New Age Islam Edit Bureau
23 March 2017
Afghanistan as Heart Of Asia
By Khadim Hussain
By Owen Bennet-Jones
Poverty Of The Mind
By I. A. Rehman
‘Ghairat’ And Politics
By Khawaja Khalid Farooq
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
By Khadim Hussain
Perhaps nothing might be more relevant than
the well-quoted verses by Dr Allama Iqbal regarding the strategic importance of
Afghanistan located between the South and Central Asia. Besides having an easy
and less expensive land route access to Central Asia, Afghanistan has easy
access to Europe through Turkey, West Asia through Iran, land access to South
Asia through Pakistan and direct access to China. This seems to be the reason
that Iqbal considered Afghanistan as the ‘heart of Asia’. If the heart is in trouble,
rest of the human body is understood to be in trouble.
Two factors seem to have put Afghanistan in
a perpetual state of instability over the past four decades. A continuous war
has been thrust on Afghanistan mostly due to the strategic rivalries of the
states of the region and the rest of the world because of the importance of its
strategic location. Some two million Afghans have lost their lives in wars. The
lives lost were mostly the young generation of Afghans. Millions of Afghans
were displaced and forced to live in neighbouring and other countries of the
world. Various phases of this four-decade long war also caused disruptions in
the natural evolution of Afghan society. The second factor that keeps
Afghanistan destabilised is the economy of war that was a natural corollary of
the perpetual war. This economy has been manifest in the shape of narcotics,
illicit trade, and private militias.
Due to the factors mentioned above,
Afghanistan remained a dissolved state for almost fifteen years. The internal
and external stakeholders agreed to reconstruct the Republic of Afghanistan in
the wake of the Bonn agreement in December 2001. It is an interesting study to
see what Afghanistan as a Republic has achieved in economic, social and
political spheres in the past 15 years.
60 to 65 percent of the population in
Afghanistan consists of the youth who are mostly educated in the neighbouring
countries, Europe or the United States of America because of displacement. This
large educated population has been able to help build a reasonable macro and
microeconomic infrastructure of Afghanistan. Afghanistan has been able to
achieve two percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth. It has also
been able to maintain an annual growth of 14.5 percent in its foreign exchange
reserves. Afghanistan has also been able to decrease 14 percent of its
dependence on transit trade from Karachi.
Rivers and other sources of flowing water
are the major natural resources of Afghanistan besides minerals packed mountain
ranges. The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has planned 12
big dams and some 40 small dams on various rivers in Afghanistan. Construction
of one of the larger dams in Kunar province is financially supported by China.
Afghanistan has taken significant strides in agricultural development in the
past fifteen years. The insurgency-stricken Helmand province of Afghanistan has
become one of the major wheat producing areas in the past few years.
One can observe the emergence of a strong
civil society in Afghanistan. There are more than two dozen TV channels which
have hundreds of permanent technical and non-technical staffers. More than
three dozen dailies and weeklies in Pashto, Dari and English are published from
various cities of Afghanistan. Almost all provinces of Afghanistan have
hundreds of non-governmental development, literary and research organisations.
Some 11 million primary and secondary level students are studying under the
supervision of 0.2 million teachers. Literacy rate has in Afghanistan has
reached 37 percent. A full-fledged ministry for women development has been
working in Afghanistan which has gone a long way to support women role in
social, economic and political spheres. Afghanistan has made rapid progress in
higher education. Besides the students who go on scholarships to other
countries, thousands of students are studying at a dozen governmental and more
than three dozen private seats of higher learning in Afghanistan.
Despite a sprawling war economy, insurgency
and narcotics, Afghanistan has been able to build a reasonable political
infrastructure. Three presidential elections have so far been heldsince 2001. A
peaceful and electoral transition of power took place some two years back which
seems to be a rare example in the history of Afghanistan. Afghanistan has a
bicameral parliament consisting of a lower house (Ulasi Jirga) and upper house
(Da Masharano Jirga). Though a culture of democratic political parties has yet
to emerge in Afghanistan, various political groups are active which might lead
to the formation of various democratic political parties.
