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Pakistan Press (31 Mar 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Pakistan and the ‘Islamic NATO’: New Age Islam's Selection, 31 March 2017





New Age Islam Edit Bureau

31 March 2017

Pakistan and the ‘Islamic NATO’

By Dr Ejaz Hussain

Into The Minefield

By Chris Cork

Civil Society and Civic Life in Afghanistan

By Khadim Hussain

Problems with Census in Balochistan

By Shezad Baloch

Beyond Border Fencing

By Mudassir Hussain

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

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Pakistan and the ‘Islamic NATO’

By Dr Ejaz Hussain

31-Mar-17

Mohammad bin Qasim’s conquest of Sindh often finds its way into school and college textbooks, which talk at length about its impact on the spread of Islam across South Asia. It, thus, seemed natural to demand a separate country in the name of Islam in 1947. Soon after gaining independence, Pakistan became Islamic with the passage of the Objectives Resolution in 1949. Its first constitution also declared the country as the Islamic Republic.

However, the secular-minded General Ayub Khan tried to play with fire by repealing the “Islamic” centrality and identity in the 1962 constitution. Realising the error of his ways, he soon repented and ensured the Islamic spirit not only in the constitution but also in the Family Laws that his Islamic regime promulgated. Similarly, despite being liberal and a self-declared socialist, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was a true Muslim. He not only preserved the Islamic nature and character of the 1973 constitution but also favoured Islam and the Muslims in Pakistan by declaring the Ahmedis non-Muslims. Bhutto also declared Friday as the official holiday, another Islamic move, which was undone by liberal and pro-US military dictator, Pervez Musharraf, and prohibited alcoholic drinks and gambling.

Indeed, Ameer-ul-Momeneen (Commander of the Faithful), General Zia ul Haq, a great Muslim warrior, took further legal and constitutional measures to fill the loopholes, and put Pakistan on the path of Islam where the government servants were forced to keep the beard and offer prayers. PIA hostesses and PTV female news reporters also wore dupatta to cover their heads and chest so that no satanic idea could spoil the righteous males of our morally uplifted society. During his Islamic tenure, Pakistan became the first ever Islamic state to covertly possess the Islamic Bomb. After the great martyrdom of Haq, his successor, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, carried his Islamic legacy forward. His two, rather short-lived, governments, during the 1990s, highlight his brotherly Islamic ties with Saudi Arabia and even the Saudi-financed organisations such as the Sipha-e-Sahaba.

Following his footsteps, Sharif also succeeded in getting the parliamentary consent to become Ameer-ul-Momeneen. However, before this could materialise, a secular and westerly-enlightened Pervez Musharraf toppled his government in an un-Islamic manner. Musharraf was not a good Muslim as he sold Pakistan’s honour to the US, which bombed Islamic Afghanistan and droned on the Islamic Pakistan. He also targeted Islamic organisations whose students were at the forefront of the Afghan Jihad. However, before the pro-US general could inflict further damages, fortunately, the Pakistan army got a great leader with a humble background; General Kiani. He was an absolute gentleman who gradually pulled Pakistan out of the unIslamic alliances and, by the grace of God, he restored our honour.

Pakistan was, indeed, lucky enough to find another great Islamic leader in General Raheel Sharif. He consolidated the gains of his predecessor by launching Operation Zarb-e-Azb against forces bent upon destroying the country’s Islamic fabric. Being charged with the love for the Ummah, Raheel also reluctantly accepted the charge of a 39-member Islamic Alliance against terrorism. This alliance is headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia — the purest of the Islamic lands. At the moment, Iraq, Syria and Iran are not a part of this Islamic NATO. However, General Sharif would definitely convince the Saudis and the Iranians to embrace each other and fight against the kafirs together. Pakistan is, indeed, blessed by Allah as its leaders are now leading the Islamic world. It is, thus, a religious obligation of every Muslim living particularly in Pakistan to not only stop criticising our General but also pray for his safety and longevity. The longer he serves the Islamic Alliance, the better it would fare for Pakistan and the Ummah.

While disagreeing with much of the mentioned stuff one reads in our official textbooks, let me present some contrasting facts. According to any basic text of geography and International Relations, Pakistan is not located in the Middle East but South Asia. It borders with India, not Saudi Arabia. Indeed, it also borders with Shia Iran. Also, Saudi Arabia’s official name neither contains the word “Islamic” nor officially follows the Hanafi school of jurisprudence as is largely the case in Pakistan. From Morocco to Indonesia, all countries including Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are postcolonial nation-states where the monarchy, mullah and the military reign supreme.

