Friday, May 28, 2010

Killing one human is equal to killing of entire humanity!!!!

I grew up with a simple teaching of my Muslim parents- killing one human being is equal to killing of the whole humanity. However,I have witnessed killings of innocent human beings by those who claim to be the gate-keepers of religion. Why havent they obeyed Islam when they call themselves Muslim?

Today around 80 human beings were brutally killed in Lahore because they were Ahmadis, but does that matter? Isnt it enough to say that the carnage took lives of 80 human beings and around 100 human being injured in the attacks? No other identity matters. Anyways, the same people that killed Ahmadis today have killed thousands and millions of Muslims as well and exploded themselves around civilian populations. These are the same people who are contaminating the brains of our young children and teach them to explode themselves and kill the entire humanity.

I am still shocked with the footage and images of the terrorists that were shown on Geo Tv today.One person tries to jump from the top floor window of the building to save his life but as he gets to the ground, the terrorist from the top floor shots him with gunfire. Then the terrorist gunman looks up in the sky and raises his gun in joy. This is the atrocious illustration of a belief. He was enjoying every bullet he fired and showed pride and vanity.This examples the process of indoctrinating hatred and violence in brains that occurs in the Madrasas.
(Photo from Aljazeera.net/English)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Where does the thought begin?

Today I was invited to attend the launch of Amnesty International's Annual Report in London. The report with more than 300 pages, illustrates the expanded human rights violations throughout the globe from Latine America to Burma to Afghanistan to Iraq to China and the list will continue forever. I noticed that this year, the report includes a more comprehensive look at the current challenges for the rights of the Afghan people, Kudos to the Amnesty's Afghanistan team!!!

Challenges remain the same. I have been yielling about these since 2002. Continued impunity, strenghtened insurgency, increased violence and decreased accountability. All amidst of a lethal war, that is taking lives at all sides. But the ones who have nothing to do with the war bear the heavier brunt. Maybe this is how it works, after all. When the elephants fight- the grass is devastated.

I had some interviews with a number of media outlets and raised concerns as usual. Sometimes I hardly find replacements for some of the words that I feel have run out of meanings because I have overused them. I am sick and tired of terms such a violation, oppression, insurgency, war, international community, democracy, values, culture, war crimes, threats, militants, women's rights, human rights and etc. At times I find these words so empty and senseless. They have run out of content and meaning, they must be tired by now. We have spent our lives experimenting and lamenting on these terms and continue to do so.


After the interviews were over, took the train the came back to the quiet Warwick. However, still occupied with the thoughts and images of killings, beatings, destroying and fighting from the report Launch. As I turned on the Kabul television channels, the news had just started. From the beginning till the end it all sounded like a crisis. Parliament on its 5th day of no-work strike, the Second Vice President claimed that he wont come back from Behsood till the dispute with Kochi's are not solved. Some opposition groups boycotted the Peace Jirga, the head of Upper house condemning the Second Vice President with harsh words and accuse him of ethnic-rivalry. The Peace Jirga supposed to take place on the 2nd June next week and the Spokesperson announced that if political parties dont want to attend the Jirga, it wont impact the Jirga. ( If you were dreaming that this is a democracy, then wake up).

I felt like my mind was about to explode, all these happening and of course above the other dilemmas of poverty and insecurity, maybe insecurity is a smaller word. I should call it a war. Felt so restless so called a good friend who happens to be at the heart of these crisis and talked for almost three hours. Nothing new. We just scolded everybody and felt pity for the poor Afghans. Poor Afghans in a real sense.
Sometimes I get angry that why dont we as a nation wake up and stand against these gatekeepers of our lives. But then I remind myself that our crisis was not born yesterday or 10 years ago. These crisis are the legacies of at least post 1919 era when the man-leaders of this country never let us exist as a nation. They manipulated our national identities as bargaining chips of their power positions. But then who is 'they' and 'us'..... are things as dichotomous...were they any alien descendents? Werent those leaders of that times and the leaders of today the creation of this 'yet to be nationed' people?

Will be thinking around these tonight and if I make sense of anything, will right back. Otherwise, they will disappear as the night gets dark,as our lives get darker.

Monday, May 24, 2010

An Afghans response to Liam Fox

“We are not in Afghanistan for the sake of the education policy in a broken 13th-century country. We are there so the people of Britain and our global interests are not threatened.”

- Liam Fox, Britain's new Defence Secretary.


This, in the 21st century, was the thought of Britain’s Conservative

Defense Secretary during his first trip to Afghanistan. I was hoping that his past five years of homework as shadow minister might have helped him see something of the light, but he seems to be still in living in the shadows of a bankrupt and failed early-20th-century conservatism.


