Age Islam Edit Bureau
11 January 2017
Noose And The Internet
By Rafia Zakaria
By Zahhid Hussain
Dilemma Under Erdogan
By S P Seth
Chaulia’s ‘Modi Doctrine’
By Dr Qaisar Rashid
Time To Get Tough With Myanmar
Atif Shamim Syed
By Mahir Ali
By M Zeb Khan
By Zubeida Mustafa
By Riaz Missen
By New Age Islam Edit Breau
January 11th, 2017
IT was winter break at the University of Sindh,
Jamshoro. The campus was largely empty, devoid of the usual students going to
and from class. The women’s hostel, where female students who do not have
family in town stay during the school year, was also largely empty. It was here
that a young student named Naila Rind would meet her end.
According to police and media reports,
Naila was found dead late on the evening of Sunday, Jan 1. She had returned
from her village the day before to complete work on her Masters’ thesis that
was due on Jan 15. In previous years, Naila had bagged a top position in the
university exams. Her body was found suspended from a ceiling fan in one of the
rooms of the hostel. In one more example of the callous disregard towards
women, at least one Pakistani media channel obtained a video of the moments
when the young woman’s body was recovered. Now available on the web, the
intrusive and disrespectful video has received several views.
Cyberspace was not only the venue of the
posthumous disregard of Naila; it may also have played a crucial role in
pushing her to death’s door. One of the items seized by police after the body
was discovered was her mobile phone. It is apparently based on data available
on the phone that police were directed to the alleged involvement of a lecturer
at a private university in Jamshoro, who allegedly befriended Naila on Facebook
and pursued a relationship with her. According to the police, he refused to
marry her and began instead to blackmail her. A number of text messages to him
were found on Naila’s phone; he was also the last person she is said to have
called prior to her death.
Naila Rind’s case reveals just how
vulnerable Pakistani women are to cyber harassment and blackmail.
A few days after the young woman’s body was
recovered, the police, that had declared the death a suicide, conducted a raid
at the lecturer’s home and arrested him. The man, whose father is also a higher
education official, has now been charged upon the complaint of Naila’s brother
Nisar Rind. The family had always held that the case was not (as police
initially held) a case of simple suicide. Naila had never had a history of
depression nor were there any family problems that would have precipitated her
making such a move.
Naila’s case reveals just how vulnerable
Pakistani women are to cyber harassment and blackmail. In the past decade and a
half, hundreds of men have taken to the internet to prey on unsuspecting women
and girls. They then harass and blackmail them on the basis of information they
gather. While the exact details of the lecturer’s relationship with Naila are
not yet known, most of these incidents of cyber harassment follow a familiar
Men target women and girls, often gathering
information about them, their family and their friends from social media websites.
Once they zero in on a victim, they pretend to pursue a relationship, even
marriage, all the while coaxing their victims into divulging information about
themselves that could prove to be embarrassing, wheedling pictures out of them
and involving them in intimate conversations and encounters. All of this
material becomes the basis for their ultimate plan, which is extortion,
blackmail and harassment.
Naila’s case reveals one set of facts via
which harassers can hurt the young women of the country. In others I have
heard, the harassing and blackmailing men are family members, husbands and
cousins and relatives, who force women into compromising situations, make
videos and pictures and then use those to ensure further compliance.
Pakistani society provides a particularly
perfect ecosystem for cyber harassment. The internet is increasingly and widely
available, offering both a window to the world and a place to ‘meet’ members of
the opposite gender in a way that was previously impossible. Even as they are able
to access the internet, few Pakistani women are aware of the dangers of sharing
information online or that the men who may offer compliments can easily turn
into abusers. Add to this the fact that social mores always and forever hold
women responsible for all the ills of society and you have a perfect storm,
where new technology meets archaic ideas about honour and women’s inferiority,
tying a noose around the neck of all Pakistani women.
As is the case with issues such as
workplace harassment and ‘honour’ killings, laws against cyber harassment do
exist but they are rarely enforced, with culprits going largely unpunished.
As a letter written by Nighat Dad, who
heads the Digital Rights Foundation, aptly summarised, the recent cybercrime
bill fails women like Naila because it makes such crimes federal matters. The
consequence of this is that local police in places like Jamshoro are ill
informed and largely ignorant as to how cyber activity can play a crucial role
in the harassment and death of women.
Glaring evidence of this, the letter notes,
is the fact that the FIR lodged in Naila Rind’s case charges the accused under
Section 9 and 13 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Ordinance of 2009. That
law lapsed several years ago. The letter, addressed to the minister of
information, begs the rules for the new (and recently passed) Prevention of
Electronic Crimes Act 2016 to be made public and to actually equip the
cybercrime wing of the Federal Investigation Agency.
In the meantime, what the government has
failed to do, the Digital Rights Foundation is trying to do. If you or anyone
you know is a victim of cyber harassment, you can call the recently inaugurated
Cyber Harassment Helpline; its number is 0800-393-93. Call the number and
remember that the internet, like the rest of Pakistan, can be a dangerous place
Zakaria is an attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy.
