Afghanistan stands at a crossroads. The reputation of our political leadership is under suspicion. Tens of millions of dollars are said to have been received illegally from intelligence agencies of both friends and foes. People are losing faith in the state and the prospects of democracy. The year 2014 looms large in everyone's mind, as does the Taliban's possible reemergence as a real power.
With the April 2014 presidential elections approaching, people around the world are wondering where exactly Afghanistan is headed. Has the threat of al-Qaeda really been eradicated as President Barack Obama recently announced? Is the war in Afghanistan really over? If so, is it over for Afghans, or just the international community?
Few of the promised counterterrorism and state building efforts have been delivered. In all 34 provinces of Afghanistan there are still acts of war and terrorism being committed - in some places incidents occur daily, in others weekly or monthly. Even our highway system has yet to be secured. No one is free to travel anywhere without at least some fear they will encounter the Taliban. Afghans live in fear of everything from targeted killings to suicide attacks and other forms terrorism. Our sisters and daughters have to live in fear that they will be attacked while doing something as mundane and Islamic as attending school.
Meanwhile, our politics are a mess. Our relationship with the United States and their NATO allies has deteriorated to the point where President Hamid Karzai himself is now referring to Afghanistan as a graveyard of empires, and accusing the United States and its allies of supporting rather than routing the Taliban in order to destabilize Afghanistan.
At the same time, Washington and its friends are leaking controversial details about how exactly they have been propping up President Karzai. Yes, the U.S. is now saying, the CIA is funding in unaccounted-for cash payments Karzai's inner circle.
Aside from the non-existent national security and troubled foreign policy, Afghanistan is also facing the possibility of an economic meltdown. Imagine what will happen to our aid-dependent and U.S.-contract-centric economy when the United States withdraws not just the bulk of its troops but its funds as well.
How is Afghanistan going to transition from an economy that has received hundreds of billions of dollars over the past decade-plus of war? What are the tens of thousands of Afghan companies that have come up as a result of this level of funding going to do then? Not to mention the Afghans who work for the many-times-more international companies, or the 3,000 NGOs that have sprung up during this international campaign that is about to end. If we think today's Afghanistan has an unsustainably high rate of unemployment, what will tomorrow's Afghanistan look like when all this funding ceases?
In a country with thirteen million jobless, most of whom are under twenty-five years old, and a raging insurgency with its own foreign sources of funds, training camps, intelligence and strategic support base, it's hard to imagine a stable and peaceful Afghanistan.
To survive as a nation-state resembling anything like the state we envisioned in Bonn in 2001, we have two main solutions.
First, we need to have a stable transfer of power in the form of the 2014 presidential elections. If our political system is too fragile to deliver even that bare minimum, we have much to fear from the still-raging insurgency. And we cannot have a stable transfer of power if all we do is reinstate President Karzai. Presidents for life are not the beacons of the democracy we envisioned in 2001.
In terms of domestic politics and foreign policy we need very specific programs. We need a government that delivers services. We need to change our traditional culture of a master-slave governance model in which civil servants and government officers rule over our people who they see as slaves.
In our foreign policy, we need to build friendships, not just sustain enemies or provide a battlefield for outside conflicts. The global order is transforming into a multi-polar one, we need to build on our already budding friendship with important regional players in the region such as India and we need to salvage what we can from our relationship with the United States, both of which are becoming our strategic allies.
To address our security dilemmas and challenges, we need a combination of solutions framed as a grand strategy rather than only tactical military or reconciliation ones. With the reconciliation strategy the only one being considered as a means to dealing with the insurgents, the Afghan government and the international community are using a risky black and white model. Instead we need to see reconciliation as a sub-tool in a broader political strategy for the stabilization of Afghanistan. We need to recognize that insurgencies take time and need strategic patience to combat -- every insurgency, from those fought in El Salvador to Central Asia, has taught us that. We need to oppose the Taliban not just militarily but by building public confidence through service delivery and good governance; the strengthening and effective functioning of our security establishment; support to our economic sectors; and the reconciliation and reintegration efforts already begun by NATO's counterinsurgency strategy.
And finally, we need to build our economy. We need to follow models of leadership such as General Park's of South Korea, or South Africa after apartheid. And to begin this process the first thing we need to do is get rid of politicians who see their office as the best job Afghanistan has to offer.
2013 is the year that Afghans will make a decision. Either we put ourselves on the path to a prosperous and ideal Afghanistan or we will be back on the path of war and isolation, a country sourced for strategic threats to international security.
Mohammad Arif Rahmani is a member of Central Audit and Rule of Law Committee of Lower House of Afghanistan's parliament.
Pakistan's election hopefuls have expressed strong and vocal opposition to U.S. drone strikes within the country.
Pakistan People's Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who participated in a government that visibly failed to do much to prevent drone strikes for five years, recently insisted that such strikes are "counter-productive."
Nawaz Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and two-time former prime minister, similarly lambasted the U.S. policy saying that "Drone attacks are against the national sovereignty and a challenge for the country's autonomy and independence. Therefore, we won't tolerate these attacks in our territorial jurisdictions."
And no one has been more vocal and stringent in his opposition to drones than the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party, Imran Khan, the increasingly popular and charismatic contender for prime minister. Khan has even gone so far as to promise that, if elected, his government will shoot down any drone that crosses into Pakistan after May 11.
Yet, despite all the heavy pre-election posturing and rhetoric, the million rupee question remains: is Pakistan legally entitled to shoot down U.S. drones that enter its territory?
The short answer is yes. Unless it has consented to the use of drones in its territory, Pakistan most certainly can shoot them down as a matter of international law.
The United Nations Charter-a treaty which virtually all states in the world have agreed to follow and one that is sometimes touted as the "constitution of the international community"-forbids states from using force in another state unless it is used 1) in self-defense to repel an "armed attack"; 2) with the approval of the U.N. Security Council; or 3) because the state in which force is being used has consented to it.
That is, the U.S. drone war must fall within one of these exceptions to be legal.
We know the U.N. Security Council has never authorized the use of U.S. drones in Pakistan. And neither has Pakistan ever engaged in an "armed attack" against the United States, nor has the United States claimed as much. That leaves consent as the only legal justification for the program.
While, as I have previously written, claims of a denial of consent by the Pakistani government should be viewed with some skepticism-especially in light of former president Pervez Musharraf's admission that he allowed a ‘few' drone strikes to take place-publicly and for all official purposes, the Pakistani government vehemently denies that it has ever consented to U.S. drones being operated in its territory. In fact, in 2011, Pakistan shut down a CIA base which was being used to launch drones.
Further, Ben Emmerson QC, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights, has certainly been persuaded by Pakistan's narrative that there is no "tacit consent by Pakistan to the use of drones on its territory". In a recent news article, he categorically stated that drone strikes were a "violation of Pakistan's sovereignty".
Assuming then that consent has not been given by Pakistan, the use of drones in its territory would prima facie be an illegal use of force against a sovereign nation. Pakistan would thus be well within its rights, under international law, to destroy any drone that crosses into its airspace.
Now, here's where things do get slightly complicated. Sometimes when military force is used abroad in countries which have not really attacked the "defending state," new theories can be innovated to justify such force; and the drone war in Pakistan is no exception.
Some U.S. lawyers, including Eric Holder, John Brennan, and John Bellinger have argued that drone strikes in Pakistan are a legal form of "self-defense" because Pakistan is "unwilling or unable" to prevent threats to the United States.
This is also one of the main messages of the Department of Justice memo which essentially argues that the United States has a right, under international law, to kill persons in other countries-via drones or other means-that it determines are "associated" with al-Qaeda and who pose an "imminent threat" to the United States if the country where such individuals are allegedly based is "unwilling or unable" to do so itself. Consent is desirable but not necessary.
As I wrote in a recent journal article, this argument is very controversial and has little legal traction. Pakistan could, if it wanted to, easily challenge this doctrine as being of dubious and weak legal pedigree.
First, international law does not allow a state to unilaterally attack targets within another state to eliminate potential "threats." An armed attack must have occurred or at least be imminent against the self-defending state for an argument of self-defense to have any legal grounding.
Second, while Pakistan is legally obliged to use "best efforts" to prevent individuals on its territory from launching armed attacks against other states, unless it can be proven that Pakistan has in fact supported these individuals by, for example, supplying them with weapons or other forms of assistance, Pakistani territory cannot be attacked simply because Pakistan is allegedly "unwilling or unable" to suppress such individuals.
To be sure, Pakistan may still be liable for reparations or other measures for failing to prevent an attack against another state, but this failure does not translate into a right for another state to conduct lethal drone attacks in its territory as a unilateral "self-help" measure.
Third, prominent American legal scholars, including Mary Ellen O'Connell and Eric Posner, have rejected the international legality of the "unwilling or unable" doctrine. In fact, apart from the United States, only three countries-Israel, Russia, and Turkey-have explicitly invoked some variant of this theory in the past fifty years or more. But even these countries, on the rare occasion when they have done so, have never justified their actions as motivated by a legal obligation.
And most importantly, the International Court of Justice-the principal judicial organ of the United Nations and popularly known as the "World Court"-agrees. It has on two recent occasions-one concerning Uganda and the other Israel-passed judgment that weak states cannot be attacked and invaded because they failed to prevent individuals in their territory from launching attacks abroad.
And for good reason too. A theory that permits the use of force in a state such as Pakistan because it is "unwilling or unable" to do something opens up far too many loopholes for aggression and makes the prohibition against the use of force contained in the U.N. Charter somewhat redundant.
To put it succinctly, if the new Pakistani government were to argue that the use of drones within its territory are illegal and were indeed bold enough to take the unprecedented step of shooting one down, it would have a strong case under international law that it was acting in "self-defense," provided it has not consented to drone strikes.
Of course, just because an action is legally sound does not mean that it is politically feasible. The Wall Street Journal previously reported that "Pakistan has considered shooting down a drone to reassert control over the country's airspace but shelved the idea as needlessly provocative." And one can see why.
Unfortunately, that is one limitation that smaller states sometimes face when they try to assert their international legal rights against a far more powerful state.
Nevertheless, as far as international law goes, yes Mr. Khan, absent consent, you are free to shoot down any drones that enter into Pakistani territory.
Dawood I. Ahmed is a lawyer and a doctoral candidate in international law at the University of Chicago. He is the author of the forthcoming article "Defending Weak States Against the ‘Unwilling or Unable' Doctrine of Self-Defense," which can be found online here
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Sectarian violence is raging in Pakistan, and some commentators are now describing the relentless assaults on Shia Muslims as genocide. Predictably, many observers fear that this unrest-coupled with a dangerous overall security situation-could delay Pakistan's May 11 national elections.
It's an understandable, yet ultimately misplaced, concern. As was recently pointed out, Pakistan has held elections under much more trying conditions-including one in Swat in 2008, during the height of the Pakistani Taliban's insurgency there.
Few commentators, however, are talking about another possible impact of sectarian strife on the elections: Shias-roughly 20 percent of the Pakistani population-mobilizing en masse to vote the ruling political party out of power.
Their motivations would be obvious. Shias-like Ahmadis, Christians, and other religious minorities in Pakistan-are incensed at the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) for failing to protect them, and for taking no meaningful action against those who terrorize them. In the blunt words of Abdul Khaliq Hazara, a prominent Hazara Shia in Quetta who heads the Hazara Democratic Party, "the government doesn't have the will to go after them."
Under this scenario, who would the Shia vote for? Probably not the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)-Pakistan's chief opposition party and the current favorite to lead the next governing coalition. The PML-N's bastion is in Punjab Province, which is also the home base of some of Pakistan's most vicious sectarian extremist groups, including the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). Yet instead of confronting the LeJ, the PML-N is seemingly courting it. Last year, the law minister of Punjab's provincial government (led by the PML-N) campaigned with the leader of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), LeJ's parent organization. And just days ago, the secretary general of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ)-like the LeJ, a splinter group of SSP- bragged: "We have thousands of voters in almost every constituency of the South and Central Punjab and the PML-N leadership is destined to knock at our doors when the elections come."
Rumors have abounded that, with the election in mind, the PML-N is negotiating a "seat-adjustment" agreement with ASWJ. (The Express Tribune, in an article later removed from its website, described the deal as follows: the PML-N will support the ASWJ in races for three National Assembly seats, while in return the ASWJ, "whose votes often play a vital role in helping candidates win," will withdraw its candidates from contesting about a dozen National Assembly seats in Punjab) Last month the PML-N denied the rumors-only to be contradicted just days later by SSP's leader. Regardless of who's telling the truth, the PML-N has done little to dispel the expectation that, if it leads the next government, it will do little to address the Shias' plight.
A more likely choice for the Shias might be voting for Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. The PTI, more so than the PML-N or PPP, has gone out of its way to condemn the country's sectarian bloodshed and its chief instigators. Pakistani analysts have contrasted Khan's strong and unequivocal denunciations with the "obfuscations and meaningless remarks" uttered by the Pakistani government. After an LeJ bombing killed nearly 90 people in a Quetta market last month, Khan declared at a press conference: "I tell you by name, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi...there can be no bigger enemy of Islam than you." He also accused the LeJ of exhibiting "the worst kind of enmity towards Islam." Such strong language is rarely used by the PPP or PML-N. In January, Khan even endorsed Shia demands for targeted operations against religious militants.
Admittedly, the PTI has no plans to take aim at the root causes of sectarian violence. For example, reforming-much less repealing-Pakistan's blasphemy laws (which are often used as a pretext to persecute religious minorities) is a move no political party in Pakistan dares make; the late Punjab governor Salman Taseer was assassinated for merely criticizing them. Nonetheless, compared to the two major parties, the PTI gives the impression of genuinely caring about, and wanting to help, Pakistan's besieged minorities (along with other vulnerable segments of the population; the party recently released a new manifesto to protect the disabled). Tellingly, after an attack on a Quetta snooker hall targeting Hazara Shias left more than 100 dead in January, Khan visited the victims' grieving families-a meeting that occurred before the arrival of Pakistani government officials. Shias in Lahore and other areas of Punjab-home to 148 of Pakistan's 272 national assembly seats-could cause significant damage to the PML-N's electoral prospects if they vote as a bloc for the PTI.
But there's little reason to believe Pakistan's Shias will actually turn out in droves to vote for the PTI. Many Shias are suspicious of Khan because of his support for talks with the Taliban and other gestures perceived as sympathetic to religious militants. Such suspicions intensify when PTI officials (including party vice chairman Ajaz Chaudhry) share the stage with hardline Islamist figures-including members of the ASWJ-during rallies of the Pakistan Defense Council, a collective of conservative religious parties. A recent video produced by the Shia rights group ShiaKilling.com captures the contempt that Pakistani Shias harbor toward the PTI (and toward the PML-N as well). One Shia cleric (who does not appear to enjoy a large following) has even peddled an elaborate conspiracy theory involving Saudi Arabia and the ISI colluding to install Khan as the leader of a new "Saudi-Wahhabi Islamic State" of Pakistan.
There's also little reason to believe Shias will band together and vote en masse for any other political party. Formal research on Pakistani Shia voting patterns is limited, but based on informal conversations and anecdotal evidence, it's safe to say that such patterns are far from monolithic. On May 11, some will vote along ethnic lines. Others will opt for the PPP; in a by-election last year in the Punjab city of Multan, the PPP candidate triumphed-and analysts noted that he earned Shia votes (in fact, according to research by Andrew Wilder, Shias in Punjab tended to vote for the PPP as far back as the 1990s -because of the perception that it was more liberal and tolerant of religious minorities than were other parties). Others still will vote for the MQM. This is a party that has controlled Karachi politics for decades-and has traditionally received many Shia votes (though given Karachi's violent political culture, many of them were probably cast under pressure). Some will simply choose a sympathetic patron. Finally, many Shias-due to fear, apathy, or sheer disgust-probably won't vote at all.
This isn't to say Shias aren't joining forces to pursue political goals. Last November, a top official with the Majlis-e-Wahdat-e-Muslimeen (MWM), a collaborative of Pakistani Shia religious scholars, announced that the organization would be establishing a Shia Solidarity Council "to promote harmony" among the country's Shias. The MWM, he added, "has been making all-out efforts to unite all Shia parties of Pakistan at one platform." (MWM party leaders, incidentally, have also said they seek to "counter [the] nefarious designs of the imperialist forces" against Pakistan, and the MWM has staged U.S. flag-burnings in front of the American embassy in Islamabad.)
Several weeks ago, the MWM registered as a political party with Pakistan's Election Commission, and has now decided to contest elections. Party officials have vowed to field candidates for 100 parliamentary seats (60 of them in the national assembly), mostly representing Shia-majority areas in Punjab and in Pakistan's other three provinces. However, owing to a variety of factors-such as the lack of electoral success of Pakistani religious parties, and the MWM's dearth of political resources-the party's big-picture prospects appear dim.
The takeaway? Pakistan's sectarian violence is unlikely to delay this year's election. And, owing to the strong likelihood of a PPP or PML-N victory on May 11, the votes cast by those in the crosshairs of that violence will fail to delay the inevitable-the arrival in power of another fragile coalition unable or unwilling to protect them.
Michael Kugelman is the senior program associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @michaelkugelman
BANARAS KHAN/AFP/Getty Images
Last Sunday afternoon, Pakistan's leading English daily newspaper, Dawn, published headline news of the arrest of a militant tied to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a domestic sectarian militant group: "Former LeJ chief involved in Daniel Pearl murder arrested in Karachi." The article trumpeted the arrest as "yet another success" of "security forces" in their "ongoing targeted operation against militants and lawbreakers in Karachi."
The story made its way around the world, landing on CNN within two days. The New York Times declared: "Suspect in Daniel Pearl killing is arrested in Pakistan."
Most certainly, the news that Pakistan's elite Rangers force arrested Pakistani militant Abdul Hayee is important. He has a long criminal record, linked to bombings, sectarian assassinations against Shia targets and domestic mayhem. U.S. President Barack Obama, the Justice Department, and the State Department should press for Hayee to be prosecuted.
But as important as Hayee's prosecution, is understanding the events that precipitated his arrest, and recognizing that amidst the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan we must put a magnifying glass to militancy in Pakistan on the street, village and individual level. The case of Abdul Hayee is illustrative of Pakistan's failure to adhere to the rule of law in any meaningful, sustainable way.
Hayee was arrested before, in 2003, and presumably released. On May 29, 2003, Dawn, the same Pakistani English daily that trumpeted Hayee's arrest last week, reported, "Terrorism convict arrested," chronicling Hayee's arrest. A few days later, The News, another English daily, reported with the headline, "Pearl kidnapping suspect appears in Pakistan" that Hayee had been charged. A detailed report by the United Nations Higher Commission for Refugees chronicled Hayee's arrest and disappearance from public record.
This cat and mouse game has become business as usual, described by one U.S. official as "catch-and-release, catch-and-release." For those who have watched the case closely, who have lived with it for years, there are many vexing questions: Did Pakistani forces secretly have Hayee all along? Are they going to prosecute? If so, why now? Why not the first time they picked up him? If they do, will they actually get a conviction? Or is there something even more unsettling going on? Is this an effort to release Omar Sheikh, the mastermind of the scheme to trap Pearl, convicted to death but his case pending appeal?
In a hyperbolic exaggeration of Hayee's role, the Pakistan Press Foundation reported that Hayee was the "mastermind" of Pearl's murder. But it seems that the news of Hayee's arrest is meant to influence as much as inform, to borrow from a concept used by intelligence analysts. Hayee wasn't directly involved in Pearl's murder, as the headlines suggest, but rather had a cameo, bit role in the kidnapping that amounted to a quick sighting of Pearl as he arrived at the compound where he was held, and then a shopping trip to a local flea market to buy the odd track suit Pearl's kidnappers made him wear.
In "The Truth Left Behind," a report published in early 2011 by the Pearl Project, a faculty-student investigative reporting project at Georgetown University, we found that 27 men were allegedly involved in Pearl's kidnapping and murder; of them only four were convicted, while others were killed in extrajudicial shootings or held in detention, and 14 remained free. Among them: Hayee. In a detail that Pearl would have appreciated, Hayee's trail leads back to a secret meeting with militants involved in the kidnapping at a popular Karachi hangout: Snoopy Ice Cream Parlour.
In the spring of 2008, we obtained a copy of a 5-page Pakistani police report, written in Urdu, detailing Hayee's involvement in Pearl's kidnapping. The police report reveals a very detailed profile of Hayee as one of Pakistan's many "sons of darkness," as journalist Massoud Ansari calls them, born in the 1960s and 70s with roots in the northeast Punjab Province heartland, where radicalism is often fostered by an austere interpretation of Sunni Islam called Deobandism.
The men came of age in the 1980s just as Afghan fighters, fueled by their Islamic fervor and covert aid from Pakistan and the United States, were defeating the mighty Soviet military. After the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) tapped the new Islamist fervor in Pakistan to create militant groups such as HUM (Harkat ul-Mujahideen), LeJ (Lashkar-e-Jhangvi), JeM (Jaish-e-Mohammed), SSP (Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan), HUI (Harkat-ul-Islamiya), and LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba), based in Punjab Province, as proxies in Pakistan's war against India for the state of Kashmir. Through the 1990s, Hayee crisscrossed Pakistan into Afghanistan, training other militants, plotting attacks on members of the Shia minority and recruiting new members.
Many of the young men involved in Pearl's kidnapping had joined these groups and trained at Afghanistan-Pakistan border camps tied to Pakistan's spy agency, the ISI, and were drawn to the radical views of the Taliban fighters who subsequently took control of Afghanistan. In an ironic twist of events, it was the ISI's public affairs arm that confirmed Hayee's arrest to reporters this week. Hayee's group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, is now considered part of a loose collection of militant groups dubbed the "Punjabi Taliban."
Now in their 30s and 40s, these militants are eager foot soldiers and officers in what some regard as a growing industry, ‘Jihad Inc.', many of them living in dicey Karachi neighborhoods, such as Nazimabad and Gulshan-e-Iqbal, both neighborhoods that Hayee called home in the police report.
The details of the kidnapping chronicled in our Pearl Project report reveal these networks of trusted relationships through which militants such as Hayee operate. In January 2002, living in Karachi, Hayee got a call from Attaur Rehman, another young terrorist king pin. He and other militant buddies hailed from the same Nazimabad neighborhood that Hayee had called home. Rehman had taken over as amir of LEJ in Karachi when Hayee traveled to Afghanistan, according to the police report.
