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Pakistan Press (06 Sep 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

How culpable is Pakistan?: New Age Islam's Selection, 06 September 2017

New Age Islam Edit Bureau



Affairs of the heart and the law

By Syed Rizwan Mehboob

GPM and N-Hornets Nest

By Wajid Shamsul Hasan

Harmonising policies with Afghanistan

By Talat Masood

No Kim, no Trump

By Syed Talat Hussain

Among Abraham’s people

Aijaz Zaka Syed

Random thoughts: Killer arsenic

By Dr A Q Khan

SC judgement on tripple talaq

By Kuldip Nayar

Who killed Benazir Bhutto?

Zahid Hussain

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://newageislam.com/pakistan-press/new-age-islam-news-bureau/how-culpable-is-pakistan?---new-age-islam-s-selection,-06-september-2017/d/112441


How culpable is Pakistan?

By Shaukat Qadir


Though it was convinced that Afghanistan’s future should be crafted by Afghans on their own, the US still continues to impose its will on the Afghans

A couple of days before Eid, I was at a Round Table Discussion. This article is prompted by what transpired there. The essential focus was on Trump’s diatribe addressed at Pakistan but, as all the Trump accusations were about Afghanistan, our collective attention shifted.

I never seize to be amazed at the numbers of loyal, patriotic, concerned and well-educated Pakistanis, and these numbers do not exclude retired soldiers,who continue to be convinced that in Pakistan the ominously titled “Deep-State”, a term referring to collective activities of the army and intelligence agencies, are still conducting covert operations against Afghanistan and supporting the Taliban.

I number among the minority. And, while some may be more or less convinced, I am equally convinced that we are no longer guilty. And, we may no longer be capable of being guilty, even if we wanted to. It is my contention that, on our western borders, we do not seek to target Afghan dissidents like the Haqqanis, on US/Afghan demand. But, if they are on our soil, these are not excluded by us.

Very understandably, the accusers quote our murky past. Our past has indeed been questionable. As certainly as that is true, is my belief that it is untrue today. But, accusers seek irrevocable proof. So do I. The problem is that “irrevocable proof”, for or against, is impossible to obtain.

If I were to offer to take them to any site they pinpoint, they will remain unconvinced because, if their accusations were true, the Deep State could conveniently ensure that all evidence is destroyed before we get there. The supposition that the deep state can, is true but that, by no means implies that so is the accusation.

Another prop to the accusation is our consistent refusal to take decisive action against the Punjabi Taliban. I number among those who seek this decisive action and, share the complaint. However, while I would like to see decisive action here as well, since we cannot afford to continue breeding potential dissidents among us, I can understand the reluctance. These are the groups which act against India; which is a tit-for-tat situation, unlikely to end till the end is reciprocal.

Since neither contention can be proved physically nor by verbal claims, I am forced to take recourse to the only other rationale I have to support my contention i.e. that to do so is not merely counter-productive, it is against our national interests. A fact, I believe, well understood by our current military leadership.

During the Musharaf era, our actions were very questionable; and, I stated this repeatedly even while Musharaf was in power.Even more than Musharaf, Lt Gen Mahmood Ahmed, as Musharaf’s all-powerful lieutenant, was a [virtual] Taliban.

When Mahmood was replaced by Ehsan-ul-Haq (later Gen, and CJCSC), as DG ISI, a purge of the pro-Taliban elements began. I would not like to believe that the attempt was half-hearted but, it was incomplete. During Ashfaq Kayani’s tenure as DG ISI, the cleansing process continued.

But, when Musharaf was finally forced to step down from being the concurrent army chief, to Kayani, then chief, and the then current crop of the senior military hierarchy, goes the credit of finally recognizing the futility of interfering in Afghanistan. However, though they were convinced that Afghanistan’s future had to be crafted by Afghans on their own, US’ desire to continue to impose its will on the Afghan’s resulted in the continued contact with Afghan Taliban.

Why are there so many buyers — even patriotic and loyal Pakistanis — of US accusations agianst us?

Mulla Mansoor was the last of the Taliban strongmen who were fiercely pro-Pakistan. His execution was carried out deliberately by the Americans in a manner which implicated Pakistan a) as a supporter and host to him but also as b) the one to engineer his death.

The consequences are obvious. Not only is Hibatullah Akhundzada a weaker leader of a group that continues to weaken and splinter, Pakistan’s ability to influence their conduct is drastically reduced. The obvious corollary is that Pakistan can no longer be as effective in bringing the Afghan Taliban to any negotiating table.

Thus, its inability to help, when it most wants to, which resulted from US machinations is also held up as rationale to suspect us. If I am right, then there remains but one last question: why are there so many buyers------even patriotic, loyal, aware Pakistanis who buy the US accusations?

One significant reason is that the US still needs a scapegoat for its [likely, final] failure and, since it has the most powerful media mechanism in the world. A media that can distort what you see and hear, so as to convince its audience to believe what it wants them to. A media which has so many diverse dependent media from such a vast majority of countries that whatever it proffers the world, finds its own confirming witnesses.

But also because of our murky history. The Pakistan government, its agencies and all state organs and functionaries have been found lying so often and with such regularity that even the time of the day from them requires independent confirmation.

If lies by the military are less frequent, they have been murkier and often, more blatant---take 1965, ’71, Kargil, the OBL execution.

It is in this worrisome world that Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani’s return to sanity and declaring, on the eve of this Eed-ul-Adha that peace with Pakistan was again a national priority is a breath of fresh air. Irrespective of the reason for his ‘return’ at such a critical juncture, following Trump’s diatribe, is cause for relief.

I am certain we all welcome the remark. I hope this time our help to him bears better fruit than our previous efforts.



