Mobs in Pakistan? That’s Blasphemy!

Blasphemy laws have been implemented in many parts of the Muslim world. One of the countries that the World Watch Monitor (an organization “that reports the story of Christians around the world under pressure for their faith”) considers “the world’s most determined anti-blasphemy state” is Pakistan. There have been multiple accusations of blasphemy made and the number of cases have only risen since the laws were implemented, growing with the rising religious tensions, especially in recent years.

Major Blasphemy Cases

These laws had a basis in 1860 when India was ruled by the British for offenses relating to religion. The laws they implemented “made it a crime to disturb a religious assembly, trespass on burial grounds, insult religious beliefs or intentionally destroy or defile a place or an object of worship.” This was, according to The Economist, “to stop religious offence giving rise to rioting between Hindus and Muslims.” These laws were “Islamicised” under the military government of General Zia-ul-Haq with the criminalization of “making derogatory remarks against Islamic personages was made an offence,” “life imprisonment for “wilful” desecration of the Koran,” and “blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad.” The last one is punishable by death.

These laws, despite the majority of prosecutions being Muslim (633 Muslims, 494 Ahmedis, 187 Christians and 21 Hindus have been accused under various clauses of the blasphemy law since 1987 according to National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP)), have tended to target minority groups in Pakistan. One such case was Rimsha Masih, a young Christian girl who was accused of burning pages of the Qur’an in 2012. She was acquitted and yet, despite her acquittal, there was an upheaval that forced her, her family, and her entire Christian community to flee their homes. There was also a young Christian couple in 2014, Shama and Shahzad Masih, that was burned to death in a kiln due to a rumor that stated that when Shama disposed of her her late father-in-law’s belongings by burning them (due to lack of sanitation facilities in her area meaning that this was the main way of disposing waste in her village), she burned pages of the Qur’an. This was amplified by clerics at nearby village mosques and led to them being killed by the crowds.

Shama and Shezahd
Shama (L) and Shehzad (R) Masih

These minorities also encompass the people who are critical of the blasphemy laws, such as politicians Salman Taseer, the then-governor of Punjab, and Shahbaz Bhatti, the Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs, both were assassinated in 2011 for being publicly critical of the Blasphemy laws.

Salman Taseer
Salman Taseer

It is clear from these interactions that just an accusal of blasphemy can result in the death of the person by a mob. According to a study conducted by Pew, Pakistan had the highest amount of social hostilities relating to religion, yet was ranked 13 regarding governmental restrictions on religion.

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It is for this reason that the government is wary about amending these laws for, while secular political parties have had the amendment of these blasphemy laws on their agenda, they do not wish to antagonise the religious parties out of risk of death.
This demonstrates one of the fundamental problems of Pakistan, which is that it’s almost as if dissenting opinions (especially in relation to the Qur’an) will result in death most likely by the mob rather than the law. It is for this reason that they need to reform their laws, in spite of the religious parties currently in power, in order to at the very least help decrease conflicts in the area.

Minority Protests

The Issue of Everest

 

  1. The Mountain

With a summit height of 29,035 feet, Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world. It sits along Nepal’s northern border with China, as part of the towering Himalayan Range that divides that part of the world. The mountain is so tall that the average climber will not reach the summit until about two months from the date of their arrival at Base Camp. This is due to the extreme lack of air pressure at this altitude, which requires any climber to acclimatize for weeks before heading further up the mountain. As climbers ascend higher, the air gets thinner and it becomes harder to breathe and even make rational decisions. Once a climber passes the 8,000 meter mark in altitude, they have entered the “Death Zone” which is named for the lack of oxygen to sustain life. Too much time above 8,000 meters will kill without question. That is why many climbers choose to use supplemental oxygen.

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  1. Distribution of Deaths

Looking at the distribution of known deaths on Everest, it becomes apparent that there are two problem areas that are especially good at killing climbers. These are the Khumbu Icefall and the space between Camp IV and the summit. The Khumbu Icefall is notorious for being erratic and extremely dangerous. It is home to large chunks of shifting ice that can weigh millions of pounds. To mitigate the threat of being wiped out by a block of ice, climbers often navigate this portion very early in the morning, before the sun has a chance to shine on the ice and loosen things up. The space between Camp IV and the summit is dangerous for different reasons. Its position in the “Death Zone” means that there is literally not enough oxygen up there to keep you alive, but it is also very cold, windy, and the site of some of the more technical points of the climb, so falls are a common cause of death here.