Indubitably, Pakistan has entered into this Saudi Arabia-led Sunni bloc to fight against the Iran-led Shia bloc. Pakistani military leadership could also have joined it to counterbalance India while overlooking its sectarian fault lines. There are around 20 percent Shias compared with 78 percent Sunnis out of which roughly three to five percent are purely Malaki/Shafi. If Iran and Saudi Arabia fight further in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, would there not be its spillovers inside Pakistan, where both Shia and Sunni seminaries and militant groups are connected with their ideological and financial masters? Would Pakistan, already engulfed in sectarian terrorism, be able to play at multiple fronts and win over? I am pessimistic and I believe that Pakistan must stay away from this Middle Eastern power struggle, which seems regional in character but is global in nature.

Dr Ejaz Hussain is a political scientist by training and professor by profession. He is DAAD, FDDI and Fulbright Fellow. Currently, he is a visiting scholar at Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinio/31-Mar-17/pakistan-and-the-islamic-nato

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Into The Minefield

By Chris Cork

March 30, 2017

Cousin marriage has reared its head again, this time in the form of a meeting at the Lahore Children’s Hospital in the last week. The moot was to discuss the increasing number of children being diagnosed with something I had never heard of — Lysosomal Storage Disorder (LSD). It can be severe in children and if undiagnosed many die before five years. Treatment is available but very expensive and the discussion was around the possibility of a linkage to cousin marriage and the increase in LSD which is very real and verified from cross-referencing sources.

Being unqualified to offer a medical opinion and well aware of the dangers of citing anecdotal evidence as incontrovertible fact I went Googling and found a few surprises along with a couple of revealing insights. Perhaps the most startling was that the human group Homo Sapiens may have been as small as 10,000 in its earliest iteration, meaning that there was going to be inbreeding from the outset — and look where that got us today. Then there is the fact that 80 per cent of all marriages historically have been between second cousins or closer. (Fox, Rutgers University.) For about 600 years the Romans could marry their siblings – which seems to have contributed little to the fall of the Roman Empire. Charles Darwin who knew a thing or two about genetics married his first cousin and they had ten children.

Somewhat less goodish news lays within the European royal families especially the Hapsburgs. They came to a sticky end genetically with Charles II of Spain who to quote a contemporary source was ‘an imbecile and physically as well as mentally retarded.’ A squint at the family tree suggests the truth of the old saying that ‘the family that lays together stays together’ — if at some risk of producing eventually unfortunates such as Charles II. He died in 1700 and was perhaps remarkably married twice, but perhaps mercifully never fathered a child.

More recently and this time in the UK in the city of Bradford in 2013 found that the numbers of children born with birth defects was nearly double the national average and the bulge was located squarely in the Pakistani community where first-cousin marriage was common. The study was broad — 11,300 babies born between 2007 and 2011 and contained samples from consanguineous and non-consanguineous groups. There were 5,127 babies of Pakistani origin 37 per cent of which had married parents who were first cousins. The average for proportion of newborns in the population as a whole with a genetic defect is 1.7 per cent. The average in the Pakistan sample was three per cent. It does not sound much of a big deal, but when that is translated into the lifetime healthcare needs of an individual suddenly it begins to look more than just statistically significant.

Going back to the Lahore meeting this should act as a salutary ‘heads up’. The numbers of children that die of LSD is small every year, about 250, but the numbers are growing. There was a call for a raising of awareness of the condition while numbers were still at manageable levels, and here lies the rub and why I strayed down this road this week.

There is no need — or space — to unpack the arguments for or against cousin marriage here, and as was pointed out by a respondent to a Facebook discussion who had been involved in research on the matter 30 years ago, much of the source material indicated that the risks associated even with the incest taboo were exaggerated. That said, there are concerns about the multi-generational effects of close marriage. Genes are tricky as I have discovered myself having inherited a disorder that is showing up late in life, and in a culture where consanguineous marriages may be part of a chain which stretches back centuries (…remember the Hapsburgs, it didn’t happen overnight) then the cumulative effects are worth pondering.

Or not, as will be the case in most families where this is read. Not unlike guns and Americans, genes and South Asian cultures are going to remain untouched by countervailing arguments as to the risks of cousin marriage. Making sense will always lose to the cultural imperative. Tootle-pip!

