The Future of Afghanistan and Pakistan

The international coalition cannot defeat the Taliban without a strengthened Afghan state. It should work through the Afghan government—rather than international agencies—to increase economic opportunity and foster effective political institutions at the district and province level.

Visiting Washington after Afghanistan, UK Secretary of State for International Development Douglas Alexander told an audience the Carnegie Endowment that Afghans need to see their government, rather than the international coalition or non-governmental organizations—or the Taliban—delivering improvements if the Afghan state is going to be viable in the long-term.

He cited improved security and increased access to justice as the top development priorities, with health, education, and other basic services as critical but secondary. Alexander also called on the international community to support Pakistan’s efforts to combat extremism in the provinces bordering Afghanistan.

Alexander identified concrete ways for the international coalition to reinforce the capacity of the Afghan government to secure the population and provide necessary services, which include:

Reinforce key anti-corruption bodies, such as the High Office for Oversight and the Control and Audit Office.
Channel aid through government systems. Only twenty percent of aid currently goes through the Afghan government.
Support government efforts to provide necessary agricultural supplies, including seeds and fertilizers. The agricultural sector has the potential to create millions of jobs, in addition to providing food security.
Ensure a consistent power structure and progression of responsibility from local councils through to the provincial governors and the central government in Kabul, across all provinces. A clear national framework will reduce inter-governmental squabbling and strengthen the idea of Afghanistan as a nation.
Coordinate aid through the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan. The donor community should also coordinate and clearly communicate its expectations to the Afghan government,
Speed up the transfer of civilian and military institutions to Afghan control after the August elections.
“Security and justice matter as much if not more than the provision of other basic services in the eyes of many ordinary Afghans,” Alexander concluded. “Only a stronger state at local and national level can deliver this basic security. Far from being peripheral to our shared mission, actions to strengthen the capacity of the state to deliver security and basic services to the population—including a stronger economy in which they can make a decent living—are central to our task. Such a comprehensive approach is needed to convince Afghan population to reject the Taliban and embrace a different future for their communities and country.”

Discriminating minorities

Christians of Sheikhupra have required the government to protect them from religious militants and extremists who have threatened them to repeat the incidents like that of Gojra if they held their annual religious convention. This threat obviously perturbed the entire people of Pakistan and minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti has also sought security for this religious minority which he belongs to. The minister also talked of moving a bill to the National Assembly to ensure protection of religious minorities. The minister may have forgotten the fact that religious intolerance and discrimination on the basis of religion remain the root causes of sectarian and communal conflict and resultant violence because this was inscribed in the 1973 Constitution and a host of other laws by dictator Ziaul Haq between 1979 and 1988 and thus drastically changed the philosophy of the country's basic law giving the bigoted elements a free hand to victimize minorities to the extent of extermination. When the constitution itself has anomalies, a bill is by no means an answer; the only remedy is the repeal all the constitutional amendments and discriminatory laws introduced by the 11-year black rule of the dictator through a constitutional amendment bill and if it is incorporated in the 17th amendment, it will save time and make thiongs easier for all. Gen Zia amended the Constitution as many as seven times in nine of 11-year regime and inserted such provisos as to come clearly in conflict with the basic law as adopted on August 14, 1973. He started with giving a parallel judiciary in 1979 and ended up with the Ninth Amendment to Constitution in 1985 changing the preamble of the Constitution. In between, Ziaul Haq introduced the Enforcement of Shariah Ordinance and changed blasphemy laws to transform Pakistan into a theological state which Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had strictly forbidden in his inaugural speech to the first Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947. These changes gave eminence to sectarian thought and paved way for semi-literate clergymen to rise to the status of judges and 'muftis' (religious scholars authorized to issue decrees) in the superior judiciary. The paradox that followed is that all the four 'civilian governments' and the so-called enlightened democracy of Gen Pervez Musharraf failed to make a review of the Zia regime's constitutional amendments. Even former prime minister and the PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif, who has repeatedly talked about the Charter of Democracy, repealing Article 58 2 (B) and the trial of Gen Pervez Musharraf's for high treason, has not so far considered Zia's laws worthy for review. He even did not hold Gen Zia responsible for the social, constitutional and legal evil although Musharraf did exactly the same as Zia like enforcing emergency, bringing about a provisional constitution order and subjecting judges to take oath afresh. Now that bigoted 'mullahs' have mounted a fresh offensive against minorities, the government and all other conscientious segments of society must plead that all changes made by the Zia regime in the constitution and other laws, should be reviewed by experts and subsequently repealed for their inconsistency with the original 1973. Likewise, if Musharraf is made to stand trial for breaching Article 6 of the Constitution, the period of Gen Ziaul Haq must also be reviewed and judicial stricture passed against him as well.
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Dated: Wednesday, August 19, 2009, Sha'ban 27, 1430 A.H.

