New Age Islam Edit Bureau
12 August 2017
Seven Decades On
By Irfan Husain
Will India And Pakistan Ever Grow Up?
By Aijaz Zaka Syed
Pak-India Nuclear War — Avoided
By Pervez Hoodbhoy
Significance of August for Pakistan
By Mohammad Jamil
Gaza: A Forgotten Reality
By Saman Zulfqar
Change and No Change
By Muhammad Usman
Indo-Pak And The Moment Of Truth?
By Moonis Ahmar
It’s All Good News For Nawaz
By Talimand Khan
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
August 12, 2017
I WAS three years old when our family came
to Karachi from Delhi at Partition, 70 years ago.
While I have no memory of the journey, I
learned later that our train had been attacked on the way, and we had been
saved only by the presence and courage of the handful of soldiers who escorted
us. Hundreds of thousands who fled the madness on both sides of the new border
had been less fortunate.
Years later, I asked my late father — a
well-known writer and Sanskrit scholar in undivided India — why he had taken
the decision to migrate to the new state. “Well,” he replied. “My Hindu and
Sikh friends said they were not sure they could protect us at the height of the
rioting. Also, I thought there would be more opportunities for you children in
So What Have We Gained From Partition?
Since then, I have often wondered how life
would have turned out had he decided to stay. Until a couple of decades or so
ago, it was less clear he had made the right choice. This was when India still
seemed to be following the secular path charted by its founding fathers, a path
abandoned long ago by Pakistan.
However, as the extreme Hindu nationalist
philosophy of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has taken root, India is becoming
a depressing mirror image of Pakistan, something columnist Mahir Ali noted
recently in these pages. Over the years, I must have received scores of emails
from Indian readers saying how glad they were that Pakistan had gone its own
way, otherwise India would have had to cope with millions of more Muslims.
Similarly, Pakistanis have justified Partition
by pointing to the plight of millions of marginalised Indian Muslims. But as I
wrote at the 50th anniversary of Pakistan, an undivided subcontinent would have
had around 600m Muslims. This is not a small minority that could have been
easily kicked around by the majority.
So what have we gained from Partition? And
what have we lost? In 1947, the land that now constitutes Pakistan was among
the most undeveloped areas in India. There is little doubt that much physical
progress has been made since Partition. Universities, colleges and schools have
proliferated; hospitals built; an elaborate network of roads links villages to
towns; and telephone lines and electricity connections are available to
But at the same time, the perpetual state
of hostility with India over Kashmir has ensured a huge and continuous drain on
our resources. And there has been the immeasurable cost caused by our powerful
army’s constant meddling in politics. This has skewed and stunted democratic
institutions, and given birth to the Islamist militancy used by our
establishment to further its regional agenda. And this, in turn, has led to a
shredded national reputation abroad, and the loss of thousands of lives to
In search of a national identity, Pakistan
has looked west to the parched deserts of Saudi Arabia for cultural
inspiration. Disregarding our rich South Asian heritage, there have been plans
to impose Arabic on schoolchildren; the establishment of madrasas has been
encouraged, often with Saudi funding.
These multiple threads of enforced
religiosity have produced an overarching environment where reason and rational
thought are rejected as western inventions. To illustrate our backward
trajectory, Hafiz Saeed — leader of the Jamaatud Dawa, and a man with a $10m
bounty on his head posted by the US government for his alleged history of armed
militancy — is setting up a political party to contest the next elections.
Unsurprisingly, he is using a new version of Mr Jinnah’s party, the Muslim
League, as a vehicle for his political ambitions.
The growing fundamentalism in Pakistan is
the result of the inescapable logic of demanding a state in the name of
religion: sooner or later, it will come to dominate the social and political
A dearth of vision, imagination and
political courage has defined the leadership we have been cursed with for most
of the post-Partition years. Mr Jinnah and his colleagues and contemporaries
must be turning in their graves at the thought of the pygmies who succeeded
them. Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan, Asif Zardari and Tahir ul Qadri are only some
of the political stars on our horizon, though the latter is more like an
asteroid who makes an annual appearance to sow further discord.
At Partition, we were a country of around
32m; since then, we have multiplied like rabbits, and now number 200m. Had so
many Pakistanis been educated, we could have been a powerhouse of creativity
and productivity. As it is, millions live in abject poverty with no access to
schools, hospitals or clean drinking water.
So while many middle-class urban Pakistanis
will celebrate our country’s 70th birthday with much fanfare, millions of women
and members of our minorities will have little to cheer about.
India and Pakistan have been celebrating
their independence from the British and separation from each other for 70
years. Farewells are never easy. The stronger and older the bonds, the more
violent and painful is the separation.
Not surprisingly, the partition of the
Subcontinent 70 years ago had been so overwhelming in its nature and impact
that it took generations on both sides to recover from it. In many ways, the
two nations are still recovering from it. Toxic bitterness and acrimony still
lingers on in their engagement and the daily skirmishes along the border and
perpetual war of words.
A great deal has been written to make sense
of the chaos, trauma and suffering on both sides. From Khushwant Singh’s
classic Train to Pakistan and Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children to
Qurratulain Haider’s Aag Ka Darya and Manto’s Toba Tek Singh, a whole new genre
came into existence to capture the searing experience of history’s greatest
migration. The unprecedented carnage and stories of betrayal and human
depravity as well as heroism also gave birth to some of the finest and most
powerful poetry in Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi.
