‘A mortal is God in all his might, This I will not write.’

November 21, 2007

“We had no funds, no files, no office, no dictaphone. And yet, with nothing in hand but a pencil, we wrote the most glorious chapter in the cultural renaissance of our people.”
                                      -Kirshen Chander (1966)

Media has a strong tradition of resistance in the Indo-Pak subcontinent. From the refusal of the father of Indian journalism James Augusts Hickey to bow before the British raj during the formative period of Indian journalism to the Karachi journalists’ arrests after the imposition of emergency in the country, media has been the custodian of a great tradition of resistance in this part of the world.

The journalists like Faiz Ahmed Faiz have always bear the burnt for saying nay to the unconstitutional steps of the dictators taken for their survival on the name of national interest.

Dr. Iqbal Ahmed recounts the tale of a Bosnian newspaper “Oslobodenje” in his essay, “Intellectuals Role in Society,” which is similar to the present ordeal being faced by the Pakistani media.

The Oslobodenje was the Bosnia’s largest daily; it was established during World War II as an underground paper by the partisans who fought the fascists and after the break-up of the Yugoslavia it supported the Bosnia as a country.

Dr. Iqbal writes, “ Oslobodenje practised what it preached. Its editor is Muslim, deputy editor is an incredibly brave Serb woman, the staff are mixed – Muslim Serb, and Croat. As such, the newspaper anti its staff became a target of Serb nationalists, an easy target because its offices are located in the ‘death alley’ of Sarajevo within range of Serb gunners, The newspaper and its staff sustained many miunes but did not miss a day of publication printing often a single page. Oslobodenje became a symbol of Bosnian resolve, Sarajevans’ will to live and, above all, of Serb failure to destroy the values for which Bosnia stood. “Why don’t you move the paper out of Sarajevo?” I asked Editor KemaI Kurspahic soon after he had survived a bomb, ‘we can’t”, he replied simply, “Oslobodenje is a lighthouse”.

The same is the condition of Pakistani media after the imposition of the emergency when the government attempted to gag the media and silence the dissent shamelessly. The president who used to brag about the exemplary media freedom closed two popular TV channels in just one go and let the other operate mutilated.

But unlike the past the lawyers and the civil society have rose and speaking the truth to the dictator hand in hand with the media as legendry Faiz puts it.

If pen and ink are snatched from me, shall I
Who dipped my finger in my heart’s blood complain –
Or if they seal my tongue, when I have made
A mouth of every round link of my chain?

Translated (A.W)


Troublesome Tribal

March 2, 2007

North-Western Frontier province’s tribal belt is a shadowy and mysterious land for the world, run by a blend of more than a century old colonial laws and primitive tribal traditions. Bordering south-eastern Afghanistan this area over the past few years emerged as the hotbed of Taliban militancy and has been restive since the US invasion of country.

Federally Administrated Tribal Areas or FATA consist seven semi-autonomous agencies: South Waziristan, North Waziristan. Khyber, Bajaur, Kurram, Mohmand, and Orakzai agencies and five Frontier Regions(F.Rs ) F.R Peshawar, F.R Kohat, F.R Tank, F.R Banuu and F.R D.I. Khan.

FATA is spread over an area of 27,220 square kilometers and it shares 600-km. long border with Afghanistan and has population of 3.17 million Pashtuns residing on the Pakistani side of Durand Line which was drawn by Sir. Mortimer Durand the foreign secretary of British Indian government in 1893. It was meant to create a buffer zone between British India and Afghanistan by dividing the Pastuns tribes living on the both sides of the divide.

A major part of the FATA is rugged and inaccessible mountainous terrain. FATA is geographically located in NWFP but have a different administrative setup unlike other parts of the province and is administered under the Frontier Crime Regulations (FCR) promulgated by the British Raj to rein the fierce Pashtuns in 19th century. The governor of the NWFP exercises the executive authority in FATA as the representative of the President with discretionary powers as to ensure the “peace and good governance”.

The rest is left to political agent (PA) who has sweeping powers under his belt to manage, control and administer the respective agency. PA under section 40 FCR can preventively imprison anyone up to three years. Those who are convicted under the FCR have no rights to make an appeal in a court of law in Pakistan and the revision right rests with FCR commissioner appointed by the governor NWFP or final appeal can be made to the FCR tribunal comprised of the provincial chief secretary, law secretary and home secretary. PA can punish entire tribe on the grounds of collective tribal and territorial responsibility for the crimes in their area by imposing fines, arrests and property seizures. Fines are basically heavy and are deducted from the salaries of the employees of the fined tribe. The entire agency is subject to overall economic control by the PA of the respective agency.

The area has a unique psychological profile combining the Pashtun tribal code and orthodox religion. The tribes’ acts upon the Pashtun code or Pakthunwali while settling their internal and tribal issues. Pakthunwali is an unwritten code and is a collection of traditional and customary laws which determines the form and character of the Pashtun life.

During the Afghan war the whole of the FATA was converted into a base camp of the Jihadis with active US support. Later the emergence of Taliban also played a crucial role in strengthening the radical leanings among the population. After the fall of Taliban some of the active elements passed the difficult and inaccessible mountainous terrain and took refuge in the tribal agencies. Reportedly nearly five to six hundreds foreign fighters took refuge in these areas after the Spinghar (White Mountain) operation near Tora Bora in 2001 and operation Anaconda in Paktia in 2002.

The US pressure to rein and brought to justice these elements led to the deadly encounters between the law enforcement agencies and militants since 2002. In 2004 military operation was launched in South Waziristan. On 24 April 2004 military and militants signed an agreement known as the Shakai agreement but in the following weeks the agreement broke down as the tribal failed to handover the militants. On 25 June 2006 a peace deal was signed in the North Waziristan also. The government was also near signing a deal in Bajaur Agency when a missile attack killed more than 82 people in a madrassa and more than 42 soldiers were killed in a suicide attack on military training centre in Dargai in Malakand after the madrassa bombing.

At present there are 70,000 troops are deployed on Durand line to prevent infiltration and movement across the boarder. So far more than 700 hundreds of military personnel killed in clashes with militants along unknown number of militants, civilians and damage to property.