PML (N) Popularity:
In fact, it appears that PML(N) has successfully exploited Sunni majority's bigotry against the Shi'a in Pakistan, particularly in its home base in Punjab. Sharif brothers' PML (N) is now the most popular party in Punjab with 59% approval and nationally with 41% approval rating in Pakistan, according to the latest Gallup Pakistan poll. Pakistan People's Party (PPP) is second nationally with 17% and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) third with 14% approval.
To put PML(N)'s popularity in perspective, let's look at the history of how politicians have exploited such feelings of hatred against minorities. Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany by riding a wave of resentment against European Jews. In India, Narendra Modi solidified his popularity in Gujarat by approving of Muslim massacre in 2002. Ten years later, Modi continues to be the most popular chief minister in India. While India's ruling Congress party governs only 8 states, BJP's anti-Muslim rhetoric continues to help it retain power in ten of India's 28 states. Most Israelis continue to vote for politicians who maintain brutal military occupation of Palestine.
Militancy in Pakistan:
In Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto caved in to pressure from right-wing religious parties and passed a law declaring Ahmedis non-Muslim. This self-serving act did not save Bhutto. Anti-Bhutto riots gave Gen Ziaul Haq the opportunity to remove Bhutto from power. After grabbing power, Zia collaborated with the religious right to take advantage of average Pakistani's religiosity to consolidate his own power. Zia exploited the strong anti-communist sentiments after the Soviet invasion of neighboring Afghanistan. He collaborated with the United States and Saudi Arabia to give birth to religious militancy in Pakistan, eventually leading to the creation of Al Qaeda and the Taliban who, along with their allies and affiliates such as LeJ, continue to carry out terrorist attacks in Pakistan and elsewhere. Nawaz Sharif, too, is a creation of the Zia era.
Civil Society's Role:
Most politicians in democracies are followers, not leaders. They respond to sentiments of their constituents, even hate-filled and violent sentiments. Most of Pakistan's politicians and political parties have their militant wings or alliances with various militant groups who carry out attacks against those who disagree. Such venal politicians are part of the problem, not part of the solution to rising violence in Pakistan.
Given the venality of the politicians, the only possible solution to this problem is to build public opinion against violence in all its forms. Once the people decide to reject bigotry and violence, the politicians will follow.
Who has the power to shape public opinion in democracies? It's the civil society consisting of the mass media, non-governmental organizations, religious scholars and other powerful public advocacy groups.
Why Should Civil Society Care?
It's in civil society's best interest to create an enabling environment for peaceful coexistence for freedom, music, arts, literature, culture and economy to flourish. Such freedom is necessary to promote creativity and ensure prosperity of the society as a whole.
Why Should Mass Media Care?
The media are owned by corporations who should care because a safe and secure Pakistan is the best way to increase their profitability. These media magnates should have a clear editorial policy to discourage incitement to violence. They should tell their anchors to stop spinning conspiracy theories designed to distract the attention of people from Pakistan's real threats which are mostly internal. They should encourage the people to take personal responsibility for their actions.
Why Should Politicians Care?
The politicians should care because they have to govern after winning elections. Here, they can learn from Indian BJP leader Narendra Modi. Modi is still a bigot but he knows that he can not afford to alienate the whole world, particularly businessmen and investors who need security and stability to invest in Gujarat. Modi has used his anti-Muslim rhetoric to get votes but he has not allowed mass killings of Muslims after 2002. The lack of violence and continuing stability have attracted massive investments which have made Gujarat's economy among the fastest growing in the world.
It's in the best long-term self-interest of Pakistani politicians and civil society to work to reduce militancy and promote peace and tolerance in the country. This will help bring stability and economic opportunity to Pakistan's current and future generations.
Here's a video discussion on sectarian violence and upcoming elections:
Abbas Town Massacre from WBT TV on Vimeo.
Gangster Politicians of Pakistan
Shia Massacres Undermine Pakistan
Blowback From Drone Attacks in FATA
Rising Tide of Intolerance Threatens Pakistan
Fighting Agents of Intolerance in Pakistan
Muslim Scholars Must Fight Hate in Pakistan
South Asian Christians Celebrate Christmas in Fear
Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's Vision
Pakistan Must Defeat Agents of Intolerance
Celebrating Quaid-e-Azam M.A. Jinnah's Birthday
^RH: "Who has the power to shape public opinion in democracies? It's the civil society consisting of the mass media, non-governmental organizations, religious scholars and other powerful public advocacy groups"
Mass Media, NGOs, Religious Scholars. Hmmm...
