New Age Islam Edit Bureau
14 March 2017
The Extinction of the Pakistani Woman
By Shahzaib Khan
Haqqani Claims His ‘Connections’ Led
US to Kill Osama
By Anwar Iqbal
Fear and Loathing in Pakistan
By Fahd Husain
Dealing with the Afghans
By Syed Talat Hussain
By Zaigham Khan
By Dr A Q Khan
Fighting Extremism in Trump’s America
By Jasmine M. El-Gamal
By Umair Javed
A Violent Phase
By Huma Yusuf
By Hajrah Mumtaz
Pakistan Cannot Be Isolated
By Hafsa Khaled
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
March 12, 2017
If you were a member of an oppressed
minority what would you want? Rights? Representation? A voice? An end to
persecution? That new lawn print?
The biggest oppressed minority in Pakistan
dreams of week-long extravagant weddings, overpriced designer couture and
At this earliest of junctures, I hereby
qualify that this piece is in no way meant to be an attempt to belittle the
commendable, growing feminist discourse in Pakistan and I admit that the piece
is in fact an exercise in arbitrary opinionating. However, that should not stop
me or anyone else, from voicing their, at least personally, valued opinion. The
piece is also aggressively stereotypical in its approach and possibly
inadvertently misogynistic at places. There are obviously laudable and
significant exceptions to the following view, both women (some found these days
commendably reclaiming public spaces such as dhabas) and men. The
identification of a macro trend without caring for the micro intricacies
however does not render an opinion instantly invalid.
The biggest minority in Pakistan are
Pakistani women; and yes, they are an oppressed minority.
Unlike, in 1983 Lahore, where throngs of
women charged into burly armed guards of the state to raise their voices,
Pakistani women today are not fighting. Content with finding out the
predeterminedly unfortunate fate of that burden of a woman on her favourite
television soap, the Pakistani woman is taking it easy. This is of course not
true for all Pakistani women.
Women’s rights: an indigenous movement
Pakistani women, much as the same as
Pakistani society in large have disintegrated into very specific groups of
social classes. When a species is about to go extinct it is categorised into
different groups depending on its likelihood of extinction. A near-threatened
species is one that is likely to be threatened with extinction in the near
future but does not face that immediate threat at this time. A critically
endangered species, on the other hand, is one which has been categorised as
facing a very high risk of extinction. The near-threatened Pakistani woman is
excruciatingly upper-middle class and so as to put it objectively is
complacent, because she is safe. This woman is less likely to be shot dead on
account of not making the chappati round enough, as compared to the critically
endangered woman. The critically endangered woman, by the way, is the woman who
cooks, cleans and cares for the near-threatened woman. The critically
endangered woman is pre-disposed, on account of her lack of finances and her
resulting incapacitations, to have a higher than normal likelihood for being
shot in the back of the skull on account of a slight misdemeanor and is so
preoccupied with striving to exist, that she rather understandably does not
have the time to pen an article, share an inspiring tweet, or lead a protest on
the road, to claim her rights.
Pakistani society has transcended an
already deplorable debate on women’s rights to stir up another debate. The
question we find ourselves asking today, much to the dismay of all conceptions
of humanity, is not whether a Pakistani woman should, have equal employment
opportunities, equal representation in Parliament or be duly recognised for her
contribution in domestic capacities but whether Pakistani women have the right
to live or not?
It is beneath me, as it should be beneath
any human being, to even consider such a question. The problem is that
apparently it’s not. It’s not beneath Pakistani men and most ironically
Pakistani women to entertain a debate where the right of women to live is
construed through the paradigm of ill-defined social acceptability. Pakistani
women are found formulating ever new arguments to give credence to their right
to live. And that is where the near-threatened women and their striking failure
comes into play. The movement for the rights of Pakistani women has been
confined to albeit commendably brave tweets and Facebook posts that act as
voices of protest every time a woman is shot dead, stabbed or burnt. The
foremost blame for this decadency and degradation in the feminist discourse in
Pakistan rests with the women of Pakistan, especially the near-threatened. The
critically endangered woman is already, as aforementioned, teetering on the
edge of existence, she cannot reasonably be expected to come onto the roads
when the same costs her next meal. The contribution of the Pakistani man to the
current state of women rights in Pakistan is second to none but at the same
time they can’t realistically be expected to pioneer its rectification, the
majority of the same at least, however justified such an expectation may be.
Pakistani society draws a clear distinction between men and women and as such
one is not pre-disposed to care for the other. This is by no means a reason to
disavow the Pakistani man of the responsibility of fighting to change a
situation that he has helped create. But, expecting the average Pakistani man
or for that matter the critically endangered woman to lead the movement for the
rights of the average Pakistani woman is unrealistic, idealistic and frankly,
lazy, however unfortunate this may be.
Global Marches, Strikes Demand Equality
on Women’s Day
Often, when a case for legal action is
lodged against a party, the petitioner has to establish his or her bona fide as
an aggrieved party for the action to be maintainable. Such is the recognition
afforded to the idea, that only when you are aggrieved, will you seek change.
Pakistani men are not aggrieved.
Pakistani women, the near-threatened, the
privileged and the educated, therefore, have a pro-active and pre-disposed
responsibility to ask questions, the right questions. They are the ones
primarily aggrieved, able and thus mandated with forming the discourse on
women’s rights in Pakistan. But if this discourse today is centered around the
question of the right of Pakistani women to be allowed to live, the women of
Pakistan have been failed, completely and utterly, admittedly by the men first,
but ultimately and more importantly by the women of Pakistan themselves.
Haqqani Claims His ‘Connections’ Led US
To Kill Osama
13 March 2017
WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s former US
ambassador Husain Haqqani has claimed that his ‘connections’ with the Obama
administration enabled the United States to target and kill Al Qaeda leader
Osama bin Laden.
In an article published in The Washington
Post on Friday, Mr Haqqani defended the Trump team’s contacts with Russia
during and after the 2016 US presidential elections and said he also had established
similar relations with members of the Obama campaign during the 2008 elections.
Those contacts “led to closer cooperation
between Pakistan and the United States in fighting terrorism over the 3 1/2
years I served as ambassador” and “eventually enabled the United States to
discover and eliminate bin Laden without depending on Pakistan’s intelligence
service or military, which were suspected of sympathy toward Islamist
Mr Haqqani wrote that the friends he made
in the Obama campaign team were “able to ask, three years later, as National
Security Council officials, for help in stationing US Special Operations and
intelligence personnel on the ground in Pakistan”.