THERE has, as yet, not been any denial of
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif’s mumbled comments during a TV interview last
week about retired Gen Raheel Sharif being appointed the chief of a Saudi-led
military alliance. Considering that clear articulation has never been his
strong point, one may take the minister’s mutterings as confirmation.
But the minister has left many questions
unanswered, adding to the confusion over the government’s position on the issue
and whether the appointment of the former chief of army staff indicates a shift
in our policy of staying away from the power tussle in the Middle East. It is
apparent that the former general’s selection to head a multinational force
would hardly be possible without the approval of the prime minister.
It seems that the government is maintaining
deliberate ambiguity on this matter as happened when it was first reported that
Pakistan had joined the so-called Islamic military coalition. Then there are
valid questions too about Raheel Sharif’s own decision to accept the
controversial job that may adversely impact the fine legacy that he left as the
best-remembered army chief.
He is certainly not a freewheeling retired
general who would accept such a politically sensitive position at his own
discretion without the consent of the government. There is no precedence in
Pakistan of a retired army chief seeking a job and that too outside the
Surely the Saudi offer was on the table
long before Gen Sharif’s retirement. Is there any strategic reason behind the
government’s decision to loan a recently retired army chief, or is it Saudi
pressure that we could not afford to resist? Whatever the justification, such a
decision can have serious foreign and domestic fallout.
There is no clarity on how the forces of
different Muslim countries, with divergent interests, can work together.
It has been more than a year since the
young Saudi deputy crown prince, who has been responsible for the kingdom’s
disastrous military adventure in Yemen, announced the formation of a military
alliance of 34 Muslim-majority nations. This unilateral Saudi declaration took
not only Pakistan, but also several other nations on the list, by surprise.
Although the coalition was formed to jointly fight terrorism, its very
composition branded it as a ‘Sunni coalition’.
There has been widespread scepticism of
whether it is really meant to be a coalition against terrorism or just a Saudi
pawn in the power tussle in the Middle East. The lukewarm response from many
member countries makes it extremely doubtful that such a military alliance can
really take off. The exclusion of some Muslim countries including Iran and Iraq
makes it all the more divisive.
There are few countries that are willing to
commit troops to the alliance. So what is there for the former army chief to
lead? Moreover, to fight terrorism, there is a need for closer cooperation
among the intelligence and security agencies of these Muslim countries rather
than a joint military force.
Interestingly, the idea of a military
alliance was floated after Pakistan and some other countries refused to send
their troops to fight along the Saudi forces in Yemen. A joint session of
parliament had rejected the Saudi request, provoking indignation in the
kingdom. It was certainly not in the country’s interest to be a party in the
sectarian divide and the regional power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The Saudi military adventure has only exacerbated the civil war in Yemen and
blocked any move to reach a political solution to the conflict.
Over the past one year, there have been
some significant changes in the Middle East’s power dynamics with the heavy
losses inflicted on the militant Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
Interestingly, many countries that are listed in the Saudi-led coalition are
part of the US-sponsored anti-IS alliance including Iran. In fact, Iran has
played a key role in pushing out the global terrorist group from its stronghold
Meanwhile, Russia is also asserting its
military and diplomatic power in the Middle East forming a separate trilateral
alliance that includes Iran and Turkey to counter IS in Syria. The new nexus
has the tacit support of Washington and other Western countries in enforcing a
ceasefire among various warring sides in Syria. Saudi Arabia, which has been
supporting Sunni militant groups, now seems to be out of the equation in the
Interestingly, Egypt, that has been
receiving massive Saudi financial aid, has also been supporting Bashar
al-Assad’s government against the Saudi-backed opposition. So with all these
divergent interests and shifting alliances, the idea of a new Saudi-led
coalition does not seem to make much sense. Most observers agree that the
formation of a new alliance reflects Saudi Arabia’s growing concern about its
own security and internal stability as it no longer sees the US as a reliable
Washington’s nuclear deal with Iran and its
reluctance to commit ground troops to overthrow the Assad government in Syria
has exacerbated the kingdom’s anxiety. Although the US had welcomed the
proposed alliance there are serious doubts about Saudi Arabia’s seriousness in
fighting violent extremism.
This widespread scepticism is largely due
to the allegation that some Saudi charities continue to provide financial
support to radical Sunni sectarian groups in Pakistan and other Muslim-majority
countries in order to impose their own intolerant and retrogressive concept of
In the past year, there have not been any
discussions and consultations among the member countries on what the alliance
might do. There is also no clarity on how the forces of different Muslim
countries, with divergent interests, can work together. In such a situation,
Pakistan’s participation in the controversial alliance, with its former army
chief heading the joint military force, has serious political repercussions.
The government must take into confidence
parliament and the nation on the issue. It must not allow the former chief to
rent himself out to a controversial alliance with a divisive agenda. It is in
our national security interest that we keep out of the power struggle in the
Zahhid Hussain is an author and journalist.
