On being ‘Kafir’

By Asghar Ali Engineer
Friday, 13 Aug, 2010

IN a recent plane crash in Pakistan, a Hindu youth who was a member of Youth Parliament, Pakistan, died and apparently someone wrote ‘
kafir’ on his coffin which ignited a controversy.
Many Pakistanis condemned the action and instead wrote ‘We love you’, a humane thing to do. Nevertheless it shows how many Muslims treat non-Muslims as kafir. It is, therefore, necessary to throw some light on the issue.

Prem Chand Pakistani

The need is to understand the word ‘kafir’ etymologically, historically as well as theologically. First let us understand its meaning. ‘Kafara’ literally means ‘he hid’ and therefore, according to Imam Raghib in his classic work Mufradat al-Quran, a peasant is also called kafir as he hides the seeds beneath the soil for growing crop; night is also called kafir as it hides light.
Theologically it came to mean those who hide the truth. Every prophet brought truth from Allah; those who accepted it were called believers and those who did not kafir as they hid the truth. But according to the Quran those who believe in previous prophets sent by Allah are also believers as those prophets also came with the truth from Allah. Since the truth from Allah was contained in the book given to them they were also called ahl al-kitab (people of the book).

Some of them have been mentioned in the Quran but many have not been named. According to the Quran, the list of the prophets named is illustrative, not exhaustive. Muslims believe there came some 124,000 prophets and the Quran says Allah has sent a guide (haad) for every nation. Thus, if there is no mention of a nation or the book they were given it should not automatically mean that the people of that faith have hidden the truth and so they are kafir.
Mazher Jan-i-Janan, an eminent Sufi saint of 18th century Delhi, was asked by one of his disciples if Hindus who worship idols should be condemned as kafir. Jan-i-Janan wrote back a well-thought-out reply. He said that Hindus, according to their Shashtras (holy books) believe in God who is nirankar and nirgun (i.e. without form and attributes) and this is the highest form of tauhid (i.e. unity of God). Their holy books do not mention idol worship.

Then he referred to the Quranic verse that every nation had been sent a guide; he argued as to how could Allah forget a great nation like Hindustan and not send His guide there. Maybe Ram and Krishna who are highly respected by Hindus were such guides. He maintained that we cannot say that Hindus do not believe in the truth, as they also call Ishwar (God) Satyam (Truth).
As Dara Shikoh also points out in his Majma al-Bahrayn (Confluence of Two Oceans) Hindus call Ishwar Satyam, Shivam and Sundaram (Truth, Almighty and Beautiful), and all these three names of Allah are in the Quran, i.e. Haq, Jabbar and Jamil.

Jan-i-Janan also argued theologically that Hindus are believers in one God and cannot be called hiders of the truth or kafir. As for idol worship, he gives a very interesting explanation. He maintains that it is a popular practice as common people find it difficult to imagine a god who is formless and without attributes and they need some concrete object for worship and hence they carve out some shape and see the reflection of Ishwar in it. What they worship, according to Jan-i-Janan, is not the piece of stone but Ishwar through it.
Then he gave the example of Sufis who needed help of a master (a sheikh) to reach Allah. Without the intervention of a sheikh, a Sufi disciple cannot reach Allah, they believe, unlike the more puritan Islamic creed. Thus, for a common Hindu an idol replaces a sheikh, an intervener. Also, many lay Muslims go and pray at graves of Sufi saints and seek their intervention.
It is important to note that Mazher Jan-i-Janan does not take the rigid position that Hindus are kafir but tries to understand their religious faith and the common Hindu psychology as to why they worship idols. All this is available in the letter written by Jan-i-Janan to one of his disciples.

Also, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad has quoted several passages from the Vedas in his volume on Wahdat-i-Din of Tarjuman al-Quran to argue for the essential unity of all religions. Shah Waliullah, too, in his classic work Hujjat Allah al-Balighah treats comprehensively the doctrine of unity of religion.
Historically speaking, the Quran applies the term ‘kafir’ to those in Makkah who not only rejected Muhammad’s (PBUH) prophethood and mission but also actively opposed him; they persecuted him and his followers, thus opposing and actively hiding the message he had brought. Among them was the Prophet’s uncle, Abu Lahab, who led the campaign against the Prophet. However, there were those who remained neutral, and Muslims entered into covenants with them and got their cooperation.

Thus, the term ‘kafir’ must be applied with much caution and not to every non-believer in Islam. Every human being must be treated with dignity whatever way he/she believes in the truth. The truth has different manifestations in different cultures, and Islam makes that allowance unequivocally.
The writer is an Islamic scholar who also heads the Centre for Study of Society & Secularism, Mumbai.

