Posts Tagged ‘ afghanistan ’

In Swat

Swat Valley

I was there this August. The city reflects about what it would have been like when the Taliban had taken over. People of Swat were threatened, Islam was different, life was not normal, and nothing could possibly be related to the essence of what the city was known for.

The clashes of natural beauty; the mountains, rivers and the innocence of the land through the eyes of young girls like Malala. Swat has risen from the dark ages, despite the distant yet lingering fear of the return of the extremist elements. The streets are abuzz with the sweetness of young boys and girls making their way to school, taking a dip from the riverside, joyfully teasing one another; something that any parent in their right state of mind would want their child to experience and share. The marketplaces cluttered with people and goods, I could also see shops selling music CDs and DVDs. Sitting on a newsdesk, couple of years ago, collating information and trends, I regularly got to hear of the music shops being blown up by the Taliban back then.

Driving through the valley, we pass Imam Dhehri, once the Headquarters for the Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi, a rebel movement dedicated to the destruction of the rule of law, now banned, Maulana Fazllulah, also known as ‘Mullah Radio’, a fundamentalist, son-in-law of the TNSM Chief, Sufi Muhammad, allied to the Taliban forces spread inciteful messages through illegal FM stations against the women’s right to vote and education. swat1

Even though the enforcement agencies in the Malakand Division now come across as a state functionary in absolute control of the law and order situation. Pakistan is seen to be continuously demanding the Afghan Government to handover Fazllulah. The militant has been accused of destroying schools, shops, conducting suicide attacks, bombings and most recently for carrying out an attack on Malala Yusufzai and her school friends. One may argue, that this perhaps calls for the International community to build a more closer diplomatic relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan that brings stability in to the region.

Meanwhile, further ahead into the valley, is the Sanghota College for Girls, an educational facility, a bleak reminder of the past, wrecked and blown up, walls scraping off, holy scriptures painted, tarnished school desks and books piled up in the corner – it does tell a story of the clitter-clatter of girls running through the corridors. The silence is now filled with workers fixing the grills, re-building and renovating different parts of the college.

A visit to “Saba’oon”, a de-radicalisation school, a harsh reality, a project meant for teenage boys, psychologically savaged into believing that the true way of living is to destroy the so-called ‘others’; their only fault in life, is being born and raised in unjust circumstances. Their stories are the ones that need to be told, stories of plight, stories of economic disparities, stories of bad peers, stories of not being aware of right from left, right from wrong – stories that reflect on the poor education system, on unbearable living conditions. Their life is not a simple story to tell. But is a story worth listening to before questioning their dignity.

Nevertheless, the project, instills the belief of how life, under different circumstances can change thought, build  character, create a new future for these young boys. Each one I spoke to had a future, a dream to do better, to do good to give back to their families, to help their community, to help the ones that have suffered. Overwhelmed only by sheer intelligence, the program  shows that the youth in Pakistan needs its share of attention in a country caught up in every type of turmoil.  Many of the 15-17 year old boys have been reintegrated, and are being mentored on regular basis.

How often, does one get to read, hear, think, what “The State for the people” actually means for an everyday Pakistani?

Saba’oon protects these children, gives them shelter, hope and a tomorrow to look-forward to. One would only naturally think that is what the role of the state is supposed to be.  To Protect and To Serve.

SwatSwat has suffered the worst exodus and civilian casualty.  Rah-e-Rast left 90 soldiers dead, and now as it reels back to life, the impact of those contributing towards its rehabilitation can be seen through constructional efforts of new schools, hospitals and clinics. But the infrastructure still carries the wounds of the past.

(This blog was originally published by Jang Group’s, The News, http://blogs.thenews.com.pk/blogs/2012/12/in-swat/)

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The Missing Link

It’s ironic how the mainstream media deviates from what is important to a 180 million people to what aids individual interests. Sadly, it has become an acceptable way of life that a corrupt politician, misleading opinion-makers and the ‘foreign forces’, are allowed to govern and then destroy the efforts of aspiring youth population to bring change. And when hoping for one becomes a sin, surfacing selfishness and disorientation spreads like a disease.

A country, by the very definition of consequences of any chaos, in this case, which is constant in nature, suffers from Post-traumatic stress disorders. Whether this may be because of the War President or the Drone War President.

Perhaps our own short-term ill-conceived tacit strategies are haunting us back to the Dark Ages.

Since 2008, the Drone warfare has increased radically, there are almost 64 bases across the globe engaging in US drone missions. Currently, positioned in over 14 different countries, some for intelligence gathering purposes and others for targeting ‘populations’ those are ‘sources’ of National Security threat to the US.

One of these frequently targeted area is the North Waziristan, a place I never visited, nor which the Pakistani Army dares to go, clearly many Americans wouldn’t know how it actually looks like either. But regardless of how complicit the US or the Pakistani Government is towards civilian deaths, what is strange that none of the overly exuberant Civil Society Organization has been able to establish Reprieve Pakistan. The only people churning out remotely smart questions and op-eds are the ones not sitting in key decision making boardrooms of legislators and policy-makers.

A question put forward in a documentary produced by Alternate Focus, by an author and an activist Tom Hayden was; “Are these weapons [Drones] keeping us [United States of America] safe, or do they just incite further terrorist attacks? And is their use a violation of the Geneva Conventions?”