Affairs of the heart and the law

By Syed Rizwan Mehboob

The story of an executive officer booked for alleged acts of obscenity in public has all the elements to beat the juiciest of reports in tabloids of London or New York


A recent story from Punjab is about an executive officer who was booked for indulgence for purporting acts of obscenity in a public place. This provided much needed comic relief. Especially to the ears and eyes, tired and bored by the endless drudgery of Panama, political mayhem and the population census — the latter becoming part of the nation’s collective embarrassment.

The story has all the elements and characteristics to beat even the juiciest and simmering evening tabloid of London or New York. Yet it is so true to our grass root realities.

The manner in which SHO being the complainant recorded this event merits directly going in textbooks on law of evidence. His account of the offence is so comprehensive that even a lawyer of the caliber and standing of M/s Pirzada or Batalwi would have found it difficult to rescue the offenders.

“I was on patrolling duty in my jurisdiction (hats off to the constitutionalism of the SHO) when I got a “tip-off” (exemplarily resourceful police officer) that a man was busy in obscenity” (I am deleting graphic description here); On this I rushed towards the scene with my force (enthusiastic sheriff was not taking any chances hence a full force, ferocious assault to liquidate two love birds).”

This precisely is the reason why the most powerful in the land fear the mutation entry by a menacing Patwari in revenue Khata or an FIR written by a revengeful police SHO — you are doomed all the way to the August Supreme Court.

This is not the climax yet.

SHO in question seems to be a wise man, full of years and completely clear in his head as to how the system works or perhaps should work. He ends his report by using the phrase, “both were taken into custody”; see how cleverly he uses the term ‘taken into custody’ rather than plain ‘arrested’.

By the time investigation and trial court proceedings establish facts, a fertile imagination can be put to make several useful inferences from the incident

Quite expectedly, his report has the perfect, pleasant drop scene like in our Urdu movies from the sixties and seventies. The offenders, delinquents, deviants — call what you will — were duly produced before a judicial magistrate for remand after which both were released on bail. To the mutual good luck of the moon-stuck duo, the kind police officer had thoughtfully booked them in a bailable offence.

A bit of drama is also referred to in the report which luckily was not allowed to take more ominous proportions. An excited throng of locals had gathered outside the ‘crime scene’ to administer some handy chastisement and roughing up to the accused, befitting the occasion. However, timely intervention from local police prevented the events to take more violent proportions.

On his part, the civil servant involved in this case has completely denied the reports of indulgence in any obscene acts and put the whole thing to some old vendetta. However, by the time, investigation and trial court proceedings established the actual facts, a fertile imagination can be put to make several useful inferences from this incident.

To begin with, it is wrong to indulge in such incidents and behaviors, completely unbecoming of a public servant. But as an old mandarin from the golden, bygone era of civil service adroitly put it, it is even worse to get caught.

Remember Cinna the poet of Julius Caesar? When the crowd found, he was not Cinna the traitor but Cinna, the poet, they still wanted him punished; not for treachery but for his bad verses. The public servant in question may not be guilty of the offence itself but merits chastisement for being caught at the wrong place at wrong time and that too — going by contents of police report — in wrong company.

If by any chance, the contents of the story doing rounds in the locals is really true — that cupid is the real culprit — then the accused might as well come out of closet and aspire for reaching out to the wuthering, hazy heights of treacherous love — by acquiescing to the crime. An old song comes to mind when love-stuck royal maids sing to a vengeance-filled emperor a song despising fears in matters of love. But frankly speaking, such acts of valour and selfless sacrifice are a personal choice, far less advisable in our testing times.

But the real silver lining in this event is impressive.

Seamless, unwrinkled working of the local administrative system in this whole episode is clearly at work. Staying within ambit of law, public order was rescued with minimal inconvenience to the concerned actors. Likelihood of public wrath was dexterously handled by timely and swift corrective action; applicability of the procedural law was artfully employed to lead to a win-win situation for the accused as well as the aggrieved. Judicial remand and bail out followed in quick succession while everybody practiced respective moral grounds.

There could be more serious questions, entailing morality, public order and personal space. Also the issue of prioritization in terms of awareness of the police — with all sorts of serious crimes, violence, sectarianism on the one hand and dutiful police wallahs rushing to prevent stand alone, individual acts of indiscretion, one begins to question the priorities of the police.

No easy answers as you can guess but one thing is certain. The erstwhile steel frame of Raj is alive and kicking.



GPM and N-Hornets Nest

By Wajid Shamsul Hasan

Pakistan’s nuclear programme keeps bouncing into controversy time and again


Pakistan’s nuclear programme keeps bouncing into controversy time and again. It has been Pakistan’s resistance and its perseverance that despite enormous reluctance the community of nuclear states has accepted it in its club with reservations. United States has always been wanting its roll back. It leaves no opportunity to blackmail Pakistan for possessing its nuclear arsenal and development programme. Latest being run-away General Pervez Musharraf’s malicious diatribe against Dr AQ Khan.

Americans constantly badgers us that we should not have nuclear weapons-though meant entirely for our defence and deterrence — as it is apprehended by them that someday they might get clandestinely passed into the hands of Jihadi terrorists since there is a stout perception that we not only support them but often use them as proxy actors for pursuit of our own strategic goals.

Father of Pakistan’s nuclear programme martyred Zulfikar Ali Bhutto believed that Pakistan’s nuclear programme was a matter of life and death and that come what may, Pakistan had to have it for the defence of the country. It was he who realised the urgency of going nuclear as he had feared that Americans could stop supply of their arms and spares to Pakistan whenever they needed to arm twist Islamabad to tow its policy. According to him only a self-reliant Pakistan could face an adversary six times bigger than its size, better armed and with 6th largest armed forces in the world. More than the generals, he underscored the need for strengthening of the nation’s defence capability supplemented by self-sufficiency and economic development.

Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto believed that Pakistan’s nuclear programme was a matter of life and death and that, come what may, we had to attain nuclear capability to strength our defence

Dr A Q Khan and late Muneer Ahmed Khan, Chairman of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission no doubt played the lead role, it were several hundred nuclear scientists and technicians who worked day and night to make Pakistan go nuclear. It was nuclear engineer Sultan Basheeruddin Mahmud who had stood up in Multan meeting (1974) called by ZAB and shouted — “Give us funds and we will give you the Atomic bomb in no time” — Bhutto responded instantly — “we will eat grass, you will have the money”. And we got it in perhaps shortest possible time through the collective effort of our scientists and the unlimited resources provided by Bhutto Sahib. And had ZAB survived another year, he would have tested the device himself and not left it for usurpers to take the credit.

SZAB and later Benazir were fully in known of threats to Pakistan’s nuclear programme and its scientists. As such both introduced strict security procedures for the protection of the two. These security procedures worked smoothly until 1989 when Pakistan cold tested the nuclear device and its nuclear programme became a lethal object of concern for CIA, RAW and Mossad.

As Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto had inherited a successful n-programme that could produce bombs but had no delivery system other than conventional. In her two tenures she secretly worked with China and North Korea to help Pakistan acquire missile technology capable of delivering nuclear-war heads. Having acquired, that Pakistan became fully capable of not only manufacturing nuclear weapons but also delivering them.

At this juncture Benazir heard about approaches being made to Pakistan by some Muslim countries to help them in their nuclear programmes. In her meetings with her top brass — she enunciated Bhutto N-Doctrine that it was not exportable at any price. And when she came to know that our n-scientists could be harmed or kidnapped she introduced a fool proof regime for their security. She had to put her foot down when she was approached for permission to allow transfer of nuclear technology to friendly Muslim countries by her officials and scientists seeking her permission for its export.

In an interview to Financial Times after the AQK scandal Bhutto disclosed that she got a consensus agreement on her nuclear doctrine from her top brass and had succeeded in putting a bar on the export of nuclear technology in December 1988. “It certainly was their belief that they could earn tons of money if they did this.”

That’s was the reason that Bhutto wanted a bipartisan parliamentary investigation into the AQK scandal. She was of the view that Dr A.Q. Khan had been made a scapegoat by General Musharraf for covering up his running a nuclear super market. She had believed that Musharraf and his colleagues in-charge of nuclear installations had committed an act of treason by exposing Pakistan’s nuclear programme to complete obliteration. Indeed, if the matter is investigated in-depth, it might reveal one of the causes for Bhutto’s assassination.

Following GPM’s latest diatribe against Dr A Q Khan, his disclosure how Americans showed him the evidence of proliferation, how AQK cried at his feet to save him, PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar has rightly called for an investigation into nuclear proliferation by Pakistan under the rule of former president Pervez Musharraf. One shares Senator Babar’s concern that Musharraf’s claim would “open old wounds” and strengthen the international position that Pakistan was involved in nuclear proliferation to North Korea. Indeed, an investigation into the matter is rightly justified. I remember Benazir Bhutto’s words — repeated by the Senator — that it was impossible for any single individual to smuggle huge centrifuge machines and other nuclear material out of the country especially when nothing could move — or even birds could fly — without the knowledge and connivance of the Lt General in-charge of Special Planning Division and his team of commandoes. Surely as Babar says — “Dr Khan could not have carried the nuclear material on his head,” adding that Musharraf’s statements had “opened up a Pandora’s box”. In his retort to GPM’s claim that that despite pressure he did not hand over AQK to the Americans, the then Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali said GPM wanted to hand over AQK to the Americans, it was he who stopped him.



Harmonising policies with Afghanistan

By Talat Masood

September 6, 2017

President Ashraf Ghani’s offer of engaging with Pakistan in the backdrop of his US counterpart’s revised policy on Afghanistan augurs well for both countries. The desire for normalisation of bilateral relations could not have come without a nod from Washington, but reflects realism and needs to be welcome. Kabul cannot afford to bypass Pakistan, however close it may be to India and enjoy the full support of Washington.

After the one-sided assessment of Pakistan’s policies by the Trump administration, there had to be a carrot and an opening made to break the logjam. Pakistan all along has been insisting on dialogue and improving relations with Afghanistan. Its sincerity was reflected in General Qamar Bajwa’s several visits to Kabul and meetings with the Afghan leader and his military counterparts. The Foreign Office too has been very active at building bridges. Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua’s recent visit to Kabul where she had very productive meetings with all the key players, including former president Hamid Karzai, reflects Pakistan’s priority and urgency in improving relations.

All the three countries — Pakistan, Afghanistan and US — should realise that the time for mutual recriminations is over. Not that each country does not have a share in messing up the region and lives of millions of innocent citizens. It is also true that these countries have genuine reservations and conflicting priorities. But today the greatest challenge is to come out of this security and political quagmire by adopting policies that are more consensual and a realisation that their faithful implementation is a must. And this is only possible through dialogue and respect for the concerns of others.

Putting pressure on Pakistan by the US without considering its genuine anxieties has not worked in the past nor would do so in future. It only entrenches positions on all sides. However, this does not absolve Pakistan’s decision-makers from being more forthright in dealing with the Haqqani Network and Quetta Shura. Even if they genuinely believe that its present strength and clout in Pakistan presents no danger to Afghanistan and has little relevance in the fight against terrorism. If a few along with their families float around in the tribal belt or other parts of Pakistan, it should have no impact. Pakistan’s premise nonetheless is unacceptable to the Afghans or Americans and further alienates them. It essentially is a question of trust and the fundamental issue that is repeatedly raised by the United States and Afghans with Pakistani interlocutors is whose side are you on? Moreover, it is providing both Pentagon and Afghanistan to draw curtain on their failures. I would go even further to question whether it is in Pakistan’s interest to align with militant groups and use proxies that continue to backfire? Or adopt a more seasoned and calibrated policy that encases the broader picture and brings peace within; promotes stability and trust among neighbours and improves Pakistan’s international profile.

