New Age Islam Edit Bureau
12 December 2017
Liberals Are Dangerous
By S. Akbar Zaidi
Beyond The Jerusalem Move
By Abdul Sattar
A Sorry State...
By Babar Ayaz
Trump Defies World Opinion On Jerusalem
By Shahid M Amin
Where The Onus Lies
By Faryal Leghari
A Silent Majority
By Iftekhar A Khan
Watch Nepal, Pakistan Is Passé
By Jawed Naqvi
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
December 12, 2017
PAKISTAN’S liberals ought to be utterly flattered now that a potential prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, has suggested that they are the most dangerous constituency in the country, and that these liberals are so well organised and politically relevant, that they ‘seek blood’. These words must sound particularly reassuring to Pakistani liberals, each morning, as they read their English-language newspapers and the many articles and editorials which have been written about and after the Faizabad Dharna.
Almost without exception, every newspaper has lamented the fact that Pakistan has lost its purpose and direction, that the non-state actors and right-wing Islamic parties have taken over both political and public spaces, and that the state of Pakistan has capitulated to the demands of such Islamists. Reading such editorials and articles, Pakistani liberals must breathe a huge sigh of relief, and offer thanks, for being recognised as such a powerful political and social entity, at a time when, one presumes, they were thoroughly heartbroken and despondent. Imran Khan has given them hope and much-needed reaffirmation.
The term ‘liberal’ is much used in the public sphere, but is often misunderstood or misconstrued in its meaning and use. Liberal and liberalism have emerged from a political philosophy which dates back some centuries and encapsulates numerous meanings and connotations in what the terms mean. Liberals, to start out with, were against an absolutist state, against the monarchy, and one can in today’s world assume that political liberals are also against the authoritarian government of the military.
Liberals also, on account of being against such absolutist oppression, believed in the will, or sovereignty, of the people, which made them at least democratic, or favouring the representation of the people through individuals who were usually elected. By this minimalist account, Imran Khan and his ally, the Jamaat-i-Islami as well as Maulana Samiul Haq, are also part of the liberal frame, even though they have supported military interventions and military dictators in the past. By this definition of the term, Gen Pervez Musharraf is anything but a liberal in the substantive sense, and is merely a lifestyle-liberal.
Imran Khan has given the liberals hope and much-needed reaffirmation.
It is here where things get complicated. Most people, even trained scholars, end up using the term ‘liberal’ only in a lifestyle sense, where they think that someone who supported or promoted certain behaviours and lifestyle choices, often supposedly ‘western’, would be considered a ‘liberal’.
But such simplistic definitions often make matters worse, even when one examines something as straightforward as sartorial choices. For instance, if some women wear jeans or trousers, they would immediately be labelled as liberal, even though, as in many Muslim countries, women wear jeans often with a Hijab indicating their religious inclination or cultural beliefs. Many Pakistani women, when they go abroad, do exactly the same. So, getting mixed signals — jeans with a Hijab — makes the declaration of someone’s lifestyle being ‘liberal’ quite meaningless. Other examples would only emphasise this point.
Being a liberal in a wider sense brings with it far greater attributes than what one wears or drinks. For example, there are clear demarcations of what a liberal, or increasingly neoliberal, economic policy is, compared to one which is conservative. All political parties, including Imran Khan’s as well as all Islamic parties, believe in free markets, privatisation, the World Bank’s good governance, less government involvement in the provision of public goods, all of which are attributes of a neoliberal economic order.
By these standards, Imran Khan and the Jamaat-i-Islami are also ‘liberal’, for they do not advocate closed borders, economic nationalism, state ownership of assets, or other indicators supposedly of an illiberal economic policy.
Imran Khan doesn’t understood how bechara Pakistan’s liberals really are in today’s world. They give a call on Facebook about some political cause such as about the disappeared, and perhaps five of them turn up at some press club to have their picture taken. They are not like the supporters of the Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool Allah, who braved the rain and sat on the roads in Faizabad for three weeks, nor like the supporters of Imran Khan or Tahir ul Qadri who sang and danced at D-Chowk in Islamabad for four months.
Liberals would never have had the stamina, resources or commitment to last as long. At best, liberals can write op-eds, light candles for some deceased comrade killed by a militant, or now write blogs. Clearly, the political activities of Pakistan’s liberals, which are supposed to be so dangerous, are limited to Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media.
