New Age Islam Edit Bureau
10 August 2016
Quetta Blast and a Confused Chorus
By Imtiaz Gul
By Ziaullah Khan
Christians in Pakistan
By Shamim Masih
Husain Haqqani’s “India Vs Pakistan”
By Dr Qaisar Rashid
Turkey’s Red Flags
By Mahir Ali
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Quetta Blast and A Confused Chorus
By Imtiaz Gul
August 9, 2016
A chorus of confused responses followed the Quetta carnage on August 8, that left over 70 dead and dozens maimed. The top civil and military leadership called it an attempt by the “enemies of the country” to sabotage the ongoing China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. The CPEC began only in 2015 but Pakistan has been reeling from terrorism of this scale since July 2007. Several parliamentarians and analysts declared the attack a result of “non-effective” implementation of the National Acton Plan (NAP). Syed Naveed Qamar, the parliamentary leader of the PPP, demanded that parliament be explained why incidents of such magnitude continue to occur after all parties had given a mandate to the federal government under the NAP to go after terrorists. The question is: can NAP really prevent such well-planned attacks?
There is also the view that Quetta witnessed a bloodbath because terrorists had been defeated in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and they were shifting their focus to Balochistan now. Explaining this attack as a consequence of Operation Zarb-e-Azb? What about the enmass killings of minorities and other Balochistan citizens between 2009 and 2013? Who was involved in those atrocities then?
As usual, Maulana Sheerani of the JUI-F, reiterated the religious right’s narrative that the security establishment brought this bloodbath to the country by joining the US-led anti-terror war. The arms received from America under the Coalition Support Fund were being used “to fight our own people and that’s why we have to face such incidents,” insinuated the Maulana. But excuse me! Are the masterminds of the TTP/Jamaatul Ahrar or members of other terrorist outfits “our own people”? For people like Maulana Sheerani, the narrative refuses to change.
Ghulam Ahmad Bilour of the Awami National Party offered some wisdom, though still mixed with a possibly inaccurate diagnosis — the country is facing such problems because decision-making authority has been taken from politicians, he told parliament. Will terrorism — a direct consequence of the proxy wars stemming from regional alliances (US-India-Afghanistan, as well as Pakistan-China) — come to an end if civilians took matters in hand? Excuse me, sir! Though established several years ago, Nacta, the supposed intellectual vehicle for counter-terrorism and counter-radicalisation has yet to craft its ‘own’ policy. Even more abysmal is the fact that its board of governors, headed by the prime minister, hasn’t met since its inception. The only big consultation it held was to do with foreign funding.
Dr Arif Alvi, a PTI lawmaker, offered a saner view that it is difficult to stop a suicide bomber once sent on a mission and, therefore, law enforcement agencies needed to review their counter-terrorism strategies. A logical, dispassionate view that should lead us to at least five conclusions. Suicide missions — once launched — are almost impossible to terminate. Secondly, the government requires a thorough review of its counterterror strategy. It needs to differentiate between sheer terrorism as a result of proxy wars and unchallenged proliferation of an extremist mindset. Better policies may evolve once this distinction is clear. Thirdly, both the civilians and the military establishment must review their commitment under the NAP. Point 11 of the NAP talks of a ban on glorification of terrorists and terrorist organisations in print and electronic media. Ironically, leaders of banned outfits have been appearing on national television channels since Ramazan, particularly once protests erupted in Indian-administered Kashmir on July 8.
The NAP (point 5) promised strict action against literature, newspapers and magazines promoting hatred, extremism, sectarianism and intolerance. But most publications have continued to hit social media via the internet and selected book stalls. Where are the administrative and development reforms in Fata promised in point 12? If there is no problem in Punjab, why did point 15 speak of “zero tolerance for militancy in Punjab”? Registration and regulation of religious seminaries (point 10) and revamping and reforming the criminal justice system (Point 20) are still crying for action. Directly connected with this is the establishment of an autonomous police force. Unfortunately police in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan remain in the clutches of chief ministers.
Lastly, Pakistan is indeed a victim of a proxy war. Yet, it should ponder over the causes and try to address them. The selective application of the NAP will hardly be credible.
By Ziaullah Khan
After years of terrorism, the Muslim world is at a loss to offer any real counter to the extremist ideology of terrorist groups that defames the holy religion Islam at a global level. They have been unable to collectively come up with any fatwa against the heinous activities of terrorist groups like IS in Iraq and the Haqqani network in Afghanistan. Whenever a terror attack takes place, the Muslim world verbally criticises it without taking any substantive action against terrorism. There are some factors that are behind the present state of affairs if the phenomenon of terrorism is studied in Muslim countries.