1) Mass Media:
LeJ, SSP, ASWJ, LeT, HuM, JeM are all, by definition, NGOs. And they are all well-funded, well-organized, well-networked and well-motivated.
Who do you think has been spreading the hatred and violence? Have you been sleeping? Here is something that may help you wake up--
QUOTE: "For too long the military/intelligence nexus has been immune to any sort of accountability or criticism. We can judge the judiciary, pillory the politicians and mock the media. But the army receives a free reign"
Army? Don't go there!
This reminds me of someone. That's right -- it's you!
Riaz Haq on Judiciary: "Chaudhry and his fellow judges deserve to be closely scrutinized and criticized when they make mistakes. In a democracy, everyone should be held accountable for their actions. No one should get a free pass."
Riaz Haq on Politicians: "Self-serving politicians and their supporters under their patronage who deny Musharraf's accomplishments because any admission of reality would be seen as a confession of their own incompetence"
Riaz Haq on the Media: "Najam Sethi, Nazir Naji Ahmed Rashid and others like them are Cassandras who bring bad news, while ignoring the good news completely"
Riaz Haq on Army: "I see the Army as part of the solution. Pakistan's military should take a page from the Chinese PLA playbook. It should do what is necessary to strengthen the nation's industry, economy and national security, regardless of any critics. This is the best way forward to a well-educated, industrialized, prosperous and democratic Pakistan in the future"
HWJ: "Army? Don't go there!"
Let me help you by quoting Pankaj Mishra who argues that the obsession with blaming the military is overdone:
...the obsession with the deep state’s incurable malignity or Islam’s menacing sociopolitical manifestations, which actually range from Wahhabi blowhards to relatively sagacious televangelists, obscures how elected politicians, in the absence of substantive democracy, cynically deploy radical groups to practice power politics.
The government in Pakistan’s Punjab province, which is run by the Pakistan Muslim League (N), one of Pakistan’s two main parties, reportedly paid a monthly stipend to Malik Ishaq, who was just detained in connection with a bombing that killed almost 90 people. PML (N)’s arrangements with Ishaq’s banned Shiite-killing outfit, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, are in place for the elections due this year; and, as a likely harvester of votes, Ishaq enjoys near-perfect immunity.
Mainstream politics in Indonesia, as in Pakistan, were free of murderous Islamic extremists well after independence in the late 1940s. It was an insecure dictator, Suharto, who inaugurated the Islamization of Indonesia, a constitutionally secular state, in an attempt to give himself legitimacy and redirect the growing appeal of political Islam, part of a worldwide trend in the 1980s.
But the lifting of restrictions on political activity since Suharto’s fall in 1998 brought other actors on stage, including: the now-suppressed terrorist outfit Jemaah Islamiyah, which was involved in the Bali bombings in 2002; the Islamic Defenders Front, a militia that tries to regulate the morals of Indonesians by attacking massage parlors and nightclubs; and the Justice and Prosperity Party, which won 9 percent of the popular vote in national elections in 2009.
Here's a Time magazine article on literature flourishing in "troubled Pakistan":
Salman Rushdie was recently asked for his opinion on contemporary Indian fiction. The celebrated novelist surveyed the landscape for his interviewer, offering nods of approval to what is now a well-established range of Indian writing in English. But it wasn’t as attractive as what was happening across the border. “I actually think,” Rushdie said, “that the Pakistani stuff is more interesting.”
Thirty years ago, Rushdie published Shame, still considered one of the finest novels on Pakistan, and one that narrowly missed out on the Booker Prize. For much of that time, there was only the occasional novel written in English from Pakistan. Now, as Rushdie noted, there’s “the sense of a sudden explosion.”
As the world’s attention has been drawn to Pakistan’s problems with Islamist militancy in recent years, a flurry of exciting new voices have stepped forward to share with their readers a more intimate and rounded look at the country and its people — winning many plaudits along the way. Mohsin Hamid was recently described by the New York Times as, “one of his generation’s most inventive and gifted writers.” Nadeem Aslam’s latest novel, The Blind Man’s Garden, was praised in the Guardian as a product of “grace, intelligence and rare authenticity.”
This past month, Pakistani novelists writing in English also had the opportunity to meet readers from their own country at two different literary festivals in the largest cities of Karachi and Lahore. “For a while now we’ve had issues with public events,” says novelist and journalist Mohammed Hanif. “I guess weddings are the only things that really happen in public now. Music concerts have mostly disappeared. Other festivals are less well attended.” The literary festivals in Karachi and Lahore, adds Hanif, offer a rare occasion for “people to get out of their houses and go and talk about books.”