Source: tribune.com.pk/story/1368945/into-the-minefield/

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Civil Society and Civic Life in Afghanistan

By Khadim Hussain

31-Mar-17

The evolution of the concept of civil society over the past several hundred years makes an interesting study.  Hobbes, Locke, Hegel, Marx, Tocqueville and Gramsci took hard efforts to construct the concept of civil society at various phases and eras of political thought and social evolution. Though all these intellectuals have developed different conceptual frameworks of the civil society, they have a few commonalities that might be useful for our understanding of the concept and its dynamism in Afghanistan.

All the above-mentioned intellectuals agree that civil society is distinctly different from the state. They also agree that it consists of various groups within a state having cultural, social, economic and political agendas. In a particular state, it is expected to guide and oversee distribution of power and resources, participation of various groups in policy making, and representation of people in the governance structure. Keeping in view this definition and function of a civil society, we can now easily understand its functionality and dynamism in Afghanistan.

A considerable population of Afghanistan, 60 to 65 percent, consists of the age group between 15 and 35 years old. The overwhelming population of this age group has organised itself into various cultural, social and political domains. Moreover, the dynamic participation of this age group has manifested itself not only in organising social and cultural events but has also taken out large scale processions to register their protest. A mammoth protest in March 2015 in favour of Farkhanda who was lynched by a mob in Kabul is a case in point. The New York Times reports: ‘Hundreds of Afghan protesters marched to the nation’s Supreme Court on Tuesday, demanding justice for a woman who was beaten to death by a mob last week after being falsely accused of burning pages from the Quran.’ In December 2016, a mammoth rally taken out by the Enlightened Movement (Jumbas-e-Roshnai) was targeted by terrorists leaving some 80 people dead. Large scale protests were held in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan to denounce this attack.

Social media is another domain where dynamism of civil society is generally observed in Afghanistan. According to a conservative estimate, there are some three million social media users out of Afghanistan’s 33.3 million citizens. It is used for connectivity with the rest of the world, networking with likeminded people and information sharing among various groups based across the country.

Hundreds of literary, research, development and welfare organisations are active in various provinces of Afghanistan. Furthermore, there are some 192 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the state out of which some 35 NGOs have specifically focused on women issues while approximately 25 NGOs have focused on issues related to children. These organisations hold poetry recital sessions, seminars, workshops and symposia for awareness, oversight of various development projects, highlighting loopholes in governance and information sharing. Area and regional study centers have been established in 34 public sector higher seats of learning and 25 private sector universities in Afghanistan. The autonomous Academy of Knowledge in Kabul regularly publishes hundreds of research books, treatises and dissertations in Pashto, Dari and English on annual basis. The encyclopedia Aryana, consisting over 24 volumes, is one of the major achievements of this institution.

Independent media is considered one of the vibrant parts of Afghanistan’s civil society. Media not only shares objective and credible information with the masses regarding functionality of various institutions but also triggers discourses that have impacts on the lives of common people. It is interesting to note that electronic media has taken longer strides than print media in the war-torn country. Some 240 radios are registered with only 210 of them active. There are some 70 TV channels with most of them still running. In addition, there are around12 daily newspapers out of which 4 dailies in English are published solely from Kabul. In total, there are around2000 registered media outlets with more or less 1000 websites.

Recreation and socialisation are major hallmarks in the lives of the Afghans. Music bands which regularly hold traditional and modern concerts have thrived at a rapid pace in Afghanistan over the past 15 years. The rhythm and symphonies of Afghan music have found a valuable place in the hearts of the lovers of fine arts. Numerous singers and directors of Afghan music have won tremendous acknowledgement and applaud on international level.

Traditional and modern games are also played and watched in the country. One can observe boys and girls in open spaces, streets and on the river banks playing cricket, football and traditional games. Cricket has also turned out to bea recent craze. The Afghan National Cricket Team has won a respectable place amongst fans of international cricket.

