Monday, June 23, 2014

The Bush Blunder is now back-lashing

June 22, 2014
By Saeed Qureshi

The mindless blunder of invading Iraq in 2003 by the then American President G. W. Bush is now boomeranging in the form of  a renewed civil war between Shias and Sunnis; the  two irreconcilable Islamic sects? Excepting Iran and Lebanon, in most of the Islamic countries, Sunnis are a majority sect while Shias are in minority.
Historically since the demise of the founder of Islam prophet Muhammad, these two sects have been at daggers-drawn decimating and killing each other mercilessly. The destruction, sack and plunder by the Mongol army under Hilaku Khan’ command in 1258 was the result of the conflict between a Sunni caliph Al-Mustaasim and his Shia adviser and grand vizier, Ibn al-Alkami.
The entire city of Baghdad, an abode of learning, research and advancement in all branches of knowledge for seven centuries, was razed to the ground and burnt in six weeks with massacre of 1.5 million inhabitants.
Historically, the Shia or the Sunni dynasties alternating in power have been routing each other with rare abandon since they deem each other infidels and out of the pale of Islam or apostates. The Shia-Sunni unbridgeable rivalry has spilled over to many other Muslim countries most notably in Pakistan.
Pakistan is predominantly a Sunni state and Shias have been on the receiving end from the Sunni fanatics by way of target killings their abductions or group massacres. In many instances Shias were caught, beheaded or slain that can be watched in hideous video clips on the YouTube. The Shia caravans of pilgrims going from Pakistan to Iran or to the Arab lands are waylaid and killed en-masse.
Such is the level of ideological rift between these two sects whose most of the beliefs are common barring the question of succession after the death of Prophet Muhammad. Shias believe it was only Hazrat Ali the cousin brother and son of law of the prophet to be the legitimate successor because he was from his bloodline. The Sunnis believe that the four successors were the rightful caliphs as they were elected and were pious and virtuous.
Saudi Arabia is the sacred center for the Sunnis because of several holy places out of which are two most venerated. One is the holy Ka’aba or the house of God in whose direction the Muslims pray. The other is the mosque of the prophet adjoined by the burial place or tomb of Prophet Muhammad.
For Shias too these are sacred and venerated religious places but in addition to those they go to Iran where most of their Imams or the spiritual successors of their religious creed are buried. They are all from the progeny of Hazrat Ali and idolized as spiritual guides because of being from the lineage of the prophet.
Baghdad and Syria have most of the sacred shrines of the Shias. But the rulers here are mostly from the Sunni sect. Any caliph or the head of the Islamic state in these regions would invariably use extreme coercive power to subdue either Sunnis or Shias subjects.
However, these are the Shias who have been mostly suppressed. Like fanatic Sunnis they also believe that embracing martyrdom was pre-destined for them a kind of faith based obligation because most of their spiritual and religious guides were also martyred by their opponents.
The Bush blunder was that after overpowering Taliban Militants in Afghanistan, president Bush and his war mongering aides including his defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Vice president Dick Cheney, deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz and other Republican neoconservative hawks wanted to replay the same gamble in another Islamic country where an obdurate tyrant Saddam Hussain was ruling that sectarianism infested land for 24 years.
However, in their misplaced brimming propensity to invade Iraq, they lost sight of the historical sectarian divide that resurfaces from time to time in that perennially strife torn country. The American forces occupied Iraq, and later got hanged Saddam through a Shia head of State.  Thus a Shia regime has been at the helm in Iraq for over a decade now. But this regime was of the minority sect and not brought about through a veritable democratic process. Maliki has been more a surrogate of the United States than the true and popular head of the government.
Now the “Arab spring” has also its fallout on Iraq. Syria is like Iraq where another minority Alavi Shia regime has been in power for decades. The rebellion against Syrian Bashar al Assad was kept at bay by Iran, Hezbollah and other Shia forces. But while Syria was kept on the life support by her allies one of which is Russia, the regime and country has turned into a wasteland with hundreds of thousands people killed in that horrendous civil war still raging.
While the western and particularly the American support for both these factions has not been even handed, in Saudi Arabia they supported a Sunni regime, in Iraq they were behind a Shia minority dispensation. By supporting Saudis they antagonized Iran and by supporting Malki regime and half way Shia Syrian regime they soured their relationship with Saudi Arabia.
This was an inherent contradiction in the American policy in dealing with these two countries of Saudi Arabia and Iran spearheading two colliding faiths. Their mutual relations have always been dogged by simmering and incessant religious feud and also because of being Arab and non-Arab respectively. This hostility goes back in the history ever since the passing away of the prophet.
Presently the United States is not in a comfortable position to intercede militarily in the fast deteriorating inferno of civil war in the Middle East. The U.S. policy in the Middle East seems to be held up in a closed alley. Of late, America seems to be softening her posture towards Iran for help in case of Iraq or even Syria.
But the surge of the new Jihadist force ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Levant), consisting of Sunnis, and other Islamic militant groups, the coming days seems to be extremely frightening. If ISIS assails Baghdad their victory might come over the piles of the dead bodies of Shia defenders. Same could be predictable in case of Syria.
We have seen that the military interference and occupation by America and western power of the countries in Far East to stem communism has resulted in physical and conceptual division of those countries. Now Hanoi and Saigon are two centers with communist and capitalist ideologies. North Korea and South Korea too have, irreconcilably, drifted apart. Same bleak and baleful situation could reshape the Middle East.
There are visible signs that Iraq faces the probability of being divided into three independent regions. These could be one for Sunnis, one for Shias and the third for Kurds.   How the situation in Syria would emerge can be anybody’s guess.
Yet it could prove to be a blessing in disguise for a durable peace in this volatile region. Confined to their aspired independent geographical units, these warring factions within Iraq and Syria may not remain mutually annihilating and destructive as they have been all along. May be with re-demarcation and division along sectarian or ethnic lines, the peace that has been elusive in these lands for ages descends finally and permanently.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Which Revolution Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri is talking about?