The two cities, with a combined population approaching 30 million, are also suffused in a rich cultural history. It would be difficult to pull off similar events in relatively soulless cities like Dubai, Singapore, or even Islamabad. “There is the requisite infrastructure here, engaged audiences, and a critical mass of novelists and poets that reside in each city,” says novelist H.M. Naqvi, the prize-winning author of Home Boy. “I expected large audiences. I expected energy.”
Strikingly, the festivals attracted thousands of young school and college students who had eagerly consumed the books and were brimming with questions for their authors. In Karachi, Hamid met a young man who handed over a missive composed by himself and two other friends. The trio, from the southern Punjabi town of Rahim Yar Khan, had pooled money together for one of them to make the several-hour-long bus journey to Karachi. The letter carried seriously worded instructions for the novelist. “We loved the sex-and-drugs scenes in Moth Smoke,” they wrote to Hamid, referring to his first novel. “We want to read more of this stuff.”
I do not believe that IK is condemning the LeJ out of bravery because IK -- more than once refused to condemn Taliban because of the "fear of backlash". Now the question is how IK suddenly became so brave. I see two main reason, a) he knows that there is lots of media talk about LeJ alliance with PML(N). Imran sees here an opportunity to further score political points against PML(N). and b) as we know that Imran is the most vocal supporter of condoning Talibans. By giving such statements he is hoping to isolate Talibans and LeJ. I believe that unfortunately, Imran Khan is one of the reason who turned the public opinion in favor of terrorists.
Azam: " I do not believe that IK is condemning the LeJ out of bravery because IK -- more than once refused to condemn Taliban because of the "fear of backlash". Now the question is how IK suddenly became so brave..."
While I agree with your bravery argument, I do think IK's stand here is more principled than Sharif brothers' who have made a Faustian bargain with LeJ.
Here is a new article on your favorite politician, Narindear Modi:
A band of 40 heavily armed men waited until the vehicles, heading from Rawalpindi to Astore, slowed down for a sharp bend on a treacherous mountain road just outside the Gilgit region. The men, dressed in camouflage, were armed with AK-47 rifles, pistols and grenades.
After culling out old men, women and children, the assailants checked national identity cards to single out those with common Shiite names, such as Hussain and Ali. Passengers believed to be Shiite were ordered to one side of the road, Sunnis to the other.
Sunni passengers were then asked to point out people they thought were Shiites. Many could have done so because they came from the same villages. Yet they refused to cooperate, which survivors say saved at least 10 people. Mustafa, the college student, openly defied the gunmen.
Here's an ET story on a German poll results in Pakistan:
ISLAMABAD: A survey done by a German company has said that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) will continue to lead at the ballot box at the next elections.
The survey by Heinrich Boll Stiftung showed that 29 per cent of the people surveyed would support the PPP, the highest number for any political party surveyed by the company.
Nearly 25 per cent said they would support the main opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Another 20 per cent supported the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led by former cricketer Imran Khan.
Citing strong polling figures for the PTI, the survey also noted that the post election government would have to stand up to a strong political opposition.
In the 2008 elections that were boycotted by the Pakistan-Tehreek-I-Insaf (PTI) under the leadership of Imran Khan, the PPP won 30.8 per cent of votes, while the PML-N came second with 23.1 per cent.
This survey is in sharp contrast with the last IRI survey that was done on 4,997 people, 32 per cent of whom preferred the PML-N as preferred majority party in the federal parliament.
This figure was up from 28 per cent from the last survey that the agency conducted over two months in July and August last year.
Here's an AP report on yet another atrocity committed against a minority in Pakistan:
LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — Hundreds of people in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore attacked a Christian neighborhood Saturday and set fire to homes after hearing accusations that a Christian man had committed blasphemy against Islam's prophet, said a police officer.
Blasphemy is a serious crime in Pakistan that can carry the death penalty but sometimes outraged residents exact their own retribution for perceived insults of Islam's Prophet Mohammed. Pakistan is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim and people of other faiths, including the nation's small Christian community, are often viewed with suspicion.
The incident started Friday when a young Muslim man accused a Christian man of committing blasphemy by making offensive comments about the prophet, according to Multan Khan, a senior police officer in Lahore.
A large crowd from a nearby mosque went to the Christian man's home on Friday night, and Khan said police took him into custody to try to pacify the crowd. Fearing for their safety, hundreds of Christian families fled the area overnight.
Khan said the mob returned on Saturday and began ransacking Christian homes and setting them ablaze. He said no one in the Christian community was hurt, but several policemen were injured when they were hit with stones as they tried to keep the crowd from storming the area.