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President Zardari receives huge donations in the UK

AZ UK donation

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Moving From South Asia to U.S.

By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.

Published: August 11, 2010

A dangerous new mutation that makes some bacteria resistant to almost all antibiotics has become increasingly common in India and Pakistan and is being found in patients in Britain and the United States who got medical care in those countries, according to new studies.

Experts in antibiotic resistance called the gene mutation, named NDM-1, “worrying” and “ominous,” and they said they feared it would spread globally.

But they also put it in perspective: there are numerous strains of antibiotic-resistant germs, and although they have killed many patients in hospitals and nursing homes, none have yet lived up to the “superbug” and “flesh-eating bacteria” hyperbole that greets the discovery of each new one.

“They’re all bad,” said Dr. Martin J. Blaser, chairman of medicine at New York UniversityLangone Medical Center. “Is NDM-1 more worrisome than MRSA? It’s too early to judge.”

(MRSA, or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, is a hard-to-treat bacterium that used to cause problems only in hospitals but is now found in gyms, prisons and nurseries, and is occasionally picked up by healthy people through cuts and scrapes.)

Bacteria with the NDM-1 gene are resistant even to the antibiotics called carbapenems, used as a last resort when common antibiotics have failed. The mutation has been found in E. coli and in Klebsiella pneumoniae, a frequent culprit in respiratory and urinary infections.

“I would not like to be working at a hospital where this was introduced,” said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University. “It could take months before you got rid of it, and treating individual patients with it could be very difficult.”

A study tracking the spread of the mutation from India and Pakistan to Britain was published online on Tuesday in the journal Lancet.

In June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted the first three cases of NDM-1 resistance in this country and advised doctors to watch for it in patients who had received medical care in South Asia. The initials stand for New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase.

“Medical tourism” to India for many surgeries — cosmetic, dental and even organ transplants — is becoming more common as experienced surgeons and first-class hospitals offer care at a fraction of Western prices. Tourists and people visiting family are also sometimes hospitalized. The Lancet researchers found dozens of samples of bacteria with the NDM-1 resistance gene in two Indian cities they surveyed, which they said “suggests a serious problem.”

Also worrying was that the gene was found on plasmids — bits of mobile DNA that can jump easily from one bacteria strain to another. And it is found in gram-negative bacteria, for which not many new antibiotics are being developed. (MRSA, by contrast, is a gram-positive bacteria, and there are more drug candidates in the works.)

Dr. Alexander J. Kallen, an expert in antibiotic resistance at the C.D.C., called it “one of a number of very serious bugs we’re tracking.”

But he noted that a decade ago, New York City hospitals were the epicenter of infections with other bacteria resistant to carbapenem antibiotics. Those bacteria, which had a different mutation, were troubling, but did not explode into a public health emergency.

Drug-resistant bacteria like those with the NDM-1 mutation are usually a bigger threat in hospitals, where many patients are on broad-spectrum antibiotics that wipe out the normal bacteria that can hold antibiotic-resistant ones in check.

Also, hospital patients generally have weaker immune systems and more wounds to infect, and are examined with more scopes and catheters that can let bacteria in.

‘Bhook’, ‘Ghurbat’, and ‘Berozgari’

by Khurshid Anwer

What I saw last evening on ARY channel has shaken me out of my shoes despite already knowing how bad things were. Dr Danish had with him economist Dr Shahid Hasan, along with an Advisor to PM on Finance and an industrialist from Karachi who is a member of the Senate Committee on Finance. I could jot down only a few of the many points that were raised.

Dr Shahid Hasan, literally in a state of panic, said that all the parameters were going down, fiscal deficit, balance of payments, current account deficit, tax to GDP ratio etc. but what is not going down are the ‘Shahana’ expenses being funded from unprecedented amount of loans in Rupees, Dollars and Euros. I couldn’t catch the figures which were in billions. The 16 billion dollar reserve also is all debt. Debt is being taken to meet non development expenses. He said, we are headed for a certain default and will have to go to the IMF again to bail us out, perhaps with much more stringent conditionalities.

He said because of  complete lack of planning and wrong policies (populist), people are faced with ‘bhook’, ‘ghurbat’, and ‘berozgari’.

The Karachi businessman said job creation is impossible unless interest rates are lowered to give a boost to industry to encourage investment. He said if with the rising non development expenditure, cuts are made in PSDP, job creation will become zero.