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  1. Sherpa Strikes

In 2014 and 2015, Everest experienced back to back avalanches that each killed about 20 people. The 2014 disaster was a result of the failure of a serac above the Khumbu Icefall, which sent millions of pounds of ice and snow tumbling down into a group of Nepalese guides, known as Sherpas, killing 16. In 2015, the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck Nepal caused avalanches that killed 22 people, including at least 10 more Sherpas. Below is an image of the Everest Sherpas organizing at Base Camp to go on strike and demand more rights and better protections in the event of another disaster.

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  1. The Environmental Impact

Since climbing Everest is such a physical challenge, and infrastructure for transport in and out of the region is virtually non-existent (trek in – trek out), much of the trash that is produced by the thousands of climbers and guides every year is left on the mountain. Items range from empty cooking and fuel materials to spent oxygen tanks from the upper portions of the climb. Many agencies have called attention to this issue and made expeditions to haul trash off the mountain in an attempt to preserve the international landmark that is Everest.

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The Challenges of Meeting Food Demand in India

Imagine you are walking down the streets of New York City during rush hour, having to squeeze in between people just to walk a couple of steps. No room to have your own personal space. You look around and you see cars backed up for a couple of blocks with traffic lights switching from green to red every couple of seconds. You think this is chaotic and cramped? New York City’s population is only about 8.4 million while a city like New Delhi has a population of about 21.75 million. Imagine walking down the streets of New Delhi around rush hour!

The world’s population has been steadily increasing and now has reached a population of 7.5 billion people. Countries that have a problem of overpopulation, have more demand for food and land. As India reaches a population of 1.3 billion, they have developed issues of food security, having more demand than supply. Obviously, the more people living in India the more food the country needs to provide. From 1950, the production of foodgrains has increased to satisfy the civilians of India.

This image shows the population and food output of India from 1950 to 2010
This image shows the population and food output of India from 1950 to 2010

However, it has started to become extremely difficult to have successful agriculture as a result of climate change due to the fluctuation of the patterns of monsoons that occur in India. Sometimes the monsoons can arrive early, causing many days of rain that result in deadly floods.

A flood that occurred in India, destroying farms
A flood that occurred in India, destroying farms

These floods result in loss of crops and damage most of the agricultural land. When Indian summers have to deal with a lot of floods, it is extremely difficult to meet the demand for food production to satisfy the Indian population.

Sometimes the monsoons can arrive late, not having a lot of rainfall resulting in drought and drought-plagued lands. Droughts have started to become more prominent every summer and affect a lot of the country.

The amount of drought that occurred in different areas of India during a certain year
The amount of drought that occurred in different areas of India during a certain year

When it rains, the water is stored in the ground nourishing the soil, making the land yield more crops. However, when droughts occur, no groundwater is stored drying the soil and killing the nutrients in the soil.

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Without groundwater, India’s crops will not grow successfully and meet demand. Most of the land affected by the droughts are areas that have a lot of farmland that produce a lot of grains which are in high demand as the Indian population increases.

Indian map showing areas of farmland where different crops grow
Indian map showing areas of farmland where different crops grow

Monsoons are the main tool for farmers in India to have a successful agricultural year, but the rain patterns need to fluctuate correctly. India’s population will continue to increase, and it would be difficult to try and stop the increase from occurring, but farmers will have to work even harder to produce more food because the demand will be greater than the supply.

India's projected food supply and demand of grains in 2026
India’s projected food supply and demand of grains in 2026

India faces a challenge farming under the extreme conditions in the summer, but the farmers have to keep meeting the demand for food because of India’s 1.3 billion population. The change in patterns of monsoons have not been helping the situation instead causing many deaths. New York City has a population of 8.4 million, but the United States import many different foods while India relies mostly on their own agricultural production. In the future, India must adapt to the changes in weather that are occurring and meet their demand for food.

