THIS is a follow-up and a follow on to last week’s column, ‘Not on, General.’

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz causes much irritation and annoyance and resentment when he travels to Karachi or Lahore or to any city of Pakistan because of the current obsession with ‘security’ arrangements which in actual fact, in the event of an attack, would probably prove to be of no use.

Many years ago, I wrote about another finance minister, Mahbubul Haq, who was provided top security when visiting Karachi, which in those days entailed one mobile carrying two policemen. One policeman casually remarked, while I was conversing with him on the matter of the minister’s security : “Ispay kaun goli barbaad kareynga,” the emphasis being on the word ‘barbaad.’

Asif Baladi, who was picked up by the Inter-Services Intelligence, remains missing, with his name still on the long list of persons ‘missing’ in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

The matter of Brigadier Mohammad Taj, who was insulted and assaulted by a plain-clothed major of the ISI, is still being investigated. The brave brigadier should not lose heart. Our systems make haste slowly and we are not alone. A headline in the July 13 issue of The Times (London) reads ‘100 years on, Chirac says sorry for persecution of Dreyfus.’

The day before, in the courtyard of the Ecole Militaire where Captain Alfred Dreyfus was publicly disgraced in 1895, President Jacques Chirac in a solemn address paid homage to the innocent Jewish officer and called for vigilance against intolerance. [Emile Zola was jailed in February 1898 for having written his open letter, ‘J’Accuse’, printed in L’Aurore, accusing the state of a crime against humanity.]

My woman friend who was beaten up, slapped and pushed about on one of our main roads for accidentally brushing her car against another car is still waiting for the investigation into the matter to come to a close. An e-mail from a regular e-mailer, who calls himself Dr Alfred Charles, in my box on Friday tells me that her story was printed in that day’s Ummat and that “as usual they blamed you for your involvement and harassing others by means of using your contacts with high-ups.”

On March 12 this year, I wrote on the subject of the ‘missing’ Dr Safdar Sarki, another victim “picked up by personnel belonging to Pakistan’s intelligence agencies.” An e-mail message sent earlier this year to a friend of mine in Pakistan by a friend of his in the USA warrants reproduction :

“From the day I met Safdar Sarki in early 1990s as two immigrants would meet each other, we never agreed on politics. My early Marxist and humanist training would not accept the secessionist ideology of Jeay Sindh, he was an active part of. I believed, and still do, that only the civil society, the democratisation of Pakistan, would take us somewhere and believed that the dream of a free society in Pakistan was not dead yet.

“He became an American citizen, so did his wife, his younger brother and two kids, now fifteen and ten. They have been living in Texas, the home state of President George Bush.

“Two years ago he called me and told me that he was going back to Pakistan to pursue his nationalist political ambitions. I told him not to. A stubborn man, combined with a narrow ideology — a lethal combination, might I say.

“This year, on February 24, he disappeared from Karachi. His driver, Munir Sarki, would later tell the press and the Sindh High Court that he saw Safdar blind-folded, handcuffed and beaten, picked up from his apartment in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, taken away by the people of the ‘agencies.’ Sindhi newspapers are full of the minute details as to what happened.

“Since February, demonstrations, hunger-strikes, sit-ins, rallies, statements, press conferences, alerts, appeals by individuals, organisations, political parties, HRCP, Amnesty International and Asian Commission of Human Rights have been made, all to no avail.

“His family, brother, wife, two sons (now all American citizens) have tried to reach the State Department, members of US Senate, Congress and US media — and all has fallen on deaf ears. Walls don’t answer.

“Every other day his sons call me when I am at work asking me if I have had any news about their father. In the age of precision-guided bombing and information superhighways, I have no news to tell them.

“My basic motivation stems from the premise that nobody deserves to be incarcerated, tortured, or killed because of his or her political beliefs, as erroneous as they might be. May be he committed crimes. But that is why we have courts and law. Everybody, including the people we loathe, deserve access to justice, fairness and fair play.

“I am literally begging you to do something if you can. I don’t even know what to ask you for. Pick up your pen or phone? I don’t know. All those years I fought, challenged and contested his ideas. I did not know in the end I would have to beg for his life! Please do what you think is right.”

He thought it right to pass it on to me, as I had already written on the subject of Dr Sarki’s strange arrest by the ubiquitous ‘agencies’ and his subsequent disappearance. Despite our numerous laws and legislations, despite our adherence to habeas corpus, Dr Safdar Sarki of Jeay Sindh remains untraced. Shortly after he was picked up, his wife circulated a letter via the internet, e-mail and otherwise, which also had no effect, elicited no reaction.

Dr Sarki is a citizen of the United States, but if he holds dual nationality, if he is also a citizen of this country, then there is not much the US State Department or even George W Bush can do for him, as the non-laws of Pakistan will prevail.

Our courts seem to be helpless. As reported in the Metropolitan section of this newspaper on July 12 under the headline ‘No operational control over ISI and MI, Defence Ministry tells court.’ Your Lt Colonel Khalid Iqbal Sahoo, Assistant Judge Advocate-General of your army, wearing your uniform, described as a ‘defence ministry official,’ when called to the hearing of six petitions regarding six missing detainees told the Sindh High Court that the task of locating and recovering missing persons did not fall within their purview and they did not have the mandate to ground-check in such cases. The ministry exercises only administrative control over the two agencies.

Could you please tell us, general, who, just who, is responsible for the operational control of the ISI and all the other ‘agencies’?

Who calls the shots when it comes to ‘picking up’ citizens of Pakistan, whisking them away, and keeping them incommunicado? We need to know.

You are basically a good man, general, and like you as many of us (and I) still do, we would wish you to prove Mohammad Ali Jinnah wrong. A few months before he died in 1948, he one day predicted : “Each successive government of Pakistan will be worse than its predecessor.”

The flip side is that he said it so definitively. He was endowed with great perspicacity and even greater foresight



On writing

On writing

There is no ceremony or ritual that marks any person as a writer except the simple yet unimaginably significant act of starting to write.


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