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The dream of a new start in Pakistan

By Omar Ali

The rise of Imran Khan and memogate have enthused those who dream of a “reformed” democracy under the guiding hand of the army.

A few days ago, I was planning to write about Imran Khan. Pakistan’s most successful cricket captain and philanthropist had been trying to add “successful politician” to his resume since 1996, but after many years in the political wilderness he finally seemed to make a breakthrough with his large public meeting in Lahore. Pakistan’s educated youth, in particular, appeared to be very excited about a politician for the first time in their young lives. But they were not alone; even the ageing British Marxist, Tariq Ali, threw caution to the winds and announced that Mr. Khan’s gathering was a sign that the “Arab Spring” had finally made it to Pakistan and was even larger than the huge rallies of Benazir Bhutto and her father in days gone by. Comrade Tariq seemed to have forgotten that the Arab Spring had come to Pakistan many decades before it belatedly reached the Arab world and never mind the size of the rally, which bore no comparison to Benazir’s historic 1986 rally. But, Tariq Ali’s flights of fancy notwithstanding, the rally was clearly large and the arrival of Mr. Khan as a politician with crowd support was a major event.

But then President Asif Ali Zardari called his U.S. ambassador Hussain Haqqani to return to Pakistan to explain his role in “memogate,” the still mysterious affair in which he apparently gave international fixer Mansoor Ijaz a memo that was passed on to Admiral Mullen. It is not yet clear who was behind the memo and what he hoped to accomplish; did the Zardari regime really fear a coup at a time when the army was on the back-foot and faced real public humiliation in Pakistan in May 2011? And if it did, why pick this circuitous route to look for American help? And how would a regime that is unable to control the army and fears a coup be able to turn around and completely defang the same army with U.S. help a few days later? Is there more to the story? We don’t know, and may never know, but the story is not over yet.

Both stories may even be related; there are suggestions that Mr. Khan’s sudden rise is not just spontaneous combustion but involves some help from “the agencies.” Circumstantial evidence in favour of this suspicion includes the obvious sympathy he is receiving from pro-military websites and the fact that his extremely “liberal” and reasonable interview with Karan Thapar has not ignited any firestorm of protest in the “Paknationalist” community — a community generally quick to jump on anyone who talks of improved relations with India or admits that we do have militants and that they do need to be eliminated. Memogate is even more obviously a story about the civilian-military divide in Pakistan and it is no secret that it is the army that is asking for his removal. Is this then the proverbial perfect storm that will sweep away the current civilian dispensation and replace it with that old favourite of the army and the middle class: a “caretaker government” that will rid us of “corrupt politicians” and “unpatriotic elements” and make Pakistan the China of South Asia?

I have no way of knowing if the time is nigh, but the dream of a new start is not a figment of my imagination. The military and its favourite intellectuals (and large sections of the middle class) seem to be in a permanent state of anticipation of the day when the military will sweep away this sorry scheme of things and then we will have order and progress. If pressed about the nature of the system that will replace the current system, the naïve foot soldiers may think of the late lamented (and mostly imaginary) caliphate if they are on the Islamist side of the fence; or of “reformed” and real democracy, the kind that does not elect Altaf Hussains and Asif Zardaris, if they are on the smaller westernised liberal side of the fence. But the army’s own house intellectuals are more likely to point to China. That the history of China and the ruling communist party has no resemblance to GHQ’s own history of inept and retrograde interference in Pakistani politics is something that is never brought up; apparently this time, the GHQ will start where the Chinese are today, having conveniently skipped an intervening century of mass movements, civil wars and revolutions, not to speak of 4000 years of civilisation and culture.

Of course, the system as it exists is unnatural. Either the army has to be brought to heel under an elected civilian regime or civilians have to be pushed aside for a more efficient form of military rule (even if it is in the garb of a civilian “caretaker regime”). The current “neither fish nor fowl” system will have to evolve in one direction or the other, or crises like memogate will continue to erupt. Since most people think the army has the upper hand, the second outcome appears more likely to them. It could be that Mr. Khan offers them the chance to have their cake and eat it too; he is genuinely popular and if his party wins the elections and comes to power, the army may have the regime it wants in a more legitimate manner. But this middle-class dream outcome also seems unlikely. It is hard to see how the PTI can win a majority in a genuine election. And with no plan beyond simplistic patriotic slogans, any such regime will soon face the same problems as the one it replaces.

