New Age Islam Edit Bureau
08 December 2017
Weight of the Moderates
By Asha’ar Rehman
Jirga Violence and Punitive Justice
By Marria Qibtia
IMA Can Succeed If
By M Fazal Elahi
China’s Foothold In Central Asia
By Dost Muhammad Barrech
It Wasn’t English
By Zubeida Mustafa
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
December 08, 2017
ON the evening of Oct 10, 2002, a group of Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) activists gathered outside polling stations in the NA-124 Lahore constituency to celebrate. They believed they had won the seat voting which had ended a few hours earlier.
A victory would have been no flash in the pan so far as the MMA’s performance in that general election in 2002 was concerned. The alliance had done quite well in those polls. It had swept the NWFP — now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Even in the settled plains of Lahore, three MMA candidates — all belonging to the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) that according to experts combined Deobandi and Barelvi features as the remedy — had returned from three National Assembly constituencies.
There was a difference though. Quite unlike the loud campaign the MMA had mounted in the three areas in the Punjab capital where the Jamaat men had won, the alliance’s nominee in the NA-124 constituency had not generated too much noise. He didn’t quite have the profile of a Farid Paracha or Hafiz Salman Butt or a Liaqat Baloch, the successful JI trio that had a history of doing well in the Lahore elections, of course with the help of Mian Nawaz Sharif. To give an idea of just how much of an outsider the non-Jamaat MMA candidate was and what great odds he was faced with, he did not enjoy the crucial Sharif blessings in the contest. At least not publicly.
Aitzaz Ahsan was the PPP candidate for the seat. In honour of his role as the lawyer for Nawaz Sharif who had been deposed as prime minister three years earlier, the PML-N had chosen not to field a party nominee against him. Fortune tellers predicted an amble for Mr Ahsan, with some resistance from PML-Q’s Rohail Asghar.
It has always been a matter of giving a call and they are set to flock to the squares.
The results were startling. Not only did Khurram Rohail give the veteran Aitzaz a run for his money, ‘the little known’ MMA man, an allama not many in the mainstream saw coming, arrived within touching distance of knocking out the renowned heavyweight. Aitzaz got 27,000-odd votes to the more than 23,000 each polled by Khurram Rohail and the low-key, unnoticed MMA allama whose campaign had an almost surreptitious quality. The MMA man did outscore the PML-Q by 600 or so votes and to this day some of his supporters say he had actually secured an upset win which was overnight turned into a defeat.
The narrow win was later explained by applying the classic theory: the PPP voters will never vote for someone who hails from the PML-N and vice versa. This was further backed by the Aitzaz decision that had him run from another NA constituency as well, in Bahawalpur where he won hands down. But, ultimately, for anyone keen on looking for clues to future trends, the MMA’s near-heist was one of the most remarkable occurrences of that election in Lahore.
The man who came so close to causing that upset is Allama Abid Jalali, a respected Barelvi cleric in his own right. He is the younger brother of Dr Asif Ashraf Jalali, the current chief of the Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah which is now in the forefront of the movement to assert Barelvi interests in Pakistan’s politics. Dr Jalali is faced with a stiff challenge from within his school most seriously from Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi.
Barelvi groups have been trying and it’s up to you which instance from the past you choose to cite. By some accounts fed on the sheer numbers, it has always been a matter of giving a call and they are set to flock to the squares. In the same 2002 general election where Allama Abid Jalali provided a glimpse of the Barelvi quality to organise and challenge the mainstream players out of the blue, a few kilometres away in Lahore, Dr Tahirul Qadri offered a more public example of the Barelvi intent in the contest for NA-127. Dr Qadri won that seat narrowly, polling around 24,000 votes.
The two parallels, one manifest in Dr Qadri’s close election and the other in the attempt by Allama Abid Jalali to sneak into the Assembly, have been debated by Barelvis for long. The debate seems to have picked up in recent years just as analysts, eg Khaled Ahmed, have discussed the possibilities of Barelvi elements attempting a more assertive presence if not dominance in the face of fears about Deobandi hegemony, spurred by such developments as the Taliban’s rise.