Dr Danish then questioned the Advisor to the prime minister on the ‘White Elephants’ – Steel Mill, PIA, Railways etc where billions of rupees are going as subsidies. The Advisor agreed that these entities are incurring heavy losses. He said we need to change the managements, bring in experts from the private industry to run them. Dr Danish said, yes perhaps you can change the favourites but what about the thousands of jialas employed over and above requirement (not to forget the lakhs reinstated with back pays).

(this is one factor which is holding up privatization. When attempts were made to privatize PECO the buyers were not willing to take on the surplus labour ‘urf’ jialas. 6,600 had been employed in PIA in the first six months, what  is the figure now? No wonder trains are being shut down).

All the participants were of the opinion that whereas the nation had donated handsomely for the earthquake victims, no such thing is happening now. Because they don’t that TRUST their money will not go to support the ‘Shahana’ spending of the president, prime minister, ministers and the advisors.

Dr Danish asked the prime minister at the top of his voice, “Why is money not coming into the prime minister’s relief fund”.

pakistan-floods-image-1-641829911 pakistan625 pakistan.main story pakistan_1

Of course, we know when the rot started, when Benazir stopped construction  of Kalabagh dam and gifted us the IPPs. How can an economy flourish without cheap and ample power for industry and ample water at the right time for agriculture. Is there any other way? But she was not going to let Zia’s dam be built. no matter what happened to Pakistan and its people.

Her second act of kindness was when she blackmailed Nawaz Sharif into a nuclear arms race with India (sucking up to US, she told CNN, “I would have gone for a cold laboratory test”, contrary to her statements and photos in the press). Pakistan economy has never recovered from those two jolts.

Now not only the economists but any deaf, dumb and blind person can see that we are headed for doomsday. And I am being criticized for criticizing this PPP lot. Only many more of us together can build up a critical mass for change.

P.S. From KoolBlue: “The PP has broken down and failed, they have not been able to deliver on, Roti, Kapra aur Makaan, it time to look for a new Management of the Motherland”

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Birmingham blues

Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2010

The writer is a barrister and a public policy graduate from Harvard University mahreen.khan@tribune.com.pk

Birmingham has been an unlucky place for Pakistanis this weekend. At Edgbaston, the boys commonly referred to as ‘our cricket team’ displayed a level of performance so breathtakingly inferior that it would be a relief to discover that they were engaged in match-fixing. At least that would provide a plausible explanation for their abysmal showing. Dropping an unforgivable number of catches, captain Salman Butt-erfingers and his boys managed to set new records on how long you can stay on zero before scoring a single or losing your wicket. However, do not fear, for I think I have the answer to the team’s woes. Why don’t we send our blind cricket team in their place instead? After all, they managed to score 439 runs against England in one day, the highest successful run chase for any form of cricket, and they don’t drop catches either!

Meanwhile, in a conference hall in the same city our president addressed the local community of mainly PPP supporters. Outside, a number of British-Pakistanis had gathered with placards denouncing the government and Mr Zardari. They raised unflattering slogans as he exited his vehicle but that did not dampen his spirits. Once inside the hall, the president began his rousing speech expounding previously unchartered theories of economics, religious and political history as well as philosophy.

Firstly, the president wants “triple digit” growth in Pakistan. The lowest positive triple digit number is 100. So he wants at least 100 per cent growth per annum. China leads the world with double digit growth at over 10.4 per cent. So is he confusing growth with inflation which, under this government, has a pretty decent chance of reaching triple digits? Or is he ignoring the decimal point? So what he means is triple digits with the decimal point? This is actually known as “double digit” growth. Either way there seems to be no point, decimal or otherwise, in the president’s economic vision, as three of four provinces are submerged under water and the floods “have put us back by decades” in the words of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.

The next baffling theory presented in the presidential speech was that Nusrat Bhutto, former chairperson of the PPP, is also ‘shaheed’, even though she is still alive at the age of 81 and living in Dubai. This must be ground-breaking metaphysical alchemy. Previously, dying would be considered a pre-requisite for martyrdom. But the Bhuttos can now achieve martyrdom whilst still alive. Not content with this, a fascinating new political theory was also expounded. According to Mr Zardari, those leaders who do not have progeny capable of carrying their political mission are irrelevant. The following historical examples were given to prove this theory: “without Benazir Bhutto, ZAB’s mission would be meaningless” and “without Zainab there is no Hussainiyat”. Too bad Messrs Jinnah, Mandela and countless other luminaries.

