Thursday, July 23, 2009

Shumaila Rana’s Theft Episode

By Saeed Qureshi

In classical Urdu poetry, the beloved or the sweetheart with awesome beauty is habitually callous towards her lover. The distressed lover bemoans that his heart is stolen by a charming yet heartless darling. Shumaila Rana by virtue of her spellbinding beauty and enticing charm could have stolen as many hearts as she wished. But instead, she has allegedly, chosen to thieve the credit cards of another female whose identity is still unknown.

Amazingly, all the MNAs and MPAs roll in money, power and pelf. Judging from their high prolife and exalted clout, Shumaila’s peers and associates must be making money by shovels and buckets. Under the firm conviction that there was not the slightest chance of her being caught, Shumaila’ saw a rare opportunity to go for lavish shopping at the expense of someone else’s money.

Poor lady, perhaps inexperienced in the art of stealing, was caught and caught badly. If there were no Televsion footages and TV stations like GEO, or security cameras, no power on earth could have proven her guilty. The crime if committed looks more heinous with her having the exalted status of a member of provincial parliament. If the leader is corrupt and happens to be a thief what stops from the rest of the community not to follow the leader.

Perhaps, Shumaila did this out of sheer fun or non-challance, because ostensibly she could have never been short of money to buy jewelry for some very urgent matrimony, more specifically of her own. As she explained in a belated TV appearance, she was still unmarried. But the explanation was worse than the actual felonious act. She tried to tell several lies to establish that she did not buy anything nor was she carrying the credit cards of another person. But as shown in the footage she is signing a receipt and everyone knows that receipt of a credit is to be signed after the actual sale. So it’s a double jeopardy: one for stealing the cards and then forging the signatures of the real holders of those cards.

Amusingly, she remained untraced or hidden, for the first few days to explain her part of the story. During her absence from the public view, her uncle tried to explain away the incident as baseless by arguing that she was in the Jewelry shop for the repair of her ring. In the entire footage no one saw any ring. So the whole affair takes a very sordid turn. Besides the larecy, the piles of lies dished out so far, heighten the ugliness of the case.

Her party, MLN has taken a principled stand and has asked her to prove her innocence. Otherwise she will lose her prestigious post, her honor and would be left with a life burdened by a stigma. A social stigma or bad name be it right or wrong, remains like a millstone around the neck of the concerned person for all time to come. Such are the ways of the nature. There is a lesson that even a bad job should be done with care and dexterity. A good job performed with carelessness, occasionally entails harmful backlash instead of the reward. A brief moment’s mistake, unguarded remark or careless joke becomes a lifelong trauma.

Such are our leaders in Pakistan who are bereft of basic human honesty and upright social behavior, let alone serving the nation with integrity and truthfulness. In the recent past, there have been several instances about the assembly members, involved in questionable and debased pursuits. Assembly members mostly come from wealthy and privileged classes. They invest money in winning the seats in the parliament and when elected they devote themselves in the filthy games of nepotism, underhand tactics and corruption of all kinds to fatten their already bulging purses.

Honesty is one virtue that is so deficient in the character of our officialdom, bureaucracy and people’s elected representatives. With a corrupt and deviant leadership, the country and people remain caught in a logjam of inefficiency, disorder and dysfunction. That is what we see in Pakistan.

My Heart Bleeds for my Countrymen

By Saeed Qureshi

My heart bleeds for my countrymen living in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. I am confounded why they have to suffer so much. The country is in a state of complete paralysis. The people are caught in a trance of bewilderment as if they have been bewitched or are under the spell of evil spirits. The life in Pakistan for the teeming majority is miserable. Pakistan is not in Africa yet the life is no better than that far flung continent that was used by the human traffickers to provide raw manpower for old America. Africa has remained steeped in pathetic quagmire of ignorance, humiliation and degradation. The black pigment was touted by the cunning and diabolic white masters to be a symbol of slavery and sub-human species.

But Africa is in the throes of a gradual awakening. Despite intrusions and civil wars engineered by the colonial masterminds, the African countries are demonstrating signs of resistance against the latest western onslaughts to keep them subservient to their economic interests. Africa is replete with untapped natural resources. From Sudan to the ultimate brinks of western Africa, a wave of self realization and self dignity has started sweeping. The despicable, polygamous and lecherous monarchs are in a state of retreat.

The change is visible in empowering the people and forming representative governments. It would be too early to expect a miracle or rapid switch from autocracies to unalloyed democracies. But the change is in the offing. Africa’s future is glorious. Africa in the next century, by cautious reckoning, would be studded by modern states with their concomitant features such a adult franchise, the dignity and power of ballot, the monumental economic milestones, the establishment of modern cities, the giant leaps in education and healthcare, the cure for diseases, the prosperity in place of poverty and hunger and the realization of the most cherished goal of creation of civil societies. So much for the hibernating and slumbering Dark Continent not in terms of the color of the people but by the atrocious primitivism and pervasive decadence of millenniums.

