Age Islam Edit Bureau
17 February 2017
By Shahzad Chaudhry
By Raja Qaiser Ahmed
By Shazar Shafqat
By Miqdad Naqvi
God Valentine’s Day Is Over
By Maria Sartaj
By Askari Raza Malik
By Mary Sanchez
By Javaid Iqbal Bhat
By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
February 17, 2017
Have we comprehended the various facets of
our war against terrorism to their fullest extent? Or, are we just groping in
the dark with half-baked conceptions and even fewer mature response options to
fight this persisting menace?
Only this week, there have been repeated
incidents of terror which have manifested in loss of life and property across
Pakistan, bringing into question both our resolve and claims to have almost
‘broken the backs’ of those who mean ill.
The threat of terror remains existential.
Existential is the operational term; persisting and continually evolving – as
must be the resolve and the means to fight it. Declaring victory is not the
right strategy in this war. It can easily lull you to sleep.
The war against the Pakistani state by
terror groups was always a mix of insurgency and terror. When Sufi Mohammad
raised the flag of rebellion against the state in Swat and wanted to march to
Islamabad, he sought control of a larger physical space beyond the Shangla and
Swat valleys through an insurgent effort. The military fought him and
ultimately evicted him and his insurgents out of Swat. Out of those ashes rose
the TTP – a terror group.
They then found havens in various agencies
of Fata, but mostly in South and North Waziristan. The two operations which
followed – principally Zarb-e-Azb – and many sub-operations, were then launched
as counter-insurgency efforts to reclaim the geographical areas from the
control of these groups. Numerous terror actions by these groups against the
state and its innocent people continued alongside to scare them into submission
and dilute state resources in the war. A counter-terror war also began through
the length and breadth of Pakistan. This combination of counter-insurgency and
counter-terror formed the kinetic components of this war to eliminate
The army fought insurgency while a
combination of police and paramilitary forces fought terror. The
counterterrorism department of the police in each province was created to meet
the needs of fighting terror. While fighting insurgency meant an incremental
advance along a physical line and clearing spaces and reclaiming them, fighting
terror in our cities meant its heavy dependence on intelligence and timely
action. Where it was needed, the army assisted its special operations troops
against larger and stronger groups – as was the case with the Army Public
School attack in Peshawar which required a sustained operation to eliminate the
terrorists who had successfully insurrected the safety of the provincial
After the APS attack emerged the third
facet of the complete response action – the non-kinetic part – which was
translated as the National Action Plan. It consisted of 20 points of both
kinetic and non-kinetic actions which were essential to eradicate terrorism
from its roots. The non-kinetic actions were vastly more intricate with longer
gestation periods for results. They needed a committed engagement of the
political leadership to enact them over time with all the intensity to accrue
favourable sustenance of the gains made through counter-insurgent and
If and when enacted in full, it would, over
time, help fight extremism and radicalism in a society which exploits latent
religious sentiments to its own purpose. These steps were as varied as closing
the financial loop supporting the extremists to reforming the syllabi in
madrasas to their registration, and the involvement of religious scholars and
the clergy in interpreting Islam in its more moderate and inclusive form. A
lack of attention in this regard has meant that the misuse of religion has gone
on unabated, continuing the slide towards a more radicalised society.
While Operation Zarb-e-Azb culminated the
counter-insurgency phase of this war, more rounds may still be needed if we
slide back into the complacency of a mission achieved. It is the counter-terror
and the non-kinetic set of NAP actions which lag significantly.
Politicians have been seized with a
plethora of legal cases. Half of them are petitioning while the other half are
defending themselves, sparing little time to fight terror or implement NAP. In
the absence of central ownership of the entire effort, what gapes instead is a
vacuum. This leaves the chance for the maleficent to dominate perceptions in a
relative space. One incident, and there is that overpowering sense of whether
the bad old days of terror are back. The need for a centrally-coordinated
leadership for this entire effort remains absolutely essential to dominate
perceptions and convey the purpose that the war against terror continues to be
won. This sense hasn’t been apparent for some time now.
The military leadership, since General
Raheel Sharif retired, has been rather staid but reserved. In the aftermath of
how the former chief was unfortunately treated in an attempt to cut him to
size, the apparent effort of the new team at the GHQ has been to not tread on
the toes of the civilian structures – whether it is the government or the civil
society. As a consequence, the state and the nation seem to have entered a
period of drift. This is when those across the border from foreign soils have
found the opportune moment to re-impose their agenda of terror. This has been
the consequence of an absent leadership from the country.