Unfortunately, the situation is just the opposite. In a major diplomatic victory for India the recent BRICS Xiamen Declaration deplored terrorist attacks specifically naming the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, and Taliban, IS and al Qaeda. It did not name any particular country but certainly the reference to certain groups with which Pakistan is generally associated like the Haqqani Network or LeT places renewed responsibility on our leadership to seriously revisit our security policies. Host nation China, which clearly is our most trusted ally, also supported the resolution. They are equally apprehensive of these militant outfits and share the same concerns as other members of BRICS. The latent threat that terrorism could take root amongst Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang province has been a source of great worry for them. The great tragedy is that all the sacrifices that the Pakistan military and our civilians have made in the fight against the global war on terror go unrecognised as a consequence.

What needs to be recognised that the United States and Afghanistan governments too share major responsibility for the present mess and need to pursue policies that win the confidence and trust not only of Pakistan but also of other regional countries. The new Trump policy is explicit in giving a lead role to India in Afghanistan that is understandably anathema for Pakistan. As is common knowledge India has been using Afghan territory for harbouring anti-Pakistan militant groups like the TTP, the Laskhar-e-Jhangvi, etc, and deliberately pursuing a hostile policy of undermining Pakistan’s stability and integrity. The world looks the other way while India tries to justify it as a tit-for-tat measure.

Similarly, Pakistan’s quasi support of the Taliban drive the Afghan government to lean heavily on India and toe its line while taking a hostile posture toward Pakistan. America takes cover of its failed Afghan policy by blaming Pakistan ad nauseam. President Trump’s recent announcement that he would send additional troops, probably around 4,000, to Afghanistan does reflect that the US will remain committed but certainly none of these policies are any solution. On the contrary, these have vastly benefited anti-state forces in both countries and made the goal of peace more illusory.

For India too it may be misleading to consider that its policy toward Pakistan would be rewarding. All the investment that it is making and goodwill that it is supposedly generating in Afghanistan would evaporate if it lapses into total chaos.

Pakistan’s army has traditionally played a major role in formulation of foreign policy. In the present situation where the political leadership is far too engrossed in infighting it has for all practical purposes fallen on the shoulders of the military leadership and bureaucracy to manage relations.

Providing direct or indirect support to certain militant groups to counter the influence of India in Afghanistan has not worked in the past nor will it succeed in the future. In fact, it has seriously affected our internal stability as we recklessly disregarded its adverse consequences. It is through diplomatic and security-related measures that India should be countered from using Afghan soil to destabilise us. The era of good Taliban or bad Taliban is long over.



No Kim, no Trump

By Syed Talat Hussain

September 6, 2017

After North Korea’s H-bomb test last week, the world is inches away from the unthinkable: a war where weapons of mass destruction become weapons of first choice. Ordinary deterrence theories that depend on rationality of decisions on the part of those involved in an escalating crisis are no longer relevant.

On the one hand, we have Kim Jong-un of North Korea whose actions speak louder than words of defiance. He has shown both intent and capacity to defy Washington’s piling-up of pressure diplomacy. Not only that, he has also shown contemptuous disregard for international outcry over his expanding nuclear arms and delivery systems (missiles) and has stayed the course of a destructive policy. The list of his actions so far tend to suggest that Washington can only under-estimate Kim’s rhetoric at a great cost to the entire Korean peninsula apart from Japan and US mainland.

On the other hand, in Washington there is a narcissist and dysfunctional president who is as incapable of getting his tweets spelt right as he of distinguishing between two different reporters whose hair colour happened to be the same. (This actually happened in Finland where Trump mistook a blonde female reporter for another who had earlier asked a question. The reporter then quipped to the president: “We have many blondes in Finland”). It is hard to imagine that the man has any personal understanding of what is at stake in the crisis involving North Korea.

That leaves the burden of policy navigation to his team. However, the team itself has become a chaotic churn with a fast-moving revolving door. Every   Friday someone new walks past someone not-so new walking out of the Trump team. It is a comedy show – but of the sort that can have tragic consequences for a world in flux demanding resolute and sensible decision-making from a power which, though declining, still retains formidable influence across the globe.

For now Trump’s reaction to Kim making the H sign to him has been a series of tweets, more rhetoric of considering ‘all options’ and getting as many condemnations of the nuclear test as possible including those from North Korea’s quiet but effective backers like China. The amassing of military assets around North Korea by Washington might also get more boost just to make the point to Kim that his defiance will lead neither to appeasement nor to any easing of pressure. However, Kim will be unfazed by this muscle flexing and might display more firepower as a riposte.

From the looks of it, the North Korean crisis and its overwhelming nuclear dimension can entail a lengthy, high-end global diplomatic manoeuvre that will consume time and energies of most powers, including Washington. Trump attempting a strategic strike on North Korea will have no backers and can cause annihilation at mass scale. Kim has effectively conveyed two fundamentals to Washington and the world: he is not letting go of the nukes; come near Kim and he will use them.

How this crisis unfolds and settles down will have profound implications throughout the world. Already several rules have been rewritten. From Japan’s gradual renunciation of pacifism to South Korea’s desire to have its own nuclear weapons, much has changed. Threatened by large threats many smaller states might want to pursue Kim’s option to secure for themselves strategic space in hostile environment – even when the price of pursuing the path is exceptionally high.

The deepening tensions in the Korean peninsula have significant ramifications in our part of the world as well. First, Washington’s focus is now on dealing with the clear and audacious challenge that Kim has posed to its authority and to regional security. Other issues like Afghanistan will be out of focus, but only temporarily. The litmus test of the alarm (in Islamabad) and joy (in Delhi, Kabul) that Trump’s dire warnings had caused might now have to wait. From the Trump administration’s own survival (for purely domestic reasons) to the looming threat of Armageddon, there is enough happening for Washington to put its other engagements on hold.