June 19, 2014
By Saeed Qureshi
 During the past two years, Allama Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri has staged three large rallies in Pakistan. One was in Lahore on December 23, 2012. The second mammoth rally was in Islamabad on January 14, 2013, where his party workers and devotees staged a four-day sit- in agitation that culminated in an agreement between the then PPP government and Dr. Qadri. This agreement titled “Islamabad Long March Declaration” promised electoral reforms and increased political transparency. It was in fact a convenient face saving way- out for both the sides.
The latest third rally was held on June 17 this year at Model Town neighborhood  in Lahore in front of the Dr. Qadir’s residence cum PAT( Pakistan Awami Tehrik) secretariat. Tragically it turned into a bloody clash between charged members of PAT and Minhajul Quran on one side and the riot police on the other. This clash resulted in at least 8 deaths and scores wounded. In comparison the previous rallies were rather peaceful.
However, this ugly encounter seems to be immensely instrumental, though by default, in advancing Dr. Qadir’s mission of a revolutionary change. The Punjab government of PMNL has come under burgeoning pressure and looks like a culprit although seemingly the chief minister had no role to play in the police firing that was not intentional but spontaneous.
Dr. Qadri has spurned all government offers for a dialogue and rejected the formation of a judicial commission to probe the gruesome incident. On the contrary he alleged that the Prime Minister, Chief Minister of Punjab, IG Punjab Police, and certain ministers were behind what he termed as the ‘premeditated murder’.
The PMLQ stalwarts Chaudhry Pervez Elahi and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain have announced their unconditional support to Dr. Tahir Qadri in his opposition solely to the federal and Punjab government run respectively by Mian Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif.
The deep seated political animosity between these two groups is a public knowledge. Imran Khan has too taken an unequivocal stand in favor of Allama Tahirul Qadri and even demanded resignation of the chief minister of Punjab and his law minister. His overtures seem to be merely fortifying the bulwark against Sharif brothers.
One may recall that a few days ago Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Ch. Pervez Ilahi had a special meeting and even press conference with Allama Dr. Tahir Qadri in London. Their blind support for Qadri’s mission is not a secret as Chaudhry brothers are sworn enemies of Sharif brothers. One could even assume that the PAT rally could be an offshoot of the complete understanding between two inveterate opponents of Sharif brothers.
As far Imran Khan, he is adept in blowing hot and cold in the same breath while demonstrating a semblance of political acumen or restraint least expected of a politician. The antagonism for the sake of antagonism speaks for the immature or myopic attitude of Imran Khan even debunking military action against Taliban in Waziristan. Thus by his mindless statements he rebuffs military anti-Taliban blitz. He doesn't realize Taliban are the enemies of the people of Pakistan. They have been busy in destroying Pakistan’s assets and killed and maimed thousands of Pakistanis through incessant wave of blatant suicide attacks for almost a decade now.
On May 25, 1989 Dr. Qadri founded a political cum religious party under the name of Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT). The manifesto of this party broadly is to “introduce the culture of democracy, promote economic stability, and improve the state of human rights, justice, and women's roles in Pakistan and to remove corruption from Pakistani politics”.
His other organization that promotes and propels his objective of bringing revolution in Pakistan is “Minhajul Quran” a kind of religious forum. The professed objective and charter of this outlet is to “promote religious moderation, effective and sound education, inter-faith dialogue and harmony, and a moderate interpretation of Islam employing methods of Sufism”
The manifestos of both PAT and Minhajul Quran put together, as Maulana Dr. Qadri claims is to unfold a green revolution in Pakistan. The green revolution also stipulates the revival of the “Charter of Medina “The Charter of Medina also known as the Meesaq-e- Medina, was a formal agreement between the prophet of Islam Hazrat Muhammad and all of the significant tribes and families of Yathrib or Medina including Muslims, Jews, Christians and pagans. This constitution formed the basis of the first Islamic state.
Its main objective was to end the bitter inter-tribal fighting between the prominent clans of the Aus and Khazraj within Medina. The historic “Medina Accord” brought Muslim, Jewish, Christian and pagan communities in Medina under the fold of one fraternity named Ummah for the first time.
Allama Sahib asserts that while the “Constitution of Medina” laid down the foundations of an   "indivisible composition of the Muslim Ummah or nation, it also guaranteed fundamental human rights to the entire community irrespective of their religious or racial orientations.
Dr. Qadri envisions an “Islamic state as a Muslim-majority country which respects freedom, the rule of law, global human rights (including religious freedom), social welfare, women's rights and the rights of minorities”
