Pakistan is destined to drown in blood from civil war,

by Pervez Hoodbhoy

The War within Islam

18 Jan 2011, NewAgeIslam.Com

I am sharing with you some lines that I have just written for family and friends who are warning me:

Whatever one might think of Governor Salman Taseer’s politics, he was killed this Wednesday for what was certainly the best act of his life: trying to save the life of an illiterate, poor, peasant Christian woman. 

But rose petals are being showered upon his murderer. He is being called a ghazi, lawyers are demonstrating spontaneously for his release, clerics refused to perform his funeral rites. Most shockingly, the interior minister – his political colleague and the ultimate coward – has said that he too would kill a blasphemer with his own hands. 

Pakistan once had a violent, rabidly religious lunatic fringe. This fringe has morphed into a majority. The liberals are now the fringe. We are now a nation of butchers and primitive savages. Europe’s Dark Ages have descended upon us. 

Sane people are being terrified into silence. After the assassination, FM-99 (Urdu) called me for an interview. The producer tearfully told me (offline) that she couldn’t find a single religious scholar ready to condemn Taseer’s murder. She said even ordinary people like me are in short supply.

I am deeply depressed today. So depressed that I can barely type these lines. 

Yesterday a TV program on blasphemy (Samaa, hosted by Asma Shirazi) was broadcast (it’ll be rebroadcast today). Asma had pleaded that I participate. So I did – knowing fully well what was up ahead.  But I could not bear to watch the broadcast and turned it off after a few minutes.

My opponents were Farid Paracha (spokesman, Jamaat-e-Islami) and Maulana Sialvi (Sunni Tehreek, a Barelvi and supposed moderate). There were around 100 students in the audience, drawn from colleges across Pindi and Islamabad.

 

 

Even as the mullahs frothed and screamed around me (and at me), I managed to say the obvious: that the culture of religious extremism was resulting in a bloodbath in which the majority of victims are Muslims; that non-Muslims were fleeing Pakistan; that the self-appointed "thaikaydars" of Islam in Pakistan were deliberately ignoring the case of other Muslim countries like Indonesia which do not have the death penalty for blasphemy; that debating the details of Blasphemy Law 295-C did not constitute blasphemy; that American Muslims were very far from being the objects of persecution; that harping on drone attacks was an irrelevancy to the present discussion on blasphemy.

The response? Not a single clap for me. Thunderous applause whenever my opponents called for death for blasphemers. And loud cheers for Qadri, the murderer. When I directly addressed Sialvi and said he had Salman Taseer’s blood on his hand, he exclaimed "How I wish I did!" (kaash ke main hota!).

Islamofascism is a reality. This country is destined to drown in blood from civil war. I wish people would stop writing rubbish about Pakistan having an image problem. It’s the truth that’s really the problem.

Am I afraid? Yes, I’d be crazy not to be. And never more than at the present time. The battle for sanity has been lost. Many friends have written to me to leave Pakistan. How can I? One must keep fighting as long as possible. It is what we owe to future generations.

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43 percent children in rural Punjab unable to read: survey

 

* ASER surveys 7,767 households, 679 schools in 13 districts of province
* 67% children could not read English
* Only 32% mothers found literate
Staff Report

LAHORE: The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) Pakistan 2010, a sample survey to assess the learning outcomes of school-going age (3-16 years) children, has revealed that as high as 67 percent children in 13 districts (rural) in Punjab are not able to read sentences in English, while 43 percent children could not read words. As much as 15 percent children were graded as “beginners’ level” as they were unable to recognise alphabets and words.
This was announced by the South Asia Forum for Education Development (SAFED) Coordinator Baela Raza Jamil at the launching of ASER Punjab (Rural) 2010 report at the Punjab Civil Officers Mess auditorium on Thursday.


The ASER Pakistan (Rural) 2010 sample survey was conducted by the SAFED, managed by Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) in collaboration with the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD), UNESCO, Foundation Open Society Institute (FOSI) and Sindh Education Foundation (SEF).

