Saturday, June 27, 2009

In Defence of Pervez Musharraf

By Saeed Qureshi

I have a question and let us call a spade a spade. Did General Pervez Musharraf manipulate his advent into power or was he accidently catapulted into the power corridors by an unpredictable trail of fast happening events on the fateful day of October 12, 1999?

The incontrovertible fact is that on October 12, 1999, the aircraft flying from Sri-lanka to Pakistan with COAS Musharraf on board was not allowed to land at the Karachi airport. The plan was preplanned to be diverted to a remote small airport for landing. The plan carrying full load of passengers kept hovering over Karachi airport with little fuel left. Incidentally, the COAS managed to establish contact with some army generals with whose speedy intervention, the plane landed at the Karachi airport. During the period from the take off of the plane to its being airborne, the then prime minister made a clumsy bid to dismiss Musharraf and install Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director Ziauddin Butt in his place.

The misconceived plan backfired and the prime minister was caught into a suddenly developed detrimental situation that turned him into a loser. If army could control the Karachi international airport against the orders of the then prime minister to save their Chief, it would get emboldened enough to arrest and depose him and that is what happened. This is one army coup that was not hatched by the armed forces but came about as a counterpoise to the civilian government’s idiotic blunder. It is, therefore, easy to infer that the power descended on Musharraf as windfall booty.

Thereafter, Musharraf was free to do what every army chief or a dictator with absolute powers does. He had to be hard on Sharif and his conglomerate for his own survival. It bore an amazing similarity between the Zia and Bhutto feud. Either Bhutto had to live or Zia. Zia was in power so he physically eliminated his rival through a highly dubious legal process. The power game is the most ruthless and blood cuddling.

A timid and professional army general, Musharraf, assumed the role of an arbiter not only of the fate of the deposed and a loser prime minister but also of the entire dazed nation who jubilantly welcomed him as a military head of government. Even the political parties, PPP and TIP among others expressed their approval of the change from a democratic parliamentary government to the throw-back of military authoritarianism. This explains how repressive Nawaz Sharif’s dispensation had become that the fellow politicians preferred military rule over an elected government.

Military rulers in Pakistan have been relatively lucky to get external prop and the creation of sudden favorable circumstances to hang on to power. America has always found it convenient to deal with powerful autocrats to promoter her agenda. In the case of Both Ziaul Haq and Musharraf, Afghanistan was the pressing issue for which Pakistan’s participation was inevitable. Ziaul Haq, as a reincarnated Ghazi Salahuddin of crusaders’ fame mobilized and recruited Mujahidin ( holy warriors) from all over the Islamic countries to provide a committed fighting force to America and her allies to fight against the red army in Afghanistan.. For this mercenary role he enjoyed unstinted support of the arch godfather America. Indeed he performed his hireling role with exceeding efficiency.

Now Musharraf started spreading his tentacles to secure his power. Unlike Zia he was under no obligation to honor a promise to hold elections within 90 days after the take-over. His hands were free to firm up his hold on power. But in his maneuvers to consolidate and continue his grip over the power, he was assisted by the superior court of Pakistan and the assemblage of religio- political parties called MMA.

On May 12, 2000, Pakistan's 12 member Supreme Court unanimously validated the October 1999 coup and granted Musharraf executive and legislative authority for 3 years from the coup date. In a referendum held on April 30, 2002, Musharraf's presidency was extended by five more years, later to be endorsed by the National Assembly. Ironically the supreme court Judges’ spirit of justice was not evoked nor the conscience of members of national Assembly pricked while endorsing the referendum results which was essentially, a unilateral way of getting favorable result for the lone candidate. So why to blame Musharraf who was playing power game according to his rules and in his pitch?

As if this violation of legal and constitutional provisions was not enough, on 1 January 2004, Musharraf had won a confidence vote from both houses of Parliament and the four provincial assemblies, As a result of that vote; his term was extended to 2007.

In September 2007, Pakistan's Supreme Court cleared the way for President Pervez Musharraf to seek another five-year term, when six of the nine judges, rejected a tangle of petitions against him and threw out a major legal challenge to his re-election plans.

On the basis of a deal in December 2003, with MMA (Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal), a six-member coalition of Islamic parties, Musharraf was able to muster the two-third majority required to pass the Seventeenth Amendment, which retrospectively legalized Musharraf's 1999 coup and many of his decrees. If later Musharraf went back on his agreement of doffing his military uniform by December 2004, then he is not to blame, because he was not playing a moral game. It was a cut and dried political game and he knew that MMA was playing a trick, as well, with him. Later, the pro-Musharraf legislators in the Parliament passed a bill allowing Musharraf to keep both the offices of president and the army chief. The MMA’s support to legitimize Musharraf’s 1999 coup and passage of the 17th amendment, barring a few clauses, was not in the national interest. The religious parties turned against Musharraf not because of Pakistan’s coalition with America but for not honoring his pledge to retire from the army.

If Musharraf had faced resistance from the political parties and the judicial process, he could have never obtained the sweeping powers under the 17th amendment with incorporation of draconian 58-2/B clause. Musharraf was not a moral icon. If all is fare in love and war then political power wheeling dealing is a cut throat game of wits. Musharraf won that war against the opportunist and self serving political leaders especially the discredited religious stalwarts. Again the question is: was it Musharraf alone who was pushing his agenda through by use of force or was he being aided and bolstered by the legal system and by the elected representatives also, in furthering his self serving plan?

Musharraf is much berated for involving Pakistan in American war on terror against Taliban and Al-Qaida. Now I dare say that any one in place of Musharraf would have adopted the same course, which Musharraf took. Was Pakistan so strong economically or militarily as to offend America to invite that country’s wrath? . Rejecting America’s right or wrong offer for cooperation would mean that we were like Taliban or their supporters. There is no doubt that Pakistan would have become another Iraq or an Afghanistan. Siding with America is much less harmful than spurning the American urge for an alliance. Taliban, in the final run, would have proven to be the heaviest liability for Pakistan. Their religious and moral code is neither Islamic nor civilized as evidenced in Swat and adjoining valleys.

“Galvanizing the whole nation into agreeing to fight the USA and NATO was another impossible task. Indian eagerness to join the War on Terror was an alarming condition that Pakistan could not have over-looked.” is a comment that so aptly portrays the situation then and even now prevailing?

Till that moment, the American attitude towards Pakistan was hostile. Besides, Pakistan’s economy was in dire straits. The American need for our support in the aftermath of 9/11 was, nothing short of a blessing in disguise and most desirable timely help in a state of Pakistan’s extreme adversity. Musharraf‘s pledge of support for America was a very pragmatic approach. The United State, after 9/11 felt humiliated and brutalized. With a ferocious and vengeful president, George Bush, and with the bruised megalomaniac pride of s super power, it would have been suicidal for Pakistan to oppose America and its western allies. Pakistan was saved from a colossal catastrophe by Musharraf by seizing the rare and divinely sent opportunity that entailed a host of dividends for Pakistan. If Musharraf had declined to cooperate, the hostile India, Afghanistan and U.S. and NATO forces would have shown no mercy to Pakistan. Can someone imagine the disastrous fallout for Pakistan?

Musharraf’s Achilles Heel was his encounter with the Chief Justice of Pakistan and to tell him audaciously that he was being removed. By that time the political climate in Pakistan was showing a downturn for Musharraf. That was the starting point for Musharraf’s decline. In order to browbeat the burgeoning public uproar against him, he started committing mistakes. From Akbar Bugti’s death to Lal Mosque’s gory siege, to the proclamation of state of emergency and finally the lawyers’ earth shaking movement all welded into an invincible bulwark against him. His political prowess was considerably eroded. The PPP which under a concealed agreement was ready to lend him political support, also drifted away from Musharraf under the combined compulsion of the anti Musharraf popular crescendo and the murder of the party’s Chairman Benazir Bhutto. Musharraf was left with no option but to beat a retreat finally. The higher you go the steeper you fall.

Musharraf’s balance sheet is not full of red or black dots. It has some laudable achievements as well. In 1988 Pakistan’s foreign debt was $18 billion, but at the end of 1999 it had accumulated to $38 billion. Public and external debt exceeded 300% of Foreign exchange earnings. But following Musharraf’s alliance with USA, Pakistan’s economy started improving. Pakistan’s poverty level dropped from 34% to 24% and the overall living standard improves considerably.

Musharraf's liberal policies propelled under his slogan of ‘enlightened moderation’ led to the liberalization of society from various abominable taboos and regulations. Freedom of media and from one state run television PTV, to the opening of above 50 channels happened in his time. Besides, the “Protection of Women Bill”, signed on 1 December 2006, did away with harsh conditions of the anti women Hudood Ordinance. The impossible condition to produce four male witnesses by the female rape victim was abolished by placing the rape laws under the penal code.

The 20 seats previously reserved for women in the national assembly, were increased to 60 seats. In provincial assemblies, these went up collectively from 23 to 128. Musharraf’s presidency, markedly, empowered the women folk and gave them a greater role and share of participation in decision and law making. In case of minorities, in an ideologically biased society, Musharraf abolished the separate electorate and reserved 10 seats for religious minorities in the National Assembly. It was a landmark bold step. He gave a tremendous boost to education by raising the number of educational universities to 47.

