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I find it incredibly ironic that the Government of Pakistan has now decided to carry out an “operation” against banned outfits that are operating in the province, following the deaths of at least 15 people in sectarian clashes in the city of Karachi in June alone. Banned outfits, like the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, a virulent anti-Shia party, which was banned during General Musharraf’s reign, and later re-emerged under the new name Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jaamat, have been operating with impunity not just in Karachi, but in various parts of Sindh, notably Khairpur, the district where the Chief Minister of Sindh, Qaim Ali Shah hails from.

In March this year, when we visited Khairpur, one could see SSP flags fluttering in the skies in Khairpur, along with their graffitti on the walls, near their sizeable madrassah. The SSP leader Ali Sher Haidri had been killed in August last year in Khairpur. According to local accounts, many of the area’s residents did not know how large the madrassah even was, until the police tore down the walls.

In August last year, following Allama Sher Haidri’s death, SSP held a protest outside the Karachi Press Club. Interestingly, even though they officially changed their name, the banners and the press release they handed out to journalists, bore the name SSP, signifying that the ban really made no difference – nor were the authorities taking any notice of the fact that SSP still operated freely. Slogans were shouted against the Shia community, and participants of the protest rally declared them as infidels. (See pictures from the August 2009 SSP protest here) Hate literature, inciting violence against the Shia minority is freely available outside SSP mosques for all and sundry.

What is disappointing, although typical in Pakistan, is that it takes the death of more than a dozen people before the government acts against banned outfits. The fact that “banned outfits” (I’m sorry, changing a party’s name does not signify a change in its ideologies or beliefs) operate with impunity, and have been doing so for several years, signifies that the government and the police is either blind, deaf and dumb, or that it has too much on its plate, or is, perhaps, hoping that the SSP stays under the radar, so that they don’t have to deal with them.

The problem is, sweeping problems under the carpet has never worked out well for Pakistan.

In other news, Hafiz Saeed is back. Dawn notes:

“It was the second public activity of Hafiz Saeed, accused by India of masterminding the Mumbai attacks, after being released from house arrest on court orders. He had taken part in a pro-farmers rally in Lahore last month. The two appearances suggest that Hafiz Saeed is seeking to return to the centre-stage after having been kept on the margins of politics in the wake of the Nov 2008 attacks in Mumbai. ”

In 2007, 13-year-old Kainat Soomro, a girl from Dadu, alleged that she had been kidnapped and gang raped by four men in Dadu, Sindh. One of the accused however said that he and Kainat had gotten married of their own choice in 2007, and her father was a greedy man who wanted to use his daughter so that the accused would pay Soomro’s family money. Fast forward the years, and a long trial, and on Thursday, the City Court acquitted the four accused in the case. While one can write numerous essays on why it took three years for a verdict to be passed, a fellow journalist remarked before the verdict, a sentiment also echoed by others who attended the hearing: “The case is fake. Her father wanted her to become the next Mukhtaran Mai.”

While the case may have very well been an allegation by a father, the fact that people think Mukhtaran Mai is a status symbol of sorts to be looked up to is rather shocking, to say the least. Firstly, if Kainat’s father wanted her to be the next Mukhtaran Mai, so that Kainat would also get famous and in the process earn money, and hence fabricated the allegations, he is guilty of using his daughter as a pawn to get fame and money. On the other hand, what kind of sick, depraved person would want to parade their daughter around as a rape victim?

Now, mind-boggling quotes from the judgement, as reported by Dawn:

“It appeared from the testimony of the victim that she was gang-raped by the accused persons at the shop, but in the same breath she deposed that at the time she was unconscious, the judge said. “I am unable to swallow the factum of gang-rape in unconscious condition. The doctor could not find any mark of violence on the soul of prosecutrix. No medical evidence is available on record which transpires that the prosecutrix subjected to zina-bil-jabar”

In Pakistan, medico-legal officers have already come under much scrutiny for not carrying out proper investigations of rape victims. Secondly, due to lack of awareness, pressure from the family, and other factors, women do not preserve evidence, take a shower, and do not visit the hospital for an exam within 24 hours of the rape having taken place.

