Just posted to my blog: HRCP URGENT APPEAL for Muzaffar Bhutto, Gen. Secy Jeay Sindh Muttaheda Mahaz http://bit.ly/knhPGr
Another disappearance on Sunday didn't end well. I felt sick hearing the news earlier today, that Saleem Shehzad, the Asia Times correspondent who had gone `missing' from Islamabad, was found dead, with torture marks on his body. As I write this, his body, exhumed from a hurriedly dug grave at the behest of a judge, was being sent for a second autopsy to establish the cause of death.
Saleem Shehzad is the latest in the over 70 journalists who have lost their lives in the country over the past decade murders for which no one has yet been brought to book as Adnan Rehmat reminds us in his excellent comment, pointing out that Shehzad was killed for daring to attempt to share information that affects Pakistan and its people - http://bit.ly/llxjww
He had disappeared while driving to Dunya TV to participate in a talk show. From the subsequent twitter buzz I learnt that he had asked his wife to call Human Rights Watch if anything were to happen to him. HRW also later made public an email from Saleem Shehzad in which he outlined details of a meeting he had been summoned to. Excerpt:
"For future reference:
"Meeting details as on October 17, 2010 at the ISI headquarters Islamabad between DG Media Wing ISI, Rear Admiral Adnan Nazir and Syed Saleem Shahzad, the Bureau Chief Pakistan for Asia Times Online (Hong Kong). Commodore Khalid Pervaiz, the Deputy Director General of Media Wing ISI was also present during the conversation.
Agenda of the meeting: discussion on Asia Times Online story published on October 15, 2010, titled Pakistan frees Taliban commander (see http://atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/LJ16Df02.html)
The ISI wanted Shehzad to reveal his sources, which he refused to do but the meeting ended amicably. Complete text at Ahsan Butt's blog: http://bit.ly/iyJEiq
After the attack on Mehran Navy Base in Karachi, Saleem Shehzad wrote the first part of an investigative report in which he revealed the linkages of some navy officers with Al Qaeda. According to him, the Mehran attack was launched in retaliation when the talks of these navy officers and Al Qaeda broke down. Al-Qaeda had warned of Pakistan strike, May 27, 2011. See the story here http://bit.ly/lLa8fb
Two days later, he disappeared. On May 31st, as many activists in Pakistan woke up thinking of Salmaan Taseer on his birthday, news of Saleem Shehzad's disappearance began to make a buzz on twitter with the hashtag #freesaleemshehzad. As I posted later, essentially, both men were killed by two strands of same ideology (agencies, taliban).
A journalist in Karachi tagged me with the following comment: "a person like you shouldn't be promoting someone who makes a living of different agencies feed. He is no journo." The American analyst C. Christine Fair commented that he had probably been taken away for a `briefing'. Either she or someone else added that he would probably re-emerge with a Mullah Omar interview (Christine Fair has since removed her tweets implying that Saleem Shehzad had `agency' links). I was reminded of Umar Cheema, and so many other journalists who have been taught similar lessons by the agencies that they were thought to be in cahoots with.
My response was that if a journalist has some dubious sources, doesn't make it right for agencies to abduct him. In Pakistan, many journalists who report on security matters - or any fascist, secretive groups/organisations - have sources within those 'agencies' or groups. This gives them access to scoops and inside information. However, it also sometimes makes their stories less credible because one doesn't know what part of the information is being deliberately 'leaked'. It's a price they - and we - pay, in closed societies where there is no freedom of information.
Now, as Nusrat Javeed said bitterly on Bolta Pakistan, May 31st, Saleem Shehzad's murder is a message to all journalists in Pakistan (rough translation): "Learn your lesson, identify the safe areas and stick to them. Go ahead and bash America, spread Imran Khan's thoughts from house to house, even better, leave journalism I myself am thinking of going into cooking shows, you get to travel also
" The episode is at Youtube, direct link: http://bit.ly/jYGeMP
Saleem Shehzad's disappearance and murder made headline news because he was a prominent journalist. But such disappearances and murders have been taking place in Balochistan for some time of human rights activists and journalists a situation barely reflected in the mainstream media as this comment by Café Pyala points out based on a BBC Urdu.com video by Sharjil Baloch on the oblivion of people in Lahore to Balochistan: http://cafepyala.blogspot.com/2011/03/desert-out-there.html
The question is, how come only critics of establishment get killed in mysterious circumstances if the `establishment' is not involved? As this hard-hitting editorial in Daily Times puts it "This should also serve as an eye-opener for those who have been apologising for the military and the Taliban alike. How many more innocents have to die before we realise that our country is a war zone where no one is safe from either our so-called saviours or the terrorists" - The price of truth - http://bit.ly/lcoXLR
All this ties in to my blogpost the other day, below:
"'Pro-jihadi, anti-India' policy #fail"- my column Personal Political published in Hardnews, India (www.hardnewsmedia.com) and in The News on Sunday - http://bit.ly/kuPYfV.
