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The Lesser Khakis

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In the aftermath of D.I.Khan’s jail break, Pakhtunkhwa’s minister for Revenue and Estate, Ali Amin Khan Gandapur visited the jail. Talking to reporters he expressed his frustration with both the army and police for being unable to thwart this attack.

He began by pointing out that despite the presence of two brigades in D.I.Khan cantonment, the army did not engage the terrorists. On this, the minister decently expressed some “tahafuzaat” (reservations).

But then he turned his attention towards the police, and out come accolades such as “Nikamay”, “Nikhatu”, and “Buzdil”. The good minister seemed disgusted with the fact that only 5 policemen were martyred. As body counts of “at least 50 if not 100” are decent estimates of bravery.

This disgust for the police and respectful grumbles for army is something not particular to Mr. Gandapur. It reflects the mindset of this nation. From political talk shows to comedy stage shows, castigation and ridicule of our police is the norm.

Those justifying this discrimination, do it by declaring Police to be corrupt, and therefore less respectable than army. But scandals like NLC refute the myth of an incorruptible army. Furthermore, our three military dictatorships can be accredited with most if not all of the problems we face today. Effects of Police bribery seems puny when compared with this.

But blaming the army as a whole is deemed offensive, because an institution should not be blamed for the deeds of some individuals. After all, Zia ul Haq and Major Aziz Bhatti Shaheed were two completely different people. One was a traitor, while the other a martyr.

And I agree, while no institution should be above accountability, generalizations based on uniforms are unfair. Our army is composed of far too many patriots than those who exploit the leverage associated with their uniform. The ultimate proof of their patriotism is a willingness to embrace martyrdom and a long list of those who already have.

But then how is our police any different? Has it not offered its own martyrs? Pakhtunkhwa’s Police, alone has a list of more than 1000 in the last 10 years, add to it those from other provinces and you have many more.

Police constables across Pakistan man check points knowing very well that the next driver might be a suicide bomber. Many of us today owe our lives to a split second decision of some brave police martyr who chose country over life. How is this display of patriotism any different from that of the soldiers who man our borders?

Names like Malik Saad Shaheed, Sifwat Ghayur Shaheed, Fayyaz Ahmad Sumbal Shaheed and many others are no less in stature than names like Major Raja Aziz Bhatti Shaheed, Sawar Muhammad Hussain Shaheed, and Sher Khan Shaheed. Both groups were the sons of this soil, who died with their boots on and presented Pakistan with the ultimate sacrifice. But yet, there is no Noor Jehan to sing for the martyrs of our Police and no national day to celebrate their sacrifice.

On the 8th of August a bombing in Balochistan wiped out some of its top police officials, an attack which in its magnitude seems similar to the one on Malik Saad Shaheed that decimated the top brass of Pakhtunkhwa police, a loss from which the province is yet to recover.

But Pakistan, as a whole, did not care on that blood soaked eve. Instead what came to the fore was the face of Mufti Muneeb and the joys of eating vermicelli. The headline news on PTV at 10 pm began with the Eid announcement, followed by the PM getting a briefing on the LoC situation and then came the news about the 38 martyrs of Quetta. Private news channels were no different.

Any self-respecting nation would have flown its flag half-mast to honor this sacrifice. Instead these martyrs were honored with the cancellation of PM’s “Eid Milan party”, and that alone was deemed as sufficient.

Are we so blind to realize that these men were targeted because of their uniform, a uniform they donned to defend this thankless mob of 180 million? But, forget the rest of Pakistan, even Quetta reverberated with joyous aerial firing on the eve of this massacre.

The aftermath of D.I.Khan’s jailbreak has also been marred by the same bias that underestimates the abilities and courage of our police. Its analysis usually starts with the Taliban arrival at the gates of the jail, ignoring their journey from Waziristan to D.I.Khan and back. By beginning from the gates of the jail, this version conveniently cites “low morale”, “cowardice” and a lack of training as probable reasons of failure. All of which implicate the police.