The inimitable Faiz wrote in Subh-e-Azadi
(Dawn of Freedom):
Yeh Daagh Daagh Ujaala, Yeh Shab Gazeeda
Seher/Woh Intezaar Tha Jiska, Yeh Woh Seher To Nahin
(This stained, pitted first-light, this
day-break, battered by night/This dawn that we all ached for, this is not that
But all said and done, no words can perhaps
ever capture the true pain and loss of those who not only had to flee their
homes and the land of their ancestors overnight but also had to lose their
loved ones along the way.
According to most conservative estimates,
the communal violence on both sides claimed at least two million lives, not to
mention the multitudes who lost their homes and everything they had before
moving to the other side.
Millions of families were torn apart,
mirroring the great divide between the two nations and communities. Doubtless,
the greatest casualty of Partition had been the historical relations between
the Hindus and Muslims. Close friends became strangers and bloodthirsty enemies
The schism survives and festers to this
day. The perpetual bickering between India and Pakistan over Kashmir and other
assorted issues and the recent rise of the extremists on both sides have been
only adding fuel to the fire.
All this could have perhaps been avoided if
the British had not been so incredibly inept and clumsy in their final transfer
of power and the division of the Subcontinent into two dominions. The whole
thing had been handled so haphazardly and crudely that it prompted many to
wonder if there had been a deliberate method in the madness.
British barrister Sir Cyril Radcliffe, who
had been assigned the unenviable task of redrawing the map, had never been to
the Subcontinent, let alone understand its historical and geopolitical
complexities. He had exactly five weeks to do his job. No wonder he just drew a
line across the map – literally – imperiously condemned millions to a fate they
had little say in choosing.
British American poet W H Auden captured
Radcliffe’s predicament well in his 1966 poem, Partition:
Unbiased at least he was when he arrived on
his mission,/Having never set eyes on this land he was called to partition
Between two peoples fanatically at
odds,/With their different diets and incompatible gods.
He got down to work, to the task of
settling the fate/Of millions. The maps at his disposal were out of date
And the Census Returns almost certainly
incorrect,/But there was no time to check them, no time to inspect
Contested areas. The weather was
frightfully hot,/And a bout of dysentery kept him constantly on the trot,
But in seven weeks it was done, the
frontiers decided,/A continent for better or worse divided.
For better or worse, indeed. Interestingly,
both Indians and Pakistanis to this day accuse the departing empire of being
biased in favour of the other side. While in India, the Raj is seen as the sole
architect of Partition and thus the creator of Pakistan – especially by the
Hindu right– most Pakistanis view the British as having been soft on India,
especially in view of Pandit Nehru’s proximity to Lord Mountbatten and his wife
In their unseemly haste to cut and run, the
British messed up the whole rites of passage big time, plunging the
Subcontinent into chaos that was never witnessed before, forcing many to
question the whole logic and wisdom behind the division.
Ruing the staggering loss of life on both
sides, Pakistani columnist Mahir Ali wonders if the leaders who sat down with
the last viceroy on June 3, 1947 to agree on the accelerated split would have
proceeded with their compromise had they any inkling of the holocaust that
“Nehru and Jinnah were very different
personalities, yet they also had much in common – and neither of them was an
enthusiast for genocide. Foreknowledge of the bloodbath that lay ahead would
have concentrated their minds, possibly persuading them to revisit the options
that had been available just a year earlier”.
Indeed, the catastrophe might have been
averted if the two sides had demonstrated greater foresight and forbearance
with each other. But then history is full of such ‘ifs’ and ‘might-have-beens’.
On the other hand, given the decisive right turn India has taken and the
shenanigans of Hindutva extremists over the past few years, many in Pakistan
have been thanking their founder for earning them a separate homeland – albeit
at a huge cost.
Whatever the historical causes and whoever
may have been responsible for it, Partition is a reality today and the sooner India
and Pakistan accepted and came to terms with it, the better for everyone.
What is perhaps even more tragic than the
tragedy itself is the path of perpetual confrontation and conflict that the two
countries have followed since their split.
Imagine the difference India and Pakistan
could make in their people’s lives by bringing down political temperatures and
living less dangerously. The billions of precious dollars that are being
currently spent on expensive, outlandish arms and plotting against each other
could transform hundreds of millions of lives in a region that is compared to
Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of poverty and backwardness.
The only people to benefit from their
constant hostilities – apart from the manufacturers of arms in the West – are the
militaries and militants on both sides.
Even as they remain handcuffed to history,
in Rushdie’s memorable words, the neighbours have refused to draw any lessons
from the past. Defying the strong bonds of culture, food, sports, language and
much else that bind them, they remain the prisoners of their past.
Across the world, countries that share far
less and have fought the bloodiest of wars have benefited by reconciling with
their past and looking to the future. Look at Europe, the battlefield of
history’s most catastrophic wars, which has emerged as a great economic power
in no time by doing away with borders and walls.
