New Age Islam Edit Bureau
20 September 2017
An Almost Happy Country
By Rafia Zakaria
By Mahir Ali
Morality and Realpolitik
By Shahid M Amin
Words Speak Louder Than Actions
By Imran Jan
Their Burden,Our Resolve
By Awais Anwer Khawaja
The Tide Turns Now
By Talimand Khan
The Enlightened White Man
By Miranda Husain
New Wine into Old Wineskins
By Wajid Shamsul Hasan
Different Kind of Refugees
By Javaid Bhat
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
September 20, 2017
THE World Happiness Report operates from
the premise that happiness can be measured, counted up via surveys, tabulated
in statistics and then ranked by country. This year’s report ranks 155
countries in a master ranking of happiness. It also proves statistically what
all of us have known tacitly: rich people are happier than poor people, more
likely to describe themselves as “happy” and consequently rich countries, made
up as they are of rich people, are happier than poor countries.
Of all the lucky and happy countries, the
happiest and consequently the luckiest is Norway, ranked number one among the
155. Its other Scandinavian neighbours, Denmark, Finland, and Sweden, are not
far behind, all of them appearing in the top 10 happiest places in the world.
With little threat of war, free healthcare and state support for unemployment
or disability, Norwegians need not fret over the concerns that trouble the rest
According to the report’s authors, however,
Norwegians are happy not because of their country’s wealth but in spite of it;
ever frugal, they drill their oil reserves sparingly and slowly invest the
profits rather than frittering them all away. As a consequence, Norway’s
economy is cushioned from sudden downturns and its people from common worries
that are everybody else’s affliction. Those who save are rarely sorry and the
case of Norway, the happiest country in the world, proves just that.
How you estimate Pakistan’s position
depends on whether you are an optimist or a pessimist.
At number 80, Pakistan falls in the middle
of the pack of countries ranked by the happiness index, not anywhere in the
league of Denmark and Norway but beating both India and Bangladesh. At number
122, India fell four places in the happiness index between last year and this year’s
rankings. One Indian publication blamed unemployment, malnutrition and poverty
as possible causes; another threw the blame at the lack of vacation time,
citing a study that ranked India as the fourth most vacation-deprived country
in the world.
At number 79, China ranks higher than India
but (rather surprisingly) sharp improvements in the standard of living of the
Chinese over the past 25 years have not produced equivalent advances in levels
of reported happiness. If the World Happiness Report is to be believed, the
Chinese are absolutely no happier than they were in 1990 when per capita income
was significantly lower than it is today. A possible cause for Chinese
unhappiness could be the perceived lack of personal and political freedom, an
indicator on which the world’s happiest countries rank very highly. More money,
it seems, cannot entirely eliminate the misery produced by the constrictions
and constraints of a repressive society.
The import of a World Happiness Report lies
in the insights it can provide about the human experience as a whole — and
there are some interesting ones in this year’s edition. Across all 155
countries, unemployment produces a huge drop in an individual’s estimation of
their own happiness. Similarly, regardless of whether a country is rich or
poor, the misery of mental illness is the single factor having the largest
impact on happiness. It makes sense then that countries that have few resources
to deal with mental illness and in which mental illness is stigmatised do not
rank as highly on the happiness index as those where the mentally ill can be
properly treated and are not subject to social exclusion and ostracism.
For all its insights, however, the World
Happiness Report is yet another ranking according to whose parameters rich
countries rank higher, seem better and hence establish a dominance of sorts
over lesser nations. The happiness ranking, comprehensive and exhaustive as it
may seem, does not reveal that the countries at the bottom of the list — the
Central African Republic, Yemen and Syria amongst them — have all been the
subject of troublesome meddling by richer, more powerful (and happier) Western
nations. Invasion or intervention of this sort is not measured or interrogated
by the authors of the happiness index, nor is it considered a possible cause
for a lower happiness ranking.
The underlying premise of the World
Happiness Report is that ‘happiness’ measured subjectively via a number of
variables is the most coveted state of being in the world. Happiness, it is
assumed, is the object of all human action and the consequently ultimate metric
of well-being, more thorough and accurate than earlier tabulations that ranked
the world’s nations on the basis of other measurements — the sum of their gross
domestic product or the level of their economic growth. And yet even this
metric of ‘happiness’ and its measurement using (at least in part) surveys of
individuals may be unduly reliant on individualistic notions of self.
In societies where group identities are
dominant, survey questions that demand subjective and individual estimations of
happiness would be unusual, with survey respondents unaccustomed to considering
their relative happiness or unhappiness independent of the consensus of family
or clan or tribe. Similarly, some societies may prioritise piety or unity over
individual happiness, making the latter a less than ideal measure of their
well-being in relation to others.
At almost exactly halfway down the
happiness index, how you estimate Pakistan’s position depends on whether you
are an optimist or a pessimist, inclined to see the glass half full or half
empty. In either case, improvement is always possible: the Central American
country of Nicaragua, beset with just as many challenges as Pakistan, came in
at number 43, making it the most improved country in the entire set of
rankings. What’s possible for Nicaragua may be possible for Pakistan, a climb
from the bottom half into the upper half, a transformation from an almost happy
country to a truly happy one.
THIS week’s fresh initiative for a
Hamas-Fatah rapprochement is bound to be viewed with scepticism, given the
depressing history of previous attempts to reconcile the rival Palestinian
factions. It may be different this time, though, given that Hamas’s willingness
to compromise is fuelled by sheer desperation.