Some Christian leaders are accusing PML (N) leaders of complicity in Badami Bagh burning of Christian homes, according to Dawn:
James Rehmat, a Christian worker, openly accuses the PML-N government of actually patronising the mob. “Some top leaders of the N-League, including Malik Riaz (local MNA) led the procession. On Friday night, another local PML-N leader came and had banners put up against blasphemy,” he points upwards to freshly put up cloth banners saying ‘The penalty of blasphemy is only beheading’.
“But we don’t see any politicians or other higher ups in this area after this incident although a whole day has passed by. How is it that all these incidents against us happened during the Shahbaz-Nawaz government?”
This relays a reaction to the angry victims and they suddenly break out chanting slogans against the government, women beating their chests in anguish.
Bishop Akram Gill, of the Emmanuel Church also stands and makes an official complaint against the Sharif-led Punjab government. “The Shantinagar and Gojra incidents too happened during the Sharifs’ rule. How is it that when they are not in power, we tend to live more peacefully? The time has come that Christians must ask themselves:
Can we live in Pakistan any longer? We request the UNO to give us refuge because we cannot find any justice in this country.”
Though Akram Gill thanks the police for controlling the situation, Sohail Johnson from the Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan has to stop himself from swearing at the police authorities. “They are lying!” he shouts. “They have done nothing to save us. They stood on one side while our Bible was burnt. Their excuse was there were too many terrorist outfits present and that the police was weak.”
Meanwhile many are of the opinion that the whole scenario was a game plan by the nearby iron factory owners who they believe are patronised by a powerful ruling family member. The attackers, they say, were factory workers, and the agenda was to grab the land the Christians had their houses on. And when Saawan had already been arrested why was their need of violence?
ARY TV anchor Mubashir Lucman tweeted as follows: "I am not worried about the Minorities in Pakistan. I am worried about the majority here. Their indifference will eventually get them too.."
^^Anon: "ARY TV anchor Mubashir Lucman tweeted as follows: "I am not worried about the Minorities in Pakistan. I am worried about the majority here. Their indifference will eventually get them too.."
Many others have pointed out that the real danger in Pakistan is not to the minorities, but to the majority...
Here's a Daily Telegraph story on Bhutto vs Sharif, the next generation of Pak politicians:
ONE studied at Oxford, the other at Cambridge. Their family rivalry dates back almost 40 years, to when the family of one saw their business empire ravaged by the nationalisation policy of the other.
But what Maryam Nawaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari have in common is being young, glamorous and heirs to Pakistan's two leading political dynasties. Both will be prominent voices due in general elections due in May.
The poetry-loving Ms Sharif is the daughter of Nawaz Sharif, a wealthy industrialist from the Punjabi city of Lahore, who fell out with Bilawal's late grandfather, Zulfiqar Bhutto, after he nationalised the Sharif businesses as Pakistan's socialist leader in the 1970s.
Himself a two-time prime minister, Mr Sharif is frontrunner to emerge with the largest party and the first crack at forming a coalition after the polls of Pakistan's 80 million voters.
During the campaign, his daughter is acting as one of his chief campaigners and mouthpieces - particularly on women's rights - and is expected to eventually succeed him one day.
"His legacy is beautiful," she told an interviewer last year. "Who would not want to step into those shoes?"
A party insider added: "She has grown very close to her father and you can see her learning from him."
Already on a similar path is Oxford-educated Bilawal, 24, who became the third generation of Bhuttos to lead the Pakistan People's Party after his mother, Benazir, was assassinated in December 2007.
Pakistan's national assembly had only a scattering of members present on Thursday when it quietly dissolved itself at the end of its five-year term. It was a historic moment. If elections go to plan then Pakistan will see the first democratic transition of power in its 65-year history, a period marked by political instability and three military coups.
Bilawal's father, Asif Ali Zardari, has been president of Pakistan since 2008, when he was catapulted into the political limelight after the assassination of his wife, Benazir. She was killed in a suicide attack as she campaigned for a third stint as prime minister.
At 24, he is still too young to stand in elections, but a constituency is waiting for him, reportedly the troubled neighbourhood of Lyari in Karachi, as a twenty-fifth birthday present.
Last year, Hina Rabbani Khar, the country's glamorous foreign minister, was forced to deny she was having an affair with the president's son, a rumour that some claimed was part of a smear campaign run by the military.
Bilawal's fans hope he will restore his mother's party to its traditional compassionate, leftist position, but fear his privileged upbringing and foreign education have disconnected him from ordinary voters. His late mother, they say, would also have made sure he had a firmer grasp of Urdu.
Naheed Khan, who was close to Mrs Bhutto, said Bilawal risked being exposed too early if he was expected to defend his father's unpopular government.