The survey was conducted in 7,767 households and 679 schools, including 292 private schools in 390 villages across 13 districts of Punjab (rural). The selected villages were in the following districts: Chiniot, Faisalabad, Jhang, Kasur, Khanewal, Lahore, Mianwali, Multan, Nankana Sahab, Rahim Yar Khan, Rawalpindi, Sargodha and Sheikhupura.
The on ground survey was conducted by volunteers in a campaign titled “Citizens on the march”. In each district, 60 volunteers were mobilised to survey 30 villages in pairs.


The survey collected information of 616 schools, out of which 387 were government-run and 249 were private. Out of the 387 government schools, 205 were boys schools, 82 were girls schools and 80 were categorised as co-ed or mix schools. Of 249 private schools surveyed, nine each were boys and girls schools and 231 offered co-education.
The learning level of 20,790 children (57 percent male, 43 percent female) and their mothers was assessed with a powerful methodology having three simple instruments. Literacy information was collected from 8,087 mothers.
The class-wise analysis of English reading skills shows that 50 percent children enrolled in class 3 could read English and only 16 percent could read sentences fluently. Of those who could read sentences, 61 percent could not understand their meaning.


54 percent children could read at least one sentence in Urdu or their local language and 39 percent could read a level 2 story. In the age group of 6-16, 13.6 percent children were not able to read letters and thus categorised as beginners.
Data on reading ability of out of school children showed interesting trends because 42 percent children were able to read sentences and 30 percent could read story level text. 27 percent of out of school children were at the beginners’ level and could not recognise alphabets.


In order to test mothers’ literacy, the survey assessed 69 percent mothers who agreed to be tested out of the total contacted, and found that only 32 percent mothers were literate. Amongst all the districts, mothers’ literacy rate in Chiniot and Jhang was the lowest, averaging at 21 percent.
Of children enrolled in schools, the survey revealed that 21.8 percent children were taking paid tuition after school hours. Out of this, 16.5 percent were enrolled in government schools and 32.8 percent in private schools. The survey found that as much as 15.4 percent children in Punjab (rural) were not enrolled in schools. Of this, 7.9 percent children had dropped out whereas 7.5 percent were enrolled in schools.


The overall student attendance in government schools stood at 85 percent as per register and 81 percent according to the head count on the day of school visit. The attendance level in primary schools was 85 percent whereas in elementary schools, attendance was 86 percent.


The overall attendance in private schools was 88.5 percent as per headcount and 87.3 percent as per register.

Profanity and Pakistan

 

The persecution by religious extremists of the MP Sherry Rehman shames a nation

Leading Articles

January 18 2011 12:01AM

The hounding of Sherry Rehman, a female MP who wants to change Pakistani blasphemy laws — coming so swiftly after the assassination of Salman Taseer, the former governor of Punjab who was fighting to revise the same law — is forcing Pakistan to confront the gulf between the country it was supposed to be and the one it has become.

Ms Rehman was, until last year, a member of Asif Ali Zardari’s Cabinet. She has been indicted for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad in a TV interview, a crime punishable by death. That nobody has yet been executed under the law is less reassuring when many fundamentalists take it upon themselves to carry out the sentence, as happened in the case of Mr Taseer.

Pakistan is increasingly smothered by a smog of religious intolerance. Secular politicians and moderate clerics dare not make their case for fear of becoming the religious Right’s next victim. A government that promised progressive secularism flinches in the face of extremists, even though Islamist groups poll less than a tenth of votes in elections.

The roots of this chaos and cowering lie in the coup staged in 1977 by Zia ul-Haq, who sowed the seeds of a religious fundamentalism that has since been exploited by the military as a tool of foreign policy, at the price of domestic peace and freedom.

To Muhammad Ali Jinnah, its first President, Pakistan was to be a country where “you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship”. For seeking to honour this vision Ms Rehman now finds herself the victim of death threats. That ministers of a secularist government have cravenly bitten their tongues while bullies bay at Ms Rehman and Mr Taseer is beyond irony. It is a tragedy.

20m illegal arms: Peace forum calls for de-weaponisation

 

* Federal minister for human rights says problem of illegal arms cannot be overcome through isolated efforts
Staff Report

LAHORE: There are over 20 million illegal weapons in the country and proliferation of illegal arms must be checked by an effective de-weaponisation campaign. This was demanded by the speakers during the inaugural ceremony of “National Campaign for Peace” held in the auditorium of Ali Institute on Tuesday.
The campaign was jointly initiated by the South Asia Partnership Pakistan (SAP-PK) and Oxfam Novib, both leading non-government organisations in the country.