That brings us to the second prediction: the current atmosphere of crisis will continue unabated no matter what arrangements are made by the army. The really critical problem in Pakistan is not “corrupt politicians.” In that respect, we are little different from India, Indonesia or many other countries not thought to be in terminal existential crisis. The real problem is that an overpopulated third world postcolonial state has not yet settled even the most fundamental issues about the nature of the state and its institutions. The “hard” version of the two-nation theory and its associated Islamism have helped to create a constituency for millenarian Islamist fantasies. And 20 years of training militants for “asymmetric warfare” against India has created an armed force and a safe haven for that force. These two streams have mingled to the point where the state faces civil war against its own creations. It is also a war for which the deep state lacks an adequate narrative, having spent decades nurturing a virulent anti-Indian and Islamist ideology that glorifies the very people they are now forced to fight. But fight them it must because its own interests lie with globalised capitalism, not militants. They may imagine they can again direct the war outwards to Afghanistan and Kashmir, but the militants have other ideas, and will not go quietly into the night. Even if they did, the legitimacy of the 1973 constitution and its institutions within the elite remains low and so the crisis of governance would continue.

So, after this doom and gloom, a faint “positive” prediction: There are better than even chances that eventually the deep state will be compelled to claw its way past all these problems to defeat the militants, make peace with India and establish a straightforward near-secular democratic system to run the country. All of that may look less than the paradise many Pakistanis are waiting for, but it’s what the world has to offer at this point in history and it is unlikely that the intellectual resources of GHQ will somehow produce an alternative that the rest of the world has not yet found. It will not be pretty, but it will be done.

Or they will fail, with unpredictable dire consequences for their own people and the region. Either way, India would do well to help positive trends and resist negative ones without losing sight of the big picture. I think Manmohan Singh realises that, I hope others do too.

Continue reading The dream of a new start in Pakistan

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Drivers of social change & mass awareness

by Waseem Altaf

The social media is now impacting the political scene in Pakistan too. The press conference of Zulfiqar Mirza and the recent speech of Altaf Hussain are thoroughly being discussed on the social media. Earlier the murder of Governor Salaman Taseer turned Facebook into a battleground between his supporters and opponents

Earlier civilizations relied on the oral tradition to pass on advice and knowledge from one generation to the next. The human development took a giant leap when man developed writing systems around 3200 BC. Human experience could now be preserved to be transmitted to posterity in a more organized and systematic manner. However handwritten material was restricted to a privileged class with tremendous influence of the clergy on the content. …

Read more → ViewPoint

Zulfiqar Mirza’s statement and resignation could be genuine

by Khalid Hashmani

Mr. Zulfiqar Mirza’s statement and resignation could be genuine or it could be simply a drama to convince Sindhis that at least some leaders of PPP are opposing MQM’s designs of hegemony over the matters of Karachi, Sindh. I am of the view that we should welcome all voices — be it from nationalist parties, PPP, or any other party that oppose violent means of MQM.

I believe that nationalist parties are neither strong enough nor unified enough to successfully oppose MQM’s armed cadres and a support from Urdu-speaking Mohajir population. They are no match to MQM’s 10,000 to 30,000 armed cadre who are ready to wedge terror in any part of Karachi, Sindh and harass any community in Karachi including their own Urdu speaking Mohajir population. Only PPP, having been in power for almost three years, has enough resources to credibly face MQM violence. The way I see the current situation, Pakistan’s military forces will not interfere in any matter that will burn their fingers with one or other section of populations. The rangers and police are largely afraid to pick on MQM. The only way to pressure MQM to shun the violence is if a unified force of all other communities oppose them. I hope you would recall that some nationalists criticized Mr. Zulfiqar Mirza when he gave very strong statements against MQM few months ago saying that PPP was dividing dividing Sindhi- and Urdu-speaking populations because they want to divide Sindh. Soon thereafter they turned around next to criticize PPP for not opposing MQM enough.

I am quite certain that once MQM realizes that they are facing a formidable and unified front supported by all other sections of populations in Sindh and particularly in Karachi, they might give up on violent methods and start acting in a civilized and democratic manner for resolution of issues.

Courtesy: Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups, 28 August, 2011.

