New Age Islam Edit Bureau
04 October 2017
Eroding Democratic Values
This Is How
Rohingyas’ Plight Goes On
New Security Dilemma
By Dr Muhammad
By Zaigham Khan
By Rasul Bakhsh
By Mahir Ali
By Asad Rahim
Trump At The
By Shahid Javed
By Dr A Q Khan
New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Pakistan: Eroding Democratic Values
By Zahid Hussain
October 04, 2017
The controversial amendment in the election
laws may have allowed Nawaz Sharif to retain the leadership of his party, but
it has further dented democratic values. The government bulldozed the bill
through, with a fractious opposition failing to block it despite its majority
in the Senate.
Surely the government seemed to be in a big
hurry to accord political legitimacy to the disgraced former prime minister who
is facing indictment on a litany of corruption charges. Where the PML-N is
concerned, he is back in the saddle running the ruling party in defiance of the
Supreme Court ruling.
Indeed, Sharif’s re-crowning will help
maintain a façade of unity within the party ranks and prevent the possibility
of the leadership passing to the other branch of his family’s political dynasty.
But can this also win him moral legitimacy? Just holding on to the party
leadership will not clear him of the charges he is facing in a court of law.
The way the government railroaded the bill
through parliament does not augur well for democracy.
Most worrying is that this person-specific
amendment in the law and the manner in which it was railroaded has further
eroded democratic norms. Now anyone condemned by a court of law can form and
lead a political party. Ironically, a person barred from holding public office
can still be kingmaker and continue to run the government through proxies.
Apparently, the reason behind this hasty
passage of the amendment was to bring the courts under pressure. But the move
may not work. Instead, it may trigger yet another round of legal battle as the
amendment has already been challenged in the courts.
Undoubtedly, the military-led government of
Pervez Musharraf used the law for its own ulterior motive of preventing Benazir
Bhutto from leading the PPP. But, in this case, the objective of striking it
down was certainly not to correct an unfair move; it was to benefit a
It also exposes the absence of a democratic
culture within our political parties that have increasingly become family
fiefdoms and a tool for the protection of the interests of a few. Democracy
draws its strength from the rule of law and not from defying it. Democracy can
work effectively only if political parties are able to censure their leaders
for their wrongdoings and not wait for the court to decide their fate.
But it is completely opposite in the case
of Pakistan where those facing corruption charges continue to hold high office
and are eulogised by their supporters. For instance, how can a man indicted for
money laundering remain in charge of the country’s economy and finances? One
can argue that Ishaq Dar has still not been convicted; one can even question
the fairness of the trial. But would it not be better for him to step aside
until he is cleared of the charges?
For sure, a tainted finance minister cannot
fulfil his responsibilities effectively in running an economy that seems to be
in free fall. Foreign exchange reserves are depleting at an alarming rate with
falling remittances and declining exports. The record balance-of-payment
deficit has made it almost inevitable that the government will return to the
IMF. The debt burden is becoming untenable. It will be a serious problem for a
finance minister under trial to negotiate with multilateral agencies. For
months now, the finance ministry has been in a state of paralysis.
The government, which is preoccupied with
the political rehabilitation of the former prime minister, is fast losing its
governing space. The clash among institutions has made the situation extremely
chaotic. The bizarre incident outside the accountability court on Monday during
the appearance of the former prime minister is quite ominous. The controversy
over the deployment of the Rangers reflects an anarchic situation.
It is, indeed, a serious issue that the
interior minister did not know who called the Rangers. The situation turned
weirder still when Ahsan Iqbal was stopped from entering the court premises.
Surely the Rangers did not come there without orders from somewhere. His public
outburst and remarks about a state within a state demonstrated his
It is certainly not a good omen for the
government. The incident reinforces the perception about the government’s
shrinking governing space while it is focused more on defending the ousted
prime minister and his family. It is not enough to shout from the rooftop about
the ‘invisible hand’. It is the governance, stupid. We have already seen the
establishment gaining greater space.
Nawaz Sharif has called for a Grand
National dialogue among political parties. One cannot disagree with the
proposal. There is, indeed, a serious need for the main political parties to
come to an agreement on some kind of framework to strengthen the democratic
process. But Sharif’s call may have come too late and at a time when he has
been disqualified for not being honest and is facing trial. That makes the
other political parties suspicious of his intent. There is scepticism that it
is all about him being bailed out of his plight.
Sharif had a great opportunity to
strengthen the institutionalised democratic process over the last four years.
Instead, he rendered parliament ineffective and weakened other civilian
institutions thus allowing nonelected elements to expand their space. He
established his personalised rule with the help of close family members. Even
the cabinet seldom met and was virtually turned into a rubber stamp. His
current confrontational approach towards the judiciary will not inspire other
political parties to gather.
Surely there is a need for a charter of
democracy or Grand National dialogue to establish civilian supremacy and remove
the existing imbalance of power that has allowed non-elected institutions to
undermine elected civilian governments. But personalised power is not an
alternative for civilian supremacy. Democracy is not limited to winning the
electoral mandate, it also means implementing the rule of law and democratic
accountability. One wishes that Nawaz Sharif understood this.
