Friday, May 24, 2013

From Reading of Articles to Exploration of Universe

By Saeed Qureshi
 Writing of opinion columns or articles and posting these on Internet is becoming a futile or purposeless undertaking as very few people read these thoroughly. More or less, the readers seem to have a tendency to simply glance at the caption or at the most read the beginning and end paragraphs and leave the main article. This mindset or attitude is understandable because there is an unremitting avalanche of information rushing in from countless sources and channels.

Everyone, every moment receives a barrage of all kinds of emails and it would be utterly impossible to read all of that stuff.  The sages summarized this phenomenon in one single phrase that “excess of everything is bad”, no matter how valuable and worth reading it might be. There is limit to one’s endurance in going through all the material most of which would be of no interest to the recipient or the addressee

I have also observed that invariably the favorable or the unfavorable comments that follow the publication of my articles either on my blog or through emails are mostly based upon the caption and not on the actual text of the article.

There are readers who come up with counter argumentation or proffer their perspectives by simply glancing at the title of the article.  In many cases such arguments or opinions would be out of context with the contents articulated in the body of the article. Occasionally it so happens that the scathing critique, the searching questions they pose or the divergent comments they post are already adequately answered or explained in the article. That perfunctory treatment of article reading has become routine practice with most of the readers.

 There are many email senders or bloggers who pick articles from somewhere else and simply forward it. They would perhaps be under the impression that no one else has received those articles or piece of information. It could be a political comment, an editorial note, an economic treatise a literary or philosophical composition, the synopsis of a book, a poem or the manifesto of a party and so on.

A section of  readers prefer to not read the hard material and instead pick the jokes, the juicy poetry, the amusing anecdotes, and the  private  disclosures about some high profile persons in any domain of life. The emails or publications that carry the piquant, spicy tidbits and exciting gossips about the private life of someone are the most read, and sought after ingredients in these days of mushrooming information technology.

The information and knowledge are exploding every moment and it is impossible to keep pace with the dazzling speed and tempo of that expansion. The space is expanding at a terrific speed of 186000 miles per second. In the similar way, the frontiers of knowledge and contours of learning are continuously bursting at the seams.

The human mind is incapable and too limited to assimilate all the information. It is impossible for the humans to retain ever proliferating and inflating dimensions of inquiry and research. The computers may do that but human mind is not a computer.

One can only imagine that in the coming times, what would be the shape of multi-dimensional human research and incessant urge for delving into the hidden and un-revealed aspects and mysteries of nature and its amazing phenomena.

One may also fantasize or conjecture though not assuredly that if there is the God’s particle discovered by the scientists, there could be a possibility to reach the actual God through science. That endeavor of all endeavors could be in conformity with the divine will as well.

The conception and attributes of God almighty that come to us through Abrahamic religions is that he is like a human who talks, sleeps, takes rest, gets angry as well as pleased. He would punish or reward the humans for their bad or good deeds. God according to scriptures breathed into the nostrils of Adam the breath of life and he became a living being.

We have also learnt through the scriptures and the apostles that God was face to face with Adam the first human being crafted by himself from dust. After the creation of Adam and his appointment as his apostle on earth, God engaged into a bitter debate and controversial argument with angels, and Adam’s arch rival, the Satan

God is invisible from the human eye and is beyond the comprehension of human intellect and intelligence. Scriptures also tell us that God is the creator, master and lord of the universe who keeps a legion of angles and they perform different responsibilities at his command.

But all these interpretations and attributes about God’s being and form  are physical and fall short of a God who has created this amazing universe that is abode of trillions of stars, galaxies and heavily bodies perhaps all spinning with a terrific speed.

Our planet earth is caught into two speeds, one around its axis and the other around in its orbit around the Sun. Both these speeds are terrific and are so harmonious that the earth looks stationary and the life is possible from vegetation to human beings. So God cannot be a potter as we are told by the scriptures. As such God almighty could create Adam without clay as he created heavens, earth and other living creatures all in six days.

Back to my articles! I have no intention to blame anyone for not being attentive and focused on reading my articles written mostly on the current international affairs and political issues. What I would like to emphasize is that one may not read the articles at all. But if you cast your eyes upon an article, it would be better to read it thoroughly.

There is no harm even if someone simply glosses over the caption and moves on. But in that case, no questions should be asked by merely reading only the title. This is also necessary if someone intends to differ with the contents. The questions should be relevant and within the context of the article.