G. M. Syed’s Birth Day in Jail, Living With Enemies, Palijo’s Ideology, Life in Jail

Notes From My Memory, Part VIII: G. M. Laghari, Syed’s Birth Day in Jail, Living With Enemies, Palijo’s Ideology, Life in Jail

By Mir Thebo

Excerpt:

…. Living with ideological enemies: It is very difficult to live with an ideological enemy in one compound especially when there is just no way to avoid or escape him. And what do you do if that ‘ideological enemy’ is Rasool Bux Palijo who is always eager to pinch you with sharp and dreadful remarks? When we were in jail together (1968), as I mentioned in my previous note, R. B. Palijo came with the idea on 17th January to celebrate G. M. Syed’s Birth Day! I thought it was his ploy to criticize and condemn us [Communist Party (CP)] on the national question. Palijo arranged a birthday cake and some refreshments for the day. We all sat together including two muhajir comrades and paid rich tributes to Saaeen G. M. Syed.

When my turn came to speak, I compared Syed with other historical personalities like Dr. Sun Yat Sen, (Chinese nationalist leader, who played a great role in 1911 Chinese nationalist revolution, which overthrew the Qing dynasty in China), Jawahar Lal Nehru and Khan Ghaffar Khan. When Palijo’s turn came, he brutally attacked my comparison of Syed with those leaders and said, ‘Syed is far above than these leaders. Mir has tried to minimize G. M. Syed’s stature and his role.’ In rhetorical manner, he continued: ‘G. M. Syed is equivalent to Marx, Lenin and Mao’. He said: ‘these people don’t know how great G. M. Syed is’. I was flabbergasted by Palijo’s remarks. We knew how Palijo used Syed’s personality for his own narrow political interests. He himself knew very well the place of Syed. But, alas, that has been Palijo’s style all along.

R. B. Palijo’s political ideology: For political purposes, Palijo used Mao Tse-Tung whose little red book was

compulsory for every Chinese to carry during the cultural revolution (1966 to 1976) otherwise one will be labeled as counter revolutionary or an agent of the enemy. Thousands of people were persecuted especially the writers, intellectuals and middle class people. They were ruthlessly taken from their homes in the cities and were uprooted and sent to far-flung rural areas. They were humiliated under the guidance of the so-called vigilant party committees and people were forced to confess that they were anti-party and reactionary to bring them to shame in the public. Same thing was practiced in the Soviet Union during the Stalin period. They called it ‘The Great Purge’ to purify the party and the society.

Palijo found it easy to convince his workers through this sacred red book that all are enemies except his party people and that he can expel any leader or worker in the name of the great cause or the party. The same practice was common in our party too. It was actually a common practice in 3rd. world countries. Therefore almost all parties were divided in many groups and during that period Euro Communism emerged. The Western European parties denounced the Soviet system of one party rule and the dictatorship of the proletariat and the concept of democratic socialism and multi-party system emerged. New ideas emerged in 1980s in the Soviet Union too. They were called Glasnost and Perestroika (openness and restructuring) and M. Gorbachev declared a famous quote for the liberals that ‘Man is above the Ideology, the ideology is not above the man’. Those who are still Marxists and glorify the former USSR, consider Gorbachev the traitor and the one who brought down the grand empire of the UNION OF THE SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLIC.

Palijo brought Mao’s thoughts to his workers and Sindhi peasants and mixed it with Sindhi nationalism and formulated the idea of a Chinese model revolution in Sindh and repeatedly told his innocent workers the famous quote of Mao that “all political power comes from the barrel of the gun”. But Mao’s revolution was typical Chinese revolution. Mao didn’t copy the Russian model and he was against Russia. Both the communist powers even went to a war in 1969 over some piece of land along one of the longest international borders between the two countries although they both believed in the ideology that in future states will wither away and only universal communism will prevail. More funny thing is that it was America, the big capitalist enemy, who stopped Russians from attacking Chinese nuclear installations and Russians backed off (US journalist Harrison Salisbury reported that Soviet sources implied a possible first strike against the Lop Nur basin nuclear test site; and military documents of the time indicate that the USSR had more nuclear-attack plans against China than against the US. The United States warned the USSR against launching a nuclear strike against China. WIKI). Mao didn’t use even Marx very much. He brought the revolution in his own way as he convinced Chinese people how to fulfill difficult task through this old Chinese saying, ‘The foolish old man who moves the mountain’. ….