Speaking on the occasion, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Director, IA Rehman, said the state was using ruthless power to govern the people. “The groups having more weapons have more political power. The legal arms are used illegally. The arms change the mindset. Peace cannot be achieved and maintained without collective efforts,” he said and added that there were not many strong voices against extremism. Civil society has to play an active role for the creation of peace by collective efforts and a well thought out and effective campaign, he said.

Federal Minister for Human Rights, Mumtaz Gillani, said that the problem cannot be overcome with isolated efforts. “We would have to get international cooperation. The real power rests not with the elected representatives but with civil and military bureaucracy. Peace is not their priority as they and their families never experienced the sufferings caused by absence of peaceful conditions in the country. Gillani said that the public-private collective efforts would pave the way for peace in the country. The minister claimed that his ministry in about to introduce human rights in syllabus of primary and secondary schools.

De-weaponisation bill: Weapon-free Pakistan?


De-weaponisation bill: Weapon-free Pakistan?

ISLAMABAD:
In the backdrop of fresh violence in Karachi, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) submitted on Monday an elaborate and ambitious draft bill in the National Assembly Secretariat seeking to rid the country of weapons.
The ‘Deweaponisation of Pakistan Bill of 2011’, filed as private members’ bill, calls for banning the production, proliferation, smuggling, import and use of firearms and ammunition and explosives “to restore public order in the country”.
Yet, experts and analysts are sceptical about the fecundity of the bill.
MQM’s parliamentary leader in the National Assembly Dr Farooq Sattar said that his party would also introduce the bill in the Senate on Tuesday and contact other parties to secure endorsement for it.
The bill provides “measures for banning the unauthorised production, illicit trafficking, possession and use of arms and weapons, so as to eradicate killings, kidnapping for ransom and extortion by terrorists, criminals and anti-social elements for waging guerrilla war against the state, indulgence in vandalism, mass destruction, suicide bombing, desecration of places of worship, killings of innocent citizens, and to restore peace, tranquility, sanity and public order in the country,” the MQM leader said reading from the bill.
Highlighting statistics, he said that between 2006 and 2009, terrorists and criminals had struck 6,894 times using illicit arms across the country, killing 9,643 people, injuring 18,788 more, besides kidnapping thousands of citizens for ransom.
The bill, if passed, will be applicable in four provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) but it would not apply on arms, ammunition in the possession of armed forces and law-enforcement agencies working under government control.
Reaction by experts and analysts
The Express Tribune contacted analysts and experts for comments on the bill, and its possible out*come.
Ejaz Haider, Contributing editor for The Friday Times and columnist for The Express Tribune: “Officially, Pakistan goes by the UK framework, that no one except authorised personnel of the military or police can carry weapons. The other paradigm is the US where everyone can. So while formally Pakistan follows the UK model, de facto we’ve allowed arms to proliferate. You have MNAs, MPAs and senators with quotas to buy weapons and you can also get illegal arms here. In the US, they do not allow people to buy automatic weapons. In Pakistan, you can find Uzis or Kalashnikovs, which are essentially used by armed forces.
“The funny thing is that the last time I checked, the interior ministry had three different figures for the number of arms licences issued. So if you don’t have an exact figure that’s a problem. It’s difficult to have a guesstimate but whatever the number of legal weapons is, multiply it by at least 10 and that’s the amount of illicit weapons. I had also suggested to the interior ministry that one way to check this is to start tracing the ammunition. It gives you a trail to what kind of ammunition this was and where it was produced. If illegal arms are coming in then obviously the law enforcement officials are also involved.
“The last three to four times they tried to do this deweaponisation plan they badly failed. It also has to be evenhanded. You can’t target specific people or areas – the whole idea of prosecution becomes lopsided.”