A few things should stand out. As the
Afghan and Indian supported TTP launches sporadic raids on Pakistani troops at
the border in a weak attempt at resurrecting insurgency, effort should be made
to nip them in the bud right away. The focus on fighting terror in our midst
must again be razor-sharp – with the possibility that Pakistan itself may need
to neutralise the source of such malfeasance if Afghanistan is unable to stop
the menace. Where the political leadership seems shorn of sufficient commitment
to implement the elements of NAP, the military should also begin assisting the
government in achieving what is essential to sustain the gains made on the
battlefield. Now is not the time to sit on past laurels or be deterred by
apprehensions of stepping on touchy toes.
This nation has done remarkably well by
fighting a terrible war with groups that imposed terror for their heinous
objectives by engendering chaos and fear – some of which was on foreign
bidding. The country has stood the test well and come out successfully on the
other end – something which more noted nations of the world have failed to
achieve wherever they have undertaken such wars. This is not the time to slide
back the gains made on the blood of the thousands who have died in this cause.
This is a generational effort and will
remain so for some time to come. Only holding the baton of responsibility and
staid resilience against all ulterior attempts at derailing this nation can
help us realise ultimate success. Leadership at all levels must rise to the
occasion. It remains a combined responsibility without differentiation of
domain or antecedence.
Raja Qaiser Ahmed
Pakistan’s terrorism quagmire is
multipronged. It involves violent non-state actors operating under religious
outfits. It has crime and terror syndicates and finally sectarian outfits that
are serving as a breeding ground for radicalisation and terrorism in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s counterterrorism doctrine can be
lauded for its operational preparedness – although it remained
counterproductive in curbing the roots of terrorism. Radical extremism and violent
terrorism, while interrelated, are misleadingly clubbed together in the
equation of Pakistan’s counterterrorism strategy.
Under the national counterterrorism plan,
the government declared it would launch a decisive crackdown against sectarian
hate-mongers and all those madrasas that refuse to register under the new
registration policy announced by the government to regulate and regularise
madrasas in Pakistan.
A coalition comprising five bodies of
religious seminaries belonging to different schools of thought had assured the
government that its madrasas would register under the new policy within three
months. It had also agreed to modernise curricula and a committee was to be
formed to review courses taught in madrasas.
To date, the above tasks have not
materialised. “Madrasas are universities of ignorance”. This statement by
former information minister Pervaiz Rashid in the past had resulted in a
furious backlash from those who vehemently justify madrasas.
The prevalent global discourse on terrorism
is primarily focused on the interpretation of religious doctrine. Post 9/11 the
revamped global scenario and a redefined contextualisation has put the issue of
religious radicalisation vis-à-vis religious indoctrination right in the
limelight. The overriding of the Western liberal political order and extreme
reaction from the volatile Muslim world have further sharpened the rifts. The
existing polarisation, coupled with the blurred lines of integration, has
resulted in a hybrid structure.
Talk on reforming the curricula of madrasas
has been on for quite some time now – without much having been achieved though.
Madrasas have always been seen as an
antidote to modernity whether during the colonial rule or afterwards. The
setting up of Darul Uloom Deoband in 1866 by the religious clerics of that time
was a reaction to the seeping process of modernity initiated by the British
Raj. With a defined mindset, an anti-modernity and retrogressive discourse was
instilled. All this was happening in the backdrop of the technological changes
and industrial avant-garde that had reshaped the traditional modes of means of
communication and led to the rise of the middle class.
Madrasas were part of the resistance
against the colonial rule. Deoband, Jamiat ur Raza and Nidwatul Ulema are a few
examples of such madrasas. The curricula of madrasas have always been
considered the sole jurisdiction of the set of jurisprudence that madrasas
subscribe to. Even the British could not transform madrasa education in the
Madressah education is an inward-looking
strategy and any effort to reform madrasa education and curriculum is taken as
a conspiracy. The strength and success of madrasas is due to this strategy of
looking inward. It resists the outward influences and marks them as a
conspiracy of non-believers against the teachings and the scriptures of Islam.