More importantly, there is a need for an
economic charter among political parties to guarantee the continuity of
economic policies irrespective of whichever party is in power. Perhaps, this
will become possible after the elections.
This Is How Rohingyas’ Plight Goes On
By Shazia Mehboob
October 4, 2017
THE recent brutality of the Myanmar
authorities against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State triggered a strong
criticism worldwide. People and leaders across the world are furious over
Rohingyas genocide and condemning Aung San Suu Kyi’ for her silence over this
inhuman action of the authorities. Hundreds of thousands of people have
registered their protest over the genocide, besides condemnation and criticism
messages appeared on social media since the issue started. Suu Kyi is under
strong pressure to stop the violence being committed against the Rohingya
community. This pressure is appreciated and a positive move towards resolving
the Rohingya’s long-standing plight. However, this pressure should not be for
the time being like the past years as their plight is stretched over decades.
Rohingya Muslims have been facing various problems since the independence of
Burma because they are not a legally accepted ethnic community like others in
the country. Their disputed status, in my opinion, is the main cause of their
earlier and the recent atrocities and needs a permanent solution.
Reports show that the Myanmar authorities
were directly involved in the atrocities committed against Rohingya. However,
the rise in these atrocities started after the 1982 Citizenship Act passed by
the government, as this act denies equal access to citizenship to the Rohingya
community. Since the implementation of this act, Rohingyas have been subjected
to grave human rights abuses not only on the hands of the majority population
but at the hands of the government institutions. These state actors have
perpetrated grave violence against Rohingya, claiming thousands of innocent
lives so far. Apart from this, over one million Rohingya Muslims have become
the victim of torture, arbitrary, detention, rape and other forms of serious
physical and mental tortures. More unfortunate is that this harm is continued.
Rohingyas don’t have equal access to property, health, education and other work
opportunities. Rohingyas atrocities further increased when General Ne Win
introduced an amendment in the act. This was the first state-level curb against
Rohingya as an ethnic community. The law prohibits Rohingya from obtaining
equal access to citizenship. Taking advantage of this act, the Myanmar
authorities withheld identity cards of Rohingya. They don’t have right to
proceed their cases in Myanmar courts.
The local authorities routinely denied the
existence of the Rohingya ethnicity in the country. For instance, Myanmar Minister
for Foreign Affair Ohn Gyaw said in1992 that there had never been a Rohingya
sect in the country. Such kind of denials further aggravated their plight.
Forced displacement has become a routine affair with Rohingya. As a result, a
large number of Muslims have been migrated to escape the brutal actions of the
authorities. Rohingya Muslims also remained the main target of Naga Min
military operation. The forces, during the operation, abused, raped, and
murdered many Rohingya women. More than 200,000 Rohingya people fled across the
border into Bangladesh to avoid abuses. The Myanmar security forces forced
women and men into labour work. They were asked either to pay them a weekly fee
to avoid labour work or to perform manual labour. A UN report has stated that
Rohingya had been killed for refusal to perform forced labour.
The government institutions also remained
involved in the racial and religious persecution of Rohingya. The Human Rights
Watch reported in 2002 that the government had issued a military order
demanding unauthorized mosques be destroyed. Following the order, many mosques
and seminaries were destroyed. Likewise, mobs attacked dozens of mosques and
seminaries in 2001 and destroyed them. The Muslim community is also banned to
renovate religious places. The marriage-related restriction is another
long-standing plight of Rohingya Muslims. They are prohibited of getting
married without prior approval from the authorities concerned. The Myanmar
forces along with the Rakhine majority population have also raped and sexually
assaulted Rohingya women and girls. They sexually assaulted and gang rape women
in front of their male family members. Rape of Rohingya women at the hands of
military forces is a routine dealing if they remained unable to fulfil their
forced labour duties. Since the 1990s, the Myanmar military has held Rohingya
women as sex-slaves. Detention of Rohingya women for weekend’s joys is another
common practice since years. Many women have died as a result of gang rape at
military stations but the perpetrators have not been punished for these abuses.
According to international law, the ongoing
persecution of Rohingya constitutes genocide as defined by the 1948 Convention
on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The convention
declares that the genocide is a crime under the law if it is being committed by
killing members of the group. The case of Rohingya is staying under the
international law. To conclude, protest and criticism are appreciated efforts,
but cannot be a permanent solution to the lingering Rohingya issue. The
solution of this long-standing plight needs more consolidate efforts and a
long-term strategy, both on legal and political grounds, which is only possible
when we are honest to resolve this issue permanently.
Afghanistan: New Security Dilemma
By Dr Muhammad Khan
ACCORDING to some of the recent media
reports, Mr Trump, the Businessman President of US is now eying at the Afghan
minerals and rare metals. Since he was concerned over huge US expenditures in
Afghanistan, therefore, now, he would like Afghanistan to pay back the amount,
US has expended in that country since last 16 years. According to economic
survey, US has expended over $117 billion in the reconstruction of Afghanistan
in the last one and half decades. The US Geological Survey has estimated the
cost of mineral deposits in Afghanistan as over $1 trillion. Whereas, other
survey reports estimates that, mineral deposits in Afghanistan are much more
than US estimates and there are some rare metals are also found on Afghan soil.