To read complete article: Indus Herald

Animal rights in Islam

By Nilofar Ahmed

MANY Muslims appear to have a callous attitude where dealing with animals is concerned giving the impression that maybe their religion has no consideration for animals.

However, when we examine the Quran and hadith, we are pleasantly surprised to find that the opposite is true. Islam indeed places much importance on animals and on providing for them in a caring manner. There are five surahs whose titles are based on the names of animals.

Besides, the mention of animals is found throughout the Quran. In Surah Al-Anaam it is said, “There is no animal walking on the earth nor a bird flying on its two wings, except that they are (part of) communities like you” (6: 38). God, in His infinite wisdom, has organised even the most humble of creatures, like birds, bees and ants into communities so that they can work, communicate and survive according to strict ethical and organisational rules, without any deviation. All the creatures in the world, including the animals, glorify their Lord and “sing His praises” (17: 44). The living sing with their tongues, while the non-living with the tacit acquiescence of their condition. Prophet Nuh was asked to build a large boat under divine instructions: “Construct a boat under Our supervision and by Our inspiration, and do not address Me about those who are evil. They are sure to be drowned” (11: 38). The ones to be saved from the flood were the believers as well as a pair each of every species of animals:

“… We said, ‘Load aboard (animals), of every pair two, and of your household, leaving out those for whom the final verdict has already been passed. And (load) those who have come to believe” (11: 40). The fact that the command to save the animals came before the command to save the believers, points to the importance of the animals that were on the verge of becoming endangered species at that point in time.

The Quran relates the story of the Thamud, Prophet Salih’s nation to whom he had been sent to reform their ways, to call them towards the One God and to supervise the equitable distribution of their means of subsistence. He reached an agreement with the nine leaders who had control over the sources of water, which the people and the she-camel (that was sent as a sign, or miracle, from God), would take turns to consume. They were also asked to share the pastures.

“Indeed, there has come to you a miracle from your Lord, this is God’s she-camel, a clear sign. Let her graze freely in God’s earth. Do not touch her with bad intentions, or you will get caught in painful retribution” (6: 73) But they broke their promise and killed her (7: 77-78). Since the whole nation had colluded in this, the whole nation was destroyed. The immediate cause of their destruction was that they had harmed the she-camel.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is reported to have said that if the smallest of birds is killed without its right and thrown away, this act will be questioned as a crime. …

Read more : DAWN

Who can check them? Unfortunately no body !

Who can check them? — Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

Excerpt:

…. The ‘establishment’ with its ‘solution by force policy’ has created irresolvable resentment among a majority of Baloch. ‘Balochistan: Waiting for justice’ editorial in Daily Times on February 28 has put the matter in proper perspective, “Pakistan’s security establishment has dealt with Balochistan in a very heavy-handed manner. The largest province of Pakistan has seen little development over the last six decades. Lack of education, infrastructure and political power has alienated the Baloch from the rest of the country, particularly Punjab, which they see as their ‘enemy’. The recent policy of eliminating moderate nationalists, who are in open national politics, is a dangerous trend. Thousands of Baloch have disappeared under mysterious circumstances or have been picked up by unknown elements. They are not only tortured but many of them are killed brutally and their bodies are later found from different parts of Balochistan. This policy adopted by our security establishment is leading to an increase in separatist sentiment among the Baloch.

“It is no secret that neither the federal government nor the provincial government has any real say when it comes to Balochistan. The real power lies with our security establishment, which has a narrow and non-political repressive policy. It is time that they understand that force, repression and killing cannot resolve this issue. A political solution is needed and for that the democratic government needs to run the show. The Baloch have been waiting for justice for decades now. It is time to address their grievances.”

Significantly even Balochistan’s Advocate General (AG) Salahuddin Mengal stated in Supreme Court that, “We are recovering dead bodies day in and day out as the Frontier Corps (FC) and police are lifting people in broad daylight at will, but we are helpless. Who can check the FC?” Who would know better than him about perpetrators of brutal killings of which my old student Faiz Mohammad Marri is the latest victim. Only the iron-will and determination of the people can check the oppressors because history moves relentlessly however brutal the repression. …

Read more : Daily Times