New Age Islam Edit Bureau
26 September 2017
Countering Islamic State
By N Elahi
Our Approach to the Balochistan
By Masood Hameed Baloch
Treatment of Women in Pakistan
By Shahid Javed Burki
Return to South Waziristan
By Rehmat Mehsud
The Rohingya Massacre
By Dr A Q Khan
Pakistani Media’s Misplaced
By Kamran Yousaf
Thank You, Syedna
By Kamal Siddiqi
The Tragic Ordeal Of Rohingyas
By Aymen Ijaz
Implications of NA-120 By-Poll
By Waqas Habib Rana
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Islamist militant groups like al Qaeda and
Islamic State (Daesh) have a desire to find a firm foothold in Khorasan, the
areas comprising Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Tajikistan. They don the cloak
of jihadists of Khorasan to acquire the look of the legitimate group striving
for the renaissance of Islamic power in the world, whose mention can be found
in some Hadiths (Sayings of the Prophet). A Hadith in Sunan at-Tirmidhi 2269 is
often quoted that black banners will rise from Khorasan and nothing shall turn
them back until they are planted in Jerusalem. But some Islamic scholars argue
that it has been misconstrued.
However, this narrative suits the militants
well as it enables them to recruit conveniently from amongst the disillusioned
youth and to strike against the government targets with impunity.
The local militant groups like
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), that had taken birth as the foot-soldiers of
al Qaeda, desperate to avoid quickly drying up supply of recruits, have pounced
to play in the hands of IS Khorasan. The first Amir of IS Khorasan, Hafiz
Saeed, belonged to Orakzai Agency, FATA, and was leader of TTP. As a result of
military operation in FATA, he sneaked into Afghanistan and soon joined IS and
rose to the rank of its Amir. He was killed in 2015.
Though Afghan Taliban also wear black
turbans, probably to give themselves Khorasani look, they never showed
aspirations to operate beyond their borders. They however made a blunder to provide
extended shelter to Osama Bin Laden, which earned the wrath of an infuriated US
that bombed them out of power. Nevertheless the Afghan Taliban do not seem to
have any alliance or love lost for IS.
A multi-pronged plan must be devised to
tackle IS strategies ranging from recruitment to radicalisation of the youth,
development of sleeper cells and training of terrorists
In fact a couple of years ago, the Afghan
Taliban attacked and annihilated the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)
because it had switched allegiance to IS. Afghan Taliban launched ferocious
attacks on IMU fighters in Zabul and killed thousands of them. Though it
debilitated them considerably, 5/6000 IMU fighters and their families are still
operating in Afghanistan.
The support of TTP militants, IMU fighters
and dissident Afghan Taliban has given considerable strength to IS in
Afghanistan. It has gradually entrenched itself in Nangarhar, Uruzgan, Logar,
and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan. But it keeps launching terrorist attacks up
till Kabul and beyond. Two weeks ago, it claimed responsibility of a suicide
attack outside a cricket stadium in Kabul in which three persons including a
policeman were killed.
Pakistan should be equally worried about
spill-over of IS from Afghanistan. The last forty years history is evident that
weak and lackadaisical management of Eastern and Western borders has given
birth to security problems for Pakistan.
IS has already made its presence felt in
different forms in different areas of Pakistan. Though Foreign Office spokesman
denied organised presence of IS in Pakistan, in 2015 the Foreign Secretary of
Pakistan had admitted that IS posed serious threats to Pakistan. The former
Minister Interior had also denied the presence of IS in the country but later
clarified that his statement was misconstrued.
The security and intelligence agencies of
Pakistan have been taking active action against the pro-IS elements for last
two years. In Lahore, Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) arrested three members
of Sautul Ummah that had pledged allegiance to IS, who were in possession of
explosive materials. In first two months of year 2016 Pakistan’s Intelligence
Bureau apprehended IS activists from Punjab who confessed their involvement in
various terrorist activities and disclosed that the IS had presence in all
districts of Punjab and in many cities of other provinces, in form of
sympathisers and facilitators.
Two important states of so-called Khorasan,
Pakistan and Iran, had agreed in July 2016 that IS was a common threat to both
neighbouring states. It was a consensus that IS not only posed threat to
strategic stability of Muslim States, it also brings embarrassment to Islam.