They barely have a real political presence, since there is very little differentiating between conservative and Awami political parties. These parties have the same economic and social agenda and programme, their representatives bend over backwards trying to appease religious lobbies, they believe that the IMF can bail out Pakistan, and their whole faith rests in CPEC. Occasionally political parties and their representatives might take some positions which are termed ‘liberal’ in a broad political sense, but these are increasingly infrequent.
Yet, one can understand why Imran Khan considers liberals to be dangerous. For one, they want society to be tolerant of differences, even religious belief, and they would want religious minorities to be equal citizens having equal rights. Some, sadly though not all, liberals might even want equal rights for women in society, while many others want peace in the region supporting better relations with India.
Liberals might even advocate for better and increased public services. But these are just well-meaning desires, and unless liberals represent themselves as organised political actors and entities, not only will they not be dangerous, they will continue to remain completely irrelevant.
US President Donald Trump’s recent decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has created euphoria in Zionist circles across the world, which has hailed it as a major victory for their cause. But the reckless declaration has also triggered a wave of fury across the Muslim world, strengthening the position of the extremist elements that the US seeks to eliminate.
Radical elements in Muslim countries have invoked the old anti-Christian and anti-Jewish rhetoric at their protests to muster support for their global Jihadi agenda. Since Trump’s announcement, the capitals of various Muslim states have echoed with the slogans of a holy war against the infidels, the Jews and the Christians.
So, an immediate effect of Trump’s action is clear: extremists – both Muslims and Jews – have benefited. The decision will also weaken the position of America’s allies. For instance, Saudi Arabia, which was reportedly trying to hobnob with Israel, will be the biggest loser. The conservative kingdom will find it difficult to justify its rapprochement with the Jewish state. Both Riyadh and Tel Aviv view Tehran as their sworn enemy and were trying to develop a joint strategy to counter the menace. Israel reportedly went to the extent of offering intelligence to the kingdom against Iran. But the decision has scupperred the chance of any rapprochement between both countries.
The brutal Israeli force used to quell the protests in the occupied parts of Palestine has a created a wave of sympathy across the Arab world for Palestinians. The silence of the kingdom and its lukewarm response towards Trump’s decision has triggered speculations. Many have wondered if the decision was announced after taking the Saudi ruling elite into confidence. Several meetings between Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is also White House senior adviser, and Arab and Jewish leaders this year lends credence to such speculations.
Such speculations have damaged the leadership credentials of Saudi Arabia in the Muslim world. The kingdom has genuine grievances regarding the rising influence of Tehran in the region. Many Arab analysts claim that the Shia Crescent, which was forewarned by Jordanian King Abdullah II, has become a complete moon. Riyadh believes Iran is arming the Houthi rebels to its south, dominating Iraq to its north and fomenting instability in Bahrain. The influence of a theocratic Shia government is entrenched in Damascus and Beirut as well. According to Dov Zakheim, it is for this reason that the Saudis forced their ally Saad Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister, to resign during his visit to the kingdom.
This situation is particularly alarming for Saudi Arabia. But the idea of hobnobbing with the most ‘hated enemy of the Arabs and Muslims’ in order to counter Iran hasn’t gone down well with Muslims across the world. The Muslim clergy has been unanimous in their hatred towards the Jewish state and the idea of handing the second most sacred place of the believers to Tel Aviv has infuriated Muslims across the world. Even the pro-Saudi groups and parties in various Muslim countries were forced to take to the streets to placate their rank and file whose anger was not only directed towards Washington and Tel Aviv but Riyadh as well for its allegedly lacklustre response to Trump’s decision.
Tehran has consistently opposed Tel Aviv and its ‘aggressive policies’, claiming that no compromise is possible with the Zionist state that has occupied Palestinian territories by violating all international laws. Trump’s decision has vindicated Iran’s position and flies in the face of America’s claims of respecting international laws. It has not only been condemned by the Muslim countries but America’s allies and European friends have also criticised the decision. The public opinion in Western countries has also swung in favour of the Palestinians.
The situation is likely to benefit Tehran. Iran might throw its weight behind the Palestinian call for a new Intifada. It is interesting to note that American and Saudi policies aimed at curtailing Iran’s influence have boomeranged on them. The US invasion of Afghanistan, which toppled the anti-Iran Afghan Taliban government, ended up strengthening Tehran’s position in the region. The elimination of Saddam also benefited Iran, which now has plenty of friends in the power corridors of Baghdad. The Saudis, with the alleged support of the West, carried out ruthless bombardment in Yemen to curb Iran’s influence. However, the atrocities triggered a wave of condemnation that damaged the reputation of the kingdom.
