Tag Archives: narrow

Be critical – By: Nadeem F. Paracha

In spite of the gradual infiltration of ubiquitous religious symbolism and mentality in the social spheres of everyday life, Pakistan has managed to remain afloat as a dynamically pluralistic society comprising various ethnicities, religions and Islamic sects.

However, starting in the late 1970s, an anti-pluralistic process was initiated by the Zia-ul-Haq dictatorship that soon spiralled beyond mere posturing and sloganeering.

With the ‘Afghan jihad’ raging against the former Soviet Union, Zia, his intelligence agencies, and parties like Jamat-i-Islami and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam started embracing a narrow and highly political version of Islam.

This was done to radicalise large sections of the Pakistani Muslims who had historically been a part of more apolitical strains of the faith — the kind that over the centuries had evolved within the largely pluralistic milieu of the subcontinent.

Continue reading Be critical – By: Nadeem F. Paracha

Pakistan – Mother of all conspiracies

Mother of all conspiracies

by Omar Ali

A narrow coterie of military officers, mullahs and bureaucrats relies on the conspiracy theories to keep their flock in line. They use them to cover up their own crimes and shortcomings and hide their own dirty deals

Conspiracy theories exist in every corner of the globe and the world being what it is, some must be true. As social animals, we naturally organize into an endlessly branching tree of groups and subgroups, all eyeing relatively scarce resources. Sometimes we cooperate with other groups in mutually beneficial arrangements, but all too frequently we fight, literally or figuratively. This competition takes all forms, from ordered and rule-bound competition to a vicious struggle without rules or limits. In this endless struggle the existence of conspiracies is not only expected, it is the norm. For after all, what is a conspiracy? It is a certain group of humans getting together in secret to plot against other humans. Looked at it this way, all nations and groups probably launch some secret cooperative efforts against their competitors.

But when we talk of conspiracy theories, we are talking about deeper and darker myths, not these run of the mill plots and plans. We are talking of paranoid fantasies that connect disparate events and usually imagine one vast conspiracy where a hundred different conspiracies may be working at cross purposes. These are the big daddies of the conspiracy world: the protocols of the elders of Zion, the trilateral commission, the black helicopter people. These theories inflate the cohesion, camaraderie and capabilities of one group of people (the Jews, the corporate barons, the “Hinjews”) well beyond the realm of the humanly possible, while demoting everyone else to helpless victim and clueless idiot. Such paranoid fantasies are not confined to any one country or people. Moronic paranoid conspiracy theories circulate at the fringes of every society. But some countries and populations do seem to have a special fondness for them. Luckily or unluckily, we are one such country, and Muslims in general seem to be one such people.

Why? The psychology and sociology literature overflows with explanations. One theory holds that conspiracy theories are the last refuge of the powerless. People who feel they have no control over their own lives look for supermen (and women) who are responsible for their predicament. Others blame modernization, or the dislocation caused by the collapse of traditional society, or sky-god religions that are already primed to see the invisible hand of one grand actor behind all events. Some of these theories are probably correct, but there is another factor that deserves consideration: a conspiracy; a conspiracy to promote conspiracy theories.

I am saying that people in Pakistan do not just believe in wild conspiracy theories because they are un-informed or illiterate (in fact, that last chestnut is clearly false, the biggest believers are all literate). Neither do they do so just because they are powerless or because their traditional worldview is collapsing in front of their eyes or because they already believe in an all-powerful deity. All those may be factors, but let us not forget one more reason they believe in wild conspiracy theories: because their leaders of public opinion tell them it is so. In other words, the widespread belief in conspiracy theories is itself a conspiracy; a small group of men (it is always men) pick up the juiciest theories from some idiot American website (usually a White supremacist or paranoid brain-dead Leftie website) and spread them far and wide in the land of the pure. They plant them as stories on their websites. Then they get their own “news” outlets to pick up these stories, quoting their own websites as sources. Then they get their opinion leaders to repeat these conspiracies, using the media and the websites as sources if needed. There is, in short, a conspiracy to spread these conspiracy theories.

