New Age Islam Edit Bureau
27 March 2017
Daesh’s Battle for Afghanistan
By Ayaz Ahmed
War or Peace?
By Najam Sethi
Noor in Washington, DC
By Akbar Ahmed
By Huma Yusuf
A Diplomatic (Dis) Missive
By M. Ziauddin
Altaf Fate Seems Sealed at least for
By Salahuddin Haider
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Daesh’s Battle For Afghanistan
March 23, 2017
Militants disguised as medics stormed the
Sardar Daud Khan Hospital in Kabul on March 8, killing at least 35 people and
wounding dozens. Through its Amaq News Agency, Daesh claimed responsibility for
the deadly assault on the 40-bed military hospital.
Though mostly contained by American
airstrikes, the militant group seems to be steadily gaining more ungoverned
territories in conflict-torn eastern Afghanistan. This was not the first attack
claimed by the group. Daesh previously carried out a string of attacks in
Afghanistan in a bid to attract more fighters towards its militant fold. In
January 2016, Daesh organised an attack on the Pakistani consulate in
Jalalabad. Moreover, the militant outfit rushed to claim responsibility for the
twin suicide bombings at a protest march in Kabul in July 2016, killing around
The first signs of Daesh’s presence in
Afghanistan appeared in some provinces in the south and east of the country,
including cities like Kabul and Jalalabad in 2014. The group’s early successes
in Syria and Iraq gravitated some regional militant groups toward its terror
bandwagon in Afghanistan. In 2014, the Al-Tawhid Brigade, the Ansar-ul-Khilafat
Wal-Jihad and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) splinter group Jundullah
pledged allegiance to Daesh in Afghanistan.
When a former TTP commander of Orakzai
Agency in Pakistan, Hafiz Saeed Khan, became the leader of Daesh in
Afghanistan, he heavily relied on his established militant networks to recruit
in Afghanistan’s eastern provinces such as Kunar and Nangarhar. A large number
of TTP militants had settled in these provinces owing to Pakistan’s
counterterrorism operation, Zarb-e-Azb. Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim, Hafiz Saeed’s
deputy, ran an indoctrination and recruitment campaign for Daesh in the southern
After observing Daesh’s anti-Taliban
ideology, Usman Ghazi, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU),
pledged allegiance to the militant group and offered his full force to fiercely
fight against the Afghan Taliban. What is intriguing to note is that Daesh has
persuaded the IMU and defectors of the TTP in Afghanistan by providing them
laptops, pickup trucks and sufficient funds to support their families.
According to an estimate by the Royal
United Service Institute (RUSI), Daesh boasts about 7,000 and 8,500 elements in
Afghanistan, counting both fighters and support elements. Threateningly,
General John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan, recently said that
around 7o percent of Daesh’s fighters in Afghanistan comprise former
disgruntled members of the hibernating TTP. This ominous development should
serve as a clarion call for the government of Pakistan.
Afghanistan has, by far, proved a fertile
ground for Daesh to cultivate its terror and militancy. First, the group has
capitalised on the country’s lingering bad governance and weak institutions to
increase its influence in the country. The indifferent attitude of the Afghan
government towards the creeping expansion of Daesh has immensely helped the
terror group to augment its sway in the country.
Second, when Daesh was being established in
Afghanistan, the Afghan National Army (ANA) was unable to nip the terror outfit
in the bud. Even today, due to the lack of professionalism, quality training
and equipment, the Afghan security forces are largely incapable of flushing
Daesh out of the country. Internal corruption and the massive politicisation of
the Afghan security forces have helped Daesh’s fighters penetrate into these
ill-organised forces and gather intelligence for terrorist attacks.
Third, the rivalry of some countries over
Afghan and Central Asian mineral and energy resources has facilitated Daesh to
covertly increase its tentacles in Afghanistan. Russia, China and Iran are
clandestinely supporting the Afghan Taliban against Daesh with the intent to
prevent the militant group from expanding its reign of terror in the region.
Pakistan and India are also engaged in a proxy war in Afghanistan to carve out
their ‘special sphere of influence’.
Though the US has been conducting
airstrikes against Daesh in Afghanistan, Uncle Sam may be secretly supporting
some disillusioned Daesh fighters so that they will be employed to create
mounting security issues for Russia in Central Asia and China in Xinjiang. What
should not be forgotten is that the major US objective of overstaying in
Afghanistan is also geared towards containing China’s economic rise and
asserting Russia’s influence in the region – by hook or by crook.