The known metals in Afghanistan include; deposits of gold, silver, platinum,
iron ore, uranium, zinc, tantalum, bauxite. Besides, the country has huge reserves
of; Oil, coal, natural gas and significant copper – a particular draw given the
dearth of rich new copper mines globally.
President Trump is fearful about Chinese
investment in Afghanistan. Over the years, China has made a lot of investment
in Afghanistan. Besides China, India is also making a lot of investment in a
number of areas. The Indian investments include in areas like; mining,
Information Technology (IT), agriculture and livestock industries and
logistics. Currently more than 17 Indian companies are working in Afghanistan
in a number of fields. US may not be bothered about the Indian investment;
however, there is a real worry over the growing Chinese investment in that
country. President Trump and US policy formulators feel that, US has fought the
Afghan insurgency for 16 years, but economic advantages are being gained by
others. It is worth mentioning that in October 2014 President Ashraf Ghani
emphatically said, “We look at China as a strategic partner, in the short term,
medium term, long-term and very long-term.” President Ghani made such a
commitment with China during his first international tour after taking over as
the new President of contemporary Afghanistan.
China and Afghanistan signed strategic
partnership agreement in 2012, after which both countries are cooperating on a
number of projects, mostly socio-economic in nature. China pledged to provide
financial assistance to Afghanistan on many accounts, mainly the developmental
sector, providing 2 billion Yuan ($330 million) in grants to Afghanistan
through 2017. Besides, China also provided assistance to Afghanistan in the
provision of professional training for 3,000 Afghans over the next five years.
It is worth mentioning that Chinese state-owned companies are already working
in the mining sector of Afghanistan, exploration and bringing to use of many
minerals; copper deposits of Aynak, being the biggest sector.
In this regard, Chinese companies have
invested $4.1 billion to develop 5 million-ton copper deposits. Oil and gas
exploration in various parts of Afghanistan by Chinese companies is also being
undertaken. The Year-2017 marked the ninth anniversary of the Mes Aynak
concession, which was agreed in 2008. Two Chinese state-owned companies, the
China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC) and the Jiangxi Copper Company
Limited won the projects and since then has made a lot of progress in the
development of the projects. The consortium later called itself MCC-JCL Aynak
Minerals (MJAM) to formally operate the project. It is estimated that, Mes
Aynak mine is the 2nd largest copper ore body in the world, with the deposit
estimated to contain 5.5 million metric tons of high-grade copper ore. Some
experts opine that, Afghanistan has the potential to become “the Saudi Arabia
of lithium”. This rare metal has its usage in cell phones and electric car
The experts of international relations
opined that, President Trump is seriously considering the option of privatizing
the war in Afghanistan. The new US strategy of ‘re-engagement in Afghanistan’
is said to be part of privatization of war. Already, there were thousands of
civil contractors, employed in Afghanistan, following the drawdown of US and
NATO forces in 2014/15. Sending additional 5000 US troops and may be another
5000 troops by NATO partners would aim at providing security to these
contractors. There are even media reports that, nine US military bases are
located on or near those areas, which have costly and rare metals, explored in
that country. There is confirmed news that, on the issues of minerals and rare
metals, President Trump has taken into confidence the Afghan President, Ashraf
Ghani in a recently held meeting. President Trump feel that, US has right to
receive the War reparation, which it has fought for 16 years.
With the economic dimension of Afghan war,
which remained overt so far, there will be fewer chances of peace and stability
in this region. Afghan economy is one aspect, US is eying at the vast resources
of Central Asia and Caucasus regions. It is premature to say, how China and
Russia would respond to this new development. However, this for sure that, US
and its strategic ally, India is eying at the regional resources apart from
strategic objectives. Pursuit of these objectives will give way to a new
dimension to the ongoing conflict; putting the region into a new security
The Mainstreaming Debate
During a visit to my village in
Muzaffargarh in 2000, I was told that Sajid, the younger brother of one of my
class fellows, had been killed in Indian Occupied Kashmir. Sajid was an
introvert, an obedient young man who was always in awe of his older brother. I
had seen him grow up and could not imagine that his life would end in this way.
It was after his death that I came to know about his association with
I knew what to expect at his home when I
went for condolences. Two years earlier, the Lashkar had made the mistake of
giving me access to their sprawling headquarters in Muridke near Lahore. I was
given a chance to interview dozens of its fighters and commanders as well as
family members of slain fighters. I also had a chance to visit the home of
Hafiz Saeed where I met some of his close relatives and interviewed him at his
office at the University of Engineering and Technology (UET). My special report
in a leading magazine where I then worked ended up extremely upsetting the
organisation – and remains one of the most cited sources on the organisation.
Due to my strong interest in the rituals
and anthropology of death, I had noted that the organisation was inventing
rituals that had no precedence in Islamic societies. These rituals mainly
involved celebrating the death of its martyrs. So I had to congratulate the
family on the martyrdom of the young man and I would be served sweets.