Imtiaz Gul, analyst, author of The Al Qaeda Connection: “This is a very complicated matter and it is not in the hands of the government, but of the political parties. The PPP, ANP, MQM and Jamaat-e-Islami all have militants in their fold – any law you bring about would be ineffective if it is not enforced on them. The parties don’t seem to have the political will. Even if they did have the political will, it would take quite a lot of time for the weaponry that has been amassed to be dug out.”
Mosharraf Zaidi, analyst: “Deweaponisation programmes haven’t been that successful in Afghanistan – which is geo*graphi*cally closest to us – and that was a sponsored, funded campaign. The top line issue here is that in a society where laws do exist and are misused or not used at all, what value does a new law have.
“So a new law is a probably a good first step, but a miniscule step. The idea of deweaponising Karachi – let alone Pakistan – is a big deal. It is ironic and interesting that the MQM is the one to sponsor the bill. If implemented, this would be the first time since in the mid-1960s that Karachi would be free of weapons. It is a good initiative, but there is a bigger structural problem in Pakistani society – a lack of respect for existing laws. Traditionally, where we’ve seen deweaponisation programmes work is not really on a national level but on a smaller one – towns and villages and so. The other key issue is finances – it is a really expensive programme to run and the only incentive you can offer people is to give them an above market value for the arms. Given the quality of public policy in the country, I doubt that this is a consideration for the interior ministry and any of the provincial home departments. Will the government have the wherewithal to challenge political interests that have weapons – to go after stores that supply to political parties? That’s a big question – so if it happens, hallelujah, but it doesn’t seem possible.”
Former interior minister Moin*uddin Haider: “There is al*ready a law in the country to deal with weapons. Now if you can’t implement that, then what use will it be to have a new law? In Pakistan there is a huge proliferation of arms right now, everyone from the security guards with women shopping to policemen are armed. Whether it is the UAE or the UK, it is hard to find police officials who are armed like they are here. You need to create a culture to carry out a programme like this. When we implemented it during General Pervez Musharraf’s time, there was a lot of resistance. We ran campaigns for the general public and educated policemen on it as well. The idea was that, till 15 days after the campaign was initiated, people could hand in their weapons to the police and there would be no questions asked. It was so successful that we received 80,000 illegal weapons and we were asked by the provinces to extend the deadline by a few months but we refused to because it would mean we would go back on our word. After the deadline, we carried out raids and implemented the law very strictly. I do not think anyone in Pakistan is serious about deweaponisation right now. These look like political tactics to show that ‘we are peace loving’ etc.”
Propositions: Salient features
Ban on issuance of licence:
No arms licence shall be issued by the government to any person with effect from the commencement of this act.
Punishment
Whosoever contravenes, such arms will be seized and forfeited by government and he shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not less than seven years and not more than 12 years and shall also be liable to fine up to Rs5 million. In case of default, he shall be liable for a further imprisonment period of three years.
Surrender and seizure of arms and weapons:
All persons who are in possession of arms, ammunition, and weapons without any authorisation or valid licence, would be required to surrender them to the authorised person or agency designated by the government in the district where they ordinarily reside, within three months.
The licences of all arms and ammunitions issued to individuals, companies and dealers by the government prior to the commencement of this Act shall stand cancelled without any notice after three months from the enactment of this law.


Prohibition on illicit manufacturing of weapons:
No person shall manufacture, produce and assemble arms and ammunitions illicitly anywhere in Pakistan after three months from the commencement of this Act.
Contravention of illicit manufacture:
Whosoever contravenes the provisions of Section 10 shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of not less than twelve years and shall also be liable to fine not less than ten million. In case of non-payment of fine he may be punished with further imprisonment up to a period of three year.
Prohibition of illicit trafficking in arms and weapons:
Whosoever indulges in the illicit trade or trafficking in firearms, ammunitions, weapons and their parts and components within the territories of Pakistan shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not less than nine years and shall also be fined not less than rupees seven and a half million and in default of such payment shall undergo imprisonment for a further period of three years.
Prohibition of display of arms:
Whosoever displays new, operational, old or ancestral non-operative arms or weapons in public shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding seven years and fine not more than rupees five million only.
Disposal of arms, ammunitions and weapons deposited by licencees:
All licenced arms, ammunition and weapons deposited under Section 8 of the act shall be sold to government agencies at market price and the proceeds so received shall be paid to persons who had held the licence and owned the said arms and weapons.
Committee to supervise whole process
An 11-member committee headed by a retired judge of a High or Supreme Court will supervise the whole process of implementation of the law and give its recommendations to fulfill the objectives of the law.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 18th, 2011.