Last, Afghanistan’s entrenched jihadi
culture, the ethnic divide among the Afghans and the prevalence of religious
radicalism have been greatly supportive of Daesh’s slow rise in the
terror-stricken country. This has presumably saved the militant group’s time
and resources from indoctrinating and training its recruits.
However, due to its extremely violent
strategy, Daesh seems to be facing some hurdles in terms of expanding its
militancy and influence in Afghanistan. So far, most of the Afghans have
displayed outright unwillingness to join the militant group because of its
disrespect for Afghan history and its policy of extreme callousness. For
instance, on account of alleged link with the Taliban, Daesh massacred 10
elders from Achin district in Nangarhar by forcing them to sit on explosives in
The militant group is also confronted with
an increasingly bloody battle unleashed by the resurgent Afghan Taliban. To
maintain their monopoly in Afghan insurgency, the Taliban have reportedly
raised a special force of 1,000 well-trained and lethally-equipped fighters to
impede Daesh’s expansion in Afghanistan. Due to bloody clashes, both sides have
lost hundreds of insurgents in terror-infested Afghan provinces of Nangarhar,
Helmand, Farah and Zabul.
To inhibit Daesh from gaining more grounds
in Afghanistan, the US has continued to conduct airstrikes against the militant
outfit in some provinces of Afghanistan. US drone attacks have flushed out a
large number of Daesh’s fighters from their established hotbeds in eastern
Afghanistan. The militant group has now confined itself to Zabul, Faryab,
Helmand, Ghazni, Kunduz and Nuristan. But it is exerting some hectic efforts to
expand its tentacles in far-flung areas such as Jalalabad and Kunar.
The war against Daesh in Afghanistan cannot
be won without effective cooperation amongst some regional countries. Pakistan,
India, China, Russia and Iran need to coordinate with the Afghan government and
enhance the declining capacity and capability of the Afghan security forces so
that they can carry the day against Daesh.
17 Feb 2017
Terrorists have struck in Quetta, Lahore
and Peshawar against state enforcers of law and order. Jamaat ul Ahrar has
claimed responsibility and released a video of its aims and objectives of
targeting state functionaries and secular media practitioners. The government
has responded by accusing the Afghan intelligence agencies of harbouring and
even sponsoring such terrorist outfits. In turn, Kabul continues to accuse
Pakistan of harbouring and even sheltering the Haqqani network of Afghan
Taliban that has laid Afghanistan low. Clearly, proxy wars in the region have
reached a new high with no conflict resolution mechanism in sight.
There are other complicating factors. A
terrorist alert issued by the Punjab government claims that Pakistani
extremists who went off to fight in Iraq and Syria are returning to Pakistan to
fuel IS activities here. Then there are the Punjabi jihadis (who split from
their parent bodies during the Musharraf era when he closed the jihadi tap and
offered “out-of-the-box” solutions for Kashmir) and joined the Tehreek i
Taliban Pakistan (TTP) who have veered towards the IS just as many Afghan
Taliban groups have split from the current Taliban leadership and proclaimed
themselves as IS. The Jamaat ul Ahrar is an offshoot of these groups with links
to both Afghan intelligence and the Pakistani Taliban headed by Mallah
Fazlullah who is based in north Afghanistan not far from the border with Pakistan.
As if the threat from these groups hasn’t
been sufficiently grasped, a new danger is lurking in the folds of these
non-state actors. The recent lid on Hafiz Saeed of the Lashkar-e-Tayba and
Maulana Masood Azhar of the Jaish-e-Mohammed under pressure from India, America
and China may precipitate new splinter groups that are more inclined towards
hard-core militancy against the Pakistani state than their parent bodies which
are focused on India. In that case, we shall have a deadly threat from both external
and internal elements.
Unfortunately, the organs of the state and
government are hard pressed to tackle and uproot these diverse forms of
terrorism. It all began in the 1980s when the Pakistanis and Americans created
the Mujahideen to expel the USSR from Afghanistan. After the Soviets were
ousted, the Mujahideen first fought against the pro-Soviet Kabul regimes and
scuttled them one after another, then fell apart over the spoils of victory and
created space for the Taliban to emerge as the unifying force that sent them
packing. The Pakistani state then moved in to retool and reorient these
fighters for the jihad to liberate Kashmir from India in the 1990s. When the
Afghan Taliban were routed from Kabul by America after 9/11 and accommodated in
safe havens inside FATA, the stage was set in the 2000s for the emergence of
the Pakistani Taliban and subsequently the Punjabi Taliban and their various
offshoot terrorist outfits.