This statement was made after Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Nasser Khan
Janjua, who was in Tehran on a three day visit, met his counterpart. Both sides
agreed about improving border management and incorporating better institutional
This cooperation mechanism, with greater
emphasis on sustained intelligence sharing, must be extended to other states
like Afghanistan, Tajikistan, China, the US and others to check the
surreptitious spread of IS sleeper cells and sympathisers in the region. A
multi-pronged plan must be devised to tackle the IS strategy ranging from
recruitment to radicalising the youth, developing the sleeper cells to training
the terrorists etc.
The first and foremost counter measure
should aim at strangulating IS recruitment spree from amongst the disenchanted
youth who easily succumb to the bait of radicalisation. It would require better
opportunities of education and jobs for the youth of this region. Educated,
enlightened and financially secure youth will be better equipped to deflect the
extremist worldview and to propel a strong counter narrative against the harbingers
of Armageddon from Khorasan and elsewhere.
Our Approach to The Balochistan Problem
Tempers in Pakistan have been running high
since we found out about the ‘Free Balochistan’ posters in Geneva. Pakistani
legislators have pointed fingers at the Swiss government, accusing them of
backing Baloch separatists and propagating the free Balochistan agenda.
In Pakistan the government often does what
it can to limit the degree of free speech which can be exercised by the
country’s citizens. Apparently, they want the Swiss government to follow suit.
But unlike our government, the Swiss government is bound by it’s country’s law.
Therefore it can’t do anything to stop Baloch separatists in Switzerland from
expressing their political beliefs. Until the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA)
and it’s ilk are designated as a terrorist organisations by the UN, the Swiss
government can do nothing.
Fortunately, the orgy of violence which has
been conducted by these groups for the past decade has resulted in lessened
support for them from Baloch society. The Baloch still feel that they have been
treated unfairly since the creation of this country. But they have realised that
they can only obtain their rights through political means and within the
framework of Pakistan.
But this does not mean that our predicament
in Balochistan is over. A sense of deprivation definitely still exists and
looms large in the province. Ex Chief Minister (CM) Mali Bloch and current CM
Bahaullah Zahra can brag all they want about how they brought peace to
Balochistan? But the absence of resistance does not mean peace and rhetoric
can’t resolve the Balochistan problem. If the province’s core socio-political
and economic problems are ignored, any progress made in recent years will be
According to official statistics, 80
percent of the population in Balochistan lives below the poverty line and 70
percent of the population is illiterate. Despite being rich in natural
resources, it is the most underdeveloped province in the country. To solve
these problems, the government has to build some measure of political trust
with Baloch people.
Tragically, the political system in
Balochistan is in utter disarray. It is mostly drug lords, businessmen and
other corrupt individuals who enter the political field in Balochistan. They
spend massive amounts of money on their election campaigns. Once they have won
the seat they were after, they don’t do much else. Practices such as these
cause great damage to the political system and must be discouraged. Poll
rigging is also widespread, and contributes to sentiments against Pakistan.
Former Senator Sana Baloch is reported to
have said, “In the 2013 election, the Balochistan National Party BNP-M led by
Akhtar Mengal, was badly pushed to the wall and the BNP’s mandate was altered
overnight into the favour of nationalists such as National Party and PkMAP to
ensure the continuation of the status quo.”
There is also a great degree of scepticism
regarding CPEC among the Baloch. Many of them think that if gas, gold and coal
couldn’t solve their problems, then neither can CPEC. This perspective of CPEC
among the Baloch should galvanize Pakistan towards addressing Baloch problems.
It needs to engage in political dialogue and seek a political solution instead
of a military one. Balochistan’s political institutions also need to be
strengthened. The 2018 elections in Balochistan are crucial in this regard. The
authorities need to ensure fair and transparent elections and give them room to
compete with other provinces.
September 25, 2017
Pakistan does not treat its women well.
This can be attributed to two traditions the country has inherited. One,
women’s poor status is common in the Muslim world. They are segregated and
don’t have access to the government supplied social services that equal those
available to the male population. There is no better example of this than the
attack on Malala Yousafzai that almost killed her. Her crime: to speak in
public about the importance of educating girls. The second example is from
Saudi Arabia that does not allow women to drive automobiles. This restriction
severely limits women’s ability to move around and hence, for them to enter the
workforce in the Kingdom. The second tradition comes from the country’s
location. Pakistan is a South Asian country and women’s status in the
subcontinent is low. It took the rule by the British to make the burning of
Hindu widows a crime, a practice called ‘sati’. Even now, India by tradition
assigns a very low status to women in its society. It is interesting that the practice
of ‘triple Talaq’ — a husband could divorce his wife by simply saying ‘I
divorce you’ three times — among Muslims in India was declared to be illegal by
the Indian Supreme Court. In Pakistan, the practice was banned by the 1961
Muslim Family Laws Ordinance promulgated by the military government headed by
Field Marshal Ayub Khan. Upon achieving independence, Bangladesh did not
abandon this marital law provision.