““In Sharia, puberty is sufficient for consummation of a marriage. I, therefore, found no hesitation to hold that in presence of a Nikkah, the offence of zina for accused Ahsan is also engulfed under the thick cloud of doubt and the prosecution did not bother to take pain in removing these doubts,” it concluded.”

Now, even if there is a nikah (marriage certificate) present between Ahsan (the accused) and Kainat (the victim), if Kainat was raped, whether she was married or not is inconsequential. Rape = Rape. Whether its premarital rape or marital rape, it doesn’t take away from the horror of being forced to have sex. Secondly, according to the law, the legal age at which a girl can be married is 16. Kainat was only 13 if she did get married to Ahsan in 2007.

Last, but not the least: Kainat’s case went on for three years. Regardless of whether she was raped or not, three years is a very long time. While courts remained close to non-functional till mid-2009 due to the judicial crisis, it has now been almost a year since the Chief Justice of Pakistan was reinstated. Can the powers that be please focus on ensuring at least one fundamental right: access to justice?

Am going to kill two birds with one stone (aik teer se dau shikaar), and just post the link for my piece in Outlook India on the River Indus. Yes, because I think self-promotion is sometimes necessary and also because I am too lazy to write another blog post.

“Historical accounts often describe the Indus as ‘mighty’. And mighty it has mostly been, defeating Alexander the Great and his rampaging army and spawning the ancient civilisations of Harappa and Mohenjodaro. The British successfully tamed the Indus, building the world’s largest canal-based irrigation system and providing succour to millions.

But the once-mighty Indus is now shrinking rapidly, courtesy climate change, bad irrigation practices and an exponential increase in population. In addition, Islamabad accuses India of curtailing the flow of rivers into Pakistan. Whatever the cause, the sight of the river today wrenches you, as my two friends and I experienced on our road-trip cutting through a wide swathe of Sindh and Punjab. On our first stop at Sehwan, Sindh, where the Sufi saint Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar is buried, we climbed a hillock. Down there was the Indus, an apology for the river of our memory, a thin strip of water snaking across the dark brown landscape, the riverbed shallow and muddy. Amidst sighs of disbelief, a glance at the map confirmed to us: yes, it was indeed the Indus.”

You can read the entire article here.

Courtesy Colin Cookman on Twitter, I’ve just discovered Pakistan’s Most Wanted List, compiled by the FIA. Now, the list may be outdated since it was published in 2009, but Manan and I have been poring over it, and here are some gems that we’ve culled from the descriptions of the listed terrorists:

From descriptions of the beards of terrorists:

1. “Beard: “Shia style beard” [uh huh.]
2. “Beard: Like a Jammatis” [oh dear, Munawar Hasan's going to be pissed when he reads that]
3. “Beard: Sometimes as per Sunnah, some times short” [kabhi yahan, kabhi wahan]
4. “Beard: Common Beard” [as sported by 'common man']
5. “Beard: Lawful not thick” [i never knew there was a lawful beard in our Constitution...]

The one liners that describe the suspects’ way of talking, which one would only assume is their dialect, is yet another work of art by the talented souls at the FIA.

1. “Way of Talking: Bihari tone”
2. “Way of Talking: “Speaking on non serious matters”

And when FIA’s describing everything, how could they miss the nose?

1. “Nose: Pressed (Like a Chinese)”
2. “Nose: Small (Bengali type)” [Clearly the FIA has no qualms about being racist]

There are also honorable mentions of the lips.

“Lips: Fatty”

Mustaches are also elaborately described:

“Mustaches: Small arrow style”

Since the FIA believes the terrorists have gaits like horses, voila!

