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The laughing warrior

By: Nadeem F. Paracha

Born in 1956, Fauzia Wahab was enjoying a fiery career as a passionate human rights worker and one of the most prominent voices of reason in the often chaotic, judgmental and fiercely patriarchal world of Pakistani politics and sociology, when her life was cut short on June 17, 2012.

Belonging to Pakistan’s largest political outfit, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Fauzia’s fame was nothing like that of former PPP Chairperson, late Benazir Bhutto, and nor was she known so well outside of Pakistan like the country’s other famous women activists and democrats like Benazir or Asma Jahangir.

Fauzia’s fame was largely local, rooted deep in whatever that is left of the tradition of progressive politics and liberalism in the country’s urban middle-classes – a tradition that was triggered by the rise of the PPP in the late 1960s and gave large sections of the Pakistani middle-classes a left-leaning and almost revolutionary dimension.

Although Fauzia was in school when leftist student organisations and trade, labour and journalist unions rose to successfully challenge the rule of Pakistan’s first military dictator, Ayub Khan, in the late 1960s, she was quick to join politics when she entered college in 1972 and then the Karachi University in 1975.

A glimpse into her career as a student politician can be an insightful exercise to understand the kind of a charisma she possessed that continued to make her stand out without requiring her to be a leading political figure or an ideologue.

A PPP colleague of hers once described Fauzia as a smiling rebel who had a natural knack of balancing her traditional side with her rebellious streak without looking or sounding contradictory or confused.

The same colleague (who was talking to me late last year in an informal chat), thought that Fauzia’s first act of rebellion was actually against her own ethnic background.

Coming from an educated Urdu-speaking family settled in Karachi, Fauzia did not automatically support the Jamat-e-Islami (JI) or the Jamiat Ulema Pakistan (JUP) like most Urdu-speakers of Sindh and its capital, Karachi, did till the late 1970s.

Instead, when she joined college, she at once jumped into the ranks of leftist and progressive student groups, but without waving Mao’s Red Book or Marx’s Das Kapital.

Another colleague of hers who was with her in a progressive student group at Karachi University and then later joined the Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM), told me that Fauzia was always more interested in solving the problems of the students and challenging those who used faith to impose their politics than she was in leftist theory.

It was this attitude of hers that placed her in the leading ranks of the Progressive Students Alliance at the Karachi University – an alliance comprising of various left-wing, liberal and Sindhi, Baloch and Pashtun student groups.

But battling opposing student groups, especially those on the right, through student union elections and campaigning, was where it all started and ended for Fauzia – in 1978 she met and married another passionate progressive student politician, Wahab Siddiqui, who soon went on to become an accomplished journalist.

After marriage, Fauzia gladly became a housewife, raising her children and supporting her husband’s career as a journalist. But her love for politics, the liberal ideals that had driven her as a student and her romance for Karachi remained intact.

Some early recruits of the MQM claim that Fauzia almost joined the MQM when it suddenly rose to become Karachi’s leading party in the late 1980s. Though this was never mentioned by Fauzia herself, it is however true that she eventually became a kind of a pioneer of a little known but important strain in the workings of the PPP in Karachi, Sindh.

I can vouch for this because I, as an active member of the PPP’s student-wing, the PSF (in the 1980s), too got involved in what Fauzia would ultimately represent within the PPP as a Karachiite.

When Benazir returned to Pakistan from exile in 1986 and then went on to become the country’s first woman prime minister in 1988, she at once recognised the importance of having the MQM as a ‘natural ideological partner’ and a party that could keep governments afloat with the seats that it was able to win in Karachi and Hyderabad.

I was at the Karachi University in 1989 when Benazir constituted a team of Sindhi and Urdu-speaking members of the PPP to negotiate a coalition deal with MQM chief Altaf Hussain. I remember how this policy created a kind of a rift within the ranks of the PSF in Karachi.