Its Gaza Strip administration — established
in the wake of a civil war, after the various powers-that-be had decreed that
Hamas’s success in the 2006 Palestinian Authority (PA) elections deserved to be
honoured in the breach — has seldom been on shakier ground. Egypt has
collaborated with Israel’s blockade of the territory, particularly since
Cairo’s waltz with democracy ended in tears, while Qatar’s value as a rich ally
has diminished since it was ostracised by key Gulf neighbours.
Perhaps the unkindest cut of all came in
June from Ramallah, when the PA’s President Mahmoud Abbas asked Israel to
sharply reduce the amount of electricity it supplies to Gaza. One of the
consequences has been a drastic drop in the territory’s capacity for sewage
treatment. Much of the raw waste has been redirected into the sea, further
polluting the 25-mile coastline that for most Gazans is their only outlet for
If Abbas was determined to make life even
more miserable and poisonous for Gazans as a means of twisting Hamas’s arm, he
may have succeeded. Whether many Gazans will vote for Fatah, if the fresh
elections proposed by Hamas go ahead, remains to be seen.
Everything is going according to plan.
Israel’s Likud-led administration detests
the idea of Palestinian unity — even though that has never prevented it from
making the most of the fact that Abbas does not speak for all Palestinians. It
also relies on the PA to clamp down on the more credible critics of the
occupation, such as Hebron-based human rights activist Issa Amro, the founder
of Youth Against the Settlements, which documents abuses by settlers and the Israeli
military. He was taken into custody recently after a Facebook post in which he
decried the arrest of anti-Abbas journalist Ayman Qawasmeh.
Israel and its allies in the West could
scarcely conceive of a more pliable Palestinian leader than Abbas, yet even he
is prone to expressing his frustration over the absence of credible
negotiations towards ending the 50-year occupation, recently referred to by
Donald Trump’s ambassador to Israel as “an alleged occupation”. A US official
clarified the comments did not signify a change in American policy. That is
easy to accept.
Late last month, Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu, who faces corruption allegations, declared at an event
celebrating the half-century of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, “We are
here to stay forever. There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the
land of Israel. It has been proven that it does not help peace.” That, too, is
easy to accept. After all, as a senior aide of his predecessor Ariel Sharon
admitted more than a decade ago, Israel’s evacuation of the Gaza Strip was
intended precisely to forestall the prospect of having to do the same in the
West Bank. In that respect, everything is going according to plan.
The plan was hatched long ago, and
initially bore fruit with the Balfour Declaration of Nov 2, 1917, in which the
British foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, informed a leader of Britain’s
Jewish community, Lord Walter Rothschild, and through him the Zionist
Federation of Great Britain and Ireland, that “His Majesty’s government view
with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish
people and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this
object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice
the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine,
or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country”.
The statement was intended, in large part,
to gain Jewish support for the Allied war effort. The only Jewish member of
David Lloyd George’s cabinet, secretary of state for India Edwin Samuel
Montagu, vehemently opposed the declaration, saying: “The policy of His
Majesty’s government is anti-Semitic in result and will prove a rallying ground
for anti-Semites in every country of the world.” He was half right. Many
anti-Semites embraced the idea of an exodus of European Jews to the Middle
East, and even today some of Likudite Israel’s closest allies, not least in the
US, barely disguise their hatred for Jews.
A century ago, Jews comprised less than 10
per cent of the population in what became Mandatory Palestine. The demographics
are very different today, yet still insufficiently weighted for latter-day
Zionists. Hence the open-ended occupation and its awful consequences, which are
bound to be broadly disregarded at this week’s session of the United Nations
WORLD has been shocked by the cruel persecution
of Rohingya Muslims by the police and army of Myanmar, egged on by Buddhist
priests and a highly nationalistic population. In the last one-month, about
300,000 Rohingyas have fled their homes to take refuge in neighbouring
Bangladesh. They have told stories of horrible atrocities, amounting to a
virtual genocide. But two important neighbours, China and India, have endorsed
Myanmar’s policies. Many observers are puzzled by the stance of these two
countries. China has often supported oppressed peoples in the world, including
Palestinians. India claims to be the largest democracy in the world. Even more
puzzling is the defiance of world opinion by Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Prize
winner for Peace, who had struggled for years to uphold human rights in Myanmar
and today is in a position of authority in her country. The explanation for
these paradoxes is that in international politics, cold-blooded calculation of
national interests, called realpolitik, overrides morality.
The Rohingyas are an ethnic Muslim minority
of about 1.5 million people, who migrated to Arakan (renamed as Rakhine) from
Bengal (now Bangladesh), during British colonial period. The British had
conquered Burma in 1825 and ruled over it as part of British India. After Burma
gained independence in 1948, it adopted a harsh policy towards Rohingya
Muslims. They were viewed as illegal Bengali immigrants, different in race and
religion from Buddhist Burmese. They were denied citizenship in their own
country. Their lands have been confiscated by the military and handed over to
Burmese settlers. When General Ne Win seized power in 1962, he launched
military operations to crush Rohingyas. Many fled to Bangladesh which, however,
showed little sympathy. In mid-1990s, Bangladesh even forcibly repatriated
200,000 refugees to Myanmar.