Women’s low status in Pakistan has serious
demographic consequences. The government’s optimism that the country had
entered the phase of demographic transition has not been borne out by the
census of 2017. It is estimated that the rate of growth in population was
one-third higher than what the government had believed. It was 2.4 per cent rather
than 1.8 per cent assumed in the Pakistan Economic Survey of 2016-17. The
second surprise from the census’s finding is that the sex ratio in Pakistan has
not adjusted to what is regarded as the demographic norm. In normal
populations, the ratio of women in the total population is slightly higher than
that of men. This is largely on account of women’s longer life expectancy. This
has not happened in Pakistan and the reason is the relatively low status of
women in the Pakistani society. As the impressive demographic transition in
Bangladesh has shown, improving women’s standing in society has significant
consequences for the birth-rate. Bangladesh, once a part of Pakistan, has shown
what can be achieved by improving women’s social and economic status in society.
The main factor accounting for women’s
higher social status in Bangladeshi society is the rate of female participation
in the labour force which, at 43.1 per cent, is almost double of Pakistan’s
24.3 per cent. This is largely due to the employment of women in Bangladesh’s
large garment-making industry. Another factor is the level of female
educational attainment. Once women enter the workforce, their need for
education increases. In Bangladesh, 42 per cent of women aged 25 years and
above have some secondary education compared to Pakistan’s 26.5 per cent. The
sociological consequences arising from these two factors probably explain most
of the significant differences in the status of the women in these two
In Pakistan, parents appear to invest less
on their daughter’s education because they expect higher labour market rewards
from their sons — this is due to the expected parental dependence on their sons
during old age. This creates discriminatory practices and accounts for lower
school enrolment rates for girls. The empirical evidence from Pakistan,
however, shows that the return on education is much higher for females than
males, but the portion of the returns on daughters’ education that goes to
parents is much lower than in the case of sons. Upon getting married, most
women move from their parent’s household to that of their husband’s. This is
the case in particular in rural areas.
Another factor that applies to women in
general in Pakistan and elsewhere is time-poverty or time-paucity. Girls’ day
is filled with activities that are not required of boys. In the households with
many children, older girls are required to care for their younger siblings.
With their time thus crowded, girls are unable to attend schools. The problem
becomes more acute for women in the workforce as they are still expected to
continue with their gender-related and culturally-defined domestic roles. Lower
rates of fertility reduce the size of households and cuts down on the demand on
girls for attending to young children. This is one of the many virtuous cycles
that appear all over the demographic field.
The foregoing raises a number of questions,
many of them relating to the making of public policy. How should girls’ access
to education be improved is a question policymakers should ask. This can be
done with a combination of government action and private initiative.
Governments at various levels — in particular at the local level — should build
schools for girls, bringing educational institutions nearer to home. This way,
girls will not need to walk long distances to go to school. The private sector
should be encouraged to provide small amounts of credit to women entrepreneurs,
especially to those that employ women to increase their operations. Once these
steps have been taken, local governments may levy fines on the households that
still keep girls from attending school. These and other actions could be
incorporated in “women’s social uplift programmes”, provinces should be
required to formulate and implement.
The employment of women in Bangladesh’s
large garment industry has made them relatively independent of men’s control.
They have a greater say in deciding on the appropriate size of their families.
Bangladesh performs better in terms of the social development of women compared
In 2017 I returned to my homeland, South
Waziristan exactly 10 years after I left it as it had become a stronghold for
militants. The process of returning the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) of
the tribal belt to their homes was completed last December. The whole region is
regarded as one of the most dangerous places on earth.
I saw major changes on my return to South
Waziristan. Both in the region and it’s people.
