New Age Islam Edit Bureau
07 September 2016
Instruments of Terror
By Imtiaz Gul
Imitation and Limitations of
By Aziz Ali Dad
Democratic Political Parties
By Dr Ikramul Haq
By Paul Pillar
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Instruments Of Terror
September 6, 2016
The equation is quite even as far as
allegations and suspicions go. Pakistan is at pains to convince the world that
the intermittent violence it experiences is inflicted by groups, which can be
termed instruments of terrorism and instability. Groups such as the TTP,
Jamaatul Ahrar, the Islamic State, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Baloch
Republican Army stand out as some of those instruments.
Outsiders like India, Afghanistan and the
US look at the Haqqani network, the Afghan Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and
Jaish-e-Mohammad in more or less the same way i.e., as instruments of terror
using Pakistani territory against neighbours.
The latest such pronouncement came from US
Secretary of State John Kerry, making it clear to Islamabad that it needs to
act against groups such as the Haqqani network and LeT that are suspected of
operating from Pakistan to launch attacks against its neighbours. Kerry said
this on August 31 in a press stakeout at New Delhi, using the occasion to also
appreciate the pain that Pakistan has endured at the hands of terrorists. He
more or less repeated the same words that constitute the essential part of the
official Washington narrative and which underscores the Indo-American-Afghan
convergence on the issue. Kerry did concede Pakistan’s “progress in the fight
against extremism in recent months” but also underlined that it “has work to do
in order to push harder against its indigenous groups that are engaged in
extremist activities” and represent a threat to the neighbours.
India’s National Security Adviser Ajit
Doval and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, too, think alike and have gone
even further in speaking about countering terror with terror. Most of what we
see today seems to flow from a deadly tit-for-tat contest of gaining influence
in the region. At the same time, commercial interests trump oft-propagated
virtues such as morality and principles. The brutal handling of Kashmiri
protests and the near indifference to it from almost all G-20 countries
reflects their quest for preserving commercial interests in India. And this of
course provides India enough space to have the last laugh. This same attitude
helped Sheikh Mujeeb carve Bangladesh out of Pakistan, with the anti-Pakistan Awami League government in
Bangladesh still receiving magnanimous support from India. The Bangladeshi
government continues to bash Pakistan and its supporters at every opportunity.
The controversial war crimes trials are the most glaring example of digging up
the past and keeping anti-Pakistan sentiment alive.
Taking advantage of Pakistan’s past foreign
policy blunders and the erstwhile support for militant groups in Afghanistan
and Kashmir, India has successfully created a huge political constituency in
Afghanistan. The narrative sprouting from this puts the entire blame for Afghan
ills on Pakistan. Elsewhere, as an active member of BRICS, India continues to
exploit China’s ambitious global economic and trade cooperation agenda. At the
same time, Indian leaders have publicly expressed their displeasure over the
CPEC and term it as the Pakistan-China nexus, a derogatory characterisation of
the multi-billion dollar undertaking.
And now, New Delhi and Washington have
signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement, which allows the two
allies to use each other’s military facilities for checking China’s growing
influence in Asia and in the fight against terrorism. Both are also finalising
two other foundational agreements to expand their strategic cooperation.
Curiously, India and Afghanistan will be part of the trilateral dialogue that
US will hold in Washington later this month – as if they were all direct
neighbours. Viewed in this context, Pakistan faces the unavoidable spectre of
an ever-growing Indo-US-Afghan alliance that requires us to do more in the
anti-terror fight. We also need to clean up our image that became tainted
because of our alliances with or support for non-state actors.
Any analysis of Pakistan’s current security
quagmire bereft of this aspect of the deadly triangular proxy war is like
condemning and executing the wrong person — do these groups really possess the
wherewithal to force the state of Pakistan into submission and impose their way
of life on the country? Certainly not. Neither are they stronger than the
state, with even mainstream apologists of these terrorists having hardly
secured any national power through elections. The only way to fend off adverse
alliances and retain friends like China is to institutionalise a
whole-of-government approach on domestic and foreign policy issues.
Imitation and Limitations of Liberalism
September 07, 2016
In the aftermath of 9/11, the question
about the compatibility of Islam with modernity, or to be precise liberalism,
has become the burning question of the decade among intelligentsia belonging to
liberal, progressive, leftist, atheist, moderate and Islamist persuasions.