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Jinnah’s Pakistan?

 

Ardeshir Cowasjee
16th January, 2011

THE following excerpts beg comments from all those who have been or are now occupying the power seats of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

From Mohammad Ali Jinnah`s presidential address at the All-India Muslim League session in Delhi in April 1943: “The minorities are entitled to get a definite assurance or to ask: `Where do we stand in the Pakistan that you visualise?` That is an issue of giving a definite and clear assurance to the minorities. We have done it. We have passed a resolution that the minorities must be protected and safeguarded to the fullest extent, and as I said before, any civilised government will do it and ought to do it. So far as we are concerned, our own history and our prophet have given the clearest proof that non-Muslims have been treated not only justly and fairly but generously.” (Rizwan Ahmed, ed., Sayings of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah , Karachi: Pakistan Movement Center, 1986, p. 30.)

While discussing Pakistan in an interview given to a representative of the Associated Press of America on November 8, 1946: “Hindu minorities in Pakistan can rest assured that their rights will be protected. No civilised government can be run successfully without giving minorities a complete sense of security and confidence. They must be made to feel that they have a hand in government and to this end must have adequate representation in it. Pakistan will give it.”

(Ahmed, Sayings , p. 65.)

In Jinnah`s interview given to a Reuters correspondent on May 21, 1947, he assured the minorities of Pakistan “that they will be protected and safeguarded. For they will be so many citizens of Pakistan without any distinction of caste or creed.” He had no doubt in his mind that they “will be treated justly and fairly and the collective conscience of parliament itself will be a guarantee that the minorities need not have any apprehension of any injustice being done to them.”

(Sailesh Bandopadhaya, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and the Creation of Pakistan , New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 1991, p. 326.)

From Jinnah`s address to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947: “We should begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community — because even as regards Muslims you have Pathans, Punjabis, Shias, Sunnis and so on, and among the Hindus you have Brahmins, Vashnavas, Khatris, also Bengalis, Madrasis and so on — will vanish. Indeed if you ask me, this has been the biggest hindrance in the way of India to attain the freedom and independence and but for this we would have been free people long long ago. No power can hold another nation, and specially a nation of 400 million souls, in subjection; nobody could have conquered you, and even if it had happened, nobody could have continued its hold on you for any length of time, but for this. Therefore, we must learn a lesson from this. You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed, that has got nothing to do with the business of the state…. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state. The people of England in course of time had to face the realities of the situation and had to discharge the responsibilities and burdens placed upon them by the government of their country, and they went through that fire step by step. Today, you might say with justice that Roman Catholics and Protestants do not exist; what exists now is that every man is a citizen, an equal citizen of Great Britain and they are all members of the nation. Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.” ( Dawn , Independence Day Supplement, August 14, 1999.)

Jinnah`s interview with a Reuter`s correspondent on October 25, 1947: “Every citizen is expected to be loyal to the state and to owe allegiance to it. The arm of the law should be strong enough to deal with any person or section or body or people that is disloyal to the state. We do not, however, prescribe any schoolboy tests of their loyalty. We shall not say to any Hindu citizen of Pakistan: if there is war would you shoot a Hindu?” (Ahmed, Sayings , p. 42.)

Jinnah`s broadcast to the people of Australia on February 19, 1948: “The great majority of us are … members of the Muslim brotherhood of Islam in which we are equal in right, dignity and self respect. Consequently we have a special and a very deep sense of unity. But make no mistake: Pakistan is not a theocracy or anything like it. Islam demands from us the tolerance of other creeds and we welcome in closest association with us all those who, of whatever creed, are themselves willing and ready to play their part as true and loyal citizens of Pakistan.” (Ahmed, Sayings , p. 69.)

arfc@cyber.net.pk

‘Bring back Jinnah’s Pakistan’

 

By Ardeshir Cowasjee
Sunday, 01 Nov, 2009

Had the Mideast and S.Asia heeded Jinnah’s advice on religion and state the world may have been in better shape today. —Photo by AFP

Of late, amidst the murder and mayhem accompanied by an absence of government or any signs of governance, a group of citizens has been circulating an email message exhorting whoever to ‘bring back Jinnah’s Pakistan’.

