Friday, November 28, 2014

Is there a Method in Imran Khan’s Obduracy?

November 16, 2014
By Saeed Qureshi

Imran Khan, the Chairman of PTI has vowed to remain in the fray (Dharna) even if he is left alone. He disdainfully castigates the other political leaders and accuses them of being enemies of the people and the whole lot being corrupt thugs. Of late, he has lambasted one of the prominent jurists and human rights activists Asma Jahangir ridiculing her and bracketing her with Maulana Fazalur-Rehman.

 Lately an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Islamabad has issued arrest warrants of Imran Khan, Tahirul Qadri the chief of the PAT, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Dr. Raeeq abbasi, Sheikh Rashid and many other leaders of both these parties for raiding the Parliament House and building of the state-run television channel besides manhandling the police personnel. Imran Khan has not even spared the courts and mocked their orders.

Imran Khan has developed a habit of pouncing upon everyone who offers him a piece of advice or challenges his outlandish outbursts in never ending sit-inns staged by his beguiled followers. He has imbibed a propensity of disparaging en-bloc his opponents and hurling bizarre and frivolous accusations on them.

 Like the Spanish ludicrous hero Don Quixote, tilts at the windmills that come his way mistaking those as giants, Imran Khan too seems to be turning paranoid by believing all political leaders were his enemies. Imran Khan has proven himself to be an incorrigible hardliner who is averse or unconcerned about others who may be even his well-wishers. 

From the prime minister to the superior courts’ judges he suspects everyone to be a barrier and hurdle in his reckless and mindless style of politicking. Of late He is left only in the company of street hooligans like sheikh Rashid and renegades of other parties like Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

His mindless insistence on continuing with sit-inns is now turning into a kind of theatrical shows losing their luster and charm for the common people of Pakistan. If he is under the erroneous illusion that he can turn the tide against the incumbent regime of PMLN then he should be squarely mistaken. The worst of Tsunami’s lashing and destructive fury has passed away. 

There is no way that his political storm can shake the government from its foundations or motivate the people coming out from their houses and stage a countrywide  upheaval forcing the government to resign, the courts to close and all social and commercial life coming to a naught.

There was a ripe time for him and his comrades to display a semblance of diplomacy and extract as much mileage from the hard pressed and rather a cornered government. Those were the days in the near past when the roaring orator Tahirul Qadri was one with him and standing at the same stage for a united voice to challenge the ruling cabal. 

Imran hopped from one demand to another hoping that the pressure so built up would bring the government dashing to the ground. Had he accepted the government’s offer for a dialogue to look into the re-elections on certain disputed seats that could have been the first phenomenal step towards tabling further demands in a give and take manner?

To demand outright resignation of the prime minister and dissolution of the assembly was too heavy, naive and unrealistic a demand to be hurled in those tumultuous times. No government worth the name would kneel down before the obduracy of a challenger who was simply bent upon creating a law and order situation in the federal capital of Pakistan and hampering the movement of the people and the traffic. 

The attack and occupation of the government buildings by the PTI activists was yet another daring yet foolish adventure that has now come back to them in the summons of courts against the arch leaders of the PTI and PTA.

The jargon and language of Imran and his coteries of foul mouthing colleagues has been overly derogatory and at times amounts to character assassination of his targets.  It would be doubtful if Imran Khan can reinvigorate and mobilize his supporters and fans once again with the same force and tempo that was seen in them couple of months ago.

One of the pernicious fallout of the constant sit-ins was the cancellation of the milestone Chinese’s premier’s visit to Pakistan for a gigantic cooperation and an all embracing collaboration in many domains particularly the economic mainly benefiting Pakistan. Those protocols were now solemnized with the prime minister of Pakistan’s state visit to China. 

With the huge Chinese investment of 45 billion dollars in Pakistan, various watershed projects like the generation of energy, a network of highways would be completed in a given frame of time. Pakistan’s economy and social life can take giant leaps towards betterment.
The writer is a senior journalist, former editor of Diplomatic Times and a former diplomat.This and other articles by the writer can also be read at his blog

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Dr. Tahirul Qadri’s Presence in Dallas

By Saeed Qureshi
Last evening Dr. Tahirul-Qadri was the guest speaker at a reception hosted in his honor at Double Tree Hotel by the local chapters of PAT (Pakistan Awami Tehrik) and his religious seminary Minhajul Quran. Iqbal Ahsan was the moderator. 