Independent studies conducted by the UN
have confirmed evidence of increasing incitement of hatred and religious
intolerance by ultra-nationalist Buddhists, led by monks. Police and armed
forces have conducted ‘summary executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary
arrests and detentions, torture and ill-treatment and forced labour’ against
Rohingyas, termed by the UN High Commission for Refugees as ‘crimes against
humanity.’ The latest violence started in August 2017, when some Rohingya
militants reportedly killed a dozen Myanmar policemen. The official response
was brutal and a veritable genocide has been launched, with killings, burnings
and rapes of Rohingyas that have forced lakhs to seek refuge in neighbouring
Bangladesh. An overpopulated country, Bangladesh has for years shown
insensitivity towards the plight of Rohingyas and shut its borders to any
influx of refugees. But this time, Prime Minister Sheikh Haseena has been
forced by pressure of international opinion —by the UN, Turkey and others— to
accept these refugees temporarily. International humanitarian aid has been
promised and is on its way. Pakistani public opinion, always sympathetic to
Muslim causes, has induced Islamabad to speak out on the Rohingya issue.
There is strong international pressure on
Aung San Suu Kyi, who is virtually her country’s Prime Minister, to put a stop
to the atrocities against Rohingyas. In the past, she was seen as a fighter for
democracy and human rights. Instead, she has accused the Rohingyas of resort to
terrorism. Evidently, she fears that most of her countrymen, who are strongly
nationalist, would turn against her if she speaks up for the oppressed Rohingya
and she would be deprived of power and public support. She does not dare to
defy the powerful military as well, which has issued a tough statement: ‘We
have no policy to negotiate with terrorists.’ Therefore, realpolitik is behind
her decision to overlook moral considerations.
China has issued a statement endorsing the
Myanmar government’s stance. Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang stated on
12 September that China supported the Myanmar government’s efforts to ‘uphold
peace and stability’ in Rakhine, adding: ‘We hope order and normal life there
will be recovered as soon as possible’. China has made heavy investments in
Myanmar and is currently building a transit route through Myanmar. This will be
a crucial energy corridor that will reach the sea in Rakhine state. The
pipeline will cost nearly $10 billion. There is an 868-km railway project,
parallel to the Shwe natural gas pipeline adjacent to Rakhine. The
trans-Myanmar infrastructure will link China’s Yunnan province to the Bay of
Bengal. China has long been competing with India for influence in Myanmar.
Another reason that could be influencing China’s stand on the Rohingya issue is
its worry about Islamist secessionists in Xinjiang province. Realpolitik is
clearly guiding China in its stance towards Myanmar.
Indian Prime Minister Modi, who visited
Myanmar recently, has supported Myanmar’s policy towards Rohingyas, mainly for
geostrategic reasons. Some observers hold there is a “Sino-Indian Great Game”
taking place in Myanmar. India is worried about China’s rising influence in
Myanmar and is determined not to be left out. There are concerns in India over
China’s extensive military involvement in ports, naval and intelligence
facilities, specifically the upgrading of a naval base at Sittwe, a major
seaport located close to Kolkata. India is also cooperating to modernize
Myanmar’s military. It is the largest market for Myanmar exports.
These realpolitik motives explain India’s
turning a blind eye to genocide of Rohingyas. Moreover, Modi’s Hindutva
philosophy is basically anti-Muslim. He is worried by the strong separatist
movement in Indian-held Kashmir and views Rohingyas as Islamist secessionists
and extremists. Many Muslim countries have spoken out forcefully against
persecution of Rohingyas because Myanmar is of marginal importance for them.
But when it comes to Indian atrocities in Kashmir, Muslim countries are silent
because their national interests could be hurt by antagonizing a big power like
India. Here again, realpolitik prevails over morality.
September 19, 2017
Trump has trumpeted the “do more” rhetoric
with his signature style of making hubris more pronounced. The “do more” is not
new and neither is it going to be old anytime soon. But there is something very
interesting about this “do more” mantra: One, it is a testament to the
privilege of powerful nations to define things as they please and for the rest
to follow. Two, with repeated loud noise almost nobody questions the character
of the noise-makers. More disturbingly, the only counter-argument or the reply
given is that Pakistan has lost so many lives, so much of the infrastructure,
so much money, and so forth.
David Cameron, the first world leader to
have met Nawaz Sharif when the latter was elected prime minister in 2013, had
advocated stopping Pakistan from exporting terror to India, Afghanistan or
anywhere else. The UK, the junior partner of the American empire, usually
repeats its master’s rhetoric. As for the Pakistani leadership, claiming
victimhood from terror is fine but it is not enough. The honour of 200 million
people is at stake. When faced with accusations on one’s character and
credibility, one doesn’t bend backwards to prove oneself as the victim. That is
a very lowly manner of conducting the business of politics. Pakistan should
start making noise about some issues that have already been pushed down the
Orwellian hole. Let me highlight some of them.
Pakistan is criticised for supporting the
Haqqani Network, the people America and its junior partner supported in the
’80s. The same nefarious individuals were supported militarily and financially
during the Kosovo war. Bases were set up in Albania and the Kosovo Liberation
Army (KLA) was backed along with al Qaeda to provoke the Serbs and trigger a
military response from Nato. The biggest purpose was to make Nato relevant. All
this support was given to the KLA and al Qaeda while Bin Laden had declared a
holy war against America. But changing the definitions of enemies and
negotiating with terrorists when it is convenient is the privilege of strong
Keeping Bin Laden in Abbottabad, protecting
his capture by the US is always there if nothing else works. Al Qaeda was
responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. British intelligence
despite knowing this, tolerated the Advice and Reformation Committee — Bin
Laden’s London base — to operate on British soil. This too was after 1996, the
year when Bin Laden declared a holy war against the United States.
