Saturday, May 23, 2009

Reminding President Zardari

By Saeed Qureshi

President Zardari has to do two things post haste. He has to reveal the names of the assassins of Benazir Bhutto, the late chairman of the PPP and his spouse. He is on record of publically confessing that he was privy to the identities of her assassins. Then what prevents him from bringing these criminals to justice? Horrifically the party in power whose chairperson was mercilessly slain has not gotten a simple FIR registered with the police so far. Such a high profile murder and so callous of indifference exhibited by her own party to even start a probe is simply stunning. Secondly, he has to expunge the pernicious clauses from the controversial 17th amendment, including the 58-2/B that he had publicly promised to do within 24 hours immediately after taking the highest office in Pakistan.

Ever since Benazir Bhutto was killed at the end of the PPP’s public rally at the Liaquat Garden on December 30, 2007, the party despite being in power has shown no serious inclination or any visible interest in probing this broad day light murder case. A lousy and dullard investigation team of the British intelligence agency Scotland Yard initiated some preliminary, lack luster inquires of a very perfunctory nature and then departed never to come back. Also, the United Nations team’s hasty departure left a million questions unanswered.

Their mandate was, ostensibly, limited and their findings were based on the information provided by the government minions and Pakistan’s intelligence outfits. The investigation which was unproductive must have cost quite a hefty amount to the tax payers of Pakistan. It looked to be just a customary ritual that was performed with no willful passion or seriousness perhaps to remain confined to a hopelessly limited agenda handed out to them by the invisible powers.

A leadership that is, downright, up to the neck in corruption and does not harbor any qualms of conscience about the shameless way they repeatedly lie and backtrack from their solemnly held out commitments to the nation can be simply categorized as the scum of the earth. I doubt even the sensibility and prudence of late Benazir Bhutto to bypass the established democratic traditions and give a blank cheque in the form of a will to her spouse to hold the reins of the party after her death. Even if the heaven was going to fall and she had a definite premonition about her end, such a will that is reminiscent of the family dynasties and hereditary monarchies would not have been the only option left out to her. In the first instance a will was not necessary at all. The PPP is not a family asset or property to be bequeathed to a member of the family.

The bequeathed lucky person was no one else than her husband Mr. Zardari who assigned himself the role of an interim chairman of the party till his adolescent son Bilwal Zardari completes his education and takes over the party as a de jure chairman. To take a custodian’s role and to nominate his young son as the ultimate head of the party is in line with the nasty tribal dastarbandi system or a kind of the preemptive nomination by a king to nominate a successor to the throne. What a pity and what a cruel joke with the theme of a party that proclaimed that democracy was its politics. The party cadres accepted both the will and the succession as a gospel truth and as a sacred creed that was beyond questioning. Since its inception in 1967, the party is being run on mere nominations and there have never been elections within the party to choose the office bearers. The other political parties barring the religio-political parties are sailing in the same boat.

The aforementioned was just beside the point. The cardinal point is that it’s high time for President Zardari to honor his manifest pledge of transferring powers to the prime minister. Thus far, armed with the deadly and powerful weapon of 58-2/B, he looks as a prototype or a clone of President General Pervez Mushrraf. The 17th amendment has to go and that was the election slogan of the PPP as well. President Zardari has never spelt out any reasons that could justify his complete silence or side tracking of the most pressing task of the revision or the annulment of the 17th amendment including the definite removal of the draconian 58-2/B.

In there is a political party or any other force in the political wilderness of Pakistan to remind and convince President Zardari and his party to make a difference between the governance of a military head of state and the chief of a grass root political party? Why president Zardari and his party are bent upon proving themselves to be morally bankrupt and to be audacious on top of that? The stony silence and utter disregard evinced by the rank and file of the party in power is simply disgusting and would not stand in good stead for the future of this one time most robust and leading popular political party of Pakistan. Should Pakistan still reel under the presidential rule or move towards a parliamentary system of government? Time might be running out for both these options.

7.5 Billion Dollars and their Disbursement

By Saeed Qureshi

What would be the modus operandi for the distribution of the 7.5 billion dollars that the US is giving to Pakistan as a special economic package? Pakistan is one of those countries that abound in scams and scandals of the pilferage of funds either allocated locally or received from external sources by way of aid or loans. The culture of misuse or misappropriation of money is prevalent in most of the third world countries where institutional network of strict oversight and transparent accountability has remained elusive.

The ruling elite and the political stalwarts bend every effort and employ every dirty and devious trick to pocket state funds. The development projects for which the allocations are made are vulnerable and easy hunting grounds for the greedy and self serving lot in power. From a small minion and office orderly to the president and prime minister every one looks up for loop holes and mechanisms for making extra buck whose size depends upon the leverage and authority one wields.

Most of the leading lights of Pakistan’s political arena carry the stigma of embezzlements and thieving of state funds as well as taking bribes and kickbacks for doling out dubious favors. Nawaz Sharif, the twice Pakistan’s prime minister, Asif Ali Zardari, the incumbent president of Pakistan and his late wife Benazir Bhutto, among others, were convicted of fiscal frauds and abuse of political power. President Zardari remained in jail for pretty 8 years for gubernatorial cases of corruption and money laundering. The legal proceedings against Nawaz Sharif, for loan default etc are still pending before the relevant courts of Pakistan.

There is whole army of the in-power and out of power ministers and bureaucrats who have been arraigned for underhand deals running into millions of dollars. One such notorious person, sacked on corruption charges and who remained also in the US prison, was Admiral Mansurul Haq, a former Chief of Pakistan Navy. Later he was released against a plea bargain. He was implicated in Agosta Submarine Deals fraud in 1994 as well as other arms sales.

Such cases of corruption linger on in countries like India and Pakistan for years together till they are forgotten and are either quietly closed for want of evidence, through state forgiveness or presidential pardon. The cases of Asif Ali Zardari surpass all such scams involving brazen kickbacks and daring money laundering but were finally quashed on the strength of a presidential pardon. The mind boggling irony is that now he presides over a country that he looted with rare abandon. Thus a proverbial fox is in charge of protecting the hen house. The ill gotten wealth that is accumulated by the elite, the aristocrats, bureaucrats and army generals of Pakistan if recovered would make Pakistan a modestly rich country and even may make it independent of foreign assistance.

The accountability charade in Pakistan has invariably, remained a non starter or mere a handy tool to sort out and hound the political opponents. During the Nawaz Sharif’s premiership, there was a notorious senator named Saifur Rehman whose only past time was to intimidate and tyrannize the targeted individuals till the time they would either become docile, leave the country or cough up the demanded ransom. He was running personal torture dungeons for the ignoble and black mailing pursuits. It is said that one of the catalysts that brought bad name to Nawaz Sharif’s government and earned him displeasure of the masses was this man Saifur-Rehman. In Pakistan like many other countries with unstable institutions the culture of corruption and sleazy practices have every sprouted and flourished unhindered under the patronage of the powerful classes, be these army, bureaucracy, officialdom or political luminaries.

In Pakistan alone the culture of corruption is endemic and has protection from powerful persons and parties. Countless members of the ruling elite or with feudal or military background have not been even questioned how they accumulated the mountains of wealth. There are innumerable members of parliament, business tycoons and powerful mafias within bureaucracy and officialdom, who with the connivance of the banks and lenders get the fat loans and have these written off later.

India despite being a genuine democracy and with a relatively fair and strict judicial and accountability system has remained mired in many financial frauds and scams. One such major scandal is known as the Bofors scandal. In 1980s; the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and several others were accused of receiving kickbacks from Bofors AB, a Swedish heavy gun manufacturing company for winning a bid to supply India's 155 mm field howitzer. The scale of the corruption was so enormous that it led to the defeat of Gandhi's ruling Indian National Congress party in the November 1989 general elections. The scandal was worth Rs 150 billion.

Narasimha Rao, India’s 12th Prime Minister (1991 -1996) was involved in at least four corruption charges, one of which was the Stock market scandal. Although Rao was acquitted of all the charges prior to his death in 2004, his later life was marked by political isolation due to his association with corruption charges. The other three scandals were JMM bribery scandal, St. Kitts forgery scandal and Lakhubhai Pathak cheating scandal.

In comparison to India, Pakistan’s justice and accountability image is much flawed. It is due to the fact that Pakistan has remained under the military authoritarianism for a major portion of its existence. Even in political dispensations, due to weak institutions and slim public scrutiny, there was no effective or well meaning watchdog system that could have guarded the national exchequer and public money. It is, therefore, unquestionably imperative that the disbursement of this huge and hefty amount given by United States should be closely watched and monitored by the donor country herself.The underlying objective of the aid should be to ameliorate the socio-economic conditions of both the country and the people. The money should be strictly spent on building roads, health care, mass education, building schools and hospitals, for clean environment, for enhanced economic activity, promoting agricultural sector, raising the quality of life, making a civil society, civic turnaround, and similar cherished pursuits. Otherwise a loose and remote control paradigm of oversight would turn out to be futile and counter-productive.

The Killing Fields of Swat

By Saeed Qureshi

A colossal human tragedy is taking place in Swat. An orgy of blood is let loose on the swat inhabitants who are in the crossfire of both the brutal militants and a protector army. The war in swat and displacement of the huge population are such immense issues that need to be dealt with adroitness and unstinted resolution. The scenic valley is fast turning into the killing fields.