It was a unique occasion as a few days ago Dr. Qadri was in Islamabad leading a prolonged Dharna (sit-in) against the incumbent government of PMLN and to press for the ouster of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. His counterpart Imran Khan spearheading the similar mission is still doggedly entrenched in Islamabad occasionally addressing the public meetings in other cities of Pakistan.
Dr. Qadri, all of a sudden, called off the sit-ins. No one can figure out any motives behind that least expected decision. Earlier he has been persistently and vigorously pledging to remain in the political battleground in the federal capital of Pakistan till the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif the chief minister of Punjab, the largest province Pakistan.

For several decades, Dr. Qadri has been devotedly engaged in the preaching and dissemination of Islam under the aegis of the Minhajul Quran based in Lahore. Later he founded PAT primarily a political party aimed at ushering Pakistan into a revolution based upon Misaq-i-Madina (the Medina Pact. 

Misaq-i-Medina was a kind of deal that Prophet Muhammad entered into with non Muslims for peaceful coexistence and also for delineation of their rights. Misaq-i-Madina is an epitome for Allama Qadri for the establishment of an Islamic regime in Pakistan.

Dr. Qadri’s sermon last evening was a replay and replica of what he has been disseminating all these years. It was a scholarly yet dreary speech that was befitting for the highly qualified and educated people particularly having expertise in legal and constitutional matters.

Dr. Qadri mainly and mostly delved on emphasizing the relevant clauses of Pakistan’s constitution related to democracy, fundamental rights and the obligations and responsibilities of the state towards the people. The common folks and ordinary people in the audience might not have grasped the essence of Dr. Qadri off- repeated explanation and elucidation of the constitution of Pakistan.

The audience would rather want to know why he suddenly called off the sit-in campaign and dashed to the foreign lands. He did not unfold his future plans. He chose not to criticize his principal victim Mian Nawaz Nawaz against whom he has been yelling and prompting his followers to raise slogan of “Go Nawaz Go”. When some sentimentally charged PAT members raised this slogan in the hall, Dr. Qadri visibly seemed embarrassed and waved them to hold their sloganeering.

Dr. Qadri also skipped to mention about his long association of nearly 70 days of sit-in with Imran Khan the rabble-rouser chief of the PTI (Pakistan Tehrik-i- Insaf), in Islamabad. It appeared as if he was deliberately trying to avoid any mention of Imran Khan’s continued presence for so long in the federal capital of Pakistan. 

He casually mentioned the police attack on his house causing loss of several precious lives. His reference to that barbaric killing spree by the Punjab police lacked vigor and emphasis that he has been incessantly demonstrating in Pakistan.

In his speech, Dr. Qadri proposed a kind of American Union of Pakistanis to act collectively for their rights here in America and in Pakistan. It was a vague idea and Dr. Qadri did not elaborate it further. 

Perhaps Dr. Qadri is not aware of the deep seated disunity and mutual discords between the Pakistanis all over in America. If a small society like PSNT in Dallas is controversial then how it would be possible to create an all encompassing umbrella body representing the entire Pakistani community in America.

He supported the rights of expatriate Pakistanis to vote and contest elections in Pakistan. But that was merely a show of endorsing some suggestions coming from various local speakers welcoming the chief guest.
Dr. Qadri did not unfold his future plans whether he would continue his rallies and protest marches in Pakistan or henceforth he would like to pursue a peaceful campaign and dialogue for a revolution in Pakistan that he talks vaguely and repeatedly.

Dr. Qadri did not mention about the rumors and circulating gossip about his backdoor compromise or settlement with the PMLN government. But it can be speculated that now when he has called off his anti- government tirade and campaign, it might become pretty difficult for him to relaunch that with the previous vigor and tempo. He may not even resume it at all.

So that begs a question that what could be the political future of Dr. Tahirul Qadri in Pakistan. My answer is none or feeble.  On the contrary Imran Khan who is still holding out the ground might stay in the battlefield for some time. 

It looks that with the time passage his agitation too is losing the steam. For him to spur or sustain indefinitely a countrywide agitation or earthshaking movement for the removal the government or force midterm elections seems to be remote possibility.

The best and more pragmatic escape route for him is to wait for the next elections and then pull his strings and mobilize the countrymen and his party workers to win elections, assume power and accomplish what he aims to do for Pakistan and its people. As for Dr. Qadri, there is no possibility as he has abandoned his citadel, dispersed his crowds and thus dissipated his momentum for no plausible reasons or motives.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Mid-Terms Elections:A Huge Setback for Democratic Party

By Saeed Qureshi
The midterm elections in the United States conducted on June 4, have placed the Republicans as the majority party in the Senate. The Republicans also were leading in the House of Representatives after the 2010 midterm elections. This is a monumental debacle for president Obama who is left only with the option of using of executive orders in case the Congress overturns such reforms as Obamacare and cannot move along on the stalled immigration issue.