Under this mindset, reforming madrasas is
not an easy task. Violent religious political outfits are also attempting to
make inroads into the political setup. The recent election win of Mirza Masroor
Jhangvi from Jhang highlights this phenomenon. Political parties like the
JUI-F, doing real politik at the name of saving madrasas, are also a major
impediment in madrasa reforms.
At this critical juncture, Pakistan needs a
clear and decisive policy roadmap. Mere lip service to the National Action Plan
will not guarantee a solution. A comprehensive policy in this regard, one that
is aimed at imparting a rationalised discourse on madrasas, and a mechanism of
effective monitoring are direly needed to tackle the problem of radical
extremism turning into violent extremism in the country.
February 16, 2017
Is this a time for jubilation, apprehension
or assorted thoughts? It depends on how you look at it. Whatever the case, it
is surely going to be a topsy-turvy ride.
There’s finally something to cheer for
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. He, at last, seems to have the last laugh. He’s
been envisioning negotiations with the insurgent outfits in Afghanistan for
long and the time may finally have come. Last week, the UN Security Council
lifted the sanctions against Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of Hizb-e-Islami
The political astuteness and level of
perspicacity that the Afghan government is going to display will determine the
future outcome. Will these latest turn of events be the precursor for change in
Afghanistan? Can this move serve as a curtain-raiser for a peaceful bilateral
relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan? Will the militants be allowed to
come into the national foray? And will it be prudent enough to do so, anyway?
Any attempt to dig deep and discover what transpired in the past might not help
in providing answers to these questions. It is time to delve into what lies in
First, there might be no backing off this
time around. Hekmatyar’s decision to reach an agreement with Kabul may serve as
a vestibule of peace deals in the region. The HIA chief and the former prime
minister has always been an influential figure and, of late, has burnished his
credentials as a peacemaker. The discord between Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah
continues to hog the limelight.
At this stage, it remains to be seen how
both the stalwarts of the Afghan government will work this one out. However,
there is also a downside to the recent brouhaha: if the government fails to
implement the agreement in its entirety, the backlash could be as severe as it
can get. As a result, the divisions within the central government in
Afghanistan on the peace deal can alter the security apparatus drastically. The
ramifications could therefore be devastating.
Second, a slight dissemination of the
pact’s terms could come in handy in setting the course for the future. As per
the agreement, Hekmatyar and his commanders will have a guaranteed role and a
formidable say in government affairs. The dynamics have yet to be determined.
At this point in time, establishing these dynamics appears a long shot. The
pusillanimity espoused by the Afghan government and the National Directorate of
Security (NDS), the premier intelligence agency, towards the militant outfit
can result in the abatement of the conflict with the HIA.
However, there is a twist in the tale:
Amrullah Saleh, the former head of the NDS and an influential figure in the
country, has shown a perpetual aversion to hold talks with the militants, which
could rarefy the situation even more. The Taliban, on the other hand, will
continue to cherish the fault lines.
Third, the Wilayat Khorasan, the seldom
talked about affiliate of Daesh’s in the region, might also rears its head. Its
proponents may have been in hiding for a long time, but we cannot rule out the
group’s reincarnation just yet. When the IS allegedly kidnapped 12 religious
leaders from Nangarhar, Afghanistan on January 16, the country was already
seething with terrorist activities. The emergence of the outfit therefore went
The Afghan Taliban have, historically, been
pitched against the IS fighters in, primarily, the Helmand region. The Wilayat
Khorasan has 3,000 foot soldiers fighting in the region. Isis may be on the
retreat in Syria and the Levant, but its re-emergence in Afghanistan can turn
the worst of the nightmares into reality. To put it in simple terms, there is
something being concocted by the Wilayat in Afghanistan and the authorities
need to watch out.
Fourth, the Pakistan conundrum cannot be
ignored. To make peace or employ virulent rhetoric against its neighbour is the
question that has repeatedly baffled the Afghan government. To the surprise of
many, it has been able to engage in both. Hekmatyar has had strong ties with
Pakistan’s establishment and if the former stalwart of the Afghan jihad can
manage to make his way into the Afghan government, then the Pak-Afghan bonhomie
should definitely be on the cards. If something goes wrong, the usual blame
game would take the centre-stage. We can rest assured that either of the two options
are going to transpire – if it wasn’t already all too easy to decipher.