While I would not favor Musharraf’s stay in power because he was not the president of a totally democratic system, it is lamentable that the incumbent’s government’s conduct is not any better than that of Musharraf. It looks like an extension of his quasi democratic establishment. It is more submissively tied to the American apron strings. It has miserably failed in offering good governance with no plans to overcome the persistent power failures, rising prices and complete lawlessness. There is no accountability and there is no justice, nor any improvement in nation building and civic institutions. Pakistan is in the worst mess than it ever was during the previous administration. The sword of 58-2/B is still hanging over the parliamentary democracy.

Finally the dethronement of Pervez Musharraf was essentially not the work of the politicians but of the civil society and the lawyers. The politicians jumped into the band wagon when there was clear writing on the wall that Musharraf was on his way out. The PPP was rather his sleeping partner. The political government of PPP with Zardari as the president resisted the promised restoration of chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. It did so finally after a great social upheaval and economic loss to the country.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Let Mushahid Hussain be the Foreign Minister

By Saeed Qureshi

I wish to see Mushahid Hussain Syed as the Foreign Minister of Pakistan. He is capable and deserves this position. He is honest and outspoken. He is far from duplicity and cant. His statements are without deception and truly reflect the aspirations of the people of Pakistan. Despite being the general secretary of a political party, he refrains from being partisan or unnecessarily defending his party even for wrong policies and projections. He follows the principle of upholding upright opinion even if it would be jarring to others. He is not afraid of speaking truth and in consequence the adverse fallout from the government.

We saw him offending the military dictator Mushrraf on more than once occasions and had remained the recipient of his wrath and displeasure. But he seldom budged on principles. His role in finding a genuine and lasting solution of Balochistan muddle was earnest and patriotic. The parliamentary sub-committee constituted in 2004 and headed by him submitted a detailed report to the government containing some 30 far-reaching recommendations for resolution of Baluchistan’s complicated issue. The recommendations were overwhelmingly endorsed including Akbar Bugti, the arch Balochistan rebel leader. But Mushrraf and his military peers for their own ulterior motives and hawkish tendencies did not take the report seriously.

In response to government’s prolonged foot dragging, Mushahid, in a stunningly bold statement in the Senate in June 2008, revealed that “A section of the military establishment’s hawkish elements who wanted to seek solution of a political issue through military means had sabotaged the recommendations prepared by the sub-committee headed by him.”

Can such a person ever give in or compromise when it comes to defending Pakistan against the enemies? Thus the Mushrraf government wasted a golden opportunity to heal a festering sore on the body politic of Pakistan. Instead, Mushrraf killed Akbar Bugti plunging Balochistan in an inferno and in a state of unrelenting turbulence that looks like the replay of East Pakistan’s cessation movement. The so called Balochistan liberation army and other disgruntled groups have gained strength and even a moral upsurge to challenge the writ of the state of Pakistan.

My association with Mushahid Hussain is confined to the period I served as his staffer for a few years. He joined at the age of 29 as the youngest editor of the independent English daily “The Muslim” in 1982 and left it in 1987. I had joined The Muslim way back in 1978. Thereafter, when he became the Information Minister (1997-1999) in Nawaz Sharif’s government, my contact with him barring once or twice brief occasions went off the hook.

Following the Indian journalist Kuldip Nayar’s interview with Pakistan’s ace nuclear scientist, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, Mushahid resigned from The Muslim, under enormous inexplicable pressure from the then prime minister Muhammad Khan Junejo. In that interview, Dr. Khan made it clear to Kuldip that Pakistan would retaliate with the nuclear bomb towards any offensive move by India against Pakistan. As a result Pakistan managed to forestall an all out aggression by Indian army under the cover-up of Operation Brasstacks military exercises conducted by the Indian Army in Rajasthan during November 1986 and March 1987.

In my assessment Mushahid Hussain, despite his young age proved himself to be a very enterprising, vigorous and accomplished editor. He seldom gave an impression that he a kind of hard to deal with boss. I found him unassuming, least bureaucratic. Open minded and affable. I believe that he treated me and other workers more as friends than as submissive or under-command staff members. My given designation was an assistant editor but was allowed to also cover political and diplomatic events.

His heartening laughters and short crisp Punjabi comments would be highly amusing and yet to be truly descriptive of the individual or the situations under discussion. About Ziaul-Haq, he would say that he practiced “double hand shake and triple embrace. “ It was so cogent a remark, keeping in view the religious hypocrisy of Ziaul Haq. An irresistibly gracious host and with a refined culinary taste, his dining table would be studded with a variety of delicious dishes.

We have had the pleasure of being his guest on several occasions at his house. On long strolls, he would occasionally take me along and I certainly cherish those spells of time as very memorable. He was genius enough to speak on given topics without any preparation and indeed with an impressive delivery and with facile outflow of his thoughts and point of view. Mushahid was a teetotaler and despite being liberal in his outlook was God fearing and true to his religious creed.

As the newspaper offices breed friction and mutual acrimony, the office of daily Muslim though a much adorable and placid place to work, was also not immune from this human weakness. There were certain individuals who thought flattery was the best weapon to be close to the boss and remain in his or her good books. Some of the staffers were very skillful in the distasteful art of waxing eloquence before the boss. With a conspiratorial mindset, they would also talk ill about others on fake and phony grounds. It goes to the credit of Mushahid Hussain that he never fell into the insidious trap of such individuals .He never encouraged backbiting and leg pulling between the staff members. As a result daily Muslim remained as a very congenial atmosphere to work.

I am jotting all these reflections when I am in the United States now for a number of years. So what I am writing is under the influence of the nostalgic memories of the bygone days which the famous English poet William Wordsworth described in his ode “Daffodils” as, “They reflect upon my inward eye which is the bliss of solitude”

But I have yet to explain why I want him to be the Foreign Minister of Pakistan especially in these disquieting times for Pakistanis and the Muslims. As I know him, he is man of crisis management. With is easy yet solemn mannerism, he can address even the trickiest issues as was done in case of Balochistan situation.

Mushahid Hussain has a Master’s degree from the School of Foreign Service in Georgetown University in Washington DC. He keeps a close and observant eye on international affairs. As such you will not find wanting in relevant and right information as well as answers to difficult questions.

Mushahid is an expert on international affairs. This is his principal scholastic forte in which he excels without prejudice. He speaks with fluency, force and a treasure of credible information and knowledge. His Analyses with regard to the domestic and the global issues are invariably politically correct and objective.

I can see in him the spark, genius and valor of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a charismatic and legendary Pakistani icon who served Pakistan remarkably well in the worst turbulent times. However, it is yet to be seen as to how Mushahid displays his oratorical knack in public rallies that Mr. Bhutto possessed in overflowing abundance.

Pakistan needs a foreign minister who is eloquently vocal and profoundly expressive and is not in the habit of feeling shy in the galore of world politicians or diplomats. Pakistan needs a foreign minister who speaks with confidence and has the resounding talent for handy repartee and convincing and compelling rebuttals to the hostile criticism. Mushahid in varying degrees is endowed with these qualities. Mushahid has an inborn talent of making friends and then positively cultivating them to remain friendly and sincere. There is sternness in his temperament but there is also an equal measure of a natural sweetness in his disposition.

Mushahid Hussain has many feathers in his cap of distinctions. I shall mention only three of these. He is a senator, the Chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee and the General Secretary of Pakistan Muslim League (Q).

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ambassador Patterson is half way Pakistani

By Saeed Qureshi

Let me write a few words about Anne W. Patterson, the US ambassador in Pakistan. I am trying to picture her as I see her in the media coverage. She is modestly dressed in official meetings and covers her head at places like mosques and in Swat IDPs’ camps where such an observance is necessary. The way she is working with passionate zeal to smoothen and fraternize Pak-USA relations, she deserves to be complimented as half way Pakistani and half way Muslim. She looks affable, confident, relaxed and sober in all her pictures that appear in the media. In the official meetings from the President of Pakistan to a minister, she herself takes notes of the proceedings. It shows how seriously she takes her job. In May 2007, President Bush appointed Patterson as the United States Ambassador to Pakistan. She is a career diplomat having entered U.S. Foreign Service in 1973.

As I observe, she is not arrogant. In these turbulent times for Pakistan and United States, the presence of Ambassador Patterson in Pakistan is a blessing in disguise. By virtue of my creed, I am anti- imperialism and a strong votary of democracy, secularism and a civil society. But, I would certainly appreciate and laud the individuals, irrespective of their backgrounds, who are doing splendid job by contributing their positive input for resolving the inter-state thorny issues.

As I can observe, Madam Patterson is not overbearing or suffering from a false sense of superiority. She doesn’t seem to be cast in a mould of bully ambassador demanding blind compliance of US conditions and agenda. Of late, the USA-Pakistan relations are on much better footing, as the Obama administration and its functionaries exhibit a departure from the G.W. Bush’s propensity for arm twisting to extract the unconditional acceptance of their partisan point of view. Former President Bush’s call “whether you are with us or you are not with us” injected a kind of fiendish despotism on the part of United States with regard to the principle of sovereign equality between nations, especially in relation to the weak and vulnerable states.