Explaining how he responded to those
requests, the former ambassador wrote: “I brought the request directly to
Pakistan’s civilian leaders, who approved. Although the United States kept us
officially out of the loop about the operation, these locally stationed
Americans proved invaluable when Obama decided to send in Navy SEAL Team 6
without notifying Pakistan.”
Mr Haqqani recalled that in November 2011,
he was forced to resign as ambassador after Pakistan’s military-intelligence
apparatus gained the upper hand in the country’s perennial power struggle.
“Among the security establishment’s
grievances against me was the charge that I had facilitated the presence of
large numbers of CIA operatives who helped track down bin Laden without the
knowledge of Pakistan’s army — even though I had acted under the authorisation
of Pakistan’s elected civilian leaders,” he wrote in the Post.
Mr Haqqani said the purpose of his
cooperation with US officials was to ensure a victory in the fight against
“Unfortunately, the United States did not
attain victory in Afghanistan, and the Pakistani government’s behaviour toward
militant Islamists did not change on a permanent basis. But for the period I
was in office, the two nations worked jointly toward their common goals — the
essence of diplomacy,” he wrote.
Examine: Maybe it would have been better if
Osama were still with us
Mr Haqqani said his article also covered
the diplomatic exchanges about visas and the end result of the US pursuit of
bin Laden and cited allegations against him over the visa issue.
“There is no new ‘admission’ over the visas
as suggested by some in the Pakistani media who choose not to examine the real
issue relating to bin Laden living in Abbottabad for years,” he wrote.
When contacted, PPP spokesman Senator
Farhatullah Babar said the visa issue had been raised in the past also. “All
procedures were followed in the issuance of visas to the Americans and no
complaint had been made by any branch of the government,” he said.
Mr Babar clarified that Mr Haqqani now
worked independently and was not a spokesperson for the PPP government of the
In an email to Dawn, Mr Haqqani said on
Sunday that he had “retained complete record of every visa issued to US
officials” while he served as ambassador. “I will be compelled to make it
public, with authorisations including those by senior military personnel, if
conspiracy theories continue to be circulated to target the patriotism of
civilians,” he warned.
Reacting to the huge public reaction to his
Post article, Mr Haqqani said: “It is time … to stop agitating over visas to
Americans and for facing the real question of why Osama bin Laden was in
Pakistan and how Americans were able to find him while our intelligence service
Quoting from a statement that former prime
minister Yousuf Raza Gilani made after the May 2, 2011, US raid on an
Abbottabad compound that killed Osama, Mr Haqqani said: “The real issue is not
how many Americans – our allies and aid benefactors – got visas but rather who
gave visa to bin Laden.”
Mr Haqqani said that after he began reading
about the Trump administration’s contacts with the Russians, he rummaged
through his files and diaries to “retrace my steps as ambassador in the fall of
He said he had maintained relations with
three teams of American officials, politicians and professional staffers, the
Bush administration and the two major-party candidates.
Mr Haqqani said he had met senior members
of the Republican and Democratic national committees, more than a dozen
senators and congressmen from each party, and several individuals from both sides
who were tipped to emerge in senior government positions after the election.
“This is totally normal for ambassadors,” he added.
Fear And Loathing In Pakistan
March 12, 2017
If these are growing pains, they are
Brawling legislators like PML-N’s Javed
Latif and PTI’s Murad Saeed are not at fault — they are mere foot soldiers who
operate under the looming shadows of their political generalissimos. These
minions bask in their leaders’ reflected glory — or lack thereof as the case
may be — and draw the legitimacy of their actions from the approval of the top
men. This here is a system born, bred and reinforced in and around individuals
and not institutions; a system whose standards are a reflection of
personalities, not universal values. This system validates its legitimacy
through the prism of individuals whose influence dominates organisations,
institutions and often the State itself. Javed Latif and Murad Saeed are
insignificant flunkies whose actions in of themselves signify nothing unless
seen as an outrageous failure of their overlords.
It is a failure borne of fear and loathing
— two intense emotions that should not be defining the contours of national
political progression. But they are. If Imran Khan pours scorn on the Pakistan
Super League (PSL) final in Lahore, he does so not because he has anything
inherently against the tournament but because he sees the Lahore final within
the larger context of his battle royale against Nawaz Sharif. In essence then,
Khan loathes Sharif more than he loves cricket. His loathing is so visceral
that he fears if he lifts his foot off the pedal, Sharif will get a breather.
And a breather in a zero sum game — which is what both see it as — is a gift
that no person would want to give to his opponent. Khan will willingly trash
the game he loves and ridicule foreign players he should be thanking just to
stick it to Sharif. Every other thing pales into insignificance including the
loutish behavior of his minions like Murad Saeed. The individualisation of
politics in a grimly medieval way has started to have devastating repercussions
in our society. Institutionalising governance was never a greater challenge.
And what of those voted in to govern? Javed
Latif’s despicable utterances against Murad Saeed’s sisters are a stain not
just on this man but on his leadership as well. He vomited those words because
he knew he could; because he understood that plunging into the gutter was not
just acceptable but actually encouraged; because he recognised that the ritual
mild condemnations that he received from his leadership would be drowned out by
the accolades he would receive from them behind closed doors. Given the ratio
of rebukes versus rewards coming his way from his party, he wasn’t too off the
Like Murad Saeed, Javed Latif is an
insignificant minion, but even minions are awash in the loathing of Khan as it
gushes down from the high ramparts of the PML-N citadel. Sharif loathes Khan
more than he can ever loathe the disgusting behaviour of minion Latif; more
than he can loathe the shameless justifications of Latif’s vile words coming
from his party colleagues; more than he can loathe the gradual transformation
of political discourse into verbal manure. Sharif’s loathing of Khan is borne
out of a fear — an existential fear that Khan can breach the walls of his
fortress and bring his familial empire crashing down.
As we sink deeper into this political soakage
pit, a noxious odour of societal debasement overpowers the senses. Something
deeply troubling is bubbling up from underneath the layers of this poisonous
magma; something that is silently undercutting the basis of our non-infectious
optimism about the future of our country; something that is reigniting dread.