At the same time, the subduing of forces hoping to create a mixture that appealed to large number from amongst both the Deobandis and Barelvis — eg the JI experiment — has added to the restlessness of those who have been craving greater control over proceedings. There’s also a feeling that the mainstream parties easily co-opt Barlevi elements within to the extent that they are rendered totally ineffective for any meaningful religious service. The Mumtaz Qadri hanging, a singularly salient event in history, acts as a catalyst. It has opened the floodgates.
One fear stalking the camp is that if the Barelvis let this opportunity go they will be pushed back to the position where the best they could hope for was trying to influence the established political parties from within. This is what the eminent Barelvis — these custodians of famous astanas and shrines — have been trying to achieve from within, inside the PPP, the PML-N, the PML-Q, etc.
These groups have recently seen how helpless and desperately lonely a moderate Dr Tahirul Qadri sitting in the National Assembly can be — to the point where he chooses to resign his seat. They know their strength from recent polls and from events such as the near-ambush they managed that October day in a complacent Lahore in 2002. They think they can do it by raising a slogan that is direct. They are eager to shed their moderate credentials which have become an unwanted burden on them.
December 7, 2017
Pakistan manifests its failure to clamp down on the resort to ferocity as a means of retributive justice, conveniently practised under the banner of Jirga system. The recent murder of a young couple on the orders of a Jirga in Karachi for contracting a marriage of their choice is proof. Considered a parallel system of justice, the Jirgas not only engage in a brutal negation of the human-right values enshrined in the Constitution but also by virtue of their draconian edicts make life a pandemonium for individuals. Despite the fact that the Jirga system was outlawed by the Sindh High Court in 2004, till date it runs wide across the country.
Jirgas assume a problematic posturing on several fronts. Claiming to provide speedy justice to individuals, the dynamics of Jirga operation manifest a repugnant reality, where justice is not only denied but ferociously condemned for individuals who trespass the prescribed repressive social code of conduct that primarily converges on the problematic expression of freewill of individuals.
Additionally, the potential notion of women seeking justice from a Jirga usually sounds a death knell for the victim. The fact that women are not sanctioned as a Jirga’s members, witnesses or complainants, instead can only access it through male relatives, manifests the misogynistic bearing of this system. Thus, it does not come as a surprise that Pakistan has been declared the fourth-worst country for women by the Georgetown Institute of Women Peace and Security.
The victims of Jirga violence are pushed to the periphery, where they exist in a liminal space, categorically marking their subservience to this vehement system. Lacking the ability to pronounce their disagreement over the Jirga’s edicts for fear of further reprisal, it is high time that robust measures were taken to give voice to the victims and to deal with this issue at the earliest.
For this, the government needs to realise the exigency of curbing the Jirga system at the earliest. Instead of manifesting its obliviousness to the grating reality of Jirgas by attempting to give legal cover to them under the Alternate Dispute Resolution Bill, it is time that the policymakers realised that coercive measures are mandated to provide justice. This goal cannot be attained if national leaders continue being active participants in Jirga proceedings and deliberations. A case in point is that of Baloch senator Israrullah Zehri who defended the grotesque killing of five innocent girls, who were tragically shot and buried even before they were pronounced dead, all because this act was seen to be in consonance with the Jirga’s edict.
Secondly, it must be realised that deterrence serves as half the cure for grave social ills. Justice becomes a farfetched dream when offenders come to be conveniently released on bail enjoying the backing of a political bigwig. This simply undermines the attempt of addressing lawlessness in society, and serves as a bait for potential criminals.
Moreover, in clamping down on Jirga violence, the local media can play a significant role in condemning the Jirga justice in favour of formal judicial process. Local newspapers do disseminate news of ‘honour killings’ every now and then, but it is the rural target audience that needs to be informed of their fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution, particularly Article 25 that sheds light upon concerns of gender equality, women’s empowerment and the Principles of Policy that protect the institution of marriage, unit of family and relation of child, something that Jirga system edicts are inconsistent with.
It is high time that concerted efforts were rendered to cure this malaise or else it would not be long before there would be another loss of an innocent life, unfathomably killed because of the exercise of her right to exert autonomy, and hence to live.