Now, to bring back something that existed for a mere moment in the life of this nation is more than difficult at a time when the national mindset is what it is.

Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s Pakistan was denounced six months after his death when the Objectives Resolution was passed, negating the words he had so eloquently spoken to his constituent assembly on Aug 11 1947: ‘… You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the state.’ Thus, willy-nilly, the state was made the custodian of religion.

In the early 1950s, the British writer Hector Bolitho was commissioned by the government to write an official biography of Jinnah. It was published in 1954. Such was the moral dishonesty and hypocrisy that had taken a firm hold and rooted itself in the country’s psyche that the ruling clique of the day perverted Jinnah’s words, and printed in the book was this version of the quoted sentence: ‘You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one state.’

In April 1962, the days of President Gen Ayub Khan, came a lessening of the prevailing hypocrisy and the government press department published a collection of Jinnah’s speeches as governor general of Pakistan. The Aug 11, 1947 speech was printed in full in its original version. (These speeches were reprinted by the government of Benazir Bhutto and released for sale in 1989.)

In 1984, when wily Ziaul Haq ruled, came the finest biography of Jinnah so far written. Prof Stanley Wolpert’s well-researched book, Jinnah of Pakistan, was published in the US by Oxford University Press and 500 copies were sent to Pakistan to be released for sale.

Prior to its release, two copies were sent by OUP to the information ministry seeking permission to reprint locally. The minions of this pernicious ministry, which should not exist, took exception to certain passages in the book in which our founder-maker’s personal tastes and habits were mentioned.

The 498 copies of the book lying with OUP were removed from their storeroom and reprinting of course denied. To top this crass idiocy, Wolpert was approached and asked to delete the offending passages so that it could be reprinted and sold. Naturally, Wolpert’s response was that as a scholar he was unable to compromise on basic principles and any deletion/amendment was out of the question.

Thus the book effectively remained banned in Pakistan until in 1989, when, to give full credit to Benazir and her government, permission was given to OUP to reprint and the book was released for sale. Zia’s was an exercise in pure futility.

Our large neighbour also has blinkered intolerant elements in its midst. There is a long list of books that are banned in India, amongst them Stanley Wolpert’s ‘factional’ novel on the assassination of Gandhi, Nine Hours to Rama, which was banned by the government in 1962. And now, this August, two days after its release the government of the Indian state of Gujarat saw fit to issue a notification ‘forfeiting’ and ‘prohibiting’ Jaswant Singh’s Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence (Mr Singh was also expelled by his party, the BJP).

The book was banned with immediate effect and in the wider public interest because it was alleged that its contents are highly objectionable, against the national interest, misleading, distort historical fact and that it is defamatory in regard to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who is largely regarded as the architect of modern India.

Mr Singh swiftly approached the Indian Supreme Court challenging the ban on the grounds of the violation of fundamental rights. The court issued a notice to the Gujrat government. In the meantime, an appeal was submitted to the Gujrat High Court which struck down the ban. With the Gujrat government prevaricating, the matter remains before the supreme court.

Now, to the bringing back in totality of Jinnah’s Pakistan — that we can never do as half of his Pakistan was shorn by the collusion of our politicians and army generals, the deadly mixture of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Gen Yahya Khan who threw away East Pakistan through a lust for power coupled by incompetence and insensitivity. What can be saved, if we had the leadership to do so, is the spirit of Jinnah’s Pakistan as expressed by him on that distant August day.

Had a large part of the Middle Eastern region and parts of South Asia been able to heed Jinnah’s words that religion, caste and creed ‘has nothing to do with the business of the state’ the world may well have been in better shape today. It is possible that the extremism that has galloped away in these areas would not have taken root had various states not been allowed to force upon the world their dangerously distorted version of a religion.

As for Pakistan, the Objectives Resolution forms the preamble to ZAB’s constitution and was additionally inserted as an annex by Ziaul Haq. Then we have ZAB’s second amendment to his constitution which reinforces bigotry and intolerance. No government has been strong enough to take on the mullah fraternity whose grip has strengthened with the years. To bring us back to Jinnah’s Pakistan, we must have a revolution — a revolution of the national mindset and a latter-day Ataturk to ensure that it is successful.

arfc@cyber.net.pk

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The Troubled Heart of Pakistan

· JANUARY 6, 2011

 

In an interview last month, the late Salman Taseer expressed concern about the radicalization of his country. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told me not to worry.