I debated Mr. Fox on the BBC in January, on the eve of the Afghanistan London Conference. Back then, he defended the proposition that socio economic development was the ultimate solution to the Afghan conflict. But hearing his views now that he's in cabinet, it makes me wonder if this is how much politicians fake up their arguments.


We shouldn't be surprised that Fox isn't setting out education policies for the "13th-century broken country” that Afghanistan has become. But we should be surprised to hear such a statement from a leading politician of a democratic government.

Has something caused him to change his mind since January? Is he disillusioned? If anyone has caused to be disillusioned, it would be the millions of young girls struggling to go to school every day in Afghanistan, even if acid is thrown to their faces or their schoolyards are poisoned. It would be the thousands of Afghan women fighting for their rights and risking their lives to participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections.


It is they who would be abandoned by the policy Mr. Fox counsels. It is they who would be betrayed, they and the thousands of women rights defenders and activists who carry on with their work despite death threats and terror. It is they who fight extremism and struggle to overturn the social and structural violencefacing women and girls in Afghanistan. It is the thousands of journalists and defenders of freedom of speech who bring news of hope to Afghans and to the world.


The insurgency in Afghanistan today is not merely an outcome of

13th-century backwardness. Even the most backward conservative politicians of the "neorealist" school should understand that the current chaos in Afghanistan is the legacy of the 19th-century Great Game, the 20th-century Cold War, and the simplistic paradigms of the 21st-century War on Terror.


There is nothing realistic, "neo" or otherwise, in imagining that Afghanistan’s instability will be remedied by counter-insurgency or counter-terrorism alone. Leaving Afghanistan to its illiteracy and its poverty will cause grievous harm even to the most narrow vision of a suitable British foreign policy. The old-fashioned course Mr. Fox appears to favour, would allow Afghanistan to roll back into the hands of the militants. Afghanistan will again be used as a base of operations against the Western powers.And it will not be only Afghanistan that will fall outside the orbit

of civilization, but the entire region will be threatened, including Pakistan, with its nuclear arsenal.


The solutions in Afghanistan will not come from improved military equipment, which was such a concern for Mr. Fox during his trip. The solutions in Afghanistan do not lie in merely a solidified military presence, or even a strengthened Afghan security and defense capacity. The ultimate solutions lie only in the social progress, economic development, literacy and education that an improved security situation will allow.


It is even more perplexing that Mr. Fox would cite "a lack of urgency and understanding in this country about the threat posed by Iran,” as though Afghanistan were a separate matter. Is Mr. Fox not aware of the iron grip thatIran is encircling around Afghanistan? Is Mr. Fox not aware that Afghanistan faces a far more immediate threat from Iran than Britain does?


For Mr. Fox to cite Lord Palmerston and then to draw a false distinction between "British interests" and the necessary cause of advancing democracy is to betray a dangerously shallow worldview. It does not bode well for a new British policy in Afghanistan.


Education and economic development cannot be set aside as trifles in the Afghan conflict. A return to Palmerston's "gunboat diplomacy" will not serve British interests, even in the most narrow, "realist" sense that Mr. Fox favours. Only when Afghanistan is truly standing on its own feet will the threat it currently poses be fully contained.


We are no longer fighting the Napoleonic Wars. It will be only when the international community sees Afghanistan well on its way to being a sovereign democracy that the war will be won. To reach that horizon, Mr. Fox's new government would be well advised to focus not only on better guns, but on increasing aid effectiveness and helping Afghans build their own democracy. That is the only way to speed the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan.


The war being waged in Afghanistan can only be won with military efficiency augmented with measures to alleviate poverty and illiteracy, and a realistic program to establish a competent, accountable government. This strategy would not only be less costly - it costs hundreds of thousands of pounds a year, just to maintain a single British soldier in Afghanistan - but it would be sustainable and practical. To empower Afghanistan with its own educated population and its own human resources, to help Afghans restore their own self-reliant nation state - that is how to win this war.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

VIEW: Internalising impunity in Afghanistan —Wazhma Frogh By Daily Times

The key to lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan is not in encouraging the culture of rewarding bullies and strongmen, but in providing justice and so winning public support

A woman is yelling in pain but the man continues to beat her on her back with a whip. With every lash, her body jolts, moving up and down while she cries for forgiveness. A large number of men, and some women, are gathered around her, watching the scene. With each lash, the man shouts at her, “Shame on you...You must be punished...Others should learn a lesson from your punishment.” The flogging continues for around three minutes in this video that was shown on the national television channels in Kabul on February 18, 2010 and we are told that there was another woman who would be flogged afterwards.

