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Costly bargain: Pakistan spent $100 bn to fight terrorism in last 11-years

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By NewsGram Staff Writer 

New Delhi: Latest Pakistan Economic Survey of 2014-15 has revealed a shocking piece of information. The country spent around $100 bn (Rs. 6.4 lakh crore) between 2004-05 and 2014-15 to fight terrorism.

Based on current budget allocation, the sum could have sustained Pakistan’s education funds for 134 years to come.

The losses are direct and indirect. Of the $6.63 billion lost due to terrorist attacks in 2013-14, 38 per cent represented reduced tax collection and 30 per cent reduced foreign investment.

Pakistan contends that the heightened incidences of terrorism is a reaction to the conflict and instability in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks.

The US invasion of Afghanistan led to an increased influx of refugees into bordering Pakistan, which “witnessed a sudden spike in the frequency and scale of terrorist attacks”, according to the Economic Survey.

Pakistan’s economy is estimated to have grown 4.2 percent during 2014-15.

How terrorism disrupts business

Terrorism in Pakistan is driven by sectarian and ethnic factors. 54,960 people (including terrorists) have died since 2005, according to data released by South Asia Terrorism Portal(SATP), a resource from the New Delhi-based Institute of Conflict Management.

According to IndiaSpend, Pakistan had seen a 748 per cent increase in terrorism-related deaths over the past decade.

Terrorism has disrupted production cycles, delayed exports and increased business costs. “Pakistani products have gradually lost their market share to competitors,” the Survey said.

Pakistan is ranked 154th out of 162 countries, according to the 2015 Global Peace Index, a measure of unrest, published by the Institute for Economics & Peace, a think-tank based in Sydney.

The index judges peacefulness of a country based on 23 indicators under three broad themes: 1) safety and security in society; 2) domestic and international conflict and; 3) degree of militarisation.

With a rating of 3.049, Pakistan is ranked 8 places ahead of last-placed Syria (ranked 162nd) but 11 places behind neighbouring India (ranked 143rd).

Tribal areas the most violent

The Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Northwestern Pakistan are the country’s most violence-prone region, accounting for more than half of all terrorism-related deaths in 2014, according to SATP.

Sindh accounted for 21 percent of total deaths, followed by Balochistan with nearly 12 percent.

The FATA region is home to the violent Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), founded in 2007 and currently headed by Maulana Fazlullah.

The TTP is a different organisation from the Afghan Taliban, originally founded and supported by Pakistan in the 1990s to exert influence over Afghanistan.

TTP “was founded to fight (the) Pakistani establishment,” D. Suba Chandra, director of Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, said in a comment in The Hindu.

TTP has claimed responsibility for some of the most serious attacks in Pakistan, including that on an army school in Peshawar last year. More than 130 children died in that attack.

Terrorism and counter-terrorism

“This attack is a response to Zarb-e-Azb (sword of the prophet) military offensive and the killing of Taliban fighters and the harassment of their familie”,” TTP spokesperson Muhammad Khorasani had said last year.

The Pakistani Army launched Zarb-e-Azb on June 15, 2014 in retaliation for a deadly attack on Karachi airport that left 28 people (including 10 terrorists) dead.

The operation has led to the death of 2,763 militants over the past year, according to Major General Asim Bajwa, director general of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations.

However, Pakistan’s anti-terrorism efforts have been selective as a US State Department report points out.

It says that the Pakistani military moved against domestically-focused groups, such as the TTP, while the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network leadership continued to find safe havens.

While the Pakistani military action only disrupted the activities of these groups, it did not target them directly, the US report said.

The report further states that Pakistan took no action against groups such as anti-India Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LeT), which continues to “operate, train, rally, propagandize and fund-raise in Pakistan”.

Terrorism has been a contentious issue between India and Pakistan. Pakistan accuses neighboring India of supporting separatists in Balochistan as well as other militant groups. Pakistani Defence Minister Khwaja Asif recently accused India of helping terrorist groups in the country to launch “heinous acts” and said that India “has designs against Pakistan”.

India, in turn, accuses Pakistan of being a state sponsor of terror, responsible for terrorist attacks in Kashmir and the rest of India – the most serious being the 26/11 attack on Mumbai.

