New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Affairs of the heart and the
Syed Rizwan Mehboob
GPM and N-Hornets Nest
Wajid Shamsul Hasan
Harmonising policies with
No Kim, no Trump
Syed Talat Hussain
Among Abraham’s people
Random thoughts: Killer arsenic
Dr A Q Khan
SC judgement on tripple talaq
Who killed Benazir Bhutto?
Compiled by New Age Islam News
culpable is Pakistan?
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
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
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
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
of the heart and the law
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
policies with Afghanistan
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
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
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.
By Syed Talat Hussain
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
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
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.
Aijaz Zaka Syed
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
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
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
By Dr A Q Khan
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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?