One faction was totally against Benazir’s move, while the other faction saw it as a way to unite secular forces so they could reclaim the political space they had lost to the ‘reactionaries’ and religionists during Ziaul Haq’s dictatorship.

Though a Punjabi from my father’s side, I was born and bred in Karachi. So I decided to side with the latter group and was ultimately ‘expelled’ from the university by the former faction.

Of course, the coalition collapsed and dozens of students lost their lives in the deadly clashes that followed between the PSF and MQM’s student-wing the APMSO.

However, even while an operation was underway against MQM militants under the second Benazir regime (1993-96), I am witness to the fact that Benazir’s idea of creating a bridge (made up of ideological similarities as well as pragmatism) between Karachi chapters of the PPP and MQM was very much alive.

And here is where Fauzia came in. After the tragic sudden death of her husband in 1993, Fauzia found herself returning to politics. Her husband had played an active role as a journalist against the Zia dictatorship and this drew the attention of Benazir who made Fauzia the Information Secretary of the PPP’s women’s wing in Sindh.

An articulate and educated person from a respected Urdu-speaking middle-class family, Fauzia was to become that bridge between the PPP and Urdu-speakers in Karachi. Later on, Fauzia, along with another prominent PPP Karachite, Faisal Raza Abidi, would play a prominent role in helping Asif Ali Zardari strike a coalition with the MQM after the 2008 elections.

Though a passionate Karachite and proud of her ethnic background, Fauzia was first and foremost a Pakistani who wanted to use the platform of a large political party to continue raising human rights issues, especially those related to women.

Fauzia became a close confidant of Benazir Bhutto. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Fauzia was the person Benazir banked on to continue building links between the PPP and Urdu-speakers in Karachi as well as being one of the faces in the PPP the MQM was most comfortable with.

But it wasn’t until during the Musharraf dictatorship that Fauzia was thrown into the limelight of Pakistani politics. Being made an MNA during the 2002 elections, she played an active political role against the Musharraf regime.

This was also due to the eruption of privately owned TV news channels in the country. Fauzia became a prominent fixture in most political talk shows, passionately criticising the Musharraf regime and articulating her party’s understanding of the situation.

After Benazir’s shocking assassination in 2007, Fauzia managed to survive the PPP’s new chairperson Asif Ali Zardari’s changes within the party structure. In fact she became an even more prominent figure in the party.

Along with Faisal Raza Abidi and Qamar Zaman Kaira, Fauzia became one of the fiercest defenders of the PPP regime’s polices in the electronic media. But unlike many other politicians who also became regular fixtures on TV talk shows, Fauzia retained a cheerful witty attitude.

However, she wasn’t only about defending her party’s regime. Along with famous human rights activist and lawyer, Asma Jahangir, Fauzia was one of the few prominent Pakistani women who never held back while lambasting crimes of hate committed by religious nuts and terrorists.

She openly condemned the murder of Punjab Governor, Salman Taseer, by a crackpot who wrongly accused Taseer of committing blasphemy. She was threatened by a number of fanatical clerics and their supporters for this.

Fauzia continued highlighting the threat to Pakistanis, especially women and those belonging to minority religions, faced from radical religious groups. She continued to remain a target of the abuse and menacing threats that came her way from religious outfits.

But she marched on, still holding her balanced mantle that seamlessly mixed passionate oratory with reason and hearty wit.

Continue reading The laughing warrior

The spirit of SANA

by Dr Manzur Ejaz

Sincere and honest lovers of a people’s Pakistan should learn something: teach the national languages in other provinces as soon as possible. Sindhi and Punjabi are sister languages and their teaching in both provinces will further the cause of unity.

In its annual convention in St Louis, Missouri, on July 2-3, the Sindhi Association of North America (SANA) proved that it is the only authentic community organisation of expatriate Pakistanis in the US and Canada. Though smaller in size than other dominant Pakistani ethnic groups living in North America, SANA delivers a genuine community gathering for all ages and genders to those whose roots are/were in the Sindhi homeland, culture and language. Being a rare secular Pakistani organisation, SANA is also unique in catering to Hindu Sindhis who live all across India as well. This way it provides a real platform for person-to-person contacts between two brothers, India and Pakistan, who have chosen to remain at odds for real or imaginary mutual fears.