Many Afghan families throng to parks in Kabul during evenings and on holidays. The historical Bagh-e-Babar is another spot at the heart of Kabul that provides recreational space to the city’s citizens. People usually arrange dinners and lunches for their guests in restaurants situated on the banks of QarghaLake. It usually takes hours to get out of the place due to a lot of hustle and bustle on the roads leading to and out of the lake.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/31-Mar-17/civil-society-and-civic-life-in-afghanistan

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Problems with Census In Balochistan

By Shezad Baloch

March 30, 2017

It seems that in Balochistan nothing involving an official count or survey of the population, whether it be a general election, the election of a local body, or a census, can ever occur without controversy. It is widely assumed that this is because everything in the province is controlled by Baloch tribal chieftains and the common people are simply naïve about the benefits of a census. I would argue, to the contrary, that every sane mind in the province agrees that a census is an important measure and will have a profound impact on federal funding for everything from education and health care to infrastructure. There is also general agreement that an official, legitimate census should be carried out every eight to ten years under the Constitution.

On March 15, 2017, a national census of the population was begun in parts of Pakistan. This was the first census to be conducted in almost two decades, the last one having occurred in 1998. Baloch political parties, however, are unhappy with the way the census is being carried out in their province.

Nationalists have opposed a population census in the province for years, fearing that untrained officials would count the millions of illegal Afghan immigrants living in the province after fleeing war in their home country. According to a rough estimate, over three million Afghan nationals have entered Balochistan since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Initially Balochistan wholeheartedly welcomed their Afghan brothers, most of whom preferred to reside in seven Afghan-dominated districts. However, significant numbers eventually moved into the interior, where they felt comfortable with people who had been their neighbours for centuries and with whom they shared similar societal and cultural norms.

Amidst growing fears that a census might lead to Pashtun claims of equal or majority population in Balochistan, a gathering of Baloch political parties was held in Quetta on January 27th, 2017. At this gathering the participants raised serious concerns about the census, and in particular about its ramifications for the province. Three demands emerged from this gathering: that the census not be held until the repatriation of Afghan refugees; that it be delayed in areas where the Baloch had been internally displaced as a result of Baloch militancy; and that tribal elders be involved in conducting the census. The participation of tribal elders would be a huge help since the province is a largely tribal society where people know one another and are wary of outsiders.

Balochistan is the country’s least developed and least populous province but it constitutes half the country’s landmass. The confession and subsequent conviction of a number of senior National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) officials on charges that they issued thousands of computerised national identity cards to illegal Afghan immigrants in exchange for bribes legitimises the concern of Baloch politicians about the potential illegitimacy of the census.

Despite law and order problems in certain areas and the legitimate concerns of the nationalists, the federal government determined that Balochistan should be the first place to launch the census. This demonstrates clearly just how much heed the federal government pays to the opinions of Baloch parliamentarians and leaders. The only party publicly backing the census and the issuing of national identity cards to Afghans is the Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), led by Mehmood Khan Achakzai. Clearly, Achakzai’s concern is not for the pain and suffering endured by Afghans during a brutal war but for the vote bank they represent, one that is growing larger by the day.

In 2014, a senior police officer in Quetta told this columnist that he was being pressured by a PkMAP minister to give clearance to 16,000 applications from illegal Afghan immigrants for Pakistani identity cards. Certain elements are clearly trying to exploit poor, war-weary Afghans who are barely eking out a living in Balochistan. According to a UN report, 52.2 % of children under five years old in the province are chronically malnourished or stunted. In addition, significant numbers of pregnant women die in labour due to a lack of trained gynaecologists, and over 60 per cent of children are out of school.

What this situation really demands is a well thought out plan for conducting the census in Balochistan. Had the government in Islamabad been paying any attention at all to the concerns of the political parties in the province, it would have realised that Balochistan would have benefited from being the last province to be counted rather than the first.

Logically, a vast expanse of land, sparsely populated but rich in untapped resources, should yield benefits for the native population. Sadly, the small population size and the richness and exploitability of the province’s resources lie at the heart of Balochistan’s problems.

The influx of Afghan refugees and the internally displaced Baloch population, would definitely have a major impact on the credibility of the census, making it potentially unacceptable to even those nationalists who believe in the Federation of Pakistan. UNHCR, the organisation charged with the smooth and voluntary repatriation of refugees from Afghanistan, lost a great deal of credibility after many Afghan families re-entered Balochistan following the failure of paramilitary troops to strictly protect the areas bordering Afghanistan.

The federal government needs to investigate the sudden spike in population in Pashtun-dominated districts like Killa Abdullah, Killa Saifullah and Zhob, areas where the population has risen by more than 100 per cent.

