parvez
E-mail: kparvez@kashmirprocess.org
Phone: +91.194.2482820
Mobile: +91.9419013553

We welcome the report of the State Human Rights Commission of Jammu and Kashmir (SHRC) on unmarked graves in north Indian-administered Kashmir (dated July 2011 and recently released), taking suo moto cognizance of the matter, and appreciate the courage and labour that this work signifies.

SHRC’s report acknowledges and corroborates the research documented in the report, BURIED EVIDENCE, released by the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice (IPTK) in December 2009.

SHRC investigated unmarked graves in Bandipora, Baramulla, Kupwara, and Handwara districts across 38 graveyards and verified 2156 unidentified bodies in unidentified graves.

Based on investigative research conducted between November 2006-November 2009, BURIED EVIDENCE had documented 2700 unknown, unmarked, and mass graves, containing 2943+ bodies, across 55 villages (in 62 sites within these villages) in Bandipora, Baramulla, and Kupwara districts of Kashmir. Of these, 2373 were unidentified and unnamed graves.
See http://www.kashmirprocess.org/reports/graves/toc.html

To respond to the egregious violations of the past and secure justice requires that we acknowledge atrocities that have been committed and address their effects. In the matter of unknown, unmarked, and unidentified graves in Kashmir, we call for a three-tier process: Investigation, Prosecution, and Reparation.

Investigation and Prosecution: We request that SHRC extend its investigation to include each site documented by IPTK in north Kashmir, and beyond, to all twenty districts in Jammu and Kashmir. In particular, we ask that investigations take place in Anantnag, Budgam, Ganderbal, Kulgam, Pulwama, Shopian, and Srinagar districts in Kashmir province and in Doda, Poonch, Rajouri, and Reasi districts in Jammu province.

We ask that DNA-based profiles of those buried in the unmarked and unidentified graves be cross-tabulated with those that have been involuntarily disappeared in Kashmir. Further, in addition to the identification of the dead, we ask that comprehensive forensic examinations be conducted to determine the circumstances of death, including incidences of torture.

The Kashmir Police have stated that they have records of 464 unidentified graves. However, it appears that, even in these cases, the Kashmir Police have not maintained photographic, DNA, and other evidence. All unidentified graves that have been listed as holding the bodies of “foreign militants” must be investigated. The police have filed First Information Reports stating these persons as dead from encounter killings. However, these bodies have not been identified based on records or other verifiable evidence. Neither has conclusive evidence been offered to prove that the bodies are of Kashmir’s disappeared.

SHRC has stated that 574 bodies have been identified as locals following their burial. However, the Kashmir Police and Indian Armed Forces had previously claimed these 574 bodies as those of “foreign militants.” This indicts the government’s negligence in identifying unclaimed bodies. Based on the above, the SHRC report evidences that there is every possibility that the 2156 unmarked graves hold the bodies of persons that were involuntarily disappeared. The cases of the 574 bodies also intimate that numerous persons have been killed in fake encounters and secretly buried in unmarked graves to conceal their identity. IPTK’s 2009 report too had documented a list of 49 bodies, all designated by the state as “foreign militants,” 47 of whom, on investigation, proved to have been killed in fake encounters, and none were identified as foreign insurgents.

If, in the course of future investigations, it is proven that disappeared persons were killed in fake encounters and buried in unmarked graves, exemplary punishments should be pronounced against those accused to deter future and repeated crimes of the same nature. In instances where non-local persons are killed in alleged “encounter” killings, relevant international human rights and humanitarian law must be applied in matters of redress.

SHRC has relied on statements from persons who, fearful of reprisal, wish for their testimonies to be placed on record anonymously. Given the nature of the issue, and the heightened risks involved in offering testimony, utmost care and caution should be exercised in securing witness protection, following international protocols and standards.

