Who says countries are permanent?

Ayaz AmirBy Ayaz Amir

Islamabad diary

We should know this more than others. The Pakistan of 1947 is not the Pakistan which exists today, one half of it having broken away to form another country. I served in Moscow in the seventies and nothing seemed more solid or permanent than the Soviet Union, a mighty power which cast a shadow far and wide. Who could have thought that in a few years’ time it would fracture, leaving a trail of small, independent republics behind?

Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall was two countries. Now it is back to being one. Czechoslovakia was one country then. Now it is two. In the UK, of all places, the Scots, or a goodly part of them, are demanding independence. A referendum is set to decide this question in 2014.

After the fall of the Soviet Union it seemed as if American pre-eminence was an assured thing, lasting for the next hundred years. Bright-eyed scholars announced not just the closing of an era but the end of history. As hubris goes, this had few equals. There were other Americans who said that reality would be what America wanted it to be. Yet American power has declined before our eyes, nothing more contributing to this than the wars President Bush ventured upon in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Clash of civilisations was another phrase current just ten years. Something of the sort has happened but not in a way that the US could have intended. Wouldn’t the Taliban, wouldn’t Al-Qaeda, define their struggle as a clash of civilisations?

Ten years ago in a Jamaat-ud-Dawaah mosque in Chakwal (not far from my house) I heard one of their leaders talking of America’s eventual but sure defeat in Afghanistan. I thought his rhetoric too fanciful then. It sounds much closer to home now.

I have just read a longish review of Norman Davies’ ‘Vanished Kingdoms: The Rise and Fall of States and Nations’. This book should be required reading for anyone concerned about the future of Pakistan. For the lesson it emphasises is that history does not promise progress. All it promises is change. Nothing is fixed, all is movement, nations rising and falling, the old disappearing to make way for the new, the new in turn becoming the old and morphing into something else – the philosophy of Heraclitus and Hegel, even of Marx.

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Noam Chomsky: Can Civilization Survive Capitalism?

Capitalism as it exists today is radically incompatible with democracy.

There is “capitalism” and then there is “really existing capitalism.”

The term “capitalism” is commonly used to refer to the U.S. economic system, with substantial state intervention ranging from subsidies for creative innovation to the “too-big-to-fail” government insurance policy for banks.

The system is highly monopolized, further limiting reliance on the market, and increasingly so: In the past 20 years the share of profits of the 200 largest enterprises has risen sharply, reports scholar Robert W. McChesney in his new book “Digital Disconnect.”

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The ‘other Punjab’ is at the heart of Pakistani extremism

By Manzar Zaidi

Most of the fighting between Pakistani troops and the Pashtun Taliban has been in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. But the less-reported aspect of recent developments in Pakistan is the endemic radicalisation of Pakistan’s Punjab province.

The continuing mobilisation of Punjabi militants – the so-called “Punjabi Taliban” – is just one way that this growing extremism is becoming evident.

Punjab is vital: almost half of Pakistan’s 182 million people live in the province. About 44 per cent of Pakistan’s 20,000 madrassas are there. Of the 1,764 people on government “wanted” lists, 729 are from southern Punjab alone.

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Some misconceptions about Badami Bagh

By Omar

Today a charged mob” set fire to about 150 poor Christian homes in Badami Bagh Lahore. see pictures here.

The order of events was pretty standard.
Wednesday: A Christian sanitary worker (yes, they clean gutters and sweep roads) argued with a Muslim Barber at a snooker game. At some point after this he accused the Christian of having blasphemed he who must not be named.

Friday: “Enraged Muslims” marched into Joseph colony looking for the blasphemer. They beat up his father (age 65, very much in the “beatable” age group) and did some property damage. Police arrested the accused that night. They also advised the local Christians to clear out since more “rage” may be on its way.

Saturday: Thanks to the timely efforts of the Punjab police, no Christians were home when the rage returned on Saturday. 178 houses were burnt, as was one church. No one was killed since no one was there.

Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif has suspended the local police officers and promised to rebuild the houses. He has also said the trial of the blasphemy accused will be held in prison and it is looking possible that the trial will be quick and he may be set free (unlike Aasia bibi, who remains in prison).

“Civil society” has reacted with outrage and the President and the PM have condemned this outrage. Most of the outrage is probably genuine. But I noticed some common misconceptions too.

1. This outrage is new and shocking and marks a “further deterioration” in how things are done in the Islamic Republic….In this case, NOT true. This event is small scale compared to the assault on Shantinagar in 1997.

There have been many other blasphemy accusations and mobs between then and now. The outrage is outrageous, but neither new nor out of proportion to “usual practice”.

2. The mobs are led by misunderstanders of Islam. Actually the mobs are led by people who know what they are doing with remarkable clarity. Blasphemy and apostasy memes (memes, not laws…no law is needed if the meme is firmly in place, since they allow for freelance action) are the twin pillars on which Islamism is built. See here for details. 

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British Pakistani Christian Association – In memory of Shanti Nagar

Today is the 16th anniversary of the sacking of Shanti Nagar. In memory of this, we publish the relevant section of a new report on Pakistan we plan to publish quite soon.

Shanti Nagar is a predominantly Salvation Army village in the Punjab province, founded in 1916, of around 25-30,000 people. Apart from about 15 Muslim families – for whom the other villagers built a mosque – the inhabitants are Christian. Hard work in farming meant the village was relatively prosperous. On 17th January police raided the house of a 60 year old Christian, claiming intelligence of alcohol-drinking and gambling going on. The police regularly raided the village on such pretexts – usually about every fortnight, probably because of jealousy over the Christian village’s prosperity. They would harass the villagers, and because the villagers were rich enough to bribe the corrupt police, they always came back for more. Anyway, despite, as ever, no gambling or alcohol or anything else illegal going on there, they searched his property, and amidst the ransacking a box with a bible fell out. The police deliberately kicked and desecrated the bible, and took the man to the police station, even though they had found nothing illegal, and were trying to get a large bribe from him. The residents of the village protested the raid, the false arrest and the desecration of the bible, and also the numerous false blasphemy accusations that had been made against villagers. They asked for charges under article 295 to be brought against the policeman responsible. Even after police investigations found the charge to be true, the police refused to act until sustained pressure resulted in a promise to suspend the officers responsible and take them to court. Then the police pressured the village for the matter to be settled out of court, but they refused and the senior police officer threatened to act in way that meant they would not be able to stand on their own feet for at least 50 years. On 3rd February, a general election day, he posted the policeman who had kicked the bible to Shanti Nagar as security officer. This made the villagers even more angry as it proved the promises by higher police officers to take action was a lie, and they protested even more, so the police hatched a plot. Two days later, a Muslim man went to an abandoned mosque 2km from Shanti Nagar and found – so he said – torn pages of the Quran with blasphemous words and the name and address of the Christian from Shanti-Nagar who complained about his bible being desecrated, along with several others. He took it to the police station of the nearby city of Khanewal, a stronghold of an Islamicist group with ties to Bin Laden called Harkat-ul-Insar. Within 30 minutes of registering a case (and several Christians being arrested), mosque loud speakers from the city and all the Muslim villages around about were calling all faithful Muslims to wage jihad against Shanti Nagar, using word for word identical language. City church priests rushed to warn senior officials of the impending attack, and were promised that all appropriate measures would be made, but that too was a lie. Late that night, mobs started attacking churches, Christian homes and shops and medical dispensaries in Khanewal, setting them and their contents on fire. The next morning, the mob attacked the Catholic church just outside the city Council buildings. Bibles and other books were gathered from churches and burned, and the Holy Communion bread thrown on the floor, statues and the like were systematically smashed. 100’s attacked the priests’ house and burned all the parish records. Pleas for police help went unheeded, they just stood by and watched. The mob attacked a Christian boys school. Many fled, but about 50 of the youngest hid under their beds. The mob set fire to mattresses over them, and they had to flee for their lives, several being carried out unconscious. They burned all the school records and furniture. They then attacked the Salvation army church and pharmacy, and re-attacked the Church of Pakistan building they had attacked the night before. Christians in local shops and homes fled for their lives, but those who were caught were severely beaten. Again the police did nothing. The mob only retreated when Christians started throwing bricks and stones to defend their homes.