 

Child Brides in Bangladesh

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In today’s world, over 700 million women who are still alive were married as children. Child marriage is something that is deeply embedded in cultural and religious beliefs. In the developing world, some of the factors driving child marriage forward are the beliefs that there’s no value in sending women to school, keeping women healthy, and relieving their poverty.

South Asia accounts for almost half of the global child marriages. Bangladesh is the fifth highest country plagued by this growing issue, with 52% of children married under the age of 18. The country is also the second highest absolute numbers of child marriage with a number of 3,931,000.  These numbers vary on settlement areas because of the separation in wealth. In rural areas, child marriage is more prevalent, 71%  of the children being married before the age of 18. In urban areas it’s at 54%, due to the wealthier classes and job opportunities.

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Life in Bangladesh is hard with frequent flooding and river erosion, causing families to live under a constant threat of insecurity and poverty which affects the decision of parents on the subject of schooling and marriage for their young daughters.  The parents also desire to secure stable economic and social security for their daughters and protect their daughters from harm, including sexual harassment. Many families rely on the financial pressure of a dowry to survive, making it more likely for girls from poorer families to be child brides.

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Over the years, the government of Bangladesh has worked with The United Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to decrease child marriage rates in the country. Before this collaboration, Bangladesh was moving backwards, expanding child marriage, when in September 2014 the government approved a law that would allow young girls to marry at the minimum age of 16 instead of 18, causing an international outcry. Though in July of that year Bangladesh, at a Girl Summit promised to work towards ending child marriage. Their course of action was to create a National Plan of Action by the end of 2014, ending the marriages of girls and boys under the age of 15, and reduce the namer of girls marrying between the ages of 15 to 18 one third by 2021. The law that was passed by the government works against these commitments and angered those who knew about the promises the country had made to stop child marriage.

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The most recent move made by the government to end child marriage was in February of this year. Parliament adopted the Child Marriage Restraint Act which caused widespread concern over the special provision that would allow child marriage in “special cases.” However, the act doesn’t define what those “special cases” are, and many believe this provision will legitimize statutory rape and encourage child marriage. The bill was signed into law March 11, 2017.

Due to the conflict in 2014 between commitment to reducing child marriage and the law Bangladesh had passed encouraging it, the government is currently working towards a goal of ridding the country of child marriage. The Ministry of Women and Child Affairs are currently working with the government of Bangladesh to eliminate child marriage from 2015-2021, despite facing backlash from regressive legal proposals. The country is also a member of the South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC) that adopted a regional plan to end child marriage and is supposed to be enacted between 2015-2018.

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Though Bangladesh is one of the countries with the greatest number of child marriages, the movement towards ending child marriage doesn’t come from one country alone. Every little move towards a positive future helps, but it’ll take time, money, commitment, and the participation of countries to make the end of child marriage a reality.

Holy Cow: How this Sacred Animal Creates Beef in India

On Sunday April 29th, two Indian Muslim teenagers accused of trying to steal cows were beaten to death by a mob using sticks and rocks. They had no criminal record and were guilty of stealing the cows. On April 1st, a Muslim cattle trader named Pehlu Khan was lynched by a mob while transporting cattle. He was taking them from the fair where he had purchased them back to his home state. He died two days later from his injuries. In July 2016, a vigilante mob stripped four men and tied them to a car. They proceeded to beat them with sticks and belts over suspicions of cow slaughter. Over the last two years, similar attacks against Muslims have occurred. Since May 2015, at least 10 Muslims, including a 12-year-old boy, have been killed in seven separate incidents of mob violence over the protection of cows .

Faizul Islam hold his son Abu Hanif’s ID card. His son was one of the teenagers beaten to death by a mob.
Faizul Islam hold his son Abu Hanif’s ID card. His son was one of the teenagers beaten to death by a mob.

Hindus make up 80% of India’s population of 1.3 billion people. For Hindus, cows are sacred. In their religion, cows symbolizes all other creatures. Cows also represent the Earth and life. Hindus admire cows because they believe they take so little and contribute so much to the earth. They believe that cows have spiritual knowledge. Cows are often decorated and given special meals for Indian festivals. In Hindu spiritual texts, the cow is often mentioned.