In one of its main sessions on the current political conditions in Pakistan it was shown, maybe for the first time, that if people of different nationalities are encouraged and enabled to communicate in their own mother tongues, they come closer faster. On the contrary, if unity is sought through an enforced artificially created concept of a nation, based on religion and a national language spoken by a tiny minority, hostility, misunderstandings and mutual hatred develops. ….

Read more → WICHAAR.COM

Anti-American Coup in Pakistan?

By Stanley Kurtz

The Washington Post and New York Times today feature above-the-fold front-page articles about the deteriorating situation in Pakistan. Both pieces are disturbing, the Times account more so because it explicitly raises the prospect of an anti-American “colonels coup” against Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. With all the bad news coming out of this part of the world, and plenty of trouble here at home, it’s easy to ignore stories like this. Yet these two reports are among the most alarming and important we’ve seen in a long string of bad news from Pakistan and the Middle East.

Both articles make plain the extraordinary depth and breadth of anti-American sentiment among the commanders and the rank-and-file of Pakistan’s army. While America’s insistence on keeping the bin Laden raid secret, as well as our ability to pull it off without Pakistani interference, are the immediate causes of the anger, it’s obvious that a deeper anti-American sentiment as well as some level of sympathy for al-Qaeda are also at work.

Even now Pakistan’s army is forcing American operations out of the country. They have blocked the supply of food and water to our drone base, and are actively “strangling the alliance” by making things difficult for Americans in-country.

Unfortunately, it’s now time to at least begin thinking about what the United States should do in case of either an overt anti-American coup within Pakistan’s army, or in case Kayani himself is forced to effectively break relations. Although liberation from Pakistan’s double-game and reversion to honest hostility might come as a welcome relief to some, I see no good scenario here.

Should anti-American elements in Pakistan’s army displace Kayani, they would presumably hold our supply lines to Afghanistan hostage to a cessation of drone attacks. The step beyond that would be to cut off our Afghanistan supply lines altogether. Our minimum response to either of these moves would likely be a suspension of aid (on which Pakistan’s military is now dependent) and moves to provide India with technology that would give them major advantages over Pakistan. Pakistan may run eagerly into the arms of China at that point.

These developments would pose many further dangers and questions. Could we find new supply lines, and at what geo-strategic price? Should we strike terrorist refuges in Pakistan, perhaps clashing with Pakistan’s own forces as we do so? Would Pakistan actively join the Taliban to fight us in Afghanistan? In short, would the outcome of a break between America and Pakistan be war–whether low-level or outright?

There is no good or easy answer here. If there is any single spot it would be hardest for America to walk away from conflict, Pakistan is it. Bin Laden was not alone. Pakistan shelters our greatest terrorist enemies. An inability to strike them there would be intolerable, both in terms of the danger posed for terrorism here in the United States, and for the safety of our troops in Afghanistan.

Yet the fundamental problem remains Pakistan’s nuclear capacity, as well as the sympathy of many of its people with our enemies. Successful clashes with Pakistan’s military may only prompt sympathizers to hand nuclear material to al-Qaeda. The army is virtually the only thing holding Pakistan together. A military defeat and splintering of the army could bring an Islamist coup, or at least the fragmentation of the country, and consequent massive expansion of its lawless regions. These gloomy prospects probably explain why our defense officials keep counseling patience, even as the insults from Pakistan grow.

An important question here is just how Islamist the anti-American elements of Pakistan’s military now are. Is the current trouble primarily a matter of nationalist resentment at America’s killing of bin Laden, or is this a case of outright sympathy for al-Qaeda and the Taliban in much of the army?