An interesting recent development about the
multifaceted Middle Eastern crisis was the “Moscow Declaration” in which
Russia, Turkey and Iran suggested that they could become the guarantors of a
Syrian peace deal. That begs the question: what kind of deal it might be? So
far, a political solution mooted at different times by the rebel groups/jihadis
and supported by the US and its allies have involved the removal of Bashar
al-Assad and his coterie as a precondition, though there hasn’t been any clear
alternative to what might follow. Russia has indicated in the past that they
are not committed to Assad and his regime per se but, in the absence of any
clear alternative, the Syrian regime remains the only effective force on the ground
to fight extremists and terrorists of all hues. Iran is clearly committed to
Assad regime, while Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies are aiding and abetting
forces fighting to bring down the Syrian regime. Interestingly, the “Moscow
Declaration” has been followed by a ceasefire between Damascus and some rebel
groups brokered by Russia and Turkey, but Iran, though a signatory to the
tripartite declaration, is not in the picture. Which is telling but that is
another story. In any case, the ceasefire is already faltering.
Turkey’s activist role as a broker and
guarantor needs some explaining. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was,
from the beginning of the Syrian crisis in 2011, all for bringing down the
Assad regime. Now that it has become a party to the “Moscow Declaration”, it
would appear that it might not now be as committed to Assad’s removal as
before, because both Moscow and Tehran do not seem to be considering a
political deal contingent on that.
Turkey finds itself in a bind because
Erdogan’s attempt to revive his country’s role as a successor of sorts to the
Ottomans has run into all sorts of problems because the events in the Middle
East have developed a momentum and trajectory of their own. And in the
meantime, Ankara is now beset with problems of its own which it imagines might
require some deft politicking. The Erdogan administration is imagining an
existential threat for the government and the country from two sources. First
is the Kurds, both inside Turkey and outside, in northern Syria, where they
have virtually carved out an autonomous region with Kurdish YPG fighters
proving to be the most effective force on the ground against IS. They have
operated as US’ virtual ally, supported and backed by it with aerial operations
Ankara is unhappy with the virtual alliance
between the US and Kurdish YPG fighters, as it regards them as terrorists
because of their presumed links with Turkey’s Kurdish PKK movement that has
been fighting for autonomy for the majority Kurdish populated southeastern
region of the country. Ankara fears that an autonomous/independent Kurdish
region in northern Syria will be a magnet for its own Kurdish minority. It is
trying to deal with it at two levels. First, it has put its Kurdish-majority
region under a total security clamp down with almost all Kurds seen as
harbouring separatist designs, leading to large scale arrests and shut down of
normal civilian life. And this seems to have contributed to some terrorist
incidents blamed on the PKK and/or IS.
While Turkey is dealing with its internal
Kurdish problem, it is also seeking to confront Kurdish YPG fighters who have
carved out an autonomous Kurdish region across the border in Syria. To this
end, it has been seeking to convince the US to drop its support of YPG in
favour of Turkey undertaking to take up the fight against IS, which it has done
in places. At the same time, Turkey’s President Erdogan has told the US
emphatically that, “We will not allow the formation of a new [Kurdish] state in
northern Syria.” In other words, the US might, at some point, have to choose
between Turkey and the Kurdish YPG group in its fight against IS.
Erdogan’s Turkey has been feeling let
down/ignored by the Obama administration for all sorts of reasons and is hoping
that the incoming Trump administration might be more responsive to its
concerns. And he has already made a pitch by highlighting the success of
Turkish military action against IS, which Trump regards as the main danger.
Erdogan reportedly said that Turkish troops were about to advance to IS’ de
facto capital in Raqqa and has suggested joint action with the US against its
stronghold but, with the proviso, that the incoming administration would
prevent Kurdish forces from participating in such an operation. In other words,
Turkey is willing to become the main fighting force against IS, if the US would
ditch YPG and the Kurds. At the same time, Erdogan’s dalliance with Moscow is
banking on presumed Putin-Trump special relationship with focus on IS as a
Another of Erdogan’s problem and paranoia
arises from the presumed existential threat from the self-exiled Turkish
cleric, Fetthullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally. His Hizmet movement is
believed to be running a parallel administration infiltrating all branches of the
state encompassing bureaucracy, police, judiciary and even military. The recent
failed military coup to overthrow the Erdogan government was allegedly inspired
and engineered by the Gullenists, with their leader Fathullah Gulen somehow
doing it all through remote control from his exile in Pennsylvania in the US.
Erdogan demanded that Gulen should be handed over to Turkey and since the US
authorities weren’t convinced with the evidence from Turkey about his
involvement, Ankara came to believe the worst about the US in the matter.
Following the failed coup, the Erdogan
administration has gone on a wild hunt to arrest thousands of suspected
conspirators in military and across the board in other branches of the
administration. Which has evoked considerable criticism in the west of heavy
handedness with declaration of emergency to smother all kinds of opposition and
criticism of the Erdogan government. And it is designed to institute a virtual
Erdogan dictatorship. This is making Erdogan increasingly estranged from the US
and its western allies. And he is looking for some leverage from forging a new
path. Therefore, when the Russian ambassador was recently shot by an off-duty
police man unhappy with Moscow’s Syrian intervention, Erdogan had no qualms
about putting the blame fairly and squarely on Gulen’s Hizmet movement,
apparently seeking to have Russia as an ally when the US is proving so
‘difficult’. But Moscow has so far not taken Erdogan’s bait by turning the
Gulen affair into a new cold war issue. Which shows how desperate Erdogan is
becoming, whether he is dealing with the Gullenists and/or the Kurds.