Pakistan a modern state carved out of the Indian subcontinent for the Muslims to live a peaceful life is receding into a cesspool of suffering for its people. It is a society where hunger, grinding poverty, spiraling insecurity, and aberrations of unemployment, pollution, crimes, civic mess, injustice, stalk the land. For six decades of its existence it has remained caught up in an unremitting, swelling decline. One wonders why this country is in the reverse gear of progress. Whatever hope and modest livable conditions the people initially had, are shrinking.

I do not have enough endurance in me to see the heart wrenching scenes of people aimlessly wandering in the streets with the agony and stress writ large on their faces because of the nightmarish power outrages and interminable blackouts that invariably take place many times round the clock. It would be superfluous to enumerate the debilitating fallout of power breakdowns on the human mind, psychologies, moods, sensibilities and resistance of the people. A nation is turning paranoid with twin phobias: one about the uncertainty of electricity’s coming and the second about its going. Of late, I have seen on the television crowds of people sleeping in a state of anguish and helplessness in the open spaces, on the roads and pavements under a specter of looming insecurity. A nation is sleeping in unguarded places to beat the stifling suffocation, unbearable heat and humidity of the sizzling summer without caring for the bomb blasts, target killing, robbing at gun points and rape. Just imagine the degree of despondency that is breeding indifference to even one’s own life. I am talking about the human miseries and not the colossal commercial and industrial loss and its disastrous ramifications on the national economy.

The school children of the poor families starve and cannot have enough food to eat. They cannot find easy and safe transportation to reach their schools and colleges. The ramshackle, stuffy Suzuki vans and clumsy buses lacking proper seats, or such necessary comforts as heating or air-conditioning commute between destinations with passengers perched on top and on all sides. The young kids both boys and girls are exposed to falling off or sitting in the company of vile individuals. The streets and roads are full of nauseating stench and pollution of animal refuse, the smoke emitting and shrieking vehicles, the overflowing sewers and open drains choked with filth and garbage. The ancient cities of Pompeii, Baghdad, and of Pharaoh’s eras were even much better in civic management than the cities of Pakistan.

The offices, the bazaars, the houses, the lanes and shopping centers and the space between sky and earth, remains covered with the thick layers of smoking that wards off oxygen and obstruct the breathing in a fresh and pure air. The young kids from the indigent families cannot afford education and therefore have to work in workshops as apprentices, conductors in public transport and on similar menial jobs. The budding flowers of the nations remain vulnerable and easy target of molestation and abuse by their masters. The residential religious seminaries present the worst scenarios. It is hard to believe that the students residing in these fortified relgious citadels would be safe from the abuse of their sturdy custodians. They lose the significance of moral dignity, propriety and inviolability of human body. When they grow up they themselves, in the footsteps of their molesters, continue that loathsome practice with the students under their morbid supervision.

Barring the costly bottled water, no water is safe for drinking in Pakistan. Most beverages are adulterated. Most food items are not pure. Can one imagine that in the water scarce areas of Pakistan the humans and animals drink alike from the same highly polluted pond filled with rain water? No wonder they develop deadly and incurable diseases. The runaway children from starving families roam and loiter in cities to be seduced or forcibly whisked away by hardened sex offenders or by the heartless criminal gangs or by those who would keep them in forced bonded labor. The women are targeted and raped with willful abandon. There is no recourse or remedy for them to seek justice. The police catch the people sitting in public parks, take grafts forcibly or lock the citizens for no reason. The women in police custody or other law enforcement agencies seldom come unscathed from molestation and rape.

There is a one page official form called FIR (the first investigation report) cannot be written unless the SHO (the station house officer), commonly known as inspector agrees and he agrees on a heavy graft or on the order of a dignitary. The process of justice from FIR to the final outcome takes countless twists and years making a mockery of the legal system. The judges, the magistrates, the lawyers, the touts in between are engaged in a vicious game of catching the justice system on the wrong foot. The scale of corruption, bribery and financial scams is alarmingly widespread. The malfunctioning in every government department with corruption as the leading vice is no secret at all. The addiction of making illicit buck and exploiting the voiceless citizens is in the veins of every person in an authoritative position, be it a small clerk or a member of the parliament or even the president of Pakistan.

Literacy, education, Research, social decency, a tolerable civic life, and a civilized environment are all far cry in the chaotic and perennially troubled state called the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The religious preachers keep their eyes closed on country’s deformities and real fiendish problems, pushing the people towards the age of barbarianism and primitive cave life.

Let me take a break to compare this abysmal spectacle with the societies where people enjoy civic and social peace. Let us take the American society. This comparison should in fact be deemed as a contrast. The first glaring hallmark is the order and discipline that runs in the arteries of this society, like the healthy blood in a human body. The law is equal and stringent and is for all. It’s humane yet inviolable and operates within the limits set by the society and the constitution. There is no large scale infringement of the law but if there is, the law ultimately prevails. Everyone from the president, to senators to congressmen to governors is exposed to well integrated and efficient network of oversight and accountability.

The detractors may like to point out the social freedom that they call moral laxity as a stigma on the western societies. But choice to enjoy is left to one’s own discretion as a part of human freedom and is observed in very strict conditions. By comparison the vice is more rampant and beyond law in our societies than what one can observe in the United States. The violators are vulnerable to condign punishments. The pub, clubs and selling of liquor are prohibited near educational institutions. Smoking inside the dwellings, the offices and in restaurants is completely banned. There is no nepotism, no culture of graft here.