The government in Pakistan is weak and wobbly. It’s time, either there is a national government or the army takes over for a limited period of time- say a year or so-to stabilize the country, hold elections and recede to barracks. It is clear that the democracy alone is not a recipe or short cut to remove the heap of problems that poor Pakistan is face with.

Pakistan needs an articulate, sober and statesman like head of state who is not perched on the heap of forgiven felonies or exposed to questionable past and who is true to his words. How long our president can remain unleashed from the encumbrances of the past. The time for some one’s atonement for past shadowy doings should not be unlimited. Mr Zardari has not shown any inclination to improve upon his conduct; actually there is an inherent deformity in him of ineptitude and deviousness. He likes to dodge than to deliver. He is back bencher not the front runner. He is cut to be a mediocre, not to lead. In face of Swat calamity and the Balochistan abyss, he is still capable of giving a broad grin as if all was well with the state of Pakistan.

He agreed to restore the judges after colossal economic loss and social upheaval. His dillydallying on the promised amendment of the 17th amendment and expunction of 58-2/B, exemplifies the degree he can be tenacious on dishonoring his promises.

The saintly prime minister with a heavy baggage of shrine legacy, is too soft and perhaps naïve to effectively deal with an extra ordinary crisis and an earth shaking chaos. He is sandwiched between an overbearing yet vacillating president and an over-worried army head. His latest speech announcing action against the militants and financial succor for the displaced families of Swat indicated as if his head is in the hands of a non challant president while the tail is stepped over by the COAS.

The unique US visit, in these troubling situations, could have been cashed as a window of rare opportunity. But it went awry because Mr. Zardari is not Z. A. Bhutto or not even his shadow. Simple sweet grins, warm handshakes and bear hugs hardly matter in cutting the Gordian Knots of international diplomacy. One needs to be compelling, articulate and well stocked with knowledge. One could have bargained for 1.9 billion or 40 billion dollars, depended upon the advocacy and caliber of a pleader.

Mr Hussain Haaqani, the Pakistan’s envoy in Washington is a brilliant diplomat but he cannot fight to the last and his mandate is limited because he is not the president of Pakistan. The cultivation of American lobbies and to make meticulous arrangements for the presidential visit is all that he could do. And that part he has played exceptionally well.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s silver tongued foreign minister and a scion of shrine dynasty like the prime minister , some how remained overshadowed in the string of events in Washington. He was mostly conspicuous by his absence on the front rows.

The country is crying wolf. The combatants in the Karachi battlefield are outbidding each other to prove who would be a bigger goon in the final count. Elsewhere in the country the life is reverting to the cave period – a complete jungle law, no security, no food, no water, no power, no medicines, no transport et al. It’s a free for all situation and a field day for the mighty. The land grabbing mafia is on the rampage, aided and abetted by powerful politicos, law makers and law enforcers. The dacoits and robbers of all hues have spread their tentacles in the entire length and breadth of Pakistan. So much for the people’s rule, a people’s revolution and the rule by a people’s party!

Pakistan is a country where Muslims live, with countless mosques, shrines and unlimited number of relgious demagogues spewing, in full fury, five times a day the message of peace on behalf of Islam. They never tire exhorting their listeners that Islam means peace, justice and equality and help to poor. But where is the peace and all those nice values ascribed to Islam? The more steadfast Islamists cut the throats of their Muslim brethren decreeing them as infidels, yet the clerics say one individual’s unjustified murder was the murder of the whole humanity. Doesn’t this dichotomy make Islam a laughing stock? Perhaps the Muslim faithful have started disbelieving the sermons of Muslim preachers: only to be thundered from the pulpit but not to practice.

How to Reconstruct Pakistan-1

By Saeed Qureshi

Provincial autonomy and more Provinces

Note: This is the first part of a series of articles that I would be presenting on the above theme. Your input and comments are welcome on my site given below.

Pakistan must have as many more provinces as possible. The existing four provinces are like four states within a state. These four big administrative units create regional and provincial friction bordering on hatred. Ever since the creation of Pakistan, one of the overriding hurdles in the way of coveted national cohesion and unity are these administrative elephantine units that vie and remain at loggerheads with each other. With a separate language of each province, the four separate nationalities look conspicuously distinct. Besides it creates communication barriers between the people with less or no knowledge of the national language Urdu.

The fruits of devolution of powers are universally known for balanced and effective development of both rural and urban areas of a country on one side and the backward and advanced areas on the other. In big units as we have in Pakistan, the major chunks of allocation of funds go to those cities or towns from which the politicians or the members of the parliament come. Even otherwise in Pakistan, the rural development has mostly remained neglected as most of the development funds are spent in the urban settlements. For better utilization of resources and quick development more provinces should be created. The long-standing demands for decentralization of power should be actually fulfilled by transferring more powers to the provinces and from provinces to the local bodies.

Unfortunately, due to rampant corruption and lack of effective accountability, the funds are misused and misappropriated. The development projects some times exist on the paper only. The quality of work on building roads and other projects in Pakistan is woefully inferior. The oversight and strict compliance of codes and regulations are more often that not, violated and breached with connivance of the bureaucracy and government officials. The scams and scandals, the nepotism and favoritism in doling out contracts, permits and lucrative licenses are given mostly to the party members, friends, and kith or to those who grease the palms of the members of the officialdom, bureaucracy and the parliament members. The social and civic development remains largely confined to the big cities. The people have to travel all the way to the provincial capitals to meet the provincial assembly members at a big financial cost and time.

Pakistan, even after 60 years of its existence, is devoid of highways between major cities and an efficient railway system. The people suffer from poor, inadequate or deficient civic utilities. The political chaos takes it spillover toll on the quality of life. The availability of sustained water and power, solid waste disposal, health, education, orderly traffic and good transportation that are components of good city management and a smooth civic life have remained woefully unrealized. The quality of life in Pakistan is abysmally low.

In comparison to Pakistan, Bangladesh that separated from the West Pakistan in 1971, despite being much smaller in area (56000 sq miles to 340000 sq miles of Pakistan) has 6 provinces and 64 districts. Bangladesh has a system of distribution of resources and funds for development much transparent, grass root and effective than Pakistan because the money is spread over more administrative units and therefore is spent on a vast area. India has 28 provinces and 610 districts. In comparison Pakistan has four big federating units and only 127 districts.

It would be a breakthrough and a milestone step forward if the present four provinces are partitioned into smaller provinces. The inhabitants of the new provinces would benefits in the following manner:

They won’t look up to the provincial capitals and the politicians sitting there to send them the funds.
With the decentralization and devolution of powers, the people of smaller units can make their own decisions locally and undertake the development and progress that they deem suitable.
It would create more sense of participation by people because of more provincial governments and political freedom.

More provinces will lessen the prevailing acrimony and mutual apprehensions and tension between the four provinces. It would readily assuage the sense of deprivation and discrimination nursed by the smaller provinces against the big province which in this case is Punjab. At present provinces of Balochistan, Sindh, NWFP, harbor a host of grievances against Punjab that range from taking more share of funds to the undue use of water as well as because of the army whose bulk comes from Punjab. Punjab is the target of complaints and grudge of other provinces for being a privileged province as was West Pakistan compared to the former East Pakistan. East Pakistan’s cessation (for Bengalis independence) could have been averted if the Eastern wing of Pakistan had been fairly and equitably treated. Similar kind of threat and danger of disintegration looms over Pakistan now and that can be averted or removed if more provinces are carved out of the existing ones.

The creation of more provinces would meet demands of many regions with common language and ethnic bonds for giving them a status of a province. For instance the Siraiki and Hazara provinces are long standing demand of the people of that areas.The population of Hazara region wants to separate from the Pushto speaking parts of NWFP because their language is Pahari, a dialect mix of Pushto and Punjabi. Siraiki speaking people want to have a separate province because they look different from both Sindh and Punjab as for their language and culture is concerned. The FATA (the federally administered tribal areas) can be converted into a separate province. The valleys of Chitral, Swat, Hunza, and Dir each can also be given separate status of provinces.

Such considerations as common folklore, common language or dialect, common ethnic and cultural milieu and administrative efficiency should be kept in view in creating more provinces. The increase in the number of provinces would help alleviate the inter-provincial friction that so apparently exists now between the four provinces.

As enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan, it is time to give the promised autonomy to the provinces. While the provincial autonomy is a long standing demand and is the constitutional right of the provinces, the powers in the concurrent list that are due to provinces should be transferred to them. Already MQM that holds sway in Karachi and other urban areas of Sindh has categorically called for provincial autonomy, which in their view means only the portfolios of foreign relation, currency and defense should be left with the center. Such a demand should also be a priority issue with other provinces and the sooner it is accepted the better it would be for the harmonious relationship between provinces and federation on one hand and between the federating units on the other.

Once the question of creation of more provinces and transfer of the promised powers to the provinces is addressed, the stability of Pakistan can be guaranteed. Otherwise the clash of interests would keep the center and provinces in mutual bickering and feuding. The break-away feelings and insurgency that is going on in Balochistan can be nailed and quelled, once and for all, if the constitutional obligation of devolution of powers to provinces is fulfilled.