While there is no doubt that police morale has been lowered due to the inane policies of the current KP government, and that it can definitely do with better equipment and training. But using these excuses for the D.I.Khan incident is a bit of a stretch.

The terrorists originated from Waziristan and went back there unchallenged. If cowardice and low morale is to explain police reluctance to engage, then the same should explain the reluctance at several army checkpoints as well as that of the two brigades present in DI Khan cantt.

It does not make sense to say that thousands of uniformed men from both the police and army had a simultaneous and sudden attack of cowardice. It is possible that these men might have been ordered to stand down, and it is essential that this possibility be investigated. Making a scapegoat of the police will only demoralize them further.

Nations honor and celebrate their martyrs. It is one of those things that differentiates a nation from a mob. This Eid, Pakistan acted like a mob, a shameless and thankless mob. It is high time that we start acting like a nation because acting like one is essential for surviving as one.

 Published in The News on 15th of August 2013, under the title “Police: how many should die?”

Written by Imran Khan

August 15, 2013 at 5:02 am

Martyrs or Vermicelli?

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There is one thing that you have to give credit to the Taliban for, which is that their brutality can exceed the wildest imagination of most fiction writers.

Consider the recent attack in Quetta. 38 people butchered of which 19 were police officials. The attack was on a funeral, which too was arranged for by the Taliban. For that they attacked an SHO who had taken out his children for Eid shopping. The children were injured but their father was dead. An eid gift from the bearded Talib uncle. Ramzan, children, funeral, and all of that planned to the finest detail, can one be more heartless?

These 20 police officials did not have any personal enmity with the Taliban. Their sole crime was to wear their uniform, the one that they had donned to defend the likes of you and me.

In other words, these men were killed in the name of Pakistan. And the motive most probably was to send a message to us Pakistanis.

But the vilest of villains might just have met their match, in the form of the most indifferent of victims. Turns out TTP’s thunder was stolen by Mufti Muneeb and his promise of vermicelli. Because what mattered to Pakistanis on the eve of 8th of August was if they will be waking up for sehri or will there be vermicelli for breakfast? Shaheed gai bhaar main.

In my opinion we probably told the TTP to try harder. The bond of the word “Pakistani” is not that strong to make strangers ache for each other. The people that they did impact were the immediate family and friends of the deceased and those are a pretty small proportion of the Pakistani population.

I mean we could actually calculate an estimate of the people that the Taliban did affect in their last ten years of carnage. A rough estimate of TTP related deaths stands at around 40,000. Lets assume a family size of 7, and they have actually affected about 280,000 immediate family members. Throw in a circle of friends and extended family of around 14, and that’s another 560,000. Add these up and it’s a total of 840,000, add in a few suffering from Pakistaniat and we have a nice total of around 1 million affectees.

In proportionate terms that is nothing, as it is only 0.5% of Pakistan. If the TTP thinks its hurting the 180 million strong Pakistani nation by bombing and decapitating an insignificant minority then they are being deluded.

To many, our ability to not care about such incidents represents defiance and it somehow shows our “resilience”. I agree that we cannot give up on our way of life by succumbing to terror. But did we really show our defiance this Eid?

Defiance would have begun with a complete official focus on the incident. The Prime Minister, President, Federal Interior Minister, CM Balochistan and Governor should have all reached out to Balochistan police in every way possible. Making sure that the enemy knows that the elected symbols of state stand by its uniformed defenders. Our flag should have flown half-mast for the entirety of Eid, and our PM should have announced that this Eid be dedicated to the martyrs of Quetta.

Our clergy should have made a point in mentioning this incident in the two khutbas that day and castigated those who use Islam in such actions. Duas should have been dedicated to these martyrs and also to the families that they have left behind.

Our media should have focused on the sacrifice that our police is rendering, with the aim to galvanize this nation into honoring its defenders. It would have made these martyrs household names for the nation to cherish.

And with all that, we could have eaten our vermicelli, worn news clothes, and hugged each other Eid Mubarik. In doing so, we would have sent a strong message of resilience and defiance, that we still remember those who sacrificed their lives for us but we are not going to give up on our way of life. We are grateful to our martyrs and we will bring their murderers to justice.