So it is that we find that large sections of the Pakistani middle class believe that everything that is wrong with Pakistan is due to a Hinjew conspiracy against Pakistan. Those Hinjews, otherwise so accursed and incompetent that their Akash tablets melt when used (and are, of course, no match for our superior PacPads), are so capable in the conspiracy field that hundreds of suicide bombers blow themselves up in their service and don’t even know they are serving the Hinjews. They are so brilliant that their controllers never get caught as they go around coordinating vast legions of agents in every civilian party and media outlet. They are so tightly knit that there has never been a fissure within the Hinjew ranks. No disgruntled Hinjews have come on TV to tell us that us all about their evil plot against GHQ. While our own ambassadors, prime ministers and presidents are all foreign agents, no Hinjew traitor betrays his own country. While our own intelligence service (the finest in the world) cannot catch one of these conspirators, their incompetent intelligence service has recruited our best and brightest by the thousands.

Why make people believe such things? One answer is that a narrow coterie of military officers, mullahs and bureaucrats relies on these conspiracies to keep their flock in line. They use them to cover up their own crimes and shortcomings and hide their own dirty deals. They use them to focus public resentment on a convenient faraway (and even mythical) enemy while ignoring proximate causes of their predicament. They use them to create an atmosphere where their own demented “policies” start to appear sane by comparison.

Or it may be that they themselves believe these things. Maybe there are psychological factors that drive our elite to first believe and then sell these conspiracies; this implies that the drivers are not narrow self-interest, but widespread self-delusion amongst the elite. Maybe because of the difficulties of patching together an identity from a flawed and rather superficial foundational myth; or the cognitive dissonance between their own partly (or even mostly) Indian cultural and biological roots and their professed un-Indian ideals. One could make up socio-psychological mumbo-jumbo for days with this rich material. And it could be that both theories are true. Self-delusion and self-interest are happily married and produce endless red-hatted conspiracy theorists when they bed together. But is that all, or could there be, perhaps, a conspiracy behind this conspiracy to sell conspiracy theories to our middle class?

Here, I revert to my own Pakistani roots and present to you the mother of all conspiracies; this conspiracy that peddles incredible bullshit with unbelievable vigor on a hundred Paknationalist websites is itself a Hinjew conspiracy! Our conspiracy theorists are themselves the agents of RAW and Mossad. They have been directed to plant these conspiracy theories in order to ensure that middle class educated Pakistanis remain mired in stupid, moronic, illogical and contradictory conspiracy theories and never figure out how they are being screwed and by whom. Just think about it. If you were a Mossad officer tasked with destroying Pakistan, would you waste time recruiting dangerous fanatics in faraway mountains when you could recruit a few people in Islamabad and make monkeys of the educated middle class? Doesn’t this explain everything? As the conspiracy theorists always tell us, just think about it….connect the dots.

Courtesy: ViewPoint

Via – Brown Pundits

New York Times – Can Egypt Avoid Pakistan’s Fate?

By MICHELE DUNNE and SHUJA NAWAZ

ONE year after the revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian military is closing down civil society organizations and trying to manipulate the constitution-writing process to serve its narrow interests. Meanwhile, in Pakistan, where the military has also held sway for more than half the country’s existence – for much of that time, with America’s blessing – a new civil-military crisis is brewing.

For the United States, the parallels are clear and painful. Egypt and Pakistan are populous Muslim-majority nations in conflict-ridden regions, and both have long been allies and recipients of extensive military and economic aid.

Historically, American aid tapers off in Pakistan whenever civilians come to power. And in Egypt, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both resisted pressure from Congress to cut aid to Mr. Mubarak despite his repression of peaceful dissidents.

It is no wonder that both Egyptians and Pakistanis express more anger than appreciation toward the United States. They have seen Washington turn a blind eye to human-rights abuses and antidemocratic practices because of a desire to pursue regional objectives – Israeli security in the case of Egypt, and fighting Al Qaeda in the case of Pakistan.

The question now is whether the United States will, a year after the Egyptian revolution, stand by and allow the Pakistani model of military dominance and a hobbled civilian government to be replicated on the Nile.