The incumbent democratic government of PPP has also committed in their party manifesto to grant provincial autonomy. It is a pledge whose time to be translated into reality has come. It would be a feather in the cap of the sitting government if it takes this revolutionary and momentous measure that would irrefutably ensure the viability of the state of Pakistan. Let the PPP government prove that it was capable of taking far reaching decisions in the best interest of the people of Pakistan. Let it prove that Pakistan is bound to stay and is not a failed state.

There can be a quid pro quo in sharing powers with the provinces. But essentially as is the practice and custom with other federations around the world, most of the powers must reside with the constituent geographical units. United States of America is one country where such a remarkable model for division of powers is in vogue. The states (provinces) are almost independent in running their local governments. This model can be followed in Pakistan as far as possible.

The provincial autonomy once given would relieve the center of the bureaucratic over-lordship. The function of the center would be to make policy decisions and with the coordination of the provinces implement these. The shifting of most of the ministries to the provincial domain would alleviate enormous administrative and financial load on the center. So it is also in the interest of the center to go ahead with the settlement of the lingering question of provincial autonomy which together with the creation of more provinces would catapult the much coveted paradigm of good governance in Pakistan. Such a landmark decision would undoubtedly put Pakistan on the road to economic prosperity and socio- political stability.

Muslims should stop digging at President Obama‏

By Saeed Qureshi

The Muslims tend to monopolize Barack Obama as the leader of Islam and not the president of the United States, where predominant population professes the Christian faith. They criticize and censure his policies and statements as if despite being a Muslim he was ignoring the interests of the Muslims and therefore was a kind of an infidel. The latest picture showing him blind by two eyes is a crude attempt to peddle a counter productive anti Barack Obama publicity and sentiment.

Such a knee jerk, hysterical and patently indiscreet display of shortsightedness, on the part of Muslims is not going to be fruitful for them. Instead that the Muslims should eulogies and commend his soft pedaling and gradual friendly advance towards the Islamic world, they, by whipping up such misplaced anti-Obama tirade, are trying to dry up the existing good will brewed by Obama. Obama’s administration is merely three months old. Ironically the Muslims don’t care what he was doing in favor of Muslims. They focus on what he was not doing or what he ought to do.

Muslims are a very sentimental segment of humanity. They cheer and anger quickly. The Muslims heralded the advent of Barack Obama as a US president who would be the supporter of the Islamic nations around the world. Much contentment was drawn from his first name Barack and the middle name Hussein. With a self delusive notion, it was taken for granted that Barack Obama would come to the rescue of the beleaguered Islam in a big way.

In the heat and amid the flawed sentimentality of these fanciful passions, the Muslims forgot that he is not the leader of a Muslim country: he is the president of the United States of America. It would be an erroneously self serving wish that he would undo the wrongs done to the Muslims and please and placate the Muslims by over-riding the US national interests. Not even a Muslim can do it and President Barack Obama by a faith is a Christian. It is none of his responsibility to bring the Islamic bloc in order and to act as redeemers for the Muslims around the world.

His first and foremost obligation is to his country. All that he can do it and which he is doing is to rebuild, between Muslims and US, the trust and cordial engagement that was shattered by his predecessor. In the aftermath of the 9/11, an anti -Muslim US administration under a president bereft of statesmanship and shorn of the basic diplomatic niceties, cornered and unfairly treated the Muslims in all possible manners. The 9/11 incident was used by the neo cons under George Bush more to put Muslims en-bloc in the dock, as terrorists, criminals and enemies of America. A billion Muslims were made to look as enemies of America and the so called civilized west.

A blatant and unwarranted invasion of Iraq defied all canons of established morality and the principles that govern the interstate relations. 9/11 was used a handy ploy to implant a colonial outpost in the heart of the Middle East. It was an aggression that had nothing to do with the security and safety of the American nation. That was a colossal blunder the price of which America is paying with a backbreaking economic backlash. President Bush and his cohorts forgot the historic role and sacrifices of the Muslims rendered in Afghanistan to oust the red army.

President Barack Obama who confesses to have Muslims relatives and who comes from a Muslim father has numerous times; both verbally and in writing painted Muslims with a kind and appreciative brush. He has described Muslims as nice, talented, civil and agreeable people. His resolve and decision to utter his full name with the middle name Hussein during the oath taking ceremony as president speaks for his conviction and strength of character. Perhaps he has a laudable fondness for the Muslims whom he thinks were as peace living, law abiding and hardworking people within the United States as other were. How far can he go? He is doing what he can possibly do for the Muslims. He cannot declare Islam as the religion of the United States. Indeed Muslims’expectation are unrealistic and imprudent.

The Muslim detractors of Barack Obama cannot visualize that he has brought about a marked change in United States’ policy and postures towards the Muslims? Not long ago, it was almost a treasonable act to have any kind or contacts with Iran unless that country would succumb to untenable pre drawn conditions. America remained on the war path with Iran labeling it an evil country that was making nuclear weapons to be used against Israel. The relations between Iran and the United States were at their lowest during President Bush presidency. It was quite conceivable that if United Stated had succeeded in Iraq and has stabilized her occupation there, the next target would have been Iran. Such was the nature of the one sided American animosity against Iran.

Now compare that with Obama’s strategy. Obama has never punitively mentioned Iran’s progressing nuclear technology. On the contrary he has chosen parleys to prevail upon Iran to sort out the vexatious issues between the two countries. Iran is getting the American favorable attention to the extent that her cooperation might be sought for obtaining the desired goals in Afghanistan. It is possible that the supplies to NATO forces in Afghanistan might be rerouted through Iran. Iran is now much closer to America and the west Europe than what it was ever since the clerical regime came into power.

Obama’s outreach to the Muslim bloc in pivoted on building of what he says a relationship of mutual respect and sovereign equality In case of Pakistan, the arm twisting policy has been replaced by a process of negotiations and appeasement. With Pakistan, his administration is trying to build up a new understanding largely based on giving a free hand and enhanced yet unfettered economic and military aid to Pakistan. Pakistan might be and is fighting a proxy war for America in the past. But, of late, in the wake of Swat events, this war on relgious militancy has become Pakistan’s own war. So even if America leaves this region or gives no aid, Pakistan would still have to counter this threat of surging fundamentalism. The new American administration unlike the former is well aware of Pakistan’s limitations and therefore has stopped forcing her to do more. American emissaries have been visiting Pakistan during the past several months and their attitude and approach has been rather conciliatory, mild, persuasive and friendly.

With regard to the Isarel-Palestinain conflict, America under the previous administrations has been stubbornly partial and unabashedly partisan in favor of Israel. Obama’s first priority after taking office was to sent an emissary to the Middle East for initiating serious deliberations to address this most intractable issue of the present times. He has steadfastly held on to his elections commitment of recalling American troops from Iraq. He has been a consistent and resolute opponent of Iraq war. Hamas or Palestinians are no more outrightly dubbed as terrorists.

The changes in the foreign policy and external relations of a country take time to materialize. Obama is treading on the edge of a sword. Despite his landmark and brilliant achievements in merely 100 days, he is lambasted, ridiculed and kept under constant attacks by the Neo -Con media such as Fox. The Republicans hawks are not in a mood to lend a support even to his most efficacious and positive policy decisions. In an atmosphere of total hostility and a prevailing propensity for belligerency, generated by the former regime against the Muslims, Obama’s efforts to reverse that trend and embark upon a pacification course with Muslims is indeed commendable and must be gratefully acknowledged.

As a matter of fact this blame game of holding others responsible for the ills and predicaments of the Islamic world should now end. Muslims have never been united either religiously or ethnically. The Arabs hate non Arabs. The sectarian strife has bedeviled the Muslim societies always. The Muslim regimes are either autocracies or monarchies. Despite having enormous riches and resources, Muslims polities are backward and least enlightened. The advancement in science and technology has never been taken seriously by the Islamic countries.

The civil societies and a democratic culture have yet to take roots in the Islamic states. Alienated from their own people and to remain in power, the monarchs, the autocrats and military rulers in the Islamic world, become puppets and mercenaries of the foreign powers. The blame is conveniently placed on the foreign countries for being imperialistic, usurpers and enemies of Islam. If Muslims rulers take their countries along with the developed nations by way of education, civil rights, democratic traditions, accountability and institution building, they will be on the giving rather than on the receiving end. Islamic countries thus can become the envy of the other nations.

The Forerunners of Islam

By Saeed Qureshi

Zoroaster who is believed as a prophet by his followers founded the Zoroastrian religion around 600 B.C. Zoroastrianism as this relgion is called venerates fire to be a medium for attainment of wisdom. Water is believed to be the source of wisdom. Ahura Mazda is the name of the Zoroastrian god or supreme divine authority.

Zoroaster (Zartasht) was an extremely intelligent person who conceived the concept of a rival of God. It was Satan who according to him was responsible for the evil deeds in this world. Since both good and evil are prevalent in human society, he espoused that while God was a force of goodness, Satan was the perpetrator and force of evil. Thus the concept of duality came into being. The Zoroastrian who worshipped fire were themselves the successors of the Saibeen, a generation of pious people mentioned in the holy Quran also.

The belief in God as the source of all good things has been in vogue from the known religious history of mankind. According to the scriptures Satan was there when Adam was being crafted by God. Satan tried to induce Abraham on a rebellious course against God. It was again Satan that misled Cain the son of Adam to kill his brother Able. Also in case of prophet Noah, he instigated his son not to align himself with his pious father.