THE Pakistan media, like the world media and media of the Arab world, was abuzz with news pertaining to the first summit of the new Islamic Military Counterterrorism Coalition (IMCTC), also referred as Islamic Military Alliance (IMA), which kicked off and concluded in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Sunday, November 26, 2017. The distinguished Saudi Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman was at the helm at the grand event in which reportedly, some 41 Islamic countries were represented.
In his inaugural address, after opening the first high-level meeting of the KSA-led Alliance of Muslim nations against terrorism, vowed and said that the extremists will no longer “tarnish our beautiful religion.” Mohammed bin Salman’s words came as the Islamic State (IS) group, which kindled the creation of the Alliance, has been driven out of Iraq and lost its self-described capital in Syria. What, however, was glaringly noticeable was the conspicuous absence of Iran, Iraq and Syria from the meeting, because the Alliance, as reported in the media, does not include these 3 countries. Qatar was noticeably absent from the meeting in spite of being a member of the alliance. It is believed that Qatar did not send its representative to attend the one-day Riyadh meet due to the diplomatic standoff between Doha and four Arab nations led by the kingdom.
Addressing the Defence Ministers and other high-ranking officials, the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the first meeting of the IMA sends “a strong signal that we are going to work together and coordinate together to support each other.” “The biggest danger of this terrorism and extremism is tarnishing the reputation of our beloved religion. … We will not allow this to happen,” Prince Salman emphasized. “Today we start the pursuit of terrorism and we see its defeat in many facets around the world especially in the Muslim countries. … We will continue fighting it until we see its defeat,” he further stressed.
Expressing his views at the summit, Pakistan’s former army chief and the coalition’s military commander, Gen Raheel Sharif said “A number of our member countries are under tremendous pressure while fighting well established terrorist organizations due to capacity shortages of their armed forces and law enforcement agencies. Highlighting the fundamental objective of the Alliance he said IMA will act as a platform to assist member countries in their counter-terrorism operations through intelligence sharing and capacity building.” Gen. Raheel Sharif further said that while all individual states were making unparalleled efforts to deal with the menace of terrorism, the required level of synergy and resources was lacking.
One couldn’t agree more with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when he says “The biggest danger of terrorism and extremism is tarnishing of the reputation of our beloved religion.” One would also be inclined to agree with General Raheel Sharif, the coalition military commander when he says “Fight against the faceless enemy with extremist ideology is complex and challenging, and requires collaboration.” Unambiguously, collaboration among Islamic countries is a crucial factor in effectively dealing with menace of extremism and terrorism. It is critically significant when seen in background of inability of Islamic countries to deal with it individually, due to lack of resources.
What, however, must be closely monitored and evaluated by the Alliance members is the response of the powers that be to the creation of IMA, formed to counter the perils of terrorism in the Muslim world. Predictably, the US and its allies in particular would look at this military coalition of the Islamic countries from a different perspective. They may consider it as emergence of a new, cohesive and cogent Islamic power burgeoning to make room for itself in the map of the world. If that turns out to be the case then they would not wholeheartedly support the creation of the IMA. They may, to the contrary, start taking covert measures to undo the coalition, through every possible means, as quickly as possible.
The IMA is in its embryonic stage. It would, therefore, not only be too early but also unjust to predict its effectiveness and success. In view of the foregoing reality the nascent alliance, to avoid the cryptic endeavors of the powerful western nations of the world to water down its existence, will have to move extremely cautiously and judiciously. It would have to ensure that it would, under no circumstances, violate parameters of it basic mandate; “mobilising and coordinating use of resources, facilitating the exchange of information, and helping member countries build their own counter-terrorism capacity,” to effectively eradicate terrorism from their soil. Any attempt, deliberate or inadvertent, to deviate from this mandate would not only weaken alliance, it may also seriously put its existence at stake.
Pakistan, also a member of the recently constituted Islamic Military Counterterrorism Coalition (IMCTC), can play a positive role in ensuring that cohesiveness among the coalition members is aptly ensured and the mandate of the Alliance is strictly adhered to. With Pakistan’s former army chief, General Raheel Sharif at the helm as coalition commander attainment of this vital goal shouldn’t prove to be very difficult. It must be ensured that Pakistan doesn’t become a party to any aggressive designs of the Alliance, if any, against any Islamic State, at any time, as it will be outright breach of the fundamental mandate of the Alliance. It goes without saying that any such escapade on the part of the Alliance would, for sure, put relations of Pakistan, a country already brutally battered by the menace of terrorism, with those countries at stake.