South Waziristan’s infrastructure has been
ravaged by war. People’s houses are hardly fit to live in after years of
incessant shelling. People whose houses have been completely destroyed received
$4000 compensation money and people whose houses have been partially destroyed
receive $2000. It’s a meagre amount to build or repair a house. The army has
built roads, cadet colleges and Army Public Schools. But the repatriated
families have no access to healthcare, communication facilities, gas or potable
water. These are basic amenities which are the state’s responsibility to
The problems don’t end here. It is
mandatory for the tribal people to have a Watan card or Rahdari to come back
home, along with a Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC). The area is
still scattered with hidden or disguised Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs)
which have killed or maimed scores of children.
The area is still governed by the
discriminatory Frontier Crimes Regulations, a set of laws left over from the
British Raj intended to control the tribal people
However, the tribal elders don’t want to
pay much attention to these issues. After over a decade of war, they only vie
for peace. Which is understandable. After undergoing the problems and miseries
of being IDP’s, the repatriated people are happy to live in tents set up inside
their demolished houses. The area is also still governed by the discriminatory
set of laws known as the Frontier Crimes Regulations, a set of laws left over
from the British Raj intended to control the tribal people. The FCR also
contain the ‘collective punishment clause’, which dictates that if one member
of a tribe commits a crime, then their whole tribe can be held accountable for
it. Any member of the tribe can be detained and their property seized. There is
widespread corruption in the local administration which drives any attempts at
development into reverse gear.
The FCR is still there, but a lot has still
changed. On my return, I couldn’t recognise most of the tribal teenagers. They
were still kids of five or six when I left South Waziristan. The Taliban’s set
of draconian laws are also gone. Card games, music and girl’s education were
all banned under their version of Sharia law. But on my return, I saw both boys
and girls dressed in school uniform and attending the APS in Shakai, the valley
where the government and Taliban struck their first peace deal.
Last Eid, youngsters arranged late night
music parties, which were executed without any security problems. People
venture outside their homes at night feeling secure and without carrying any
arms. This was unfathomable ten years ago. For some of the former IDP’s,
displacement turned out to be a blessing in disguise since they were able to
start successful small businesses on the roadsides of DI Khan and Karachi.
For the past few weeks, we have been seeing
and hearing about the horrific persecution of Muslims in the Arakan district of
Myanmar (formerly Burma). Fanatic Buddhist monks and regular troops have burnt
huts, killed thousands of people and raped hundreds of women.
Western powers and the UN are just paying
lip service to the matter – in the same way that they reacted to the crises in
Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. According to the UN, the atrocities
perpetrated by the monks and the troops fall under various crimes against
Nobel Laureate Aung Sang Suu Kyi has not
said anything against these horrendous atrocities. As a matter of fact, she has
become a spokesperson for the perpetrators. She insists that the events that
are being reported have not occurred and that the media is simply exaggerating
Despite these claims, many Western
journalists have shown terrifying pictures of atrocities and the bodies of
murdered men, women and children. Some of the bodies shown in these photographs
had their arms, legs and heads chopped off. These atrocities are in no way any
less than those committed by fanatical, orthodox Serbs in Bosnia. At least some
of those evildoers paid the penalty that befits their crimes.
History is, once again, repeated itself.
Similar inhuman treatment and atrocities were committed by the colonial powers
in Africa, Asia, North and South America against the original inhabitants.
History is filled with accounts of such barbaric actions. In our generation, we
have seen this happening in Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. The
Americans and their allies have attacked and killed hundreds of thousands of
innocent, unarmed people, all under an imaginary perception of a security risk
to their countries.
If we examine the history of the Rohingya
Muslims, we will realise that during the reign of Mughal Empire and the British
Raj, Burma was a part of the Subcontinent and there were no barriers involved
in travelling from India to Burma. From the 15th century onwards, Muslim and
Arab traders and preachers from various countries started visiting the Arakan
district of Burma and a large number of them settled in the region. A majority
of those who settled there were from undivided Bengal and were considered to be
Even though they considered themselves to
be Burmese, their physical appearance and attire made them looked like
Bengalese. The trouble started in 1982 when the Myanmar government adopted a
law whereby the Rohingya were deprived of their Burmese nationality.
According to the UN, the Rohingya people
are the most persecuted minorities in the world. The total population of the
Rohingya in the Arakan district was between 1.3 million and 1.4 million. They
mostly lived in the northern Rakhine State, which consisted of around 90
percent of the Rohingya populace. The current atrocities have caused about
900,000 people to flee to south-eastern Bangladesh and neighbouring Muslim
countries. More than 200,000 others have been forcibly confined to camps and
are living under deplorable conditions.