Most attacks against Muslims involved with cows are done by Hindus. Local radical groups form and protect local cows. These “cow protection” groups often accuse Muslims of killing cows. These self-appointed, vigilante justice groups take the initiative to protect cows in their area, using violent means.

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In a Hindu majority country, cows are sacred and highly valued. Various regulations prohibiting cow sale or slaughter are present in 24 out of the 29 Indian states. Some states have no ban. Others have a caveat, or warning against certain activities regarding cows. There are also distinctions between cows, which are adult females, and bullocks, which are adult males. Males are often bred for meat, whereas females are for breeding or milk. The transport of cows is also restricted. The Gurjat government made cow slaughter punishable by life in prison just this past March.

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Even though India is a Hindu majority country, there are around 172 million Muslims living in India, or about 14.2% of the population. There is an overlap between states where there are both Muslims and laws prohibiting cow slaughter.

In more recent years, the Muslim killings over cows have increased. Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government took office and the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party formed India’s federal government in 2014, attacks against Muslims have risen over sold, bought or killed cows. The rise of cow-related lynchings and beatings began right after the BJP was voted to power. The BJP try and portray Hindus as victims in the issue. Senior BJP leaders have instigated hate crimes. Modi repeatedly called for the protection of cows. The BJP chief minister in Chhattisgarh reportedly said, “We will hang those who kill cows.” The BJP is taking advantage of India’s strong nationalistic culture and identity in the sacredness of cows.

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Despite the efforts by Hindus to protect their scared animals, India produces a lot of beef for human consumption. In 2015, they produced the most beef out of any country in the world. Out of their meat exports, bovine comes in at number one. It is important to note that water buffalo qualifies as beef and bovine in the statistics, not just cows. Bovine refers to buffaloes, bisons and other animals in the “cattle” family.150803032619-india-beef-exports-780x439220315-pg-15a-new

India is experiencing an upsurge of nationalism. The cow is the symbol of that nationalism. Vigilante justice groups, often associated with the BJP, have taken the matter of protecting cows into their own hands. They take advantage of the nationalistic culture and using the importance of protecting cows to justify their violent acts.

 

CHINA’S BUSINESS INTERESTS MAY BE THE PANACEA FOR THE TALIBAN CONUNDRUM

It is not difficult to see why Afghanistan remains a “failed state”. After nearly 16 years since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, the Kabul government still controls less than 70% of Afghan territory. What’s more, there is a clear consensus in international circles that no military solution can bring peace to the Afghan people. Even Obama admitted that “we’re no longer in nation-building mode” and shifted his policy toward mere suppression of the Taliban’s terrorist attacks and expansion. Since 2001, the United States has spent more than 700bn in Afghanistan, yet the country remains the 9th most fragile in the world. Why is it that after more than 16 years of nation-building by the Americans and NATO, Afghanistan remains as unstable as a decade ago, with more than two thirds of its population living in constant fear for their safety? The problem is an unlucky combination of the Taliban’s resilience and of an impasse in international negotiations.

The Taliban's control

Taliban’s strength
Scholars describe the key source of Taliban’s strength to lie in its mostly voluntary recruitment pattern and its increasingly local membership profile. The two qualities together underlie the most important aspect of the insurgency – its strong social base.

The voluntary recruitment is exemplified by what we may call “pals platoons” – formations of 10-15 men that voluntarily join the insurgency, receive weapons and supplies and fight as a single field unit.

The membership structure has changed and become more complex over time, demonstrating the Taliban’s adaptability to different conditions. Still, the structure’s most important facets persist: the smallest pseudo-political unit of the movement is a provincial and district-level military commission with power in the hands of a commander. This commander rules a small group of fighters – his personal followers (andiwal). Fighters are often sent to the Taliban by their own parents, who believe that it is their “Islamic duty” to support the jihad.

An analysis of a series of 53 interviews with the Taliban fighters shows that the most prominent motives for joining the insurgency are “an Islamic duty to fight against the kafirs [infidels]” and “the cruelty of the Americans and the British.”

The aspect that most strongly connects the insurgency to the public, however, is the Taliban’s system of justice. In a region full of disputes over land and water, a Taliban “mediator figure” is often the only way to resolve conflicts.