Sectarianism is the first factor that does not let Muslims counter terrorist activities. It divides the whole Muslim world into many different sects, like Shia and Sunni. The saga of sectarianism is traced back to Saudi Arabia and Iran: Riyadh is the supporter of the Sunni-majority countries, i.e. Egypt, Iraq, Jordan etc., while Iran is supporter of the Shia-majority countries, i.e., Yemen, Lebanon, Syria etc. The two states not only support the peaceful Shia and Sunni Muslims in their own countries, but also help nurture militant groups against one another exterritorialy. The three most prominent worldwide terrorist groups — the Sunni IS and al-Qaeda and the Shia Hezbollah — are supported by these two Middle Eastern countries. These groups kill Muslims primarily, and non-Muslims secondarily. The sectarian conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia is providing oxygen to terrorist groups.
Lack of a singular centre for issuance of religious decrees and other religious instructions related to day-to-day socio-political issues has also contributed to extremism. In other Muslim countries in general and in Pakistan in particular there are as many interpretations of Islam as there are mullahs. In the corner of every street there is a so-called religious scholar to indoctrinate our children with a distorted version of the religion. Our state has left our future on the mercy of the mullah. In this regard the state has surrendered its control over not only the future human resource but also a big chunk of its citizenry. If you are a mullah in Pakistan you can easily indoctrinate the youth against any individual or institution through teaching in madrasas or Friday sermons. Our state needs to take serious action against this phenomenon. Madrasas must be registered, their courses reframed and regulated, and Friday sermons must be checked by the state. All the required paraphernalia should be put in place.
The Muslim world also fails in the true universal interpretation of Islam. Islam is the religion of peace and brotherhood. It is absolutely against qatl (murder) and Fasad (anarchy). Islam does not allow anyone to forcefully convert someone to Islam. According to the Holy Quran: “You shall invite to the path of your Lord with wisdom and kind enlightenment, and debate with them in the best possible manner. Your Lord knows best who has strayed from His path, and He knows best who the guided ones are.”[16:125].
Are the atrocities by IS in Iraq and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in accordance with the Quranic injunctions? No. If terrorists can justify their activities through the wrong interpretation of Islam, why can’t the Muslim majority counter it through the correct interpretation? The absence of the right interpretation of Islamic injunctions is the failure on part of peace-loving Muslims. They do not offer anything persuasive to counter the appeal of terrorists.
Another flaw on the part of the Muslim world is their dual policies against the war on terror. On one side they stand with the US against terrorism, while on the other, they not only offer safe havens to terrorists but also patronise them. We have the examples of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq, Saudi Arabia is the non-NATO ally of the US against IS, while on the other side, it openly allows collection of donation by individuals and organisations for terrorist groups in the Sunni Muslim-majority states like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. In Pakistan, there is the Haqqani network. Such a dual policy on part of Muslim countries keeps them from rooting out the evil of terrorism.
The madrasa education system is also in need of reform. The extreme mindset in Muslim countries is mostly the production of extremist ideas that are taught in madrasas. In almost every Islamic seminary, students are generally taught the following: if anywhere in the world someone has committed apostasy, its punishment is death and they have a right to punish them. Non-Muslims are born to be oppressed, and no one has the right to govern except Muslims. Every non-Muslim government is illegal. The concept of the modern state is against the teachings of Islam. All Muslims across the world must establish a single Islamic government, and it is to be called the Caliphate. All non-Muslims states are illicit, and it is our responsibility to eliminate them whenever we have the power to do so.
Tell me, what will you do if such extreme ideas are injected into your mind? The wrong and politicised interpretation of Islam is the main reason for the existence of terrorist group like IS. I am not at all ignoring the hand of western countries in facilitation of terrorist organisations, but we, Muslims, are the ones who form these terrorist organisations that provide an opportunity to western countries to use them for their own interests.
And last but not the least, these fundamentalist organisations propagate democracy as being incompatible with or against Islam. But we know that many prominent religious people have taken part in elections and parliamentary democracy, thereby approving it as not being anti-Islam. But even then we, the by-stander Muslim majority, have failed to create a compelling narrative around it. We need to come out of our slumber, and take control of the direction in which our societies are being steered. We need to unseat the fundamentalists from the driver seat of our societies. It is about time that Muslims all over the world collectively stood up against terrorism. Terrorism can only be countered through a narrative based on the correct interpretation of the injunctions of Islam as terrorists justify their atrocities as Islamic, which is in complete contradiction of the premise of Islam. A counter narrative is the need of the hour in this regard.