Government officials claim that the
Rohingya are Bangladeshi refugees. However, the Rohingya say that they have
belonged to the area for hundreds of years as they came during the Mughal and
British colonial periods.
Historical evidence shows that migration
from the Subcontinent to Burma took place for centuries – mainly as a part of
the spread of Buddhism and Islam. Bengal had historical and cultural ties with
the Rakhine State (formerly Arakan). The presence of Bengali-speaking settlers
has been recorded in the history of Arakan history since the 15th century. In
1936 and 1939, many Muslims were elected to the Legislative Council of Burma
under the Burmese Native Category in British Burma.
After independence in 1948, Rohingya
leaders held high positions in the government and parliament. They requested
the government to declare Arakan as a separate province under the central
government. After the 1962 military takeover, Gen Ne Win’s government started
enacting laws against the Rohingya. After the return of martial law in 1988,
the army launched a violent crackdown against Muslims. After life became
unbearable for them, more than 200,000 moved to Bangladesh, Thailand, Pakistan
and the Middle East in 1991-1992. During British rule, Muslims from the
Subcontinent formed the second-largest community in Rakhine – the largest being
Human beings are an aggressive species.
Whenever there is a chance to obtain power and wealth, they immediately become
aggressive towards those who are weaker and terrorism, killings, expulsion and
torture take place. This has happened all over the world and continues to
happen today. Perhaps nothing has caused as much violence as religion and
What is happening against the Rohingya
Muslims is a crime against humanity – a war crime. At least for once, Muslim
rulers should show solidarity to protect their Rohingya brethren. Bangladesh,
Indonesia, Turkey and Pakistan could teach Myanmar a lesson that it would
remember forever. They should occupy Arakan (Rohingya land), declare it a
non-entry province for the Burmese Army and the police and ensure that the
refugees are resettled. A token multi-national force could be put in place to
protect the people and no nonsense should be tolerated from the Myanmar
government. If the West could create Lebanon, South Sudan and East Timor,
Muslim countries should use the same logic and help the Rohingya.
Since it is a matter of Muslim repression,
the UN and the West will never take concrete action to address the plight of
the Rohingya. We hope Muslim rulers will realise that it was their silence in
Bosnia, South Sudan and East Timor that allowed new countries to be created
from Muslim countries. Let’s not forget how Hajjaj bin Yousuf sent Muhammad bin
Qasim to sort out Raja Dahir of Sindh after hearing about a Muslim woman who
had been looted and imprisoned by the locals and was in Raja Dahir’s custody.
Remember, the Almighty will hold us all responsible for the indifference shown
towards our Muslim brethren who are in need. He has ordained that we help the
aggrieved and fight against tyranny and oppression. May Allah Almighty show
mercy on the Rohingya.
Pakistani Media’s Misplaced Priorities
The Pakistani media follows a certain
template. Pick any newspaper in the morning or tune in to any news channel in
the evening, stories related to politics always make it to the front pages and
primetime news bulletins. Read articles in any newspaper or watch any talk show
on TV, only one issue dominates — politics.
It is true that there is never a dull
moment in Pakistani politics. The fragile democratic system often disrupted by
military coups has always kept us on our toes. In the last three decades, so
much has happened on the political front that it is difficult to keep track of
every event. Although people have short memories, few would have forgotten the
major political developments of the recent past. In the last five years, we saw
two sitting prime ministers being ousted from power by the Supreme Court.
The other issue that keeps us on the
tenterhooks is security. After the 9/11 attacks, Pakistan has been in the eye
of a storm. Frequent terrorist attacks, military’s counter-terrorism campaign
and the ever-evolving, delicate geo-political scenario, are naturally issues
that can’t be ignored. It is understandable that in this environment, the media
in Pakistan has to give prominent coverage to issues related to politics and
security. However, in a country with a population of around 208 million, it has
much more to offer than just issues of politics and security.
It is not that our media never gives
coverage to health, education and social issues, etc. The real problem is that
such issues have never been given due importance that they should have
otherwise. Two recent examples can illustrate what are the priorities of our
media outlets, both print and electronic. A recent international study revealed
that up to 60 million people living in Pakistan’s Indus Plain are at risk of
being affected by high levels of arsenic in the region’s groundwater supply.
The revelation was so startling that international media outlets, including the
CNN and BBC, gave prominent space to the story. The Pakistani media picked the
story but sadly, the coverage did not do justice to the seriousness of the
findings. Similarly, another recent report suggesting around 173 people died in
Pakistan in monsoon-related incidents was dumped, and one can’t even recall if any
news channel bothered to have a serious discussion on it.