This gives Pakistan additional time to fashion a more rational and durable response to Washington’s so-called South Asia review. It may be tempting (and correct) to see Washington’s worries over North Korea as a sign of a descending superpower’s limits and evidence of its incapacity to change the behaviour of a small yet audaciously determined state. Just as tempting and correct may be to consider in a non-nuclear way that the Trump administration’s finger wagging at Islamabad is bluster and, therefore, there is no need to revisit our policies.

Yet for long-term purposes this view can be costly indulgence, and a waste of opportunities that have arisen to take corrective measures on the counterterror front for a better pleading of our case. We need to remember that, while Trump’s threats and warnings have been nonsensically exaggerated and loud, he has amplified concerns that other important countries have spoken to us about more politely but consistently. We cannot reduce these concerns to the bipolarity of a crumbling president in the US and pretend that we need not pay attention to what is being thrown at us by way of charges and accusations.

We have to seriously look at our own policies and take hard decisions on getting that ten percent of the counterterrorism policy right that is destroying the gains of our 90 percent effort. The North Korean crisis gives us just the window of time to reflect more deeply on our own performance and ask ourselves some tough questions – questions that for now are getting lost in the hyperbole of victimhood some of us are so good at dishing out every time a finger points to a flaw.

In this regard the statement from Brics summit, which started this Monday in the Chinese city of Xiamen, is what we need to bend our ear to. It condemned all forms of terrorism and then in the had this to say in point 48: ‘We express concern on the security situation on the region and violence caused by [the] Taliban, the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda and its affiliates including the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Hizbut Tahrir.”

The second impact on South Asia of the North Korean crisis relates to the larger issue of nuclear weapons as tools of diplomacy. Like Kim and Trump there is a school of thought in Pakistan and India that wants the table of talks with the enemy to be set up on the frames of these terrible devices. Here as well as there, many assume that nukes are guarantors of success in sharp-edged diplomatic dialogues and that free-flowing references to their use (under the guise of this doctrine or that) are important gambits to achieve goals. This is a self-defeating idea that unleashes dynamics of automatic escalation and inevitably moves goals of peace farther and farther away from attainment.

Kim may have got himself a temporary crown of greatness by thumbing his nose at Washington but he has brought annihilation and global isolation at his doorstep. Similarly Trump, by using brainless bravado – the hallmark of all self-loving publicity-seekers, a variety we are now quite familiar with in Pakistan – has narrowed the scope of diplomatic options to near zero.

Serious leadership does not bang nukes on the table of talks, nor does serious decision-making turn weapons of mass destruction into instruments of power projection for diplomatic gains. This is a path fraught with unmitigated dangers and mutually assured destruction. There are better ways to register your point of view than to constantly touch the nuclear holster. Kim and Trump may think that they are holding each other behind the red lines because of their bluster of un-packed and ready nuclear arsenal but in fact they are both holding the gun of their stupidities to their own heads and to the heads of their nations. We in South Asia need to learn from this and pray never to have a Kim or a Trump in our midst. Mad men spread madness not peace.

The writer is former executive editor of The News and a senior journalist with Geo TV.



Among Abraham’s people

Aijaz Zaka Syed

September 6, 2017

Magnificent. Majestic. Magical. How do you even begin to voice what you feel as you lose yourself in the sea of humanity, perpetually swirling and surging around the first House of God? All that you know is you are in the presence of ultimate greatness. Nothing and no one else matters.

Words fail you again and again as you are reminded of your utter insignificance, yet feel strangely empowered as you become part of a great kinship of faith and humanity.

There isn’t a more glorious and awe-inspiring sight in the world. Looking at men and women in sheer white perpetually going around the black-robed Kaaba is a surreal experience that is bound to touch everyone watching.

It is the 6th of Zul Haj, two days before the greatest pilgrimage on the planet and the Grand Mosque in Makkah that houses Kaaba, the black cubic structure built by Prophet Abraham and his son Ismail, and already all streets, hotels and buildings around the holiest of mosques are overflowing with multitudes of pilgrims from across the globe.    

It is the final hours before pilgrims head to Mina, the valley from where they formally start their historic journey of faith, they are keen to make the most of it – praying, pleading and sharing their innermost thoughts and privations with the One who created them and knows and understands them like no one else does.     

Wearing those two pieces of white, unstitched cloth, you feel totally at peace and curiously complete and liberated as you bare your soul before Him who sees all.It is a life-changing experience. Even introverts like me tend to lose their inhibitions and reticence to open up before him, with eyes watering and welling up without you even realising it.

My wife and I have been fortunate enough to join around three million faithful in the holy city of Makkah this year as they undertake this holiest of rites of passage and become part of an experience that goes back thousands of years.

Even when temperatures are at their fiercest in the Gulf this time of the year, touching 50 degrees, the area around the Kaaba even in the blazing sun is perpetually packed with pilgrims. After our first Umrah, my attempts at another tawaf (circling around the Kaaba) weren’t successful and I had to be content with prayers inside the mosque.  

The Saudi police try their best to maintain order and are most gentle and patient with pilgrims who repeatedly try to get as close to the Kaaba as possible or at least keep it in their sights wherever they are praying. South Asian pilgrims are often seen jostling with the police as they try to kiss the black robe of the Kaaba. The same emotional scenes are witnessed in the Prophet’s Mosque in Madina.

The awareness that this is where the noblest of prophets, from Abraham to Ismail and Muhammad, peace be upon them, worshipped bears heavy on you. This is where Islam’s greats were born, faced existential struggles and eventually prevailed.

This is where Abraham left his brave wife and infant son after being ordained by Allah when there was nothing here – literally.         No shade and no vegetation in sight and not a drop to drink. Ismail’s anguished cries and hitting on the ground of his tiny heels brought forth Zamzam, the little stream that has flowed for thousands of years and continues to sate the thirst of millions each year and is a living divine miracle.