The main stumbling hurdle in the defeat of Democratic party in the midterm elections was the immigration Reform Bill that was left in lurch due to lack of bipartisan support in the Congress. Due to this the Latino population that provided huge vote bank to the Democrats and particularly in presidential elections were dismayed and divided in the November 4 elections. The Democrats lag behind by seven seats but it is the majority in the Senate that matters.

The elections saw formidable victories for the Republican Party in the Senate, House, and in various categories of elections, including state and local. For the first time since 2006 the Republicans have gained control of the Senate with 52 seats out of a total 100 seats. The Democrats lag behind with 43 seats.  The Republicans who already command majority in the House have further added 12 seats making the total 243 seats. The Republicans won three more seats of governors, now having their governors in 36 states out of 50 states.
 In his press conference president Obama did not exhibit any signs of panic or frustration but looked dismayed.  He vowed to work with the Republicans in both houses of the Congress to pave way for the passage of certain crucial bills that could not be accomplished due to divided control of Republicans in the House and the Democrats in the Senate. 

President Obama expressed the hope that now the Republicans had an upper hand in both Senate and House and they should not hinder the legislation on such important issues as the immigration bill.

The Democratic Party suffered in the 2014 mid terms elections because of foot-dragging on certain reforms most notably the immigration issue and a firm stand with regard to the Middle East crisis and a Luke warm response as well on the Ukraine crisis. Nonetheless, the slow progress in legislation on the sticking issues could be due to the traditional discord and non-cooperation between the two parties if their respective interests are not served.

The political fight between the Republicans and democrats in the Congress would be focused on Obamacare which is an anathema to the Republicans and they would do everything possible to undo this health reform.  

The Republicans are also averse to the inflow of the foreign immigrants mostly from the neighboring Mexico and on the whole from the South American impoverished countries. So one may foresee an resolvable conflict between the two parties both in the House and the Senate till the next general elections to be held in 2016.

When the Democratic party lost the House in the 2010 midterm elections, president Obama termed that blow as “humbling and shellacking”. The results of the November 4 mid term elections are of the same magnitude and considerably weaken the legislative prowess of the Democratic Party.

It is interesting that when Obama won the presidential elections in 2008, the American people were not happy with President George Bush’s policies and for that the Republican Party had to pay a heavy price. Then the economy was in dire straits, the public moral was down and the country was sulking because of misguided indoor internal and external policies.

In President Obama the American people saw a new young and energetic leadership especially the youth of this country who were the vanguard for the Democrats to win the elections. Undoubtedly despite many hurdles and irritants president Obama buoyed up the sinking economy and recharged the dispirited and dismayed nation. 

He should be credited for accomplishments in jobs creation, reinvigorating the sagging economy, providing monetary relief to the debt ridden students and lessening the military involvement of America in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

His administration finally found the arch enemy Osama Bin Laden and killed him. He embarked on a path of reconciliation with the Islamic world that had remained under a heavy pressure during the senior and junior Bush eras. After the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting, President Obama signed 23 executive orders and outlined a series of sweeping proposals regarding gun control.

The United States has reduced its oil import because of a boost of the indigenous energy resources. The American exports are increasing. The country is safe because of the implementation of a tight security system. Obama’s stand on environment and clean energy has been robust. Overall his attitude in the politics has been conciliatory despite patently hostile response from the Republican Party.

But all his brilliant achievements both internally and externally have not weighed heavily with the voters in the current year’s midterm elections. The American people look from the angle of setbacks and not accomplishments of a president and that is the main reason for the debacle of Obama and his party in the midterm elections. The president was earnest about the immigration bill but was handicapped due to the lack of support in the House.

In his post election press conference, the president enumerated his attainments. He stated that the economy during his six years in office came out of dire straits and was now was robust. The import of oil has reduced and America was less dependent on oil imports. He termed Obamacare as one the noteworthy hallmarks of his administration.

While president Obama pledged to work in a bipartisan spirit with the Republicans, the House speaker John Boehner in his post election press conference. He looked defiant and tough and warned president Obama of not poising the well by which he meant not to run the administration by issuing executive orders. 

It is forgone that over the issues of immigration and Obamacare there is not going to be any quid pro quo and accord between the two parties. President Obama has ruled out scrapping or reforming the Obamacare while John Boehner has termed it as “hurting the economy”.

One may witness a hardening of stances between the two political rivals in the Congress. Since Republican Party is now in majority in both organs of the Congress, it could get any bill of its choice go through while rejecting those tabled by the Democrats. 

However, president Obama has categorically pointed out that he will not scrap or change the Obamacare as the Republicans want and would veto any bill that negates his health reforms. Should we infer that henceforth there is going to be a lame-duck administration till the 2016 elections?


