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Pakistan Press (05 Sep 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Peace Comes Calling

New Age Islam Edit Bureau


September 5, 2017


Eid: not equal for all

By Muhammad Hamid Zaman

Nawaz’s 10 questions

By Dr Ikramul Haq

Teenage Muslim boys and the Rohingya

By Mosharraf Zaidi

Compiled by New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Peace comes calling

By Raoof Hasan

“This, therefore, is a faded dream of the time when I went down into the dust and noise of the Eastern market-place, and with my brain and muscles, with sweat and constant thinking, made others see my visions come true. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men and women, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible.” — T. E. Lawrence

Pakistan’s long-standing dispute with Kabul, often marked by aggravating bitterness, seems to be entering another phase.

President Ghani’s recent declaration that Afghanistan was “ready for comprehensive political talks and that peace with Pakistan was in our national agenda” comes amidst a sequence of renewed interactions between the two countries at multiple levels including the diplomatic and the military. This is a good omen, as good as any can be given the levels of estrangement that the bilateral relations between the two neighbours had degenerated to in the recent past.

Let’s not take anything away from President Ghani’s desire to have friendly relations with Pakistan. The risky initiative that he had embarked upon soon after coming into power in Afghanistan and the hope and enthusiasm it had generated is still fresh in our memories. But, it died out as quickly as it had been ignited and the two countries slumped into an unending verbal spat of mutual accusations, occasionally interspersed with volleys of fire exchanged across a long and porous border. Is President Ghani’s latest declaration going to be any different from the previous proclamations in terms of viable and sustainable outcomes?

I don’t know of another two neighbouring countries in the world where the prospect of peace virtually bears an inerasable stamp of faith. That is the case between Afghanistan and Pakistan — two countries which are so incessantly dependent on each other for so much that goes on in their lives with almost a hundred-thousand people moving across the border on a daily basis for multiple reasons including business, medical treatment, education and so much else.

I am one of those inveterate dreamers for whom peace between the two combative neighbours is a passion and who strongly believes that it is not just possible, it is inevitable. But I also believe that this will not come about simply by dreaming about the prospect. It’ll come about if the two countries are willing to radically remodel their respective approach to securing peace.

The spectre of terror is a common threat which should have brought the two countries together to fight and eliminate. Instead, there is a spate of accusations hurled at each other with regard to helping one or the other brand of terror, and not without tangible reason/s. While Pakistan has suffered more than any other country at the hands of terror, and it is also that one country which, speaking qualitatively, has successfully combated it, its broad approach remains a matter of wide speculation.

Peace will not come about simply by dreaming about it. It’ll come about if Pakistan and Afghanistan are willing to radically remodel their respective approach to securing peace

It is often accused of being selective in targeting terror with regard to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Afghanistan (TTA) and the Haqqani Network. In turn, Afghanistan is accused of harbouring the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which its neighbouring state is engaged in combating. If the ultimate objective of both countries remains eliminating all forms, hues and shades of terror, as indeed it should, they’ll need to cross the threshold of mistrust and coordinate their activities, thus ending a major ingredient of bickering and recrimination.

Pakistan, on its part, has much to showcase by way of denting the hold of terror in many parts of the country including areas bordering Afghanistan. But, it is alleged that these efforts have not been fully supplemented by Afghanistan in terms of action on their side of the border and the fleeing terrorists have been allowed the space to regroup and operate from there. This has weakened the impact of operations conducted on Pakistan’s side of the border.

Smitten with capacity issues, Pakistan’s incremental approach appears to be the most viable method to combat all brands of terror in the end. The effectiveness of this can be enhanced manifold if Afghanistan were to join in as a close partner by agreeing to a well-coordinated umbrella approach. This is the most critical component of fighting terror on the one hand and building the requisite level of trust among the two countries on the other. But, this must emanate from the inviolable conviction that, in the end, all brands of terror, this or that side of the border, are to be combated and eliminated, without discrimination.