In all fairness you may not read the articles at all if you are short of time or are in the habit of skipping through the long list of emails. It would be plausible to be equipped with the subject matter of the article if the readers would want further explanations from me. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The International Symposium on “Democracy and the Eastern Scholarship”

May 20, 2013
Reported by Saeed Qureshi
 The international symposium held on May 18 in Garland, Texas, under the auspices of South Asia Democracy Watch (SADEW) was a brain storming event and provided enormous intellectual food to the audience that had come to attend it in sizable number.
The symposium was split into three sessions. The first part was dedicated to pure debate and dialogue on the topic of the evening. The second was for the dinner that was delicious and sumptuous. The third part was allocated to music. The famous Gazal (ode) singer Ustad Salamat Ali Khan thrilled the guests with his inimitable skill and profound mastery at singing this genre of oriental music.
 The organizers had planned it meticulously and in very orderly manner. I am highly grateful to our dear mentor and friend Syed Fayyaz for inviting me to this august function and benefit in a huge way from the output of the invaluable debate and discussion.
The main topic of that unique event was, “the Democracy and the Eastern scholarship: Allama Iqbal”. The other two topics or issues to be deliberated and discussed were first: “Democracy in South Asia”. The second was subtitled under Panel discussion: “Allama Iqbal and the contemporary world”.
I had certainly come to grips with the expression “democracy” but about the second part “eastern scholarship” was rather vague for me to understand. With the colon in between this phrase and Allama Iqbal meant that perhaps the author of the pamphlet wanted to convey that Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal was a proponent of democracy and that democracy was part of eastern scholarship. Or vice verse. 
It concisely spelt out that Allama Iqbal was the embodiment or a product of the democracy and eastern scholarship. But the fact is that in his poetry he seldom took a charitable view of democracy. Unfortunately I missed this part of the discussion that must have been animated and soul stirring. I was a late comer for unavoidable reason.
The second title of the debate participated by eminent scholars and intellectuals was captioned as “Allama Iqbal and the contemporary world”. I was trying to figure out as a student of sub-continental history of the post 1857 war of independence till the creation of two dominion states of Pakistan and India in 1947 with a question mark which could be the contemporary history.
 When we correlate Allama Iqbal with the contemporary world then it must be the era until 1938 when that great poet of the East and an outstanding scholar departed from this transitory abode of the world. If the contemporary world means our time period in which we are living then it would be out of place to relate it to Dr. Iqbal as he was not understandably a contemporary of the ongoing times.
The rectangular hall of the Holiday Inn in Garland TX was filled to its capacity. But by the time the music session started it was almost depleted by a half. The reason is obvious that those who had come purely for the symposium on democracy must have thought it expedient to depart due to the paucity of time left at their disposal.
I must admire the scholastic profundity and acute insight that many speakers had demonstrated in their speeches or the presentations. However, I was immensely carried away by a candid and academically rich lecture delivered by Iranian ambassador Dr. Mohammad Mahllati from Oberlin College Ohio. His introduction was only one liner given in the leaflet that was provided to the guests. But I would be eager to know if he was a former ambassador or the incumbent one and which country he has been serving.
Also one would be curious to find out, was he teaching at Oberlin College Ohio or was a student there. In such brochures the detailed profile is always helpful for the audience to be abreast of the background of the speaker. It is also helpful for a novice journalist like me to write a report or note for media. A curtain raiser was given by our friend Raj Muzaffar in his brief introductory address. But to retain the verbal enunciation in the memory is some time difficult.
It was an electrifying address that succinctly established the intimate and abiding spiritual, poetic and intellectual links between Allama Iqbal and Iran. He informed the audience that Allama Iqbal (in Iran fondly called as Iqbal-e-Lahori) is as popular and venerated figure as the celebrated Iranian classical poets.
He also narrated his visit to Lahore and his presence at the Allama’s tomb in front of the Grand mosque (Badshahi mosque). He recited the Persian couplet written on the grave of the sleeping laureate of both Urdu and Persian poetry.
He revealed by way of retracing the history of intellectual revolution and surge in Iran that Ali Shariati, one of the leading scholars in Islamic theology was greatly influenced by the philosophy and vision of Allama Iqbal.
Dr. Nyla Ali Khan was another distinguished speaker in this seminar of great significance. She was the keynote speaker. She has the honor of being the granddaughter of the legendary Kashmiri leader Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah (also called Lion of Kashmir)
She was extremely vocal on the burning question of liberation of the enslaved and colonized people around the world. She was distressed to point out the inhuman conditions under which her fellow Kashmiris were living. She is the author of several books including “Between India and Pakistan”.
She talked at length about the Allama Iqbal’s ancestry from Kashmir by espousing the deep pain of that great poet for the people of Kashmir who during his times were under the tutelage of Dogra rule. They have been suffering for ages and she hoped that one day the travails of the Kashmiris would come to an end.
She voluminously quoted the verses of Allama Iqbal in which he described the pitiable conditions of the Kashmir people. She vigorously established that Allama was against the sectarian discords and wanted a unified creed and faith among the Muslims.  She maintained that the same time he was an ambassador of peace between Hindus and Muslims.
The symposium ended with a note of thanks by the organizers. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan should join hands

By Saeed Qureshi

The courtesy call of Mian Nawaz Sharif on Imran Khan and to offer him playing friendly match raises the possibility that Pakistan Muslim League (PMLN) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) could become coalition partners in the federal government. These seem to be more natural allies. 

Such a coalition can also be formed with the runner-up party PPP that won 31 National Assembly seats. Nevertheless, keeping in view the abysmal and accusations-ridden track record of the PPP, Nawaz Sharif may not consider this option. The PMLN by itself is in a position to form a government independently.

Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan both are centrist nationalists and have profound passion to serve the country in right earnest. Both are deeply aware of the rot and bad governance that has caved into the foundations of Pakistan. 

The chronic corruption that was unworthy hallmark of the last PPP government should be the first priority for the new government to bridle. It ought to be probed that how such a large scale swindling was taking place to rob the national wealth.

Mian Nawaz Sharif is a seasoned leader who has learnt a lot by remaining for years in obscurity and aloofness. He must be extremely mindful of his temperamental shortcomings and arrogance of power that were the fundamental catalysts for his downfall. 

This should be his last chance to rebuild a debilitated and mauled Pakistan by making it a model modern country with a vibrant civil society. He should be tolerant towards criticism from his own party cadres and outside either from the media or the political adversaries. 

Imran Khan who not long ago looked flamboyant and temperamental is new Imran Khan and is talking a lot of sense. He looks sober, prudent and cool while expressing or explaining his point of view. It is a reincarnated and rather reinvigorated Mr. Khan who has made giant strides in the realm of politics in Pakistan.

As a journalist I had been holding a specific perception of Mr. Khan ever since he made his debut in politics, that he is a non-starter. He has been fretting, fuming, and flexing his body muscles and then disappearing with lightening speed from the political scene of Pakistan. He has been aggressive and petulant.

For many years, his party PTI has been a one man show. He was docile and energetic at the same time. During his political journey of fits and starts, he has been changing his opinions and recipes about fixing Pakistan’s perennial and multitudinous problems.

But, of late, he has come of age. He spells out his programs for changing the nauseating status quo in Pakistan with exceptional candor, absolute conviction and amazing poise.  He is no more overly fuzzy or ambivalent about grave issues and monumental challenges that one witnesses on the unpredictable political chess-board of Pakistan. And incidentally he is in a position to translate his ideals into concrete results as a coalition partner of PMLN.

He vehemently talks of changing the loathsome status-quo which means shaking the society upside down not in the physical sense but in cultural, economic and political connotations. And that is what Pakistan needs squarely. 

He is determined to launch a merciless blitz upon the self-serving, greedy and exploitative, privileged classes whose ugly face is manifest in the centuries old feudalism and the so called abominable elitism or aristocracy. He aims at upholding the supremacy of law, the writ of the state and the dignity for the denizens of Pakistan.

Mr. Khan stood by his pledge not to allow ant one to contest elections from his party’s platform unless he or she declares his assets and comes clean in matter of paying income or property taxes. If he can succeed in forcing everyone in the county to declare assets without exception, he can change the economic destiny of Pakistan.

Another redeeming feature and rather fascinating aspect of PTI is the elections within the party. It is a worthy democratic tradition that has been seldom practiced by any other mainstream political party. It demonstrates that if a party can hold on to the democratic principles within its own party, it would certainly enforce it on the countrywide level as well.
There is a plethora and huge pile-up of the emergent and pressing issues for the new regime to address and move fast to bring the derailed country back on tracks. The rampant lawlessness and killing sprees for money or to settle mutual scores have to be put down with iron hand. Let the harassed people be liberated from the blood-dripping clutches of assassins, robbers, rogues extortionists and the ilk.

There should be a team of honest, daring, strict and uncompromising checkers and inspectors in every public department to enforce the codes, rules and regulations and ensure their compliance in letter and spirit. Such a system would be a part of rule of law that is inevitable for clean, efficient and good governance in Pakistan.

A paradigm shift is indispensable with regard to our foreign policy and external commitments to figure out if these were beneficial for the country or not. The refashioning of Pakistan’s foreign policy with hallmarks of dignity, territorial integrity, independence as well as self reliance in economy should be the cornerstones for both these leaders in uplifting a fallen Pakistan.

 The friendly and harmonious relations with our neighboring countries should be central in our foreign policy portfolio. The foreign relations with other countries should not be allowed to impinge upon our sovereignty or to be baneful to our economy. Pakistan should get out of the imbroglio of Afghanistan. It would be in the supreme interest of Pakistan to withdraw the combatant army from the tribal regions.

The Baluchistan inferno with leaping flames of breakaway movements must be doused through dialogue 
with all the political stakeholders in that troubled province. The inter-provincial harmony and unity among the federating units must be built up for a stable Pakistan. For devolution of power more provinces should be carved out of the existing four. That can be a sure recipe to mitigate the internal friction and blame game between the provinces.

The institutional reforms for efficiency or proper functioning should be undertaken without loss of time. Far-reaching and radical changes are inevitable in the income tax regime for obviating the slimmest chances for the tax collecting staff or the tax payers to dodge or swindle the government. 

The existing tax collection system in Pakistan needs to be thoroughly overhauled and computerized for proper and correct record keeping as is being done round the world. Secondly, it should be made simple and easy to follow. The people should be encouraged to solicit help from the professional tax specialists to prepare proper tax returns.