Why would the British tolerate Bin Laden’s
base to operate on its soil? The British had tried to assassinate Muammar
Qaddafi in 1986 but the plan failed and instead Qaddafi’s adopted daughter was
killed in the attack. Ten years later, another opportunity presented itself
when a Libyan military intelligence officer approached the MI6 with a plan to
kill Qaddafi. The Libyan who was codenamed ‘Tunworth’ advised the MI6 to
support the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) to kill Qaddafi. This group
was formed in Afghanistan in 1990. Noman Benotman, the former head of the LIFG,
who travelled to Afghanistan as a 22-year-old in 1989, said that he worked
under the command of Jalaluddin Haqqani and received extensive support and
training from British training programme. He was trained by the elite units of
Mujahideen who were trained by Pakistan Special Forces, the CIA, and the SAS.
Britain allowed the LIFG to operate on its
soil and do fundraising. The LIFG believed the Qaddafi government was “an
apostate regime that has blasphemed against the faith of God Almighty” and that
its overthrow was the “foremost duty after the faith in God”. These calls were
issued in London. Several Afghan war Jihadist LIFG members were enjoying
political asylum in England. So, an extremist organisation is allowed to
operate on its soil in planning and executing assassination attempts on the
leader of another sovereign nation, in this case Libya. Pakistan is criticised
for something similar in terms of the Haqqani Network and the Lashkar-e-Taiba
(LeT). Pakistan’s support for terror is wrong but criticising Pakistan by
bigger sponsors of terror is textbook hypocrisy. Furthermore, Afghanistan is a
neighbour and security issue of Pakistan. Libya was neither for British. But if
oil and profits are factored into, one can easily connect the dots.
After the fall of the Third Reich, many
Nazi officers were given American immigration. These Nazis worked for the CIA
as spies in the Cold War against the Soviet Union despite the fact that the CIA
knew of their serious war crimes.
There are numerous similar accounts, which
the limited space does not permit me to write about. But you get the idea. The
key is noise. In the business world, the simplest brand name with the simplest
logo remains in memory, as Steve Jobs believed. However, in the complicated arena
of global politics, the one who is the loudest and the most skilful in
repeating the noise wins the day. It’s a crime when Pakistan supports the
Haqqani Network; it’s a crime when Pakistan doesn’t “do more”. It’s a crime
when Pakistan gives sanctuary to Bin Laden and on and on. However, the
above-mentioned dirty realities and many more not mentioned above are not
crimes because no noise is made about them. Those criticising Pakistan are good
terrorism hating nations because they say so and that is enough for it to be
true. My message to the Pakistani leadership is this: In politics, words speak
louder than actions.
Their Burden, Our Resolve
The recent Afghan policy of Trump’s
administration manifests the centuries-old imperialist disposition. In Rudyard
Kipling’s words in ‘The White Man’s Burden’: Take up the White Man’s burden/
Send forth the best ye breed –/ Go blind your sons to exile –/ To serve your
captive’s need;/To wait in heavy harness,/ On fluttered folk and wild-/Your new
caught, sullen peoples,/Half-devil and half child.
Historically, the white imperialists craved
the conquest of other nations – at least in theory – with the objective to
provide them medicine and education. Clearly, facts narrate the opposite of the
myth. The Great Bengal Famine of 1769 that occurred soon after the British
conquest proves to be the antithesis of Kipling’s theory.
The strong ties between Pakistan and the US
date back to 1949 when a report was presented for the joints chiefs of staff on
South Asia. This report noted that Pakistan “might be required as [a] base for
air operations against [the] central USSR and as a staging area for forces
engaged in the defence or recapture of [the] Middle East oil area”. The swathe
of countries – from Turkey in the West to Iraq, Iran and Pakistan in the East –
were knotted in an omnibus agreement known as the Baghdad Pact. The US couldn’t
afford to have Pakistan fall within the communist bloc.
The Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and
Co-operation, signed between India and the Soviet Union in August 1971, had
further complicated the situation for the capitalist world in the cold war. The
Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1979 marked an era of strategic cooperation
between Pakistan and the US.
Contrary to the common dilemma in the US
administration, Pakistan offers countless shared values with the free world. It
is a capitalist economy with strong property rights. While the educational
level is low, there are visible signs of improvement. Democracy is not as
promising as what it is in the free folk’s world. But it is headed in the right
direction. The discourse against corruption is gaining momentum, the media is
largely gag-free and women are in the mainstream. Moreover, Pakistanis are
peace-loving and hard-working and, despite numerous socioeconomic problems, are
committed to the hope of a promising future.
The Trump administration’s Afghan policy is
an escape from the harsh realities of the region. The hostile plains of
Afghanistan are not prone to an easy invasion. Around 65 percent of Afghanistan
is still out of allies’ control. US taxpayers have spent more than $61 billion
on the Afghan war. But the desired outcome is still quite remote. The economic
pivot is nowhere in sight. Reconstruction and war perhaps don’t go
hand-in-hand. Afghanistan lacks the financial, managerial, technical and legal
capacity to support or maintain what has been built thus far. All modern
concepts, such as health, education, gender equality and social justice, are
too modern for Afghan society.
A quick look at the Afghan policy that has
spanned over various US administrations speaks volumes of its incoherence.