Pakistan suffered from Bush’s spasmodic fits and sporadic hiccups as to be able to correctly judge the mood and policies of the American administration. President Bush was the most unpredictable and an irredeemably whimsical person. He was indiscreetly stubborn and thus with his unwise policies and haughtiness he landed America in a big mess. The world at large too remained in a state of flux. Muslim world was specifically targeted by President Bush to unjustifiably suffer. His biggest folly, in the present day times, was to project Islam and America as mutual adversaries.

With Obama and his associates like Kerry, Holbrooke, Hilary Clinton, Lugar and others, Pakistan is being treated with respect and sympathy. The approval of the “Kerry-Lugar” Bill for allocation of 7.5 billion dollars with negligible strings and as grateful appreciation of Pakistan’s fight in the Taliban-infested areas is a pat on Pakistan’s back. United States is under no obligation to give aid to Pakistan because in any case, sooner or later, Pakistan will have to fight with Taliban who have a narrow religious agenda. Pakistan, by fighting the religious militants on its own, has taken off its much maligned shroud of being a mercenary of America. In President Musharraf’s era, Pakistan suffered from such innuendos as doing the job of a quisling.

I would not subscribe to the religious right’s sweeping and venomous anti-America statements or against the rest of the world because religious right is not right itself. Religious right in Pakistan has sowed dissention, bred discord, fomented faith base hate, and nurtured bigoted Sectarianism leading to the ruinous fragmentation in the Pakistani society. The poison of sectarian divide is deep rooted in Pakistan as well as in the Islamic countries which instead of serving as an instrument of unity and cohesion, has become a handy weapon of instilling hatred and disunity in the population.

In a predominantly Muslim society of Pakistan, where a Sunni faithful cannot say prayer with a Shia and a Wahabi cannot tolerate a Naqshbandi, how can the religious classes claim or urge to be a united Ummah or one monolithic Islam nation for bracing against the enemies of Islam? An Islamic polity should be a nation state where religious tolerance, democratic culture, human rights and other moorings of a civil society can be observed.

So Pakistani religious outfits or fundamentalist Muslims need to come out of their cocoons and start imbibing and accepting the imperatives of a modern society and the need of a nation state. It is only in a secular nation state where Islam can be practiced without an incessant collision between the sects which are perennially engaged in deriding, killing and decreeing each other as infidels. If mutual cohabitation is beyond the competence of Islamic sects then how come, they can ever bring about a consensual Islamic theology in Pakistan? It means sectarian war and bad blood should either be curbed or sidelined by the nation if it wants to have social harmony and progress. Only thus a country, no matter it carries the religious nomenclature as Islamic Republic, can remain united and move forward in nation building.

It has become fashionable to dub Western countries as enemies of Islam. But I would argue that more than the others’ enmity, the Muslim countries are their own mutual enemies. Woefully, in the Islamic societies, the Quranic precious injunction that “hold fast to the rope of God”, is seen in breach than in observance. Almost all the Islamic countries are stamped with monarchy, plutocracy, absolutism, authoritarianism, autocracy or dynastic rules. And yet they have the temerity to denounce the western democracies as fodder of hell and enemies of Islam and humanity.

If Islam’s actual code is allowed to prevail in Islamic countries, then many barriers between themselves and un-Islamic countries such as America per say, would disappear, because in the service of humanity and happiness of their own people, they are as Islamic as Islam ordains. We can see model societies in western countries, which in the light of the claim that Islam is a perfect code of life, ought to be in the Islamic countries. The subjective proclamation about the sublimity and supremacy of a religion is meaningless unless practiced for the benefit of the mankind.

It is only the frivolous and fake exuberance that can be seen in the Islamic societies for the establishment of an Islamic order. But in practice it is in the un-Islamic societies that we see the universal Islamic teachings such as justice, equality, freedom and other social and moral values, being observed. There is stark inequality, rampant poverty and pervasive backwardness in the Muslim societies. In the western countries synonymous with Christianity, such problems as poverty, disease, unemployment, lawlessness and other similar social irritants have been minimized.

The Sharif Hussein of Mecca sided with the British and French in the first war against the Ottoman Empire: their Muslim co believers. As a result of this shameful betrayal, the Ottomans lost their territories and Sharif Hussain never received his reward for treachery, promised to him by the colonial victors. The crux is that the Muslims themselves are responsible for their downfall and miseries than others. The present day Saudi rulers seek American and western help in the event of a crisis and not from other brother Islamic coutries. Poor Islam is a mere hollow slogan to befool and beguile the credulous Muslim believers.

The extravagant lifestyle of Muslim rulers and the privileged classes in Islamic societies, being itself a monstrosity, is just opposite to the simple life pattern of the founder of Islam and his soul stirring and redeeming teachings. So let the Muslims stop pointing accusing fingers at America and other countries for their own fault-lines, misdemeanors and weaknesses. Let Muslims stop calling others as enemies of Islam because Muslims’ disunity and division within their own ranks is their real enemy. They should, first keep their own house in order.

Let us take in good grace, the US-Pakistan relations being placed on a friendlier keel by both the governments and by the sincere and commendable diplomatic hard work being put in by the distinguished ambassador of United States in Pakistan. Her reports and writings must have been very helpful in paving way for the sizeable economic and military aid that Pakistan would be receiving every year till 2013. It is good to be a friend of a benign United States than raising fruitless sentimental slogans of fighting American imperialism. We should stop hate and love relationship with America and make it a full-fledged love affair. This is the best time to do so lest another George Bush stalks the American presidency.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Treacherous role of JUI and JI

June 21, 2009

By Saeed Qureshi

Jamiat Ulama-i- Pakistan (JUI), Jamat-e-Islami (JI) and Awami National Party (Khudai Khidmatgar), among other Muslim political factions, opposed the creation of Pakistan: an independent homeland for the Muslim of British India or the Indian sub continent. After the emergence of Pakistan, these parties assumed the role of spoilers and have been busy in destabilizing the new country.

Amazingly, Pakistan survived despite numerous monumental odds. The heavy inflow of refugees, the military dictatorships ruling half of Pakistan’s existence, the wars with India, the cessation of the formerly East Pakistan, the political anarchy during the initial periods after independence, the dominant prevalence of bureaucracy, the religious parties’ outcry and agitations for making Pakistan an Islamic theocracy, inter alia, were the grave challenges that hung over the nascent state of Pakistan.

The core agenda of these anti Pakistan parties is still the same. There is no change of hearts on the part of these ideologically hard line parties. They remain on the lookout for chances by which they can harm Pakistan. Of late, there seems to be a kind of unbelievable metamorphosis in ANP’s attitude that its leaders are crying hoarse and pledging to defend Pakistan’s integrity and solidarity.

The catch in this strategy is that they have their two enemies fighting with each other: the Pakistan army and the Islamic militants. After the collapse of Soviet Union; their ideological mentor, the ANP, a yester years’ antagonist of Pakistan had no option or way-out but to reconcile with an unpalatable situation.

By replacing the NWFP government of MMA, a conglomeration of religious factions, they got a unique chance to rule the province. Hence the contrived change of heart. Since it is not possible for them to weed out the powerful religious militants such as Taliban and Al-Qaida, they have willingly fallen back on supporting the Pakistan army whose operations suits their aspirations for peaceful governance. They are also pacified with changing the name of the NWFP province with the name of their choice as promised by President Asif Zardari.

Only God knows if they are genuinely sincere with Pakistan or would renege when the tide turns. The army is their need and so is the liquidation of the Taliban and Al-Qaida who can remain a potential threat to their survival. Moreover, revenge against the Taliban and other outlaws is necessary as these were the forces that defeated Soviet Union in Afghanistan depriving ANP of a super protective umbrella.

Jmamat I Islami can claim quite a few achievements that were in consonance with its original agenda of either undoing Pakistan or keeping it in a state of perpetual turmoil so that the country either fragments or dissipates finally. Thanks to their disciplined and indoctrinated adherents, this religio- political party, through intensive and persistent agitations forced the title of Republic of Pakistan changed to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, giving it a theocratic image. This party created conditions that hastened the separation of East Pakistan from the West Pakistan.

In league with other religious and political parties, it forced the beleaguered PPP prime minister, Z.A. Bhutto to enact perfunctory Islamic injunctions such as declaration of Friday as the closed holiday and similar Islamic Sharia injunctions. It aligned with Ziaul Haq to Islamize (or to brutalize) Pakistan in the medieval style. JI known to be Zia’s religious guide had a definite contribution along with other religious outfits in pedaling his Islamization agenda with a host of controversial and oppressive laws.

Those distortions of pristine and noble Islamic code, have contributed to the rise of fundamentalism, obscurantism and retrogression that continues to this day. It would go into the history of the nations as the most brazen deception in the name of Islam for self perpetuation. It got Mr. Bhutto the populist leader and a democratic elected prime minister of Pakistan hanged by a ruthless military dictator.