Rehman told Hayee to arrive at a compound where an "American journalist" was to be held. The journalist: Pearl. He had arrived in Karachi to conduct an interview. But it was actually a trap set by the mastermind of the kidnapping, Omar Sheikh, a Pakistani-British London School of Economics dropout who had been bitten by the jihad bug, prompting him to join Harkat ul-Mujahideen in the early 1990s, heading to India where he was arrested in 1994 for kidnapping tourists, including an American. (In 1999, India freed him in exchange for passengers on hijacked Indian Airlines Flight 814.)
Rehman and Hayee were old acquaintances; they had collaborated on a 1998 attack against Iranian engineers, according to the police report. After checking out the compound, Rehman told Hayee to meet him after the sunset prayer called maghrib at Snoopy Ice Cream. The two militants ate ice cream as they waited for their co-conspirators to arrive. "A red car arrived, most probably an Alto, in which there were two people and the other was the driver who was recognizable but don't know the name," Hayee said in the police report. "He had a long beard, they got ice cream and left. We also left after them." Police suspect that Pearl was also in the red car that showed up outside the Snoopy Ice Cream parlor.
From another suspect's police report, the Pearl Project established that soon after arriving at the compound, Rehman told his underlings, "The guest is coming. Get ready." Rehman took two Russian-made TT-30 semiautomatic pistols from a side compartment of his Hero Honda C-70 motorcycle, giving one to a guard and keeping the other. He turned to one of the men, Fazal Karim, a low-level militant with five daughters, and told him to watch the gate and open it as soon as a car arrived.
"Soon after that, the journalist's car came in," Hayee is reported to have said in his police report.
When the red Suzuki Alto pulled up, Pearl was in the front seat. Karim opened the gate. Rehman opened the front door and led Pearl out of the car, holding him, according to the police report, "by his neck and in the other hand held the pistol." Hayee stood nearby.
Hayee said the militants "took the journalist at gunpoint to the room where everyone undressed him and searched his belongings completely." The red Suzuki "left right away." Rehman "picked up Daniel Pearl's belongings," Hayee said. According to other suspect reports, Rehman told Pearl to take off his clothes and hand over his belongings, including his camera, tape recorder, mobile phone, wristwatch, glasses, glasses case, wallet, four to five mobile phone cards, shoes, and a Citibank credit card. Pearl complied. Rehman asked Pearl what he wanted to eat. The guards suggested a hamburger, according to another suspect report.
Together, Hayee and Rehman went to a neighborhood called Sohrab Goth. From the flea market there, they "got clothes, beddings, food to eat," the police report said. Then he said: "I left for home."
And that appears to have been the extent of Hayee's involvement. It might be in Hayee's interest to minimize his role in the kidnapping, but his chronology is collaborated by the police reports of other suspects.
Later, Attaur Rehman and Faisal Bhatti, another alleged militant also involved, came to Hayee's house, he said, and told him: "We have completed Daniel Pearl's job."
Hayee's story demonstrates how militants make a career out of terrorism. During his interrogation, Hayee told police he had been considering a few other terrorist attacks. With regard to one of these, he said he met with a colleague, "Asif," at a mosque called Baitul Mukarram in Karachi "to make plans against Americans." Hayee and Asif knew that containers destined for American troops in Afghanistan would be passing through Pakistan. The plan: "Snatch the containers near Afghanistan, fill them with explosives, send a suicide bomber inside, and let him explode at the designated spot."
Police also tied Hayee to bombs sent to police officers in Karachi in 2003.
As the Pearl Project showed, this single arrest of Abdul Hayee won't be enough. Pakistan needs to prosecute all of the 14 men allegedly involved in Pearl's kidnapping, and it needs to shut down, dismantle and destroy the "jihad factories," as one regional security expert calls them, that created them and support them today. In a prescient article published in the last days of December 2001, after reporting in the city of Bahawalpur in south Punjab, home to many militant groups, Danny Pearl himself cast a jaundiced eye at the announcement of the arrest of 50 "extremists or terrorists," noting that despite Pakistani government claims that the offices of extremists had been shut down, "posters praising holy war still hung inside."
In an email, Pearl told his mother about the article he'd just written on the militancy in Pakistan, still alive, and, knowing any mother's normal worries for her child, cautioned her: "Don't freak out too much about my story in today's paper."
Asra Q. Nomani is a former Wall Street Journal reporter and the co-director of the Pearl Project. Kira Zalan is an associate editor at U.S. News & World Report and former Pearl Project fellow. Barbara Feinman Todd is Georgetown University's journalism director and the co-director of the Pearl Project.
The Pearl Project was funded by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. Pakistani police reports were translated from Urdu to English by Sajida Nomani and Dr. Zafar Nomani, translators for the Pearl Project.
In January, Afghan forces shot grenades and bullets at a remote village in Nangarhar province, in eastern Afghanistan. One civilian died, and villagers rushed six other injured residents to the hospital in Jalalabad. Nasir saw it all happen. He then had to beg $11,000 from friends and relatives to cover medical care for his injured family members.
Several days later, Nasir asked the district chief of police why Afghan forces fired on the village. "We had an intelligence report that insurgents were in the village and we wanted to scare them, so we just started firing on the village," the police chief told him. Furious, Nasir complained to the Afghan Army Regional Corps Commander and the Provincial Governor's office to no avail. He went to the Governor's office itself to demand an investigation and financial help for the medical bills. An official there told him to rewrite his complaint letter to blame opposition forces. When Nasir refused to lie, he was turned away.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. Of the hundred or so families I interviewed with my colleagues for a report by Center for Civilians in Conflict, most say they've received nothing from their government for deaths or injuries caused by Afghan forces.
One major reason these families are ignored is that Afghan officials often refuse to acknowledge that its security forces cause civilian casualties in the first place. Over the past year, Center for Civilians in Conflict interviewed other civilians harmed by the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) whose complaints were ignored by their government. And we're not the only ones to notice. In its latest protection of civilians report, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) noted: "UNAMA is concerned by the reluctance of ANSF leadership to acknowledge civilian casualties caused by ANSF. Senior ANP [Afghan National Police] and ANA [Afghan National Army] senior officers consistently asserted that ANSF do not cause civilian casualties."
Like Nasir, some of the civilians we interviewed appealed to Afghan officials for an investigation and assistance in response to deaths and injuries caused by Afghan forces. But local Afghan officials frequently denied that harm had been done, cast blame on other warring parties, or were wholly indifferent. While Afghan government programs exist in principle to ease the suffering of all civilian victims of the conflict, in practice the government rarely investigates, holds accountable, or offers assistance to those harmed by its own security forces.
This is a disturbing trend, and eerily similar to how the United States and other international forces dealt with civilian casualties at the start of their time in Afghanistan. The civilian casualties they caused-and ignored-generated anger and harsh criticism from ordinary Afghans and President Karzai. Commanders eventually recognized that their mission was undermined every time Afghan civilians are killed or injured by international forces.
Civilian harm caused by Afghan forces hasn't yet generated the same level of local anger, nor had the same strategic effect, for two main reasons. First, Afghans have historically been opposed to the presence of foreign forces on their soil. Civilian harm caused by international forces played into these anti-foreigner sentiments. In contrast, many Afghans I have met expressed pride in their security forces, particularly the Afghan army. Second, the ANSF have not yet caused as many civilian casualties as international forces or the Taliban, primarily because they have not been in the lead during combat operations. As could have been predicted, ANSF-caused civilian casualties are increasing as Afghan forces assume control of their country.
Civilian deaths caused by Afghan forces are beginning to spark some protests, albeit less frequently than when international forces are responsible for such incidents. Over time, it's easy to see how Afghan forces could lose the support of their people. Three weeks ago, an elder from Nangarhar told me, "[Afghan forces] call us insurgents. That is why they kill us. Some Taliban are in our villages, but many are ordinary civilians. The Afghan army chases them and when they go to the villages [the Afghan army] shoots civilians...We are upset with both sides-the government and the Taliban. They shouldn't be killing us. The Taliban and the ANSF are the same."
To be fair, the Taliban and other armed opposition groups are responsible for the overwhelming amount of civilian casualties. Many Afghan officials are quick to highlight this fact in an apparent strategy to deflect criticism. But, that is no excuse for the Afghan government to ignore civilians harmed by its own security forces. The population is looking to them not only for security but also to be an honest broker-capable of protecting, serving, and taking responsibility for its actions. That means Afghan forces, and the government behind them, need to avoid civilian harm and respond with integrity when civilian casualties do happen.
Best practices can be found close to home. In 2008, international forces began noticeable efforts to better prevent and respond to civilian casualties they caused. Instead of frequently denying responsibility for them and not offering any assistance in the aftermath, international forces started building up policies and practices that sought to avoid civilian casualties and dignify the families left behind when civilians were killed or injured. They saw this shift as both a strategic and a humanitarian imperative.
To start, ISAF instituted a mechanism within command headquarters to track and investigate civilian harm, analyze it for lessons learned to help prevent recurrence, and respond to allegations of civilian casualties with timely information rather than denials. Some international forces began offering monetary payments to civilians in recognition of their losses and as a culturally appropriate gesture of dignity.
These practices are by no means perfect and we still meet many civilians harmed by international forces who are not offered the assistance they deserve. But ISAF policies to track, analyze, and respond to civilian casualties have meant fewer civilians are harmed and the response to many incidents of civilian harm has improved. In 2012, UNAMA found that international military forces caused 491 civilian casualties, a marked reduction from 2009, when they were responsible for 1008 civilian deaths and injuries. For the Afghan government not to enact similar policies is a wasted opportunity to learn from past mistakes.
It's not too late. There are two ways to prove to the Afghan people that their forces are there to help, not to cause more harm.
First, Afghan forces need to own up to the harm they cause. They need a fully operational civilian casualty mitigation team-similar to what ISAF created-housed in the National Security Council. It should be staffed professionally and be responsible for tracking, investigating, and responding to civilian harm. Last summer, the Afghan President's Office began a worthwhile effort to track civilian casualties caused by Afghan forces. But the main input to this system is reporting from Afghan forces spread out in the provinces-a dispersed system that is woefully weak. The effort will certainly fail unless this reporting structure is strengthened and all data gets from the countryside to the capital. Investigations and harm response procedures need a major overhaul, as both are inadequate to actually identify and help civilians harmed. (Civilian harm that violates international or domestic law should be dealt with through separate legal channels.)
Second, the Afghan government should offer financial help to civilians harmed by Afghan forces. There are already two programs in effect to assist war victims, but they don't go nearly far enough, and civilians harmed by Afghan forces are rarely offered help. One program-called the Code 99 Fund-is housed in President Karzai's office and gives payments of about $2,000 for family members killed and about $1,000 for conflict-related injuries. Another program, under the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs, and Disabled, offers smaller monthly sums for conflict-related losses. In our interviews, we found that nearly all recipients of this aid were harmed by the Taliban or international forces.
One simple reason civilians harmed by Afghan forces don't get as much help is that the forces responsible don't have a way of referring people to these assistance programs. That's an obvious fix that's needed and could be immediately rectified by creating protocols for what to do once a civilian has been harmed. When I met with the spokesperson for the Afghan Ministry of Defense several weeks ago, he agreed that such procedures should be developed for the Afghan Army. The Ministry of Defense, Interior, as well as the National Directorate of Security-all of which oversee elements of the ANSF-should act without delay to create these channels for getting civilians through the system.
The United States and its allies shifted tactics to better avoid and respond to civilian casualties in Afghanistan, but they're not off the hook yet. They can and should do more to ensure that the security forces they leave behind are professional and accountable, including supporting the Afghan government in creating a civilian casualty mitigation team and fixing its assistance programs. The US and NATO allies currently offer $6 billion each year to pay for the ANSF, so they have plenty of leverage. Donors should strongly encourage the Afghan government to direct a small amount of those funds towards these civilian-centered initiatives. Whether or not Afghan forces are prepared to avoid and respond appropriately to civilian harm will ultimately reflect on the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan.
As Afghan forces take the lead, ordinary Afghans will judge their security forces by how they treat civilians. That means both their ability to avoid harm to civilians during operations, and their response when civilian casualties occur. The Afghan government has something to prove, too, as its immediate and long-term legitimacy will very much depend on whether people like Nasir and his family are cared for, not ignored.
Trevor Keck is a Kabul based field researcher with Center for Civilians in Conflict.
*Names have been changed
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images
At about 5:30 PM local time on February 16, a massive bomb ripped through a bustling street lined with grocery stores, schools, and tuition centers in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta. A water tanker packed with an estimated 2,200 pounds of improvised explosives had been detonated in the middle of busy crowds of children leaving their classrooms, and men and women buying groceries for their evening meals.
According to initial media reports, the blast killed at least 79 people and wounded 180 others, mostly women and children. A Hazara activist I spoke with two days after the attack claimed that the death toll had reached 110, as some of the wounded succumbed to their injuries and more bodies were recovered from the rubble of the shops brought down by the blast. The victims were members of the Hazara community, an ethno-religious minority that is becoming the symbol of Pakistan's drift into horrors of sectarian conflict and extremist violence.
Like much of the past attacks against Hazaras, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), an extremist Sunni militant group ostensibly banned in Pakistan since 2001, claimed responsibility for the attack on Saturday. Abu Bakar Siddiq, its spokesman, called local media outlets to claim the attack and reiterate LeJ's stated mission of "making Balochistan a graveyard for the Shias." He blatantly declared "either we or the Shias will live in Quetta."
Sectarian violence is neither new nor rare in Pakistan. Beginning in the 1980s, the country has witnessed an escalation of violence between militant groups of its Sunni majority and Shiite minority population. The growth of these jihadist outfits cannot be disentangled from strategic rivalries between Iran and Saudi Arabia over the leadership of the Islamic world. Saudi Arabia's decades-old policy of promoting puritanical Wahabi Islam, along with the Islamic Republic of Iran's efforts to promote its own version of revolutionary Shiite Islam, was central to the mushrooming of fanatical groups such as the LeJ.
Founded in 1996, LeJ has its roots in the Sipah-e Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), a Sunni-Deobandi militant organization which was established in 1985 amidst the rise of international militant Islamism and sectarian violence following the Islamic Revolution of Iran in 1979 and the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s. For several years, the SSP fought violent battles against its Shiite equivalent Sipah-e Muhammad (SM).
Pakistan's domestic sectarian conflict has grown in tandem with and as consequence of its military and intelligence establishment's use of extremist groups as a weapon in its foreign policy arsenal. While the Shiite militant organizations such as SM over time disappeared in the face of an inhospitable political environment in Pakistan, groups funded and armed by Saudi petro-dollars became a convenient instrument in the hand of Pakistani political and military establishments in its conflict with India over Kashmir, and in the war in Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, LeJ was one of several foreign militant groups that aided the Taliban movement that emerged with Pakistan's support in the second half of 1990s. These groups along with Al-Qaeda provided the Taliban with an endless supply of external firebrand jihadists and financial resources. LeJ maintained a militant training camp in the Surobi district of Kabul under Taliban rule and participated in the militia's campaigns of ethnic cleansing and scorched-earth operations against its opponents.
The devastating blast in Quetta on Saturday was the latest in a series of targeted attacks on Hazaras that have over recent years been escalating rapidly to become a full-fledged campaign of ethnic cleansing. According to Hazara Organization for Peace and Equality (HOPE), an organization of Hazara activists that has maintained and updated a list of victims of such sectarian violence since 1999, the targeted violence against the Hazaras has taken over 1,300 lives and injured more than 3,000 others.
LeJ attacks against Hazaras intensified after the group distributed a pamphlet in Quetta in June 2011 designating Hazaras as wajeb-ul-qatl (those whom Muslims have a duty to kill). It declared:
Just as our fighters waged a successful jihad against the Shiite Hazaras in Afghanistan, our mission is the elimination of this unclean sect and people, the Shiite and Hazaras, from every city, every village and every corner of Pakistan.
Hazaras make up about a half-million-strong community in Baluchistan's restive capital of Quetta, and are distinguished by their distinctive Central Asian facial features, their distinctive dialect of Persian, and their practice of Shiite Islam in a predominantly Sunni country. In the complex political and security environment of Pakistan, and South Asia more broadly, where blatant violence holds sway, the Hazaras do not carry much political weight. In a country of 180 million people, they have neither the sufficient voting power to threaten Pakistan's key political parties ahead of the forthcoming general elections, nor the capacity to take the fight against LeJ into their own hands.
Operating in an environment of virtual impunity, LeJ has over time improved its tactics to increase the number of victims per episode. The new tactics include the ambush and mass murder of Hazara passengers on Baluchistan's highways, and brazen attacks at the heart of Hazara neighborhoods. On September 20, 2011, a bus carrying 26 Hazaras as intercepted in the Mastung district of Baluchistan, and its passengers were shot to death execution-style. LeJ claimed responsibility for the attack and released a video of the gruesome killing in the internet. And less than six weeks before this month's blast in Quetta, on January 10, a double bomb attack targeting a snooker club on Alamdar Road (another primarily Hazara neighborhood) claimed more than 90 lives and wounded more than 150, mainly Hazaras.
Attacks targeting individual businessman and ordinary Hazaras over the past years have effectively driven much of the Hazaras from the main economic and social centers of the city, pushing them further into their ethnic enclaves in the west and east of the city. And these two massive attacks in the span of less than two months targeted the hearts of these enclaves, indicating that LeJ will not just be satisfied by pushing isolating and terrorizing the Hazara community.
The impunity with which outlaw groups such as LeJ conduct a campaign of ethnic cleansing raises fundamental questions about the nature and future direction of Pakistan as a country. Allegations of Pakistani military and intelligence agencies' collusion with extremist and violent groups, in particular when these groups served its political or security interests in the conflict over Kashmir or in Afghanistan, are neither new nor rare.
Despite the scale and brutality with which these attacks have been carried out and the implications they have for the image and credibility of Pakistani state institutions, not a single culprit has been arrested or brought to justice. At best, the situation of Hazaras in Quetta illustrates a disturbing incompetence of Pakistani state institutions in the face of small groups of fanatics such as the LeJ. And at the worst, it may represent their collusion with groups bent on killing its own citizens.
Hazara activists have regularly accused Pakistani authorities of turning a blind eye to their killings, and they have good reason to distrust Pakistani institutions. Malik Ishaq, one of the key leaders of LeJ, was released from prison in Lahore in July 2011, apparently for lack of evidence. He was detained in 1997 on charges of involvement in dozens of murder and violent activities. Usman Kurd and Shafique Rind, two of the ringleaders of LeJ death squads in Baluchistan who are allegedly responsible for much of the violence against Hazaras, escaped under mysterious circumstances from a high security prison in Quetta's military cantonment in 2008. Ishaq was detained on Friday, less than a week after his organization claimed responsibility for last weekend's attack. But if history is any sign of what is to come, he will not be in custody for long.
Desperate and disappointed with Pakistani political and security response, Hazara activists in Pakistan and around the world have sought to attract international attention. After every major attack, they have organized peaceful street demonstrations, gone on hunger strikes and written letters to world leaders. But a United States struggling to end a decade-long costly military intervention in Afghanistan and trying to adjust with a tumultuous Middle East is yet to take notice of the killing of a small, isolated and powerless community in Baluchistan. The key question that remains is, will the world continue to turn a blind eye to a tragedy of this scale? And if LeJ succeeds in turning Baluchistan into a Hazara graveyard, or empty the city out of its Hazara population, who will be the next victim of Pakistan's unbridled forces of terror and bloodshed?
Niamatullah Ibrahimi is an analyst based in Kabul, Afghanistan. He has researched and written extensively about the Hazaras in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
BANARAS KHAN/AFP/Getty Images
Better late than never? We know it's already halfway through February of 2013, but we'd still like to say congratulations to the authors whose AfPak Channel articles received the most views in 2012. The results reveal that AfPak Channel readers have varied interests -- from gender issues in Pakistan to Afghanistan's uncertain future to the controversy over U.S. drone strikes. If you haven't already read these, you can get started by following the links below, which are arranged in the order of views received, starting with the most-read.
1. Pakistan's almost suicide bombers, by Hussain Nadim
2. 10 lessons the US should learn from Afghanistan's history, by William Byrd
3. The once and future civil war in Afghanistan, by Ryan Evans
4. President Karzai and the secondary sex, by Rachel Reid
5. Imran Khan's new Pakistan, by Kiran Nazish
6. Voice of a native son: Drones may be a necessary evil, by Zmarak Yousefzai
7. Putting the Afghans in charge, by Roger D. Carstens
8. Dodging the drones: How militants have responded to the covert U.S. campaign, by Aaron Y. Zelin
9. The dishonorable defense of honor, by Rabail Baig
10. Fixing Pakistan's tanking economy, by David Walters
Big thank you to all of our contributors for their hard work, excellent analysis, and love for all things AfPak.
Jennifer Rowland and Peter Bergen, Editors of the AfPak Channel
AREF KARIMI/AFP/Getty Images
Pakistan's war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the northwest is taking a tremendous toll on the local population. The military's killing of civilians, collective punishment of locals, and continued detention of thousands has produced an unprecedented level of animosity toward the federal government and security forces.
Last month, minority Hazaras in the restive southwestern city of Quetta used a new tactic to draw attention to the systematic killing of their community members by Sunni extremists. They took the latest victims' bodies to the center of the city and staged a sit-in, refusing to bury the bodies until the military took over security in the city.
The tactic inspired locals in the northwestern Federally Administered Tribal Regions (FATA) to stage a similar protest in Peshawar, refusing to bury 18 of their dead until the Pakistani government looked into the latest killings by security forces. Locals say Pakistani security forces killed the civilians during a house to house search on the night of January 15th in Bara, a district in the Khyber Agency of FATA, just south of Peshawar. Thousands of local tribesmen held a jirga, and decided to take the bodies to Peshawar, where they sat in front of the state government building. When a member of the national parliament showed up to talk, the protesters attacked him, forcing him to flee. The tribesmen wanted the military to admit they killed civilians, compensate families of the dead, and pull out of their areas.
The military agreed to investigate the killings and compensate the families. But if the tribesmen wanted the military to leave the region, they would be collectively held responsible for any problems involving militants in the future.