The redeeming feature of Maulana’s mission is his resolute stand against terrorism which in regards to Pakistan is the religious terrorism of Taliban. It connotes that Maulana is a liberal and progressive reformer that shuns religious fanaticism propelled by the perpetrators through brutal means and terrorizing the people and by killing them.
In March 2010, Dr. Qadri issued a 600-page Fatwa on Terrorism, in which he scholarly dismantled and categorically condemned terrorism without any ifs and buts. He argued that terrorism and violence has no place in Islamic teaching and therefore no justification can be provided for it. Dr. Qadri can be portrayed as a religious moderate and a steadfast follower of gentle Sufi tradition. This aspect of Allama Qadir’s mission therefore, can be acceptable for the proponents of a modern liberal state and society.
Dr. Qadri aspires and struggles also for a Democratic revolution through electoral reforms in order to elects people of integrity who will be subjected to a “pre-clearance” process to qualify for contesting elections to ensure that the candidates had paid their taxes and they had not defaulted on loans or got the loans written off.
However Allama Sahib should understand that the modern day societies are not like that of Medina when the society was in the process of making. The complexion of the respective present day societies and systems is welfare oriented, are mostly democratic and responsive to the people’s needs and aspirations. The political systems by and large are stable and accountable and the governments come into being with popular franchise. The world community as a whole is prosperous and fraternal.
The international community is connected through fast and all encompassing internet technology. People are not drastically divided along religious lines barring a few Islamic countries. The people enjoy countless privileges and rights that are enshrined in the constitutions of the respective countries even of the authoritarian regimes.
The power tussle is rife in several societies but people socially and economically are more liberated and contented. The countries in the present time are huge and vast than the city of Medina 14 centuries ago. Even the present day Medina is a modern city, hugely populated and bustling with a galore of modern comforts and amenities.  The Medina Accord offers an explicit and shining moral and human guidelines and its theme is literally prevalent in better part of the world.
For example the Bill of Rights in the American constitution offers inalienable rights to all the citizens such as right of life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, freedom of speech, religion, assembly and petitioning the government. The man is no more slaves of the kings, and elite classes as was in the past. The rulers in many countries are elected by the people.
In majority of the societies social morality prevails, the judicial systems dispense justice and media is strident and powerful to spread information of what was happening every moment. Because of an integrated world every society and leader is under an unremitting accountability and watch. The world despite deficiencies acts jointly in case of crisis, calamity, war or disaster. The Medina Pact was solemnized in a primitive limited society under very peculiar circumstances. Its revival is not needed as it is already being practiced on a much wider scale.  
Allama Qadri Sahib would look more credible and rather acceptable if he pursues his moral and political ambitions within the framework of the constitution and law. To bank upon aggression and mobilizing people with powerful rhetorical speeches and show of self-righteousness is meaningless. Such a strategy would backfire because it leads to chaos and commotion. If Maulana doesn’t revise his reformatory mission and reconstruction approach, his dream of turning Pakistan into an ideal Islamic state would never come true.
Directing and monitoring an aimless movement while living a comfortable life in a distant secular and Unislamic land of Canada, looks hypocritical and contentious. Let him live in the slums of Pakistan and spearhead the movement and thus transform the destiny of the people of Pakistan. Example is better than fiery orations or hollow precepts. Occasionally he talks of Tehrir Square that uprooted a might dictator. But Pakistan is not Egypt .Pakistan is now a democratic country.
My hunch is that Dr. Qadri in somehow being used by the forces that are inimical to the incumbent government for one reason or the other. Dr. Qadri seems to be playing in the hands of some political figures who want to have short cut to power corridors. Mercifully the democratically PPP elected government completed its 5 years in power. Let the present government stay at the helm for the same constitutional period. It would be up to the people to reelect or reject it in the next elections. That is how the democratic tradition would be firmly rooted and flourish and that is what Pakistan is in need of.
Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri is blessed with enormous gift of public speaking and articulation. He has a huge and growing bulk of followers and also unlimited financial resources and a safe haven of Canada. He can utilize all these precious assets by entering the political arena of Pakistan like other leaders, contest elections and attain power to transform Pakistan into an abode of his liking and lookout. That would be the best and decidedly rational way to establish his program and plans.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Islam as I understand it