S P Seth is
a senior journalist and academic based in Sydney, Australia.
Dr Qaisar Rashid
Realpolitik determines the contours of the
Modi Doctrine embodied in contact and commercial diplomacy. This is the central
idea of Sreeram Chaulia’s book, “Modi Doctrine: The Foreign Policy of India’s
Prime Minister,” published by Bloomsbury in 2016. Chaulia is an academician
specialising in both international security and international political
economy. This opinion piece intends to discuss Chaulia’s certain ideas
expressed in the book.
Narendra Modi sworn in as the fourteenth
Prime Minister (PM) of India on May 26, 2014. Contrary to the general
understanding of a doctrine — a stated foreign-policy principle of a government
or the head of the government to express preferences of the government —
Chaulia claims that Modi carried along his political career certain principles
which can now be couched in the term doctrine. On page 28, Chaulia writes: “The
earliest signs of what can now be labelled as the Modi Doctrine ... derive from
the travels, impressions, learnings and work experiences from the period of his
youth and middle age.” Here, Chaulia is making three points. First, the
childhood of Modi is not somehow worth mentioning as a contributory factor.
Second, the Modi doctrine is a one-man outlook. Three, like the US President,
Modi is independent of the parliament.
Chaulia claims that Modi practices a kind
of aggressive bi-faceted — contact and commercial — diplomacy owing to two
reasons. First, Modi did social work for Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the
parent organization of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), promoting Hindu
nationalism. For instance, on page 30, Chaulia writes: “Touring, travelling and
contacting as many interlocutors as possible through a kinetic diplomacy are visceral
to the Modi Doctrine. One need not look beyond Modi’s RSS background to
understand why so much weightage is accorded to contact diplomacy [something
like “retail politics” (page 32), to develop “personal rapport” (page 34),
which is the most visible manifestation of the Modi Doctrine].” Second, Modi
intends to temper the damage done to his name when he was the Chief Minister of
Gujarat (2001-2014). For instance, on page 46, Chaulia writes: “For a Modi who
was eager to ‘wash off’ the negative image circulated worldwide by the horrific
anti-Muslim riots of 2002, which he termed as a ‘blot during my tenure’,
all-out commercial diplomacy was a redemptive move. The stigma of being blamed
for inaction or complicity in the religious violence and the related setback of
visa denials from the USA and some European nations had to be answered with a
comprehensive economic developmental agenda as well as outreach to those
nations still open to courting him.” Interestingly, as mentioned on pages 42
and 177, Chaulia thinks that the shared virtue between the Modi doctrine and
the rest of the world (excluding Pakistan) is realpolitik: economic needs
supersedes moral scruples.
Realpolitik is the mainstay of the Modi
doctrine. For instance, on page 222, Chaulia writes: “The Modi Doctrine has
artfully shelved the ‘either-or’ dilemma of India partnering with Israel and
Arab countries. It has managed to de-hyphenate the two, while maximizing gains
from each, a feat enabled by the fact that Sunni Arab states[constituting the Gulf
Cooperation Council, especially Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar, with whom
India’s equations transcend the welfare of its vast diaspora, remittances and
oil supplies] and Israel have controversially, but surely aligned closer with
each other owing to common animosity towards Shia Iran. In 2015, it came to the
light that India had become one of five international venues for secret
back-channel talks between Saudi and Israeli officials to ‘discuss the threat
posed by Iran’.”
Chaulia thinks that in the heart of
realpolitik lies the longing for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)to help India
manufacture and export goods, as China did after Asian Tigers in the 1990s. On
page 41, Chaulia writes: “Modi’s economic agenda of overcoming India’s
unemployment crisis [is] through the China-styled FDI-premised heavy
industrialization and developing the manufacturing sector via his flagship
‘Make in India’ campaign [instead of “current services-driven growth
trajectory...based on the mass deployment of labour and capital” (page 87)].”
Here, the emphasis of the doctrine is on the lower uneducated and unskilled
labour class which can find their limited utility in the services sector,
compared to the reforms introduced by the then Indian PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee
(1999-2004) of BJP and which were focused on the educated and skilled youth of
the middle class. In this way, the Modi doctrine has tried to neutralize the
Communist or Marxist criticism that spoke vociferously for the economic uplift
of millions of down-trodden Indians. Secondly, this point is a realization that
the consequences of making India a market for selling imported goods swept away
much financial gains earned through Vajpayee’s India Shining. The trickle down
from the middle to the lower class could not take place appositely. This time,
Modi complements Vajpayee.