Fifth, there appears to be considerable
interest from China in Afghanistan and the peace deal. China is on a mission to
fix the chaos in the countries where it has strategic interests. If it can do
the needful in the Middle East, then China would not want a mess in its
backyard in 2017. The threat posed by the Uighurs, the Belt and Road
Initiative, the $800 million China-Central Asia gas pipeline, and other massive
investments in Greater Central Asia are some of the key reasons why China wants
peace and stability to be maintained in Afghanistan.
China is not asleep. Neither would it let
these projects be mired in controversy or conflicts. China – considering its
massive clout in the region – will not allow the extremist elements to run the
show in Afghanistan. Takeaway: we shouldn’t be surprised if China announces an
investment plan in Afghanistan just to assuage the dissidents within the
government, particularly those running private firms.
The sixth factor to consider about
Afghanistan’s future is, perhaps, the most interesting one – even though it may
be the most obvious. With President Trump at the helm, Afghanistan is likely to
be one of the countries where he will contemplate upping the ante. He already
fancies his chances. Hekmatyar and his
men joining the government wouldn’t please the US president. Don’t be surprised
if Trump goes on to mention the staunch resistance that the HIA had to offer to
the comrades of the Charlie Wilson War. One thing is for sure: Hizb-e-Islami
Afghanistan’s decision to join the ranks of the government and the security
apparatus of Afghanistan wouldn’t go down well with the new US president.
Can we then assume that the US and China
are once again at a crossroads in Afghanistan?
SIXTEEN years ago, Pakistan promulgated the
Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO) 2000 to bring its current juvenile
justice framework into conformity with its international obligations. The law
was meant to shield children who came into conflict with the law from the
rigours of the formal judicial system. This included right of legal aid,
expedited trials held in separate courts, access to services for rehabilitation
and reintegration with their families. The law also provided protection to
accused children from corporal punishments, torture and the death penalty.
Despite the existence of such a
comprehensive legal framework (and being one of the earliest countries in the
world to ratify the 1998 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child), the
government has failed to demonstrate much interest in implementing a
comprehensive juvenile justice system.
The JJSO was not enacted retroactively. A
significant proportion of the population of juvenile prisoners, therefore, fell
outside the ambit of the protections accorded by the law, including protection
from the death penalty. However, the Pakistani president issued a notification
in 2001, in exercise of his powers under Article 45 of the Constitution (ie,
the power to grant pardon, reprieve and respite, and to remit, suspend or
commute any sentence passed by any court).
The police and courts follow no age
Under the notification, juvenile offenders
sentenced to death prior to the enactment of the JJSO were to be accorded
remission following an inquiry into their juvenility. An upcoming report by
Justice Project Pakistan, Death Row’s Children, reveals that such inquiries
hardly ever took place; when they did they were marred by arbitrariness and
Additional shortcomings in Pakistan’s
juvenile justice system, which result in the government’s unlawful, arbitrary
implementation of the death penalty against juvenile offenders have been
highlighted in the report. The research analyses individual cases of juvenile
offenders who have been executed or are awaiting executions to highlight the
many junctures at which violations occur, starting from the arrest to the
juvenile’s unlawful march to the gallows.
In Pakistan, police and courts follow no
age determination protocols. This is especially problematic for a country where
birth registration rates are dismal. According to official estimates, nearly 10
million children below five years are unregistered, with the figure growing by
nearly 3m every year. Courts inevitably posit the burden of proof on juvenile
offenders who are not accorded any benefit of doubt. Since a majority of those
facing arrest lack any form of official documentation, they are placed in a
virtually impossible situation.
In May 2016, the UN Committee on the Rights
of the Child in its concluding observations urged the government to order a
stay in executions involving minors and launch a review of all cases where
there is an indication that the accused was a juvenile.
The need for such a review cannot be
overemphasised as it is estimated that 10pc of the current death-row population
constitutes juvenile offenders. Muhammad Anwar was sentenced to death in 1998
for a crime allegedly committed when he was just 17-years-old. Despite having
sufficient proof of juvenility the government remained unable to provide the
benefit of this presidential remission and he is still on death row. In December
2014, Anwar came within hours of execution; he remains at serious risk of
receiving another warrant.
Similarly, Muhammad Azam is another
juvenile offender who was arrested in 1998 for murder and convicted and
sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court prior to the JJSO’s promulgation.