So we can watch Syed Munawar Hasan, the newly elected fire emitting Amir of JI and Maulana Fazalur Rehman the JUI chief, opposing the military operations against Taliban and Al-Qaida in Swat and elsewhere. Amusingly, in response to a question by the GEO interviewer, Maulana Fazalur Rehman avoided a clear-cut answer to clarify whether he was in favor or not of the military offensive. All he said was that he was going through a process of consultations and could not say anything on his own. His non committal response is tantamount to his disapproval of the military operations.

Before the military offensive, he harped on the tune that Taliban were closing on the federal capital of Pakistan. It was a fear mongering alarm that the chief of JUI blew perhaps to send a message that Pakistan was about to fall in the hands of Taliban and the people must be prepared for that. This conjecture comes to mind because if it was meant to prompt military action against the marauding Taliban, then he would later not oppose such an action which is still underway. Or was it a double-speak like a double edged sword that could cut either way?

For Jamat-e-Islami, the Pakistan military’s role was justifiable when it deposed a democratic government of ZA Bhutto or it was fighting in support of the America against the red army in Afghanistan. Now they label the anti Taliban offensive as an American war although, the army is on the move to remove a formidable internal danger to the stability of Pakistan. They refuse to realize that it is a conflict between Taliban and US one side and Pakistan and Taliban on the other. Do they want Taliban to remain unhurt and keep perpetuating in their ill conceived crusade against the state and civil society of Pakistan?

But factually, the religio-political parties of Pakistan don’t want the army or the civil society to triumph against Taliban. It is not for the love of Taliban or for their outlandish creed, but the fear that henceforth, with the defeat of Taliban, the decline and debacle of religious forces would start. If the action against Taliban or Al-Qaida was so ruinous then other religious forces that have jointly endorsed anti-Taliban military action should have denounced it too.

Despite being ideologically poles apart, the religious brinkmanship or card that JUI or JI have been using to stoke the fires of social chaos in Pakistan,, is now losing its clout and leverage. That is what troubles both JI and JUI with regard to the armed forces ‘ blitz against the Taliban’s religious militancy and extremism.

The Ferment in Iran

By Saeed Qureshi

Following the June 12 presidential elections, the world is watching with intense attention and rapt curiosity the situation developing in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The country is in the throes of unprecedented commotion resulting from the recent elections that are being questioned as controversial. For the first time in three decades, the omnipotent religious regime of Iran is slipping into a defensive position. The pro Mousvi supporters defiantly believe that he was a winner and that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the incumbent president was a loser.

Mir Hossein Mousavi, the opposition presidential candidate, and his supporters are claiming that a massive state engineered rigging of ballot robbed their candidate of presidency. Amazingly, the country where dissent was forbidden like a sin is bursting with incredible violent uproar not only against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but tacitly also against the religious combine of the revered supreme spiritual leader, the powerful Guardian Council and other institutions that had been running the country since 1979 with an iron clad discipline.

The supreme leader Ali Khamenei’s announcement to look into the irregularities and Guardian Council’s declaration to recount the votes have failed to appease Mousavi and his outraged camp. Short of re-election or accepting him as the winner, Mousavi is not prepared to reconcile with his defeat. Meanwhile several casualties have taken place, making the worsening scenario murkier. Mousavi statement saying, "I'm warning that I won't surrender to this charade," and urging his backers to fight the decision, is not only against his rival but heralds a rebellious call against the closed theoretic establishment. It’s a prelude to a civil war between the orthodox and the reformists.

Thanks to internet and other modern communication channels, the new generation of Iran born after the 1979 clerical revolution is more affiliated with the world at large than the narrow ideological lifestyle in Iran. They want to break the overly stringent and outdated shackles imposed on the society by an orthodox theocratic system. The majority of Mousavi followers are youth from the educational institutions or those who can compare Iran’s religious authoritarianism with democratic, open and humanitarian societies elsewhere in the world. The religious fervor is melting away to give way to internationalism and cosmopolitanism. Thirty years of theocratic unitary system is more than enough to sustain and survive.

The myth of religious unity and cohesion anchored on sacrosanct Shia faith appears to be fracturing for the first time. The state’s dreaded and ruthless security and law and order apparatus is visibly crippled or incapacitated to crack down on the mammoth countrywide demonstrations. Even if the crackdown is mounted, the situation would take much longer time to return to normalcy or may further deteriorate.

In the meantime Ahamdinejad and the upper echelons of power would remain as culprits in the eyes of the pro Mousavi segment of population. Ahamdinejad as a president for the second term would be less confident and aggressive. He might be internally shorn of the peace of mind and the resilience and bluntness that distinguished him as an intrepid stalwart of the revolutionary religious regime of Iran.

President Obama’s non committal and cautious response to Iran imbroglio is the right and pragmatic approach as United State is not dealing with the individuals but with the state of Iran. Mousavi as a reformist and a liberal should be the favorite of the western world including the United States. But on the whole there would be little that Mousavi can flex his liberalism and to defy and override the strait jackets of the theocratic hierarchy.

For the United States it would have been rather easier to deal with a progressive person like Mousavi. But beyond rhetoric it would be utterly difficult for even Mousavi to deviate from the laid down parameters either in domestic or in external domains. The President of Iran is the highest official elected by direct popular vote, but does not control foreign policy or the armed forces.

Mousavi may not be able to soften or budge on Iran’s nuclear program as the United States might be erroneously hoping. A former President Khatami (Aug 1997-Aug 2005) despite being liberal and more opened minded reformist remained a lame duck head of state. So President Obama’s approach and outlook to express neutrality in case of the presidential contenders is sagacious and may keep the doors open for interaction with Iran in either case.

For Israel, the return of Ahmadinejad as president is nothing short of a nightmare. Already several statements have emanated from Israeli government showing extreme concern and apprehensions over Ahmadinejad victory. There is a probability that Israel might be somehow supporting or abetting the anti Ahmadinejad crescendo of widespread protest and rallies.

The system of bridled democracy with reins of the president in the hands of the supreme leader and the Guardian council will have to be abolished in due course of time. Unless there is an absolute monarchy as during the Raza Shah Pahlavi era or an authoritarians rule as in Cuba and North Korea, there is no way that the half baked and alloyed system of theocratic democracy can survive indefinitely. The change is perhaps around the corner. The untenable and superfluous institutions of supreme leader and guardian council will have to go. Sooner or later, a genuine presidential or parliamentary from of governance will have to usher in Iran.

If the elections are held again or in fresh votes’ count Mousavi is declared victorious or Ahmadinejad is retained, the Islamic regime’s credibility would suffer a severe jolt as a clean, impartial and pious establishment. The Islamic regime of Iran has been caught unawares and it would be nothing be short of a miracle if it comes out of this upheaval unblemished and unscathed. In all probability Iran’s monolithic theocratic establishment has become vulnerable.

Ambassador Haqqani is Brilliant

By Saeed Qureshi

Brilliance is a God given trait and is not acquired by external means. It is ingrained and is an integral part of human personality. Hard work too is inborn but can also be acquired. Pakistan’s Ambassador Haqqani in Washington DC, is both hard working and brilliant. Notwithstanding, what his detractors say about him, the fact remains that by virtue of his wits and qualities of head and heart, he has certainly excelled so many of his predecessors.

He is sharp and blunt. He looks logical, analytical and knowledgeable when he gives vent to his thoughts and ideas. His Witticism and repartee are part of his outstanding debating skills. He can express his point of view with emphatic lucidity and candid vigor. He speaks with confidence and courage and it is seldom that he dithers and fumbles due to paucity of words and phrases. He remains entirely focused on his themes and therefore hammers these on the interlocutor with remarkable dexterity.

Long before his assuming the ambassadorial responsibility, I have had the opportunities to watch him demonstrate his debating and discussion talent on electronic media or in political or social gatherings. On such occasions, he would look resounding and overpowering. He speaks on diverse range of subjects with felicity and ease. I can use such clichéd hyperboles as articulate and rhetorical but I think more than that he possesses the power of eloquent advocacy of Pakistan’s point of view on various forums.

His march from one political party to another, in my reckoning, must be by conviction than by opportunism. By remaining with a political party, he might have felt that his ideals and those of the parties were not compatible. Embracing new political affiliations is the right of every individual and there should be no bickering or contention on this. Finally, the PPP must have provided him the choice platform to conform to his political beliefs and ethos. But that is beside the point and I am not defending him on this count.

Personally, I have hardly known him except for the period 1980-88, when we were all contemporary journalists. I was then the assistant editor of daily The Muslim, with political and diplomatic beats. He was working on various journalistic fronts. He covered the war in Afghanistan for Voice of America radio; served as the Pakistan and Afghanistan correspondent for Far Eastern Economic Review; and worked in Hong Kong as the East Asian correspondent for the London-based Arabia: the Islamic World Review. When he became Minister of State, and Federal Secretary for Information and Broadcasting -1993-95, he was close and friendly to many journalists but was not even acquainted with me. So my eulogy of his abilities may not be taken as the tribute from one of his personal friends. I made up my mind to write this piece when, of late, I saw him answering CNN anchor’s questions.