I could not muster the courage to
congratulate the old man and he did not follow the rituals. After all, I was
like his son. He showed me Sajid’s notebooks where he had written S after his
name. “I did not know what S stood for till the news of his death reached us –
S stands for Shaheed”, he said. As I had seen in other cases, the family had
become deeply religious and the father had grown a flowing beard. I had already
met a father, called ‘Abu Shaheedain’ (Father of two martyrs), who wanted to go
to Kashmir because he did not have a third son to offer for fighting.
I found that just as the Tableeghi Jamaat
has reduced Islam to its brand of Tableegh, the Lashkar had reduced the religion
of peace to its brand of jihad (or Qital to use the proper vocabulary). Some
Deobandi scholars assert that instead of preaching religion (Tableegh-e-Deen),
the Tableeghi Jamaat has created a religion of preaching (Deen-e-Tableegh). I
don’t want to say the same about the Lashkar because I do not enjoy the
authority of a Deobandi scholar.
My exposure to Lashkar-e-Taiba challenged
many generalisations I had made about members of militant organisations. I had
reported on militant and sectarian organisations for years, regularly visiting
their dens, which were no-go areas for outsiders and law-enforcement personnel.
I had seen how they bullied the locals and kept them in constant fear.
Militancy, after all, is deviant behaviour
– like other crimes. A militant dissociates himself from the larger society and
tries to inflict pain on the mainstream. In case of the Lashkar, I found that
it was quite the opposite. Its fighters thought that they were sacrificing
themselves for the sake of the country and the larger society. There was a
socio-economic reason behind it. Unlike other militant groups, the Lashkar’s
recruits belonged to the lower middle class of Central Punjab and had attended
government school. They appeared to believe from their heart of hearts what
they were taught in their Pakistan Studies classes.
The Lashkar’s fighters were not supposed to
keep arms at their homes. They were rather required to serve their communities
till they were called to make the ultimate sacrifice. I found that they were full
of humour and energy and were often the darlings of their Mohallas and
villages. “What wonders we can do with this kind of youth”, I had thought.
Much has been made of the ideology of
militants. ‘Mind-set’ is one of the most popular terms with our commentators.
This term, however, does not exist in any psychology or sociology textbook. I
did not find the ideology of Lashkar fighters any different from what our
children are learning through their school textbooks. Every nation prepares its
soldiers for death and teaches them a variant of the ideology of legitimate
warfare – which is called jihad in Islam. In Pakistan, soldiers have
administered the medicine back on the whole nation.
Four decades of research on terrorism in
psychology has yielded nothing. We can conclude that what is most important in
this regard is ‘How’, not ‘Why’. Indian Muslims are far more sectarian than
Pakistani Muslims. You can find dozens of YouTube videos where men of the whole
village have been required to redo the nikkah ceremony because they dared to
pray behind an imam of another sect. However, Indian mosques and imam bargahs
are safe for worshippers.
Iqbal, perhaps the greatest Muslim thinker
of the 20th century, was declared an apostate by an authority no less than the
Imam of Kaaba. The move to push him out of the pale of Islam was spearheaded by
the Khateeb of Lahore’s second most important mosque, Wazir Khan Masjid.
However, he never felt that his life was under any threat and no one dared to
use violent means against him. The last laugh belonged to him and not to his
In contemporary Pakistan, the JUI has
asserted on many occasions that its differences with the sectarian
Sipah-e-Sahaba are confined to methodology alone. In the world of
organisations, methodology trumps ideology – process is everything.
Mainstreaming provides an answer to the
‘how’ question. It makes the militant groups change their tools from guns to
microphones. Guerrillas are hard to defeat in the battlefield. In the
democratic arena, they can be outnumbered and outgunned too easily. Islamist
groups are a huge threat in countries like Egypt where their democratic rights
and the freedom of association was trampled. In countries like Pakistan, they
are routinely humiliated on the ballot box by the ‘secular’ parties.
Syed Maudoodi did us a great favour when he
converted his Islamist movement into a political party during its most
controversial annual gathering in 1956. Hafiz Saeed appears to be doing us the
same favour. However, no one appears happy because many questions remain
Mainstreaming is often part of a
well-debated and well-thought-out strategy. It usually requires a legislative
process to grant amnesty to a group or individuals if they have broken the law
or committed any crime. If such a policy has been devised, we are not aware of
its contours. In the absence of an open relinquishing of arms by a militant
group, a political party can be just a political adjunct to a militant outfit.
Mainstream political parties like the PML-N
have other reasons to worry as well. During the last three decades, voters of
religious parties have become mainstreamed. They have left religious parties
and joined larger national parties. This mainstreaming of the religious voter
has reduced the leverage enjoyed by the establishment over the mainstream
parties. The PML-N fears that this process is being reversed artificially.
Rightly or wrongly, the religious voter is
angry. In my opinion, it must be given the political means to express its
feelings. For decades, we failed to curb this criminal association. In our
zeal, we should not put tabs on the legitimate freedom of association
guaranteed in our constitution.
