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Uyghur repression in China's Xinjiang has implications for region

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The Baloch electoral enigma

One can be left rather perplexed trying to figure out the number of Baloch nationalist parties out there and their many factions and sub-factions. Even though one can say the same about Sindhi nationalist outfits as well, the difference is that unlike the Sindhi parties, the Baloch parties actually have it in them to win national and provincial elections.

Nadeem F Pracha

One can be left rather perplexed trying to figure out the number of Baloch nationalist parties out there and their many factions and sub-factions. Even though one can say the same about Sindhi nationalist outfits as well, the difference is that unlike the Sindhi parties, the Baloch parties actually have it in them to win national and provincial elections. The question is, if almost all Baloch parties and their factions have the capability as well as a history of winning NA and PA seats, and the fact that, more or less, they all stand for the same things, why don’t they simply merge into becoming a single and more effective electoral unit? One reason is that in spite of the fact that all Baloch parties and factions have roots in left-wing politics, are staunchly secular, and analyse the economic and politics issues facing Balochistan with almost similar lenses, they are divided on the basis of class and in their solutions to tackling these issues. For example, some Baloch parties claim to be made up of middle-class Baloch leadership and are likely to criticise another Baloch outfit of being under the influence of a Baloch sardar or tribal lord. Secondly, some Baloch parties believe in solving the many problems that the Baloch nationalists have faced from the state of Pakistan through political and democratic means, whereas other Baloch groups support an armed insurgency as the solution. At the moment there are about 10 Baloch political parties operating in the troubled province. The leading parties in this respect are Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M), BNP-Awami, National Party (NP), Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) and Baloch Republican Party (BPR). Apart from these there are various factions of the Baloch Students Organisation (BSO) and insurgent groups such as Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF). Out of these, the two BNP factions, NP, JWP and maybe BPR are expected to contest the May 11 general election. The BNP factions emerged from the Balochistan National Party (BNP) formed in 1996. The BNP itself surfaced from Balochistan National Movement (BNM) that sprang from Balochistan National Alliance (BNA), a left-wing alliance of youth leaders belonging to BSO and radical Baloch politicians. BNA was formed in 1987 and managed to win two NA seats from Balochistan in the 1988 elections. It evolved into becoming Balochistan National Movement that split into BNM-Mengal and BNM-Hayee. The Mengal faction then became Balochistan National Party (BNP) but that too split into BNP-M and BNP-A. The National Party (NP) emerged in 2004 when the BNA-Hayee faction merged with the Pakistan National Democratic Party (PNDP which itself was an evolutionary offshoot of the Pakistan National Party (PNP), formed in the late 1980s as a centre-left Baloch party that shunned Baloch separatism. The PNP failed to win any NA seat in the 1988 election. In 1990 it won one NA seat and none in 1993. In did not take part in the 1997 election and had become the Balochistan National Democratic Party (BNDP) for the 2002 elections but failed to win a seat. In the 2008 elections it merged with BNM-Hayee to become National Party but couldn’t win any NA seat. Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) was formed in 1989. It won two NA seats in 1990, 1993, 1997 and one in 2002 but boycotted the 2008 election. Recently, a faction split from JWP and formed the Baloch Republican Party. Before it split into three factions, the Balochistan National Party (BNP) won three NA seats in 1997 but failed to win any seat in 2002. After the split, only the BNP-A faction contested the 2008 election, winning just one NA seat. None of these parties seem inclined to launch a joint electoral venture for the forthcoming elections. Yet, interestingly, almost each and every party mentioned here has roots in a united political singularity called the National Awami Party (NAP). Formed in 1957, NAP was an outfit made up of mainly Punjabi and Mohajir communists merged with leading Sindhi, Baloch, Pakhtun and Bengali nationalist groups. Many believe that had the promised direct general elections been allowed to take place in 1958, NAP was in a position to win the largest number of seats in both the wings of the country (East and West). NAP was banned in 1959 when Ayub Khan imposed martial law. It revived itself as the country’s largest left-wing party in 1962, broke into two factions at the onset of another leftist party, the PPP in 1967. The pro-China faction of NAP became NAP-Bhashani and the pro-Soviet faction became NAP-Wali. The Wali faction (named after Pakhtun nationalist, Wali Khan) was the larger faction, having in its fold leading Pakhtun and Baloch nationalists and Marxist Mohajir and Punjabi members. During the 1970 elections, NAP-Wali won the largest number of NA and PA seats in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan. It managed to form coalition governments in these two provinces whereas Sindh, Punjab and the Federal government went to Bhutto’s PPP. In 1973, the Bhutto regime dismissed the NAP set-up in Balochistan (on charges of instigating a Baloch separatist movement). The KP government resigned in protest. On the plea of the federal government, the Supreme Court banned NAP in 1975. With most of NAP’s leadership in jail, the remaining Baloch, Sindhi and Pakhtun members of NAP formed the National Democratic Party (NDP) and became part of the anti-PPP alliance, the PNA, for the 1977 elections. However, after Ziaul Haq’s military coup (in July 1977), differences erupted in NDP and its Pashtun, Sindhi and Baloch leaders formed their own nationalist parties. In 1986 these parties merged once again to form the Awami National Party (ANP). But by the time the 1988 elections were held, ANP had become a Pakhtun nationalist party when the party’s Baloch and Sindhi leadership broke away to again form their own localised outfits. Out of these only some Baloch outfits (apart from the Pashtun version of ANP), has exhibited any ability to win seats during NA and PA elections.