From getting a driving license, seeking a job, the construction of a house, to setting up of a factory, there are hard to bypass yet easy to follow regulations. If you qualify you will get the needful done readily. There is a kit of social security nuts ranging from the healthcare insurance to old age benefits, to free food, to unemployment allowance to pro bono (free) legal service. The rights and obligations in this society go hand in hand. The utilities from supply of clean water to electricity, to drainage seldom malfunction. The services such as payments of bills, mail distribution, requesting emergency health or security help are dispensed immaculately. For deserving students, both either by virtue of low income or academic excellence, there are funds available. The environmental purity is so jealously guarded that literally, not a blade of grass can grow or removed without the prior permission of the city government.

This is not to deride or belittle my own country in any manner. What I wish to drive home is that we can transform our societies into people friendly societies with reasonable order and creation of safety nuts for the people. What is lacking is the intention to do so. The privileged, the elite and the aristocratic classes are above and immune from the sea of suffering of the common masses in Pakistan. With slick cars, the palatial mansions, the hand folded army of the servants, high profile jobs, money minting lucrative business at their disposal; these blood sucking segments in Pakistan are least bothered about the people teetering on the brink of colossal human tragedy and deprivation.

So let there be a revolution. Notwithstanding the moot question as to who will lead this revolution, the movement for change can be spearheaded and sustained by the civil society upholders, the conscientious yet valiant individuals,, the NGOs, the educated, the intellectuals, the rebellious, the zealous, the students and the aspirants for the change. This diverse assemblage of proponents for change should mobilize the vast majority of underdogs like ordinary workers, the impoverished peasants, the victims of police and institutional injustices, the teachers and all those who want an egalitarian, welfare and a civic cum civil society.

They should come out of their homes and trigger an earth shaking upheaval for their rights to live as equal and honorable citizens. They should besiege, waylay, and chase the power wielders, the privileged thugs, the corrupt and immoral government functionaries. They should assail the houses and mansions of the rulers and decision makers, snatch their cars, houses and force them to open their coffers of wealth to be distributed among the needy public.

A people’s revolution is desperately called for: not like a socialist or communist revolution but a genuine grass root raucous shake-up that should compel the imperial and licentious minority classes to behave. It’s time for the people of Pakistan to shed their helplessness and raise a storm by snatching their rights to live a life brimming with, order, dignity, equality, freedom, justice, accountability, civic galore, and the radiance of a civil society. The oppressed classes should mobilize themselves for a society where molestation of a minor carries life imprisonment as in the United States of America, where justice is inexpensive and accessible and where worship of God is free for all faiths.

How about Confederation!

By Saeed Qureshi

How about a loose confederation between Pakistan, India and Bangladesh? This confederation should be based upon the geographical contiguity and a common culture. For the State of Pakistan that is apprehensively heading towards the precipice of a failed status, this is the best way-out to preserve its territorial integrity and separate identity. The sentimentality dripped slogans of Pakistan ideology and two nation theory do not seem to be relevant any more. The ideology of Pakistan primarily a religio- national sentiment has been blunted by surging and strident provincialism. The Pakistani nationalism is confined to only two cities of Lahore and Karachi. In recent times, the inhabitants of other places and provinces mostly prefer to project and identify themselves with their provincial suffixes or prefixes. Urdu, the Pakistan’s national language too has not been able to bring about national unity in Pakistan. People like to converse in their local dialects and are under the impression that Urdu was the immigrants’ language.

The Islamic ethos or two nation theory is cast away by the gushing deluge of sectarianism. So the question is where Pakistan stands? The answer is: it stands at the crossroads where a nation falls in the dustbin of history and is reincarnated to continue its existences in a new garb. The contemporary example is the Russian Federation built upon the ashes of the Soviet Socialist regime of yester years.

The separation of the formerly East Pakistan (presently Bangladesh), from the Federation of Pakistan in 1971 leaves the original united Pakistan bequeathed by the founders now to a half Pakistan. Still to call it Pakistan may be self-cajoling misnomer. To be true, the truncated Pakistan is a half Pakistan. This half Pakistan is again beset with overt cessation movements such as in Baluchistan. Who knows there might be covert as well? The latest onslaught of Taliban to carve out an orthodox Islamic state within the state of Pakistan was a kind of blue print for separation. The left out Pakistan after 1971 is still a hunting ground for overpowering army generals, the regal feudal classes, the local sovereigns or cut throat tribal chiefs, and boorish mullahs. On top of it, the political leadership both in and out of government consists mostly of runaway, fortune hunting and moronic individuals.

A host of factors have contributed to the dwindling chances of Pakistan’s viability as a strong, stable and independent state. The first is the inept, totally self-aggrandized and hypocritical leadership comprising the classes that are the vestiges of the imperialistic legacies. These are the ignominious outposts of an order that survives on self- promotion. I mean feudalism and parasitic classes with huge landholdings, enormous socio-political clout and economic ascendency. These classes of rank saboteurs seldom want the people to prosper and the country to stabilize. In People’s awareness is their death and decline. They spread their tentacles all over, be it army, bureaucracy, business, executive, judiciary and legislature. There has always been an inevitable need to dismantle and defang these powerful classes, for them to be counted at par with the common folks of Pakistan.