"He has to take a very clear decision, whether he wants to carry his grandfather and grandmother's legacy or he wants to go along with his father and what his father has done in five years," she said.
Whoever wins in elections, one thing seems certain: Pakistan's political dynasties show few signs of fading away.
Here's a Guardian story on upcoming Pak elections:
For some, the 17 miles of road and flyovers built for the exclusive use of a fleet of red buses that zoom above the gridlocked streets of Lahore is a shocking extravagance.
But for Nawaz Sharif, the frontrunner in the battle to become Pakistan's next prime minister, the country's first mass transit project is worth every penny – if it staves off competition from the country's wily president and a famous ex-cricket star.
Apart from being the first government in Pakistan's history to fulfil a full term, the PPP has little to brag about. Continuously buffeted by terrorist violence, corruption allegations and crippling energy shortages, the PPP has been unable to deliver real economic growth, let alone the motorways and infrastructure that Sharif touts.
But while the PPP's vote is likely to be wiped out in much of urban Pakistan, Zardari still has some cards to play as his party's prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf goes to the polls.
Zardari – whose term as president expires in September – is a ruthlessly pragmatic politician with a track record of doing whatever is necessary to keep his party in power.
The PPP is thought to have deep reserves of electoral strength in parts of rural Punjab and Sindh where its "feudal" landlord allies maintain a tight control on votes.
Through the president's political heir apparent, Oxford graduate Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, 24, the PPP maintains a connection to the Bhutto name, harking back both to Benazir and Bilawal's grandfather Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
The party has also lavished more than $1bn in welfare handouts on 5.2 million people through its scheme branded the "Benazir income support programme".
"People at the grassroots know what we have done for them, they don't believe what the media is saying," said Taj Haider, general secretary of the PPP in Sindh. "Living standards in the poorest areas have gone up and people are getting better prices for their crops."
Cynics say the Metro Bus is less about tackling urban congestion and more the dramatic political rise of Imran Khan, the country's beloved former cricket captain, who emerged as a major threat to the PML-N in late 2011 by holding an enormous rally for his political party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), on Sharif's home turf.
About 100,000 people took part in the Lahore "jalsa", creating speculation that what Khan calls a political tsunami would sweep Pakistani politics and break the corrupt, dynastic rule of the two established parties.
At the party's manifesto launch in Lahore last Friday, Sharif promised to turn Pakistan into an "Asian tiger", with new infrastructure and a government with "zero tolerance for corruption".
"Our political philosophy revolves around economic progress," the two-time former prime minister said. "If a country is economically strong, it is able to solve all the problems, whether law and order or political extremism."
The period of hyperactivity appears to have paid off, with the PML-N now the favourite to win the largest number of seats after Pakistanis go to the polls in the first half of May, even if an outright majority is probably beyond it. The party enjoys a substantial lead in the latest opinion polls.
Most analysts believe Khan will be lucky to get 20 of the 342 seats in parliament. "He peaked too early and gave the PML-N time to rejuvenate its base," said Cyril Almeida, a newspaper columnist. "People go to his rallies because he is a rock star in Pakistan. He doesn't have the party machine to actually turn out the voters and bring them to the polling booth on election day."...
Here's a Nation newspaper report on political affiliations of gangsters, target killers, kidnappers and extortionists in Karachi:
As Supreme Court resumed hearing of Karachi law and order case on Thursday, the Inspector General of Sindh Police presented a detailed report over incidents of target killings and extortion in the city.
According to a private television channel, a larger bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry resumed hearing of Karachi law and order case Thursday at Supreme Court s Karachi Registry.
The report submitted by IG Sindh included a list of 224 arrested target killers, having affiliation with different political parties and banned outfits.
IG Sindh reported that these arrests were made after 2011.
It was mentioned in the report that 81 arrested target killers were affiliated with Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), 38 Sunni Tehreek (ST), 9 Tehreek-e-Insaaf and 13 others belonged to Awami National Party (ANP).
The list also included names of 27 members of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Lyari gang war’s 17 criminals, People Aman Committee’s 6, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s 2 and Jandullah’ five members involved in target killings and extortion.
Here's a NY Times report on growing Taliban presence in Karachi:
KARACHI, Pakistan — This seaside metropolis is no stranger to gangland violence, driven for years by a motley collection of armed groups who battle over money, turf and votes.
But there is a new gang in town. Hundreds of miles from their homeland in the mountainous northwest, Pakistani Taliban fighters have started to flex their muscles more forcefully in parts of this vast city, and they are openly taking ground.