Perhaps the speaker’s unprecedented expositions on history, philosophy and politics triggered the infamous shoe-throwing incident which may or may not have happened depending on which government spokesperson you listen to. A news channel, which I shall not name, but which is geo-metrically opposed to nearly every issue related to this government and Mr Zardari in particular, ran the headline story. It is claimed that a man in the audience threw his shoes at the stage, aiming towards the president. When later interviewed by the channel, it turns out he was enraged at the president’s handling of David Cameron. In his view, the president had done the opposite of the much promised “straight talking” with Mr Cameron and had brought “shame” on Pakistanis, by failing to establish the enormous sacrifices and deaths endured by the Pakistani people and its army.

Whatever their views on this incident, after Birmingham most British Pakistanis will be feeling the blues as they face coverage of their homeland in the UK press which usually relishes “Pakistan-bashing”. An embarrassing performance in the cricket field, heckling and throwing shoes at a president and harrowing images of watery devastation may prove hard to explain coherently to English co-workers, friends and fellow students. At the best of times it is tough to be a Pakistani in Britain.  After this weekend it may be a lot harder.

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The Taliban’s New Target, Losing Faith in Pakistan’s Future

SPIEGEL ONLINE  08/05/2010 11:01 AM
By Gerhard Spörl in Lahore, Pakistan

Long a home to Pakistan’s intellectual elite, the tolerant city of Lahore
has become a favorite target of the Taliban. The development is causing the
country’s leading writer, Ahmed Rashid, whose books are required reading in
the West’s military academies, to lose his optimism that the Islamist
militants can be defeated.
The small photo hanging on the wall in his office depicts a serious-looking
man with a long, black beard, dressed entirely in white. The man is one of
those Afghan warlords who have made life hell for would-be conquerors from
the East and West for centuries. Ahmed Rashid, standing next to him, stares
at the camera with the same blank expression on his face.

The man in white is Jalaluddin Haqqani, the leader of a clan in eastern
Afghanistan. The picture was taken 22 years ago. At the time, Haqqani was
still poking fun at the Taliban, who he saw as uneducated hicks, born in
Pakistani refugee camps, indoctrinated in Islamic religious schools and led
by zealots from Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. At that time, the Taliban
still had to learn how to wage war, and it made many mistakes. Its leaders
were constantly losing an eye, an arm or a leg.
The Taliban fighters were uneducated and unaware. The history of their
Pashtun people was unknown to them, they were unfamiliar with the history of
their country, and they had never lived in a real city.

Haqqani, on the other hand, was a warlord for his clan and was
well-traveled. He once met with former US President Ronald Reagan in
Washington. Haqqani, now 60, was a real Afghan. That was the way he saw
himself, and it was how Afghanistan saw him.
Rashid chuckles quietly as he rocks back and forth in his desk chair, his
hands behind his head. He is a friendly, 62-year-old man with the booming
voice of a storyteller. A man without pretentions, the Pakistani
intellectual has become the chronicler of this part of the world.

Both men were wrong at the time. The warlord firmly believed that important
Afghan warriors had to be like him. His mistake was that he didn’t take the
Taliban seriously. And Rashid underestimated the immense power that lies in
the simple faith of the Taliban. Its members have no problem with death, and
they turn it into a political weapon. They have since learned how to wage
war, and waging war has become their life. They are also not the puppets of
terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, but rather a deadly threat in their own
right.

Experiencing History at First Hand

Rashid has made many trips to Afghanistan in the last 30 years. He has
acquired an encyclopedic knowledge of this part of the world, and he is a
singular figure, because he not only describes history but has also
experienced it himself.
Rashid happened to be in Kabul in 1979 when Soviet tanks invaded the
country. He was in Kandahar in 1994 when the Taliban captured the city,
creating a bloodbath in the process. He became a firsthand witness to a
tragedy in this strange, remote part of the world, and he had already
written his books by the time it occurred to the rest of the world to turn
its attention to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia.


The West first learned about the origins of the jihadists and their mentors
from Rashid’s books. And Rashid was the first to write about the things the
West now knows about Afghanistan’s warlords — the Haqqanis in the east, the
Dostums in the north and the Khans in the west –, and about their
conflicting alliances with the Pakistani, Turkish and Iranian intelligence
agencies. "Taliban," his most famous book, is still required reading for
officers in British and American military academies.