Two days after the Bara killings, Pakistani helicopter gunships struck homes near Mir Ali, a town in North Waziristan, killing five civilians, including two women and two children. According to locals, the Pakistani military carried out the attack in response to an IED that destroyed a tank and killed two soldiers in Miran Shah. North Waziristan's major tribes held a jirga and decided to observe a complete three day strike, demanding reparations and an end to civilian killings, and threatening to march on Islamabad.
Safdar Dawar, a journalist from North Waziristan and head of the Tribal Union of Journalists, says the killings of civilians in Bara and Mir Ali are not unprecedented, but the widespread, well-organized response of the tribesmen has surprised many.
While the Hazara protest in Quetta drew massive media attention and the eventual ear of the national government, the hundreds of tribesman who protested in Peshawar were dispersed with batons and tear gas, the bodies of their family members forcibly buried by security forces. The heavy-handed approach quickly drew condemnation from opposition political parties like the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Muslim League (N), who have maintained for years that the war against militants in FATA has killed too many civilians and should be abandoned. Pakhtuns living across the country have held rallies of their own in cities like Lahore and Karachi decrying the ongoing military offensives in the Pakhtun-dominated tribal areas of Pakistan's northwest.
Nearly 700 people have been killed in Khyber Agency in 2012, making it the most violent agency in FATA. (North Waziristan saw about 346 people killed in the same period, mostly from drones). It has the bad luck of being a strategically important area, sitting next to Peshawar and hosting an important supply route for Afghanistan.
Like Khyber, many parts of FATA have seen multiple military operations since 2002, when soldiers were first deployed to the region to support NATO activities across the border. Since then, the Pakistani military has played a cat and mouse game with militants that has had a serious impact on locals. The military often employs artillery, jets, and helicopters that pound suspected militants, but as the example of Mir Ali shows, they occasionally end up killing civilians too. Millions of people have been forced to settle in other parts of the country, leaving many towns empty. After carrying out its operations, the military usually announces it is safe for locals to return to their homes, but the conflict continues.
In FATA, there is little legal recourse for civilians on the receiving end of the Pakistani military operations. Instead of being treated as individuals, residents can legally be held accountable for the actions of others belonging to their tribe, a policy that dates back to British colonial times. In 2011, the federal government announced a package that restricted collective punishment to males aged 16-65, and allowed for a military and civilian oversight board to review complaints of abuse, but human rights groups like Amnesty International say these measures have yet to be enacted, and would still allow the military to have the final say. Under pressure to effectively combat militancy in the region, other legislation has given the military sweeping powers to detain individuals indefinitely.
South Waziristan was once the primary base for militant groups in Pakistan. After several military operations, the area is one of the quietest. But as an Amnesty International report form 2010 explains, the peace came at a heavy price. While launching operations to retake the area from Taliban-aligned Mehsud tribesmen in 2009, the Pakistani government issued a blanket order to arrest any Mehsud and confiscate their property. As hundreds of thousands tried to flee towns that were being shelled by the military, witnesses recount how Mehsud refugees were turned around at military checkpoints. According to a government report, in a single month the military destroyed more than four thousand homes belonging to Mehsud tribesmen in South Waziristan.
Tribes that support the federal government have not fared much better.
Two years ago, the government recruited 250 local tribesmen to help fight Taliban militants in a village adjacent to Peshawar, but only gave them 87 rifles. So in late December, 2012, when hundreds of Taliban from a neighboring district carried out a sophisticated attack on checkpoints in the area, the local recruits were easily defeated. Two recruits were killed and twenty two taken hostage. The military issued an ultimatum to the local Taliban militants: turn over the kidnapped men or we will punish the entire village. Tribal elders said the situation was out of their hands, and a few days later twenty one bodies turned up. The village was embargoed and a curfew was imposed that lasted weeks. The military carried out several raids, destroying homes and detaining scores of men. A month later, the government finally admitted they had not adequately equipped locals to defend themselves against the Taliban, and offered financial compensation to the victims' families.
Dawar, the journalist from North Waziristan, offers a whole list of ways the war has made life unbearable in FATA. He says that residents of Bara have lived under a general curfew for three years. A similar curfew has been imposed on Mehsuds in South Waziristan. And in North Waziristan, there has been a long-running curfew every Saturday and Sunday. Amnesty International has documented how curfews are often imposed in areas where there are ongoing military operations, making it difficult for civilians to leave the area.
Perhaps the most egregious abuses in FATA involve extra-judicial detentions, torture, and the killing of suspected militants by security forces. "As the state's practices have moved away from large-scale military operations to sporadic clashes with armed groups over the last three years," a December 2012 report from Amnesty International explains, "the authorities' attention has shifted to search operations resulting in thousands of arrests and detentions."
It is difficult to even get a good estimate for the number of detainees in FATA. Detainees are shuffled from one security agency to another, and many seem to be held in unofficial prisons - hotels and other civilian buildings seized by security forces. In June 2012, the Peshawar High Court ordered the release of 1,035 detainees. According to the 2012 Amnesty report, the government has provided the names of about 1,000 people it is keeping in detention. But 2,000 cases of missing persons are still pending in the Peshawar High Court, brought by people suspecting their relatives are in government custody. The Amnesty report details many cases where families only learned the fate of their missing relatives once they had been released, sometimes after being severely tortured or even killed by interrogators.
"The tribal areas have lost their leadership," Dawar explains. Under the laws governing FATA, tribes appoint representatives called maliks to talk to the federal government. "Thousands of maliks have been killed or forced to leave since 2001 in South Waziristan, North Waziristan, Bajaur, all over," Dawar says. The federal government only extended voting rights to FATA in 1997, and just last year it allowed political parties to operate in the region. Major political parties like the Pakistan People's Party and the Awami National Party routinely see their representatives in FATA killed. But without a constitutional amendment, future members of parliament will continue to be powerless. Article 247 of the Pakistani constitution puts FATA entirely under the power of the President, saying "No act of Parliament shall apply to any federally administered tribal area or to any part thereof, unless the President so directs."
The Pakistani military continues to be the most trusted power in the region, ahead of the Pakistani government, the Taliban, or the United States. But Dawar says tribal leaders are asking the military to leave their areas, and let them deal with the militants themselves. When it comes to the Pakistani military, Dawar explains, "in many tribal areas, they have lost their confidence in it, and are now trying to regain it."
Tribesmen have often banded together to expel al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or other extremist groups from their land. But they have also consistently claimed that the source of their current problems lies in Afghanistan and the U.S. invasion of 2001.
"If you are asking about Americans," Dawar says, "100% [of the people] here are hating Americans. They are thinking that this whole drama is from the side of America, because they came to Afghanistan. That is why they are demanding America leave Afghanistan."
"The elders and the people recall the situation before 2001, [when] they had their own culture, unity, lashkars [militias], and peace committees," he explains, which they know were more effective than any tools from "these stakeholders in the Great Game."
Umar Farooq is an independent journalist based in the United States. He is on twitter: @UmarFarooq_.
A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images
Pakistan has accepted an Afghan "roadmap" for peace, according to news reports this week. If true, this would be quite a breakthrough given the setbacks of the last year, such as the suspension of talks by the Taliban in March, cross-border shelling into eastern Afghanistan, and recent allegations that Pakistan was involved in an assassination attempt on the Afghan intelligence chief last week. Ending a conflict that has claimed so many thousands of Afghan lives is desperately needed, and signs of a shift in Pakistan's attitude to talks could be a positive step towards that. However, a recently leaked copy of the Afghan High Peace Council's "Peace Process Roadmap to 2015,"[posted here], which has not yet been made public, lays out a trajectory that does little to assuage fears that a deal with the Taliban could erode women's rights and human rights in general.
The roadmap contains five steps. The first includes an end to cross-border shelling, the transfer by Pakistan of Taliban prisoners to Afghanistan or a third country, and pressure on the Taliban to sever ties with al-Qaeda. Phase Two (slated for the first half of 2013) includes safe passage for Taliban negotiators to unspecified countries, contact with Taliban negotiators, agreement on the terms of a peace process, and further delisting of Taliban by the United States and the United Nations.
Phase three, in the second half of 2013, envisages a ceasefire. Taliban prisoners would be released in exchange for renouncing violence. The plan proposes that the Taliban could transform into a political movement, and prepare to contest elections (presumably including the Presidential elections in 2014). While the emergence of a political party from the Taliban is conceivable, and desirable, the hope that this could be achieved next year seems remote. There are clearly reformers within the Taliban, but many who have engaged in preliminary negotiation efforts have been killed by hardliners or imprisoned by Pakistan, while Afghan negotiators have been assassinated. Consequently the breadth of commitment to politics and peace within the Taliban movement remains uncertain.
Step three also contains the most frank description I've seen so far about non-elected appointments of Taliban as an incentive to reconciling. This will likely include critical governorships, potentially legitimating some of the shadow provincial governments of the Taliban. Appointments remain one of the primary means of patronage in Afghanistan, so it's hard to imagine jobs not being a part of a peace deal, however unpalatable it may seem to those bearing the brunt of the ongoing Taliban violence against civilians. But the roadmap contains no red lines here, such as the exclusion from government jobs of commanders suspected of war crimes and other serious human rights abuses. There's a pragmatic argument for this -a peace process is more likely to last if it can defuse the enmity created by atrocities committed by both the Taliban and the government. Unfortunately, whenever I raise the basic human rights principle of "no peace without justice," I usually get a withering dismissal from Afghan and international officials. This year, though, the principle seemed oddly vindicated when the Taliban cited the corruption of the Afghan government as a reason for not negotiating with them.
When consulted, a majority of Afghans tend to support calls for justice and accountability. But it's not until step four of the roadmap, when the real deal-making has already been done, that the Afghan government plans to "mobilize" support from its citizens. There is much more that the government could do now to reassure its citizens -particularly women -that their protection is the primary goal of any peace agreement.
The roadmap, though, doesn't even mention women until the final paragraph, when a government pledge to uphold constitutional guarantees of freedom is repeated. Given President Hamid Karzai's proclivity for casting off women's rights when there's a political incentive, this isn't enough, and certainly doesn't measure up to the Tokyo declaration of July 2012, which has far stronger promises to respect rights. But the Tokyo declaration was signed when 16 billion donor dollars were on the table, so the roadmap may be the more accurate indicator of the government's commitment to women.
Those foreign dollars can still be made to count. In steps four and five, the roadmap talks of international support in implementing the peace process. It would be better if it allowed for international monitoring of the peace process and its implementation, with a place for women at the negotiating table. Only if women are there to argue for their own protections can this not result in a significant setback. It is areas where the Taliban are active, and where the roadmap might formalize their power, that women in public life are most at risk. One woman I met recently, whom I'll call "Shamsia,"was from a conflict ridden area of southeastern Afghanistan. Before we'd finished our introductions, Shamsia launched into her worst fears about the 2014 transition: "Everyone is afraid. Everyone talks about it, particularly women who are working. After 2014, when the Taliban come back, they will kill those who are working with the government." Earlier this week the head of the women's affairs department in Laghman province, Najia Sediqi, was killed by gunmen, five months after her predecessor was assassinated by the Taliban.
Persuading the Taliban to embrace politics over violence, and equality over segregation will take more than prisoner release and government jobs. It will take leadership, and probably many more years than the current roadmap envisages. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been the clearest international voice supporting women's rights in the peace process, but will soon step down. A female activist recently described her as the "conscience of the world" on this issue. When the U.S. Senate holds confirmation hearings for her successor, they can help ensure that the next secretary will also act as a strong "conscience" for the peace process. The international community should also make sure that the roadmap doesn't abandon justice. If peace rewards all Taliban commanders, no matter how terrible their crimes, and doesn't make room for women in the process, this roadmap could be a dead-end for human rights.
Rachel Reid is the Senior Policy Advisor on Afghanistan and Pakistan for the Open Society Foundations.
Will Afghanistan be ready for a 2014 transition? The International Crisis Group's (ICG) October 2012 report on this question drew a significant amount of attention for its warnings about electoral and political strife that could envelop the country following the withdrawal of NATO combat troops (and large amounts of aid) by the end of 2014. Less attention was paid, however, to the ICG's concerns about the state of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF, which consists of the army and police).
The report notes, "[a]s political competition heats up in the approach to the elections, there is a genuine risk that internecine competition between leaders of factions within the ANSF could lead not only to more green-on-blue incidents, but also to an increase in already high attrition rates and, in the worst case, disintegration of command and control soon after U.S. and NATO forces withdraw."
These warnings are even more concerning in light of the fact that the United States is pursing an inordinately military-heavy strategy in developing Afghanistan's security forces. The current strategy focuses on capacity building and neglects the reinforcement of democratic principles that are necessary to ensure Afghanistan's success: accountability, subordination to civilian authority, and respect for human rights, the law of armed conflict (LOAC), Afghan law, and the use of traditional justice. The United States must address these concerns by establishing parallel political and civilian tracks.
The goal of U.S. efforts vis-à-vis ANSF development appears straightforward: the U.S. strives to increase the capability of ANSF to sustain operations that ensure security, safeguard and establish governmental control, and combat terrorism. U.S. forces involved in ANSF development are focused on the skills ANSF need to confront armed opposition groups and crime. This translates into advice on targeting processes, the military decision-making process, law and order procedures, fire and maneuver, small unit tactics, etc. However, it is not apparent that U.S. policy and practice for this effort is taking into account the political, military, and social complexities involved in ANSF development; viewing it through the lens of security sector reform (SSR) helps to clarify this.
Just as is the case for foreign troops in Afghanistan, Afghan security forces can only succeed with the support of the civilian populace. How does U.S. assistance and advising take this need for acceptance into consideration, though? Moreover, how does it take into account the dire need to ensure that citizens can hold ANSF accountable for infractions that jeopardize such acceptance?
These are serious questions concerning U.S. efforts to develop ANSF and establish security. It appears that the United States does not have in place adequate doctrine, policies, or practices to monitor, report, and address ANSF progress with respect to complex matters of SSR and the professionalization of democratically controlled security forces. Such matters include the following:
The current U.S. training strategy for the ANSF risks furthering the conflict in Afghanistan by creating capable security forces that civilian authorities and Afghan citizens ultimately are not able to hold accountable. The absence of accountability and democratic control in cases of U.S.-assisted security forces has led to corruption, sectarian strife, and human rights and LOAC violations, for example, as we have seen already in Afghanistan, as well as in Uzbekistan, El Salvador, Vietnam, Iraq, Nicaragua, and South Sudan.
The United Nations 2011 report on protection of civilians in Afghanistan shows that Afghanistan needs to establish a system that allows for the investigation of ANSF infractions, and establishing one that sets methods to hold agents of abuse accountable is an even more daunting effort. The history of U.S. security assistance demonstrates the importance of monitoring, reporting, and advising on accountability and subordination of the ANSF to civilian authority: if accountability and subordination are insufficient, Afghanistan risks returning to an era of civil war.
The same ramifications confront ‘shadow governments' (i.e. Taliban local governments) that currently exist in Afghanistan when they do not reign in armed opposition groups sufficiently. Popular backlash against Taliban abuses, such as attacks on girls and the extrajudicial killings of mullahs, forces the Taliban to either discipline their fighters or deny responsibility. Just as the inability to control and hold accountable low-level fighters weakens support for the Taliban, the inability to control and hold accountable ANSF will weaken support for the Afghan government. It is essential that U.S. policy recognizes how the lack of transparency, accountability, and democratic control of security forces foments conflict.
The United States, however, cannot ensure Afghanistan will be properly equipped for accountability and control of ANSF if there is not a strong parallel political track between U.S. civilians working on the ANSF development effort and their Afghan counterparts. Things appear not to have changed much from Oxfam America's 2009 report on U.S. security assistance, which pointed out that "[i]n Iraq and Afghanistan, reliance on the U.S. military and private contractors to plan and implement U.S. SSR efforts has strongly reinforced the focus on operational capacity over accountability to civilian authority and respect for human rights." Oxfam correctly highlights in its report that the "[Department of State] should remain the lead agency in SSR, with the Department of Defense (DoD) facilitating the development of professional and accountable armed forces that are under civilian authority."
Advising and assisting ANSF is not just a military endeavor-it involves a great deal of political involvement and oversight. With a policy that utilizes a parallel political track, the U.S. can direct advisory brigades and teams in providing information to appropriate civilian counterparts so that they can address complex political-military issues. The U.S. must establish a strong political component that is led by the U.S. Department of State and dedicated to monitoring, reporting, and advising on the above SSR concerns in Afghanistan.
Another issue that U.S. policy vis-à-vis ANSF development neglects is civil society's involvement in the process. And because the conflict in Afghanistan is driven in part by Afghans' lack of trust in their government, such neglect is egregious. The existing U.S. efforts to encourage confidence in ANSF are superficial, consisting of propaganda campaigns rather than civil activities that would foster organic support for ANSF. Just as there must be democratic structures and processes that allow the Afghan government to control and monitor its security forces, there must be external avenues that allow Afghan citizens to convey concerns that help shape ANSF development and operations. For instance, providing assistance to civil society's involvement in these matters, such as building the ability of media to provide security sector oversight, encourages citizens to dialogue with their government and hold it responsible for its performance through the ballot box.
Educating Afghan media on their role in civil society as a ‘watch dog' for security force infractions is a critical positive step toward countering a myriad of issues-intimidation, government framing of incidents, restriction of information, etc.-that can hinder media oversight. The United States needs to establish a parallel civilian track that looks to secure the involvement of Afghan citizens in oversight of the ANSF through media, advocacy organizations, discussions with civil representatives, and elections. Afghans' use of elections to hold politicians responsible for the performance and control of domestic security forces is a clear demonstration of democratic accountability.
South Sudan-another test region for U.S. security assistance-provides a good example of what happens when security forces use overwhelming force in a nascent democracy, but citizens have no avenue to advocate for reform or hold their government accountable. When the Sudan People's Liberation Army (the SPLA-South Sudan's army) began to forcefully disarm militias in its historically restive Jonglei State-an effort that began in March 2012 and continues to date-the intervention resulted in numerous reported deaths, rapes, and extrajudicial killings, as well as a humanitarian crisis that persists to this day.
The SPLA's efforts in Jonglei State have alienated many from the Government of South Sudan. And while the fallout was predictable, the residents' inability to seek justice and security from the government is a failure for protection of civilians. Furthermore, it foments future conflict in South Sudan. Similar activity in Afghanistan would prove that Kabul and its forces are out of touch, not carrying out the will of the people, and essentially illegitimate.
As the United States looks toward a successful transition in 2014, it must address the above inadequacies if it hopes to provide Afghanistan with a fighting chance.
Ali A. Riazi is an advisor to NGOs and the U.S. government and military, with a focus on civilian protection, security sector reform, humanitarian affairs, and counter-terrorism. He served previously with the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office and the U.S. Marine Corps. He can be found at https://twitter.com/ali_riazi and http://www.abeingforitself.com.
As the United States' 2014 transition in Afghanistan approaches, American policymakers have underscored that President Hamid Karzai's government must undertake urgently needed institutional reforms. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted after this summer's Tokyo Conference that President Karzai had presented a "clear vision" for these reforms, which "must include fighting corruption, improving governance, strengthening the rule of law." Under the principle of mutual accountability, the United States will continue to support Afghanistan through and beyond transition.
For the U.S. to accurately gauge and support this process, we need an honest, robust grasp of Afghanistan's commitment to governance reform. But instead, since the U.S. surge began in late 2009, a few recurrent anecdotes have disproportionately driven the picture of Afghan governance that we see, thereby enabling the Afghan government's continuing reluctance to reform. A combination of bureaucratic pressures, journalistic factors, and data scarcity has led U.S. public discourse on Afghanistan to over-rely on "ground truthed" subjective narratives and personal testimonials. Proportionate, objective assessments of metrics relevant to governance reform have lost out in the noise.
"Anecdotalization" doesn't yet appear in the Oxford English Dictionary, but if it does, it will likely be because of the U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. To truly ensure much-needed Afghan government reform, we must finally suppress it.
How have a few recurrent anecdotes come to distort our understanding of Afghanistan's governance reform process?
First, predominant anecdotes have allowed us to mistake localized, distinct successes for replicable progress and reforms. Consider Nawa, which after years as one of Helmand's most dangerous districts demonstrated dramatically improved security and governance during the surge. Facilitated by American military leadership, helicopter-loads of high-ranking government officials, journalists, and think tankers visited the district for a few hours each, and produced personal testimonials like this one in a New York Times op-ed: "Nawa is flourishing. Seventy stores are open...and the streets are full of trucks and pedestrians. Security is so good we were able to walk around without body armor."
The author's bottom line echoed a Marine officer he quoted in his piece: "I hope people who say this war is unwinnable see stories like this." In contrast, observers with lengthier stays in Nawa noted its turnaround stemmed from a particular combination of tribal politics, local officials' calculations, and vast American inputs relative to the population-not any systematic action on the part of the Afghan government. Afghanistan comprises roughly 400 districts, but a vastly disproportionate number of eyewitness reports flowed in from Nawa and a handful of other districts like Arghandab and Baraki Barak. Colorful anecdotal successes drowned out more objective, broader assessments of governance reform.
Second, the pervasiveness of certain anecdotes has allowed us to confuse specific Afghan individuals' achievements for broader Afghan progress in institution building. American assistance to local Afghan government typically is focused on few key local officials. Many of these individuals demonstrated great strides or deep potential: behold the numerous accounts of Kandahar City's indefatigable mayor Ghulam Haider Hamidi, Helmand's reliable governor Ghulab Mangal, or Marja's promising district "governor in a box" Haji Zahir. Naturally, with transport facilitated by U.S. military leadership, the most impressive local officials were the ones who received frequent visits from high-level officials and influential correspondents, who could report they had seen local governance firsthand, and it was blooming. But judging overall governance progress on the basis of a few individuals is especially deceptive in Afghanistan, where officials are frequently reshuffled by the authorities in Kabul (as with Mangal), prove locally unpopular (Zahir), or are assassinated (Hamidi). Vivid testimonials don't equal a commitment to institutional reform.
Third, from a Kabul-based angle, a few persistent anecdotes have repeatedly allowed us to believe Afghan-led government reform is occurring where little actually is. For years, the international community pressured Kabul to clarify the scattered, confusing local governance picture. In 2010, the government responded with finalizing a 415-page Subnational Governance Policy: internally inconsistent yet enormously redundant, vast in ambit yet not enforceable in specifics. Before it could actually affect governance on the ground, the document needed significant legislative and administrative follow-up- which two and a half years later largely has not happened. But still, Afghan (and some American) officials alike frequently noted that they were pleased to see the policy had been drafted. A colorful testimonial counted as progress.
