Below is an article by a Syrian journalist who has put light on the lives people of Syria are living in fear. Bashar al Asad like his father is a tyrant and he seems to be the modern version of Nazi leadership. People should raise their voices all over the world and support the freedom and justice loving people in any manner they can.
Confessions of an ‘agent’ in Syria–>DAWN News Article
by Maryam Hasan (Pen name)
Whether it’s a call on my phone or at the door, I feel scared to death. I mentally prepare myself for the worst, assuming that “they” are here to take me.
But then, when I find a friend at the door or a homeless compatriot asking for food, I realise that it is not my day yet, it is someone else’s.
Despite being unusually lucky, my nightmares don’t end. I rather prepare myself to deal with a situation when Bashar’s sleuths would come to pick me up for writing about the misery of Syrian taxpayers and democracy-lovers.
Regardless of our terrible conditions, we do greet each other daily with ‘sabah al-khair’ or good morning but with little hope for the same.
When I hear stories of torture and disfigured bodies of the missing Syrians and journalists alike, my only prayer to Allah remains, “I am ready for it but ease it on me and my people please.”
We write with pen names and log on the Internet using proxies, thinking we are safe. The reality is otherwise. My missing journalist friends and bloggers had no time to say bye to their loved ones inside the very home they were abducted from. Al-mokhabarat or intelligence agents, just plucked them away, mostly in the dark of the night.
They may discover me sooner or later but I make it a point to erase all my cell phone logs of call and text messages, clear my browser history and empty my laptop’s trash bin. Thinking that I might have forgotten something, sometimes I repeat the act many times a night.
Of late, my personal fear of being kidnapped by government sleuths has been overshadowed by a big, bloodier development. Every day, I see uploaded YouTube videos of the best of Soviet and Russian arsenal knocking down bustling neighborhoods first in Dara’a, then Hama and now Homs.
While I still fear the footsteps of sleuths on my door, I am not being searched as minutely as before.
Instead of looking out for activists and undercover journalists, Bashar’s military is wiping out entire cities from world maps, over suspicions of treason against the Alawite regime.
What started as massacre has duly transformed into genocide. My editors abroad insist on sending my stories with real names, concrete evidence and versions from both sides. I have been in double jeopardy since the first eight months of the uprising when the world only knew about Tahrir square kind of protests.
I, sometimes, wonder if the top-notch media watchdog bodies really know what a faceless and nameless journalist in Syria goes through, at the hands of sleuths as well as the very editors known as gatekeepers.
When making a phone call can risk not only yours and your families’ lives but also the person answering the phone, calling a government source is simply suicidal. Even the most naïve journalist here knows that cellular and landline phone companies are not only owned by the regime’s front-men but also bugged and monitored.
Simultaneously, Syria is a busy place for journalists where one cannot choose which story angle to focus on any given day i.e. massacres in Homs, protests in Damascus and Idlib, Russian FM’s visit to Bashar, or statements from Washington echoing only fake promises.
But in the end the choice won’t be mine! The media company decides which one suits its agenda and its geopolitical context. Mostly, the easy bet is to bank on the wire service, ignoring the at-risk on-ground journalist who for them is a mere ‘stringer’!
I felt proud of my profession when I first saw stories by foreign journalists covering Syria from their high risk abodes and makeshift media centers. Though the world would not have believed a Syrian journalist like me for the Bab Amar massacre or siege of Homs but I hope they won’t ignore the outsiders’ testimony.
The natural but tragic death of Anthony Shadid, a Lebanon-born journalist for The New York Times, weighed very heavy on Syrian people’s hearts and the battered country’s image. Syria was referred to as home of death.
Besides dozens if not hundreds of slain Syrian journalists, the uprising has claimed two French media-men, and the one and only Marie Colvin died in more familiar way. Their heartrending deaths came in solidarity with local fellow professionals whose names and faces may be known when the tyrant falls and conscience rules in Syria.
Unluckily, I have many pen names for it is hard to write with a real one. Death of Marie Colvin was personally embarrassing to me. Should I still use pen names when my star colleagues are writing with their warm blood?
I am a single woman with no liabilities except a widowed mother and siblings. One simple story with my real name appearing on an Arabic language blog or English-language website has greater probability of leading sleuths to my home.
Now even my family rarely knows which pen name I use and where in the world, my work publishes. Not that I don’t trust my family but the regime’s four decades of fear can easily cause a Freudian slip.
A year ago, I proudly showed off my byline in international dailies but now we are writing for our lives and not for pride.
I rarely get internet access good enough to open my emails and send my stories in time. I must admit that overall depressing conditions too result in my missing deadlines. Ironically, stories featuring Syrians’ bloodbath are never stale and the desk accepts them more often.
When I work on my laptop, my siblings and mother spy on me to see what I am doing or writing. My eldest sister advised me last September, “I can’t stop a journalist from writing but she should not forget the fate her younger brothers may face if they (mokhabarat) find out.”