Owing to the overall ambiance and the way
production of knowledge is connected to different centres of power and
ideologies, the discourse of liberalism projects itself as the sole emancipator
of diverse human societies, which still live under different systems and follow
In the particular context of Muslim
societies, liberal intellectuals tend to follow the linear course of history
espoused by liberal discourse that took its contours in a Western context and
spread across the world during the period of colonialism, cold war and
globalisation. Though colonialism started to wane in the post-World War II
period, its ideas about democracy, liberalism and freedom have become part of
the collective history and memory of colonialised societies.
It is under the influence of liberalism’s
deterministic narrative of history, which claims: ‘first the West and then the
rest’, that our liberal intellectuals posit liberal Islam as a panacea to the
threats posed by new militant groups such as Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Boko Haram and
Isis. Owing to this, our liberal thinkers attribute the radicalisation of
Pakistan to the rejection of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s ideas and the adoption or
acceptance of Allama Iqbal by state and society.
Other writers trace the roots of the
current radicalisation directly to the Khilafat movement in South Asia in the
early 20th century. This is not to deny that these and other intellectual ideas
and political movements do not have an impact on the mindset of people, rather
it is to show the multiple sources of the modern Pakistani self, society and
Scholars subscribing to the end of history
thesis propounded by Francis Fukuyama think that ideologies, societies and
states opposing liberalism are the one that still live within history and have
failed to come out of it. The proponents of this thesis optimistically assert
that with the expansion of economic and political liberalism in the age of
globalisation, societies and ideologies antagonistic to the liberal system are
doomed to be relegated to the dustbin of history. However, the resurgence of
religion in politics and emergence of different political and social movements
in various parts of the world nullifies liberalism’s linear narrative of
history and even the postmodernist proclamation of end of meta-narratives.
Whether it is the experience of liberal
thought in the colonial period or the Pakistan movement, dictatorships,
political ideologies in post-colonial period and jihad in Afghanistan – all of
these have contributed to our current way of thinking. Whatever went into our
history has become part of our collective unconscious. The historical
experiences during the colonial and postcolonial periods are writings on
palimpsest that cannot be completely erased through a new narrative.
The new narrative may scrape old texts off
from the page but it retains traces of old writings, albeit illegible. Thomas
De Quincy refers to the palimpsest structure as an “involuted” phenomenon where
otherwise unrelated texts are interwoven, competing with, and infiltrating each
other. Similarly, the political and social domains in Muslim societies have
become so complicated that they defy being explained away through a monolithic
frame of reference.
One of the features of the narrative is
that it explains the world or reality, while suppressing its contradictions to
make reality amenable. What we are witnessing today in the world is the
domination of the liberal narrative, which suppresses alternate narratives and
worldviews by coercing them to follow the linear march of history on liberal
lines. Unfortunately, our wishy-washy liberals prescribe liberalism as the
right historical path to get rid of all the ills that afflict Muslim societies,
Pakistan in particular.
Followers of liberal Islam do not realise
that currently liberalism is a major player in the politics, conflicts and wars
that have been waged in different parts of the world. The very status of the
dominant narrative and power in the world constricts liberalism’s universality
and implicates it in the web of vocabulary that it spun for domination.
Fredric Jameson in his book, ‘The Political
Unconscious: Narrative as Socially Symbolic Act’ describes such problems as one
of “transcending the categories into which our existence as individual subjects
necessarily locks us and opening up to the radically distinct trans-individual
perspectives of collective life or historical process.”
Those who deem that can take Muslim
societies out of the current morass by dovetailing Islam with liberalism posit
a simple solution for a very complex phenomenon with diverse manifestations at
multiple cultural and social locations. Zaheer Kazmi from Oxford University in
his recent article ‘Liberal Islam is not the answer to Islamic State’ (Prospect
August 22, 2016) rejects attempts to fuse Islam and modern liberalism because
these “represent little more than the ghost of a renaissance”. He thinks that
“Muslim liberals tend to prescribe modern answers to postmodern questions.”
The form of militant Islamism that we are
witnessing today does not stem from a dead past or imagined golden period of
Islam, rather it is very much a product of modernity. One of the outcomes of
movements like Al-Qaeda, Taliban and Isis is that they have challenged
traditional Islam, which has succeeded to sustain itself against the onslaught
In this regard Western liberalism and
Islamism seem to be strange bedfellows which challenge traditional Islam and
create ruptures in its continuity. By destroying the basis of traditional Islam
and its spiritual manifestations and authority, they clear the way for new or
alternate thinking to emerge. That alternate thinking cannot be offered by
liberalism. Zaheer Kazmi is of the opinion that “the deeper problem is that
Muslim liberals have yet to offer a clear alternative to both Islamist
militancy and western secularism.”