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Fallout from ‘Untouchables’ Documentary: Another Wall Street Whistleblower Gets Reamed

By: Michael Winston

A great many people around the county were rightfully shocked and horrified by the recent excellent and hard-hitting PBS documentary, The Untouchables, which looked at the problem of high-ranking Wall Street crooks going unpunished in the wake of the financial crisis. The PBS piece certainly rattled some cages, particularly in Washington, in a way that few media efforts succeed in doing. (Scroll to the end of this post to watch the full documentary.)

Now, two very interesting and upsetting footnotes to that groundbreaking documentary have emerged in the last weeks.

The first involves one of the people interviewed for the story, a former high-ranking executive from Countrywide financial who turned whistleblower named Michael Winston. You can see Michael’s segment of The Untouchables at around the 4:20 mark of the piece. The story Winston told during the documentary is essentially an eyewitness account of the beginning of the financial crisis.

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Religious bigotry and Pakistani Christians

If you dare to raise your voice against the hostilities and ill-treatment Christians are enduring, it would either be declared as ‘blasphemous’ or you would be labelled as an agent of the firangi

by Adil Shahzeb

I have received tremendous feedback for my last article, “Pakistan, the game of religious bigotry” (Daily Times, November 10, 2012), but one email in particular has compelled me to touch on the challenges faced by the Christian community in Pakistan. I had mentioned Christians just once in my last article, but not enough about the biased and highly unfair treatment that they face throughout their lives. In Pakistan’s religious bigotry, the most deprived of all are the Christians, the ‘minority’ that only gets media attention if accused of ‘blasphemy’ or as a Muslim convert. According to the UK-based Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement, “Christians in Pakistan are illiterate, suffering in extreme poverty and unemployment among Christians has increased to an unprecedented level.” The statistical data indicates that only six percent have primary school education; four percent of Christians have high school education, one percent of Christians have college education, and next to no presence in higher studies and professional education.

I had no idea that my article in Daily Times would take me right back to my childhood to reflect upon the ills of our society. Now that I am writing I am reminded of a classmate, the most bullied child at school, who was not even allowed to sit with the other children or to be precise, no other pupil would prefer to willingly share a desk with him unless as a punishment by the teacher for not doing his homework. He was the only Christian child in the entire school who would stand with his lunch box in a corner of the playground during recess and was never allowed by the other children to play with them. For obvious reasons he failed all of his exams three years in row until he was forced to leave. Back then I never understood how deprived he was, but now I really feel for the mental torture and the traumatised childhood he endured. Of course it does not matter at all in Pakistan what Article Five of the Universal Declaration of Human Right states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

It is not only how an underprivileged Christian child is treated at school. When he grows up in our highly radicalised society he is told: the only job that suits you is to clean the streets of Pakistan as that was how your forefathers served this country. And it does not stop there; you also will not have a say in the country’s mainstream affairs including politics; you would hardly be considered for any white-collar job, and last but certainly not the least, all your life your ‘non-Christian’ friends would look down upon you, and you would most probably be the victim of bullying forever. Even though your educational institutions and the broken society would only groom you as the next generation of lowly worker, if you somehow manage to grow up with a good education and competence, most of the jobs that you would opt for would be for non-Christians. However if despite that, you do manage to secure a decent job, you could face a similar hostile work environment that you went through at your school.

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