But is dread really dread if it doesn’t
trigger fear? When Sharif and Khan loathe each other more than they loathe the
absence of the rule of law; when they loathe each other more than the sapping of
institutional strength and when their mutual loathing can trample every other
thing under its mighty hoofs, then this is not political rivalry — it is a
tribal fight between two Sardars which has seeped deep into their rank and
file. And it plays out naturally because we are after all still in many ways a
tribal society in which archaic feudal values are celebrated — values like
absolute loyalty to the Sardar not to a vague concepts like law and morality.
Imran Khan bars party members from sharing
public forum with PML-N’s Javed Latif
How many among us realise that this feudal,
tribal system is anathema to a modern progressive society? How many of us
actually believe that we must shun these medieval values if we have to mature
into a modern post-agrarian society in which citizens are valued not for their
personal loyalty to a Sardar or a leader, but for their observance of the laws
of the land and of basic human morality? How many of us indeed would want our
individual whims and fancies to be subsumed within the ambit of laws that
regulate our behaviour regardless of our social standing within society?
If we are reinforcing these primitive
values — which we do every time minions like Javed Latif and Murad Saeed act up
in the name of their political sardars — we are in essence sliding down the
evolutionary ladder of actual human development. Such a slide cannot be halted
by progress that money can buy but by investing in institutions and the
absolute rule of law. If there is little or no progress on this front, no
amount of bricks and mortar projects can save us from being relegated to the
dustbin of the future.
This dismal theatre of the absurd plays out
every day in front of the cameras as we watch and applaud like idiots
inebriated by the sheer entertainment value of the farce. There is something
rotten in this State of Pakistan and if we do not put a halt to this fear and
loathing we should be prepared to lose more than just our sense of direction.
March 13, 2017
Our shut-open-shut border policy towards
Afghanistan needs a serious review. More than a review, it needs context,
aim-identification and proper juxtaposition within our long-term strategic
We ought to have some sense of where we are
going with the present set of steps vis-a-vis Afghanistan, and whether, in the
medium and long terms, these steps will be in alignment with how we want to see
our ties shape up with this important yet troublesome state.
That we had to do something when gangs from
across the border attacked our cities and sent in terrorists who killed our
precious women, children and men was pretty much a foregone conclusion. No less
obvious was what needed to be done: we had to send a signal to Kabul that it
had to somehow control these gangs or else be penalised.
Closing the border was a people-centred
punishment and knocking out hideouts was a state-centred action. Both combined
did produce the result of getting Kabul to focus its attention on the fact that
its territory was producing terrorism that was intolerable and for which our
patience was running out.
Also the new army chief, General Qamar
Javed Bajwa, didn’t have to consult anyone and could order forces to pound
potential and actual sanctuaries. The display of a quick response and the
consistency of its use – despite protests, threats and diplomatic theatrics
from Kabul – indicated that a new normal had been introduced in our equation
with Afghanistan: the gloves will come off easily every time we suspect or have
information about terrorists operating out of Afghanistan who strike inside our
country. This policy also keeps the option of a hot pursuit on the table just
to reinforce the message that the old ‘talk, talk and no action’ phase is over.
However, having introduced this new element
in our relationship with Afghanistan, we need to now consider how these
strong-arm actions fit into the larger framework of our ties with a country
whose internal happenings have a direct bearing on our core security goals.
There is no embarrassment in admitting the fact that these steps towards
Afghanistan – the use of force to convey our anger and anguish – have been
taken in haste. They became inevitable after the wave of terror that had taken
everybody in the country by surprise and had engendered fears that perhaps we
could descend into the Middle East-like chaos. But now that these steps have
been taken, they have to be squared with the needs of our long-term ties with
Clearly we don’t want a hostile, embittered
Afghanistan whose government – regardless of how compromised and weak it may be
– is able to sell to a willing public the idea that Pakistan is an enemy state.
We also don’t want the dynamics of trade between the two countries to be so
badly affected that the scope of it is reduced rather than enhanced. We
certainly don’t want the population across immediate border towns – whose
livelihood and economy depends crucially on the flexibility of to-and-fro
movement – to become agitated and hostile.
With these ‘don’ts’ in mind, it is only
logical to suggest that restriction across the border – from legitimate to
illegal crossings– must not be used as a favourite tool to express diplomatic
or military displeasure. People-to-people hostility runs counter to the idea
that this border needs to be kept calm and the population in its immediate
vicinity must be reasonably assured that they won’t pick the cost of the dark
deeds of terrorists. Of course, border crossings should be more tightly
regulated. Border fencing is a great idea and must be followed up without any reservation
or second thoughts. Indeed, in times of threats or heightened frustration –
with Kabul’s insouciance towards our suffering and pain at the hands of
terrorists – these crossings can be paced down. But to shut them down at the
drop of a hat is a policy that does not serve any long-term purpose.
Also, carrying out strikes across the
border on sanctuaries will remain a policy of somewhat limited and diminishing
gains as gangs operating from across could easily shift their bases inward or
relocate to another position of advantage. Their existence – especially since
it is bankrolled by India and some Western intelligence agencies apart from
Kabul’s own intel apparatus – is not meant to be a stop-gap arrangement. It is
a long-term plan to stir mischief in Pakistan and to stretch the army’s
resources from east to west. So, in all probability, these groups will stay
there – all the more because Kabul, by its own admission and by our own
acknowledgement, continues to insist that it has no writ over these havens.
This creates the policy challenge of making
a demand on Kabul through punitive action that we know it cannot (or will not)
fulfil. How do we enhance our capacity to stop these gangs from making it
across the border and striking in the mainland? We cannot be lobbing off
mortars and pretend that all of them are demolishing terrorists bases. We,
therefore, need to seriously work on fixing our border by fencing it and also
by building a strong and robust special border force – the foundation of which
is already available in the shape of the Frontier Corps.
The FC needs to be developed as a defence
and sword arm of the nation for our border with Afghanistan. It is a motivated
force with remarkable achievements under its belt in the first and most complex
phase of Fata operations. If it wasn’t for its contributions, the vast
stretches of Fata where we raise the national flag now would still have been
out of our reach. It needs to be equipped, financed and its command structure
must be adjusted to the new role.
Equally important is the work on and with
the tribes that straddle the border or are in close proximity to the border.