Richard Holbrooke and Nawaz Sharif

M Waqar New York
Once again, Obama’s US Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke met Nawaz sharif and made a statement that,’’ Distancing from Nawaz to hamper US interests”... I think it will be disastrous for Obama administration if, Washington thinks that Nawaz Sharif can be a reliable partner of Washington in fighting Taliban. Nawaz Sharif has sympathies with Osama bin laden, al-Quaeda and Taliban. According to a former ISI official, Nawaz Sharif met Osama bin Laden and received funds from him, he met Osama three times and desperately asked for financial assistance. Bin Laden, who had offered him money to topple the Pakistan People’s Party government of Benazir Bhutto in 1990. Al-Qaeda head wanted the “secular” PPP government overthrown to ensure that Pakistan continued supporting the Afghan “jihad” and Laden was against a woman ruling Pakistan. Nawaz met Osama thrice in Saudi Arabia, these meetings were arranged by former ISI official Khalid Khawaja. Nawaz Sharif was hoping for a grant of Rs 500 million. Although Bin Laden gave a smaller amount, Khawaja said that he arranged for Sharif to meet the Saudi royal family, which pledged political support for him and kept its word until he was dislodged by President Pervez Musharraf in 1999. Nawaz has been an ardent supporter of Taliban. I am afraid that his coming to power at this critical juncture will be bad news for Pakistan, because Pakistan is already facing Taliban mutiny. Sharif is on record stating he would prefer Pakistan to be run like the Taliban ran Afghanistan, and we all know how well that turned out. Sharif’s reckless embrace of religious extremism led him to try and impose Sharia (Islamic law) on Pakistan in 1998 and declare himself “Amirul Momineen” (Leader of the Faithful). Sharif’s desire for power is even greater than his respect for innocent life. Convicted for hijacking, he put the lives of 198 people on a plane in jeopardy by refusing to allow it to land. At the time of his removal from office, Nawaz Sharif had looted approximately $60 million from people of Pakistan, via personally owned companies.
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Dated: Wednesday, August 19, 2009, Sha'ban 27, 1430 A.H.

Funding the Pakistani Taliban

Poppies, tobacco and the "timber mafia." But that's not all.
By Shahan Mufti - GlobalPost.COM
MARDAN, Pakistan — Standing in the lush plains of Mardan in the Northwest Frontier Province, the rugged and arid mountains that enclose the Peshawar valley on all sides may appear farther than they actually are. A few dozen miles to the north and west in the mountains, the Pakistan army has been engaged in a bloody battle with Taliban militants for years over the control of territory.
The armed guerrilla fighters have avoided forays onto the flat plains of Mardan, but driving through the main market of the city where vendors sell everything from kebab to Kalashnikovs, or among the cattle in leafy tobacco fields, or the large 16-wheeler trucks on the potholed roads, there are traces of Taliban, even here.
You don't see Taliban foot soldiers — young men with the signature long hair, black turbans and beards — cruising the streets in the backs of pick-up trucks shaking down shop owners like gangsters. But in this bustling town and many others much farther away from the war zones, the Taliban's financial engine is chugging at full force right under the nose of law enforcement.

“The money is coming in from more sources than we know,” said Aftab Ahmed Sherpao, a native of the nearby town of Charsada, who served as the interior minister under former President Pervez Musharraf. Sherpao was the man responsible for organizing civilian law enforcement when the Taliban first emerged on the scene in Pakistan.
Having survived two targeted assassination attempts and no longer serving in the government, he said “if they can dry up their revenues, (the militants) won’t last for long.” But tracking the money, he said "isn’t an easy job.”
And it's not just Sherpao who's worried. Cutting off the revenue streams of the Pakistani Taliban is something that U.S. President Barack Obama’s Af-Pak special envoy, Richard Holbrooke, has linked to the successful completion of the American campaign in Afghanistan.
During his last visit to Pakistan in June, Holbrooke told reporters that in the past the traditional belief in Washington was that all the money came from the drug trade in Afghanistan. “That is simply not true,” he was quoted saying. In a press conference in Islamabad he announced that a member of the U.S. Treasury Department will be added to his staff to find out "where the money really comes from."
Traditionally, guerrilla groups thrive on one large favored revenue stream. For example, the FARC in Colombia has leaned heavily on the trade of coca for three decades and the diamond trade has fueled years of war in Africa. Just over Pakistan's border, the Afghani Taliban have a deep hand in the cultivation and trade of poppy.
While poppy has been largely eradicated from Pakistan, the political leadership and military planners in the country say that a chunk of the Afghan drug money still makes its way to Pakistani Taliban hands — to the tune of $200 million dollars a year, according to Pakistani military estimates.
An official at the Anti-Narcotics Force in Pakistan said that tracking terrorism funds is "far beyond our official mandate." But the force is working closely with the military to "stop drug money from getting into dangerous hands" and is stacked at all levels with retired and serving military generals.