Various ethnicities like the Pashtuns,
Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras have agreed on a social contract that has provided
an equitable distribution of power. Though a political competition is observed
among the ethnicities for governmental jobs and share in economic resources,
all the ethnicities firmly stick to the paradigm of ‘Afghaniat’.
The government and people of Afghanistan
have to deal with two significant challenges in the coming years. Fist,
Afghanistan has to deal with the internal insurgency of Taliban and the
terrorism perpetrated by the newly emerged so-called Islamic State (IS).
Second, Afghanistan has to replace the economy of war and narcotics with an
economy of peace.
The emerging scenarios in the Eurasia,
South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia indicate that Afghanistan will play a
crucial and critical role in the success of various regional pacts, agreements
and organisations. It goes without saying that the success of TAPI, CPEC, KASA
1000 and various agreements by ECO member states will ultimately depend on the
internal stability of Afghanistan. It is, therefore, essential for the
countries of the regions to explore common goals for progress in the sphere of
geo-economics. The countries of the region have to abandon the policy of using
private militias against one another. They also have to forsake the policy of
supporting one or other militant group in Afghanistan. This might go a long way
to help bring political stability in Afghanistan which might provide the
necessary environment for the development of geo-economics of the region.
WESTERN countries — Britain amongst them —
have a tendency to tell Pakistan what to do. For years the cry was ‘do more!’
against the Taliban. And when Pakistan did — eventually — do more, there came —
It sometimes seems as if the West has a
view on each and every area of Pakistani life. ‘Close down radical madrasas!’
‘Dismantle the hawala system!’ ‘Build more schools!’ ‘Introduce family
planning!’ ‘Chuck the Afghan Taliban leadership out of Quetta!’ And so on. Many
of these ideas have merit. But what would happen if Pakistan responded in kind.
What would it tell the British to do?
For many Pakistanis, the most pressing
demand would be for British action on the MQM. For years now, they complain,
the MQM leader Altaf Hussain, secure in his London home, has yelled threats
down the phone line to rallies and other events in Karachi. After decades of
British inactivity, the rising number of complaints from Pakistanis, many of
whom directly contacted Scotland Yard, has resulted in a long-running hate
speech investigation as well as another into possible incitement to violence.
But, as many Pakistanis point out, the speeches still come thick and fast.
But the MQM is just one of many issues.
There are other people making threatening speeches from the UK. Last year, Tanveer
Ahmed was jailed for at least 27 years for the murder of Glasgow-based Ahmadi
shopkeeper Asad Shah. Despite his incarceration, Tanveer has sent a series of
audio messages from his cell in Barlinnie prison in Scotland, some of which
have been distributed by clerics in Lahore.
The West seems to have a view on all areas
of Pakistani life.
In one message, Tanveer Ahmed told cleric
Khadim Hussain Rizvi that people should eliminate all the enemies of Islam. He
also spoke in defence of Salmaan Taseer’s assassin, Mumtaz Qadri. “Anyone who
disregards the respect and honour of Ghazi Mumtaz Qadri he is the one who
announced his enmity with Islam openly,” Tanveer was heard saying. “Whoever
calls the martyr an assassin, he is vicious, unclean and false.”
And then, some Pakistanis grumble, there
are the schools in Britain that teach extremist or, more often, isolationist
ideas to their pupils. Although there has been a shift in official attitudes in
the UK in recent months, some schools are still teaching children that it is
best not to become too friendly with Christians.
To take a specific example, one school in
Nottingham has a history of isolating children from mainstream British life and
of enforcing strict rules such as no make-up, no radios, no music with instruments,
no mobile phones, no newspapers and no TV. Even Harry Potter — being devoured
by other children in the UK — was banned. Even though the British authorities
have now started taking measures against the school, for the moment, it is
Next up: British visa policy. Even as
middle-class Pakistani students wanting to study at leading British
universities find their visas subject to long delays and in some cases
rejection, many Pakistanis, including senior officials, complain that hard-line
clerics from extremist madrasas seem to have no such problems.