Pakistan and Egypt each have powerful intelligence and internal security agencies that have acquired extra-legal powers they will not relinquish easily. Pakistan’s history of fomenting insurgencies in neighboring countries has caused serious problems for the United States. And Egypt’s internal security forces have been accused of involvement in domestic terrorist attacks and sectarian violence. (However, Washington has long seen Egypt’s military as a stabilizing force that keeps the peace with Israel.)

The danger is that in the future, without accountability to elected civilian authorities, the Egyptian military and security services will seek to increase their power by manipulating Islamic extremist organizations in volatile and strategically sensitive areas like the Sinai Peninsula.

Despite the security forces’ constant meddling in politics, Pakistan at least has a Constitution that establishes civilian supremacy over the military. Alarmingly, Egypt’s army is seeking even greater influence than what Pakistan’s top brass now enjoys: an explicit political role, and freedom from civilian oversight enshrined in law.

Continue reading New York Times – Can Egypt Avoid Pakistan’s Fate?

Why to blame MQM, when PPP leadership is there for capitulation to preserve their narrow personal short-term interests and has nothing to do with the welfare of the people

– Potters’ wares – by Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

Watayo Faqir is to Sindh what Mullah Naseerudin is to Turkey, Afghanistan and Central Asia. Once someone informed Watayo that his mother had gone crazy and was writhing in the dust in the city centre; knowing his mother acted oddly at times he was nonetheless surprised. Reaching home he inquired; she replied that having seen a rupee coin in the path and thinking that if she picks it up someone would claim it, the best way was to act crazy and pocket it without anyone suspecting. Watayo said, “I knew my mother would not be all that crazy without a very good reason.”

What the PPP leadership terms as the policy of reconciliation is in fact a policy of capitulation for preserving their narrow personal short-term interests and has nothing to do with the welfare or benefit of the people in general and Sindhis in particular. But then nothing better can be expected from people whose politics are based on self-interest.

National interest and preservation of democracy is mendaciously bandied about as the reason behind the vacillations, oscillations, dithering and capitulation of the PPP, which would shame even the most brazen politician of any country, to appease the MQM. The sole purpose behind these brazen transmogrifications is the self-interest of the elite of these two parties who do not even bother to ask their colleagues’ opinions. Syed Zafar Ali Shah, Taj Haider and Nabeel Gabol have come out openly against this ludicrous pantomime. Naturally, no one from the MQM wants to end up in a gunny bag so there has not been a squeak from anyone; any way why would the victors complain?

The resentment amongst the people of Sindh is palpable and their anger at the PPP’s capitulation was expressed by the success of the strike called by the nationalist parties on August 8 and 13. Even PPP members have taken to the streets against the latest capitulation. This pusillanimous and chronic backtracking has made them an object of ridicule and derision for common people because those who forge and implement these preposterous decisions live in inaccessible mansions away from the grubby masses. This habitual volte-face along with the carefree attitude towards the views and problems of workers is isolating the PPP from whatever support that has survived.

The MQM is a different entity; it is ruled from London and only absolute submission is the rule — dissenters are meted out horrible punishments. It is a party that is based on terror, oiled by terror and thrives on terror. This is how this organisation is run and there is no other way for its survival. A quote by George MacDonald (1824-1905), a Scottish poet and author, fits to a T all fascist organisations and individuals. He says, “A beast does not know that he is a beast, and the nearer a man gets to being a beast, the less he knows it.”

The terrorism perpetrated after Zulfiqar Mirza’s statement left a trail of destruction in its wake because the call to teach him a lesson resulted in a score killed and properties and vehicles destroyed. This carnage was one of the sequels of the May 12 incident; there have been quite a few follow up episodes of that successful run of the show by the MQM during the Musharraf era. Oddly, no one is ready to blame the real culprits in Karachi.