For a long time, the Pakistani state
dithered over definitions of good Taliban (Afghans) and bad Taliban
(Pakistanis). Then, when alarm bells began to ring in Islamabad of the bad
Taliban encroaching upon Swat and parts of KP, the military went into action,
clearing Swat in 2007 under General Pervez Musharraf, South Waziristan in 2011-12
under General Ashfaq Kayani and finally North Waziristan in 2015-, 16 under
General Raheel Sharif.
Unfortunately, however, this strategy has
rebounded on Pakistan. The bad Taliban of Pakistan have taken refuge in
Afghanistan and joined forces with the good Taliban of Afghanistan. More
significantly, they have become susceptible to influence and manipulation by
the Afghan government and its anti-Pakistan and pro-India intelligence
agencies. In other words, if the Pakistani state has tried to leverage the jihadis
against India and Haqqani network and Afghan Taliban against Kabul, India and
Afghanistan are now leveraging Baloch separatists, Punjabi Taliban and
Pakistani Taliban against Islamabad. While the three countries battle it out
with proxies, the proxies are becoming stronger and beginning to pose a bigger
threat to both Pakistan and Afghanistan than ever before. This is a good
environment for IS to exploit and take root in the region.
The main cause of all this is Pakistan’s
attempt to counter India’s hegemonic designs in the region by trying to
establish leverage in Afghanistan through the Afghan Mujahideen and then Afghan
Taliban and in Kashmir though the Punjabi jihadi groups. In the process,
however, Afghanistan has been ravaged by civil war and become hostile to
Pakistan; Kashmir has been bloodied and the option of joining Pakistan has been
drowned out by overwhelming calls for independence; and now Pakistan itself
faces a direct and existential threat from various forms of radical Islamism
that have spawned these non-state actors and proxy wars.
The National Action Plan, even with the
best of cooperation between the civilian government and national security
military establishment, is helpless in the face of this threat. A pre-requisite
to tackling the internal problem of terrorism is to tackle the external
environment that nurtures these terrorists. Unfortunately, there is no sign of
out-of-the-box thinking vis a vis war or peace with India and Afghanistan.
It would be safe to assume that at a time
in the United States when Muslims are openly assaulted and abused, mosques
attacked and a ‘Muslim’ travel ban issued, a stage reading of a play written by
a Muslim, about a Muslim family, in a Muslim land, which begins with the azaan,
and depicts Muslims with empathy would receive a frosty reception. So
widespread is the Islamophobia that it hasn’t even spared the Indian-American
community. It has also triggered a virulent strain of anti-Semitism with
multiple Jewish cemeteries desecrated.
However, this was not the case when there
was a stage reading of my play Noor at the Cosmos Club in Washington, DC on
March 18, 2017.
The venue itself was interesting. The club,
which is a private social platform for people who are distinguished in a
variety of professions, is an institution itself in the nation’s capital.
Members have included three former US Presidents, one former Secretary of
State, two former Vice Presidents, 12 Supreme Court justices, 36 Nobel Prize
winners, 61 Pulitzer Prize Winners and 55 Presidential Medal of Freedom
recipients. It was an honour for Noor to be played there.
When I was informed that the Cosmos had
selected Noor,which had been performed at several venues since its 2007
premiere, I was naturally curious but also pleased. The reason is that I have
been on a mission to do all I can in my own limited way to help the West and
the Muslim world understand each other better through building bridges.
But I was curious as to how an all-white,
non- Muslim cast of Noor would get into character and how the all-white,
non-Muslim audience would respond. There’s a huge gap of understanding between
the two communities, creating a desperate need to build bridges. My strategy
has been multifaceted that included books, documentaries, lectures, poetry, and
plays. This play has been one basic platform for fostering the necessary
understanding. In writing this play, I aspired to demonstrate the Americans
that Muslims are far from a monolith; instead, Muslim perspectives are
incredibly diverse, even within an individual family as portrayed by the three
brothers in this play.