So Satan was all the time there in the religious mythology. However, we cannot find the activities of Satan when Moses was fighting either against the Egyptian powerful Pharaohs or in case of Jesus who was braced against the Jewish religious zealots. These established cults or relgions opposed those revolutionary pious people like Jesus, Moses and Prophet Muhammad. The Abrahamic religions (Islam, Christianity, Jewish) postulate that since God alone was the master of the universe, nothing happens without his will and command. This could also mean that the evil acts of humans were also directed by God.

But at the same time since God was all good, how come that he has allowed the evil to exist. And since it exists then should we hold God responsible for that. So to absolve God from the evil acts of man, Zoroaster espoused the concept of Satan as the force of evil, darkness and negativity.

Interestingly the cardinal body of Zoroastrian beliefs bears very close resemblance to those of early Saibeen and later of Muslims. It means that Zoroastrianism was the link with Saibeen as their forerunners and with Muslims as their successors for common and shared beliefs. Some of these common beliefs are given below.

Like Muslims they pray five times a day according to the position of the sun.
Like Muslims and Christians they believe that before the end of time a mighty hero named Shah Behram (a prototype of Jesus Christ) would come and establish the rule of the Parsis(fire worshippers) on the earth.
Like Muslims they believe that the souls of dead humans sojourn in a limbo or purgatory till the final Day of Judgment when reward and punishment would be handed out by God. This is exactly what the Islamic belief is that the human soul
will be kept to wait in “Barzakh” till the resurrection day.

Like Muslims, they believe in the bridge (Pul-e-Sarat) to be crossed before entering paradise or hell.

They believe in beautiful women (Houris for Muslim) in paradise to serve the faithful.
They believe in seven grades of paradise while the Muslims believe in eight.
Ablution and cleanliness of body and garments and format of prayers are almost similar between the Judaism, Islam and Zoroastrian relgions.

The Zoroastrian imbibed their relgion primarily from their forerunners know as Saibeen ( 2000 years B.C. and 1400 years before Zoroaster) who practiced the mankind’s oldest known relgion. The Saibeen were influenced by the religion, culture and traditions of their forebears called Samis. Sami race comprised of Babli and Ashuri races. Babuli and Ashuri built cities of Babul, Nainva, and Ashuwar. City of Babul was on the both sides of river Farat.

The main difference between the Zoroastrian and Muslims is with regard to the divinity of fire. Muslims don’t believe fire as a symbol of God or the Sun God as the Zoroastrian believe The Zoroastrian don’t worship fire but treat it as the symbol of God’s pure and radiant light which in Islamic terminology is called ‘Nur’ or holy or divine light. Muslims’ divine light called Nur has nothing to do with the fire or heat of the Sun.

Saibeen and Majoos (fire-worshippers) have been favorably mentioned in the holy Quran as borne out by the following ayahs. It clearly demonstrates that Saibeen, Majoos particularly and Christians and Jews genenraly are not the relgions totally rejected or condemned in Islam. In the light of these Ayahs it surmises that Saibeen and Fire worshippers are partly co-believers of Islam. There is a possibility that during his commercial journeys to the North, prophet Mohammad (PBUH) had learnt about these relgions which actually belonged to those areas around river Farat (Iraq) and of Cannan (present day Palestine, Syria and Lebanon).

Since Abraham (Ibrahim for Muslims), was a cotemporary of Saibeen, he must have been aware of the Saibeen’s religion. It is possible that he himself must have been one of the Saibeen. But Abraham on his own did not spell out the clear contours of Islam as was done by Prophet Muhammad almost 4000 years later. Abraham merely spoke about the monotheism of God and the covenants in shape of circumcision and sacrifice. He never uttered the word Islam. May be the Saibeen had another name of their religious practices.

The relevant Quranic Ayahs about Saibeen and Majoos (fire worshippers) are given below:

“Verily, those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Saibeen [wa’l-saabi’een ], whoever believes in Allaah and the Last Day and does righteous good deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve”[Al-Baqarah 2:62]

“Surely, those who believe (in the Oneness of Allah, in His Messenger Muhammad and all that was revealed to him from Allah), and those who are the Jews and the Saibeen [wa’l-saabi’oon] and the Christians, — whosoever believed in Allaah and the Last Day, and worked righteousness, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve”[Al-Maa’idah 5:69]”

“Verily, those who believe (in Allaah and in His Messenger Muhammad), and those who are Jews, and the Saibeen [wa’l-saabi’een], and the Christians, and the Majoos, and those who worship others besides Allah; truly, Allah will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection. Verily, Allah is over all things a Witness” [Al-Hajj 22:17]”

We can also find a great deal of resemblance and sharing of beliefs between Muslims and Saibeen (Col. Mushtaq’s paper “Truth about evolution of religions”)

Saibeen believed that sun god Bual created universe in Six days and on seventh day he rested. They believed that Bual after creating universe mixed his blood with earth to make shape of man. He then blew his spirit to give life to Adam.

They believed that Adam lived in a garden very happily. He was taught many crafts in the paradise. There was an apple tree in the garden whose fruit was forbidden for him. His wife persuaded him to eat the fruit. On this he was expelled from the garden. This very story with slight changes was believed by fire worshippers and Jews.
Saibeen apart from believing and worshipping statue of Sun god used to circle around sacred stones and used to cover their gods with cloth. They made worship places for sacred stones in Mecca and Hamas.
They used to worship them by circling around them seven times.
Before the advent of Islam some Arabs followed Saibeen. One faction called Naji believed in God, Last day and believed in Punishment and reward on the day of judgement. On arrival of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) when Quresh saw Muslims praying they called them Saibeen and later named them Mughtislah (those who take bath frequently). Saibeen’s centre at that time was city of Harran.
Saibeen used to worship sun god by offering 7 Prayers every day, at a time related to the sun position. Two of them in middle of night were particularly to beseech god Sun to rise again so that fertility and life of the world is preserved.
They used to bend forward and prostrate during prayers.

They used to ensure cleanliness of person and garments before prayers.
They used to take bath when in ceremonial impurity.
They used to offer prayer for the dead without prostration.
Saibeen talked about 12 Burj (Zodiac) in sky. On this are based Jew’s 12 clans, Greek’s 12 gods and 12 Aulia of Muslims.
Alms, Zakat and Ushar were taken from them by Jews. These were used for sustenance of priests.
They used to fast the whole lunar month.
They used to pray with their face towards Kabaa/Mecca.
They would not eat dead animals and blood of the meat.
The women of close relations were forbidden to be married with men, as in Islam
They had similar concepts of Paradise and Hell like Muslims.

There is also a sharing of beliefs between the Fire worshippers and the Christians. Mithra was a cult that was practiced both by fire worshippers and Saibeen. It was a religion that remained in vogue for 600 years in Iran and later moved to Roman Empire in 70 AD. Following their conquest of Iran, the Romans practiced Mithra faith for about 300 years but was set aside after Roman emperor Constantine adopted Christianity as the empire’s relgions in 313 C.E. But despite that Mithra had become a part of Christian faith in matters of rituals and forms.

For instance, in Mithra, December 25 is celebrated as the birthday of Sun God. This was adopted by Roman Catholic Pope Laibris as the birthday of Jesus Christ to please Mithra’s followers although the actual birthday of Jesus Christ is January 6.

However, the common beliefs between Jews and Muslims inter-alia, are: offering sacrifices, saying main prayers once in a week, circumcision, Nikah (relgious ritual of wedlock); divorce, abstention from prayers during ceremonial impurity, not to eat pork and drink alcohol.

Comparing Pakistan with the United States

By Saeed Qureshi

Comparing Pakistan with America is an incomparable undertaking. After stating that both the countries are independent sovereign states and are friendly, the parallelism enters into the zone of inversion. Drawing a comparison between Pakistan and America is more in the nature of contradiction than conformity or convergence. There might be an element of exaggeration in this contention, yet I would not dwell on comparing the features of both the countries by marking these as similar, dissimilar or somewhat similar. To my mind if you show only the American picture, one might well understand the corresponding contrasts or similarities in comparison to Pakistan. The essence of the American society is order and accountability. Then we shall proceed to highlight the civic life by taking into account the city government, institutions, cars, road network and huge shopping chain stores.

The strength of the bustling social life of the American society resides in spending and purchasing power of the people. The automobiles and the countless motorways and access roads are backbone of the vibrant socio-economic life. Besides, the retail businesses via countless chain stores keep the competitive and entrepreneurial climate alive. After the 9/11 tragedy and as a result of the devastating Iraq and Afghanistan wars, United State’s economy has suffered a staggering $ 3 trillion fiscal loss.

If it were any other country, such an astronomical financial loss would have severely impinged on the living standards of the people. But people in United States drive automobiles as usual, shop as before and make fun as they used to do. The shopping centers remain busy with shoppers: the clubs and restaurants with visitors and fun and food loving people. The courts dispense justice as usual. The city governments, the taxation, police and other departments have been functioning without any strain or stress or obstructions. Externally, America is burning money and entangled in costly and bloody wars: internally it has peace, harmony and stability as ever.