This is where Ismail offered himself in sacrifice when Abraham was ordained to do so. The pilgrims and believers around the world celebrate the epic sacrifice of the patriarch and his son during      Haj    every year. This is where the Prophet (pbuh) after being hounded and persecuted for 10 long years, returned following the conquest of Makkah with a humility that remains unparalleled.   

It is a strangely emotional experience, impossible to capture in words. Makkah is all about the majesty and powerful presence of God. The aura envelopes and overwhelms you totally. You feel it at every stage and every step of the way – at the Grand Mosque in Makkah, while camping and praying in Mina and on the plains of Arafat and walking around eight kilometres from Muzdalifa to Mina.

Perhaps nothing celebrates the oneness of humanity and submission and surrender to the will of God as Haj does. The millions of voices perpetually chanting in unison,         Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik, labbaik la shareeka labbaik, reaffirming their faith and commitment to the ideals of sacrifice, peace and unity of mankind recreate every year a truly out-of-this-world experience.

You need not be a believer or even here in the Holy City to be part of the epic experience. No one remains unaffected by the way the faithful from around the world – black and white, rich and poor and men and women respond to the divine call as equals and partners in the fellowship of faith and humanity.

You tend to forget who you are and where you come from when you are here, in this ancient city and its environs where life has always been harsh. Yet nothing matters when three million pilgrims undertake the journey of a lifetime. These grey and arid forbidding mountains and valleys remind you about the choice Abraham had to make when he was told to leave his wife and son.       The patriarch is claimed by the followers of three great monotheist faiths. Muslims love and revere him as the architect of the Kaaba and the ancestor of their Prophet.

The uninitiated may not realise that Haj is not a tradition of the Last Prophet (pbuh). By undertaking the journey, Muslims retrace the footsteps of Abraham and the unprecedented act of offering his son in sacrifice to God four thousand years ago.

That is the essential message of Haj – sacrificing everything you love in the path of God, as Abraham repeatedly did. The patriarch’s whole life had been a study in sacrifice. From being cast into fire to removing wife and son to the wilderness of Hejaz and finally the supreme sacrifice of Ismail, the extraordinary life of the great prophet remains unparalleled for its heroic forbearance.

Indeed, if anyone wanted a crash course in Islam, they could learn all about the faith by merely observing the Haj. Today, when the faith is under siege everywhere, there has never been a greater need to rediscover its original message.      And more than anyone, it is Muslims who need to rediscover their faith and renew their bond with it. As more than three million pilgrims celebrate the epic sacrifices of Abraham and his noble son, corruption, strife and chaos are rampant everywhere.   

Muslims are busy killing their fellow believers while their brothers and sisters in distant lands like Myanmar are being hunted and killed like animals. The Rohingya genocide has been unfolding on the world community’s watch for some time. But you hear no angry denunciations and threats by world powers. The silence is deafening. Why should the world cry and care for the wretched Rohingya or Indian Muslims for that matter when the Ummah itself has lost its voice and is preoccupied with its own petty squabbles?



Random thoughts: Killer arsenic

By Dr A Q Khan

September 6, 2017

A few days ago, a frightening and shocking front page news and editorial appeared in Dawn, revealing how ground water all over Pakistan is contaminated with deadly, poisonous arsenic metal. The next day, this newspaper too published an editorial highlighting the same problem while some critics opined that it was an exaggerated report.

The fact remains though that, whether only a few people die or are affected by it or many, arsenic is a highly poisonous metal and the government should take immediate remedial measures. But I don’t have high hopes in this regard. Another metro bus, highway, flyover or orange train may seem more attractive to our rulers.

How does such poisoning occur? Our earth was initially an aqueous mass. Over time, the outer layer cooled and hardened but the inner core remained a molten mass. When the cooling process started, the lighter metals – silica, etc – floated to the top. In this way, arsenic also came into the upper layer. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), naturally occurring arsenic contamination is a concern in many countries, including Bangladesh, Argentina, Chile, China, India, Mexico, Thailand and the Americas.

In Bangladesh and northern India alone, about 500 million people are at risk. Many tube wells, which were built with international aid to draw groundwater as an alternative to bacteria-tainted surface water, frequently tap into aquifers contaminated by arsenic. Drinking arsenic-rich water over a long period of time can lead to arsenicosis resulting in various health conditions, which include skin problems (such as changes in skin colour, hard patches of skin on the palms and soles of the feet), cancer of the skin, bladder and lung and diseases of the blood vessels of the legs and feet. Arsenic can be found in earth, plants, animals, water, humans, etc. If a large amount of arsenic is swallowed by humans in a form that is readily absorbed, it can cause rapid poisoning and death. The gut, the heart and the nervous system are all affected. Those who survive suffer a painful life.

Nature and scientists have provided remedial medicines for most diseases and sometimes favoured human beings are appointed by the Almighty to help the sick and suffering. For arsenic, such a person has been sent to us. His name is Prof Dr Abul Hussam, director of the Clean Water, Chemistry and Biochemistry Department at George Mason University, Virginia, USA. Prof Hussam is originally from Bangladesh, a country where water is heavily contaminated with arsenic. As a student in Bangladesh, Prof Hussam he saw the suffering of his countrymen and decided to do something about it. After completing his Masters from Bangladesh, he went to the US where he obtained a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh. He then moved to George Mason University, Fairfax, Va. He never forgot his country and his people and, as a first step, diligently worked to develop a method which measured the exact quantity of arsenic in water. In this he succeeded in the early nineties.

To fight the menace, the National Academy of Engineers in the US announced a prize of $1 million and a gold medal for any scientist/engineer who could invent a simple, cheap, electricity-free apparatus to eliminate arsenic from water.