What I am trying to make out is that his appointment as the ambassador of Pakistan in Washington DC is one of the best decisions that the incumbent PPP government has taken. Those who dub him as an “American man” should be convinced that there is nothing wrong for being so. Let me ask without going into the question whether he is or not but at least he should not be alone. In this world, the affiliations are always there. But should we not look at it from this angle that it is a plus point to be close to the United States than being hostile. If his trust and good offices with the American administration can prove to be the catalyst for cementing Pak-US relations then what, on earth, was wrong with it. But certainly he is not the one that he would give preference to the US interests over those of his own country. At best, he should be reconciling those interests. He is not an agent provocateur. Nor is he an angel that he should be expected of to be completely infallible. No one can claim to be so.

With Haqqani as the ambassador, the US Pakistani relations have never been so irritants- free as now. His close connections with the American think tanks and in other decision making departments, help in making decisions favorable to Pakistan. In these chaotic times for Pakistan, the enhanced military and economic aid that the US is pledging without strings is a laudable achievement, although it is also necessitated by the Pakistan’s peculiar circumstances. President Obama has been more than generous to give aid to Pakistan without being overbearing or oppressive like his predecessor. I can imagine that in the convergence of US-Pakistan relations, there must be some role of ambassador Haqqani’s persuasive skills and personal linkage.

From my own experience as a diplomat, I believe that invariably a kind of friction runs in our diplomatic missions abroad between self centered staffers, between the favorites of the head of the mission and those who are not. The Pakistani diplomatic missions are unfortunately plagued with divisions between groups and individuals with clash of interests. Such discord undermines the fulsome output of the embassies. Everyone tries to curry favor with the head of the mission by speaking ill about his rivals within the mission. The embassies remain rife with a galore of rumors, gossiping and backbiting. Ambassadors usually fall prey to such absurd rumor mongering, especially those that go against them.

I am not aware how ambassador Haqqani is running the embassy. Also, I don’t know, if he is a good manager and remains above such trifling and petty behavioral aberrations of his staff. I can imagine that he would be cognizant of the importance of fraternal environment in the foreign diplomatic outposts. I reckon he would be treating his staff with equanimity and evenhandedness. My experience guides me to believe that the heads of diplomatic missions sometimes cannot remain aloof of the staff’s petty feuds. But if Ambassador Haqqani loses his cool and throws his tantrums or shows partisanship, he would himself remain ill at ease. Thus, in sharp contrast to his outdoor acclaim as a scholar and a diplomat, his personal ability would remain eclipsed within the precincts of the embassy.

President Zardari and Roh Moo-hyun

By Saeed Qureshi

In the wake of an ongoing investigation of a bribery case against him, Roh Moo-hyun, the 16th president of South Korea (Feb. 2003-Feb. 2008), committed suicide on May 23, 2009, by jumping over a mountain cliff. He could not carry the burden of a guilty conscience and the agonizing stigma of being a corrupt head of state. In his suicide note he wrote, “I am in debt to so many people. I have caused too great a burden to be placed upon them. I can't begin to fathom the countless agonies down the road. The rest of my life would only be a burden for others”.

Pakistan has a head of state too. He is at the center of a hurricane of diverse corruption scandals and multiple money making scams that remained before the Pakistani and international courts for many years for hearing. In some money laundering cases and kickbacks, the incumbent president was indicted. The Pakistan courts too passed judgment and awarded him jail terms. He remained in jail first in 1990 and 1991 and then from 1997-2004 on corruption charges and accusations of murder of his brother in law.

Now all those cases proven or pending were wrapped up and thrown up in the dust bin via a National Reconciliation Ordinance issued by the former military president General Pervez Mushrraf. He and his deceased spouse were exonerated from the grave and rather unpardonable cases of corruption to lend political support to Pervez Mushrraf to keep him in power. To add insult to injury, he became the president of Pakistan by freak and unexplainable twists of fast happening circumstances, one of which was the assassination of his wife and chairperson of the Populist Party: Pakistan Peoples Party. The tradition of pardoning proven or under prosecution suspects, in this fashion, can be scantly dug out from the past.

Here all is well in the state of Pakistan, with the degenerate political system and the ever smiling president who should be declared as number one lucky person in the world. If criminals are rewarded in this fashion then let there be political contests between the politicians for their corruption and similar sleazy practices. Those who come on the top of the list should be made president, prime minister down to ministerial and other coveted offices. Thus the widespread complaints that only a few from among the corrupt individuals and thugs get the rare chances of loot and then get away with it, can be effectively addressed. It would be a democratic way of promoting corruption.

Instead of a grain of remorse , let alone committing a suicide, our incomparable president keeps a permanent grin on his face, perhaps to ridicule those who are jealous of his fortunes, wealth and also those who marvel at his clean escape from the justice. He seems to convey a message that “yes I am a felon but you can do no harm to me.” Now in a presidential role, he is free to exercise his unchallenged authority to spend or pocket as much state funds he can. He has the powers to appoint ministers, ambassadors, heads of government departments, corporations, banks, state owned mills like Karachi steel mill and provincial governors. He can award contracts for financial quid pro quo. With a tainted past and rewarded with such a vast array of powers and with the additional lethal clout of 58-/2-B, our president deserves a distinctive mention in the “Guinness Book of World Records.”

Now the situation elsewhere in Pakistan is also very conducive for the president to remain in the political saddle without the fear of any reaction for the other political forces or from the civil society. The people without a leadership are simply a motley and ineffectual crowd. Moreover the ordinary people are caught up in a cycle of multifarious problems ranging from the frequent long spells of power breakdowns to rampant lawlessness. They cannot find time nor have enough awareness to even think about the greed and self indulgence of the elite classes.

The leaders of the runner-up party, Pakistan Muslim League (N) are also entangled in legal battles that give them little space to raise voice over the casual way the country was being run. Moreover, the political exigency and rank opportunism also comes in their way to challenge the incumbent government on its abysmal performance. The other political parties are good for nothing and have little or insignificant standing.

The president of a country who is believed to be among the five richest men in Pakistan with an estimated net worth of $1.8 billion should be asked how he amassed so much of wealth. He should also be questioned about the possession of the 365-acre Rockwood estate, a $6.5-million property featuring a Tudor-style mansion and two adjoining farms in the Surrey district in UK. He should explain as to why initially, he denied ownership until January 2006, but later acknowledged that he owned the property. He should also be asked about offshore accounts.

Now suppose that he is not responsible for NRO exonerating him from all shady and questionable activities. But then the onus falls on the former president who should be held accountable for issuing a blatantly illegal order exclusive to a few individuals to keep him in power. Pervez Mushrraf violated the law of the land for personal ends. Because of his unconstitutional action for self preservation here we have a head of state that will always remain under the dark shadows of a criminal conduct. So if the judiciary of Pakistan is still left with a strong spine then it should arraign all dubious and shady characters to clarify their positions. Otherwise, if these charlatans ever suffer from the pangs of conscience, they have a recourse set by the former repentant president of South Korea.

President Obama’s Outreach to the Islamic World

By Saeed Qureshi

President Barrack Obama’s speech entitled "A New Beginning" delivered on June 4, at the Major Reception Hall at Egypt’s Cairo University, and co-hosted by the Al-Azhar University, is the hottest topic for the political analysts and media commentators. It’s indeed an epoch making delivery that would echo and reverberate for a pretty long time to come. President Obama’s address was solely focused on Religion Islam and Muslims. His speech which reflected his usual flair and splendid articulation and laced with his confidence exuberance is to be treated as the first landmark yet earnest attempt to befriend Islam and to mend the fences of hostility and mutual distrust.

One cannot see such hostility between the Islamic world and the USA, before, around or after 2nd world war, won against the Nazi Germany only due to United States’ support and involvement in the deadly war. Thereafter with the US economic aid the pillaged Europe was rebuilt through the Marshall Plan.

Thereafter, America got itself entangled in disastrous Korean, Cambodian and Vietnamese wars entailing death and destruction of countless natives and the American troops. The embattled countries were laid waste. United States, in the first five decades of the last century was stampeding the target countries to stop and brace against the onslaught of the Communism. Although no conclusive victories were scored yet Korea and Viet Nam were divided into two parts: one being communist and the other non communist.

These two camps respectively were protégés of Soviet Union and America or the capitalist world. When in 1956, Egypt under President Nassir nationalized the Suez Canal; the US took a timely and principled stand on the military confrontation between Egypt and coalition forces of UK, and France and Israel. If, America then had not taken a neutral and moral stand in favor of cessation of hostilities; Egypt would not have been able to maintain the control of the Suez Canal. The Eisenhower administration forced a cease-fire on Britain, Israel, and France. The U.S. demanded that the invasion must be stopped. America sponsored resolutions in the UN Security Council calling for a cease-fire. Britain and France withdrew from Egypt within a week. The United States also put financial pressure on Great Britain to end the invasion.

Now the scenario undergoes a fantastic change. By that time there were no signs or even indications of any enmity between the Islamic bloc and America. The enmity started and came to the surface when despite Israel’s occupation of the land of the Arab neighboring countries; America stopped exercising its neutral and impartial role in the Middle East any more specifically in the Israel- Palestinian conflict over the promised creation of the Palestinian state. The Arab neighbors of Israel whose lands were forcibly occupied by Israel naturally turned against Israel but were antagonized also against the United States because of her partisan and blind support for Israel’s expansionism and oppression against the Palestinians whose overwhelming majority is Muslim faithful.