“Gait: Walk like a body builder”
“Gait: Just Like Tableeghi”
“Gait: Relaxable”

Expletives, which I’ve deduced are the catchphrases employed by the terrorists in this Red Book, range from “Abay Chal Bay” to “If you are not a fool” to “Allah Tala Ke Khush Namudi”

And even though most of the terrorists wear “shalwar kameez” or “have an urban appearance” my favourite description of one terrorist’s appearance has to be “Like a common people of Afghanistan”

On Manan’s suggestion, we decided to compare the descriptions of the terrorists with the accompanying pictures, which predictably, don’t match. I’m sure there are numerous bits that we’ve missed out, but I don’t want to deprive you, the reader, of the pleasure of reading through this book.

Perhaps as a disclaimer, the FIA Director General doesn’t truly believe in the information collected in the red book. In his introduction, he states:

Apparently every effort has been made to provide accurate information. However, these lists are never totally up-to-date. Suggestions are therefore, welcome at reports@sig.gov.pk”

Verdict: This book is a work of art. I can safely predict that 20 years from now, we will not quote Ghalib or Faiz, but will quote from this wonderful book, that will have by then revolutionized the way criminal investigations are undertaken around the world. Thank you, Pakistan’s premier investigation agency FIA for this book. Thank you.

I met a little girl and boy today. Shy, yet polite, holding out their hands for handshakes and whispering salaams to the grown-ups they met.

Four hours later they were killed in a bomb blast in the city.

32 people have been killed today. Thousands have died in the last few years alone in Pakistan in acts of terrorism. Mothers, fathers, cousins, friends, colleagues, brothers, sisters, acquaintances. Some we knew, some we never will.

A new video has emerged, taken from what appears to be a mobile phone, of Pakistani army personnel beating up suspected Taliban militants (who appear to hail from FATA/NWFP, from what one can tell).

Earlier, reports emerged that the Pakistani Army had left alleged Taliban members’ bodies out on the roads of Swat. The Sunday Telegraph cited an 18-year old boy “describing seeing dogs eating the bodies of bombing victims lying in his village before he fled.”

According to a BBC report on the video, DG ISPR Athar Abbas says this is “a very serious accusation.”

“I cannot comment on the video till we have examined it. This will take some time as the army headquarters will have to be involved in the process.”

The video is sickening to watch, but the report doesnt come as a surprise. As I mentioned earlier, reports of the Pakistani Army’s involvement in torture and even war crimes in the battle against the Taliban have been circulating for months now. Whether this video is real or not [and so far, it looks pretty authentic], what one would really like is some honesty from the Pakistani Army.

Update: The first video was removed from YouTube almost an hour after I first saw it, YouTube says the video violates their Terms of Use. Blog post has been updated with new video link.

The opening sentence of this article is so well-crafted I want to make babies with it.

From the sweeping presidential palace of Islamabad to an unassuming three-bedroom flat behind the shisha bars and kebab joints of London’s Arabic quarter – one might have expected Pervez Musharraf to do better.

The article also made me feel quite good about literally having a haleem joint, a milkshake joint and various bakeries literally a stone’s throw away from my flat. Of course, my apartment didn’t cost over £1m and I don’t have private security and Scotland Yard detail following me. Instead, I have a chowkidaar who stays asleep for most of the day, and regularly refuses to wake up when the water tanker arrives or if one ever has guests waiting at the apartment’s main gate.

In other news, I was jolted out of my flu-induced stupor by this image of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, oddly timed to be released around the 9/11 anniversary, which I suggest you show your children (if you have any) if they ask you too many questions. It should shut them up for a while.

Also, If you get invited to the PM’s house anytime soon, remember to take along your own mithai, cos he ain’t serving any. Of course, there is no way of really verifying if this will actually lead to an be enforced, and if other politicians will follow suit, but in any case don’t forget to pack those Toblerones.

And last, but not the least, Meera makes a journalist’s day.

P.S: Those of you who come to this blog looking for Ali Mustafa, please go away. He has a Twitter account, go read his updates instead. I’m going to go take care of my flu.

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