Reopening the supply routes
May 16th, 2012
For nearly six months, Pakistan has been holding out on reopening Nato’s supply route into Afghanistan until an unconditional apology was given for the Salala attack. Who knew that being refused an invitation to a Nato summit in Chicago was all it would take for us to change our minds? While the decision to allow Nato the use of the supply route is a wise one, it does raise a lot of questions, especially the way in which it was handled. For one, we have to ask ourselves if the incalculable damage done to ties with the US was worth it, especially since our demand for an apology was ultimately dropped. By allowing this issue to fester for so long, the government has also ensured that the right wing parties will now make political hay by taking out large street protests against the opening of the supply route. Nato trucks had always been targeted for attack by militants; by imbuing them with such symbolic significance the government has only made them even bigger targets of attack.
The sudden reversal also reflects poorly on the government’s position with regard to the military; this is clearly a military-approved decision. The men in khaki were seen coming and going from the presidency on May 14, suggesting that the resumption of supplies to Afghanistan could only be permitted with army approval. The US and its Nato allies, meanwhile, in a sign of where the true centre of power resides, conducted most of its meetings on the issue with the military. We have now also seen what the government thinks of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS). Among the many recommendations made by the PCNS, it suggested that supply routes only be reopened after negotiating a cessation of drone attacks with the US. That has clearly not happened, showing that the rest of parliament’s suggestions are also unlikely to be followed.
No matter how convoluted or unnecessary the process, at least in the end the right decision was made. If Pakistan wants to have any stake in post-war Afghanistan it will have to play ball with the US for now. It’s far better that we participate in the Chicago Summit than be cut out of the process altogether.
Suffering in silence
May 16th, 2012
The troubles and travails of the people of North Waziristan seem unending. Residing in a stronghold of al Qaeda and the Taliban and frequented by drones, clashes, curfews and tensions are nothing new for residents. However, to add to their torment, the region has just been hit by a measles epidemic, which has already claimed the lives of 12 children and a man in the last three weeks.
According to local doctors, 70 more cases have been confirmed in hospitals. Though the disease can be potentially fatal, it can be prevented through proper vaccinations. Local medical staff at the hospital in Miramshah, the agency headquarters, has said that each year they face merely one or two deaths from measles. This too is considered a high number, given that timely inoculation can prevent unnecessary deaths from measles. The problem in North Waziristan arises from the fact that the highly militarised situation prevents the movement of vaccination teams. In addition, prolonged power outages contribute to difficulties in storing the vaccine, while blockades along roads make it hard to get required medicines into the area. It is of course a terrible tragedy that ordinary people, most of them children, should suffer due to no fault of their own.
The prevalent situation in North Waziristan is an indication of the impact the ongoing conflict is having on the lives of ordinary people. The situation is unacceptable and urgent measures are required to remedy it. In today’s world, no child should die of measles simply because they are unable to obtain the necessary vaccination. The tragedy that is taking place in the north of our country needs to be prevented. The people in the conflict zone need to be treated as ordinary citizens and given the rights which others in the country enjoy. The fact that this is not happening is a direct result of the fighting. They have lived with the consequences of such violence for too long. It is time to bring their suffering to an end.
May 16th, 2012
The conviction of nine men for committing sex crimes in Britain has once again thrown the Muslim community abroad into the spotlight. Though the British press has been doing a commendable job of covering the conviction objectively and trying to delink this heinous crime from any particular religion or nationality, we cannot totally buy the argument that race, culture or belief had no role to play in this disturbing incident.
Eight of the nine men found guilty of being members of a child sexual exploitation gang are of Pakistani origin. One of the men is of Afghan origin. The men acted together for years to sexually exploit girls as young as 13 years, using alcohol, food and drugs to ensure their continued compliance. The ‘grooming gang’ was able to abuse girls without detection owing to the fact that the girls targeted often came from troubled backgrounds, thus could not turn to trusted elders for guidance or support. Furthermore, the British police failed to act on a tip-off a few years ago fearing that they would be accused of discrimination.
All that aside, one must investigate whether the regressive attitude towards women that is so common in Pakistan and Afghanistan pushed these men into believing they could use young girls as pawns in their pursuit for pleasure. It cannot be denied that in some settings, men from this part of the world look down on those women who they believe don’t abide by strict interpretations of women’s religiously sanctioned roles. In fact, men raised with these beliefs about women tend to justify such perverse action through abuse. Following this incident, the Pakistani community in Britain should reassess how well it spreads the message of tolerance, justice and respect for the law among its members. Rather than feeling victimised or maligned by media attention surrounding the issue, the community must use this opportunity to create awareness in an effort to ensure this doesn’t happen again.