In December last year, to take just one of
many examples, Syed Muzaffar Shah Qadri. described by the Pakistani authorities
as “prejudicial to public safety and maintenance of public order” and banned
from preaching in Pakistan, was allowed into the UK to speak at a number of
There are also cases of the British state
rewarding hard-line members of the anti-Ahmadi Khatm-i-Nabuwat. In 2009, Toaha
Qureshi a trustee of Stockwell Mosque in London was given an MBE — Member of
the British Empire — for services to community relations. Yet leaflets found in
Stockwell mosque last year called for Ahmadis to be killed.
It is not just in matters of religion that
the UK is perceived by some to play an unhelpful role in Pakistan. Indeed,
London’s most effective way of undermining good governance in Pakistan is, in
the view of many Pakistanis, the way it accepts the ill-gotten gains of
businessman and politicians who want to park their money in a place where it
will be safe and sound and beyond the reach of Pakistani law.
There is a saying the Bible. “First take
the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck
out of your brother’s eye.” It is perhaps a little unfair to quote that in this
context — many Pakistanis, after all, might now agree that the West was right
to urge Pakistan to confront the TTP. Some other pieces of Western advice might
also serve Pakistan’s long-term interests. But perhaps a little more
willingness to acknowledge the West’s own specks would help reassure those in
Pakistan who wonder if the UK and others really practise what they preach.
Poverty of the Mind
A SHARP decline in the mind of Pakistanis
caused by a failure to find rational and efficient answers to the
multidimensional crisis of the state is becoming evident with the passage of
The zeal and vehemence with which the
government has campaigned for the revival of military courts were worthy of a
nobler cause. It is difficult to recall the government having pursued any
public cause with such fervour. Issues such as poverty, hunger and disease have
not received even a fraction of the attention given to the creation of a
parallel system of justice.
At the same time, many learned persons have
been piling up arguments to prove what should have been accepted as a
self-evident truth — military courts offer no answer to the difficulties the
state has been facing in its efforts to counter terrorism. The whole debate has
underscored the Pakistani politicians’ inability to dispose of matters with as
little effort as possible.
Earlier, the ballyhoo over the success in
holding the PSL in Lahore had betrayed a serious loss of equilibrium. It was
good that the match was held in Pakistan, that a large number of people were
able to watch a game of cricket at the Qaddafi Stadium, and that the security
staff had enhanced their reputation for efficiency. But there was no need to
play down the embarrassment caused by the spot-fixing scandal nor for claiming
that the event had defeated all attempts by the country’s enemies to isolate it
or that the path to economic progress had been cleared.
Issues such as poverty have not received
even a fraction of the attention given to the revival of military courts.
Then for many days the people were treated
to a bizarre battle of words between Imran Khan’s detractors and his loyalists
over his assault on the foreign players who had participated in the PSL, as if
this were the most important issue in the crisis-torn country.
While the former cricket captain was
perhaps careless in his choice of words, his comment was not entirely invalid.
There is no doubt that many a retired or discarded player has found PSL-like
events to be money-making ventures.
Besides, tournaments such as IPL and PSL
have thrown up a new breed of mercenary sportsmen who owe their loyalty neither
to a team nor to any country; they play for themselves. They do provide
entertainment to a large number of people, and that means a lot for communities
deprived of joy by terrorism, but it is doubtful if they contribute to any
refinement of the game.
These points, however, did not figure in
the controversy. Instead, the principal issue in contention was the demand of
Now civil society organisations are calling
upon leaders of political parties to solicit their support for the early
passage of the bill aimed at the creation of a national commission for the
protection of the rights of children. This is a child-majority country where
child labour is still quite widespread, girls are still sold in marriage by
their parents, or given in marriage to men old enough to be their grandfathers to
settle disputes, and teenaged maids are tortured by their heartless employers.
There can be no two opinions on the urgency of establishing a national watchdog
organisation and the need to persuade political parties to back the idea.