The much flaunted powerbase and mandate have been acquired by sowing terror. All elections are massively rigged and manipulated and all parties practice it in places where they can cow the election staff. The MQM always boasts of a mind-boggling number of votes cast in their constituencies and this they do through fraudulently stuffing ballot boxes. The number of votes that the MQM claims cannot physically be cast in the limited time period and the cumbersome procedure that is required to cast a single vote. This rigging is done to lay claim to being the majority’s representative. This comes in handy to intimidate others into submission through threats. A heavy and unhindered presence of international observers during the elections could expose this mandate farce any day. …

Read more → Daily Times

Sindh: Condemnation of Massacre During Recent Riots

– In a press statement issued today [July 16, 2011], World Sindhi Congress (WSC) strongly condemned the barbaric massacre of innocent people in recent clashes in the major cities of Sindh including Karachi and Hyderabad.

The killings started when Sindh Assembly withdrawn the so-called Local Government system and restored Commissionerate system in Sindh. The local government system was imposed by force by the military dictator General Musharaf against the popular wishes, demands and struggle of Sindhi people. The system completely undermined the historical, political, social, economic and educational rights of Sindhi people. Under the patronage of this system the complete control of the urban centres was handed over to Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). The historical Hyderabad district was divided in four districts, five districts of Karachi were amalgamated in one, other districts were also divided. Most districts were handed over to criminal feudals to punish Sindhi people and suffocate their social and economic progress. As a result of this system the entry to educational institutions and jobs in the urban areas, particularly in Karachi was systematically denied to Sindhi people, Sindhi villages in Karachi were bulldozed and Sindhis were forced to live and suffer one of the worst apartheid in their own land.

The first thing that all Sindhi people hoped and demanded from Peoples Party was to abandon the draconian local government system when they came in power on the almost unanimous vote of Sindhi people. Unfortunately Peoples Party failed to deliver for three and half years on this issue of utmost significance for Sindhi people resulting from their compromise with MQM to remain in power at the any cost. MQM was and is the strongest supporter of this system as it provided them a disproportionate and complete hegemony over Karachi and Hyderabad.

The withdrawal of the local government system was completed in all other parts of Pakistan almost a year ago. It was kept only in Sindh at the sole insistence of MQM. It was withdrawn from Sindh by an over-whelming majority of Sindh Assembly. All parties in the Sindh Assembly except MQM supported the changes. In all the democratic sprits and norms MQM should have accepted this verdict as it was a unanimous demand of Sindhi people and democratically passed by an overwhelming majority of Sindh Assembly. However, it is really unfortunate to see how MQM has reacted violently and undemocratically. Consequently the situation is very sad as it has resulted in the massacre of scores of innocent men, women and children.

WSC condemn the irresponsible statements of Zulfiqar Mirza which were divisive and aimed to flame the riots among people of Sindh. ….

Sindhis have thousands year old traditions and civilisation of tolerance and peace and have demonstrated this times and time again. Sadly MQM in spite of their proclamations that they are sons of Sindh, have demonstrated through their actions that they only represent the narrow and many-times anti-Sindh ethnic interests  ….

Read more → UNPO

Zero-sum politics

By Shahab Usto

SINDH: KARACHI, a city that is known both for its unending expansion and opportunities and recurrent deaths and desolation, has, in recent days, once again fallen victim to the narrow political interests of its `masters` and `claimants` who refuse to recognise the complexity of the city`s nature. …

Read more → DAWN.COM

Religious fascism – a threat within

by Shafqat Aziz

The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. Instead of altering their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views… which can be very uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that need altering.” –Dr Who

How true is the above quote in regard to prevailing fascist mindset deep rooted in Pakistani society. Yes, fascist tendencies could be found in any society. These are however fringed and alienated from mainstream. Besides, the state, law of land and society itself always remains vigilant about the activities of such fringed elements and never allow them to impose their views on others by use of any coercive tool. It is so because civilized societies are fully aware of the potential of this threat. They have observed and experienced the devastation done by fascist approaches for entire humanity and especially, for the societies that perpetuate such tendencies.