Pakistan’s continuing zero-sum approach is a major hurdle in the path of normalising relations among the two neighbours. Afghanistan’s closeness with India is perceived negatively as a threat to Pakistan’s security paradigm. While Afghanistan has to ensure that its soil is not used for launching subversive activities against Pakistan and vice versa, its right for continued good relations with India cannot be taken away. What, however, can happen is that, in the event of their bilateral relations transforming from the existent state of bitterness to growing trust and confidence, it may help eliminate the fear syndrome that Pakistan may be afflicted with at this juncture of their relations. This would be the most natural outcome of increased and productive engagement at multiple levels, particularly at the people-to-people level.

Afghanistan also has to do some serious work at countering the vast divergence of perceptions and approach within its own ranks. The commitment to peace should bear the stamp of approval of all echelons within the government. Only then will it generate any healthy forward momentum.

Afghanistan and Pakistan cannot afford to remain locked in a perpetual cycle of violence and destruction. President Ghani’s peace overture opens a crevice of hope and opportunity. It should not be allowed to fall prey at the altar of the sceptics. Let it be embraced urgently by the collective vision of the two countries. Let it resonate from every heart which is laden with the desire for peace and let it rise to a crescendo to drown the cynics and the naysayers.



Eid: not equal for all

By Muhammad Hamid Zaman

September 5, 2017

The festival of meat indulgence and BBQ is often when those with means, even many in the middle class, throw parties that bring together families and friends, loved ones and acquaintances. The newspapers are full of new recipes and innovative ideas on what to do with which part of the meat and how to grill with perfection. Indeed, it is a time to strengthen bonds and bring people together. But despite what we may say, the joys of Eid are not universally available to all. The ability to celebrate and be with family follows our traditional social pattern of class, means and wealth.

Every Eid event I have ever gone to, and every place I am invited to, has people behind the scene who never get to celebrate the holiday. They are expected to be around, away from the family, at no extra pay. In the kitchen and on BBQ grills, these “lesser people” do not get the time off on a day that is supposedly meant to be a celebration with family. Domestic help, whether male or female, stay put, work round the clock and ensure that the parties are executed with maximum success. But their children, back in the village or away from the homes of their masters, continue to spend yet another Eid without their father or mother. Our social contract requires that the Eid experience for the children of the domestic helpers must always be devoid of the love and care of their parents. Their Eid is certainly less significant than those who can afford to employ their parents.

I personally know several domestic staff who have asked for time off at Eid, and in every single instance they were told that it would not be possible, and often there was a thinly veiled threat of termination of employment if they asked again. On the other end, when asked, the usual response of the employers is three-fold. First, it is bewilderment at the question, as in what do you mean? Or I am told by these employers, we have lots of people coming, how can they leave when they are needed the most? The second argument, which is equally troubling is about tradition. I am told, by friends and family, that “we have always had a party on Eid” — but tradition has always been a front for discrimination and unfairness, and is hardly a justification for bad behaviour. The final, and perhaps equally troubling response, where the employers pat their back for empathy, is that the staff are given days off a week or 10 days later to spend time with family. As if the day of Eid is for the rich, and for those who have lesser means, Eid can wait a few days or a week. When I said to my friends, why don’t you have your party after a week, the conversation didn’t go much further.

The point about Eid is part of the bigger issue regarding the casual, contract-free, prone-to-exploitation relationship that exists between household employers and employees. The concept of minimum wage that is touted by the government in nearly every budget breaks down completely in this regard. The job at home is often without any formal contractual structure, has long hours and is largely unregulated in terms of expectations. Issues of violence, verbal and physical harassment and lack of legal options in case of oppression by the employers make this a form of modern slavery. Recent stories about serious abuse of minors have shown that even in the houses of judges and public officials, the problem of exploitation is widespread.

Seventy years post-independence, we hope that we will create a more just society, that is, at the very least conscious of an equal access to happiness for all. Looking at our own households, and reconsidering family traditions may be the first step.