The framing of a constitution in Pakistan has all along been an unpalatable ordeal for the ruling elite. The enforcement of a truly democratic order has been an anathema to these basically people-averse classes and therefore they resisted all efforts for Pakistan to shape up as a veritable democratic polity. If the genesis or raison d’être of Pakistan was to be a citadel of Islam then let us admit that Islam is not confined to the geographical contours of Pakistan. Islam existed in the subcontinent for centuries and perhaps Islam then was more protected and monolithic than it has been after the creation of Pakistan. It has fallen into the booby traps laid by the ignorant, die- hard clergy with many a face. The endemic communalism that we witness across the Indian sub content was not as intense, lethal and sharp as now. Before the partition, the Hindus, the Muslims and other religious communities lived in peace with each other.

Therefore, Pakistan’s mis-projected alignment or identity as a sanctuary for the ever marooned Islam is patently false and has been consistently pedaled by those brands of Muslims who want to grind their axe under the cover of Islam. In the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Islam has come under more pressure and direly threatened by the hate laden religious factionalism and mutually hostile crazy sects. We ought to be candid and honest enough, in admitting that Pakistan has failed to serve the coveted cause of projecting and protecting Islam as a cementing force to unite Muslims. If the founders of Pakistan wanted the Muslims to attend to their religious obligations with peace of mind and without the tyranny of religious majority, then that objective stands shattered. The ferocity of sectarianism, the brazen bad blood and incessant feuding among various shades of beliefs has undermined the very stability and survival of Pakistan let alone making it a haven for the faithful to pursue their religions obligations in a serene and fraternal environ.

On the contrary, the Hindu majority India that was perceived and dreaded to be a decimator and vicious enemy of Islam offers more salubrious, conducive and much free atmosphere for the Muslims and followers of other religions alike to carry out their religious duties. So it means that a land even if it is named as a religious state or has come into being in the name of religion cannot guarantee sectarian harmony. So then to harp on the tune that Pakistan was the bastion for protection and promotion of Islam is not based on the factual situation on the ground. In the time to come the disparate sectarian, regional, ethnic and linguistic forces would widen and deepen the fissures that are already there in Pakistani society.

It is not difficult to perceive that the linguistic and ethnic barriers between all the four provinces are a looming threat to the cohesion of Pakistan. The religion which was thought to be a binding force for the Muslim majority Pakistan has miserably failed to prove itself as such. The inescapable excruciating fact is that the majority of population from the smaller provinces, place more trust and preference in their provincial identities than being Pakistanis or Muslims. Islam is indeed a great religion but its protectors, patrons and proponents are generally not earnest.

Bangladesh that broke away from Pakistan has seldom been troubled by the sectarian and religious anarchy. Bangladeshis are more orthodox, steadfast and devout Muslims than their counterparts elsewhere in the subcontinent. In the creation of Pakistan, the part played by the Muslim leaders from East and West Bengal has been decisive and overwhelming. But despite this abiding and passionate love for Islam, they parted company with the Muslims of West Pakistan. Islam is still more earnestly observed in Bangladesh. In Pakistan if Islam has ever been in danger then it is from the sectarian monsters, bigoted exploiters and not from the non believers. The enemies of Islam are from within and not from outside.

So whether Pakistan remains as an Islamic state or turns into an atheist or a secular state, Islam would, still remain intact because it is practiced and preserved by the individuals irrespective of their region, geographical or ethnic origin. Presumably, if Islam is not safe in an Islamic country then it is immaterial if is practiced in Islamic or unislamic countries. Perhaps it would flourish more stridently in a secular society because of the religious tolerance and parity between the diverse faiths. Such a society would not allow discrimination, bias and oppression against the minority sets or parallel religions. In western societies which are by and large unislamic, Muslims pray in the same mosque and seldom stare at each other for being different in sectarian rituals.

There is a basket full of advantages that can accrue from entering into a confederal arrangement between the regional states of the Indian sub-continent primarily comprising Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Afghanistan can later join this confederal fold by her consent. If Europe can become one common market by having a common currency and visa system, why can’t the countries of the Indian sub-continent evolve a similar framework that would not commit themselves to the extent the European Union has gone?

The economy of all the three countries will get an instant fillip and this region can emerge as a phenomenal economic bloc that can counter the strongest economies of the world. The confederation will not involve population migration as was done in 1947. The population of all the three countries would stay in their lands. There wouldn’t be any displacement of assets or industrial units. But certainly there will be a balanced and even handed progress for all the member states. The divided families would be free to travel in all parts of the confederation. The hostility that keeps these countries in a state of unremitting tension would gradually wither away. The huge chunks of money being spent on armament would be saved for better utilization on nation building projects and improving life of the citizens.

Between India and Bangladesh on one side and Pakistan and India on the other, the disputed territories and sharing of water, with contending claims of ownership, would be automatically resolved. With the restoration of normalcy and as part of confederation, these territories would also be able to benefit from the economic progress and property of other settled regions. The entire region would turn into an abode of peace. By close interaction and social intimacy the people to people interaction would give birth to social harmony, mutual respect and cordiality. After all in the Indian subcontinent, the Muslims and Hindus have a legacy of livings together for 1000 years.

