Tag Archives: Paradise

Kashmir: A troubled paradise

– As a child growing up after India’s partition, Kashmir to me was always a part of India. Only in middle school did I begin to realize that it was considered “disputed territory” by much of the world, the sentiment being especially fierce in neighboring Pakistan. The map of India that we studied in school showed Indian Kashmir as a larger territory than what was actually under Indian control. Parts of it in the north and the west were in reality, within China and Pakistan. The scenic northernmost state, a popular destination for summer tourism and the backdrop of many a puerile romantic song & dance number of made-in-Bombay movies, was not a very urgent topic of discussion for the general Indian public. Kashmir for most Indians, evoked benign, pretty images of apple, apricot and walnut orchards, chinar trees, shimmering lakes, snow capped mountains, houseboats, fine pashmina shawls, lacquered papier mache ornaments and the valley’s light skinned aloof inhabitants.

Later in my teen years I began to understand that Kashmir was not the placid paradise we had imagined as children. Its politics were complicated and its population sharply divided on the state’s rightful status – part of India, part of Pakistan or a wholly independent/ autonomous entity. The difference of opinion fell across religious lines. Kashmiri Hindus wished to remain with India and the majority Muslim population of the state did not. Even then, things were mostly quiet and free of turmoil. There were quite a few Kashmiri students in my school. Many had ancestral homes and relatives in Kashmir and they visited there regularly during summer breaks. Those friends were all Hindus. Come to think of it, I did not know a single Kashmiri Muslim on a personal level until I was in college. There were Muslim traders and merchants who came down to major Indian cities bearing expensive and much coveted Kashmiri merchandise such as saffron, dried fruit, nuts and embroidered woollens, but they did not reside in the plains permanently and their children did not attend our schools. The first Kashmiri Muslim I came to know well was Agha Shahid Ali, a graduate student a few years ahead of me in Delhi University who later became a lecturer of English at my college as also a poet of some renown. It was Ali who first revealed to me that most Kashmiri Muslims did not identify themselves as Indians and many felt a greater emotional and cultural allegiance with Pakistan. An equal number wanted an autonomous state with a very loose federation with India for economic reasons. The Indian government spent large sums of money to subsidize the state’s economy and prohibited non-Kashmiris from buying land there while also meddling in local politics. Kashmiris became increasingly suspicious of the central government’s motives and the rift with India widened both politically and culturally.

Despite tensions and uncertainties, Kashmir never experienced the sectarian violence that had racked the eastern and western wings of India around partition time. Even when India and Pakistan fought several wars over their disagreement surrounding the region, Kashmir itself remained relatively free of communal strife for many decades after India’s independence. The uneasy calm ended in the late 1980s and early ’90s when the Kashmir valley became a battle ground for armed insurgents trained in Pakistan and the Indian military forces. The conflict caused a communal rift among long time residents and resulted in a mass exodus (some say expulsion) of Kashmiri Hindus from their homes. Those tensions remain to this day laced with bitterness on both sides.

I had never visited Kashmir when I lived in India. By the time the political upheaval unfolded in the 1990s, I had already left and had been living abroad for a decade. Kashmir’s troubles and deteriorating political situation were not something I paid close attention to until the Kargil War erupted in 1999. It became clear then that Kashmir had become an intractable problem for India. I am still not sure how I feel about the situation. What can India gain by holding on to a territory whose residents do not want to be a part of India? Can India protect regions like Ladakh and Jammu in the vicinity which identify firmly with the rest of India? What would happen if India does decide to vacate the valley and stops spending money to placate the population and maintain the large presence of its armed forces? Would Kashmir valley remain “independent” or will some other country like China or Pakistan march in and establish control even closer to other Indian states? How does one balance the interests of Kashmiris and the rest of India? Is peace ever possible when the citizenry perceives the government as an “occupying force?” Most confusing of all, will Kashmiri Hindus be permitted go back to the homes they abandoned out of fear and panic? And even if it was possible, would they ever want to return to a place that had cut all ties to India? ….

Read more → Accidental Blogger

An interesting article on Hoors

Are all ‘houris’ female? – By Nilofar Ahmed

IT has traditionally been believed that good men who go to paradise will be rewarded with the beautiful women of paradise known as houris. Women throughout the centuries never thought of asking, ‘what about us?’ But in this century of women, this question keeps coming up, even in the most conservative of circles. …

Read more: DAWN.COM

Post-Osama Pakistan – Nizamuddin Nizamani

Excerpt:

…. Primarily, religious education must be transformed. Religion taught civilisation but, unfortunately, religious beliefs ended up as being the single factor of rift and division among mankind. Its misinterpretation has created fanaticism and intolerance, lethal for coexistence. The Muslim youth has been brainwashed to do away with the present life, treat it as worthless and instead prepare for life in the hereafter. The easy shortcut to paradise is jihad and becoming a martyr with a guaranteed passport to heaven. This kind of indoctrination should be banned and the state should ensure modern education to such groups.

Secondly, there seems to be a dire need for ijtihad (religious discourse and debate), on many Quranic ayaat (verses) and ahadith (sayings of the Prophet (PBUH)) prone to misinterpretation. The clergy has been selective while interpreting a few ayaat and ahadith in the background of time and space but ignoring the parameters of others. They allow Muslim males to marry Christian or Jewish females as being ahl-e-kitab (followers of the divine books). Simultaneously, they emphasise that yahood-o-nasara (Jews and Christians) are the archenemies of Islam. They do not consider the time and space of such sayings. They do not press the Prophet’s (PBUH) teachings such as “Lakum deenukum waliya deen” (unto you is your religion and unto me is my religion). A political will can reverse this process, as whenever the state planned and took the clergy onboard, they came out with the required ayaat and ahadith to serve the collective purpose — population and drug controls are good examples.