But following this money across borders is especially difficult because much of it moves through the hawala system, which transfers money through unofficial money lending networks. In the hawal system, drug money is thrown in to the same pile as legal expat remittances, making it impossible to fully trace.
The tactics of the Pakistani Taliban suggest though that its needs go beyond a cut from the Afghan poppy industry, which the State Department estimated at $4 billion in 2007. The Pakistani Taliban shares a name with the Afghan group, but when it comes to the
money, Sherpao said the rule is: "live off the land."
Back in 2005, television camera crews in Swat, Pakistan, captured for the first time images of Taliban collecting donations from locals. Then, wooden carts with mounds of cash were parked on the street sides as women were seen dropping their jewelry into bags for masked young men
carrying AK47s.
The Pashtun militancy first grew in the tribal areas of Pakistan when the Pakistan military ventured to the Afghan border for the first time in history. At the time, the American military said that the Taliban had moved its bases into Pakistan and major high profile
ex-Afghan-mujahedeen leaders were traveling freely across the porous Af-Pak border.
But by 2005 groups claiming to be part of the umbrella Taliban Movement of Pakistan (TTP) had started popping up in places like the Swat Valley, which has no border with Afghanistan. In Swat, the leadership of the major Taliban group came from the remnants of an old secessionist movement in the region that dates back to the 1970s, decades before the Taliban existed.
As the Pakistan army moved deeper into the steep green valley to battle these new groups, the Taliban couldn't just rely on the dwindling goodwill of a few poor ideological supporters. Like any good business, it diversified.
A report by the Center for Public Integrity in Washington published in June claims that millions of dollars are also ending up in Pakistani Taliban coffers from its control of the trade in counterfeit cigarettes. The report estimates that profits from the illicit cigarette trade may account for as much as 20 percent of total funding for these terrorist groups.
“After poppy, tobacco is probably the biggest revenue generator,” for the Taliban, said Ikram Sehgal, a former major-general in the Pakistan army who now runs one of the largest private security firms in the country.
Plus, officials constantly identify new Taliban revenue streams. The environmental protection agencies in Pakistan are blaming the “timber mafia” — illegal loggers — for funding the militancy. Last year the Taliban took over a dormant marble mine near the Afghan border, which then reportedly generated tens of thousands of dollars for it every month.
Aftab Sherpao, the former interior minister, said the Taliban also would have made hundreds of thousands of dollars in the past from emerald mining in the Swat Valley.
But nothing, it seems, pays better than good old crime. Rackets, extortion, kidnapping and banks heists are all helping the Pakistani Taliban pay the bills. Earlier this year the Taliban reportedly demanded nearly $1 million from Sikh minorities in their areas as jizya, or “tax.”
A thousand miles away, five men were arrested in June in the city of Karachi, the country's financial hub, for funding Taliban groups. The men were “involved in robbing banks and trailers on highways” and “different crimes” to provide funding to the Pakistani Taliban,
according the city’s police chief. The police also said the suspects were planning to kidnap businessmen in Karachi.
“Kidnapping is a major revenue source for them,” said Gen. Athar Abbas, the central spokesman for the Pakistan Army. “Sometimes we don’t even know how much has been paid to get people released so it’s hard to keep track,” he said. While the official stories mostly recount escapes, ransom is usually paid — “sometimes in the millions of dollars,” said Abbas.

But to Abbas and many others in Pakistan, stopping the drug trade in Afghanistan is still the key to controlling the militancy in Pakistan. “I don’t agree with (Holbrooke’s) assessment,” he said. “The opium trade is still the backbone of the funding” for militants in Pakistan.
Former minister Sherpao said that since the pay-offs in the drug trade in Afghanistan go up to the “highest levels,” “it’s not easy to control it from this side.”
Sherpao's suggestion is echoed frequently by Pakistani officials who say that Afghan officials, including the Afghan president, are involved in the drug trade and thereby complicit in financing the Taliban militancy inside Pakistan.
It's a not a purely academic debate. By hitting such a disparaging note in the funding debate, Pakistan is then able to build political pressure on Afghanistan and the United States to do more on the other side of the border.
The Pakistan government now also routinely points the finger at India for backing the Pashtun and Balochi insurgents in Pakistan through consulates in Afghanistan.
This month, basking in the glory of a fairly successful anti-Taliban offensive in the Swat Valley region, the Pakistani government used U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit as an opportunity to announce that it had presented the Indian Prime Minister with evidence
of his country's involvement in financing and aiding terrorism in Pakistan.
Looking in another direction, Holbrooke has said that the U.S. would look closely at wealthy individuals on the Arabian peninsula who might be funding the Taliban in Pakistan. That might be difficult, however. A 2003 study by the World Bank suggests that drug money transacted between the Middle East and Afghanistan goes through the opaque hawala system.
Before this, for a few years the U.S. had maintained that the Pakistan army and intelligence outfits were themselves funding the insurgency they were fighting. And now the debate has come full circle — a common refrain in Pakistan echoed by many from retired diplomats to retired militants is that the “Taliban are agents of America."
How is the Pakistani Taliban financing its war? There is no easy or singular answer. And in the ensuing confusion everyone is blamed while no one admits to anything. In the end, it might be this blame game that the Taliban profits from most.