June 15, 2014
By Saeed Qureshi
Let us first of all admit that Islam is a religion just like Christianity and Judaism; that it is a monotheistic religion like Judaism. That it shares its divine ancestry with Judaism and Christianity, even if the latter two religions don’t accept it, because they claim to be the forerunners of Islam. It is in the same way that Judaism doesn't accept Christianity which came much after Judaism.
Let us also acknowledge that Islam has a rich heritage and culture like other faiths.  The Islamic religio-social traditions and customs teach how to dress up especially for the women, what to eat (meals from legitimate income and in case of meat the animals to be slaughtered in a religiously defined way). 
The Islamic ethos also spells out the ways to celebrate the religious days and how to host feasts. It also includes the circumcision and the marriage ceremonies. Islam does not encourage the kind of music and modes of entertainment that arouse sexual, carnal and lecherous sentiments.
Islam like other religions has symbols also. These, inter-alia are the mosque, rosary, holy water (Zam Zam), beard, moon, black stone placed in one of the walls of the House of the Lord (Khana Ka’aba), the green color, the curved sword, minarets and turban. Like many other religions the Muslims too have a holy book Qur’an. It is our common knowledge that this religion sprouted in the Arab land whereas the Christianity and the Jewish were born in the North of the Arab peninsula.
Islam has a package of five basic beliefs. These are: belief in one God or Allah, belief in Angels, belief in Holy Scriptures (Torah, and Bible), belief in the apostles or messengers of God, belief in the Judgment Day, belief in God’s omniscience, prior knowledge and determination of all things.
Islam has also five pillars of Observance or obligations. These are Shahada (declaration of faith) that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. The second is Salat or prayer with face towards Haram Sharif or Khana Ka’aba five times a day. The third is the Zakat or alms which ordains giving a percentage of one’s income to the poor and underprivileged. The fourth is Fasting during the Islamic month of Ramadan. The fifth is Hajj or pilgrimage once in life time if possible financially or health wise.
There are two sources of Islamic Sharia or law in Islam. While the Quran is the primary basis for the Sharia, it is in the second source the Sunna or the life of the prophet as recorded in the Hadith that has been a major source of information for the details of the law only hinted or omitted in Koran. The Sunnah or Hadith of Prophet Muhammad comprises his actions, silent approvals, decisions, utterances, sayings and edicts. The decisions and sayings of the four successors of the prophet called caliphs are also used as precedents for making decisions on matters concerning Muslims or non- Muslims.
Sharia covers the entire body of Islamic law as it developed since the time of the prophet (six hundred legal references in Koran and Prophet Muhammad’s statements contained in the Hadith). Shariah claries if there is confusion on a certain matter and interprets rules and regulations, decisions and edicts of the prophet and Quran. 
The constituents of Islamic Sharia are not confined to Quran and Hadith alone. The other sources are some of the Pagan customs from the Bedouins like Muta and dower and also the traditional commercial/agrarian practices. A select number of Roman and Byzantine laws have also been incorporated in the Islamic Sharia. For instance the plaintiff must produce evidence and witnesses otherwise defendant can swear and clear himself. Jewish, Persian and Greek traditions and laws also form part of Sharia
The Quran narrates parables and stories of the ancient prophets, nations, societies and civilizations and warns as to why they prospered and why some of them received divine wrath and vanished. It gives vivid and detailed information about the life after death, the Day of Judgment and the final destinations of the Heaven and the Hell.
Islam judges or evaluates the temporal and the ecclesiastical matters and the deeds of a faithful through five parameters or commands. These are: absolute duty, (Fard), commendable (Mustajab), permissible (Mubah) reprehensible but without punishment (Makruh) and forbidden (Haram).These five criteria also fall under Sharia. As already explained, the Sharia that governs the conduct of a person or group is derived from the text of Qur’an and also from the practical life of the prophet.
The Islamic state was headed by Prophet Muhammad in the city of Medina in 622 - 632 A D. This was that actual period when the fundamental contours of a Muslim state were laid down. Since prophet (SAW) himself was the ultimate authority on all temporal and divine affairs, his words, decisions and verdicts were unquestionably accepted as the commandments of God conveyed to him through divine revelation (Wahee).
But when the Muslims in subsequent times, through their conquests and preaching missions came into contacts with other civilizations and religions, they faced enormous doctrinal and administrative challenges that had to be resolved rationally if these did not have the precedents within the Quran or the life of the founder of Islam. It is in the wake of such intellectual and doctrinal dilemmas that several schools of jurisprudence for elucidation of Sharia to the outside world and even to the inquisitive Muslim came into being.
The four such orthodox schools of Islamic law that dealt with the application and expansion of Sharia in the subsequent times are:
Abu Hanifa: analogies, parallels or Qiyas gleaned from Quran if there is no order or injunction in Quran or Sunna.
Imam Malik: His collections of laws relied on local traditions of Prophet Muhammad and his companions in order to fit into the customary law.
Al Shafi: Stipulates compromise between tradition and independent thought, restricts use of common sense as done in Imam Abu Hanifa’s Qiyas practice. He founded the science of Muslim jurisprudence
Ibn Hanbal: He was ultra conservative. His legal philosophy is called Nass: It means sanctified opinion derived from only Quran and Hadith and no other source. While he rejected human reasoning adopted by other three Islamic scholars, he preferred even Shaky Hadith to determine a law or decision.