Isis, with the alleged support of Riyadh and Western capitals, attempted to annihilate Iran’s close ally Syria. But the defeat of the extremist groups in Iraq and Syria has not only consolidated Bashar al-Assad’s regime, it has also turned Hezbollah and various Iranian-backed groups into liberators. The emergence of Isis in Afghanistan has not only united China, Iran, Russia and the Central Asian States but has also forced two American allies – Pakistan and Afghanistan – to seek a regional alignment where Tehran also has a role to play.
In addition to strengthening the position of Tehran in the region and among Muslim countries, Trump’s decision may also revive the moribund Arab nationalism that has haunted the Jewish state for decades. Countries like Libya and Syria may invoke the slogans of Arab nationalism once again to counter the arrogant Zionist state that is not ready to even listen to the Western countries which have supported Tel Aviv in the past. It may also prompt Egypt, Bahrain, the UAE and other Saudi supporters to be cautious in helping Riyadh in the future.
The sledgehammer tactics employed by Israel in the aftermath of the decision has also questioned the utility of the Saudi-led military alliance. The military alliance’s possible actions against Yemen are likely to come under scrutiny. Many will question the rationale of using the alliance against a Muslim country while keeping it away from a dispute that is close to the heart of over a billion Muslims.
Questions are also likely to be raised about the Saudi policy towards Qatar. People will compare Riyadh’s tough stance against Doha and its muted response towards Trump’s decision. This will benefit Tehran, which has been opposing Saudi attacks on Yemen and has been using an anti-Israel rhetoric to claim leadership of the Muslim world. It seems Washington’s sworn enemy – Tehran – is likely to gain the most from Trump’s irresponsible decision.
‘SORRY’ is a five-letter word seldom used in Pakistani society. The ability to acknowledge and apologise for having made a mistake is an unpopular virtue, particularly among those in power. Let’s examine a few glaring examples where the mistakes of powerful groups and institutions have cost the nation great losses.
The most recent example is the six-point agreement between the government (or, rather, the establishment) and the participants of the Faizabad sit-in. Nowhere in the agreement is there any regret that millions of the twin cities’ citizens suffered because of the sit-in. There were also reports that at least two people died because they could not reach hospitals in time. The TLYR leadership may claim that protesting for a holy cause justifies the sacrifices made by citizens. One could accept this argument had the long-suffering citizenry voluntarily chosen to make such sacrifices, rather than under the duress of TLYR Danda brigades.
Similarly, no matter how unreasonable the protesters’ demands, the government too did not show any remorse for the people’s suffering by delaying their eventual acceptance of the demands. Nor do they seem to have considered the long-term ramifications of the agreement they signed. Prodded by the establishment, the government’s agreement has set a terrible precedent.
Let’s take another example, where in the Nawaz Sharif disqualification case the honourable court used the dictionary meaning of the word ‘receivable’ instead of the legal definition given in tax laws. When Sharif’s lawyers filed a review petition it was heard by the same judges, which is customary, although it shouldn’t be. The review petition should be heard by another bench because we cannot expect the judges, who are also human beings, to rise above themselves and admit to being wrong in their initial judgement.
We can’t progress until we accept our mistakes.
Falling prey to populism during the tumultuous tenure of chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, the judiciary gave three decisions in commercial cases (Reko Diq, Pakistan Steel Mills and Karkey Karadeniz) that were lauded by the immature media and politicians alike, but at the end of the day are going to cost the nation billions of dollars. But is there any tradition among the honourable members of the judiciary to admit that they may have made a mistake?
Now let’s return to political and military decisions, for which the leadership owes an apology for incorrect decisions. Take the decision by the government under Jinnah declaring that Urdu alone would be the national language, which the people of East Pakistan found unacceptable, protested against and even died for. Eventually, the government had to agree to give Bengali national language status. Nobody said sorry, or admitted that the initial decision was wrong.
Nobody apologised for the creation of One Unit, depriving East Bengal of its position as the largest province. Nobody said sorry for abrogating the 1956 constitution, which was created seven years after the nation was founded. Nobody ever apologised for the grand mistake of imposing martial law in 1958, which stunted the democratic process and further alienated the people of East Pakistan.