Rashid wrote it in 1999, two years before the 9/11 attacks. He described who
the Taliban were, how they interpreted Islam, who their influences were and
what role bin Laden and his Arabs played. It made the Pakistani intellectual
into a world-renowned figure. Suddenly he had acquired a monopoly on
explaining and interpreting a new phenomenon in world politics. A million
and a half copies of "Taliban"
were sold in the Anglo-American world alone, and it was translated into 26
languages.

Read in the White House

Rashid has been a sensation since then. After the attacks on the World Trade
Center and the Pentagon, the White House ordered 28 copies of his book.
Then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld met with him to discuss his opinions,
and Rashid was showered with invitations from the likes of neocon luminary
Paul Wolfowitz and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. President Barack Obama
invited him to dinner before his inauguration, at a time when Obama himself
was apparently not very well informed about the situation in Afghanistan.
Hardly any other intellectual enjoys a comparable level of authority.

Given his fame, Rashid could almost be forgiven for being conceited.
In Germany, the writer Hans Magnus Enzensberger was similarly influential,
but unlike Rashid, Enzensberger wasn’t interested in being an adviser to
political leaders. In France, Bernard-Henri Lévy has taken on the role of
the public intellectual, a role in which he has both rendered great service
and demonstrated his need for admiration. The British prefer serious
scholars like Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash.

Tolerance Under Attack

But Rashid doesn’t live in Munich, Paris or London. Instead, he lives in
Lahore, Pakistan, a country plagued by constant unrest and danger.
The Taliban, a group he has written about extensively, has expanded its
efforts beyond what it sees as the national liberation struggle in
Afghanistan. It is now in Pakistan, and it is in Lahore, a place filled with
many of the things that it hates and wants to destroy.


Lahore is still a beautiful city, a Pakistani jewel, with its Badshahi
Mosque, its Shalimar Gardens and its landmark fortress behind imposing
walls. The British left behind a large number of schools and universities.
It is a city where mopeds overloaded with people dominate street traffic.
But it also has its fair share of old-fashioned donkey carts.
On the surface, Lahore, a city of 10 million, is still a refreshing
exception among Asia’s big cities, cleaner and less overheated than New
Delhi, Karachi or Bangkok. It also seems more open-minded. The city’s most
popular talk show host is a transvestite. At the same time, Lahore is a
place where open-mindedness has now come under attack.

How Lahore Is Changing Its Ways

The view of the large bank buildings in the city’s downtown is oddly
obstructed by large billboards. Behind them, heavy sandbags have been placed
as a protection against firebombs.
Female students, their heads tightly wrapped in headscarves, are streaming
from the King Edward Medical University, a magnificent white structure from
the colonial era. Organized Islamists recently attacked a group of girls who
were not wearing headscarves, together with the young men who were
accompanying them. When a foreign organization wants to host an event —
like when Germany’s Heinrich Böll Foundation wanted to hold a farewell party
for its director — it has to apply for a permit. The permit comes with
conditions: no speeches with political overtones, no criticism of the
government, and women are not permitted to dance.

Lahore is treading warily and changing its ways. The city government is
desperate to provide the Taliban with as few potential targets as possible.
The city has been in shock since it was rocked by a recent series of
bombings and suicide attacks. European and Asian corporations are leaving
the city, a move that could be disastrous for Pakistan, which has only
managed to struggle through an ongoing economic crisis thanks to
international investment and billions in aid from the United States.
More than 90 people died in a double bombing of two mosques in late May.
Everything changed after the attack, which marked a turning point for
Lahore. It served as final proof that a Pakistani Taliban does indeed exist.

It cooperates with the Afghan Taliban and with bin Laden’s al-Qaida, and it
is now waging a war on two fronts, in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. For the
Taliban, Pakistan has more to offer than Afghanistan: an entire arsenal of
nuclear weapons.

Out of Place

Rashid lives in an upper middle-class neighborhood where many security
precautions have been taken. Drivers are forced to slowly negotiate their
way around a series of barriers installed on the wide arterial roadway that
passes through the neighborhood, while soldiers wielding submachine guns
calmly examine the drivers and vehicles. The neighborhood, which is called
Cantt, is a residential area for members of the military and the
intelligence services. They live in large houses behind high walls, along
streets patrolled by security guards and police cars.

Rashid seems out of place in this environment. In his books, he describes
how the army and the Pakistani intelligence service nurtured and protected
the Taliban and other terrorist groups from the very beginning, in the
belief that they could manipulate them. But the strategy never works in the
long run, because the groups eventually start playing their own game.
Ironically, Rashid and his family now live in relative safety in a
neighborhood of which Rashid has a relatively low opinion — just as it has
a low opinion of him.