If this prevalence of anecdotes has allowed the Afghan government to substitute paper outputs for genuine reform, this pattern seems likely to repeat. After the Tokyo Conference described above, where the international community pressured the Karzai administration to launch serious reform and anti-corruption measures, Karzai responded with the lengthy decree: 167 articles along, divided among 33 government entities. As William Byrd and Attaullah Nasib have pointed out, the document lacked prioritization, action items, and benchmarks that can be evaluated. But it achieved its anecdotal point: as the Karzai administration has repeated frequently, it had "launched" a reform package.
How do we suppress the anecdotalization that has colored our understanding of Afghanistan's reform process? First, we must recognize that one cause is our own organizational incentives. In an era of budget constraints, military and civilian organizations in Afghanistan are pressured to demonstrate results quickly-and so they direct the unremitting stream of high-level visitors and influential thinkers to Afghanistan's most impressive cases. As a second explanation, our sound-bite culture places a premium on personal testimonials, and so peppering public communication with colorful narratives rather than tedious data is often viewed as more authentic or engaging. A third explanation lies in our unwitting mirror-imaging of the way the US government operates onto the way we believe the Afghan government does. In Washington, releasing an executive order has real consequences: it automatically triggers follow up and monitoring mechanisms from government agencies, Congress, and the media. Not so in Afghanistan, where glossy documents such as Karzai's presidential decree are often intended more to placate donors than to galvanize actions.
But the biggest reason of all for the rise of anecdotal noise is that alternatives are scarce. Measuring governance and reform-a nebulous, challenging task anywhere-- seems almost impossible in a data-poor, opaque context like Afghanistan. Data-driven evaluations do exist at the classified level, and unclassified information like The Asia Foundation's annual survey, the World Bank's indicators, International Crisis Group reports, and the Defense Department's bi-annual Section 1230 Reports add important insights or overviews. But the conversation about Afghanistan's progress resides heavily in the public domain, where opinion-makers gravitate toward the tactile, colorful personal story.
As U.S. policymakers turn toward 2014, they must suppress these recurrent anecdotes and focus on objectively measuring Afghanistan's governance reform against one central criterion: whether Afghan government institutions are prepared to "hold" the country after the U.S. drawdown. Instead of celebrating the unusual triumphs of districts like Nawa, we must look at indicators for how many provinces will be able to achieve relative success: ministry budget execution and service distribution to the local level. Instead of hoping that all local Afghan officials are as good as "our guy", we can measure whether Karzai's administration has truly made the subnational appointment system more merit based or locally accountable. Rather than check the box of "reform" with the release of a presidential anti-corruption decree, we can focus on the tedious work of prioritizing and following up on those 167 articles.
Shifting the narrative from one where a thousand vivid success stories bloom to one of objective assessment of reform won't be pleasant: it represents a move from the colorful to the colorless. But it is the only way to achieve our minimal objective in Afghanistan: an Afghan government that can endure after we depart.
Frances Z. Brown, at time of writing, was an International Affairs Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and an Afghanistan Fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
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The Taliban's shooting last Tuesday of a 14-year old girl, Malala Yousafzai, a tireless campaigner for girls' access to education, has plunged the entire Pakistani nation into a state of disbelief. Many in Pakistan and around the world have lauded her bravery, and some have questioned whether this incident is going change Pakistan, or is just another example of the ignored militant threat. The assault on Malala raises questions about the safety of female activists all over Pakistan.
In this article, we discuss ten major incidents over the past decade, all involving women, which shook the foundations of Pakistani society and increased public expectations for improved conditions for Pakistani women. These tragedies involve many different forms of violence against women, along with lax official responses that encourage a culture of impunity among the perpetrators of the assaults.
Malala Yousafzai: Taliban gunmen singled out Malala on October 9, 2012 in a school van full of girls returning home for the day. They shot her in the neck and head. She had infuriated the Taliban with her blog posts for the BBC that exposed the insurgent group's ban on girls' education in her native Swat, in the northwest of Pakistan. The Taliban consider girls' education to be un-Islamic and they began to destroy schools as a tactic to stop education for girls. According to TIME Magazine, they destroyed 473 schools between 2007 and 2009. The destruction and closure of local schools compelled Malala to speak up against the Taliban's actions. She met personally with top officials, including senior U.S. diplomats, to request them to help Pakistani girls receive uninterrupted education. The Taliban have vowed to kill Malala if she survives, and she currently remains under treatment in a hospital in England. Malala has emerged as a child hero epitomizing resistance against the Taliban.
Ramsha Masi is a teenaged Pakistani Christian girl, who according to some reports suffers from Down syndrome, and who was detained by authorities in Islamabad on blasphemy charges in August 2012 for allegedly burning pages of the Quran. She could face the death sentence if charges against her are proven. Ramsha's case spotlighted the vulnerability of Pakistan's religious minorities, who can easily be subjugated by Muslim clergymen under the controversial blasphemy law. It turned out that a Muslim cleric had actually planted evidence against the Christian girl but he was eventually granted bail by a court. Ramsha's physical safety still remains a major concern.
Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, a filmmaker, made her country proud in 2012 by becoming the first Pakistani to win an Oscar award. Saving Face, her award-winning movie, however, stunned the world as it courageously exposed the despicable phenomenon of acid attacks on women. The movie instilled courage among the victims of acid assaults and drew international attention toward the unknown ferocious practice employed by abusive husbands, angry fathers, and Taliban militants alike.
Rankil Kumari: The case of this 17-year old Hindu girl has helped to draw public attention to another disquieting practice: Forceful conversion of Hindu girls into Islam, and their subsequent forced marriages with Muslim boys. On February 24, 2012, an influential Muslim politician kidnapped Ms. Kumari from her residence in Sindh province. When the girl resurfaced after a few days, she, apparently concerned about personal safety, said she had ‘willingly' embraced Islam and married a Muslim man. The Hindus, on their part, say young girls from their minority community are wholly unsafe in Pakistan, where each month at least 20 to 25 girls are forcefully converted to Islam and compelled to marry Muslims. According to one estimate, 300 Hindu girls are forcefully converted in Pakistan each year.
Asia Bibi is another Christian woman who became a victim of the blasphemy law. In November 2010, a court in Punjab handed her a death sentence for committing blasphemy against Islam. If the superior courts uphold the judgment, she will become Pakistan's first woman to be killed under the blasphemy law.
Ms. Bibi's case also indicates the improbability of abolishing or reforming the blasphemy laws. For example, Salmaan Taseer, the Punjab governor, was shot dead by his own security guard when he publicly spoke in support of Asia Bibi and proposed a review of the draconian law. His killing was immediately followed by another high-profile murder of the minister for minority affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti. The killings in the wake of Asia Bibi case have nearly silenced the debate over scraping the discriminatory blasphemy law.
Chand Bibi: In April 2009, a YouTube video showed the Taliban publicly flogging a 17-year old girl, Chand Bibi, in Swat Valley. The video shocked the nation by exposing the Taliban's barbaric ‘justice system'. The teenaged girl was flogged on charges of adultery in front of hundreds of people. A spokesman for the Taliban confirmed the incident, depriving the Taliban of public support in the area. Public backlash to the video was so intense that it paved the way for the Pakistani army to carry out an operation against the local Taliban in Swat.
The Baba Kot Girls: In August 2008, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) reported that five young girls had been shot and buried alive on the instructions of a powerful tribal elder in Baba Kot town of Balochistan province. The girls, whose number is often disputed, were buried alive after they opted to marry for love instead of accepting marriages arranged by their families. When the tragedy was reported in the media, it triggered a massive public outcry. A Pakistani senator, surprisingly, defended the incident in the Senate and justified it as "our tribal custom". The perpetrators of the Baba Kot murders were never punished. Every year, hundreds of girls are killed in the name of honor, mostly by their own male family members.
Benazir Bhutto inspired a full generation of Muslim women in 1988 when, at the age of 35, she became the first Muslim woman to head a government. Ms. Bhutto was twice elected as Pakistan's Prime Minister, and became a symbol of female courage. On December 27, 2007, Bhutto was assassinated after an election rally in the garrison town of Rawalpindi. Many Pakistanis, including Bhutto's opponents, believed their country would never be the same again after her tragic murder. Despite a United Nations investigation, who exactly killed Bhutto remains a mystery, and her murderers remain at large until today.
Dr. Shazia Khalid, 32, is a physician who was raped on January 2, 2005 in the gas-rich town of Sui, allegedly by a Captain in the Pakistani military. While the Pakistani army headed by General Pervez Musharraf endeavored to cover up the case, the incident was eventually made public and triggered cacophonous reactions from the powerful Bugti tribe, considered the captain's action an assault on the local customs.
General Musharraf publicly declared the captain "100 percent innocent" and went on to say, "a lot of people say if you want to go abroad and get a visa for Canada or citizenship and be a millionaire, get yourself raped." Dr. Khalid's rape triggered the country's worst conflict between the Pakistan army and the Baloch tribesmen, which continues today seven years later. The Pakistani army never put the captain on trial, and faced with death threats, Dr. Khalid had to flee Pakistan to England.
Mukhtaran Mai is Pakistan's most high-profile victim of gang-rape. In June 2002, a tribal council in Punjab Province endorsed her gang rape. She was paraded naked in front of hundreds of people and raped by men belonging to a powerful tribe. Unlike many rape victims in Pakistan and throughout the world, Mai chose to speak up against her rapists and pursue a legal battle. Her courage unsettled Pakistan's military dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, so much that he imposed travel restrictions on Mai by putting her name on Pakistan's Exit Control List (ECL) for fear that if she would tell her story abroad and add to the country's negative image in the world. She was also not allowed to meet with her lawyer. Glamour Magazine called Mai "The Bravest Woman in the World" and featured her as the 2005 "Woman of the Year." She has since then become a role model for Pakistani women by setting up her own organization to work for the welfare of rural women.
Malik Siraj Akbar, based in Washington DC, is an exiled Baloch journalist who founded The Baloch Hal, the first online English language newspaper in Balochistan, Pakistan. Formerly, he was a Regan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and a Hubert Humphrey Fellow at Arizona State University.
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A month ago today, Rimsha Masih was unknown to the world. A month later - probably the worst of her life - the 14-year-old Christian girl from a slum near the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, has stirred up a storm not only at home but the world over, putting Pakistan's notorious blasphemy laws in the spotlight like never before.
Born and raised in a family of ‘sweepers' - a term synonymous to Christians in mainstream discourse in Pakistan - Rimsha Masih was arrested in mid-August for allegedly burning pages from a religious instruction book containing verses from the Holy Quran, along with pages of the holy book itself - a serious act of blasphemy punishable by death under the Pakistan Penal Code. The prime witness: her Muslim landlord's 23-year-old nephew, Amad Malik, who, according to Pakistani media reports, ‘by chance' caught her carrying a polythene bag with the desecrated pages.
In close to no time, a furious mob of hundreds, led by the Imam of the local mosque, Hafiz Mohammad Khalid Chishti (commonly referred to as Hafiz Jadoon), surrounded the Masihs' one-room dwelling, demanding that the girl be handed over. The mob wanted to burn the Christian girl alive for committing the ‘heinous' crime of disrespecting the Quran. However, in a surprising turn of events, the same mob handed her over to the police for further prosecution.
In the aftermath of Rimsha's arrest, almost all terrified Christian families of the area, including hers, fled to other already over-crowded Christian slums in and around the Pakistani capital, and the enraged mob temporarily dispersed.
But if Rimsha was to be granted bail and returned to Mehrabadi - a place she could no longer call home - "that could change," Jadoon was found saying on international TV. "Maybe they will leave her alone. Maybe they will kill her," he added. Rao Abdur Raheem, the prosecution lawyer in Rimsha's case reaffirmed by saying, "The girl is guilty. If the state overrides the court, then God will get a person to do the job." In any case, justice was to be done. Predictions appeared similar to the harrowing incident of mob justice a few months ago in July in Southern Punjab, where another infuriated mob mercilessly beat a deranged man accused of sacrilege and burnt him alive.
Introduced by British colonial rulers of the subcontinent in the late 1920s to maintain communal harmony in a multi-ethnic population, the law was retained by Pakistan as it gained independence in 1947 under its moderate founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
However, the lowest point in the devolution of the blasphemy law in Pakistan came under the military dictatorship of Zia ul Haq between late 1970s and early 1990s - a period that can easily be termed Pakistan's dark ages. Zia, a dictator remembered most for intensifying Islamic policies to radicalize the country and for manipulating Islam for the survival of his own regime, made several additions to the country's laws. This included the bill adopted by the Senate in 1992, where death penalty was made mandatory upon conviction on charges of blasphemy.
A harsh punishment considering an offence for which, to this day, no preliminary investigation is required before the filing of the First Information Report (FIR) by a local police officer. Even more disturbing is how the law is still framed to cover not only intentional but also unintentional blasphemy, completely undermining the principle that "a criminal act requires a criminal intention".
Consequently, under the Pakistan Penal Code today, all one needs is a testimony - genuine or otherwise - and the FIR is filed and the person arrested. Rimsha's testimony, however, vanished into thin air after her arrest. Amad Malik fled to "avoid unnecessary interrogation and questioning by the police and media," Jadoon was found saying on a Pakistani talk show.
Infamous for his fiery anti-Christian sermons at Friday Prayers week after week, 30-year-old Jadoon was appointed a lead cleric in the local mosque of the area 10 months prior to the incident. Very vocal about his dislike for Christians and their practices, Jadoon was often found contemplating ways to rid the area of them. Casting himself a holy man ‘incensed' at the desecration, Jadoon was heard saying that the Christians had committed blasphemy to "provoke Muslims, like they have with their noisy banging and singing from their churches," adding that he'd be pleased if the Christians didn't come back to Mehrabadi. And he pretty much made sure that doesn't happen, even if that meant desecrating the Quran himself.
Two weeks into the case, in a rare show of courage - one that could have cost him his life - the prayer-caller at the same mosque, Hafiz Zubair, came forward as a witness to testify against Jadoon. According to Zubair, the prime witness Malik brought the plastic bag into the mosque and handed it over to Jadoon. After examining the contents of the bag, Jadoon tore up a few pages of the Quran and added them to the bag, to make sure the evidence against the Christian girl was not just blasphemous, but "blasphemous enough".
Even though Rimsha has been released on bail and has, under heavy security, been moved to an unknown location via government helicopter to be reunited with her family, while Jadoon remains in custody awaiting prosecution, one can't help but feel mind-boggled at the turn of events.
In the 58 years between 1927 and 1985, only 10 blasphemy cases were reportedly heard in court. But since Zia's Islamic reforms in Pakistan, more than 4,000 have been handled. In the year 2000 alone, the National Commission for Justice and Peace recorded 16 blasphemy cases against Christians and Hindus and at least 36 against Muslims. Although no death sentences have been carried out in Pakistan to date - most of those handed down have been overturned during the appeal process - the spree of mob justice persists as religious leaders practice their own violent, eye-for-an-eyeversion of Islam.
The World Minority Rights Report 2011 ranked Pakistan the sixth worst country with respect to the safety and rights of minorities - non-Muslims, those the state has dubbed non-Muslim, and women.
For the Christians of Mehrabadi, memories of the Christian massacre in 2009 in neighboring city of Gojra are still fresh. Thousands of Muslim radicals burned down around 40 Christian houses, brutally killing eight, after a mere rumor that a page from the Holy Quran had been desecrated during a wedding. For the Hindus of Sindh, there appears to be no other way to prevent forced conversions to Islam and forced marriages - nearly 600 FIRs lodged last year across 40 districts of Pakistan, with the majority in Sindh - than to migrate to India.
For Ahmadis all over the country, facing persecution since the very creation of Pakistan, the nail on the coffin was being declared a non-Muslim minority in 1974 by then prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Considered a revolutionary of his time -- though probably not when it came to minorities -- Bhutto's decision kick-started the widespread societal discrimination and persecution of Ahmadis, including the violation of their places of worship, banning of burial in Muslim graveyards and denial of freedom of faith, speech, and assembly - all backed by the then sitting government of Zia ul Haq.
Today, the Ahmadi community is still recovering from an incident in 2010, in which extremist Islamist militants attacked two Ahmadi places of worship in the central Pakistani city of Lahore with guns, grenades, and suicide bombs, killing 94 people and injuring well over a 100. And if that wasn't terror enough, the injured from the incident were attacked yet again at the ICU of Lahore's Jinnah Hospital - a take-two which consumed at least a further 12 lives.
Whether it is the outraged mob of Mehrabadi, the security guard who shot the Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, in January last year, the killers of Pakistan's only Christian federal minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, later in March, or the mullahs and maulvis like Hafiz Jadoon who "direct them towards the light," it is but one big rage-brigade. Why are we so angry, so violent, and so unforgiving?
Has violence become an integral part of the Islamic social discipline, or has it always been?
And if so, the question is, why? Is it, as many suggest, that Muslim countries are by and large economically imbalanced, undemocratic states with large swathes of unemployed, frustrated men who find release in religious expression? Or is it because of our fear of persecution at the hands of the West, demonstrated in both intellectual and popular discourse as well as policy - most clearly represented by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Palestinian occupation? Or is it simply because we are taught since childhood of an era gone by, when Islam was a uniquely powerful, progressive and just empire and which has now fallen on bad times.
While there are positives to be taken out of this repulsive episode - the bravery of the apprentice, the role of Pakistan's social, broadcast and print media, and the efforts of the authorities to keep Rimsha safe - the truth remains that the blasphemy laws in Pakistan continue to be as politically and socially toxic and as untouchable as they were before Rimsha began to matter.
With no government in Pakistan - past or present - willing to rid the country of these frail laws or raise a voice against those who exploit them in ways that are neither constitutional nor Islamic, there seems to be only one place left to turn to for hope: the upcoming general elections in November.
This year has witnessed a flood of educated young people coming forward in great numbers, willing to vote for political parties bearing promises to transform Pakistan from a religiously and socially intolerant nation to a progressive, more conforming democracy. For these political parties, a model exists in the form of a bill introduced last year by former minister for information and Pakistan Peoples' Party legislator, Sherry Rehman, to amend the controversial laws in Pakistan.
Rehman's private bill proposed the substitution of the death penalty with a 10-year sentence, and the substitution of life imprisonment with a five-year sentence. But the strongest directive of her bill was the castigation of anyone making false or frivolous accusations under any section of the law. Such a person was not only to be punished "in accordance with punishments prescribed in the section under which the false or frivolous accusation was made," but was also to be arrested "without a warrant" and tried in court.
Using the bill as a guide and Rimsha Masih's case as a stepping stone, there is no better time to amend the precarious weaknesses of the blasphemy laws that leave room for people like Hafiz Jadoon to use it as they please. Ideally, a party with this on their manifesto would come into power. However, with the majority of Pakistan's population - rural and uneducated - who shower men like Mumtaz Qadri with rose petals for killing a moderate politician who showed concern for a Christian blasphemy convict, hope fades.
But Rimsha Masih's case feels like a hint of light at the end of the tunnel. If Hafiz Jadoon is convicted and taken to task, one can be certain others will think twice if not more before pointing fingers. Maybe that's the first step. Maybe there will be more.
-- Rabail Baig is a Pakistani journalist based in Boston.
On Sunday, there will be a "splendid ceremony" marking the handover of the United States' Bagram prison. Yet despite the pomp, the handover hides the real story - the Afghans wanted this to mark the end of U.S. detention power in Afghanistan, while the U.S. has other ideas.
Remaking Bagram: The Creation of an Afghan Internment Regime and the Divide over U.S. Detention Power, a new report from the Open Society Foundations, revealed that while Afghan officials say they will have complete control over the Bagram detention facility-also known as the Detention Facility in Parwan (DFIP)-by September 9, 2012, the United States is likely to continue to control a portion of the facility. The Afghan government says that no detentions will be carried out by the U.S. military, while the United States maintains that it "still retains the authority to capture and detain."
This partial handover has come at a high cost for Afghanistan: the creation of a new internment regime that will allow the Afghan authorities to detain without trial. A number of Afghan officials have called this new regime unconstitutional and fear it will be subject to abuse.
The creation of an Afghan internment regime appears to have been introduced largely at the behest of the United States, in order to facilitate the handover of U.S. held detainees, and satisfy the U.S. desire for a lasting internment system on the Afghan side into which it could continue to transfer future captures. The system, created last March, closely resembles the U.S. system at Bagram. It was not introduced through legislation or even consultation with Parliament-instead it was created last March through a secret "inter-ministerial agreement" and unpublished presidential decree that are vaguely worded and ripe for abuse.
There is a danger that this will be the real legacy of Bagram--the creation of a flawed system of detention without trial in a country already wracked with decades of internal conflict, impunity, and weak rule of law. The Open Society Foundations learned that U.S.-Afghan disagreements over these issues led to a temporary suspension of detainee transfers from U.S. to Afghan control, which was resolved only days before the handover deadline.
And yet the "handover" ceremony will go on. In fairness, the majority of U.S.-held detainees have been transferred to the Afghan authorities at enormous speed over the past six months, and U.S. officials in Afghanistan are confronted with genuine challenges to transferring detainees responsibly. Handling of detainees by the Afghan government carries the potential for politicization and corruption of detainee releases. The capacity of the current government to process and properly prosecute detainees' cases is weak, and there is risk of detainees suffering torture and abuse, concerns that were compounded by a controversial new appointment to head the intelligence directorate. But differences between the United States and Afghanistan also reflect a central, long-lasting tension between Afghan sovereignty and U.S. strategic interests that has yet to be resolved, and that the March 9 handover merely papered over.
With the ISAF troop drawdown underway, the United States is trying to thread a tough needle: put Afghans in the lead on security, while at the same time continuing U.S. military operations, and protecting U.S. personnel. The role of special operations forces, and the reliance on detention operations like night raids, remain central to U.S. military strategy. Despite Afghan demands for sovereignty over night raids, there has been no sign of a decrease in these detention operations or the number of detainees sent to Bagram. The Open Society Foundations learned that since March, the United States has sent an additional 600 detainees into U.S. detention at Bagram, which President Karzai's National Security Advisor Dr. Rangin Spanta said was "not in accordance with our agreement."