Noor can be understood on several levels:
it is a parable of our times, a metaphor of hope in a time of darkness and
straight-forward drama. The story in Noor portrays 24 hours in a Muslim
family’s life after the abduction of a young woman named Noor and her brother
Ali by soldiers of an ambiguous origin. Ali is released by the soldiers and
returns home to recount the abduction to his worried brothers, but his brothers
attempt to keep the abduction a secret from their father as they are concerned
about his health. The brothers debate the best response to Noor’s abduction,
each representing an interpretation of Islam: Abdullah, a teacher and Sufi
mystic, responds by seeking guidance from his Sheikh and turning to prayer;
Daoud, a doctor who understood Islam as a literalist, responds with anger,
blames the American ‘crusaders’, and advocates revenge through violence; and
Ali, a modernist lawyer, responds by attempting to locate his sister with the
support of the local government and officials in the Ministry of Justice. When
soldiers appear at the family’s home, in search of evidence against Noor, the
father realises that his sons have been misleading him about Noor’s whereabouts
and demands for truth. Upon hearing Ali’s account of the abduction, the father
becomes frustrated by how little information the brothers have gathered about
their sister’s disappearance. In response, the brothers leave for pursuing their
individual plans in locating her – all with little success.
The next day, aunty Fatima, the mother of
Noor’s fiancé, Rahman, appears to call off the engagement after hearing about
her capture, due to fear that her ‘honour’ has been compromised. The brothers
attempt to defend Noor’s honour and remind aunty Fatima that Noor loves Rahman,
but she refuses to take their arguments into considerationand demands that the
ring be returned before she storms out of the house.
Noor is ultimately released by the soldiers
and finds her way home thanks to a kind truck driver. Upon her return, she is
adamant that she remains honourable and reminds her brothers of the complexity
of women’s role in Islam and of the importance of compassion and fighting for
justice against all odds. Noor is a beautiful name of God in Islam and means
light; it is a metaphor for all that is good and positive and compassionate.
I need not have worried about the
excellence of the acting and the response of the audience. The performance was
moving and the enthusiasm of the audience palpable. Performers and audience
members alike were generous in their praise of Noor, calling it ‘exceedingly
moving’, noting that they ‘would like to see it again’, and expressing
appreciation for the play’s capacity to provide insights into the Muslim world.
I was particularly touched to see that Kate
Scharff, who played Noor, had memorised a Rumi poem at the end of the play.
Reflecting on the rehearsal process, she said, ‘I’ve done that Rumi poem so
many times in my car, during rehearsals, just talking to myself getting ready
for work. Sometimes I find I am weeping, other times I am quite angry, I think
where I’ve landed and more I think where the playwright probably intended,
which is that she represents the light, the way, and has come to a more
peaceful place.’ Richard Waugaman, who played Abdullah, remarked, ‘The
conditions of the play both within the family and in the wider society
challenge all of us, they challenge the beliefs and assumptions and ideals of all
of us in the family, so I think it’s very realistic what that family is
experiencing.’ I was touched by the play’s reviews received from the veteran
Hugh Hill, who both directed the performance and played the father. He found
the script, ‘very dense…where every line and every speech has significance and
meaning and contributes to the play.’A member of the audience began to tear up
when she observed after the reading, ‘There was one line in your play that each
time I heard it, I felt that it was so haunting… Ali says it, ‘I didn’t even
know who they were. They could have been anybody. They could have been us.’ And
I feel that that is your message, that all of us have a place and a part.’
Dr. William Kennedy Smith, my guest and the
nephew of the late US President John F. Kennedy, summed up the essence of the
event: ‘I think the play is a great convener for a discussion that is
overlooked and overdue about how we connect with people who are different from
us in a way that leads to better and more constructive outcomes. And it seems
that there is a feedback cycle between violence and misunderstandings that the
professor is really trying to cut through.’
Noor had brought people together. The
curiosity and humanity displayed by this thoughtful and distinguished group
gives me hope in the capacity for building bridges even in these difficult
times. One of the last lines in the play is, ‘Noor will prevail.’
Akbar Ahmed is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American
University in Washington, D.C. and the author of The Thistle and the Drone: How
America’s War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam and the forthcoming
Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration, and Identity
MOMENTS after the attack on Westminster
Bridge, a woman was photographed walking past a small group of people attending
to an injured victim. In sequential images, she looks past the victim, and then
down at her phone. Her hand cradles her face. She is wearing a hijab.