REGIONS blessed with natural resources have always been a bone of contention among regional as well as global powers. The Central Asian States, landlocked and full of natural resources, became independent after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, which also triggered the quest of global powers to dominate the newborn Central Asian states. One of the main factors of the US attack on Afghanistan after 9/11 was to have an influence in Central Asia. China, unlike the US, desires to initiate development projects in Central Asia. China under current juncture seems to be the neighbouring country of the entire world, reaching every nook and corner of the world for economic development. China is the first country in the last two centuries, breaking the so-called US Monroe doctrine 1823, not allowing the Great Britain to have an influence in Western-Hemisphere. China has even reached Western-Hemisphere to promote economic development.
Being a close neighbouring country of the Central Asian Republics (CARs), China has many reservations in its consideration. The proximity Xinxiang region of China, where the separatist movement is underway is having ethnic, religious as well as cultural affinities with western borders of Central Asia, causing fear and anxiety for China. Besides, China is committed to promoting geo-economic strategies with the CARs to guarantee stability and security in the region. Bilateral relations of China with Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have improved and have resolved border disputes. Central Asia, well-known for natural resources will quench the Chinese energy security. China, since 1993, has been importing oil from Central Asia. The Chinese President, Xi Jinping, visited Kazakhstan in 2013 and initiated “Silk Road Economic Belt” (SREB) a part of “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) initiative. Xi Jinping, during his speech, accentuated the economic ties and trade with the Eurasian region, further said that “we should take an innovative approach and join hands in building an economic belt along the Silk Road.” China without SREB cannot find a foreseeable route for OBOR. The SREB initiative is the Chinese periphery policy since the disintegration of the Soviet Union amid at consolidating cordial ties and reshaping geopolitical scenario in the region.
Russia initiated the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) to promote regional cooperation, desired to exclude China. The inclusion of China in the EEU created a divergence of interests in Russia and China. Russia’s interest differed from that of China in creating free trade zone. The SREB for Central Asia paves the way for transport network, highways, railways and airways communications and digital infrastructure as well as oil and gas pipelines. China through the SREB can easily reach the West to establish a Eurasian Economic Corridor. Participation of CARs in the SREB has multifaceted advantages in reaping the fruits, benefiting from huge investments of China in developing their national infrastructure and consolidation of economies. Above all, being transit countries, between China and Europe, Central Asian States will get monolithic transit fee. China in 2009, granted US$10 billion loan to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) to support the Central Asian States in coping with the economic crisis. By supporting them, China in 2012, offered another loan of US$10 billion accordingly.
Xi Jinping’s visit to Central Asia in 2013 promoted the idea of the SREB and signed agreements of worth US$48 billion with the Central Asian States, stimulating energy, trade as well as infrastructure development. China in November 2014, announced US$40 billion to create Silk Road Fund to support building transport infrastructure will solely be funded by China. Meanwhile, the US is interested in expanding democracy in Central Asia and Afghanistan. China incompatible with the US, intends to promote regionalism under the tutelage of the SCO. Intriguingly, SCO in its declaration did not mention promotion of democracy in Central Asia, emphasised non-interferences in domestic affairs of states and respect for the sovereignty. Regionalism of China in Central Asia, by and large, strengthens the China’s Grand Strategy of peaceful rise.
Economic developments cannot be carried out without challenges and obstacles. China, for the time being, has made tremendous headway in Central Asia. But threats of non-state actors cannot be ruled out in the region. The Islamic State (IS) has already released a video, showing a Turkic Muslim of Uyghurs, the region of China, threatening China. Resultantly, Xi Jinping called for a “great wall of iron.” His remarks were attributed to protecting the western part of China. Xi Jinping’s views by Western media were marked to Central Asia. On the other hand, Russia has military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and is the biggest supplier of arms to the five Central Asian States. There is a great deal of divergence in the interest of China, the US and Russia in the region. The divergence of interest between the global powers will always have ramifications for any the region of the world. To conclude, Halford Mackinder in his paper titled “The Geographical Pivot of History.” says “whoever controls Eurasia controls the world.” History is replete with innumerable testimonies that great powers have always strived to have dominance in Eurasia. To have control over Eurasia, China will have to demonstrate its economic and military power in Central Asia.