History suggests that these tribes are as much a first line of defence for us
as they are potential transmission belts of trouble that travels down the way
the Kabul River flows. Some of these tribes – such as Salarzai in Bajaur – were
bedrocks against mass-scale Taliban raids and paid a heavy price for standing
for a terror-free country. We used them as tribal Lashkars and then, at the first
light of the dawn of Taliban defeat, abandoned them. This was pathetic. These
tribes need to be engaged – not to start a new phase of lashkar raising but to
build a common cause of monitoring, supervision and effective people-driven
control of the border. Informal trade (let us not call it smuggling) will
always allow the possibility of miscreants slipping in. But that in no way
should stand in the path of building a human fence against organised raiders.
This needs to be done quickly and with sincerity of purpose that goes beyond
grabbing headlines and photo opportunities.
But, in the end, all these measures will
not be effective in dealing with the Afghanistan challenge if we do not
activate the diplomatic front at all levels. Bombs and guns are instruments of
violence from which lasting peace can only emerge if the opponent is completely
vanquished. In situations where total victory isn’t possible, kinetic means
become long-term nightmares.
Pakistan stands to suffer the most from a
breakdown of ties with Afghanistan. We have sent the right signals to Kabul and
to the world through our border closure and strikes on sanctuaries. Now
diplomatic channels need to be activated to arrest Afghanistan’s general drift
towards chaos which can be evidenced by the Daesh attack on the Kabul military
hospital. We need to take the lead on bilateral, trilateral, quadrilateral, and
multilateral engagements to discuss and debate Afghanistan’s situation.
We have wasted too much time waiting for
the Taliban to arrive on the table and have reduced the vast spectrum of
Afghanistan’s diplomacy to the keyhole of delivering ‘good Taliban’ – a holy
grail that is not in sight.
Let us redefine the parameters of peace in
Afghanistan by expanding the diplomatic horizons and making a serious concerted
pitch for some stability and sanity in our soft underbelly. Without the
conflict ending on Afghan soil, our border management efforts will remain a
mere firefight and have to be the main goal of our Afghanistan policy which we
need to pursue relentlessly.
It must be a very painful time for those at
the helm of the state of Pakistan as all of their hopes, aspirations and dreams
about relations with Afghanistan have gone up in smoke and their worst
nightmares are now harsh facts on the ground. After seven decades on the roller
coaster, Pak-Afghan relations are on the drawing board yet again. It appears
that the huge tribe of Afghan experts, within and outside the government, only
led us astray.
Afghanistan, it appears, has finally
crossed the dreaded redline and our western frontier is now a source of bigger
trouble than the eastern border. As the encirclement becomes a reality,
Pakistan is trying to reframe its relations with its westerly neighbour as a
Most Pakistani analysts blame the whole
situation on Pakistan’s policies which, in their opinion, have delivered
Afghanistan into the hands of our mortal enemy – India. This line of argument
is popular with Afghans as well who deny enjoying any agency or control over
themselves, blaming everything that has happened in their country on outsiders.
Except defeating superpowers of course; that they did all alone. Afghan-Pakistan
relations are in fact a tango that has been played by the two states together.
Even as both are bleeding, the dance has become even more feverish.
There is a very harsh reality that most
Pakistanis find hard to understand. Afghanistan does not see Pakistan as a
friend – it never has and, perhaps, it never will. More than the realities of
international relations, this fact is rooted in how Afghans define their
identity. Ever since Pakistan was created, Afghanistan has defined its identity
in opposition to its neighbour. This is not unusual as nations construct
identities not only by defining who they are but also by outlining who they are
not – or the ‘other’.
Pakistan, interestingly, has long idealised
Afghans and Afghanistan. This attitude dates back to the colonial period, when
Indian Muslims saw Afghanistan as a free Muslim country with which they had a
shared history and blood relations, conveniently forgetting that this relative
freedom was granted by the two empires to maintain a buffer and also because
there was not much to be gained economically by occupying Afghanistan.
Pakistan had to face a rude shock when
Afghanistan opposed the very existence of the newly born Muslim state to its
east and became the only country to oppose Pakistan’s membership to the UN. It
also refused to accept the Durand Line as an international border though it did
not have any case worth contesting at any international forum. While Pakistan
remained obsessed with India, Afghanistan felt free to foment separatism, supporting
centrifugal movements – both political and violent.
After three decades, Pakistan got a chance
to shape Afghanistan in its own image after communists took control of Kabul
and Soviet tanks rolled in to support them. There is a broad agreement in Pakistan
that Ziaul Haq made a huge blunder by throwing Pakistan headlong into the CIA’s
war in Afghanistan.
Afghans, however, do not see it that way.
They think that they did a great job by defeating a superpower and adding a new
grave to their famed graveyard of the empires. Almost all of the Afghan ruling
elite, as well as most leaders of the insurgency, can trace their lineage to
the Afghan war. Hamid Karzai, himself a warlord of that period, thanks Pakistan
for its support to the Mujahideen.
So in the opinion of the Afghan elite,
Pakistan turned evil when it ‘foisted the Taliban on the Afghan people’. Most
educated Pakistanis, including this columnist, agree that Pakistani support for
Taliban was a dark chapter in history. However, it is very hard to deny that
the Taliban were a popular social movement in Afghanistan at the time. They
emerged spontaneously as many similar movements in the past and their victories
needed minimal support from Pakistan. The great Mujahideen who had just
inflicted a humiliating defeat upon a superpower were themselves humiliated by
the madrasa students, not because Pakistan supported them but because the
people of Afghanistan were fed up with the Mujahideen and they saw the Taliban
as their only hope.
While the Taliban were the only Afghan
government not enjoying good relations with India, they did not prove less
troublesome for Pakistan. They provided protection to Pakistani sectarian
terrorists and brought the US military to the region by harbouring Osama bin
Laden. The hostility the Taliban harboured towards Pakistan is evident from the
book written by Abdul Salam Zaeef, the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan.
The Northern Alliance and other former
Mujahideen who dominate the Kabul establishment have not forgiven Pakistan for
its support to the Taliban. Relations have been further soured due to
Pakistan’s support for Taliban after 9/11.