These schools operate within the framework of Ijtehad that means reinterpretation of Sharia or Islamic laws. The decisions arrived at are ordained to be with Ijma or consensus and not to be a single opinion (Raye) of an individual.
Besides these schools, the Muslim thinkers also tried to answer many philosophical contradictions through intellectual scrutiny and rational explanations. Such questions were about the predestination, the free will, mysticism, religious truths and intellectual truths, role of reason in relation to the theological truths and so on.
Apart from these intellectual and religious debates ranging since the passing away of the prophet till now, the simple principle on which the entire Islamic religious philosophy and precepts boil down is that man should live like a servant of God and accept him as the only creator who not only governs the universe and all the existence but also watches the Muslims in the light of their good and bad deeds or intentions.
Based upon the nature of a deed in this world, God, on the judgment day, will give reward and punishment accordingly. The obedience to God has not only to be professed verbally but practically demonstrated through five times daily and one time weekly prayers. A faithful’s virtuous life and personal good conduct is also a testimony to his submission to God as his subject.
Thus Islam wants man to be an embodiment of all positive and good virtues such as humility, charity, peace, chastity, kindness, tolerance, love for fellow believers, respect for elders, and women and so on. The crux of all these noble traits is defined in one phrase that, “a good Muslim is that whose tongue and actions are not harmful to others”. Islam means submission and Muslim means who practices Islam and is unconditionally obedient to God.
Prophet’s Muhammad’s period of leadership is deemed by the Muslims as the ideal model both from mundane and spiritual standpoints. To a lesser degree, the caliphs’ life of piety, self denial and untainted dispensation of justice is also taken and followed as beacons for Muslims. The Shia sect in Islam believes only in the spiritual leadership of the fourth caliph Hazrat Ali, who was the cousin brother and son in law of the prophet also.
The ideological cleavage between the Shias and the Sunnis is the incurable wound on the body of Islam. Although, they share major common elements of faith, yet the Muslim nation is irredeemably and rather irreconcilably divided into two distinct factions forever. Their mutual antagonism is as deep rooted and chronically as bitter as the religious animosity between the Muslims and the non-Muslims. This festering fissure resulted from the claim of the fourth caliph Hazrat Ali as the rightful successor of the prophet for the caliphate.
As for fundamental beliefs, Islam brooks no compromise, nor tolerance nor any deviation. As for the rituals these are subject to certain conditions that apply keeping in view the physical, social and financial status of a faithful. For instance pilgrimage is essential for those who can afford it monetarily. The religious tax (Zakat) is also contingent upon the economic position of a member of Islamic fraternity. The fasting is also not strictly applicable to those with infirm health, pregnant women or during traveling or for similar reasons.
Islamic culture goads moderation, sanctity, piety and sobriety. It shuns or discourages the indecent extravaganza, the morbid exhibitionism, or lewd show off. For instance Islam allows feasts on weddings and merry making on joyful occasions but exhorts serenity and no lavish spending.  In matter of dresses or costumes, it is not necessary to dress up like Arabs by wearing a big long rob but one is ordained to cover the nakedness of certain parts of the body.  
The purpose is to maintain sanctity of one’s body which is more rigid in case of women for their being an object of amorous eyes from the impious or sexually pervert people. Understandably, such conditions can be met by wearing even western, Chinese or African dresses if these fulfill the basic criterion of covering the body and maintaining modesty.
Mindful that the religious teachings and dogmas would not remain rigid for all times and in different societies, the prophet kept the door for amendments and changes open in Sharia but without deviation from the main corpus of Islamic teachings. This is called Ijtehad (literally means exertion). So all the interpretations or alterations in the Sharia worked out by the succeeding Muslim philosophers and religious scholars were done in the light of that provision.
When we compare the western democracy with the Islamic political system and the choosing of the leaders in the primitive Islamic societies with that of the modern times, we tend to forget that it was only after the Renaissance and Reformation that the Europe started embarking upon the democratic path. Otherwise, the Christendom was afflicted with bloodletting conflicts between old Roman Church and the proponents of reforms throughout the Middle Ages. So to paint only Islam as undemocratic is not a pragmatic or truthful approach to the Islamic system of government.
Democratic system functions in a closely knit world with fast communications as we have in the modern times. Otherwise the Greek democracy that was prevalent even before Christ was confined to the cities. Beyond the city states, it could not be expanded because an integrated system of voting or conducting elections in the length and breadth of the vast empire was not possible. Moreover, those were not the ages of enlightenment and therefore the true democratic culture even if conceived could not be practically followed during the present times.
The Sharia that was prevalent during the time of Prophet Muhammad and four caliphs (632-661) can still be applicable if it is suitably modified to bring it in conformity with the phenomenally different world of today. The consensus can be brought about, if the narrow concepts and beliefs affected by sects and denominations, contrary to the age of prophet, are set aside. Or at best these sects can still function but the main consensus code should remain supreme.
Which means that the symbols are just a window dressing and have no pronounced bearing on the life of a Muslim faithful? The rituals are relative and are strictly obligatory for those who have the capacity to observe them. The beliefs are confined to the individual and are personal. What matters most is the resolution or dealing with the crimes, anti-social practices and destructive actions of the citizens. Islam presents a general framework for dispensation of justice. 
The cardinal principle that Islam lays down is the strict fair play, administering absolute justice in complete disregard of someone being poor or rich, influential or obscure, a common man or a man of authority. It should be acknowledged that the modern judicial system fulfills all these conditions if applied by such a government that would respect and sincerely promote law and justice.
