Pakistan’s army Hail to the chief

Politicians are overshadowed by a publicity-seeking general

THE image of a mustachioed man with peaked cap and a chest full of medals is becoming hard to avoid in Pakistan. It is splashed across the posters of a politician competing in a by-election in the eastern city of Lahore. It looms large on giant billboards in the port city of Karachi, apparently paid for by adoring citizens. And it is a rare day when Pakistan’s chief of army staff is not pictured on a newspaper front page. He has even entered the colourful repertoire of artists who decorate the nation’s trucks and rickshaws.

The apotheosis of General Raheel Sharif (pictured, wearing beret) makes it harder than ever for his unrelated namesake, Nawaz Sharif, who is prime minister, to claw back powers from an army that has directly and indirectly controlled Pakistan for most of its history. Nawaz Sharif’s election victory in 2013 resulted in the country’s first transfer of power from one civilian government to another. But the extent of his authority is debatable: the army is reasserting itself.

This marks quite a turnaround for an institution that eight years ago was so unpopular that off-duty soldiers in the most restive areas were advised not to wear their uniforms in public. The long rule of General Pervez Musharraf, a coup-maker, had seriously tarnished the army’s prestige. A particular setback was the violence unleashed in central Islamabad in 2007 when General Musharraf decided to clear out a pro-Taliban mosque in the heart of the city. The army was humiliated in 2011 when the public discovered Osama bin Laden had been hiding next to the country’s officer-training school and that American special forces had been able to penetrate deep into Pakistan to kill him.

Today the army is riding high, buoyed by an improvement in security following a decision in June 2014 to launch an all-out campaign against the Pakistani Taliban. Many credit General Sharif with taking the initiative. Operation Zarb-e-Azb has seen key towns in the former Taliban sanctuary of North Waziristan retaken by the state. Militants have been hunted down elsewhere, particularly in Karachi, which had been a major centre of Taliban activity. All this work has helped cut militant violence by nearly half in the last nine months, according to the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, a think-tank in Islamabad.

At the same time the army has been waging a public-relations war, promoting General Sharif as a star. The media dutifully report on his every visit to the front lines and publish photographs of every honour-guard he inspects during his numerous overseas trips.

Read more » The Economist
See more » http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21667980-politicians-are-overshadowed-publicity-seeking-general-hail-chief

US ‘willing to work with Russia and Iran’ on Syria

President Barack Obama has said the US is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict in Syria.

He told the UN General Assembly in New York compromise would be essential for ending the long civil war.

But he said realism required a “managed transition” away from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to an inclusive leader.

He and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is a key ally of Syria, are to hold rare talks later.

Read more » BBC
See more » http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-34378889

Saudi nets $16.5 bn from pilgrims: paper

By AFP

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia raised $16.5 billion from Muslim pilgrimages this year to Mecca and Medina in the west of the kingdom, a Saudi newspaper reported on Thursday.

Al-Hayat, citing religious tourism sources, said a total of 12 million pilgrims visited Islam’s holiest sites during the annual hajj which took place this year at the end of October or for the year-long umra, or minor pilgrimage.

The pilgrims – including 3.1 million who made the hajj, including 1.7 million from abroad, according to official figures – spent 62 billion riyals ($16.5 billion), a rise of 10 percent over 2011 because of increased costs, it said.

News courtesy: DAWN
Read more » http://www.dawn.com/news/762515/saudi-nets-16-5-bn-from-pilgrims-paper

Pakistan, Afghanistan are not brothers: Ashraf Ghani

Pak-Afghan ties are not like a relationship between two young brothers, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani said. According to Waqt News’ report Ghani said that the bilateral ties are those strictly between two states.

In a statement he said: “Terrorism is equally destructive for Pakistan and Afghanistan.” He further said that Pakistan should adopt the same policy for all kinds of terrorism.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have been re-experiencing hostility over the last few months. Terrorism in both states and the ensuing blame game is the major factor behind this enmity.

Read more » The Nation
See more » http://nation.com.pk/national/28-Sep-2015/pakistan-afghanistan-are-not-brothers-ashraf-ghani

The search for Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan

Sixty-five years after the death of its founding father, Pakistanis are still searching for Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s vision for the country – and a missing historical speech.

During much of its existence, Pakistanis have been encouraged to believe that Mr Jinnah created Pakistan in the name of Islam as a theocratic state.

Others have disagreed, arguing the founding father wanted a Muslim-majority but secular and progressive country.

The debate over the two competing and contradictory visions has intensified in recent years as the country reels from growing Islamic extremism and Taliban militancy.

At the heart of this debate are some public addresses of Mr Jinnah given around the time of the partition of India in 1947.

Transcripts of those addresses have been available in Pakistan.

Crucial speech

The archives of state-owned broadcaster, Radio Pakistan, also contain cranky old audio recordings of most of those speeches, except for one: his address to the Constituent Assembly in the port city of Karachi on 11 August 1947, three days before the creation of Pakistan.

Extract from 11 August 1947 speech –  If you change your past and work together in a spirit that everyone of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this state with equal rights, privileges, and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make.

I cannot emphasize it too much. We should begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community, because even as regards Muslims you have Pathans, Punjabis, Shias, Sunnis and so on, and among the Hindus you have Brahmins, Vashnavas, Khatris, also Bengalis, Madrasis and so on, will vanish.

Indeed if you ask me, this has been the biggest hindrance in the way of India to attain the freedom and independence and but for this we would have been free people long long ago.

No power can hold another nation, and specially a nation of 400 million souls in subjection; nobody could have conquered you, and even if it had happened, nobody could have continued its hold on you for any length of time, but for this. Therefore, we must learn a lesson from this.

You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the state.

For liberals in Pakistan, it was a crucial speech in which Mr Jinnah spoke in the clearest possible terms of his dream that the country he was creating would be tolerant, inclusive and secular.

“You are free. You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan,” Jinnah declared. “You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”

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