However, by trying to benefit from the
Indo-Pak rivalry for their own interests, the Afghan ruling elite have also
complicated the regional situation and seriously compromised Afghan national
interests. After all, Pakistan hosted 10 percent of its population, kept its
2500-kilometre long border open for Afghan nationals and allowed almost 50,000
Afghans to travel to Pakistan every day to work, study, seek medical treatment
and fulfil their other needs. Pakistan had even tolerated an Afghanistan-based
smuggling industry worth billions of dollars being maintained in the name of
transit trade without insisting on a fair use policy. Think of a country that
houses 20 million Pakistanis (10 percent of our population) and extends these
kinds of favours.
Some eight years ago, the Kabul government
decided to take confrontation with Pakistan to the level of the people. It
started harassing Pakistani travellers, even those visiting on valid visas. It
became almost impossible for a common Pakistan to have a cup of tea at a
cafeteria in the Afghan capital. Afghanistan also barred Pakistanis from
visiting Afghanistan without valid documents, while expecting Pakistan to keep
its borders open to all Afghans. It has also restricted trade with Pakistan by
putting up tariff and non-tariff barriers.
All the good, the bad and the ugly was done
with only one aim in mind – to keep India out of Afghanistan. But India has
arrived with its spooks, and with the openly stated aim of fomenting trouble in
It is painful to see millions of common
Afghans suffering due to the deterioration of relationship between the two
states. I have previously argued for the rights of Afghan refugees in this
space, but unfortunately nation-states do not show much sympathy to citizens of
hostile states. On Pakistan’s border with India, hardly a few hundred people
travel on both sides every day, visas are hard to get and every traveller is
While relations between Pakistan and
Afghanistan have hit rock bottom, we should try to make a distinction between
the Afghan government and its people. Both Afghanistan and Pakistan have much
to gain from good relations with each other. In the short run, however, it will
be good if they could resist the temptation to harm each other.
Nothing about the Panama leaks or cricket from
me: four books containing valuable information will be discussed instead.
However, first something about the successful Economic Cooperation Organisation
meeting held in Islamabad.
The Prime Minister, Sartaj Aziz, Tariq
Fatemi and their colleagues deserve praise for successfully organising this
conference. The participation of the presidents of Turkey and Iran and senior
officials from Central Asian countries clearly demonstrates the importance of
Pakistan in the eyes of these countries. One reason for this respect is our
status as a nuclear power. Many Pakistanis who have travelled abroad tell me
that the nationals of Islamic countries show great respect for them and stress
that they greatly appreciate the fact that Pakistan was able to achieve – 33 years
ago – what none of them have been able to do till now. We are not only a
nuclear power, but also a missile power. Because of this combined capability,
our adversaries dare not indulge in any misadventure against us. Yes, Pakistan
Zindabad and Pakistanis Paendabad.
With the development of the ECO nexus, we
can expect many important foreign dignitaries. In order to avoid any
inconvenience to the general public – tightened security checks and road blocks
– the government should follow the example set by China and establish a series
of guest houses following the pattern of the Diao Yutai State Guest House in
Beijing. This is a well-constructed, purpose-built structure of excellent
quality, has beautifully laid out gardens and many services like an auditorium,
conference room(s), a kitchen, a restaurant, laundry facilities, a gift shop
and a barber/beauty parlour.
Now back to books. The first is entitled
‘America’ and is written by a young, talented Pakistani analyst, Israr Ahmad
Kisana. The book has been published by Afzaal Ahmad of Sang-e-Meel
Publications, Lahore. It contains articles previously published by the author
in the dailies Nawa-e-Waqt and Jang. Kisana has dealt with the situation before
and after 9/11 and the psyche of the Americans.
He has done a great job of analysing the US
politics, and has, in particular, discussed Musharraf’s visit to the US and his
subsequent behaviour as President Bush’s lackey – selling our sovereignty for a
few dollars. Even Gen Colin Powell, former US national security adviser, was
shocked when Musharraf, not only agreed to their demands, but also added many
more important facilities – an airport, port facilities, air space passage – of
his own. Musharraf’s decision to hand over the air bases was what really
infuriated CAS Air Chief Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir. In short, this book is a
treasure of information and both Kisana and Ahmad deserve commendation for it.
The second book is a special edition of the
monthly ‘Tameer-e-Afkar’ and consists of 576 pages. It is an excellent monthly
publication and this special edition is no exception. It deals with Islamic
affairs like education, culture and research and contains many research papers.
The editor is Prof Dr Syed Azizur Rahman and the publishing authority is Zawwar
Academy Publications, Nazimabad, Karachi. This book is a must read for all
religious scholars and should be kept in the libraries of all religious schools
and all other schools that have religious departments. Rahman is a former
colleague of my dear friend, late Prof Dr Mahmood Ghazi, founder of the
International Islamic University in Islamabad.
The third book has as its subject our most
respected and dear Holy Prophet, Rasul-e-Azam (pbuh). It has been compiled by
the famous religious scholar Prof Khayal Aafaqui and has been published by Bait
us Salam, Karachi. It is actually like a Seeratun Nabi. Prof Aafaqui has done a
lot of research and investigation before compiling this book. He has read
almost all the well-known books on Seeratun Nabi, the caliphs, Ahadees etc.
It is a very informative book and is of
important interest to Islamic scholars and educational institutions.
Unfortunately, however, it lacks a table of contents section. Aafaqui informed
me that this would be added in the next edition.
The fourth book is written by an eminent
cardiologist, a medical specialist and my dear friend, Dr Abdul Rashid Seyal,
from Multan. He has been very successful in treating cancer and thalassaemia.
For those of you who might want to utilise his services, his clinic is opposite
Sharif Plaza in Multan. This book is in Urdu and is entitled ‘Ramuze Takhliq’
(secrets of creation).
The book contains informative articles on
the miracle of the Quran, the journey of life, unseen faith, the Quran and the
philosophy of life, the ascension to heaven of our Holy Prophet (pbuh), the
Quran and the creation of Adam, the undisputed truth of the Quran, Be (Kun Faya
Kun) and many articles and lectures. It is a treasure of knowledge and of
interest and importance to Islamic scholars and educational institutions.
Seyal has written many books, some of which
are being taught in the US. His books ‘Divine Philosophy and Modern Day
Science’, ‘Poetic Stance of The Holy Qur’an: Philosophical Discernment In the
light of Modern Day Science’ and ‘Faith in the Unseen’ are very popular. He has
also published many research papers in well-known scientific journals.