The answer is probably a bit of both. The difficulty is that the precise balance may not matter that much. We’ve seen in Egypt that a secular the military is perfectly capable of striking up a cautious alliance with newly empowered Islamist forces. The same thing could happen in Pakistan in the advent of an anti-American military coup. Pakistan may not be ethnically Arab, but it’s continued deterioration may be the unhappy harbinger of the so-called Arab Spring’s outcome, I fear.

At any rate, it’s time to begin at least gaming out worst-case scenarios in Pakistan.

Courtesy:  National Review Online

Via Wichaar

Devolution of HEC: Which model should we follow?

by Azhar Ali Shah

According to some HEC officials and other educationists, though the Western model of devolved higher education system is good but it may not be suitable for us to follow and that we should look at our neighbors China, Saudi, Iran and India for developing our system! One wonders whom our neighboring countries are going to follow? And the answer is the West!

Take for example China’s experience with higher education as described by Xin-Ran Duan [1]. Though initially based on the ideas of Confucius, China’s higher education adopted western (US) model with the establishment of Peiyang University in 1895 (changed its name to Tianjin University in 1951).

On becoming the People’s Republic of China in 1949, China changed its system of higher education from Western to Soviet Union. The difference between these two being that Western model was based on devolution in terms of management and common comprehensive university (one university for all disciplines) in terms of structure; while the Soviet model was based on over centralization of management and discipline specific universities in terms of structure (e.g., University of Engineering, University of Agriculture, University of Art and Literature etc.).

After the fall of Soviet Union in 1990s, China adopted open door-policy and started both devolving the power and management and merging the discipline specific universities into truly comprehensive universities following the advanced Western model again.

In order to describe how China’s over centralized system is going to devolve, I would like to present following excerpt from an article [1]:

One major change in governance has been the introduction of the “two-level education provision system,” in which the central government (Minister of Education) shares responsibility for educational governance with local governments (provincial bureaus of education). The provincial bureaus of education have been assigned greater responsibilities and now directly administer most common universities and colleges. The chief executive officer of a university is the president, who is usually appointed by the government. In the past, appointments were made without public hearings, interviews, or competition among candidates. The introduction of these processes has had a positive effect [1].

So having gone through this are we still going to follow China, India, Saudi and others who are themselves evolving to adopt advanced Western model! Our 1973 constitution placed some subjects on concurrent list only for 10 years (I repeat for 10 year only) so the country develops the resources at center and then devolves to strengthen the provinces. HEC has developed its capacity in 10 years and that is the maximum as per example of 1973 constitution which we need to transfer to provinces so they provide the same services even in a more efficient, fair and democratic way.

It is therefore, HEC officials along with educationists, experts and general public join the hands to start what we believe are good things developed by HEC and evolve it further with the participation of all of us. Why do HEC officials think that they could do this work while only sitting at Islamabad? What is the point? What if sub teams of these persons along some additional persons are provided the same setup and resources at provinces? Why they can’t work there exactly in the same way as they are working in Islamabad?

It is in the light of the above that we request HEC officials along with our friends in the academia to kindly help our provinces in setting up the same bodies at provincial level and do away with the centralized HEC. These opportunities for change come once in a generation and should not be lost in the narrow mindedness of bureaucratic hurdles. In order to build a true Pakistan, we have to build our system at local level, which is fair, transparent, democratic, honest and trustworthy. This might require some personnel sacrifices but that is the way to go ahead if we are really sincere with our country as a whole!

PS: BTW, HEC still follows the outdated Soviet Model not only in terms of centralization but

Continue reading Devolution of HEC: Which model should we follow?

The survey was a huge failure;

In Africa they didn’t know what ‘* food*’ meant,
In
India they didn’t know what ‘*honest*’ meant,
In
Europe they didn’t know what ‘* shortage*’ meant,
In
China they didn’t know what ‘*opinion*’ meant,
In the
Middle East they didn’t know what ‘*solution *’
meant,
In
South America they didn’t know what ‘*please*’
meant,
And in the
USA they didn’t know what ‘* the rest of the
world
*’ meant!