Political culture of Pakistan

By Sayeed Hasan Khan and Kurt Jacobsen
For a democracy to work at full throttle there must be reliable institutions, among them a civil service, a judiciary, political parties, civic associations, the press and a military subordinate to civilian rule. Many a scholarly study has been cranked out to prove this point, but common sense says so too.

To give the urban work force a voice at least one major political party should have trade union links. Pakistan came into existence during the rise of an all-India trade union movement, with one of the strongest components being the Railwaymen’s Federation. Bombay was the bustling centre of the subcontinent’s union movement. The Communist Party exerted the strongest single dynamic presence while the next largest union was run by the Indian National Congress.

At partition the mass of Muslim dock labour from Bombay, along with its leadership, such as M.A. Khatib migrated to Karachi. As they were already organised they became the national labour leaders. As the Karachi docks expanded, however, the owners attracted a supply of docile labour from the north, especially from the Frontier Province, with the intended result of undermining a nascent national labour movement. Instead of trade unions protecting them, labourers were channelled as scabs into the docks and industry by eager Pathan contractors, and that was a heavy blow.

In Lahore, in the largest railway workshops, the union was led by the legendary Mirza Ibrahim, who was also the head of the Pakistan Trade Union Federation. In 1946, before partition, Ibrahim helped win an epochal struggle against a government intent on decimating the railway workforce.

In 1951 Ibrahim formally lost his election to the Punjab legislature because the vote was rigged in the most literally dirty way. Many ballot papers were rejected because they were handled by the soiled hands of his loyal railway workshop workers. After this infamous stunt a Punjabi word ‘jhurlu’ was coined and it is still the common word for outrageous rigging.

Later, Ibrahim spent time in and out of jails — including during the 1967 railway strike — and hospitals and died a poor man. V.V. Giri, who was the president of the federation along with Ibrahim as general secretary before independence, became the president of the Indian republic.

As for the evolution of parties, the Muslim League wiped out competitors in Sindh and Punjab. In 1947-48 in the only province where a vibrant political party — the Red Shirts in the Frontier — was in control, the party was removed through devious bureaucratic means. In provincial elections in the western part of Pakistan the Muslim League came to power through more creative electoral high jinks.

In 1954 in East Pakistan, the Muslim League was defeated outright but, again, bureaucratic manoeuvres reversed the decision so that the ultimate consequence was the discrediting of electoral politics — and a hideous reckoning in 1970-71. Bureaucrats effectively became the political leaders of Pakistan. Ghulam Muhammad and Iskander Mirza styled themselves as chief ideologues. With the connivance of Gen Ayub Khan they abruptly dismissed the parliament in 1958.

A high court ruled against the governor general for dismissing the parliament. The government appealed to the Supreme Court. A British barrister, Lord Diplock, notorious in Northern Ireland later for instituting a non-jury court system there, staunchly defended the government while D.N. Prit offered to fight the case for the opposition free of charge. After the judgment went against him, D.N. Prit told one of us that the decision signalled the end of democracy in Pakistan. Since then, whenever a new dictator popped up, segments of the Muslim League bent over backwards or sideways to accommodate his whims.

In the late 1960s Zulfikar Ali Bhutto named his exciting new political entity — promising honest democratic socialism, which appealed to rising peasant movements — the People’s Party, but the key figures running it were Muslim League relics. The political culture in the upper strata was self-serving, circumspect and cynical. Though Britain had its own purposes in establishing institutions, it bequeathed a first-rate civil administration and judiciary. But every institution that Pakistan inherited, its venal new leaders undermined. India, on the other hand, kept British institutions intact (with minor modifications) and benefited immensely. The only Pakistani institution that retained the British tradition is the army, which nonetheless became contaminated by the periodic intoxication of taking power.

So of the two major political parties today, one was nurtured directly by the army GHQ and headed by Nawaz Sharif during Zia’s reign. The other was eventually embraced by Musharraf. As he said only the other day, Benazir, had she survived, would have been prime minister under his patronage.

Benazir’s father, to no good purpose, nationalised the schools and colleges. These often excellent colleges, built by philanthropists and civic-minded organizations, suffered for it. After Bhutto left, an insistence on teaching Urdu arose and of teaching Islam foremost or exclusively. The poor could go to nationalised schools, if even to those. The middle class attends insulated private schools to sit for British examinations and, afterwards, work abroad or at home for multinationals. So, despite the ritual hailing of democracy, there is a freedom only for the few because of their money.

A vital guardian of civil society should be the press, doing its job of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. But the less said about it the better. Some owners appear quiescent and daring journalists are discouraged, if not repressed.

Corruption over 60 years is up in leaps and bounds. The industrialist long ago developed a knack for sharing profits with ruling bureaucrats rather than with workers. The people feel powerless and are prepared to believe any odious story about their rulers, whether absurd or on the money.

Government legitimacy is, to say the least, shaky. Everybody feels that they are on their own. That despair — far more so than armed militants — is not only a disturbing feeling, but a danger.