Personally, I would be happy if Sajid were
to become a leader of the Milli Muslim League (MML), rather than a fighter who
died in Kashmir. This at least would have given me a chance to argue with him.
It would also have saved his father from the pain of serving sweets to those
who came to condole with him.
By Rasul Bakhsh Rais
The name is a subject itself; he is a
benefactor of Pakistan, a friend of our people, and one of the thousands of
Turkish teachers who have lived in our country and taught tens of thousands of
children over the past several decades. It is the missionary spirit of the
Gülen movement that has motivated Turkish teachers to leave their home and live
in Pakistan and tens of other countries to give world-class education to
children, with disregard to faith and nationality. The central principle of the
movement is service to humanity, as the name Hizmet Harketi indicates.
The Hizmet Harketi has played a critical
role in the rise of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Erdogan and had
remained an ally since the 2002 general elections. They have shared a similar
ideology on reconstructing the Turkish identity, politics and society embedded
in religious conservatism, old social values and Ottoman intellectual heritage.
Both have prudently avoided open ideological confrontation with secularism, but
have quietly redefined the place of religion in society, if not making it a
base of political legitimacy. The alliance worked both ways, in favour of the
two groups, one devoted to changing society through politics, and the other by
the spiritual values of Islam. Never has this been a clear demarcation, as they
had had overlapping worldviews and political interests. They succeeded in
replacing the old order shaped by dogmatic secularism run by a coalition of
political and military elites.
Last year’s failed coup attempt not only
put an end to the alliance but has turned the two former allies into bitter
enemies. Actually, the Gülen movement believes the coup attempt was a ‘drama’
staged by Erdogan and used as an excuse to eliminate the influence of Gülen and
Hizmet Harketi in the Turkish society. Why? He felt threatened by their
position in the media, civil society, the police and judiciary — some of the
critical spheres of new power. Erdogan has very successfully used the occasion
to systematically destroy the base of the Gülen movement by closing its
schools, colleges, universities, media houses and jailing tens of thousands of
its followers along with scores of soldiers apparently involved in the coup.
President Erdogan has not spared the
Turkish schools and colleges run by the Hizmet Harketi, including Pak-Turk
schools in Pakistan. He has applied his influence over the Sharif brothers to
get the schools transferred from the Gülen Foundation. He applied more pressure
to get the Turkish teachers expelled and repatriated to Turkey, obviously to
risk questioning and jailing. Fearing arbitrary arrest, persecution and
torture, the Turkish teachers, including Kacmaz, have sought an asylum
certificate from the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. This
certificate is used universally to seek stay and protection in a foreign
country. At the time of his abduction or disappearance, Kacmaz and his family
had secured this certificate. The four members of this family have joined
hundreds of ‘missing’ persons, leaving much to speculation who could be the
agency or a department of the Punjab or federal government taking them into
We hope Kacmaz and his family are fine, and
they are not sent back to Turkey against their will where it is certain they
would be mistreated. In Turkey today, members of the Gülen movement cannot
plead under the principle of presumption of innocence, as they have already
been declared ‘guilty’. If not grateful to these teachers for having served our
society, at least we shouldn’t push them into harm’s way.
Urge For Going
“AND I get the urge for going,” sang Joni
Mitchell more than a half-century ago, “When the meadow grass is turning/ And
summertime is falling down.” That sentiment has been echoed in recent days in
two very different parts of the world.
Last Sunday’s contentious referendum in
Catalonia was preceded six days earlier by an equally controversial vote in
Iraqi Kurdistan. In both cases, the longing for independence goes back a long
way. And in both cases the states from which the Kurds and Catalonians wish to
separate have reacted in a manner that is likely to exacerbate tensions.
The disturbing scenes witnessed in
Barcelona as a massive police force deployed by the authorities in Madrid
sought to thwart the Catalonian vote, and more generally the belligerent
attitude adopted by the conservative government of Spain’s prime minister
Mariano Rajoy, can only serve to fuel regional passions and drive waverers into
the nationalist camp. Perhaps not entirely fairly, the repression evoked
memories of the Franco dictatorship, which 80 odd years ago snatched back the
autonomy that Catalonia had secured under the Spanish republic.
Hostile responses to the referendums will
It was only four decades later, with the
return of democracy, that the region was gradually able to re-establish its
right to manage its own affairs. A substantial number of Catalonians consider
that insufficient, and the sense of injustice has grown since the financial
crisis of a decade ago, which was particularly rough on southern European
Catalonia is considered a relatively
well-off region in the Spanish context, but the Rajoy government has gone out
of its way to undermine its aspirations. Catalonian leader Carles Puigdemont
holds the view the recent referendum provides an adequate basis for a
unilateral declaration of independence. Madrid, meanwhile, has threatened to
invoke a hitherto unused clause of the Spanish constitution to suspend regional
Either option would deepen the crisis in
Spain — whichever comes first would likely provoke the other. Puigdemont’s case
is somewhat sullied by the fact that the turnout in the referendum was well
below 50 per cent, notwithstanding the claim that almost 90pc of those who cast
their ballots opted for independence.
