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Gilgit-Baltistan: Military has not Manufactured the Anger Visible in Islamabad?

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By Ali Dayan Hasan

LAHORE (NY.Times): The violence has subsided and the politicians are negotiating, but the protesters are still asking for the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was elected only last year.

Democrats here, as well as much of civil society and the media, insist that the power-hungry military has something to do with this crisis. They suspect it of supporting the cricketer turned politician Imran Khan and the anti-Taliban cleric Muhammad Tahir-ul Qadri, the two marginal but influential politicians behind these unprecedented demonstrations, in their bid to take down the government.

This is true, but it is only half the truth. Of course, Pakistan is partly a praetorian state and the generals would like to see Mr. Sharif go. But the military has not manufactured the anger that is visible on the streets of Islamabad. Whatever the motivations of the protests’ leaders, or of their behind-the-scenes backers, the people’s grievances are only too real. Pakistani democracy is on its knees.

For more than three weeks, Islamabad, the country’s otherwise pristine capital, has been overrun by tens of thousands of demonstrators. Sweltering heat, torrential rain, food and water shortages, inadequate toilet facilities, the resulting stench of excrement — nothing seems to deter the demonstrators from occupying the city’s so-called Red Zone, home to major government buildings including parliament and the prime minister’s official residence. For over two weeks, the sit-in remained peaceful. Then on Aug. 31, when protesters decided to move in front of Mr. Sharif’s residence, the government cracked down. That triggered 48 hours of violence, which killed three people and wounded at least 500, including dozens of police officers. Hundreds of protesters were arrested.

Thousands of people remain on the streets of Islamabad while a delegation of opposition parties tries to broker a settlement with Mr. Khan and Mr. Qadri. (The 11 other political parties in Parliament, including the main opposition Pakistan Peoples Party led by former president Asif Ali Zardari, have rallied around Mr. Sharif.) The idea would be to leave Mr. Sharif in office, at least for now, but address the protesters’ demands for reform.

Mr. Khan claims that last year’s election was rigged at Mr. Sharif’s behest and is demanding his ouster, electoral reforms and new polls. Mr. Khan is a sore loser. His party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, won 35 of 342 seats in Parliament and control of the government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, which borders Afghanistan. But Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, which is war-torn and poor, is an inadequate vehicle for Mr. Khan’s ambitions, and so Mr. Khan has set out to dethrone the prime minister. In the process, this brazen Taliban apologist has infused ignorance and arrogance into the national political conversation. Between asinine references to his sporting career and crass allusions to Mr. Sharif wetting his pants, Mr. Khan has advocated tax evasion, lawlessness and money laundering as forms of civil disobedience against the state.

Inconveniently for the prime minister, Mr. Khan hails from the same power base: the urban, densely populated, affluent swathe of North Punjab, which stretches from Lahore, the provincial capital, to Islamabad and accounts for well over a quarter of the seats in Parliament. North Punjab is the military’s recruiting ground and the historical beneficiary of its dominance. North Punjabis, roughly one-third of Pakistan’s entire population, are the country’s premier citizens. They dominate its political, military and bureaucratic elites, its unruly media, its civil society.

Over the years, Mr. Sharif has gone from military protégé to ardent democrat. This transformation is popular with Punjabis, which means he is now less vulnerable to being deposed by the military. On the other hand, it has created space for Mr. Khan to represent the region’s pro-military sentiment. Had protesters, or political leaders, from Pakistan’s smaller provinces displayed as much gall as Mr. Khan has, they would have been put back in their place with swift brutality. But just as the military cannot afford to carry out a direct coup against Mr. Sharif, Mr. Sharif must tolerate Mr. Khan and his supporters.

Mr. Qadri, the cleric, is an altogether more complex entity. His party boycotted the election last year, and now he is calling for a revolution to bring about genuine democracy. A fiery orator, Mr. Qadri spouts powerful rhetoric about social exclusion and disempowerment, and oversees a broad-based alliance of persecuted Shiite and anti-Taliban Sunni Muslims. His supporters — a pious and literate cross-section of society — makes up much of the crowd at the sit-in: It was the unprovoked June 17 attack by the Sharif-controlled police on Mr. Qadri’s headquarters in Lahore, which killed 14 people, that provided the impetus for the protests.