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Pakistan’s Main Problem is too much Religion

By Saeed Qureshi
Pakistan’s most overriding problem is the over-brimming religion fervor and the emergence of the Islamic militant groups fomenting internal chaos aimed at making Pakistan an Islamic state as the ISIS wants to establish in the Middle East.  Islam is prevalent in Pakistan as an intolerant, fanatical, rigid, ignorant and sectarian religion. Pakistan was renamed as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in 1973. That was the first roll coaster step to divest Pakistan of its secular credentials and smear its image of a modern state.
Ironically a secular and liberal Prime Minister Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto made amendments in the constitution that pushed Pakistan into the lap of irreversible fundamentalism.  Regressive yet superficial measures were announced  inter- alia to ban race horse, drinking, gambling and declaring Friday as the weekly holiday. Although these were cosmetic measures but these certainly strengthened the hands of orthodox religious parties to firm up their hold and spread their myopic tentacles in the society. Mr. Bhutto undertook such measures in contrast to his cosmopolitan vision for Pakistan.
The military regime of Ziaul-Haq was patently an ultra rightist regime that enormously furthered the process of Islamization initiated by Bhutto, although both were mutually sworn enemies politically and religiously. General Zia created Sharia faculty and Sharia courts, enforced Hadood Ordinance and payment of Zakat and Ushr, and abolished interest. Thus Pakistan’s complexion underwent a radical change from a relatively liberal to a conservative and orthodox state.
But the pernicious fallout of these regressive measures opened floodgate for the Islamic fundamental parties to have a field-day in Pakistan. These groups proliferated ubiquitously to fight in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. Thanks to American and western patronage they had unhindered access to all kind of weapons to use wherever they wanted. The Taliban and their splinter groups sprang in those tumultuous times when Pakistan was receding into the fold of theocracy and Islamic radicalism.
Not only that but the country dotted, in a short span of time, with mosques and religious seminaries everywhere, in each town and city and even neighborhoods. These mosques and seminaries also represented various sects and became breeding grounds for sectarian animus. The ear-splitting loudspeakers are depriving the population of their hearing power.
Since the Sunnis are in majority they used that unique chance to not only fight the heathen soviets but at home turned against the other minorities most notably the Shias and Ahmadis. The Sunni denominations like Lashkar e Jhangvi, Lashkar-Tayyaba, Jaish Muhammad and others religio-militant outfits had a free hand to torment and brutalize not only Shias but the other minorities. Vice-versa the Shias also retaliated. The switch of Pakistan from a culturally and socially liberal state over to a religiously suppressed state further led to terrorism and violence increasing with the time passage. That ruinous sectarian militarism and brutal terrorism continues to this day.
There have been calls from time to time to declare Shias as non-Muslims as was done in case of Ahmadis during the time of Bhutto. Supposedly even if all the Shias or Ahmadis are expelled from Pakistan or physically eliminated, the myriad Sunnis sects would start fighting each other. The Wahabis cults are deadly opposed to Chishtia, Qadria or Naqshbandia branches of Islam.
When the Wahabis somehow expel all these rival religious groups then the stage would be set for the sects within the Wahabis to sort out each other. So there is no end to this madness, perpetrated in the name of pristine Islam. This sectarian division has been there in the Islamic countries for 14 hundred years and cannot come to an end in the distant or near future.
Before partition of united India, the Sunnis and Shias seldom collided on the sectarian turf as they have been doing after the birth of Pakistan. Islam goads tolerance and peace. Ye its followers practice such golden precepts more in breach than observance.
In comparison despite being a Hindu majority country, barring the Gujarat riots and massacre of Muslims, India maintains the religious harmony, squarely lacking in Pakistan and most of the Islamic states. In India we have not seen the Shias and Sunnis attacking and killing other. If they can cohabitate peacefully in a Hindu majority population state, why can’t they do so in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan?
The practical solution of this mayhem and distortion of Islam is to divide all the Muslim countries into two parts: one for the Shias and other other for the Sunnis. We can see that in Saudi Arabia there are no Shias and it is religiously a peaceful country. We can also witness that most of the Iranian population professes Shia faith and there have never been any encounters or tension between Shias and Sunnis. But this recipe cannot be applied to other Islamic states because a geographical division on the basis of faith is impossible to be brought about.
Unfortunately besides Pakistan, the Islamic states of Bahrain, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon are also bedeviled with the sectarian strife between the Shias and Sunnis. But those Islamic states that are secular and profess tolerance are relatively peaceful. In this category we can mention Turkey, Jordan, Tunis, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam Qatar, Kuwait and United Arab Emirate.