On the other hand, the Spanish state’s
reaction — which resulted in injuries to 900 people and involved the
confiscation of an indeterminate number of ballot boxes — detracts from its
moral authority. Further, it’s hard to take seriously Rajoy’s insistence on
altogether ignoring the referendum, partly on the basis that it had been ruled
illegal by the highest court in the land.
The EU has, by and large, sought to stay
aloof, characterising the dispute as an internal affair for Spain. It is
understandable why the would-be architects of a European super-state would be
inclined to view regional aspirations for independence as a potential Pandora’s
box, but turning a blind eye to repression can only serve to reinforce the
impression that the bureaucracy in Brussels is self-serving.
The Kurdish bid for independence from Iraq
has also received little international backing, including from those who
effectively set the region on its way by guarding its autonomy against Saddam
Hussein after the 1991 Gulf war. Within the Middle East, only Israel has backed
the idea of an independent Kurdistan, for strategic reasons of its own.
Conversely, there have been threats of military action and economic sanctions
from not just Baghdad and Tehran but particularly vociferously from Ankara.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan had hitherto been
reasonably chummy with the Iraqi Kurds, in contrast to his attitude towards the
Turkish and Syrian segments of the Kurdish population. The Kurds are the
world’s largest ethnic group without a national homeland, of which they were
deemed unworthy when the British and French colonial powers carved frequently
incoherent boundaries across the Middle East following the defeat of the
The case for an independent Kurdistan has
existed ever since, with the Kurdish minority besieged, or used as strategic
pawns, to varying degrees across four states. Turkey and Iran are particularly
ill-disposed towards the idea of sovereignty for Iraqi Kurds primarily because
they fear the effect it would have on their respective Kurdish minorities.
Massoud Barzani, head of what is effectively a family firm at the helm of the
Kurdish regional government, has thus far not hinted at a unilateral
declaration of independence, even though the referendum, again with an
affirmative vote of around 90pc, is on various scores more credible than its
In both cases, there was scope for
serious-minded political negotiations to pre-empt a crisis, whereas a
belligerent response can only strengthen the urge for going. There’s a crucial
lesson in this for many nations, not least Pakistan in the Baloch context, but
it’s likely to remain unheeded until it’s too late.
Brave New World
By Asad Rahim Khan
IN Olaf Caroe’s The Pathans, one passage,
reheated and served to foreign audiences again and again, reads, “There arose
one of those strange and formidable insurrections among the Pathans which from
time to time sweep across the Frontier mountains like a forest fire, carrying
all before them. As on a previous occasion there followed a reaction, but the
fire is not wholly put out. It continues to smoulder dully until a fresh wind
As with many of our colonisers, governor
Caroe’s words have survived him. We enter a world of exotic warrior races
running down the mountain every five minutes, to be beaten back by ‘reaction’ —
because it makes for better writing to say the fire was put out, than to
describe an alien empire that crushed the rebels and brought in black laws to
keep them crushed.
Yet the state keeps reading its Caroes and
Kiplings, if only because a new generation of brown sahibs has learned to love
Done right, Fata could well see the
Consider: this country has called itself a
republic for 61 years, and a free state for 70. Yet we continue to call over
27,000 square kilometres of it the ‘Federally Administered Tribal Areas’. And
we continue to call what governs it the Frontier Crimes Regulation, a law every
bit as cruel and stupid as it sounds.
The FCR has been going strong since 1901;
its Collective Responsibility Clause a throwback to the days when British
colonels would round up every Afridi tribesman they saw, sell their cattle, and
blockade them from trade. We saw the modern version in action in September:
10-year-old Iqtidar was thrown behind bars — by the grace of the same clause —
after a bomb blast in Landi Kotal. He was released some days ago.
Then there are the darkest parts of the
state itself: FC personnel opening fire in Parachinar; Raja Pervaiz Ashraf
ploughing billions from the Fata budget into his own constituencies; the Muslim
League weighing Hazara votes heavier than fundamental rights.
Why we continue the crimes of our colonial
overlords is because we view Fata the same way they did: the British thought it
a buffer zone against the Russians, we thought it a testing site for the
Nor is it a coincidence that the same place
be thought fair game for Great Games. Drones continue to roar overhead, via
video game joysticks in Virginia. “As a military person,” one of retired Gen
Stanley McChrystal’s advisers told The New Yorker, “I put myself in the shoes
of someone in Fata and there’s something about pilotless drones that doesn’t
strike me as an honourable way of warfare.” It doesn’t strike anyone as legal,
lawful, or humane. Yet why should anyone listen: ever the playground for proxy
wars, Fata has been allowed to burn by default.
Only, this can’t go on. Our latest fight —
against maniacs and militants — was for the soul of this country, and it is no
coincidence it was fought in Waziristan.
Which brings us to the business of reform.