That murderous attack, and the government’s initial refusal to allow the victims’ families to file a complaint against the prime minister and other officials, touched a raw nerve among ordinary people: It was yet another abuse of the criminal justice system. The use of the police, judiciary and administration for partisan purposes makes a mockery of claims that with democracy comes the rule of law. And it does far more to delegitimize the democratic project than any power-grabbing plot by the military.

This view would be less persuasive if the political elite had spent more time trying to fix Pakistan’s broken governance system by encouraging political participation and restructuring state institutions to be less unaccountable, partisan and violent. But the politicians have only let the authority of the state crumble further, and the citizenry is increasingly frustrated.

Grandstanding about the supremacy of civilian rule is no substitute for addressing the root causes of Pakistan’s dysfunctions: the denial of justice and rights, growing inequity, insecurity, a distrust of state institutions. Pakistan needs electoral and judicial reform, an overhaul of the criminal justice system and the creation of elected local government institutions.

A weakened Mr. Sharif may manage to cling on to office for a little while longer by ceding yet more power to the military. But when you preside over a bully state, eventually the biggest bully on the block will kick your teeth in.

Ali Dayan Hasan is a Pakistani human rights activist.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Azadi March and Inqilab March in Islamabad

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Islamabad (BBC): When they first arrived on Islamabad’s sprawling Kashmir Highway three weeks ago, the anti-government protesters were burning with the desire to tear down the citadels of power – and make short work of it. They looked around, saw what seemed like a million heads as their leaders had predicted, and punched the air harder, shouting: “Down with Nawaz Sharif”. But Pakistan’s prime minister is still in place.

Most of them have since lost interest and left the scene. Others, who still feel obliged to hang on, keep asking journalists: “Will it end soon? Will talks succeed?”

Across the fence, beyond the shipping containers which are piled one over the other to create hurdles for protesters, saunter weary-looking, bored policemen. The days when thousands of them shuffled into line and beat their batons against their glass shields to create the overawing sound of battle are behind them. Their only wish now seems to be that the government gives them orders to finish the job and go home. Most of them have been shipped to Islamabad from hundreds of miles away, leaving behind their families, clothing, toiletries and daily routines. And it has been more than a month.

The key to defuse the confrontation between these two sets of adversaries lies in the hands of their respective mobilisers – one controlling the seat of power, the other lodged in two shipping containers parked side-by-side on the road outside.

There may be a third contender to the issue – the “umpire” – if one is to believe Imran Khan, one of the leaders in the containers. He has been elusive about what exactly he means when he talks about the “umpire” but most Pakistanis understand this to be a reference to the country’s military. This scene in Islamabad illustrates yet again the enigma that the Pakistani state has become for many around the world. It is seen as a country marred by perpetual political instability, militant attacks, a separatist insurgency across more than 40 per cent of its landmass, and a country that is eternally on the verge of economic collapse.

But it is also a country which has not descended into anarchy, can beat militancy at will, whose claim of being a “responsible” nuclear power is taken seriously in international power centres, and which continues to compete with India – which is ten times bigger – for strategic one-upmanship in the South Asian region.

Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s PTI party wants “freedom” from what it sees as a faulty electoral system. It accuses Prime Minister Sharif’s government of having stolen last year’s elections, wants it to quit and wants fresh elections, but after electoral reforms. In the neighbouring container, cleric Tahirul Qadri is espousing a wider, “revolutionary” agenda; he wants “moral reforms” which would be undertaken by a set of “clean” individuals holding state power over a longer period of time.

Pakistan’s fiery cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, second left, gestures while delivering his speech during a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan, Tahirul Qadri is espousing a more “revolutionary” agenda. He also wants the Punjab chief minister’s scalp for the 14 June police action in which 16 of his disciples were killed.

The calls from the two leaders for the government’s ousting have fallen on deaf ears, and have led the ruling and opposition forces in parliament to close ranks. This is unlike the 1990s, when opposition forces tended to gravitate to the protesters, isolating the government. So the residents of Islamabad, the audiences of the Pakistani news channels all over the country and the world are witnessing an extended version of what former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, used to call the “political circus”. It begins with the parliamentarians in their rhetorical speeches warning against threats to democracy from the “container leaders” and the “institutions” – a euphemism for the military.