One of my university fellows was picked up for writing a blog about a missing seven-year-old in Dara’a. Her brother went to a police station to lodge a report but never returned home. Three weeks later, their mother was asked to receive her son’s body from the same police office. She not only got the body of her 20-year-old son but also discovered the disfigured corpse of her blogger daughter.
Earlier, I hoped to change the world’s opinion with my writings but now, I am only recording testimonies of massacres and detailing current history.
Long after they have taken me to die in their dark cells, my stories will serve as credible evidence to try Bashar and his advisors for crimes against humanity.
Like journalism, we are learning survival techniques on our own, the hard way. Whenever a couple of us sit together away from our parents and the listening walls, we talk about the best ways in dealing with the worst.
I usually tell my colleagues, “Why do you think they would wait for us to admit or defend ourselves. Our charge-sheets are already there with no room for defense or discussion . . . Agents we are! . . . Agents of change!”
Maryam Hasan is a young journalist, whose family struggled against Hafiz Al-Assad’s tyrannical rule and policies. She is using a pen-name due to security reasons.
The article was published in Dawn in 2005.
Nur Khan reminisces ’65 war
ISLAMABAD, Sept 5:
Air Marshal (retired) Nur Khan, the man who led the airforce achieve complete superiority over the three times bigger Indian airforce on the very first day of the 1965 war, had all but resigned the post the very day that he took command of Pakistan Air Force on July 23, 1965.
“Rumours about an impending operation were rife but the army had not shared the plans with other forces,” Air Marshal Nur Khan said.
Sharing his memoirs with Dawn on the 40th anniversary of 1965 war, Air Marshal Khan said that he was the most disturbed man on the day, instead of feeling proud. Air Marshal (retired) Asghar Khan while handing over the command to Nur Khan had not briefed him about any impending war because he was not aware of it himself.
So, in order to double check, Nur Khan called on the then Commander-in-Chief, General Musa Khan. Under his searching questions Gen Musa wilted and with a sheepish smile admitted that something was afoot. Nur Khan’s immediate reaction was that this would mean war. But, Gen Musa said you need not to worry as according to him Indians would not retaliate. Then he directed a still highly skeptical Nur Khan to Lt-Gen Akhtar Hasan Malik, GOC Kashmir, the man in-charge of “Operation Gibraltar” for further details.
The long and short of his discussion with Gen Malik was, “don’t worry, because the plan to send in some 800,000 infiltrators inside the occupied territory to throw out the Indian troops with the help of the local population”, was so designed that the Indians would not be able retaliate and therefore the airforce need not get into war-time mode. A still incredulous Nur Khan was shocked when on further inquiry he found that except for a small coterie of top generals, very few in the armed forces knew about “Operation Gibraltar”.
He asked himself how good, intelligent and professional people like Musa and Malik could be so naive, so irresponsible. For the air marshal, it was unbelievable. Even the then Lahore garrison commander had not been taken into confidence. And Governor of West Pakistan, Malik Amir Mohammad Khan of Kalabagh did not know what was afoot and had gone to Murree for vacations. It was at this point that he felt like resigning and going home. But then he thought such a rash move would further undermine the country’s interests and, therefore, kept his cool and went about counting his chickens — the entire airforce was too young and too inexperienced to be called anything else then — and gearing up his service for the D-day.
The miracle that the PAF achieved on September 6, to a large extent, is attributed to Nur Khan’s leadership. He led his force from up front and set personal example by going on some highly risky sorties himself. But then no commander, no matter how daring and how professional, can win a battle if his troops are not fully geared to face such challenges and that too within 43 days of change in command.
The full credit for turning the PAF into a highly professional and dedicated fighting machine goes to Air Marshal Asghar Khan who was given charge of the service in 1957.
Thank God, unlike the other service no darbari or sifarishi was given the job. And by the time he left on July 23, 1965, Asghar Khan had turned the PAF into a well-oiled, highly professional and dedicated fighting machine and had trained them on the then best US made fighters, bombers and transport planes. Those who flew those machines and those who maintained them on ground worked like a team, and each one of the PAF member performed beyond the call of duty to make a miracle. The PAF performance had crucially allowed the Army to operate without interference from the Indian airforce.
“The performance of the Army did not match that of the PAF mainly because the leadership was not as professional. They had planned the ‘Operation Gibraltar’ for self-glory rather than in the national interest. It was a wrong war. And they misled the nation with a big lie that India rather than Pakistan had provoked the war and that we were the victims of Indian aggression”, Air Marshal Khan said. When on the second day of war President Gen Ayub wanted to know how we were faring, Musa informed him that the Army had run out of even ammunition.
That was the extent of preparation in the Army. And the information had shocked Gen Ayub so much that it could have triggered his heart ailment, which overtook him a couple of years later. This in short is Nur Khan’s version of 1965 war, which he calls an unnecessary war and says that President Ayub for whom he has the greatest regard should have held his senior generals accountable for the debacle and himself resigned.
This would have held the hands of the adventurers who followed Gen Ayub. Since the 1965 war was based on a big lie and was presented to the nation a great victory, the Army came to believe its own fiction and has used since, Ayub as its role model and therefore has continued to fight unwanted wars — the 1971 war and the Kargil fiasco in 1999, he said. In each of the subsequent wars we have committed the same mistakes that we committed in 1965.