(With inputs from IANS)

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In The Name Of The Father: Honour Killing And Blasphemy In South Asia

Is there any lesson for India to learn from the occurrence and fallouts of cases related to Honour Killings and Blasphemy in Pakistan?

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Honor Killing Protest in Pakistan.

By Tania Bhattacharya

Taniya Bhattacharya
Ms. Tania Bhattacharya

There was once a girl from the rural areas of Pakistan, South Asia. At the young age of 16, she was forcibly married off by her parents. Her husband turned out to be an inebriated womanizer. She tried to live with him, producing a son, and tried to put up with his infractions. When it became too much to ignore, she would complain. He then silenced her by using brute force, punches and kicks. Unable to bear the toll her marriage was taking on her mental and physical well-being, she deserted her man and her child, and left the village. Arriving in the metropolis of Lahore, she decided to make it big in the entertainment industry. To her mind, the simplest way to achieve this was to use a pseudonym and social media as the medium of exposure. So she went on the offensive with her frequent uploads which soon went viral; dressing provocatively, gyrating and singing sensuously; recording video messages for Pakistani male celebrities; and even proposing marriage to cricketer turned
politician Imran Khan. People began to notice her. Gradually this woman, once a victim of domestic abuse, evolved into Pakistan’s Kim Kardashian. Employing a ruse as a whistleblower in one instance, she inadvertently exposed a Mufti and created a furore in the wake of the incident. But everyone watching her videos, was not a fan. There was something dark lurking beyond the pale of adulation, that she was finally able to sense and wake up to. Calling an urgent press conference one day, she begged for the media to leave her alone or to provide her with protection. They had had the temerity to fish out her passport details and her birth name and hold it up for the world to see. It was the last time the public saw her speak. Weeks later, on the 15th of July 2016, she was found dead
in the home she had bought for her parents and siblings; strangled to death in her sleep, by her own brother who had grown irate by reading the lecherous comments of her fans and thought that she had brought dishonour to her family.

Only, this is not the script of a film. It is the biography of Pakistani internet celebrity Qandeel Baloch. Now, her life has been immortalized into a television drama named ‘Baaghi’, or ‘Rebel’. Qandeel’s homicidal brother Waseem Azeem, confessed to the crime, saying that his sister’s licentious moves, had brought disrepute to their clan. The shocking incident was condemned by a number of Paki public figures who bear a liberal image among the masses. Two of these were the late human rights activist Ms. Asma Jahangir, and chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

Qandeel’s tragedy is not an exception. She joins a long list of victims in Pakistan, who have paid with their lives for either dishonouring filial ties, or for committing Blasphemy, a crime punishable by death. As far as the latter goes, there have been at least two famous cases of women who were accused of blaspheming; Asia Bibi, and more recently, Rimsha Masih.

Asia Bibi, during a private conversation in a fruit orchard, seemingly made certain deprecatory comments about Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. Someone – in all probability one of the women participants in the said conversation – then reported her to the authorities. She was arrested for the alleged crime, that had occurred on the 14th of June 2009. Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, carries the death penalty for blasphemy. Merely being reported on the flimsiest instance of supposedly speaking ill about Muhammad, can earn someone the noose in that country.

Also Read: Pakistani Christians Not Feeling Safe After The IS Attack

In order to indict her, the prosecution from its end, had brought forth seven witnesses, two of whom were women; Mafia Bibi, and Asma Bibi. The women claimed that after they refused to drink the water Asia had brought for them – on the grounds that she was a Christian – Asia had proceeded to lampoon Islam’s prophet. As the Pakistani media has pointed out, it is not improbable, that Afia and Asma were in a dispute over potable water with the accused, and may have used the opportunity to get rid of her. In the end, following an infirmed defence, Asia Bibi was sentenced to be hanged. The year was 2010.

Rimsha Maasih, another Christian, was accused of Blasphemy at the mere age of 14. Khalid Jadoon, a Muslim cleric, had complained to law enforcement, that Rimsha had burnt pages from the Holy Quran. Rimsha, who suffers from learning disabilities, was framed by Jadoon, but even after the courts had established this, Jadoon was let off the hook, lightly, with all charges against him being dropped. Rimsha fled to Canada with her family in tow, after she was released from gaol. The year was 2012.

Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws are unforgiving of its minorities, who face arraignment and a death sentence upon being convicted.