Those stories were not discussed or debated
in primetime talk shows or bulletins. The reason is that our media, especially
the 24/7 news channels, now rely on ‘readymade’ stuff. For example, it is
easier to do a show on a statement given by the army chief or the prime
minister or an issue that may invoke more fiery debates than subjects such as
water or deaths related to monsoon incidents, because far more research and
homework is required to cover nonconventional topics. Our media has developed
the bad habit of following issues that give them good ratings and clicks. This
approach means that the media has clearly abdicated its prime responsibility
that is to highlight issues of public importance.
The media in developed democracies has long
moved on from the conventional approach. Even if they do cover political
issues, their coverage is not merely confined to statements but gives you an
in-depth perspective. The media in the developed countries also ensures balance
between political issues and issues of public importance. Rarely would you find
their front pages and primetime news bulletins full of political coverage. It
can be argued that this is because the political system in the West is stable and
less prone to tragedies. However, this can never be an excuse for overlooking
the real issues that matter to the masses in Pakistan.
But all is not lost. Introspection always
helps in course correction. In these fast changing times, our media industry
needs to challenge the conventional wisdom. Instead of getting indulged in the
madness of ratings, our media needs to look at the bigger picture and prepare
themselves for the situation when they will not be able to get the ‘readymade’
This week, I met a couple from South Africa
outside one of Karachi’s favourite restaurants – BBQ Tonite. They were members
of the Dawoodi Bohra community, as was evident from their appearance, and had
come to attend the Ashara Mubaraka. It was a pleasure talking to them as they
were quite keen to know more about the city that was hosting them, not just the
religious gathering they were attending. They had come to the restaurant on a
local rickshaw from the house of a member of the community who was hosting
them. Both husband and wife wanted to see Karachi, eat at all the places they
had been recommended and visit all the places they had read about. It is always
good to see excited tourists in one’s city. We in Karachi seem to have
forgotten this sight.
The Ashara Mubaraka refers to a period of
10 days at the beginning of the Islamic year dedicated to the remembrance of
the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and Ahle Bayt, specifically his
grandson Imam Hussain (RA). The head of
the community, His Holiness Dr Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin will conduct a series
of sermons over the nine days that explore themes of justice, sacrifice,
brotherhood, forgiveness, kindness and piety. Although Dawoodi Bohra centres
across the world will host this event locally for members in their cities, the
gathering led by Dr Syedna Saifuddin, which varies from city to city each year,
attracts thousands of community members. In the next ten days or so, Karachi
will play host to more than 40,000 guests from all over the world. It seems that the Bohra community has more
faith in Pakistan than do most of the country’s own citizens.
I recall a few weeks back when all of Lahore
was decked up at a cost of millions to welcome the international eleven cricket
team. Roads were blocked, traffic clogged and thousands were inconvenienced.
But most did not complain as it was for a good cause. The Bohra community event
is a hundred times what the World Eleven matches were. There is little or no
state money involved although the Sindh government has helped with traffic and
It is a pleasure to see the arrangements
made by the community itself. Apart from the unarmed Burhani Scouts and their
sister organisations, you will see hundreds of middle-aged and old men,
standing at vantage points in Saddar – where much of the activity is centered,
helping traffic or pedestrians, and making sure there is no chaos created.
Members of the community also park at
designated spots (there are no VIPs), board the six-seater yellow and black
rickshaws that are one of Saddar’s iconic symbols, and are happily transported
to and from their destinations. Given the size of this operation, it is like
having the World Eleven event in Karachi every day of the week for ten days or
Karachi itself has been given a shot in the
arm thanks to the community selecting this city as its venue for 2017. Most
hotels are fully booked for more than two weeks running (something that had not
happened in the second-tier hotels for some time), businesses are seeing a
surge in sales while taxis, rickshaws, and other commercial transportation
vehicles are much in demand. Schools in
Saddar have been closed to accommodate the visitors and many playgrounds have
been designated for parking. All communities seem to have chipped in – Muslims,
Christians, Hindus and others.
It may be mentioned that Karachi is home to
one of the biggest concentrations of Dawoodi Bohras outside India but this is
the first time in more than 20 years that the community is hosting its
spiritual leader in Karachi. This is because the Bohras have also seen their
share of violence. In September 2012, two blasts in a predominantly Bohra market
killed seven people. Three years later, a bomb detonated outside a Bohra mosque
moments after an evening prayer service. Two worshipers were killed.