State and intolerance

Daily Times

Taking a cue from Gojra, some people on Tuesday killed the owner of a factory in Muridke just outside Lahore. Before killing him they accused him of having “desecrated the Holy Quran”. Ridiculously, they announced an old calendar on the owner’s office wall as the Holy Quran before committing the heinous crime. In Gojra, the announcement from the mosques had alleged that the Christians had defiled the Holy Quran. No evidence was in place.

Many people ask the question: why has intolerance increased after the enactment of the laws against blasphemy and desecration of the Quran? A law is brought in to stop a criminal trend, but why has the opposite happened in the case of Pakistan? No satisfactory answers are given, but that doesn’t mean that there are no answers. One straightforward observation is the weakening of the state in the face of elements that propagate a severe interpretation of the faith.

The next question is: why has the state become weak? The answer should be sought in what the state has done in the last quarter of a century. The state has relied on the military strategy of using non-state actors in covert wars in Afghanistan and Kashmir. The Mujahideen were selected from the seminaries and religious parties who were made to develop their jihadi wings. This empowerment — nursing fully armed warriors within civil society — dictated the negative transformation of Pakistan as a society.

The state that promotes jihad with non-state actors will have to brace itself against change that might come from the jihadi mind. In Pakistan’s case, the state reacted “homoeopathically”; it changed itself through laws that appeased the new tough approach to matters of religion. The blasphemy law was enforced in violation of all norms of law-making. Section 295-C says: “Use of derogatory remarks, etc; in respect of the Holy Prophet. Whoever by words, either spoken or written or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Mohammed (PBUH)...” About the Holy Quran, Section 295-B says: “Defiling, etc, of copy of Holy Quran. Whoever wilfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Quran or of an extract therefrom or uses it in any derogatory manner or for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable for imprisonment for life”.

The laws are phrased in anger, not in moderation, which is the meaning of justice (adl) in Islam. Some years ago, an angry sitting judge of the Lahore High court spoke out at a public function and said that Muslims should kill a blasphemer on sight and not go to the court of law. Pushed by the ulema empowered in varying degrees by jihad, the laws were kept on the statute book despite clear defects. In most cases any page with Arabic printed on it lying on the ground arouses people to violence which vents itself on public property. The individual victims are mostly poor communities who cannot defend themselves.

In 2006, the Council for Islamic Ideology (CII) thought that the laws had no deterrent value against false accusations and suggested procedural amendments, but the proposal was shot down by the clerical faction inside the CII. The sessions courts that award the death sentence to blasphemers are hardly free agents, intimidated by armed non-state actors besieging the court. Even a high court judge has been killed by a fanatic.

Christians, the most frequent victims, are also the poorest section of the population. It normally takes five to six years for a convicted blasphemer on death row to get relief from the Supreme Court. The state has yet to punish a blasphemer; but hundreds languish in jails falsely accused of blasphemy, including a group of under-age school children from Layyah rotting in a DG Khan jail.

The blasphemy law doesn’t care for evidence, has no concern for “will” behind the act of blasphemy, has set aside the concept of “tauba” (contrition), and is subject to a widespread misuse by criminal elements of society who conflate blasphemy with desecration of the Quran. The state, impotent after its “jihad” phase, extends lame excuses, blaming incidents on the ubiquitous “foreign hand”. Its executive knows that the state is weak-kneed and therefore sides with the empowered jihadi non-state actors as they enter the town with murder on their minds.