Given the video’s content, one tends to assume that the incident must have taken place in a Taliban-controlled community. After all, a similar incident of public lashing of a young girl is known to have taken place in Swat Valley last year. But the assumption is incorrect, because this particular incident took place recently in a district of Ghor province. The district is not under Taliban control and the man who carried out the flogging is in fact an imam of a local mosque. The flogging itself was ordered by one of the local commanders, popularly known as warlords. Community members said that there have been a number of similar incidents ordered by the same commander. The commander had issued the orders even though he had no official designation giving him the authority to request punishment for members of the community. He runs the district’s affairs simply because he has guns and men who spread terror.

In mid-February 2010, when the incident took place, this was just a news story, which was soon forgotten. We never found out whether the mullah and the commander had been arrested or whether the incident was investigated. But the incident represents far more than a news story. It is an illustration of the legacy of the impunity that was granted to warlords after the Bonn Agreement in 2001. Today, this same impunity is being offered to the Taliban, with various Afghan leaders insisting that this represents a key to peace in Afghanistan.

The Amnesty Law granting impunity from prosecution to all parties involved in the wars up to 2001 echoes this view. The law has been gazetted and published by the Afghan Ministry of Justice. Given the warlords’ track record, the law is likely to encourage further violations of human rights as exemplified in the illegal public flogging of the woman in the video. The debate on how best to end the conflict has brought to the fore two distinct but contradictory views. A majority of analysts believe that the negotiation and granting of amnesty to insurgents is the key to creating peace in Afghanistan. But critics of this view rightly point out that the provision of justice is an essential prerequisite for peace and the rule of law. Afghanistan’s recent history has shown that the co-option of self-appointed strongmen and commanders in the government has backfired. The strongmen who were offered impunity and positions in the government failed to deliver services and their failure has directly led to increase in support for the insurgency. In addition, the impunity granted to them has allowed them to feel a sense of entitlement to power. As a consequence, they continue to pose a threat to security if faced with losing out on opportunities.

Granting impunity to those whose crimes are well known and recorded might bring about an appearance of relative peace and security. But as the flogging incident in Ghor shows, in reality, such policies lead to further instability because the warlords’ indiscriminate violation of human rights turns the public against the government for allowing such individuals to oppress the people with impunity. It is this resentment against the government that has allowed the Taliban to intensify their insurgency. After all, the Taliban’s guerrilla warfare relies on local support for food and shelter and Afghan villagers are known to provide such support simply because the Taliban promise them justice. The Taliban famously gained initial support for their movement because they publicly punished local commanders who oppressed villagers and in doing so, showed that they were capable of ensuring justice. The key to lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan is not in encouraging the culture of rewarding bullies and strongmen, but in providing justice and so winning public support. Afghanistan’s history is evidence of the fact that sacrificing justice for the sake of an illusory, temporary peace is likely to only delay further more serious destabilisation. Let us learn from history.

Wazhma Frogh is an Afghan civil society activist currently a postgraduate fellow at Warwick University, United Kingdom


Why are we so judgemental?

Have you come across people who think they actually guard everyone else's behavior and actions, forgetting even their own selves? At times, this is sensible because we then get to know people better. But there are also times when you feel disillusioned with their quick judgements.
Yesterday, I received an email from an unknown intellectual questioning my activism and continued struggles for women's rights in Afghanistan. The email read as:

" Dear Wazhma, I usually follow your work and write ups and recently read your interesting piece in Guardian on the how the Peace processes currently going on in Afghanistan will impact women's conditions. Particularly if militants are granted amnesty and get easy admission into the country's political processes to make harsh decisions for women's rights. I also read the comments beneath the article by readers and they were quiet interesting. Mainly they were suggesting that why do u care about women's rights in war. If women's rights are part of human rights then even International Human Rights laws dont get applied during the times of armed conflict. Wazhma, I appreciate your struggles but for all these years that I know you, you seem to be taking things so idealistically. You think that the people who invaded your country cares about the situation of women? If you think so then you must be very naive and opposite to what is known about you. More importantly, your country is going through internal and external war and you should rather work to bring peace and stability and women's rights will come later and itself. You are a very smart woman and have already spent so many years of your life for an empty struggle and I know that you are under threats and pressure as well. So its still time for you to reaffirm your priorities and utilize your talent towards stabilizing Afghanistan, and quit on the empty struggles for women rights. " Your well-wisher.

My initial reaction was a simple smile. As I read through the entire email, my feelings became more resonant and tumultuous. Many questions ringed around my brain and weaved their way towards alittle disdain, alittle obscured, and alittle of an outcry. I wondered how easy it is for us to come up with terms that should govern people's beliefs and actions and be judgemental about them? Even if someone is at odds with our subjective comprehensions of rights vs wrong, what gives us the strings to question other people's beliefs and struggles? But more importantly this interface with myself brought out my convictions that I think have resided in me tacitly, and I never needed to justify my struggles for anyone, even not for myself. Therefore, chose to respond to that well-wisher and knit the disoriented strands together.