Many in Pakistan have been saying this for a long time, and been attacked and branded as traitors, Indian agents and kafirs for going against 'the establishment'.
Now, for the first time, this argument is in the public domain, being discussed on live television. Recently, Asma Jahangir Chairperson Emeritus of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (http://hrcp-web.org)
and President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, lashed out at the Pakistan army's self serving policies and demanded that they stay out of politics - in words that one would never have heard on television before. My blog post on that here: http://bit.ly/lH5lQr
(with part of her comments translated). Her view reinforces what I wrote a few days earlier, below (predictably, efforts are afoot to portray her as 'anti-national, pro-Hindu, pro-India'. These efforts too, will #fail).
PERSONAL POLITICAL: "Pro-jihadi, anti-India" policy #fail
The simmering rage brewing in Pakistan since the American Seals landed in Abbottabad and `took out' Osama Bin Laden is not just about the growing anti-Americanism in the country. Beyond that, there is rage at Pakistan's own military establishment, and a public questioning of its long held security paradigms and secretive finances.
For the first time, demands for military accountability are being publically made along with a growing realisation about the unviability of Pakistan's outdated security paradigm.
Of course, the situation has also provided fodder for the self-deprecating black humour that Pakistanis always take recourse to during dark times.
Soon after the OBL raid, the following text message did the rounds: "For Sale: Obsolete Pakistan army radar; can't detect US `copters but can receive Star Plus from India; only Rs. 999".
"Horn na bajao: Pak fauj so rahi hai" (Please don't sound your horn, the Pakistan army is asleep), read the sign on the back of a rickshaw in Lahore.
Then there was the honeymoon destination of the royal newly-weds Kate and William -- Pakistan, "because they didn't want anyone to know where they were going".
Jokes aside, this is undoubtedly what the veteran journalist Najam Sethi calls "a defining moment for Pakistan". If 9/11 was a wake up call for America, the OBL episode should be one for Pakistan.
In the post-bin Laden scenario, even opposition leader Mian Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) who owed his political debut in the 1980s to a military dictator, has demanded that the army and secret agencies present their budget in parliament. He called for them to give up control of foreign policy and to stop treating India as "the biggest enemy".
He later predictably fell back to blaming America as being one of the forces responsible for the brazen attack on the navy base in Karachi on May 22. Certainly American military aid, in return for Pakistan joining its wars (first against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and then the `war on terror') has given Pakistan's security establishment the means to continue its weapons war with India.
Focusing on India's capability to attack, rather than intent, Pakistan's security establishment is locked in a no-win situation against an "enemy" eight times its size. This has allowed the Pakistan armed forces gobble up a hefty chunk of the country's GDP (education gets a paltry 1.5 percent compared to 9 percent for the military, which also gets 50 per cent of the country's taxes).
Many Pakistanis have long pointed out the dangers of continuing along the pro-jihadi, anti-India paradigm -- organisations like the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan led by Asma Jahangir; analysts like Dr Ayesha Siddiqa, author of the acclaimed book `Military Inc. - Inside Pakistan's Military Economy'; the Pakistan-India Forum for Peace and Democracy and other groups advocating peace with India; and so many others, all routinely branded as `anti-Islam' traitors and enemy agents.
Now such questions are being raised at public platforms, and taken up by the mainstream media. The Internet has provided space like never before for such dissent, outspokenness and questioning. Even the mainstream media picks up the buzz. People are demanding that the military define the nature of the security threat from India, and provide accountability for the billions of dollars in aid it has received from America that have not benefitted the people of Pakistan.
Those who argue that suicide bombing only began in Pakistan following 9/11 and that violence only escalated to its present levels following the drone attacks might have forgotten the violence visited upon Pakistanis by armed, trained and brainwashed `jihadis' since the 1980s. The violence did escalate, and suicide bombings did begin in Pakistan only after the American `occupation' of Afghanistan, but they cannot be simplistically explained as a `reaction to American imperialism'.
The current situation is about a struggle for political power. The `jihadis' know they will never gain power through the polls. Manipulating religion provides them with an essential support base, built up over the years by pro-jihadi, anti-India policies and interruptions to the democratic political process. They are only further strengthened when New Delhi responds to terrorist attacks by cutting off dialogue with Pakistan, when Americans threaten to cut off developmental aid to Pakistan, and when Pakistanis justify militancy by making distinctions between `good' and `bad' Taliban.