At every step, the state has preferred the path of least resistance: we think
that by handing Torkham to the Levies, we’ll pave the way for proper police
control. We think that by having political agents nominate ‘councillors’, local
bodies will thrive. We think that by taking some of the wheels off the FCR and
calling it different names (Jirgas, Qazis, the Rewaj Act etc), the rule of law
will reign supreme.
And that’s without starting on the
spoilers: Maulana Fazlur Rehman, part of a proud tradition of far-right
flamethrowers. These gents have taken a wrecking ball to the federation ever
since we had a federation: the JI opposed independence. The Ahrar brought
Punjab to a collapse. Munawar denied our martyred fallen. And now the JUI-F
does its best to disenfranchise the already disenfranchised.
Done right though, Fata could well see the
greatest constitutional reforms since Pakistan’s creation. That’s because
extending basic citizenship rights to millions of people, as columnist Umair
Javed rightly said, “hasn’t happened since decolonisation did that for
‘settled’ provinces”. Even the most major reforms — the disbanding of One Unit,
the 1973 Constitution — all “fine-tuned existing citizenship rights. Fata’s
merger will give citizenship”.
That can only happen one way: Fata’s merger
with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa proper, anything less be damned.
That means dismantling the political agent
and his creatures, complete electoral integration and party-based elections,
real local bodies, Levies brought into the fold of the provincial police,
protections for women from Swara and honour crimes, and the Peshawar High Court
(and not the Islamabad High Court) coming to the fore.
At 70, Pakistan can yet march to what this
paper calls a brave new world — and the Fata reforms are the shortest way
Trump at the UN
By Shahid Javed Burki
October 3, 2017
The United States is now set on a course
different from the one it had taken when it became the leader of the free
world. It had then agreed with the victors of the Second World War that an
international system would be built to guide member nations. In it, all member
countries would give up some of their sovereignty and follow accepted sets of
rules. This system worked and provided the world with relative peace and
prosperity it had not known for centuries. And then Donald Trump arrived on the
global scene as an exceptionally disruptive force. The moment he entered office
as the US president, he went about upending the old system. What he intends to
do and why he is doing what he has already done is based on his reading of the
world situation. His system of beliefs was laid down by him in four speeches he
has given, three of them to international audiences.
The first address in which the new
structure began to be built was on January 20 in Washington when Trump took the
oath of office. In the inaugural speech, the new president made it clear that
“America First” would be the basis on which he and his administration would
deal with the world. The second speech was given in May in Riyadh when he
pledged an all-out war against international terrorism, singling out Iran and
Qatar for lending support to dissident forces. The third came in July in Warsaw
in which Trump divided the world into two country-clusters, the West and the
Rest. He challenged the West to show the will to keep the Rest — and by that he
meant mostly the world of radical Islam — at bay.
The United Nations address on September 17
closed the circle by laying out the basis on which the new Trumpian world was
to be constructed, replacing the one that was no longer relevant — if it ever
was — for what was required to manage the often unruly world. That order was
structured over time; the first few bricks were laid down at Bretton Woods in
1944. Then the war in Europe had ended with Germany and Italy defeated by the
allied powers led by the United States. The Asian war was still being fought as
Japan, in spite of suffering heavy losses, had stubbornly refused to surrender.
Surrender came after the devastating nuclear attacks on the cities of Hiroshima
and Nagasaki. More bricks were added later, in particular in the area of
international trade. President Trump had made the world aware of his impatience
with the old world order during the long and bitterly fought campaign for the
US presidency. It did not seem to concern him that he was alone among the
leaders of world’s major powers in wanting to build a new system structured on
the goals pursued by individual countries, not on the collective global
In the UN speech, Trump used the word
“sovereignty” 21 times, saying that strong sovereign nations should keep their
citizens safe while enabling them to prosper economically. It was this belief
that had led him to use the term “America First” in his inaugural address
delivered on the steps of the US Capitol, eight months earlier. At the UN, he
said strong sovereign nations could join together to fight common threats and
constitute the irreducible blocks of global institutions such as the United
Nations. In the election campaign for the US presidency, Trump had repeatedly
expressed his doubt whether the United Nations system served any purpose. In
the New York speech, he did not make that suggestion but maintained that the
United States should not be required to shoulder a good part of the financial
burden of carrying and running the UN system. “As president of the United
States, I will always put America first,” he told his audience of heads of
The emphasis on sovereignty has a long
history in the West. It goes back to Roman times. It was elaborated in agreements
like the Peace of Westphalia that gave rise to the principle of
non-interference in a country’s internal affairs. It was the foundation on
which the victors of the Second World War erected the UN system. But some
critics found Trump’s definition narrow and selfish. “It looks like we will
respect the sovereignty of countries we like, whether they are dictatorship or
democracies, but we will not respect the sovereignty of countries we don’t
like,” said Vali R Nasr, an Iranian-American who is now the dean of the Johns
Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. “His definition of
sovereignty comes from a very narrow domestic prism,” continued Nasr. It did
not preclude criticism of the countries and their leaders who did not fit into
the Trumpian view of the world. Two of the three countries — North Korea and
Iran — named by President George W Bush as belonging to an “axis of evil” were
back on the Trump list.