The images went viral, with anti-Islam
blogs sharing the photographs as proof of the callousness of Muslims. Some
sites compared the image of the woman glancing at her phone with that of an MP
performing CPR on a victim to highlight the “main difference between Muslims
and Christians”. The online abuse mounted to the extent that the photographer
issued a clarifying statement emphasising that the woman was clearly distraught
and in a state of shock. The woman herself then approached Tell Mama, an
advocacy group that monitors anti-Muslim incidents in the UK, to circulate a
statement on her behalf in which she reiterates that she was devastated by the
attack and speaks out against the viral campaign.
This woman’s experience — the double trauma
of being at the attack site and then persecuted online — neatly summarises the
flawed Western response to terrorist attacks. Each incident has become an
excuse to shore up a narrative that isn’t actually true.
Fear Makes People Cling To Stereotypes.
According to the consensus narrative,
immigrants — specifically Muslim ones — are flooding the West and carrying out
(or condoning) terrorist attacks because they hate Judeo-Christian values,
democracy and Western freedoms. This was the narrative assigned to Khalid
Masood until he was revealed to be Adrian Elms, a 52-year-old born in Kent with
a history of violent crime, and a late-life conversion to Islam, indicating
that longstanding mental and social issues rather than exposure to the faith
may have driven his actions on March 22.
Elms’ profile is typical of many attackers
in the West, who tend to be natives of the country in which they act, often
live within an hour’s distance of the attack location, and have a history of
petty or serious criminal activity. But who needs facts when there’s a more
compelling narrative that can be peddled for cynical political purposes? As
Nesrine Malik put it in The Guardian, “an infrastructure of hate promotion has
been established and incorporated within the mainstream”. This is exemplified
by Nigel Farage’s immigrant-bashing hours after the Westminster attack, and
Donald Trump Jr’s attempts to criticise London mayor Sadiq Khan after this
attack for sensible comments he made last year about terrorist incidents being
a part of life in major cities. These narratives have enabled political coups
ranging from Brexit to Trump to Le Pen.
As attacks in western cities increase,
people will cling more desperately to the established narrative, no matter how
often it is disproved. This is because it is too terrifying to contemplate a
world in which everyday objects like knives and cars can be weaponised by
anyone who bears a grudge, has a mental illness, had a difficult or abusive
childhood, or struggles with addiction.
Public debate about violent extremism in
the West has long made the mistake of treating radicalisation as a product of
demography rather than biography. The assumption is that radicalised
individuals must fit a particular type: Muslim, male, young, immigrant,
unemployed, and internet savvy. But we have repeatedly seen that these
stereotypes don’t hold true, and that it remains unclear what causes someone to
become radicalised and take the step of committing an extremist act. In most
cases, perpetrators have histories like Masood’s, rooted in personal
experiences, traumas and failures, that are harder to generalise, typify and
predict. More importantly, individual experience is harder to convert into
sweeping policies or regulations (travel bans, surveillance, visa vetting)
Since the launch of Raddul Fasaad, the
security forces in Pakistan have increasingly resorted to demography, arresting
Afghans and Pakhtuns, and stirring ethnic resentment. It is true that
generalisations about the types of people who join violent extremist
organisations may work better in a context like ours where militant groups are
prevalent, operate openly, run social welfare programmes, and have at some
point benefited from state patronage. When we resort to generalisations, we are
not blurring the boundaries between demography and biography; rather, we are
denying the roots of violent extremism, which is largely the consequence of
strategic policies gone awry, and not an organic process.
In either case, the failure to acknowledge
the drivers of extremist violence in a particular context means that publics
and politicians rely on ill-conceived narratives that ultimately cause more
societal damage, rather than address the underlying issues that could help stem
radicalisation. Irrespective of where terrorism takes place, it should not be
exploited for short-term political gain — we owe at least that much to its
It is becoming increasingly difficult for
the PPP leadership to live down the admission made by the former ambassador to
the US, Hussain Haqqani, in a Washington Post (WP) article which states that US
National Security Council (NSC) officials had asked him for help in stationing
Special Operations and intelligence personnel on the ground in Pakistan with
direct approval of Pakistan’s civilian leadership upon his request.