However, civil society has good reason to
fear that the relevant bill that took a long time to get through the National
Assembly may be delayed in the Senate. Our politicians are not known for
appreciating the rights of children. Many of them still believe the demand for
the abolition of child labour is a Western conspiracy to undermine the national
economy and create hardships for the poor widows who depend wholly on their
small children’s earnings. The tactics used to block the bill for the abolition
of corporal punishment are no secret.
At one of its meetings, the Senate Standing
Committee dealing with the bill observed that while it supported the noble idea
behind the proposed measure it could not ignore parents’ traditional rights
over their children. Who knows what objections the traditional defenders of
parents’ rights will raise to the bill on the commission on child rights.
Civil society organisations are hopeful
that the government, that has been promising UN bodies the creation of a child
rights commission for quite a few years, does realise the need to redeem its
pledge before the forthcoming Universal Periodic Review (due in October). These
organisations had better conserve their energies for the effort they might be
expected to make after the bill becomes the law, in order to ensure that its
implementation is not obstructed in the way that the National Commission on the
Status of Women and the National Commission on Human Rights were.
The latest issue of public concern seems to
be the abuse of the social media. Some immature and irresponsible persons have
provided the censorship-loving authority a justification for curtailing
cyberspace. They have also made defence of the right to freedom of expression
difficult. While the authorities may succeed in suppressing dissent they might
be playing into the hands of extremists who have decided to silence the
upholders of people’s rights by concocting charges of blasphemy against them.
The campaign against Asma Jahangir is so
vicious and virulent that the threat not only to her liberty but directly to
her life cannot be dismissed. In one of the messages that the faithful have
been requested to disseminate as widely as possible — and the instructions have
indeed been followed — she has been painted as the most incorrigible sinner since
Considering the government’s poor record in
dealing firmly with anyone who drapes himself in holy robes, one seriously
doubts its capacity to check the exploitation of common citizens’ religious
sentiments to gain political advantage. But unless the menace of intolerance
and witch-hunts is effectively curbed there is danger of unofficial courts of
inquisition springing up.
The poverty of the mind is most manifest in
the manner in which critical matters are kept out of debate. One hears little
about how sustainable development goals are to be achieved, for instance. The
reasons for celebrating Pakistan Day — the adoption of the Lahore resolution
and the coming into force of the first indigenous constitution — have been
denuded of their meanings because of the rulers’ indulgence in their whims and
‘Ghairat’ and Politics
March 20, 2017
Now that Javed Latif has formally
apologised to Murad Saeed for his disrespectful comments regarding the latter’s
family members, it appears that the row has been resolved through the jirga
formed to resolve this ‘dispute’.
But has the problem been solved? Perhaps
the honour of Murad Saeed has been redeemed through the apology but what about
the women who were caught in the crossfire and what about all women in the
public space who are the real casualty of such attacks.
As many observers have noted, targeting
women for political point-scoring is nothing new. In 1977, I attended a
political activity for the first time in my life. A relative of mine, who was a
candidate for the PPP, had arranged a public meeting in the village and Mumtaz
Bhutto and a number of other PPP leaders showed up for the event. The most
significant part of my memory relates to a bearded person who looked like the
maulvi at our Jamia mosque and who read out a poem describing the looks of
Begum Nasim Wali Khan and its impact on her colleagues in the Pakistan National
Begum Wali had taken charge of the Awami
National Party (ANP) after her husband, Khan Abdul Wali Khan, was imprisoned by
the Bhutto government. To this day, she is respected for her struggle during
that period. Begum Wali also represented the party in the nine-party alliance
that had challenged the PPP.
Around the same time, PNA activists printed
a poster carrying a picture of Begum Nusrat Bhutto sitting alongside Richard
Nixon at a state banquet. Many shopkeepers had put up this picture with the
note: “Mother of PPP wallahs with American President Richard Nixon”.
For the women of the Bhutto family, it was
just a beginning. As Z A Bhutto was hanged and first Nusrat and later Benazir
Bhutto took charge of the party, they had to face an unrelenting smear
campaign. Referring to the PPP slogan of ‘Roti, Kapra, Makan’, the head of a
religious party told a jeering crowd, “She (Nusrat Bhutto) says she will give
you roti (bread), ask her, will she give you boti (flesh) as well?”.