The night begins with hyperbole from the “container leaders” calling the parliamentarians “thieves” and reiterating their resolve to stand their ground until the “umpire” lifts his finger, as in a cricket match when a batsman is declared out.

A PTI leader said yesterday the government has agreed to 5.5 out of his party’s six demands. Others say a rapprochement with Mr Qadri is also on the cards. But many are of the view that a resolution will come quickly once a set of completely different issues – concerning national security and regional policy – are settled with the country’s “umpire”.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Govt. Forms Ulema Advisory Council on the recommendation of Parliamentary Peace Committee

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GILGIT (ET): The Gilgit-Baltistan government has formed the Ulema Advisory Council to help forge sectarian unity among various sects inhabiting the region, stated a press release issued from chief minister’s media cell on Tuesday. The council would consist of renowned scholars and legislators who would help regulate matters concerning sects, the press release added.

The initiative has been taken on the recommendations of the parliamentary peace committee which was formed by the government a few years ago to broker peace after sectarian strife engulfed the region, leaving several dead in violent clashes. Members of the parliamentary peace committee Amjad Hussain, a G-B council member, and Jamil Ahmed, G-B Assembly Deputy Speaker, met Chief Minister Mehdi Shah on Monday and reportedly submitted the committee’s recommendations.
According to the press release, the advisory council will be represented by 18 members. A bill drafted after consultations with the council will be tabled at the next session of the G-B Legislative Assembly to be considered for legislation. The advisory council’s members will serve for a period of three years, however, its elected chairman would serve for a year. Two members from the G-B Council will also act as honorary members and help ensure that the council runs smoothly.
According to sources privy to the development, the advisory council will be represented equally by Sunni and Shia clerics, with each sect represented by six members. Similarly, Ismaili and Noorbakhshia sects will also have two members each in the council. Prominent Sunni leaders in the council include Maulana Ataullah Shahab, Maulana Khalil Qasimi and Maulana Khan Bahadur, while Shia clerics include Sheikh Mirza Ali, Sheikh Nayyar Abbas and Sheikh Nasir Zamani.

Gilgit-Baltistan: People of GB are not citizens of Pakistan, BNF Chief

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Gilgit (PR): The people of Gilgit-Baltistan are not citizens of Pakistan and they are citizens of their own country, Gilgit-Baltistan. This was stated by the exiled chairman of Balawaristan National Front (BNF) Abdul Hamid Khan in a press release sent from Brussels.