There is a pervasive spirit of freedom, equality and bonhomie in American society. The job opportunities, the chances to buy a house, procure a car or business and to get a loan are always open and varied. If a person cannot get a job, he can get an unemployment allowance out of his social security fund. The senior residents are entitled to disability stipend, food supplies and free medical aid. The retired or very old people live in old homes with all the requisite facilities and care. Mothers with children receive food stamps to get free grocery and food items from the stores. The government provides free medical treatment and medicines to the poor and low-income individuals. There are countless emergency food banks and philanthropic agencies that provide food and edibles to the needy and the homeless. Homeless is a kind of human breed that likes to remain one with nature and abhor living in built up tenements. Why should then we not call America a social welfare state?

You can challenge the ticket of a traffic police sergeant in a court of law. For such people who cannot bear the lawyers’ fees, pro-bono attorneys and human right agencies are there to help them. The verdict of the lower courts can be challenged in higher courts. It would be extremely difficult for a judge to decide the cases on the basis of favoritism, nepotism or personal bias. The personal whims may occasionally influence the adjudication but that is rare and can be challenged in proper forums and in higher oversight courts. Indeed there is a craze for making extra buck and in this regard lawyers and doctors do not enjoy a good image but such deviations happen sparingly and there are recourses available to seek justice and remedy against the abuse.

In many years of my stay here, I have not seen the power supply disrupted for a minute, hot and cold water ever stopped in taps, sewer lines ever choked, telephone lines ever gone dead. If the grass in the lawn shoots up beyond a certain height, the city inspector posts a warning on your door and if it happens for the second time a fine is imposed. Such are the strict regulations about environmental cleanliness. Throwing litter in the open places is unlawful. The garbage is unfailingly picked from the houses, highways and roads on fixed days and there is never any lapse in this timetable.

Without fail, the city lanes and roads and parks are mechanically swept. The utility lines both of public and private buildings are regularly checked. The toilets in public places, in offices and commercial buildings are seldom dirty. The traffic lights are never out. There is not a single traffic controller on any intersection yet the traffic is orderly and smooth. Very few drivers would violate the traffic rules even at midnight. Those who do are apprehended and duly fined.

One can walk into a grocery store, in the gas or convenience store any time in 24 hours. You are at liberty to go for a long drive, do your laundry or commute between your job places and house at any time of the day. No one will check you and you are on your own. Your neighbor will not ask you any questions and will not bother or interfere or be nosy with you for coming late at night. You may call 9/11 if you have any problem to your security or health. The trained staff will take you to a hospital soonest in an ambulance with wailing siren while the other motorists would stop on one side of the road.

In Muslim’s mosques, in Hindus’ temples, in Jewish synagogues and in Christian’s churches there is never any acrimonious theological debate about the faith. The faith is strictly observed as personal obligation. In Mosques, Sunnis and Shias and all other sects pray together with hands folded or opened; from Arab lands or from Africa, from Far East or the Central Asia, from Pakistan or India. While praying, no one stares at each other for covering the head or not. An exemplary sectarian and communal peace prevails.

Irrespective of their status or social standing, from a president down to a senator, a congressman, the CEO of a company or a business tycoon, a bureaucrat, a public figure, every one, is subject to an accountability system that is part and parcel of the American society. No one is above law and no one can defy law or the constitution. If caught one has to face the consequences and indicted if found guilty. There is neither favor nor taking sides in the legal process because everything happens in the full public view. The cases of President Clinton, Richard Nixon, the Enron chief, several senators, congressmen and prominent public figures, among others, who were disgraced, imprisoned or punished for misconduct and violation of their office ethics, speak for the supremacy and inviolability of the American legal system. This testifies to an absolutely fair, strict, inflexible and ingrained accountability system.

In the present time, it is immaterial to live anywhere on earth because the world is becoming a global village. One can talk and interact at any time, with any one in any part of the world. The geographical boundaries are losing their relevance. It is, therefore, better to live in a country where life is easier and one can benefit from and enjoy the comforts of a modern civilized society.

The societies of the third world countries will eventually adopt the models of the developed countries for good governance. Till that time, it is advisable for the ambitious and talented to become part of the advanced societies. Many people may harbor such feelings, but living abroad does not involve any moral, national or patriotism questions in regard to the country of one’s birth or origin. The birth place of a person demands affiliation and love but the interests and problems are now are not exclusive or confined to a particular country or region. If there a famine in one part of the world the other countries jointly move and act to remove that scourge. The humanity is now united and integrated than the past because the distances don’t matter now.

It is rather profitable to learn from the experimentation of the modern societies and apply them to one’s own country. The United States is one country which encourages innovative passion and acknowledges and supports scientific research and inquiry. The students and the individuals with a penchant and bent of mind for conducting technological and scientific research for the benefit of mankind are the most valued persons in the United States.

Recently I have had the opportunity to attend the naturalization ceremony for granting the citizenship to the foreign immigrants. Among the whole lot the highest number was that of the Somalian, a nation engaged in hijacking American ships and in high sea piracy. Such is the degree of magnanimity of the American system. Can we expect of Saudi Arabia or other affluent Islamic states whose relgious dogma enjoins upon them to help others especially their Muslim brethren, and allow them to become their citizens? Same applies to the Soviet Union or China that talk of a world with dominance of the downtrodden masses but would not allow any one to stay there as permanent residents.

The socialism’s utopian classless society with the dictatorship of the proletariat as well as the Islamic ideal system of governance can find their image and expression in the American society where people carry respect; equal rights and gets social justice. If that were not the case and petty considerations of race, color, ethnicity relgion and gender would matter, then Barack Obama with a mixed race ancestry could never become the president of the United States. Many immigrants from various countries attained fame and distinction in America in various fields ranging from politics to science.

In this ephemeral and material world, ideal situation can never be possible. That is why there is the dogma of an ideal abode called paradise in the next world. But given the hardships resulting from natural phenomenon and by virtue of human limitations and deficiencies, the life in America is certainly a forerunner of what one can possibly get in the paradise in the hereafter. If the detractors of American capitalist system want to see the taste of pudding then they should do so by eating, which in this case is to witness and feel it by living here. The American spirit or ethos anchored on liberty and human rights are most precious to the American people and if some one goes out of it then he is despised as un-American. There cannot be a batter definition or interpretation of American way of life than by calling it American.

Every society occasionally gets bad and errant leadership as was America under G.W. Bush. But such interregnums are viewed with disfavor by the people and finally such deviant and whimsical leaders are thrown out of power arena by the people through the ballot. American spirit of fairness, accountability, freedom of expression and liberty, civil rights ultimately triumph. This is the beauty of the American democratic system that has panacea of self correction and catharsis and therefore rebounds in a more refined shape.

American imperialism is essentially benign. In comparison, we have witnessed that in Soviet Union and East European communist countries, the Communist ideology of dictatorship of the proletariat had turned into the dictatorship of the communist party. As a diplomat posted in a communist country, I had the opportunity to closely witness the life of the citizens in a communist society. I was horrified to notice that the people remained under a constant paranoid of being caught and punished by the intelligence agencies. The markets were never full supply of items of daily use.

The economic system in the communist bloc was visibly anti dollar but was actually dependent upon dollars procured from the black market or through loans from capitalist institutions like the World Bank. Human and civil rights were the commodities either non existent or in short supply. That is the underlying reason that a benign capitalism remerges with attending welfare for the whole world. On the contrary, the oppressive system of communism falsely premised on the welfare of the masses had doomed, with the collapse of the former Soviet Union, in the rugged terrain of Afghanistan creating its domino, collateral fallout on other socialist countries which now stand liberated.

America has its share of violent crimes, homicides, robberies, drug abuse and fraudulent practices. But these are of much lower number for a population of 300 million. Some or most of these crimes are resolved and once a criminal is caught, he has no escape. As such the scare of law is paramount.

"I have stated the case for America. In the light of this, I leave it to the readers to compare Pakistan with America".

It’s Time to Stop Them!

By Saeed Qureshi

It is time to stop Taliban's impending advance and rumored forays on Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. The pervasive fear is that once Taliban secure their foothold, the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan will pass into their hands and that is the paramount and the biggest worry variously expressed by United States. So in order to preempt and forestall such dreadful eventuality, America might herself pressurize Pakistan to hand over the guardianship of the nuclear weapons to her.

Either way it would be a stunning blow to the Pakistan’s image as a sovereign country. Do our leaders realize that by giving a field day to savage, reckless perniciously brain washed students of the antiquated religious seminaries to rule Malakand with tyranny and inquisitions of the bygone dark ages, they have unleashed the scavengers of death and destruction also to prey on Pakistan? By willful indulgence our leadership has moved Pakistan towards religious anarchy, ideioligcial despotism and danger of disintegration.

Who gave the right to ANP of NWFP and PPP at the center to sign the death warrant of the state of Pakistan, a country, created by an epic struggle and with monumental sacrifices? Is there a new, patriotic, nationalist voice in Pakistan that can assail, condemn and protest at the abject act of cowardice and docile surrender of the sovereignty and independence of Pakistan to the bands of marauding barbarians? No amount of logic and plethora of arguments by any one can justify the grievous cut inflicted on the body politic of Pakistan by the sell-out agents now occupying the saddles of power. The NAR (Nizam-e-Adl Regulation) implicitly cuts across the judicial and legal system of Pakistan. Is there a cotemporary-civilized society where two systems of justice are operating side by side?