His office is in an addition to his house, a large room with bookcases
lining the walls. Hamid Karzai once sat on his sofa, before he became
Afghanistan’s president, and discussed whether he should return to
Afghanistan, and what he could expect to find there. The sound is turned off
on the TV set in the corner, just as US General David Petraeus, who
Washington has now sent to Afghanistan to set things straight, is talking
about how he set things straight in Iraq. Rashid turns up the volume as
Petraeus explains that he has a difficult job ahead of him, and that it’s a
tough situation, but that he’s there to win the war. He says it in a stoic
and determined voice. America is coming to its senses, says Rashid, but it’s
too late, much too late.

Iraq was more important to the Americans.

Double Perspective

Rashid sees the world from two perspectives, as both a Pakistani and a
Briton. He was born in Pakistan, and now he has made Pakistan his home. But
he spent his formative years in England, from elementary school to
university (he studied at Cambridge). His father was an engineer, a product
of British colonialism, which had a knack for fostering local talent. After
the establishment of Pakistan, the family moved to London.

Rashid thinks in Western terms, and he knows how the West thinks. He makes
the strategists in the West uneasy, because he draws their attention to how
things work in this part of Asia. And he doesn’t make it easy for them,
because it isn’t easy.

In "Descent Into Chaos," his best book to date, Rashid describes the decline
Pakistan and Afghanistan have experienced since Sept. 11, 2001. The work
represents the sum of his experiences, and it is much more pessimistic in
tone than his earlier books.

Always a Step Ahead

The conditions in this part of the world are maddeningly complex.
Every country is seeking to exert influence on every other country.
All the countries in the region share borders with each other. Anyone who
considers Afghanistan must also consider Pakistan, because the Pakistani
military and intelligence service are determined to exert their influence in
Kabul when the Americans withdraw.

Anyone who considers Pakistan certainly has to take India into account,
because of the mutual paranoia that the two countries share.
Anyone who considers neighboring Iran cannot forget the country’s conflict
with the United States over its nuclear program. Iran, for its part,
suspects that the United States could use its bases in Afghanistan for
conventional attacks after a nuclear strike. And if the United States
decides to remain in Afghanistan for longer than anticipated, neither China
nor Russia will be amused.

The secret US military documents about the mission in Afghanistan uncovered
by WikiLeaks, excerpts of which were published last week by SPIEGEL, The
Guardian and the New York Times, merely confirm what Rashid has already
written: that the Pakistani intelligence service supports the Taliban.

Rashid, always a step ahead, says that, just a few months ago, Karzai would
still have been pleased about that kind of leak. But, he adds, because
Karzai senses that the Americans will not defeat the Taliban, and that talks
with the Taliban will also be unsuccessful, he is now seeking to improve
ties with Pakistan and Iran. And perhaps, says Rashid, Karzai even hopes to
strike a ceasefire and power-sharing deal in Afghanistan without the
Americans.

Despairing of the West

Rashid has been invited to a lunch with Asma Jahangir, an impressive woman
who is very well known in Pakistan. She is a lawyer and advocate of the
Supreme Court of Pakistan. Attorneys like Jahangir and the Supreme Court
justices form Pakistan’s civil society, because the country’s civilian
politicians are weak, corrupt or both. The members of the liberal
intelligentsia are a thorn in the side of the religious fanatics, and as a
result must constantly fear for their lives.

The guests assemble in a room with paneled walls reminiscent of a British
club. Most are women in saris, all very self-confident and cosmopolitan.
They exchange pleasantries and discuss their opinions about Obama, US
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and General Petraeus, as if they were
guests on a morning talk show on US television. They have all spent years in
London, New York and elsewhere in the West. They are pinning their hopes on
the West, and yet they are also despairing of the West.

They are part of the Rashid generation, born shortly before or after
Pakistan’s independence. They are privileged, they have lived in the West,
and they can leave the country at any time if things become too dangerous.
But they are deprived of the one thing that members of the intelligentsia in
other countries that call themselves democracies have come to expect: the
opportunity to share in political power.

Controlled by the Army

Pakistan is in fact an army that controls a country. The country itself was
born in 1947, out of blood and violence, when a large share of the Muslims
living in what was to become India emigrated to the future Pakistan, while
the Hindus in Pakistan went to India, with both sides committing horrible
massacres against one another.

For the past 63 years, Pakistan has been governed by an alternating succession of
unstable military leaders and unstable civilian governments.
Both civilian governments and the military determine what the national
interest should be. Pakistan’s military leaders are against reforms.