The Dawn, 8 April 2013

Elections 2013: The Pakistan establishment strikes back

As Pakistan approaches its next general elections, scheduled for 11 May, questions have arisen once again about the fairness of the electoral process. The problem stems from Pakistan’s long history of meddling in politics by unelected institutions of state, euphemistically referred to as “the establishment.”

By Farahnaz Ispahani As Pakistan approaches its next general elections, scheduled for 11  May, questions have arisen once again about the fairness of the electoral process. The problem stems from Pakistan’s long history of meddling in politics by unelected institutions of state, euphemistically referred to as “the establishment.” In addition to direct military rule for half its life as an independent country, Pakistan has always lived in the shadow of the ubiquitous influence of generals, judges and civil servants. If Ayub Khan was the man who laid the foundations of Pakistan’s praetorian creed, General Zia-ul-Haq created structures for limiting democracy that would outlast him. Zia-ul-Haq drastically changed the constitution and legal regime in ways where reversing these changes has proved difficult even a quarter century after his death. The outgoing Pakistani parliament completed its term and amended the constitution to make it closer to what it was originally intended to be. But the poisoned legacy of Zia-ul Haq endures, enabling the establishment to use Islam as the instrument of control and influence over the body politic. Soon after the elections were called, Pakistan’s human rights and democracy icon Asma Jahangir tweeted:  “Please read Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution before closing your minds. Witch-hunting will start selectively.” These articles were inserted by Zia-ul-Haq and are still retained in the Constitution because conservative and Islamic parties refused to amend it over the preceding five years. Article 62 lays down that a candidate for parliament must demonstrate that “(d) he is of good character and is not commonly known as one who violates Islamic injunctions; (e) he has adequate knowledge of Islamic teachings and practices, obligatory duties prescribed by Islam as well as abstains from major sins; (f) he is sagacious, righteous and non-profligate, honest and ameen, there being no declaration to the contrary by a court of law; (g) he has not, after the establishment of Pakistan, worked against the integrity of the country or opposed the ideology of Pakistan.” Article 63 disqualifies a Pakistani from becoming an MP if: (g) he has been convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction for propagating any opinion, or acting in any manner, prejudicial to the ideology of Pakistan, or the sovereignty, integrity or security of Pakistan, or morality, or the maintenance of public order, or the integrity or independence of the judiciary of Pakistan, or which defames or brings into ridicule the judiciary or the Armed Forces of Pakistan”. The Election Commission of Pakistan is now using these articles to pre-select candidates. Returning Officers are asking candidates to recite specific verses from the Quran, prove that they pray five times a day and, in case of a woman candidate, even respond to the question “How can you be a good mother if you serve in parliament and are too busy to fulfil your religious duties as a wife and mother?” Columnist Ayaz Amir, who is part of Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League, has been disqualified from running as a candidate because he wrote articles that were “disparaging” about the ‘ideology’ of Pakistan. Ironically, militant and terrorist leaders have had no problem in meeting the litmus test of religious sagacity and commitment to Pakistan’s ideology. Nomination papers of Maulana Mohammad Ahmad Ludhianvi, who heads Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, a reincarnation of the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, were cleared even though he has publicly acknowledged his role in the killing of Shias in the country. A few of us saw this coming some years ago. The establishment started with my husband, former Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani, who has battled the establishment and its ideology, especially through his book ‘Pakistan Between Mosque and Military.’ He was dubbed a ‘traitor’, stopped from leaving the country by the Supreme Court even though he faced no legal charges and tarred through the establishment-controlled media. The Supreme Court was criticised by the International Commission of Jurists for acting outside the law to impose its view of patriotism in Husain Haqqani’s case. Soon after that, I was handpicked and disqualified by the Pakistani Supreme Court on grounds of having dual nationality even though Pakistani law allows citizens to retain dual citizenship with several countries. The Supreme Court seemed to suggest that the law allows judges, generals and bureaucrats to hold two citizenships but not elected members of parliament. Subsequently, the Supreme Court even refused to share information with parliament about judges who are dual nationals. The unstated argument seems to be that unelected institutions are superior and can be trusted more than mere mortals elected by ordinary people. From the establishment’s perspective, Pakistan’s politicians cannot be trusted to lead or run the country even if they manage to get elected by popular vote. The political system must somehow be controlled, guided or managed by the unelected institutions who deem themselves morally superior and even more patriotic than those supported by the electorate. This patrician approach is reflected in the assertions of Generals Ayub, Yahya, Zia-ul-Haq and Musharraf at the time they took power in coups d’état. It can also be found in the constant efforts by Supreme Court judges and civil servants to second-guess the people by deciding who is and who is not eligible to run in elections. The establishment may have allowed parliament to complete its term and refrained from another direct coup but it is still far from accepting the basic premise of democracy – the supremacy of parliament among institutions and the right of the people to vote whomever they choose. Farahnaz Ispahani is a former member of the Pakistani parliament.

The First Post, 7 April 2013

The elections approach!

Syed Mansoor Hussain

Pakistan is the only purported parliamentary democracy that I know of where a sitting government has to resign and be replaced by an ‘impartial interim’ government before elections are held

Amidst all this load shedding the upcoming Pakistani elections are providing some badly needed comic relief. What is desperately needed is a compendium of all the questions being asked from candidates by ‘returning officers’ and all the objections being raised about their qualifications as well as the responses if any. Such a compendium will be of great benefit to future comedians, historians, social scientists and students of human evolution. Of the questions asked and of the objections raised that were recently reported two are worthy of immediate discussion. The question is about recitation of verses from the Quran. Of the objections the most piquant is the one raised against Mian Shahbaz Sharif that he does not have a beard and, therefore, under the constitution cannot be a good Muslim.

The objection about the beard is easy enough to figure out since both the Chief Election Commissioner as well as the Chief Justice of Pakistan do not have visible beards but then these two are not contesting for a seat in the Majlis-e-Shoora (parliament). Personally, I strongly believe that this question is important enough to be eventually adjudicated by the Federal Shariat Court.

As far as reciting verses from the Holy Quran is concerned, if any candidate wishes to avoid it, I can suggest a way out. This is something I witnessed a few years ago as a member of a committee to interview candidates applying for a highly technical position in a major public hospital. The chair of the committee, a devout Muslim but rather bereft of requisite technical expertise kept asking the applicants to recite different verses from the Holy Quran. Some did, some could not; however, one applicant gave the best answer that can be used by all ‘candidates’ to avoid answering such questions. He said, I am not in a state of ‘ritual purity’ (wuzoo), therefore, I cannot recite from the Holy Quran. That left the chair of the committee speechless!