Look at Southeast Asia or the miracle of
Asean, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Countries like South Korea,
Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand have emerged as powerful economies by
accepting each other and working together. India and Pakistan – and other
countries in the region for that matter – can achieve even more, given their
rich pool of human resources. The question is: are they willing to? Will India
and Pakistan ever let go of the past? Will they ever grow up?
PAKISTAN and India celebrate their 70th
anniversaries next week. Shall they be around for their 100th one too? It
depends on how long their luck holds out, and if they can stop their mad rush
to increase the chances of disaster.
What’s new? Two weeks ago, a terrifying
report published in the Indian Express should have scared sensible people into
asking hard questions. But no one paid much attention to it — jaded publics on
both sides would rather tune in to the hottest political intrigue or celebrity
gossip than waste time on something that didn’t actually happen.
Here’s what was reported: on June 24, 1999,
at the height of the Kargil war, an Indian Air Force Jaguar flying close to the
Line of Control locked its targeting laser onto a possible base set up by
Pakistani infiltrators. The second Jaguar flying close behind was supposed to
bomb this chosen target. In fact, the Indian pilot had unknowingly crossed a
few miles into Pakistani territory and in his cross hairs was a forward base of
the Pakistan Army at Gulteri.
The Indian pilot’s mistake could have
activated Pakistan’s war plans and triggered its nuclear assets.
An Indian air commodore, who was airborne
at the same time, recognised that the first pilot had erred. It being a
violation of combat rules to fly over the Pakistani side, he denied permission
to fire. The bomb was subsequently retargeted to a point on the Indian side of
The reported incident does not appear
fabricated. First, it was revealed 18 years after the event and so there is no
immediate gain. Second, the source was knowledgeable — he is retired Air
Marshal Vinod Patney, who was then the head of India’s Western Command and
directly responsible for air operations in the Kargil war. Third, it does not
favour either country, and, in fact, points to a mistake on the Indian side.
Imagine for a moment that permission had
been granted. The course of history would have totally changed because, unknown
to the Indian pilots, at that very moment prime minister Nawaz Sharif and COAS
Gen Pervez Musharraf were addressing troops amassed at Gulteri base. The
laser-guided bomb, if released, would have eliminated Pakistan’s top
And then what? Would GHQ have waited for an
explanation or accepted an apology for this horrible mistake? Or would
Pakistan’s war plans have been triggered and nukes operationalised? This would
take only a matter of minutes or hours.
Seeing Pakistani nuclear weapons being
prepared, what would the Indians have done? Would the IAF have targeted
Pakistan’s airbases and missile sites? Action and reaction. Fear fuelling
misjudgement until nuclear blasts and fireballs destroy cities in both
countries. Millions killed and more injured.
South Asia got hugely lucky that day. But
as India rushes to put nuclear weapons on submarines — and Pakistan tries to
follow suit — a whole new set of dangers has arisen. The chance of a missile
being wrongly launched is greater for submarines than for aircraft or other
Here’s why. Submarines try to hide and
adversaries try to find them. All submarines forces face this problem of
antisubmarine warfare but, in the India-Pakistan case, an undersea competition
is highly destabilising because Pakistan’s fleet is fairly vulnerable. Its
three Agosta-90B type diesel electric submarines (eight Chinese ones are on
order) are fairly noisy and trackable. Of the three, only one is actually
likely to be on patrol at a given moment because the others would be refuelling
or under repair. The submarine on patrol may in time be armed with
nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.
While Indian capability to locate and
destroy a diesel-powered submarine is unknown, this will improve with time.
India already claims to have tracked the ocean trajectory of a Chinese nuclear
submarine that recently docked in Karachi. Pakistan’s nervousness will drive it
to build more nuclear-armed submarines, maybe even nuclear-propelled ones.
Safety margins will shrink further.
To give an example: up to this point,
Pakistan and India both claim that for safety reasons their nuclear warheads are
kept in disassembled form with key parts kept at different physical locations.
This builds in a time delay, making unauthorised use or an accident less
likely. In a crisis the National Command Authority (or its Indian equivalent)
would give the order to assemble a weapon. But with a submarine, all missiles
must be fully ready for use before the ship leaves port.
There’s an added danger — communicating
with a submarine prowling the ocean’s depth is hard since radio waves cannot
travel long distances through saltwater. Typically, a deeply submerged vessel
can only receive simple coded messages, not audio or video. Still worse: there
can be only one-way communication — from vessel to base is impossible unless it
surfaces and risks detection. Since a technical fault or enemy action can
disrupt communications, the submarine commander has to be given the codes and
authority to arm and launch nuclear missiles without seeking permission.
So here is a hypothetical question: suppose
a Pakistani submarine is, or believes it is, under attack from some surface
ship, another submarine, or aircraft. Given the impossibility of communicating
with ground-based authorities, would the commander launch — or not launch — the
submarine’s nuclear missiles? Of course, the attacker cannot know whether a
normal sub is in its cross hairs or, instead, a nuclear-armed one.
This is not completely fictitious. During
the Cuban Missile Crisis, a Soviet submarine found itself surrounded by
American ships that began using underwater explosive depth charges to force it
to surface. The Soviet submarine could not call Moscow for instructions without
rising to the surface. The American ships did not know the Soviet submarine was
armed with nuclear torpedoes.