Dear Well-Wisher: Thank you for taking time and writing to me about your analysis of my situation, never expected it though. I also appreciate your feelings that you commiserate with our cause in Afghanistan and the need for stability in the country. However, my response to your query and propositions is embedded in your email. I do struggle for the stability of Afghanistan, for the long term peace in my country through creating avenues to raise the voices of Afghan women. I believe that stability will come but only if the half of population of my country make it happen. If we are half of the population, then we are also half of the solution and maybe half of the problem as well. The incursions on women in my country have resulted in an almost dissolved agency of women throughout that need to awaken rejuvenate Afghan nation. Can stability come when half of the population are submerged and distorted?

You said that no one cares about women in my country and if I think so then I am naive. I actually think its naive of anyone who ties the progress of women with the notions of an expanded and violent war. I never expected nor believe that women's cause can taken an emphatic and streaming shape through military interventions or war. However, this is one of the realities of our times. Before 2001, the world knew little or almost nothing about Afghan women and after the war started, the women's plight seemed emanated from the recent totalitarian regime, while that is half of the reality. Women's rights have been diluted from the course of governance and state building throughout the history, and this claim is echoed in various historical analysis on Afghanistan so far. The paramount necessity therefore lies in a revolution of and for Afghan women.

You are right. Such a struggle isnt immune from revolt and reprisal which in turn created threats and rampant deliberations against me and many other activists in my country. However, our cause has outstripped those threats and we continued the struggle. The immense receptivity and stark rage of activists and ordinary women give us strength and bolsters the novelty of our endeavor.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

The gate keepers of religion are making people dance to their tunes....

You would agree that these days, we are all struggling with the flux of information and news coming our ways. The greed for more is watered by the savvy cyber mania's like facebook, twitter and etc. I woke up this morning to a spark of enraged tweets on the ban of facebook and youtube in Pakistan due to the High Court's decision of banning these websites because of 'objectionable content' that offend Muslims faith and beliefs. I always remember that as a kid, my father used to tell us " If someone tells you that the cat snatched your nose, do not run after the cat, instead check if your nose is in its place". Of course, none of us could understood what he meant. But today the more I see people antagonizing violently against anyone who questions or according to them 'mocks' their religious beliefs, they all start running after the cat, rather than strengthening their beliefs and actually believing in those beliefs.

Because believing in those religious believes would also require the believers to manifest the internalization and adaptation of those values in their attitude and actions. While hundreds of men protested violently against the drawings of the Prophet (PBUH) in Karachi, the two police officers were defending their bail in Wah Cant, around Peshawar for the crime of raping a 13 year old girl called Natasha as e-tribute reported today. I thought I wish we had some more hundreds to stand up for justice for this little girl who was raped daily for almost 21 days, forced to drink alcohol and dance naked. How are we able to sleep everyday in calm when such cruelties are inflicted on our children and we call ourselves believers, I wondered. Doesnt our religious beliefs and faith require us to revolt against injustices and cruelty? But maybe, protesting for justice for children wouldnt be politically sensational nor the media would be interested in covering it. After all, its only the controversies that make the headlines.

Although many of us are aware that it is the predatory acts of politicians to sustain their monopoly over people's faith and beliefs and it is them that trigger anger and provoke violent reprisals of Muslims in Pakistan and many other muslim and non muslim countries. But the matter to worry is the bouts of violence that can easily penetrate into people's daily lives and vast swaths of people especially the youth indulge themselves emotionally in the political games of those politicians. And that is where the role for critical involvement of every individual comes in. We need to break the vicious cycle of violence and the monopoly of these religious gate keepers and should not allow anyone to (mis) represent us.







Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Afghanistan threats beyond the Taliban

I have always called for responsive governance and improved security as the necessary pre-conditions for the stability of Afghanistan, but it seems that the political agendas prevail above the needs of the common Afghan and the government chose to rather engage itself in political deals with the militants, who are not the only threats to Afghans. But this lack of strategic vision and planning in the government gives rise to parallel conflicts inside the country which goes unheard and ignored.

There is no doubt that Afghanistan continues to struggle with the legacies of the glorious holy war as the supplement of the 'Cold War' that was very hot for Afghans, and the war factions known as 'warlords' have gained more influence and ground as the government high position is mainly hijacked by them. They are still enjoying the luxurious impunity granted by the Bonn agreement of the new Afghanistan in 2001.

Another spark in the fire of insurgency and ongoing conflict is the rising revolt of Hazara's from Deh Mirdad , Behsood of Wardak province and the Kochi's (nomads) over access to the pastural lands. The fight has become lethal. The pasture land are the only means of livelihood for the villagers in Behsood who rely on livestock for living and it seems that they will fight for their survival at any cost.