By MATTHEW KAMINSKI

Lahore, Pakistan

On central Mall road, Governor’s House sits back across a wide lawn. The white, colonnaded mansion, built for British rulers of the Punjab whose pasty portraits hang inside, feels like a refuge and a throwback. A few days before Christmas, I visited Salman Taseer there. Though ensconced in a quiet office with limited powers, the governor of Pakistan’s largest and richest province was deep in battle with religious extremists beyond the house’s high walls.

Wearing stylish glasses and hair slicked back, he looked a youthful 66. Taseer was a local tycoon with unabashedly liberal tastes. He was unusual, too, in his willingness to openly challenge Islamist dictates. "They want to hold the entire country hostage," he told me. Most Pakistanis agree with him, he added, since "they vote for secular parties."

Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer sees off Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani at Lahore Airport, Lahore. Provincial Senior Minister Raja Raiz Ahmed is also present.

In recent tweets and public statements, Taseer had called for parliament to amend Pakistan’s law on blasphemy—a "black law" in his words—that mandates the death penalty for insulting Islam. In our conversation, he saw little room for compromise with fundamentalists who fare badly in elections and resort to violence. "These are not people you can mollycoddle," he said. "These are killers."

So, evidently, they are. After lunch this Tuesday in the national capital, Islamabad, Salman Taseer was gunned down by one of his security guards. The assassin told witnesses that he was angry over the man’s stance on blasphemy.

No politician had as prominently defended secular values in Pakistan since Benazir Bhutto. The former premier, an ally of Taseer, was herself slain three years ago by terrorists allegedly sent from the Islamist hotbeds along the western border with Afghanistan. In a joint statement issued before his funeral at Governor’s House yesterday, some 500 religious Pakistani leaders praised his killer and urged Muslims not to mourn Taseer’s death.

Murder has been a prominent feature of Pakistan’s turbulent politics since independence in 1947. But the recent killings bring home a new reality: Islamism is carving out a growing space for itself. Its sway isn’t limited to the northwestern frontier territories beyond the control of Islamabad, or the unruly southern province of Baluchistan. It has put down roots everywhere—perhaps most worryingly in the Punjab, Pakistan’s heartland.

How deep is a matter of debate. "Punjab is a ticking time bomb," said Taseer, who belonged to the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party. But Punjab is controlled by rivals, the wing of the Muslim League headed by Nawaz Sharif, a religious man who twice served as prime minister in the 1990s.

In an interview last month at his estate outside Lahore, Mr. Sharif was less alarmist. "The very large majority in this country are moderates," he said. "Lots of people, of course, are so-called radicals," which he blamed on years of military rule. "Terrorism thrives under dictatorship."

His Muslim League appeals to pious Punjabi businessmen and competes for votes with religious parties. Mr. Sharif might yet co-opt and defuse the fundamentalists—or his ties to religious groups are naïve and dangerous. He is considered the prime minister in waiting, unless the military stages another coup, or the unpopular Peoples Party government wins another election.

Both the U.S. and neighboring India watch signs of radicalization in Punjab with particular concern. Punjabis make up the bulk—as much as three-quarters—of the powerful Pakistani army and state bureaucracy. For centuries they incorporated practices from an inclusive and mystical Sufism into their spirituality. But whiffs of the militant Islam practiced in the Arab world are now felt here. Sectarian violence is up. Sufi shrines and Shiites are Islamist targets. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of local men are said to have joined insurgent groups to fight in Afghanistan or against Pakistan. People speak of a Punjabi Taliban recruiting force active in the poorer south of the province.

It’s part of a larger national shift. Starting in the late 1970s, Pakistan turned toward political Islam, implementing repressive laws concerning women and blasphemy. In the 11 years in power before his assassination in 1988, Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq used religion to solidify his hold on the country. The longest serving leader in Pakistani history, he empowered hardline mullahs in a nation known for its religious diversity. In his novel "A Case of Exploding Mangoes," Mohammed Hanif summed Zia up as "a mullah without a beard, a mullah in a four-star general’s uniform, a mullah with the instincts of a corrupt tax inspector."