The Taliban's justice system renders the constitution of Pakistan irrelvant. Sufi Jan Muhammad the top idelogue and arch cleric of Taliban has ruefully and sternly rejected the prevailing judicial and democratic order in Pakistan by dubbing it as un-islamic. The frightened and bewildered Pakistani nation has yet to see Pakistan’s political stalwarts, if not the president or the prime minister to at least give a verbal assurance that the onslaught of the present day Hashishaians (Assassins) would be resisted and stopped.

It is in this appalling and bleak situation that the people of Pakistan look up to the armed forces, to step forward and come down with full fury and military might, upon the marching Taliban militants and their accomplices within Pakistan and eradicate this swelling menace both to the faith of the Muslims as well as to the territorial integrity of Pakistan. This time, assuredly, the support and prayers of the entire nation minus the power greedy politicians would be with the army, as it is the army only that has the capacity and prowess to brace against the ready to kill and die religious fanatics. The black turbaned hordes of marauders recall to one’s mind the Assassins of Alamut Mountains, who for centuries (1090-1256) kept hanging on the successive Islamic dynasties like a specter of fear and blackmail. Although the Mongols destroyed the Islamic civilization by pillaging Baghdad, yet in equal measure they wiped off the dreaded Assassins by dragging them out of their hideouts in the inaccessible mountains. There is a great deal of similarity between the Assassins of yester years and the Taliban of the on going era.

The existence and activities of Taliban are not only perilous to a sovereign Pakistan but also pose a challenge to the commonly practiced beliefs of the Muslims with different shades of beliefs and dogmas. It is an unwarranted interference in the faith and beliefs of the Muslims with various denominations and sects and therefore this ideological thrust must be resisted at any cost. It was in 1804 that a similar religious group vandalized the Haram Sharif at Mecca, took away precious gifts kept inside it, and desecrated the holy prophet’s tomb in Medina.

The territory of Pakistan would not be an easy prey for the Taliban’s to succeed in their nefarious maneuvers. Pakistan is bigger in size and in population than Malakand. Here we have the army, the civil society and the people. But despite this, we cannot obviate the precedent that they succeeded in capturing Afghanistan, which was also populous and had an army and a large population. Their advent into the mainland Pakistan would plunge the country into a civil and sectarian strife.

In such a chaotic situation, the threat of breaking away of Balochistan from the federation cannot be ruled out. There is no guarantee that the NWFP and the Sindh provinces would not follow suite of Balochistan. And let us not forget that such disintegration would be aided and hastened by the external enemies of Pakistan from far and near.

The government of Pakistan has every right to renege upon the Nizam-e-Adl agreement with the Taliban because Sufi Jan Muhammad and his cohorts also broke their pledge to remain confined to Malakand and Swat only. No sacrifice is too costly and precious than the one to be made at the altar of freedom and for saving the territorial integrity of Pakistan. This is the prime duty of the armed forces of Pakistan and it is the time that they ready themselves to perform this historic role. People of Pakistan look up to the army as the only savior from a horrendous calamity that is directed at tearing the cohesive fabric of Pakistan and further dismembering it after the tragic truncation in 1971. The Pakistan army, with the support of the people, has to wage an all-out war against Taliban and keep fighting it till the task of flushing them out is accomplished.

Only Taliban can do it

By Saeed Qureshi

If by a miracle, the Taliban extend their sway from Swat to other parts or the whole of Pakistan, then perceivably a very astounding development can take place. They could uproot the centuries’ old and deeply entrenched loathsome institutions of Feudalism and fiefdom from the land of pure as they have already done in Swat and Malakand. Pakistan, unlike India has thus far remained polluted and sullied by feudalism that exists in a way as if this was a state within the federal state of Pakistan. Since the inception of Pakistan, no meaningful efforts have been mounted to disband these classes of local lords, nobles and barons that cover and cripple the society like a parasite and scuttle, through intrigues and oppression, the establishment of a democratic polity that of the people, by the people and for the people.

In Pakistan, the feudal and bourgeoisie classes have their roots in politics, in the army, in parliament and even in business. It is one fraternity that survives and acts in unison against the state and the people. If the state does not oppose their possessions of the hug land holdings and their vast fiefdoms then they would remain in good humor and out of making trouble. The feudals and tribal chiefs, lord over their population as if they were their personal slaves and servants. Any move that was aimed at quashing feudalism in Pakistan was fiercely resisted by these local potentates.

It was first Ayub Khan and later Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who in 1977 introduced land reforms. But these reforms otherwise a landmark event, were done half hearted and were left half way due to the absence of sound mechanism for their strict compliance. The land ceilings fixed in those land reforms were realistic but were thwarted and breached variously by the feudal and big landlords via conceit, deceit ,fraudulent transfer of the land to fake names, to servants and family members. When the heat of the land reforms cooled down, the huge land holdings were still in the possession of the same persons and their families.

It is ironical that while we profess Islam and wish for an egalitarian society, we adhere to a much maligned system of feudalism that is reminiscent of medieval monarchies and autocracies. Islam believes in equality and discards anything including wealth or land that is beyond one’s needs. Islam rejects ostentation and profligacy and instead exhorts austerity and self denial. We quote the simple model of the life of our holy prophet and his pious companions and refer to their simple food, barest minimum clothing and patched shoes. We recount the episode of Omar Bin Abdul Aziz the ascetic monarch of the Umayyad dynasty for a very austere life and strict denial of anything that was extravagant in Islamic.

Barring those strict standards and parameters of self abnegation and temperance and with the exception of few chaste individuals, the lives of Muslims on the whole now and even in the past cannot be termed as Islamic. We wallow in wealth and make every fair and foul bid to accumulate as much wealth as we can. The life of the aristocrats, plutocrats, and the ruling elites apart, even a common man wants to be overly resourceful and rich and therefore, remains in pursuit of luxury. Either we should discard the Islamic code of renouncing and relinquishing of what was in excess of our needs or else we should accept that comforts and luxuries were essential needs of the daily life in the modern times. It is true that to be an absolute ascetic or recluse is difficult. But to voraciously possess and gobble up what was more than our needs even in the modern times was conceptually un-islamic.

With unimaginably huge land holdings covering thousands of villages and towns is certainly not Islamic. So is the possession of palatial mansions and keeping bank balances to the tune of millions and billions of these privileged individuals. On the hand a vast majority does not even have a small shelter to live in and an ensured daily meal to eat. The gulf between the rich and the poor in Pakistan is staggeringly wide. Again we have to choose between two views: whether this astronomical affluence is against the Islamic injunctions or else this should be taken as inevitable for the modern living and therefore should be condoned. But still flagrant and yawning inequality between citizens of our society is against the spirit and norm of a civilized society let alone an ideal Islamic polity. In non Islamic capitalist countries where there are no barriers on enriching oneself, the common man at least gets the basic benefits that enable him to live a reasonably comfortable life. As for law in those societies, there is strict accountability and even the wealthiest and the most influential have to justify the possession of wealth and ensure the payment of taxes to the government.

Interestingly, after becoming the local Islamic sovereign in Swat and Malakand, the first thing that Taliban did was to enforce the Islamic as well as the basic principle of socialism. They took over the lands and mansions of the land lords and distributed these among the local poor inhabitants. The ruthless local lords, aristocrats, plutocrats and filthy rich religious and spiritual healers, shamans and sooth Sayers have been dislodged from their lands. The fake and phony spiritual clout of the relgious lot which brings them soci-political power, pelf and a self crafted ecclesiastic license to reign as lieutenants of God on earth has been thoroughly exploded. A judicial system have been put in place in Swat and Malakand that is prompt, quick, punitive, least expensive and deterring. Now some one should tell us if these measures in any way are un-islamic?

By default or ignorance, the ferocious Taliban with rudimentary knowledge of Islam have in fact imposed a socialist system in Swat and Malakand. The communists profess equality and justice. They believe in capturing the power of the state by revolution, crush the capitalism and exploitative classes, establish economic democracy and realize the goal of classless society based upon common means of production and .distribution. Communism stipulates dictatorship of the proletariat and for this they believe in resorting to violence and oppressive means. This is what the Taliban are doing.

In Pakistan, practically run and governed by the privileged elite and feudals, it is inevitable that an equally ruthless and cutthroat organisation should come up that can disarm and dislodge them from their powerful status and grandeur built upon the deprivation and miseries of the common man. That force cannot be army, or the elected representatives or the government or even judiciary. The judiciary even if it is fair has to rely on the support of the administration that is infested by members of nobility and exploitative classes.

If the federal and the ANP’s provincial governments consented to the Taliban’s judicial system to be good for Swat then by logic it should also be beneficial for the rest of Pakistan. So if Taliban want this Islamic law to be extended to other territories, they are simply exploiting the rank opportunism, stark capitulation and folly of the federal and the NWFP provincial governments to acquiesce to that in the first instance. The PPP government is caught in a dilemma because they cannot play with the Islamic tenets: deeming them good for one part of the country and not good for the others.

The matter of the fact is that by declaring the parliament, judiciary, democratic system in Pakistan as un-islamic, the Taliban’s supreme leader, Sufi Jan Muhammad stood by his own creed and dogma with utmost sincerity and unflinching resoluteness. He has, in fact, exposed the hypocrisy and cant of the rulers in Pakistan who subjugated before the will and dictates of a breed of ignorant and uncultured Islamists for short gains. The government has to pay for it very dearly. If the federal government does not further give in to the dictation and demands of the Taliban under Maulvi Fazlullah and Sufi Jan Muhammad and remotely controlled by Baitullah Mahsud, Pakistan is destined to face a renewed spate of the bomb blasts, suicide bombing and bloodshed that was rampant in Swat. So the federal government and that of ANP should be ready to face a new onslaught of the Islamic barbarians who have neither compunctions nor any hesitation to further their mission to the entire length and breadth of Pakistan. The PPP government has to harvest the crop it has foolishly and under pressure sown.