AT the inaugural session of its 70th anniversary conference, the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, Karachi, did us proud when the proceedings were conducted in Urdu. It was a pleasure to hear chaste Urdu perfectly articulated at an occasion not dominated by our Urdu litterateurs.
I was told that this was at the suggestion of President Mamnoon Hussain who was the chief guest. Masuma Hasan, the chairperson of the institute, confirmed it, adding that it was her idea as well. Urdu is Pakistan’s national language, so no one should challenge Masuma’s decision. However, the smooth sailing at the PIIA function made me wonder why the demand for other provincial languages being given the same constitutional status cannot be considered favourably.
To my surprise, a retired Urdu-speaking ambassador expressed his disapproval at the use of Urdu on this occasion. His argument was that today English is the language of international diplomacy and it ill behoves an institution of national standing to use Urdu in a formal gathering with foreigners present.
“I could see the bored looks on their faces,” he remarked. That further amazed me because arrangements had been made for simultaneous interpretation, and headphones were being passed around for those who needed them.
English is destroying our education system.
To argue about the language in which the proceedings were conducted is meaningless in this context. True, English is more useful in bilateral negotiations when both sides understand its nuances and idioms. But on an occasion like the inaugural session of the PIIA’s conference, no such exchange of views is involved. So our own language is best suited. What was there to be ashamed of in having interpreters convey the symbolic message for the benefit of those who were not familiar with the Urdu language?
The fact is that we are obsessed with English to an irrational extent. A fortnight earlier, at a language conference at Sindh University, Hyderabad, it was reported in this paper that “scholars had urged the youth to learn English to survive and progress in a competitive, fast-paced and challenging world”.
One would not argue with the suggestion that English facilitates the youth to get ahead in a globalised world. But we must recognise that we also have people who can contribute to society and the economy without being fluent in it. I know many young men whose expertise in computer programming and internet technology is excellent though their competence in English is perfunctory — just enough to comprehend technical literature on the subject (which I can’t).
Should they be penalised for their incompetence in English? Yet English has been made the ‘gatekeeper’ in our education system — to use the term used by Maleeha Sattar, a lecturer at Iqra University, Islamabad — when we cannot even teach the language properly to all our students.
As a result, English is not only destroying our indigenous languages which stand in danger of becoming extinct, it is also undermining our education system and intensifying the class divide in our society.
In the course of her MPhil research, Maleeha Sattar found that by making English a compulsory subject that must be cleared in school-leaving examinations across the country, the authorities marginalise a large number of students. Mainly from the underprivileged classes, they fail the compulsory English exam. According to her data obtained from the Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education, Rawalpindi, for the last five years, nearly a third of students on average failed compulsory English every year. They cannot proceed further in their education which affects their future prospects.
A speaker at the Hyderabad conference, Dr Asantha Attanayake, a professor of English at Colombo University, identified another problem that English poses. The unrealistic expectations set by the ‘brown sahibs’ for students in terms of accent, elocutionary standards and usage can push many behind.
But Sri Lanka has made adjustments to prevent students from being disadvantaged on account of English. Asantha told me that it is mandatory for all students to appear for the English paper in their General Certificate Examination (Advanced Level). But they are not required to pass it to qualify as GCE (A/L) and can join diploma/certificate programmes. However, they must pass their English paper for admission to a university. Sri Lanka is also more sympathetic to the idea of young children starting their education in their home language which might be Sinhalese or Tamil. Some schools introduce English at the secondary level and that too “incrementally” (ie only for a few subjects).
The point to be noted is that in Pakistan many talented young people are losing out because they never got the opportunity to learn good English, that has been made the be all and end all of success in life. As for our perfect-English-speaking diplomats, one can ask them where have our foreign policy ‘successes’ taken Pakistan?