I have no regret to mention that I am ashamed what had happened in Gojra with the minorities living in Pakistan. I am ashamed of those who did this criminal act for whatever the reason. Shame! Shame on all of us. There are no words to describe this. The government must immediately bring the perpetrators to justice and make a horrible example of them. What may I ask is the Chief Minister of Punjab doing about this? Is he going to remain an idle spectator or is he going to show some backbone and take these fanatics who sully our already muddied name, just paying money to victims cant be end of this horrible incident, money can’t bring love ones who were burnt in front of their families, are we living in 21st century? Is this the message we are sending to the world that we are barbarians, we don’t have any respect for human life, we are a country where we behead innocent people and hang dead bodies to trees, we don’t have any tolerance, ours is an intolerant society, and we are particularly intolerant of those whose faith is not Muslim. That is the message we are sending to the World. Its extremely sad. Sad to know that even in this day and age such extreme level of religious intolerance exists. How can we ever progress with such a mind set?
Where are those champions of Islam like Imran Khan,Nawaz Sharif,Qazi Hussain,Fazal Rehman? Why they are silent? Another shameful blot on our national conscience. The perpetrators of this crime must be punished and we should make an example out of them , on mere allegations (which are later proven baseless) they kill people, destroy houses and then take over property. And everyone in these mobs, from their leaders down to the foot soldiers, is scum of the earth. The police and the district administration should publicly apologize to the Christian community, Any group that targets women and children should be ashamed of themselves. The horrific incident at Gojra has humiliated and shocked the entire nation, and we should hang our heads in shame over the fact that barbaric mobs burned Christians alive as the law enforcement agencies were unable to do anything to protect them. To add to the tragedy, the aggrieved people had to launch a strong protest to get an FIR registered against some 816 perpetrators, including the Toba Tek Singh district coordination officer (DCO) and the district police officer (DPO). A report issued by the Minority Rights Group International in 2007 was a commentary on the dismal state of human rights in Pakistan in respect of its minorities. The document placed Pakistan at number eight among the first ten of some 70 countries that had denied basic rights to their minorities. The grave incident at Gojra comes as a stark reminder for the country’s bleak human rights record .  I am a Muslim but I am ashamed today for the acts done by these killers in the name of My tolerant religion and I couldn’t comprehend that how these so called protectors of Islam and Prophet(pbuh) would face Allah and Prophet (pbhu) on the day of judgment when He would ask them that who gave them the authority? who proved this blasphemy actually occurred? and how they decided that this was done by the same people they killed? Killing innocent people is not Islamic. The animals who are involved in killing and burning innocent people must be severely punished. Christians and Muslims should work together to find out who was the insensitive culprit who did this disrespectful act. Those persons are equally responsible for death of the innocent peoples.
Once again, the incident was provoked by allegations of desecration of the Holy Quran, which were unfounded according to the Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah. Instead of allowing the law enforcement agencies to do their job and respect the decision of the courts, the mobs decided to take matters into their own hands and destroy the homes and lives of the Christian community of the area. This is a shocking incident that must be condemned to the fullest, and the government of Punjab needs to make an example out of the hooligans and barbarians that conducted this massacre. They have shamed the entire nation and must be punished. We must show that we are a nation of laws, not a mob. Further, this is the second high profile incident in less than two months where Christians were targeted by Muslim extremists on baseless allegations of blasphemy. It is clear that the agenda of these mobs is very different from what they claim. Again, the law must reign supreme, not the bloodlust of extremist mobs. Its Muslims duty to not let such bloodthirsty extremists take over our religion. It is time for true Muslims to take back their religion from the violent thugs running amok . Punjab Govt is living in denial, The provincial government is not accepting that a large part of Punjab is suffering from religious intolerance due to the Taliban and religious outfits . The tearful and tragic incidence of Korian Village of Gojra is one of the so many other cruel acts of fundamentalists in Pakistan, till now we could point to Indian Gujrat and say that forming mobs to attack mobs is something that happens only in India. No longer true. Thanks to these animals wearing the mask of Islam. People who form mob and attack others are nothing but blood thirsty thugs. These are criminals waiting for any opportunity to commit most vile criminal acts. This barbaric attack on unarmed and peaceful Christian people of Pakistan must be  condemn . It is a shameful act . Extremism that has been brewing in Pakistan for decades especially after the advent of Zia era. Right wing political parties and state agencies have been busy perpetuating various internal and external hot spots to justify their consolidation of power and to divert attention from the real issues faced by 160 million people of Pakistan. This is not Pakistan of Quaid -e- Azam . This is the country of militants , instead of blaming the culprits, and also the local law enforcement agencies for their criminal negligence, there were some elements who started blaming a “foreign hand”, which is not something new in Pakistan, evidence indicates that local extremists were aided by banned terrorist organizations who were responsible for this crime against humanity, these barbarians are no “foreign hands” they are the ones who have brought us enough grief and shame. Religious fanaticism will eat up the very basis of the country if we do not curb this trend forthwith. The Punjab Government must understand that Punjab is the heartland of the country and Pakistan is on microscopic scrutiny these days. Every news emerging from Pakistan is immediately taken up by International media and what sort of image are we portraying ?Human rights are enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan and religion is often used falsely to suppress the minorities.
Progressive forces in Pakistan and around the world to become a formidable force and rise against the forces of hate and evil. Let us embrace diversity in Pakistan and create an environment where peoples of Pakistan are not judged by their color, nationality, ethnic background or a religious faith passed onto them by their ancestors just like a color of skin or a chattel. Let us make Pakistan an inclusive country - a nation of many nations.
Let us promote brotherhood and sisterhood progressive people to stand like a shield of steel between the forces of pillage and destruction and the noble causes of 160 million innocent peoples of Pakistan who are yearning for peace, prosperity, individual and collective dignity, justice and democracy. The time has come to take politics out of the business of religion and religion out of the business of politics.  We need to be hearing words of conciliation and fraternity from our mosques. It is our religious leaders who are our primary influence, and it is to them that we must look to douse the fires of intolerance and hatred. Would they? Do they have that within them? Or is inclusively and tolerance beyond those who lead our prayers? Its time for progressive, educated Pakistanis to raise your voice against this discrimination and make Pakistan a better place to live for every one. 

Pakistan's power politics

Mustafa Qadri
Few things are as oppressive in Pakistan as the summer heat. In colonial times, the British would shift their garrison headquarters from Rawalpindi to the cool peaks of Murree, just north of present day Islamabad. Today, the elite are more likely to skip the country entirely or barricade themselves in the air-conditioned comfort of their cars and homes.