However, the case of Pakistan society vis-à-vis fascism is all together different. Here, fascism is not an isolated phenomenon. Instead, a significant chunk of the entire population including the majority of the urban middle class is now fully inflicted with this disease. The rests are also drifting towards this trend with an unchecked and alarming pace. The urban youth, belonging to upper and lower middle class has developed themselves as brainless zombies, devoid of any reasoning and logic. Their thought patrons are amazingly indistinguishable from each other. Yes, their looks and life style could be different. But they are all equipped with same set of absurd conspiracy theories with an extremely narrow and dangerous worldview. …

Read more → ViewPoint

How Indian Muslims see Pakistan

Concerns about growing religious extremism in the neighbouring Islamic republic have been growing since 2001

By Aakar Patel

How is Pakistan seen by India’s Muslims? Since 2001, the view has turned increasingly negative. Let’s have a look at such views in three very different Indian publications. One is the conservative Urdu daily Inquilab, read almost exclusively by Muslims. The second, the liberal online paper New Age Islam, published in Urdu and English. Lastly, the Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s organ Panchjanya, published in Hindi and read almost exclusively by Hindus.

In India’s biggest Urdu newspaper Inquilab, Khalid Sheikh wrote under the headline ‘ Pakistan ka kya hoga?’ He felt Pakistan’s current problems were the result of its own doing (” jaisi karni waisi bharni“). The nation should have known the consequences of using terror to combat India, he said. The world was not unaware of its breeding of Al Qaeda and the Taliban (” sanpolon ko doodh pilaya“). Now the snakes were poised to swallow Pakistan (” nigalne ke dar pe hain“).

Pakistan’s leaders were unconcerned (” kaanon par joon tak nahin rengi“). But the world was watching it. The ease with which the Taliban had attacked and destroyed the P3C Orions in Karachi had worried America, Sheikh wrote. It was now concerned about how safe Pakistan’s atom bombs, which numbered between 70 and 120, were.

In 2001 Pakistan was viewed as a failed state (” nakaam riasat“). After Osama bin Laden’s killing, it won’t be long before it is seen as a rogue state (” badmaash riasat mein tabdeel hote dair nahin lagegi“).

At the time of Partition, it had been predicted by the wise (” sahib-e-baseerat“) that Pakistan would find it difficult to exist (” apna wajood rakhna dushwar hoga“). Sheikh quoted Maulana Azad as writing in ‘India Wins Freedom’ that Pakistan would be unable to find its bearings (” Pakistan kabhi paedar aur mustahkam na reh sakega“). Its foreign policy consisted of hating India (” Hindustan dushmani“) and pleasing America (” Amrika khushnudi“).

The writer thought Pakistan’s insistence that relations with India would improve if the Kashmir issue was settled was untrue (” dhakosla hai“). Pakistan was an unreliable neighbour (” ghair-mu’atbar padosi“) which was a master of creating tension. If Kashmir was resolved, something else would be conjured up.

Sheikh praised Nawaz Sharif’s statement that Pakistan had to stop hating India if it had to progress. US President Barack Obama had said the same thing and America ought to, as France had, terminate military assistance to Pakistan.

Answering the question he had first raised, Sheikh said it was difficult to say what would become of Pakistan because it seemed beyond redemption (” aise mulk ke bare mein kya kaha jaye jahan aawe ka aawa hi bigda hua hai“).

In New Age Islam, Dr Shabbir Ahmed wrote on the blasphemy law under the headline ‘ Pakistan mein tauhin-e-Rasul (PBUH) ka wahshiana qanoon‘. Ahmed said Pakistan was obsessed by this issue (“ hysteria mein jakda hua hai”). Narrow sectarianism had divided the nation, and every sect thought of others as faithless and hated them.

This frenzy was plunging Pakistan into a state of barbarism (” jahiliyat mein ghota zan hai“). Ahmed feared Pakistan might succumb to civil war (“ aisa na ho ke Pakistan khana jangi mein gharq ho jae“).

He said Pakistanis had divided Islam (” deen ko tukdon mein baant diya hai“), and quoted verses from the Holy Quran on the Romans (30:32) to support his argument. It was unfortunate that the majority of Pakistanis, including the educated, were in agreement with disagreeable mullahs. Even intellectuals and lawyers had signed on (” scholars aur wukla ne tauhin-e-Rasul (PBUH) qanoon ki puri himayat ki hai”).