George W Bush’s threat to bomb Pakistan in the event of non-cooperation, the
Obama administration’s plan to pull out from Afghanistan, the formation of a
quadrilateral group and, in the end, the US nudging India to adopt a mainstream
role in Afghanistan presents an incoherent, divergent and a grotesque scheme.
The civilisation took a long time to evolve
from tribal societies to ordered states. Afghanistan is still a patrimonial and
stratified society and the basic characteristics of state-level formation
remain largely absent. The evolutionary process from a feudal society to a
coherent state is a long journey. The world cannot expect an evolution in
Afghanistan in just a few decades, particularly in the backdrop of a political
vacuum created after the end of the Soviet occupation.
From Pakistan’s perspective, the global
view of the Afghan situation isn’t conducive either. Trump’s policy, followed
by the Brics declaration, doesn’t sit well it with the country. Ostensibly,
there is an emerging need to change the overall Afghanistan policy and the entire
discourse on the war on terror. Pakistan needs to take decisive action against
those responsible for the Mumbai attacks. We can’t continue to pursue the
policy of the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban. The Foreign Office saying one thing,
the establishment saying another and the cabinet enunciating entirely a
different narrative confounds the whole situation. Absolute civilian oversight
is the cornerstone of the success in any civilised nation.
Soon after being voted into public office,
the incumbent government tried to iron out the differences with the TTP through
diplomatic means. However, Major General Sanaullah Khan Niazi’s martyrdom at
the hands of the TTP after peaceful overtures by the government halted the
peace process. It always takes two to tango and the state cannot singlehandedly
resort to non-lethal means for the diplomatic resolution of differences. With
the malaise in the economy and other problems at hand, Pakistan cannot ignore
the global view of its role in the war on terror.
Of course, Pakistan has been one of the
largest victims of terrorism itself. But something is wrong somewhere and the
state has yet to determine what that is. Real peace is not being in a state of
war. Sustainable peace is the implausibility of war. How can the implausibility
of war be ensured by all the stakeholders?
Both Pakistan and India have to find
peaceful means to work with each other. Would machinating to cancel or postpone
the Saarc summit in Pakistan ensure peace? Would strong arming smaller states
to not to play cricket in Pakistan bring peace? Or would shrugging off
Pakistan’s genuine concerns with respect to fomenting terrorism in Pakistan by
the likes of Kulbhushan Jadhav bring peace in the region? Similarly, dithering
on taking decisive action against those who are responsible for any terrorist
attack against any state and are seeking refuge in Pakistan cannot be the
implausibility of war. Over the course of time, humans have learnt that war is
not the destiny of our race. After the two world wars, the warring Europeans
have learnt to live conterminously.
The sitting government under the command of
Shahid Khaqaan Abbasi is contemplating means to assuage the smouldering crisis.
The prime minister, who himself is a graduate of a US institute, realises the
significance of a global political outlay. The annual plenary session of the UN
presents a good opportunity to find political and peaceful means to resolve all
While the US should not risk losing an ally
that has historically enjoyed shared values with it, leaders in Pakistan and
India are to stand the test of their vision in the General Assembly. At best,
both the nuclear-armed nations will find common grounds for an objective
resolution of their differences. I would like to respond to Rudyard Kipling in
my own words, ‘The Brown Man’s Resolve’: We art the children of destiny-/
Sublime and Blissful,/ You hath not conquered us/We are your peers,/My women
transcend in equality/Much as yours across [the] Atlantic,/There shouldn’t be
blood in [the] streets-/Not mine, not thine.
The history of Pakistan’s by-elections have
rarely assumed as much importance as the by-election of NA-120. The seat was
vacated by the former Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif as a consequence of
the Supreme Court’s five-member bench verdict on the Panama leaks. However, his
disqualification was done on the grounds of not declaring the salary which he
did not receive. Thus, the verdict and result of NA-120 is another addition to
the benchmarks of Pakistan’s treacherous political history and vantage point of
analysis for predicting shape, tone and tenor of ensuing political events.
The result of NA-120 will probably be a
barometer for democratic and anti-democratic forces. The result might have
boosted the morale of the ruling but beleaguered PML-N but it can also create
panic in the ranks of opposite camps to think about the crude methods of
upsetting Punjab’s new found cause of civilian supremacy through sanctity of
the ballot paper. For the first time, workers and voters of a political party
ruling the center as well as Punjab faced crude tactics on polling day from
powers that no one has the courage to name. In effect, the scenario paraphrased
the whole saga of Pakistani parliamentary system and civilian supremacy. This
is proof that the sovereign powers of the state are lying elsewhere, and until
the people locate them they cannot fix responsibility and accountability for
the political, economic and social decay the country is heading towards.
Punjab has a rare opportunity of promoting
national integration by accomodating competing regional interests
However, there is a ray of hope as PML-N
workers in Punjab showed a marked resolve and commitment to the cause of
democracy and civilian supremacy in the face of all odds. It is a good
indication that Punjab is steering towards becoming a strong political
leadership that espouses the cause of democracy and civilian preponderance
rather than a civil-military bastion.
By finding a leader in Nawaz Sharif and
leading the democratic project, Punjab has a rare opportunity of national
integration through democracy to accommodate competing regional interests that
can ultimately blunt the ethno-linguistic divide. Moreover, it will be able to
falsify Zia’s notion of unity through uniformity that justified the political
use of religion, one of the nightmares faced by the country and its people.
So far, one of the complaints repeated by
the democratic forces in smaller provinces against Punjab is either its
apolitical attitude or inclination to side with anti-democratic forces
suppressing the voices of democratic forces through its numerical majority.