Not only is this at odds with Afghan officials' unqualified insistence on complete control of the DFIP, and an end to U.S. detentions there, but it highlights another, related disagreement: how long the United States can detain an individual before handing over to Afghan authorities. "After the signing of the [Detentions] MoU the time limit to hold detainee is 72 hours and should be respected," Presidential Spokesperson Aimal Faizi told us. National Security Advisor Dr. Spanta reiterated that "There is a big difference in perception between them and us on this issue. ...I have discussed this with Karzai...and there is no tolerance with him on this issue."
Another unresolved issue is that of "third country nationals," or non-Afghan detainees. They remain in U.S. custody at the DFIP, their fate uncertain, and at risk of falling into a legal limbo of indefinite detention. The stalemate on these detainees ensures that the United States will continue to retain at least some portion of the DFIP for the foreseeable future, raising the troubling specter of another Guantanamo in Afghanistan.
Not wanting to rob President Karzai of a key political victory, the Afghan government appears, for now, to be turning a blind eye to these issues, and to the serious rule of law concerns that they raise. However, one of the principal criticisms of Bagram was its lack of legitimacy in the eyes of many Afghans-its secrecy, prolonged detention without trial, lack of access for lawyers and fears of detainee abuse. One has to wonder whether this is precisely what the United States has handed over to Afghanistan.
Agreeing to vaguely worded agreements that permits the U.S. and Afghan governments to interpret their obligations in starkly different ways may serve immediate political interests, but it is no way to build a lasting, legitimate, or lawful framework for detentions and ongoing military operations. Both governments have failed to resolve fundamental differences over the future of U.S. detention power in Afghanistan, and have presented the Afghan and American publics with very different pictures. These tough questions will be answered another day, it seems, as is often the case in Afghanistan.
Chris Rogers is a human rights lawyer for the Open Society Foundations specializing in human rights and conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
A soldier patrols Sub Jail Jutial, where Baba Jan is incarcerated. Photo by author.
Last year, human rights activist Baba Jan Hunzai spoke out as an advocate for the former residents of Hunza Valley, whose homes were swept away by the lake formed after a 2010 land slide blocked the flow of the Hunza River. Named the Attabad Lake, it displaced over 1,000 people who lost their homes, livelihoods and access to the world. When these displacements did not get the government's attention, and Pakistani authorities declined an offer of help from China, the hungry and homeless took to the streets to demand reimbursement.
Eventually, the government compensated the aggrieved families. But 25 of them were reportedly overlooked and denied funds. Baba Jan, who is known in the G-B community for his determination to protect human rights, encouraged the local people to demand action, and was eventually thrown in jail accused of being a "terrorist."
Baba Jan and two other youth activists, Amir Khan (37), and Iftekhar Hussain (34), have been in jail since August 2011. Their arrests a year ago this month were made based on Anti Terrorism Charges brought against them for leading a mass movement across the country against the inaction of the government during the Attabad incident.
During his first private interview -- conducted in the visitors' room in Sub Jail Jutial -- Baba Jan maintained that he committed no crime when he protested against what he sees as the Government's persistent human rights abuses. "It is not ignorance anymore, it is a deliberate violation of the rights of common man. And this cruelty needs to be shattered."
Appearing noticeably malnourished, he limped back and forth in the visitor's room, enumerating the challenges that many in Gilgit have been facing for the two and a half years that have passed since the Attabad incident. The signs of torture still resident on his arms, his shaved skull, and swollen feet compelled me to interrupt him and ask about the details of his multiple jail experiences.
Nervously, he showed some of his scars. Advocate Ehsan Ali, Baba Jan's lawyer, later confirmed details of recurrent torture, including both physical and mental abuse.
"His ear lobes pulled with pliers, his body hanged upside down and beaten with wooden stick and chairs. His shoulder-length hair shaved off. And an abusive language by jailers, who'd say horrible things to mentally torture him" said Ehsan Ali.
Baba Jan said he had never imagined torture would bring him so close to death, so many times, and yet not close enough stifle his voice. He continues to raise his voice against the Government of Pakistan's failure to provide for the victims of the Attabad Lake disaster, as well as other disadvantaged segments of the population. And there have been protests on the streets of Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Peshawar to ‘Free Baba Jan.' There has even been international support for this 35-year-old senior leader of Pakistan Youth Front G-B, including a petition signed by human rights activists such as Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali, Sadia Toor and many more.
The text of my conversation with Baba Jan follows:
Kiran Nazish: What had happened the day you were arrested?
Baba Jan Hunzai: When a 22-year-old student, Afzal Baig was killed in front of his father, Mr. Baig [Afzal's father] protested and wailed at his innocent son's killing. The police pierced his body with a dozen bullets and killed him on the spot.
Both father and son were victims of the Attabad Lake disaster, and were peacefully protesting at a demonstration with the other victims of the lake, asking the Government to compensate them.
As we protested at KKH, and had been rallying across the country to raise awareness about the Attabad victims, the police arrested us on strict terrorism charges, including attempt of terrorism. There was a ‘criminal case' registered against me under Anti Terrorism Act (ATA).
And this is how the government treats its citizen. Most prisoners here with me in jail have done no crime except to speak. People don't speak out many times just because of fear. Why shouldn't we stand with the people who have been maltreated, beaten up and killed. This is a massacre.
KN: The police say you have been training prisoners to carry out "terrorist activity"?
BJH: Well all I have been doing is gathering the Sunni and Shia sects in the jail in a single group and making them sit and breathe with each other. I have tried to make them understand each others' problems instead of fighting based on sect. And I am glad that there are great developments in the prison now. They now indulge in long conversations with each other, which was almost an impossible thing to imagine when I had come here exactly one year ago. Some of them also share their meals with each other, which they otherwise thought of as a sin.
The police and the government have long taken advantage of the sensitive Shia-Sunni relationship in Gilgit-Baltistan. Agencies deliberately create fights among the people so that G-B stays as instable as possible.
Now that they see them living in harmony with each other in the jail, it annoys them. Anything that has to do with protest and raising one's voice becomes terrorist activity for the government. They are not ashamed of maltreating citizens in the first place, they even charge them with fake cases of terrorism and then torture them for the crime of speaking, calling them terrorists.
KN: They also say you have created a support system within the jail, which is why the JIT [Joint Investigation Team] had to relocate you several times. How many supporters do you have?
BJH: Well, firstly the JIT "abducted" my fellow inmate Iftikhar Hussain and myself on 20th July for the same reason too. It happened many times. They move us to torture us further, whenever our fellow prisoners start supporting me. Let me assure you, they never had to relocate us because we were creating any nuisance in the prison, but because they couldn't deal with listening to our demands.
It's funny what they say each time they have to pick us up to torture us. It must really frustrate them to have us alive even after so much torture that my fellows in jail have gone through with me. I do have supporters, yes. They support my idea of speaking out against human rights abuse.
Every prisoner supports me.
KN: Have you not been organizing prison rebellions?
BJH: They don't give meals for several days. Most prisoners have their families deliver food to cook, but there are no stoves. After a week of protests by the prisoners, they provided a single stove. Then for two days there was no gas. The prisoners speak out of hunger.
Various prisoners need immediate medical attention. In spite of court orders the administration does not allow them to be treated. Nor do they provide them medicine. One of my friends here is a cancer patient and has a court order for chemotherapy, but he is denied that right too. He is literally on the ground. They don't provide beds to prisoners who are ill, not even to serious patients. Do you think witnessing all this won't outrage fellow prisoners?
KN: Some officials made visits to Gilgit, including the Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani. Were these visits fruitful?
BJH: The Prime Minister's visit was interesting. It was heavily highlighted in the media and that was the only successful part of the visit; the media coverage that is. There was nothing actionable done by the government. Essentially the visit was futile since there was no public gain out of it.
KN: But didn't he give some significant donations, including the distribution of Benazir Langar (Rashan) [Langar or Rashan are relief goods. The current PPP-led Government has a name for their Rashan, called Benazir Langar, named after the late Benazir Bhutto]?
BJH: During the protests, the Red Cross and Agha Khan Foundation had set up camps and had made provisions for rashans (food and supplies) to help the victims of the Attabad Lake disaster. PM Gilani took those provisions to inaugurate the Benazir Langar, and for the photo-ops. Locals were watching and observing all this, and since protests were going on, the environment allowed them the confidence to retaliate [they felt that the redistribution of rashan was unfair, and that they should be given food and supplies separately from the Government. They "retaliated" by fighting the police with sticks and attacked police vans and other state vehicles.] The protesters included both men and women, who walked down the valley to KKH (Kara Koram Highway). They were eventually beaten up. Since journalists were equally threatened, no media outlets were able to report on this. Benazir Langar was a mere redistribution of rashans.
KN: Has reporting been fair on the series of these incidents [i.e. the Attabad incident, the government's non-response, the torturing of detained protesters in prison] so far?
BJH: That is also very interesting. There has always been lack of coverage about G-B issues, in the mainstream media. We do have a local paper that covers issues according to its own bias. The sectarian divide in G-B controls the way coverage is given to the issues of the common man.
Our own protests were not covered in the mainstream [Pakistani media], and only local and online papers like Paamir Times would give us proper reporting. That really disconnected G-B from the rest of Pakistan.
KN: What do you want the government to do?
BJH: It is very simple. The government should give the people what they deserve. Reimburse the losses they incurred due to the failure of the Government's negligent behavior. Even though some destruction had been predicted and the people were warned months prior to the land slides, the state did not take any precautionary measure.
Shahra-e-Karakoram, the road that conjoins small towns and villages to the main cities has been in-operational. Since all the banks, businesses and hospitals are only in the main cities, local citizens from these towns and villages have to face great difficulty making it through the mountains. Patients who need to get to the hospitals usually don't make it in times of emergency. The government needs to look into this.
KN: What would you do when you get out of jail?
BJH: I will continue to work for the cause of the people. I will make sure their problems are heard by the government and help them stand united against violence and neglect.
Kiran Nazish is a journalist and activist based in Pakistan.
Photo by Kiran Nazish
A plastic grocery bag is probably one of the most generously hoarded items in any Pakistani home. Ours all the way in Boston is no different. Two people and 200 plastic bags; look anywhere - under the mattress, over the closet, folded and tucked between prayer mats. A couple fall off every time I open my jewelry drawer to find my favorite pearl earrings my mother passed on to me with my dowry last year.
Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed's home in Warrington, Cheshire in the United Kingdom must be no different, only they used their grocery bags to stuff their 17-year-old daughter Shafilea's mouth, blocking her airways and pinning her down till her "legs stopped kicking". But that wasn't punishment enough. Ahmed punched his teenager's lifeless body in the chest after the killing, enraged by her "desire to lead a westernized lifestyle" - wearing jeans, socializing with white girls and refusing to marry a much older man.
Shafilea is gone. So is my stockpile of plastic bags - to the very last one. But to recently convicted Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed and thousands, if not millions, likeminded others, something else has been saved, guarded, maintained.
That something also led Javed Iqbal Shaikh, a respected lawyer, to pull out a gun and shoot point-blank his 22 year-old sister, Raheela Sehto, in front of dozens of witnesses in a "packed courtroom" in Hyderabad, Pakistan earlier this month. As the bullet penetrated the "left side of her head" she fell to the ground looking her husband, Zulfiqar Sehto, in the eye. Raheela's marriage to Sehto was the reason for which her brother felt compelled to brutally murder her, and Sehto the man Shaikh regrets he couldn't kill along with his sister.
Two women and innumerable others, time and time again, are erased from history in the hands of those who think themselves guardians of this centuries-old tradition. Regrettably, to the majority of ‘honorable' men, honor in all its entirety resides in the bodies of women and women alone, in the context of which their rights to live, let alone control, their own lives and to liberty and freedom of movement, expression, association, and physical integrity mean very, very little.
Whether out of fear or by choice, the complicity and support by other women in the family and the community - mothers, mothers-in-law, sisters, cousins - also strengthens the concept of women as property. Their participation in these deadly attacks also reaffirms the perception that violence against family members is a family and not a judicial issue.
This ‘community mentality' paired with misleading interpretations of religion and suit-yourself articulations of ‘family law' encourage patriarchy within families and negative attitudes towards female autonomy. Thus an environment is created in which violence against women is accepted and justified - a huge motivation for the family and community to cover up these heinous brutalities - a crime in itself. It is not surprising, then, that various women's groups in South-west Asia and the Middle East suspect the number of both reported and unreported victims to be at least four times the United Nations' decade-old figure of around 5,000 honor killings a year worldwide.
So for those daring to trespass the boundary of ‘appropriate' chalked-out by their male counterparts and guardians, ‘honor' is but a death sentence and has been so for hundreds and thousands of years. The concept of honor and its protection is widely displayed within many different male-dominated societies in human history, dating back to ancient Rome, the Arab tribes of Babylonian King Hammurabi as early as in 1200 BC, prerevolutionary China and many other societies and historical eras long before any major religion came into existence.
Today, however, the practice is becoming increasingly common across cultures and across religions, especially in South Asia and in Pakistan. The concept of honor in the region is largely dichotomous, and absurdly so. While honor in its masculine form is active and positive - dynamism, generosity, vigor, confidence, dominance and strength, a woman's honor, by contrast, revolves around negative, more passive concepts - chastity, obedience, servitude, domesticity and the endurance of pain and hardship without any display of feelings or complaint.
Unlike her male counterpart, a woman's honor can neither be increased nor regained - once lost, it is lost forever. What is worse is that when a woman loses her honor, the honor of her brothers, father and uncles is also lost and can only be regained through a violent display of dominance. Conveniently nonsensical but practiced explicitly in South Asia among Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims alike, with the same deadly effects.
In its latest annual report, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan presented disappointing statistics for honor crimes in the country. More than 1,000 women and girls fall victim to honor killings every year in Pakistan, the report maintains, mostly at the hands of their brothers and husbands, with less than two per cent provided medical assistance before their death.
The Aurat Foundation, a reputable women's rights group in Pakistan, however, has uncovered numbers two times that figure. According to their report released in January this year, as many as 2,341 honor killings were reported in the country in 2011 - "a 27 per cent jump from the year before". But the figures are just "the tip of the iceberg", the report warns, since its researchers relied on cases reported in the media only.
But despite being ranked the third-most dangerous country for women in the world after Afghanistan and Congo - due to a barrage of threats including honor killings - over the past decade, Pakistan has also made adequate real world efforts to fortify women's rights in the country. In 2006, the country passed a bill to strengthen the law against honor killings under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, making the crime punishable by a prison term of seven years or even by the death penalty. Last year in 2011, the Senate passed two landmark pieces of legislations into bills - the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Bill and the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill - an uncommon piece of news coming from the region since both bills were introduced and carried through by female members of its National Assembly.
But tackling something as engrained and as ancient as honor killing requires every thread of the country's social fabric to work together to bring about a wholesale change in common attitudes. This development may sound almost fairytale-ish in a Pakistani context, but if social change over centuries has led to a major decline of honor-based violence in certain parts of Europe, America and even the Middle East, then the global eradication of honor crimes remains a possibility. The question is, can Pakistan be a part of this change?
The current political climate in Pakistan is marked by a tug-of-war between civilian and military rulers on the one hand, and between liberal and religious elements on the other. The main casualties in this hostile environment are the women killed in the name of honor. The sitting Pakistan People's Party government has absolutely no support from the opposition party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz , nor -- it seems -- from the judiciary, which is more interested in sacking the next available prime minister and policing the country's television channels for vulgarity than in taking legal action against the Hyderabad honor-killing incident.
In the lead-up to the upcoming general elections later this year, Imran Khan and his political party Tehreek-e-Insaf have in a matter of months risen to unrivaled popularity among Pakistan's youth. The so-called ‘pied piper' of Pakistani politics, attracting over 400,000 to his rally in Karachi earlier this year, however, has few words on the subject of honor killings. Offering his countrymen a ‘New Pakistan' free from American slavery as he comes into power, the man eats, breathes and sleeps drones. Honor killing, not so much, even though the women killed in the name of honor each year outnumber annual drone-related casualties in Pakistan.
Honor killing is a broader, more universal problem. It is not just a women's issue, or a religious or cultural one. It is a full-scale human rights concern where daily violence happens throughout the world in the name of honor.
Wherever there is a structural acceptance for violence against women, there is an acknowledgment that men have all the rights to legislate their own morality. Inaction of the state and silence on the part of national or community leaders and intellectuals the likes of Khan only fuel the ancient trend.
In Pakistan, there is a culture of impunity where men commit vicious acts to safeguard their so-called honor and roam freely. Tremendous amounts of pressure - political, judicial and social - need to be asserted to make sure these acts are punished. The problem needs to be openly and extensively discussed so that it can be uprooted. And what better place to do it than a gathering of 400,000 in the heart of the country? Who wouldn't like a ‘New Pakistan' where perpetrators are stripped of the very honor in the name of which they take innocent human lives and are duly punished?
The question remains: can Pakistan make the change?
Rabail Baig is a Pakistani journalist based in Boston.
Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images
On Monday, the New York Times wrote about an unreleased report by the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission mapping human rights abuses from 1978 until 2001. Spanning the two bloody decades in which Afghanistan oscillated from Russian occupation and violent resistance, to all-out civil war in the early 1990s, to oppressive Taliban rule, the report documents tens of thousands of deaths, torture and other extreme abuses, including evidence of 180 mass graves. Although many of these abuses are well known, what has caused the biggest controversy, and the reason the report is still unpublished, the Times reports, is that many of the perpetrators are members of the current government or are local powerbrokers who still hold sway over key regions and provinces in Afghanistan.
Many of these incidents (the Dasht-e-Laili massacre of 2,000 Taliban prisoners; massacres of Hazara populations in Bamiyan during the Taliban era; the 1993 Afshar massacre by mujahedeen leaders) have been documented by other groups, but this report appears is of a different scale and level of detail. It is certainly the most comprehensive reporting on past abuses to date, and with more forensic and investigative resources, likely more rigorous. It also holds the greatest promise for energizing a more balanced and holistic debate about how Afghanistan might address this horrific past. Whereas past transitional justice projects have been criticized for singling out certain warlords or ethnic groups, this mapping illustrates how widespread the violence was. Victims and culprits can be found in every ethnic group, every region, every pocket of Afghan society. This report might be used as a springboard for a national discussion about how to move beyond finger-pointing and allow recognition of past abuses to be a part of more meaningful national reconciliation.
If it ever comes out that is. Previous high-level efforts to get traction on transitional justice issues have been squashed due to political pressure. For example, a 2005 United Nations mapping report that documented past cycles of violence and conflict and tied specific abuses to perpetrators was never released officially (though it has been leaked). Similarly, much controversy has surrounded the release of the AIHRC mapping report. Originally commissioned in 2005, human rights advocates have been preparing for an imminent release for several years but publication has been repeatedly delayed, in part due to technical issues and follow-up research, but also because of political pressure from the Afghan government, the Times reports. Most recently, when the Afghan government learned of the report's imminent release, the lead Commissioner in charge, Nader Nadery, was fired - many believe in order to prevent the report's release.
Nor is the Afghan government the only player to question if the report should be released. A U.S. official quoted in the piece argued the report should not be published, at least until after Afghanistan's 2014 presidential election "There will be a time for it, but I'm not persuaded this is the time. ...It's going to reopen all the old wounds."
This is a refrain that human rights advocates have heard time and again. While there has been much lip-service to supporting transitional justice, it has always been de-prioritized versus other political and security concerns. With a new election cycle, a new stabilization initiative, prospective reconciliation talks, or simply flowering insecurity always on the horizon, there has never been a "right" time for such a discussion. And in the meantime the rancor caused by impunity continues to erode confidence in the Afghan government and the rule of law, and the abuses of past years seem ever more likely to repeat themselves. This was never truer than it is now, as the looming 2014 elections and withdrawal of international combat troops have prompted many of the same perpetrators of past abuses to re-arm in preparation for a potential new era of violence.
Not only would it be important for such a report to come out now, so that there is at least a chance that such concerns will be discussed during this critical transition period, but it would be a serious setback if the report succumbed to political pressure and was not published at all. Already there are troubling signs that the space to publish critical thought in Afghanistan is getting worse, not better over time. In post-2001 Afghanistan, one of the few unequivocal successes has been the growth and freedom of the media. Afghan journalists, researchers and analysts have consistently been at the forefront of a surging new civil society, asking challenging questions and providing one of the few real checks and balances to government actions. Supported by foreign aid donors, and unrestrained by a Karzai administration that for most of the last 10 years has tolerated criticism, Afghans have enjoyed greater freedom of speech and association than anywhere else in the region.
However, there are signs that space is shrinking. Afghan journalists and stringers have been reporting greater harassment - in some cases leading to physical abuse - at a local level. New procedures have also been instituted that limit NGO activities or research organizations. When I was in Afghanistan earlier this month, we had to seek permission from several, overlapping ministries in Kabul to do even the most basic research or events in the provinces. Given this overall climate, the perception that the AIHRC report is hushed up would send a powerful signal to Afghan media and civil society: If a report of this magnitude and importance cannot be published, then what can?
The fact that such a report could even be produced shows how far Afghanistan has come in the last 10 years. Now, the way the report is treated is an important litmus test of how many of those gains will be preserved following transition. Publishing this report would not, of course, resolve all the underlying political issues. And while not a given, the Afghan government may fear it would put many of its key allies and partners at risk of prosecution (although the Amnesty law likely would prevent that) or disqualification from upcoming elections. However, ignoring this issue for so many years has created much larger consequences that might be better addressed in this transition period than left to fester. The Afghan government has a credibility problem both with the Afghan public and with the international community (whom it relies upon for continued aid). Past efforts to ignore these issues has to widespread, popular disillusionment with the Afghan government, undermining efforts on stabilization, rule of law development, and reconciliation. If the Afghan government embraced this report (which it originally commissioned) as an opportunity to begin a national conversation on these issues, it might be a concrete way to show the Afghan population and international donors that it meant all of the commitments about reforming government institutions and protecting rights that it made at events like the recent Tokyo conference. It would show that while there are many challenges on the horizon, Afghanistan's leaders and political system have moved beyond where it was in the 1980s and 1990s. There has never been a more critical time for such a statement.