We ask that the matter of unknown, unmarked, and mass graves be subjected to a rigorous, independent, and impartial investigation. We ask that the story of these graves be investigated in their entirety: What are the particular legal and institutional histories of the graveyards? How did they come into existence? Per whose order? Did District Magistrates requisition the construction of graveyards, burials, and record keeping? Such historiography would permit holding actionable particular officers and offices that acted in violation of the law, with arrogance and indifference, and failed to follow the law in burying unidentified bodies. This would disaggregate the amorphous state and enable holding accountable particular institutions of state.

Reparation: The issue of unknown and unmarked graves involves the living as much as the dead. Reparation must both be individualized and collectivized, so that communities, neighbourhoods, and villages can heal and break their isolation. SHRC’s either/or proposal of offering a relief of Rupees 700,000 to the next of kin or undertaking DNA testing-based investigation should be amended, and both the investigation and provision of relief be made mandatory. Monetary compensation to the next of kin should not be calculated as ex gratia relief, but should be particularized according to the individual circumstances of death, and the affect the death has had on the family, and relief should be calculated based on the complex task of quantifying loss of life and providing psychosocial and economic rehabilitation to family members.

We ask that all special laws and provisions of immunity that authorize the military and paramilitary forces to act with impunity in Kashmir be revoked unconditionally. We ask that the Government of India ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, to which it has been a signatory since February 2007, and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which it has been a signatory since October 1997. We ask that the Government of Jammu and Kashmir institute a comprehensive ban on practises of torture as defined by international law and humanitarian ethics.

In Kashmir, between 1989-2011, the actions of the military and paramilitary have resulted in over 8,000 enforced disappearances and 70,000 deaths. We ask that human rights violations in Kashmir be recognized as resulting from, and concomitant to, the impunity of militarization and state violence, and the dangers militarism imposes on civil society. We caution that, without addressing these structural and prevalent conditions, justice and peace will remain elusive.

In calling for conflict resolution in South Asia’s nuclear zone, we recognize the precarious cross-border conditions between India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, and condemn the violent actions of misogynist state and non-state groups operating in the region.

We gratefully acknowledge the collectives/organizations that have endorsed the above statement:
1.        Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), Philippines.
2.        Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).
3.        Families Of the Disappeared (FOD), Sri Lanka.
4.        KontraS (The Commission for “the Disappeared” and Victims of Violence), Indonesia.
5.        Latin American Federation of Associations for Relatives of the Detained Disappeared (FEDEFAM), Venezuela.
6.        Odhikar, Bangladesh.
7.        Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC), Andhra Pradesh.
8.        Association for Democratic Rights (AFDR), Punjab.
9.        Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR), West Bengal.
10.        Bandi Mukti Morcha, West Bengal.
11.        Campaign for Peace & Democracy (CPDM), Manipur.
12.        Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR), Mumbai.
13.        Coordination for Human Rights (COHR), Manipur.
14.        Human Rights Forum (HRF), Andhra Pradesh.
15.        Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Movement, Jammu and Kashmir.
16.        Kashmir Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS), Jammu and Kashmir.
17.        Lokshahi Hakk Sangathana (LHS), Maharashtra.
18.        Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (MASS), Assam.
19.        Naga Peoples’ Movement for Human Rights, Nagaland.
20.        Organization for the Protection of Democratic Rights (OPDR), Andhra Pradesh.
21.        Peoples Democratic Forum (PDF), Karnataka.
22.        Peoples Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL), Chhattisgarh.
23.        Peoples Union for Human Rights (PUHR), Haryana.
24.        Peoples Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL), Jharkhand.
25.        Peoples Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL), Nagpur.
26.        Peoples Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL), Rajasthan.
27.        Peoples Union For Civil Liberties (PUCL), Tamil Nadu.
28.        Peoples Union For Democratic Rights (PUDR), Delhi.
29.        Valley Citizens’ Council, Jammu and Kashmir.