British and American nation-building
It is the social aspect of the Taliban, its close ties to local communities and its high influence in provincial-level politics that have often been neglected by foreign actors. This is also why, overall, it is hugely complicated to assess the efforts to stabilize Afghanistan by the means of military intervention. Undoubtedly the most impactful nation-building attempt was that of the United States. In 2010 the number of American troops in Afghanistan reached a record high of 140,000, though these numbers fluctuate and are now as low as 9,800. American military support of the Kabul government has helped foster Afghanistan’s young democracy. Doubtless, the military and financial aid of countries such as the U.S. created the prerequisites for Afghanistan’s governmental institutions to develop. The other side of the coin, academics say, is that foreign forces in Afghanistan have in certain regions “alienated the population, mobilized local armed resistance and drawn in foreign fighters seeking jihad.” The feeling of resentment, however, is much stronger toward a military presence that is as prominent and long-established as that of America.

The United States is not in the position to arbitrate
The U.S. has through the long-lasting conflict become one of the conflict’s actors; it can therefore not be the arbitrator between the Taliban and the Kabul government. By trying to play both of the conflicting roles, American interests “have been in constant tension and lead to suspicion among all the factions, not least on the part of the Afghan government that constantly fears abandonment.” The same unfortunately applies to the UN on one side, and Pakistan on the other.

The case of Pakistan is exceptionally peculiar and further complicates the matter. There are reasons to believe that the Pakistani military exercises the most influence over the Taliban – more than any state group in the region. The problem is that although Pakistan purports to try to solve the Taliban problem, it is widely known that the attempts are just nominal. Pakistan’s participation in the Quadrilateral Cooperation Group (a coalition comprising China, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States) has so far been largely ineffectual. Some even believe that Pakistan dissuades the Taliban from negotiating.

Bringing Taliban to the negotiating table
Pakistan has multiple reasons to support the Taliban. During the rule of the Taliban in 1996- 2001, the Afghan government cooperated with Pakistan and furthered its interests. Pakistan now uses the Taliban fighters as proxies with the aim of curtailing India’s influence in the region. But Pakistan’s motivation for protecting the terrorists is not unlimited. Indeed, if given the right combination of stick and carrot, Pakistan could be urged to abandon the Taliban. The country with the greatest potential to do so is China.

China plans to invest heavily in South and Central Asia, so it is in its interest to stabilize the region. Afghanistan lies in China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, which plans to connect the energy-rich South and Central Asia region with energy-keen China. These projects would benefit Pakistan too – and not just economically. China’s increasing influence in the region would decrease the influence of its regional rival, India, and flatter the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

The Taliban have long been been a conundrum for their opposition. Even now, the prospects of peace in Afghanistan remain a long way off. It will depend on the continuation of American financial support, on Chinese initiative to bring peace to the region and on Pakistan’s decision that a stable and non-hostile Afghanistan is sufficiently in its interest to invest in a real peace process.

Lashkar e Taiba

Many people worldwide consider Lashkar e Taiba (LeT), a Pakistani guerrilla group, as a violent, Islamic militant group http://www.counterextremism.com/threat/lashkar-e-taiba. This guerrilla group uses terrorist methods to establish power and fear around Asia. Lashkar e Taiba was established in 1989 by Hafiz Mohammed Saeed as the military branch of the Pakistani Islamist organization Markaz-ad-Dawa-wal-Irshad (MDI), which uses the Ahl-e-Hadith (AeH) Islam interpretation, but it allegedly broke from the group in 2002 http://web.stanford.edu/group/mappingmilitants/cgi-bin/groups/view/79. The LeT originally focused on the Soviet presence in Afghanistan but then redirected its attention to the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir. To create stability in India, Pakistan’s government, Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) has supported this group since around 1990. The LeT sees the dispute over the territory as a global struggle against the oppression of Muslims. The militant group wishes to establish an Islamic caliphate in the Indian subcontinent. The exact number of LeT members is currently unknown but it probably has a couple thousand members https://www.nctc.gov/site/groups/lt.html. Most of the members are Pakistani nationalists looking to see Kashmir and Jammu under Pakistani rule.