Among the competing narratives about Islam,
militant Islamism has assumed the role of destroyer. However, the creator of a
new order of things in the wake of such destruction is marked by absence in
Islamdom. Here we are witnessing a divorce between the destroyer and creator.
This situation is contrary to what happened in the Bolshevik and Chinese
revolutions in which the destroyers of the old system laid the foundation for a
Traditional Islam being pushed back will
create a vacuum within the Islamic world if the intellectual class in Muslim
societies remain poor in thought. Then that space will turn into an abyss of
nihilism where anarchy will prevail. New ways of thinking are needed and, to
bring about change in self and society, there is a dire need to intervene in
every site of human life.
These sites range from state, religion,
poetry, piety, hermeneutics, attire, morality to architecture, literature,
women and aesthetics. In order to create a new self and society, the Muslim
intelligentsia have to engage with the world imaginatively – not imitatively.
In order to find new ways, it is imperative to muster courage to diverge from
the versions espoused by liberals and Islamists.
The lack of democratic values within
political parties is a perpetual weakness of our system. Dominated by
individuals, parties openly defy laws concerning their affairs, both internally
Every year, the Election Commission of
Pakistan (ECP) finds that the majority of registered parties do not file their
accounts in time and in the prescribed manner. Similarly, elected members are
also lax in submitting declarations of assets/liabilities/expenses. This year
too only eight political parties submitted their annual accounts by the
deadline – August 29, 2016.
According to the ECP, the compliant parties
were the Awami Muslim League-Pakistan, Islami Tehreek Pakistan, Jamaat
Ahle-Hadith Pakistan, Pakistan Muslim League-J, Awami National Party, Pakistan
Tehreek-e-Insaniyat, Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan and Pakistan Women Muslim League.
None of the leading parties complied with the law.
Not submitting accounts, which have been
certified by a chartered accountant containing details of
income/expenses/sources of funds/details of assets and liability, is a
violation of the Political Parties Order and Rules, 2002. It renders the
defaulting party ineligible to get an election symbol to contest any elections
for parliament or a provincial assembly. This rule has never been enforced by
Our leading parties are not ready to
introduce democracy within their ranks. Laws require them to hold intra-party
elections and get their accounts audited. None of the political parties ever
file tax returns or disclose details of expenses and names of donors. What
makes the situations more painful is the fact that the departments to check
these lapses, the ECP and the FBR, have never showed any inclination to enforce
the relevant laws and regulations.
Rule 4 of the Political Parties Rules, 2002
says that “every political party shall maintain its accounts in the manner
set-out in Form-I indicating its income and expenditure, sources of funds,
assets and liabilities and shall, within sixty days from the close of each
financial year (July-June), submit to ECP a consolidated statement of accounts
of the party audited by a Chartered Accountant, accompanied by a certificate,
duly signed by the Party Leader to the effect that no funds from any source
prohibited under the Order were received by the party and that the statement
contains an accurate financial position of the party.”
The majority of registered political
parties defy Rule 4 of the Political Parties Rules, 2002. The purpose of this
rule is to enable voters, political workers, media and civil society to know
about transparency in the financial matters of political parties. However, the
ECP is least bothered to enforce it.
Section 42A of the Representation of People
Act, 1976 and Section 25A of the Senate (Election) Act, 1975 make it mandatory
for the elected representatives to file in the prescribed manner details of
their assets and liabilities on the closing date of each financial year.
Failure to fulfil this obligation leads to disqualification.
Every year, the ECP suspends a substantial
number of lawmakers for not complying with this statutory obligation in time
but in the end they file and no penal action is taken.
There is also no mechanism to verify the
statements of assets and liabilities submitted to the ECP as the FBR does not
verify data or take any action for understatement of incomes and assets by
legislators. NAB has also never bothered to check the veracity of declarations
by legislators vis-à-vis the standard of living maintained by them. In their
tax returns, the majority of them show emoluments received as members of
parliament as the only source of income – while they enjoy palatial residences,
expensive cars, foreign tours and an army of servants.