The same conflict took place in 2007 and 2008 and reminds us that last year the representatives of these ethnic groups boycotted parliament for almost 45 days or so. The dispute is going on for more than a week and has taken lives at both sides. Villagers complain that their houses were set on fire, their shops were looted and gun firing has killed many people including women and children. A number of the households whose homes were set on fire are living in the open air with no support from the central government.

The head of Hezb-e-Wahdat Mardum ( People's Unity Party), who happens to to be the chairperson of the Religious, Cultural Affairs and higher education Commission of the Parliament convened a press conference on 16th May and warned the government that if this dispute is not resolved, the situation will turn into a disaster and impact the Peace Jirga and Parliamentary Elections.

Many have ignored the conflict as yet another instance of community dispute over land, which are common in Afghanistan, there are larger questions in the current circumstances. If this is mainly a fight between villagers and Kochis, where did the guns and ammunition came from? Why the representatives of both sides in the parliament condemn the opposite ethnicity for fuelling the fire and creating civil war among ethnicities in Afghanistan?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Don't raise hopes for Afghan peace jirga (Guardian)


A national reintegration plan ignores the fact much of the violence is caused by an exported insurgency from Pakistan
Wazhma Frogh
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 11 May 2010 12.00 BST
Article history
Afghanistan is preparing for a consultative peace jirga through which it aspires to build national consensus on the political approach to the insurgency, and create a roadmap towards ending the perpetual violence in the country. The government has indicated that during the jirga it will open its reintegration and reconciliation plan for debate. A version of this plan was first presented at the London conference on Afghanistan in January, where the initiative received financial and political support.
Traditionally, jirgas have been a mechanism for resolving communal and tribal conflicts in many parts of Afghanistan, as well as at the national level. Jirgas have been useful in solving disputes and averting further deterioration or perpetration of violence. Their decisions are often binding and forced, and resolutions arrived at through jirgas do not necessarily pass tests of justice or fairness. Furthermore, jirga representatives are often notables and local power-holders who may see it fit to impose their own will on the public, rather than represent the public's desires.
We may be tempted to hope that the coming jirga might put an end to the continuing violence. However, as the new developments unfold around the reintegration and reconciliation plan, including the latest on offering exile to the Taliban commanders, the hope gets murkier.
We hear various arguments against the reintegration plan. One of its only known components is the provision of incentives for the insurgents to renounce violence. Many claim that it's an unsustainable strategy and will further antagonise the majority youth who are feeling deprived of the development and security initiatives of the international community and the Afghan government. Women's rights activists and civil society groups raise their concern over the issue of justice for human rights violations and fear that a blank offer of amnesty will not bring enduring peace to Afghanistan.
While many critics believe that Taliban leadership or forces will not participate in the jirga, another perspective can bring some optimism as well. The arrest of the leading Taliban commanders in Pakistan has disturbed the relationship between the Taliban and the Pakistani intelligence services. So the jirga can be an opportunity for the Afghan Taliban leadership to withdraw their affiliation from the Pakistani intelligence and become part of the political and national processes in Afghanistan. Otherwise, they will be continuously used as scapegoats by the Pakistani government to cash its cheques in Washington.
The risk is that jirga may be a one-sided interaction of the people in power with the vulnerable Afghan elders – asking the elders to help with the peace process while ignoring that some of these elders might be executed upon their return to their village, and some will not even try to come due to such fear from the local militants and insurgents. This risk is more likely to materialise in relation to elders from the southern and south-eastern provinces, the focus of ongoing violence.
It is wrong to set high expectations for the coming jirga. It may serve as a step towards stabilising Afghanistan, but such hopes should be tempered by a realisation that the realities on the ground continue to be violent.
If the Taliban movement was national, independent and based on Afghan patriotic sentiments, such a jirga might be more sensible and productive, but it is undeniable that much of the violence in Afghanistan is caused by an exported insurgency – one that is created and sustained by Afghanistan's neighbour, Pakistan.
The time has come for the Afghan government to seriously talk with the Pakistani military and the intelligence services that have been the fathers of the Taliban movement and insurgency. Pakistan will continue making and remaking insurgency for Afghanistan if the Pakistani establishment continues to believe that its survival and security interests are at stake there.
The time has come for a regional pact between Afghanistan and Pakistan, with guaranteed compliance. Pakistan does not want an Afghanistan that flourishes economically or politically; Pakistani intelligence and military wrongly perceive that a fragile Afghan state and nation can let Pakistan breathe in peace. A strong Afghan state might question the territorial sovereignty of Pakistan because of the Durand Line and the Pashtunkhwa sentiments.
There is a need to assure Pakistan that if it stops creating more insurgency for Afghanistan, Afghanistan will not be a threat to Pakistan's territorial sovereignty, and India and other actors will not be allowed to use Afghan land for any activities against Pakistan. Such assurance needs to be negotiated with the Pakistani army and intelligence; success in that could bear more fruit than any national reconciliation or reintegration plan inside Afghanistan.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Afghanistan’s triangular regional dilemma