In many ways, the event hosted by the
Dawoodi Bohra community in Karachi, is as important as was the visit of the
World Eleven to Lahore. If this passes off without a hitch (and fingers crossed
that it does), it will help raise the standing of Karachi as well as that of
Pakistan. We are grateful to the community for taking this step. Thank you,
Syedna, for what you and your community are doing for our country.
The Tragic Ordeal of Rohingyas
Since August 25, the Myanmar Muslims or
Rohingyas are brutally persecuted and displaced in the name of ‘clearance
operations’ carried out by the Myanmar security forces to root out the
insurgents from the Rakhine state of Myanmar (formerly known as Arakan). It has
been reported that the present violence began after the Arakan Rohingya
Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked Myanmar police and paramilitary posts to protect
their ethnic minority group from persecution by the security forces. In fact,
the illegal and unjustified persecution of poor Rohingyas at the hands of
security forces has provoked Rohingyas and led to an armed resistance by
Rohingyas and subsequently paved a way for deadly clashes, riots and communal
violence. This distressed situation has added Myanmar among countries which
justify their discriminatory and violent attitude towards Muslims in the name
of retaliation against Islamic radicals, extremists and terrorists.
However, the persecution of Rohingyas is
not a new phenomenon. History tells that Rohingyas are the world’s most
oppressed and persecuted minority.
eginning in the 1970s, Rohingyas had been
tortured by the Myanmar government but after 9/11, the situation aggravated as
Rohingyas are now killed in the name of Islamic extremism. Under such
horrendous circumstances, nearly 1.1 million Rohingyas have fled Myanmar due to
widespread persecution and have taken shelter in neighbouring countries such as
India, Thailand, Malaysia, Bangladesh and South East Asian countries. According
to BBC, more than 400,000 Muslim Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh under the
According to Amnesty International,
Rohingyas are being considered illegal immigrants, non-citizens and foreigners
in Myanmar, and have suffered severe human rights violations at the hands of
security forces since 1978
The migrating Rohingyas have been provided
shelter in newly established Rohingyas refugee camps by the Bangladesh
government but their free movements outside the camps have been restricted with
the hope of returning them to Myanmar or even to a third country.
According to Amnesty International, since
1978, Rohingyas are being considered illegal immigrants, non-citizens and
foreigners in Myanmar and have suffered severe human rights violations at the
hands of security forces. The anti-Muslim sentiments in Myanmar have developed
since the history unfolded to Buddhists about their forced conversion during
Mughal rule, which even led to ‘Anti-Muslims’ and ‘Burma for Burmese Only’
campaigns under the British rule in 1930s.
The Buddhists have denied Muslims claims of
their ancestral settlement in Myanmar since 9th century and practically barred
their recognition as Myanmar nationals under the constitution. According to
Human Rights Watch Report 2000, the migration of labourers that took place from
India and Bangladesh to Myanmar during the British rule is named illegal by the
Buddhists and the Rohingyas are considered as Bengalis. They consider the term
‘Rohingyas’ as a recent invention for political objectives.
After independence in 1948, the political
rights of Rohingyas were also confiscated when Burma Muslim Congress was
removed from the Anti-Fascist Peoples’ Freedom Party (AFPFP) and was later
dissolved. Muslim soldiers were expelled from Army and strict restrictions were
imposed on Rohingyas related to cow slaughter and pilgrimage.
This clearly indicates the Myanmar
government’s intention of ethnic cleansing of the Rohingyas, which was
highlighted earlier in 2013 by the Human Rights Watch and also by the United
Nations (UN) in 2016. In February 2017, a UN report pointed towards Myanmar
troops’ crimes against humanity in its renewed military crackdowns in 2016.
However, the Myanmar government has denied such accusations and maintained
deadly silence over the issue of atrocities against Rohingyas. In a recent
interview conducted by the BBC, Aung San Suu Kyi said that the phrase ‘ethnic
cleansing’ was too strong to describe the situation in Rakhine state. Her
indifferent behaviour towards Rohingyas has certainly undermined her
In the present crisis, the Myanmar
government has reached its peak of inhumanity by blocking access to journalists
and to all UN aid agencies from delivering food, water and medicines to
anguished Rohingyas in the Rakhine state which also symbolises Myanmar’s
ruthless efforts for their ethnic cleansing.