The US led Afghan war against the Soviet Union was though practically fought by Muslims drawn from all over the Islamic world, the United States never thought of rewarding the Muslims by taking an even handed stand on issues that related to Muslims. One such issue that has driven a wedge between the US and the Muslim world is the side tracking of the promised establishment of the independent state of Palestine. Even in Afghanistan where Muslim crusaders or mercenaries like al-Qaida were fighting on America’s side, the USA after the victory, lifted its Anchor and left the country to be plunged into civil war and anarchy that continues to this day. Taliban were too not against the United States. The anti American sentiments and the groups were not created by the Muslims themselves but were a reaction to the anti and indifferent attitude of US towards the Muslims and her tirade of branding Muslims as terrorists in the aftermath of 9/11.

Thereafter, the US has been chasing the Muslims like cat chases mice. In 8 years of President Bush’s presidency, the Muslims-American relations touched their lowest ebb. There was talk of clash of civilizations, Muslim bashing, and revival of crusades during those frightening years. It was in the wake of this anti Muslim onslaught that America made the fatal mistake of occupying Iraq by force. It had to pay a very heavy price for that which it is still paying. Saddam was not anti America but he was profiled as an enemy of US and a person who wanted to destroy Israel. A false bogey of possession of WMD against Saddam was also whipped vigorously to justify an anti-Iraq military offensive. So it was the United States and the west that initiated the antagonism directed at the Muslims.

In this most declining times for America, president Obama is trying to control the damage and rebuild the friendly relations with the Islamic bloc based on mutual respect and commonalty of interests. He is doing a great and historic job because the damage is colossal and if it is not checked now, it would further add to the detriment of America. The use of force as the neocons and die hard Christians have along been favoring has proven to be a wrong, ruinous and counterproductive strategy.

Those Muslims and Islamic factions that discard Obama’s speech as frivolous should hang their heads in shame. Do they want to declare himself as a caliph of Islam and the US as caliphate? Do they want the entire world to be transformed into Muslims ‘supporters? Are we the Muslims living in fool’s paradise that we fail or refuse to understand that Islam is our religion that is inviolable for us, but in equal measure other too profess their religions which is inviolable for them. With the advent of Obama as the American president, the wind of change that has started blowing should be welcomed by all the Muslim societies. The unprecedented conciliatory overtures that an American president is making and trying to dismantle the barriers of hatred and animus must be lauded so as to encourage him to do more for the Muslims.

The Muslims should keep in mind that the single united Islamic empire is a fantasy and would remain so for ever. The reason is that the nation states within the Islamic bloc would not relinquish their exclusive identity. Secondly, the faith based unbridgeable divisions within the Islamic fold, since early times, have kept the Muslims torn apart. If Muslim unity on the basis of faith was possible then the Omayyad’s and Abbasids would have not cut each other’s throats for ages. The Muslim dynasties led by the ruthless and power- hungry heads of Islamic states have fought each other for 1400 years for power and land, each replacing another through bloodshed and pogroms of innocent Muslims on both sides.

It is, therefore, the imperative of the present times that the Muslim societies too adopt a pragmatic and practical course by accepting the breathtaking and stupendous transformation of the social orders. Leaving aside the fundamental beliefs, the Muslim nations will have to shed some of the obsolete and moribund baggage that kept it behind the rest of the nations now galloping on the road to advancement and technological miracles and in donning the mantle of civil societies. The code of Islam has to be modified and updated in such ways that without undermining its kernel, the Muslim societies can keep pace with the march of the modern states. By remaining stuck up in and confined to an island of ignorance, primitivism and insistence on revival of impracticable theocratic doctrines is like placing the cart before the horse.

It is in this light that the President Obama’s pacification towards Islam and confession of past wrongs done to the Muslims should be seized as a timely divine help. Who could hope that the successor of George Bush, an inveterate enemy of Islam, would be a person who vows to respect the Muslims and pledges never to be at war with Islam? To lace President Obama’s Cairo speech with ifs and buts and attribute deceptive and phony motives to it as done by 8 Islamic groups of Syria speaks for the deficit of vision and poverty of diplomatic foresight of the fanatic Islamic groups. The Muslims around the world should take Obama’s speech on its face value and wait if he proves true to his words. But apparently he has proven himself to be honest and steadfast in honoring his pronouncements and promises. If he dithers or recoils then it would be the appropriate time to castigate him.

He cannot be an imposter or a master actor to hide his real intentions and say something as a matter of ploy. Let us not forget that forging amiable understanding with the Muslim world is a compelling need for the United States also. If the standoff between the Muslims and United States would remain alive then the day is not far off when fatigued allies would abandon the US in her anti terrorism crusade. Secondly, the Somalia type blockade of ships elsewhere would hamper the global economic activity. The US would be worst hit by such piracies if cargo ships are blocked in other strategic waters. The USA is losing the steam to stay in Iraq and in Afghanistan and also to browbeat Iran. So for USA, the only viable course left is the appeasement with the Muslim nations for a face facing withdrawal from the Muslim territories. Incidentally Obama is not only a visionary and an American president with outstanding intelligence but also he seems to have a soft corner for Islam as manifested in his speeches and writings.

It demands quite an exemplary courage and strong character to quote from holy Quran and to exhort to follow those injunctions. It is equally impressive to start his Cairo speech with the Muslims tradition of Bismillah (starting with the name of god) and to exalt Islam despite being himself the president of a Christian country and being under the lurking insinuation by the neocons and fanatic orthodox Christians that he was internally favorably disposed towards the Muslims.

So Obama’s Cairo speech should be viewed as a sunshine breakthrough that heralds a definitive tilt towards Muslims and perhaps a snub to Israel; a country that has been riveted on pitting United States against the Muslims through every devious machinations. As explained in the aforementioned, America’s confrontation with the Muslims has its seeds in the Israel’s conflict with the Palestinian people in which US unconditionally sides with Israel. Perhaps Obama is going to bring a balance into that unjust situation and it would pave way for the fulfillment of Palestinians’ aspiration for a state of their own. If that materializes then that would be the day when peace would prevail in the Middle East and US and the Islamic world would go along shoulder to shoulder as sincere friends.

A Colossal Human Tragedy

By Saeed Qureshi

The present generation of humans is witness to a colossal human tragedy unfolding itself in the Pakistan’s scenic valleys, drenched in natural beauty. The Valleys of Swat, Buner and Dir are almost depopulated as if demons have devoured the humans there. There is mournful stillness in the environment. The energizing and revitalizing air that allured the fatigued souls from the plains to come and be close to the virgin nature has turned nauseating with the stench of human blood and gunpowder. The ghastly sound of gun and mortar fire has suppressed the chirping of the birds and their sweet songs and these too have flown to the safer environ. There are very few people left to unburden the fruit laden trees. The crops are ready to be harvested but there are not enough people to do so. The humming of the streams with crystal waters looks like chanting of funeral prayers and mourning incantations.

The harrowing displacement of 3 million mountain dwellers of these placid vales and dales from their hearths and homes for the first time would become part of the painful human history for all time to come. The displacement is stunning as it took place within merely two weeks of a huge population where the normal means of transportation were unavailable. These people could have never imagined that they would face an unprecedented upheaval of this scale and they would be uprooted to live in the most trying conditions in the plains. The infants and the adolescents would always carry it as a calamity embedded in their psyche and sensitive minds to be told again and again by them.

This massive migration of settled segment of humanity would also form part of the future folklores of sufferings as to how their bygone generations underwent. The tormenting pangs of displacement would keep revisiting and reflecting upon the minds of the people even long after the settlement. The natural calamity such as the earthquake is different because that is taken as the will of God. But a holocaust engineered and inflicted by humans against their fellow humans by design or under the duress of the circumstances remains unforgettable. This earth shaking migration would haunt many as long as they live. The children would keep asking questions how it happened and why they had to suffer so enormously.The vendetta of the ferocious Taliban now in a state of retreat is resurfacing as a spillover in other cities of Pakistan. During the past week alone, a spate of suicide bombing has rattled and rocked among others, the cities of Peshawar, Lahore and Dera Ismail Khan. The human blood has never been so cheap.

In fact the war between Taliban and the State of Pakistan is a replay of such conflicts in the past in which the state has act to stop the religious encroachment in state affairs. Europe has gone through church and state tussle for ages. Those wars of medieval ages were on the one hand between church and state, and the orthodox Roman Catholic Church and the rival sects on the other. The Roman Church that dominated Europe between 5th and 15th century remained plagued with constant religious strife.

The story of war for ascendency between church and state and also between Roman Church and its ideological rivals who were against its corruption and moral decadence is awash with horrific executions, persecutions and bloodletting. The religious tribunals called inquisitions set up by the Catholic Church in 13th century marked the beginning of an era of religious persecution by way of torture, slow death by burning and large scale massacre of the religious opponents. A break away religious movement called Albigenses started in France in 12th century was suppressed by sword on the orders of the Pope and 20000 members of this group were massacred in a fierce battle.