Nobody ever accepted the blunder of launching a covert operation in Kashmir in 1965 that resulted in full-fledged war between India and Pakistan. With our war resources exhausted, Pakistan had to accept the ceasefire after 17 days since, had the war continued for longer, we could have been badly defeated.
Nobody had the moral courage to apologise to the people of Bangladesh for exploiting them like a colony and then launching a military operation against them.
Nobody in the establishment has the grace to accept that getting involved in the Soviet-Afghan war during Gen Zia’s regime was our greatest blunder. For the last three decades, Pakistan and Afghanistan are bleeding because of Zia’s military adventure. Arms proliferation and the introduction of violence in politics are the ramifications of Zia’s jihad adventure.
Nobody apologised for launching the Kargil adventure, where many of our soldiers were martyred while fighting ostensibly as Kashmiri mujahids. When we started losing the Kargil battle we had to rush to Uncle Sam to ask India to commit to a ceasefire.
I have not even listed here the many adventures of non-state actors, allegedly backed by our establishment, who sabotage the peace process with India.
The trouble is, because we don’t say sorry and accepts our mistakes, we have not been able to correct ourselves and instead claim that we are the victims of an international conspiracy against us. Our establishment and the majority of the media are suffering from self-righteousness. May God help us!
Trump Defies World Opinion on Jerusalem
PRESIDENT Trump announced on December 7, 2017 that USA has officially recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He authorized the shift of US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. However, Trump insisted that his decision would not derail efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He seemed unaware that this assertion was self-contradictory. By recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and shifting the US Embassy to Jerusalem, he has tilted heavily in favour of Israel. Whatever credibility the US had as a mediator of the Arab-Israel dispute has taken a serious blow.
Trump stressed that he was not stipulating how much of Jerusalem should be considered Israel’s capital. Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of their own future independent state, and Trump did not rule out a future division of the city. “We are not taking a position on any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved.” US Ambassador to UN Nikki Haley said that “we remain committed to achieving a lasting peace agreement. We support a two-state solution if agreed to by the two parties.” Trump said his decision constituted recognition of the obvious. Since Jerusalem was conquered by Israel in 1967, it has been the seat of Israeli government, including the parliament, Supreme Court, offices of President and Prime Minister and headquarters of government ministries. Ambassador Nikki explained that it was “simple commonsense that foreign embassies be located where the government is based”.
But Trump’s decision has reversed the long-time US policy on this issue. It is clearly against several UN Security Council Resolutions on Jerusalem, which were either endorsed by the US or not vetoed by it. Some notable Resolutions are No. 242 of 1967 which told Israel to withdraw from territories occupied in 1967 War, including eastern part of Jerusalem (which has the holiest Muslim places including Al-Aqsa Mosque). Resolution 478 of 1980 censured Israel for its bid to change the status of Jerusalem which constituted a “violation of international law”. It also asked the countries that had established diplomatic missions in Jerusalem to remove them. Even traditional US friends in Europe and elsewhere have opposed Trump’s decision. They called for an emergency meeting of UN Security Council on December 10, 2017. The US and Israel were alone in defending Trump’s decision, showing US isolation on this issue. But Ambassador Haley instead said: “the UN has outrageously been one of the world’s foremost centers of hostility towards Israel.”
Trump’s decision has been strongly condemned by Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims all over the world. There have been big demonstrations in many Muslim countries. The Palestinians observed a day of rage and several were martyred in clashes with Israeli forces. The hard-lining group Hamas has called for a new Intifada to defy Israel. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that the US had effectively abdicated its role as mediator in the region. Turkish President Erdogan has sharply condemned the US and Israel on this issue and has convened an emergency summit of OIC on December 15. Pakistan Prime Minister said that the US decision constituted “”a clear violation of international law and UN Security Council Resolutions.” Pakistan was “unequivocally opposed” to the US decision. It called upon the US to “refrain” from the move which “would sidestep decades of global consensus on this issue, undermine regional peace and security as well as derail any prospects for lasting peace in Middle East.”
Saudi King Salman had spoken to Trump ahead of his announcement and tried vainly to dissuade him. In a statement, Saudi Arabia described Trump’s move as “unjustified and irresponsible”. The Arab League held an emergency meeting of 22 Arab Foreign Ministers in Cairo on December 9 to condemn the US decision as “dangerous and unacceptable and a flagrant attack on a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.