Instead, they want to add even more nuclear weapons to their arsenal, in
their determination to be prepared for the worst-case scenario, a nuclear
clash with India.
After 9/11, the Rashid generation was more hopeful than ever that Pakistan
would either come to its senses or be forced to do so by the Americans. And
the United States is very active, pumping untold billions into the country.

But when push comes to shove, American presidents are more apt to strengthen
the Pakistani military, which they see as the last stronghold of
rationality.

Wild Past

The day is coming to an end. Spain is about to defeat Germany in the World
Cup semifinal. Rashid is married to a Spanish woman, and the house is
starting to fill up with guests. Rashid is in good spirits after having
finished a successful interview with a daily newspaper.
He still has one wild story up his sleeve. This time it’s about him, about
his early years as a chronicler of his part of the world. There was a period
in Rashid’s life that preceded his transformation into a public
intellectual, a revolutionary phase that was no game.

It was 1968, and Rashid was a student at Cambridge. The student revolts of
the late 1960s were in their infancy, and Rashid was the Pakistani version
of his generation. They read Mao, Trotsky and Lenin, and Ché Guevara was
their hero. They were caught up in the great flow of emotions of the time,
which derived its energy from an abhorrence for the Vietnam War.

Rashid was one of four Pakistanis who called themselves the "London Group,"
a name that sounded important to them. They wanted to do more than read and
attend protests. They wanted to change their country, change it in
revolutionary ways. They began by flying to Beirut to attend a training
camp, where they completed a basic course in guerilla tactics and learned
how to use weapons.

Taking to the Mountains

When they returned to Pakistan, the country was in the midst of one of the
more difficult of its many difficult existential crises. After its
1971 war for independence, East Pakistan had seceded and renamed itself
Bangladesh. The entire country, already an artificial construct, seemed to
be on the verge of disintegration. The establishment was weaker than it had
been in a long time. As Rashid and his compatriots saw it, they had been
presented with an enormous opportunity to change the country.
But where would their revolution begin? Ché, their idol had fought his way
out of the mountains and into the cities. Pakistan was their Cuba.

And their mountains were in Balochistan, a poor province where the mountain
tribes, as tested by war as their Afghan counterparts, had been fighting for
independence, or at least autonomy, for years.
The four men established contact with the tribal leaders in the mountains.
They immersed themselves in a world that was as foreign to them as the moon.
They called themselves commanders, suggested ways to improve the farmers’
harvests and addressed problems of medical care.

They published newspapers and taught children. Rashid wrote poetry and short
stories in his spare time, fancying himself a writer in a revolution.
The Pakistani army sent 100,000 soldiers into the mountains. The ensuing war
claimed many lives, but it must have been a strange conflict, with the army
attacking in the summer and the guerillas striking back in the winter. It
dragged on in this fashion for 10 years. When life in the mountains became
intolerable for the women and children, Rashid was put in charge of
resettling them in Afghanistan.


Priceless Material

That was how he first came to Afghanistan, where he entered into
negotiations with local clan leaders and warlords to determine where the
families from Balochistan should be allowed to settle. He went on to Kabul
on foot, and so it transpired that he was in Kabul in the winter of
1979/1980, when the Russians marched into the city. He had the good fortune
that most historians never have.

The new situation in Afghanistan also affected the interests of the
Pakistani army. Anxious to rid itself of the pointless war in Balochistan,
it signed a ceasefire agreement with the tribes and offered the four
revolutionaries the opportunity to return to the cities, promising them
amnesty.

Rashid traveled to London to visit his parents and attend to his health. He
saw a dentist, sought treatment for back pain and recuperated after years of
physical exhaustion. Then he joined forces with a French photographer who
had taken pictures of the Soviet tanks in Kabul, and the two men started
knocking on doors at British newspapers. Of course, Rashid was interested in
writing about the struggle for freedom in Balochistan, but the editors at
the papers’

foreign desks only pricked up their ears when they discovered that the two
men had priceless material on the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan.
And so Rashid ended up writing his first major article about Afghanistan and
the superpower that had invaded the country to change conditions there.
Losing His Optimism

Was it worth it, spending almost 10 years masquerading as revolutionaries in
the mountains? Rashid laughs and shrugs his shoulders. At least something
new came of it, he says.
He could just as easily have died in Balochistan, and then he would indeed
have become a minor Pakistani version of Ché Guevara. Instead, he began to
travel and tried to understand what was happening in this complicated world
into which he had been born. He became a historian, with a constant
awareness that one day the conflict that had been raging in Afghanistan for
years could spill over into Pakistan.