We can rewrite history but cannot escape geography. Afghanistan has always been sandwiched between conflicting interests of its neighbors and as Afghanistan is taking a new roadmap to recuperate its fragile security and stability, the neighbors particularly Pakistan , Iran and India are sharpening their teeth to claim their part in all the political processes in Afghanistan . Better to say, a potential crisis emerging from the triangular dilemma confronting Afghanistan . Stranded with the British legacy of disputed Durand Line, Pakistan created the Taliban insurgency as means of continued security and political havoc taking the advantage of poor governance system in Afghanistan, at the same time Iran has been building up its contacts and linkages in Afghanistan through support to the most conservative faction leaders of the country unlike Pakistan, Iran supports socio-cultural fundamentalism in Afghanistan through private universities and television channels. It is worth mentioning that India that once used to be a member of the Non-Alignment Movement too changed its status and has been directly creating venues for interventions in Afghanistan .

In a world where interventions in any poor and conflict nation are happily justified as humanitarian assistance, there can hardly be any strong measure to manage neighbor’s and external interferences, especially when the state itself anchors such interferences at times. One fundamental objectives of the Pakistani intelligence (IS) was to destroy Afghanistan ’s intelligence services during the last reigns of Najibullah government and they succeeded. As famous for its fast-paced outreach and cutting-edge espionage, Afghanistan ‘KHAD’ was literally paralyzed as the Islamic Republic state of Afghanistan took oaths amidst of the civil war in early 90s. And now besides a bleak government, we have a vulnerable and dependent intelligence services.

Afghanistan is stuck between a rock and hard place as the landmark Peace Jirga is awaiting to be held around end of May this year. Pakistani Prime minister declared its official (non ISI) position that they do not support talks with the Taliban. As obvious, Pakistan continues to water its ‘national interest’ with Washington ’s millions of aid for standing by its side on the ‘war on terror’. On one hand, the Pakistani intelligence and army would continue bolstering the insurgency in Afghanistan and on the other, would enjoy billions of dollars from Washington in the cosmic struggles against Taliban and militants. As a former ISI head said on Aljazeera, ‘who can believe that a country’s intelligence would support another country in a struggle against its own national interest and the US knows it well’. It is equally important for Washington to finally understand that Pakistan is not supportive of arrangements for bringing the ongoing insurgency to an end in Afghanistan, a long awaited outcome of the ‘war on terror’ that has been losing popularity not only in the public opinion surveys in the US and NATO countries, but also in Afghanistan.

Iran too isnt less ardent on its own national interests and this comes amidst of growing tensions in Afghanistan over government’s silence on increased instances of Iran ’s direct interference in Afghanistan , especially after the latest trip of President Ahmadinejad to Afghanistan during March this year. Iran sent an official petition to United Nations for probing into the Afghan war and declare the objectives of this ongoing counterinsurgency and just a week after Washington’s Nuclear Summit convened an international conference of over 60 countries and sought the withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan saying this time ‘ its not a request but an order’. Ironically, Iran has never been so kind to Afghanistan or Afghans in spite of religious, linguistic, cultural and geographic commonalities. Just this month, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and the parliament raised concerns and plead for the plight of 3000 or more Afghans under the Iranian custody awaiting to be executed for various charges of illegal immigration and drugs smuggling. Representatives of Nimroz Provincial Council and Nimroz governor reported to the media that Iran has moved almost two kilometers within the Afghanistan territory and installed its water pumps on the Helmand riverbank and complained that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan hasn’t even investigated the matter. Some MPs from the Afghan parliament even expressed their suspicion that Afghanistan ’s deliberate silence on Iran indicates towards some hidden deals that might have taken place between Afghan government and Iran . Afghanistan might be trying to leverage on the Iran relationship as a ‘bargaining chip’ to secure Western attention in Afghanistan but it can go against the motivation as well and Iran could be also manipulating Afghan government and monopolize Afghanistan as an escape-goat to deal with the US and the West.

In conjuncture with the recent developments on the Iranian side, India calls on Afghanistan for being cautious on talks with the Taliban, expressing India ’s concerns. Paradoxically, the Indian Prime Minister asks for ‘redlines’ from the Afghan President ahead of the peace processes with the Taliban and militants indicating towards security for Indian citizens in Afghanistan. Particularly when Pakistani groups are alleged of attempts to jeopardize the lives of Indian citizens in Afghanistan . However, more seems to come from the Indian side as India unfolds its potential interests in a post-NATO Afghanistan .