Copies of his birth records, jail records, including a copy of the birth roll
confirm he was 17 when he was first admitted into custody. Jail records also
demonstrate that Azam was initially held in Youthful Offenders Industrial
School Karachi — a borstal institution especially designed for juvenile
offenders. Following the 2001 notification, jail authorities sent a request to
the trial court asking the court to determine Azam’s age to ascertain whether
his sentence should be commuted. However, he couldn’t get the relief on the
basis that the court was already functus officio following the conclusion of
JPP in its report asks the government to
reinstate the moratorium in the first instance, especially for those prisoners
who were juveniles or can avail the benefit of reasonable doubt of juvenility
at the time of offence committed. The report additionally asks for the
enforcement of the solid age determination protocols, in compliance with
international legal and policy standards.
As Pakistan prepares for the Universal
Periodic Review in November 2017, it is absolutely essential that it institutes
these measures in order to demonstrate its commitment to human rights in both
the domestic and international arena.
Valentine’s Day may be over but the strife
of our females in respect to the roadside Romeos is not yet done with. Yes, the
heart-shaped crimson balloons, candies and the equally red, palpitating
mullahs-against-Valentines are thankfully out of sight but the Majnus of
lovey-dovey WhatsApp forwards are not. Desi men make such lousy lovers that
Valentine’s day ought to be banned keeping them in mind, not because it is
Haram. What we need instead are Izzat-Karo Day and T-for-Tameez day in the
sub-continent. While the elderly generation of Pakistan squeals with disgust,
beating their chest, at the mere mention of Valentine’s day celebrations, the
same crowd happily accept gifts on Mother’s and Father’s day. Yup, no one ever
seems to have rejected a kurta from Sapphire, neatly tucked in a gift bag from
their offspring, calling it an un-Islamic gesture of love.
There can be no disagreement that loves —
the romantic kind — is one of the purest emotions that a human being can
experience on this planet. After all, ours is the land of Heer Ranjha, of the
fables of Sassi Pannu and also of Bulleh Shah, who advocated love for all
beings irrespective of class and caste. The romantic expression can never be
obscene as long as it is accompanied by sincerity and respect. Take these two
aspects out, however, and one has a relationship that resembles a half-baked
naan, great to look at but tough on the digestive system. Love is beautiful,
Luv not so much; unfortunately, this version of instant-pyar has gripped
Pakistanis like there’s no tomorrow.
Today, it is more important for a young guy
to be seen with as many females as possible to up his sexual quotient amongst
friends as the social value of a devoted man has considerably gone down. Along
with the near-extinction of houbara bustards, family-oriented decent guys also
seem to be diminishing in the country as well. All political parties must look
into addressing this moral vacuum in our society but then again morality and
politics do not go hand and hand, so we shall overlook that.
In the western world, a gora (caucasian)
couple can live together for years, without uttering the sacred three words
but, bhaiyon, I-love-you seems to be dirt cheap here despite the inflation. It
is more inexpensive than onions and potatoes, hence, people love throwing it
around ever so casually, pretty much like the exchange of fire between India
and Pakistan occurring across the LOC every few days.
In the past, our understanding of romantic
love was heavily influenced by the films of Nadeem-Shabnam while Hindi films
also made their contribution. More recently, however, our youth has sought
inspiration from the virtual world and all of its excesses. It is a reason to
worry because lust has been replacing love, not adding to it or enhancing its
value. This is why even platonic friendships between males and females have
heavy undertones of flirting now. Countless married women have also complained
about young lads in their surroundings busy crossing all boundaries of
decencies because suddenly they have the aunty-fever, a new phenomenon to have
hit our country like a cyclone.