Those who falsify their assets and submit wrong information should be heavily penalized both by fines and jail terms. The assets that they would conceal should be confiscated by the government. Thus a true and transparent picture would emerge and the national exchequer would be filled to brims by way of income tax and property tax.

One of the principle revenue generating sources for America’s federal administration, local governments and counties is the property tax. There is no way that anyone can evade payment of property tax for which the invoice or their bill is sent well in advance. The property and income tax staff is always skeleton in counties here in America. In Pakistan there are excessive and surplus tax inspectors who mostly remain in unholy league with the tax payers.

If along with these momentous tax and property reforms, the civic and municipal system is transformed into city and country governments, Pakistan can have a real grass-root democratic system that would ensure people’s participation in decision making from the lowest rung to the highest level. 

With that if the independent school districts are created to be run and administrated by cities or the counties, the schools and colleges in Pakistan would never be starved of funds as a portion of each county and city’s income would be allocated to the educational institutions.

The civic system in America is mostly run by the cities and can be effectively replicated in Pakistan. The greatest outcome of that change would be that cities would become clean and there will be order in traffic and more roads would be correspondingly built at the city or county level with the increase in traffic.

Then the people would get water round the clock as each city would have plenty of funds to have water reservoirs and a reliable water supply system, without reaching out to the central or the provincial governments for help or to beseech the parliamentarians from their areas to provide such facilities which they seldom do.

The department of land administration and revenue merits emergent transformation. This is one department where bribe and graft are the order of the day and exchange in broad day light like drawing buckets out of water well. 

There are touts that operate between the needy citizens and the officials. The vacation of the land or house grabbed by mafia or influential individuals is one of the most hazardous and impossible tasks in countless instances unless a demanded price is paid to the rogue occupiers.

The existing land department must be computerized for record and data saving systems and transfer of properties. The obsolete  legacies of the past, Patwari, Girdawar, the Tehsildar,  and other minions that present a chain of corrupt command have got be replaced with a small section of professional officials that we find in the United States, in West Europe or even in China.

A separate cell needs to be created with utmost urgency to deal with the cases pertaining to the illegal occupation of properties . The owners with genuine documents should be restored their grabbed properties and liberated from the powerful land mafias and fearsome grabbers. Those so called land mafias that are behind forcible occupation of land and properties either of government or of the private citizens must be dealt with mercilessly.

Without further delay, a plan for creating a network of highways and motorways between major cities should be unraveled. The funds that would come by the reformed revenue system and bolstering of industrial sector should be channeled towards constructing these over- delayed yet most indispensable modes of traveling.

To overcome power shortage the abandoned power projects should be completed as fast as possible. Construction of Kalabagh dam needs to be started without further delay. There is a huge potential of building small or big dams to overcome the chronic and swelling electric power shortage in Pakistan.

Free and compulsory education in Pakistan up to matriculation or senior schooling level is one of those vital decisions that can raise the literacy level in Pakistan. All children until the age of maturity or adulthood that is 16 years must go to school depending upon the age level. 

They should get free lunches and the building must be built that no one can enter at free will or encroach upon the internal class rooms. One can pick up a model of a school from any developed country and build replica of that gradually replacing or remodeling the existing ones.

No child should be seen alone in parks or in restaurants serving as a waiter or in auto workshops as trainee mechanic. This should be punishable by law. These young boys and girls should be getting at least the technical education and not wasting time at work places before the adult age.

The roving teams should check the bazaars and markets if adulterated products were being sold. Such surprise raids should also be conducted on hospitals if spurious and outdated drugs were being used or the patients overcharged or the staffs were absent or derelict in their duties. This strict checking and accountability should be enforced both in the public and private sectors.

 Strict codes of conduct and standards should be implemented and there should be no exception or leniency for the government hospitals or private clinics to bypass or infringe those codes and guidelines.
The reforms for rebuilding Pakistan cannot be exhaustive. 

The tempo and continuance of overhauling Pakistan from every aspect and dimension must be kept unabated. Perhaps this is one those rare occasions when  Pakistan can be resurrected on firm and lasting footing foundations.

These are some of the hints that could contribute towards the nation building through a paradigm change for prosperity, economic uplift, stability, dignity of life,social revolution. Let our new leadership  initiate a journey towards a great destiny


Friday, May 17, 2013

Altaf Hussain’s call for Separation of Karachi

By Saeed Qureshi
The MQM chief Altaf Hussain‘s conditional call for separating Karachi city from Pakistan comes closer to the independence of Singapore from Malaysia in 1965. The Singapore separation from Malaysia that it willingly joined in 1963, was the result of extreme strife, unbridgeable disagreements and ethnic bitterness between the Chinese origin population and the native Malayans mostly Muslims. Is it also the blue print of Jinnahpur that was later swept under the carpet?
Altaf Hussain the fiery and unbridled chief of MQM has enslaved or indoctrinated his Muhajir community, mostly settled in Karachi city after their migration from India in 1947. By his rigid and merciless authoritarianism, instead of integrating, he has isolated his community from the mainstream populace of Pakistan. MQM is basically a movement for the sake of Muhajirs as an ethnic entity and not for the Pakistani nation.