‘Although the United States kept us
officially out of the loop about the operation, these locally stationed
Americans proved invaluable when Obama decided to send in Navy SEAL Team
6without notifying Pakistan,’ Haqqani presumed.
The elaborate clarification by former Prime
Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani and the forceful defence forwarded by Pakistan
Peoples Party spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar have done little to
mollify those of us who wear our patriotism on our sleeves.
Haqqani’s own statement in the Abbottabad
Commission had reportedly noted that he was authorised some discretion by the
then Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani to issue visas to US personnel,
which were also duly vetted by Pakistan’s security agencies. But since the
report is still under wraps, this version of Haqqani’s testimony is not being
taken as the whole truth.
Indeed, had he confined himself to the main
theme of his Washington Post piece which was what ambassadors do during
election time in the United States and not mentioned the matter of the United
States National Security Council asking him for help in stationing US Special
Operations and intelligence personnel on the ground in Pakistan and then
linking it up with the May 2, 2011 United States Navy SEAL operation against
Osama, perhaps we would have been saved from this unnecessary controversy.
Perhaps, he could not resist the temptation to grab some glory for what he
believed he had accomplished for his country as well as for the hosts. Perhaps
there is a connection; or perhaps there is actually no connection between the
visas he had issued and the Osama operation.
In any case, there is so much diplomats do
in host countries, sometimes even bordering on the clandestine in the interests
of their countries. Most take these actions of theirs to their graves never
ever revealing these state ‘secrets’. Of course, sometimes urged by their
patriotic duties or to protect and promote national interests some diplomats
are known to have spoken with some even writing for revealing information.
However, in this case, what Haqqani has done is simply to reproduce what
everyone already knew only to get caught in the crossfire of the an ultra-
patriotic media prone to sensationalising even mole-hills on one side and
interested political quarters on the other.
The late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto,
former president Pervez Musharraf and Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign
Affairs Sartaj Aziz have written memoirs, parts of which could be termed as not
very much in the so-called interest of the nation. Aziz, in his book Between
Dreams and Realities: Some Milestones in Pakistan’s History revealed that the
regular Pakistani army crossed the Line of Control (LoC) during the Kargil War
and that Musharraf had kept the civilian government in the dark about the
details of the magnitude of the regular military’s direct involvement in the
Former president Asif Ali Zardari had
admitted in a WP article the day after bin Laden’s assassination, ‘A decade of
cooperation and partnership between the United States and Pakistan led up to
the elimination of Osama bin Laden as a continuing threat to the civilized
In his book The United States and Pakistan
1947-2000: Disenchanted Allies, Dennis Kux notes: ‘(General) Ayub stormed into
(secretary of state Henry) Byroade’s office’ saying, ‘Our army can be your army
if you want us. But let us make a decision.’
Remember the U2 plane incident of May 1,
1960 that almost brought the full wrath of the then super power, the Soviet
Union down on the fledgling country? During the Cold War, we were known as the
most allied ally of the US as we entered military pacts with the US (CENTO and
SEATO). Next, we see Pakistan fighting the ‘free world’s’ last battle called
Jihad against the ‘infidel’ USSR during which the CIA had round-the-clock
access to a visa-free revolving door in and out of Pakistan.
We once again entered into a war on behalf
of the US in 2001 against the so-called global terrorism during which we were
designated as a Major Non-NATO Ally.
The problem with Haqqani is, he always
tries to punch above his weight. This time too, temptation got the better of
him. Here is how he sees himself (via e-mail message on March 18, 2017):‘I made
a place for myself here (US) on my own and used it to help Benazir and Zardari
and maybe Pakistan’s transition to democracy. But none of that changes the way
I am described by all. We are culturally predisposed to mistaking consistency
for nobility. Also, no one else’s ‘careerism’ invites the kind of frequent
commentary as mine does — from Khar (Hina?) to SMQ (Shah Mehmood Qureshi?) to
NS (Nawaz Sharif?) to Javed Hashmi. A function of familiarity breeding
contempt, perhaps? So, I have concluded that the home front battle (when I
asked him to come back and fight his battles from home) is for landowning
nobility, rich bankers, ex-journalist spouses, Malik Riaz protégés and holier
than thou commentators. I must be content with my circumstances.’