Trump’s decision will fuel anti-American feelings even more in the Muslim world. Terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and Daesh will have fresh justification for their anti-US and anti-West stance. There could be attacks on targets in the US and Europe in a fresh wave of terrorism. However, it is notable that the Arab League Foreign Ministers did not impose any sanctions against USA, even though this suggestion was made by Lebanese Foreign Minister. It remains to be seen what stance the OIC emergency summit would adopt. If one goes by the record of OIC, it has been a paper tiger. It adopts strongly-worded Resolutions but does not take effective steps to implement them. Muslim states constitute more than a quarter of UN members but have rarely acted as a unified pressure group, primarily due to internal dissensions within the Muslim world. The situation at present is even worse due to an ongoing cold war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and the deep sectarian divide in the Middle East.
Analysts are questioning the wisdom as well as timing of Trump’s decision on Jerusalem. During his campaign for President, he had sought to please the powerful Jewish lobby in USA by adopting pro-Israel positions. There is also strong orthodox Christian opinion in USA which cites the Bible to support Israel’s assertion that Jerusalem is its capital. Trump had used Islamophobia as a card to win over support from American voters. Trump also boasts that he delivers on his promises whereas the other US Presidents did not. But his decision on Jerusalem could well be counter-productive for US and peace.
Where the Onus Lies
President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last week evoked extreme reactions. Pakistan, rightly, did not lag behind in expressing its rejection of the American president’s move by deciding to launch a diplomatic initiative to pressure Washington. Unsurprisingly, there have been a number of protests in all major cities as well.
The Palestine cause has always been dear to our nation and the sense of solidarity we share with Palestinians is also akin to our feelings about Kashmir.
Though it is heartening to see the worldwide opposition to Trump’s latest act of ‘idiocy’ – as some have termed it – the implications of it, especially when it is enacted by the most powerful president in the world, are especially disturbing. Presumably, previous US presidents had signed waivers to not move their embassy to Jerusalem because of the impetus it would give Israel. It is ironic that while there was reticence in moving the American diplomatic headquarters to Jerusalem, Israel was being aided fully on every other front.
The weary reprimands for the parasitic Israeli settlements, the exhaustive shuttle diplomacy that Secretary Kerry and his predecessors engaged in and the futile Middle East Quartet talks seem to have been all for naught. Why? Because Israel, whether it was under Netanyahu’s Zionist leadership or otherwise, would not be bothered to go the extra mile as it has always been the recipient of US largesse – especially military aid – and the assurances of full US support in all international forums when faced with any challenges.
The card played in the past by Israel to show the world that it was caught between hostile Arab nations, is pathetic to say the least. Not only is Israel way ahead of other neighbouring countries in terms of its conventional defence capability, it is a militarised nuclear state – a glaring in-the-face reminder of the double standards over Iran’s nuclear aspirations. Jerusalem’s disputed status was deemed integral for the two-state solution and the Palestinian cause has been doubly upsetting. By assigning it the status of Israel’s capital, Trump has, with one swoop, felled the hopes for a future Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
For the outraged Muslim nations, the relegation of such a travesty is a blow not so much to the peace process, which has been reduced to a mere parody, but to the illusory façade they sought comfort in. The pretence they indulged in, knowing full well the intricacies of the US-Israel relations and their own capability of exercising diplomatic and economic pressure in the heyday of the fossil fuel global demand.
Even with the edge being lost to shale at present, the Gulf and the Middle East have enough clout to pressure Washington to amend some aspects of its blinkered support to Israel. While the Trump administration’s myopic vision has reduced the chance for any rational peace solution – especially when entrusted to Trump’s son-in-law and Zionist adviser Jared Kushner – the president understands the dynamics of business better than anyone else. Relations between Washington and Riyadh have seen an upsurge as Trump chose to fix the crosshairs on Tehran and the ammo-dollars pouring in as a result of the multi-billion dollar defence deals that have greatly helped the US economy.
While Saudi Arabia is, at present, implementing groundbreaking political and social policy changes at home and flexing its muscles regionally, it could use the same assertive zeal to move the Palestine issue to the centre-stage. Equally important is the need to get the Palestinian factions, both Fatah and Hamas, to work together in the wake of the recent developments. It is not going to be easy as peace is harder than war and the vested interests of the myriad parties are bound to affect the process. However, not doing anything beyond issuing diplomatic rejoinders is much more damaging.