Thousands of scientists/engineers from all over the world entered the competition but, as Iqbal said:          Yeh rutbae baland mila jisko mil gaya; Har muddaee ke wastey daro rasan kahan   (only the lucky ones get the honour; it is not for all who long for it) Prof Hussam won the prize with his      Sonofilter. It consists of a top bucket filled with locally available coarse river sand and a composite iron matrix. The sand filters out coarse particles and controls the flow of the water while the iron removes inorganic arsenic. The water then flows into a second bucket where it again filters through coarse river sand and then through wood charcoal to remove other contaminants. The final filter consists of fine river sand and wet brick chips to remove fine particles and stabilise the water flow.

The system was tested by the National Academy of Engineering and by several independent laboratories and the filtered water was found to be totally arsenic-free. Prof Hussam donated 70 percent of the prize for          Sonofilters     (11,000 of them) to be distributed in Bangladesh and other countries. In Bangladesh alone, the filters are now preventing serious health problems in hundreds of thousands of people since first being distributed to the most hard-hit families in 2001. Since then, no new cases of arsenicosis have been detected in where people are using the filters, even in the worst contamination areas. A small         Sonofilter          costs between $15 and $30 and a large one (1,000 litres per hour) costs about $850. A small filter produces between 20 and 50 litres of clean water per hour and can serve two families.

A friend’s daughter, who is doing a PhD in Chemistry in Italy/France under the Erasmus Mundus Sustainable Industry Chemistry Programme, visited Prof and Mrs. Hussam while on a short visit to Washington. She later told me that they were an extremely kind and friendly couple who insisted she stay with them. She was shown the     Sonofilter      in the laboratory and Prof Hussam gave her very useful hints for her work.

Prof Hussam’s work is as important to humanity as the inventions of penicillin and insulin. Millions of people are benefitted by it and our government should undertake the production of such units for the benefit of the common man. I hope that, like the inventors of penicillin and insulin, Prof Hussam will also be honoured with a Nobel Prize for Chemistry by the Swedish Academy of Sciences. It may be noted here that Oral Rehydration Salt, which is saving millions of lives all over the world, was also invented by Bangladeshi doctors.  



SC judgement on tripple talaq

THE Supreme Court’s judgment is harsh and unequivocal. There could be no compromise on the basics of the Indian constitution, freedom to women and men to lead their lives as they wanted. I wish the Muslim community had accepted the bar on tripple talaq, which goes against the spirit of the constitution. But it looks as if the fundamentalists have been having their way. This was even the case with Shah Bano, a Muslim woman, where the Supreme Court intervened and fixed alimony in 1985 after a long legal battle. The Muslims did not accept the judgment and argued that the courts were not at liberty to interfere in matters which relate to their personal law. According to the Muslim Personal Board, the issue of support to divorce women by means of maintenance and mahr is provided under the Shariat. But the Supreme Court did not accept the plea and fix the amount for maintenance.

Most Muslim countries in the world, including Pakistan and Bangladesh, have banned triple talaq. But the situation in India is such that a debate on the subject is not possible. Even a semblance of discussion is rejected outright as an interferes. The tripple talaq continues to be invoked and the male dominance remains undiminished. In contrast, the Hindu Personal Law came into being after the intervention of the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. It was he who introduced divorce in the Hindu religion for the first time. He was strongly opposed by Dr Rajendra Prasad, who was the chairman of the Constituent Assembly and a widely respected. Nehru had his way because he controlled the government machinery.

Muslims have faced a similar challenge for decades. The tripple talaq has no Quranic sanction but it has been there for a long time. Some Muslim women challenged it in the Supreme Court which has said that gender equality should be considered in this regard. Government thought of issuing a questionnaire to find out the consensus but refrained from doing so. Muslim Personal Law Board vehemently opposed this move. Incidentally, it has no woman member and continues to dictate terms without any consultation with women. This has been resented by the women themselves but Muslim Personal Law Board continues to follow a policy which doesn’t even entertain the women’s opinion. And thus, fundamentalists continue to have their say.

The question is bound to come up before Parliament some day because the different sections of the Muslim community and even others are agitated over the situation. There are social boycotts by most Muslim women. Muslim men, on the other hand, continue to dominate, even though they grant that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) wanted both men and women to be treated as equal. However, when it comes to codifying this idea, the Board doesn’t care. How can a debate take place when the Muslim Personal Law Board is straightaway opposed to the questionnaire seeking people’s opinion? Women hailing from different parts of the country have protested and demanded that they should be consulted. The Narendra Modi government is reluctant to take any step lest it should be misunderstood. Things cannot be left at that point.

Parliament should step in first to debate on the issue in both Houses and then find out how the community, particularly its women, feel about this question. Political parties understandably want to maintain silence because of electoral considerations. In many states, including Uttar Pradesh which is the largest Hindi-speaking seats with 80 Lok Sabha seats, the Muslim community seems to be the king makers. For instance, Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav was able to garner Muslim votes since he was respected in the community who felt alienated from the Congress. In the recent assembly elections in UP, the anti-incumbency factor had come into play and the Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav was defeated despite having Azim Khan, then his cabinet minister, who was projected as the custodian of Muslims.

Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, indiscreet in his speeches, has been trying to get Muslims on his side. But he doesn’t sell generally among the people and it would probably be better for Sonia Gandhi herself to lead the party. There is no Italian-tag attached to her any longer. And she attracts the crowd in her own name more than her son does. This is a challenge for the Congress which has staked its future with Rahul but feels increasingly convinced that he does not go down well with the masses. In fact, his sister Priyanka Vadra has more of a popular face than him. It is a shame that a secular democratic country has been living with a practice like triple talaaq fearing the annoyance of the community. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi bungled by bringing in legislation to ensure a stipend for Muslim widows. It unnecessarily fuelled the anti-Babri Masjid agitation and during the P.V. Narasimha Rao government the mosque was demolished. The rest is history.