Taliban are misguided faithful of an Islamic creed which calls for social justice, equality and establishment of strict ritualistic orthodox Islam. They want to revive the age of the third caliph of Hazart Umar.But they try to enforce their religious regime by use of ruthless force and ghastly tactics. By virtue of their ideological upbringing they are oblivious to the inevitable existence of a modern nation state. Their aim is to evolve a rigid theocratic set up with a style of life that is not Islamic in true sense and that is an anti-thesis of the modern nation state with democracy, human rights, liberty and the norms of a civil society.

Their rigid code of Islam also militates against the Islamic belief and faith of the majority of Muslims around the world and is also a travesty of the pristine Islam. While in previous centuries when human society was still primitive, such religious revivalist movements had lasted for some time, but in the modern age when the world is knit together as one village, such an attempt to reintroduce a radical distorted version of any religion let alone Islam was as daring as it is myopic.

The Taliban’s enforcement of their version of Islam was indeed well intentioned from their point of view but, ireefutably; it is aimed at creating a zone within the Islamic Republic of Pakistan for further advancement of their agenda in due course. Notwithstanding the pro-Taliban sentiment of a segment of the population of the affected areas, the fact cannot be obviated that while the state may ignore such religious zeal, the other Islamic sects would not be dictated by a tiny minority of fanatics with queer beliefs forcing the latter, to change or conform to their beliefs. By intervening militarily the Pakistan government has in fact averted a definitive impending sectarian civil war that could have been more devastating and gruesome that the ongoing tumult.

Interestingly, the doctrine of social justice that the Taliban want to enforce comes closer to the socialist ideology, in that the means of production and distribution are possessed by the state. This is what the Taliban had done in Swat after they were allowed by the Pakistan government to go ahead with the establishment of the Islamic Justice system. They took over the lands and orchards of the wealthy and the notables and distributed them among the common citizens. They also set in motion a speedy justice paradigm. The outlaws and the sinful were awarded punishments which were mostly physical and punitive in nature and were executed without much of evidence and inquiry. The felons were be-headed or lashed or their body organs chopped off with a view to instill fear and to create a drastic deterrence against the crimes. But this had created an atmosphere of paranoid and harassment that in return painted Islam as a savage and repressive religion.

This projection of system was the religious bigotry in its most diabolic form and could not have lasted long. It was in force in Afghanistan for a certain period of time and Afghanistan turned into a land parched of all civilities.The preaching of Taliban’s brand of Islam, that is basically Wahabism, looked more barbarian in the modern age of enlightenment, moderation and modernity as compared to the primitive orthodox theocratic regimes because during those times, the civil society was almost nonexistent. The caliphates of Omayyad’s and Abbasids and ottomans were of far more liberal character than that of Taliban of the present era. By removing and disallowing the modern gadgets of fast communication and knowledge such as televisions, computers and musical instruments, the Taliban were fighting against the spirit of the time and thus creating an island of ignorance and regression within a modern society.Wahabis strictly negate such practices as ceremonies for marriage or death, belief in saints, adorning of graves, tombs or other sacred objects and holding religious processions. They shun wearing of gaudy and costly clothes, wearing of jewelry or ornaments, and demand the total suppression of women. The Wahabis denounces art, music and dance and other similar pursuits for fun and pleasure and amusements.

“Mohammed Abdul Al Wahab, the cult founder, born around 1703, not only redefined Islam in a puritanically narrow and intolerant way but injected into it such a virulent hatred for its perceived enemies that this vicious creed could revive again and again after being repeatedly wiped out to rise like a phoenix and become the single greatest threat to world peace today. ….Abdul Wahab urged his followers to mercilessly exterminate infidels, blasphemers, idol worshippers and Christians and even Muslim apostates like the Shias and Sufis” (Murad Beg)The Wahabi cult believes in the inexorable power of hatred to unite and brainwash the followers for crusading against the enemies of their beliefs. Wahab motivated his followers to such an extent that they had the temerity to defile and destroy the tomb of The Prophet Muhammad at Medina in 1803 and took away from “Kaaba” at Mecca the precious and sacred donations preserved there. The Tehrik-i-Taliban is the followers of the Wahabi faith and therefore is very closed and narrow in its teachings.

The first Wahabi resurgence in the Indian Sub continent took place under the command of Syed Ahmed Brelvi (1781-1831) who is considered to be the forerunner of the present day Islamists in waging of jihad and attempting to create an Islamic state with strict enforcement of Islamic law. He was the founder of a revolutionary Islamic movement Tariqah-i –Muhhamdiyah: (The Way of the Prophet Muhammad). He called himself the Commander of the Believers and proclaimed a jihad against the Sikhs in the Punjab. His movement posed a threat to Maharaja Ranjit Singh's Sikh Kingdom after it inflicted defeats on Sikh troops as well as recapturing Peshawar, Mardan and surrounding towns and villages. He was betrayed by some locals and was killed by the Sikhs along with hundreds of his troops and followers in Balakot, Mansehra District in 1831. His defeat ended the dream of establishing an Islamic state in Peshawar, now Pakistan. (Wikipedia)Thus the movement for the establishment of an orthodox Islamic state by the Wahabi believers went into a state of limbo till they got another chance in Afghanistan in 90’s and now in Pakistan to stage a comeback. The fight with Taliban is going to be tough and long but it can well be augured that they will be defeated perhaps never to pose a challenge to the civilized world at large both Islamic and un-Islamic.

In the meantime, the rehabilitation of the displaced families of Swat and other embattled areas is not going to be easy. The life in tents for the mountain dwellers habitual to cool breeze, clean air and pure water round the year would be nothing short of a trauma. How the families with children are going to survive under unbearable conditions is a big yet unanswerable question. Such are the vagaries of social disorders, fermented and propped by those who wish to establish an elusive Islamic polity or the kingdom of god on earth: in this case the Taliban and their ilk.

God would be laughing or lamenting on the misuse of his name and miscarriage of his aim for this world inhabited by race called intelligent humans. It can be wished only that these displaced Pakistanis would ultimately and sooner than later return to their homes albeit with a burning nostalgia. The wars have never been without collateral casualties and damage. The journey back to their homes is going to be arduous than their hasty exodus to the plains.

Imran Khan is a Non- starter

By Saeed Qureshi

Imran Khan the chief of Pakistan Insaf Party (PTI), could have flashed, like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, as a shining star on the Pakistan’s political horizon. But all these years in the politics he has remained a non starter. Once in a while he appears on the stage, frets and fumes and then recedes into oblivion to reappear all of a sudden at a time of his own choice. He runs his political bandwagon by fits and starts. He is sincere and possesses unbounded passion and limitless energy to make a difference but his fury and passion is invariably short-lived, He suffers from a perennial malady of inconsistency and conceptual bipolarity. He swerves from extreme to extreme on both sides of his agenda. He thunders like the charged clouds but then drifts away after a strong but brief shower of hyperbolic statements and strongly worded propositions.

Pakistan has ever remained in the dire need of revolutionary persons because the resolution of Pakistan’s daunting problems is beyond the competence of mediocre or self-serving individuals and parties. In the prevailing chaos, hanging over Pakistan since the demise of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Imran could have created a niche of a liberator, a redeemer or a revolutionary for himself with a bag full of meritorious services. He won the first and the last cricket world cup in 1992 thanks to his managerial skills. In 1994, he established Pakistan's first and only cancer hospital, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital & Research Centre, bearing the name of his mother Shaukat Khanum who dies of cancer. It is a charitable cancer hospital with 75 percent free care.

He was relatively young and robust when he made his debut in Pakistan’s politics, by founding in 1996, his own political party called the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) under the slogan of "Justice, Humanity and Self Esteem." He was then bubbling up with a zeal and reservoir of ideas for the betterment of Pakistan and to change the destiny of the people of Pakistan. But after almost over a decade of his presence in the political arena, it simply looks as if he has been merely dribbling and not directing the ball into the goal post.

He is undoubtedly honest and utterly impeachable. He is the repository of a reputation for being incorruptible. He has lofty ideals about Pakistan but he has failed to capture the necessary instruments and use the right strategy to translate these into concrete output. He talks very emphatically about the rotten system of Pakistan as exhibited and reflected from his stressful facial features and restless body language during a debate or discussion or talk show. But beyond that, barring occasional outbursts at public rallies he has failed to craft himself into a firebrand leader who keeps inspiring the masses. He is indeed a non conformist who shuns and is disgruntled about the style and genre of politics practiced by the traditional political players. He certainly looks distinct when it comes to the question of principles and ethics. But somehow he runs short of mobilizing the masses a la Chavez of Venezuela, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan, Mahathir of Malaysia, Lenin of the former Soviet Union, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Ahmed Ben Bella of Algeria and et al. But these names are too tall figures to be compared with most of the leaders in the third world countries, let along Imran Khan. But at least a cue can be taken from them as to how a momentous change can be brought about. He chooses to cast himself in the role of a lead hero but finishes as a kind of a runner up or still far behind. The pent up passion and gusto remains dormant and unleashed in him once he feels he has lighted himself by a small public speech or a forceful delivery of his point ofview at an electronic media forum.

There is no dearth of pious platitudes and rosary plans formulated and doled out by the best and the most fertile minds that if implemented would make the earth a much better place to live. But what matters is that there must be someone who can actually show these plans and projections the light of the day. The grandiose ideas and exalted ideals that Imran Khan has professed on numerous occasions are still like scriptures in the books. The sincerity and earnestness drips from his every motion, and word and utterance. But his outpourings have yet to trigger a salubrious change in the sterile socio-political landscape of Pakistan.