The first LeT attack occurred in 1990 as they ambushed a small number of Indian Air Force personnel. Until the mid 1990’s the LeT exclusively targeted India’s military in Jammu and Kashmir. On January 5, 1996 the group became infamous for multiple massacres as it targeted a minority group in Kashmir and killed 16 Hindus. The most notable attack, known as the Chattisinghpora attack, occurred in 2000 and caused the death of 35 Sikhs in Anantnag the night before Bill Clinton visited India.

LeT’s larger goal is to eliminate India’s power in the entire region and not just in the Jammu and Kashmir area. To recruit Indian Muslims to carry out terrorist attacks in India, Hafiz Saeed exploited tensions between Hindus and Muslims. The Red Fort attack in New Delhi was one of the first of the attacks carried out by recruited Indians, which was symbolic because it was where the last Muslim rulers of the Indian sub-continent resided. This established LeT as a militant threat to India, but it was not one of their more devastating attacks.

Due to the group’s attack in New Delhi in December 2001, India mobilized approximately 700,000 soldiers along its border with Pakistan. By doing so, India threatened war unless Islamic militants ceased crossing the border. In response, Pakistan mobilized its military along the boarder as well. The US ultimately stepped in to defuse tensions by acknowledging the difference between the state of Pakistan and terrorist groups working within Pakistan for the first time. The LeT was officially added to the US’s foreign terrorist organization list in 2002, which ultimately forced the Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to ban the LeT http://www.cfr.org/pakistan/lashkar-e-taiba-army-pure-aka-lashkar-e-tayyiba-lashkar-e-toiba-lashkar–taiba/p17882. In 2005, the UN recognized the LeT as a terrorist organization.

Following these events analysts believe that the group has gone underground, split up, has been going by various different names and has stopped taking responsibility for attacks. According to India, the LeT has split into two main factions over the past few years; the al-Mansurin and the al-Nasirin http://www.cfr.org/pakistan/lashkar-e-taiba-army-pure-aka-lashkar-e-tayyiba-lashkar-e-toiba-lashkar–taiba/p17882. According to accounts, in 2005 Pakistan’s officials were resistant to moving against the LeT. The group has decreased the number of attacks in India to help Pakistan honor US and Indian commitments; however, Saeed continues to roam free and grow his organization despite the split in control.

There have been rumors that Lashkar e Taiba and al-Qaeda are linked together. In 2002, a senior member of al-Qaeda, Abu Zubaydah, was seized at a LeT safe house in Faisalabad, Pakistan. Some believe that Lashkar e Taiba is no longer Pakistan’s weapon in the fight for Kashmir, but rather a member of al-Qaeda http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2009/11/lashkaretaiba_is_a_member_of_a.php. LeT operates throughout southern and Southeast Asia, and because of its large network, various resources and ability to carry out complex attacks throughout the region, a senior US military intelligence official nicknamed the organization as “al-Qaeda junior.” Some individuals believe LeT has the capability to take al-Qaeda’s place if it collapses.

Lashkar e Taiba has frightened governments and civilians with its numerous attacks, massacres and destruction. The guerrilla group has proven itself quite capable of putting fear in people even when it is forced underground. Even as a disassembled organization, people still affiliate it with larger and more prominent terrorist organizations and even believe it could replace a group such as al-Qaeda.

 

Inter-Services Intelligence: Intelligence Agency or Covert Operation?

The Inter-Services Intelligence (or ISI) of Pakistan, founded in 1948, is viewed as one of the best-organized and one of the most secretive intelligence agencies in the world. The intelligence agency came to power and prominence during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan from 1979-1989. The ISI, the United States, and Saudi Arabia aided the Muslim holy war guerrillas in their fight to win the war against atheistic communism. The ISI also helped to train and create the Taliban, and still maintains connections with the terrorist group. Pakistan’s strained relations with India and the U.S. are shared with its intelligence agency, and the countries often clash over the ISI’s operations. One of the issues that causes conflict is the secrecy surrounding Pakistan’s intelligence agency. Inter-Services Intelligence has become increasingly distrusted because of its suspicious activities that lead to doubts as to whether the agency is controlled by the government or has begun to operate on its own.