So let Taliban eliminate feudalism, destroy the fortress of the spiritual healers, decimate the self appointed divine solicitors and fake contenders of godly powers and pillage their citadels of exploitation tombs etc where Shirk ( belief in entities other than god) is practiced and where superstitious people are beguiled and misguided. It is foregone that Taliban would not succeed in Pakistan. But in the meantime they would dent or destroy an abominable institution that is nothing short of a scourge. The Taliban, in the longer run, will have to face the combined resistance from the civil society, the people in general and more specifically from the army. Therefore, a relgious and social upheaval will overtake the country that no one knows how long would last. Nevertheless, in order to forestall such a chaotic eventuality, Pakistan’s rulers should speedily move, on their own, to bury and abolish the abominations of feudalism and peerage.

From Swat Accord to Civil War

By Saeed Qureshi

The promulgation of Taliban Justice System in Swat and Malakand is a sure recipe for a civil war in Pakistan. This civil war will take place between the liberals and the Taliban on one hand and the Taliban and their ideological rivals within the Islamic fold on the other. There are clear indications that Taliban who have scored a victory in Swat would spread the tentacles of their justice system to other vulnerable areas in Pakistan. Thanks to the weak and vacillating leadership in Pakistan, and army’s major engagement in the FATA, that after almost a decade of their defeat in Afghanistan by the conglomeration of Northern Alliance and US forces, the Swat faction of Taliban triumphed in staging a come back with their queer brand of Islamization.

After his release, in his first sermon before a rally of his supporters, the pontiff of Islamabad’s Lal Masjid Maulana Abdul Aziz, has, in anticipation, categorically sounded the trumpet of a coming Islamic storm in Pakistan. He said that the Islamic Shariah would be enforced in the whole of Pakistan. It means that there must be already a pre-planning of the next phase of Taliban’s Islamic revivalism movement with a replica of what they had imposed in Afghanistan plunging otherwise that liberal country into a furnace of frightening punishments and no progress.

The Taliban’s pedigree of Islam is basically anti feminist and therefore one should well nigh be imagining that the women folk in Pakistan would either have to remain within the precincts of the homes or else go out with an escort (no one other than their husbands), veil clad and concealing their entire body from top to bottom.

The Taliban would adopt the same strategy of brutalization and harassment through suicide bombing, randomly killing the citizens and hanging their parts of the body on the lamp posts or trees. Pakistan, that is momentarily, one of the most unstable countries would be caught up in a strangle-hold that would further compel the fumbling and weak rulers of Pakistan to concede more ground to the shrew Taliban whose ideological thrust would remain unrelenting till they establish theirs sway over the entire Pakistan. Thereafter they might launch their holy crusade against India.

If that is the future picture of Pakistan, then several possibilities can come up. The United States and NATO would move into Pakistan to stop Taliban and similar Islamic militants to take hold of the nuclear arsenal. Pakistan would be thrown back into the mould of Afghanistan that remained a battleground between the Islamic militants and the foreign troops till the ouster of Taliban.

That situation might be to the liking of US and purveyors of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and capability. Under the urgent compulsion of flushing out Taliban who will pose a real gubernatorial threat to the civil society in Pakistan and sound a death knell to the freedom of the people, the embattled foreign forces on the soil of Pakistan would demand the control of the nuclear regime to stop it from slipping into the hands of the fanatics. The conflict between the two contenders i.e. The NATO and American military on one side and the Islamic militants on the other will not be confined to days or months. It might drag on for years together.

In the wake of such dreadful scenario, the federation of Pakistan will come under enormous pressure from Baluchistan province that would go in an open revolt for secession. Will our leaders who should then be reduced like Karazai of Afghanistan can stop this trend of cessation to be led by Baluchistan and apprehensively to be followed by NWFP and Sindh?

The MQM”s unequivocal rejection of the Swat Deal between the ANP’s provincial government and the Federal PPP government on one side and the Taliban on the other reflects the admirable vision of this party to save Pakistan from being turned into a dark age’s theocracy. Theirs is the only saner, progressive and pragmatic voice in a climate of opportunism, compromise, cowardice and rank hypocrisy of the ruling elite. It speaks for the courage, conviction and honest intent of the MQM that despite being the coalition partner of the PPP at the center and having its own government in Sindh has stood by what is in the best interests of Pakistan. Believably sooner or later there will be an exodus of Taliban to Karachi and Urban Sindh. The Taliban are already stalking and swarming Baluchistan and NWFP provinces. The capitulation of Islamabad to Taliban’s cohorts headed by Maulana Abdul Aziz and the revival of religious activism at the Red Mosque by the uprooted fanatic religious elements (also the external religious outfits), might not augur well for the peace of the federal capital and the adjoining areas.

In such a projected scary spectacle what could be the role of the armed forces of Pakistan! Like the Northern Alliance of Afghanistan, it would join hands with the foreign fighting forces to embark upon a long drawn military blitz of wiping out the Taliban and other obscurantist outfits from Pakistan. It is also incumbent upon Pakistan army, the only armed, organized and disciplined entity to save Pakistan from disintegration and stop the religious extremism that aims at taking roots and pushing Pakistan into the lap of unislamic theocracy.

But while the Taliban would venture to Islamize Pakistan with their model, the other Islamic factions that profess different beliefs might resist them also. The clash of beliefs will lead to a war between conflicting sects. For instance there is a huge population that believes in saints, shrines, mystics and their miraculous powers. These branches of Islamic faith are called Qadria, Chishita or Naqshbandia. There are countless shrines and tombs of the holy saints all over Pakistan where the credulous and superstitious flock and are ready to make any sacrifice fro them. The beliefs of these sects and those of Taliban will collide. In Swat, the Taliban are already destroying the shrines of these dynastic holy families having enormous wealth, pelf and holy clout over the people. This is likely to be a combat between two dogmatic rivals that might weaken both of them.

The civil society in Pakistan will be severely jolted and enormously perturbed over the expansion of Talibanization to the rest of Pakistan. It is with coercion that Taliban have been able to overpower the people of Swat and Malakand as well as debilitate law enforcement agencies. Even the army had to beat a retreat. But Taliban were able to prevail because of the smaller population and area of these remotely located northern valleys.

They might find it difficult to have an easy catch in Pakistan. The civil society will be up in arms against them along with the followers of the shrine creed. The US and NATO in tandem with the Pakistan Army might turn the tide against Taliban and emasculate them. That will take time but once it happens, it would be an historic deliverance of Pakistan and the region from this freakish cult of Gog and Magog.

Young Turks’ Revolution for Pakistan

By Saeed Qureshi

Pakistan is in the dire need of a group like legendary Young Turks who spearheaded and carried forward the reformist movement (1889-1908), paving way for Turkey to shape up as a modern, secular and liberal state. The Young Turks were progressive, modernist patriotic, liberal and democratic. They mounted a campaign against Abdul Hamid II, the Sultan and the Caliph of the decadent Ottoman Empire. The Young Turks’ movement served as a catalyst and a harbinger for the flowering of an intellectual and political life that threw up the secular revolution of Ata Turk, who laid the foundation of a modern Turkish state.

The Young Turks’ movement started secretly under the name of “Committee of Union and Progress” (CUP). It was conceived in the military college of Istanbul by the dissident young soldiers and gradually spread among other sections of Turkish society such as college students, writers, journalists, and artists. In 1908, the group succeeded in forcing Sultan Abdul Hamid II to restore the parliament, which he had suspended in 1878. The restoration of legislature is called the second constitutional era and is symbolized as the Young Turk Revolution that continued from 1908 until 1919.

Let us not forget that the relgious dogmatism in Turkey in the closing chapter of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century was much more severe and radical than what one can see now in Pakistan. Turkey under the Ottoman Sultan or Caliph Abdul Hamid II suppressed all such endeavors by individuals and organizations that would be seen as promoting the western concepts of democracy, constitutionalism, liberalism and civil liberties, so mush so that the press was placed under the brutal censorship. State coercion was lavishly used to suppress progressive trends expressed by word of mouth or literature.

Young Turks’ Movement brought about a change that was nothing short of a monumental socio-political revolution. The movement of Young Turks unfurled the beginning of a journey from an obscurantist relgious empire towards a modern secular state. The founder of new Turkey, Mustafa Kamal Ata Turk who defeated the invasion forces and laid down the foundation of a modern Turkey with its hallmarks of nationalism and secularism, was a member of the Young Turks’ fraternity.

Having given a lengthy curtain raiser of the Young Turks’ revolution, let us now focus on the currently prevailing conditions in Pakistan that bear a great deal of resemblance in ideological aspects with those of Turkish Ottoman Caliphate. Although Pakistan doesn’t have an orthodox caliphate yet the relgious political parties such as JUI, JUP, and JI, the relgious clerics, relgious militant entities such as, Tehrik Nifaze Shariat Muhammadi, Jaishe Muhammad, Sippahe Sahaba and the latest Taliban Islamists are engaged in a mission to revive the pristine Islamic Caliphate system of governance. Already in Swat valley the Taliban’s Islamic Justice system has been enforced. It is foregone that the Islamic fundamentalist revivalists would not remain confined to these remote northern areas and at an opportune moment would march on to the rest of Pakistan.