According to the Geneva Convention, most serious of crimes are termed grave breaches, will the drone strategy be termed as one? If so how far, will one go to distort the lines  – even further between the combatants and the civilians…

Why Pakistan is an easy target and is usually not a hard nut to crack; well that is mainly because we critically remain in a self-sustained state of anarchy and inefficiency.

The combination of the two defines the very nature of how the country is perceived and dealt with.  According to a few professors in Israel, the price of anarchy is by now a standard measure for quantifying the inefficiency introduced in games due to selfish behavior, and is defined as the ratio between the optimal outcome and the worst Nash equilibrium.

Even though Imran Khan’s Tehreek-i-Insaaf portrays itself as a likely political force, which will act as a restraining factor and influence the scale of corruption in the country, yet the reality remains that the incumbent disease is widespread and systemic in law enforcement agencies, in the offices of the public service etc etc.

A country with massive power failures, leadership crisis, fanaticism, water-and-what-not shortages we really fancy our ‘long marches’ or as my friend put it over dinner ‘long drives’. Such actions only portray the level of commitment of these so-called power influences to this nation. The choices and then the priorities are all dangled up in an elusive dream.

Its 2012, as India goes into celebrating its first and the European region into marking its 10th year of Polio free certification, Pakistan is still battling possible travel restrictions over the virus. And even more absurdly, with the Taliban in the Waziristan creatively linking the predator drone programme to the polio vaccination of over 200,000 children in troubled region, there’s a possibility that thousands of families will be at the risk of being missed out during the inoculation campaign.

Who really decides for over a 180 million people, when each pillar of the state is losing its supposed grace?

Aid that matters and Aid that has no meaning…

Possible set of emotions and psychological struggle that are caused by an abortion are; regret, anger, insomnia, guilty feelings, shame, isolation, impaired self-confidence, suicidal thoughts, depression, eating disorders, anxiety. When a foreign policy fails, and a drone strategy only infuriates the masses, the natural symptoms of a country suffering from the complexities of a supposed war gone wrong would only go through what a woman may face post-abortion. Then, would ‘Billions in Aid, with No Accountability’ matter when almost over a hundred-and-fifty children have been killed due to drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal belt since June 14, 2004? And when a country that spends billions on another country still battles between ‘Aid that matters and Aid that has no meaning’.

How Many Dead Children for Profit?

When the Pakistani population fail to see the effects of the aid given – the drone strategy will naturally create hatred and desire for revenge. In Pakistan’s case, the impact is strategically displayed very successfully through Anti-US rallies. But how does any of that justify the killing of a 7 year-old Syed Wali Shah.

So as these strikes have increased to more than two-hundred since the Obama Administration, occurring at a frequency of one every four days – the thought of loss, anger and suffering caused on the ground is a constant reminder of a lost future for FATA’s innocence. Five children and five women were killed in a village of Spinwam in North Waziristan this April. Now, imagine the intensity of monstrous emotions being created as a result of these strikes. Despite enormous funding to the Pakistani elites for protecting US interests, the question then boils down to; does the US truly understands its ally? Vice versa would be, does Pakistan really thinks its an ally beyond the US war in Afghanistan? May 02, 2011 left many questions unanswered and brought a lot of clarity on the state of relationship between the two countries.

Prof. Anatol Lieven, a Senior Research Fellow with the New America Foundation and a Professor at the Department of War Studies in King’s College London explains in his interview to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism that the drone strategy of taking down the Taliban Commanders has had no noticeable effect than US believes it has.

So as the United States ruled out any unilateral action against militant safe havens in Pakistan, a high-level delegation including the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus and General Martin E Dempsey, the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff meet Pakistan’s political leadership, Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and the Inter-Services Intelligence Director General Lt Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha in Islamabad discuss a way forward to end the war in Afghanistan.

All this *RHETORIC*, yet the tribal journalists continue to suffer and remain disconnected with the rest of the country.

Mishal Pakistan and Tribal Union of Journalists to Highlight the Social Face of FATA through the AGAHI Initiative

FATA has significant development needs;

  • Per capita income in the region is just $250 per year
  • 60 percent of FATA’s 4-5 million residents live below the poverty line
  • Female literacy in the FATA is 3 percent
  • Widespread Unemployment
  • Weak rule of law
  • Difficult terrain limits access to markets, health services, industrial activities

AGAHI in collaboration with the Tribal Union of Journalists aims to identify and build the capacity of the journalists on social issues and economic opportunities encouraging diversity and pluralism of the Media in FATA and FR.

And with these facts in place effective assistance to Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas still remains a challenge for DC, let alone the drone strategy.

Pakistan in the ‘extreme risk’ category on the Conflict Risk Index

Pakistan shares the first position on the Conflict Risk Index, joining alongside are Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Cote d’Ivoire, Iraq and South Sudan.

According to the third annual Conflict Intensity Index, released by risk analysis and mapping company Maplecroft, rates 12 countries at ‘extreme risk.’ The popular uprisings of the Arab Spring have propelled Egypt, Libya and Syria into the most severe risk category of an annual study evaluating the intensity of armed conflict across 197 nations, while economic giant India is also rated at ‘extreme risk.’

The index has been developed by Maplecroft as a tool for multinational corporations to assess ongoing trends for conflict and potential risks to operations or investments. It looks at the broad range of conflicts – not only those that take place between two states, but also those within countries between state security forces and rebel militias, or between different ethnic and religious communities. The index is primarily calculated using the number of fatalities caused by conflict in each country between October 2010 and August 2011. However, it also considers critical precursors to conflict, such as threats of violence and economic sanctions.

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