Erica Gaston is a Senior Program Officer on Rule of Law in Afghanistan at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
On Saturday, Imran Khan, a Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician with a propensity for threatening massive protests, once again threatened to lead a "tsunami march" to the country's capital if Pakistan's PPP-led government ignores (for the second time) the Supreme Court's orders concerning the reopening of corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. This is just the latest development in a growing confrontation between the executive -- led by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) -- and the Supreme Court.
In recent months, Pakistan's judiciary and executive have been engaged in a power struggle that threatens to further destabilize a politically weak government already beset by problems ranging from economic decline to a major electricity crisis. The root of the current conflict lies in the Supreme Court's insistence that Prime Minister Raja Ashraf write a letter to the courts in Switzerland, asking them to reopen previous corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. In a bold move, the Supreme Court already dismissed previous Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on charges of contempt of court for refusing to write such a letter to the Swiss courts. It has now warned PM Ashraf that it will take "appropriate action in accordance with the law" in the event that he refuses to comply with the Court's order.
In response, the current government has sought to protect PM Ashraf by passing the Contempt of Court Bill 2012, legislation that shields top government officials from charges of contempt of court. It is unlikely that the Court will allow this bill to stand - petitions challenging the Contempt of Court Bill have already been filed in the Supreme Court, which has now allowed PM Ashraf until the 25th of July to make a decision. Ironically, this has put the Supreme Court - an institution that has immense popular support in Pakistan for its powerful stand in 2007-2008 against the military ruler General Pervez Musharraf - on a collision course with a civilian, democratically elected government.
As the lines are increasingly being drawn between the judiciary and the executive, supporters of each side have argued heatedly about the constitutionality of the court's actions. Justice Markandey Katju, who once served on the Indian Supreme Court, believes the Pakistani Supreme Court has "flouted all canons of constitutional jurisprudence," since Article 248 of the Pakistani Constitution provides immunity to the President from criminal prosecution. Yet Article 248 only provides immunity to the President from criminal prosecution by domestic courts, and the Supreme Court is still free to ask a foreign court to pursue criminal proceedings against the President. As a result, it can be argued that the court's actions have not violated the constitution.
More worrying than the debates over the legality of the current situation is the discourse that has emerged within Pakistan about the meaning of democracy and the role of different institutions in a democratic system. The executive claims that by sending one prime minister home and threatening to remove another, the judiciary is endangering the country's fragile democratic system in a personal vendetta against the President. On the other hand, the Supreme Court has increasingly portrayed itself as the real representative of the people, an alternative to the elected parliament. Most dramatically, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry recently argued that the notion of parliamentary supremacy is "out of place in the modern era," stating that the constitution has predominance over the parliament.
The written judgment of Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja in the case concerning the dismissal of former Prime Minister Gilani further illustrates this deeply problematic way of thinking about the role of the judiciary in a democratic system. Justice Khawaja states that "it is the Constitution which is supreme over all organs of the State because it manifests the will of the people." Since, by this logic, the Constitution represents the will of the people, it is the Supreme Court - as guardian of the Constitution - that truly represents this will. Justice Khawaja clearly defines where power really lies in his understanding of a democratic system: "The Court can effectively perform the role of the people's sentinel and guardian of their rights by enforcing their will; even against members of Parliament who may have been elected by the people but who have become disobedient to the Constitution and thus strayed from their will."
Through such words the very meaning of democracy has been redefined by the Supreme Court with a brilliant sleight of hand. No longer is democracy about people choosing their representatives through free and fair elections, with the opportunity to hold these elected leaders accountable through the ballot box. As far as the Supreme Court is concerned, democracy is about representing the will of the people as reflected in the Constitution and, of course, as interpreted by the Supreme Court itself. This is particularly problematic given the ease with which military rulers throughout Pakistan's history have manipulated the constitution, tainting the very notion of constitutionalism in Pakistan.
In fact, this kind of discourse is eerily similar to the Pakistani military's past claims of being the only institution that can protect the country and further the interests of the people. Historically, the military has frequently justified its interference in the political sphere by arguing that incompetent, corrupt politicians cannot run the country. Replace the "military" with the "Supreme Court" and this last sentence just as easily describes the current crisis in Pakistan. The executive is not exempt from this either - it, too, claims to be the sole power that can protect the interests of the people. While liberally throwing around words like "democracy," these claims overlook the fact that a fundamental aspect of a well-entrenched democracy is a balance of power between different institutions: the executive, the judiciary and the parliament. None of these institutions can claim sole power over other institutions without seriously jeopardizing the democratic process.
If the Supreme Court's commitment to democracy is more than just rhetoric, it needs to recognize the parliament as the elected representative of the people, however corrupt and incompetent it may perceive these elected officials to be. It also needs to recognize that the democratic system does have some in-built mechanisms of accountability, one of which is the ballot box. This is not to say that the Supreme Court should not prosecute and hold accountable those who have been accused of engaging in criminal activities, but that the Court should also take into account other factors - such as public interest, political stability, and political feasibility - in its decisions, as is the norm in courts across the world. While the Supreme Court may not be acting unconstitutionally, it is certainly undermining Pakistan's democracy, and seems to have no intention of backing down.
For the first time in Pakistan's history, a democratically elected civilian government might be able to finish its full term next year. In a country that has struggled with a history of military coups and active military involvement in politics, this will be an unprecedented achievement. It would be extremely unfortunate - after the struggles against the military undertaken by both the judiciary and the politicians - were the Supreme Court now to stand in the way of the very process of democratization that it set in motion.
Fatima Mustafa is a PhD candidate at Boston University researching issues of state-building in the developing world.
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When the U.S. and Afghan governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on handing over Bagram jail and its detainees, both of the governments and the media -- including myself -- saw the agreement as a real transfer of sovereignty and a victory for President Karzai. Now I am much less sure. It seems a system may be emerging where the gains in sovereignty are illusory and, though there is an Afghan face on security detentions, the U.S. military remains in control.
There is another twist to the handover of Bagram prison, which is officially known as the Detention Facility in Parwan -- or DFiP. The MoU committed the Afghan state to using detention without trial for some security prisoners and both the United States and Afghanistan have moved swiftly to set up the system for doing this. However, the government denies having made any such commitment. The Presidential spokesman, Aimal Faizi, was unequivocal:
We signed the MoU... mainly to put an end to detentions without trial because they are not in accordance to the Afghan laws... The President has always been absolutely against detentions without trial and this is his stance today as well... We have not signed or agreed anything which allows detentions without trial.
The Bagram MoU was a response to President Karzai's ultimatum in January 2012 that the United States had a month to hand over both prison and inmates after reports of maltreatment. This MoU -- along with a second one on Afghan-izing special operations (dealing with the especially sensitive topic of night raids) -- were pre-conditions on the Afghan side for the signing of the Strategic Partnership Agreement, which the United States wanted in place before the recently-held NATO summit in Chicago.
The United States was worried about the possible release of men whom it considers the most dangerous in detention, as the 3,000 odd people currently held by the U.S. military without trial in Bagram could well be considered illegally incarcerated under Afghan law. Hence the Afghan and U.S. negotiators took recourse to the Laws of Armed Conflict. Both MoUs cite the 1977 Second Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions (APII) as the legal basis for detention without trial. APII acknowledges that when a state is fighting a war, it may deprive its citizens of "their liberty for reasons related to the armed conflict."
Is it possible that President Karzai might not have understood what using APII entailed? The English version of the Bagram MoU says only that the Afghan government would be using "administrative detention" at Bagram, but the Dari version is more specific. It is "gheiri qazayi", or non-judicial, and the Afghan president's legal advisor confirmed at the time this would be without trial. A presidential decree on the handover also appears to have been passed. A reference to an undated, un-numbered, and as far as I know as yet unpublished decree appears in another document -- the (also unpublished) Procedure for the Transition and Management of Bagram[i] -- which was signed by the ministers of justice, interior, and defense, the head of Afghan intelligence (the NDS), the head of the Supreme Court, and the Attorney General on March 3 (read a translation here). The Procedure also cites APII. It is possible that the Afghan government does not want to admit it is now using internment because it would be politically unpopular, or because using APII means implicitly acknowledging that Afghanistan is fighting a civil war.
Getting information on what exactly is happening at Bagram is difficult, but from interviewing those involved in the handover, none of whom would speak on the record, and after getting hold of the Procedure, it has been possible to paint a fuller picture.
The mechanisms for handing over the prison have been rapidly established. Since at least mid-April, the U.S. military has been passing on detainees' case files (in English, with Dari translation) at a rate of 30-40 a day to an Afghan technical committee (made up of representatives from the ministries of interior and defense, from the NDS, Supreme Court and Attorney General's office). The Committee sends cases with prosecutable evidence to NDS for trial under Afghan criminal law. The remaining case files are passed to a review board (made up of representatives from the ministries of interior, defense, and NDS) which, for just over a week, has either assented to continued detention without trial, if it believes the individual is a continuing security threat, or has recommended release. There is no detail about the nature of the required evidence here, but according to the Procedure, continued detention can be ordered even if the Board believes the prisoner is only a "potential supporter of an armed group engaged in hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan or international forces."
If the review board recommends release, the file is sent back to the Bagram Transfer Commission (made up of five ministers), which can order a release. However, if the U.S. military believes an individual continues to be a terrorist threat, the MoU says this assessment should be "consider[ed] favourably." Such an (apparent) veto on release may not seem unreasonable given the way detainees frequently use influence, bribes, or intimidation to secure their freedom once inside the Afghan justice system. Still, it does not look like a transfer of sovereignty.
There are other indications that the U.S. military may still retain control. After initially reading the MoU, I assumed, like others (including the BBC) that, after six months, Bagram and its detainees would be handed over, once and for all, to the Afghans. The MoU says:
The United States Commander at the DFIP is to retain responsibility for the detainees held by the United States at the DFIP under the Law of Armed Conflict during the processing and transfer period, which is not to last more than six months. (Article 6c)
Re-reading all the documents and interviews, I rather think the U.S. military may intend to also have the option of retaining control of each freshly detained person for a maximum of six months before transferring him to the Afghan authorities. When asked about this, the U.S. embassy spokesman would only say: "We have nothing further for you on this topic at this time."
One can well imagine a scenario in which Afghan forces, working with the U.S. military, knock down the doors of Afghan homes and make the arrests (as per the second MoU on special operations), but the detainees, if considered interesting, stay in U.S. custody. The United States would still control initial detention, classification, and release, but the Afghan government would be in the firing line, either under pressure from the relatives of detainees wanting their people freed or criticized on human rights grounds relating to indefinite detention and the lack of legal recourse to evidence, independent counsel, and the like.
Now that the legal doors to internment have been opened, one can also imagine detention without trial spreading to other Afghan facilities. This must be a concern, given the many abuses, including torture, already staining the Afghan justice system, particularly for security detainees.
The new arrangements in Bagram are not yet set in stone. The MoU itself makes clear that, "this arrangement is subject to review as part of the Bilateral Security Agreement to be negotiated between the Participants after the signing of the Strategic Partnership." Up till now, however, voices of protest about the nature of the handover have been few. One belongs to MP Shukria Barakzai, chair of the Afghan Lower House Defense Committee, who has questioned the very legality of detention without trial. Otherwise, the start of the state interning its citizens has taken place quietly, with almost no comment in the media or in parliament. Afghans are simply not aware of their loss of one of the most fundamental rights - for a prisoner to have his or her day in court. The opportunity for an honest debate on detention without trial is not yet over, but there are no signs yet of the discussion even beginning.
Kate Clark is the senior analyst at the Afghanistan Analysts Network and is based in Kabul.
[i] ‘The Procedure for Transition and Management of Bagram Detention Facility and Pul-e Charkhi Detention Facility from the United States of America to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan'
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
Several weeks ago, the United States government placed a $10 million bounty on the head of Hafiz Mohammad Saeed as part of the State Department's Rewards for Justice Program. Saeed is the founder of the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton followed up on the bounty with complaints that Pakistan should be doing more to bring Saeed to justice, to which Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani responded on May 13 that available evidence was insufficient to arrest Saeed.
In the aftermath of the deadly 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, Saeed was detained, and then released uncharged, despite damning information provided to Pakistan by the U.S. and Indian governments firmly linking LeT to the attacks. This lack of action was no surprise to terrorism analysts outside of Pakistan, who strongly believe that LeT has been deliberately fostered as a proxy by the shadowy and largely unaccountable intelligence service in Pakistan, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, or the ISI.
Yet the circumstances of this particular bounty are unique, and that uniqueness may lead to an interesting new example of the so-called "law of unintended consequences." The bounty calls for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of Saeed, yet unlike Osama bin Laden or leaders of the Taliban for whom rewards are on offer, Saeed is not in hiding; his whereabouts in Pakistan are generally well-known. However, if a Pakistani citizen were to call the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and say, "Saeed is at an anti-NATO rally in Lahore right now," that person is not going to collect the reward, because the information can't lead to his arrest and prosecution without help from Pakistan, help which is clearly not forthcoming. Given the angry backlash in Pakistan against both the U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden's compound last May, and the border shooting incident last November that left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead at the hands of NATO forces, it is also unlikely the United States is going to carry out a unilateral operation to grab Saeed.
Practically speaking, Saeed would have to be outside of Pakistan, in a country that would honor the arrest warrants against him, for any person or group who reported Saeed's whereabouts to collect the rich bounty. Knowing this, Saeed isn't too likely to voluntarily depart the one country where he can be sure he won't be arrested. In fact, he requested protection from the Pakistani government shortly after the bounty was announced, indicating that the suspect himself may be concerned about individuals looking to collect the massive reward.
As Pakistan is clearly not going to arrest Saeed, the bounty on his head, and the subsequent complaints by Clinton, could be viewed simply as ongoing protests by the U.S. government about Pakistan's protection of Saeed and formal notice that LeT will be receiving scrutiny levels similar to al-Qaeda. Fine, so far as that goes...but what is to stop a criminal gang, a band of mercenaries, or even a group of patriotic Indians, from kidnapping Saeed, smuggling him out of Pakistan, leaving him tied up in a safe house in, say, Sri Lanka, phoning the U.S. Embassy and demanding the $10 million reward in return for Saeed's location?
Putting a huge bounty on the head of a person who cannot be arrested and prosecuted in his home country, but who also isn't in hiding, is surely a powerful motivation for anyone enticed by the bounty to make sure Saeed is outside Pakistan and wrapped in a tidy package before reporting his whereabouts. And while the current shaky relations with Pakistan make it unlikely that the United States would take unilateral action inside the country, there is nothing to stop anybody else from deciding the offer on Saeed is too tempting to ignore. Lest one consider this an unlikely scenario, look no farther than Colombia, where fat rewards for kidnapping and weak/corrupt law enforcement have turned kidnapping for cash into a cottage industry that had become a major source of income for narco-terrorist group FARC. Crime and corruption are at meteoric levels in Pakistan, and there are plenty of criminal gangs who may consider the U.S. government's offer on Saeed as too tempting to pass up.
Encouraging people to grab Saeed and get him out of Pakistan was almost certainly not the intent of Rewards for Justice offer. But when Pakistan's clear refusal to act against Saeed is considered in tandem with the conditions necessary to claim the money, it is hard to imagine the offered reward, practically speaking, as anything other than an open bounty for the rendition of Saeed outside Pakistan, regardless of whether that is what it was ever intended to be.
Art Keller is a former CIA case officer who served in Pakistan and the author of the new novel about Iran, Hollow Strength.
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On November 13, 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, would be tried in federal court alongside four co-defendants, reversing the 2008 Bush administration decision to try the 9/11 conspirators before a military commissions tribunal. On April 4, 2011, after an avalanche of criticism based on legal and security concerns, Holder sheepishly announced a reversal of policy. The country was now back where it had started: Khaled Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) would be tried by military commission at Guantanamo Bay. Perhaps because of the evident unease of the administration's turn about, ostensibly in response to political pressure, the debate over military versus federal tribunals for Guantanamo's High Value Detainees is still very much alive.
Recognizing this, William Shawcross's Justice and the Enemy: Nuremberg, 9/11, and the Trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed joins the debate on the side of the military commissions. His somewhat standard reasoning begins with a relatively new, and somewhat flawed premise: that today's military commissions are but the current version of the "remarkable achievement" of the Nuremberg Trials, the international military tribunal which tried twenty-two Nazi defendants accused of war crimes and over which the American Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson presided as chief prosecutor. Shawcross, whose father was the chief British prosecutor at Nuremberg, insists that at Nuremberg, "Justice was done." From the start, Shawcross sets up Jackson as his hero, the unquestionable voice of wisdom, carrying the message from Nuremberg to terrorism.
To justify his reliance on Nuremberg as the determinative precedent, Shawcross asserts a foundational principle - that al-Qaeda is but the most recent example of the evil that evidenced itself in the Nazi atrocities, an evil that "did not die" with the twelve men condemned to death at Nuremburg, an evil that "reinvents itself in every age" and that "struck America on September 11." From this, he extrapolates that, when it comes to al-Qaeda defendants, it is only right to try them by military commissions.
From the trial of Zacarious Moussaoui, who pled guilty in 2005 to charges of conspiracy in the 9/11 attacks, to the reading of Miranda rights, albeit after a delay, to the Christmas Day bomber, Shawcross echoes the oft-repeated opinion that in these cases, "justice was not done." No case, to his mind, has demonstrated this more clearly than the trial in 2010 of Ahmed Ghailani on charges of conspiring in the 1998 Embassy Bombings in East Africa. Taking place twelve years after the crime, during which time Ghailani was tortured at a CIA black site and held at Guantanamo, the Ghailani trial was the Obama administration's attempt to test the federal court system. When the jury found Ghailani not guilty on 284 of 285 charges, Holder's reversal became inevitable. Although Ghailani was sentenced to life in prison without parole, Shawcross is far from satisfied at what he considers a decision "perilously close to acquitting [Ghailani] altogether." He cringes at the notion that "either the government would have had to let him go," causing "immense strategic consequences," or they would have to "detain him despite the verdict of innocence." Justice Jackson, he tells us, would have agreed that terrorism detainees should not be released. Jackson, he reminds us, had opined that prosecutors "must never put a man on trial unless you are prepared to see him walk free," - a notion that Shawcross finds unthinkable in these cases, ignoring the fact that under Jackson's supervision, three of the Nuremberg defendants, were acquitted, and indeed, did walk free. Here, as elsewhere, Shawcross is shamelessly certain about prophesizing what Jackson would have done, telling us at one point that Jackson would have condoned not just the trial of KSM in a military tribunal but Obama's targeted killings policy as well. He cites Jackson on the matter of executing war criminals, "'If it is considered good policy for the future peace of the world, if it is believed that the example will outweigh the tendency to create....a myth of martyrdom, then let them be executed. But...let the decision to execute them be made as a military or political decision,'" not a judicial one. Shawcross's logic, shaped by its usefulness for his argument, fails to consider that the crimes of Imam Anwar al-Awlaki -- the American and Yemeni citizen who led al-Qaeda's efforts to recruit Americans -- as well as the crimes of Osama bin Laden's were those which both the criminal justice system and Guantanamo had prosecuted, and that bin Laden, indicted in federal court, was already squarely within the trajectory of the criminal justice system.
Ultimately, Shawcross rests his position on the belief that terrorism defendants are categorically different from those accused tried in criminal proceedings. As such, they are undeserving of the precious protections offered by the U.S. Constitution. When it comes to terrorism, he cannot understand applying the age-old dictum, "it is better for ten guilty men to go free than to have one innocent man convicted." Why, he wonders, must "that generous principle" be extended to terrorists, those who would "murder their way to a destruction of the rule of law and its replacement by a sectarian dictatorship?" "The idea that the Nazis should have had the protections afforded to Americans by the United States Constitution never occurred to Justice Jackson or any of the other jurists involved in the tribunal." Showing no allegiance to political correctness, Shawcross goes so far as to ask, "Why is one religion being accorded so much more deference than all the others?" Here, it is not just Shawcross's logic which is faulty but his misunderstanding of the law which posits that guilt and innocence must be tested in a fair, evidence-based trial and that ideological leanings do not alter that access to the system of law.
For the untoward "generosity" on the part of those who defend the use of the federal courts and who seek to defend Guantanamo detainees, Shawcross blames the Left, specifically the Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU, both organizations which have been devoted to creating defense strategies for the Guantanamo detainees, largely through habeas petitions or aid to defense counsel at Guantanamo. In Shawcross's words, "Some of the lawyers, at times, seemed more concerned about the alleged injustices done to the detained terrorists than they did to those perpetrated by them." But it is not just the Left that he blames; the criminal justice system itself as well is to be blamed. Failing to distinguish law enforcement in terms of intelligence gathering and preventive police work from criminal prosecutions of terrorists accused of specific plots, Shawcross sees 9/11 as proof for his argument. "The very fact that 9/11 happened at all spelled failure for the law enforcement approach to terrorism." Viewed this way, denial of the right to hold trials in federal court seems almost like just punishment to Shawcross. Quoting Justice Scalia's dissent In the Boumedienne ruling which granted the detainees the right to habeas corpus, Shawcross reasserts his fears of the inadequacies of the legal system: the question of "'how to handle enemy prisoners in this war will ultimately lie with the branch [the judiciary] that knows least about the national security concerns that the subject entails."
Those who came of age politically during the Vietnam War might find themselves surprised by William Shawcross's ready acceptance of policies that have consistently bypassed the legal system amidst secrecy, fears of exposure for illegal policies, and without regard for either expediency or efficiency. His 1979 book Sideshow provided an unparalleled contemporary critique of the foils of power gone wrong. Confident, immensely detailed, and persuasive, Sideshow was journalism in the service of opposition politics, and as such, became one of the seminal works on the Vietnam War. Now, nearly twenty-five years later, Mr. Shawcross has given us a book which is eons away from the spirit of his earlier work. Instead of a critique of those in power, Justice and the Enemy is a defiant embrace of decision-making that yields to political pressure whatever the stakes. Rather than see this books as a novel argument in defense of military commissions, Shawcross's book is perhaps best viewed as a reminder of the fading spirit of those determined to check the use of power in the name of national security.
Karen Greenberg is director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University's School of Law and author of The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo's First 100 Days.
In March, the United States and Afghanistan announced that the U.S.-run Bagram prison near Kabul will soon be handed over to Afghan control. It was a major diplomatic breakthrough that paved the way for the signing of a Strategic Partnership Agreement by President Obama and President Karzai on May 2. But the agreement to handover Bagram is leading to a dramatic and dangerous expansion of detention power in Afghanistan-and a potentially disastrous legacy for the United States.