Modi also wants the Indian diaspora to
learn from the Chinese diaspora who made FDI act as a primer for an
investor-exporter model in China. On page 73, Chaulia writes: “The Modi
Doctrine on the diaspora aims inter alia at maximizing FDI from the Indian
diaspora to motor India’s economic growth... As he told over eighteen thousand
desis in Singapore in November 2015, ‘FDI is not only Foreign Direct Investment
but also First Develop India’.” Here, Chaulia does not tell what Modi has done
in India to meet FDI’s pre-requisites: physical infrastructure development,
corporate law making and anti-red tape measures.
Chaulia claims that the Modi Doctrine plays
a balanced diplomacy to secure India’s economic interests. For instance, on
pages 168 and 169, Chaulia writes: “[T]he urgency of containing China through
the ‘pivot’ and other means is obvious in the American strategy...But instead
of bandwagoning with the USA to counterbalance against China, the Modi Doctrine
has adroitly kept China interested in India’s growth through commercial
diplomacy.” Similarly, on page 232, Chaulia writes: “Apart from the USA, the
Modi Doctrine has devoted due attention to a number of European nations and
Canada as part of a multipurpose diplomacy to further India’s economic
interests. It has fashioned a ‘Link West’ agenda to complement the ‘Act East’
policy and presented India as a balanced player that is strategically attentive
in all geographic directions.” Here, Chaulia has projected a bigger role of
India, predicting the success of which is quite premature.
The book is an encomium and has used all
available jargon of international relations to construct the Modi doctrine.
Plainly, there is no Modi doctrine: it is just the Gujarat model of politics
and economy that Modi is trying to impose on the whole of India.
Dr Qaisar Rashid is a freelance columnist and can be
reached at email@example.com
By Atif Shamim Syed
Towards the end of last year, President
Obama announced through an e-mail the decision to lift sanctions against
Myanmar. The reason cited for this generosity was the ‘substantial improvement’
achieved by Burma in its human rights portfolio.
This came as a surprise to the rest of the
world which is witnessing the worst human rights abuses being carried out by
the Burmese army against minority Muslims, the Rohingyas.
Obama had vowed to lift US sanctions during
a visit by Aung San Suu Kyi in September last year. Nobel peace prize winner,
Suu Kyi was a darling of the West who won the general elections in 2015. She
has been severely criticised for remaining silent on the Rakhine state riots of
2012, and recently, for showing indifference towards the genocide of minority
Rohingya Muslims. The Obama administration hailed Suu Kyi’s visit to the United
States as a great diplomatic breakthrough and an attestation of the fact that
the USwas successful in engaging countries it had been ignoring for a long
However, the quiet manner in which the
White House announced the lifting of sanctions in December made it clear that
the continued oppression of the Rohingyas and Suu Kyi’s tacit acceptance of
their genocide, had somewhat blunted Obama administration’s enthusiasm.
According to the United Nations, the human rights violations carried out
against Rohingya Muslims could fall into the category of ‘crimes against
Described by human rights organisations and
the international media as the one most persecuted minority groups in the
world, the Rohingyas are indigenous to the state of Rakhine in Myanmar. The
government, however, maintains that the Rohingya population mostly consists of
illegal immigrants who landed in Rakhine after Burma gained independence in
1948. They were rendered stateless after the Burmese nationality law came into
effect in 1982 stripping them of Burmese citizenship.
The Rohingyas received international
attention in the aftermath of the Rakhine state riots of 2012, and the military
crackdown of 2016.The United Nations has evidence that ultra-nationalist
Buddhists are involved in deliberate religious incitement against the
Rohingyas. The UN also found out that the Burmese security forces are involved
in arbitrary arrests, summary executions, illegal detention and torture against
the unarmed and defenceless Rohingya community.
Though the plight of the Rohingyas has
racial and religious undercurrents, it is also feared that the Burmese army may
have been reaping financial benefits from the systematic persecution of the
Rohingyas, and their subsequent flight from the Rakhine state. The army is
grabbing the lands of the fleeing population and using it for its own
This is why the Burmese army has unleashed
a campaign of terror against the Rohingyas. They are murdered, raped and
economically restricted so that they would leave their lands and flee Myanmar.
More than a hundred thousand Rohingyas fled during the 2012 riots with national
Buddhists. The army did nothing to stop the riots. In fact, by most account, it
took an active part in them. Against this background, the Obama administration
chose to lift sanctions against Myanmar rather than taking Suu Kyi to task over
a series of the most horrible human rights violations being committed in her
On several occasions in the past, Burma has
given written statements that the Rohingyas are Burmese citizens. Having
rebuffed its own written declarations, Myanmar now stands with those countries
that have violated international laws and lost all credibility.
The Rohingyas of Burma are a stateless and
unrepresented people. They are subjected to the worst atrocities at the hands
of Buddhist nationalists and the army of their own country. There is a risk
that the population may become an incessant terrorist threat sometime in the
In such a scenario, the state will subject
the entire community to more repression, and a new bloody cycle of violence
The international community, under the
aegis of the United Nations, has a collective duty to support the Rohingyas.
This would mean putting in place tough economic sanctions against Myanmar
rather than lifting the ones already in place.
Atif Shamim Syed is investment banker and a freelance
PEOPLE who are pumped up about the prospect
of a Trump presidency fall broadly into two categories.