In the 1980s, the voices of democratic
forces in interior Sindh could not reach the plains of Punjab and were easily
suppressed by incriminating them as miscreants and robbers.
Another glaring example of sacrifice by the
people of smaller provinces is that it is off the radar of our national
memories is the struggle of the Pakhtun of Balochistan. Dejected by the
deepening silence against the Zia dictatorship and absence of solidarity with
the democratic struggle of rural Sindhi, on October 7 1983, Mahmood Khan
Achakzai, chairman of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, gave a call for a peaceful
march with the only slogan of ‘long live democracy’ that was ruthlessly crushed
by the martial law authorities by killing and injuring several workers.
Achakzai narrowly escaped amid direct firing. That was one of Achakzai’s sins
never forgiven by anti-democratic forces. For about seven years he remained
underground due to threats to his life. The workers of PkMAP were subjected to
a vicious witch hunt, in which they were forcefully taken to the Jamia Masjid
in Zhob and forced to recite the Kalma to renew their faith as the mullah
declared them apostates by talking about democracy and opposing the so-called
Afghan Jihad. Additionally, the mullah declared their marriages null and void
and called their in-laws to pressurize their son-in laws to either leave PkMAP
and renew their faith or divorce their wives. This is the democratic struggle
of those was turned into a stratagem to rally support for the Afghan jihad. As
those workers stand exonerated of their ‘apostasy’, the country remains deeply
mired by the same Afghan jihad policy.
But today, those political workers support
their counterparts in Punjab struggling for the cause of democracy. When a
non-Punjabi political worker finds out about the political struggle of workers
in Punjab; some who have gone missing a day before the elections and others who
have been subjected to baseless charges of blasphemy for raising voice in
favour of civilian supremacy and democracy, a common cause is automatically
established. This confluence of ideology that struggles for the larger cause of
democracy can ensure plurality and diversity and can provide constitutional
guarantee for their cultural, political and economic rights providing an
impetus for national integration exceeding the ethnic and linguistic divide.
The struggle, without a doubt is a worthy cause. Now that Punjab is facing the
brunt of forces controlling democracy, the possibility of representative
democracy is not too elusive.
Forest School in northeast London was home
to me for most of the 1980s. As it had been to the creators of a pioneering
comedy sketch show that turned the mundane post-colonial narrative on its head
by superbly satirising British cultural stereotypes about South Asians. Whilst
poking equal fun at the latter’s own idiosyncrasies and biases. Cheque please!
Rather controversially, this secondary school also counted amongst its alumni
the young man behind the kidnapping and murderous beheading of an American
journalist in Pakistan.
Yet when I think of these days — what
springs to mind is the heady mix of big hair, Sun-In and perms. All laminated
in squirts of industrial strength hairspray. This was also the time that I fell
in love. He was England’s most miserable genius. And it was his poetry
collection — The Whitsun Weddings — that turned my head.
We had a new English Literature A’ Level
teacher. He was a bit of a rebel in that he always sided with pupils over
senior teaching staff. There he was right in the thick of it: that failed
lunchtime plot that saw most of us clambering on to the roof while the boys got
into position, ready to water bomb the Head of Sixth Form. Who, sadly, must
have got wind of what was afoot. For not once did he return to his office
during the entire lunch hour. At the time, we believed that the ‘support’ from
our rebel teacher afforded him untold street cred. Looking back, it should
perhaps have signalled a warning of sorts.
According to Mr T, young American women had
no right to protest campus rapes — simply because they are more privileged than
women in India and Pakistan
I found myself in touch with him a few
years ago, after coming across a comment he had left on a school friend’s
social media post. He was a published author living in the US, married to
another teacher from our school. They had cats. Naturally, we had much to talk
about. For my part, I couldn’t bring myself to use his first name. Interested
to know what I was doing here in Pakistan — I began to tell him some of the
challenges of living here as an independent, unmarried yet crazy cat person.
Some of which were not too dissimilar to living in England as an independent,
unmarried crazy dog person.
It was almost imperceptible at first. The
way he recast me with an identity of his own choosing: an oppressed Pakistani
woman living in a country that is said to be no place for any of us women. Mere
happenstance this was not. For it allowed him to reinvent himself as the
Enlightened White Man, an authority on the Muslim world and the plight of women
here. Given that he had spent a little time in the MENA region. Not to mention
his stint teaching Pakistanis in England. Well, then.
Increasingly, he engineered our online
conversations to critical assessment of how the US media covered rape.
Manufactured contempt over how one such incident in India had yet to make
headline news on CNN. Before proffering much needed Enlightened White Man
insight: this is what Americans think of Muslims, that they are a bunch of
ragtags. His Muslim world experience allowed him such liberty. A shame, then,
that it didn’t afford him to recognise India was not an extension of Pakistan.
Yet my greatest misstep came by way of musing about how a recent gang rape in
this country — the one that isn’t the world’s largest democracy — hadn’t
grabbed headlines here. For the simple and tragic reason that such crimes
against women are all too commonplace.
Here, he informed, me was where I was going
wrong. The patriarchy wasn’t at fault. It was those pesky young women in the
US, those white, middle-class university students, those dastardly feminist
activists. Those women whom he said took advantage of the confabulation of rape
culture with patriarchy that reduces sexual politics in American universities
to nothing more than a pro-active play for power. Which he believes is afforded
by victim status. These conversations took place against the backdrop of the Columbia
University student Emma Sulkowicz’s endurance performance art, Mattress
Performance (Carry That Weight). Aimed at protesting the university
authorities’ lackadaisical attitude towards a reported incident of rape.