Finding itself under attack, and believing
that war had broken out, the submarine captain wanted to launch a nuclear
torpedo to drive away the American ships by targeting a nearby American
aircraft carrier. Other members of his crew did not agree. Eventually, the
submarine decided to surface. Had the submarine captain had his way, a nuclear
war could have started.
MONTH of August has great significance for
Pakistan in two respects. For one Pakistan emerged on the map of the world on
August 14, 1947as an independent and a sovereign state. Secondly, Quaid-i-Azam
declared that all citizens of the state including minorities would have equal
rights and opportunities. Quaid-i-Azam’s speech of August 11, 1947 before the
Constituent Assembly had clearly laid down the outlines of the type of state he
visualized Pakistan to become. He said “You are free; you are free to go to
your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or any other places of worship
in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed
that has nothing to do with the business of the state.” Almost all governments
in the past took steps to implement Quaid’s commitment and vision.
In 2011, the government of Pakistan
declared August 11, as “National Minorities Day” after former minister of
Pakistan minorities’ affairs Shehbaz Clement Bhatti was killed on March 02,
2011 by militants of banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. Terrorists have killed
thousands of Muslims as they did not differentiate between Muslims and
non-Muslims; however state of Pakistan held minorities in high esteem, as
people from the minority communities held high positions in armed forces as
well as in civil administration. Justice A R Cornelious, a Christian, was the
fourth Chief Justice of Pakistan. Then we had Acting Chief Justice of Pakistan
(CJP) Justice Bhagwan Das — a Hindu. He had been a Supreme Court Judge since
February 2000 for over a decade. He also worked as the chairman of Federal
Public Service Commission of Pakistan. Many Christians have rendered
meritorious services in Pakistan Air Force.
Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry (Sitara-i-Jurat)
was a Pakistani academic, human rights activist, and veteran air force fighter
pilot. He fought in the Indo-Pakistani war of 1965, and later as a Squadron
Leader in the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971. A part of Lawrence Road Lahore has
been renamed as Cecil Chaudhry Road to honour him. He was amongst the
distinguished breed of air warriors to whom we are all indebted. He was a
legendry pilot and a true patriot, who displayed unflinching courage, exemplary
devotion and professionalism throughout his service in the PAF. His services
significantly contributed to achieving air superiority by PAF during the
Indo-Pak war of 1965. Another Christian, Wing Commander Mervyn Leslie
Middlecoat (Sitara-i-Jurat) was a Pakistan Air Force fighter pilot who
proved his mettle in a number of aerial battles during the 1965 and 1971
Indo-Pakistani wars, before being shot down on December 12, 1971.
As envisioned by the Quaid, Pakistan was to
be a modern Islamic welfare state where a free and independent people would
enjoy equal rights without discrimination on the basis of religion, sect,
ethnicity or gender. The day August 14 is indeed the day to rejoice, as we got
freedom from the British Raj. It is also the day for introspection,
self-accountability and evaluation as to how far we have been able to live up
to the ideals set by the founding fathers. Quaid-i-Azam had envisaged a free,
progressive, humane, and modern Pakistan, ruled by just laws, rooted in the
eternal values of Islam, and at the same time responsive to the imperatives of
constant change. Unfortunately, inept leaders have brought the country to the
present pass, and it is facing economic challenges and spectre of extremism and
terrorism. However, Pakistan’s armed forces would completely destroy their
infrastructure and network.
Pakistan is now an atomic power, and its
people and armed forces have the ability to meet any challenge posed by
internal and external enemies of Pakistan. And they have the capability and the
will to defend the integrity of Pakistan. Allama Iqbal had given the clue as to
how to move forward, and find a respectable place in the comity of nations. He
had underscored the need to reinterpret Islamic thought and assimilate its
eternal principles to overcome centuries-old stagnation with a view to
launching the nation on the path to revival and build a future worthy of its glorious
past. Pakistan, indeed, has industrious people, vast areas of land, variegated
seasons suitable for various crops and fruits, rivers, large coastline and
abundant natural resources. Its mountains and valleys are the most scenic in
the world. Its strategic position, which is confluence and meeting point
between Sinkiang of China, Iran and Central Asian republics, cannot be
Its principle city-port Karachi is a
convenient route for Central Asian States for trade with the western and other
countries. With the completion of Gwadar deep-sea port, it has the potential to
become a hub of international trade. Last but not the least; the people of
Pakistan are proud inheritors of traditions of great sufis, saints and poets
who fostered the message of peace and brotherhood over the centuries. Inspired
by their exhortations, the people of Pakistan are determined to establish
socio-economic justice in the society with a view to uniting the nation. And
Pakistan would one day find a respectable place in the comity of nations. It is
hoped that one day our nation-state of Pakistan will assume the actual meanings
of its configuration as envisioned by the founding fathers and will not be
identified with one of the most corrupt, but with civilized nations of the
IN recent days Middle East has been in the
limelight but not due to Palestinian issue that was once the main conflict in
the Middle East but has become a forgotten reality. The Arab-Islamic Military
Alliance and Qatar crises have overshadowed the plight of Gazans who have been
suffering for more than a decade now.