At the international level, Iran, Saudi
Arabia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan, Chechnya and other Muslim
countries have openly condemned Myanmar’s insensitivity towards Rohingyas and
demanded peaceful solution to the crisis. According to The Washington Post, the
Indonesian government has threatened to severe diplomatic ties with Myanmar and
has proposed five-point Indonesian plan to stabilise the situation which had
been taken positively by Suu Kyi but no action has been taken yet. Turkey has
sent its troops for aid supplies to Myanmar for displaced Rohingyas in the
camps. Pakistan has also expressed support for the oppressed Rohingya Muslims
and endorsed the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission and
Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) Independent Permanent Human Rights
Commission’s call for immediate and effective action to end this communal and
ethnic violence against innocent and unarmed Rohingya Muslims.
Therefore at this juncture, practical steps
must be taken by UN, OIC and peace activists to raise their voice for Rohingyas
and to address their decades-old grievances.
The international community in consultation
with the Myanmar government should find a permanent solution to the Rohingyas’
identity crisis, settlement rights and their citizenship issues. The issue
requires an immediate global response.
Perception and reality, it’s a sketchy
phenomenon. Word on the street in Lahore is that the establishment was actively
campaigning against Sharif’s wife and PML-N candidate Kulsoom Nawaz. Multiple
videos of the voters circulated in social media and Whatsapp groups complaining
against the Army’s role in halting their fundamental right to cast the vote in
favor of PML-N. In one such video, supporters of PML-N were seen chanting
slogans against Imran Khan in front of an Army vehicle; as if they see the Army
as an ally of anti-Nawaz Sharif forces.
In her winning speech, Maryam Nawaz Sharif
declared PMLN’s victory a win against the seen and “unseen forces”.
The perception is that it has never been
about accountability and it isn’t now. It’s more about revenge against one
Nawaz Sharif was declared disqualified to
be an MNA by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on the basis on misdeclaration of
assets. After his ouster from the Prime Minister’s office, Nawaz Sharif took to
the GT Road from Islamabad to Lahore and questioned the reason of his ouster.
He made veiled references to the forces behind the decision. In a meeting with
senior journalists, Nawaz Sharif said that the dcision of his ouster was made
long before the actual decision was announced by the Supreme Court.
It seems that he has been able to convince
his voters, supporters and followers that his ouster is not based on justice
but on conspiracy.
The unelected state institutions need to
take a few steps back, reconsider their options and support the democratic
What used to be an academic discussion, is
now a discussion in the open; civil-military imbalance.
NA-120 by-election has mainstreamed the
discussion of Civilian supremacy over the ever so powerful establishment in
Electronic media is too scared to show the
sentiment against the Pakistan Army, but it doesn’t mean that the element of
hate is not present in those videos. People blamed the Army for slow polling
process, the Army may not have anything to do with it, but that’s how the
people of NA-120 felt. The introduction of a political face of a banned
extremist organization helps substantiating the thought that Army interfered in
Our establishment has a history of
political interference; for, being the king maker. It’s a matter of record that
Nawaz Sharif was their prodigy. He is a popular leader of central Punjab now.
And the perception is that he was thrown out of the Prime Minister’s office
because of his differences with the establishment on foreign policy and other
issues. It is said that the establishment has decided to teach him a lesson.
Nawaz Sharif is posturing to fight it out,
to earn back the respect for his supporters’ vote. Who will emerge victorious
and at what cost?
I can assure you that no one will be the
winner. The army will gain a lot of hate in Punjab, Nawaz Sharif is a popular
leader, whether you like it or not. The Army as an institution enjoys great
support in Punjab but that will change once this battle gets more intense.
Nawaz Sharif will turn this battle into
“People versus Army”, and it will get ugly.
Nawaz Sharif will also be at a loss at the
end of it, his party will weaken, and there will be a lot of dirt on him
through the NAB references that he now faces in Accountability Court.
And most importantly, it will be the loss
of the people of Pakistan. The democratic system will suffer. Democracy is the
only way forward and it should be allowed to operate without any outside
influence or interference. Pakistan can only prosper if there is true democracy
in the country.
The establishment needs to take a few steps
back, reconsider their options and support the democratic process. They may not
be able to twist Nawaz Sharif’s arm the way they did with Altaf Hussain and
Asif Ali Zardari. If Nawaz Sharif resists and fights back then the consequences
won’t be good for all the stakeholders.