As part of the agreement to transfer control of Bagram, the Afghan government is creating the authority to hold individuals without charge or trial for an indefinite period of time on security grounds-a power it has never before said it needed.
While such "administrative detention" regimes are permissible under the laws of war, this new detention power is being established in order to hand over a U.S. detention facility, not because changes in the conflict have convinced Afghan officials that it is necessary. A surge in U.S. detention operations like night raids has driven the prison population to over 3,000 detainees, most of whom the United States lacks evidence against for prosecution under Afghans law. Because the Afghan constitution, like the United States', protects individuals from being detained without charge or trial, the Afghan government needs a new detention law, which is now being modeled on deeply problematic U.S. detention policies and practices.
As a result, Bagram's real legacy may be the establishment of a detention regime that will be ripe for abuse in a country with pervasive corruption and weak rule of law.
Despite potentially far-reaching consequences, the development of this new detention power has been hidden from public view. When I met with leading Afghan lawyers and civil society organizations in Kabul several weeks ago, few knew that the government was proposing to create a new, non-criminal detention regime. Their reaction was disbelief and dismay. None had even seen a copy of the proposed regime, which the Afghan government has not made public and is trying to adopt by presidential fiat.
The Open Society Foundations recently obtained a copy of the proposed detention regime, and after review, we have found what it details deeply troubling. The proposed changes leave open critical questions about the nature and scope of this proposed detention regime, which if left unanswered make it ripe for abuse. Who can be held in administrative detention and for how long? Where will it apply? When will the government cease to have this power? How will the government ensure it will not be abused to imprison the innocent or suppress political opposition?
Most alarming is the failure to address the serious, long-term risks posed by such a regime. From apartheid South Africa to modern day China, administrative detention regimes adopted on security grounds have too often been used as tools of repression. In Egypt, the former government used administrative detention for decades to commit gross human rights violations and suppress political opposition, relying on a state of emergency declared in 1958, and nominally lifted only after last year's revolution.
Across the border in Pakistan, the draconian Frontier Crimes Regulations are another stark reminder of the long, dark shadow that such legal regimes can cast. The ongoing imposition of these British, colonial-era laws, which among other things legalize collective punishment and detention without trial, are cited by many as a key driver of the rise of militancy in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
But there is still time for the United States to avoid this legacy in Afghanistan. If the Afghan government cannot be dissuaded from adopting an administrative detention regime, then the United States should urge the Afghan government to include provisions that limit its scope and reduce its vulnerability to abuse.
First, a ‘sunset' provision should be adopted, which would impose a time limit on such powers, or require an act by the Afghan Parliament to extend their duration.
Second, the regime should be limited to individuals currently held by the United States at Bagram prison. There is no clear reason why the handover of Bagram detainees requires the creation of a nation-wide administrative detention regime. More generally, the scope of who can be detained must be clearly defined and limited.
Third, detainees must have right to counsel as well as access to the evidence used against them in order to have a meaningful opportunity to challenge their detention-a fundamental right in international law. At present it seems the government will follow the well-documented due process shortfalls of the U.S. model.
The United States and its Afghan partners must be honest about the serious, long-term risks of establishing an administrative detention regime in Afghanistan-particularly one that lacks clear limits and is democratically unaccountable. Protection from arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life or liberty is at the constitutional core of the United States, and is essential to lasting stability and security in Afghanistan. Living up to the President's promise of responsibly ending the war in Afghanistan requires defending, not betraying this principle.
Chris Rogers is a human rights lawyer for the Open Society Foundations specializing in human rights and conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
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On April 26, Pakistan's Supreme Court took the unprecedented step of convicting Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani of contempt of court. While the prime minister avoided a jail sentence, the conviction could force him from the premiership, has ramifications on Pakistan's internal political dynamics and could distract from the reconciliation process currently underway with the United States.
No Jail Time, but a Time Out
Prime Minister Gilani was in the dock on charges of contempt for repeatedly refusing to write to Swiss authorities to reopen old corruption cases against Asif Ali Zardari, the sitting President and co-chairman, along with Gilani, of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). The contempt charges could have landed Gilani in jail for six months but the court chose instead to sentence him to symbolic detention in the courtroom until the judges left the chamber, a sentence lasting no more than a minute. The verdict served as a final flourish to the high drama that had surrounded the judicial proceedings ever since the court first summoned Gilani on January 19.
What remains unclear is whether the ruling is a victory for Gilani and the PPP or an albatross around their neck that will bring them down in the next election. Although Gilani is not serving a jail sentence, he is now a convicted felon and the first sitting prime minister in Pakistan's history to be convicted of contempt of court. The conviction might cost Gilani his seat in parliament and, by extension, the premiership, since Pakistan's constitution forbids anyone with a criminal conviction from serving as a parliamentarian. Indeed, the court's justices, while reading their verdict, made specific reference to this fact, indicating that they hoped to see exactly that clause invoked in order to sack Gilani. The leaders of major opposition parties called on Gilani to resign after the conviction, saying he had lost all "moral authority." Imran Khan, the leader of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf, threatened to start a massive civil disobedience movement if Gilani did not step down. Analysts further questioned whether the PPP's coalition partners would stick with the PPP and a convict prime minister "enmeshed in controversy." Opposition parties are sure to use the conviction as a campaign slogan against the PPP in the upcoming election to be held sometime within the next ten months.
The Long Road to Joblessness
The PPP has rallied strongly around the prime minister since his conviction and has vowed to both fight the ruling and oppose his ouster. The process by which Gilani could be forced from office is long, tortuous, and could be challenged and delayed at every step. Gilani could keep his post for months.
Gilani and the PPP have publicly stated their intention to appeal the ruling. Only once the appeal is dismissed can petitions be brought in parliament for Gilani to be disqualified to hold a seat in the National Assembly, Pakistan's lower house (and even the dismissed appeal can be filed for "further review," dragging the process out even longer). Authority over the proceedings rests with the Speaker of the House, Fahmida Mirza, who is herself a PPP stalwart and would have the ability to delay if not derail the process. Even if a petition were to successfully get through the National Assembly, final authority rests with the Election Commission of Pakistan. Any decision taken by the commission to unseat Gilani would be subject to challenge and appeal as well. The PPP holds enough seats in parliament to be able to pick the next prime minister, meaning little would change politically even if Gilani was dismissed.
The PPP's Response
The PPP is fully aware of these facts and is openly pursuing a strategy to prolong any final decision for as long as possible or until the prime minister's term in office lapses (Gilani is already the longest serving premier in Pakistan's history) and any ruling becomes irrelevant. It is also clear that the PPP plans to use the conviction as part of its own rallying cry come the next elections. The PPP will likely try to present Gilani as a political martyr and the contempt decision as the witch-hunt of an activist court acting on the direction of an interventionist military with a historical agenda against the party. While opposition parties will be trying to paint Gilani as a criminal, it remains unclear if contempt of court is a crime that could get the blood of the masses boiling, given that they have repeatedly and knowingly elected leaders whom they generally believed to be guilty of much more visible criminality such as corruption and graft-the PPP and Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz have, for example, made repeated returns to power at the ballot box despite having their tenures cut short on grounds of rampant corruption.
In the end, while not clear-cut, the verdict can be considered a victory of sorts for the PPP. In what had become a charged, almost personal battle of wills between the government and the judiciary, the judiciary seems to have blinked first. Gilani is still the prime minister for the time being and, more importantly for the PPP, Zardari is still the president. Zardari was the ultimate prize throughout the whole proceeding; putting Gilani in the dock was the court's way of attempting to force the government to open corruption proceedings against Zardari. The government consistently refused judicial pressure on the grounds that Zardari has presidential immunity from prosecution; the court-initiated procedure for sacking the prime minister could take months; and a new prime minister will likely be from the PPP as well. For better or worse, Zardari remains inviolate and looks to remain so until the next elections.
The ruling relieves much of the pressure from the government and lessens fears of an irreparable institutional clash between the judiciary and executive. What it does do, however, is throw the matter out of the courts and back into the highly charged political arena in an election year; all parties are likely to latch onto and spin the issue in their favor during campaign time.
Alongside the political drama, Pakistan is currently engaged in a complicated and long-drawn out reconciliation process with the United States. Pakistan is renegotiating its entire terms of engagement with the U.S. and is in the vital stages of finalizing agreements over the reopening of NATO supply routes to Afghanistan, resumption of reimbursements for counter-terrorism assistance and other cooperation issues. While the verdict provides for cast continuity, the internal political wrangling prompted by the court ruling could distract the government from focusing its attention on these key issues. The government is also less likely to support controversial or unpopular requests from the U.S. in parliament, since it will want to limit the number of issues on which opposition parties can vilify it and score political points against it in front of a broadly anti-American electorate. There is also the question of whether, given the now questionable legality of Gilani's status as prime minister, any decisions signed by him following the conviction could be dredged up later as illegal and therefore void.
While the ruling is a positive development for Pakistan in terms of furthering the democratic process and strengthening a historically weak judiciary in Pakistan, it does not bring closure to the issue of Gilani's status or to Zardari's corruption charges. It complicates the political debate in Pakistan in an election year, and possibly delays and complicates finalization of agreements with the U.S. on key bilateral issues. Where the dust settles remains to be seen, but what is clear is that the ruling muddies far more issues than it clarifies.
Reza Nasim Jan is the Pakistan team lead at the American Enterprise Institute's Critical Threats Project.
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images
As Sunday's spectacular attack in Kabul showed, the war in Afghanistan may be winding down in Washington, but it is heating up on the ground with spring's arrival.
And in Foggy Bottom and, to a lesser degree, on Capitol Hill, a battle is on for American hearts and minds even as calls for immediate withdrawal grow louder. The objective: to keep Afghan women from falling off the political agenda while Washington and its NATO allies hunt desperately for a diplomatic solution to America's longest-ever war. As the NATO summit in Chicago approaches - and women to date still have no formal role - that fight gets more urgent.
"Any peace that is attempted to be made by excluding more than half the population is no peace at all," said Sec. of State Hillary Clinton at a luncheon for the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council, an organization started under President George W. Bush to support programs benefiting Afghan women. "We will continue to stand with and work closely with Afghan women. And we will be working closely with the international community as well, because we all need to be vigilant and disciplined in our support and in our refusal to accept the erosion of women's rights and freedoms."
Former First Lady Laura Bush echoed the Secretary's comments.
"The failure to protect women's rights and to ensure their security could undermine the significant gains Afghan women have achieved," said Mrs. Bush. "No one wants to see Afghanistan's progress reversed or its people returned to the perilous circumstances that marked the Taliban's rule."
Clinton, Bush and their allies face an uphill fight. Today a record-high 69 percent of Americans say the war in Afghanistan has not been worth fighting. And the recent alleged killing of unarmed Afghan civilians by an American soldier has cemented public desire to call an end to the war that began just after the attacks of September 11.
It wasn't always this way. In 2001, Washington leaders regularly invoked the plight of women, who had just endured years of Taliban rule that barred them from school and work. Afghan women became something of a cause célèbre worldwide, and the return of women to public life was seen as among the most positive byproducts of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Then-First Lady Laura Bush spoke out in support of Afghan women during a weekly presidential radio broadcast in 2001, and made high-profile visits to women's projects while visiting the country.
A decade later, members of Mrs. Bush's team acknowledge the challenge they face convincing the American public that supporting Afghan women on the way out of the country matters.
"It is hard for people to see the endgame and that is what I think contributes to the frustration," says Mrs. Bush's former chief of staff, Anita McBride. "This is not high on the radar screen because it is challenging and the solution seems so far away."
Those working closely with Sec. Clinton acknowledge the battle to keep women front and center is not easy. But they say they see an increased acknowledgment throughout the State Department and in the president's recent executive order on U.N. Resolution 1325 that women matter when it comes to peace.
"While clearly there is a strong, strong desire for the end of this (war), the big concern is the state of the women -- what happens to Afghan women and that they not somehow be forgotten," says Ambassador-at-large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer. "There is a recognition that for the genuine end of conflict and for the ability to reconcile with whomever it is possible to reconcile with, that the women have to be a part of that."
Those who have spoken out about the need to end the war swiftly say they agree.
"I came away strongly feeling that as we do draw down there that we have to retain a focus on these gains and whatever is necessary diplomatically or through our aid, that we can't neglect women," says Rep. Niki Tsongas of a recent trip to Afghanistan. "You have to publicly continue to raise the issue. That is the very least what we can continue to do, to publicly raise the issue and the importance of just trying to protect and secure those gains."
did just that at a recent House Armed Services Committee hearing with Gen. John
"The question is, as we draw down from Afghanistan over the next several years, what can we do to make sure that we don't lose the hard-fought gains for the rights of Afghan women, 50 percent of the population? And what, if any, leverage will we have as we go through this process and after our withdrawal is complete?" she asked.
But is more than rhetorical support from those who support Afghan women's progress even possible?
"It is difficult, because I think that even for those who care very deeply about the status of Afghan women there is a little bit of schizophrenia, because I think some of us recognize that whatever the future is for Afghan women, the kind of military footprint that we have in Afghanistan can't go on another decade," says Rep. Donna Edwards, who co-chairs the Afghan Women's Task Force in Congress. "I believe that it is possible for us to construct a strategy where we make those kinds of civilian investments that will enable investments where it is possible to support women entrepreneurs, to support women in education, to support women as parliamentarians, I think it is possible to do that and I don't think we have too many more options left."
So what do the women at the center of all the discussion think of all the discussion of their future? Most say they simply want to be part of the conversation about their own country, particularly as they work to elbow their way into the discussions in Chicago next month. And they want to know what, exactly, leaders of the international community means when they say to women that "we will not abandon you," as Sec. Clinton has repeatedly.
women are no more the priority for the world, that is true," says Samira Hamidi
of the Afghan Women's Network. "The
international community is in a rush for withdrawal, but at the same time they
keep repeating and pushing the theme that we will remain with you."
Hamidi says women want clarity on what, exactly, those assurances mean. Says Hamidi, "in ten years whatever has happened for women is because of the struggle and participation of women. We are still fighting for our rights, for our inclusion, to be part of decisions and to be decision makers."
What Hamidi and other women leaders say they seek are assurances that any Taliban negotiations will keep in tact the Afghan constitution of the past decade, with its guarantee of equal opportunities, including the right to work and go to school, as well as a set-aside of a quarter of parliamentary seats for women. More than two million Afghan girls are now in school, with thousands in university, and civil society leaders want them to stay there. Women also want to be at the table, not outside the room, in any diplomatic discussions that will decide their country's future shape. That starts with Chicago next month.
Women say they are not asking for favors, but to be part of their own societies. They can speak up for themselves, and they are, but they could use the backing of big-dollar international donors who will be funding their government's security forces for years to come.
"The worrying part for me in 2014 is not that the international community is leaving -- troops are leaving, they have to leave this is a reality. We can't expect them to stay in Afghanistan for years and years, but for me what is important is how powerful our own security forces will be in 2014, how responsive they will be to women's needs. Those are things that the international community can really make their funding conditional on."
Those who support Afghan women say that if the world wants to see any progress achieved in Afghanistan continue, it will support civil society leaders like Hamidi - between now and 2014, and beyond.
"Increasingly, across the board, people get the fact that this is pragmatic, that you can't get from here to there on the items all of us want to see [in Afghanistan] without women," Verveer says. "Is it a guarantee? Well, we can't write the future. None of us knows exactly what is going to happen. We are dealing with a hypothetical and the best we can all do is to make sure that everything is in place as best as it can be as this continues to go forward."
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of The Dressmaker of Khair Khana.
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
The roots of Pakistan's inhospitality towards its minorities can be traced back over three and a half decades to the military dictatorship of Ziaul Haq - the man singlehandedly accountable for the rise of fundamentalism and retrogression in the country. Today, however, a different narrative runs through the progressive steps being taken within Pakistan's legal system - a trend exemplified by the ongoing Supreme Court case against the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) concerning missing persons, and even more so in the issue of transgendered Pakistanis.
In most parts of cosmopolitan Pakistan, something adds color to the busy traffic- and pedestrian-swarmed streets besides glossy cars and oversized billboards. Batting their mascara-drenched fake eyelashes, prancing about in gaudy Indian-soap inspired attire around every posh traffic light in Karachi, hijras - as Pakistan's transgender population is known - turn many a frown upside down after a hard day's work.
Going car window to car window ‘demanding' money, clapping their hands, flirtatiously twirling their hair while humming a popular Bollywood tune, these powerfully persuasive hijras entertain with a kind of street comedy unique only to them. But not all are entertained or amused; some are even offended by their presence.
It has never been easy being a minority in Pakistan and matters are bound to get worse if the minority is a sexual one. In a Muslim society, where patriarchal orientation reigns supreme and we are constantly battling gender discrimination, the transgendered obviously have little or no space in the social setup of things.
For the past six decades, hijras in Pakistan have been isolated and denied any form of identity, along with basic human rights such as education, employment, and healthcare. Disowned by their families and mocked and ridiculed by the rest, hijras find shelter among their kind under gurus - leaders of small scattered transgender communities - who give them food and wage in return for their service and contribution to the group. With not many open doors in sight, they beg, dance and engage in prostitution as their only means of livelihood, becoming soft targets for harassment, violence, abuse and rape, mostly in the hands of the local police.
Their story is, or one could easily say ‘was,' painful until the summer of 2009. Today, despite all of Pakistan's supposed intolerance, its long-oppressed transgender minority not only has an identity under which they are recognized as lawful and respectful citizens of the state, but they also have civil rights, the most groundbreaking being the right to vote - unthinkable just a few years ago, especially in a country like Pakistan. The landmark move has not only paved the way for hijras to vote in the upcoming general elections, but also to nominate their own candidates for parliament. In its wake, popular hijra leader and a prominent member of the Pakistan She-male Association, Shahana Abbas Shani, has announced that in the upcoming general elections, she will run as an independent candidate for the Muzaffargarh constituency of the provincial assembly in southwestern Punjab. Topmost on her agenda is the demand for reserved seats for hijras in the Pakistan National Assembly. And why not? For now, more than ever, it is very much possible.
Very few could have fathomed that Dr. Muhammad Aslam Khaki - an attorney specializing in Islamic law and probably the most unlikely defender of hijra rights in Pakistan - would turn out to be the man behind it all. Stirred into action in 2009 after an atrocious incident in Taxila, near Islamabad, where local police reportedly attacked and raped a group of transgender wedding dancers, Khaki filed a private case in the Pakistan Supreme Court. He persuaded the court to officially recognize hijras as a third gender under the Pakistani Constitution, a major step towards giving them their due stature and respect in society.
In 2009, Khaki estimated the transgender population in Pakistan to be around 80,000. However, a Reuters report in December the same year put the figure at around 300,000. The conflicting numbers further reinforced the Supreme Court's orders to the government, given in June that year, to set up a commission to conduct a census of hijras, so that a more precise figure could be obtained.
The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry - a "hero" of the transgender minority - took this unlikely revolution forward. Following his orders, the Supreme Court for the first time in the history of Pakistan, granted the transgender community their own gender category under Pakistan's National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA). This means that hijras can now, per their own will, have male transgender, female transgender or intersex written on their national identification cards - a landmark headline coming out of retrogressive, conservative Muslim Pakistan.
The Chief Justice's decision spurred a series of successful follow-up rulings by the Supreme Court. Various judicial, law-making and enforcing committees were formed, and orders were released to both national and provincial authorities to safeguard the hijras' newfound rights in matters of inheritance, employment and election registration. The police, all the way down to the district level, were especially warned to cease harassment and intimidation or be subject to serious prosecution.
Bearing in mind that having its own gender label will not solve all of the hijra community's problems, the Supreme Court made further recommendations, the most revolutionary being in the professional field. Per official orders, if qualified, hijras were now to be given preference for civil service jobs for affirmative-action reasons. According to the ruling, a transgender applicant with a 10th-grade education was now deemed to have the same qualifications for government work as a non-transgender person with a bachelor's degree.
But that wasn't all. In 2010, hijras were also appointed as tax collectors to utilize their "special" persuasion skills. They now knock on the doors of people who haven't paid their taxes and ask them to pay up. To deal with those who aren't willing, they make what they are infamous for making - a scene, which works like a charm every time. The experiment has been judged something of a success by the local authorities, too, with several teams collecting hefty amounts of unpaid dues.
Monitoring the progress of Khaki's case through periodic hearings -- about 20 of which have been held so far -- both the Pakistan Supreme Court and Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry still have a cumbersome task at hand -- acceptance, implementation and rehabilitation. The challenges of eliminating stereotypes from the minds of common Pakistanis, providing equal opportunities to everyone in all professions and in all spheres of life, is much easier said than done. This series of landmark rulings undoubtedly constitutes the first step in the right direction, but there still remains a long list of problems that cannot be resolved by legislation; problems like stigma. The recent surge of positive activity means there's definitely hope beyond the traffic light for the beleaguered hijra community in Pakistan.
But the fight has only just begun. Khaki and those working alongside him have received death threats from various Pakistani fundamentalist Islamist groups including Shabab-e-Milli - a branch of the youth wing of Pakistan's main religious political party, Jamaat-e-Islami - for promoting homosexuality in the Islamic state. The Supreme Court decision has undeniably come both as a shock and a blow to all such elements promoting intolerance and violence in the country. But nothing seems to be holding this group back.
"The chief justice says we are God's creation," says Almas Bobby, President of the Pakistan She-male Association and one of the key frontrunners of Khaki's case. God sure helps those who help themselves.
Rabail Baig is a Pakistani journalist based in Boston.
ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images
For years, Pakistani governments and its military have publicly opposed U.S. drone strikes carried out within Pakistani territory. Only last week, Pakistan's Parliament demanded an end to drone strikes that violate Pakistan's "sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity" And why should they not be infuriated? By most estimates drone strikes are alleged to have killed at least a few hundred innocent Pakistani civilians, including children as young as eight, and injured over a thousand others.
This begs the question: why, despite all the noise about sovereignty in the eight years since the first drone strike in 2004, have two successive Pakistani governments, military and civilian, failed to hire a single lawyer to challenge drone strikes within the United Nations, a foreign court or even a local Pakistani court? To be sure, the government could argue that it is not completely ineffective against the drone attacks: it did recently close Shamsi air base to protest against the NATO strikes that killed Pakistani soldiers. It could also provide a few superficial defenses to justify inaction: Pakistan is a poor country and therefore cannot afford to engage international lawyers or organizations or that any such action will be futile in the face of U.S. hegemony. However, neither alibi can withstand scrutiny.