I am a first-generation American Muslim who
has spent my career in public service, including as a translator in Iraq and a
policy adviser at the Department of Defence, and what I have learned is this:
The enemy we face as Americans is not limited to one race or religion. Our enemy
is extremism of all kinds, and the best way to fight it is to embrace our
diversity and the strength it gives us.
During his first address to Congress,
President Trump specifically and rightly denounced racism in the context of
Black History Month, and anti-Semitism in the context of the abhorrent
vandalism of Jewish cemeteries. But when it came to Purinton’s attack on two
young Indian men, the president simply referred to “the shooting in Kansas.”
Choosing not to label Purinton’s attack terrorism or extremism, while
simultaneously labelling every violent attack by a Muslim as such, further
compounds the false argument that one faith holds a monopoly on terrorism. That
narrative ignores two beliefs common to all forms of extremism — that human
beings are not created equal and that our labels transcend our shared humanity.
The FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics
report documented 558 anti-Muslim incidents and offences in America in 2015, a
45% increase, on average, from 2012, 2013 and 2014. Similarly, a 2016 report by
the Centre for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University,
San Bernardino, revealed 196 anti-Muslim incidents in 2015 in the 20 states
surveyed, compared to 110 in 2014. By contrast, there were three attacks that
year by Muslim extremists in America — in San Bernardino, in Chattanooga,Tenn.
and in Garland, Texas.
It was in this environment, following the
San Bernardino shooting, that then-candidate Trump cited Pew and “other
research” in claiming that “there is great hatred towards Americans by large
segments of the Muslim population.” In the same statement, he said that
“without looking at the various polling data, it is obvious to anybody the
hatred is beyond comprehension.” Such rhetoric from an influential public
figure, simultaneously vague and combative, contributes to a permissive
atmosphere for anti-Muslim sentiment and, more dangerously, in which Muslims
and those perceived to be Muslim are attacked because of how they look.
President Trump’s prolific use of Twitter
to speak directly to the American people, as well as his “tell it like it is”
communication style and penchant for bestowing nicknames that stick, indicate
he knows better than most people that words matter. He should also know that in
his position, his words could now mean the difference between life and death
for those he chooses to demonise.
To be clear: I am not advocating that we
ignore the dangerous strain of extremism perpetrated in the name of Islam. But
disregarding America’s long and dangerous history of right-wing and other forms
of extremism simply exacerbates the false perception that the only threats to
our homeland — indeed, to the West as a whole — are those arising from
The dehumanising of Muslims in America
today is, sadly, not unique. Scapegoating of the past includes the shameful
internment of individuals of Japanese descent during World War II and the
anti-Semitism that partly influenced US policy towards Jews fleeing Nazi
Germany. The historical struggles of minorities make me wonder what dangers lie
ahead for my own family, from my hardworking immigrant mother to my
second-generation American nieces and nephews. What headlines will we have to
hide from them? What obstacles will they face in order to belong?
I want Trump to know that my fellow Muslims
in America are not part of the problem; we are not “the other.” Only by
condemning violence against Muslims as forcefully as violence by Muslims does
the current administration stand a chance of turning the tide against the real
enemy: all forms of extremism, regardless of faith or colour. The writer, a
senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, was a translator in Iraq during
Operation Iraqi Freedom and advised three Defence secretaries as Country
Director for Iraq, Lebanon and Syria from 2008 to 2013.
IMAGINE a situation where you harbour a
strong dislike for one of your colleagues. You might try to undercut them
through passive-aggressive office politics, or you might try to highlight their
shortcomings in front of other colleagues. What most will never think to do is
abuse their family in public.
This isn’t because it’s an unnatural or
unprecedented action. We learn and regurgitate all kinds of crass behaviour in
everyday life. What stops us from acting out our most base and primal emotions
are two connected things — a general sense of context-specific propriety (i.e.
how to act in particular settings), and a general fear of reprisal from
superiors or peers.
If our sense of entitlement is unencumbered
by both of these, we’ll be far more primal in our public interactions.
The framework of entitlement goes a long
way in explaining the lurid, misogynistic words of a PML-N MNA.
The framework of entitlement goes a long
way in explaining both the lurid, misogynistic words of a PML-N MNA from Sheikhupura
and the non-apology that came more than 24 hours later. The person in question
knows full well that the immediate cost of abusing a colleague is minimal. At
the time of writing at least, the party had said nothing substantial on the
issue. There was no immediate reprimand from the top leadership. He bears no
occupational cost of his words as a legislator, and since his voters in
Sheikhupura city evaluate him on a different criterion altogether, they will
not punish him for what he said in Islamabad.
The behaviour exhibited here is not unique
to this particular politician. Just in the last few years, there were several
major incidents of politicians being accused of acts far more heinous than
swearing at a colleague. In Faisalabad three years ago, police booked three
sons of a ruling party MNA for his involvement in a gang rape. In the Kasur
child abuse scandal, there were frequent reports of protection being offered to
the culprits by local politicians. Last month, two armed groups belonging to the
ruling party attacked each other during city council proceedings.
These and many more instances point to the
entrenchment of violence and criminality in local politics. They also highlight
the general sense of entitlement and disregard amongst vast sections of the
political elite. Much of this can be traced back to the changing nature of
political competition, and an interconnected shift in the social profile of
politicians seeking elected office.
Till the 1970s, the limited scope of
democratic politics allowed only the colonial-era landed elites to compete for
political office. Since then, the country has seen urbanisation, the emergence
of new elites, and various bouts of partial democratisation. Elections have
been held regularly, and thus political competition has become far more
As a result, these last four decades have
been marked by cut-throat competition amongst new elites, seeking to displace
older ones, and enhance their social and economic position through political
A good example of this can be found in
Nicolas Martin’s recent study on rural and peri-urban politics in Sargodha. The
anthropologist focuses on the processes through which upwardly mobile
agro-commercial businessmen have displaced the old landed gentry in local politics.
Since they face more competition for power now than the old gentry ever had to
face, they resort to all sorts of illegal and criminal tactics to reproduce
their privileged positions.
This involves redirecting financial
resources for patronage and vote-buying, moulding local state institutions
(such as the Thana and Kutchery) to do their bidding, or relying on outright
violence to intimidate and harass opponents and voters. Similar work by Matthew
Nelson also confirms the countrywide presence of informal networks based on a
nexus between money, criminality, and political power.