Most of those who voted for the property
magnate and TV show host and many of those who backed him from afar believe —
or at least hope — Donald Trump will do some good, if not on an international
scale or even for his nation as a whole, then at least for specific segments of
society (supposedly beleaguered white males, perhaps, or struggling
billionaires). And, who knows, he might even make America great again.
The second, smaller category of Trump
enthusiasts consists mainly of those who expect the incoming commander-in-chief
to personally deliver the coup de grace to a terminally ailing republic. They
expect the nation under Trump to show its true colours and, as a consequence,
quite possibly self-destruct.
There should be no prizes for guessing which
of these camps Vladimir Putin, who has made no secret of his glee at Trump’s
triumph, belongs to.
More or less all US intelligence agencies
concur that it was Russian hackers who infiltrated the database of the
Democratic National Committee and, directly or otherwise, shared the fruits of
their labour with WikiLeaks.
It remains to be seen how the Putin-Trump
bromance will play out.
The extent to which the latter’s
dissemination of campaign manager John Podesta’s emails in particular
contributed to Hillary Clinton’s shortfall in the electoral college is
undetermined and quite possibly indeterminate. It is perfectly conceivable that
FBI director James Comey’s announcement of another email investigation did more
last-minute damage to the Democratic candidate’s prospects.
At the same time, there is merit in the
argument that Democrats have latched on to the Russian hacking story partly as
a means of banishing memories of key campaign inadequacies whereby Clinton lost
key states despite winning the popular vote by a substantial margin.
The declassified information made available
by the intelligence agencies falls short of being indisputably conclusive.
Perhaps the classified briefings to senior officials, including the
president-elect, effectively clinch the question of the source of the hacking,
although the attribution of personal responsibility to Putin for directing the
operation is likely based on reasonable conjecture rather than verifiable
Overall, the official American version is
by no means impossible to believe — even though one must admit the validity of
the charge on which Trump, notwithstanding his motives, bases his scepticism:
namely the same agencies’ ‘slam dunk’ conclusion that Saddam Hussein possessed
weapons of mass destruction. Sure, they didn’t really believe that but
ultimately offered up what the incumbent administration wanted to hear. Has
something similar happened again?
It’s a valid concern but there is
nonetheless something extraordinary about an incoming president attaching
greater credence to assurances from the Kremlin than to the conclusions of his
nation’s intelligence agencies. And if Putin can almost effortlessly outsmart
the Obama administration, as he did in refusing to retaliate after the US
expelled 35 Russian diplomats over the hacking controversy, no one should be
particularly surprised to find him salivating at the prospect of a Trump
In terms of temperament, the long-standing
Russian incumbent and his soon-to-be American counterpart are poles apart. Even
the Machiavellian streak that they appear to share manifests itself in very
different ways. Putin, the lowly KGB operative who ruthlessly insinuated his
way into the Kremlin (after direct US interference succeeded in securing a
second term in office for the ailing and often inebriated Boris Yeltsin), is a
master of the long game. Trump’s notoriously constricted attention span,
reflected in a tendency towards policy pronouncements restricted to 140
characters, is supplemented by a Manichaean worldview whereby, at least for the
time being, Russia can do no wrong and China can do nothing right.
Exactly how — and for how long — the
Vladimir-Donald bromance will play out on the world stage remains to be seen,
of course. Many of Trump’s Republican colleagues have a far less benign view of
Moscow’s machinations, in some cases as a consequence of residual hostility to
all things Russian derived from an unreconstructed Cold War mentality (the
equally absurd counterpoint to which is the tendency among some in the
international left to gaze at Putin’s fiefdom through spectacles clouded with
nostalgia for the Soviet Union.)
Ingrained hostility between Moscow and
Washington is obviously not a desirable state of affairs. It’s not without
cause, though, that Putin and Trump share an expanding fan club across the
European far-right landscape.
Anyhow, it should become clear before too
long whether the unfolding drama is likely to be the 21st century’s defining
tragedy, a vulgar comedy, or merely an intermittently entertaining farce.
January 11, 2017
The UNDP has suggested five principles of
governance for the 21st century. These principles include the fact that all
citizens should have a voice in decision-making and development should be
driven by a long-term perspective with due consideration given to
In addition, institutions that deliver
public service should be credible, responsive, and efficient, decision makers
in government, private sector, and civil society organisations should be
accountable to the public, and all people should have equal opportunities and
enjoy equality before the law.
Islam does not give a detailed account of
what an Islamic state should look like and how it should function. It, however,
gives some signposts and broad principles that guide the conduct of state and
statesmen in Muslim majority countries.
Designing the nuts and bolts of any system
of governance is better left to Muslim scholars to work out – with due
importance given to the Islamic spirit and prevailing conditions. A workable
arrangement, therefore, always requires reconciliation between faith and
reason. As this reconciliation does not endure for long, Islam recognises
ijtihad (intellectual struggle) as an important instrument of law-making to
keep its spirit alive and ensure that its application remains feasible.