Nawaz’s 10 questions

By Dr Ikramul Haq


Loyalists, appointed heads of institutions, serve their political masters and not the public that pays their salaries through taxes 

The rich and mighty in Pakistan blatantly defy laws, make mockery of judgements of the superior courts, and muzzle the public institutions that are established to check corruption and tax evasion — this is the real dilemma of Pakistan. Loyalists, appointed heads of institutions, serve their political masters and not the public that pay their salaries through taxes. The Chairmen of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) were admonished in the judgement delivered by a five member-bench of Supreme Court of Pakistan on April 20, 2017 in Panama Case [Imran Ahmad Khan Niazi v Mian Nawaz Sharif & 9 Others — CP No. 29 of 2016] but till today none has been taken to task — they are still there to protect known plunderers of national wealth. Since the entire administrative apparatus is captive in their hands, Nawaz Sharif and his loyalists are running a malicious campaign against the judiciary and armed forces in order to divert the attention of masses from their financial crimes and blatant violations of laws.

After the judgements of Supreme Court of April 28, 2017 and April 20, 2017, NAB and FBR should have started investigations in the case of all persons whose names appeared in Panama and Bahamas Leaks. There should have been probes/investigations into the assets of all politicians, generals, judges and civil servants vis-à-vis their standard of living and tax declarations. The sad reality of Pakistan is that heads of NAB, FBR, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) cannot even think of investigating these powerful segments unless there are instructions from higher courts.

Nawaz Sharif while addressing a gathering of lawyers in Lahore posed ten questions challenging jurisdiction of the Court, alleging lack of transparency in proceedings and composition of Joint Investigation Team (JIT). The questions posed by Nawaz Sharif should be debated publically. He has the same fundamental rights as other citizens have. The right of fair trial under Article 10A cannot be taken away even by any court. Nawaz and his offspring have already availed the right of review. Their review petitions should be decided strictly in accordance with law.

It is worthwhile to mention R v Sussex Justices, Ex parte McCarthy [1924] 1 KB 256, a case famous for its precedence in establishing the principle that the mere appearance of bias is sufficient to overturn a judicial decision. It also brought into common parlance the oft-quoted aphorism: Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done. Since the matter is sub judice, it would be inappropriate to respond to queries of Nawaz, hoping the honourable judges will take care of all when they decide the review petitions.

The most disturbing aspect of the ongoing tussle between Nawaz and his real or imaginary foes is that it is undermining the credibility of institutions. If there is ‘conspiracy’ against him, Nawaz Sharif should substantiate it with evidence. He should also unveil sources and money trail of businesses and properties abroad, owned by him and all family members or benamidars, to bury the controversy once and for all, rather than hiding behind legal niceties and technicalities.

As sitting PM, Nawaz violated the law of land by keeping huge amounts [closing balance of Saudi Riyal 889,416=US$ 237,165] in Account 462608013344552, Al Rajhi Bank, Jeddah. This aspect escaped the attention of JIT as well as the Supreme Court. Scrutiny of transactions in this account and others maintained with Standard Chartered was necessary. Resident Pakistanis, under the Foreign Exchange Act, 1947 read with Foreign Exchange Manual, are not permitted to open/maintain foreign currency accounts outside Pakistan, exceeding US$ 1000 or equivalent in other currencies — Government Notification No. SRO 1016(1)79 dated October 17, 1979. There is a complete bar to have accounts in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India and Israel. In his nomination papers for election 2013 and tax returns filed with FBR, Nawaz Sharif declared foreign currency account outside Pakistan exceeding the limit of US$1000 but SBP never took any action.

If there is ‘conspiracy’ against him, Nawaz Sharif should substantiate it with evidence

Till today, Nawaz Sharif has not provided money trail of properties in London and FIA is least pushed to investigate the alleged money laundering through Hudabiya even in the light of confessional statement of Ishaq Dar and incontrovertible evidence corroborating the same. Nawaz is unable to reply to a simple question: why did he conceal the fact of employment with Capital FZE, not offer for tax income earned abroad and continue employment after taking oath of Prime Minister on June 5, 2013?