Is Pakistan turning into a civil society because of a relentless revolutionary movement led by firebrands and visionaries like Imran Khan.? Is there a re-awakening visible somewhere? The answer to these questions is certainly in the negative. So let us admit that Imran Khan has his limitations. But are these the inlaid genetic limitations that impel him to run fast for a time and then relent and rest till he can recapture his breath again? Or else, are these limitations imposed by external forces and agents that bridle him and keep him under the tab not to exceed the fixed contours. Is he hostage to the dreaded exposure of sensitive information about his private life which restrains him from going out of the way?

His political philosophy has been undergoing a ripening process since 1996 when he turned a politician. At the outset, he was a resolute proponent and a votary of the quick fix tribal system of justice. At that time he discarded democracy and institutional based governance. Thereafter, he swung to support democracy and representative form of government with a civil society tag. So he has been experiencing and undergoing changes and transformation of perceptions and precepts with regard to his political philosophy.

Khan supported General Pervez Musharraf's military takeover in 1999, but denounced his presidency a few months before the 2002 general elections.He was elected MNA from Mianwali, in 2002 elections. Once in office, Khan voted in favor of the pro-Taliban Islamist candidate for prime minister in 2002. Similarly, Imran Khan bitterly criticized Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, but later joined him in 2008 against Mushrraf. The Guardian described Imran Khan as a person who “preaches democracy one day but gives a vote to reactionary mullahs the next.”The rest of the political legions in Pakistan are a bit on the higher or lower side of Imran Khan. He can certainly make a difference if he breaks his self or externally imposed shackles and embarks on a political clean up and reformation journey in the political wilderness of Pakistan with unswerving courage and unmindful of the odds or consequences. First of all he has to firmly formulate and bake his political goals and mandate as to what he intends to do. Thereafter, he has to stand unshakably and uncompromisingly by his ideals and political philosophy. He should make himself a defiant defender and steadfast exponent of his manifesto and agenda for change.

“Revolution is not a garden party” said Mao Zedong, the legendary Chinese revolutionary leader and founder of the People's Republic of China. If a leader appears and disappears for fear of incarceration or succumbs under pressures then better he may not talk big or pretend to be an ideologue or a savior. Anyone including Imran Khan who wants to rebuild Pakistan as a modern, liberal and stable state will have to wage a relentless war against the corrupt and decadent system and its unworthy protectors. A real national leader will have to vie and contend with his political contenders in order to excel. This is like igniting a prairie fire. Pakistan needs ruthless surgical overhaul of its entire body politic. Can Pakistan throw up such an undaunted, absolutely upright and ruthless surgeon is simply asking for the moon.

The Guantanamo Millstone

By Saeed Qureshi

That first mistake that the United States made was to send her army to Afghanistan to punish the Taliban for hosting the terrorist outfit Al-Qaida and its leaders. In the 80’s, Al-Qaida boss Osama was one of the leading crusaders fighting against the Soviet Communist army in Afghanistan on behalf of the free world led by the United States.

On October 14, 2001, seven days after the U.S.-British/NATO incessant bombing, the Taliban offered to surrender Osama Bin Laden to a third country for trial, if the bombing halted and they were shown evidence of his involvement in the September 11 terrorist attacks. This offer was rejected by U.S. President Bush, who declared "There's no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he's guilty.”

The United States and her allies played havoc in Afghanistan and finally dismantled the Taliban government and dispersed them. But the war didn’t end there. Ever since, the American forces along with NATO counterparts are bogged down in a kind of interminable conflict with the enemy combatants. Since then the US backed protégé Northern Alliance is governing the war torn Afghanistan. There was no peace under Taliban’s rule and the situation is far from stable under Northern Alliance and despite heavy presence of the occupation forces.

In the wake of the final decisive battle with the Taliban, the United States made second fatal mistake of rounding up several hundred fighters and lodging them partly in Afghanistan and partly in Guantanamo Detention Center to try them for war crimes and give them the punishment to those who deserved. The Same year, “President George W. Bush signed an executive order stating that the US military could indefinitely detain any non-citizen who was believed to be involved in international terrorism. On the advice of the Justice Department that the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp could be considered outside US legal jurisdiction, prisoners captured in Afghanistan were moved there beginning in early 2002.

It should be remembered that in the second and the first world wars, countless soldiers were lodged in huge concentration camps. The Japanese and the Germans did this in the Second World War against the enemy forces and so did the allied forces against the captured Germans and the Japanese. The Germans ran the gas chambers and concentration camps where millions Jews had been tortured and killed. But these colliding armies were all trained and regular forces.However, the nature of Taliban’s combat with US and vice versa was not of a world war level. Taliban never postured themselves as the enemy of United States and it is believable that they could have been finally prevailed upon to surrender Osama and his ilk to America. There was no cogent or compelling justification to wage an all out war in such an indecent haste and with huge military paraphernalia against these fierce radical Muslims. Still to this extent America could have found some plausible grounds to annihilate the Taliban fighting force. But to bring the captured Taliban close to United States mainland for trials was a big blunder. Taliban were neither Japanese nor Germans or Russians who could be categorized as elephantine contenders or who could be held responsible for 9/11 catastrophe.

Guantanamo Detention Center and its inmates have turned out to be a millstone around the neck of the United States. It’s like a bone stuck up in the food pipe that neither can be swallowed nor taken out. The Guantanamo prison has raised many a moral and legal question for the United States. As earlier stated, these inmates who were rounded up and brought to this dreaded and tightly guarded prison were not all regular fighters or trained soldiers of a regular army. They were rag tag, unorganized, religiously brainwashed stray fighters who could have been ignored like other Taliban who fled from the battleground. Some of the civilians were just caught in the cross fire and were not actual combatants.Since 2002, the trial of the incarcerated persons has remained a non starter. There was either a willful evasion on the part of the Bush administration to keep these hapless prisoners in a state of limbo and without trial or there was an inherent lacuna in the legal system of military commissions to try these people. These prisoners were subjected to the most degrading living conditions that human beings could be exposed to. There was more of revenge, rancor and sadism in dealing with these warriors who were less brutal and callous than the Japanese who bombed the Pearl Harbor or the Nazi tormentors who roasted the Jews in gas chambers. But still the Japanese and Germans were treated under Geneva Convention framework while these guys with less severe crimes were brutalized and tortured as if they were worst than animals.

Such an abnormal and freakish behavior that barred all legal and human avenues for justice to these people would remain as indelible scars on the collective conscience of the rational Americans forever. It is a stigma that tars the bright image of American as a country run on rule of law, equality, freedom, integrity and fairness derived from the Bill of Rights, Constitution and Declaration of Independence. It has been already quite late to get rid of this onerous burden and come out of this quagmire that is swallowing the moral standing of United States.

Undeniably, President Obama’s approach and the policy on Guantanamo, enunciated on May 21, is clearly the first honest and well defined attempt to cut this ‘Gordian Knot’. Guantanamo is not only a moral hang up for America but is also a huge wasteful financial undertaking. His emphasis on evolving a legitimate legal framework to deal with the remaining Guantanamo detainees whose number is around 240 is a measure that is not only overdue but absolutely called for and righteous. He echoed the sentiments of the truth loving Americans when he said that, “There is also no question that Guantanamo set back the moral authority that is America's strongest currency in the world”…”the problem of what to do with Guantanamo detainees was not caused by my decision to close the facility; the problem exists because of the decision to open Guantanamo in the first place”He further expressed his resolve to address this paramount problem in these words, “As President, I refuse to allow this problem to fester”….. “Instead of using the flawed commissions of the last seven years, my administration is bringing our commissions in line with the rule of law. …… “In our constitutional system, prolonged detention should not be the decision of any one man.”

President Obama divides the Guantanamo inmates in five categories and has decided to deal with them in accordance with the nature of their involvement in war against the United States. And that is a pragmatic plan which should be endorsed and appreciated by even his opponents. The Republicans and the neocons would bend heavily over backward to stall his plan aimed at resolving the Guantanamo imbroglio. The first indication is the blocking by Democratic Senate of $80 million appropriation to close the prison camp in eight months.It would bring no harm to America if the bona fides of the remaining prisoners are sifted and those who are absolved must be set free. A state of indecision and procrastination is certainly impairing the American reputation as a country where rule of law prevails. Moreover, it is inhuman and illegal to deny giving a chance to these hapless guys even after 8 years of detention to establish whether they were criminals or not. The former administration released 525 detainees which means a precedent was already there to review the cases of the remaining detainees.

But hopefully with the courage and conviction and honesty of the purpose that he is equipped with, President Obama would finally prevail and would close the Guantanamo center with the establishment of a proper legal framework for trial of the left out prisoners. President is right when he maintains that the American nation could no more afford the luxury of relitigating the cases of 240 remaining inmates while in seven years the military commissions could convict only three prisoners. He builds up a strong moral and legal case when he says that “these 240 people have now spent years in legal limbo. We're cleaning up something that is, quite simply, a mess.”