Since its formation in 1984 as Muhajir Qaumi Movement and later renamed as Muttahida Qaumi Movement in 1997, the imprint of MQM in the minds of the people is that of a kind of mafia or an entity of  roughnecks or extortionists. It is believed that the special death and terror squads within MQM kill, kidnap and torture their rivals including the critics from within the MQM fold.

There has been also a prevailing impression that has gained ground, that the extortions or the obnoxious “Parchi system” was first started by MQM to raise funds for the organization to become financially robust for carrying out its political and apolitical activities. Undoubtedly Altaf Hussain has proven to be a great and unassailable master and unbending and strict lord of his party.

He can summon the multitudes of Urdu speaking Pakistanis and Muhajirs within a matter of hours and with one call. They all gather at a venue with their heads down and hands motionless unless raised to cheer or clap for the scathing tirade of their great master. They sit rather motionless for hours together listening to his long, dreary and high pitched discourses as if they have been bewitched or mesmerized. There is a gossip that anyone who does not clap or come to the assemblage is dealt with vindictively.

Several pioneering cohorts and companions are alleged to have lost their lives in all these years ostensibly due to their opposition of the ruthless leader with symptoms of indiscretion. Their names are in the public knowledge.

The MQM captures most seats in Karachi both for the National Assembly and for the Sindh provincial assembly. These seats in the distant past used to be shared by Jamaat-i-Islami and some other political factions. But for many years now these are exclusively bagged by MQM.

With a sizable number of seats in the federal and provincial parliaments, the MQM gathers enough bargaining clout and leverage to share the power at the center and in Sindh. The latest show of their bargaining power was brought to bear in case of their coalition with the PPP government in the national assembly for almost five years with some brief walkout periods.

The MQM has been playing its bargaining card with great dexterity and with a mix of pressure and fear hanging upon the main coalition partner. Thus it would be in a decisive position always to draw as many perks and concessions that it would place on the table for becoming the coalition partner.

The MQM’s political behavior  for all these years has been to  browbeat and flex its muscles whenever its hegemony was challenged by other groups within the context of Karachi and broadly in Sindh. A shrewd and Machiavellian person like president Zardari has always been going extra mile to accommodate MQM’s demands not matter how unreasonable or excessive those would be.

However, the May11, 2013 general elections seemed to have changed the turf, the ground realities, terms of engagement, and environment specifically in Karachi, Hyderabad and generally elsewhere in Sindh province. For the first time there have been aggressive contests with the MQM candidates. The PTI and JI have jointly put up candidates in the constituencies that were out of bound for non-MQM parties.
Yet those who lost in various constituencies alleged serious irregularities and indeed rigging in the areas inhabited by the Muhajir communities. The terror and revenge that is associated with the covert and overt activities of MQM, restrain the rival candidates and their supporters to canvass or carry out their electioneering campaigning.

 Also, for the first time, there has been massive reaction from other political parties contesting the elections. As a result there could be a possibility that reelection or recounting of votes is disputed constituencies is considered by the Election Commission. That possibility has outraged Altaf Hussain so much that he has implicitly demanded separation of Karachi from the rest of the landmass.

By broaching the separation of Karachi from the rest of Pakistan, Mr. Hussain seems to be stepping into the shoes of Mujibur Rehman who was the architect, executor and proponent of cessation of East Pakistan. Although in all fairness, the West Pakistani politicians and the army was much to blame for the tragic dismemberment of one united Pakistan.

The latest address of Mr. Altaf Hussain is pregnant with serious threats and warnings to those who according to him were trying to push the Muhajirs to the wall. If it happens he thundered, neither Pakistan nor its perpetrators would survive. He also lashed out at the media and those journalists who opposed MQM and dubbed them as barking dogs.
Altaf Hussain has the seeds of a great leader and in this role he has converted his thus far meek and marginalized community into a monolithic, united, formidable force that rose to prominence to the extent of becoming a shareholder in political power.

But instead that he himself should have looked upon as an apostle of peace and love, he came to be known as a dreaded and pitiless czar and a violent baron. The MQM itself bore the stamp of an ethic entity with a prevalent perception that it was like a mafia that mostly uses terror and intimidation to draw loyalty out of its cadres. Thus Altaf Hussain unwittingly or inadvertently isolated the MQM from being a party of the national standing.

In his latest tirade from London, while mentioning  Mujibur Rehman and the break-up of Pakistan in 1971, he threw the idea of  separating Karachi an independent unit if MQM”s mandate was not acceptable to the establishment.  He warned that by giving one call he could create mayhem in Karachi. Does he want further dismemberment of Pakistan and is prepared to fight back by mobilizing the Muhajir community?

Does he know that the conditions behind the separation of East Pakistan in 1971 were drastically different from those related to Karachi? Does he mean India would replay her role of further truncating Pakistan and free Karachi for the migrated population to live independently? Can his statements no matter emotional, be interpreted as seditious and treasonable?
It would be absolutely preferable if MQM sheds its image of being a rogue entity and Altaf Hussain elevates his role from an ethnic boss to that  of a national leader. Instead of donning an insidious role like Bal Thackeray or eyeing on what Sheikh Mujibur Rehman right or wrong achieved, he should liberate and unleash his own people from his fearsome stranglehold.