The discovery of Capital FZE was not by Joint Investigation Team (JIT) but it came to the notice of Supreme Court from the papers filed by Hussain Nawaz in his defence. He claimed that funds for investment in companies owned by Hassan Nawaz in London came through the said company. In the light of this, Supreme Court ordered:

“Evidence shall also be collected by the JIT regarding source(s) of funding of Capital FZE, Dubai; its business activities and role in transfer of funds to different entities owned or controlled by Respondents No 7 and 8”. What came out of the investigation ordered by Supreme Court shocked all. Hussain Nawaz established a company in Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza), Dubai, in which father and mother showed salaried employees to secure Iqamas [residence permit]. This fact of employment was concealed by Nawaz in his tax returns and nomination papers filed on March 31, 2013. How can he now claim: “I have nothing to do with businesses of my family”. Despite this evidence, NAB has not started investigation independently and not on mere JIT’s report as ordered by Supreme Court.

Evidence collected by JIT confirms that since 2014, the beneficial owner of Nescoll and Nielson, offshore companies owning London Mayfair properties, is Maryam Safdar. Even after this definite information FBR has not taken any action under section 122(5) of the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001.

The above confirms that NAB, FBR, FIA and SBP are captive in the hands of money power and political masters. It is high time that media and civil society take this issue seriously. Accountability is an essential element of democracy, but in Pakistan public institutions have miserably failed on this account. Unless we remedy this malady, nothing will ever change.



Teenage Muslim boys and the Rohingya

By Mosharraf Zaidi

September 5, 2017

Even the American government, an ostensibly most secular enterprise, relies on God as a unifying and motivating force. “God, country, corps” a US Marines’ mantra, defines a normative hierarchy. It is good and moral to be subservient to God, to one’s country, and to one’s corps. Invoking God, in service of political ends, is not a new phenomenon. It is not exclusive to developing countries, or to Africa, or to Muslim majority countries. It is an age-old, tried and tested instrument to get people to do things.

In Myanmar, or Burma, there are people invoking God in service of an ethnic cleansing or genocide that has no parallel in the world today. Because the perpetrators of these chilling, unending cycles of violence against the Rohingya people are Buddhists, and because the victims of the killings are Muslims, it is going to be very hard to get any Hollywood films to be made about it. There will be no Hotel Rwanda for the Rohingya. But there will be videos.

A most potent video of the brutality being enacted upon the Rohingya surfaced a few days ago, and has brought a new wave of attention onto the issue. In a few days, it will be forgotten. By most of us. But not by teenage Muslim boys around the world for whom God is found in the bonds of solidarity that bind people that pray toward Makkah.

Teenage Muslim boys the world over have been through this cycle before. Today, my own teenage son is on the cusp of discovering the injustices that haunt Muslims in Myanmar. Two decades ago, his father had discovered the plight of Kashmiris. Two decades before that, his grandfather had discovered the horrors of what was being done to Palestinian men, women and children. In between, there has been no dearth of Ummah-stirring nightmares. In the nineties, British Muslim teenagers discovered Sarajevo. Far away from Europe, many only learnt of it through Pavarotti and Bono. Young British Muslim men, whose attention today is being drawn to the horrors of the Assad regime, grew up in the shadow of a generation of British Muslims for whom Bosnia was as close to home as Palestine was for kids in Amman, and Kashmir was for kids in Lahore. For my father, it was books and magazines that brought home the cruelty of Israel in Gaza and Ramallah. For me, it was PTV, Dawn and Nawai Waqt that made the siege of the Hazrat Bal shrine an age-defining event. For my son’s generation, it will be Whatsapp. That’s how his generation will watch videos of the sufferings of the Rohingya.

September 11 disrupted the intergenerational transfer of Muslim angst – kind of. Millions of young Muslims around the world suddenly had to choose between being seen as either for or against the 9/11 terrorists. This was easy on CNN and BBC. But it was hard at the dinner table in middle-class Muslim homes around the world. Palestinian groups were supposed to be kosher, because of the legitimacy of their struggle. Suddenly, they were not. Kashmiri groups were supposed to be ok, because of the legitimacy of their cause. If they weren’t totally delegitimised on 9/11, they sure were after the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks.