But was it this way?

Well, not even close.

The Government’s response was pathetic at best. Nawaz Sharif, fresh from his umrah trip, simply sent his condolences and said that his Government is committed to eliminating terrorism. As usual, this “promise for future action” failed to name the Tehreek I Taliban Pakistan who had proudly taken responsibility of the incident. While the flag flew full mast on his office, the PM sahib was gracious enough to cancel an “Eid Milan party”.

Our Interior Minister saw it fit to spend Eid with his family rather than to rush to Quetta like he did after the Balochistan Medical Complex (BMC) attack. He showed up in Quetta on the 11th, i.e. 3 days after the blast to give this statementI pay tribute to the martyrs and the deceased who have lost their lives in the recent attacks and we want to assure everyone that an investigation is underway.” I wonder if someone could tell Chaudhry Sb, that the guilty have admitted to their guilt for the 100th time now. What exactly would he be investigating?

One wonders what happened to the Chaudhry sb, who only a month ago lashed out this strongly at the security agencies for the BMC attack? He has been awfully silent after that outburst.

And if you thought that the straight shooters of the nationalist government of Balochistan would come to the fore and reply to the TTP, then that too would be a pretty high expectation. When IG Balochistan did his press conference, there was no one from the federal or the provincial government by his side.

This was such a contrast to this press conference after the BMC attack, in which Nawaz Sharif was flanked by Mahmood Khan Achakzai, Mir Hasil Bizenjo and accompanied by DG ISI and DG IB. Where were these same people after this recent massacre? Didn’t they promise us the world after BMC?

This Friday gave our clergy that rare opportunity to give two khutbas. From what I could gather on twitter as well as from relatives and friends, almost every other mosque had nimazis chanting “ameen” for success of “Mujahideen”. Conveniently forgotten was the fact that the “success” of Mujahideen was in splattering the innards of these very nimazis on the floors of their mosques.  And that the sole hurdle to that success was dressed in a police uniform and standing guard outside, ready to sacrifice his own life for the safety of those who were praying for his death.

PoliceNimaz2

Pakistani media was no less disappointing than the clergy that prayed for the success of our killers. On the day of the bombing, by 9 pm the news had become the second most important news of the day i.e. before the martyrs were even buried. Here is GEO’s 9 pm bulletin and here is Dunya’s. Notice that in Dunya’s bulletin, the story of Quetta attack comes at around 27th minute. It was preceded by reports such as Reshma taunting Meera and interviews of people coming out of aitikaaf.

Media anchors were a mixed bunch on the 8th of August. Talat Hussain, Abdul Malik, Ejaz Haider and Javed Choudhry, canceled their regular Eid shows to cover this incident, and perhaps represented the only concerted and dedicated effort from our electronic media on this issue. Nadeem Malik and Abdul Moiz Jaffri added the incident to their regular topics.

But then we had Mehr Abbasi who was out on the streets talking about Eid shopping. Fareeha Idrees cashed in on the comic value of Sheikh Rasheed which has become so necessary for getting a rating push these days. Mr. Kharra Such, Mubashir Luqman invited two palmists. He actually began the show by claiming that he invites palmists when he has “no other topics to cover”. Asma Sherazi did a “gup shup” eid show to do “khushi key batain” while Moeed Pirzada focused on India Pakistan LoC tension. And then Waseem Badami along with Junaid Jamshed pondered if their “Shaan e Ramzan” show was as good as the show that they were trying to copy.

Talat especially pointed out the absurdity of our media in focusing on Eid shopping and Mufti Muneeb. Ironically, his own program got interrupted to facilitate Mufti Muneeb’s announcement. Watch his show, at around 4:25, when the reporter from Quetta is cut off mid sentence to beam Mufti Muneeb’s announcement live.

The owners of all media channels who make tall claims of bringing about a revolution in this country seemed very reluctant to cancel on their money making plans of fun and masti for the next three days. There were no exceptions. As from the 9th of August, the Quetta incident simply disappeared from all programming and gup shup shows featuring our giggling media anchors came to the fore.