Christians in Pakistan
By Shamim Masih
Pakistani minorities under the leadership of Federal Minister for Human Rights Kamran Michael are planning to celebrate Minorities’ Day on August 11. The former government of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had declared August 11 as the minorities’ day; however, some minority groups choose to observe August 11 as a black day to register their protest over the abuse of minority rights. Following the footsteps of the PPP government the present PML-N government has also announced to dedicate August 11 as the minorities day.
On August 11, 1947, the founder of the nation Muhammad Ali Jinnah had announced freedom for the minorities living in the new-born Pakistan. But it is very unfortunate that after 69 years, Pakistan is ranked sixth on the list of the countries where Christians are most persecuted, according to the World Watch List 2016.
The survey conducted by Open Doors, an organisation working to help persecuted Christians and churches worldwide, highlights the top 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as Christians. The report found that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws continue to be abused to settle personal scores, particularly against minorities, including Christians. “A Christian couple was thrown into the brick kiln where they worked and burned to death after being accused of blasphemy, orphaning their four children. Two churches in Lahore were bombed, killing 25 people and wounding dozens. An estimated 700 Christian girls and women are abducted every year and often then raped and forcibly married to Muslims,” the report added.
The list ranks North Korea as the most oppressive place in the world to live as a Christian. It adds that in 2015, the persecution grew most rapidly in Sub-Saharan Africa, while in the Middle East and Pakistan violence increased the migration of the Christian population from the region. The index measures the degrees of freedom that Christians have to express their faith in various spheres — private, family, community, national and church life — while also measuring levels of violence.
The European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance has released its annual report for 2015, showing serious concerns over the minorities’ situation in Pakistan, especially the issues pertaining to the country’s blasphemy laws. Giving reference of the assassinated Punjab governor, Salmaan Taseer, and the PPP minister of minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, for raising their voice against the blasphemy laws in Pakistan, especially in the Asia Bibi case, the report expressed its appreciation of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, which in a positive development has expressed its concerns about the widespread misuse of the blasphemy laws. The court issued a detailed judgment warning against false blasphemy accusations, stating that in Islam a false accusation can be as serious as blasphemy itself, but unfortunately, highlighting the need to have reforms to the blasphemy laws in public is still dangerous in Pakistan.
The report further stated that terrorist groups like Taliban have continued to severely persecute religious minorities, especially the Christian community, considering it an agent of the west and in revenge of the western intervention such as US drone strikes in Pakistan. The report also gave the reference of blasts and firing in churches in Youhanabad and Iqbal Park on the eve of Easter celebrations.
Earlier, hundreds of houses of Christians in Gojra and Joseph Colony, Lahore, were set ablaze. And twin blasts in a Peshawar church killed at least 80, and injuring hundred people.
The report further disclosed that due to religious persecution, around 11,000 Christians are seeking asylum in Thailand. A Hindu parliamentarian claimed that 5,000 Hindus emigrate from Pakistan every year due to discriminatory treatment, forced conversions and fears of their safety. The report stated that in the months of April and May 2016, it was also reported that as many as 18 Christian girls were kidnapped and forcefully converted in just the Punjab province.
Due to religious persecution thousands of Christian families are looking for their future in Thailand. It is pertinent to mention that European countries do not encourage Pakistani Christian visitors; even these countries adopt a stricter policy when they find the applicant is a Christian. Recently, the World Youth Day 2016 was held in Poland, and reportedly, there were more than 6,000 applicants, but the Polish embassy rejected maximum visa applications on flimsy grounds, and granted only 400-500 visas to Pakistani Christians. The strange part of the story is that even journalists’ visa applications were denied without any cogent reasons. The officials in the EU countries on the condition of anonymity said that visa officers had orders from the “higher level” to reject the maximum number of visas from people who were Christian. It means that the poor Pakistani Christians face the same treatment even from the so-called liberal countries.
Husain Haqqani’s “India vs Pakistan”
By Dr Qaisar Rashid
Recently, “India vs Pakistan: Why can’t we just be friends?”, the third book of Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ex-ambassador to the US, was published in India. The book in five chapters is without proper referencing, and is a hodgepodge of Haqqani’s views already published in various publications.
