Interview with Pratap Mehta on Pakistan

Pratap Mehta: Pakistan’s Perpetual Identity Crisis

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, a political theorist and intellectual historian based in New Delhi, is leading us through another reflection on the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan.

The reconsideration of partition is a critical, current existential question not only for South Asians, but also for Americans who watch the continuous outrages from Taliban and CIA sanctuaries inside Pakistan. It’s a question on many levels — terrorism, geopolitics, ethnicity and religion — but, Pratap Mehta says, “it’s fundamentally the question of the identity of a country.”

In his telling of the partition story, the contemporary reality of Pakistan grew out of a failure to answer a core challenge of creating a nation-state: how do you protect a minority? It’s Mehta’s view that the framers of the modern subcontinent — notably Gandhi, Jinnah & Nehru — never imagined a stable solution to this question. He blames two shortcomings of the political discourse at the time of India’s independence:

The first is that it was always assumed that the pull of religious identities in India is so deep that any conception of citizenship that fully detaches the idea of citizenship from religious identity is not going to be a tenable one.

The second is that Gandhi in particular, and the Congress Party in general, had a conception of India which was really a kind of federation of communities. So the Congress Party saw [the creation of India] as about friendship among a federation of communities, not as a project of liberating individuals from the burden of community identity to be whatever it is that they wished to be.

The other way of thinking about this, which is to think about a conception of citizenship where identities matter less to what political rights you have, that was never considered seriously as a political project. Perhaps that would have provided a much more ideologically coherent way of dealing with the challenges of creating a modern nation-state. – – Pratap Bhanu Mehta with Chris Lydon at the Watson Institute, April 12, 2011.

Unlike many other Open Source talkers on Pakistan, Pratap Mehta does not immediately link its Islamization to the United States and its1980s jihad against the Soviets. Reagan and his CIA-Mujahideen military complex were indeed powerful players in the rise of Islamic extremism in Pakistan, he agrees, but the turn began first during a national identity crisis precipitated by another partition, the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.

Suddenly, Mehta is telling us, Pakistan could no longer define itself as the unique homeland for Muslims in the subcontinent. In search of identity, and distinction from its new neighbor to the east, Pakistan turned towards a West Asian brand of Islam, the hardline Saudi Wahhabism that has become a definitive ideology in today’s Islamic extremism.

Mehta is hopeful, though, that in open democratic elections Islamic parties would remain relatively marginalized, that despite the push to convert Pakistan into a West Asian style Islamic state since 1971, “the cultural weight of it being a South Asian country” with a tradition of secular Islam “remains strong enough to be an antidote.”

Click here to listen Radio Open Source interview with Pratap Mehta, it is much more in depth than the text summary

Courtesy: http://www.radioopensource.org/pratap-mehta-pakistans-perpetual-identity-crisis/

“Burqa got a befitting French kiss” – by Marvi Sirmed

Before reading this argument on recent Burqa-ban by France, you need to know who I am. Raised in an orthodox Muslim Deobandi family, I’ve been educated in Pakistan’s Punjab where urban middle class used to be too sensitive about purdah in 1980s and 90s – the decades when I went to school and then university. Being first generation migrated out of the village in a big city, my father was a part of purdah sensitive educated middle class professional class. But my mother, raised and educated in a secular and Sufist Sindh, fought against Burqa throughout her life in order to save me from this ‘curse’ as she would put it.

Mom succeeded in this battle to the best of my luck and now no one expects her or me in Burqa or purdah in general. …

Read more : Let Us Build Pakistan

HEC: Planning New Institutions

by Dr. Azhar A. Shah

When asked why almost all the federal universities are located in Islamabad and why there are thick clusters of public sector universities in the capital cities while other regions of each province have been deprived of both provincial or federal public universities; the beneficiaries of the centralized Higher Education Commission (HEC) claim that it is the fault of the politicians who are not interested in the education of their local people and that HEC has nothing to do with the location of the universities!

Can we ask these supporters of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to kindly read what HEC claims on its website:

“Since its inception, HEC has established about 31 new universities and more than 50 sub-campuses of the existing universities in public sector throughout the country. As a step forward, Planning and Development Division has prepared a map to get the clear view of geographical areas where there is a potential for new institutions.”