According to Mr T, who was never part of
the A-Team for obvious reasons, young women like her had no right to protest
campus rapes — because they are more privileged than women in India and
Pakistan who are routinely raped by factory owners. Thus does the Enlightened
White Man pit women against each other as he casts himself in the role of
judge, jury and proverbial executioner of crimes about which he has no
It was hard to know to what to respond
first. Mr T gave not a fleeting thought to prevailing class systems in this part
of the world, the small percentage of women who are not bonded labour. For the
Enlightened White Man doesn’t do nuance. Far more comfortable is he reducing
women here to a one-dimensional stereotype that is largely perpetuated by the
western media. And men like him take this single stereotype to ‘justify’ his
position that American students both cry false rape and have themselves created
this on-campus rape culture through binge drinking and casual hook-ups.
This is cultural appropriation at its most
Thinking back to that day on the roof all
those years ago. We should have thrown the water bombs anyway.
NA-120 election results must be taken as a
wakeup call — it is question of now or never. While one would not like to go
into the debate as to how and why it happened and that it was a manifestation
of victory for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s strategy of defiance and Begum
Kulsoom Nawaz’s victory is the triumph of democratic forces over establishment
troika and those in cahoots with it.
What should be a matter of more serious
concern is coming of the Jihadis wanting to establish a so-called Islamic state
to perpetuate through violent methods their subjugation of — by and large —
peace loving Pakistanis still committed to Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s
Pakistan as a secular, social welfare state.
Though they had their vote count around
thirteen thousand, independent candidates a vowedly belonging to Jihadi network
not allowed registration as political parties by the Election Commission of
Pakistan — JuD’s Milli Muslim League of Hafiz Saeed and Allama Khadim Hussain
Rizvi’s Labbaik Party have caused a shockwave. One is sure the emergence of
these groups must definitely be a cause of profound worry for those who want to
see Pakistan blossom as a democracy.
Having seen the retrogressive role of TTP
in the 2013 elections when both PPP and ANP were denied a free and fair campaign
— we ought to ensure that the latest entrants into electorial politcis with
their notorious affiliations with terrorists don’t use highhanded tactics to
instill fear of terror in their opponents
To add insult to this injury is the news
circulating in the media quoting a retired general who claims to have ingress
in the corridors of power (he is supposed to have shown messages from previous
ISI DG to him about the new scheme of white washing terrorists into
mainstream), that plans are on the drawing board to induct the jihadi groups
into mainstream through a policy to win them over and suck them into
This retired gentleman who masquerades as a
sort of defence/security expert and political analyst on various TV talk shows,
says a policy is on the anvil to allow banned outfits to enter main stream
politics. In this context one remembers the interview of former President
General Pervez Musharraf to Kamran Shahid recently minced no words in his
praise of Hafiz Saeed as a national hero, a vital strategic asset who was not
being treated well by the government.
Both Labbaik Party and LeT/JuD backed Milli
Muslim League supported Independent candidate polled nearly thirteen thousand
previous PMLN votes. The voting pattern of by election in NA-120 shows dark
state sponsored further division of vote in Punjab and emergence of strong
elements that could always be used to destabilize an elected government or even
Having seen the retrogressive role of TTP
and its associates in the 2013 elections when both PPPP and ANP were not
allowed free campaigning, their candidates were attacked, killed or kidnapped —
the new religious parties with their notorious affiliations with the terrorists
— would in still fear of terror in their opponents. While IK had openly called
for talks with Taliban and his KP government provides funds for Maulana Samiul
Haq’s seminary that had hosted Benazir Bhutto’s alleged killers, PML-N was
already in cahoots with Hafiz Saeed’s Let/JuD to carry their sizeable vote bank
among the trade/shopkeepers/markets and bazaars.
The overall murky political situation made
murkier by statements such as attributed to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi
(published in Financial Times) regarding the limitations of its operations,
saying the bombers who killed more than 90 people in the attack in Kabul in May
were likely to have come from Pakistan and Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif’s
remarks that Pakistan shall have to do something more to alley the fears of its
friends of its involvement with the terrorists who allegedly have safe havens
in Pakistan — do not require any further indictment.
Giving likes of Hafiz Saeed’s new political
identity for operations as strategic assets or non state actors under the garb
of political parties is like branding New Wine into Old Wineskins. Renowned
American scholar Selig Harrison speaking in London in Conference on Terrorism
(March 2001) had the following to say: “The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
worked in tandem with Pakistan to create the ‘monster’ that is... Afghanistan’s
... Taliban... I warned them that they were creating a monster.” CIA believed
that Taliban were religious fanatics, they would fight until death to “oust the
Soviet infidels” from their land. Similar was the deposition by Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton many years later before the Senate that “people we are
fighting today we funded twenty years ago…” She felt that Pakistan too should
have known that when one breeds poisonous snakes in one’s courtyard, they
should also be prepared to be bitten.
Mumbai terrorist attacks (Nov 26, 2008)
threw cold water on President Asif Zardari’s initiative to move forward with
India on various issues including Kashmir. India alleges that it was Hafiz
Saeed who had masterminded the operation that killed over 150 at the behest of
his invisible masters. Similar was the case when Indian Prime Minister Modi
made a surprise visit to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on his birthday in
December 2015. Shortly afterwards Indian Air Force base in Pathankot was
attacked by terrorists. Delhi sees Hafiz Saeed’s hand in it too. Mumbai and
Pathankot obviously were aimed at forestalling talks.