The first two chapters expose his lack of basic understanding of given issues. For instance, on page 24, chapter one, “We can either be more than friends or become more than enemies” Haqqani writes: “[I]t was argued that the boundary in Punjab had deliberately been drawn in a way that provided India access to Kashmir by land. Although Pakistan had played its cards poorly in securing accession of Kashmir, the loss of the Muslim-majority state was attributed to a British-Indian conspiracy rather than poor planning on the part of the Muslim League.” Here, Haqqani overlooks the fact that as per the June 3, 1947 plan, the partition was supposed to be governed by the matter of principle and not by the matter of shrewdness or manipulation done by any political party to grab as much area as possible.
By giving India road access to Kashmir, the Radcliffe Award published on August 17, 1947, violated the trust pinned on the committee, and hence cleared the path for India to take hold of Kashmir under whatever ruse. The story of India’s having the Instrument of Accession signed by Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, came weeks later that on October 26.
Similarly, on page 39, Haqqani writes that Indira Gandhi was “magnanimous at Shimla” with Pakistan by giving concessions through the Shimla Agreement 1972. Here, Haqqani evades the fact that the price of Gandhi’s magnanimity was the relegation of the Kashmir issue from an international standing to a bilateral spot, as articulated in the United Nation (UN) Resolution 1172 passed on June 6, 1998.
Similarly, on page 44, chapter two, “Kashmir is Pakistan’s jugular vein,” Haqqani writes: “Pakistanis speak about Jammu and Kashmir emotionally as a matter of right and wrong, not in the context of realpolitik.” Here Haqqani overlooks the fact that the then prime minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru made a pledge on November 2, 1947 with the people of Kashmir, and reiterated the same on December 31 to hold a plebiscite under an international neutral body to let them express their wishes freely about the future of their princely state. The primary thing for Kashmiris was the promise of Nehru, whereas what is written in the UN resolutions or in the Shimla agreement is of secondary importance. By reneging on the promise, India breached the trust of Kashmiris. This point made Kashmiris feel cheated, and this was how India lost credibility in the eyes of Kashmiris, a reason for frequent unrest in the Indian-held Kashmir. Instead of addressing Pakistanis, Haqqani should inform Kashmiris that they are the victim of India’s realpolitik, a system of politics that disregards morality.
The next two chapters of the book have more blatant contradictions. For instance, on page 73, chapter three, “We should use the nuclear bomb,” Haqqani writes: “India’s nuclear programme also originated not out of a regional rivalry, but from the argument that non-proliferation should be global.” However, on page 81, he contradicts his excuse: “In a letter to US President Bill Clinton, Vajpayee spoke only of China as the major threat to India and that was to secure US support, given US concerns about potential long-term rivalry with China in the Indo-Pacific region.” Interestingly, about Pakistan, on page 101, Haqqani writes: “Pakistan built nuclear weapons in its uncompromising quest for parity with India and in response to its fear psychosis about India wanting to undo Partition.” It is as if the matter of parity and any fear psychosis of India were absent in India’s response towards China.
On page 102, Haqqani gives a solution: “For its part, India has done little to reassure Pakistanis and to take away the justification for a nuclear arms race.” However, on the question if India can reassure Pakistanis to forgo the yearning for parity and shun fear psychosis, why China cannot reassure Indians the same, the book is silent.
Similarly, on page 111, chapter four, “Terrorism = Irregular Warfare,” Haqqani writes: “India’s role in helping Bangladesh win independence, including the role of R&AW, is well documented. Equally well documented is the ill-treatment of Bengalis by Pakistan’s Punjab-based leaders, which paved the way for plans by R&AW’s founding chief, Rameshwar Nath Kao, to train and equip the Bangladesh liberation army, the Mukti Bahini. The lesson to be learned from the Bangladesh war should have been to avoid creating disgruntled citizens who might become insurgents trained by a hostile neighbour.” However, on page 128, Haqqani states, “India could, but has so far been unable to, reach out to the Pakistani people and convince them that it does not seek Pakistan’s break-up and only seeks good neighbourly ties.”
Interestingly, on the one hand, Haqqani cites an example how India exploited the situation in East Pakistan to separate it from West Pakistan, while on the other, he asks India to placate (West) Pakistanis that India was not conspiring against Pakistan. Haqqani overlooks the fact that both Pakistan and India are composed of multi-ethnic and multi-linguistic populations that may get disgruntled on one reason or another in the post-partition phase. If a country exploits the discontented elements of its neighbour, a wrong precedent is established, as India set in 1971. However, on the question if Pakistan reciprocates in the same vein why Pakistan is accused of launching an irregular warfare, the book is silent.