In comparison to what goes on in the name
of love today, arranged marriages and relationships of yesteryears appear to be
more wholesome and goal-some than the hollow hashtags and labels of
#relationshipgoals found online. As regressive as it may sound, the romantic
alliances of the 50s and 60s — the generation of the parents and grandparents —
where the bride and groom hardly saw each other’s faces, had more dollops of
love and a lot more kilogram’s of understanding than the shaadi-circus of this
A married female friend of mine believes
that no one is happy in Pakistan because “behen, koi aurat yahan khush nahin
hai chahe married hoya unmarried ho (no female is happy here, be it married or
unmarried).” The wives are forever complaining about their spouses not caring
enough for them or being tortured by them over insignificant issues like having
served them a cold food item while also tending to a munna attached to the
hips. The single ladies also face tremendous social pressures as they have to
listen to the taunts of the aunties of their world, enough to give them
Pakistan is obsessed with weddings and not
crazy enough about love, that is where the fault lines lie, in wanting the Mr.
and Mrs. status without really having the intention of investing into each
Remember that classic song from the
nineties, Ek ladki ko dekha toh aisa lagga? Today men will feel very
differently when they look at a girl, it’s all about her voluptuous assets
rather than definitive facial features like her eyes, hair or smile. If Abrarul
Haque were starting his career in the current decade he would have to modify
the lyrics of his first blockbuster song and transform them into Asaan tey lena
Billu da number. Acquiring more numbers to add to their contacts list gives our
men immense pleasure at the end of their day.
Lust can be pleasurable but it is a
momentary sweetness, an aspect that comes with an expiry date, it can never
compete with true love. True love is almost like a prayer. It demands full
participation, requiring complete presence through the ebbs and flow of life.
Love, in its mythical and also classical untainted form, means never letting go
of your partner’s hand. There is no blocking feature available in this purest
form of affection.
“Welcome to America, but what are you doing
in a Muslim country?” He must have been as usual amused. Colonel (r) Anil Madan
is a Christian from an illustrious family of Lahore. He was visiting the US.
Anil was known for his truthfulness. His Commanding Officer, Colonel Dilawar
Bangesh, called him the best Muslim young officer in the unit. This was despite
the fact that in those days the religion seldom featured in social discourse
and talking sects was considered small-mindedness. Discussions on religion, politics
and women were not allowed in the Army messes. Still, Anil kept reminding us
that one of the most valued traits in a Muslim was truthfulness.
At heart, they were all better Muslims than
today despite being short on rituals. A bearded cab driver was readily
preferred over others. They were famous for their honesty and trustworthiness.
They never preached and never talked about the virtues of saying regular
prayers. In those days wearing religiosity on one’s sleeve was not in fashion.
The performance of rituals in public was a rare exception. Human values were
the primary concern. The bearded cab driver was an example, truthful and
trustworthy. It was by no means a sinless society. It also never bragged about
sin, supported or defended it.
Religiosity as commonly perceived elsewhere
denotes virtuosity, humility, courtesy, love and peace. It does not mean being
a Jew, Christian, Muslim, Hindu or a Sikh as Mr. Trump foxed us into believing
and a notion Mrs. Clinton could not effectively dispel. All the religions were
sent down with the sole purpose of reforming the society and to turn a person
into a good human being. That is why a good Christian is no different from a
good Muslim and vice versa.
The nurse in the doctor’s office had voted
for Trump and not Hillary despite her being a woman and a well-known Women’s
Rights Activist. She had not voted for her because she thought ‘Hillary was a
big liar’. It was perhaps the same email scandal she had in mind. The official
emails found on her private server, which could have been used for ‘private
trading’. Though Trump was a reckless radical, he was still preferred over a
perceived liar. The doctor like me was all for Hillary. In our view, she with
her intellect, experience, balances and grooming, was a perfect mix for a
presidential candidate. She lost because all who voted against her thought she
A mere allegation of lying could prove so
fatal in consequence is a truth Pakistanis will take perhaps centuries to
fathom. Heaps of daily lies, on every aspect of life and governance, glaring
being the power shortage and dependence on foreign loans, shameless statements
on the floor of the House and half-truths being fed to the courts, and it looks
as if the government is taking every one of us as a sheer idiot.
Going back by the virtues of the bearded of
the 60s one thought the previous Chief Judge would make an example of the
kleptomaniac elite. He turned his back on the people. Panama leaks are not an
issue between the government and the opposition. It is a long woeful tale of
people being swindled, exploited and oppressed. The present honourable Chief
Justice has promised Justice. We hope he delivers it not only for the sake of
Pakistan and its people but also for his own sake for his inevitable meeting with
Trump clamped a visa ban on seven Muslim
countries. Constitutionally he is the most powerful chief executive in the
world. Yet, he must have found to his grief that he is not a god. The judges
have stopped Trump in his tracks. His appeal to the Federal Court also proved
fruitless. The legal battle is on.