At the centre of governance in Islam is the
question of selecting the ruler (caliph or sultan as they were historically
called). The name of Abu Bakr (RA), to lead the Muslim Ummah as its first
caliph, was proposed by a group of prominent companions of the Holy Prophet
(pbuh). It was subsequently endorsed by others through an oath of allegiance.
Umar (RA) was designated by the incumbent caliph and endorsed by Muslims
Before his death, Umar (RA) constituted a
six-member council to nominate a caliph on the basis of a majority vote and
Usman (RA) was, thus, chosen as the next caliph. Similarly, the choice of Ali
(RA) as the fourth caliph was based on a criterion dictated by the given
This implies that there is no one way of
selecting a Muslim ruler and that any mechanism is justified, provided it
legitimately ensures public trust and support.
Another vital issue relates to
policymaking. Though the caliph had the final say in making decisions, he never
deviated from the mainstream opinion of scholars and the shura (governing
council). Abu Bakr (RA) declared publicly that Muslims were obliged to follow
his orders if he followed the Quran and Sunnah and must stop him if he failed
to adhere to Islamic principles of governance.
New situations and unique problems were
handled by seeking guidance from the Quran and Sunnah. In case of the unavailability
of clear injunctions and precedence, the matter was resolved through
independent judgment by the shura. Ijtihad, thus, constituted the central
pillar of law-making in Islam.
Ijtihad, however, was not performed in
isolation but was based on the Islamic framework of human welfare, which has
been thoroughly investigated and elucidated by Imam Ghazali and Shah Wali
Ullah. The overarching goals of Islamic
governance/shariah have been identified as the preservation of faith, life,
lineage, intellect, and property.
The instrument of ijtihad made Islam
flexible to learn from, making it easier assimilate the positive aspects of
other cultures and civilisations without compromising on its core values. Islam
has made strides in regions as diverse and distant as Asia, Africa, and Europe
within a few decades, simply because it struck the right balance between the
need for universal brotherhood (ummah) and diversity.
Islam, in a sense, promotes a governance
system that is based on the concept of glocalisation – universal principles and
IT was 1957 and we had returned to college
after a restful summer vacation. We had braced ourselves for the discipline
that was the hallmark of the St Joseph’s College for Women (SJC) under the
watchful eye of Sister Mary Bernadette, who was the principal.
As I entered the college premises, I saw a
petite figure in the nun’s white habit walk briskly before me. It wasn’t the
principal, who moved slowly with a stoop that comes with age. We didn’t have to
wonder for long. At assembly we were introduced to our new vice-principal,
Sister Mary Emily. She sailed into our lives like a breath of fresh air and
departed equally quietly last Sunday.
Sister Emily revitalised us. But more than
that she infused dynamism into this premier institution that she was to head
four years later. For me it was the beginning of an association that lasted 60
years, during which she guided not just me but also several generations of
Karachi’s young women through stormy times giving us a sense of security and
stability. A recipient of the Sitara-i-Imtiaz, Sister’s wisdom, her
scholarship, her tact in handling students, her administrative skills and above
all her humanism, made her an institution in Karachi’s academia.
She may not be there anymore but she lives
on in her students’ hearts.
Born in Mangalore (India) in 1919, Sister
Emily joined the congregation in 1944. Her teaching career had begun four years
earlier in a school in Byculla. She went on to do a double MA in English and
Economics. She was teaching in a college in Calcutta before she was transferred
to Pakistan in 1957. Thereafter, this land became her home.
For years her life and activities revolved
around the educational institutions of the Catholic Board of Education (CBE)
but mainly the SJC which she nurtured with love and care. As a result it grew
to be the most prestigious women’s college in Karachi producing some of the
finest women from all walks of life in Pakistan.
In her life dedicated to education the
first shock came in 1972 when the SJC was nationalised under the education
policy of the Z.A. Bhutto government. Dubbing it as an “experiment in egalitarianism”
Sister would describe to me how the college survived. Since she was widely
respected, Sister Emily was reappointed as the principal of the college, which
passed into government hands. That allowed her to look for solutions within the
parameters of nationalisation.
From 1,100 the enrolment jumped to 1,400
overnight because the government wanted more students to be admitted. In that
period I would often visit her and she spoke of the pressure she was under from
the education department and how the resources for the college provided in the
budget had fallen sharply forcing her to cut down on expenses. But she resisted
the pressure in order to safeguard her principles. Her integrity and confidence
gave her strength and even the most powerful of policymakers and bureaucrats
had to think twice before challenging her. Thus Ghulam Mustafa Shah, the
minister of education overseeing nationalisation, is known to have once
exclaimed, “Na baba na mein us Sister say takkar naheen loonga.”
Although the college couldn’t maintain its
standards it could maintain its reputation. But after three extensions Sister
retired in 1985, students’ vociferous demands notwithstanding. She returned to
the Convent where she was given charge of the Marie Therese Institute of Arts and
Sciences. She threw herself wholeheartedly into creating another institution
that she could be proud of.
It was therefore a red-letter day for
Sister when in July 2005 the SJC was handed back to the CBE. Sister Emily was
appointed its new principal. Now there were more problems to be addressed:
balancing budgets, upgrading teachers and restoring the discipline of the
pre-nationalisation days. To set things right after a slide of 33 years under
bureaucratic control was not easy. Sister was the only one who could lead SJC
to its former glory. And she did.