Third, the electronic media must be regulated to filter out hate speech and indoctrination through provocation. The Hamid Gul brand of think tanks should be advised to retire for good. They should go for perpetual prayers to prepare for the life hereafter. Fourth, the defence forces should be purged of alleged disgruntled individuals, and they should be respectfully retired to civilian life, away from sensitive strategic decision-making. Fifth, those who believe in peace and coexistence should not be blamed as being enemy agents and, instead, should be taken onboard in decision-making. Sixth, the perpetual fallacy that Pakistan is in danger from external enemies must be shunned. We need to repair our home. Dangers lie within, not outside. Prolonged issues and conflicts with religious and ethnic minorities must be addressed with a mindful strategy. Lastly, we need to unlearn our sense of superiority and learn to live and let live in peace with all countries including Afghanistan, Iran, the US, India and even Israel. Otherwise, we are bound to be either isolated and in trouble from vengeful forces or land in the morass of self-pity for good.

Read more : Daily Times

“Girls Cricket Championship 2009” held at Sindh University on Jan. 24

Creeping Talibanization in Pakistan’s ‘Paradise’ Valley

By RAHIL YASIN

FRACTURED PAKISTAN — Cricket matches take place during the “Inter-varsity Girls Cricket Championship 2009″ held at Sindh University on Jan. 24. But hundreds of miles northwest at the foothills of the Himalayas, where the Taliban rule, female teachers stay at home, while lands are barren and trees grow fruitless, and video shops are torched, and barbers are afraid to shave beards.

LAHORE, Pakistan — People in Swat – once called the ‘paradise’ on earth or Switzerland of Pakistan – are living in tense times. The Pakistani Taliban have stoked fear in parts of the valley, and their control is growing. They gave demolished schools and bombed bridges;

political workers are assassinated, journalists are tortured, girls are forbidden from going to school. Even dead bodies have been exhumed from their graves and put on gallows. The power of the government has shrunk to a limited area in the district.

Lands are getting barren and trees are growing fruitless. Female teachers are forced to live in their houses, video shops are burnt and barbers are warned against shaving beards because the Taliban see this act as un-Islamic. In the last two years, more than 800 hotels and 405 restaurants have been closed in the picturesque Swat Valley – one of Pakistan’s main tourist hubs for decades and a major source of foreign revenue – as law and order deteriorates.

Around 40,000 people connected with the valley’s hotel industry are unemployed, as are thousands of others who are indirectly linked to the industry. Militancy, which has disrupted every walk of life in the picturesque Swat Valley, has dealt a massive blow to its once fabulous tourism industry that once enchanted tourists from around

the world.

The population of Swat district was 1.5 million, but two-thirds have migrated to other areas of the country. More than 200 people, including important personalities, had been killed in targeted killings and bomb blasts in Swat.

But Islam teaches us to show care and compassion, even toward the plants and animals. To inflict destruction, harm or injury toward them is deemed as a major sin, so how can anyone under any circumstances justify the killing or maiming of innocent human beings?

Besides banning female education in Swat Valley, the militants have torched or completely destroyed more than 165 girls’ and boys’ schools and colleges thereby stopping students from taking their annual examinations.

In Pakistan, literacy figures for women had risen steadily since the 1990s. In the Swat area they were up 75 percent over 2002, with 30,000 more girls in schools. Foreign donors helped establish NGO-run schools, pushing up enrollment levels.

The recent resurgence in militant extremism has come as a bitter blow indeed.

Current circumstances condemn millions of children, particularly girls, to a life without education — and, therefore, to a life of missed opportunities. Many girls say their parents are too afraid to send them to school. An estimated 80,000 girls have had their education cut. They are trying to keep up with their studies at home.

But it is hard.

Traditional Islam views religion as a pact between man and God and therefore in the domain of spirituality. In this belief, there can be no compulsion or force used in religion. From the time of the Prophet Mohammed, peace and tolerance were practiced between different religious groups, with respect to distinctions in belief.

Contrary to this, the Wahhabi ideology, which the Taliban follow, is built on the concept of political enforcement of religious beliefs, thus permitting no differences in faith whatsoever. In Wahhabi belief, faith is not necessarily an option; it is sometimes mandated by force.

Similarly, extending the sphere of their activities aimed at enforcing Sharia, the followers of Fazalullah, a Taliban leader in the Swat region, are making a state within a state in the valley. He has established his own administration on the pattern of the Saudi monarchs and created a private army, equipped with the latest weapons

and controlled by his trusted and loyal commanders. Besides establishing a parallel judicial system, Fazalullah has also established a “baitul maal” (fund for the needy) for which his commanders collect “ushr” (tithes) from the locals.

The Pakistani government should provide protection and alternative institutions and mechanism to the students of Swat besides establishing relief camps and financial support to the affected people. The government and the army should place security in front of all the girls’ schools and colleges as soon as possible. The government must not surrender to the threats of extremists groups who

are exploiting the laws in the name of religion. Peace pacts with militants remain a tradition from the early history of Islam and always produced good results. So far, peace agreements with the Taliban in Swat should be given a go-ahead, with the hope that girls will return back to their schools in the ‘paradise.’

COURTESY: MIDDLE EAST TIMES

January 26, 2009