Despite difference in religion, the inhabitants of the subcontinent have countless common cultural and social features. The color of their skin, their folklore, cuisine, their wedding customs, and traditions of hospitality and spirit of camaraderie are the same in the entire length and breadth of India. They wear the same dress and speak a common language called Urdu in Pakistan and Hindi in India. The difference in scrip hardly makes any difference as long as they can communicate with each other. Muslims have their architectural, religious and historical heritage and antiquity, in all parts of the subcontinent. Similarly, the Hindus and Sikhs and other denominations have their sacred and historical temples, monuments and ancient buildings in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The formation of confederation between, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan is not going to be an easy task. In the first instance, the member states may not agree for such an arrangement. The wider acceptance by the people of these three countries may also be difficult to achieve. The strong opposition to this plan can come from the hard line nationalists, the pseudo patriots, the religious purveyors, and the comprador classes. Therefore, to forestall the projected apprehensions, the confederation can be considered on experimental or transitional basis. If it clicks, it should continue: if not, it should be scrapped. But if, somehow, it takes place, it would be nothing short of a boon for 1.3 billion people of this region.

In Pakistan’s Interest

By Saeed Qureshi

Extensively grieved over Pakistan’s socio civic problems that, of late, have assumed nightmarish proportions, I have been offering plans and strategies to Pakistan government for raising the quality of life in Pakistan. People generally are less concerned about the political issues, such as the form of government, the elections and the party in power than the social-civic and utilities based issues such as water, power, prices, law and order, police, courts billing etc.

With regard to the generation of electricity, without which no society can be socially or economically viable, I have been continuously writing to the former and the existing government to try a very cost effective and simple plan that can generate as much electric power as we want. There has always been a deaf ear or cold response to all these well meaning proposals devised over a long period of time and hard work of persistent thinking and planning.

I had been in touch with our former journalist colleague Mr. Farhatullah Babur who is now the media advisor to the president of Pakistan. He thought that the plan was exciting. He forwarded my plan to the Ministry of Water and Power and perhaps talked to the minister as well to give it a serious consideration. Thereafter the Public Relations Director to the minister sent me an email, stating that since he was proceeding for Hajj he would take up the matter with the minister on his return. This correspondence took place several months ago. Despite my repeated messages to him he has, perhaps, decided to not respond to me.

In the meantime, I received a letter from the Ministry of Water and Power that is typically stereo- type and speaks for the lethargy and red tape of the officialdom. It is beset with rather impossible conditions and bottlenecks. The burden falls on me to prove as to why I was committing a crime to propose a plan to the Pakistan government. I am reproducing the letter for my readers to understand for themselves as to why Pakistan is still poor and dysfunctional. The common sense or at least courtesy demanded that in view of the appalling electricity shortfall in Pakistan, someone at the highest level should have contacted me immediately to know more about the nature of plan I was offering. Ever since that letter written to me in totally bureaucratic esoteric language, I am rather stunned with the non- challance of the bureaucrats that run our administration in Pakistan with age old strait jackets and tangles to stave off useful inputs.

Long time before, I submitted a comprehensive report to then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to run, refine and streamline the city and the local government system and bring about a civic revolution in Pakistan. The objective of the report was to clean our cities of the filth and garbage on regular and scientific basis, smoothen and improve the traffic system and roads, provision of abundance of water and beautify the cities and purify the environ as I can see in USA where I live. Mr. Farhatullah Babar told me that they were under the impression that I wanted a job. What an egregious insult to a patriot and a conscientious citizen of Pakistan!

As a follow up of that, I was told to meet barrister Kamal Azfar, Shahnaz Wazir Ali, the federal secretary on development, and some official in Punjab. Since Benazir Bhutto had written on my plan to be considered, all these guys performed the ritual of meeting me simply to summarily dispose me off. I remember that Madam Shahnaz Wazir Ali to whom I was referred to by Kamal Azfar gave me an appointment to meet her after two months. When I entered her office, she stared at my face, never asked me to sit and ended the briefest encounter by saying that they already knew what to do. I was then the Editor of the Diplomatic Times.

Let me candidly confess we are belonging to the old bandwagon of the PPP since 1967. We want the revolutionary élan and spirit of the party to remain as the supreme mission of the party. But woefully, since the demise of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto that thumping spirit and abounding zeal has been waning. Although after ZAB, the revolutionary cadres like us have been marginalized but our liking and attachment with the party remains alive and vibrant to this day. Our commitment is to the party and not to the individuals. Still more than the party, our commitment is to Pakistan and its people.

Unfortunately, there has never been a clearly laid out system of grooming the party cadres on revolutionary path with the passions of patriotism and selfless service for this unique nation. But so many among us still keep blazing that light with the hope that it would one day become a beacon flashpoint once again for the people of Pakistan. After ZAB, barring his daughter, despite her failings, the party remained on the right track as devised and nurtured by his illustrious father. Benazir could not do better under the changing circumstances.

