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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Problems with Census In Balochistan
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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