But what takes the cake for me is this cartoon from Roznama Nai Baat on its Quetta edition for the 9th of August. This was on the back page, while the front page carried the news of the Quetta massacre.

Policecartoon

This pretty much sums up what we think of our police. A bunch of corrupt thieves whose sole aim in life is to rip us off of our money. Forget about this being in very bad taste because that would be too much to expect. But the irony is that this concern about corruption, that clearly outweighs the sacrifice of our police martyrs, is coming from a nation that has one of the lowest tax/GDP ratio in the world, i.e. a nation of tax thieves.

If this Eid signified our resilience then we need to redefine this word. We need to redefine it as the ability to not give a damn about tragedies befalling those who are neither friends nor family, the word Pakistani should not matter.

Define it like that, and yes, we might be the most resilient nation in the world.

A salute to our martyrs who have definitely been spared from this particular national trait.

I just wonder how many more of them are left?

Written by Imran Khan

August 12, 2013 at 6:52 am

Watan Ya Kafan

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The Awami National Party (ANP) began its campaign with the slogan “Pur Amn Pakistan”. However, in the aftermath of the attack on the Bilours of Peshawar, an unofficial slogan came to the fore and has since taken over.

Watan Ya Kafan” (Country or Shroud) sums up the stance of a group that is bloodied and cornered but yet proud and defiant. Not only does it signify ANP’s resolve but it also pays homage to the choice made by more than 700 of its martyrs.

One would assume that such gallantry would elicit praise from all quarters. But that is certainly not the case. Instead, there exists quite a strong sense of resentment. Polls indicate that, and my personal interactions corroborate it. By and large, the source of this resentment seems to be ANP’s financial corruption.

This belief is mostly backed by anecdotes. And one particular line that is quoted as the ultimate proof is “Baba ta easy load ka”, alluding that during ANP’s tenure bribing Haider Hoti’s father was necessary for getting things done.

Ironically, many of my friends who are utterly disgusted with ANP’s corruption, seem to have a different yardstick for their own financial integrity. One will claim a substantial inheritance from a father who was known for taking bribes. Another, a Government servant, is infamous for not even pardoning relatives when it comes to “fees”. But then both are completely disgusted over Baba’s “easy loads”. And they have every right to be, because hypocrisy of critics should not absolve the ANP of its crimes.

It would be ridiculous to claim that the ANP government was not involved in any corruption, but by the same token it would be naïve to rely just on anecdotes to associate it with corruption at unmatched levels. If the accusations are true and corruption was that widespread in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, then some indicator somewhere should capture it. Especially when compared with other provinces.

The Transparency International (TI) Pakistan is one such source. Its surveys for 2009 & 2010 provide estimates of the annual average provincial corruption expenditures. For both these years the sample from KP had one of the lowest corruption expenditures among the four provinces. For 2009, Khyber Pakhtunkha averaged at Rs. 3,454, while Punjab was Rs. 19,959. For 2010, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was the lowest among all provinces at Rs. 3,528, while the highest i.e. Punjab was at Rs. 17,791. This infographic has more detailed comparisons based on those statistics.

TI Pakistan didn’t consider these estimates in its provincial corruption ranking for 2010, as it was based on perceptions. It focused on just one question; for KP, the respondents were asked if the present Government (ANP) was more corrupt than the previous government (MMA). But here is the twist; for some odd reason TI chose Peshawar, Mansehra, Abbotabad and Haripur as representative districts for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

An anti ANP verdict from the Hazara division was inevitable, and this was presented as the perception of the whole province. This result was then used extensively in the media to label ANP’s government as the most corrupt. I wrote a more detailed piece on TI Pakistan’s methodology back in 2010.

While the jury is still out on ANP, lets focus a bit on this national obsession with corruption. Yes, corruption is a huge problem in Pakistan, but does it really overshadow terrorism? Last year, Pakistan had a total of 652 bombings leading to 1,007 deaths, that means an average of 2 bombings and 3 deaths per day! and this was one of our better years.