In the same way, triple talaaq cannot continue because it goes against the grain of what is enshrined in the Constitution. In fact, it is surprising that it has lasted so long despite the directive principles to have a common civil code. The successive governments since independence have evaded the question. The Modi government may also do the same. But this is not the solution. The triple talaaq will have to go, sooner or later. The Supreme Court has indicated how the constitution should be interpreted in this regard. The Muslim community is being misled by the fundamentalists. Unfortunately, the politics has also come in. The ruling Bhartiya Janata Party has its eyes on the next general election in 2019. Be it may the atmosphere of pluralism should not be polluted. Supreme Court or for that matter any Court would have no ground to interfere if the preamble of constitution is followed, that is secular and democratic polity.

—The writer is a veteran Indian journalist, syndicated columnist, human rights activist and author.




Who killed Benazir Bhutto?

Zahid Hussain | Updated September 06, 2017

IT is indeed a shocking court judgement. Almost 10 years after her assassination, Benazir Bhutto’s murderers have not been identified let alone convicted. While the anti-terrorist court has acquitted the five main accused for lack of evidence, two police officers charged with negligence have been convicted.

So the mystery surrounding the murder of the twice-elected prime minister and one of Pakistan’s most charismatic and popular leaders remains unresolved. Or is this really so? Last week’s ruling of the single-judge court has raised many questions about the dubious way in which the investigation and the trial in the high-profile murder case were conducted.

Indeed, the non-serious approach was evident by the fact that the charge sheet was altered many times and a number of judges were changed over the past eight years. More importantly, how did the prosecution fail to establish charges against the five detained suspects despite claims by the investigators of having collected “irrefutable evidence” against them? They had also reportedly confessed to their involvement in the murder plot.

The ruling is inexplicable but not surprising given the callous way in which the case was handled by successive governments. Besides forming several joint investigation committees, the help of Scotland Yard and even the United Nations was acquired. But all that seems to have failed to bring the culprits to justice. Surely, political gamesmanship made the investigations more intricate.

The mystery surrounding the murder of one of Pakistan’s most popular leaders remains unresolved.

It was apparent that the case became a tool for settling political scores with the result that investigations conducted by various agencies were thrown into the bin. In his ruling, the judge declared that the prosecution appeared confused. In fact, the case was doomed from the very outset with the frequent change of judges and prosecutors. One of the prosecutors was also killed in mysterious circumstances.

Also the judgement gives credence to the suspicion that there is neither will nor capacity to prosecute the terrorists who have gotten away with murder. There has also been debate on whether the judge was fearful of convicting the suspects allegedly associated with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and Al Qaeda. The TTP had demanded their release in the past.

Interestingly, the state prosecutors themselves refuted the investigation reports that had implicated the militant group and its top leaders including Baitullah Mehsud who was later killed in an American drone strike. The formation of various joint investigation committees and the involvement of the UN in the probe added to the problem. It was a purely political move by the PPP government to involve the international organisation in an investigation that was strictly a domestic affair, ignoring the advice of the foreign ministry. Moreover the mandate of the commission was also kept limited.

The UN commission report that had raised some questions about the role of the military intelligence agencies in prematurely washing down the site of the assassination thus destroying some key evidence was later criticised by the Pakistani authorities. The Musharraf government was also accused by the UN investigators of not providing the former prime minister enough security despite a threat to her life. In fact, the government demanded that the UN remove part of the report. This muddle completely destroyed the case.

Almost all the investigation reports had established what they described as irrefutable evidence that linked the suicide bombers and other suspects to the madressah Haqqania, Akora Khattak. The assassination plot was reportedly hatched at this institution where the suicide bombers had resided.

One of the largest and most influential seminaries in the country, Haqqania has long been seen as a hub of both the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban. Despite its known association with militancy, the seminary led by Maulana Samiul Haq has benefited from the patronage of successive governments. The PTI government in Khyber Pakhunkhawa provided the seminary, also known as ‘university of jihad’, a generous grant of Rs300 million.

It was indeed a well-organised plot. The five boys/men who were arrested weeks after the incident, some of them in their teens, had allegedly received ideological as well as military training at the militant camps in Waziristan. They may not have been the masterminds but they appeared to be critical cogs in the murder plan.

Forensic reports and phone calls had reportedly established their involvement in the murder. But the prosecutors kept changing their line of argument during more than 300 hearings. Perhaps the most damaging stance taken by the prosecutors was that Baitullah Mehsud was implicated by the Musharraf government to divert the investigations away from the possible involvement of the intelligence agencies in the murder.

Surely, the prosecution had not been solely responsible for the shift. In fact, this position reflected the thinking of the PPP leadership that was in power over five years during the critical period of the trial. The same line of argument was pursued till the end thus weakening the case against the five militant suspects.

Musharraf’s name was added in the list of the accused, but no substantive evidence could be produced to implicate the former military ruler. While the court has ordered the confiscation of Musharraf’s properties for absconding, his case has been separated.

Indeed, the most shocking part of the ruling was the conviction and sentencing of two senior police officers on duty in Rawalpindi city on the day of the assassination. Both officers who were only accused of negligence have each been awarded 17-year jail sentences. Such harsh action for a questionable decision (they may have acted on the instructions of higher authorities) is quite mind-boggling. That leaves the main question unanswered: who killed Benazir Bhutto?

While the PPP leadership has rightly been criticised for not pursuing the case more seriously during its rule, the trial has also exposed the shortcomings of our investigation agencies, the prosecution process and the judiciary. It is not just about the PPP but the entire country losing to the terrorists one of its finest and bravest leaders. It is yet another case of high-profile political murder that may never be solved. Who is to be blamed for this tragedy?


URL: http://newageislam.com/pakistan-press/new-age-islam-news-bureau/how-culpable-is-pakistan?---new-age-islam-s-selection,-06-september-2017/d/112441


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