It means that the punishment to the convict is imperative but the choice of the punishment and the mode of dispensation can be improved or reformed for such punishments as beheading with a sword. For instance, the theologians and Islamic jurists must acknowledge and therefore incorporate it in a new Islamic code that covering of veil was not possible for women now as was done in tribal or feudal societies in the past and even now.
It is also essential to change through an agreed Ijtehad process that a rape female victim instead of being further victimized and brutalized by the religious laws must be helped against the male rapists. So such unattainable or impracticable conditions as to the production of four witnesses must be discarded because in the present times, the occurrence of rape and the identity of the rapist can be verified by scientific means such as testing of DNA.
The Islamic caveat concerning the interest or mark-up has to be modified because the complexion of the societies and the nature of interest have undergone a radical change. The Arabian society in the 6th or 7th centuries was primarily agrarian. The usury or the interest was charged in advance on cash given to a needful. Now the concept of interest is not like those primitive societies.
The interest bearing economy is now profit making economy because the money remains in circulation. That is how the wealth increases and the economy grows. The old interest concept which now is rather reinvestment for profit has to be modified.
Similarly another issue relating to patrimony or inheritance and alimony (allowance paid by the husband to divorced wife) has to be redefined in the modern societies when the civil laws enshrined in the modern jurisprudence, treat these issues better than the antiquated customs that were derived from the tribal system. If a reinterpretation is not thought about, still the parallel legal or economic system cannot be ignored or ruled out. The world today is interdependent. The Muslims cannot live in isolation.
So it depends upon the governments to apply and enforce laws, otherwise even the best of rules and caveats fail and remain ineffective. The example is the multitudinous Islamic caliphates that used Islam to justify their illegitimate hold on power. They fought each other for power and decimated their rivals to the last man as exemplified by the power struggle between Ummayd and Abbasid and later between other Islamic dynasties.
The religion of Islam is patently secular in nature, not in the religious sense but in terms of its openness, liberalism and accommodation for all opposing creeds and cultures. The incontrovertible shining example of that is the Muslim rule in Spain (756-1492), when the Christians and the Jews lived with the ruling Muslims, enjoying equal rights and in peace and dignity.
In the contemporary times, Malaysia, Indonesia, Tunis, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt and certain Central Asian states offer examples of enlightened, accommodating, progressive Islamic polities where minorities live in peace, harmony and equality along with the Muslim majority. In these countries, the Islamic laws have been enforced in such a way that these not only fulfill the pristine spirit of Islamic Sharia, but also meet the requirements of a modern state.
Although polygamy is practically nonexistent for the majority of the Muslims, yet it is one of the stigmas that Islam suffers from. The polygamy is prevalent mostly in the Arab lands. In other countries it is sparingly practiced in the tribal, feudal and religious classes. But for outsiders this has invariably been used as a slanderous tool against the Muslims to prove that the women folks were sex chattels, were lesser equal and inferior to the males.
That is true to a degree. In order to deal with this contentious issue, it is necessary that the Muslim jurists and theologians should sit together and hammer out a formula that should aim at discouraging the polygamous tendencies and practices in the Muslim societies. Or it can be declared forbidden through Ijtehad.
But I strongly reckon that as the societies tend to be more progressive, the Muslims would themselves abandon the polygamy. As a result, though, the divorce rate would soar among the Muslims as we can see in the western societies where polygamy is lawfully banned. Even now the educated and independent women do not like to marry a person who would be already married. 
So the modernization of the Islamic conservative societies would neutralize this social slur associated with Islam. The domestic violence should be sternly dealt by the Islamic governments but it would also be hopefully outstripped and fade away with the passage of time.
Modernism, liberalism and secularism is the answer to the backwardness, indolence, underdevelopment and intellectual, economic and social decadence of the Islamic world. The Jews hammered out a historic compromise in 18th century when they imbibed and adopted the western ways of life at the behest of the Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. Professor Moses exhorted the Jews to abandon their rigid fanaticism and Talmud and conform to western culture.
Through a political movement aided by the capitalist Europe and America the establishment of the state of Israel was made possible in 1948. In the same way, the Islamic religious fervor has got to be rational and aided by the political and reformative spirit if the Islamic countries want to be counted as modern nations in contemporary world.
The first constitution is always vulnerable to further alterations and amendments. Likewise, the original Islamic ideologies and dogmas that became controversial, counterproductive and rather unworkable, should be overhauled while keeping intact their spirit and core philosophy and teachings of Islam.
If Ijtehad started barely 80 years after the demise of the prophet of Islam by the Muslim reformers, theologians, philosophers and scholars, then such an endeavor is indispensable in the modern times when the Islamic teachings are targeted for their irrationality, obscurantism, subjectivity, inconsistencies and for being out of sync with the rapidly advancing imperatives of a highly competitive modern world.
In Christendom, after prolonged controversies, debates and bloodshed, the state finally managed to relieve itself from the influence of papal supremacy or the domination of the church. Every country established its own church or denomination in Europe elsewhere in the world, and of late in the United States. The Church and state were separated for their respective roles. 
That proved to be a blessing in disguise both for the church and the state. Similarly, in Muslim countries a gigantic effort is needed to harmoniously blend the Islamic beliefs and religious creed with the dynamics and progressive spirit of the modern societies without compromising the essential teachings.
In Islamic states, the state and religion have to function without mutual conflict and contradiction. There should be no place, for fundamentalism, sectarianism, fanaticism, or rigid adherence to a creed, that is outdated and ruinous to the cosmopolitan nature of Islam. 
An enlightened and updated fundamentalism (the age of prophet) is the need of the hour for Islamic societies to move forward and join the comity of modern states in technological, scientific and in other domains of human and material advancements.