On page 153, chapter five, “The space for friendship is shrinking,” Haqqani writes: “All nations have sovereign equality in international law but realpolitik demands acknowledgement of the difference of size between nations.” Throughout the book, Haqqani superimposes realpolitik on everything to justify India’s malevolence, and here he once again banks on the same to reveal that the criterion of fathoming a nation’s worth was in fact its size, the idea not known to the UK when it was offsetting Germany in Europe.
Turkey’s Red Flags
By Mahir Ali
August 10th, 2016
“TODAY,” one of Turkey’s greatest modern poets requested his wife in verses composed in his prison cell in 1945, presumably anticipating a visit, “Nazim Hikmet’s woman must be beautiful/ Like a rebel flag…” Last Sunday, one could have been fooled into thinking that a vast meeting space in Istanbul was awash with rebel flags.
The mammoth gathering was a sea of red. The effect was caused, though, by a crowd estimated to be more than a million strong waving the national emblem. It was strictly a loyalist gesture rather than an indication of rebellion, the grand finale of a series of rallies throughout Turkey in the wake of the abortive coup of July 15-16, which supposedly came close to toppling the established order. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking to the crowd, declared he would endorse the restitution of the death penalty if it were sanctioned by the requisite parliamentary majority.
It’s a chilling thought, given the vindictiveness that has been on display since the failure of the still somewhat mysterious military coup attempt. There is little cause to doubt that some kind of a takeover was indeed intended, and one of the explanations for its poor timing and execution is that the conspirators were on the verge of being unveiled. It’s nonetheless exceedingly odd that Erdogan, who was on vacation at the time and therefore a relatively easy target, was not only spared but able to fly back unhindered to his citadel of power.
A Chill Has Descended On All Dissenters
Furthermore, despite the presumed urgency of their action, could the coup-makers not have waited for a bit and attempted their takeover in the early hours instead of showing their hand late in the afternoon? Given Turkey’s 20th-century history of repeated military coups, it is no doubt extremely fortuitous that last month’s putsch did not succeed. Its consequences could have been considerably more offensive than the backlash of the past few weeks.
There are, nonetheless, significant questions that remain unanswered, or at least the responses stop well short of being entirely satisfactory.
The Erdogan government has blamed the entire episode on exiled spiritual leader and educationist Fethullah Gulen and his Hizmet movement, justifying its thorough purge of the military, the civil service, the judiciary, academia and journalism on the basis that action is being taken exclusively against adherents of a terrorist movement more terrifying than the militant Islamic State group, and one whose tentacles have bored into every facet of Turkish life.
That isn’t necessarily as nonsensical as it seems. The part that is often left out of the official narrative is the role Erdogan once played in making it so. He and Gulen were effectively allies until three years ago, united in the goal of superseding Turkey’s 20th-century secularism, and most of the Gulenists who insinuated themselves into the body politic did so with the connivance of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). The final break came when apparently Gulenist judges and prosecutors began targeting Erdogan aides over corruption charges in 2013.
Since then, the split between the rival Islamist brands has steadily widened. It’s worth asking, though, why Erdogan waited until now to banish Gulenists from military and state structures, if he had known all along precisely where they were ensconced. After surviving the events of July 15-16, the Turkish president described them as “a gift from God” (and it is surely no coincidence that Erdogan himself was hailed in the same terms by participants in Sunday’s rally), but surely he and his loyalists — not least in the military — could have pre-empted this particular ‘gift’?
There can be little doubt that Erdogan enjoys a huge amount of support in Turkish society, but there is also plenty of opposition, and much of it isn’t Gulenist in nature. The president’s authoritarian tendencies, the drift towards religious fundamentalism and his generally uncompromising attitude towards the Kurdish minority have until now been resisted by substantial segments of Turks. In the wake of the coup attempt, though, a chill has descended on all dissidents, as any criticism of Erdogan runs the risk of being tagged as terrorism.
Erdogan was scheduled to meet Vladimir Putin yesterday, after having mended his fences somewhat with Russia as well as Israel, amid suggestions that the coup attempt was sponsored by the US. That’s unlikely, albeit not out of the question. Erdogan’s Turkey has pursued a muddled course in neighbouring Syria, long serving as a conduit for recruits to the jihadist cause. It hosts millions of Syrian refugees, meanwhile, and post-coup critiques from Europe may well prompt Ankara to unleash once more the flow of asylum-seekers into Greece.
There are, for the moment, red flags all over Turkey, in the sense of danger signals. There are indications every day that even as it failed, the botched coup may well have facilitated the nation’s descent into dictatorship.