Before Benazir was married, one of the most
popular anti-PPP slogans in Punjab went like this: “Piplio haya karo, bhen da
wiyah karo” (Have some shame PPP wallahs, marry off your sister.) However,
sexist attacks on her continued even after she got married, had children and
became the prime minister of Pakistan. Perhaps no one surpassed
Farzand-e-Rawalpindi Sheikh Rashid Ahmad in using guttural language against
her; for this he enjoyed the backing of his party bosses in the PML-N.
In our divisive political culture, women
are considered soft targets as the holders of men’s honour. An attack on women,
verbal or physical, is considered an attack on men’s honour. Politics is –
after all – about men competing for honour. Individual or collective harm meted
to women, however, is hardly debated.
During the recent revival of democracy, we
saw many positive changes. We should give some credit to Musharraf, who paved
the path for women’s inclusion in politics on a large scale by reserving seats
for them in local councils as well as provincial and national legislatures. It
forced male politicians to work in a mixed environment, very often with members
of their own families.
The PPP had already learnt to respect women
in politics thanks to the leadership of Benazir Bhutto. The PML-N mended its
ways after the Charter of Democracy that set norms for political parties. More
recently, it has moved from the right to the centre of politics, advocating for
rights of women and minorities.
However, widespread changes are sweeping a
large part of the world. These changes are created by a revolution in media and
communications and its interaction with the political culture, political
discourse and political rhetoric. Anti-politicians from outside the mainstream
and some populist politicians who want to advance themselves within
conventional political structures have invented new rhetoric to go with social
The PTI, though 20 years old, is a child of
this new world. It does not subscribe to the Charter of Democracy or any other
shared norms of political discourse. It made a huge contribution to women’s
inclusion in political space by including women in political meetings. However,
it failed to protect them when they were molested and harassed by the party’s
The party has spawned one million of the
kind who are always on the prowl on social media, harassing anyone who dares to
criticise their infallible leader. This one million strong firing squad does
not discriminate on the basis of gender, age or status. Anyone who dares to
oppose the Messiah is fair game. Pakistani state officials visiting Western
countries are humiliated by party activists in public, the whole episode is
filmed and then the clip is presented to the jeering online crowd as proof the
extreme unpopularity of the government.
Those who have been butchered by the firing
squad include Imran Khan’s own family members. Reham Khan came under attack
when she had not been divorced yet. She herself recounts how she was maligned
by party activists and no one came to her rescue when she was being lynched
through social media. Maryam Nawaz had to share pictures of her marriage to set
the record straight regarding her marriage with Captain Safdar.
However, what Javed Latif did was ugly
beyond any comparison. It was an attack by a legislator against the family
members of another legislator. In this, I have complete sympathy for Murad
Saeed and his family. In my opinion, Javed Latif should have been forced to
resign and then the PML-N should have used that high moral ground to force the
PTI to mend its ways.
I find it distasteful that the whole debate
was carried out within the paradigm on men’s honour. It was not considered an
attack on two young women, who have every right to participate in political
activities and meet their leader. It was rather seen as an attack on the honour
of Murad Saeed. PTI legislators from KP stated ad nauseam: “The Pathan can take
a bullet, but not verbal abuse.” Senior PTI leaders stated on television that
“such language leads to murders in our society.” Imran Khan himself spoke of
men’s ghairat rather than women’s rights.
In fact, it was an attack on all women,
because such attacks are a mechanism of social control meant to keep women in
their place – out of the public domain and within the sanctuary of their
houses, though they are not safe even there.
I am also upset by the shameful silence
adopted by the Women’s Caucus in parliament. What is the purpose of their
existence if not to promote an enabling environment for women to play an active
role in the public space?
After a small respite, politicians are
again sinking the boat they are sailing in. They are undermining the legitimacy
of democracy and through extreme partisanship rendering governance impossible.
They need to revert to a healthy public discourse if they do not want to be
barbecued yet again. To quote Mark Thompson, CEO of The New York Times: “A
healthy public language knits public and political leaders together and,
precisely because it succeeds in drawing ordinary citizens into the debate,
ultimately leads to better and more widely supported policy decisions.” And
that’s what democracy is all about.