People believed that punishing blasphemy with death was law in five out of 54 Islamic states, but when asked, only two could be named: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. It was difficult to name other states with such harsh laws, though Afghanistan, Sudan and Iran came to mind.

Ahmed wrote that the Holy Quran prescribed no punishment for blasphemy. No one could be ignorant of the clarity of the ayat ” la ikraha fi ad-deen” (there is no compulsion in religion) because Allah had sent this message to all humanity. This principle was independent and absolute (” is usool mein kisi tarah ki ki riayyat bhi nahin hai“). With many examples, Ahmed pointed to the pardoning and gentle nature of Islam and of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), which he felt was being distorted by Pakistan’s law.

In Panchjanya, the RSS Hindi weekly, Muzaffar Hussain wrote on May 22 under the headline ” Adhikansh Pakistani Islami khilafat ke paksh mein” (A majority of Pakistanis favours khilafat).

He reported the findings of an opinion poll. The market research company MEMRB had surveyed Pakistanis to ask them what sort of government they wanted. Did they want khilafat as prescribed by Islam? They were also offered the option of tyranny (” anya vikalpon mein janta se poocha hai ke kya woh tanashahi pasand karenge?”). Hussain wrote that by this was meant martial law, and it was related to something found commonly in Muslim nations. This was the presence of sheikhs and kings (” Islami deshon mein aaj bhi raja aur sheikh hain”) who ruled through lineage for generations. The last option offered was democracy “as the world knew it”.

The results were unsurprising to Hussain. The majority of Pakistanis picked khilafat, for which the Taliban were also agitating. How was it possible, then, that anybody could defy the Taliban?

Neutral Pakistanis (” Tattastha log”) were merely being realistic in staying silent against extremism. Why should anyone endanger their life by opposing khilafat? (” Islami khilafat ka virodh karne ki himmat kaun kar sakta hai?”)

The survey was conducted in 30 cities and 60 villages. Those in favour of khilafat were 56%. These people said that Pakistan’s creation was rooted in religion and the state should therefore be Islamic. Those favouring dictatorship were 22%. They felt Pakistan had progressed only under military strongmen (” jo pragati hui hai woh keval sainik tanashahon ke karan hui hai“). Only 11% of Pakistanis preferred secular democracy. These figures did not vary significantly between urban respondents and those in villages, those who conducted the survey said. There was some difference however with respect to the residents of Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad. In these cities, 40% preferred martial law and 39% preferred khilafat. In Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, those who wanted khilafat were 60%. In Balochistan and Sindh, about 35% preferred martial law.

The survey did not vary much by age. Those between 16 and 60 preferred khilafat by 66%. Surprisingly, both the illiterate and the very literate approved of khilafat.

Hussain felt that the collapse of the Turkish caliphate had left Muslim nations in disarray (” Islami jagat titar-bitar ho gaya hai”). Both Bhutto and Gen Zia had wanted Saudi Arabia’s king to be crowned caliph of all Muslims.

Aakar Patel is a director with Hill Road Media, Mumbai.

Courtesy: → The Friday Times

Myths Monsters and Jihad

Myths and monsters – by Nadeem F. Paracha

In spite of the gradual infiltration of ubiquitous religious symbolism and mentality in the social spheres of everyday life, Pakistan has managed to remain afloat as a pluralistic society comprising various ethnicities, religions and Muslim sects.

However, starting in the late 1970s, an anti-pluralistic process was initiated by the Ziaul Haq dictatorship that soon spiralled beyond mere posturing and sloganeering.

With the ‘Afghan jihad’ raging against the former Soviet Union, Zia, his intelligence agencies and parties like the Jamat-i-Islami and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam started embracing a narrow and highly politicised version of Islam. This was done to radicalise large sections of Pakistani Muslims who had historically been part of a more apolitical and tolerant strains of the faith.

Most Pakistanis related to the shrine culture and the sufi traditions of the subcontinent, and thus, were least suitable to fight a ‘jihad’ that Zia was planning to peddle in Afghanistan at the behest of the CIA. Pakistanis’ beliefs were not compatible at all with this new strain of a political Islam. To compensate this ideological ‘deficiency’, the Zia regime (with American and Arab money) helped start indoctrination centres in the shape of thousands of jihadist madrassas.