The ISI is widely known for its secrecy, which leads to little communication between the intelligence agency and other groups, as well as, perhaps. its own government. An inquiry commission report exposed the lack of access there is to the ISI. Those who desire to convey information to the ISI do not have a way to share it with the Inter-Services Intelligence. The sole Pakistani intelligence agency has no website or email address, while nearly all other intelligence agencies had made their methods of contact public. This commision reported that this obscurity could serve “only…to remain aloof and unapproachable and therefore unquestionable and unaccountable.” 

For the most part, this unaccountability has led to uncertainty among foreign intelligence agencies as to the actions and motivations of the Inter-Services Intelligence. The historical connections between the ISI and the Taliban have led to many suspicions from other countries’ governments. Bruce Riedel of Brookings Institution writes that “Pakistan and its intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate of the army (ISI), have more influence over the Taliban than any other country or intelligence service.”  The agency gives the Taliban protection to the group’s leaders, military and diplomatic advice, and helps in fundraising. This close relationship has added fuel to fire when it comes to rumors of the ISI’s power to plan Taliban attacks. Pakistan has also been accused of maintaining connections with the Haqqani network, which the Inter-Services Intelligence has not denied, but the ISI has denied supporting the guerrilla group. These types of interactions with dangerous, unpredictable groups like the Taliban and the Haqqanis show an isolation of the ISI from the more regulated government.

The danger these relations pose incites a great deal of fear in many of the governments of other countries, most prominently in the United States and India. The struggle between these three countries makes the connections between the ISI and terrorist groups rather alarming. Conflict over control in Afghanistan has increased tensions between the countries in past years. There has also been a lack of communication between the Inter-Services Intelligence and the intelligence agencies of the U.S. and India. Therefore, as terrorist attacks become more of a security threat, the suspicions toward the ISI tend to increase proportionally. It is widely believed that the Pakistani intelligence agency directs some of these attacks. The U.S. and India then become less likely to communicate civilly, instead retaliating violently. The lack of communication between the groups leads to very unstable relationships that only exacerbate the situation.

The government of Pakistan is often held accountable for these issues, while the Inter-Services Intelligence remains largely off the grid, and so is disconnected from responsibility. Michael Georgy, of Reuters News Agency, writes that “the shadowy military intelligence agency has evolved into what some describe as a state within a state.” Though the ISI is disconnected from foreign intelligence agencies, it is dangerously connected to the Taliban and Haqqanis, making this lack of communication exponentially more frightening to foreign countries. This alarming conduct of the Pakistani intelligence agency does not seem to be controlled by Pakistan’s government, instead the Inter-Services Intelligence seems to be following its own agenda, independent from the government that it is supposedly a branch of, free from any restraint that the Pakistani government might have provided.

A Paradox: Killing for Honor?

In Pakistan, approximately 400 women are killed every year for disrespecting a family’s name. In the past three years, Pakistan remains the country with the most frequent honor killings against women, and the annual number has continued to increase rapidly. If a woman dares to refuse an arranged marriage, want a divorce, have an unapproved relationship, become pregnant, fight for custody of her children, elope, or even look at a man in an “inappropriate manner”, she could become targeted for murder by her family members.
Historically, honor killings have been around for thousands of years, dating back to ancient Roman times. The father of the house was allowed to kill an unmarried but sexual daughter, or his adulterous wife. Other types of honor killings were popular in medieval Europe, but today most of these types of killings occur in the Middle East and Northern Africa. Arab countries would proudly show off the murder weapons in order to increase honorable status. In Arab countries, the first honor killings date back to Pakistan where families would bury their newborn baby girl alive in order to preserve her virginity forever. The practice is not religious, but perhaps cultural, although some countries will say it is part of a religious defense plea.
Some people believe that honor killings have stemmed from Islamic teachings. However, Islam does not approve of or condone murder without lawful reason. More recently people have been claiming honor killings as a way of the Quran. Muslim teachings do not allow people to commit murder no matter how religiously justified. It is thought that these recent justification patterns stem from poor teachings, but they actually predate the Islamic religion. Honor killings usually face trial, but often the killer receives no punishment, because Islam likes to avoid violence as much as possible!
Previously, honor killings were often not tried, especially if the family showed forgiveness towards the murderer. If there happened to be a trial and the perpetrator sentenced to prison, this could be avoided, if the family expresses forgiveness. Typically, if a prison sentence was to be carried out, it would only be for five years.
Recently, internet personality Qandeel Baloch was strangled to death by her brother because he did not approve of her internet fame and selfies she would post. Although these types of killings have been frequent occurrences over hundred of years, this one particular death sparked an outrage in her many fans and prompted the Pakistani government to react.
In October, Pakistan’s government passed a new law to try and protect their women. Any man responsible for the killing of their family member in the name of honor will be subject life in prison or sentenced to death. If the family forgives the murderer, the death penalty will be lifted. However honor killers must still face a twenty-five year prison sentence. Pakistanis still remain cautious because the judge still needs to determine whether or not the murder qualifies as an ‘honor killing.’ If the judge declares that the murder was because the woman of the family eloped, there could be much less severe punishment.
This new law has provided hope for women’s rights activists, because they believe this is one more baby step closer to protection of a woman’s human rights. Of course, while some are expressing appreciation for the new law, others are expressing anger and resistance. More traditional Muslims fear this law will pollute Pakistan to a culture of western values.