While Sultan Abdul Hamid used the state police and power to suppress the proponents of a modern democratic system, in Pakistan these are the relgious outfits that want to Islamize Pakistan. For this aim, they relentlessly use every means including the suicide bombing to instill fear, destabilize the society and force the government to accept their eventual Islamization of Pakistan as they have already done in Swat, Dir and Malakand. Their terrorist activities are also a response to the foreign military forces that are stationed in Afghanistan to hunt and liquidate AlQaida and Taliban militants.

The Pakistan’s political parties and leaders lack the courage and moral prowess and indeed a vision of a modern state to countervail these ferocious opponents of progress and the fierce road blockers to the creation of a modern state. Moreover, the leaders are rank opportunists and in order to cling to power, they would even go to any extent to compromise with forces inimical to Pakistan. The Pakistan’s establishment is using its army to fight the relgious militancy in tribal regions to not save Pakistan from slipping into a theocracy. They are doing this at the behest of the foreign dictates and calls. On the whole, barring a tiny minority, the Pakistani leaders tend to be cronies and surrogates of foreign powers.

Relgious extremism is the most alarming and biggest threat to the stability of Pakistan. The island of theocracy that the Islamic extremists want Pakistan to become is not going to work. The minority denominations would remain exposed to the relgious vendetta and discrimination as has been witnessed in such regimes. The people of the present times would not like to revert to a mode of living that would rob them of their freedom of expression, freedom of movement and the liberty to lead their life the way they like. While the other Islamic parties do not oppose scientific inventions and modern technological devices, the Taliban consider the modern gadgets as un-islamic and destroy them as they had done in Afghanistan. The quick fix punishment system is an anti-thesis to the modern judicial system synthesized by the humanity over centuries of hard worked and social evolution. Pakistan stands the nightmare of being thrown into the mould of a religious state that has never been established even in the oppressive autocratic Islamic dynasties.

So logically, the war against the extremists is not only to save the hard won civilization but also to save Pakistan as a modern and progressive state. Islam and modernity have to blend for a viably functioning modern state. The example of Turkey offers a shining precedent to counter and combat the apostles and agents of doom, obscurantism and darkness with steadfastness, firmness and as a bounden responsibility. The compromise with the exponents of an Islamic creed that is essentially not Islamic is the least viable solution to the ideological chaos that looms large over the horizon of Pakistan. After all Indonesia, Malaysia and Turkey are also the Islamic countries. But they profess and practice a refined and reformed version of Islam that incorporates both the boons of modern technological advancements and relgious obligations. Saudi Arabia, for one, despite being an orthodox relgious state has sectarian peace.

Pakistan’s stability is at stake both from the relgious radical militants and the corrupt political parties and leaders. Pakistan has been sinking into the abyss of socio-political chaos and instability, because our political leadership ignored the institutional build up, rule of law, supremacy of constitution, democracy and respect for popular will. These leaders have been thriving on the miseries of the people of Pakistan. The gulf between poor and rich, privileged and impoverished, haves and haves has been unremittingly widening. The abominable feudal system, the khanates, the Sardari serfdoms and strident civil and military bureaucracy was never serious to put Pakistan on a path that leads towards the destiny of the honorable nations. The judiciary with a few exceptions of principled individuals has been on auction and has served as hand maiden of the rulers. Woefully, a country with so much of land and manpower, strategic importance and abundant hidden natural resources is poor and fractured along ethnic, relgious sectarian and regional lines.

It is in this worrisome situation that the role of Young Turks is of inevitable and paramount importance. The Young Turks will not come from the senior army hierarchy. They will emerge and born from the lower and middle ranks of the army. The civil society may be strong but in face of poverty, disempowerment of the masses, superstition, illetreacy and break down of labor union system, it cannot neutralize the baneful over-lordship of the relgious and other pressure groups. The civil society activists can agitate but cannot dislodge and force the reactionary forces to retreat. It is the army that with its organisation, discipline and weaponry can stage a revolution like that of Young Turks. That landmark revolution transformed the sick man of Europe with a rotten and stinking, moribund, theocratic empire, into a modern state that to this day is Islamic but not retrogressive and backward looking.

The young Turks of Pakistan army will be joined by the intellectuals, writers, media, intelligentsia, academics, engineers, scientists’ .NGOs, and liberals, the upholders of the civil society and the votaries of a modern state. It must be understood that for the last 1400 years, the real Islamic state has never come into being. There is not the remotest possibility that it can happen now or in the future. The relgious teachings and doctrines that collide with the imperatives of modern times will have to be amended or conformed in such a way that without undermining the spirit of the inherent philosophy of Islam these can be implemented. An orthodox Islam or its conservative teachings cannot be enforced as these have always been followed more in breach than in observance.

Our material considerations overweigh our subjective relgious beliefs. Disregarding what Islam ordains, even the deeply relgious bigots charge higher profits and care for their own interests than of others. The confusing and contradictory religious decrees from myriad Islamic theologians and sects make the believers practically observe only the perfunctory rituals than the rigid and hard to follow tenets.

From among over fifty Islamic states perhaps Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are the only two countries where a rigid conservative relgious code is enforced. However, inside the four walls, all possible freedom in pursuit of happiness is exercised. In Saudi Arabia the American soldiers in their enclaves, drink and indulge in joyful activities. The Arab Sheikhs in their houses indulge in frivolous activities. Same is the case in Pakistan. Under the cover, from prostitution to gambling and drinking alcohol and all kinds of perfidities and relgious violations occur uninhabited.

In Indonesia, Malaysia, Jordan, Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, and elsewhere the night clubs, pubs and bars thrive. The sex business too is permissible. The people go to beaches, take part in gambling and do horse racing. Very few ladies observe purdah. Concurrently, these countries pursue scientific and technological research, have modern educational institutions for males and females, women and men work together in offices and factories and travel in the same bus and sit together. There is no gender segregation in all these Islamic countries. It is alone in Pakistan that all venues and windows of modern learning and technological progress are decreed by the extremists as anti Islamic. It is in Pakistan that women’s freedom is curtailed

No-where in the entire Islamic bloc, the schools of girls have been torched under the erroneous belief that educating females was un-islamic. In thsse countries, there is much emphasis on character building and attainment of knowledge than on growing beard and wearing particular robs falling to the feet. Yet our government strikes a deal with these freak breed of Islamists to allow them to impose a relgious code that is neither human, nor Islamic, nor congruent with culture and needs and openness of modern civilized society.

The young Turks must suppress all obscurant tendencies that aim at keeping Pakistan as an island of ignorance, intellectual darkness and an abode of archaic medieval culture. .The goals of Young Turks should be to turn Pakistan into a liberal, civilized and modern democratic state. They should enforce these goals with full might and ruthlessness. They must liquidate or sideline all those elements from political arena, business, bureaucracy, relgion, and even army that support and stand for status quo and obscurantism. Accountability and transparent system in all domains of national life must be ensured even if it entails arrests and wiping out the reactionary elements. The Young Turks must stand by as gendarme to watch and oversee that the society and state of Pakistan are safely and surely embarked upon the course of a modern liberal state. In brief the church and the state should be separated.

Let us frankly admit that those people who urge or admonish others to practice Islam and become true Muslims are themselves not doing so. Most of the preachers and fellow Muslims are hypocritical and their conduct and beliefs militate against each other. They don’t’ practice what they exhort others to do. It means that relgious fear is being used as a fashion and to look divine, chaste or pious before others. In our lives, barring our robotic beliefs and rituals; our conduct or living is conditioned by our needs and the dynamics of the society in which we live. The credulous humans who really believe that relgion will bring peace are either too simple or do not want to come out of the fanciful yet bloated past. Peace has never been achieved between Sunnis and Shias so what chance does it stand for now.

So let us indulge in wishful thinking that like Turkey, Pakistan too will have “Young Turks” as the redeemers who, themselves, will be die-hard patriots, thoroughly honest, liberal visionaries, upright to the hilt and brutally uncompromising in making Pakistan a truly liberal, cosmopolitan, democratic, progressive modern state. They would reconstruct a Pakistan where public welfare will be the order of the day, constitution will be supreme, judiciary will be fair, legislature will be incorruptible and institutions will be efficient and geared for real nation building. They will build a Pakistan where equality, liberty, sectarian and ethnic harmony and rule of law would prevail; where the people would be free to pursue their beliefs without fear from the state and the overbearing relgious sects. They will craft and reinvent a Pakistan where the privileged classes, Khans, landed gentry, aristocracy, elitist classes, feudals, Sardars and powerful mafias will be brought at par with the common citizens.

It would be a Pakistan where relgious zealots and bigots would be marginalized both by force, via a cultural revolution and through blossoming of enlightenment and social awareness. It would be a Pakistan where relgious tolerance will be an article of faith and where people would enjoy freedom of movement and expression. The Young Turks of Pakistan would ensure that the parents will not be killed for educating their daughters, the people not bombed for having difference of faith or opinion and where women will not be lashed for going out of their houses. For now, let us accept the stark reality that Pakistan is on the edge of a precipice. Young Turks’ revolution is the answer.