Honour Killing is by no means peculiar to Pakistan. It is a pan Afro-Asian epidemic, that affects women and girls who are defenceless. Sometimes, powerless men become victims too, if the perpetrators are wealthy, and connected, as India witnessed in the case of Nitish Katara’s murder. In Jordan, the parliament has long been trying to pass laws to counterbalance its record of the honour killing of girls. In the African continent, the practice is rampant, as it is in India, where caste concerns and family dictates tend to govern the lives of couples who wish to turn their relationships into a lifelong commitment.

Also Read: How Honorable is Honor Killing?

However, even if honour killing is not restricted to Pakistan, Blasphemy is the most pronounced there, out of the entire swathe of the Indian sub-continent, which includes Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bhutan. For the committing of blasphemy, the necessary requirement is of a religion that has a founding father, whose words are written in stone. Islam is not the only religion with a founding father. So are Judaism and Christianity. However, blaspheming does not appear to scar societies with a majority Christian or Jewish population. The reason is not these religions, but the watering down of their original ethics at the hands of the European Enlightenment and the Renaissance. Islam on the other hand, did not experience any internal change on the scale of the two, and continues to remain unrepentant of its Blasphemy pogroms.

Nor is this to say, that there are no freethinkers within the Paki establishment and larger society who condemn the Blasphemy Law and are highly critical of it. Prominent humanist the late Salman Taseer, who was a long time beau of Indian journalist Tavleen Singh and the father of their son, the author Aatish Taseer, was gunned down outside his home, due to his defence of Asia Bibi, against the court’s verdict. He had been appealing for mercy on Asia’s behalf.

As case after case has revealed, inflicting a prison term or a death sentence on unsuspecting members of Pakistan’s minorities, coupled with instances where the opportunity is used for settling personal scores, have become the hallmark of the implementation of its Blasphemy Law.

Perhaps the most infamous instance of this law being in flagrant violation of basic human rights, is in the case of Mashal Khan. Mashal Khan was a medical student at the Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan, in the northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. He had been a journalist previously and had spend many years working and studying in Russia. Mashal had Leftist leanings, and took great pains to describe himself as a Humanist, above everything else. His twitter and facebook accounts, frequently dropped bombs about how the Pakistani military establishment was responsible for mind control and collateral damage and how its propaganda tactics were causing more harm to its people than good. Mashal has spoken on several occasions, about the persecution of the minorities of his country, with special focus on its Hindus. Time and again, he had advocated that his country’s problems were its own, and that it was a fruitless exercise to pin the blame on
India and its Hindus.

Also Read: Christian Blasphemy Suspect in Pakistan Jumps from Building to Escape Torture

It is not difficult to surmise as to why he was targeted for assassination. On the fateful day of the 13th of April 2017, a large group of students from the Abdul Wali Khan University who were Mashal’s own peers, attacked him furiously inside the campus. He was lynched and shot at, being left mortally wounded. When the ambulance was called, it was already too late. Mashal’s mother later recounted, that when she kissed his hand for the last time before his burial, she found that even the bones of his fingers, were broken.

Just as there are regressive forces within Pakistan that are preventing the nation from thinking along humanist lines by riding on the coattails of its Blasphemy Laws and its ethics over Honour Killing, there is also a handful of right-minded activists, students, and leaders there, who are straining to make themselves heard. One of them had been the late Mashal.

Is there any lesson for India to learn from the occurrence and fallouts of cases related to Honour Killings and Blasphemy in Pakistan?

Let us not emulate. Blasphemy will never be a popular idea among the majority Hindus of this country, since Hinduism does not have a founding father, the religion being a conglomeration of branches of varying lengths and sizes. But freethinkers have faced the heat in recent times in this country. The murder of a Gauri Lankesh, a Narendra Dabholkar, or an M.M. Kalburgi, are proof enough, that sections of Hindus are no longer tolerant of dissent.

This is tragic. Hinduism’s many schools of philosophy, include one that deals exclusively with Atheism. Known as the Charvaka reservoir of critical analysis, this system of beliefs relies entirely on rationalism and empirical evaluation.

One can only hope, that Charvaka’s unhindered existence in the millennia of Hinduism’s history, will
prove a point to Hindus, and prevent them from going Pakistan’s way, in the realm of Blasphemy.

Tania is a freelance writer with a Masters in Defence and Strategic Studies who has a wide range of interests.