What’s important to note here is that this
trend of criminality and violence is pervasive enough to not be about a
particular set of individuals, or even a party (though the ruling party appears
to have more than their share of such characters). Once successful, political
entrepreneurs bargain their popularity, their patronage networks, and their
ability to win with political parties for greater access and resources. This
ensures a self-perpetuating cycle.
The mutual dependence between often-violent
politicians and political parties creates a highly disadvantageous situation
where local elites operate with an unending sense of entitlement, while party
leaders reap benefits off their electoral victories.
Consequently, since in many areas such
politicians are crucial for a party’s continued success, the leadership will
rarely, if at all, ever discipline them for their transgressions. If one were
to venture a guess, there are probably only a few places (such as Lahore),
where the ruling party has the autonomy and structure to bench or discipline
local elites and not face a political penalty. Everywhere else, the power
balance is tipped in the candidate’s favour.
When seen as a set of systemic processes
rather than individual sins, the country’s political culture, and hence its
democratic future, appears bleak. Is the capture of political office by
self-serving (and often criminal) elites a foregone conclusion, especially
since we know interventions to ‘clean the system’ from above have not worked?
At this time, the greatest responsibility
for cleaning up politics lies with the leadership of all parties in general,
and the ruling party in particular. A party leadership that claims to be working
for a ‘bright future’ cannot stand silent while those winning on its ticket
make a mockery of the legislature and the decorum of public office.
While it may have to face some negative
consequences for disciplining local elites, there can be no better time for it
to start than the present. Otherwise its inaction towards such gross violations
of conduct, not just on this occasion but on so many in the past, suggests
active complicity more than passive incompetence.
LAST week, with two hours to spare in Oslo,
Norway, I had the choice of visiting a Viking ship museum, palace gardens and,
on a more surreal note, the 22 July Centre — an exhibit about the twin
terrorist attacks that took place in the city and Utoya island in 2011 (I opted
for the gardens).
The centre opened in 2015, four years after
Anders Behring Breivik detonated a car bomb at a government office, killing
eight people, and then went on to open fire at a political party’s youth wing’s
gathering on Utoya island, killing 68 people, mostly teenagers. The exhibition
includes objects used by Breivik during the attacks — including his fake police
ID and remains of the van containing the bomb — and a memorial to the victims,
including photographs, phones and cameras left by the teens on the island.
The exhibit stirred controversy at the time
of its launch, with opponents arguing that it would become a ‘hall of fame’ for
Breivik. Others argued that Norway should forget the unprecedented incident and
move on. However, speaking at the inauguration, the prime minister argued that
Norwegians had a moral obligation to remember the events, commemorate victims,
and use the incident as a reminder to “continue to fight against hate rhetoric
How should we remember our victims of
Many countries have grappled with how to
commemorate the victims of terrorist attacks. There was relative consensus on
the decision to have the Freedom Tower replace the World Trade Centre in New
York City, though it was marred by the ‘Ground Zero mosque’ controversy.
Victims’ families in Paris, meanwhile, welcomed the unveiling of commemorative
plaques on the one-year anniversary of the November 2015 terrorist attacks,
saying they did not want their loved ones erased from public memory.
No matter the circumstances or location,
such memorials are challenging to design, requiring a careful balancing act
between remembering and forgetting, commemorating victims without glorifying
the event, respecting victims’ families’ personal memories while acknowledging
the impact on a nation’s collective conscience. It is possible for countries
that have experienced one-off, high-impact attacks to navigate the
sensitivities and eventually instal memorials, but how should a country like
Pakistan, which has lost tens of thousands of innocents to hundreds of heinous
attacks, remember the victims?
Following attacks, victims are referred to
as Shaheed, and prayers and vigils are organised. Victims of the APS attack
have received more attention: a monument in their honour is under construction
at the Directorate of Archives and Libraries in Peshawar, which also houses the
slain students’ personal belongings such as books, pens and glasses. A monument
in the students’ memory was also unveiled in Ankara. This paper has published a
moving online memorial to the students. But all the victims of terrorist
attacks are equally deserving of commemoration — we cannot relegate them as
statistics denoting a particularly dark chapter in Pakistan’s history.
Here’s the rub: memorials typically embody
clear narratives. Before Pakistan can commemorate its victims, it must reckon
with the origins of homegrown militancy, the state failures that resulted in a
decade (possible more?) of horrifying bloodshed, the policies that backfired
and ultimately claimed innocent Pakistani lives, and the challenges of
reconciling doctrinal difference through democratic inclusion and rule of law.
Memorials will require Pakistan to
disambiguate its attitude towards the extremism that claimed innocent lives.
There are still voices that defend the actions of militant groups such as the
TTP and see violence as a necessary evil. More problematic would be commemoration
of the victims of sectarian attacks, some of whom are perceived by certain
compatriots as misguided or even heretical. APS victims have likely received
due attention because there is no disagreement about the horror of that
attack and the fact that murdering schoolchildren is brutal and unjustifiable.
For all the difficulties that remembering
presents, Pakistan must not forget this phase in its history, its unfortunate
victims, and the shaping circumstances. As a nation, we are quick to amnesia,
and willing to let our history be rewritten and reinterpreted to cynical ends.
It will be hard for individuals to forget the terrorism that the nation has
endured. But we must remember collectively, publicly, to ensure that this
painful stage in our trajectory is not co-opted or corrupted in the service of
future agendas and misadventures.
Memorials would also present the government
with an opportunity to restore dignity to citizens who are too often subsumed
by bureaucracy, clan or tribe identity, and the vagaries of political elites.
An effort to acknowledge everyone who has been affected by terrorism will
demonstrate sincere regard for every Pakistani life, and serve as a reminder
that the state takes its responsibility to ensure the protection and prosperity
of its citizens seriously.
PUBLIC transport anywhere in the country is
a nightmare, and one can only feel sympathy for the millions dependent on it.
Barring a couple of big-ticket projects in Islamabad and Lahore, there are the
problems of tattered, privately owned vehicles that care as little for safety
standards as they do for the traffic rules. On top of that, there is pressure
posed by the millions upon millions dependent on buses, vans and rickshaws for
The world offers to women a special little
place of their own, though, and public transport is no different. We face all
the problems that men do, plus the additional one of sexual harassment. As is
well recognised, the issue is of such magnitude that women who can and want to
earn, or perhaps further their education, can be disallowed by the patriarchs
from doing so. And, I can’t imagine any female in this country contemplating
the prospect of getting on a bus or van with anything other than anxiety.