“Some people repeatedly claim falsely that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan are citizens of Pakistan because they have the identity card of Pakistan and its passport. If this was the case why Supreme Court of Pakistan did not accept this theory? The identity and Pakistani passport do not give us citizenship rights otherwise some of pro-Pakistan parties would have not beg again and again for the constitution rights by declaring province or by giving them seats in the parliament of Pakistan.”
He said traitor and loyalty were relative terms.“Read what 1973 constitution of Pakistan says about loyalty in article 53. ‘(1) Loyalty to state is basic duty of every citizen.’ The constitution of Pakistan also clearly defines its boundaries (4 of its provinces, capital, Islamabad and 8 of its federally controlled tribal areas.”
The BNF chief said Gilgit-Baltistan had been put in the article 257 provisions relating to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It says that ‘when the people of the state of Jammu and Kashmir decide to accede to Pakistan, the relationship between Pakistan and State shall be determined in accordance with the wishes of the people of that State.” What government of Pakistan’s empowerment package of 9th Sept 2009 says, published on its 1st page “PART.1-PRELIINARY 2. Definition (b) CITIZEN unless otherwise expressed in this Order “Citizen” means a person who has domicile of Gilgit-Baltistan” It becomes obligation of a citizen to be loyal and remain loyal for his country, which determines by the constitution.That constitution gives him/her all the rights including the right of vote, the right to access to justice and the right to elect his/her own representative for the parliament, the highest legislative body. The constitution also determines the punishment if he/she does not fulfill his/her obligation intentionally by violating the constitution.
“We the people of Gilgit-Baltistan have no role in the constitution of Pakistan, which reminded us many times by the Supreme Court of Pakistan and Lahore High Court in the past. The highest judiciary of Pakistan decided as per its constitution that Gilgit-Baltistan is not part of Pakistan and disputed part of J&K. That decision and Zardari’s empowerment package 2009 also cleared that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan are not citizens of Pakistan and they are citizens of their own country, Gilgit-Baltistan.”
He said that some people repeatedly claimed falsely that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan were citizens of Pakistan because they had the identity card of Pakistan and its passport. If this was the case why Supreme Court of Pakistan did not accept this theory? The identity and Pakistani passport do not give us citizenship rights otherwise some of pro-Pakistan parties would have not beg again and again for the constitution rights by declaring province or by giving them seats in the parliament of Pakistan.
This demand itself shows that we the people of Gilgit-Baltistan have no constitutional rights. Citizenship is a matter of constitution which cannot be provided by merely issuing Identity card or passport.The identity card tells only our identity and does not give us citizenship right and Pakistani passport is travel document nothing else. That type of identity card and passport I also have from Belgium government, which gives me more rights than even the citizens of Pakistan, except the right of vote, because I am not citizen of Belgium.
The Pakistani identity cards and passports issued to the citizens of Gilgit-Baltistan by Pakistani authorities also tell the story of double standard and hypocrisy of government of Pakistan. Treason or loyalty of a person is judged from his/her place of birth and nation he belongs, he added.
The loyalty and treason are two relative and opposite words.A person can possess both the qualities at a time, as there is no importance of good without evil. For example if a person loyal to one country, he/she has no obligation to be loyal to other one. It is necessary for anyone to be loyal to one country not two.
The meaning of loyalty and treason should be well understood, that everyone has the obligation to be loyal for his/her own motherland/fatherland of his/her citizenship or adopted citizenship and outside of that loyalty is traitor or disloyal, what some of our people commit.
A person can be treated as traitor, if he/she commits treason with his native land and paves way for others to enslave it by occupation and other means for their personal interest. Those people, who call the nationalist as traitors, know well that they themselves are traitors. Such people they are creating hurdles to get dignity for their Motherland, but they call us traitors to protect their personal interest by appeasing their masters by one means or the other. “We all nationalists are determined to remained loyal to our Motherland and do not help others to keep their occupation in spite all the discrimination, injustices and tyranny we face,” he said.

Gilgit-Baltistan: 11 People Die Across GB Due to Floods/Heavy Rains

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GILGIT (ET): At least 17 people were killed and six others were injured on Friday in Hazara and Gilgit-Baltistan as rain continued to wreak havoc across the regions. Around 89 people have died in rain-related accidents in other parts of Pakistan.
Around 11 people were killed and five others were injured on Friday in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B).
The rain, which started lashing the region a day earlier, also triggered landslides. One landslide swept away at least eight people in Niyat Valley of Diamer district on Friday, taking the death toll to 11 across G-B.
“I have been told eight people have been killed in a landslide,” SI Jehangir Khan told The Express Tribune. “We have dispatched a team for rescue and relief.” The incident occurred at 4pm and according to the police, two women and two children were among the dead in the avalanche in Niyat.
In Karis in Ghanche district, a car was hit by another landslide, killing three passengers and injuring two others. Two people were also wounded when the roof of a house collapsed in Kwardo, Skardu.
In Shigar Valley, a man was injured when he was hit by a boulder.
The landslides also swept away parts of Gilgit-Skardu road, suspending traffic between the two towns. Similarly, traffic between Gilgit and Rawalpindi was also suspended after Karakoram Highway was damaged in Chilas and Kohistan.
According to reports, the road leading to Astor Valley has also been damaged by landslides, adding to the miseries of the people.
As the rainfall continues, water levels in Ghizer, Hunza, Astor and Skardu rivers have also risen to an alarming level, threatening the lives and properties of those living in the low-lying areas.

Gilgit-Baltistan: Formation of 23 Provinces, TUQ Presents His Charter of Demands

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Islamabad (Dawn): Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri made the following demands in an emphatic tone during his address at Inqilab March on August 17, 2014.