It is also a matter of record that
political parties in Pakistan do not file tax returns. The FBR has never
bothered to issue them notices. In India, there is a mandatory provision of law
[section 13A of Income Tax Act, 1961] requiring political parties to file
returns or lose exemption from taxation. The chief election commissioner of
India invariably asks the Indian Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) to
scrutinise accounts submitted by political parties. In Pakistan, neither the
ECP nor NAB/FBR has bothered to consider this vital matter.
In Pakistan, on the contrary, the
Protection of Economic Reforms Act, 1992 gives a free hand to tax cheats and
money launderers to whiten their billions. All public office-holders or their
dependents who have taken advantage of this law to avoid paying taxes should
have been disqualified for open admission of cheating the state but not a
single case has been filed till today and the ECP, FBR and NAB have never taken
cognizance ofthis even in the wake of the Panama Papers.
It is high time filing of tax returns
became mandatory for all registered political parties, which should be
scrutinised and made public extending right to citizens to question their
veracity. Contributions/donations received by parties should qualify for tax
credits. Political parties are treated as non-profit organizations all over the
world, working for public good.
In Pakistan we have not yet promoted the
idea that political parties should be exemplary non-profit organisations, fully
committed to the cause of furthering public consciousness and welfare on all
matters related to governance. This idea is important. Once people associate
themselves with a particular party that has clear objectives and aims, they
also extend financial support for their achievement, thus eliminating the
influence of undesirable ‘financiers’ – people with money power taking control
of parties for personal gains.
Meaningful participation of the people in
democracy and the electoral process can only be ensured if they have the right
to question their leaders about use of their money. This would also make the
party a responsible and accountable entity when in power.
Hillary Clinton gave a speech last week in
which American exceptionalism was a major theme. She obviously chose that theme
partly because it would appeal to her specific audience (an American Legion
convention) and partly because it would enable her to criticize Donald Trump,
who has said he doesn’t like the term “American exceptionalism” because people
in other countries don’t like to hear it and feel insulted by it.
Trump is right about that, although in many
other respects he shows he doesn’t have qualms about insulting people in other
countries, including Mexico, the country he briefly visited on Wednesday and
has described as a nation of rapists and drug dealers.
America is indeed exceptional in some
obvious respects, and there is nothing wrong with Americans reminding
themselves of that, as long as they do not stick the concept in the face of
non-Americans. It is some of the corollaries that tend to flow in an unthinking
fashion from the concept of American exceptionalism that have caused problems.
Several such tendencies in American exceptionalist thinking have contributed to
One particular common corollary of the notion
of exceptionalism that Clinton emphasized in her speech was that of
“We are the indispensable nation,” she
said. “So no matter how hard it gets, no matter how great the challenge,
America must lead.”
As with exceptionalism itself, it certainly
is true that the United States is, or at least has been, indispensable in some
respects. An example would be the role of the US dollar as a reserve currency
and of US government debt as an instrument in international finance.
The problems come from the tendency – which
is implicit in much of the wording of Clinton’s speech – to consider the United
States and US leadership as indispensable in addressing all significant
problems abroad. But not all problems abroad are US problems, not all such problems
are solvable, what solutions there are do not all come from the United States,
and in some problems US involvement or leadership is instead counterproductive.
A related and common tendency is to invoke
the physical metaphor of a vacuum. “When America fails to lead,” said Clinton,
“we leave a vacuum that either causes chaos or other countries or networks rush
in to fill the void.”
The vacuum metaphor has several problems
when applied to foreign policy. It understates or overlooks altogether whatever
was present before any outsiders rushed in. It incorrectly assumes a zero-sum
or mutual exclusion relationship between the supposedly indispensable
superpower and any other players who may be involved.
Clinton talked about values and about how
American exceptionalism includes the idea of “America’s unique and unparalleled
ability to be a force for peace and progress, a champion for freedom and
The overlooked question in this kind of
rhetoric concerns the conditions in which other nations are, or are not,
receptive to the freedom and opportunity being championed. Herewith is an
inherent internal tension in American exceptionalist thinking?
The more exceptional are the conditions in
which American values arose, the less transferable are those values to others.
And that is a problem with the corollaries about indispensability and American
leadership in addressing problems hither and yon.
Clinton did invoke Abraham Lincoln’s
concept of the last best hope of Earth and Ronald Reagan’s image of a shining city
on a hill. The idea of making the American republic the best, and the best
example, it can possibly be – so that even a Donald Trump can’t wreck it – is a
better way to implement ideas of exceptionalism than to act like an