So when on Women’s Day last week a private
company inaugurated a women’s-only taxi service, it offered a choice to half of
Karachi’s population that must be welcomed. Paxi Pakistan, with its fleet of
pink Suzuki Every vans and Nissan Clippers, is a service for women, by women.
Given the plan to make it possible to hail the cabs through a smartphone app,
phone call or SMS once operations start on March 23, it should bring about
much-awaited relief to those sections of the population that can afford taxi
The world offers to women a special little
place of their own.
And it’s not just the customers that will
benefit. The press reports of the launch carried numerous accounts of the
female drivers who have all kinds of educational and social backgrounds. For
all these employees, the service is an opportunity to earn a livelihood, while
also carving out for women a sliver more of public space.
The initiative is praiseworthy, but it is
not the first. In 2012, the Lahore Transport Company launched a Pink Bus
Service for women on three routes in the city. But a year later, two of these
buses stopped plying their routes on the complaint of running into losses
because there wasn’t a sufficient passenger load. The effort was renewed in
2014 when the service was ‘re-launched’, but by now the buses have again all
Again in Lahore, in 2015, environmentalist
Zar Aslam launched her own rickshaw service exclusively for women, starting
with just one pink vehicle with herself behind the wheel. Her reasons, too,
were the persecuting male gaze: she noticed how the female employees of her
environmental protection non-profit viewed their journeys with trepidation.
Thus the Pink Rickshaw scheme, finding new ways to empower women.
While their business models may be
imperfect, the value of such initiatives cannot be overemphasised in a culture
and environment where women face all sorts of violence and harassment, and
where recourse to the law has little meaning. As noted earlier, these schemes
are providing not just services to the sisterhood but also employment.
But it is also possible to argue that there
is a pernicious underbelly to such rosy conveniences. It can be argued that by
reserving vehicles for women, or parking spaces, as a mall in Karachi has done,
or compartments in trains, or whatever, notions of gender segregation are being
reinforced. Women are further ‘otherised’, excised from public space. And, by
implication, if they venture into public spaces and run into trouble, the
burden of fault is placed on them. Women are at risk from men and therefore
must be separated from them in the interests of their own safety. This is no
different from the argument behind veils, or of forcing women to live within
the confines of their homes and attain neither an education, nor work.
Women-only services in public transport are
boons in the short term. But in the long term, the central problem remains
unaddressed: men’s propensity to harass and persecute. Any long-term solution
to the vulnerability of women in such spheres has to involve getting the male
segments of society to rein in their worst impulses, in strengthening respect
for privacy and the rule of law. This is to say nothing of the right to move around
freely and safely, and to live life in dignity.
Women everywhere in the world, at all tiers
of society, risk being harassed in ways big and small. Where the problem is
less endemic, this has been achieved through raising in general a society’s
respect for personal freedoms and individual rights, and secondly by enforcing
the law. Means of getting complaints to the right quarters, be it the police or
complaints commissions (in case of workplaces, for example), must be simplified
and widely known.
While for now women can look forward to the
prospect of rides reserved for them, the long-term concerns urgently need to be
There was a sense of purpose and renewal
among the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) leaders when they gathered in
Islamabad recently, to participate in the 13th ECO Summit. The leaders gathered
to pledge expansion of trade, connectivity and economic relations in the region.
For Pakistan, it was a double celebration as the summit dispelled the negative
endeavours of India towards pushing Pakistan into isolation, the plans that
fell flat on our neighbour’s face. By exacerbating the propaganda by using the
Uri attack as a tool, India only got successful in the cancellation of last
year’s Saarc summit. But the good news is that Pakistan cannot be left alone
because of its strategic importance and the bright economic future.
This was evident when Pakistan hosted
multinational AMAN-2017 naval exercises in which 37 countries took part
including the US, China and Russia. The international community is aware of the
fact that isolating Pakistan will not be beneficial for their own national
interests as it is fast becoming a stronger economy with a vast potential of
being a beneficial foreign investment destination. Similarly, by hosting the
ECO Summit a positive signal has been sent. Pakistan hosted the high-profile
regional summit smoothly. Recently, there is a fresh wave of security threat
and the situation deteriorated to the point that a military-led national
operation had to be initiated. But the successful conduct of ECO and the PSL
final, demonstrated that the state can establish relative calm. With these
events being held successfully Pakistan has proved that it is able to deliver
on its regional and international hosting responsibilities.
The summit was attended by all 10 member
states and the importance of prosperity of the region was emphasised. The theme
of the summit was “Connectivity for Regional Prosperity” that focused on
cooperation in the fields of trade, energy and transport. It also adopted the
Islamabad Declaration and Vision 2025. The declaration calls for development of
transport and communication infrastructure, facilitation of trade and
investment, promotion of connectivity with other regions, effective use of
energy resources and undertaking measures for making the ECO effective and
efficient. Other than that the Islamabad Declaration envisages doubling of the
current level of intra-ECO trade in the next three to five years through
implementation of the ECO Trade Agreement and other ECO trade arrangements.
The plans for enhancing the connectivity in
the ECO region are convergent with China’s One-Belt-One-Road project and the
CPEC initiative. By the initiation of CPEC, there will be more availability of
transit routes for the enhancement of trade among the ECO members. Pakistan has
already offered its ports and routes for trade purposes. Pakistan has always sent
a message of regional peaceful coexistence and trade. This summit may become a
small step towards the establishment of an impressive regional vision. This can
only be achieved when meaningful actions are taken by the member states to
support the talk of peace and trade.
It was unfortunate that Afghanistan chose
to downgrade its participation and showed its grievances towards Pakistan. The
ECO was a regional gathering and Pakistan was only a host and this was not the
appropriate forum to show the displeasure on the border closure. Afghanistan
should quit playing the role of a spoiler at the behest of India, and should
rather seek cooperative solutions. This would be beneficial for its own
interests because terrorism is a dilemma for both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Both the countries should work together to establish peace and Afghanistan
should be more forward-thinking in its approach, instead of pleasing India.
Pakistan has proved its worth yet again and dismissed the notion that it can
ever be isolated. In fact, the presence of an array of international leaders in
Pakistan suggests that some neighbouring countries’ agenda to isolate Pakistan
is a total failure and will not go too far.