Pakistan has routinely employed resources on international legal matters when there is political will to do so. In 1999, Pakistan submitted a dispute to the International Court of Justice against India regarding an airspace incident. In 2009, Pakistan proposed a resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council to prevent "defamation of religion" or blasphemy. Last year, Pakistan sought to engage the International Court of Justice in another dispute against India concerning water rights. And Pakistan, over the years, has invested significant resources to highlight the Kashmir problem at the U.N.
In fact, the Pakistani government does not even need to expend much money to raise the issue of drone strikes. A number of Pakistani lawyers are well versed in international law. Lawyers often take up cases pro bono and submit amicus briefs in support of a country's case without charge. In fact, international human rights NGO's working with local Pakistani lawyers; most notably, the British charity Reprieve, has been providing legal representation to civilian victims and commenced litigation against the British Foreign Secretary for assisting drone strikes.
Similarly, the argument that international legal discourse would be futile in constraining use of force by a superpower is equally unpersuasive. Any minimally competent government knows how international law can be utilized to decisively engage in "lawfare", that is to challenge stronger opponents on the basis of legal argument. In fact, the detainee scandal at Abu Ghraib is a perfect example of how law and the media was used by civil libertarians and human rights groups to embarrass an administration that appeared otherwise unconstrained in absolute pursuit of national security. In fact, history is replete with examples of powerful states being persuaded to abandon uses of force even against their unambiguous self-interest. At the turn of the 20th century, "gunboat diplomacy" was frequently used by European powers to compel sovereign debt repayments from Latin American debtor states. However, through the efforts of individuals such as Luis Drago and Elihu Root in the Second Hague Peace Conference, these same powers agreed to discourage force as a means to recover debt payments even though this had hitherto proven itself a convenient mechanism.
Paradoxically, there appears to have been more meaningful discourse and criticism concerning the legality of U.S. drone strikes within American academia and policy circles in days than there has been in almost eight years in Pakistan's corridors of power.
The point here is not that the U.S. would immediately halt drone strikes if the Pakistani government challenged it through international law. It would most likely not. Over time, however, legal action would undoubtedly mobilize debate at the U.N., and most definitely reduce the near unlimited autonomy that the U.S. enjoys at present - targeting decisions may need to be better explained, evidentiary standards may need to be clearly determined, compensation may need to be provided to victims and so on. Such accountability would even provide valuable information to U.S. citizens concerned about the actions of their executive branch when it acts under a cloak of secrecy to target U.S. citizens such as Anwar al-Awlaki.
It is possible that if such discourse were instigated, Pakistan may in due course decide that some drone strikes are beneficial because they do not result in civilian deaths, as the U.S. often claims, and therefore should be permitted. The goal is not to achieve an "either-or" outcome that permits or disallows drone strikes absolutely. Instead, it is to make such uses of force subject to a clearly articulated, transparent, and democratic framework that promotes accountability as to the legal and evidentiary basis on which each strike is carried out, so as to minimize loss to innocent life and property.
However, the utter lack of any Pakistani legal challenge whatsoever ensures that the United States need not worry. Successive U.S. administrations can continue to assert the rather simple Thucydidean justification of using force in another state's territory half-way across the world whenever such a state is "unable or unwilling" to suppress harm to the U.S in self-defense, regardless of the costs this may impose on the targeted state's citizens. And why should it not? Its political responsibility is limited to the national security of its territory, not to Pakistanis and for all intents and purposes, there are grounds to believe that Pakistani leaders have not only consented to, but encouraged such strikes.
As it stands, because these drone strikes kill people in regions that provide no political or economic capital to the Pakistan elite residing in cities, the government can well afford to engage in cheap talk on national sovereignty whilst doing nothing to uphold that sovereignty. Although Imran Khan promises change, for now, the Pakistani government quietly dodges its sovereign responsibility to protect its citizens and territory.
Dawood Ismail Ahmed is a Pakistani lawyer and doctoral candidate in international law at the University of Chicago. He is also a research associate at the Center on Law and Globalization.
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The Afghan government was "too busy" for International Women's Day on March 8, so it postponed official acknowledgement until the 11th. It was not a great moment to celebrate, anyway. A week earlier a council of religious scholars -- the Ulema Council -- published guidance that declared "men are fundamental and women are secondary." It called for women to travel with mahrams (male escorts), and to avoid mixing with men in offices, markets and educational facilities. The statement also said that beating a woman is only permissible with a "Shariah-compliant reason."
The Council's edicts have no legal standing, and were not unprecedented from this conservative body. What was more troubling was that the Office of the President published the statement, and President Hamid Karzai appeared to endorse it, by telling reporters that it was "in accordance with a Sharia view of our country, which all Muslims and Afghans are committed to." With women activists already anxious about the potential impact of deals with the Taliban, Karzai's words served as a sobering reminder of his poor track record on women's rights.
Concerns about the impact of a deal with the Taliban on women's rights are often dismissed with assertions that Taliban views on women are not so different from many in the government. This statement by the Ulema Council supports that viewpoint, and you'd certainly find a few former warlords nodding in agreement with it in the Cabinet and parliament.
But the conservatives in government have, for the most part, grudgingly accepted the presence of women in political life. The current environment may be hostile to women, but activists have been able to negotiate significant victories. Last year, when conservatives in government tried to take over women's shelters, women activists fought back and won. In 2010 parliamentarians and activists successfully stymied some egregious articles in a bill to regulate family law for Shia Muslims. The year before that they succeeded in pushing through a law on violence against women which made the crime of rape explicit for the first time. Progress may be slow, but it is steady, and often heroic.
Some who speak regularly to Talibs say they have become more progressive when it comes to things like women's access to education. One source admits, though, that many Talibs would still oppose the presence of women in the workplace and in politics.
Taliban hostility to women's presence in public life often came up in work I carried out in 2010, interviewing women living in de facto Taliban controlled areas, and gathering "night letters" - threat letters delivered under cover of darkness. Fatima K., (a pseudonym), lives in a southern province, where she received this letter from the Taliban in February 2010:
"We Taliban warn you to stop working otherwise we will take your life away. We will kill you in such a harsh way that no woman has so far been killed in that manner. This will be a good lesson for those women like you who are working."
Fatima K. left her job. Others choose to ignore the threats. When Hossai, a 22- year-old Afghan aid worker in the southern city of Kandahar, received threatening phone calls from a man who said he was with the Taliban, she didn't believe it. The man had told her to stop working with foreigners. But Hossai didn't want to give up a good job with an American development company, Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI). Within weeks Hossai was dead. On April 13, 2010, a gunman lay in wait for her when she left the office. She was shot multiple times and died the next day.
Days after Hossai's killing, another young woman working in Kandahar, Nadia N. (a pseudonym), received a letter signed by the Taliban, which threatened her with death:
"We would warn you today on behalf of the Servants of Islam to stop working with infidels. We always know when you are working. If you continue, you will be considered an enemy of Islam and will be killed. In the same way that yesterday we have killed Hossai, whose name was on our list, your name and other women's names are also our list."
These letters are reminders that it may not be right to treat the Taliban as just another set of conservatives. Their views on women may overlap with a significant segment of opinion in Afghanistan, but the Taliban are also a force which has become used to imposing their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam with violence and fear.
To express concern about the possible impact of deals with the Taliban sometimes opens you up to glib accusations that you are ‘pro-war' or ‘anti-peace.' In fact, there is no contradiction in wanting to see an end to the devastating loss of life in the conflict, welcoming a search for a political solution, while simultaneously expressing concerns about potential pitfalls and costs.
Sadly, there are many reasons to be wary at present. The Afghan government seems to lack the credibility or vision to forge a just and inclusive peace deal. And as the president's response to the Ulema Council statement illustrated, he seems unlikely to take a stand against religious conservatives in defense of women's rights. Meanwhile, it is far from clear that the Taliban have the will or the ability to forge a lasting deal, or that they would be prepared to meet the government's precondition of recognizing a (man-made) constitution with all that it enshrines, including women's equality, democracy and freedom of expression.
After the Ulema Council published their statement, I spoke with several women's rights activists in Kabul. They were dismayed, but immediately turned to strategizing about the most pragmatic means of responding. Afghanistan now has a generation of women activists who have earned a quiet confidence born of successive achievements. But if a deal with the Taliban is to avoid dramatically shrinking their space, it will require leadership from a president with the courage to recognize them as his equals.
Rachel Reid is Senior Policy Advisor on Afghanistan and Pakistan for the Open Society Foundations. More of the "night letters" referred to here are also featured in an essay by Reid in a book published this week: "The Unfinished Revolution: Voices from the Global Fight for Women's Rights" (Seven Stories Press).
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On the intersection of Dr. Ziauddin Ahmed Road and Club Road -- one of the busiest traffic lights in Karachi housing two high-end five-star hotels and the head office of the biggest English newspaper in the country -- I often ran into a beggar woman who almost no one looked directly in the eyes.
My mother without looking straight at her disintegrated acid-burnt face would nod her head and recite "Astaghfirullah," Arabic for "I ask Allah forgiveness," roll down the window and place whatever change she could find in her purse on the woman's palm. Our driver, Rustam, a 20-something from Swat, would nod his head for an entirely different reason. "They bring this upon themselves for money, madam. I assure you she makes more than you do at your newspaper," he would say without a hint of empathy. But even he flinched while catching a glimpse of her deformed face.
Throwing acid on women's faces is a form of terrorism that has, with time, become accepted as part of the background noise in Pakistan -- already ranked as the third-most dangerous country for women in the world due to a barrage of threats ranging from rape and violence to dismal healthcare and honor-killings. In Pakistan, the majority of acid-attack victims are women, perpetrated against by male counterparts including husbands, fathers, sons and other male relatives for reasons as trivial as domestic disagreements to more complicated issues such as bringing "dishonor" upon the family.
Though no concrete numbers or statistics exist, independent women's rights and welfare organizations in the country have estimated that over 200 Pakistani women fall prey to acid-attacks every year because hydrochloric and sulfuric acid is widely and easily available and is very cheap. However, organizations that have used a more active method of data collection have yielded much higher rates. The Islamabad-based Progressive Women's Association has documented over 8000 deliberate acid-attacks on women just in and around the Pakistani capital of Islamabad over the past decade. Even though these attacks left their helpless female victims mutilated and scarred for life in a matter of seconds, only two per cent of the cases were successfully prosecuted in a court of law.
This not only highlights that this atrocious act of terrorism is at an all-time high in Pakistan but also how the misogyny that creates the climate for such acts can and does bleed over into the country's judicial system, which continues to fail to provide justice for the victims of acid-crimes, as the reported assailants are usually let go with minimal punishment.
But there's hope, hopefully. Pakistani Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, internationally acclaimed for her 2009 film Pakistan: Children of the Taliban and the 2007 Channel 4 series Afghanistan Unveiled, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy just brought home her -- and Pakistan's -- first Academy Award. Her documentary short-film Saving Face revolves around the stories of two women - both acid-attack survivors making arduous attempts to bring their attackers to justice with the help of the groundbreaking charitable work of London-based, Pakistani-born plastic surgeon Dr. Mohammad Jawad. Through the course of the short-film, Dr. Jawad strives to help these women put their horrific pasts behind them and move on with the rest of their lives.
Going on to make Oscar history by becoming the first Pakistani to win the coveted award, Chinoy and co-director Daniel Junge's Saving Face saved the day for Pakistanis both at home and abroad. The country's prime minister has announced the highest civilian award for the filmmaker for helping Pakistan make headlines for the right reasons, for a change, and for serving as a catalyst for social progress through her work.
But amidst the fanfare, one cannot help but think how unfortunate it is that it took such a shameful subject to bring Pakistan its first Oscar, and whether this historical win and the resulting global limelight on the subject of acid-throwing in Pakistan will help bring this heinous act to an end. One cannot be certain but one can hope, for that is something this international acclaim brings for acid-victims in Pakistan fighting injustice for very many decades.
Encouragingly, efforts to fortify women's rights in Pakistan have been afoot even prior to this award. A few months back, the parliament of Pakistan adopted harsher penalties for perpetrators involved in acid crimes as the Senate passed the historical Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill along with the long-awaited Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Bill. Both bills were introduced and carried through by female members of the National Assembly of Pakistan, which itself is quite a mean feat for the women of Pakistan.
The acid control bill sentences perpetrators of the crime a minimum of 14 years to a lifetime of imprisonment and levies fines of up to Rs 1 million [~$11,000]. The bill also enlists major steps to control the import, production, transportation, hoarding, sale and use of acid to prevent misuse and promises acid-victims legal security.
Post-win, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and her team are using their website to formally launch a movement to raise awareness about acid attacks to further strengthen this newly developed legislation against acid-crimes. Posting on their website, co-director Junge says the film must be "more than an expose of horrendous crimes, it must be a recipe for addressing the problem and a hope for the future."
Saving Face is set to air on American television in the first week of March, while Chinoy and Junge also plan to screen it in Pakistan, after figuring out "the best possible way to show the film while ensuring that the women in the film are safe," said Chinoy talking to a Pakistani newspaper.
The fight to eliminate acid-crime in Pakistan has only just begun. But with the Pakistani Senate passing two crucial bills before stepping into the new year and the recent Oscar win through Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy's Saving Face, there is tremendous hope for the women of Pakistan and the country itself. By showing that there is a Pakistan with great potential, different from how it is generally perceived, through a short documentary, Chinoy has pulled this nation out of a blackhole of dejection -- even if for just this little while.
Rabail Baig is a Pakistani journalist based in Boston.
Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Afghanistan is ruled not by law, but by power and patronage. The absence of the rule of law fuels the country's savage insurgency. When citizens can't rely on the state to protect them against systemic abuses, then rebellion becomes a far more attractive option. Tragically, in Afghanistan the abusers, more often than not, are from the government itself - including ministers, governors, police chiefs and militia leaders.
It needn't be this way. If there is one policy reform that all the main actors in Afghanistan purport to agree on, it's the critical importance of building the rule of law. President's Karzai's speeches are liberally salted with promises to reform the legal system and tackle corruption. The Taliban understands that a key way to win Afghans' hearts and minds is to provide them with the justice they so desperately desire. It does so by setting up mobile courts, delivering a very rough and ready justice, but one that is often preferred to the arbitrary rule of local commanders. And Western governments have spent billions on rule of law reforms, with little tangible impact.
So with this apparent unanimity on the need for the rule of law, why in Afghanistan do the powerful continue to abuse the weak with near total impunity?
The answer is that the purported commitment is largely in name only. True rule of law requires laws that are public, clear, and apply equally to everyone. It needs government officials who accept that they are subject to the law. It requires reasonably fair, competent, and efficient courts, prosecutors and police who respect the presumption of innocence and due process. It needs judges who are reasonably independent and impartial, and have the confidence in their safety to properly perform their jobs.
But the reforms necessary to achieve all this present an existential threat to the power of the ruling elite in Afghanistan. Building the rule of law involves challenging vested interests at the highest levels of the government. It is far more a political exercise than a technical one. Many Afghan power holders -- from President Karzai downwards -- benefit from a patronage based system. It enables them to buy and maintain loyalty. Corruption is an integral part of such a system.
It's not just corruption that thrives in such an environment. Equal treatment by the law requires that those who have committed atrocities against their people be held accountable for these crimes. Failure to do so promotes a climate in which the powerful continue to commit abuses with impunity. But in Afghanistan those responsible for grave human rights abuses continue to occupy positions of power. These include officials like Vice Presidents Mohammad Fahim and Karim Khalili, who face credible accusations of war crimes or crimes against humanity during the brutal civil war. They also include a generation of post-Taliban leaders -- such as the Minister of Tribal and Border Affairs, Asadullah Khaled, as well as powerful provincial governors allied to Western forces -- accused of serious human rights violations since 2001. A report soon to be released by the Afghan human rights commission -- if not blocked by the government -- will document many of the past crimes.
International intervention encouraged and promoted this impunity by returning to power warlords and commanders. Influential international actors continue to rely on alliances of convenience with these abusive power holders to promote perceived stabilization goals.
Meanwhile the Taliban also preys on the local population, and subjects those it is purporting to liberate from foreign occupation to horrendous abuses, including suicide bombings, assassinations and the use of civilians as human shields.
For Afghans, the tragic result is that today's reality is not much different from that of the last thirty years, and their lives are still dominated by powerful men with guns.
Achieving accountability is not a question of naïve aspiration: the culture of high-level impunity must be challenged, as failure to do so will undermine all other rule of law efforts and perpetuate an environment in which conflict will flourish.
The culture will not change until some of those responsible for the worst abuses against the Afghan people are prosecuted. The best option would be for the government itself to pursue some of these abusers. This would increase its legitimacy in the eyes its people and would send a clear warning to those in authority and to those seeking to do deals with the government who believe they can continue to kill with impunity. It would also undermine one of the claimed attractions of the Taliban -- that it provides harsh, but fair, justice where none otherwise exists.
Unfortunately, there is no prospect of the government providing high-level justice. The Karzai administration has consistently opted for expediency over principle when it comes to accountability, most notably in enacting a law giving amnesty to former warlords. Most international actors have been largely silent on this law. In fact, it appears that a desire for a quick exit by NATO countries may have stifled all discussion of the critical need to link reconciliation with accountability and to tackle Afghanistan's longstanding culture of impunity.
But expediency will not promote stability, and a failure to build the rule of law will lead to more instability, not less. It will also ensure that Afghan power holders - government and Taliban alike - continue to commit abuses that shock the conscience of the international community and fuel the very instability that led, a decade ago, to such a costly international intervention.
Nick Grono is the Deputy President of the International Crisis Group.
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The title of Ken Ballen's recently released book, Terrorists in Love: The Real Lives of Islamic Radicals, is misleading. I put off buying it for some time because of the title, which implied it would provide a sympathetic view of terrorism and constitute yet another rant against "failed" U.S. counterterrorism policies since 9/11.
However, I have always been impressed with the nonprofit organization run by Ken Ballen, Terror Free Tomorrow, and its solid polling work in Pakistan and other Muslim-majority countries. This compelled me to take a closer look at the book, which I ended up reading on a flight to South Asia last fall.
Terrorists in Love is more than a captivating read. It provides fresh insight into how al-Qaeda and its jihadist allies have manipulated young Muslim men into following a hateful and destructive ideology that kills countless innocents -- mostly other Muslims. We have heard a great deal about al-Qaeda's recruitment and training process from U.S. experts, but Ballen describes the terrorism phenomenon in the jihadists' own words, bringing deeper understanding to the issue.
Through interviews and extensive research, Ballen profiles six jihadists, some of whom eventually renounced al-Qaeda. It is the stories of those who become disillusioned with al-Qaeda and its aimless violence that are the most interesting and that need to be publicized more widely. Indeed, exposing first-hand personal accounts of the contradictions and corruption within the terrorist movement likely will hasten its demise -- a process already underway thanks to the elimination of Osama bin Laden and an aggressive drone-missile campaign in Pakistan's tribal border areas.
Ballen acknowledges in his introduction that there are many different paths to becoming a jihadist and that the individual stories in the book should not be viewed as representative of all radical Islamists. The first chapter is a telling eyewitness account of al-Qaeda deceiving a young man into taking his own life and others. Ahmad al-Shayea is a Saudi who at the age of 19 goes to Iraq to fight Americans, after seeing photos of tortured prisoners at Abu Ghraib. It is a story of disillusionment -- one that many other Muslim men would surely have expressed, had they lived to tell about it.
Ahmad al-Shayea is tricked by two Iraqi fighters into driving a truck loaded with explosives, from which the two Iraqis suddenly jump, just before the bombs go off. Ahmad miraculously survives the explosion, and the rest of the chapter recounts his recuperation at an American hospital in Iraq.
After the ordeal, Ahmad retains his steadfast belief in Islam, but he has awoken to the al-Qaeda lie. He proclaims his desire to go on television to tell other young Saudis that "Al-Qaeda was not for Islam; it was not for humanity." And that, "I am a living example of al-Qaeda's hellfire...I want them to see how al-Qaeda tricked me into killing innocent people."
Terrorists in Love pulls no punches in its depiction of the close relationship of the Pakistan military with jihadist terrorism. In one chapter, Malik -- an Afghan refugee who grows up in Pakistan, joins the Taliban, and has personal encounters with Mullah Omar -- becomes disillusioned with the Afghan Taliban when he discovers its reliance on Pakistan's intelligence agency (run by the Army) for training, weapons and funding. Malik feels ashamed that his organization must rely on an army that also receives support from the Americans. However, instead of abandoning jihad, Malik joins the Pakistani Taliban to attack what he views as the double-dealing Pakistani military.
In the fifth chapter, we become acquainted with a Pakistani jihadist whose father is a colonel in the Pakistan Army. The colonel is disdainful toward Islamist extremists and works for the Strategic Plans Division, which controls Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. His responsibilities include keeping Pakistan's nuclear assets out of the hands of extremists, like his own son. The irony of this complex father-son relationship story brings home the reality of the dangers in Pakistan, where the institution in charge of protecting the country's nuclear weapons also arms and trains the Afghan Taliban.
Ballen concludes from his research and interviews that Muslim communities themselves must develop ways to counter extremism, while also acknowledging that the U.S. cannot afford to be complacent against extremists dedicated to killing Americans. His overall recommendation for the U.S. to simply lead by example is unrealistic, however, especially in light of the democratic revolutions sweeping the Middle East, where U.S. silence could contribute to more bloodshed. America should not retreat from actively promoting democratic ideals in the Middle East, as Ballen suggests, particularly since the principles of liberal democratic governance are a powerful antidote to Islamist extremists' message of intolerance, hatred, and repression.
Ballen's work is well worth a read by anyone seeking to understand more fully the complex and multiple factors that drive terrorism. The reader will have to judge whether Ballen was brave or merely naïve in agreeing to meet with extremists at hotels in Islamabad. But the conversations he recorded from those probably ill-advised meetings are eye-opening, and should help U.S. policymakers develop more finely-tuned messages and policies to fight the ideological battle laid bare in Terrorists in Love.
Lisa Curtis is a Senior Research Fellow on South Asia at the Heritage Foundation.
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