On the streets of Pakistan's vibrant cities, the industrious whir of countless generators is as ubiquitous as the hawkers desperately trying to make ends meet.

With its ever-growing population, Pakistan has always struggled to match energy supplies with demand. Those difficulties have turned violent recently. In Karachi and throughout the Punjab last week angry mobs went on a rampage and assailed power companies in frustration at the long daily power cuts that have brought modern life to a standstill.

The Gilani Research Foundation estimates (pdf) that 53% of Pakistan's population goes without electricity for more than eight hours a day. In fact, the blackouts are even longer in rural and poor urban areas which also lack other basic infrastructure like roads and waste water drainage. The situation has led to a series of annual hikes in energy costs. In the poorest slums of Karachi, for instance, people are forced to clandestinely tap into the electrical grids of rich communities because the retail price is too prohibitive. Power theft in Karachi and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas alone is believed to cost the state £138m in lost revenues.

The government has been under pressure to increase tariffs and reduce subsidies across a broad spectrum of industries including energy ever since agreeing to an IMF loan package last year in desperation as the nation's foreign reserves dwindled. The move has caused much consternation among consumers and local businesses, not just the angry mobs.

The power cuts occur with greater frequency during the long hot summer months. Every time they occur, modern life and business grinds to a halt. This, along with poor employment prospects, and education and health services – and not the Taliban – is the greatest concern for the average Pakistani.

"We have inherited these problems [from the Musharraf regime]. There was no planning done, there was no [energy] policy for the past 3-4 years," Asim Hussain, national adviser for petroleum and natural resources, tells me during a break in a London conference on Pakistan's oil and gas industry.

Just as a gaping hole divides the supply and demand for electricity in Pakistan, the country is heavily reliant on imported fossil fuels: local energy production accounts for only 15% of all usage. Oil and gas make up 80% of all of Pakistan's energy consumption and with 62,000km of pipelines, it has one of the largest networks in the world.

Authorities say they hope to raise national power generation by 4000 megawatts by 2010 but there are concerns the target is unlikely to be met as political intrigues continue to plague the government. Similar intrigues have scuppered attempts at exploiting alternative and renewable energy sources such as hydroelectricity. Among the stalled initiatives is the contentious Kalabagh dam project that proponents say will deliver greater irrigation for agriculture and quench a thirsty nation's energy needs by tapping into the Indus river. The project is opposed by all of Pakistan's provincial governments except the dominant Punjab. Critics cite multiple reasons for opposing the dam's construction including environmental degradation, mass displacement of regional communities, and domination of the project by the Punjab.

The failure to find local energy sources has compelled government and business to look abroad with mixed success. Pakistan recently signed a gas pipeline deal with Iran, but it will be some years before the taps will be turned on. Another proposal is to import LPG across the Persian gulf from Qatar, but such an ambitious venture requires substantial infrastructure still lacking in Pakistan.

With that and the unending energy crisis in mind, the Pakistan government has been wooing multinationals at a series of oil and gas exploration conferences in London, Houston and Calgary last week. With its Petroleum Policy 2009, the current government says it will reinvigorate Pakistan's troubled energy sector primarily through foreign investment.

Pakistan is not just a gateway to mineral resource wealth in Central Asia and the Middle East, it is rich in minerals and fossil fuels. According to government sources, there are believed to be reserves of 27bn barrels of oil and 280trn cubic feet of gas. Yet most of that wealth remains locked away: only 3.4% of oil and 19% of gas resources have been tapped thus far. "Pakistan has significant remaining exploration potential," explains a British geologist at the London conference. That has much to do with the country's "complex geology", and the fact that many of the most promising sites lie in the unstable regions of Balochistan and North West Frontier Province, home to separatists, militants and bandits.

Those obstacles haven't dissuaded some of the largest oil and gas companies – such as British Petroleum and ENI – from investing in large exploration licenses. "With great risks come great rewards," explains one eager executive from another multinational. "We have had years of experience in Iraq," another eager entrepreneur from a private security company assures me. The stakes are indeed high. "There is no doubt that we are dependent on foreign companies to exploit Pakistan's natural resources," senior petroleum ministry bureaucrat GA Sabri. Eighteen out of 20 companies operating ventures in Pakistan are foreign-owned.

For years indigenous and regional communities have complained that their ancestral lands have been damaged by prospecting resource companies, or that they haven't been given a stake in the riches under their feet. In a glossy pamphlet, the state-controlled Pakistan Petroleum Limited claims to be committed to developing these very same communities.

As the government and multinationals divide the spoils, however, the question remains whether the average citizen will get a seat at the table.

Where the Mullahs Are the Upper Crust

THE turmoil in the Swat Valley has raised a chilling prospect for Pakistan — that the Taliban’s Islamic takeover in the once-peaceful area was turning into a social revolution, with mullahs leading peasants in the seizure of property from rich landlords who had fled in fear of their lives.

