Singer flees Pakistan northwest, fear of Talibanisation grows

October 16, 2008

Is this what the future holds for Pakistan?

Haroon Bacha, a  Pashtun singer, has fled his home in the Pakistani city of  Peshawar after a year of phone calls, text messages and even personal visits warning him to stop playing, the New York Times reported this week.

Bacha, who has left his wife and children and an extended family behind, has found a safe haven in New York where he is playing at benefit concerts and even weddings, the newspaper said.


Bacha who sings about peace, tolerance and resistance to war, says he is the latest victim of what some call the relentless Talibanisation of the Pakistani northwest, from the burning of schools for girls to bombing music shops.

“If it continues like this, and these fanatics get power, our social fabric, our institutions – everything will be destroyed,” Bacha told the paper . “I don’t know what these elements want to have in their lives, what their world would be like.”

Some of the Islamists’ vision of what Pakistan, a Muslim nation of 165 million people, should be, is unfolding in the northwest region straddling the border with Afghanistan.

The BBC had a story on the challenges of living in Swat,  once a picturesque alpine valley popular with tourists, and now the frontline of the war between the Pakistan Taliban and the military.

It has a local administrator talking about how the Taliban were checking vehicles and forcing women to wear the veil. He relates the experience of a man whose car was stopped in a village and the women ordered out.  The Taliban slapped one of the women in the face and asked why she didn’t put on the veil.


Scores of schools have been burnt to the ground and parents are afraid to send their children to the ones that are still open. “We build a school in six months, the Taliban bring it down in six minutes,” Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United Nations, Zahir Tanin said, arguing that the hardliner Islamists had become a threat to the region.

But can Pakistan really be Talibanised?  Can you silence music in a large nation such as this with a long South Asian tradition of singing, dancing running into centuries?


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Future? I thought these were the foundations of this failed state?

Well either way, let the man run in peace. If history has taught us anything then it is the fact that only few, like Mahatma Gandhi, are willing to die for ‘peace and harmony’. Other than that, those words are just a way to become famou these days. I mean cmon, the guy leavs a country which needs his message the most at the moment to play in the safety of West, prob get some get well cards from them as well.

I also love the part about him leving hist whole family behind. Only few are brave enough to do this.

PS: Sorry I was laughing way too hard while reading this post.. and my anti spam word was ‘run’..

Posted by Nikhil Sharma | Report as abusive

Talibanisation i thought was a old story in pakistan.. after talibanisation of karachi a long ago..talibanisation is still in fashion there..amazing… what a country!!!!

Posted by Om | Report as abusive

The case against Musharraf

By Sanaullah Baloch

IN the last six decades a significant number of so-called state leaders have been prosecuted and
brought before various domestic and international courts and tribunals for their official and unofficial
crimes against humanity and genocide.

Unfortunately, the most unpopular state leaders have enjoyed lifetime immunity in domestic and
foreign courts for their sanctioned and unsanctioned crimes. Many of them enjoyed personal immunity
that lasts during their tenure for all unofficial acts such as looting state coffers or murdering political

After creating political and economic disarray and committing atrocities, the majority of detested world
leaders moved to different countries that offered them protection and pleasure. But, including Pakistan’
s former military dictator Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, a great number of the world’s reviled state heads
have remained in their countries, benefiting from their institutional connections, an incapable judicial
system and the state’s lack of will to try former and sitting rulers for unlawful and inhuman acts.
The lack of legal and institutional capacity and willingness to try dictators and corrupt civil-military bureaucrats has resulted in an endless crisis of
governance and trust in Pakistan. Deliberate ignorance by the legal and state institutions have benefited human rights violators, corrupt and criminal
prime ministers, presidents, and miscreant dictators to escape justice, to live in cosy retirement, often with wealth dishonestly accumulated.

But internationally a positive change of approach has been experienced, to try rogue leaders for their crimes. Consensus also has been developed
among the legal community around the world that all those involved in crimes against humanity must be prosecuted domestically and internationally,
because some of these crimes are so disgraceful they can never be considered a part of any leader’s official duties. The statutes of the International
Criminal Court and other international tribunals specifically declare that an official capacity or rank by itself is no defence against prosecution.

This month in Poland the country’s former communist leader and head of state, Gen Wojciech Jaruzelski, who is now 85 and in poor health, has gone
on trial accused of committing a crime by imposing martial law in 1981. Reading the charges, the prosecutor said the men had violated their own
communist constitution when they created what he called a “criminal military organisation” to implement martial law in Dec 1981. Eight other former
officials will also be tried for the clampdown against the opposition Solidarity movement, during which dozens of people were killed.

However, there is little hope among the marginalised people and victims of Musharraf’s rule that the former military dictator will be persecuted for
looting, treason and grave human rights violations. No doubt, there is a general perception among the marginalised people of Pakistan that ethnically
dominant and superior leaders in Pakistan are above any law and protected for all their crimes. This time round there is a need that an ex-army man
must be held accountable for his evident and committed crimes.

There is little disagreement among Pakistani citizens that the Musharraf era is marked with state highhandedness against citizens. Undermining the
constitution, bombing Balochistan, killing and persecuting Baloch veteran leaders, kidnapping political activists, sacking judges, killing lawyers,
promoting centre-province confrontation and corruption are enough to prosecute Mr Musharraf in domestic and international courts.

In the recent past, a number of the world’s errant leaders have been brought before the domestic and international courts for human rights abuses.
Some have been convicted, others are on trial.

Internationally there is a growing trend to make all leaders accountable and prosecute rogue rulers. Radovan Karadzic has been recently arrested
and shifted to ICC at Hague to face criminal charges. Sudan’s president Omar Al-Bashir has also been summoned by the International Court of
Justice for his human rights crimes and genocide in Darfur.

We have an entire history of cases where war criminals and human rights abusers have been brought before tribunals and convicted for their sins.
During 1945-49, the Nuremberg trials, the largest in history, that lasted four years, brought the Nazi regime and the engineers of the Holocaust to
justice. Major war criminals were sentenced to death. In the 12 other cases that followed, 65 defendants were convicted and more than 20 executed.

In 1948 under the watch of US Supreme Commander Douglas MacArthur, an international military tribunal prosecuted and executed Japan’s former
Prime Minister Hideki Tojo and 28 high-ranking Japanese leaders for war crimes. In 1989 after almost 25 years of communist reign in Romania,
President Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, were found guilty of crimes against humanity by a secret military tribunal. The two were executed
on Christmas Day 1989. Rwanda’s former prime minister, Jean Kambanda, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment by the
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Argentina’s military dictator Captain Adolfo Scilingo (1976-1983) was convicted in April 2005 by the
Spanish court (1995-2005) almost 10 years after his alleged human rights crimes. The late Chilean leader Pinochet was prosecuted by the country’s
supreme court in 2004.

The UN-Sierra Leone joint tribunal was set up in 2002 to try Liberia’s former President Charles Taylor and those most responsible for crimes against
humanity, for war crimes and attacks against UN peacekeepers. Musharraf including his team must be put on trial before domestic and international
courts for official and unofficial crimes. All victims must be provided an opportunity to come forth with evidence before the judicial institutions. This
process will not only assist the overall failed state system to improve its stained image, it will also strengthen the people’s trust in institutions.

The Supreme Court Bar Council of Pakistan, the HRCP, vibrant civil society and other concerned organisations need to go for a fresh strategy, to
discourage human rights violators and take their cases to world bodies. The legal community must activate its professional capacity to surround the
high-profile culprits taking them before domestic and international courts of law for their unforgettable crimes.

The writer is a former member of senate.

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Posted by Sameera Bluch | Report as abusive