Get Rid of Taliban and other Murderous Religious Warriors

June 9, 2014
By Saeed Qureshi

The Taliban terrorists and suicide bombers defiantly stormed the VIP and Cargo terminal at Jinnah International airport in Karachi around midnight on June 9. In that attack 31 people including 10 terrorists were killed. Beside several individuals were also injured. Mercifully they could not inflict ant serious damage to the aircrafts and other precious assets.

 This attack once again brings into sharp focus the extreme urgency of an ultimate military action to conclusively wipe off the Taliban cult and other anti Pakistan religious warriors and thus rid Pakistan of this unremitting scourge and odious, burgeoning menace. After Mehran Base attack, Karachi once again is gripped by a state of paralysis and mayhem. This ferocious and dare-devil attack by these barbarians has again sent shock waves of panic and fright throughout Pakistan.

If the rulers cannot ensure the safety of the people then better they resign and quit power. The present government’s endeavors to build bridge of understanding with Taliban are mere wastage of time. The Taliban who have scant regard for the sanctity of human lives do not deserve nor should be shown any mercy.
The Taliban would never lay down their arms because in their perverted version of Islam they prefer to die to hasten to be in paradise for ideal pleasures and eternal life. 

They do not understand that Islam and other religions exhort sanctity and safety of human beings in a society. How long the political establishments in Pakistan would remain aloof with and watch with folded hands for the day to come when these Taliban would abandon their murderous creed and become loyal citizens. That day would never come and it would be an elusive hope for Mian Nawaz Sharif and the PMLN governments to keep hoping for a fantasy that would never see the light of the day.

It is high time for Nawaz Sharif and the PMLN government stalwarts to shake off their complacency and mobilize the armed forces to nab and decimate each and every member of Taliban cult who are not only declared enemy of Pakistanis but also of the humanity at large. They should stop watching their fellow countrymen being butchered and killed by these human predators who are totally devoid of compassion or basic human feelings for the people of Pakistan.

Such a military action should be constant, coordinated and unstoppable till the last Taliban is finished and the people of Pakistan can feel safe. The pernicious and damaging impact on the economy of Pakistan is colossal and takes time, and funds to be recouped. So this futile game of enticing the monsters in the garb of Taliban should now come to an end.

If the government is still reluctant to unleash a ruthless crack down on Taliban then let the army on its own volition take this most indispensable onslaught and finish the job of eliminating these later day assassins once and for all. Otherwise Pakistan is doomed and would remain subservient to the killing sprees and criminal and bulging demands and dedicates of these murderous thugs.

Such a military onslaught must not be halted or punctured halfway without rooting out this looming menace destabilizing Pakistan with their orgy of blood and incessant terrorism. The Taliban militants have been attacking the military complexes and headquarters with impunity inflicting heavy losses both human casualties and serious blows to military equipment including blowing up military air-crafts.

If the strikes and anti-Taliban offensive continues unabated for quite some time, one can forebode the crippling and elimination of this furious pedigree of religious fighters who by their savage militancy are serving neither Islam nor the people at large
The paramount question is why there should be a soft corner for these brutal and merciless killers when they do not possess an iota of compassion for the innocent people and instead kill and terrorize them and subdue the government to submit to their beastly demands.
An isolated island of merciless, intolerant and narrow minded regime as the Taliban want to establish never existed, nor can it function. Such a regime cannot be compatible with the norms of independence, fusion of cultures and integration that is pervading the globe.

So the elements and forces within Pakistan that harbor some kind of sympathy and support for these queer and freak beasts and later day Islamic crusaders should rethink their outlook. The Taliban are the product of the last two or three decades.

Let the PMNL government move with an unshakable resolve and accomplish the indispensable task without further loss of time. let the government establish the writ of the state of Pakistan.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Can Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif Deliver?

June 1, 2014
By Saeed Qureshi

The good neighborly relationship between India and Pakistan could not be brought about for seven decades. Can Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif resume the peace process initiated jointly by Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif way back in 1999?