Taliban gunmen have mounted guerrilla assaults on police stations, killing scores of officers. They have stepped up extortion rackets that target rich businessmen and traders, and shot dead public health workers engaged in polio vaccination efforts. In some neighborhoods, Taliban clerics have started to mediate disputes through a parallel judicial system.
The grab for influence and power in Karachi shows that the Taliban have been able to extend their reach across Pakistan, even here in the country’s most populous city, with about 20 million inhabitants. No longer can they be written off as endemic only to the country’s frontier regions.
In joining Karachi’s street wars, the Taliban are upending a long-established network of competing criminal, ethnic and political armed groups in this combustible city. The difference is that the Taliban’s agenda is more expansive — it seeks to overthrow the Pakistani state — and their operations are run by remote control from the tribal belt along the Afghan border.
Until recently, the militants saw Karachi as a kind of rear base, using the city to lie low or seek medical treatment, and limiting their armed activities to criminal fund-raising, like kidnapping and bank robberies.
But for at least six months now, there have been signs that their timidity is disappearing. The Taliban have become a force on the street, aggressively exerting their influence in the ethnic Pashtun quarters of the city.
Taliban tactics are most evident in Manghopir, an impoverished neighborhood of rough, cinder-block houses clustered around marble quarries on the northern edge of the city, where illegal housing settlements spill into the surrounding desert.
The security forces, shaken out of complacency, have begun a number of major anti-Taliban operations. The latest of those occurred on March 23 when hundreds of paramilitary Rangers raided a residential area in Manghopir, near the crocodile shrine, confiscating a cache of more than 50 weapons and rounding up 200 people, 16 of whom were later identified as militants and detained.
“I don’t think the Taliban would like to set Karachi aflame, because they fear the reaction against them,” said Ikram Seghal, a security consultant in Karachi. “The police and intelligence agencies have very good information about them.”
Other factors limit the Pakistani Taliban’s ingress into Karachi. One of the more provocative ones is that allied militants — particularly the Afghan Taliban — might not like the added publicity. The Afghan wing has long used the city as place to rest and resupply. There are longstanding rumors that the movement’s leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, is taking shelter here, and that his leadership council, known as the Quetta Shura, has met in Karachi.
In such a vast and turbulent city, the Taliban may become just another turf-driven gang. But without a determined response from the security forces, experts say, they could also seek to become much more.
Here's a BBC report on growing Taliban violence in Karachi:
For years there have been fears that the Taliban were gaining ground in Pakistan's commercial capital, the port city of Karachi. There is now evidence that the militants' influence in the city has hit alarming new levels, reports the BBC's Ahmed Wali Mujeeb.
More than 20 people are gathered outside a ramshackle house in a suburb of Karachi - Pakistan's largest city.
They say a plot of land, which was the property of a local businessman, was forcibly occupied by a local mafia last September, and they are here to complain.
The difference now - and a source of much alarm to those in the know - is that this group of Karachi residents are choosing to bring their complaint to the Taliban.
After a two-hour session, the Taliban judge adjourns the hearing to another date and venue which he says will be disclosed shortly before the hearing.
This mobile Taliban court does not limit its interests to this one shanty town on the outskirts of Karachi. It has been arbitrating disputes across many suburbs in the metropolis.
The Taliban largely emerged in poor areas on the fringes of the city, run-down places with little or no infrastructure for health, education and civic amenities.
Their mobile courts have been hearing complaints for quite some time, but in recent months they have also started administering punishments - a sign of their growing clout.
In January, they publicly administered lashes to an alleged thief after recovering stolen goods from him. The goods were returned to the owner who had reported the theft.
But the picture is complicated.
There is a tussle under way between mafia groups (becoming more prolific and powerful in Karachi) who seek to seize land and militant groups who are also grabbing land. This includes the Taliban, for all their willingness to arbitrate in these disputes.
It is clear that they want to tighten their grip in Pakistan's biggest city, its commercial centre. And they appear to have great influence in those suburbs dominated by the Pashtun ethnic group.
These include many of the districts on the edge of the highways and roads leading to neighbouring Balochistan province.
And when they think their authority is being encroached on, they act with deadly force: The MQM lawmaker Syed Manzar Imam was killed by Taliban gunmen in January in Orangi town, which borders a Pashtun area.
One former leader of the Awami National Party (ANP) - a party of the ethnic Pashtun nationalists - recently left Karachi and said more than 25 of his party offices had been forced to close because of threats from the Taliban.
A senior police officer who does not wish to be named told me simply: "Taliban are swiftly extending their influence.
"There needs to be a strategy to stem the Taliban's rise, otherwise the city will lose other important and central parts to them," he says.