Saudi Arabia, being the seat of the Harmain Sharif, also bears greater responsibility than any other Muslim state to help the Palestinians. Unfortunately, the divisions between the Muslim states – sectarian or otherwise – have played into the hands of Israel. And unless the Muslim states adopt a unified policy and schedule a phased plan to push ahead a two-state solution, the issue will continue to fester. This will have a large impact on the security and stability of the Middle East as well as the US.
The end of the three-week Dharna at Faizabad brought much relief to the citizens of the twin cities. The majority of the citizens whose daily routines were disturbed had little to do with Dharna politics – or any other kind of politics at all. And a large segment of society that suffers because of Dharnas, strikes, rallies and roadblocks constitutes the silent majority. When will its troubles end? When will the state ensure that the fundamental rights of the silent majority are not violated?
As it goes, staging protests to press for acceptance of demands is citizens’ democratic right. But when a few hundred zealots occupy a main thoroughfare to exercise their right, they disrupt the daily routine of thousands of men, women and school-going children; that is nothing but lawlessness. When a main road in a crowded city is blocked, the rest of the roads experience huge traffic jams. On many occasions during the recent Dharna, the protesters also blocked the main Multan Road that serves as the entrance to, and exit from, the capital. Even the motorway was closed for traffic for a few days.
Allama Tahirul Qadri can claim to be the pioneer of Dharna politics in the last few years. He started the first Dharna in 2013 from his comfortable container placed at an advantageous point in Islamabad. Even though his Dharna failed, Imran Khan liked the Dharna-style of politics and, with better preparation along with Allama Qadri, staged a 126-day Dharna in Islamabad. The two publicly embraced each other even though they are poles apart in deportment and appearance. And now recently, Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi jumped into Dharna politics. Between the Allamas, the silent majority has suffered immeasurably. Trade and businesses have suffered losses worth billions. Some commercial buildings near the Faizabad Dharna were set on fire. What was the fault of the property owners other than that their properties were located near the site of turmoil?
When Allama Rizvi called off his Dharna, a breakaway faction of his party headed by Allama Ashraf Jalali continued to dig in its heels on the busy Mall Road in Lahore. The leader of the Dharna at Mall Road demanded for the resignation of Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, after the federal law minister had bowed out under the pressure of Islamabad Dharna. Mall Road traders, like their community in Islamabad, also suffered huge financial losses. Who will make up for their losses? Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who belongs to the business community, would know how competitive the private trade and industry is, and how shutdowns and loss of time damage it. Will the government give relief in various taxes to make up for the losses suffered by the trading community because of Dharna politics?
So far, the silent majority is unaware of the ‘terms and conditions’ settled between the government and the Dharna leaders. Believably, the government has been asked to relent on the use of loudspeakers. It’s a touchy subject; and affects a large number of residents. If each mosque has half a dozen high-power loudspeakers, one can imagine the fallout that would have. Preferably, each mosque should have one or two loudspeakers with low volume to invite for prayers the faithful who live close by.
Moreover, by surrendering to the demands of the Dharna clerics, the government has not only encouraged them but also indirectly promoted their mission. Nobody would be against religious education, but along with that teaching of modern subjects must be mandatory, so that seminary-trained young men can find jobs to earn their living. The young men trained in seminaries consider themselves on the righteous path but are deprived of good jobs. This sense of deprivation leads them to frustration and extremism, rendering them exploitable by manipulative handlers. Better yet, the government should allocate a Dharna arena in each big city where Dharna enthusiasts can sit for months, without disturbing the silent majority.
CONGRESS politician and peace activist Mani Shankar Aiyer is being branded by Prime Minister Modi’s ruling cabal as an anti-India conspirator working with Pakistan to depose the BJP government in Gujarat, and to instal a Muslim chief minister there. It’s a poor man’s version of the Democratic allegation against Donald Trump whose presidency is supposed to have been won for him by Russia.
Cock and Bull used to be two rival coach inns on the way from London to Manchester. Drunken exaggerations and distilled tosh were their contribution to many areas of pseudo-expertise, hence cock-and-bull stories, akin to what Mr Modi’s Hindutva practitioners seem to revel in. If they had been keen observers of events in the neighbourhood, they would know better. It is the robust and resurgent Nepal they should fear, not an exhausted and internally haemorrhaging Pakistan. Let me explain why.