This said, the website continues:

“The Division is planning to identify the potential areas where new institutions for higher education can be developed. In this regard P&D Division is acquiring the discipline wise data of students appeared in higher secondary examination from all the education boards of the country from 2005 to 2009. On the basis of that data P&D division will identify the potential areas where new institution may be developed.”

(http://www.hec.gov.pk/InsideHEC/Divisions/FPD/Pages/GoalsObjectives.aspx)

One really wonders which statistics and criteria did HEC use for the establishment of its 30 universities and 50 sub campuses? How much expenses were incurred on each university/campus? Will it be possible for HEC to make the list of these new universities along with their expenditures available on its website? This list is essential to see where the returning thousands of PhDs will be inducted in!

From what we can see on its website, we can observe the severe failure of central planning and development that is being advocated by Prof Attaur-Rahman and others. It has made over-provision of higher education services to the a few big cities, ignoring the bulk areas/ regions of our country. Universities are the agents of social change and we should have at least one comprehensive public sector university in each city/ town so that the development, the change, gets shared homogeneous across the regions and across the country!

PS: Please compare the central planning of Pakistani much acclaimed Higher Education Commission (HEC) with that of Indian UGC to see how Indian central universities are dispersed throughout the country (http://www.ugc.ac.in/inside/centraluni.html).

Courtesy: Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups, April 15, 2011.

“Just so you do not have thoughts…” – by Shazia Nawaz

We all know that burqa does not have its roots in religion. Religion only asks women to dress modestly. Where did the burqa or veil come from then? Why do so many women in the world cover their faces?

Burqa is a mobile jail invented by men to hide the women they love. If love was involved, I would accept it. That makes the jail a little more acceptable in a twisted kind of way.

But then what kind of man will keep a person he loves in a jail?

So then, Burqa is more a jail to keep in the women they “own”.

Brain washing starts very early. At a very young age, you are told that you have to hide yourself from men. It is ‘piety’ to hide your face. You are also taught to fear men. From a very young age, you are told that men are dangerous and should not be trusted. Only your father and brother are the ones you can trust. As someone put it very eloquently the other day, ‘In Pakistan, women are told that men are wolves and women are sheep.’ and due to this teaching , most men do indeed start acting like wolves and women as sheep.

Our men say that women should cover up, so we would not have ‘thoughts’ about them. Thoughts of harming women and thoughts of raping them. So, they want to put me in a mobile jail just so their mind would stay clean?! What a twisted logic!

But then does it really stop their ‘thoughts’? In the real world, they do not care if you are in a burqa, they will harass you. Covering my face never protected me from street harassment.

In a smaller city in Pakistan, always either my father or brother had to accompany us on the streets, or in spite of all the layers of clothes on us, men would yell taunts, follow, and even try to rub against us when were passing by. Due to this very reason, women can not leave houses alone, and always have to have a male of the house with them. Men have to protect their women from each other in Pakistan and in all muslim countries.

When we moved to a bigger city, Lahore, and got rid of the big chador, sexual harassment, believe it or not, was less. Men around us there were used to women who walked around with out covering their heads and faces. Men were more educated and their own sisters and mothers had more freedom too.

Coming to USA and experiencing the behavior of their men on the streets was an amazing experience. I can walk around wearing whatever I want. No one dares to harass me. That told me that it is not the burqa that keeps the dangerous men away, it is the mindset of a society and it is the implementation of the laws that keep women safe in any country.

My first experience of the cool breeze touching my skin on a beautiful beach in Hawaii was wonderful . Men rob women of their basic right of enjoying the nice weather by putting them in a tent called burqa. It is dark in there and it is hot in there. Just because you do not have ‘thoughts’ about me, I should be suffocated?!

Doctors consider ‘thoughts’ a God made healthy phenomenon. Acting on your thoughts without other person’s consent would put you in a jail for 10-20 years in any civilized country.

It is difficult to understand for a man of an oppressed society that in a free world men indeed learn to control their ‘thoughts’ and do not blame women for it. …

Read more : Let Us Build Pakistan