But time and tide wait for no one. When the
college was restored to its rightful owners, Sister Emily was 86. Over the
years I had seen her knees giving her trouble. In college her living quarters
were on the top floor and her office was a floor below. Climbing stairs was
increasingly becoming painful for her. On bad days, she would stay upstairs and
the office went up to her. The pain wouldn’t abate yet there was no slackening
of work. But how long can one resist nature? In 2010 she retired again.
Sister may not be there anymore but she
lives on in our — her students’ — hearts and memory. In an interview she had
told me, “It is a wonderful thing to work with young people. What thrills me
most is the awareness I have that I am helping to build the builders of
Rest in peace dear Sister, those you
steered through life will miss you!
Khyber-Pukhtunkhwah government has decided
to close down 360 state-run primary schools, where the number of enrolled
students is not more than 50, in Mansehra district and hand over the buildings
to deputy commissioner for some other use.
The decision, taken in order to rationalize
expenditure and improve quality in education sector, would affect 250 boys and
110 girls school. Teachers will be assigned duties within the district,
wherever required but it is not so far clear what will happen to students of
There are widespread concerns about poor
academic achievement and school attendance, particularly that of girls and
children living in rural areas.
Due to weak governance and budget
constraints, schools lack resources, teachers are ill-trained and without accountability.
The entrenched use of pedagogical practices are not suitable to very young
Teacher-led classes allow limited
teacher-child interaction whereas lessons focus on skill transfer through rote
learning. There is left little space for children to explore ideas outside the
realm of the text books.
Gender inequities occur because parents of
girls often do not favour sending their girls to schools. Accessibility and
cultural barriers also stand in their ways.
Understandably, several factors affect
attendance in schools. Low population is one reason, poverty the other. Yet,
there is trend, quite noticeable both in urban and rural areas, that parents
prefer private schools for better results against the fact that public sector
institutions’ performance is on decline since last decade.
How to address the problem of inadequate
teaching methods, poor learning among students and, above all, scarcity of
resources in education sector? The solution rests with radio, something that
appears to be sliding in background after the arrival of satellite TV.
Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI), a
distance education system that combines radio broadcasts with active learning
to improve educational quality and teaching practices has been in use for more
than 25 years and has been found effective at low cost.
IRI can be used effectively to overcome
obstacles of access and increase the chances that students from poor families
can receive quality education as well. Retaining its core elements the
radio-based teaching method continues to evolve to meet new educational and
IRI has ushered a revolution in in some
developing countries boosting literacy to unprecedented levels by reaching out
students in far flung and, otherwise, inaccessible regions.
West Africa, Thailand and Bolivia have used
radio to improve quality of education in countryside overcoming scarcity of
material and better trained teachers.
Pakistan’s experience with IRI is rather
recent. It is being implemented in primary schools of Quetta district by
Power99 Foundation, which has so far successfully engaged students and parents
of both rural and urban areas of Islamabad, KP and Southern Punjab.
The project “Broad Class — Listen to Learn”
is designed as an interactive, pedagogical approach for improving literacy,
numeracy and healthy habits among young school-aged children (KG-Grade II) of
marginalized communities and affords parents the opportunity to listen to
lessons through radio broadcast and, hence, be involved in their children’s education.
The nonprofit organization stands tall in
introducing the radio-based instruction method in Pakistan and earning the
distinction of designing and implementing the ‘Most Innovative Development
Project’ in the world by Global Development Network in 2016.
The scale of the success IRI has met in
Pakistan can be gauged by the fact that in Haripur district of
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, it has involved 8,860 children of 165 schools, 4370 members
of parents and community members and 591 teachers and government officials for
a duration of 18 months during 2014 and 2015.
KP had committed to utilize Challenge Fund
in expanding IRI project to all schools of the province by directorate E &
SE but the Peshawar tragedy of 2014, whereby dozens of students and teachers
were massacred by militants at Army Public Schools, changed the priority of the
battered province from education to the security of schools.
Federal Education Directorate wrote to
Joint Secretary CAAD in March 2013 that the parents and stakeholders had
approached it to introduce IRI system in the schools not in the loop. Here the
Michelle Obama fund had to be diverted to raising school walls, obviously for
security reasons and the IRI project was left un-attended.
Punjab remains too much obsessed with steel
and tar concerns and has not shown any solid interest in IRI to bridge its
Having vast experience in teaching and
personally knowing the problems of parents vis-à-vis providing quality
education to their youngsters, the CEO of Power99 Foundation, Ms. Fakhira Najib
says radio is an excellent tool of communication to reach out children of far
flung areas of Pakistan.
Fakhira is working hard to upgrade Broad
class up to class V believing that there is no other shortcut available to
Pakistan for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) vis-à-vis
literacy the country has committed itself to. Understandably, she is looking
for the governments (both federal and provincial ones) to come forward and play
their part after she has set the course with the help of international donors.
Riaz Missen is Director at the Center for Policy and