But yet survey after survey confirms that Pakistan considers corruption to be a bigger problem than terrorism. This is akin to a cancer patient citing a common cold as his biggest ailment. The difference between corruption and terrorism should be obvious from their respective units of measurement; rupees for corruption and deaths for terrorism. How big of a bribe can outweigh the death of one human?

The ANP’s biggest sacrifice is against the menace of terrorism. If it had followed MMA’s path, today some of its top workers and leaders would still be alive. But instead it took on the biggest monster of our times, and paid dearly for it. Ironically the ones so eager to bestow the title of “Pashtun resistance” on the Taliban refuse to even acknowledge this non-violent defiance.

Acknowledged or not, but the followers of Bacha Khan are meeting the standards that were set in Qissa Khawani in 1930, and Barbara in 1948. The villains might have changed but the resolve of these martyrs harks back to the days of Ghaffar Khan. It is a fact that the number of martyrs of ANP is comparable to those from uniformed outfits like the Frontier Constabulary, Police and Pakistan Army. Not a small feat for a political party.

However the comparison is really striking when done against other parties, especially the ones claiming ferocity of felines and natural disasters. This lot is faking complete oblivion to a danger that threatens the very existence of their proposed “Roshan” and “Naya” Pakistans.

Cowardice and opportunism seem to be the only apparent reasons for their silence. A convenient excuse is to declare the war against Taliban to be “someone else’s war”. But while Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan may have their own interpretations, Hakeem Ullah Mehsud has made it clear that his war is against Pakistan, whether its “Roshan” or “Naya” will not make a difference.

Today ANP has been left alone to fight a war for the survival and continuation of Pakistan’s democracy. After every bombing its battered leaders reiterate their demand for a timely election, one that their party is very likely to lose. It is a slap in the face of those who want to destabilize our democracy, but as a principled stance remains unappreciated by most Pakistanis.

Supporting the ANP doesn’t necessarily mean that one votes for it. Regardless of party affiliations the need is to provide a united front against the forces bent upon destabilizing democracy in Pakistan, and are presently focused on the ANP.

For those who still think ANP’s corruption doesn’t make it worth the effort, I propose the following calculation.

Step 1: Put a price on the life of a loved one.

Step 2: Multiply that price by 700.

Step 3: From this total subtract the biggest possible estimate for ANP’s corruption (make it KP’s entire budget if you may).

Lets see if the remainder is positive or negative.

An edited version appeared in The News on the 27th of April 2013 under the title “Terror, Corruption and ANP”

Written by Imran Khan

April 27, 2013 at 5:34 am

Transparency’s Opacity

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The results from Transparency International’s “National Corruption Perception Survey 2010″ are being touted in the media as an infallible judgment on the corruption of the ANP led Government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, while at the same time they are taken as proof of the honesty of Punjab’s PML-N led Government. One would be tempted to accept this judgment given the reputation and stature of Transparency International, but a look into the details of the survey reveals inconsistencies that leave a lot to be desired. These inconsistencies need to be taken into account by media pundits and politicians before any conclusions are made.

One has to give credit to Transparency International for carrying out this exercise for the fourth time; i.e. 2002, 2006, 2009 and now this one in 2010. Each survey had a larger sample size than its predecessor, thus indicating a higher scope as well as coverage. The 2009 and 2010 surveys differ from the other two when it comes to the provincial sample size. Both in 2002 and 2005 the sample size for each province was somewhat reflective of its overall population proportion in Pakistan.  But in 2009 and 2010, each province was awarded the same sample size i.e. 1300.

A peculiarity about the sample selected from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa as well as Punjab was their higher monthly income. For both provinces, more than 60% of the survey respondents fell into the monthly income range of Rs. 16,000 and above, which was higher than that for Sindh and Baluchistan. This higher income level of the sample from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is further validated by their ownership of cars: 550 respondents from the province reported to owning a car, compared to 398 from Punjab, 383 from Sindh, and 295 from Baluchistan.