That day has come. For the Taliban, Lahore is Pakistan’s New York.
Ahmed Rashid, who has always been an optimist, is slowly losing his
optimism.

The creeping Cold War between the Presidency and GHQ

By Shaheen Sehbai  Friday, August 06, 2010
News Analysis

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WASHINGTON: Whatever spins the Presidency and the PPP media managers may put on their super duper follies or political misadventures and miscalculations, they cannot hide the fact that relations between the Presidency and the GHQ are at best cold and clip_image004indifferent and at worst bitter and confrontational.
This cold war is seemingly escalating and the strongest defender of the president, PPP’s Fauzia Wahab, has almost spilled the beans by bursting out on TV channels that the Army was not following the policies of the political leadership and the ISI chief canceled his visit to the UK on his own, without consulting the political government leadership.
“There are differences and such differences are common everywhere. Even in America this happens,” she said without mincing words. “We have to go on even if differences are there. Each (institution) has its own perception and has its own point of view. What do you want the president to do, follow what the ISI was saying?” she asked.
While Fauzia Wahab invariably represents the thinking of the Presidency as she speaks for the party and not the government, other spokespersons, including Minister Kaira, often deny what she says, further confirming that the house of PPP was not in order and confusion had engulfed the two big power houses on the Hill, the PM House and the Presidency, like a smog.
On top of this not-so-concealed friction have come calls by the ANP and others, coalition partners of the PPP, that Karachi should be handed over to the Army, an obvious and direct confession that the political government and the parties have failed and the ultimate responsibility has again to be given to the armed forces, just 30 months after the elections took that responsibility away after an 11-year run, beginning with the October 12 coup.
Fauzia Wahab went two steps ahead and blamed the Army not just for insubordination but bypassing the democratic leadership and process just when Interior Minister Rehman Malik was announcing that the Army could be called in Karachi once again to restore peace and some order. She even raised objections to and mentioned the statement issued by the GHQ on the Kerry-Lugar Bill.
All this is happening amid a slow-burning and whispered campaign that President Zardari was not on board and happy with the three-year extension given to General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in such a hush-hush and mysterious manner in which the prime minister had to rush his announcement, though he claimed that Mr Zardari had been consulted.
As an obvious part of this campaign, it is now being whispered that Mr Zardari was bent upon taking his revenge from the people who ignored his wishes and gave General Kayani an unexpected and unprecedented three-year legal and constitutional second tenure.
The president’s Le Monde statement that everybody, including Pakistan (he did not exclude Pakistan), was losing the war with Taliban, was almost in direct conflict with the claims of the Army chief that Pakistan Army had scored numerous successes. The Army chief is right but why did Mr Zardari also include Pakistan in his sweeping statement is a big question mark.
The Army reaction to this creeping tension has been cool and calculated. At the 131st Corps Commanders meeting on Thursday, the commanders issued a statement in which the focus was to help the flood victims, with each soldier donating one day salary and tons of food supplies. On the ground, even before the political governments issued any directions, the Army high command had moved its troops and machinery to help the flood victims, anticipating that ultimately the governments will ask for their help, though it may be a delayed request. Helicopters were flying all over the swamped land.
But the GHQ statement after Thursday’s meeting also sent a subtle response to the widespread media and political outcry against President Zardari that he was enjoying visits to foreign capitals at the taxpayers’ expense when he was needed back home at times of extreme distress and tragedy.
This new confrontation, now confirmed by the PPP, adds another disturbing factor to the already messed up national scene and why has Mr Zardari and PPP decided to get into such a confrontation at this time is a million-dollar question. But what can be said easily is that Mr Zardari has either grown extremely overconfident and brash in his political thinking or he has lost the capacity to read the writings on the wall.
When millions are drowning in flash floods and when Karachi is burning in a bloodbath and when terrorists are roaming around with abandon, he has decided not only to insult the nation by his abrasiveness and arrogance, he has picked up a fight with the Army as well.
This fight with the GHQ may turn out to be the proverbial last straw. He is no longer in a position to take the nation with him against the Army and it appears he is deliberately inviting the Army to a battle which he will obviously lose but which he thinks he will win by becoming a political martyr.
This thinking is warped and this is no time to get into such mindless pursuits. But he has decided to take the plunge. He has to remember that judgments of all the cases pending are yet to come and to be implemented, ultimately by the Army if the worse comes to the worst. But Fauzia Wahab says Zardari will win this war, What is your guess.