Nonetheless, there were alarming signals on
the social media for the Muslims travelling back to the US from abroad. I was
one of them. Slightly sceptical when I landed at Chicago airport, the immigration
routine did not take a second more than the normal. In the end, the immigration
officer said, “have a good day.” “Thank you,” I said and back came his thank
you, much louder, warmer and much more reassuring that all the Americans were
not with Trump.
Again, on social media, there was a message
from a Pakistani-American from Texas. The mosque there was completely gutted.
When the devotees reached the sight in the morning, the local community, all
White, all non-Muslims, had already collected over six hundred thousand dollars
for rebuilding the mosque. The local church and the synagogue had offered space
to the Muslims for offering their prayers until the mosque was rebuilt. I felt
a pang of shame in my heart for the treatment meted out to the minorities’
worship places in Pakistan.
When the system of justice takes roots, it
impregnates the heart and soul of the society. Basic human instincts give way
to the finer human values. Justice and fair play become a way of life. Violence
remains no more an option. It is found only in the deranged and the
psychopaths. Our Chief Judge has a tremendous responsibility to change the
entire psyche of this nation. The foremost necessity for survival for the
people of Pakistan is justice, much more than our need for electric power, gas
or even democracy.
The governments will keep changing. There
might come more Trumps as the presidents. The United States of America will
remain the greatest as long as the people here do not give up on human values
of justice and liberty.
President Donald Trump’s controversial
executive order halting the resettlement of refugees in America and banning
travellers from seven Islamic countries has raised concern not only among
liberals, civil libertarians and jurists. It has also led a group of prominent
evangelical Christian leaders to remonstrate publicly with the president who
rode to office in large part on the votes of their flock.
More than 500 of the nation’s most
prominent evangelical pastors, authors and other worthies signed a letter
asking Trump to reconsider the order. The letter, published in the Washington
Post as a full page ad, reminded the president of the Bible’s story of the Good
Samaritan, in which “Jesus makes it clear that our ‘neighbor’ includes the
stranger and anyone fleeing persecution and violence, regardless of their faith
The letter added that “compassion and
security can co-exist,” yet while Americans quarrel about policy, innocent
people die. “For the persecuted and suffering every day matters, every delay is
a crushing blow to hope.”
It’s heartening, amid the wasteland of
cynicism that our politics has become, to see church leaders going out on a
limb, challenging not only Trump but all Christians to attend to central call
of their faith – “to serve the suffering” – even though it involves sacrifice
The clergy are looking at the big picture.
Many are involved in the web of agencies across the nation doing the important
work of settling refugees, and they see the dimensions of the current crisis,
which are being missed by many Americans: We are in the midst of the largest
global migration upheaval since World War II. At least 60 million people around
the world have been forcibly displaced from their native counties, according to
the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, a nonprofit group that has been
aiding refugees for more than a century.
So it’s not a great time for America, long
a beacon to the world’s oppressed, to close its doors.
Resettlement work is labour and time
intensive. It’s social work, largely, with case managers helping refugees move
into apartments, get training and find jobs, enrolling children in school and
helping people learn English. Refugees arrive in their host cities often with
little more than official documents stuffed in a plastic bag.
Refugees are not immigrants in the typical
sense. They don’t leave their countries simply in search of better economic
prospects. Under a 1980 U.S. law, refugees must prove they have been persecuted
or have reason to fear it due to their race, religion, nationality, political
opinion or association with a particular social group. Essentially, refugees
must prove they are fleeing for their lives.
Opponents of immigration offer all sorts of
bogus critiques of refugee resettlement. They accuse social services agencies
of using refugees to greedily get federal funding; they argue our refugee
policies are Cold War relics, no longer needed, and that in any case they don’t
aid the most urgent cases.
Here’s the statistic that ought to make us
all pause: Fewer than 0.1 percent of the world’s displaced people – yes, those
seen on the news floating precariously toward European shores and trudging for
miles with their children strapped to their backs – are ever resettled through
refugee networks. According to the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants,
most live marginal lives in urban areas as unrecognized residents, while many
others languish for years in primitive and unsafe camps.
That sheds damning light on Trump’s refugee
policy. Amid incredible human suffering, the U.S. president has deemed that we
should do less, not more.