That historic process was left in lurch because of Nawaz Sharif’s removal and the Kargil fiasco mounted by Pervez Musharraf. Can the two nuclear armed South Asian nations that fought three wars since independence embark upon a course of cordial and abiding friendship?
In the hindsight one would conjecture that had that peace process continued with the inauguration of Delhi-Lahore bus service by Vajpayee in February 1999, India and Pakistan would have hopefully mended their fences and enter into a new phase of resolving their dicey disputes as border disagreement, terrorism, trade and Kashmir.
. The Lahore Resolution envisaged expansion of trade relations, mutual friendship and denuclearization of South Asia. One would hope that Prime Minister Modi chooses to walk in the footsteps of Vajpayee and take up that unfinished agenda brokered by a BJP prime minister of India and PMNL prime minister of Pakistan. Incidentally the same parties are once again at the helm in both the countries.
Let me first of all offer sincere compliments to the commendable Indian democratic culture for electing a tea vender for the highest office in the country. That shows the unassailable strength of Indian democracy, planted and then nurtured by the successive leaders since the birth of that country on August 15 1947.
In comparison the army ruled Pakistan for almost half of its existence since its independence on 14 August 1947. Within three year after independence, India framed a constitution and protected it all along from being suspended or abrogated. India abolished the feudalism, huge landholdings, princely states at the outset and adopted secularism. Pakistan has remained infested with deeply corrupt political establishment, military coups, horrific Islamist insurgency, and crippling poverty
While in India democratic culture was being adorned like sacred deities, in Pakistan a political anarchy was let loose by the politicians from the beginning that intermittently paved way for the military rules. Pakistan is still under the sway of the Colonial era bureaucrats, rapacious landowners, cutthroat industrialists and ruthless tribal chiefs. Even the latter day politicians with high sounding charter to glorify the destiny of Pakistan had fallen prey to the rank opportunism and consuming lust for self perpetuation in power. They were consequently overthrown by the army.
One such iconic leader was Mr. Bhutto. Tragically he was not only a contributor in the disintegration of Pakistan but also deviated from his revolutionary course inducing a stone hearted religious bigot general Ziaul Haq to seize power. The story of General Musharraf is of recent origin and we are all witnesses to Pakistan coming under the military command although comparatively he was a benign and enlightened military dictator.
India too despite its democratic hallmarks, is plagued with multifarious socio-economic challenges such as grinding poverty endemic corruption and sleazy living conditions of the vast majority. However, it is trying to build an infrastructure that improves the societal picture of India. Still it has to go a long way.
Even though India is the world's largest democracy, yet serious and “ human rights abuses are ongoing, including rape, extrajudicial executions, deaths in police and military custody, torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, arbitrary arrests, and dowry deaths”. Yet despite all these distortions, India is far head of many countries in nourishing the genre of governance via popular mandate and for that it deserves a huge credit and esteem.
Coming to the most cherished yet elusive goal of friendly relations between the two nuclear armed neighbors, one would tend to believe that these can never be cordial and friction free. There are myriad reasons to draw such a conclusion. While superficial and perfunctory pledges and inane claims are floated with regard to friction free and harmonious bilateral relations, the stark reality is that these have remained unattained.
The first irritant is the rigidity of mindsets on both sides that cannot be wished away by any mantra, magic or effort. We have seen the Simla Accord and Indus Basin Treaty going awry. The so called confidence building measures (CMBs) remained confined to the mere lip service and were abided by more in breach that practice.
The Indian mindset is shaped by the embedded perception that Muslims in the sub-continent were outsiders and usurped power that belonged to Hindus. Although the Muslims also reached as far as Malaysia and Indonesia in the primitive times but such strong anti-Muslim sentiment is nonexistent there.
The driving reason for that situation is that in those Far Eastern countries, the population barring a tiny minority consists of Muslims. In India the Muslims are in minority and therefore remain on the receiving end of the non- Muslim majority populace. It would be a wishful urge for the people of both the countries to shun religious bias and live along.
This religious or racial animus pervades the whole of India and Pakistan and can be observed when a match is being played or an armed conflict is going on. The gory episodes like Babri Mosque or clashes on the borderline between the two countries spur the bitterness to a frenzied level both on people and the government levels.
Even if the governments would like to have friendly handshakes, there are religious or sectarian outfits that would want either country to be dispatched to hell. The religious interest groups play a major part in provoking the tempo of bitterness and hostility to the highest pitch. In Pakistan if it is Hafiz Saeed, in India there are stalwarts like late Bal Thackeray and of late Mr. Modi.
In contravention of Indus Basin Treaty brokered by the World Bank, India is building a string of dams over Jhelum, Indus and Chenab rivers that flow down to Pakistan from the Indian side of Kashmir. A time might come that irrespective of international obligations, Pakistan being a lower riparian, may be deprived of the substantial portion of water coming from the Indian side of Kashmir through Jhelum, Indus and Neelum rivers. That could spell disaster for electricity and irrigation in Pakistan.
With such persistent mutual antagonism, is there a possibility for the contentious dispute of Kashmir to be resolved that has remained on the tenterhooks for seven decades? As such what possibility remains that India would relinquish even an inch of that territory if the international arbitration gives such a verdict?
More than a half million soldiers in their part of Kashmir deployed for over two decades are not there for vacation. This huge bulk of army is stationed there to subdue the Kashmiris demanding liberation. Even India is not ready to convert the line of control into a permanent border although Nawaz Sharif might be willing to agree upon that face saving way-out.
In face of such insurmountable bottlenecks and intractable impediments one would be foolhardy to expect or foresee a meltdown of decades if not centuries old animosity. Nevertheless despite these bleak scenarios and murky possibilities there is always a silver lining on the clouds.
One may nurse the fond hope that what could not be achieved by the government of a moderate Indian National Congress party may be made possible by the newly elected Prime Minister Modi despite his credentials as an obdurate antagonist of both Pakistan and Muslims.

After all if another BJP Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee could make an historic visit to Pakistan during the last tenure of Nawaz Sharif’s premiership, why can’t Prime Minister Narendra Modi replay that glittering moment for a momentous breakthrough this time?