The aftermath of spectacular terror attacks
follow a predictable pattern in Pakistan. Once the immediate shock wears off,
there is an inevitable media scramble for information about the perpetrators,
grief for the victims, and the hunt for security lapses. Security threat alerts
are now commonly displayed on the media considering threat alerts issued by law
Unfortunately, it is often true that the
intelligence community may have had some information about the attackers
readily available. However, information about the perpetrators and their
insidious plans are often hidden among varying reports, databases, and even
open-source outlets, whether it’s news media reports or the social media. If
placed together correctly, these bits and pieces of information can tell
intelligence analysts much about the attackers, including who they are, how
they choose their targets, and, in some cases, their motivations.
However, it is never easy. There may only
be snippets fin coherent information, scraps of conversations, and cryptic
references that have to be decoded, and that too within the short time frames
between terrorist attacks. It is the enduring challenge of intelligence
analysts to discover and analyse such information ahead of time, to predict and
pre-empt such an attack. It is always easier to find this information
afterward, but it is never easy beforehand.
One of the predictive analysis tools that
intelligence analysts have available is threat profiling, which can help
organise intelligence information related to different threat groups. This
technique is simply a way to help collect relevant information about a group,
prioritise analysis, and present the analysis within a common framework so the
information can be widely shared and understood.
Threat profiling can often be confused with
other forms of analysis. When discussing threat profiling, it is important to
acknowledge that the word “profiling” often triggers concern about legality or
political correctness. It can sometimes be inaccurately associated with the
biased and bigoted thought process known as racial profiling. Threat profiling
is not racial profiling — in fact its intent is to combat it.
Rather than making assumptions about a
single person or group solely based on race, ethnicity, religion, or skin
color, threat profiling looks at an entire set of social demographics and
psychographics of a group. It also analyses this in the context of other
factors like motivations, leadership, targets, etc. Instead of making
generalisations, threat profiling is designed to help identify trends and
Threat profiling can also be confused with
behavioural profiling, a type of psychographic analysis of a single perpetrator
used by law enforcement, and made popular and wrongly stereotyped by movies
like ‘Silence of the Lambs’ and just about every current crime drama on
television now. Where behavioural profiling is conducted on a single
individual, threat profiling is designed to help analysts understand entire
threat groups whether they are terror cells, gangs, organized crime syndicates,
militias, or cyber organisations.
Virtually every piece of information about
a group can be organised into a category or component. To create a threat
profile, an analyst collects and organises all information related to a
particular group into a defined set of components that can be more easily
analysed. These could be motivations, goals, demographics, psychographics,
leadership, targets, operational methods, sustainment, capabilities, and
Using threat profiling to analyse an
extremist group is beneficial for several reasons. It helps to organise
collection efforts on a certain group. Analysts can take all the information
they have on that group, which may seem like disparate pieces of information,
and categorise it into one or more components. Organising this information can
help analysts prioritise where to start their analytical process.
Such a strategy is particularly beneficial
when analysts only want to look towards a specific aspect of the group.
Perhaps, most importantly, threat profiling will help establish a common
framework of understanding about a group within an intelligence organisation.
Often, conducting analysis about a particular threat group is a large-scale
effort involving many analysts. Using a common framework as an accepted
standard combats duplication of effort. It also helps to identify gaps in
analysis among different people working on the effort.
Finally, using a standard threat profile
framework will help in the presentation of analysis — whether it is through a
briefing, discussion, presentation, or in a published product. This framework
can be especially useful when communicating an assessment to those outside of
the world of intelligence.
Intelligence analysis can be an extremely
complex undertaking. It can be a daunting task to use the scant bits and pieces
of information available to understand a threat group and then predict their
future actions. Such efforts can lead to broad estimations, misconceptions,
leap of logic and flat-out errors in analysis. However, threat profiling is
designed to help make the analytical process more manageable, and make the now
commonly displayed threat alerts as something beyond mere representations of
snippets of information.