There is a clear division in Balochistan between the Baloch-populated areas and those dominated by Pashtun and other ethnic groups. One hopes that Pashtun and Baloch leaders will be able to sit down together to resolve the issue amicably. Decisions on demographic boundaries will be aided by examination of historical evidence such as the burial sites of many Baloch elders.

Perhaps it is time for the Pashtun-dominated areas of Balochistan to merge with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa or for the tribal areas to form a separate province. This would greatly reduce the risk of confrontation, since the people have lived as neighbours for centuries. It would also persuade Baloch nationalists to support the census and help with its implementation.

I wish Balochistan was developed and economically stable enough to provide better opportunities for those fleeing war-torn Afghanistan. At present that is a pipe dream; people in the province are themselves in desperate need of basic infrastructure, healthcare, education and jobs. In a land where people are already suffering, more refugees and economic migrants could easily trigger a civil war.

Source; tribune.com.pk/story/1370062/problems-census-balochistan/

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Beyond Border Fencing

By Mudassir Hussain

March 30, 2017

The concept of fencing international borders has gained popularity over the past few years due to their enormous projection and the changing socio-economic and socio-political landscape of the global political stage following the unending war on terror.

Today, there are border barriers in Europe, the US is building new border fences on its Mexican side, Egypt is constructing new fences on the Gaza side, and Thailand and Malaysia are building new walls along their border. These are a few instances of how the concept of free borders has faded over time. However, history reveals a different perspective of such fences.

The Great Wall of China did little to halt Genghis Khan and his magnolia army from conquering 13th century China. A study of pre-Ottoman Turkey tell us  that Constantinople’s Ring of Fortifications could not stop the Ottomans from taking over what is the modern-day city of Istanbul. Similarly, in medieval Persia, soldiers breached the fortified wall of Babylon in 539 BC. Yet, the building of border structures persists and countries are still rushing to establish new barriers.

Post-2000, the concept of border fencing and walls is considered to be the only viable solution to the threats emanating from illegal transborder movements. It is believed that when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, there were 11 countries with border barriers in the form of barbed wires and walls. By 2017, this number has jumped to more than 70 countries – including Pakistan and India.

Last week, Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh, while addressing a gathering, revealed Delhi’s plan to seal the border. A similar news story made headlines in Pakistan as well when Islamabad announced that, in an attempt to quell the highest rate of illegal borders crossings, the increase in drugs and weapons trafficking and terrorist activities, a fence is under construction on the Pak-Afghan border. Media reports suggest that fencing started in Bajaur and Mohmand agencies – which border Nangarhar and Kunar.

Since the announcement to fence the border was made, the decision has generated considerable hype on social media and TV channels. Public opinion is divided on the basis of nationalist sentiments in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan believes that through strict visa regimes, tight border controls and scientific border management, it can curb the infiltration of terrorists attacking its territory and can control the unregistered refugees who are disrupting law and order.

In Pakistan, the decision is backed by both the government and opposition parties who are openly supporting the decision to fence the border. PPP Co-chairperson Asif Zardari said on last Friday that “border management with Afghanistan is critical for addressing issues of militancy and terrorism”.

But in Kabul, the decision has been widely criticised by all sections of Afghan society. Najib Danish, a spokesperson for Afghanistan’s interior ministry, denounced the move. However, he added that construction work had yet to start along the border. The opposition can be attributed to the fact that land-locked Afghanistan disputes the legitimacy of the Durand Line.

Due to the border disagreement, terrorists and smugglers are exploiting the fractured relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan and have taken up positions in the border villages where there is no ban on free movements. After any terrorist attack both Pakistan and Afghanistan often accuse each other of harbouring terrorist, failing to take action against banned outfits and waging proxy wars. This blame game can be controlled if both Kabul and Islamabad realise the looming threat of Daesh and other global jihadists which are causing chaos around the world and creating a bad image of both countries.

Pakistan and Afghanistan must also develop a consensus on the border barriers by recognising the ground realities and actual situation. But this does not seem to be an easy task owing to misunderstandings, negative propaganda, the lack of strong will and sincere commitment for peace on both parts.

Some may argue that it is costly to take such decisions. But the cost of terrorism on our security, investments, trade and cultural activates and infrastructure is infinite. Kabul and Islamabad needs to understand that without implementing border controls, bomb blasts will become routine.

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/195325-Beyond-border-fencing

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URL: http://www.newageislam.com/pakistan-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/pakistan-and-the-‘islamic-nato’--new-age-islam-s-selection,-31-march-2017/d/110594




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