Regardless of what the press projects about him and the MQM, or what his questionable conduct has remained thus far, he should rise above the ethnic straight jacket and serve the entire Pakistani nations.
He should speak and represent the people of Pakistan and not exclusively Muhajirs.

That role would endear him to the entire Pakistani nation and he would be venerated not as a clan lord but a lofty leader of national prominence. By way of suggestion, he should rename Muhajir Qaumi Movement ( MQM) as Pakistan Qaumi Movement(PQM).

Monday, May 13, 2013

Welcome Mian Nawaz Sharif

 By Saeed Qureshi

It is after a long spell of remaining in political wilderness that Mian Nawaz Sharif has staged a stunning comeback into the political arena of Pakistan. The 14 years that he has been cast away, he has witnessed and gone through the most torturous times and phases of extreme sufferings, grinding isolation and burgeoning stress. The people of Pakistani have elected him in May 11 elections to lead the nation as its prime minister. It is a massive demonstration of confidence that the electorate in Pakistan have reposed in him.

In the wake of a bizarre turn of developments, Mian Nawaz Sharif was deposed by the Pakistan army in October 1999 and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf became the new head of the state. Now the situation has taken a 360 degree turn. The man, who deposed, incarcerated and exiled Mian Nawaz Sharif and his family is now a captive in his own palatial mansion declared as sub jail. Strange are the intricacies of politics. 

It is a well-earned and well-deserved victory. It has come through a genuine democratic process known as adult franchise. The allegations of rigging this time seem to be far-fetched and untrue. The army has played its role commendably in the reinforcement and continuation of democratic order in Pakistan. Even otherwise there couldn't be any plausible or earthly reason for the armed forces to scuttle or sabotage the elections.

From the preparation of the electoral lists to the final casting of votes, the environment was relatively and to a greater degree conducive. There was a passionate urge both from the political parties and the people of Pakistan for the elections to be held so that the new elected governments could be formed at the center and in provinces.

By the grace of God and by the resolute willingness of the people, despite the tedious and apprehension ridden period, the elections have finally come through and with a fair degree of peace and poise. The elected people are not angles but what is central to this coveted exercise is that they have been elected through the mandate given by the people of Pakistan.

Both Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif are die hard patriots. They are true Pakistanis and steadfast nationalists. We would have welcomed Mr. Khan in the same exuberant vein as we are extending a very warm and hearty welcome to Mian Nawaz Sharif. It hardly matters who the leader is.

What really matters is who enjoys the trust and support of the people. As far as Mian Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan are concerned their integrity and personal commitment to the welfare of Pakistan is indisputable.

We are also very happy that Imran Khan’ PTI would be able to form the government in the disturbed and turmoil ridden province of Khyber Pashtoons Khawa (KPK). It is hoped that the bomb blasts and suicide attacks by Taliban and their ilk would come to halt or at least subside. That is going to be a huge redeeming feature of Imran Khan’s victory in the troubled KPK province.

Amazingly the ANP that for decades was politically well-entrenched in KPK has to suffer a crushing defeat. It is for the first that ANP’s stalwarts have lost most of their traditional seats. This establishes the cardinal truth that the people are the ultimate arbiters and choosers of their rulers.

A very distinct and novel tradition of outflanking the invincible political top-nothes has been established and that augers well for flowering and fostering of a democratic culture in Pakistan. This pleasant and promising trend has also been witnessed elsewhere in the country where unassailable members of aristocracy, the elitists and feudal classes have been uprooted and lost their seats which they have been holding for decades.

Whenever President Asif Ali Zardari was questioned about the assassins of his wife and chairperson of the PPP, Mohtrama Benazir Bhutto, he parried it by a vague phrase that democracy was the best revenge. One would wonder what would he mean by revenge of democracy but certainly it has turned on the PPP leadership who lost the confidence of the people to such an extent that they could win only 31 seats at the center.

The PPP rank and file is demoralized and its structure shattered as a result of the May 11 polls. In 2013 elections PMLN has won 126 seats. It is up by 55 (71 in 2008) seats. The PPP is down by 66(91 in 2008) seats. Of the total strength of 272, a party needs 137 to form the government at the federal level.PTI trails third with 29 seats.

The new prime minister and for that reason the winning party PMLN would face a plethora of serious and intractable issues. The advent of PMLN into power corridors is not going to be like entering into a garden party. A whole range of thorny problems would be staring at the face of the new government.

The availability of social services ranging from water, power, roads, education, health, to social justice and jobs are priority issues. In addition boosting shattered economy, reining endemic corruption, rampant terrorism and fragile law and order, to name a few would have to be addressed on war footing.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been profusely felicitated by the world leaders, including King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, the UN secretary General Ban Ki-moon, president Obama, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India.