India’s Identity Crisis

The Indian Constitution states that there is no official religion and therefore is a secular country and government.  It has been this way since 1947, when India gained its independence, with Hindus, Muslims, Zoroastrians, Christians, Jainists, Sikhs, and Jews living somewhat peacefully.  However, after the election of the Indian Prime Minister in 2014, the country has experienced a period of upheaval, which has left people wondering what constitutes an Indian citizen.

In 2014, Narendra Modi was elected as the Indian Prime Minister.  He is a member of the BJP, or Bharatiya Janata Party.  Some of the party members believe that only Hindus are actual Indian citizens.  They oppose Muslims, not only because they are not Hindu, but because they are as seen as a threat to India due to terrorist attacks.  Many Indians, who are now known as “Hindu nationalists,” share that same belief, which has caused riots and the abuse of Muslims across the country.

There have been reports of Hindu nationalists attacking Muslims.  Some of these attacks have been violent, and have lead to deaths.  On September 8, a group of Hindu-practicing men stormed a mosque and attacked the Muslims praying there, killing 15.  It is often not reported for fear of retaliation since many of the police are Hindu nationalists themselves, and support the attacks.  A man named U.R. Ananthamurthy, a long time political commentator and Indian novelist, wrote a book prior to the 2014 election called, “Hindutva or Hind Swaraj.”  In it he addressed the issues that India faces.  He accused candidate, Narendra Modi, of provoking anti-constitutional movements, and warned the people of India that electing him was dangerous.   The backlash from the publication of the novel was so great that he received death threats, and had to be protected by security until he passed away after the election of Modi.  Ananthamurthy was well-respected in his field, until he published his final book.  Although he was only trying to to protect his fellow citizens, many of them agreed with Modi’s policies.  The people who once looked up to him have rejoiced at his death.  Following his death, there were more outbreaks of anti-Muslim sentiment.

Hindu nationalist movements are deeply rooted, going all the way back to British governance.  India was divided by Britain into Muslims and Hindus in July of 1945 in hopes of derailing the revolutionary movements that might get rid of their rule.  After British rule, the split between the Hindus and Muslims was more pronounced.  The recent election of the Indian Prime Minister has caused these tensions to resurface.

The results of Modi’s election has caused officials to question whether or not nationalist parties should be banned from running in elections again.  In the article, it states, “Chief Justice TS Thakur said, ‘the essence, the ethos of our constitutional system is secularism… religion and politics don’t mix.’”  It goes on to explain how Hindu nationalism has been apparent in India for nearly two decades now, but recent events such as terrorist attacks have caused the nationalist movement to become even more violent, and prevalent, than before.

India has prided itself as a secular country for most of its history, but new challenges and old tensions have started to create animosity between the Muslims and Hindus.  The change of power has brought a Hindu nationalist movement, which is threatening the constitution of India.  It has sparked the question, “What makes you an Indian citizen?”  For some, the answer to that seems to be Hinduism, and this is causing massive protests against Muslims.  Some citizens hope that the tension will die down, but for now, it does not seem to have an end, which is causing more and more violence in India.