Considering the financially richer sample from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, one would expect that their bribery expenses be also higher than those for other provinces. After all, it is a common observation that a higher financial status raises higher expectations from prying officials. For instance, tax evasion related to a higher income would be at a higher bribe, similarly a violating car driver would be expected to pay a higher bribe than a violating motorcyclist.

But when one looks at the actual bribery expenses as detailed on page 62 of the report, the sample from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa reported the “lowest” total bribery expenses. If one is to divide the total reported expenses of each province by the sample size i.e. 1300, then we get the following measures of average expenditure on bribery for each province: Punjab Rs. 17,791, Sindh Rs. 16,885, Baluchistan Rs. 3,942 while Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa showing the lowest at Rs. 3,528.

This presents a very perplexing situation, the survey clearly indicates that the expenditures of a relatively richer sample in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa pays a far less amount in bribes than its comparable (income wise) sample from Punjab. This, if anything, reflects that there is a relative “lack” of corruption in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa rather than the other way round.

So then what prompted this survey to declare the present Government of ANP as the most corrupt of all provincial governments in Pakistan? The answer lies in a new question that was introduced to the survey this year. In this question the respondents were asked:  “Which Provincial Government was cleaner, the present (2008-10) or the past?” If one is to rephrase this question in the context of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, then it would mean: which Provincial Government was more corrupt, the ANP or the MMA? 78% of the respondents declared ANP to be more corrupt than the MMA.

This particular question is a verdict on a political party, and as an unqualified value judgment, it is bound to reflect the political leanings of each respondent. Given the introduction of this new question, Transparency International should have been extra careful in making sure that the sample from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa or for that matter from any other province is a close representation of the political map of the Province.

But one is surprised to see that the four cities selected from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are: Peshawar and all the urban centers of Hazara Division, i.e. Mansehra, Abbotabad, and Haripur. Anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge about the political history of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa would not be surprised by the overwhelming verdict against ANP from this sample. The recent upheaval about the Pakhtunkhwa issue in Hazara Division is an indication of the unpopularity of ANP in that area. If the respondents were equally distributed between the four cities then the three cities of Hazara Division would constitute 75% of the sample size, almost the same as the respondents who declared ANP to be more corrupt than the MMA. Given these facts, the selected sample from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is very unlikely to be truly representative of the political map of the Province, and thus is very unlikely to give an unbiased assessment.

It should also be mentioned that the choice of cities in this survey takes a departure from the norms adopted in the previous two surveys. These deviations are specifically peculiar when it comes to Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, i.e. the “cleanest” and the “dirtiest” provinces.

A review of the cities selected in the earlier surveys would be useful here, the 2002 survey focused on the Provincial Capitals for all the provinces except Punjab for which both Lahore as well as Multan was chosen. The 2006 survey chose Rawalpindi and Faisalabad for Punjab while Peshawar and Nowshera for the former NWFP. The 2010 survey had the room to be more diversified, as it aimed to choose 5 cities from each province. Interestingly the report, on page number 14 lists only 4 cities from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa i.e. Peshawar, Mansehra, Haripur and Abbotabad. Whether the survey was only carried out in 4 cities or the 5th one was missed out as a typo is not clear from going through the report. Also dubious is the selection for Punjab, which is; Lahore, Sialkot, Daska, Gujranwala, and Chakwal. These are all areas where PML-N showed a very strong electoral performance in the 2008 election. Contrary to the 2002 survey, where Multan was chosen along with Lahore to measure perceptions, the 2010 survey completely ignores Southern Punjab.

The Corruption Perceptions Survey 2010, very blatantly asked about the corruption perceptions surrounding ANP and PML-N. For ANP it did that mostly in areas where the party is very unlikely to even field a candidate while for PML-N it did the same in areas that are its historical strongholds. The results then should not be portrayed as an objective assessment or a ranking for that matter.

There is ample proof about the partiality inherent in this survey, whether this was done by error or design, in both cases Transparency International needs to come clean on this issue. The last thing it wants is to be used as a tool in the domestic politics of Pakistan.

An edited version appeared in The News on June 9th 2010

Written by Imran Khan

June 9, 2010 at 12:25 pm

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