While Trump covered a great deal of ground
in the UN speech what he said about these two countries drew the most
attention. He used abuse and ridicule to get North Korea to pay attention to
what he was saying. In the case of Iran — as he had done during the election
campaign — the focus was on the nuclear accord as well as its alleged role in
supporting international terrorism. He once again called the nuclear accord the
worst deal Washington had ever concluded. The policies he is likely to pursue
with these two nations will reverberate across the globe. The world is
watching, wondering where Donald Trump is headed.
Books as Guides
Enough has already been said about the
ongoing political activities, press conferences and cases in courts and the
situation hasn’t improved. It’s much better to opt for reading books for
enjoyment and to seek knowledge.
The first book I would like to bring to
your notice is called ‘Muslim World: The Story of the Creation of Pakistan’. It
is written by Ainuddin Siddiqui. I have known for a long time and he is a
competent former civil servant. He is an all-encompassing national figure. We
came into contact in the mid nineties when KRL was making the long distance
ballistic missile, Ghauri, and needed fuel for it. Our aim was to be
self-sufficient for fuel. My colleague, Dr. Hashmi, was asked to handle the
The book consists of 788 pages. It has been
published by Sigma Press, Lahore. Siddiqui has used many reliable references
for this monumental work. Starting from the Muslim populations in the world and
international forms of government, he has discussed the Indian Independence
Movement and subsequent events.
He also explored the Muslim rule in the
Subcontinent, prominent politicians of the Subcontinent, the formation of the
All India Muslim League, the ideology of Pakistan and the Pakistan Resolution,
the relationship between the All India Muslim League and the Pakistan Movement,
the partition of the Subcontinent and the disputes between India and Pakistan.
Independence and the Two-Nation Theory, Lord Mountbatten and Sir Cyril
Radcliffe, the Simla Conference, the Cabinet Mission Plan, Partition and the
demarcation of borders, the Indus Waters Treaty, native states and disputes
between India and Pakistan, independence migration and population exchange have
also been examined.
Princely states and states ruled by
Muslims, the constitutional history of Pakistan, M A Jinnah’s speeches and
addresses from 1916 to 1948 and the eras of governor-generals, presidents,
prime ministers and chiefs of armed forces, prominent civil servants and
generals also fall within the purview of this book. The origins of present-day
politicians and their families, the concept of Islam and grave-worshipping, the
veneration of saints and pirs, the tombs of so-called saints in the
Subcontinent have also been discussed. In short, Siddiqui has done an excellent
and thorough job and his book is recommended for the libraries of all
educational institutions and scholars of international relations and Pakistan Studies.
The second book is ‘Don’t Worry: Ghum na
Karen’ by Dr Aaiz bin Abdullah al-Qarni. The translation has been done by
Ghatreef Shahbaz Nadvi. The publisher is Darul Iblagh Publishers and
Distributors Lahore. It is reported that immediately after it was published,
more than one million copies were sold. The Arabic title of the book is ‘La
Tahzan Innalla ha Ma’na’. Once started, this book is difficult to put down. It
deals with matters concerning a person’s daily life – including his or her
actions, way of living and contact with others. The author has discussed
solutions to daily problems in light of divine edicts, with the Quran being the
complete code of conduct and life.
Muhammad Tahir Naqqash has written a
meaningful foreword. He says: “When you look around, you see that no one is
happy in this world. Everyone has some problem, some worry. It looks like huge
mountains of grief and pain are on them and they are trying to survive from
this terrible situation, fighting…to wriggle out of this problem. People [may]
look fit, healthy and happy, but from inside they are eaten up with grief,
problems and pain. They just need an excuse, a small shock, to break down
completely, shatter down depressed. The question arises as to how this
situation – grief [or] depression – attacks the human being. It happens when
the human being distances [himself] from the Almighty and forgets the message
conveyed to him by Him through His apostle and indulges in wrongdoing”.
The author says that this book provides
examples, pleasant stories and events and literary pieces as solutions to the
ills that have beset people. There are divine edicts, sayings of the Holy
Prophet (pbuh), sayings of the companions of the apostle and suggestions from
psychologists, scientists, sociologists and poets. It also contains the results
of comprehensive research, newspaper articles, reports and magazines. It is a
treasure of various useful findings and research. The message to readers is
that they should be happy and optimistic rather than sad and depressed.
However, saying is easier than doing. When people are depressed, it takes more
than a few stories to set them right. This book, the author says, is for people
who are facing, or have faced, hardships. It will, hopefully, enable them to
prevail over their difficulties to become content and happy.
The best way to deal with depression, anger
and mental distress is to offer prayers as this gives people peace of mind.
Listening to or reading the Quran with its translation also helps. The Almighty
has called us human beings impatient, hasty, quarrelsome, miserly, ungrateful
and suspicious. But He has still blessed us with the title of ‘the best of all
the living beings’. In Surah Rahman, the Almighty has repeatedly asked us to
point out which of the favours of our Lord will we deny? If we follow the
course described by the Almighty in the Quran, we will be able to overcome the
ills mentioned earlier. No one’s life is without problems and strife of some