March 27, 2017
ALTAF Hussain’s fate seems sealed, atleast
for the foreseeable future. His latest tweet, seeking Indian prime minister
Nirender Modi’s help for his Urdu speaking followers in Karachi, instead of
helping him, proved fatal for him.
This was evident from background interviews
and studies on the Sindh and Karachi situations. His own people have deserted
him, the first split coming last year in March, when his one of the trusted
lieutenants, former Mayor Mayor Mustafa Kamal, went in exile, abandoning his
esteemed position of member of Parliament’s upper house, called the Senate, and
then re-emerging to take his hometown of Karachi by storm. His only company at
that time was Rabita Committee incharge Anis QaimKhani,but later on he gained
in strength, as more and more defections took place in the parent organisation.
Then Altaf shot him in the feet by his
hate-Pakistan speech of August 22, and an instant opportunity came rushing to
establishment, which was irritated by his fiery speeches against the army, or
State administration. His party fell into an abyss, from where it is laboring
to recover, but the task is not easy.
Mustafa Kamal on the other hand, has done
reasonably well, opening offices from Karachi upto to distant north, even in
the mountainous areas of Gilgit, Baltistan, Chitral, and in foreign lands from
Australia down under to America, with Europe in the centre. Whether that would
really yield himsolid results is hard to say, for the job demands time and
But while MQM Pakistan under Farooq Sattar,
and Mustafa Kamal who heads the Pak Sarzameen Party will join hands to keep the
party flag flutter remains to be seen. Contacts and drawing room discussions
with his principal aides like Raza Haroon, Dr Saghir Ahmad, and Waseem Aftab ,
fails to provide solid leads of such a possibility taking shape.
They are all very clear in their minds,
which is not secret either, that Kamal will be willing to accept Farooq Sattar
in his fold, for they openly say that their doors are open for all those
willing to join them and work under their umbrella. But a number of questions
need answer before any conclusion could be drawn about such an eventuality.
Sattar, who like late Imran Farooq, is a
founder member of MQM. He used to beg people in the streets of Karachi to come
and hear Altaf’s speeches. In mid-80s, Altaf, Farooq Sattar, Imran Farooq, and
their former Chairman Azeem Ahmad Tariq, killed in in-laws house of Azizabad on
May 1, 1993, were all youngsters, fresh from colleges and university of
Karachi, but they had woven a magical cobweb around those in Karachi, and
cities like Hyderabad,Mirpurkash primarily, and Sukkur or even Nawabshah, to
A party founded in the name of salvation
for Muhajirs, became instant hit with the electorate, flooring stalwarts in
field for years, and winning elections. They all were floored in 1987 municipal
polls,and then since the parliamentary polls of 1988, held after after General
Ziaul Haq’s mystery plane crash, lost moorings much more quickly than
anticipated. Its appeal apparently remained undamaged till date. But there is
another viewpoint also like charges that fear factor, gun culture was exploited
to force people to vote for Altaf. Whether this is true, historians can decide
after scanning records and evidences available in whatever manner.
But then as corruption overtook its ranks
and failed, and extortions, street crime etc, became to be linked with it,
whether real or imaginary, the party became a sore point for those living in
the Punjab, interior of Sindh, or in KPK, and Balochistan, Altaf’s fiery
speeches, were disliked for obvious reasons,but the decline of a party,
shooting to fame overnight, and gaining importance in the parliament’ two houses,
as well as in the Sindh Assembly, had begun. Every rise has a fall, so
emphasizes an old English maxim, and that history had its own course, was again
to be visible, and is in too vivid to ignore now.
General Pervez Musharraf during his days at
the helm worked on the philosophy to help it widen itself from mere ethnicity
to mainstream political party, taking care of the entire country. But an
organisation launching itself on hate campaign is bound to collapse one day.
Leaders like Hitler, Bhutto or Sheikh Mujeeb, too were rode on the crescendo of
popularity, but met violent fate in the end.
History can not remain oblivious to its
fundamental principles, Altaf too has to meet an end, which was inglorious.
Whether he is gone forever, cannot be said emphatically at this point of time,
but straws in the wind doo provide sufficient hint. The establishment had
reached the conclusion that he had to go, and will perhaps not allow him a come
back now. That looks certain to a very great extent from private discussions
with those who matter. But MQM Pakistan and PSP need to review their strategy.
That alone can lead them to keep the position of glory. Else the result could
be anybody’s guess.