The fundamental question staring in our face is that why is Pakistan being interpreted to have been created in the name of Islam. And if it is supposed to pedal and practice Islam then why has it become a hell for the Muslims professing divergent beliefs. Islam is said to be a religion of peace but in Pakistan it has turned out to be a battleground for incessant religious feuds. Pakistan is one country besides Iran and Mauritania in the entire Islamic world except that has adopted a prefix of Islamic Republic. One fails to understand what does this phrase Islamic Republic mean?
Instead of unsuccessfully trying to protect Islam for 67 years why don’t we focus on protecting the land and its people? Pakistan should be considered as a political entity with Muslim majority population. After all Shias or other religious minorities were not born with the birth of Pakistan on 14 August 1947. These were already there. They were there during the British rule in India. They were free and safe to follow their religious obligations without any fear or oppression. They are equal citizens of Pakistan as they were before the birth of Pakistan. Then why should they be divested of their rights and liberties after the partition. Pakistan should not be the monopoly of any religious group or sect.
Islam has always been surviving for a thousand years in India and would survive for all time to come. Is the survival of Islam entirely dependent on Pakistan? Is it not a convoluted logic? There are more Muslims in India than Pakistan. Then why Pakistan should be tagged as a protector of Islam? Islam has its own resilience to survive. Should we keep submitting to the dictates and edicts of ignorant Mullas and keep the society stagnant and its people backward? Ironically some of the religious parties did not want Pakistan to come into being labeling it as an Unislamic state.
The successive political leaders in Pakistan had fallen prey to the street agitations from such parties as Jamaat-i-Islami with a view to sticking to power. That led to the tarnishing the image and face of Pakistan with religious brush, later degenerating into unrelenting sectarian feuds.
The religious laws enacted by Bhutto and later Ziaul Haq and even by the previous regimes drastically curtained the civil and religious liberties of the people of Pakistan. Incidentally the majority religious groups such as Jamaat-i-Islami, Majlis-e-Ahrar, and Jamiat-i-Ulema-e-Hind (previously JUI was part of this group) opposed the creation of Pakistan and when it came into being, JI jumped into the fray to monopolize it. Such is the hypocritical character of these religious outfits now crying hoarse to make Pakistan a medieval Islamic caliphate.
It would be rather justified if these groups that did not support Pakistan movement should be banned or exiled for their seditious and antagonistic role at a crucial juncture of the creation of Pakistan. But if they stay then they should not be allowed to fan sectarian hatred and religious bigotry, caving into the foundations of Pakistan.
The separation of East Pakistan was, beside other factors, due to Jamaat-i-Islami’s support for the military action and their religious brigands launching a religious crusade against the people of East Pakistan whose leadership had the constitutional right to form the government.
Now the paramount question is: can there be a reconciliation and compromise between the Islamic clergy and democracy? In a country, which since its inception, has remained in the throes of extremism, bigotry, sectarian and communalism, the most pressing need is to bring about a truce and concord between the warring sects. The paramount urgency is to evolve a consensual code of Islamic faith between Sunnis and Shias to save the state and the society from doctrinal rivalry and bloodshed.
As such the only rational way-out is to adopt the twin panacea of secularism and democracy that would allow every sect and denomination, to practice their own faith without trading the accusations of heresy and killing each other. Secularism doesn't necessarily mean negation or elimination of religion. It simply means tolerance and coexistence between races and sects.
It is foregone that Pakistan as a theocracy or a country with a religious label cannot move forward and would always be trapped in a self-destructive ideological conflict. The devastation of Baghdad by Mongol hordes in 13th century is a testifying tragedy to the Shia-Sunni animosity.
While acknowledging the distasteful fact that the ideological gulf between two main Islamic sects cannot be bridged, these must be legally bound to coexist and tolerate each other. As far political power is concerned, Pakistan has to decide once and for all that the war of conflicting beliefs should not be allowed to enter the political corridors.
The state and religion should be free to operate in their respective zones. The relationship between state and religion has been ideally described by Quaid-i-Azam in his address in the first session of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on 11 August 1947, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State”.
The religion should be confined to the personal and at best group contours. That is the only viable, practical and rational solution to the religious bad blood that is incessantly breeding violence and hindering smooth functioning of state and society.  The religious extremism and fanaticism also need to be forcefully curbed.
The State and society have got to be secular and truly democratic for prosperity, advancement and solidarity of Pakistan and enabling it to enter the fold of modern states. At the same time Pakistan, like Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia, retain their Islamic identity. In a nutshell, Islam, secularism, and democracy should go hand in hand in Pakistan.