Enclosed in their small world of opinions
and arguments, many people believe — and sometimes try to argue — that Trump
and Modi are of the same breed. They are same as chalk and cheese. No doubt,
both have faced stiff resistance in the run-up to the elections. Once they had
come to hold the top chair, this bitterness grew to a crescendo.
Remember the time when women like Nayantara
Sehgal had led an intellectual crusade against Modi. Many litterateurs also
returned awards against the communal posturing of Modi. In a similar manner,
Trump is also rising against a wave of protests since his entrance into the
White House. There are men and women who have resigned and are threatening to
come out of his team, if he continues with his rants and swagger. While in
India intellectuals had run the gauntlet, human rights groups and judiciary
have taken it upon themselves in the US to produce a wall before the sweeping
policy changes of Trump. There remain other similarities between them as well,
including religious overtones. And, yes, of course, if given a hint about their
similarities, Modi might try to replicate the Mexico wall, and build one of his
own against Pakistan. However, his core support base might remind him that the
land across the wall is also India’s. Having said that, the similarities have
extended beyond reasonable limits.
The first point of difference to be noted
between Modi and Trump is that of their method. Modi rode into the power corridors
over horses, which were made of blood. Can anyone in his right mind claim that
Modi could have become the prime minister of India had Gujarat riots not
occurred? In fact, can anyone even claim that the parent organisation of Modi,
BJP, could have come to power without demolishing the Babri Masjid? Only
someone hopelessly insane would believe so.
Blood and BJP are intertwined. From
Savarkar to S M Mookherjee, violence remains a key tool in the discourse. It
was only after violent agitations and subsequent polarisation that the right
wing in India had come close to sniffing distance of powerful chairs. Time and
again, it has been proved that communal polarisation comes to the aid of the
right-wing in India. However, that is not the case with Trump. He does not have
a history of blood on his hands. He might have had his share of Trump towers
and flopped Trump University but there is no Naroda Patiya in his personal
history. His name does not evoke images of loot and plunder; blood and gore;
men and women folding hands, pleading for mercy. At worst, we conjure images of
financial frauds and groping of women, but violence and threats of violence are
far from his electioneering.
Secondly, while religion alone has played a
significant part in the polarisation of Modi, Trump was thrown on the political
horizon of the US by doses of both race as well as religion. The “white
privilege” has itself acquired a kind of a religious status in the US. To be
white, regardless of ancestry, is to be more American than say a red Indian who
is autochthonous, and has more right to the land than Trump himself (and his
These two men belong to right-wing
politics. But their politics is not the same even if they might appear to be
similar. The essential motivating force behind Modi’s right-wing politics is
rooted in religion. He uses Hinduism to unite one religious community against
the rest. That is not true of Trump. If he was only speaking against Islam then
he would not have asked Mexican Christians to stay away from the US. He would
not have threatened to impose higher tariffs on Mexican products, and then use
that in building a wall. He prioritises Christians, however, beneath this
prioritisation is the fear of the different-looking ‘other’. That ‘other’ is
generally anyone who does not have a white colour. This includes all races,
which are not white. Beneath the claims of the new president is the fear of
being overwhelmed by the non-white population. Racial nationalism seems to be
at work here, a racial aggregation, which threatens to take out the rest;
commonly known through terms like white supremacism, white power, and even
white civilisation. Was it not Toni Morrison, the African-American novelist,
who clarified that it is the black, which united the US, and kept them from
killing each other?
One major difference between the two
leaders remains in the terms of protectionism and expansionism. Trump is
withdrawing his country from international agreements and treaties, seeking to
consolidate the internal position of the country. He is erecting a
psychological wall around the collective imagination of the countrymen. He has
been brusque in stating that the mess in the Middle East is due to the Iraq
War, which the US should not have waged. Thus, he is calling for an end to such
However, in the sub-continent, Doval
Doctrine still remains in place, which has and continues to spur active
intervention in foreign countries. The map in the deepest recesses of Modi is
not the one with Jammu and Kashmir on the top but one in which the crown lies
in Afghanistan. Akhand Bharat is a state of mind, and expansionism is, thus, a
congenital need rather than a temporary strategic maneuver. One critical
difference is that while Modi’s opposition has become like Team B of his plans,
Trump’s opposition stands firm on its ideological footing, with no effort to
copy his polarising tactics in order to win back the road to power.