Almost all of them were run by radical puritans. These were preachers and ‘scholars’ who had become critical of the strains of the faith that most Pakistanis adhered to. Accusing these strains of being ‘adulterated’, they advocated the more assertive charms of ‘political Islam’, of the likes recommended by Abul Ala Maududi, Sayyid Qutb and Khurram Murad. …

Read more : DAWN

Were we really tolerant before the jihadis? – Dr Manzur Ejaz

Whether led by mature middle-class people or otherwise, the extremist religious movements draw most of their following from the new urbanite classes. In most cases, they have become the source of religious violence

Pakistanis must ask a central question: were we really tolerant people before Zia’s Islamisation or we were only naively indolent, prone to be violent at any moment? It is a common belief in Pakistan that when Zia, alongside the US, created violent jihadi organisations, they created hysteria in the public with narrow-mindedness ruling and people killing for frivolous reasons. Two questions come to mind about this explanation. One, were we really consciously ever a tolerant society for the jihadis to destroy? And two, how can we use this explanation to explain the parallel rise of extremist political Hinduism in India?

While talking about the killing fields that jihadis have created, we forget that the carnage of 1947 in Punjab cost more lives than the total number of people killed by jihadi violence in the last 20 years in Pakistan. Everyone blames the people of ‘other religions’ for the 1947 tragedy but, wherever Muslims were in overwhelming majority, they killed Sikhs and Hindus. Conversely, they faced the same treatment in areas where they were a minority. Amrita Pritam rightly said, “Aaj sabhay Kaidoo hu gaiy, husan ishaq de chor” (Today, everyone has turned into a villain, enemy of love). What happened in 1947 is closely linked to what is happening now and what occurred in east Punjab’s Khalistan Movement, which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

Most of the 1947 killings were concentrated in the rural areas; there were some in urban centres but they were limited. Most of the stories I have heard from Punjabi Hindus and Sikhs migrating from Pakistan indicate that the urban non-Muslims did not lose their family members while the stories from the rural areas are horror tales. One of my maternal uncles was killed in a village in Gurdaspur but at the same time none of the two neighbouring village’s Sikhs were spared — entire villages were murdered. How can so-called innocent rural people become murderous?

It can be argued that from the second to third centuries, the way the Gupta dynasty established self-sufficient but desolate and isolated village communities contributed to the religious violence of 1947, and even presently. When the Maurya Dynasty’s state ownership of entire land and manufacturing became unsustainable, it was replaced by self-sufficient village communities. Every community was required by the king’s law to have all kinds of artisans who were given a little land, residential and agricultural, and fixed shares of peasant produce. Consequently, the village communities had no need or desire to interact with other communities or reach beyond their own. Only a few traders and vendors were the link between the village and the rest of the world. The vendor, or vanjara in Punjabi, became a hero in folk songs because he was the only link with the outside world.

Due to the total absence of interaction and exchange of thought with the rest of the world, the village communities became lonesome entities. Mental horizons shrank and one generation of people was replaced with an identical next one. The village was considered a homeland or country whose honour was to be protected. This is why, during inter-village festivals, people would carry weapons as the possibility of war between the people of different villages was very real.

In eastern Punjab, some village communities were comprised of people of all religions but, when the British colonised western Punjab through an irrigation system, the village communities were established exclusively on religious basis. Therefore, another layer of separation was put in place where people of one religion became aliens for the other. The British education system did not mitigate such a separation because of the imposition of Urdu and denial of Punjabi identity. As a result, Sikhs limited themselves to the Gurmukhi script and Muslims to the Persian script. This was another fundamental divide created by the British. In Sindh, where Sindhi was made the official language and everyone used the same script, inter-religious hostility was a little less and did not lead to carnage in 1947. In the urban centres of Punjab where, despite furious religious political divides, the interaction between people was much better and the level of violence was also lower in 1947. ….

Read more : 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?

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