A recently published United Nations report
claims that living conditions in Gaza are deteriorating faster than was
anticipated in an earlier report in 2015. ‘Gaza has continued on its trajectory
of de-development’ said Robert Piper, the UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid
and Development Activities, talking about new report, ‘Gaza – 10 years later’.
He further added that from healthcare to unemployment, to energy, to access to
water, Gaza’s 2 million people are seeing faster decline. Moreover, a sharp
increase is noted in population growth of Gaza, while infrastructure and
services have not been able to keep the pace.
The problems of Gaza – a 130 square mile
strip of land on the Mediterranean, started accelerating since Hamas took over
Gaza 10 years ago. Israel has maintained tight control over the movement of
people and goods from all sides of Gaza, except 7 mile long border Gaza shares
with Egypt and that is rarely open. Adding to these difficulties, Palestinian
Authority recently decided to reduce the supply of electricity to put pressure
on Hamas. It is worth noting that people of Gaza already get access to
electricity only for two hours. Another issue of concern raised by UN report
should draw attention of the international community. The report identifies
that by the end of 2017, Gaza’s only water aquifer would be depleted and damage
could be irreversible due to salt water entering the aquifer – exposing the
people of Gaza to water borne illnesses.
The question arises that who is responsible
for all this? And how for Gazans’ plights will remain unaddressed? Palestinian
issue has been ignored by Arab states and the resolution of Palestine issue
does not seem on the priority agenda of any regional Arab state. Middle East is
simmering in conflicts and crises – the most recent has been intra-Arab crisis
known as Qatar crisis. A month has passed but no end to the crisis can be
anticipated. All efforts made to mediate between Qatar and the Gulf States have
not succeeded so for, leaving things in a stalemate. What to talk of regional
and extra-regional states’ interest in resolution of Palestine issue, the first
thing that is needed is reconciliation between Hamas and Palestinian Authority.
The internal unity would enable Palestinian to struggle for their just right to
self-determination. In this regard, Russian role as an outside power cannot be
ignored. Russia despite having close relations with Hamas’ political rival
Palestinian Authority, advocates the inclusion of Hamas in the Israeli
In this regard, in the past, Russian
foreign minister held talks with Khalid Mashaal, the exiled Hamas leader at
Doha in 2015 and discussed the possibility of reconciliation between Hamas and
Palestinian Authority. Russia welcomed the election of Ismail Haniyah, who
replaced Khalid Mashaal as the head of movement’s political bureau, and praised
Hamas’ new policy document issued after the election of new leader. Russia is
the only major power that has cordial relations with Hamas that expects Russia,
a member of International Quartet on Middle East, to play its part in breaking
siege of Gaza imposed in 2006. Russia also supports the formation of
Palestinian state on the basis of United Nations Security Council (UNSC)
resolutions. Russia considers the resumption of Palestinian-Israeli dialogue as
a precondition for establishing two equal states to bring a lasting peace in
As regards China, it supports the
establishment of the state of Palestine with full sovereignty on the basis of
1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital. China reiterated its
traditional stance during a recent state visit of Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas to Beijing. China expressed its desire to hold a Palestinian-Israeli
peace symposium to share ideas about resolution of Palestine issue. Contrary to
Chinese and Russian stance, United States has become increasingly hostile
towards Hamas and has recently added many Hamas leaders on the list of
terrorists. President Donald Trump during his visit to Saudi Arabia placed
Hamas and Hizbullah in the category of terrorists. If US want to play role in
Middle East peace process, it has to accept all parties and groups,
representative of people so that sufferings of people could be reduced.
DISQUALIFICATION of Nawaz Sharif by Supreme
Court is a truly landmark adjudication in history of Pakistan. It is a water
shed in midst of environments, making a break from our history of twists and
turns to path of rule of law and supremacy of constitution albeit our ruling
elite remains obdurate and stubborn. Following the verdict of Supreme Court,
two things are very distinct. One, scrupulous adherence to constitution by
institutions. Two, abuse of authority and gullibility of people by our ruling
The verdict meant curtain for Nawaz Sharif
only. It held nothing against right of PML(N) to rule the country. None even
tried to infringe upon their right rather helped them indirectly to select
their new PM without let and hindrance. Resultantly, it was a smooth and
orderly transition, never seen in Pakistan. The cases of Jamali and Gillani
were different in kind. Main political opposition, PTI also did not show
propensity of any kind for unconstitutional set up. It is a refreshing change
from our sordid and unsavory political past. It was heartening to see
constitution, taking its course at its own. It would certainly helped fledgling
democracy in making significant strides to its ultimate stage of maturity. All
concerned deserve appreciation and gratitude especially from the party which is
its main beneficiary; PML(N).
To the contrary. It was leadership of
PML(N) who stooped low to the detriment of belief and resolve of people on
democracy particularly, when they have only seen its flipside so far. People
deserve a better PM than Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, initially temporally, now
permanently. He is considered widely main suspect in mega LNG corruption
scandal. He has no compatible political background except excellence in art of
kowtowing and acquiesces. This makes him a perfect courtier. Sharif family
direly need such person at helm to help their self-seeking political pursuits
and legal entanglements. It is no bizarre thought. Nation has already started
seeing him playing his role dutifully with hardly any interval. Though Nawaz
Sharif lost the job yet he holds the strings informally. He handpicked the PM
while sitting in PM’s house with tag of disqualification on his forehead. He
finalized tailor made cabinet for forthcoming general elections. He continues to
get protocol as of a sitting PM.