The most worrisome question has been whether the revolution would spread from Swat to the much more populous and strategic province next door, Punjab.

In the logic of revolutions, one might expect it to. This is, after all, a country where more than half the population lives in desperate poverty in the countryside, and the rich live in walled estates, blissfully untouched by ordinary peoples’ problems.

But Pakistan is more complicated than that. Its politics and economics are far more local than national; regional, ethnic and cultural differences are very deep. The mullahs of Swat may be calling for the downtrodden masses to unite, but here in Punjab, religious leaders are still firmly tied to the upper crust.

Pakistan encompasses four provinces — Baluchistan, Sindh, Punjab and the North-West Frontier Province (which includes the Swat Valley) — each with its own languages and culture. The western mountains are tribal and so remote that in some areas, Pakistan’s Constitution does not even apply. It is from those badlands that the Taliban swept outward to neighboring Swat, itself a multi-ethnic patchwork. Baluchistan, another border area, has its own struggle for national autonomy. Sindh is mostly agrarian, with Karachi, an economic hub, at its southern tip.

Punjab, the fourth and most strategic province, is the country’s heart — home to the powerful military as well as much of Pakistan’s governing class; social upheaval here would drag the whole country with it. In my travels in this province, none of the mullahs were talking about revolution. In fact, the social justice discussions that have driven political movements in the wider Islamic world — Hamas, Hezbollah, or the Sadr Army of Iraq’s Moktada al-Sadr, for example — were notably absent.

Instead, I have found a surprisingly comfortable coexistence between the mullahs, the landlords and the political elite (the latter two are often one and the same). Even the harder-line preachers, among the sternly traditional Muslims known as Deobandis, have stuck to a bland, nonconfrontational line.

One leader of a Deobandi seminary in Kabirwala, a town in southern Punjab, told me that the land was distributed as God had intended, and that the only problem with the landlords was that some were insufficiently Islamic, though now that was improving.

History explains much of the feudal outlook of the clerics in Punjab. They tend not to oppose the establishment in part because the state itself made them powerful. In the 1980s, the military dictator Zia ul-Haq gave land and money to Deobandis, a policy the United States supported because it needed both Mr. Zia and fervent jihadists in the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Mr. Zia also crushed social ferment throughout Pakistan, and the debate on class and social justice that went with it, stifling political growth. To this day, Pakistan retains a colonial-style system of patronage: I-will-vote-for you-because-you-are-important-and-I-think-you-might-be-able-to-help-me-in-my-time-of-need.

At the same time, the Zia government elevated the mullahs, once unimportant men seen mostly at weddings and funerals. They became powerful players with their own political space — a kind of middleman between state and populace, not breaking their ties to the elite that had empowered them.

“The mullahs were one of the state’s major allies,” said Aasim Sajjad, a political economy professor at Lahore University of Management Sciences who is part of a small leftist political movement in Pakistan. He argues that in Punjab, the conditions for a revolution simply are not present, in part because the mullahs are still comfortable in their ties with the state.

“I don’t see them being interested in radical social change that really attacks the existing structures of power in the society,” he said.

This is not to say that all are nonviolent, just that their violence does not challenge the state or the social order. The leader of Sipah-e-Sohaba, an ultra-orthodox Sunni political party, whose military wing believes Shiites to be apostates and has been killing them since the 1990s, was allowed to contest an election from a prison cell in 2002. (He won.) Another militant group, Jesh Muhammed, which supports Pakistani claims to Kashmir, operates unhindered in the city of Bahawalpur. And Hafez Saeed, a cleric whose associates are believed to have carried out the attack on Mumbai, India, last year, gives weekly sermons here in Lahore.

There have been acts of terrorism in Punjab, particularly after the government attacked a mosque tied to jihadists in Islamabad in July 2007. Militants here began to attack the state and the police. And though they have joined forces with the Taliban, they remain the minority and have so far not enlisted the same amount of popular support as the Taliban has in the western tribal areas.

Even in Swat, the Taliban’s takeover didn’t happen overnight. At first, some landlords lent tacit (if worried) support, donating food and money to the seminary where Fazlullah, the main Taliban leader, began his political movement. The government itself made peace deals with the Taliban. Only later did conditions worsen, with militants seizing ever more power, and eventually overrunning the landlords. The military has since fought to eject them, but it is not clear how effectively.

Mr. Sajjad, the Lahore University professor, argues, as well, that the Swat takeover was more a spontaneous eruption than a product of organized strategy, certainly different from the way Lenin led the Bolsheviks in 1917. “This was not a well-thought-out clear visionary movement,” he said. “It’s a situation that spiraled out of control in part because the state let it.”

And in any case, it was the small Swat Valley, not the strategic heartland of Pakistan. Few people here believe that the military, which calls Punjab its home, would let the province succumb to a militant takeover.

Still, this is Pakistan, whose society is in flux, and whose government often seems mostly absent.

“This place is ripe for extraordinary situations,” Mr. Sajjad said.