With such enormous reservoir of goodwill one would hope for a positive change on Pakistan’s external front. Pakistan needs durable peace within the region and a greater understanding and amiability and good image elsewhere. As the United States would be vacating Afghanistan, Pakistan would the best indispensable partner to look after the interests of United States. It might also be possible that Taliban and other militant bands can be inducted into Afghanistan’s political set up.

Those Taliban and stray militants who are in Pakistan, can somehow be pacified through a mechanism that does not bring the society under their sway, There are gigantic hurdles that have to be surmounted by the new government as part of rebuilding a new prosperous, socially modern,  geographically stable and peaceful, economically vibrant and militarily strong Pakistan. It seems a tall order but if “there is a will there is a way”. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

May 11 Elections are Landmark

By Saeed Qureshi 
The May 11 elections will herald a genuine democratic era in Pakistan. The holding of elections by itself is a landmark accomplishment and a laudable threshold for the onset of a thus elusive democratic order. 

While the country  is caught up in spiraling diabolic lawlesslessness and violence, it would be after a pretty  long authoritarian spell that the dawn of a representative governance born by the popular vote, would shine at the land and smile at the people of Pakistan.

Powered by the popular mandate, the government in power would be fully competent and legitimate within her right to translate their pledges into concrete outcomes on the ground. The power belongs to the people and that phrase has been truly practiced and reinforced after a lull of long night of darkness and uncertainty. 

The new era is not going to be “God’s kingdom on earth”. But certainly it is going to be a harbinger and a prelude to a better future for a nation suffering so long at the hands of inept and self-seeking leaders.

By all reckoning there is going to be a hung mandate which means that no single party would be able to form a government. As such one can visualize that the regime coming to the fore would be a coalition government.
The army’s role in these unsettling and fragile times has been sober, modest and detached. 

Otherwise there always was the enticing bait for the army to step in and capture power. General Kiani has to be genuinely commended for keeping the army away from the trapping of intervention on the pretext of bridling appalling lawlessness and curbing incessant violence that is still rife.

The outgoing PPP regime deserves a genuine credit for holding elections in face of overwhelming odds and the looming specter of army takeover.  The media and judiciary of Pakistan also deserve huge applause and generous approbation for dispensing a pioneering and historic role during most murky times. 

Both these arms of civil society have been berated and occasionally maligned for being partisan. But truthfully they deserve the entire nation’s gratitude for serving their respective role and responsibilities in an aggressive and befitting manner.

The newly saddled government would be faced with some of the most pressing challenges to be addressed. The ideological dissensions  the ethnic malice and bias, the inter provincial rivalries, the danger of disintegration, the broken down system of basic civic services, soaring cost of living are priority issues to be addressed immediately.

Equally indispensable is curbing the epidemic of violence and terrorism. The dire need of good governance with the dispensation of unalloyed justice, an enlightened education system, universal literacy, and the health faculties for all, a clean and pollution free environment would be another set of reforms to be put in place. 

But most imperative would be the empowerment of the people for making decisions at their local levels, which means creating city governments or universally recognized local bodies system.

The development and creation of a massive infrastructure, boosting the industrial sector to restore the confidence of the business community and the transparency in departments from top to bottom are indispensable ingredients for a new Pakistan to emerge and be respected domestically and aboard.

The contours of the foreign policy have to be redrawn freeing Pakistan from the external hegemony and interference. The national sovereignty and integrity should become an article of faith with the new rulers. Pakistan direly needs to disengage itself from being a crony and hireling of the international hegemonic powers.

The economic health and prosperity is vital for the nation to come out of the morass of poverty and impoverishment. The culture of human rights, emancipation from taboos and superstition, elimination of sectarian discords and decadent fundamentalism, are priorities issues to be given urgent attention.  

Access to inexpensive, prompt and equal justice and availability of abundant basic civic amenities would spruce up and groom Pakistani society and provide a modicum of dignity of life to the citizens.

The list of modernizing Pakistan and putting it on the road to progress, prosperity and stability is not exhaustive. But at least a beginning should be made for a glorious and momentous journey that would gratify the future generations more than the existing one.

The centuries old abomination of feudalism and enslavement of the downtrodden has to be rooted out once and for all. The sway and overpowering influence of parasitical and comprador classes has to be doggedly curbed. The possibility of martial law and attendant cronyism subverting the democratic order has to be decisively obviated.

The rulers and the bureaucracy have to be bound by the ethics of simple living and made accountable to every penny they spend from the tax payers’ money. The ruthless and insidious customs of exploitation of meek and marginalized by the powerful and influential segments and individuals has to be abolished.

We have to watch how after May 11, the new set up unfurls itself and how the formation of governments at federal and provincial levels come up. Would the new government, be humane tolerant and people friendly. 

Or else it would fall back upon serving the elite and aristocratic classes, feed party interests and filling their personal coffers? Would they earnestly make good their pledges and manifestos splashed during the electioneering campaigns.

Hopefully the upcoming leadership in Pakistan would fulfill their solemn commitments made to the nation and thus earn the honor of being trail blazers of a glorious destiny for Pakistan as well as the forerunners of an ensured resplendent future for its citizens. 