I do have some suggestions about the ‘training’ of ‘returning officers’. First the returning officers must go through intense courses that include the study of the Holy Quran with at least one good exegesis of a compendium of the Hadees Corpus, of a detailed history of the Muslims and a detailed history of Pakistan including in particular a course on the ‘Ideology of Pakistan’. And then they should go through a ‘transparent’ examination held by authorities in these fields and if they pass they may be allowed to act as returning officers.

Other suggestions are about the sort of questions candidates should be asked. Once candidates known to be convicted of serious crimes are excluded, the Election Commission of Pakistan should have a uniform questionnaire for all the others. In this connection, the Election Commission of Pakistan must prepare a booklet of acceptable questions and answers in the areas mentioned above as well as from the constitution of Pakistan and make it available to all candidates in advance. Then a random list of questions should be prepared from this booklet for the prospective candidates.

At the time of ‘filing’ their papers all candidates must be asked to read out aloud Jinnah’s August 11, 1947 speech preferably in the language it was delivered. Second, there should be about 10 questions, five about Muslim history and five about Pakistani history. A random selection from the above booklet could be: 1. Of the first four Caliphs, which ones were not related to the Prophet (PBUH) by marriage? 2. Name three Muslim Caliphates that existed at the same time. 3. Name the Muslim Physician who wrote ‘Qanoon fil Tib’ (The Canon of Medicine) that in translation was a standard text book in Europe until the 17th century. 4. What is the origin of the word Algebra? 5. Who won the Battle of Plassey?

In Pakistan history: 1. Name the second governor general and the second prime minister of Pakistan (past readers of this column might know the answer). 2. Who was the last governor general and who was the first president of Pakistan? 3.When and why was March 23 declared a holiday? 4. What is the difference between the ‘Two nation theory’ and the ‘Ideology of Pakistan’? 5. Name the two people that held the office of chief martial law administrator, president and prime minister of Pakistan.

As far as questions about Islamic ‘doctrine’ are concerned, that in my opinion is a nebulous area and I shall not even venture there. About the constitution, one question about the ‘15th’ amendment might be quite enough.

Finally some thoughts on ‘interim governments’. Pakistan is the only purported parliamentary democracy that I know of where a sitting government has to resign and be replaced by an ‘impartial interim’ government before elections are held. This is clearly a sign of rampant national paranoia institutionalised in our constitution. That said, I wonder how many of my readers can recall the name of the last interim prime minister of Pakistan or the interim chief minister of their province. I just looked it up five minutes ago and still cannot remember their names. But if Najam Sethi as the interim chief minister of the Punjab is able to reinstate Basant in Lahore, I will remember his name for as long as I live. Clean, fair and transparent elections? Meh!

Here are the answers for the questions above. Muslim history: 1- None, the first two were fathers-in-law and the second two were sons-in-law. 2. Ommayads in Spain, Fatimids in Egypt and Abbasids in Baghdad. 3. Ibn Sina (Avicenna). 4. From al Khwarizmi’s (Algorithm’s) book ‘Al jabr wal muqabila’’. 5. Robert Clive when he conquered Bengal. About Pakistan History: 1. Khawaja Nazimmuddin held both positions. 2. Major General Iskander Mirza held both positions. 3. March 23 was Republic day when in 1956 under the first constitution, Pakistan became a Republic instead of a Dominion. 4. No idea. 5. General Ayub Khan and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

The writer has practised and taught medicine in the US. He can be reached at

The Daily Times, 6 April 2013

Timely elections an effective new govt key to Pakistan’s creditworthiness

ISLAMABAD: Timely parliamentary elections and a stable and credible government are crucial for Pakistan to obtain fresh external funding and address its dwindling foreign exchange reserves.

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