Being inevitable, Nawaz Sharif has to act
upon decision of Supreme Court with heavy heart. His activities and utterances
present different picture; desperation and defiance. It seems that he could
embark upon any course which could give him either of two regardless of its
cost to nation; a wild card for his return/survival in one form or the other or
roll back of entire system. To saner minds, both are improbable. Initially his
attack on Supreme Court was oblique for disqualifying him unduly on a frivolous
charge of Iqama. He blames that he has been framed. Now his assault is almost
open and direct which could implicate him in contempt of court. Besides, he
could be booked for instigating the people to help him restore respect of
By his understanding, his disqualification
is an insult to mandate of people. Millions of People sent him to Islamabad. In
contrast. Only five men have dislodged him back home. By its implications, it
is a revolt against judiciary. He has chosen his long march on GT road for
public endorsement of his pronouncements which otherwise is an utter failure.
Notwithstanding this, his media crooks in league with bought media would try to
make this a case of public approval. Underlying purpose is to pressurize
judiciary in event of his review petition and opening of references against
Sharif family by NAB. In his assertions, he also never spares establishment for
their unspecified ghost role in his ouster.
The march has been taken out under government’s
full arrangements. It clearly show their subservience to disqualified Nawaz
Sharif. PML (N), s government, hand in gloves with other political parties sans
PTI, seems to gear up parliament to amend article 62 and 63 on name of removing
ambiguities to prevent their exploitation by vested interests. Gravest aspect
would be their application with retrogressive effect to provide relief to Nawaz
Sharif. These all parties are part of a cabal whose sole aim is power and lot
and plunder. In common parlance, they are known ruling elite. PM Abbasi has
already dilated upon on the issue. The fact has also dawned on architect of
controversial 18th Amendment, Chairman Senate, Raza Rubbani about meek role of
Parliament in Panama case. He wants to revitalise it.
Opposition leader is calling Nawaz Sharif
come to Parliament on the name of strengthening the democracy. Nawaz Sharif is
also contemplating to dust off long forgotten Charter of Democracy, signed
under auspices of USA. In their case, it was a document to weaken Pakistan. In
our case, it was a permit to rule turn by turn and plunder the country
according to own appetite. At the moment, Nawaz Sharif is main pillar of our
ruling elite. His demolition has shaken them to core. It is a matter of time
when all would collapse en masse if they fail to take some drastic counter
measures. These are likely to include disqualification of Imran Khan to
mitigate their worries greatly. In brief, lines are clearly drawn. On one side,
people want to take the country to rule of law and accountability. On other
side, people want to keep status quo. It is test of our collective wisdom and
After seven decades of independence from
the colonial tutelage, it is time for India and Pakistan to examine why the two
are unable to mend fences and how they can live as ‘normal’ and peaceful
neighbours? Hostility, antagonism, paranoia and mistrust which continue to
influence and shape the mindset of leadership of India and Pakistan is not a
new phenomenon but it is as old as their existence as sovereign states.
Why India-Pakistan moment of truth has
arrived and how it is termed as an opportunity for New Delhi and Islamabad to
take fresh initiatives for mitigating seven decades of unabated tension and
confrontation? Because of three main reasons one can argue that a paradigm
shift in Indo-Pak relations is possible in the years to come. First, after
going through three wars and numerous armed conflicts, India and Pakistan tend
to reach a stalemate or cul-se-dec thus exhausting their energies to sustain
the level of conflict. Armed with hundreds of nuclear weapons capable of
inflicting colossal material and physical damage in the event of an all out
war, the challenge for India and Pakistan is how to deal with the costs of
conflict while at the same time also manage the task of social and human
development. As unresolved contentious issues namely Jammu & Kashmir,
Siachen and Sir Creek ought to be a zero-sum game for India and Pakistan, there
is no option left for the two countries except to resume composite dialogue and
follow the path of purposeful negotiations. The age-old rhetoric based on
‘blame game’ has been counter productive and cannot go on for ever.
One harsh reality that has never gone away
over the last 70 years is the deliberate omission by both sides of their shared
rich cultural heritage and strong traditions of tolerance and harmony
regardless of cultural and religious variations
Second, lethal threats like global warming,
climate change, energy, water and over population will cause havoc in South
Asia if the regional countries particularly India and Pakistan continue to
neglect issues which will deepen human security predicament of their more than
one billion population. While not being mindful of such threats which will
endanger the lives of millions of people of the two countries, the outcome will
be further marginalization of South Asia in terms of global human development
index. Without united and coordinated efforts to deal with such threats, India
and Pakistan cannot escape from the implications of issues which will further
degenerate their quality of life.