The drone attacks in Pakistan are inhuman

One more reason to stop the drone attacks in Pakistanfrom today’s edition of the Guardian UK:

Pakistan’s civilian victims of drone strikes deserve justice

If the US believes in the rule of law, it should not be hindering my advocacy of claims against the CIA for wrongful death and injury

Unmanned MQ-1 Predator drone aircraft

The unmanned Predator drone aircraft: Mirza Shahzad Akbar represents Pakistanis who are suing the CIA and US defence department on claims that they, as innocent bystanders, have been injured or lost relatives in drone attacks. Photograph: Sipa Press / Rex Features

I am a Pakistani lawyer who is suing the CIA for killing innocent civilians through drone strikes in my home country. This month, the US state department prevented me from travelling to the United States to participate in a conference hosted by the human rights programme at Columbia University law school in New York City.

I have been granted US visas before and no reason was given by the state department for refusal on this occasion: despite repeated enquiries, we were merely told there was a “problem” with my application. If seeking justice through the law – instead of violence – is the reason for banning my travel, then mine is another story of how government measures in the name of “national security” have gone too far.

Although I have previously held consultancies with USAID, and helped the FBI investigate a terrorism case involving a Pakistani diplomat, my relationship with the US government changed dramatically in 2010, when I decided to take on the case of Karim Khan. Karim Khan was away from home on New Year’s Eve 2009 when two missiles fired from what we believe was a CIA-operated drone struck his family home in North Waziristan and killed his son, aged 18, and his brother, aged 35. Informed over the phone of their deaths, he rushed back to find his home destroyed and his brother’s family – now a widow and two-year-old son – devastated.

Khan believes his son and brother were innocent victims. His brother, who had taken the surname Iqbal in honour of the famous Pakistani poet, was a schoolteacher who had returned to their ancestral village, shortly after finishing his master’s degree in English literature, because he believed education was vital for his countrymen’s improvement. Khan’s teenage son helped out at another government school in the area.

To avenge their deaths, Khan could have joined the Taliban insurgency against the United States. Instead, he put his trust in the legal system. In November 2010, we initiated legal notices against the CIA and the US secretary of defence for their wrongful deaths. Since then, more than 35 families from Pakistan have come forward and joined us in our legal proceedings.

So, why would the US government want to prevent me from discussing these cases at Columbia law school? Perhaps, it is because our legal challenge disrupts the narrative of “precision strikes” against “high-value targets” as an unqualified success against terrorism, at minimal cost to civilian life.

As a lawyer in Pakistan, my experiences tell a different story. A 17-year-old boy named Sadaullah – another victim of the drone attacks – sought my help shortly after we filed Karim Khan’s case. In September 2009, when he was 15 years old, Sadaullah was serving food at a family iftar, the traditional breaking of the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan, when missiles from a drone struck his grandfather’s home and killed four of his relatives. Falling debris knocked Sadaullah out, but he survived. When he awoke in a Peshawar hospital, he found that both his legs had been amputated and shrapnel had penetrated his eye, rendering it useless. Pakistani media reported that the strike had killed Ilyas Kashmiri, a militant leader. But months later, Ilyas Kahsmiri was seen alive in Afghanistan. It was only a few weeks ago that the militant was reportedly killed in yet another drone strike.

The New America Foundation, a US thinktank, estimates that the drone campaign has killed 35 high-value targets. But for every assassination, it seems a more ferocious and extremist leader has emerged. Thus, Pakistanis continue to be victims of terrorism. Suicide attacks are becoming more indiscriminate and claiming more lives – at least 6,302 have died since 2008, according to news reports.

This chaos within Pakistan makes Karim Khan’s story all the more powerful as a rejection of retributive violence in favour of the rule of law. As they seek investigation, judgment and redress for any wrong done, my clients’ impulses are a testament to how dearly people the world over – and not just in the west – value the principle of due process and the right to plead a cause.

Instead of preventing me from speaking with American colleagues about these legal cases, the US government should support our attempt at justice within the law – even if it disagrees with our view of the facts. Let us debate and sometimes disagree; after all, that is how American justice is supposed to be done.