Subsequent military chiefs like Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who ran the country from 1999 until 2008, moved to de-Islamicize the armed forces. It’s harder to de-Islamicize a society so ill-served by its leaders for so long. Or to control a monster first created by the military, which recruited Islamists to fight India and in Afghanistan, the latter with American help. The headquarters for Lashkar-e-Taiba, the terrorist group founded to wrest Kashmir from India, is near Lahore. The links between armed Islamic groups and various religious political parties are indisputable.

The fight over blasphemy, sparked by a recent death sentence passed down against a Christian woman, is really about what kind of Islam and what kind of state Pakistan will have. To liberals like Taseer, Mohammad Jinnah, the urbane founder of Pakistan who favored tweed jackets and whiskey, sought to create "a secular and democratic" state for Muslims. Mr. Sharif, who is prone to cryptic silences and boring discourses, prefers to focus on Jinnah’s democratic vision—at least as long as he’s in opposition and his relations with the military are strained. For him, secularism has become a bad word.

Religious parties don’t mention either democracy or secularism. "Jinnah struggled for an Islamic progressive nation," said Ameerul Azeem, the amir, or head, in Lahore of Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamist party founded in 1941 and modeled on the Arab Muslim Brotherhood. Paint peels in its offices, but the shabby appearance is deceptive. The influence of Jamaat and other religious parties comes from setting the terms of debate.

Mr. Azeem, who speaks good English, didn’t have to defend the blasphemy law. "Anyone who is against it can go to parliament and change it," he said, "but none of [the parties] changed it." Exactly. The Peoples Party and the Muslim League were afraid to touch it. Among leading politicians, Taseer’s was a lonely voice.

Nawaz Sharif is a man of contradictions. Gen. Zia plucked the doughy industrialist from obscurity to lead a center-right alternative to the Peoples Party in the 1980s. He lacks the polish of a Western education and the upper-class manners often found in the civilian Pakistani elite. He can be shy, and ruthless. His governments were considered corrupt and ineffective. They also pushed through a far-reaching privatization program, opened a peace channel to India, and saw Pakistan get a nuclear bomb. Brought to power by the military, he clashed with the generals and was deposed by them. Gen. Musharraf, who forced him into exile in Saudi Arabia before going into exile himself after losing power, tells people that Mr. Sharif has "a beard in his belly."

Mr. Sharif fights this impression, at least with Westerners. In our breakfast talk over fried fish and kahwa, a strong green tea, he noted with irony that he was considered a moderate in power and a fundamentalist only afterward. "Mr. Musharraf kept hammering this rubbish," he said.

Mr. Sharif wants to be seen as a business-friendly pragmatist who’ll make up with India and cut the military down to size. Others prefer to call him a chameleon, an opportunist or a shill for Islamists, even if he’s not one himself. Either way, he’s now kingmaker. A junior coalition partner defected from the Peoples Party coalition this Sunday. Mr. Sharif this week said he won’t bring down the government in a no-confidence vote, but he set out conditions for his support, including the reversal of a fuel-price increase and lower government spending.

It’s a delicate short-term balancing act. He’s not sure to win national elections. He wouldn’t benefit if the military stepped in and doesn’t want to give it a pretext. "Frankly I know that any destabilization will endanger once again democracy," he told me, and he expressed a preference to see the current civilian government serve out its term, which would be a first in Pakistani history.

Larger concerns than party politics loom for the military, the true but unaccountable power in Pakistan. Political and insurgent violence plagues its leading cities. Islamism shrinks space for liberalism. Textbooks drawn up in the Zia era drum hatred into impressionable minds, while the madrassas, or religious schools, are (as Taseer put it) "the swamps amidst which the mosquitos grow."

Optimism is hard to sustain. Syed Babar Ali, a prominent industrialist who founded the country’s leading business college, the Lahore University of Management Sciences, has seen Pakistan grow from birth. "The country is much worse today than yesterday and it won’t be better tomorrow," he said.

On my last night in Lahore, I had dinner with an upper middle class, Western-educated liberal Pakistani. His public prominence makes him anxious about security. He lives in a small compound, surrounded by a high security fence. He raised it to four meters, or over 13 feet, a while ago, and he now plans to add another few meters. "The walls," he said, "keep going up."

Mr. Kaminski is a member of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board.