Furthermore, extremism, intolerance,
militancy, violence and terrorism particularly among the youths are the issues
which India and Pakistan cannot deal in an isolation; without coordinated and
united efforts. Unfortunately, the option of composite dialogue which could
have been of enormous use for the two countries to deal with contentious issues
and move ahead remains dormant primarily because of New Delhi’s adamant stance
not to proceed with dialogue unless its precondition to first deal with the
issue of terrorism is met. Yet, sooner or later, India will have to reconsider
its behaviour and stance and revert to composite dialogue with Pakistan because
confrontation cannot be a permanent option. India’s ambition to emerge as an
Asian and then a global power would remain elusive unless it normalizes its
relations with Pakistan. Third, scores of missed opportunities in the last
seven decades by India and Pakistan to mend fences plunged the two countries
deeper in the web of underdevelopment, backwardness and marginalization in
world affairs. It is the realization of being left out in global competition
like world Olympics that is sufficient to reinforce the impending ‘moment of
truth’ emerging in India and Pakistan about the price of conflict which they
have paid in the last five decades at the expense of human and social
After seven decades of independence, India
and Pakistan must look into some of the hard realities and unleash a thought
process for transforming their failures into successes. One major hard reality
which is quite obvious in 70 years of relationship of India and Pakistan is
deliberate omission of their rich cultural heritage and strong traditions of
tolerance and harmony regardless of cultural and religious variations.
When partition of the Indian sub-continent
took place amidst large scale violence and migration, neither Jinnah nor Nehru
or Gandhi had visualized that the two countries would turn out to be permanent
enemies and their borders would be inaccessible for normal travel and trade.
But their successors made sure that ‘enemy images’ which shaped post-1947
Indo-Pak relations must remain intact. That the baggage of history must be
carried out by the post-partition generation so that efforts for peace and
reconciliation remain futile or fragile. Hostility, mistrust and suspicion
permeated in the post-partition generation because of history text books which
instead of advocating peace, tolerance and reconciliation promoted antagonism
and ill-will. That is the reason why India and Pakistan failed to produce
leaders like Nelson Mandela, Charles de Gaulle and Willy Brandt who in their
respective countries followed the path of peace and economic progress through
prudence and vision.
The way out for India and Pakistan from
present impasse is an uphill task but not impossible. In the last 70 years scores
of proposals and plans in the realm of conflict management, resolution and
confidence building measures were presented through Track-I, Track-2 and
Track-3 initiatives but without plausible results. However, it doesn’t mean
that one should abandon hope and optimism for a better future for more than one
billion population of India and Pakistan. If their present is painful then
their past and future will also be unpleasant.
Nazir Abbasi in Kuli Camp
By Hasan Mujtaba
He lived the life and died the death about
which novels could be written. A handsome looking, tall, youthful, walrus like
mustached, with razor edged sense of humor (was not really a cliché) which, what
his old comrade Mir Theo says could not conceal a melancholy in his wide
twinkling mischievous eyes. Yet, his was melodic voice. So melodic, the sentry
soldiers of his cell at Kuli Camp Quetta, a historically notorious
interrogation centre where he had been detained, would request him to sing
"Roze di jail chum laiye"for them.
The captors at his Kuli Camp interrogation
centre had warned him while he was being freed "we are letting you go
alive this time, but next time, you wont have the chance." True to their
warning, he was not let go alive while captured second time. He was tortured to
death in custody of military intelligence agencies under military dictatorship
of Zia regime on August 9, 1980. He was Nazir Abbasi, the student leader and
leftist revolutionary who founded Democratic Student federation (DSF)
nationwide in Pakistan. Nazir Abbasi was said to be an active member of the
then underground Communist Party (CPP) that had remained disbanded from 1953 to
1989. The names of the members of the ‘party’ were kept secret except the few
on active scene.
At the outset of martial law by dictator
general Zia ul Haq, Nazeer Abbasi had been arrested with his other colleagues
including Moolchand, Syed Shakir Sarah, Faiz Soomro, Ghanshyasm Deepak and
Sindh’s peasants’ rights leader Mandela Shar from various places in Sindh,
detained and remained incommunicado at Kuli Camp Quetta, historically notorious
for housing torture cells in named of interrogation center. They were probably
first of the missing persons who were made enforcedly disappeared within months
of the Zia’s martial law in the country. Except Nazeer and Mandhal Shar, all
were in their late teens then.
Nazir Abbasi and his leader Jam Saqi were
fond of quoting from a book they had memorised. ‘The Method’ was authored by Greek writer P Korovesis and was published
in 1969. It was based on a first hand account of the horrifying tale of torture
experienced by a theatre actor after his arrest
Nazir Abbasi and his leader Jam Saqi were
fond of quoting from a book they had memorised titled "The method"
authored by a Greek writer P. Korovesis published in 1969. The book was based
on the firsthand account of horrifying tale of torture experienced by a theatre
actor after his arrest and detention on charges of being a suspect communist
conspirator in 1960s. I had also a chance reading the book in 1980s and that
gave me few sleepless nights. The Greek theatre artist had also undergone
‘bastinado, an ancient method of torture by beating soles of his feet with
sticks and got badly swollen. In the Greek interrogation centre had different
section where different method of torture was practiced and had different
names. Hanging the prisoner upside down, hanging female prisoner from her
genitalia from the prison roof naked all the night, burying the prisoner in
ground up to his neck and give him electric shocks under the supervision of
doctor, beating their feet soles with rifle some of the ‘Method’ witnessed by
the Greek theatre actor. Nazir Abbasi and Jam Saqi were sounded like Don
Quixotic revolutionary. Later Jam Saqi advised his interrogators during his
incarceration at the interrogation center at Lahore Fort to read the ‘Method’.