There is no gainsaying that Pakistan is blessed with enormous resources, potential and brilliant manpower to gallop on road to the progress and an all-embracing development in a much short span of time.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Guantanamo is a Blot on the Glorious Face of America

By Saeed Qureshi

In his press conference on April 30 president Obama reaffirmed his resolve to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp by repatriating the left over detainees to their respective countries or to other destinations.

The president’s press conference was in response to the grave situation propped up following the hunger strike by 100 detainees out of 166 since February this year to protest against their several years in detention without trial or charge.

The Guantanamo camp was opened by President George W. Bush, to hold foreign terrorism suspects captured overseas after the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001. The maximum number of detainees at the facility brought from various countries has been 779.

These wretched individuals were picked up at random from various destinations around the world without any foolproof system to establish if they had any connection with terrorism. They have been languishing in this camp under most horrifying conditions without any proper trial or review of their cases for years.

The forced feeding of detainees now on hunger strike has generated concerns from international human right organizations including the Amnesty International. While welcoming president Obama’s latest initiative to close the prison camp, these groups have urged him to take action on his own if the Congress still does not support him in moving ahead on this extremely distasteful denial of justice to the inmates or freeing them.

The president who appeared genuinely distressed by the agonizing situation pointed out that the “situation at Guantanamo was not sustainable and the he did not want these people to die”. "The idea that we would still maintain forever a group of individuals who have not been tried, that is contrary to who we are," ---it is contrary to our interests, and it needs to stop.", he emphatically observed.

Obama asserted that he would examine every option available to close the camp, including actions he can take independently of Congress, which could be using his executive powers to get out of this quagmire.
During his first term president Obama transferred many prisoners from Guantanamo to other countries. 

He also tried in 2008 to repatriate the remaining detainees to maximum security facilities in the United States. Buy his initiative to move the inmates from the Bay to the mainland, was blocked by the lawmakers, mostly Republican.

He announced to appoint a senior diplomat for handling the onerous task of closing the notorious prison camp at Guantanamo bay overlooking Cuba. Expressing his determination to cut this vexatious guardian knot he intends to persuade Congress to “end restrictions that have prevented him from closing the facility”.

The white house press secretary Jay Carney told reporters during a briefing that apart from undertaking the main task of repatriation, the “Obama administration also wants to speed up a process for reviewing the cases of the detainees”.

It would be a feather in the cap of president Obama and his administration if they close the dreaded Guantanamo concentration prison as soon as possible. The closure would be an overdue step but in such situation it is never too late to right a wrong. 

Since these unfortunate inmates have been denied the due process of law in order to establish their culpability or otherwise, their incarceration without any cogent reasons, does not seem to be justified.

Guantanamo is like a moral milestone around the neck of America, a country reputed to be an abode of galore of human rights, liberties and dignity for human beings. Its justice system is a marvel and a praiseworthy model for the rest of the world. 

The denial or disinclination to apply this immaculate justice system to the Guantanamo suspects is tantamount to smearing our civil society and sidetracking the constitution. The dispensation of justice and application of laws ought not to be selective by categorizing the suspects on the basis of unproven charges.

The Congress consists of noble, conscientious, prudent and pragmatic members. If they do not join president Obama to close this notorious prison, then they are treading a wrong path for the reasons beyond the comprehension of the judicious Americans and the world beyond. 

Why the Republicans are so touchy and even impervious to take up this thorny issue and resolve it once and for all. Keeping these condemned prisoners in captivity, for no reasons because “we must do it because we want it as such” is a blatant travesty of justice.

Why should we look at the miserable plight of these prisoners with callous indifference as if they are not human being but mere cattle? So much so that they were left with no option but to go on hunger strike unto to death. Sadly the law makers, the legal minds and the administration have been apathetic to a group of individuals who deserve a due process of law to be adjudged innocent or guilty. 

This is not the medieval age that one would be left to rot and die in the dark and dingy dungeons of jail. Nor are we Nazis that we should watch them going through an incessant process of torture, indignity and inhuman conditions.

 Let me finish this write-up by projecting the reaction of the American press to the Guantanamo impasse. On the whole one may have a feel that the press seems to be in favor of untangling the deadlock that has been hanging fire for over a decade now. I shall reproduce two excerpts from the New York Times and the Washington Post: the two outstanding and cherished dailies in the United States.
The New York Times in its editorial made the following observation on Guantanamo.

"It mocks American standards of justice by keeping people imprisoned without charges. It has actually hindered the prosecution and imprisonment of dangerous terrorists. Even if Guantanamo seemed justified to some people in the immediate aftermath of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, those justifications are wearing thin. It is unsustainable and should be closed”
The Washington Times’ editorial assesses the Guantanamo deadlock in the following comment.

“The Pentagon has failed to set up a promised new system for reviewing the cases of prisoners that Mr. Obama ordered established more than a year ago, which means that Guantanamo inmates are receiving less review of their cases than they did during the Bush Administration. It's little wonder that many have grown desperate enough to try starving themselves to death.”