While Afghanistan’s relationship with its neighbors are pivotal for the upcoming Peace Jirga and any other peace processes in Afghanistan , the tensions of India and Pakistan on the talks with the Taliban remind us Afghans about the similar trajectories in our contemporary history of civil war. This is not to say that the central asian and far neighbors of Afghanistan are neutral but the current triangular dilemma of the Afghan neighbors present a potential political crisis for the country as the NATO is planning transition to national forces and eventual withdrawal from Afghanistan. The situation becomes more problematic when the legacy of Cold War and the 90s civil war has left a lot of Iranian and Pakistan government idealogues and loyalities within the Afghan political stream, or the famous warlords who would bring another insurrection if their interests are not accommodated within the upcoming political structures in Afghanistan. This fear is palpable in the daily life of Afghanistan now and in the months and years to come.

Where is the governance of the government?

While millions of Afghans are starving of chronic food insecurity, worsening national security and fragile governance, some parts of the government chose to fight alcohol and foreign restaurants so that at least some Afghans that used to get some benefits and income from those venues, wouldn’t get anymore. And they might have to join criminal gangs and the militants to earn an income. I have no affiliation with the restaurants nor commiserate with the alcohol cause.My problem is with the larger governance failures in Afghanistan that have caused increased insecurity and militancy.

Paradoxically, there have been numerous instances that the police officers snatched the batches of alcohol for their own consumption and that has been the primary reason for their loyal commitment to this fight. On the conditions of anonymity, a National Directorate of Security employee says that almost every police officer in Kabul that he knows of are drunk at night. Why doesn’t the government prevent this situation?

When governance converts into a merely political function then delivery of social services do not have any operative meanings for a government, and that is the plight of the Afghan government. However, this lack of a strategic vision of the government impacts its political agenda’s as well. While banning of foreign restaurants and alcohol might rehash the memories of the Taliban regime and might be a pleasant reason for them to listen to the government’s plea of integration and reconciliation, at the same time such acts antagonize the masses against the government for lack of basic services. Now and in the future the government will have more militants and ‘angry brothers’ to integrate and more to reconcile with.

Unfortunately it seems hopeless for Afghanistan to recuperate its sinking ship in the next 5 years as opportunities shrink for the country. Afghans hoped that at least the next 5 years, they will see some tangible governance schemes and projects to transform their misery into an improved condition of health, education, security, and economic sectors. But those hopes seem to remain as dreams only.

While the new government is entering into its 6th month, still the fate of half of the ministries is unknown. The parliament has been constantly asking for the remaining ministers to be introduced but their requests met with no response from the central government so far.The cabinet has always been a political body rather than strengthening governance to deliver basic services to millions of Afghans throughout the country. The media reports that almost 100 young men enter to Iran illegally everyday due to the lack of jobs and income opportunities in their home provinces and they face severe conditions and some indulge into illegal crimes and drug smuggling. The current education system is suffering great deal of negligence for all these years due to lack of leadership and accountability. In the last week of April, in a third incident of school poisoning, in one day around 80 girls get poisoned in schools in Kunduz province to make them bid farewell to education and the country’s Minister of Education seems occupied in the politics and arrangements of another political action, the upcoming peace Jirga.

However, the government is focusing on political propagandas instead. Such a lack of governance is a serious crisis in the country and will not allow any political settlements or peace processes to succeed nor any international counterterrorism approach will be effective in a fragile governance structure.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Does Justice look this monstrous? A perspective on Kasab's verdict and beyond

Does justice look this monstrous? ( Originally for Legal Drift)


Whatever little bit of respect I had for some of the 'mainstream' media, is shrouded in agitation today. Almost every channel from one of the acclaimed 'world-democracy' flashed the news of ' Kasab sentenced to death - justice served'. It is of great misfortune that common brains are being fed with such contaminated views and disdain prevails in our thoughts and comprehensions. I do not want to get into the legal implications of the trial or the verdict and nor the sentence is of much of sensation as almost everyone knew the outcome of the trial. But the larger question seems to be that would we ever be able to see justice beyond injustices and retribution? While I agree that law enforcement has to fulfill its responsibilities to protect the citizens of a country, at the same time I think the civil society of a ‘democratic nation’ should deconstruct the given rhetoric that is made to believe as absolute legal truth and should shed light on the unseen and untold and at least attempt to free the incarcerated notions of justice.

Can justice be this monstrous? I do not think so. There are two debates, the former is the carnage instigated by the so called 'terrorists' on 26/11 in Mumbai and the latter is the debate on how to find solutions and solidify the concept of justice for the ones who suffered and the ones who will suffer. However, the enraged, disillusioned and infected brains seem to have sacrificed the latter over the politics of the former. I have to admit that I have no relationship with the person in question, but have huge stakes in how the concept of justice is formed and reformed through misdeeds of individual’s predatory acts. However, if we go beyond the individuals, we will be able to explore the bouts of mistrust, agony and contingent injustices that exist in systems and social spaces in which these individuals are socialized, poised and monopolized.