Back to the electricity crisis in Pakistan. My considered conclusion is that our industrial sector is handicapped due to a host of barriers and avoidable complex and plethora of rules and regulations that instead of expeditiously promoting the growth of industry in Pakistan create stumbling blocks at every step. In order to seek permission for the establishment of an industrial unit, one needs powerful contacts and kickbacks at every step to move the file. The decision making to allow the setting up of industries in slow and complicated.

Moreover, the lack of utility services, proper infrastructure and heavy taxation deter the investors and entrepreneurs to undertake industrial ventures in Pakistan. With influential and high profile contacts such as the prime minister, the president, the ministers and top bureaucrats one may succeed in establishing factory or the manufacturing unit without much hassle. But the investors usually remain haunted and intrigued by never ending demands for grafts and monetary demands from a small minion to the bigwigs lording over the industry. In the absence of transparency, tendency to bend rules and because of the faulty mechanism for redress against the bureaucratic wrong doing, the industrial sector remains at the mercy and whims of the concerned officials and bureaucrats.

To my sincere and well thought out plan, finally the response by a lower rank officer was sent to me through email. I am attaching that email to give an idea to my readers how the priority issues relating to the citizens’ life and country’s welfare are treated with rank indifference. This reply candidly depicts the mindset of the bureaucracy scuttling projects that benefit the country but not to them. After laying down several conditions, still they did not pledge that finally the plan would be approved. In the meantime they want someone to invest millions for assurances and activities that are nothing except wastage of time and money. I wanted this plan to be invested and started by the government itself.

I have exhausted all my options and avenues to prevail upon the political whistle blowers and bureaucratic charlatans in Pakistan to let me start the project on experimental basis. I am not going to invest because I don’t have investment I can readily share this easy-to-execute plan with the Pakistani expatriates who would like to get a peep into it. If someone can come up with a modest investment and can also get a permission to go ahead with the execution of the plan without loss of time, then I can hand over this idea to him.

I want the poor and grieved people of Pakistan to at least have enough water and power to lead a peaceful life on this count. With abundantly uninterrupted supply of electricity, the whole system from factories to functioning of hospitals and schools can come to life and be productive. I shall be more than happy to send my paper on civic revolution in Pakistan to anyone for study and draw their own conclusions about its efficacy.

Am I a skeptical Muslim?

By Saeed Qureshi

I am a Muslim but I am a skeptical Muslim. There should be countless like me. My skepticism remains stuck up on several intellectual roadblocks that I keep clearing. I believe in the five basic pillars of Islamic belief which are: belief in one God, belief in angels, belief in prophets or messengers of God, belief in the Judgment Day, belief in God’s pre- knowledge and determination of all things.

I believe in the five pillars of observance which are: Kalima Tayyab (confession of faith in one God and Muhammad as his prophet), Prayers, Zakat (Islamic Tax or charity), Fasting, pilgrimage to Mecca. I believe in three sources or authorities of Islamic guidance, which are The Holy Qur’an, The Sunnah and Hadith. The Shariah or Islamic law as I understand is based upon five principles, 1. Fard (absolute duty), 2. Mustajab (good deed), 3. Mubah (permissible deed), 4. Makruh (vile deed), 5. Haram (completely forbidden)

There are about 48 Muslim majority countries on the planet. The Muslims’ population is more than a billion individuals. The Muslims possess most of the oil reserves and other precious natural resources. Many Islamic countries such as Pakistan have strategic importance. Muslims have an ideal religion that encompasses and regulates their whole life and even ensures a place in paradise depending upon one’s conduct in this world. With all these boons and assets, the whole Islamic bloc is mired in myriad problems ranging from poverty, illiteracy, poor civic conditions to appalling economic, political, and social and stability problems. Islam and the Islamic countries have always been kept on the receiving end by their rivals, be it Communism, Christianity or imperialism.

The suffering of the Muslim world keep compounding and aggravating. Should the failings and miseries of the Muslim states be attributed to some inherent deficiency in Islamic teachings or the ruling classes’ deliberate efforts and intentions to block the true implementation of Islam’s code of life? Despite Islamic teachings and discourses being disseminated by Muslim clerics, round the clock, from countless religious seminaries and mosques, the character of Muslims from a ruler to a common man generally remains uninfluenced. The cleavage between rich and poor, privileged and unprivileged, high and low and massive inequalities between Muslims by virtue of their wealth and status are paramount.

Someone should guide me by naming a functional model Islamic state after the demise of the last prophet of Islam. The twenty nine years of the Khilafat-e-Rashida period is too primitive to be quoted as a model. It was the formative stage of Islam and Islam was yet to come in contact with other civilizations and to be put to test of its resilience and moral tenacity. But the fact is that out of four successors of the prophet, three died at the hands of assassins. So apart from the personal piety and rectitude of the caliphs, the society was in turmoil. Islam could not have survived if after the death of the prophet, the first caliph had not suppressed with sword, the heretic dissident movements.

But whilst the society took a rebellious course and various tribal leaders refused to show continued allegiance to the nascent religion, and there was also opposition to the payment of the Zakat tax; the caliphs themselves entered into a race for succession of the prophet. The annoyance of Hazrat Ali, the son in law and cousin of the prophet, over the choosing of Abu Bakr as the prophet’s successor led to the division in Islam that continues to this day.