Air Marshal Khan demanded that a truth commission formed to find out why we failed in all our military adventures. It is not punishment of the failed leadership that should be the aim of the commission but sifting of facts from fiction and laying bare the follies and foibles of the irresponsible leaders in matters with grave implications for the nation. It should also point out the irregularities committed in training and promotions in the defence forces in the past so that it is not repeated in future. Mr Khan believes that our soldiers when called upon have fought with their lives but because of bad leadership their supreme sacrifices went waste. And after every war that we began we ended up taking dictation from the enemy — at Tashkant, at Simla and lastly at Washington.
He said at present Pakistan is engaged in another war, this time in Waziristan. This war can also end up in a fiasco and politically disastrous for the federation if it is fought with the same nonchalance and unprofessionally as we did the last three wars. He, therefore, called for an immediate change of command at the GHQ insisting that President Gen Pervez Musharraf should appoint a full-time Chief of Army Staff and restore full democracy in the country.
He suggested appointment of an independent chief election commissioner in consultation with all the political parties. “Look at India.There a religious party comes in power and nobody cries foul and it goes out of power and nobody alleges rigging.
We can also do this,” he added. And we must make unified efforts to restore the country in the vision of the Quaid-i-Azam. Turn it into a non-theocratic and truly democratic state. And all the three forces should model themselves on the lines set by Asghar Khan when he was commanding the PAF, he suggested.
ISLAMABAD, June 15: Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) chief Aitzaz Ahsan on Sunday promised more, larger rallies on the heels of the massive long march calling upon the government to restore the deposed judges.
Mr Ahsan gave no date for the future protests, but his comments indicated that the lawyers did not intend to ease their campaign for the restoration of the judges.
“There will be other marches … there will be bigger marches,” Ahsan told The Associated Press. He said lawyer leaders would soon meet to discuss fresh protests.
The recent protest in Islamabad — dubbed the long march — was one of the largest demonstrations in the capital’s history. Participants, who began travelling from around the country, arrived in Islamabad on Friday night for a massive rally close to the parliament building.
Demonstrators demanded that the judiciary be restored. Musharraf fired dozens of judges and declared a state of emergency last year to avoid legal challenges to his presidency.—AP
Thanks Aitzaz Ahsan for taking the right decision because the elections of 18 Feb 2008 brought no change in Pakistan.
PPP has become q-League part 2 or in-fact q-league ++ when it comes to serving the foreign agenda which also includes the destruction of our judicial system(as well as economic and social systems).
so people of Pakistan get ready for 10 June battle for the truth and justice in Pakistan.
Aitzaz quits poll race to focus on long march (DAWN)
By Ahmad Fraz Khan
LAHORE, May 18: Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president Aitzaz Ahsan has pulled out of the electoral race to save the Pakistan People’s Party from an embarrassing situation because at around the time of the coming by-election he will be leading the lawyers’ long march and movement for reinstatement of the deposed judges.
Addressing a press conference here on Sunday, Mr Ahsan said he had informed Pakistan People’s Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday that he was withdrawing his application for the PPP ticket for the by-election.
The SCBA chief said he wanted to concentrate on making the long march a success.
He said the long march would be a decisive factor in the struggle launched by the lawyers 14 months ago and it needed his full-time devotion.
The SCBA president announced that the long march would begin from Multan on June 10.
After attending gatherings of Sahiwal and Okara bars, the caravan of judges and lawyers will move to Lahore. The next day it would proceed to Islamabad via Gujranwala, Gujrat and Jhelum, he said, adding that the same day another caravan of lawyers would converge on Islamabad from Peshawar.
“The lawyers will go to parliament which is at the centre of the current controversy.”
A lawyers’ meeting held here on Saturday had expressed confidence in the leadership of Mr Ahsan and left the decision about taking part in the by-election to him.“Since all arrangements for the long march are to be made and contesting the by-election may also put the PPP in an awkward position, it is better to withdraw from the electoral race and concentrate on the lawyers’ movement,” he said.
He said that people must translate their love for deposed Chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry into action.
Mr Ahsan appealed to all ‘conscious segments’ of the society, including students, traders, members of the civil society, political workers, professionals and the media, to join the struggle for independent judiciary. It was the “only way to safeguard the future of the nation,” he insisted.
He said the presidency was continuing to hatch conspiracies against democracy and one proof of this was that the attorney-general had not been changed.
Mr Ahsan said the lawyers would call off the long march if the judges were reinstated before June 10.
In reply to a question, he said the decisions of the Supreme Court presided over by Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar could be covered under the ‘de facto doctrine’ after the reinstatement of the deposed judges. He said he did not know whether the deposed judges would take up the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) after their reinstatement.
Mr Ahsan conceded that he had differences with the PPP co-chairman on the issue of the judiciary but refused to provide details.
When asked if the lawyers intended to picket the General Headquarters or parliament at the end of their long march, Mr Ahsan said the army did not have any role in the current crisis and the lawyers were convinced about the neutrality of Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Kayani.