Punjab is the province that has bluest of
blood in patriotism, it is home to a martial race that has overwhelming
numerical majority among the defenders and it has always been a safe haven for
religious parties including those who opposed Pakistan and MAJ. These Jihadis
or sectarian warmongers have been very loyal to the PMLN. Their unconditional
support to the two brothers gave them freedom to roam unhindered. White washed
they shall be given a new role.
Being classified as non-state actors as
they are- they will be available to the powers that be — to be used by them for
or against as per their wishes. As such one should dread their role as Trojan
horses for disrupting democracy — especially to counter all those forces that
want Pakistan to return to MAJ’s vision of a secular ideals.
Civilisation hosting refugees — For years
together we have been informed that India as a civilisation has hosted refugees
from countries far and near. So there came people who, we are told, felt
persecuted in their respective countries, and decided to come to India. That is
why there are Parsis in India, or Christians who came from the Middle East. The
acting out of a good host was not only for refugees, but for people who came to
India for different reasons, and chose to make it home. Like the Malabar
Muslims in the South of India who came for trade, and gradually settled in the
new place. It is said that the oldest mosque in India is Cheraman Juma Mosque
in Methala, Kodungallur Taluk, Thrissur District, which was made during the
life time of the Prophet. Therefore, India as a host was celebrated and
strategically posited against countries and civilizations which have a bad
record in this regard. It is another matter whether the notion of ‘India’ or
‘Indianness’ existed when these people came to this landmass.
Post-Independence refugees — After
independence of India from the British, the refugees came to India. Initially
as a result of the Partition when Hindus migrated from West and East Pakistan
towards India. For them to come to the new home was smoother due to the
atmosphere at that time, and the religious affinity with people of the host
country. There was hope and expectation from the host country. No wonder then
that Nayantara Sehgal says that her maternal uncle Jawaharlal Nehru’s compound
was full of refugees. Then arrived into India Buddhist refugees from Tibet.
Thousands of followers of the Dalai Lama came to India, and were allowed to set
up a Govt. in Exile.
The closure of borders for Rohingyas
confirms the belief that India is moving in a direction not good for its image
on the world stage
In some places there are even seats
reserved for the Tibetan students in educational institutions. To add to that,
each time a high dignitary from China arrives in India they have the freedom to
stage protests. Similarly, refugees from the Bangladesh War arrived in India
during and after 1971, and were received with warmth. The Tamil sub-nationalism
also led to migrations of people from Sri Lanka, and thousands of Tamils were
hosted in India. There was no ill-will from their hosts. This is also the case
with the Pakistani Hindus who have migrated to India long after Partition
happened, and have even been granted citizenship.
A Zionist ‘Right to Return’ has been mooted
in their favour. Not to mention in this category, the West Pakistan refugees in
Jammu and Kashmir, for who the local and the central leadership is doing more
than enough to give them same rights as that of the state subjects of Jammu and
Kashmir. The policy towards refugees has been consistent from the above record
with the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, especially
its Article 14. However, adherence to this policy seems to have gone into a
tailspin in the context of Rohingyas, described by UN in 2013 many as one of
the most persecuted people on earth.
Rohingyas and India — What is different
about Rohingyas? Ever since their persecution in the Rakhine area of Myanmar,
they have migrated to different areas. Like India, Bangladesh, Malaysia,
Thailand and Philippines. Many of them are living in the outskirts of Jammu.
They are seen in parts of Haryana and West Bengal. An atmosphere has been
created in India that these refugees are unwelcome. They have been linked to
crime and even terror. With the result, whatever little things they have
managed to gather around them in their new homes are vulnerable to attack and
plunder. In Jammu they have been harassed and their properties gutted. They are
now made to be a national security threat, as potential recruits for the ISIS
and other terror groups. The central government has even taken them to the
court, for deporting them out of India. This is unprecedented in the refugee
history of India both in terms of the much-touted civilisational aspect and the
post-Independence record with the refugees.
The problem with Rohingyas is that they
look like people in India who are not liked by the regime in power. They are
seen to be facing Ka’aba for prayer, and performing other rituals belonging to
Muslims. In sum, they are Muslims and worship a different God. And that is
their precise disqualification for being received as refugees in India.
Further, their exit from Myanmar and arrival in India comes at a time of
India’s rapid conversion into a security state. With the word “security” mooted
at the drop of a hat, and used generally against people who question both the
antecedents of the ruling regime and their current machinations in power. A
peculiar justification for their deportation from India has been that they
might attack the Indian Buddhists who they believe have persecuted them in
Myanmar. On a similar justification one could have argued that Hindus from
Pakistan should be deported because they might attack Muslims in India, because
they believe Muslims have persecuted them in Pakistan. Or that Tibetan
Buddhists may be deported from India because they might attack the Communists
in India because the Communists have persecuted them in China. Or even Tamil
Hindus should be deported because they might attack Buddhists in India.
The two reasons cited for their deportation
viz national security threat and their animosity towards Buddhists are mere red
herrings. The statistical evidence shows that while some of them are involved
in petty crimes, they are not involved in any terror activities. Whatever be
the case, it is certain that the Rohingya crisis has exposed the idea of India
as a host of people of all hues and colours. With the closure of borders for
Rohingyas, dies that idea and confirms the belief that India is moving in a
direction not good for its image on the world stage.