The murder of Hazrat Osman, the third caliph of Islam and a prominent scion of the powerful Umayyad clan was the clear demarcation between the supporters of Banu Hashim and those of Umayyads. One of the assassins of the third caliph Osman was the son of the first caliph Hazrat Abu Bakr. The assassination of the third caliph took place in full view of the all Islamic nobles and stalwarts living in the city of Medina.

Osman’s murder triggered two fierce battles between the close companions and relatives of Prophet Muhammad. The first took place between Hazrat Aisha, the wife of the prophet on one side and Hazrat Ali, (who by that time became the fourth caliph) on the other. The second battle was between Hazrat Ali and the Syrian Ummyad governor Muawiyah. These wars resulted in thousands of Muslims killed on both the sides. Now Hazrat Aisha was the most loved wife of the prophet and Ali too was very dear to the prophet. Aisha fought Ali to avenge the death of caliph Osman. The second bloody feud continued for five years between the Omayyad Syrian governor Muawiyah (also caliph) and caliph Hazrat Ali causing countless deaths of the Muslim faithful in the battlefields.

How come that these pious people who grew up under the direct flawless and divine guidance of the prophet could not live in peace with each other and instead of deciding their mutual feuds through peaceful means, chose the battlefields. The son in law of the prophet drew sword against an exalted woman and the wife of the prophet: both belonging to the same house. Why they were not influenced by the chaste upbringing of the prophet and instead violated his exhortation to the effect that it was “forbidden for a Muslim to kill another Muslim”. Why the assassins of caliph Osman were not punished?

Thereafter, the split of Islamic believers into two main branches of Shia and Sunni is manifest in the entire Islamic world from the day Caliph Osman was killed. It was further intensified when Muawiyah’s son and his successor Yazid, cold bloodedly massacred Ali’s son, Hussein and the male members of his family near Baghdad. This gruesome incident happened because of Hussein’s challenge to the caliphate of Yazid whom they thought was a usurper.

The Shia and Sunni conflict somehow exists even now between Iran as Shia state and Saudi Arabia as the Sunni state. Besides, in other Islamic countries these two sects run as confrontational parallel faiths. Where had gone the Islamic pristine teachings to remain fastened to the rope of Allah with steadfastness as one Muslim nation? Never was there an Islamic issue than the caliphate that brought about more bloodshed among the Muslims. Fighting with enemies of Islam was all right but how can the fight among Muslims be justified.

Yet in the present day world of technology, humanism and social liberalism, the Islamic religious zealots, the fuming preachers from the pulpit and the militant Islamic bands like Taliban, exhort the ordinary Muslims to remain united in the face of enemies. The fact is that Muslims were never united between themselves. So to ask them to unite against the enemies of Islam is asking for the moon.

The story of Islam from the rift on the succession of the prophet, the end of the Muslim glory in Spain in 1492, to the pillage of Baghdad by Hilaku Khan in 1258 and finally to the end of Ottoman caliphate in 1924, is all about the struggle for power. It started with the tussle between Banu Hashim vs. Omayyad’s, then Umayyads vs. Abbasids, followed by trail of Muslim dynasties snatching lands and ascendency from their Muslim counterparts by dint of sword and carnage. Islam’s grand and pious teachings were completely ignores by those caliphs or kings who established fearsome despotic regimes in the name of Islam. They had the least regard or care for Islamic lofty values of tolerance and fraternity.

For power and land, these Islamic dynastic rulers killed millions of simple common Muslim faithful. On both the sides were Muslims rulers. How they should be labeled: as good Muslims or the violators of Islam? In Islamic dynasties the monarchs who called themselves caliphs, lived majestic and glorious lives with countless women brought to their harems from the defeated countries as slaves. They built huge and grand palaces and lived like pharaohs despite Islam’s emphasis on modesty. They wallowed in luxury and opulence which was just the opposite of the life of the prophet characterized by simplicity and self- denial.

As stated earlier, practically there is not a single model Islamic state ever established in the preceding 14 centuries of Islam’s existence. The Islamic history is replete with Muslims killing fellow Muslims. The renegades and traitors from among the Muslims had been joining the enemies of Islam, against their own Muslim rulers either to replace them for power or sectarian reasons. Baghdad was decimated and burnt to ashes by Mongol hordes in 1258 because of the sectarian rift between a Sunni caliph and a Shia prime minister or grand vizier.

In the present times, the radical pontiffs of Islam want to revive the golden era of Khilafat-e Rashida. Now if these attempts never fructified in the past, how can these succeed in the modern times when religion is losing its glare because the modern society offers better life and dignity and equality to humans than the religions. For Muslims the basic dilemma is that any Islamic state will have two parallel competing faiths of Shiaism and Sunnism, not to speak of other equally strident and radically militant sects. So religious peace in an Islamic country would always remain elusive and religious feuds would always pose threat to the social harmony and stability of the state.