Probably, they seem to have read it by now.
Nazir Abbasi’s stay in detention center
happened to be a company for his fellow inmates, even guards, soldiers and
sometimes interrogators and captors. Once his interrogator, who was a senior
colonel, brought a book on Marxism and began discussing with him. He asked him
to reveal names of the communists in Pakistan. "Khurshid Hasan Mir, CR
Aslam, Mairaj Mohammed Khan and Dr Musbashar Hasan" Nazir told the
colonel. It made the colonel mad."They are fake tell me the names of real
ones", hitting his table with his fist was colonel’s reaction.
Even after his release, one of his guards’
forms his Kuli Camp days came to visit him in Hyderabad to thank him because he
had his leave sanctioned because of Nazir’s pressing his officers on the issue.
It’s All Good News for Nawaz
Nawaz Sharif, though ousted from the prime
minister's house by the verdict of five-member bench of the Supreme Court,
could not be outclassed politically or even morally given the grounds of the
decision that disqualified him.
The refusal to cave in to the pressure to
scrap his proposed program of travelling to Lahore via the politically
proverbial GT Road indicates his defiance and putting up political resistance.
Two decades ago, who could predict that
circumstances would change Nawaz Sharif politically and ideologically in such a
diametrical way? Nawaz had however resentment even at the time of the toppling
of his first government that streamed out of his ego rather than difference in
political points of view, informing to shape internal and external policy
Today Nawaz Sharif is bruised, hurt
emotionally because of the way he has been tried and ousted from power but the
move has placed him at a political vantage with nothing to lose further. But
such an individual can turn the tides.
However, he has not placed his entire cards
on the table. Perhaps, Nawaz is the luckiest politician who not only won his
third come back into power but this time got a unique opportunity to struggle
for what he could not accomplish while in power. To deprive him of high moral
ground he was disqualified by the superior judiciary but on grounds which
forced even impartial legal experts to look askance.
Instead of throwing him into political and
moral oblivion, the decision equipped him with a formidable sense of victimhood
that is more effective than any other political plank and narrative,
particularly in our society. The adverse outcome of references against him and
his family by NAB under the supervision of the Supreme Court judge will now
further ingrain that sense among people. The initial reaction and response of
people, particularly the PML N's voters on the first day of his GT Road rally
shows his vote bank is not only intact but can swell further if the PML-N
maintains the tempo. This also shows maturity of the electorate that can now
read between the lines as well as understand the power game.
Moreover, the international press and
opinions unequivocally interpreted his disqualification by the judiciary
through the lens of Pakistan's treacherous political history and institutional
imbalances. Unlike 1990s, international opinion and community find in Nawaz a
regional pacifist that could turn the region from geo-strategic to geo-economic
to accommodate and adjust the interests of regional and trans regional powers
with positive economic and political effect.
Besides, for the first time Nawaz Sharif
finds himself and his party in unique circumstances. He is ousted but his party
is in power in the centre as well as in the most populous and resourceful
province of Punjab. At least, his workers will not face hostile police and
civil administration during political mobilisation. However, the abstract
threat posed by the militancy and terrorism might be used to deter him but so
far defied by him. Perhaps, this account has also been running an overdraft
which hamstrung political mobilisation and process since the last decade.
This time the political situation is not as
bleak for Nawaz as it was back in October 1999. That is, if he plays his cards
carefully for the larger cause and not narrows parochial interests
So far, miraculously, the PML-N remains
intact. That is a silver lining on the dark horizon unless deliberate cleavages
are created within the party due to increasing pressure from invisible
quarters. His political allies are still supporting him inside and outside of
the parliament. Nawaz's current political stance found sympathies and allies in
the erstwhile left and progressive due to his pacifist foreign policy approach
and civilian supremacy stance domestically.
Even in the face of realpolitik, PPP cannot
toe the line of establishment totally. If PPP remains sitting on the fence or
opts to play on both sides of the fence it can result in eroding of its own
support base, particularly among its die hard anti-establishment cadres who
offered sacrifices for democracy and civilian supremacy since Zia's era.
Moreover, Nawaz seems to have become anti-establishment to uphold pro civilian
supremacy. He is likely to draw the support of the active as well as dormant,
struggle hardened cadres of the left and the progressive. But Nawaz Sharif
needs to be mindful of his son-in-law, Capt Safdar's inane utterances.
This trend can be calibrated by going
through the current writings and op-ed of the left and progressive
intelligentsia, journalists and writers in support of Nawaz Sharif's current
stance who were not favourably drawn towards him two decades ago. Nawaz still
enjoys the support of the far right conservative intelligentsia and journalists
that make a healthy confluence of minimum consensus between the conservative
and progressive for the supremacy of civilian.
This time the political situation is not as
bleak for Nawaz as it was in post October 1999, if he plays his cards carefully
for the larger cause and not narrow parochial interests. He should move now
from limited objectives to broader goals that can make him an icon in the
history of politics even if he meets, God forbid, Benazir's fate. His
statesmanship role and struggle for a constitutional polity with sovereign
parliamentary system can galvanise across the board support and consensus that
can change the tides of our political history.