Muhammad Usman is a 26-year-old Taliban commander from the Swat valley. He came to Karachi after the Pakistani army started an operation in Swat in 2009.
He says he was first part of a group of Swati Taliban in Karachi and was offered shelter and safety by them.
After some time, he gradually got involved in what...
Karachi's network of violence
Intelligence sources say that there is one Taliban chief for the city, and heads of groups operating in different areas answer to him.
"Though the government has expressed its resolve to eradicate militancy, other state institutions are not co-operating," analyst Professor Tauseed Ahmed Khan says.
He argues that the security forces are losing morale when it comes to the battle against the militant groups and adds that this is not improved when rebels find it easy to get released on bail by the courts.
French Expert who closely studied Beirut of the 80s now says that Karachi is NEXT....
Here's Reuters on LeJ's Ludhianvi's candidacy in Jhang:
JHANG, Pakistan (Reuters) - When Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi greets supporters on the Pakistan election trail, he opens his pitch with the kind of promises to the poor that any other politician might make.
But behind the reassuring rhetoric lies what his opponents believe is a dangerous agenda - to gain a foothold in parliament and further his designs to oppress Pakistan's Shi'ite minority.
Ludhianvi, a radical Sunni cleric, is a hate figure for Shi'ites who accuse him of devoting his decades-long career to fomenting an escalating campaign of gun attacks and suicide bombings targeting their community.
The prospect that he might win a place in the political mainstream at the May 11 vote horrifies Shi'ites who fear his presence in parliament will give him a much stronger platform to strike out at the sect.
And it looks like Ludhianvi may have a better shot than at the last election in 2008 when he came second. His main rival has been barred from the race and a Reuters visit to his constituency of Jhang, in the heart of populous Punjab province, found no shortage of supporters.
"If I get into parliament, I will be able to save this entire country from bloodshed," said Ludhianvi, who wears a thick beard and an embroidered skull cap and projects a commanding presence.
Any triumph by Ludhianvi at the polls could be read as a sign that sectarianism - now seen as a top security threat - has made a troubling new in-road into the political sphere, which could further polarize the nuclear-armed country.
Ludhianvi was a leader of Sipah-e-Sahaba, a sectarian Sunni group which emerged in Jhang in the mid-1980s with the support of Pakistani intelligence and which has since been linked to hundreds of killings of Shi'ites.
The group's offshoot, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), evolved into one of Pakistan's most feared militant groups and has claimed responsibility for many attacks on Shi'ites, including a series of bombings that killed almost 200 people in the southwestern city of Quetta this year.
Police in Karachi, the commercial capital, suspect LeJ or similar groups are behind a wave of gun attacks on Shi'ites.
Pakistan banned Sipah-e-Sahaba in 2001 under pressure from the United States to crack down on militancy but the group changed its name to Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat (ASWJ), which Ludhianvi heads.
Pakistan's sectarian fringe has long been plagued by divisions which make it hard to determine what role individual leaders play. But security officials see Ludhianvi as a member of a core group of ideologues whose anti-Shi'ite views have served as a source of inspiration for militants, though he denies any role in violence.
These days, Ludhianvi is careful to portray himself as a man of peace and is waging a populist campaign to capitalize on resentment of Shi'ite landowners. Coming himself from a modest background, he has vowed to build schools, hospitals and roads.
But other senior members of his ASWJ party are more vocal about their desire to restrict the rights of Shi'ites.
Aurangzeb Farooqi, head of the party in Karachi, told Reuters in January that Shi'ites should be barred from holding important public office and their public religious activities should be restricted. Farooqi is also running for a seat in the national assembly.
In Jhang, Ludhianvi's blend of populism and sectarianism has earned him considerable grassroots appeal. He won 45,000 votes at the 2008 election, placing him second to Sheikh Waqas who won with 52,000 votes.
But Waqas has been barred from this election on the grounds that he had presented a fake education certificate, raising Ludhianvi's chances of victory....
A Pakistani SHIA intellectual asks a PROFOUND question....
April 21, 2013: http://alturl.com/jhwmr
I was shocked to hear PTI NA-146 (Okara) candidate Prof Abdur Rauf Dola admit to GeoTV's Suhail Warraich today that ISI helped him get the PTI ticket from Imran Khan over the objections of local PTI officials. Does the military see Nawaz Sharif as a problem in its fight against terrorists? Is the ISI working to try and keep Nawaz Sharif out of power?
Here's a link to an interactive map of National Assembly constituencies, districts, candidates, voters, etc for Pakistan Elections 2013:
Here's a Daily Times Op on MQM Ed by Dr. Arif Alvi:
I’m Urdu speaking, my grandparents made a lot of sacrifices and migrated to Karachi, Pakistan, from India.