These conversions or leaps of faith were easy to enact on the pages of English language op-eds. They were easy to adopt as one attended universities in the United States, or the British Isles, or in Europe. Or over lamentations of General Zia’s Islamisation over drinks in Gulberg, or DHA, to the sweet sounds of Farida Khanum. In other, less comfortable environs however, the transitions were not as compelling.

At the thousands of madressahs around the world, like the one housed at the Red Mosque in Islamabad, it wasn’t quite so cut and dried. There, one man’s terrorist was very much still another man’s freedom fighter. But statecraft, or the crafty business of holding and retaining power, is conducted mostly through the narrative of the English language papers, and on the backs of the Western-educated elites – in Pakistan, and across much of the Muslim world.

What this means for the Rohingya is mostly bad news. ‘Buddhist nationalists’ will wipe out the Rohingya, and not a single light on a Saudi F-15 panel, or a Turkish F-16 panel, or a Pakistani JF-17 panel, will light up with rage or vengeance. Burma will continue doing business with all three countries. This should not be surprising. Neither Ayodhya, nor Gujarat, nor the emergence of a new culture of beef lynchings in India has dulled the appetite of the Ummah to do business with ‘Hindu nationalist’ India. It turns out ‘civilisation’ is a rather obtuse and uni-directional concept. And this will be just fine for most Muslim adults. But those videos. They’ll still be streaming in.

For over a decade and a half, videos narrating the suffering of Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan have helped fuel terrorism on both sides of the Durand Line. When convenient, intelligence agencies from any number of countries employ those videos to enable the perpetration of terrorist acts on the country they want to punish. Amrullah Saleh and the late Hamid Gul both belong to the same Ummah – but my, how they disagree about ‘civilisation’.

The Rohingya are pouring into Bangladesh. That country knows a thing or two about refugee crises. It gained independence on the back of large-scale cross-border movements of people not once but twice. First in 1947, then in 1971. Having incarcerated over 300,000 people with the wrong ethnicity in internment camps for over four decades, Bangladesh is now being expected to take in and care for potentially hundreds of thousands of more non-Bengali Muslims. That story will not go well for the non-Bengalis.

But this is curious coming as it does from a Pakistani. In the late 1960s, Pakistan abandoned self-interest in how it dealt with East Pakistan. In 1971, it abandoned decency. Thereafter, it abandoned its own citizens in Bangladesh, thereby creating a new category of Pakistani altogether: stranded Pakistanis.

In the late 1970s, a political party emerged in Pakistan. Its purpose was to stand up and give voice to Pakistanis whose parents had migrated to Pakistan from India. This party was built on two pillars. One was the elimination of the quota system that privileged rural inhabitants of Sindh at the expense of Karachiite and Hyderabadi sons and daughters of migrants from India. The second pillar was the safe repatriation of stranded Pakistanis from Bangladesh to Pakistan. This party was named the MQM.

The MQM learnt how to abandon things too. First, it abandoned the pen, in favour of the knife and the gun. Then it abandoned the future, in favour of the present. Finally, it abandoned both pillars of its agenda, in favour of a few ministries in Islamabad. Today, the MQM lies tattered in several pieces. Its founder guilty of having conspired with the very India whose vivisection was the great achievement of the forefathers of the MQM’s constituents. But the inglorious irony does not end here.

On Eid day in Pakistan, Khawaja Izharul Hassan, a widely admired MQM worker, elected MPA, and leader of the opposition in the Sindh Assembly was attacked by gunmen seeking to kill him. One of the assailants is said to have been highly educated, and allegedly linked to a series of other terrorist attacks. If true, this will fit the profile of the new-age terrorist in Karachi – highly educated, highly motivated, highly skilled – from the Daniel Pearl assassination, to the Safoora Goth massacre, to the Sabeen Mahmood assassination, to the attempt on Khawja Izharul Hassan’s life.

These terrorists may not have much in common, especially given the diverse nature of their targets, and the likely divergent schools of thought they may have represented. But they all tend to have two things in common. One, they feel a deep connection to Muslims in other places, especially those that suffer oppression. Two, they watch a lot of videos of the type that narrate those sufferings.




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