New Age Islam Edit Bureau
not equal for all
Muhammad Hamid Zaman
Dr Ikramul Haq
Muslim boys and the Rohingya
Compiled by New Age Islam Edit
“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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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  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.
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
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
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.