Karachi was a city of lights until nearly 30 years back when MQM started showing its true face. I will tell you how MQM works and I have experienced all of this myself. This is a very well-managed organisation, which works under a tight command and control mechanism. They have divided Karachi into a number of sectors; each sector is divided into units. The first tier is called the unit. There are MQM units in every nook and corner of Karachi. Every apartment complex has one unit, and nearly one in every 500 houses there is a unit. The units report to a particular sector under which they come. Each unit has a unit in-charge and other proper posts. As these guys live among us, they know each and every house and shop that comes under their supervision. The unit in-charge literally controls whatever goes within the jurisdiction of his unit. From cable persons reporting to him to the SHO of that area; everyone obeys that unit in-charge.
They snatch mobiles, get bhata from shops, get their students cheating in exams, confiscate hides on Eidul Azha and collect fitrana on Eidul Fitar, etc. The collections from units go into millions and collection from Karachi goes into billions. The units report and submit their loot to the sectors. Each unit in-charge has to sit in his sector on a frequent basis from where they get instructions. The sectors report to Nine Zero (90 is the address of the house of Altaf Hussain in Azizabad Karachi); this is the headquarters of the MQM. This is the reason why within minutes they can jam Karachi, as they just need to make one call from 90. The instructions go to sectors where they call units in-charge who have sufficient arms and ammunition. No Karachiite can stand in front of them, as they easily, and without mercy, kill. If they want to threaten someone, they write on their house wall “Jo Qaid ka ghaddaar hai woh mout ka haqdaar hai” (anyone who defies the ‘leader’ is liable to death).
Following in their footsteps, other parties, such as ANP, Aman committee of the PPP and Sunni Tehreek, now are doing the same. Sometime fighting starts over whose units will control the area. Karachi is a goldmine and everyone wants it. The people of Karachi, who are very patriotic, have to live in a constant fear. They cannot even carry a decent cell-phone in this city. They get looted at ATM machines and believe me that the people do not even decorate their houses nowadays during weddings, as they are afraid to come in the eyes of these bandits. Even now and then, there are strikes; children cry during the night due to gunfire, if a call is not for a strike, the call is for “Youm-e-Sog” (day of mourning), which in fact is another name for strike. One cannot imagine what Karachiites have to go through daily. One even gets afraid driving a car when a motorcycle passes nearby. The real disappointment is that everyone knows this, as this is so clear. ....
Here's a Hindustan Times story on fake Indian polls:
A sting operation by news and current affairs channel News Express claims to have exposed malpractices of 11 opinion poll agencies.
The channel claimed these pollsters were willing to manipulate data and provide “misleading results”.
Following the exposé, the India Today group suspended the services of an agency implicated in the operation.
The sting, titled Operation Prime Minister, does not offer any evidence to show that any media-commissioned survey in the past year has been deliberately manipulated. The aim, according to the channel, is to “expose mindset and intent”.
Transcripts provided by the channel reveal that when approached as lobbyists on behalf of political parties, heads of such agencies were willing to provide two sets of data — original and manipulated — for different rates.
Also on offer were increasing the margin of error to show a spike in seats; showing contradictory results projecting rival parties as leading the electoral race by creating separate companies; deleting negative data; and manipulating data to any extent at the behest of the client.
At a press meet on Tuesday, News Express editor-in-chief Vinod Kapri said the sting was motivated by the Election Commission’s letter to parties inviting their views on opinion polls and the mushrooming of such polls.
In one instance, pollster Yashwant Deshmukh of CVoter, told the channel’s undercover reporter that while 3% was the standard margin of error, “at best, we can put it to 5%”.
Responding on Twitter, Deshmukh said, “I hope dear old friend Vinod Kapdi (sic) also shows me denying all his efforts and saying clearly that CVoter and Yashwant can’t do such things.”
Following the sting, India Today said they were suspending the services of CVoter.
Representatives of Quality Research and Services allegedly told undercover reporters they first did a survey projecting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as winning 200 seats in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections and then created a fictitious company to project the Samajwadi Party (SP) getting as many seats.
Asked if News Express had any evidence to suggest that a media-commissioned survey had been manipulated, Ravikant Mittal, the channel’s managing editor, told HT, “No, we have no proof to show that. Our intention was only to show data can be manipulated in return for money.”
Mittal, however, added these agencies had said they could get the surveys broadcast on channels.
Following the sting, Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal tweeted that the “truth and fraud” of opinion polls had been exposed and it was “shocking”.
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