There was a time when India’s ascendant right-wing doctrine — a hodgepodge of Italian fascism mounted on garbled Hinduism — anchored its future in Nepal’s regressive monarchy. Successive monarchs were graded as Shri Teen and Shri Paanch, expressing the potency of divinity they claimed as the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Over time, the rulers — prototypes for Hindutva visionaries in India — became better known for the loot and plunder of the impoverished people of their landlocked country. Now the Shahs and the Ranas are in the doghouse or in exile, even as some of their fellow claimants to divinity in India, the so-called god-men, are lodged in jail.
It was a pleasure to see secular ballot boxes being emptied at the self-assured counting centres of the new nation where a popular communist alliance of former rivals is headed for a landmark election victory. Like their Indian counterparts, Nepali communists and Maoists are misnomers for idealist romantics who are predominantly Hindu social democrats but of a staunchly secular persuasion. That’s how Nehruvian India used to be up to Indira Gandhi’s first term.
A paramount message is about how to stay independent when caught between two giant neighbours who happen to be rivals with nuclear capability.
Nepal’s results are presenting a huge contrast to the groaning and moaning that’s been going on in India, where tired and abused people and their clueless leaders have been hoping, mostly without a strategy, to figure out how to evict fatalism from their midst. Religious fatalism that once dogged the erstwhile Hindu kingdom shores up an abysmally mediaeval ruling mindset in India. Of course, Indians will get their chance in 2019 regardless of the outcome of the Gujarat elections currently under way in the BJP-ruled state.
Many among the worried Indians are focused on the questionable electronic voting machines, which are indeed a threat to representative democracy if reports of their hacking are true, which they probably are.
The results from cash-strapped Nepal offer a lesson about the importance of the old workhorse, the transparent ballot papers, a fairer if not always a flawless route to test popular will. There are, however, other important messages from Nepal to Indians. A paramount message is about how to stay independent when caught between two giant neighbours who happen to be rivals with nuclear capability.
Another message is a more direct appeal to the sectarian and querulous people of India, about how they too can win the battle for democracy against religious hypocrites, by channelling their energies together. It is evident also that what passes for communist ideology in Nepal is an improved variant of any robust democracy. There too, the example was set by Indian communists before they dissipated into small ineffective modules.
Above all, the message from Nepal reflects a palpable reality involving a people’s dream of creating a just and equitable society. The people have rejected packaged mythology that was doled out in a political format by Nepal’s erstwhile rulers. The mythology was purveyed by men who had projected themselves as Hindu godheads. Progressive Urdu poet Niaz Haider may have never visited Nepal, but he had a message that seems to have been heeded by its leftist idealists.
Qahron ke, jafaa’on ke mukhalif chaliye/ Haa’n tund hawaa’on ke mukhalif chaliye/ Kya faaida bando’n ke mukhalif chal kar/ Chaliye tou khudaao’n ke mukhalif chaliye. (Let’s march against adversity and betrayal/ Let’s march against the strong winds of oppression/ What joy is there in punishing an erring fellow human/ The victory will be complete when pretenders of divinity come crashing down to earth.)
Now Nepal’s deposed royals are hoping that the gold they siphoned away would help them crawl back somehow to disrupt the revolutionary changes taking place in their country.
The Left Alliance made a clean sweep in Nepal’s provincial and federal elections. It is understood that the chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, KP Sharmal Oli, would lead the government and the chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Centre, Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, would be the chairman of the new Nepal Communist Party, formed after the merger of both. The election results also show that six out of the seven provinces would have a leftist government.
A message the Indian left can glean is that the communist victory in Nepal became certain when the two biggest left parties announced the formation of an alliance ahead of provincial and federal elections. Both parties were the second and third largest force in the parliament respectively. They also announced that they would work for their formal merger after the election. In India, it means the numerically weaker comrades have to seek out a common agenda with the secular opposition groups, including the Congress.
Allow me to believe that the Nepali message for Rahul Gandhi is firm and clear also. His Congress party habit of visiting temples or other religious places to woo electoral support is not the best strategy to pull his country out from officially fuelled ignorance saddled on the world’s highest corpus of illiterate adults. In a similar vein, Nepal’s message is just as clear for Pakistan’s woes with its own religious satraps.