That is what is happening in Pakistan. With brute force and an iron clad tribal despotism, the religious factionalism can be rooted out or subdued. But the peace thus obtained would always remain hostage to the simmering unrest by the religious minorities. Such a system of government even otherwise cannot be permanent because as long the rulers are repressive they would stay in power. The moment they are weak, the fissiparous tendencies would reappear. For sectarian harmony either a state should be completely a Sunni or Shia state as we can see in Saudi Arabia and Iran respectively or it should be brutally repressive.

The theocratic governments are run in the mould of old dynasties by the kings as in Arab countries or as divine imamates as in Iran. These are islands of Isolations and, therefore, cannot function for long time, in today’s world, shaping up as a global village. This obscurantist, tribal, monarchical cum religious outfits are out of sync with the emerging dynamics of the changing time. These are clumsy dispensations as compared with the modern democratic nation states and civil societies.

The kind of Islam practiced in autocratic countries such as Saudi Arabia, Libya, Kuwait, UAE, Jordan and many others is not Islam at all. The royal families, and their filthy rich members, otherwise as custodians of Islamic heritage are usurpers of the country’s wealth and their conduct is a slur on the fair name of Islamic faith as enunciated by the prophet of Islam. These hereditary rulers, in fact, are extension and perpetuation of the despotic Islamic dynasties that dot the entire history of Islamic governance.

I shall be a good Muslim if the Muslim rulers present an example of being good Muslim first. Is it possible for the ordinary Muslims to meet King Abdullah or kings and despots of other Islamic countries as they could do it during the period of first four caliphs? After their death, the prophet or the caliphs did not leave any assets or money behind them. Can there be any remotest comparison of that absolute self abnegation with the prodigious wealth of the Muslim rulers from the Umayyads to this day?

From the parameters set by Islam and the examples presented by the early Islamic caliphs, these rulers have no right to proclaim them as Muslims. These outposts of obscurantism are destined to vanish. An enlightened version of Islam that is responsive to and compatible with the needs of changing times is the recipe to the doctrinal and faith based dilemmas, factionalism and retrogression of the Muslim polities.

So I shall be a good practicing Muslim without skepticism if kings and the royal families as well as fearsome autocrats ruling the Islamic states adopt a simple life, shun their glamour and grandeur and distribute their excessive wealth among the poor Muslims around the world. My apprehensions about Islam would dilute when the opulent among them will share their wealth with the indigent and the poor among the Muslims. They should, in line, with the teachings and instructions of the holy prophet stop living in the fortified palaces and indulging in the dubious and lewd activates that Islam does not allow. The poor Islamic states will stop looking to the west for aid and to become subservient to them, if a portion of the rich Islamic countries’ wealth is given to them. Mere lip service by the Muslim demagogues to ask the ordinary Muslims to adopt the way of Islam is counterproductive. A common Muslim is nevertheless a better and sincere practicing faithful than the rulers and even the Islamic hypocritical preachers.

I shall be a clear headed Muslim when Shia and Sunni and other sects within Islam will sink their canon differences and say prayer along with each other in the same mosque; when they would love instead of cutting each other’s throats? That would be a great day of rejoicing for me when the regional and tribal schisms like Arabs and non Arabs and Muslim of east and west and Africa and Asia would disappear? If a Muslim pontiff asks someone to be a good Muslim, he in return should be asked which brand of Muslim: Shia or Sunni, Wahabi or Naqaahbandi, and so on.

So in Islamic societies, faith -based unity and accord is difficult to achieve because there are deep and unbridgeable differences between various sects. The very teachings of Islam and Qur’an become controversial because of the variety and multiplicity of their interpretations. Shias can never recognize the first three caliphs as the legitimate successors of prophet nor can Sunnis believe in the 12 imams of Shia. The Shias’ slander and filthy vituperation against Hazrat Aisha, the most beloved wife of the last prophet of Islam and the first three caliphs is an unpardonable sin for the Sunnis. Wahabi consider it as their bounden Islamic duty to destroy and raze the shrines and tombs of the dead saints, while their protectors decree it as abhorrent sacrilege against the sinless ascetics. So where do we go from here?

The answer to the religious ambiguities, the galore of militating beliefs and colliding sectarianism within Islam is the establishment of the modern, secular, liberal Islamic states resplendent with democracy, constitutionalism, humanism, and civil society accountability, rule of law and where free observance of all shades of beliefs is permissible. One may call it a secular Islamic state. Malaysia offers a pragmatic model of a modern Islamic secular state where the state religion is Islamic but all sects and denominations are free to pursue their religious obligation without any let or hindrance or state coercion. There prevails an exemplary religious harmony between Islam and Unislamic faiths on one hand and among the sects within Islam. Can Pakistan and other Islamic countries beset with sectarian strife take a cue from Malaysia?

The Islamic Sharia needs to be radically modified and modernized to conform to the needs of the changing times and to fit into the paradigm of a modern nation state. There is a dire need to modify the Islamic religious legal system, leaving personal matter to the jurisdiction to the Sharia courts. Turkey was the first country to bring about a complete overhaul in the religious law in 1926. Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco have modernized Islamic legal system up to the level of enlightened modern standards. These religious reforms have been carried out within the framework provided by the four orthodox school of Fiqa or Islamic jurisprudence. Pakistan’s stability and social harmony depends upon transforming it into a modern secular nation state, with an enlightened Islamic legal system.