There is no doubt that we live in the times of increased contentions and violence among diverging agendas and politics, but we are tempted to victimize the victim rather than curbing the agenda and politics that create and recreate violence and culminate the end of humanity. I can never reconcile the two, that by sentencing a young victim, we will scare anyone else who would plan to do the same. Ironically, the same argument can be used by the fathers of terror to attract more young voices in avenge. Indeed, some of our experiences in Afghanistan reveal that militants have been able to gin up support from youth when the youth were emotionally provoked after seeing the injustices and violence of the government systems and their allies.

I could not believe to hear Haroon Hamid of the DAWN Media Group replying to an audience question on NDTV show (6th May 2010) with Barkha Dutt that ‘terrorism is created in Afghanistan and Pakistan is a victim of it as well as India’. I wondered what happened to the media ethics of the news channels that he run, if nothing else matters to him including the truth. He didn’t even try to unravel the systematic, political and social space that gave birth to discontent and violence transformed into terrorism through the weapons of the same system in Pakistan and the region rather than indulging into a merely political blame game. While thepolitical agendas of some groups and factions entail creating terror and monopolize on religious and nationalistic sentiments of masses, there is an enabling environment that embraced and accepts the invitation and both the agenda and the enabling environment have a symmetrical relationship with the terror and violence that we see in Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. Lets also not forget and not trivialize the dynamics of social spaces in which we live and see others live, that foster reprisal and revolt by witnessing chronic poverty, famine and increased gaps between different members of the same society. The fragmentation of social spaces within the feudal society as a creation of the capitalist market paradigm that embodies injustice and tremendous rage among youth that do not only created Kasab but hundreds of Kasabs in the making. However, for sure any struggles to absolve the process would be trying to rupture the status quo, something that the gatekeepers of the feudal society and their political agenda’s will not allow or approve of and we will be getting used to death sentence of one after another and would have accepted that justice is rendered. Unfortunately, the emerging trajectories do suggest that in quest of conformity with the popular imagination of our ‘independent’ media, we will not be able to recognize the just face of justice anymore but will seek satisfaction in more resentment, discontent and retribution.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The daughters of Eve......

I receive many questions and comments from readers and friends praising my work but at the same time express their concerns that at times my writings are cynically pessimistic and overly critical of almost everything. Many of whom encourage me to look for positive inspirations in my writing. But I am sorry friends, for disappointing you once again, today as well , I do not have a positive news but let me try.

The popular imagination is that for a better tomorrow you need to bolster today. It is more than obvious that Afghanistan's tomorrow will be determined by the social and intellectual strength of today's children. But as our historical trajectories are traced till today, our children and youth have been the most poised, disillusioned and truly unfortunate and every bit of the legacy of those enraged trajectories are palpable in the attitude, thinking, and behavior of our children and youth. However, are they the ones to be blamed? I do not think so.

Today was the 5th reported incident of air poisoning in another girls school in Kabul, and 17 girls were taken to the hospital who fainted immediately after they breath the contaminated air in the school yard. I doubt that tomorrow these girls will be either allowed or dare to return back, especially when they were shown on the national television. 'It is 'dishonoring' for a father or a brother to see his daughter/sister lying in a hospital bed and having been filmed for the report', says Faqir ahmad, with whom I spoke on phone and whose daughter was among those unfortunate 17 girls. However, alot of us witnessed the courage and dedication of many girls who returned back to school in Kunduz and exhibited a revolting agitation against the attempts of girls education being attacked again and again.

The Ministry of education announced that it can be a 'natural' phenomenon as well but also that our schools have been furiously targeted especially to avenge girls education, one of the only thriving legacies of the 2001 bombing and such predatory acts were instigated by the enemies of the state. However, I think this is the epic tale of our classic and contemporary history. Many times we experienced coercive forces against women and girls education by the political and military factions to solidify their presence and power. These are the same gate keepers that also claim at times that women are the weaker and useless part of the society, if so why are the women and girls are being harmed when they are not even a party to the conflict?

The brute reality is that women and girls education symbolize the growing power and progress of a civil society that many do not want for Afghanistan. These rampant attacks on girls schools, public places, women's rights defenders and the people of Afghanistan have once again rehashed the imaginations of war and conflict dispersed over the past 30 years in Afghanistan.
The fear and disdain on the faces of these young girls do not only burry their hopes for a better life but sketches a merky Afghanistan as well. A country whose 51 % of population will remain illetrate or least literate, in comparison to an almost similar tainted picture for the Afghan men.

While the war and military operations predicate success on the 'clear and hold' paradigms, a peaceful Afghanistan could be signified through its educated women and these two hardly seem to reconcile, at least in the operative sense if not in principles.