  1. The souls of 14 martyrs of Model Town ask why were we killed and for what crime?
  2. If we could not get justice for 14 martyrs, how could we take ‘Qisas’ of anyone in Pakistan according to law and the Constitution?
    Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif should tender their resignations as a result of massacre in Model Town.
  3. After their resignations, Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif should be arrested like common people. No bail is granted in a case of killing.
  4. Participants of revolution march will stay here till resignation and arrest of Sharif brothers.
  5. The names of Sharif brothers should be put on ECL. If anyone helps them escape, he would not be spared.
  6. National and provincial assemblies should be dissolved as they were unconstitutionally established.
  7. These assemblies came into being in violation of Articles 62 and 63 and they were full of tax defaulters, thieves and robbers.
  8. New National Government should be established after dissolution of the assemblies and the end of unconstitutional government.
  9. Newly established National Government should conduct strict and merciless accountability of every person who has been involved in corrupt practices in this country.
  10. National Government should implement 10-point agenda of people’s welfare to steer the nation out of poverty in which it has been stuck for last 66 years.
  11. According to this agenda, every homeless person should get a house of five and three marla.
  12. Every jobless person should be given a job or employment allowance.
  13. Flour, ghee, rice, cooking oil, milk and sugar should be provided to the people with low income at half of their price.
  14. Taxes and duties on bills of electricity, gas and water should be abolished for the poor.
  15. The poor should be given free medical facilities under national health insurance scheme.
  16. Education up to matriculate should be compulsory and free under a uniform educational system so that the people could not keep their children deprived of this basic right.
  17. Official land of Pakistan should be distributed among the peasants and landless people.
  18. Sectarianism, militancy and terrorism should be eradicated wholly and comprehensively.
  19. Women should be given employment in the form of small industrial units. All anti-women and discriminatory laws should be done away with.
  20. The difference between salary packages of the public and private sector employees of different grades should be minimized to every possible extent.
  21. The foundation-stone of participatory democracy should be laid by carving out new provinces on administrative basis that should deliver rights to the people at their doorstep.
  22. We want such a system through revolution as is in vogue in the developed countries of the world.
  23. No corrupt officer should be spared in this country and every corrupt official should go to jail.
  24. There are two discriminatory laws for the poor and super rich elite that have got billions of rupees written off while in power. This system would not work in Pakistan anymore.
  25. If democracy has to stay, then all state institutions would have to be subservient to law and the state.
  26. If General (r ) Pervez Musharraf can be proceeded against for suspending Constitution, why can a case not be registered against those who suspended dozens of laws dealing with fundamental human rights?
  27. We want to get restoration of rights of the people. We are peaceful people and reject militancy and terrorism.
  28. We want to implement in Pakistan the system of the state of Madina where the Muslims and non-Muslims had equal rights.
  29. A person who does not have access to food, clothes, shelter, employment, medical facility and education, how can his vote be free and independent?
  30. We reject demand for mid-term elections, which will impose the same people on the nation under the present system. We want change through revolution.
  31. I will announce time-frame for revolution march some time tonight.
  32. Peace training centers must be established, peace and inter-faith harmony should be added in textbook syllabus of schools.
  33. Minorities be provided with complete rights, equal citizenship no matter what religion they belong to. They will be given constitutional protection.
  34. Devolution: Formation of more provinces including Hazara, Gilgit-Baltistan, South Punjab, FATA. At least 23 provinces should be formed for better administration. How and why should people of smaller cities have to travel to major cities for court appearances and other governmental affairs?
  35. All national institutions must be depoliticized and stabilized.

Gilgit-Baltistan: GB Tourism Industry Affected Due to Political Unrest?

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GILGIT (Dard.T): Gilgit-Baltistan minister for information and tourism has said that the ongoing political unrest in the country has badly affected tourism industry of the region. Talking to mediapersons here on Monday, she said that GB economy depended on tourism as thousands of people were associated with the industry to earn their livelihoods, but the current political instability had caused a decline in number of tourists visiting the region.
The minister said that many a local and foreign tourist had cancelled their visit to the region in the wake of the political impasse due to the continued sit-ins of PAT and PTI in Islamabad. Sadia Dansih said that tourism department of GB had to cancel the scheduled Silk Route International Festival which was to be held on September 10 due to the ongoing political turmoil. She said that representatives of 30 countries had been invited to the festival.
She pointed out that labourers, tour operators, porters, transporters and hotel owners had been facing economic difficulties due to decline in tourists to the region. The minister blamed the wrong polices of PML-N government and non-political approach of Imran Khan, and Tahirul Qadri for deepening crisis. She said that democracy in Pakistan was at stake while the country’s economy was taking brunt of the turmoil.
She urged the government and protesting parties to initiate dialogue to resolve issues peacefully